The Epistles of Paul

PAUL TO THE EPHESIANS


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THE ZENITH of divine revelation, this heavenly epistle, leaving the earth, where the Christ is repudiated by His own people Israel, seats us among the celestials, where He is enthroned at God's right hand (1:20). His saints, blessed with every spiritual blessing in Him (1:3) among the celestials (2:6), are an object lesson to manifest God's manifold wisdom to celestial beings (3:10), so that the purpose of the eons (3:11), which embraces Christ's headship over the heavens as well as the earth (1:10), may be effected through the transcendent riches of grace (2:7) which has come to the nations through the offense of faithless Israel, until their salvation and reception (Rom.11:12).

TRANSCENDENT RICHES OF HIS GRACE

The dimensions of the present grace are not constricted as with Israel. It reaches back to a time prior to the entrance of sin and forward to its exit. It includes not only all mankind who believe today, but is intended to affect the heavens as well. It takes men far below the plane of privilege on which Israel dwelt, with no claims whatever on God's mercy, and seats them far above the highest in heaven. May He help us to learn something of this grace! This knowledge leads us into the realm of the unknowable, for it reveals to us the transcendent love of Christ which we will never be able to fathom fully and which will always yield new delights.

As to time, it reverts to a period prior to the disruption of the first of Genesis (Eph.1:4; Gen.1:2) and leads to the

page 2: FOUR SECRETS IN EPHESIANS

exaltation of Christ, not only in the coming eon (1:21), but in the eon of the eons, too (2:7, 3:21), which is the administration of the complement of the eras (1:10).

Being addressed to those who believe in Christ Jesus, this letter was intended for those who had received Paul's previous ministries and were expecting to be with Him before His coming to the earth (1:12).

The omission of "in Ephesus" (1:1), the lack of the slightest local allusion, and the very general character of the epistle, all tend to show that it is the charter of the church of this economy, a treatise on present truth--the touchstone and standard by which all truth for today must be tested.

In this epistle we find four secrets:

The Secret of Christ is but briefly touched. The Secret of Marriage and of the Evangel are but references, one to Genesis, the other to Romans. The Secret Administration is categorically set forth in the summary given in the sixth verse of the third chapter. It is that believers of the nations are, in spirit,

The letter proper is an elaboration of this definition of the secret relating to "the promise in Christ Jesus" through the evangel of which Paul became the dispenser.

An analysis of the Ephesian epistle will show that this is not only a summary of the secret, but also of the whole letter which is an elaborate and extended exposition of the secret, under these three divisions.

Thus the joint allotment of the nations is set forth in Ephesians 1:3-19, and enforced in 6:10-20.

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The joint body seats both Jew and Gentile together (2:6) among the celestials in Christ Jesus. This is detailed in 1:20-2:10 and in 5:21-6:9.

The joint participation is seen in creating the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision into one new humanity (2:15). It is fully discussed in 2:11-22, and is applied to our deportment in 4:17-5:20.

A summary of the new revelation is given in 3:1-13, which is reviewed as to its results in 4:7-16.

The heart of the epistle is filled with two petitions, one to the Father, and one to the saints to preserve the spiritual unity which is founded on the transcendent truths and fathomless favor and limitless love which are revealed in this lovely letter.

LITERARY FRAMEWORK

  Paul's commission--salutation (1:1,2)
      The allotment--in heaven--blessing (1:3-14)
             Paul's prayer for them (1:15-19)
            The body--in Christ, The members (1:20-2:10)
               The new humanity (2:11-22)
                  Summary of grace NOW shown (3:1-13)
                     Petitioning the Father (3:14-21)
                     Beseeching the saints (4:1-6)
                  Summary of grace HAVING BEEN shown (4:7-16)
               The new humanity (4:17-5:20)
            The body--in the Lord, The Head (5:21-6:9)
      The allotment--in heaven--warfare (6:10-17)
             Their prayer for Paul (6:18-20)
   Tychicus' commission--salutation (6:21-24)
It will be seen that the bulk of the epistle is occupied with an orderly exposition of the three aspects of the secret. First we have its relation to God in the celestial allotment, then its connection with Christ, as joint members of His body, then its bearing on other saints. There are two sum-

page 4: THE EPHESIAN PRAYERS

maries on the same subject, and two appropriate petitions, besides the introduction and conclusion. Thus the entire epistle is practically dedicated to the task of enlightening all as to this secret administration.

This simplifies our task very much. There is no need of any arrangement of our own, of gathering material together from various parts of the Scriptures. The framework is the best possible analysis of the subject, and we can do no better than to follow the divine Author's divisions.

THE PRAYERS OF EPHESIANS

Believers should often direct their hearts to the prayers of this epistle. No petitions can be presented which are so welcome to the ear of God. None are so necessary to our spiritual welfare. Let us read them and meditate upon them until the longing expressed in them becomes our own and prepares a way for their realization.

As noted in the framework, the first is Paul's prayer for the believers (Eph.1:15-19), which is matched by the closing request for their prayer on Paul's behalf (6:18-20). In the center position is the grand petition to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (3:14-21).

After having set forth the marvelous grace which culminates and transcends all previous revelation (Eph.1:3-14), the apostle is burdened by the fact that all this is quite beyond human comprehension apart from a special endowment for its understanding. This is the more remarkable because the apostle had not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God to the Ephesians when he ministered among them (Acts 20:27). But that referred to the traceable riches of Christ, and in Ephesians 3:8 he assures us that he is speaking in this epistle of the untraceable riches of Christ to the nations. Hence Paul prays for a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the first prayer, and petitions

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the Father for staunchness and power in the man within in the second prayer.

Every lack in the universe is filled by Christ. He is God's Complement, Who supplies every deficiency. We, as members of His body are His complement. To fit us for this place He wishes us to grasp the grace which this involves, as expressed in the second Ephesian prayer (3:14-21). This, in turn, will reveal the transcendent love of Christ. Thus we will be filled or completed--brought to that finished state which fits us for our future destiny.

No epistle in the Scriptures is so full of harmonies as Ephesians. There is a continual assurance that each phase of our blessing is in accord with all the rest. Our sonship suits the delight of His will (1:5). The "forgiveness" of our offenses is raised on the scale to harmonize with the riches of His grace (1:7). The secret of His will is consonant with His delight (1:9). Our predestination is in unison with His purpose (1:11). Paul's dispensation agrees with God's grace which, in its turn, is attuned to His powerful operation (3:7). The insight of the celestials is in line with the purpose of the eons (3:11). So, now, power is desired such as will harmonize with His glorious riches (3:16). Paul prays for a power which will accord with the wealth of glory which has become ours through this new revelation.

The closing prayer is for boldness in making known the secret of the evangel, the message of conciliation. This is not the boldness of declaring war but of proclaiming peace, and this from an ambassador in a chain! Let us read and ponder and pray these prayers of Ephesians often. And as we delve into the depths and scale the heights, and consider the length and breadth of the marvelous unfolding in this epistle, may it enlarge our hearts, and so fill them with praise and adoration that God will receive a rich response of overflowing affection.

A.E.K

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