Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCES. Ephesians 1:3-14
This is a marvelous and comprehensive statement of Divine grace and of the believers' progressive discovery of its riches. "Blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ" (v. 3). The apostle's view is from the Divine standpoint. "Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world" (v. 4), then following step by step down to the day that "you heard the Gospel of your salvation" (v. 13). It might help us to reverse this order, and take the truths as they appeal to Christian experience.
I. "You Heard the Word of Truth, the Gospel of your Salvation" (v. 13). What a Gospel this is. Good news of Christ's redeeming love, that has its origin away back in the eternal purpose of the Eternal God. To hear it is to behold the open door into the fullness of blessing in the favor of a reconciled God.
II. "You Trusted after that you Heard the Word of Truth" (v. 13). It is not enough to hear, there must needs be the committal of the heart's affections and confidence. This trust is the personal appropriation of the offer God has made in Jesus Christ. "You are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ" (Galatians 3:26).
III. You were Sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise "After that you believed" (v. 13). The Holy Spirit of Promise has been given as an earnest in our hearts of all that God has laid up in store for His children (2 Corinthians 1:22). "You are sealed until the day of final and perfect redemption" (Ephesians 4:30). You are claimed by Him and stamped with His signature.
IV. You have Redemption through His Blood (v. 7). You were not sealed that you might be redeemed, but because you have been redeemed. He gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity (Titus 2:14). He was the "Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world." Redemption is an older thought than creation, and will be the theme of the final song (Rev. 5:9).
V. You have the Forgiveness of Sins, and that "According to the riches of His grace" (v. 7). Bought by the precious Blood of Christ, and forgiven according to the infinite riches of almighty grace. Oh, how marvelous is His loving-kindness to us, who deserved nothing but His righteous condemnation. He has loved our souls out of the pit, and called us sons of God (1 John 3:1).
VI. You are Accepted in the Beloved (v. 6). Yes, already accepted in Him in all our ignorance, weakness, failure, and conscious helplessness, through faith in Christ. God is pleased to wrap the trusting soul within the folds of the riches of His grace in Christ Jesus that we might be to the praise of His glory (v. 6). How gladly and fully did the Father accept the Son when He raised Him from the dead. That is the measure of your acceptance in Him.
VII. You have Obtained an Inheritance. "In Him also we have obtained an inheritance" (v. 11). Not only accepted in the Beloved, but a partner in His inheritance. "If children, then heirs: heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ; for if we suffer with Him, we may be glorified together" (Romans 8:17). This will be the inheritance of the saints in light (Colossians 1:12). "Heirs of God?" What can this mean? Jesus Christ is God's only begotten Son and Heir. The Church is the Bride of Christ. All saved by His grace and possessed by His Spirit are one with Him. The redeemed Bride shall share the glory and honor of the Bridegroom in that day when the "Marriage of the Lamb" is come.
VIII. You were Predestined unto the Adoption of Children (v. 5). Having been forgiven, accepted, and honored as heirs, we make this great discovery that all these experiences were according to the predetermining purpose and good pleasure of His will (v. 5). "Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestine to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:29, 30). We in our simplicity, may have thought that when we first trusted in Christ we were adding some fresh luster to the glory of Christ, but now we see that we were only fulfilling the promise of the Father to the Son, that He would give Him an inheritance from among the nations of the earth. Jesus said: "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me" (John 6:37).
IX. You were Chosen in Him before the Foundation of the World (v. 4). The origin of the Church, as the body of Christ, may date as far back as, "In the beginning was the Word" (John 1:1). Pentecost was the visible manifestation of this eternal purpose (2 Thessalonians 2:13). There was nothing haphazard about the covenant God made with His Son to give Him a people for the eternal honor of His Name. Christ did not die in chance that some might believe in Him and be saved. He knew that the Father had given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as the Father had given Him (John 17:2). So our Lord could say: "This is the Father's will which has sent Me: that of all which He has given Me, I shall lose nothing" (John 6:39). What a halo of glory is here seen on the brow of the Church of God; that it was a completed thing in the Divine purpose a thousand ages before the incarnation of His beloved Son. The Christ who loved the Church before it was born, and gave Himself for it, will, one day present it to Himself a "glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Ephesians 5:27). Then shall He see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied. "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. To the only wise God our Savior, be glory, and majesty, dominion and power forever and ever" (Jude 1:24-25).
A COMPREHENSIVE PRAYER. Ephesians 1:15-21
The spirit in which this great prayer was offered was that of thanksgiving and abounding faith. Prayer and thanksgiving are twin sisters (v. 16).
I. To Whom it was Offered. The manner in which men approach God is often a revelation of their spiritual character. This prayer was offered—
1. To "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 17). He is doubtless thinking of the manifestation of His own character in the person of His Son. He is praying to the God of infinite love and super-abounding grace.
2. To "the Father of Glory." The Father of all the glory that belongs to His eternal Son, in whose face this glory was seen (John 1:14). Christ's personality was the Shekinah of God, unveiled before the eyes of men.
II. The Petitions. They are in sweet harmony with such a gracious God.
1. That He may "give unto you the Spirit of Wisdom, and Revelation, in the Knowledge of Him." This would mean a precious inheritance to any possessor. Wisdom to discern spiritual things. Fresh revelations and a growing knowledge of the glorious character of Him who is the Wisdom and the Power of God. All such gifts are for the magnifying of Jesus Christ in our hearts and lives.
2. That the Eyes of your Heart may be Enlightened (v. 18). There may be things Spiritual and Divine which we can see with our hearts, that we cannot comprehend with our minds. The affections of the heart may lay hold on what the intellect is inclined to doubt, as when doubting Thomas said, "My Lord and my God" (see 2 Corinthians 4:4-6).
III. The Expected Results. That you may know—
1. What is the Hope of His Calling. Not what is the hope of your calling. But what is the hope of His calling. The greatness and grandeur of that hope into which the grace of God has called us, how few can realize. "Walk worthy of God who has called you unto His Kingdom and glory" (1 Thessalonians 2:12). Our calling as we view it, and our calling as God views it, may be vastly different things. The apostle had the Divine outlook when he said: "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus: for our citizenship is in Heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall fashion our bodies like unto His glorious body."
2. What is the Riches of the Glory of His Inheritance in the Saints? We often think of our inheritance in Christ, but here it is the riches of Christ's inheritance in the saints (v. 18). All are His saints—or separated ones—who have been born from above, possessed by His Spirit and yielded to His will. They are Christ's peculiar treasure. The Lord's portion is His people; and in the coming ages the glorified Church will be an everlasting witness to the riches of the glory of Christ's saving grace.
3. What is the Exceeding Greatness of His Power to Usward? We believe that God is Almighty. We see His power in the creative work of His hands. But what is the greatness of His power in operation toward us, who are now His needy children? It is the same mighty power that wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and set Him in the heavenlies, far above every form of power and every name that is named in this world, and also in that which is to come (vv. 20, 21). This is the power at the disposal of the Church of God today; for it is given to Christ to be Head over all to the Church (v. 22). "All power is given unto Me. Go you, therefore." "You are complete in Him" (Colossians 2:10).
THE BELIEVER'S PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE. Ephesians 2:1-13
I. Their Past. This constitutes a dark and dismal review. They were—
1. Without Life. "You were dead in trespasses and sins." Spiritually dead to God, and buried in graves of their making—"trespasses and sins." No response to all the overtures of Divine mercy in Christ Jesus. "To be carnally minded is death."
2. Without Strength. "You walked according to the course of this world" (v. 2). Carried away by the current of the world's influences, and, like a dead fish in the stream, without any power of resistance.
3. Without Christ. "At that time you were without Christ" (v. 12). All that Christ now stands for in our personal experience and future hopes, at that time had no existence in our lives. Here see the poverty and desolation of unregenerate souls. Destitute, afflicted, tormented.
4. Without Promise. Strangers from the covenants of promise (v. 12). It is said that there are thirty thousand promises in God's Book, but not one for the man whose mind is at enmity with God. There are "exceeding great and precious promises," but the worldly, carnal, Christless soul sees no value in them.
5. Without Hope. "Having no hope" (v. 12). Being without a promise, they are without hope. This is God's judgment of their case: but it is not theirs. Jesus Christ said: "No man comes unto the Father but by me" (John 14:6). But at that time we were "without Christ," and so could not come to the Father in His own appointed way. "He who believes not is condemned already." Without hope.
6. Without God in the World. Without God, in a world teeming with evidences of His wisdom and power. In the world, loved by God, where God's own Son lived, loved, and died to save sinners (John 3:16). Yes, such were some of us, "but you are washed."
II. Their Present. But now in Christ Jesus. What a change!
1. You are Quickened (v. 1). The Holy Spirit of God has breathed into you the breath of a new life. Your eyes have been opened to see the mysteries and realities of eternal things. The darkness is past and the true Light now shines. The clouded promises now appears like stars of the first magnitude. Christ has become an overshadowing reality.
2. You are Made Near. "Now made near by the Blood of Christ" (v. 13). Christ has been trusted, and He who died, the Just for the unjust, has brought us to God (1 Peter 3:18). The sins that separated have been put away. We have now the fellowship of the reconciled.
3. You are Raised together with Christ (v. 6). In the purpose of God we were one with Him in the Cross. Now we share His resurrection life and power. "He died for our sins, but He rose again for our justification."
4. You are Seated together with Him in the heavenlies (v. 6). His last word on earth was, "It is finished," then He ascended to the Father's right hand and sat down. Our blessed privilege now is to rest with Him in the work accomplished for us.
5. You are His Workmanship. It is all His doing. Through faith we are saved by grace, that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God" (v. 8). "For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).
III. Their Future. "That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus" (v. 7). In this present age we have seen much of God's kindness toward us through Christ Jesus in His saving, keeping, satisfying fullness. But in the age to come we shall be witnesses of the glory that was to follow. When the Lord Himself shall appear, and when all His redeemed shall be caught up together to meet Him and to be glorified together with Him as "heirs of God," we shall then have entered into our glorious inheritance (Romans 8:17-19, Luke 22:28-30).
THE CHURCH AS A NEW MAN. Ephesians 2:14-22
In by-gone ages the Church's character "was not made known unto the sons of men" (chapter 3:5). It was "a mystery hid in God" (chapter 3:9). In all ages God had His Holy ones; but the Church as a new man, a new created Body of Christ, through which the manifold wisdom of God was to be make known (chapter 3:10) had not yet been revealed. This is the theme before us now.
I. The Divine Plan. This was to make in Himself of twain (Jew and Gentile) one new man, one new Body, so making peace (v. 15). This new Body was to be—
1. Composed of Jew and Gentile. These terms represent the whole human race. He who is not a Jew is a Gentile, whatever be the color of his skin or the language he may speak. The Church is to be composed of "called out" ones from every nation and people under the heavens.
2. Reconciled One to Another. No more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens and of the household of God (v. 19). "All one in Christ Jesus." In being brought to God, each member is to be brought into sympathy and fellowship with one another. They all belong to the "household of faith" (Galatians 6:10).
3. Reconciled to God. "That He might reconcile both unto God in one body" (v. 16). Before God there is now neither Jew nor Gentile, but one body, made near by the Blood of Christ (v. 13). All are saved by grace. This "new man" is "accepted in the Beloved" for the Head of this new creation is Christ Himself.
II. The Divine Preparation. Before this gracious purpose of God could be accomplished a great work had to be done, a work that God only could do. There was—
1. A Wall of Partition to be Broken Down. "He has broken down the middle wall of partition" (v. 14). In the temple worship the Gentile court was cut off from the inner court by a separating wall or partition. But in this new creation in Christ all such prejudice, sectarianism, and every dividing thing is to be broken down. But men are still building partition walls in their priestly pride, religious bigotry, and pagan superstitions; but, thank God, that in Christ all are done away, "broken down."
2. Enmity to be Slain. "He has reconciled both unto God by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby" (v. 16). The Cross of Christ is God's mighty weapon for breaking down barriers between individuals and nations, between human hearts and a Holy God. The greatest of all partition walls is the enmity of the carnal mind (Romans 8:7). This enmity cannot be cured, it must be slain; and the humbling and melting vision of Christ crucified for our own sins can slay it.
3. Both Must be Possessed by the Same Spirit. "Through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father" (v. 18). This union between Jew and Gentile is not a mere expediency for a temporary end. It is a vital and eternal work of God's grace. One Spirit animates the whole body. "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jew or Gentile, bond or free; and have all been made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13). Christ is the Fountain Head of this Spirit-life that flows through every member of the body. "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink" (John 7:37).
III. The Divine Purpose is to have this "new man" as a fixed abode of God through the Spirit (v. 22, Weymouth trans.). Does that mean that in the coming age the Church will be the fixed abode of the Holy Spirit for the manifestation of the glory of Christ? "He shall abide with you forever."
1. All Built on the One Foundation. Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone (v. 20). The prophets as well as the apostles built upon the truth revealed, whether by the Holy Spirit or by Christ Himself (Hebrews 1:1, 2). In both instances Jesus Christ Himself was the chief corner stone, binding the whole spiritual fabric as one to Himself. The strength and stability of the structure depends on the presence and position of the "Chief Corner Stone" (Matthew 21:42).
2. All Fitly Framed Together. "In Him all the building is fitly framed together, grows unto a holy temple in the Lord" (v. 21). In Christ every separate believer is depending on Him as the foundation of all their hopes, but they are also individually to be "fitly framed together" with their local fellow-believers. There is to be "no schism in the body." Stones which do not fit with each other make an untrustworthy or uncomely structure. Christians have often rained their testimony by being out of harmony with their brethren. The Church is a growing concern, "growing unto a holy temple in the Lord."
3. All Uniting to Make a Fixed Abode for God through the Spirit (v. 22). When this holy temple in the Lord will be ready as a fixed abode for Him to whom it belongs, no tongue of angel or pen of scribe can tell. But the day will come when the last addition will be made, and when the top stone will be put on, with "shoutings of Grace, Grace, unto it" (Zechariah 4:7). Truly every stone in the building is a monument of the grace of God through Christ Jesus. Thus this "new man," full-grown and glorified, will become the temple of the Lord, and a witness to the triumph of Christ's sacrifice in the kingdom that is to come. Well may we pray: "Your Kingdom Come."
BELIEVERS' POSSIBILITIES. Ephesians 3:14-21
"For this cause I bow my knees." This was no mere formal prayer. Paul deeply realized the immense importance of the petitions he was about to offer. He knew that as Christians these experiences were needed.
I. What these Blessings Were. He prayed that they may have—
1. Spiritual Power. "Strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man" (v. 16). The might of the Holy Spirit in the inner man is the supreme need of every Christian in our own day. Herein lies the secret of our real influence for God. This power He is ready to give to the faint (Isaiah 40:29-31).
2. The Indwelling Presence. "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith" (v. 17). There can be no spiritual power where Christ is not honored. If by faith Christ dwells in us, then the Spirit will take the things that are Christ's and show them through us. This indwelling is assured by an unfailing faith in Him.
3. Stability of Character. "You being rooted and grounded in love" (v. 17). The downward growth of the roots of our being are to be in the rich, fruitful soil of God's love, and the upward growth of the building of character is to be based also in love. "Rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith" (Colossians 2:7).
4. Enlarged Comprehension. "That you may be able to comprehend with all saints... and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge" (v. 19). It will take the comprehension of "all saints" in every age to find out the breadth, length, depth, and height of that love of Christ which in itself passes knowledge. It is a great discovery to find out the immeasurable magnitude of that love with which Christ has loved us. And who shall separate us from that love? (Romans 8:35).
5. Complete and Abiding Satisfaction. "That you might be filled with all the fullness of God" (v. 19). Filled out of this fathomless fullness of God. "That you might be complete in accordance with God's own standard of completeness (Weymouth). Already "from His fullness have all we received, and grace upon grace" (John 1:16). But, Lord, increase our faith, that we may rise to the Divine standard of fullness.
II. The Unfailing Source. "Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think" (v. 20). These were great requests, but the apostle knew that he was coming to a great and gracious God. He knew and believed what we so easily forget, that "He who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things" (Romans 8:32). If this princely truth reigned over our prayers, how different many of them would be. God has given us His Son, this is the proof and pledge that He will withhold no good thing from those that love Him and ask Him. But the measure of our receiving is "according to the power that works in us" (v. 20). "According to your faith." This power worked mightily in the apostle, and mighty things were done (see Hebrews 11).
III. The Measure of God's Giving. "According to the riches of His glory" (v. 16). We think that we know something of "the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7), but what can we know of the "riches of His glory?" In dealing with His pleading servants, it is the larger measure of His eternal glory that He uses, according to the wealth of His risen and glorified position. If in His poverty He could so bless and enrich needy souls, how much more now, since He has entered into the inheritance of His Father's glory. "All power is given unto Me in Heaven and on earth." Believe you this? "Ask, and you shall receive." "He gives liberally and upbraids not."
CHARACTER AND CONDUCT. Ephesians 4:17-32
As those who have learned of Christ (v. 20), the apostle exhorts the Ephesian brethren that their manner of walk must be different from "other Gentiles," who walk in the "vanity of their mind," with the understanding darkened and "alienated from the life of God," because of ignorance and blindness of heart (vv. 17-19). What a sad picture this is of the unrenewed man. "Such were some of us, but you are washed." The difference grace makes must be apparent in character and conduct. To this Christ-honoring end he calls upon them and us to—
I. Put Off the Old Man (v. 22). This old man is just the same age as yourself. You cannot put him off like an old coat, nor can you put him off with promises. It is the natural carnal mind, whose motto was "Me first"—the self-seeking, self-praising, self-satisfying spirit. It is the old, corrupt heart, that loved the things that dishonored the Christ. Shake him off as you would a poisonous viper! Let him be crucified (Romans 6:6).
II. Put on the New Man. This new man is after the image of God in righteousness and true wholeness (v. 24). This new man is the "second man, the Lord from Heaven." "Put you on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the old man" (Romans 13:14). To put on Christ is to put on His Spirit and the yoke of His will. When He has His rightful place in the heart and life there is no room for any other. "Jesus must reign."
III. Put Away all Unreality. Every deceptive and untruthful thing (v. 25). Does it seem strange to be warning those who have been made anew after the likeness of Christ, of lying, anger, and stealing? We all know that the thoughts of the heart, as well as the words of the tongue, often betray. In their most incipient stage these things are to be hated and disowned.
IV. Give No Place to the Devil (v. 27). The Devil is always in search of a place in our lives. He knows that if he can but get his poison into the blood, that the whole man will be affected. Paul forgave others, "lest Satan should get an advantage of us" (2 Corinthians 2:10, 11). The hasty temper and the unforgiving mood gives Satan a great advantage. "Resist the Devil and he will flee from you."
V. Let your communications be free from corruption, and Good for Edifying (v. 29). When conversation degenerates into mere gossip, or a display of repartee, there is little thought of obeying this injunction of making it a "ministry of grace to the hearers." Many a God-given opportunity has been utterly lost by the frivolous mood displayed at times by God's servants in the presence of quiet, thoughtful, anxious souls (Colossians 4:6).
VI. Grieve not the Holy Spirit. This is an awful possibility on the part of a Christian worker. He may be grieved by ignoring His presence, by unholy talk and temper which falsifies His character, by resisting His teaching, by depending on our own wisdom and strength. A grieved Spirit means the loss of the enjoyment of God's love, the loss of communion which is by the Holy Spirit, the loss of power for service (Isaiah 63:10). Grieve Him not, for by the Holy Spirit are you sealed and secured unto the day of Christ's final redemption (v. 30).
VII. Be Kind and Tender-hearted. "Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you" (v. 32). Be kind, tender-hearted, forgiving one another for Christ's sake: even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you. This measure is "until seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:22).
BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT. Ephesians 5:16-18
To "redeem the time" (v. 16) and to "understand what the will of the Lord is" (v. 17), we must be "filled with the Spirit." God does not now thunder from a mount or send prophets with new messages. The last of the prophets was His Son from Heaven, and His last great gift for this age is the Holy Spirit, who reveals the will of God and inspires with power to do it.
I. A Striking Contrast. "Be not drunk with wine, but be filled with the Holy Spirit." A contrast between being drunk and Spirit-filled. Between man's most debasing vice and God's holiest and highest virtue. Between that which genders mockery and self-deception and that which gives Divine illumination. Between that which gives license to lust and shame and that which gives liberty and power in God's service. The one means waste and loss of self-control, the other means new gifts and self-renewal. The one leads to vain imaginations and regretful deeds, the other guides into truth and makes strong to do the will of God. "Wine is a mocker." The Holy Spirit is the great Teacher come from God to take the place of the Lord Jesus Christ.
II. A Needful Exhortation. "Be filled with the Spirit." This implies—
1. That the Holy Spirit has been Given, and that as surely as God gave His Son, Pentecost is a witness to that (Acts 2:1-4). Just as there is an ample provision in the Sacrifice of Christ to meet all our needs as sinners in the sight of God, so there is sufficiency in the Holy Spirit to meet our need as sons and servants of God in the presence of men.
2. Every Believer has been Influenced by the Spirit. It was He who first convinced of sin (John 16:8). It was He who gave the first quickening touch to our spiritually dead souls (Ephesians 2:1), and since we first trusted in Christ has been in many ways helping, guiding into truth, and revealing the things of Christ to our lagging hearts. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." But there is something more than this—
3. Every Believer should be Filled with the Spirit. When the Spirit was first poured out, He rested upon each of them, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3, 4). Again, after prayer, we read that all assembled together were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31). While Peter yet spoke, the Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard the word (Acts 10:44). It is perfectly clear that the apostles, at the beginning of their ministry, were taught by the providence of God that every believer in the risen Lord was to be, or might be, filled with the Spirit. Paul's first question to the Ephesian disciples was: "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" (Acts 19:2). There are many young disciples today that could give the same answer they gave: "We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Spirit to be received." "By grace are you saved," but by the Holy Spirit are you to be filled. This filling is for you. Seek it.
III. A Powerful Inducement to seek this filling is presented to us in the peaceful, faithful, and fruitful lives of those who were filled with the Spirit in Bible and in modern times. We can only note some of the more prominent characteristics.
1. A Deep Sense of Personal Unworthiness. The more of the Spirit the less of self. "Not I, but Christ." They know that apart from Him—nothing.
2. A Hunger for the Word of God. When the Spirit has full control within, and reveals afresh the things of Christ, there is a growing love and reverence for the living Book.
3. A Quickened Realization of the Presence of God. There are wonderful sights and sounds in nature, which cannot be seen nor heard without some special instrumentality. There are more wonderful things in the spiritual sphere, that the natural eye or ear has never seen or heard, but God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9, 10). We know Him.
4. A Desire for, and a Delight in, Prayer. Prayer now means having fellowship with God in our need. There is no misgivings as to God's Personal interest in His trusting child. His prayers are mingled with notes of thanksgiving and heart-felt praise.
5. A Yearning for the Salvation of Others. Paul wept over those who were the enemies of the Cross of Christ (Philippians 3:18). Spiritual things have become so vital and precious that compassion and pity have been intensified for those who are out of the way. The love of Christ constrains.
6. A More Real Conflict with Spiritual Enemies. Hitherto we were but onlookers and students of spiritual forces, but now we are right in the arena of battle, "wrestling against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness and wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12), and know the power of the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
7. A More Christ-like Attitude in the Face of Opposition. When misunderstood and misrepresented (Acts 2:13), not giving railing for railing, but contrariwise, praying for them that despitefully use you, as Christ and Stephen prayed: "Father, forgive them." To be filled with the Spirit is to be filled with the knowledge of His will and a desire to please Him.
IV. What Does Hinder? There is no hindrance on the Divine side. He says: "Be filled with the Spirit." Then, if we are not, the hindrance must be in us. Is it ignorance of its possibility and need? Is it unbelief in its reality? It may be indifference as to its vital importance, or it may be love of the world and sheer self-satisfaction. Whatever it is, we are responsible for not being filled with the Spirit. Then, for the sake of Jesus Christ, and your own eternal honor, "Be filled with the Spirit." "If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him" (Luke 11:13). "If you knew the gift of God you would have asked of Him" (John 4:10).
CHRIST AND THE CHURCH. Ephesians 5:21-33
The union brought about by a truly Christian marriage is here used by the apostle as a metaphor of that spiritual union between Christ and His Church. Let us examine—
I. The Relationship of Christ to the Church.
1. It is that of a Lover. "Christ loved the Church" (v. 25). When did this love begin? He loved it before it was born, as the promised gift of the Father. His love is an abiding blessing, a love that passes knowledge (chapter 3:19).
2. It is that of a Redeemer. "He gave Himself for it" (v. 25). Like a true lover, He gives Himself first. He has bought the Church for Himself by the ransom of His own precious Blood (Ephesians 1:7). "You are not your own."
3. It is that of a Husband. "The husband is head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church" (v. 23). The Head is the seat of authority. With the Head also rests the responsibility of supplying the needs of the wife— the Church. Why, then, for the work of the Head, do we constantly appeal to the wife for the means to carry on? If we are doing the Lord's work we ought to do it in the Lord's way, by trusting Him who is "able to supply all our need" (Philippians 4:19).
4. It is that of a Sanctifier. "That He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing by His Word" (v. 26). He sanctifies, or separates, her for Himself. He found her in rags and wretchedness, but He looked on her in love and spread His skirts of mercy over her. He washed and clothed her with broidered work. He anointed her and decked her with ornaments and jewels, and made her perfect with the loveliness He put upon her (Ezekiel 16:5-14). It is all His doing. Praise His Name.
5. It is that of a Satisfied. "He nourishes and cherishes it" (v. 29). No mother was ever more careful over her child than the Lord is over His Church. He nourishes her with the milk of His Word, and fondles her in the arms of His love (John 17:14, 15). He satisfies with good things by His comforting Spirit (John 16:13, 14).
6. It is that of a Bridegroom. He longs to "present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing" (v. 27). A Bride without blemish in His eyes. Seeing that this is His ultimate purpose concerning all His own, should we not expect Him to work out that which is pleasing to Him now in each individual life? Let us ever remember that we are always in the hands of Him who is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 1:24-25). That will be the happy day of the "Marriage of the Lamb."
II. The Relationship of the Church to Christ. It is that of—
1. Saved Ones. "He is the Savior of the body" (v. 23). It can never be forgotten that the Church is as a brand plucked out of the fire.
2. Members of His Body, of His flesh, and of His bones (v. 30). So close is the relationship that "they two shall be one flesh" (v. 31) The members of the body are the operators on behalf of the Head (Romans 12:5).
3. Submission. "Therefore the Church is subject unto Christ" (V. 24). The members of the body that is not subject to the control of the Head is either separated or paralyzed.
4. Reverence. "The wife see that she reverence her husband" (v. 33). We reverence our Lord when we believe His Word, love His will, and adore His Holy Name. This is the happy slavery of love. "You are worthy, O Lord, to receive honor."
THE WARRIOR'S ENEMY. Ephesians 6:11, 12
(For Notes on "The Whole Armor of God," see Vol. IX, page 179.) Here we shall briefly look at "Your Adversary the Devil." The Christian's great enemy is "not flesh and blood" (v. 12). Not even human nature, as such, but a real spiritual and powerful personality. "Called the Devil and Satan" (Rev. 12:9).
I. His Character. There is but one Devil, or Satan, but there are many "demons." "The Devil and his angels." He has had long experience in sinning. "The Devil sins from the beginning." He is great. Called "the Son of the Morning" (Isaiah 14:12). He is also called a "lion" for strength, a "dragon" for fierceness, the "old serpent" for subtlety. Even our Lord called him "the prince of this world." When he led the revolt in Heaven it was the great Archangel Michael who fought against him (Rev. 12:7). This is the passage we have to deal with: Who is the "accuser of the brethren" (Rev. 12:10).
II. His Sphere. When cast down from Heaven, he seems to have pitched his camp in the aerial regions near this world, and became "the prince of the power of the air," and the God of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4), and "the spirit that now works in the Children of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2). Although his stronghold is spiritual wickedness in high places, he is found "going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it" (Job 2:2),
III. His Resources. These are difficult to define. But when we take our "stand against the wiles of the Devil" (v. 11) we are in conflict with the despotisms, the empires, the forces that control and govern this dark world—the spiritual hosts of evil arrayed against us in the heavenly warfare (Weymouth). But, thank God "greater is He who is for us."
IV. His Methods. We are not to be "ignorant of his devices," lest he should get an advantage of us (2 Corinthians 2:11). His devices are varied—
1. He tries "Wiles" (v. 11). Something attractive, but deceptive and ensnaring. This was his method with Christ in His great temptation.
2. He tries "Fiery Darts" (v. 16). Poisoned tipped arrows, that strike as suddenly as an unclean thought or a dishonest and evil imagination. If you do not love such, but hate them, you need not worry over them. Disown them.
3. He tries the Prolonged Struggle, or "wrestling." "We wrestle against the rulers of darkness, against spiritual wickedness" (v. 12). The conflict may be severe, but resist the Devil and he will flee from you.
V. His Subjects are not those who are warring against him, but those who are his willing, because blinded, slaves (Ephesians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 4:4). They live in his "kingdom of darkness," being captured by his powers, his signs, and lying wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9). They are in bondage to a great delusion. This is the condition into which sin and unbelief had brought us, and where all unsaved ones now are. May the love of Christ constrain us to seek their deliverance.
VI. His Victors. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the stronger One, has come into the Devil's dominion, and has overcome him, and spoiled him of his goods (Luke 11:21, 22). By His life and death, and triumphant resurrection, He has spoiled principalities and powers. He shook them off, and boldly displayed them as His conquests, when by His Cross He triumphed over them (Colossians 2:15). The Son of God was manifested that He might destroy the works of the Devil, even him that had the power of death (Hebrews 2:14). Now we who believe in Him have been delivered from the power and dominion of Satan, and translated into the Kingdom of God's dear Son (Colossians 1:13). We know that we have passed from death into life (John 5:24), and that the darkness is passed, and the true light now shines (John 2:8). "Thanks be to God, who has given us the victory" (Rev. 12:11).