Check Your Panoply
THE WORDING “every prayer and petition,” in Ephesians 6:18, led us to observe Paul’s prayer habits closely. Such a study would be incomplete without pondering over those words of prayer which are, at the same time, the very climax of the Ephesian epistle (Eph.3: 14-21).
After the presentation of the three aspects of the Ephesian secret, Paul refers to the Lord, “in Whom you, also, are being built together for God’s dwelling place, in spirit” (Eph.2:22). The emphasis here is on the word you, which is plural (lit.: IN WHOM AND YE, YE ARE BEING BUILT TOGETHER). Paul is addressing us, believers from all the nations, as he has done before (Eph.1:13; 2:1,11,13,19). The situation at the time of his writing is aptly described in volume 22, page 140, of this magazine, from which we quote the following three paragraphs.
WE HAVE THE SAME SPIRIT AS THE ELECT IN ISRAEL
“God is a Spirit. Those who are joined to Him are one spirit. He is the Father of spirits. His family is a spiritual one. When Israel rejected His spirit and the nations attended to His words, did they receive a different or lower spirit than the elect in Israel? They received the same spirit. This brought them into the same spiritual relationship to God as they. Physical hindrances hindered the acknowledgment of this great truth hitherto. Now that physical distinctions are gone, it shines out in all its effulgence. God is our Father just as really as He is theirs!
“Now that there is no longer a temple at Jerusalem, God dwells in His believers, both individually and as a class. Hence the question arises, in this figurative temple, have we as close a place as the Circumcision, or are they the temple building and we the outside court? The answer is found in the phrases ‘connected together’ and ‘built together’ (Eph.2:21,22).
“The word together, in these two phrases, is the same as the word joint, or fellow, in the statement of the Ephesian secret. They are elaborations of its third item, that we are joint partakers. They refer particularly to the fact that we rank equally with the election out of Israel who believe during this present secret administration. The place accorded them in this temple is ours, just as the allotment described in the first twelve verses of chapter one, though primarily theirs, is ours. The reason is the same. We have received the same spirit.”
ON THIS BEHALF
On this behalf (Eph.3:1) Paul is about to pray for us, his readers, that we may be given the power to grasp the love of Christ which is transcending our knowledge. But before going on with his prayer, he gives us a summary of the present truth. These twelve verses of the third chapter of Ephesians (from the second to the thirteenth inclusive) are the true key to the correct understanding of God’s activities during the present secret administration of His grace. Our chart in Chapter 13 gives a survey on the first half of Ephesians where the Godward, Christward, and manward aspects are indicated by Roman numerals (I, II, III) and are summarized in 3:1-13.
On this behalf (Eph.3:14); with these same words Paul resumes his prayer after the parenthetic interlude (3:2-13). Since the identical expression used in verse 1 is repeated in verse 14, the connection is the same here as there, i.e. because you, the readers, are being built together for God’s dwelling place, in spirit (Eph.2:22). Since this divine statement applies to all of us who are believing, just as does the parenthetic interlude of 3:2-13, what else can Paul request for us to widen our knowledge?
The answer seems to be that, since no other portion of the Scriptures has so much vital value to believers today, we should give it the place in our hearts and thoughts which it deserves, no longer “surging hither and thither, and being carried about by every wind of teaching, by human caprice, by craftiness with a view to the systematizing of the deception” (Eph.4:14).
SUBJECTION TO GOD’s WILL
The verb bow (bend together, as the knee) occurs only in Paul’s writings, and in the Septuagint from which he quotes. In Romans 14:11 (shall bow every knee), we have a quotation from Isaiah 45:23 (Septuagint); in Romans 11:4 (not bow the knee) from 1 Kings 19:18 (not Septuagint). The phrase (bowing the knee) occurs in 1 Chronicles 29:20, and Philippians 2:10 (every knee should be bowing). Hence the usage of the phrase in Philippians 2:10 and Romans 14:11 should shed some light on its meaning in Ephesians 3:14.
We will not, at this juncture, comment on Paul’s posture in prayer, since this was done at the beginning of this series on the panoply (volume 51, pages 33-37). The inmost attitude of our heart should always be as if we were bowing our knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; for this is the only attitude befitting us in the presence of the great Subjector, when we are asking for blessing or thanking Him for it. The Hebrew brk means both to kneel and to bless, for these two belong together. If we cannot emulate Paul’s posture in prayer, we can very well imitate his spiritual attitude. The supreme requirement for today is that the Father be adored in spirit and truth, and He is seeking true worshipers who qualify for both (John 4:21-24). The day will come when all intelligent beings in the heavens and on the earth will combine with Him to make one harmonious family.
GOD’s GLORY IS THE UNIVERSAL GOAL
In A.E.K.’s comments on this prayer (vol.22) we read, “God’s goal is not gained until He receives the heartfelt adoration of all His creatures. Great as are His efforts on our behalf, they are but the means to make Him known. Ephesians does not find its climax in the secret itself but in this prayer for its appreciation. A mere knowledge of the secret is not sufficient or satisfactory to God unless it includes a heart-hungry occupation and enjoyment of the surpassing love of Christ. Even before this secret was made known, the apostle could say, “If I . . . should be perceiving all secrets . . . yet have no love, I am nothing” (1 Cor.3:2). Nothing has any vital value unless it leads to love. It is the glory of God’s wisdom that all things in the universe, including sin and hate, shall be lured into the livery of love. All that is in Him, should find a response in His creatures. There should be such mutual reciprocation in every relationship of life as will be most delightful to both. As Creator, we should take our place as His creatures. As Father, we should be His beloved sons: He the Reconciler, we the reconciled; He the Deliverer, we the delivered. But, more than this, we are accorded a place with Christ in His work of revealing Him to the celestial hosts. It is only as we ourselves are filled with His affection that it can overflow to others.
IN ACCORD WITH THE RICHES OF HIS GLORY
“No epistle in the Scriptures is so full of harmonies as Ephesians. There is a continual assurance that each phase of our blessing is in accord with all the rest. Our sonship suits the delight of His will (1:5). The forgiveness of our offenses is raised on the scale to harmonize with the riches of His grace (1:7). The secret of His will is consonant with His delight (1:9). Our predestination is in union with His purpose (1:11). Paul’s dispensation agrees with God’s grace which, in its turn is attuned to His powerful operation (3:7). The insight of the celestials is in line with the purpose of the eons (3:11). So, now, power is desired such as will harmonize with His glorious riches (3:16). Paul prays for a power which will accord with the wealth of glory which has become ours through this new revelation.”
TRANSCENDENCE OF GOD’s POWER FOR THE INWARD MAN
With reference to the “illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Now we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the transcendence of the power may be of God and not of us. In everything, being afflicted, but not distressed, perplexed, but not despairing, persecuted, but not forsaken, cast down, but not perishing . . . that the grace should be superabounding in thanksgiving to the glory of God. Wherefore we are not despondent, but even if our outward man is decaying, nevertheless that within us is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor.4:6-9,15,16).
We are reminded of this transcendent power of God for the constant renewing of the believer’s mind (Rom.12:2), when we read Paul’s prayer, “to be made staunch with power, through His spirit, in the man within.” The unbeliever’s mind, though it may be brilliant in other fields of knowledge, is functioning along the lines taught by human wisdom, and cannot perceive the additional powerful function in the renewed mind of the believer who has obtained the spirit which is of God. That is why we can think and speak with words taught by the spirit, thus understandingly matching spiritual blessings with spiritual words (1 Corinthians 2:12,13).
In this way God’s power (or spirit) rejuvenates the spirit of the believer’s mind (Eph.4:23) in a day-to-day process, while he is fostering it with the words of faith and Paul’s ideal teaching (1 Tim.4:6). Even though we can do nothing out of ourselves, we are, nevertheless, supposed to cooperate and to heed Paul’s entreaties, “Watch! Stand firm in the faith! Be manly! Be staunch! Let all your actions occur in love!” (1 Cor.16:13, 14).
ABODE, HOME, AND DWELLING PLACE
We recall the Lord’s words to His disciples, “If anyone should be loving Me, he will be keeping My word, and My Father will be loving him, and we shall be coming to him and making an abode with him” (John 14:23). Paul repeats this truth with similar words in Romans 8:9,10, “God’s spirit is making its home in you . . . Christ is in you,” while we read in Ephesians 3:16,17, ” . . . staunch with power, through His spirit . . . Christ to dwell in your hearts through faith.”
When Paul said, “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor.2:16), and “Living in me is Christ” (Gal.2:20), he wanted to emphasize the truth that spiritual interests in the believer’s mind serve to prove that there is a vital union with Christ. But wherever Christ is, there is the spirit of God, making its home in the believer’s mind. Thus God’s spirit (or the transcendence of His power) gives us power over our dead bodies, while Christ’s spirit gives us communion with Him.
God’s spirit is distinct and separate from the human spirit of the believer in whom it resides. Even though God makes His home in those who are His own, this fact does not make them one with God as they are with Christ. It is Christ’s spirit which is indissolubly united to the believers’ spirit, hence they become one spiritual organism together with Him, for we all are one in Christ Jesus (Gal.3:28).
In our relationship to God, we are seen as His temple, both individually (as in 1 Cor.3:16,17; 6:19; 2 Cor.6:16), and collectively (as in Eph.2:21, where all believers of the past, present and future, apart from their peculiar blessings or eonian privileges and destiny, form one family and are built on the foundation of the prophets of old and the apostles of our Lord). As God’s temple is holy, so are we. Since the believer’s body is a temple of His holy spirit, Paul admonishes every one of his readers, “By all means glorify God in your body!” (1 Cor.6:20).
In our relationship with Christ, we are seen as members of His spiritual body. He has placed us in this spiritual organism as it pleases Him. Since He is the Head, it is our duty and privilege first of all to acknowledge His headship and, in doing this, we must also recognize every fellow member in the spiritual body. Being one in Him, “in love, we should be making all grow into Him, Who is the Head—Christ” (Eph.4:15). From this we gather that growth and subjection are the thoughts connected with Christ’s headship over the body.
OUR HEAD, MY LORD
Christ is our Head, but not the Head of the individual believer (except in the figure of the ideal relationship between Christ and the male part of humanity, and that between husband and wife). Christ’s headship is corporate and includes all believers in the present administration of grace.
Christ is my Lord, and as such He entreats me personally to walk worthily of the calling with which I was called, and to fulfill my service which I accepted in the Lord (Col.4:17). He is the Lord of each one of us, but He is never called the Lord of the body. We are to obey Him as our Lord, each one of us personally, in order to walk as a child of light.
Jointly, we are to hold on to Him as the Head of all in order to grow, through every assimilation of the spiritual truths, as supplied in God’s Word and dispensed by our teachers. Thus the “growing in the growth of God” (Col.2:19), the upbuilding of the spiritual body of Christ is to be performed in love (Eph.4:15, 16).
THE SON OF HIS LOVE
Christ is not only our Head and my Lord; first of all He is the Son of God’s love, the Image of the invisible God, Who is love. And as such, He reflects God’s love toward us in such a way that we can grasp various aspects of the “knowledge transcending love of Christ,” while He dwells in our hearts (Eph.3:17,19). Hence Paul asks for spiritual power for all of us, that we may respond to the truth revealed in this epistle; power to appreciate the supreme display of God’s grace and wisdom; power to apprehend the love from which all this springs, and for which all this operates. Surely it is essential that we understand God’s grace in Christ Jesus before we can experience fully the force of His vast love, and this we can best realize as we see it displayed in the activities of the Son of His love.
THE TWO EPHESIAN PRAYERS
Both in Ephesians 1:15-19 and 3:14-21, Paul is praying for something more than that which all believers already possess. The first prayer was for spiritual qualities (spiritual wisdom, revelation in the realization of God) to enable us to perceive the three aspects of the Ephesian secret, even the transcendent greatness of God’s resurrection power for us who are believing.
The second prayer is for spiritual power in order that we may grasp the knowledge transcending love which is behind this secret. Here Paul asks for “Christ to dwell in your hearts through faith.” The reason is that all believers have Christ in their spirit, since they have His spirit, and He is in them; but not all believers have Christ in their heart which is the seat of affection and love. As members of Christ’s spiritual body, all of us entertain a spiritual union with Him; but some of us do not entertain Him in our hearts all the time.
AN ADDITIONAL PRAYER
The verb used in Ephesians 3:17 (DOWN-HOME) is a stronger one than that used in Romans 8:11 (IN-HOME) and serves to convey the idea of permanent and full occupancy dwell, as against merely being in a home, either temporarily, or sharing it with other guests.
Since the heart is not only the seat of affection and love, but also of desire and thought, there might be ample room there for occasional or even permanent residence of cravings and ideas foreign to the spirit of His Son which God delegates into our hearts (Gal.4:6). Under these circumstances, a believer has Christ in the spirit of his mind and has God’s spirit making its home in him, but Christ does not dwell yet in his heart. Because of the presence of other guests in the heart, Christ cannot yet occupy all of it permanently and really dwell in it. He has to share it with those transient guests. They cannot change our status in Christ, but they will influence our thoughts and activities by giving a foreign impetus to our motives which is not in line with Christ’s spirit.
There is no nobler motive for our functions and desires, than the love of Christ which is pressing or constraining us (2 Cor. 5:14). In order to displace and supersede other motives, let us pray both for ourselves and for the ecclesia, that Christ, and Christ alone, may dwell in our hearts through faith, for the laud of the glory of God!
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