Check Your Panoply
“Having been rooted and grounded in love, you should be strong to grasp, together with all the saints, what is its breadth and length and depth and height—to know, besides, the knowledge transcending love of Christ” (Eph.3:17-19).
DIMENSIONS”—this is the keyword to the second half of the second Ephesian prayer. The dimensions of the Ephesian secret are in accord with the dimensions of God’s love which is reflected by His Image, Christ Jesus. Our salvation, our justification, our reconciliation, our glorification are all tokens of God’s love; our spiritual blessings as well as our material blessings, though only the first is promised to us (Eph.1:3). Taking account of these tokens of His love coincides, in a way, with checking on the various parts of the panoply of God. Conscientious accounting will help us to get a grasp of transcendent love; conscious checking will allow us to enjoy our celestial status even now, in this body of our humiliation. Neither can be done without praying on every occasion, as Paul did.
The climax of God’s Word is found in Ephesians; the climax of Ephesians is in its second prayer. More than thirty years ago (UNSEARCHABLE RICHES, volume 22, beginning with page 302) A.E.K. commented on verses 17 through 21 as follows:
GROUNDED IN LOVE
“Our vitality and stability depend upon the apprehension of God’s love. As a plant seeks its sustenance and strength in the soil, so we should search for our sustentation and support in the subsoil of all of God’s activities, the fact of His affection. We can flourish in no other ground. Here alone can our roots find nurture and our trunk find strength. Both of these are necessary for fruit. How many of us have failed to fasten firmly on the love transcendent? Only in this can we stand and bring forth fruit for God’s delectation. Nothing else will delight Him. No substitute should satisfy us. Hence, let us pray this prayer for ourselves. Let us make it a petition for all believers. Only thus can we grasp these immeasurable measurements.
THE DIMENSIONS OF THE EPHESIAN SECRET
“The transcendent love of Christ and the dimensions of this secret are usually merged into one, according to the rendering of the Authorized Version. Let us remember that the apostle has interrupted his prayer to explain the secret, and this is the subject on his heart as he proceeds. He expatiates on the vastness of its scope in order to make this a stepping-stone to that which lies beyond. No one can grasp the love of Christ without an amazed wonder at the moral breadth and length and depth and height involved in this, God’s latest and highest revelation.
“A characteristic feature of the tabernacle in the wilderness was the width of the gate which led into the court. It indicated something of the breadth of the evangel in the era which it typified. Though Israelites could enter, yet all aliens were shut out. So with the proclamation in the early part of Acts. They spoke to the Jews only. Gentiles could not enter without becoming proselytes of Judaism. Now, the evangel is for all. In effect, the gate of the Tabernacle is only a hindrance, for the whole wall surrounding the Tabernacle is now taken down. Access to God is unhindered. The evangel could be no broader. Corresponding to this, the central wall of the temple has been abolished (Eph.2: 14). In this aspect the present grace is unlimited in breadth.
“Not only is the present secret administration all-inclusive, but our future service will be all-embracing. Israel will broaden out to evangelize the whole earth in the day of her glory. When we enter our proper allotment, we will reach out to the utmost bounds of the universe. Our parish will include all of the celestial hosts. Tell me the breadth of the universe, and I will give you one of the dimensions of the Ephesian secret. The physical measure is an index of its moral extent. It is an indication of the vastness of Christ’s love.
“In space, we can hardly make a distinction between its length and breadth, for both are beyond our grasp. Perhaps we should think of time when meditating on its length. It goes back before the eons, long before the entrance of sin. In God’s purpose, it preceded the disruption. It is the earliest intimation of God’s love for His creatures. We were not an afterthought with God. Let us revel in the realization that He thought of us long before He took up His earthly people Israel. His care for us is not due to the rebound arising from Israel’s rejection of His favor. We are His first love, the earliest to call forth His affection.
“The secret not only has the greatest sweep of any of God’s administrations, but it digs down into the very dregs of human depravity and soars to the highest heavens. Israel had promises and privileges which raised them above the balance of mankind. The Gentiles were below them, far from God, sunk in sin, ignorant and alienated, deserving only death. The grace of God reaches down into the deepest depths of degradation for the trophies of its triumph.
“Never in the story of this somber scene, had come a time so dark and dismal as the days that followed Paul’s final visit to Jerusalem and his imprisonment in Rome. The Jews will not have Messiah. Neither will they allow the other nations any place. Paul is a prisoner. Every avenue of blessing seems effectually choked. Everything is ripe for judgment, So it seemed. Then, with a spiritual convulsion as great as the material cataclysm which ends the Lord’s day, a place is prepared for a new creation. God creates a new, spiritual sphere, unheard of and unknown. He reveals this present secret administration, which fills the hosts of heaven with admiring wonder and the hearts of His hallowed with impassioned praise.
“Israel will have the highest place on earth. We will have the supreme position in the heavens. What can be higher than that? No celestial creature will be above us. All will be beneath. Had we been raised to a place of blessing under Israel, as will be the portion of the nations in the coming eon, that would have been an undeserved and undreamed exaltation. Had we been put upon a par with them, that would have been an almost unthinkable elevation. To be the humblest in heaven, how far beyond our highest hopes! To be equal to celestials would seem the limit of human anticipation. Truly, it never has entered into the human heart what God has for those who love Him! Highest of the high, we shall be above all the heavenly host.
“All of these dimensions are love tokens. Each adds to our assurance and appreciation of His affection. Each is a step which raises us to the temple of Christ’s love. We cannot now measure these dimensions. We have no means to calculate their immensity. They are beyond our powers. So is the love to which they lead. It is like the universe itself, which seems to expand as it is explored. The most powerful telescope, with photographic plates that picture millions of stars that human eyes have never seen, cannot find the boundary of God’s material world. Its transcendent size is a parable of the immensity of the love that conceived it, which is embodied in His Christ, and which has been revealed in the moral dimensions of the Ephesian secret.
THE EON OF THE EONS
“The coming eon is particularly concerned with God’s glory in Israel. It includes the day of the Lord. The succeeding eon is the day of God and approximates the present secret administration. Then God’s glory will be publicly displayed in accord with the present spiritual, manifestation. Israel’s spiritual supremacy will be past in that concluding eon. Now it is only eclipsed temporarily. Then God will tabernacle with mankind, as such. No temple, no priesthood will bar their approach to Him. It is serenely satisfactory to see that the only occurrence of this phrase, ‘the eon of the eons,’ is found in Ephesians 3:21, for this epistle sets forth spiritual blessings for the nations which parallel those of the day of God. It is true that the Son still rules, and the Jewish saints still reign on earth, but their authority will be near its vanishing point for lack of opposition. Those who are near God need few restraints.
“But the last eon will not only witness the nearness of the nations on the earth: It will be the scene of celestial splendors among the star-strewn empyrean. God will be glorified on earth beyond all previous administrations. But His greatest glory will shine forth through the celestial saints, the ecclesia which is Christ’s body. Having learned the lesson of Christ’s transcendent love, it will be our lot to publish it abroad among the heavenly hosts. Then we shall have the greatest privilege which can be accorded to any person. We shall bring glory to God and good to His creatures. Vessels of grace are we, not only to have and to hold but to give and to gratify. Our bliss will not be based on ourselves, but in blessing God and benefiting His handiwork.
“This is the keynote, on which our happiness began. Our salvation, our justification, our reconciliation, and our glorification are merely the means of glorifying God. This thought, once it enters into our heart, will give us rest and relief from ourselves, and serene surcease from dread of the future. Our personal destiny is so pitifully unimportant in this great universe when viewed by itself. But when it is seen to be a part of God’s own glory, it ceases to be insignificant. It is no longer inconsequent. It must be safe and sure. It cannot fail or fall. It is not the reward of our merits, for we have none. It is reared on our demerits, of which we have no lack. Let us but see that we are the instruments for revealing God’s grace, and essential to His goal, and we have the best basis of eonian bliss which man has ever imagined.
“At the end of the second Ephesian prayer (3:21), we have a series of superlatives seeking to set God’s glory on the summit of the Eonian times. God’s greatest glory will be displayed in our Lord under the contrastive title, Christ Jesus; Jesus, the symbol of His humiliation; Christ, the title which combines all of His official dignities. Of all the elect, the members of Christ’s body are the most exalted, though once the most debased. Of all the eons, the last will bear the rich fruitage of the rest. In the most blessed time, in the most blessed class, and in the most exalted Personage, will God garner the glory which is His as the Administrator of the Mystery.”
THE SECOND EPHESIAN PRAYER
This prayer is not for a small power, but rather for one in accord with the riches of His glory (3:16). This is not a petition for power in order to perform something spectacular, or to edify ourselves or the ecclesia, but rather to glorify God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by means of jointly grasping the dimensions of the Ephesian secret and knowing the knowledge transcending love of Christ.
It should be noted at this juncture that, in quoting from volume 22 in this matter, we differ, in a way, from most expositors who take it for granted that the dimensions of love are in view in Ephesians 3:18. Some of them claim that the love in which we are to be rooted, is not God’s or Christ’s, but that it means that our love should be deep and sincere. Others see here the love which the spirit produces and pours into the believer’s heart. This inner spiritual condition of the heart, they say, enables him to do two things; to grasp love’s dimensions (so as to get a comprehensive idea of it), and furthermore to get to know love transcendent (while experiencing it in daily life).
In our opinion, Westcott (in the nineteenth century*) came closer to the meaning of the passage under consideration. With reference to the breadth and length and depth and height, he wrote: “The four words express one thought, the whole range of the sphere in which the Divine wisdom and love find exercise. First, we come to apprehend the dimensions, so to speak, of the sphere in which the Divine counsel finds its fulfillment and then we come to know the love which occupies it.”
We need to be rooted and grounded in God’s love, so as to be sure of the fact that nothing shall ever separate us from His love for us. Just think of the most precious divine declaration in Romans (5:8,9): “While we are still sinners, Christ died for our sakes. Much rather, then, being now justified in His blood, we shall be saved from indignation, through Him.” In all this “God is commending His love to us.” And we may be persuaded, together with Paul, “that neither death nor life, nor [celestial] messengers, nor [celestial] sovereignties, nor the present, nor what is impending, nor powers; nor [of the] height, nor [of the] depth, nor any other creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Rom.8:38,39).
OUR CELESTIAL STATUS: UP OVER EVERY POWER
When even our basic faith in God’s love, as shown in justification and conciliation, is in danger of being subdued by events around us and powers beyond our perception, how much more antagonistic will be the attitude of certain celestial powers toward us in view of our celestial status? For, in spirit, we are already seated together among the celestials in Christ Jesus; there is our allotment; we may enjoy it now if we hold it by faith. We shall enter on its tenancy in fact when the Lord will call us above where He is seated at God’s right hand, up over every power (Eph.1:20,21; 2:6).
The hostile attitude of the spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials is due to these facts. Vigilance is also necessary because of the stratagems of the Adversary who knows that the God of peace will crush him under our feet swiftly (Rom.16:20). But while we are still in this body of our humiliation, the wicked powers of the height and of the depth are alert, never ceasing in their efforts to drag us down from the realization of our celestial status.
PURSUE RIGHTEOUSNESS, FAITH, LOVE, PEACE!
In, order to stand on our celestial allotment now, in spirit, we must know the truth; we must present ourselves as slaves to Righteousness for holiness (Rom.6:19); as ambassadors for Christ, we must be sandaled with the readiness of the evangel of peace; in all of this, we must exercise faith, and then will we enjoy a present salvation from the assaults of the powers of darkness.
TOKENS OF GOD’s LOVE
God never asks from us what He does not first give. In Christ Jesus, He gives us His own righteousness, and only then does He expect us to no longer be slaves of Sin.
It was God Who came after us and gave us faith, as an approach offering (Eph.2:9) so that we could hear and believe the Word of Truth, the evangel of our salvation. And only then did He ask us to nourish ourselves daily with the words of faith (often recorded as prayers) and with the words of the ideal teaching (both by Paul). Have we fully followed his teaching (1 Tim.4:6; 2 Tim.3:10)?
It is not before we have received God’s gift of reconciliation and enjoy permanent peace with Him, that He expects us to anticipate the fruits of His reconciliation with our fellow men and adopt an attitude of permanent peace toward them—sinners and saints alike.
We should not cease praising the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we have been saved from our sins, and are being saved from the lordship of Sin, and that He provides us with a present salvation in the celestial spheres, as well. And only then does He bid us stand on our celestial allotment, in spirit.
In the oncoming eons, we will actually set foot on our celestial allotment; but right now, in this wicked day, we can do so only in spirit, and only as long as we are invigorated in the Lord and in the might of His strength (Eph.6:10). Our full cooperation is expected by putting on the panoply (every implement, Lexical Concordance, page 166 and 106) of God in order to withstand now, and to stand in the celestial conflict. In other words, we are supposed to appropriate all the truth which God has in store for us. This is why, during the past four years, we have, in this series, covered all the main items of Paul’s teaching, as they are symbolized by each piece of armor mentioned in Ephesians 6:14-17.
For attacking and fighting enemy forces on the battlefield, Roman soldiers were equipped with heavier weapons than, were the Praetorian guards who had charge of the chained apostle during his military imprisonment in Rome. For this kind of guard duty, the light armor, as described in Ephesians six, was sufficient. In a similar way, the believer is not supposed to attack the forces of darkness. Rather it is his duty to be “vigilant” (Eph.6:18) in spirit, to stand on his celestial allotment, and to withstand any efforts of the enemy which interfere with the enjoyment of his celestial status.
The picture of the Ephesian warrior, clad in light armor for defensive warfare, is different from the figure used in 2 Corinthians 10:4 where Paul is announcing offensive warfare in a campaign directed against the bulwarks of arrogant argumentation; against false brethren and their reasonings. Here Paul speaks of powerful weapons (though our standard is IMPLEMENT in both cases).
In the picture presented in Ephesians six, we are not on combat duty, but rather on guard duty. But even then (using the figure of Romans 8:37) “we are more than conquering through Him Who loves us” and having a “triumph in Christ” (2 Cor.2:14), as long as we adhere closely to the rules laid down for us in Ephesians 6:10-20.
THE REVELATION OF THE POWER OF HIS LOVE
In the celestial realm, Christ’s position is up over every sovereignty and authority and power and lordship, and every name that is named; He is higher than any of these spiritual forces, even those of wickedness. Since God subjects all of them under His feet and gives Him as Head over all to the ecclesia which is His body (Eph.1;21-23), it is evident that we as the members will never be subordinated to any of these celestial potentates. We will rather see to it, that they too—all of them—accept Christ as their Head.
This will be achieved by the display of God’s grace to the whole universe, and we will be His display material. Then our hearts will be God-centered and totally absorbed with His grace and glory; fully engaged, not only in worshiping Him but in His great plan of bringing every knee to bow in adoration. This will be revealed to the celestial realm not merely by words which we speak (when each of us will tell his own story of grace), but rather by that which we were and what we have become. Utterly unworthy of our high station in ourselves, we will be the prize exhibition of God’s grace, the revelation of the power of His love.
ENJOYING OUR CELESTIAL STATUS NOW, IN SPIRIT
Putting on all our armor, that is, appropriating every Pauline truth, will enable us, to a certain extent, to see earthly things more objectively, more as God would judge them. From this celestial vantage point, we can view things from the right perspective because we are far above the fleshly and soulish spheres. Thus we can enjoy our celestial allotment right now whenever we are aware of our being seated together in the celestial realm, in spirit, in Christ Jesus.
As long as we are in this body of our humiliation, however, the powers of darkness will do their utmost to dim our spiritual awareness, to thrust us off of our celestial allotment, and to drag us down to the earthly sphere where the spirit of the Adversary is now operating in the sons of stubbornness (Eph.2;2). Whenever we lose our celestial status, even temporarily, we will see things from the earthly viewpoint and with limited perspective. Thus earthly events loom large, and we are often overwhelmed by their seeming importance, because our eyes are then diverted from the spiritual truths about our celestial status, downward to the lower planes of soulish sensations and earthly events. Such a shifting of the emphasis is sure to interrupt, to a greater or lesser extent, the supply of vitalizing spiritual energy which flows out of the transcendent greatness of God’s power for us who are believing (Eph.1:19).
ROOTED IN GOD’s LOVE
Formerly, we might have thought that God was well able to carry out His plans of love for the universe and that He Himself will take care of everything and everyone so that we need not concern ourselves. But now it is our deepest concern, too, that the outcome be perfect. His universal program of love has become increasingly significant to us since we learned about our part in it as members of Christ’s body. The realization of God’s will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, now makes our desires coincide more and more with His and causes our prayers to originate from His Word. A continuous study of the prayerful words of faith and of Paul’s ideal teaching will help us to adjust our prayers more and more to the divine vocabulary.
DURING EVERY PRAYER AND PETITION
This article rounds out our survey on Pauline prayer guides, and, at the same time, on the panoply of God. The multifarious wisdom of God has seen to it that these prayers serve a manifold purpose: They contribute to the laud of His glory; they enable us to count the tokens of His love so that we will walk as children of light and serve as slaves of Christ Jesus; they also rejuvenate the spirit of the mind toward a regular checking of our panoply and a fuller understanding and enjoyment of our celestial status, because of His vast love with which He loves us.
“Now to Him Who is able to do superexcessively above all that we are requesting or apprehending, according to the power that is operating in us, to Him be glory in the ecclesia and in Christ Jesus for all the generations of the eon of the eons! Amen!” (Eph.3:20,21).
*In the Explanatory Introduction to the International Edition of the Concordant Version of the “New Testament,” page 327, Westcott is mentioned among the greatest Greek scholars who have engaged in collating “New Testament” readings. What he calls “sphere” in the above quotation, is actually the Ephesian secret.
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