Check Your Panoply
WHEN WE OPEN up our printed Word of God and come to the first page of Ephesians, many of us will find it well worn from much reading. We would probably point to the first chapter of this epistle if we were asked to show where the most precious divine declarations for us today are to be found. Some of us have learned these verses by heart and have been quoting them in our prayers ever so long, in the evening and in the morning, at times of affliction, distress and turbulence, whenever we wanted to see things in their proper perspective, not only God and His Christ, but also ourselves, and others, as well as the events around us.
As long as we are in this body of humiliation, we will always be in need of reminding ourselves over and over of the divine declarations which are referred to as the sword of the spirit in Ephesians 6:17. Whenever we prayerfully concentrate our renewed minds on our celestial blessings, we are leaving the fleshly and soulish level behind us, and are, in spirit, setting our feet on our celestial allotment. This is why we praise the Supreme with His own sublime words:
“Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who blesses us with every spiritual blessing among the celestials, in Christ!”
THE MYSTERIOUS MYSTERY
All the blessings are ours jointly, and they are in spirit. In order to become thoroughly acquainted with them, we will have to make a daily effort, studying carefully these words of faith and of the ideal teaching. Perhaps there are a few among us to whom the celestial blessings still seem to be wrapped up in a Mysterious Mystery; but all of us will be interested in an article under this title which was published in volume 21 (still available!), starting on page 561. Even more light is shed on this topic in our booklet, “To Enlighten all as to the Secret.”
PAUL’S FIRST EPHESIAN PRAYER
Prayerful study of the first half of Ephesians and the above mentioned commentaries will certainly help toward a fuller realization of the Ephesian secret which actually is no longer a mystery since Paul was commissioned to enlighten all his readers about it (Eph.3:9).
So let us join the apostle in his first Ephesian prayer (1: 16-23) to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, that He may be giving us a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the realization of God that we all may perceive
(1) what is the expectation of God’s calling,
(3) what are the riches of the glory of the enjoyment of God’s
allotment among the saints,
(2) what is the transcendent greatness of God’s power for us
who are believing.*
IN THE LORD
At the beginning of the second half of Ephesians, Paul is no longer an apostle of Christ Jesus, as in 1:1, nor the prisoner of Christ Jesus, as in 3:1; he is now speaking as the prisoner of the Lord (4:1) who entreats his readers to walk worthily of the celestial calling of which he has spoken before. He refers to those of the nations who are walking in the vanity of their mind (4:17); we, however, should not cause sorrow to the holy spirit of God but should rather deal graciously among ourselves (4:30,32) and walk in love, as imitators of God, as children of light, wisely reclaiming the era (5:1,2,8,16).
In the first half of the epistle, the apostle had covered our new status as joint enjoyers of a celestial allotment, since we are members of a joint body and joint partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus. All of this comes under the doctrinal part of Ephesians in chapters 1 to 3. However, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit with the tie of peace, making all grow into Him, and putting on the new humanity (4:2,2,15,24), begins with chapter four; thus, all the blessings which are ours in Christ (in chapters one to three) are balanced by our deportment (in chapters four to six); and here the pages of our printed Word of God usually show less evidence of repeated study.
Starting with 5:21, our relations with others are dealt with in detail. Paul shows the ideal conduct of the wives, the husbands, the children, the fathers, the slaves, and the masters, ending with the declaration that there is no partiality with the Lord since everybody will be requited by Him for whatsoever good each one should be doing, whether slave or free (6:8,9). From this statement it would seem that the apostle has now covered everything in the line of deportment . . . or who else might take special interest in us, and in the fact that we have a celestial status and are supposed to walk accordingly?
SPIRITUAL FORCES IN THE CELESTIAL REALM
At this juncture we are reminded of Romans 8:38,39, For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor messengers, nor sovereignties, nor the present, nor what is impending, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”
We also recall that Paul had written to the Corinthians (1 Cor.4:9), “For I suppose that God demonstrates with us, the last apostles, as death-doomed, for we became a theater to the world and to messengers . . . ” And we might remember that Peter knew of their interest in Christ’s sufferings and glories, for he said: ” . . . into which messengers are yearning to peer.” And he also knew that messengers and authorities and powers are subjected to Jesus Christ, Who is at God’s right hand (1 Peter 1:11,12; 3:22); for Christ’s celestial exaltation was revealed to both Peter and Paul. The existence of celestial authorities and powers, however, was of minor importance to Peter’s readers, since their Messiah will have the place supreme on earth where they will reign with Him.
THE WICKED DAY
Among the most precious divine declarations in Romans is the following (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.” And in all this, God is commending His love to us. And as we read before, nothing shall ever separate us from His love (Rom.8:35-39). No messengers, nor sovereignties, nor powers, nor height, nor any other creation can wipe out the facts that God Himself justified us and that Christ is pleading for our sakes. God’s love remains our treasured possession, even if our lives are filled with affliction, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword. “Nay! in all these we are more than conquering through Him Who loves us,” meaning that our awareness of His love will enable us not only to endure our distresses but even to enjoy them. So God does not want the hardships of life to overwhelm and conquer us; our souls will feel them, but our spirits should rise above them in view of God’s unshakeable love, thus making us more than conquerors in this sphere of attack.
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, as Paul wrote to the Romans (16:20). These are the reasons why we are supposed to put on the panoply of God in order to withstand and stand in the celestial conflict. Here, too, we may be more than conquerors if we adhere closely to the rules as laid down in Ephesians 6:10-18.
TRANSCENDENT RICHES OF GRACE
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, 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 all of them accept Christ as their Head, too. This will be achieved by the display of God’s grace to the whole universe, and we will be His display material. The following quotation from UNSEARCHABLE RICHES, volume XL, page 92, will help to elucidate our celestial status.
“In the on-coming eons we will no longer be weak and weary mortals, but grand and glorious immortals, the special objects of God’s kindness, whose former impotence and sinfulness are a perfect foil for the transcendent riches of God’s grace. And this is not ours because of aught in us, but because of the glory which it brings to God, in the eyes of the celestial hosts.
“Our hearts will be God-centered, totally absorbed with His grace and glory, and 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 realms not merely by words which we speak, but 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.
“This will be our felicitous function in the on-coming eons. During the millennium and the new heavens and the new earth which follow it—the last two eons—God will display His transcendent grace through us. This should humble us in the dust, for grace demands, not our works or our worth, but utter degradation. If we had any glory of our own, that would destroy this display.
“Right now, there is very little outwardly visible of what God has done for us. Inwardly, our spirits may be exulting in the glory of His grace, but this is not apparent to the celestial hosts. Indeed, it is necessary now that they become acquainted with our mean estate, that they realize the depth of our degradation, so that the contrast will be apparent when we are glorified.”
GOD SEATS US TOGETHER AMONG THE CELESTIALS
No power, nor height, nor depth, can wipe out the glorious fact that in the future eons God will seat us together among the celestials. But the declaration in Ephesians 2:6 implies even more, for the “fact” form, seats, includes both the past and the present. It is in connection with the joint allotment that God chose us in Christ Jesus before the disruption of the world; since this fact is valid for all times, Scripture says explicitly, “He chooses us.” All the blessings were ours even before we were existent and sinned! Thus, in God’s eyes, when Christ died, we died with Him; we were in Him also when God roused Him from among the dead and seated Him at His right hand up over all the celestial sovereignties (Eph.1:4,20,21). So, in Christ, we too were vivified and seated together among the same celestials, long, long before we were even born. This fact still stands today; thus, in spirit, we are seated there right now, even if our present bodies of humiliation are enduring suffering through afflictions, distresses and turbulences.
THE TRANSCENDENT GREATNESS OF GOD’s POWER
God is teaching us to pray for a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that we may perceive our blessings, one of which is the transcendent greatness of His power for us today while we are believing all His precious promises as far as they are valid for the present secret administration of grace. Most, if not all of us, are disbelieving in some points.
Perhaps we believe that we will be reigning together with Christ even though we cannot keep quiet when we are injured or cheated by our brethren. We may be willing to serve others, but we cannot stand humiliation. Whenever we are retorting we are as unjust as our revilers, and we shall not be enjoying any allotment in the sovereign power of God’s kingdom; only if we are enduring now, we shall be reigning together also (1 Cor.6:7-9; Keyword Concordance, page 168: kingdom; 2 Tim.2:11-13). The members of Christ’s body will certainly exercise a variety of functions in accordance with their high celestial status while displaying the transcendent riches of God’s grace. This will certainly be done by various ways and means; each of us will have a different story of grace to tell. So far the allotments appear to be similar. But in addition, some of us will be reigning together with Christ in the celestial realm, and thus enjoy a different allotment than some others. We are disbelieving 2 Timothy 2:12 when we think the allotments will all be identical.
The transcendent greatness of God’s power is for us who are believing and not disbelieving in some way or other. Any fraction of disbelief will hinder the outflow of this divine power which comes to us through the Word of God; any amount of disbelief will also make us forget about thanking God for each and every thing, and thanking Him in advance, even for sending us through the school of endurance. If there is disbelief on our part as to any of the celestial blessings in Ephesians, we will fail to praise God for them as we should and thus rob ourselves of their enjoyment.
DIVINE DECLARATIONS ARE SPIRIT AND ARE LIFE
Our Lord tells us in John 6:63 that the declarations which He has spoken are spirit and are life. Additional spiritual life—this is what the transcendent greatness of God’s power for us amounts to. Hence His declarations energize us and vitalize us spiritually. They have no direct effect on our physical frames, but they put new life into our spirits. There is no evidence in our flesh as to our celestial status; and the ever-changing feelings of our souls do not affect our blessings either, since God blesses us with every spiritual blessing among the celestials in Christ. We know God and His grace only through words; but they are God’s words, and this is why they charge our spirits with divine vitality and assure us of our celestial status.
It would be very foolish to claim that every sentence in the Bible could serve a similar purpose. For there are many human words, quite a few words of God are mistranslated in the popular versions, and besides this, many divine declarations were spoken to other saints in other administrations and do not pertain to us; so they could not assure us of our place in God’s purpose.
Let us, therefore, point to one of God’s most potent declarations for us today: “Yet God, being rich in mercy, because of His vast love with which He loves us (we also being dead to the offenses and the lusts), vivifies us together in Christ (in grace are you saved!) and rouses us together and seats us together among the celestials, in Christ Jesus . . . ” (Eph.2:4-8). This divine declaration is a fountainhead of spiritual vitality for us who are believing so that we can indeed experience what is the transcendent greatness of God’s power for us. To Him be all the glory!
*D.V., we will explain on a later occasion why we numbered the three aspects of the Ephesian secret in this order: 1, 3, 2.
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