The zenith of divine revelation, this heavenly epistle, leaving the earth, where the Christ is repudiated by His own people Israel, seats us among the celestials, where He is enthroned at God's right hand (1:20). His saints, blessed with every spiritual blessing in Him (1:3) in heaven (2:6), are an object lesson to manifest God's manifold wisdom to celestial beings (3:10), so that the purpose of the eons (3:11), which embraces Christ's headship over the heavens as well as the earth (1:10), may be effected through the transcendent riches of grace (2:7) which has come to the nations through the repudiation of faithless Israel, until their salvation and reception (Ro.11:12).
The dimensions of the present grace are not constricted as with Israel. It reaches back to a time prior to the entrance of sin and forward to its exit. It includes not only all mankind who believe in the present economy but is intended to affect the heavens as well. It takes men far below the plane of privilege on which Israel dwelt, with no claims whatever on God's mercy, and seats them far above the highest in heaven. May He help us to learn something of this grace! This knowledge leads us into the realm of the unknowable, for it reveals to us the transcendent love of Christ which we will never be able to fathom fully and which will always yield new delights.
As to time, it reverts to a period prior to the disruption of the first of Genesis (1:4; Gen.1:2) and leads to the exaltation of Christ, not only in the coming eon (1:21), but in the eon of the eons, too (2:7, 3:21), which is the economy of the fullness of the eras (1:10).
Being addressed to those who believe in Christ Jesus, in contrast to those of the Circumcision whose blessings, on the earth, are postponed until His return in glory, this letter was intended only for those who had received Paul's previous ministries and were expecting to be with Him before His coming to the earth (1:12).
The omission of "in Ephesus" (1:1), the lack of the slightest local allusion, and the very general character of the epistle, all tend to show that it is the charter of the church of this economy, a treatise on present truth–the touch-stone and standard by which all truth for today must be tested.
The letter proper is an elaboration of the definition of the present secret economy (3:6) "that, in spirit, the nations are to be joint enjoyers, and a joint-body, and joint-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus" through the evangel of which Paul became the dispenser.
The joint allotment is distinctly stated in 1:13-14. It is expanded in 1:3-18, and enforced in 6:10-20.
The joint body seats both Jew and Gentile together (2:6) among the celestials in Christ Jesus. This is detailed in 1:19-2:10 and in 5:21-6:9. The joint participation is seen in creating the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision into one new humanity (2:15). It is fully discussed in 2:11-22, and is applied to our deportment in 4:17-5:20.
A summary of the new revelation is given in 3:1-13, which is reviewed as to its results in 4:7-16.
The heart of the epistle is filled with two petitions, one to the Father, and one to the saints to preserve the spiritual unity which is founded on the transcendent truths and fathomless favor and limitless love which are revealed in this lovely letter.
1 The title "Christ Jesus" is the token of His exaltation; "Jesus Christ" refers us to His humiliation. "Christ Jesus" is used by Paul, especially in his later ministries. The words "in Ephesus" seem to have been added after the significance of "Christ Jesus" had been lost. The epistle is confined to those who, in contrast with the Circumcision, base their blessings on His present heavenly exaltation, rather than on His future glorious manifestation to the earth for the blessing of Israel and the other nations.
THE JOINT ALLOTMENT
3 Celestial is in contrast to terrestrial (Ph.2:10). The celestial is the realm beyond the earth's atmosphere.
4 "Disruption" is demanded by its elements (down-casting) as well as its usage, rather than "foundation", which represents another Greek word.
4 Not, as the English words suggest, that we may be in the future, but "to be" at present.
5 Sonship involves privileges and dignities not granted to children (Ga.4:1-7). The "new" birth has no place in Paul's writings, for he enters the new creation (2Co.5:17).
7 "Pardon" of sins becomes forgiveness when associated with offenses.
10 The heading up of the universe in Christ is the so-called "mystery" or secret of Christ referred to in 3:4-5 (see 1Pe.3:22). It must not be confounded with the secret economy (3:9) which is in force at present. The two are in accord, but distinct. Christ's headship over the earth had been previously revealed. His heavenly headship was revealed to Peter. The present economy was an absolute secret made known to Paul only.
12 The "perfect" or complete form of the verb marks a state rather than an action. The Circumcision looked for signs and did not expect Messiah until after the great affliction. Those under Paul's ministry were expecting Him at any time. Hence they were in a state of prior expectancy. To such as these this letter was written. To the Thessalonians, Paul had first revealed this blessed expectation (1Thess. 4:13).
13 The subject of these paragraphs is the evangel of the nations: its seal 13, its recognition 17, its prospect 18, its allotment 14, 18, and its power 19. This subject is kept in mind throughout.
The argument is as follows: Paul and his associates of the Circumcision received the celestial, spiritual blessings which have been detailed. The earnest of their allotment in Christ was the holy Spirit which was a pledge of its deliverance. As the believers among the nations received the same spirit when they believed, it is a seal to them that they too (13) will enjoy the celestial, spiritual favors which are lavished upon those of the Circumcision who believe in Christ Jesus during His rejection by the nation of Israel.
14 The "spirit of promise" is not what was promised, but a spirit which promises, a promissory spirit.
Note carefully the pronouns us 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and we 7, 12 and our 14, and the contrastive you 13, 15, 16, 18 and your 13.
15 "The faith which relates to you" refers to the new truth set forth in this epistle.
This letter was probably sent to Ephesus where Paul had taught for two years (Ac.19:10) and where he had not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God (Ac.20:27). His prayer for " a spirit of revelation" makes it evident that this epistle deals with a secret (3:9) of God's purpose (3:11) quite distinct from His counsels which had been revealed before.
THE BODY–IN CHRIST
23 The sovereignty over the earth is given to the nation of Israel, according to the prophets. The sovereignty over the celestials is the portion of the ecclesia which is His body. Between the two the entire universe is brought under the administration of Christ. Thus His body is the pleroma, or complement, which fills up the lack which earth's deliverance would still leave in the celestial realms. Its function is to fulfill God's purpose for the entire universe, only part of which He is able to accomplish through His people Israel.
1 Compare the condition of the two classes with that of the individual believer in Ro.6:2. Such as have "died to sin" "together with Christ", "are vivified together with Him", and "are reckoning themselves to be dead, indeed, to sin" (Ro.6:8-11), so here the nations and some of the Jews, collectively, are dead to sins and offenses, and are roused conjointly and seated conjointly, in Christ.
5 We have not only been saved by grace, but salvation also introduces us into the sphere of grace's operation. Salvation calls for further favors of being vivified, and roused, and seated in Christ together with an election out of Israel. We are not risen with Christ, for rise refers particularly to the body.
7 The on-coming eons–themselves the scenes of the riches of God's grace–will be directed to God's favor lavished upon us as the supreme, transcendent achievement of His unassisted, unforced grace.
8 Salvation, in its beginning, is of faith, in order to accord with grace (Ro4:16). As a state, or condition, it continues to preserve its gracious character. It is not of us; it is God's way of winning our favor. This is the force of the term "approach present," which was used of the corban, or approach offering (Lev.1:2, 2:1, 3:1, etc., Mk.7:11).
THE NEW HUMANITY
11 This section deals only with the place that believers among the nations occupied in flesh, as physically uncircumcised, in the era before this epistle was penned. It is a complete contrast to the place occupied by the nations, as set forth in Acts, not as presented in Paul's previous epistles. Physically only may it be said that they had been apart from Christ, aliens, having no expectation, without God. Trophimus, the Ephesian, would understand this, for when he was in Jerusalem the mere rumor that he had approached as near to the reputed dwelling place of God as a Jew caused the whole city to rise up against Paul who, they supposed, had brought him into the sanctuary. What Paul was accused of doing then, physically, he does now, in spirit, and far more, for we have free access to the Father's presence.
14 The central wall of the barrier was the so-called "soreg", a stone wall, for a partition, with inscriptions which forbade any foreigner to go in under pain of death. One of these was recently unearthed with the following inscription:
No alien is to enter within the balustrade and embankment
about the sacred place. Whoever is caught will be responsible
for his death, which will ensue.
15 The decrees issued from Jerusalem by the apostles (Ac.15:20, 16;4).
15 The enmity in His flesh is the national or race hatred between Jew and Gentile. In His flesh, He confirmed the promises which gave primacy to the Jew. This was figured by the barrier which shut the aliens out of the sanctuary.
15 The new humanity is quite a distinct matter from the one body. It can be put on (4:24,25) and is in contrast with the old humanity (4:22).
19 Here we have our relation to the saints of other economies defined. All saints, whatever their peculiar position, have three things in common. They all are under God's government; all belong to His family; all are His dwelling place. These do not define the blessings which are our special privileges, but those which we share with the saints of every other administration.
1 Contrast Paul as a prisoner of Christ Jesus, summing up the doctrines of the secret administration with Paul, the prisoner of the Lord (4:1), inculcating the deportment which adorns the doctrine.
1 Paul insists that he is the one through whom God's revelation to the nations is given. It can be found nowhere but in his writings.
Summary of the Present Grace
The present secret administration of which there is no hint in any Scriptures before this epistle was penned, consists essentially of three separate items, all of which are marked by the prefix joint. The nations enjoyed much blessing before this (Ro.15;9-12, 16, 27), they were members of the body of Christ (lCo.l2;13,27), they were guests of the promise (2:12), but they had all this subordinate to the Jews. They were not joint allottees, or a joint body or joint sharers in those promises. Now they have their celestial allotment on equal terms, they are members of a body in which no member can claim precedence on account of physical descent, the promises in Christ Jesus are equally theirs with Paul and his Jewish companions. It is of the utmost importance to note that Paul only was given this stewardship and that it is worse than useless to seek for it outside of his writings. It was concealed in God, not in the Scriptures. No trace of it can be found in the prophets or in the preceding books of the Greek Scriptures.
8 The "untraceable riches of Christ" include celestial honors which had not been revealed. His terrestrial riches can be traced throughout the previous Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. He was to be the King of Israel and the Ruler of the whole earth. But now we know of celestial honors which were hid from us before. These are revealed at the same time that the celestial destiny of the body of Christ is disclosed, for it is necessary that He should have the highest place in the universe before we could be associated with Him in its administration.
PETITIONING THE FATHER
14 This petition commences at 3:1 but was interrupted by a summary of the grace which is its motive. Now the prayer is resumed.
It is evident, and experience has confirmed the fact, that the greatest power is required, not for service, but to enable us to realize and appreciate the marvelous revelation of God's grace and love which is ours in Christ Jesus. May God exercise our hearts to this end!
17 Every lack in the universe is filled by Christ. He is God’s Pleroma, or Complement, Who supplies every deficiency. We, as members of His body, are His complement. To fit us for this place He wishes us to grasp the grace which this involves, which in turn will reveal the transcendent love of Christ. Thus we will be filled or completed–brought to that finished state which fits us for our future destiny.
18 The dimensions refer to the secret (6).
20 It is most satisfying to know that God's ability is not limited to our requests, neither are His purposes for us confined to our meager apprehension.
BESEECHING THE SAINTS
1 How apt the titles used by our Lord and his servants! Here it is the prisoner in the Lord who deals with our walk.
3 We are not asked to make the spirit's unity, but not to break it. God's saints are one: let them be assiduous to recognize this by refraining from anything which mars the display of the spiritual unity made by God.
4 During the era covered by the book of Acts there were several bodies, and baptisms, and faiths, and expectations, but now that the secret economy is in operation there is no longer one faith for the Jew and another for the Gentile; but all have the same faith. Nothing should ever divide the saints of this administration.
THE PREVIOUS GRACE
7 The readjustment of the saints, changing them from a condition of tutelage and dependence on the blessings of Israel to mature manhood and independent celestial blessings, was effected by sending them specially endowed apostles and prophets, pastors, and teachers. The service of the apostles and prophets is now superseded by the Scriptures, such as this epistle, which were written to accomplish the same end. This is in contrast to the giving of the law, which brought them into captivity (Ps.68:18). This grace sets aside all enslaving laws and decrees.
Summary of Previous Grace
13 Before the revelation of the secret administration by means of this epistle the saints among the nations were in a period of adolescence. This is fully set forth by the apostle in writing to the Corinthians (l Co.l3:10 ). The gifts then given were for the purpose of leading them on to maturity but were to be set aside when "perfection" came. Paul's prison epistles bring maturity (Phil.3:15; CoI.l:28, 4:12). The shifting changes incident to the period of growth which characterized the era from Paul's call until his imprisonment, which brought the saints among the nations from a position like proselytes to Judaism to a place entirely independent of Israel, were all intended to prepare them for this final revelation in which they become Christ's complement.
We should not build upon all the doctrines of that transitional era, but only such as accord with the present grace. In Romans "to the Jew first" (Ro.2:10) is now obsolete; in Corinthians the gift of prophecy and of languages (l Co.l3:8:) have become inoperative.
16 This is a notable comparison between the spiritual body of Christ and our physical bodies. Not only does the Head preside over the actions of the members of the body but only through it do the members receive sustenance and grow. Just as the nervous system unites the head to every individual member of the body, so each member of Christ's body is in touch with the Head, dependent on Him for food, development, and direction.
NO PARTICIPATION WITH UNBELIEVERS
17 Notwithstanding the "practical" trend of modern science, and the increasing knowledge of the physical universe, men do not comprehend anything. They are not aware of the source or object of things, being interested only in the present profit or pleasure which can be derived from them. Their inventions and investigations have not affected the happiness of the race: they are vain. Their ignorance of God leads them to seek satisfaction and pleasure in temporary expedients which lead to misery.
22 In Christ there is a new humanity. The divisions which mar the present humanity are gone in Him and the conduct which disgraces mankind should also be "put off" like a worn-out, filthy garment. The new humanity is "put on" by acting as those who no longer belong to the race of Adam but acknowledge Christ as their Head. Let us then be renewed in the spirit of our minds. Every exhortation here given depends upon our previous apprehension of His grace. Previous standards of conduct are far too low and in an entirely different key.
26 "Being indignant" may also be rendered "Be indignant" but the context is against this rendering. It certainly is not a command to be angry, for we are distinctly charged to forego anger in this very chapter (31; Col.3:8). The next statement is evidently a parallel to this. In one we have indignation, in the other vexation. In both, we are exhorted not to carry what may be quite right and just to an extreme which will make them injurious and sinful. It may be paraphrased: "Do not let indignation degenerate into anger: do not cherish a grudge. Do not flare up: do not let your resentment smoulder."
28 Restitution, single, double, fourfold, or fivefold is the requirement of Sinai (Ex.22:1-5). Now the thief is to work that he may give to those in need.
32 The key for conduct in the kingdom is righteousness: love is the true spring of all that pleases Him in this economy. The most powerful motive and perfect method to put this into practice is to charge our hearts with an overpowering apprehension of His grace toward us. This will not fail to influence our conduct toward others.
1 God "walks in love"–He is Love. He is our Father. Just as pet children copy the actions of their parents, so we should reflect His love to all with whom we come in contact. God's glory should be the underlyIng motive of every act.
No Participation with Unbelievers
2 The sacrifice of Christ has many aspects. The opening chapters of Leviticus deal with these in detail. The sin and trespass offering seem to be entirely for man's benefit. But the first offering of all, and the most important, the ascending offering, called a "burnt" offering, seems to have been entirely for God; nothing in it was for man. So with Christ. The questions of human sin and transgression were secondary in His sacrifice. It was, first of all, His obedience to the will of God which gave His death its infinite value. His object was to please His Father. This is the true motive for service acceptable to our God.
3 Here the Spirit of God has laid a finger on the sore spots which all our advance in civilization has only served to accentuate. Physical excesses, sordid cupidity and questionable speech are but symptoms of the cankerous evil which pervades society in this day of boasted advance. As the literal Greek puts it, "more-having", or avarice, is more pronounced than ever, and does not need to hide its face, for it is disguised as a virtue. In the kingdom of God, none of these will be able to take root.
8 To behave as children of light is the complement of imitating Him as beloved children, for God is Light as well as Love. In nature light is indispensable for fruit: nothing will produce without it. The same is true in spiritual things. The most flourishing saint is the one who has the most light, who knows what his Lord's will is. The most strenuous endeavor to serve God will not meet His approval if it is out of line with His revealed purpose and plans. Let us rouse ourselves from our lethargy and the darkness which surrounds us and bask in the light of Christ.
18 Excess of wine leads to drunkenness, which is not good, but an overflowing spirit is to be commended. It manifests itself in songs and thanksgiving and subjection.
19 Spiritual songs suggests the need of conforming even our songs to the truth of this present time and singing with understanding as well as the lips. Most of the destructive errors of the day are based on or supported by popular hymns.
THE JOINT BODY–IN THE LORD
21 As is the case with every exhortation in the second division of the epistle, the deportment of husbands and wives is founded on the doctrine previously developed in the first division. A reference to the framework will show that it is based on the truth of the joint body. Wives are to be subject because the man is head of the woman as Christ is Head of the body. Husbands cannot be exhorted to love their wives on the ground that the ecclesia occupies this relation to Christ, for the faithful in Israel, who have no part in the blessings of this epistle, are figured as the wife or bride, not of Christ (an official title), but of the Lamb. Hence the argument of Eden is introduced showing that husband and wife become one flesh. Christ and the ecclesia are one body. Hence the husband is exhorted to love his wife as his own body, for it is thus that Christ loves the ecclesia. What limitless love is involved in the statement, "No one at any time hates his own flesh"! Men have hated their wives: Jehovah divorced His unfaithful wife (Jer.3:8-20). But Christ is so one with the members of His body that He cannot cast them off. Thus should a husband love his own wife, who has become one flesh with him. How exultantly precious is this close relationship to Him! What could be nearer? What could be dearer? Even evil, sinful men cannot hate their own bodies. So much the more Christ cannot but love us as He loves Himself! God grant that we may drink deeply of this delicious draught!
The Joint Body–In the Lord
32 There are three secrets in Ephesians: the secret of Christ (1:9), the secret administration (3:9), and the secret of marriage, here referred to. The physical fact that the marriage union makes husband and wife a physical unit is used as one premise in the argument that husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. The secret of the evangel is also referred to (6:19). There is no such expression as "the bride of Christ" in Scripture.
It is of principal importance that we distinguish the double relationship which we sustain to Christ and to the Lord. In Christ, all physical distinctions vanish. There are no slaves and masters, even the sexes are not distinguished "in Christ" (Gal.3:28 ). But "in the Lord" these physical distinctions are recognized and made the basis of our conduct toward one another. Wives are subject, children are obedient, slaves are subservient "in the Lord".
The key to all correct conduct lies in the recognition of our heavenly Master. The true slave seeks to please Him; the master acknowledges Him in his behavior toward his slave. Children obey their parents "in the Lord", for such is His wish. Fathers train them "in the Lord", conforming to His gracious methods.
The slave is especially encouraged by the fact that he will receive his due from his heavenly Master even though he receives nothing from his earthly one.
THE JOINT ALLOTMENT IN
THE CELESTIAL SPHERE
10 Israel's warfare is with flesh and blood on the earth. Ours is with wicked spirits in the celestial realms. We should always remember that those who oppose us are merely the intermediaries used by the spiritual forces and treat them accordingly. It is not our place to wrestle with blood and flesh but to look beyond the human instrument to the real adversary in the spirit world. Material weapons are worse than useless. Our attitude toward men should be one of purest conciliation, not strife (6:15).
The Joint Allotment in Heaven
14 The spiritual armor here given covers the whole body and is for defense only. Truth will give us strength to withstand the attacks of error. Righteousness will preserve us from the wounds of wickedness. The evangel of peace, wherever we go, will conciliate the human weapons used by the spirit powers which are directing human affairs.
16 An ancient mode of warfare was to fasten fire to arrows which would not only wound but burn. It was especially used against elephants to cause them to stampede. When the adversary sends some burning dart in the direction of the believer it is his privilege to shield himself by means of the faith which this epistle affords. This will effectually stop the arrows and quench their fire.
17 When all this has been done then we receive (not take) the helmet of salvation. And then we are entrusted with the sword of the spirit–a divine declaration. We have no offensive power at all except an explicit statement of God. The Scriptures contain many statements of men, such as the assertions of Job's friends, which are false. Hence only the declarations which proceed out of the mouth of God constitute the spirit's sword.
THEIR PRAYER FOR PAUL
18 What a marvelous picture Paul presents of the ministry of conciliation! God's ambassador in a chain! Could anything show more clearly God's attitude towards mankind? Nothing is surer to provoke war than the maltreatment of an ambassador. God's ambassador goes to Rome, the greatest of earth's governments, and he gets a chain. Yet, instead of declaring war, he proclaims peace. This is the true spirit of the evangel for the present economy. It calls for conciliation notwithstanding everything which should provoke hostilities. The answer to this prayer is found in Phil.1:12.
21 Tychicus means "Fortunate", and such he was, for no fortune could compare with the riches which this epistle was to him and to those to whom he brought it.
23 What a balm this benediction brings! Peace, love, faith–may these be the portion of all who read these lines!
GRACE BE WITH ALL
24 Here we have the true test–those who truly love our Lord. May favor, indeed, be theirs!