By Henry Law, 1884
Ephesians 1:15—23. Thanksgiving and Prayer
"Wherefore I also, after
I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease
not to give thanks for you."
The preface is now ended, in which thanksgiving has been rendered to God for the wonders of His grace to the Church. Who can ponder these glorious truths without exclaiming, "Oh! the breadth, the depth, the length, the height!" What faith, what illumination of mind is required to embrace their grand reality! Wherefore the Apostle immediately proceeds to declare, that after he knew the Ephesians to be interested in God's decrees, he ceased not to give thanks for them, and to pray that divine teaching might manifest these things to them. "Wherefore, I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers," and then follows the subject of his petition, "that God would give unto them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him." Without this light from heaven, these truths can never be discerned. We must have eyes to see the sun—we must have heaven-born sight, or God's Word is all darkness. "O Lord! open You our eyes, that we may behold wondrous things out of Your law."
But the subject now before us, is the features of divine life which existed in the Ephesians. (1.) Faith in the Lord Jesus. (2.) Love unto all the saints. Where these graces are not, there is no spiritual life—where spiritual life exists, these are invariably manifested. Let us contemplate them in order.
(1.) Faith in the Lord Jesus. This grace justly claims precedence in all the gifts of the Spirit. It is essential to the being of a child of God, and it is the foundation on which all his other graces are laid. Without faith, we cannot know God, or have admission into His family—without faith, we cannot possess any other spiritual attainment. With good reason, therefore, faith occupies the foremost position. It is the captain under whom all other graces range. Hence such glorious things are testified of faith in the Word. It is the adopting grace. "We are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." It is the justifying grace. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God." It is the sanctifying grace. "Purifying their hearts by faith." It is the conquering grace. "This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith." It is the wonder-working grace. Saints "through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens." Time would indeed fail to tell of all its wondrous exploits. Ask the company above how they prevailed, and endured, and overcame, and at last entered heaven. You will have one reply—"By faith in the blood of the Lamb."
The faith of God's elect, which is the Spirit's work, has the Lord Jesus Christ for its object. It is the going forth of the soul laden with sin unto Christ, and embracing Him with adoring rapture. It is the whole inner man closing with Christ—clasping and clinging unto Him. It is the eye which sees Him—the ear which hears Him—the hand which holds Him fast—the feet which follow hard after Him—the appetite which feeds on His broken body—the thirst which drinks of the stream from His side—the heart which loves Him—the head which knows Him—the memory which retains Him—the affections which are entwined around Him—the trust which trusts in Him—the hope which hopes in Him. Indeed, faith is the entire man loving Jesus, looking only unto Him, swallowed up in Him, making Him the All in All. How precious is this gift of faith! Lord! grant "that the life which we live in the flesh, may be by the faith of the Son of God!" Lord, increase our faith! May it "grow exceedingly," until the work of faith be ended, and we see You face to face. Let each exclaim, O my soul, "be you faithful unto death, and He will give you a crown of life."
(2.) The next feature in the divine life is love unto all the saints. This grace is inseparably connected with faith. More easily could you eliminate light and warmth from the sun, than love from faith. The grounds of their union are obvious. Faith reverences the Lord's word, and renders strict obedience to it. The especial command of Jesus is, "Love one another." "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one towards another." Again—Faith delights in the image of Jesus, wherever that image can be discerned. Every humble believer reflects some rays of the Sun of Righteousness, and this similitude attracts and draws out love. Again—All believers are fellow-members of one body. "You, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." Strange would it be for a man not to regard his own flesh; but more so for a saint not to love his brethren. This love is a grand evidence of spiritual being. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren."
Alas! that in these latter days this grace should be so feeble. In a world where all hate the saints, it is sad that they should not enjoy the comfort of each other's love. O Lord, hasten the time when Your prayer shall be accomplished, "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in me, and I in You, that they also may be one in us."
Ephesians 1:15-16."Wherefore I also after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers."
After mentioning the distinctive features of the divine life, which were conspicuous in the Ephesian saints, and by which they were evidenced to be translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son, Paul proceeds to declare his incessant exercise in their behalf—"I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers." What a noble instance have we here of enlarged, comprehensive love! Without doubt, he gave thanks fervently, day and night continually, for his own marvelous mercies—the incense of adoration would ascend perpetually to God, who had delivered him from going down to the pit, having found a ransom for him. His whole life would be an act of personal praise. But his holy desire was to give God all the honor due unto His name; and great honor was due to Him for His distinguishing goodness to, and life-giving work in the saints; and therefore He carried them in the arms of His love to the mercy-seat; he presented them to the God of their salvation, and he blessed and magnified God for all that had been done in them. Let us hence learn the believer's privilege, (1.) To give thanks for the saints; (2.) To pray for them. May the Lord the Spirit make us diligent and earnest in this exercise!
(1.) It is our privilege to give thanks for the saints. Even among the children of this world, it is common for a parent, a brother, a friend, to express thankfulness for the smallest temporal benefit conferred on a member of his family, or one endeared to him by ties of affection. But believers are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Therefore, when one prospers all prosper; when one suffers, all suffer. Hence the blessings poured down upon the collective Church are common family blessings, for which each member is called to utter praise.
The saints are the glory of God on earth. "I will place salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory." Is it not the fervent desire of our souls, that this glory should be increased? Are we not therefore bound to testify our gratitude when the saints shine brightly amid the darkness of sin, when they reflect the rays of the Sun of Righteousness, and bear witness to the truth of the Gospel, and the love and power of Jehovah? Do we not desire the subversion of the empire of Satan—the exaltation of the Cross of Christ—the reign of holiness—the increase of spiritual peace? Do we not long for the time when "the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever?" Each saint quickened to newness of life accelerates the coming of His day—each saint, therefore, should awaken fresh notes of praise.
When, too, we bear in mind, that each saint is an immortal soul, rescued from endless perdition, and made a vessel of glory in the kingdom of heaven forever—when we estimate the infinitudes of happiness which each will enjoy—the rapturous Hallelujahs which they will never cease to chant—do we not feel that it is a worthy exercise to give thanks for them? O Lord Jesus Christ, accept our praises for the whole company of Your Redeemed. We desire to bless Your glorious Name for every jewel which sparkles in Your mediatorial crown, for every sheep of Your beloved flock, for every soul for which Your blood was shed. We thank You that there is a remnant among the children of men to whom Your Name is as ointment poured forth. Oh! that "the little one might become a thousand, and the small one a strong nation!" Good Lord, hasten it in Your own time!
(2.) It is also our privilege to pray for the saints. The spirit of prayer is never given to a believer for himself alone—it is a great treasure placed in the hands of the Lord's children, to be used and expended for the common advantage of the whole family—it is property conferred by the Holy Spirit, charged with strict conditions, that out of it daily provision should be made for others—if this payment be not made, the property is insufficiently employed. Did not Jesus pray for the whole Church? "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word;" and should not the same mind be in us which was also in Him? Surely we never pray more acceptably than when the same Spirit is in us, which was in Him.
The duty and privilege of praying for the saints among
whom we live and worship may be readily allowed, but should our prayers
extend to them who are strangers to us? Behold the example of Paul. He says
to the Colossians, "I would that you knew what great conflict," that is
agony in prayer, "I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many
as have not seen my face in the flesh." He could realize, that they were all
fellow-heirs, and of the same body, exposed to the like perils and
temptations, fighting the same fight of faith, witnessing for the same
truth, bought by the same blood, journeying to the same home, and therefore
he felt constrained to seek for them the same help and blessings, which he
needed for himself. Lord, enable us to be fervent and constant in this duty,
and do You hear and answer us; and may many saints rejoice, and thrive, and
conquer, because we have wrestled with You in their behalf.
"That the God of our Lord
Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom
and revelation in the knowledge of Him."
Paul proceeds to declare the matter of his perpetual supplications for the Ephesian saints. It is important that we should examine this. Next in order to the sublime prayer of Jesus come the Apostolic prayers. Paul was a holy child of God, filled with the Spirit, praying in the Spirit—therefore, he well knew what gifts were most desirable for the saints, and also what God was most willing and ready to impart. We have, therefore, in these spiritual breathings models of what we should seek for our own souls, and also for the souls of others. One prominent petition stands boldly out in this prayer. It is that spiritual knowledge and illumination might be granted—"that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him." Let us hence consider (1.) The blessedness of the knowledge of God. (2.) The promise of it to the saints. (3.) The Author of it. May He who alone can teach to profit, enlighten the eyes of our understanding, and give us to see the only true God, in the face of Jesus Christ! Lord grant it; for this knowledge is life eternal.
(1.) The blessedness of the knowledge of God. It is sad and dreadful to think what miserable ignorance prevails on this all-important subject. The god of this world miserably succeeds in blinding the eyes of his deluded captives, so that they live and die utter strangers to the real nature of that High and Holy One, with whom they have to do. Some vague notions of mercy and goodness bury out of sight all the other attributes of justice, holiness, and truth. Satan whispers that God is too benevolent to punish eternally the sins committed in time. The poor worldling, ready to receive the lie, is willingly persuaded, and dwells on this picture of Satanic invention—and thus the God of Salvation is never known. Happy are they, from whose eyes this veil is torn, and who see the nature and glory of Jehovah in the brightness of the everlasting Gospel.
How insignificant are the discoveries of this fleeting world, compared to the announcement that God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son. The happiest moments on this side of heaven are those which we pass in contemplating the character of God as exhibited in the Cross of Christ. What lessons do we there read of justice! Payment must be made for every sin of thought, word, and deed, which has defiled us in our flesh—but Jesus pours out His own soul an offering for us, and in His blood, precious beyond all price, He makes perfect satisfaction to our offended God. The believer exclaims, I know my God to be a God of inflexible justice—the sword sheathed in my Redeemer's heart proves it—I know Him to be just, and I know that justice has been fully satisfied. Oh! blessed knowledge—it is worth ten thousand worlds.
We pass over the views of holiness and truth which are so conspicuous in the contemplation of Jesus dying—but we must refresh our souls by a transient glance at the eternal verities of love and mercy which are there so brightly effulgent. Ours is no loose, indefinite, unfounded notion of love; we have the most solid proof of its existence, reality, and boundless extent. We see, so to speak, the Father's love for His sinful children manifested in the gift of His holy child Jesus. He spares not His only-begotten Son—He delivers Him up for us all. Peaceful, hallowed rapture pervades the heart while we reason thus—It is clear beyond all doubt, that God loves, and will have mercy on His people. Behold the testimony. Jesus groans upon the tree; we know His nature and His name to be mercy and love, and we know that this mercy and love illuminate our souls. Oh! blessed knowledge—it is inconceivably precious. He who has received this knowledge can reason further, I know that my God will watch over me, and defend me, and provide for me, and bless me, and make all things work together for my good, until my present knowledge is swallowed up in sight. O you wise of this world, where is your boasted wisdom? Come, lay it down at the foot of the Cross; there "acquaint yourselves with God, and be at peace."
(2.) This knowledge is promised to the saints. It is one of the blessings laid up for them in the everlasting covenant. "They shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord; for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, says the Lord." Thus we are privileged to come boldly to the throne of grace, and to ask for this blessing as our heritage in Christ, and to urge the irresistible plea, "Do as You have said." The Lord must be true, and the word must be fulfilled, "All your children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children." Let us hasten early daily to the mercy-seat, that we may be replenished with the knowledge of God. Thus may we follow on to know the Lord!
(3.) The Author of this knowledge is the Holy Spirit of promise, here called, "the Spirit of wisdom and revelation." How often is He promised as the Teacher of the Church! He teaches to profit. Who teaches like Him? All ignorance and prejudice must vanish before His almighty beams. Oh! that our hearts and consciences may become chambers of heavenly light—that we may have "an unction from the Holy One, and know all things!" May we "arise and shine, for our light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon us!"
Ephesians 1:18."The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints."
Paul continues in prayer for the saints at Ephesus. May the Spirit of grace and supplication teach us to pray in the same mind not only for ourselves but also for others! The petition of this verse is similar to that of the preceding. His enlarged heart has just desired for them the knowledge of God in general—he now desires that "the eyes of their understanding may be enlightened," so that they may particularly "know the hope of His calling, and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." Into what a new world of wonders are we introduced, when the Holy Spirit visits us with enlightening grace! We are then indeed translated from darkness to light; and pass from death unto life. We enter upon a new being. Previously sin had fast closed our eyes, so that we saw nothing in the spiritual kingdom of grace. But when He, who said "Let there be light," and there was light in the chaos of nature, says "Let there be light" in the dark chambers of the soul, instantly the scales fall off, and we see ourselves vile and loathsome in the pollution of our sins, and we see that there is One mighty to save us, even Jesus—we see Him in all the beauty of His person and work, chief among ten thousand and altogether lovely; washing out our every transgression in His own most precious blood, and covering our every deformity in the spotless robe of His divine righteousness. Blessed are the eyes which see this enrapturing sight!
But our present verse teaches us to look onward and upward, and to fix our adoring gaze on two especial objects—(1.) The Hope, to which God calls. (2.) The richly glorious inheritance conferred on the saints. As by faith we now strive to realize, may we be fitted for the heavenly enjoyment!
(1.) The Hope to which God calls. The great ones of earth never call to anything which is common or mean. What then must that be, to which "the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords" invites His children? It is a possession at present invisible, for "hope which is seen is not hope, for what a man sees, why does he yet hope for." It is nothing less than eternal life, for Paul says he is "an Apostle in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began." It is salvation, for we take for our "helmet, the hope of salvation." Its abode is in heaven. Paul gives thanks for the hope which is laid up for us in heaven; whereof we hear in the words of the truth of the Gospel. Hence we learn a little of the nature of our hope. It is the hope of eternal life in heaven; the hope of dwelling with Jehovah forever in the realms of eternal day.
Now, we are taught that we should study and contemplate, and familiarize our minds with this blessed hope, so full of immortality. We should continually draw near and realize it. We should hourly ascend from the prison of this base earth, and enter into our own assured home, and take our seats at our Father's board; and look around on our brethren, and listen to and join in their songs of praise. Heaven should be no strange place to us. When shall we know the hope to which God calls us! Let us pray that the wings of our faith may be strengthened, that our constant flight may be to "the city which has foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God."
This is a sanctifying hope—the more we know of it, the more we trample down the paltry pleasures of this sin-soiled scene. It is a sustaining hope—the cares and afflictions of life sit light upon the shoulders, while the head is high in heaven. It makes time fly swiftly. Habituated to this hope, we feel that we are almost in heaven, and we can say, "the night is far spent, the day is at hand." It is a rejoicing hope; for it brings all heaven before the eyes, and if that be not joy, there can be no joy. But we must labor to become acquainted with more than this hope.
(2.) Our minds should revel in thoughts of the richly glorious inheritance of the saints. When we become children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, we are entitled to nothing less than all the happiness and glory which our Father can bestow. It is written we are "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." Amazing thought! But it is as surely certain as it is wondrous. "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?" Is Christ now rich, and rich in glory? Just so rich, and just so rich in glory will each poor follower of Him soon become. "The glory which You gave Me, I have given them." God cannot give more; God will not give less.
Now we are encouraged to assure our souls of the reality and greatness of our inheritance. Would these glories be revealed, if they were not true? Would they be revealed, if we were not required to believe them? Should we be required to believe them, if the knowledge did not tend to comfort and strengthen our souls? Oh! then let us no more walk with downcast eyes fixed on the mire of this miserable world. Let us gaze on the pure and bright scenes to which we are hastening. If we thus pass much time in this precious study, we shall soon find the love of Jesus burning more and more in our hearts. We are indebted altogether to His blood for all the riches and glory which we shall so soon enjoy. Can we realize this and not adore? It cannot be. Heaven is perfect love; the anticipation is fervent love—heaven is perfect holiness; love is the mainspring of it. Hence the study of our purchased home increases love, and every holy word and work.
Ephesians 1:19-20."And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead."
Paul continues to desire an increase of knowledge for the saints at Ephesus. Heavenly knowledge is indeed a precious gift. The more we know of God, and of the hope of His calling, and of His work within us, the more we shall love, and trust, and delight ourselves in Him. Spirit of light, give us light! You great Teacher of the Church, come into our souls with all Your teaching energy! Give Your unction from above, that we may know all things! Especially teach us now "what is the exceeding greatness of God's power toward those who believe."
This is the point to which our attention is brought. Let us consider what a work that must be, which requires the exertion of "the exceeding greatness of God's power." The work is vast, and embraces many particulars. We will confine our thoughts to (1.) The regeneration of the dead soul. (2.) The preservation of the living soul. (3.) The glorification of the entire man.
(1.) The regeneration of the dead soul calls for the exertion of exceeding great power. We are born into this world with dead souls. Our bodies live, but our souls are lifeless. Sin fastened upon the life of Adam's soul, and gave it a death-wound—it utterly expired beneath the fatal blow. From that day all his descendants at first move about this earth as walking sepulchers of expired spirits. And what power can quicken and vivify inanimate souls? Nothing less than Omnipotence can make the body live. But the soul is far more precious than mere earthly matter—therefore the exceeding greatness of divine almightiness is required to call it from the sleep of death. It is indeed a wondrous work to create a living soul—a work far greater than to stud the heavens with countless orbs of brilliant light. What is the sun—what are shining hosts of stars compared to one soul! They soon must hide their heads in darkness, and drop as withered leaves from their lofty stations. But the soul endures forever and ever, its being is eternity, its continuance is endless.
Well, then, may the Holy Spirit describe its regeneration in such strong language. It is a "new birth"—a "new creation"—a passing "from darkness to light"—from "death to life." Hence, to accomplish this, God must Himself arise, and gird Himself with power, and stretch forth His mighty arm, and send forth His all-efficient voice. It is much more than to say to the widow's son, "Young man, I say unto you, Arise;" or to the entombed brother at Bethany, "Lazarus, come forth." This is the vast power which is exercised in the case of each believing soul. What believer will not say, Have I life? Are mine eyes opened to see the most precious, the most lovely, the most enrapturing of all sights, even Jesus loving me, and made a curse for me? Are my ears opened to hear His constraining voice of gentle affection calling me to Him, and bidding me trust Him forever without one fear? Is my mouth opened to praise and bless Him, and with filial confidence to cry before the mercy-seat, "Abba, Father?" Are my feet strengthened to ascend with gladness the heavenward way, and to run with enlargement in the holy path of God's commandments? Happy, blessed soul! be assured that God has put forth all His almightiness to befriend you—doubt not that the energies of the triune Jehovah have conspired to give you this life. Will not you go on your way rejoicing? Will not you devote all the power which is thus quickened in you, to the one glory of the great Father and Creator of your being? Pray that you may know the exceeding greatness of God's power in thus giving you spiritual birth—and learn that you shall never die.
(2.) For this power secures the preservation of the living soul. This needs constant protection. A wily adversary, whose name is Legion, watches for its ruin with deadly and with sleepless hate. He sits down before it with all his troops of temptations, lusts, allurements—he keeps all his poisoned arrows directed against it. How, then, shall the poor soul escape destruction? It seems like the weak lamb in the midst of ravenous wolves. Its preservation is here—"the exceeding greatness of God's power" encompasses it as with a shield. "Fear not, Abram, I am your shield." It is not, I will provide a shield for you; but I, the omnipotent Jehovah, Myself am your shield. Every foe must conquer omnipotence before it can destroy you.
Every weapon must pierce omnipotence, before a deadly wound can touch you. The bush may burn, but it cannot be consumed, because the Lord God is in the midst of it. "Your life is hid with Christ in God." "The Lord is your keeper." Oh! for grace to realize that we are thus "kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation."
(3.) The exceeding greatness of God's power will ultimately glorify the entire man. The voice which said to the dead soul "Live," will call the dead body from the chamber of the grave. Then, at His omnipotent bidding, this mortal shall put on immortality, and the glorified spirit, re-united to the glorified body, shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with all the redeemed in the kingdom of our Father. May we strive to learn more of the exceeding greatness of God's power, as put forth towards those who believe!
Ephesians 1:19-20."According to the working of His mighty power which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places."
Paul's prayer closes with the petition that the Ephesians might know the exceeding greatness of God's power towards them who believe. But though he ceases to pray he continues the subject. He strives next to show how vast, how wondrous, is the almightiness exerted towards the saints. He points to the Lord Jesus raised again from the dead, and exalted to God's right hand in heaven—he seems to bid us measure and weigh the omnipotence thus put forth, and he proclaims, that power precisely the same, in no degree weaker or inferior, is used to quicken each dead soul. Did God in all His might arise to break asunder the bands of death which enfettered Jesus? Did He extend the right hand of His excellency to uplift Jesus to His lofty glorious throne? The same God uses the self-same might, the self-same right hand of excellency to confer spiritual life to all believers. The resurrection and exaltation of Jesus are the triumphs of omnipotence over the grave. The rising again to newness of life from death in trespasses and sins, is the work of the same strength. Having thus stated the grand illustration, by which Paul exemplifies the subject, let us proceed to draw comfort (1.) From the might used in our regeneration. (2.) From the fact, that our Forerunner is raised from the dead, and exalted to God's right hand. May the same almighty power teach us!
(1.) What comfort is there in the thought of the power used in our regeneration! If we see a man straining every nerve, using every effort to accomplish some object, we justly infer that his heart is set on it—that he esteems it of some great importance to himself. So God must dearly prize that soul in whose behalf He puts forth such energy. The life of that soul must be matter of the deepest interest to Him, or such efforts would not be made. O believer, can you realize what vivifying grace has been imparted to you?—Can you say, One thing I know, whereas I was blind, now I see—whereas I was dead, now I live? If so, what cause have you to rejoice, and to adore! God has exerted more might to accomplish this work in you, than He did when He made the worlds. What wondrous love therefore must He entertain for you! How dear must Your existence be in His sight! Fear not. There may be storms and trials near you, but "He will keep you as the apple of His eye." Satan may rage and assault, but all is vain—the might which quickened shall preserve you—the ungodly can more readily pull down the sun from his path on high, than injure you.
What encouragement have we in this thought to expect more grace—yes, the fullest, richest supplies! There is more difference between a dead soul and a living soul, than between a living soul and a soul in glory. The grand work was to kindle life—it is far less to fan it into the brightest flame. Therefore, hope all things—be not disheartened because your present stock seems small, but go in undoubting confidence to Him in whom all fullness dwells. He is willing and able to enrich you until you can contain no more. We are not straitened in Him. Let us open wide the mouths which He has made, and He will fill them.
(2.) Let us draw comfort from the fact that our Forerunner is thus exalted. The might which accomplished this work in Him, has already exalted our souls; and soon, too, it will exalt our bodies. "If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He who raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwells in you." As Jesus, our great Lord, bowed His head and gave up the spirit; so, too, our heads must bow beneath the stroke of death, and our bodies must return to the dust, and lie in silence in the darkness of the grave. But, "O Grave! where is your victory? O Death! where is your sting?" Soon shall the Lord, who was dead, but now lives—the Lord Himself, even our exalted Jesus. "descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel and the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first." Then shall this corruptible put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality, and "the saying shall be brought to pass which is written, Death is swallowed up in victory." This great day of God draws near. Each moment which flies—each breath which we draw, hastens it on. In a few more days or hours the number of the elect will be accomplished; this terrestrial scene shall have fulfilled its appointed end, and the resurrection-life shall commence. Let us realize these verities. Let us look on the things around as perishing and almost perished, and shall we set our affections on them? Let us look on the things eternal as even now about to break on our enraptured gaze, and give them the estimation to which they are entitled. Let us live as if this were our stranger-state for a few more moments—and as if heaven were even now opening its blessed portals to receive us. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"
Ephesians 1:21."Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come."
May the exemplification which Paul here enlarges conduce greatly to our comfort! May our souls become persuaded, that the same almighty power has been exerted to quicken those who raised Jesus from the dead, and set Him at God's right hand in the heavenly places; and may the strong consolation, and abiding strength, which this knowledge gives, be ours!
This argument and illustration having led Paul to mention the exaltation of Jesus, his ardent spirit seems to soar directly to heaven, and to behold Jesus on the throne of His glory. He sees Him uplifted "far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." Very far below Him are the highest angels, the brightest, the purest intelligences which inhabit the courts of heaven. Let us now draw near with all humility, and gaze on the pre-eminence of Jesus, and thence deduce two reflections—(1.) The present security; (2.) The future prospect of the believer.
The pre-eminence of Jesus is a glorious sight, of which at present we can see but little; but it is a sight to which we should often direct the eye of faith. The more we gaze, the more we shall comprehend. We know that our beloved Lord is very and eternal God. If the strength and essence of Jehovah had not been His, how could He have endured the wrath of God, and made sufficient satisfaction for our infinite iniquities? But He is God. "In Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." For a little while He "was made a little lower than the angels." He veiled His Deity in the poor rags of mean mortality. But the period of humiliation ceased when He arose from the dead. He said in His prayer, "I have finished the work which You gave Me to do. Now, O Father, glorify You Me with Your own self, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." And now has God highly exalted Him, and given Him "a name which is above every name." He who was "the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His Person, and who upheld all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high, being made so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they." He has returned to His own seat—He has resumed the robes of His own Deity—He is enthroned on high, as the Lord God Omnipotent. "which is, and which was, and which is to come." No glory can exceed His. The Seraphim veil their faces while they worship Him.
Did He once lay aside all this majesty for you, O believer? Did He so long to redeem you, and to have you with Him forever, that He condescended to divest Himself, and to become a servant, and to be nailed by wicked hands to the accursed tree, and to stand before God as an abomination? Oh! wondrous thought! How unspeakable must have been His love! What returns of gratitude can we make? Let us draw near to Him now on His mercy-seat, and present ourselves, our souls and bodies, a reasonable, holy, lively sacrifice unto Him forever. Two reflections flow from His pre-eminence.
(1.) Our security. He holds His people in the right hand of His might, and who is able to pluck them out of His hand? Satan doubtless will strive—we know it—we feel it—but his efforts are all vain. If God be for us, who can be against us? "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Jesus is thus exalted, but not for Himself only—He "is exalted to be a Prince and a Savior," and therefore He is able, even as He is willing, to save us to the uttermost. Seeing that He is thus high above all angelic powers, indisputable it must be that He is much higher above all the hosts of darkness. Therefore, let us bless Him, and take courage. He will bruise Satan under our feet shortly.
(2.) Our future prospect. We rejoice in the truth, that Jesus is gone "to prepare a place for us, and that He will come again to receive us unto Himself, that where He is, there we may be also." We know that "we shall ever be with the Lord." His will is, that they who are given to Him, be with Him where He is. The glory given unto Him, He has given unto them. Can it be that such sinful worms shall share all His pre-eminence, and be seated with Him "far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named?" As truly as He is thus exalted, so truly will He thus exalt us. May we now live worthy of God, who has called us to His kingdom and glory! May our conversation now be in heaven! May the paltry trifles of this world be far beneath our feet!
Ephesians 1:22."And has put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church."
We are called to prolong our contemplation of the pre-eminence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be God, He is King of kings and Lord of lords. The government is upon His shoulder. May the Spirit of the Lord reveal some glimpses of His glory to us, while we consider from the words before us, (1.) That all things are under His feet. (2.) That He is Head over all things to His Church. How truly blessed are they who call Him Lord, and know that they are one with Him forever!
(1.) All things are under His feet. The Holy Spirit declares this in Psalm 8, in which these words first occur, and where Jesus is called the Son of Man. Hence it is apparent that this supremacy is assigned to the God-man, our Mediator, our Surety, Christ Jesus. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Holy Spirit thus enlarges on the words, "In that He put all in subjection under Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him." Therefore, O glorious and blessed Savior, You who were made a inhabitant of earth for us poor sinners, and did groan and bleed upon the Cross to redeem us from the curse of the Law, we adore You as supreme and universal Sovereign of all things, as reigning with might, omnipotent over all that is, and was, and is to come!
Satan, the great enemy of Your kingdom and our souls, is low beneath Your feet. In the days of Your suffering He was bold to assail You; but it was easy with You to drive him vanquished from the combat. On the Cross he ventured to make a desperate struggle—but how vain! By dying, You did destroy him that had the power of death, and did shiver into atoms the foul scepter of his wretched reign. And now, behold, how powerless he lies! At Your command, he is constrained to let each captive go—his chains fall off when Your word is uttered, "Let my people go, that they may serve me." O Lord, You who have all this power, put it forth, we beseech You, more and more in our behalf—suffer not Your enemy to occupy the least portion of our hearts—permit him not to harass us with hateful temptations, but drive him from us into outer darkness. Hasten the appointed time when he shall be cast into the bottomless pit, and universal holiness shall reign throughout the realms of peace!
O Lord, our souls are under Your governance. Be pleased, then, to keep them true and faithful to Your service. Bind Your sweet chains of love around them, and suffer them not to wander from Your rule. O Lord, the world, too, and all within it, is under Your dominion—we pray You, disappoint all adverse designs, frustrate rebellious malice, over-rule all evil desires and attempts, and make all events conduce to the good of Your Church, and the glory of Your holy name. Take to Yourself Your great power—claim the kingdoms as Your own—bring in the longed-for day when shouts in heaven and earth shall proclaim, "Hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!" May our feeble voices join in the blessed chorus which crowns You Lord of All! Thus we adore You as having all things under Your feet.
(2.) Jesus is Head over all things to His Church. How close is the union which exists between Christ and His people! The Spirit delights to proclaim this reality under many striking similitudes, that the full comfort of it may refresh our souls. Let us welcome it, and feast upon it. He is the foundation—sure, strong, elect, precious—we are the living stones of a spiritual house, laid upon Him, and cemented into Him. He is the Tree of Life, full of vivifying juices—we are the branches, engrafted into Him, and receiving fruitfulness from Him. He is the Bridegroom, full of love and tender solicitude—we are the spouse, whom He has chosen for Himself, and made the partners of His throne forever. He is the everlasting Father—we are the children whom He has begotten unto Himself by spiritual regeneration. He is the Elder Brother of our family—we are conformed unto His image, and are called to sit down with Him at His board, and to be joint-heirs of His inheritance. Finally, He is the Head; we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.
What peace flows from the assurance that He is Head over all things unto us! In every difficulty, the head thinks, and reasons, and takes precaution, and directs—just so, Jesus is always thoughtful for us, and will surely guide us in a right and safe path, until we reach the city of eternal habitation. The head rules every member; each moves and acts in submission to the controlling will—just so, Jesus moves and reigns in each child of grace. The man is esteemed great, whose head is full of wisdom, and prudence, and skill. How great, then, is the believer, who is thus influenced by the all-wise, the only wise God! Jesus! move ever in us, as a head guiding its members!
Ephesians 1:23."The Church which is His body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all."
The saving truths of Scripture are always expressed in the clearest language. There is neither ambiguity nor mysticism. The wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein. But alas! how few understand and receive the simple declarations! Why is this? The reason is obvious—the truths are spiritual, and therefore can only be apprehended by spiritual discernment. The sun brightly shines, but the blind man is in nothing but unbroken darkness. The Word distinctly speaks, but he, whose spiritual ears are not unstopped, hears nothing. What can be plainer than the saying before us? "The Church is His body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all." But to every natural man this seems a fond and foolish dream, from which he turns either with utter indifference, or the sneer of ridicule. Blessed Spirit of the living God, enlighten our darkness, that we may see and delight in this precious truth, to the exceeding joy and refreshment of our souls! (1.) Believers are the Body of Christ. (2.) They are the fullness of Him that fills all in all. We have already contemplated Jesus as the Head. We proceed to the immediate consequence.
(1.) Believers are His Body. May an increase of grace and faith be granted to realize this truth! The comfort which seems most prominent from this assurance, is the persuasion of close union. Wherever we are, under whatever circumstances of distress, or trial, or suffering, we are verily part of Christ. No man can deny or reject his own members, though disease may prey upon them, and deformity disfigure them. Thus sin, with all its leprous pollution, may contaminate; still, Christ will not cast off. He has joined His Church to Himself forever. When any limb is in pain, we know how the head sympathizes. Thus in all our afflictions He is afflicted—and he that touches us, touches the very apple of His eye. It is a groundless fear, that Christ is indifferent to our troubles and anguish. He participates in every pain, and is truly touched with the feeling of our infirmities. We hence learn the true dignity of the child of God. It utterly exceeds all present power to conceive or express. The Lord help us ever to bear it in mind! The contemplation is sanctifying, and has direct tendency to elevate.
If all my members are part of Christ, shall I make them instruments of sin? God forbid! Shall my tongue, which is part of Christ's tongue, join in vain and trifling converse? Shall my eyes, which are part of Christ's eyes, look on vanity? Shall my ears, which are part of Christ's ears, listen with complacency to the ungodly communications of the world? Shall my feet, which are part of Christ's feet, carry me to scenes and companies from which my Head is excluded? Shall my heart receive any affection, my mind any impression, which is not full of Christ? Lord, of Your mercy forbid it! I am Your—keep me, use me as Your forever. May all who see me take knowledge of me, that I bear Your image—in every place may I be a living witness to Your truth—may it be seen in me that You have living members upon earth, even as You are a living Head in heaven! Blessed Lord, grant that Your Body may no more be disjointed and disorganized—may all Your members be knit together as one holy, compact frame—may one Spirit of love animate the whole, and may Your prayer have speedy fulfillment, "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 know that You have sent me, and have loved them as You have loved me."
(2.) Believers are "the fullness of Him that fills all in all." Great is this mystery. Christ as God is omnipresent. He fills all heaven, and all the universe which His power made. As an indwelling Spirit He pervades the whole Church. He is present in all assemblies, and occupies every heart. But while all things are thus full of Him, His fullness is the Church while all would be one vast vacancy without Him, He would be incomplete without His people. What shall be said to this truth? We marvel and adore. With what love must He have loved us, when He took us into such union with Himself, that He can no more be entire apart from us! Oh! that we might similarly feel, that we cannot live or move one moment without Him!
Who can consider these things, and gainsay the truth, that His sheep shall never perish? The absence of one would destroy the entirety of the body, and would render Christ deficient, imperfect. The very thought must instantly be rejected; and we must delightedly embrace the sure conclusion, that all who are His, are His forever. What comforts should fill our souls! what prospect brightens before us! what gratitude should burn in our hearts! what debtors are we to the grace which gave us to Jesus, and Jesus unto us!