By Henry Law, 1884
Ephesians 2:11—22. One in Christ
"Wherefore remember, that
you being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision
by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands."
The preceding statements of the Apostle concerning God's eternal election in Christ—salvation entirely of free grace, the sovereign gift through faith, and not of works—and the riches of His mercy and greatness of His love—and His quickening power towards those dead in sins, have been of a general character. Such observations are often disregarded. A man may think that they apply to others and not to himself—he may feel no personal address to his heart and conscience. To obviate this deficiency in faith, Paul now bids the Ephesians take these truths home to their own hearts. He would have them single themselves out of the family of man, and come alone and take their seats under the direct rays of these blessed doctrines, and examine closely into their own cases, and see how graciously God had dealt with them. He bids them look to their former state, and realize how dark, dismal, forlorn, dead, hopeless, it was—and then view in contrast their union to Christ, their life and recovery in Him, and their reconciliation through Him to God. The conclusion cannot be escaped. They must each individually feel that God has made them monuments of electing love and distinguishing grace—they must each individually ascribe all glory to Him so rich in love, so great in power.
He commences this personal application by saying, "Wherefore remember, that you being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands." He says, Call to mind what was your state by birth—you were Gentiles, utterly dark and ignorant of the true God and only way of life—looked upon with scorn and contempt by those who were chosen by God to have knowledge of His law. By realizing this humiliating condition they would be better prepared to estimate and magnify the exceeding riches of the mercies, which had so freely abounded towards them. Let each believer follow the precept of the Spirit—come apart for awhile from the whole Church of God; enter into the secret chambers of solemn retrospective meditation, and under the rays of heavenly light review his former state.
Now, through grace, he is light in the Lord; but formerly he was darkness, and how great was that darkness, how thick those scales which covered his spiritual vision! He had no knowledge of God as the Father of mercies and God of all grace. The Book of Life was to him a sealed book. It brought home to his feelings no moving, melting testimonies of redeeming love—the record of the Savior's cross and passion seemed as some idle tale in which he had no interest, and in which, therefore, he took no delight. He did not believe that there was deep and solid reality in the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to enlighten, renew, sanctify, and lead to Jesus. He regarded the humble professions of the saints of God as mere hypocrisy or delusion—neither heaven nor hell excited in him affecting thoughts of hope or fear. Darkness—gross darkness—enveloped all his perceptions of things invisible and eternal. He had no true knowledge of God—of Jesus—of the Spirit—of the Word—of holiness—of sin. He lived only for the things of time and sense; and so was rapidly hurried along the downward stream of time, to meet an unknown God in an unknown world, and to enter upon an unknown eternity.
O my soul, such was your former darkness! How dreadful, how terrible! Forget it not, set it distinctly before you; it will help you to rejoice more in your present light, for the Sun of Righteousness has risen upon you with healing in His wings. Therefore, arise, shine, and reflect from your bright armor of light the rays which fall upon you. Remember, that in former days not only utter darkness covered you, but that all your ways and works, all your thoughts and deeds, were one unbroken mass of iniquity and rebellion. Paul reminds the Colossians, "You, being dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has God quickened together with Christ, having forgiven you all trespasses." Oh! think seriously of this dreadful state—dead in sins. How humiliating the thought, that in those days, hatred to the holy, gracious God of your salvation filled every corner of your heart—that the ways of vital godliness were deliberately rejected by you—the ways of foul evil were deliberately chosen—that the language of your feelings was, Away with Jesus! I will not have Him to reign over me. Crucify Him! crucify Him! release unto me Barabbas. You joined with the children of Satan, who raised their haughty hands against the God of heaven, and who would gladly have torn Him down from His throne of righteousness. Remember, O my soul, such was your former state. But now you are alive unto God, and loves Jesus, and rejoice in His salvation. How great the change! How great the grace! Give thanks with all the heart.
Ephesians 2:12."That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world."
The Apostle, from his desire to bring the Ephesians into a deep and grateful sense of their obligations to sovereign grace, continues to direct their minds to the dark and desolate condition from which they had been delivered. He had exhorted them to remember, that formerly they were Gentiles, whose very name was a reproach among the Jews. He proceeds, and bids them remember that "at that time they were without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world." What an dreadful picture of destitution and misery! Here is a state closely bordering on the wretchedness of the lost. Let us make this matter personal. Let us call in our thoughts from the mass of the heathen, or of the world around us, and realize that such was our own condition before God in the riches of His mercy removed the blindness from our eyes, and revealed Christ to us as the hope of glory. Let us take up in order the several points.
(1.) We were "without Christ." We had no knowledge of Him beyond the sound of His name, or some common facts of His history. We were utterly ignorant of our need to be cleansed from the filth of destructive sin by the merits of His blood. We knew nothing of His power and willingness to save to the uttermost. We had never heard the sweetest of all sounds on earth, "Go in peace, your sins are forgiven you." We knew nothing of the calm delight of sitting down at the foot of the cross, and reading in His wounded hands and feet the blessed assurance that our every debt was paid. We knew nothing of the peace of taking shelter in His pierced side, and realizing that we were safe from the appalling thunder of the law, and the uplifted arm of almighty vengeance. We had never put on the robe of His righteousness, and felt that it not only covered all our impurity and loathsomeness, but was a garment worthy of the admiration of God and all heaven forever. In those days of gloom we had no endearing communion with our beloved Lord. We did not know Him as "a Friend that sticks closer than a brother;" a Bridegroom united to us in loving-kindness, faithfulness and truth; a Surety, to discharge all our dues; an Advocate, ever pleading our cause on the ground of His complete satisfaction; a Shepherd, to watch over us, making us to lie down in green pastures, and leading us beside still waters; we did not delight ourselves in Jesus, as all our salvation and all our desire—our light and life—our joy and peace—our hope and confidence—the first and the last of our constant thought—and our portion forever. We were without Christ, and therefore joyless and lifeless.
(2.) We were "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel." The people of God form a blessed community. They constitute one family, they are children of the same Heavenly Father, heirs of the same glorious inheritance, fed at the same board of spiritual ordinances and promises, partakers of the same faith and of the same divine nature, called by the same Spirit, bought by the same blood, loved with the same love, and rapidly hastening to the same home. Hence their hearts are knit together in brotherly affection; they feel for each other as fellow-members of one body; they hold sweet fellowship together, and talk one to another of their common Lord, and of His precious redemption, and of His dealings with them and their brethren around. Sweet indeed is this communion—strong these bonds of uniting love. But at that time we were aliens from this commonwealth. We did not seek nor delight in the society of God's children—rather we shunned them as gloomy and morose and forbidding—we were disposed to revile them as hypocrites and deceivers, and to scorn them as the filth of the earth and the offscouring of all things.
(3.) We were "strangers from the covenants of promise." When we are brought home to God in Christ, we find Him a God engaged by covenant to bless and save us. We find Jesus engaged by covenant to redeem and present us faultless before the throne of His glory. This covenant contains exceeding great and precious promises, which are all Yes and Amen in Christ. Oh! how blessed to feel that we have a covenant-interest in all these promises—that they are our heritage forever—that we may plead them before the mercy-seat, and cry, O Lord, do as You have said—be it unto us according to Your word. But we were strangers to these promises—we had not tasted their sweetness. God was to us only a God afar off. We only heard the voice of threatening.
Consequently we had "no hope." Believers have "a good hope through grace." They have the God of hope as their God forever—they rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Happy indeed is it to be thus saved by hope, and to enter on a state founded on such a covenant, obtained by such a price, extending to such a boundless prospect of happiness. Once we were strangers to this hope—the prospect before us was blackness—no ray illuminated the unbroken gloom—there was a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation. To the question, What is our hope? the reply was, We have none.
It could not be otherwise, for we were "without God in the world." They who have God, have all things. But God can only be known and appropriated in Christ. There is no other access to Him. Christ is Emmanuel, God with us. Christ is the center in which God and man meet, and become one. We were once without God—now, in Christ, He is ours forever. Oh! joy of joys! mercy of mercies! Grace has made the difference. Let us adore the God of grace.
Ephesians 2:13."But now in Christ Jesus you who sometimes were far off are made near by the blood of Christ."
We now turn from the dark picture of the preceding statement, and are permitted to behold a bright and lovely contrast. "The wilderness and solitary place is glad; the desert rejoices and blossoms as the rose; it blossoms abundantly, and rejoices even with joy and singing." "Now in Christ Jesus, you who sometimes were far off, are made near by the blood of Christ." We no longer hear of being without Christ, having no hope, and being without God in the world. The Spirit of God has breathed upon the slain—the dry bones have started up into life—the believers of Ephesus were now in Christ, and as such, by His blood are made near to God. It is impossible for us too often to dwell upon the truth, that the most close and vital and indissoluble union exists between Christ and each member of His flock. They are emphatically "in Christ:" they are truly members of His body—engrafted by the Spirit into Him as branches into the parent stem; cemented into Him as the building into the foundation. From this union all their life and all their privileges proceed. Believers should often realize that such is their state. Christ has not only called them to His knowledge, and revealed to them His love, and exhibited in them His power; He has, moreover, taken them into Himself. Let them realize this union. Its sanctifying efficacy is great; for who can be persuaded that he is thus part of the holy Jesus, and consent to any sin? Also, its comfort is unspeakable; for this union forbids the possibility of separation. They who are thus united to Him shall be with Him where He is; that they may see His glory, and sit with Him on His throne forever.
The grand point, however, of the text before us, is the present privilege of those who are in Christ. They "are made near to God by the blood of Christ." Once they were far off; sin had made a wide breach—a deep chasm of separation parted them. But Jesus by His blood takes away all the iniquities of His people; and thus He opens a new and living way by which they may draw near, and find wrath appeased, justice satisfied, every impediment gone, and God as a God of love extending His arms to welcome them, and bidding them pour out their souls unto Him. Let believers know assuredly that it is their privilege thus to have access to God. He regards them not as aliens and outcasts—as strangers and foreigners—but as His own children through grace—as heirs of His own kingdom.
It is not His desire that they should stand afar off. He commands them to draw near, and assures them by every tender and affectionate promise, that He will welcome and rejoice over them. "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." How striking are the words which the Spirit sent to Asa! "Hear you me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin, the Lord is with you while you be with Him—and if you seek Him, He will be found of you—and if you forsake Him, He will forsake you."
Draw near in constant communion. Our citizenship is in heaven—our thoughts should encircle the throne. Wherefore do we ever cleave unto the dust, and let our imaginations too frequently rove amid the vanities and trifles of this evil world? Why do we not rather mount on high, and enter by faith into the holy of holies, and meditate on the glories of our heavenly home? Say not, I am dull, and heavy, and drowsy, and I cannot ascend—it may be, that by long-continued indolence and inactivity the upward flight is contrary to habit, and the stream may strive to flow on in its customary channel; but make the effort, persevere in it, check each thought which strives to wander, and the Lord will surely help, and yet a little while you will find that the new nature will joyfully and habitually seek its proper home; and the Lord will be your meditation all the day long.
Draw near in frequent, earnest prayer. Be diligent to banish far all deadness, coldness, and formality in this exercise. Set God closely, immediately before you—speak as to One bending over you to hear each word—be conscious of His actual presence, and plead as one who is pleading for things of unspeakable value, and pleading with One glorious in majesty, mighty in operation, doing wonders. How fearful is the hypocrisy of men who seem to honor God with their lips, while their drowsy spirits are in the torpor of indifference, or carelessly rambling amid projects of sin and folly! Let the believer in prayer draw near. He has liberty and boldness of access with confidence. Let him use diligently this precious privilege, and great will be his joy and peace.
Draw near in the study of His blessed Word. Always remember whose Word it is, and that Jehovah here holds converse with us. The Scriptures are as surely His revelation as if the heavens were now opened over our heads, and an audible voice proclaimed the wondrous truths. Is it not a shame that we should so long have possessed this treasure, and have been so scantily enriched by it? Lord, of Your mercy pardon us—and help us by Your mighty Spirit to draw nearer and nearer, and thus listen with all attention to Your glorious Word!
But in all our approaches let us be mindful of the blood of Christ. This clears the way—this is the key which unlocks the palace-gates of heaven—this is our only title of admission—this secures our welcome. God loves the blood of His Son, and delights to honor it. When He sees it sprinkled over the person of a sinner, He loves that man and can withhold nothing from him. When He sees that blood sprinkled over any of our services, those services are an odor of a sweet smell—a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing in His sight. This blood is ours by the faith of Jesus—we may take it, and use it, and plead it. Holy Spirit! give us power to avail ourselves of our mercies, and to live near to God by the blood of Christ.
Ephesians 2:14."For He is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us."
These words declare the union of believing Jews and believing Gentiles in Christ. In Him both are one. They had been far apart. The Jew regarded the Gentile with bitter scorn; he refused all communion; and thought it pollution to partake of the same bread. There was a high wall of partition which utterly divided them. But Christ has removed all external and separating distinctions, and having united each unto Himself, and having made each members of His own body, He has brought them into close fellowship in Himself. This truth is full of instruction. May the Spirit of peace and love teach us to deduce some lessons of profit from it!
(1.) Believers are all one in Christ. In this world they are scattered abroad and divided by many external circumstances. Some live in one age, some in another; some in one country, some in another. Some speak one language, some another. Some live under one form of polity, some under another. Some prefer one form of religious worship, some another. But notwithstanding all these external differences, they are all one. They meet and embrace in Christ. In Him as a common center, all the rays from east to west, from north to south, are collected. God the Father loved them all with everlasting love—chose them all out of the mass of mankind—gave them all to Christ as His portion, spouse, jewels, sheep, and body—to be redeemed by His blood from all their iniquities—to be clothed with the pure righteousness of His obedience, and so to be faultless, a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. The Holy Spirit calls, teaches, strengthens and sanctifies them all. The same Spirit dwells in each, reveals to each the same precious truths, leads each to wash in the same purifying fountain, to sit down under the same cross, to lean on the same arm, to profess the same faith, to glory in the same name, to feed on the same truths. They all are journeying along the same road to the same heavenly rest. They will all soon be brought together to share the same glory, and to sing the same song. In these and many similar particulars, they are all one in Christ. He is their common peace, who has utterly taken away all essential separation and difference.
(2.) Believers ought now to live in this unity. Doubtless there are differences of station which God has wisely ordained for the common good of the family of man. Some are called to rule, others to obey—some direct, others serve; and these lines of separation may not be rashly trampled down. The foot may not claim the place of the eye; nor the hand murmur, because it is not the head. There are also differences of gifts. Some have more enlarged outpourings of the Holy Spirit—some are endued with more acuteness of mental perception, or more soundness of discriminating judgment—and hence some are qualified to give a tone to opinion, while it becomes others to hear and to submit. But still one feeling of brotherly love ought to pervade the whole family. Few things are more emphatically enjoined than this unity and godly harmony. "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment." "Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another, according to Christ Jesus—that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." "If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affections and mercies, fulfill you my joy, that you be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind—in lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves." Many other passages might be added, all enforcing the same duty. May the Lord then hasten the time, when envies and jealousies, and suspicions shall utterly be put away from us, with all surmisings and evil-speakings; and when all Christian hearts shall be knit together in love; and men shall take knowledge of us that we love one another with pure hearts fervently. "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity."
(3.) This union would greatly strengthen the cause of Christ. Our blessed Lord, in His divine intercession, declares what gracious effects would follow. "That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in me, and I in You; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that You have sent me." The ungodly and sneering world are continually enquiring, Where are the children of God? We discern but little difference; worldliness and divisions seem as common among them as among the professed votaries of pleasure; we see no unity of spirit or of purpose. There is too much ground for this reproach, and much injury results to the cause of Christ. On the contrary, if all believers stood firm in one rank against error and ungodliness, they would be "terrible as an army with banners" against the hosts of Satan. The world could not gainsay their power. It would acknowledge the reality of the truth of their principles, and see that God was with them of a truth. Thus, "they who are of the contrary part, would be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of us," and the Word of the Lord would mightily grow, and have free course, and be glorified.
(4.) This union would greatly increase the joy of believers. In this world we cannot escape the enmity and reproach of evil men. The servant is not greater than his master. If they called Christ, Beelzebub, and crucified Him, we may not expect kind words or kind usage. Sad, then, indeed, is our outward case, if we have not the love of our brethren. But there is a comfort in their love which solaces in all trials. The Lord grant that this may more abound, and sweeten each bitter cup which He gives us to drink!
Ephesians 2:15."Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace."
Paul in these words further establishes the entire reconciliation of Jew and Gentile in Christ
(1.) We here learn that the ceremonial law, which he calls the law of commandments contained in ordinances, placed enmity between Jew and Gentile. On this point it is needless to enlarge. It is well known that the ceremonial law contained numerous external rites, which separated the Jews from the rest of mankind. The diversity of observances created an alienation of feeling, and precluded all social communion. Thus mutual dislike existed, and the enmity of which the Apostle speaks produced estrangement.
(2.) We next learn that Christ has abolished in His flesh this enmity. These observances had all some reference to Jesus, and were mostly typical of Him. They were ordained to prefigure Him, and to keep the mind of the observer in constant expectation of Him. In the fullness of time He came in the flesh, made of a woman, made under the law, and by the sacrifice of Himself upon the cross, and by the shedding of His most precious blood, He perfectly fulfilled everything which these ceremonies had for ages been foreshadowing. Thus the design of the law being answered, its further use terminates. Hence it is abolished in Jesus. These ritual forms being thus removed, the separation ceases, and the believing Jew and Gentile are no more apart.
(3.) We learn that Jesus thus makes of twain one new man, and establishes peace. Let us now advance to the contemplation of this reconciling work of our beloved Lord, and meditate on some of the blessings which result from His grace. Each of His children He makes a new man. Old things pass away—behold, all things become new. A new nature is implanted—the Holy Spirit Himself descends, and takes up His abode in the heart. His people are temples of the Holy Spirit. The promise is fulfilled—He receives gifts for men, that the Lord God might dwell among them. Oh! the surpassing dignity of a disciple of Jesus! Wherever he moves, He carries with Him the power of the Holy One. How diligent we should be to stir up the gift which is in us! We should earnestly strive to cause the light which is given to shine brightly around. May the Lord grant that the fruits of the Spirit, the evidence of the new nature, may increase, and be more abundant! The fruits are these. "Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." In this beauteous train, love leads the way. Where God is, there is love; for God is love. Where Christ is, there is love; where the Spirit is, there is love. The truth is realized, If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. Love is the fulfilling of the law.
If Christ has made Jew and Gentile one in Him, removing all distinctions—much more should believers of one nation, and kindred, and place, be one in Him. Satan is well pleased—and his work prospers when schism and discord spring up among the saints of the Lord. Such things should not be. They are the offspring of pride, and show that the old man is allowed still to prevail. Let us strive to realize the oneness which pervades all heaven; and this thought will show us the oneness which should reign on earth. Around the throne there is no discordant feeling nor sound. Every pulse beats high with love. The very atmosphere is love. Then the saints realize how God has loved them from all eternity with love free and infinite. They then know how Jesus has loved them, for they fully understand the value of the price which He paid for their souls—the preciousness of the endless glory which He thus purchased for them. They see and feel how the Spirit has loved them; for they see how He strove with them in all patience patience—taking no denial until He had subdued and softened their stubborn hearts—broke down the barriers of enmity and self-righteousness—and established Jesus as King and Savior on the throne of their hearts. With this clear view of all Jehovah's love, every redeemed one rejoices in the feeling of infinite love; and pours forth the song of ceaseless adoration.
When each, too, looks around, and beholds the vast multitude of brethren—loved with the same love, and bought by the same blood, and brought to the same glory—how are they all united in the same blessed bonds! Whenever we see a child of God, let us remember how fervently and eternally we shall love him in heaven, and this will cast out each uncharitable thought, and cement even now our hearts in holy oneness.
Ephesians 2:16."And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby."
Who can conceive the wonders of the Cross of Christ! How amazing is the work accomplished by the dying Savior! Every joy which the believer experiences on earth springs from the blood then shed. All the adoring songs of eternity proclaim, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain." If Jesus had not died upon the Cross, what would be our present state? No atonement being made—no reconciliation effected—we should be hated and accursed of God; and hating Him, we should be fearfully looking for judgment and fiery indignation to devour the adversaries. But, praise to the grace of God, Christ has died, and has reconciled all His people, whether Jew or Gentile, in one body unto God.
Let us consider from these words (1.) The reconciling power of the Cross. (2.) That believers are reconciled in one body, and therefore should realize their oneness. May the Spirit of God hear our prayer, and take of the things of Christ, and show them unto us!
(1.) The reconciling power of the Cross. It is unsound doctrine to suppose, that God becomes reconciled to us by the death of His Son. On the part of God there is no enmity to remove. He has loved His people from all eternity with infinite love in Christ. The gift of His Son to bear our sins in His own body on the tree, is the result and evidence of His love. His giving us unto Him—His willingness to receive His death and sufferings as ours, and to impute His righteousness unto us—are all the results of the same divine attribute. He is all love towards us, but we by nature are all hatred to Him. But by the Cross of His Son He removes our enmity, and effects our reconciliation unto Him. How tenderly and compassionately He implores us by that blood no longer to stand afar off, but to draw near and cast ourselves into the arms of His saving mercy! Hear the Apostle, "All things are of God, who has reconciled us unto Himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now, then, we are Ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be you reconciled to God."
Let us draw near, and contemplate the reconciling efficacy of this Cross. What tender sounds of mercy issue from it! We there hear in facts, more loud and convincing than all professions, that God is ready, willing, no, most anxious to save us. Hard indeed are those hearts which can resist the moving, melting, winning persuasions which are addressed to us at Calvary! God here assures us that our salvation is dear to Him. I do not desire your ruin, says a mighty voice, I do not will your destruction; far otherwise; I give mine only-begotten Son—my co-equal and co-eternal Fellow—to become a curse in your stead—to make full satisfaction for all your iniquities—to make reparation for all the insults to mine honor—to open a clear path for your return to my presence and kingdom forever. Let us not then hesitate. Let us approach. All enmity is slain. "Fury is not in me, says the Lord." Wherefore should there be reluctance on our part? What more could I have done for my vineyard, which I have not done for it? Come, now, and let us reason together. Could I have opened heaven's gates wider? Could I have sent a more complete redemption? Does not Christ's blood cleanse from all sin? Is not all manner of sin forgiven to all who trust in Him? Is not His righteousness a robe of such glorious beauty that all heaven cannot sufficiently admire it? Does not all fullness dwell in Him; not only fullness to redeem, but fullness to help at each moment—fullness to supply every want, and to present you holy and without blame before me? See what I have given—see what I have done to save you to the very uttermost—and will not you be reconciled unto me? is the language of God's work.
When the Spirit of God applies these truths with power, how quickly the opposition of the natural heart ceases! The sinner no longer sees God only as clothed with vengeance, and stern with wrath, and prepared to consign him to the punishment which his sins deserve. He sees Him rather as the God of mercy, grace, and love, in the Cross of Jesus—he sees only His compassionate and endearing smile—hardness no longer continues hard—tears of penitence and love flow from a subdued heart—reconciliation is effected, and he cries, My Father, and My God! Such is the reconciling power of the Cross. Nothing else can make peace. But when the Spirit reveals this blessed sight, the God who has so loved us becomes the God of our boundless love. We now love Him who has so loved us.
(2.) Believers being thus reconciled in one body, should
realize their oneness. This is the argument that the Apostle is now
endeavoring to press. The Gentile as well as the Jew is thus softened, and
subdued, and reconciled, and brought home to God. The same Cross allures and
saves them both—therefore all strangeness should pass away, and they who
both love God as their common Father, should love each other as co-partners
of the same benefit. Heavenly Lord! knit together as one the hearts of Your
Ephesians 2:17."And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to those who were near."
The Apostle, still prosecuting the argument, that Jew and Gentile should live and love as one, proceeds to add, that the blessing of peace, through the work and mediation of Christ, is equally bestowed on both. The grand subject before us is, that the Lord Jesus is the sinner's peace. There is great emphasis in the expression, "He is our peace." It implies more than to say, He procures, or proclaims, or bestows it. This He might do mediately and instrumentally, and by intercession—but in a far higher sense, He Himself is our peace. In a similar sense He is declared to be our life, our strength, our shield, our resurrection.
Now the Lord Jesus is our peace in reference (1.) to God; (2.) to our own consciences; (3.) to the world around us. While we proceed with the enquiry, may the Lord manifest Himself more and more as our peace!
(1.) He is our peace in reference to GOD. How dreadful is the state of that soul which is not one with God! But naturally enmity exists. Sin has occasioned a wide separation. God cannot look upon an unclean thing. Every holy feeling of His nature rises in wrath against it, and burns with fierce indignation, and calls for eternal destruction. But by nature we are all sin; every faculty of soul and body is only an instrument of sin—whatever we do, wherever we go, we sin. What a mass of vengeance is treasured up against us! Can we remove it? Impossible. Not all the powers of earth—not all the armies or hosts of heaven—could take away the slightest speck of sin, or make reconciliation to God for it. How fearful the contemplation of this state! The just God—the mighty God—most righteously burns with wrath, and prepares to cast His adversaries into unutterable woe.
But Jesus comes and makes peace. How? By removing that hateful thing, which stirs up the indignation of the Most High. He takes upon Himself the sins of His people, and suffers in their stead to the very uttermost all the miseries which were denounced against them. Thus justice, truth, and holiness are completely and forever satisfied. They can allege no charge against any sinner for whom Christ died. "Who is he who condemns? It is Christ that died." His precious blood washes out every crimson dye, and renders the soul pure and spotless from every stain of pollution. So the omniscient, penetrating eye of Jehovah can discern no blot; but pronounces the washed sinner to be pure and clean, and unreproveable in His sight. Thus the whole cause of the enmity on the part of God disappears. No cause remains why He should not be at peace. He loves the sinner in Christ, and delights over him to bless him and to do him good. Thus the chastisement of our peace is on Christ, and by His stripes we are healed.
But other difficulties yet remain. Before peace can be mutual, and love reciprocal, the dark, deep-rooted hatred of God which obstinately broods in man's heart, must be eradicated. Who can effect this? Alas! no human power. Far easier to tear up rocks and mountains, or to bring down the sun from the skies, than to uproot this enmity. He only can accomplish it who can renew and create afresh the heart. But this Jesus wonderfully effects by the Spirit as the Agent, and by the preaching of the Gospel as the means. He sends forth His ministers, who tell of His dying love—of the power of His blood—of the beauty of His righteousness—of the perfect reconciliation effected by it in the courts of heaven—of the willingness and readiness of the Father to welcome all who draw near to Him pleading this saving Name, and casting down the arms of their rebellion before His Cross. The wonders accomplished in the day of God's power are worthy of all admiration. The sword uplifted against God falls from the sinner's hand—the stoutest heart is melted like wax—the hard rebel becomes pliable and easy to be won—tears of penitence are followed by tears of love—cries for mercy are succeeded by songs of praise. Thus Christ is our peace. He removes enmity from God, and enmity from man. God loves, and man loves; and both in Christ are one forever.
(2.) Christ is peace in our CONSCIENCES. When we feel and know that we have sinned grievously against our God—when our many and our mighty iniquities raise up their hateful heads, and each cries for condemnation—when Satan the accuser brings days and years of ignorance and rebellion to our view, and shows us that the very holiest thought of our holiest hour is utter pollution before God, who can prevent terrors, anguish, and dismay from invading the soul? Who can silence the voice that calls for wrath? Who can quench the flames that begin to lay hold of the mind? None but Jesus. He alone can speak peace by assuring that His blood is complete and everlasting pardon for every sin, and His righteousness perfect acceptance before God. When the eye of faith thus sees Him, all is peace.
(3.) Christ is peace as regards the WORLD around. Where Jesus reigns as Peace-maker, there love is in full exercise. It is foretold of Gospel-times, "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid." Where enmity or ill-will appears, Christ is cast out. Rule in us, great Lord, as universal peace!
Ephesians 2:18."For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father."
This verse reveals to us the Three People of the Godhead who are concerned in the great work of salvation, and it specifies the distinct office which belongs to each. Herein indeed we have a wondrous mystery, which at present our limited faculties are weak to apprehend. We cannot understand or explain how Three People constitute one indivisible Deity. But shall we doubt a truth, because it is above and beyond the reasoning powers which God has been pleased to assign to us? Far be such folly and such sin. It would be as reasonable to question the existence of God or our own souls, because they are not the objects of actual vision. It is in wisdom that our present faculties are circumscribed, that we might exercise faith and walk humbly with our God. In all matters it is sufficient for us to know that He has spoken—our only province is to hearken, to believe, and to adore. It would be interesting to collect and examine the many declarations of Scripture which testify of the Trinity in Unity. Such investigation, however, would carry us far from our immediate subject. Let us therefore confine ourselves to this plain record, and consider that access to the Father is (1.) through the mediation of Jesus—(2.) by the instrumentality of the Spirit. And may the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be with us in teaching love!
(1.) The mediation of Jesus. At present we cannot estimate the infinite separation which sin made between God and the sinner. The All-holy could not be approached by the unholy—the All-pure by the impure—the All-clean by the unclean. The High and Holy One dwells in the highest heavens, and no sin-soiled could find admission into His presence. Heaven would cease to be heaven, if sin could enter. God would cease to be God, if He could look upon iniquity. Let the sinner consider this! He bears upon him mountains upon mountains of iniquity, the very least atom of which so firmly bars the gates of heaven that admission seemed to be impossible. But through grace, there is a ready, open, new and living way to God's embrace now, and to His kingdom forever. That way is the blessed Jesus. "I am the way—no man comes unto the Father but by Me." How is He the way? By washing out every stain of iniquity in His most precious blood, and by covering us with the heavenly robe of His perfect righteousness. Sprinkled with this blood, clothed with this clothing, no hindrance impedes our approach. Will God cast out His only-begotten Son? Will He banish Him from His presence? Impossible. Neither can He reject any sinner who draws near in Him.
Let the believer realize his privilege, and know his blessed estate. By faith in Jesus, he becomes one with Him. Thus at each moment he may enter heaven's gates, and draw near to the throne of the Eternal. The blood—which is the blood of His own Fellow—His own co-equal and co-eternal Son—must be honored. No slight can be put upon it. All who are sprinkled with it may stand before God. It is because of the worth of this blood that the believer may ask any blessing according to His will, and cannot be refused. He may supplicate for pardon, and that is a great gift. He may ask life eternal—that is still more. He may ask to sit on God's throne—that is still more exceeding. He may pray for all this, and he shall succeed, for every petition bears the prevalency of Jesus's name—and for every gift the believer pays down a full and sufficient price, even the blood of God. Thus through Jesus we have access. He is the way. He is the Mediator. He is the Arbitrator, who makes both one, and unites God and the sinner forever.
(2.) This access is by the agency of the Spirit. By nature, we are blind; how then can we see the way? By nature we are dead; how then can we stir to walk in it? By nature our hearts hate God, and desire anything rather than to return to Him. So then, vain would be the Father's gift of a Mediator—vain the Son's blood opening a direct passage to Him—except our hearts be softened, our eyes opened, our longings for return kindled. This can only be effected by the Spirit. This is His peculiar work, and this He lovingly and omnipotently accomplishes. He takes away the heart of stone. He teaches us our lost and ruined state. He causes us to tremble lest we perish in hell forever. He then sets Jesus in all His love and beauty before the eye of faith. He assures us of His willingness and power to restore us to God. He shows us that all things are now ready. He overcomes our fears and reluctance. He brings us near to Jesus, and through Jesus unto God. Thus the Spirit is the leading, teaching, constraining Agent, by whom through Christ, we have access unto the Father.
Yes, it is unto the Father, as our rest, and portion, and delight, that we are thus mercifully brought. To see Him, and to know Him, and to love Him, is our privilege now—to enjoy Him forever will be our heaven—and approaching in the Spirit through Jesus, we find Him all love—forgiving us every trespass—casting behind His back every sin—delighting over us to do us good—and blessing us with all spiritual blessings. Are we thus brought home to our Heavenly Father, through Jesus, by the Holy Spirit? We are saved, then, with an everlasting salvation, through the wondrous work of the Triune God.
Ephesians 2:19."Now therefore, you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God."
Paul continues to unfold the blessedness to which the Gentiles were called. We have here again a contrast which cannot be too often pondered. (1.) Their former state, "strangers and foreigners." (2.) Their present privilege, "fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God." How amazing is the difference! What wonders are accomplished by the free grace of God! May the Lord give us power from on high to profit by the contemplation!
(1.) We have to consider their former state, "strangers and foreigners." By nature we are all strangers to God, to the Lord Jesus, and to ourselves. Until the enlightening rays of the Holy Spirit shine into our hearts, we are utterly ignorant of the nature and grace of God. If we think of Him at all, our thoughts stray widely from the truth. Ask the man of the world what he thinks of God, and his vague reply will manifest the most dreadful ignorance. But even if there should be something like head-knowledge, there is nothing like spiritual acquaintance and holy communion. All mankind, except the believers in Jesus, are utter strangers to God as the God of all grace, and mercy, and peace—the covenant-keeping God in Christ—their reconciled Father—the God who so loved them as to take pleasure in bruising His only-begotten Son to make a way for their pardon and acceptance.
If they are strangers to the Father, so also they are to Jesus. They have heard that He laid down His life for the sins of the world; but they have had no dealings with Him for the salvation of their own souls—they have never approached Him in faith and love—they have never fled for refuge to His wounded side, or washed in the fountain of His all-cleansing blood. They are strangers to His voice, "Your sins are forgiven you;" they are strangers to the smile which fills with peace and joy.
So too they are strangers to their own hearts. Little knowledge have they of the depths of their corruption—the mountains of their iniquities—the just deservings of their ungodly lives—the sure end of the broad road in which they are walking. In this and many other senses, they may well be termed "strangers."
Similarly, they are "foreigners." They have no title to the privileges and possessions of the commonwealth of Israel—they do not recognize Jesus as their King, or pay homage to His laws—they know nothing of the customs and language of the people of God. They belong altogether to a distinct community, even that miserable division of our race who bow before the throne of Satan, and yield obedience to his iron scepter!
Mark the difference. When the set time of mercy is fully come, God sends forth the Spirit of His Son into their hearts—darkness passes away, the true light sweetly shines. They are delivered from Satan's power, and are translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son. Now they "are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God."
(2.) This brings us to their present privilege. "fellow-citizens with the saints." The saints can truly testify, "We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks." In this city they dwell under the gracious government of God. He reigns among them, seated on a throne of grace, to which they have access at all times. He ever extends to them the golden scepter of His love, to which in faith they draw near with boldness, and obtain the desires of their hearts. In this city the voice of praise and thanksgiving is continually heard, and all the happy inhabitants are bound to each other with the ties of love. They mutually rejoice and weep with each other. To this blessed citizenship all are admitted who receive the enlightening and adopting grace of God.
Such are not only "fellow-citizens with the saints," they are, moreover, of "the household of God." There is something peculiarly endearing in this expression. It represents the Church as one family, over which God presides as a Father. Such is a pleasing and just view—how full, too, is it of encouraging consolation! Does an earthly parent anxiously watch over the interests of his offspring? Does he labor to provide for them? Even so our Heavenly Father, whose will is law through the whole range of nature, orders all things for the real good of His children. It is round His board that they all sit—His smile and blessing they all share. As all the members of one household are bound together in mutual harmony, so should it be on higher grounds among the family of God. They should love as brethren—they should delight to promote each other's interests. What is more distressing to an earthly parent, than disunion in his house? So how justly must God's displeasure be excited when His children bite and devour one another!
Ephesians 2:20."And are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Cornerstone."
The Church of God is here compared to a building, resting upon a foundation laid by the Apostles and Prophets, which foundation is Jesus Christ, and having a chief Corner-stone, which also is Christ. Let us consider these two supports—and may the Lord give us enlightening grace!
(1.) Jesus Christ is the foundation laid by the Apostles and Prophets. Throughout all the ages of the Church there has only been one saving truth, which is Jesus—one only way of salvation, which is Jesus. To Him give all the Prophets witness. From the day when God gave the first promise of redemption, all who have been taught and commissioned of the Father have uniformly delivered the same message. They have proclaimed remission of sins only through the blood of the Lamb of God, and righteousness only through the faith of Him. He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, and the Lamb preached from the day when sin entered it. The Prophets appear one after the other, and they all point to the same sacrifice, and cry, "Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world!" The Prophets are succeeded by the Apostles, and they point to the same Savior, and reiterate the same truth. Thus Jesus is the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets.
We may rest our souls and all our hopes on Him, for He is appointed by the Father to this especial work. What says Jehovah? "Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation." What solid comfort do we derive from this truth, when we draw near to Jesus! God, who knew what all His attributes required, selected Jesus for this work. "I have laid help upon One that is mighty—I have exalted One chosen out of the people." He is also a tried Stone. He was tried of God, who laid upon Him the iniquities of us all; and He was found able to bear the heavy burden, and to carry it away, so that it can no more be found.—He was tried of the Devil, who assailed Him with every temptation, and brought all his wiles to turn Him from His work. But it was utterly vain—he found nothing in Him.—He is tried of His people. Do not believers continually try His patience—His love—His faithfulness—His sufficiency? And cannot they testify that He is sufficient? He is the only foundation. "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
Vain men, in their weak imaginings, have devised many foundations on which to raise the superstructure of salvation. Some fancy they can rest for pardon and eternal life on their own deservings or penitence or reformation. These and all similar fancies are but sand and rubbish. When the wind of God's wrath shall arise, and the storm of His indignation shall descend, quickly will they be carried away, and swept into everlasting perdition. Let believers be thankful that God has ordained for them a rock which is strong and high as God Himself—which can never be moved, but abides forever—and let them rest on Him the whole burden of their sins, and the whole weight of their cares. He will support and sustain them. "Truly my soul waits upon God; from Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation. He is my defense, I shall not be moved." All the saints from the beginning have been building on Him, and shall continue to do so until the top-stone is brought forth amid shoutings of "Grace to it! Grace to it! Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever."
(2.) Christ is also the chief Corner-stone of this spiritual building. "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner." Now the use of this stone differs from the use of the foundation; though it is very important for the security, stability, and beauty of the structure. It holds the sides together, and closely cements and compacts the whole. So Jesus is the bond of union of all parts of the Church. He brings them together, and keeps them one. In Him, Jew and Gentile, bond and free, high and low, rich and poor, young and old, meet and form one body. Thus we see how Jesus is all to His Church. Without Him it could not stand one moment. Without Him it would part asunder, and fall into disjointed pieces.
O Lord, Heavenly King, how much are we indebted unto You! How can we enough adore Your mercies, and show forth Your praise? Give us grace to adhere more closely to You, and to realize our union! May we lean on You, and rest on You; and may no assaults of Satan, no storms of ungodly passions, no undermining insinuations of unbelief, for one moment separate our souls from the Rock of Ages! May we be tightly bound to You, in time and through eternity!
Ephesians 2:21."In whom all the building, fitly framed together, grows unto an holy temple in the Lord."
We know what building the Apostle speaks of. It is the Church of God, which He loved from all eternity, and purchased with the blood of His own Son, and calls and sanctifies with His grace. Concerning this building some important truths are here declared. Let us consider them in order. (1.) The building is fitly framed together. (2.) It is a growing building. (3.) It is designed to be an holy temple. (4.) Its every part is united to the Savior. It is a blessed subject—may it be blessed unto us! May the Lord, even the Spirit, mercifully teach! O Lord, fulfill Your work, and glorify Jesus before our longing eyes!
(1.) The building is fitly framed together. This we are prepared to find, from the skill and power of the Architect. The great Jehovah planned, designed, and elaborates the Church. In the counsels of eternity the whole scheme was arranged, and every separate stone selected—and the grand object is that unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be made known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God. Therefore we must expect all the perfection which infinite wisdom can accomplish. It is in time that the work is carried on. All the materials of it lie in the quarry and rubbish of sin, and there Jesus finds then, and thence by His Spirit He draws them forth. The building consists of various parts, and for every place the fit and proper stone must be prepared. Hence the Lord finds at the proper moment the exact material which He requires. He shapes and frames it until it is of the precise dimensions which are needed. He aptly conjoins it to the compartment prepared for it, and orders it so wisely that the whole becomes perfect, and beauteous in harmony. No stone is mis-shaped or out of place—each has the very form and position in which it can best support and adorn the whole. The slightest alteration of a single atom would injure and disarrange the method and appearance of the entire fabric. Let us take comfort from this thought—all things are ordered rightly for us. We are called into being—we are taken out of the filthy mire of nature—at the very moment when there is need of us. Now it is that our places are ready. Now it is that the heavenly Builder executes His design. What, if some of His dispensations are trying and afflictive—they are all designed to fit us exactly for our appointed place, and to give us the face and polish which is needed for the general harmony of the whole. Let us not repine—let us not be disheartened—let us not mistake the dealings of the all-wise Jesus. The file and the chisel may seem to be applied with a severe and unsparing hand, but let us not flinch from them—hard blows of the hammer may be needed, but they will not destroy or shiver to pieces—they will only firmly and fitly fasten us in the spot in which we can best adorn the fabric. Be assured that Jesus is fitly framing the Church together.
(2.) It is a growing building. He is an idle builder who suffers his work to stand still. If no progress is made, there must be some want of skill or means. But our Architect has infinite wisdom, and has all resources at His command. Hence the Church never ceases to grow—it daily rises and daily expands. At first it was a very low building, when the martyred Abel was laid as the first stone on the appointed foundation. But from that day it has been surely and steadily increasing. Many souls—for every stone is an immortal soul—have been brought from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. The Ministers of the Gospel, who are the tools and instruments used under the Spirit, are always at work to bring in new materials. And yet a little while, the building will reach its ordained elevation, and the top-stone will be brought forth. Hence we should learn our duty to accelerate the rise of the Church by striving with all diligence to bring stones unto the Living Stone. We should pray the Lord to add to the Church daily such as shall be saved. We should use all endeavors to send the truth to the people sitting in darkness and the shadow of death. And let us remember that each stone in this building grows. Let us, then, see diligently to it, that we are continually expanding and enlarging in every holy word and work.
(3.) It is designed to be an holy temple. As every stone in this fabric is beautified by the cleansing blood of Jesus, and adorned by His righteousness, so it becomes a living stone by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. All are righteous through the work of Jesus—all are holy through the power of the Spirit. If any be not holy, the heavenly Architect will cast it away as rubbish, and it shall be trodden under foot of man. Let us, therefore, strive to be holy as God is holy. Let us implore the God of peace to sanctify us wholly, and preserve us pure and blameless unto the day of God.
(4.) Every part is united to the Savior. This union is twice repeated. The very existence of the believer depends on his oneness with Jesus. "Without me," says Christ, "you can do nothing."
Ephesians 2:22."In whom you also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."
The Church is again exhibited as a building. This expressive image teaches us many important truths. Jesus is the foundation—immortal souls are the superstructure—God is the indweller—the Holy Spirit is the effectual agent by whom the stones are brought in and managed. To these last truths our attention is now directed. (1.) The Church is built for the habitation of God. (2.) It is built through the Spirit. Lord, make Your Holy Word quick and powerful unto us! May it work effectually to purify and fit for the heavenly inheritance!
(1.) The Church is built for the habitation of God. Will God indeed dwell in the hearts of sinners, such as we are? Yes, verily. It is the throne which He desires, and on which He delights to sit. Oh! wondrous thought! Amazing condescension! Let us strive to think—but we cannot realize—how high and holy is our God. From everlasting to everlasting has His seat been prepared in the heaven of heavens. "He only has immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto—whom no man has seen or can see." "The heavens are not clean in His sight, and He charges His angels with folly." Alas! how very few of our fallen race have clear and deep views of the infinite wisdom of God! Hence they ignorantly imagine that they may approach Him as, and when, they please. This is a vain fallacy. There is no possibility for the sinner to meet the holy God but in Christ Jesus. "No man comes unto the Father but by Me." In Christ only can there be union.
But when, through abundant grace, we become one with Christ, then every obstacle and hindrance is removed. Then constant communion and sweet communion is established. We dwell in God, and God in us. Jesus has given the gracious assurance, "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." Precious promise! O Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with the love of Jesus, and so write His laws in our inward man that we may be blessed with these heavenly Guests! Jesus and the Father promise to come, not for a few and transient visits, but to set up a perpetual indwelling in the soul.
Happy the man, who, wherever he moves, carries with him the King of kings and Lord of lords! who can say with the loving disciple, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." Again, Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me." Can we conceive words which more sweetly and distinctly declare the willingness and anxiety of Jesus to hold the most endearing communion with His children? What more free and unreserved than the converse of friends at their evening board? This is the very intimacy which Jesus seeks with us. Shall we exclude Him? Let us think what joy and peace and pledges of heaven He brings! Shall we not always have His seat made ready—shall we not always be listening for the approach of His footsteps, that we may open unto Him immediately? When the indolent spouse delayed to arise, Jesus, wearied with tarrying, departed. Hear how bitterly she bewailed her folly! "I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had withdrawn Himself and was gone—my soul fainted when He spoke—I sought Him, but I could not find Him—I called Him, but He gave me no answer." Beware of this anguish—exclude Him not for a single moment; but rather be always inviting and watching for His coming.
There is another word which should not be overlooked in this consideration. We read, "You are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." Do we realize this truth? Is God dwelling in us, and walking in us? At all times, and in all places, are we conscious of His presence? Do we hear His voice, and hold hallowed companionship with Him? If it be not so, there is something wrong and low in our state. We are not exalted to the full privilege and enjoyment which the Lord has provided. Let us not be content so to remain. Let us well mark our holy vocation, and contemplate the enjoyment prepared for us, and never rest until we feel and know that God is dwelling in us, and that we are built for His habitation.
(2.) We are reminded that we are thus built through the Spirit. How much we need—how much we are indebted to—the Spirit of God! Without His powerful operation our hearts must have continued all vileness and pollution—the nest of every unclean bird. But when He comes with light and power, and the revelations of Jesus, how marvelous is the change which He effects! He prepares and makes us ready for the indwelling of these heavenly Guests. How diligent, then, we should be in supplication to be filled with the Holy Spirit! Then we should become temples of the Triune Jehovah.