EPHESIANS: THE THREE-FOLD EPISTLE - SEVEN STUDIES
BY WILLIAM B. RILEY, D.D.
Pastor First Baptist Church, Minneapolis, and Superintendent of the Northwestern Bible Training School. Author of “The Perennial Revival”, “The Crisis of the Church”, “The Evolution of the Kingdom”, “The Menace of Modernism” and other volumes
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter One—“THE THREE AUTHORS OF SALVATION”
Chapter Two—“THE THREE SUBJECTS OF SALVATION”
Chapter Three—“THE THREE-FOLD EFFECT ON PAUL”
Chapter Four—“THE THREE-FOLD APPEAL TO THE CHURCH”
Chapter Five—“THE THREE FEATURES OF THE BELIEVER’S WALK”
Chapter Six—“THE THREE-FOLD APPEAL TO THE FAMILY”
Chapter Seven—“THE THREE-FOLD EXPRESSION OF SPIRITUAL LIFE”
IN the study of the seven epistles to the seven churches of Asia, memorialized in the second and third chapters of the Revelation, it is significant that the first message is addressed to the Church at Ephesus. Paul’s epistle to the Ephesian church was the first in order of his prison epistles; and may have been read to both the Ephesian and Laodicean christians (Col. 4:16). It is peculiarly a church epistle, but presents to the individual christian the certainty of conflict and the way of conquest. The writer believes that the three-fold feature of this book is not arbitrarily introduced. He began its study with no thought whatever of reducing the book to any numerical basis. The divisions were, in every case, the result of careful investigation. He commits this volume to the reading public in the hope of making the epistle to the Ephesians as attractive to students as it has seemed instructive and inspiring to recent auditors!
THE THREE AUTHORS OF SALVATION!
PAUL is the author of the epistle to the Ephesians. Its date is approximately 64 A.D. and it is probably the first in order of his prison epistles. Tychicus was his postman, carrying not alone this epistle, but with it probably the one to the Colossians and to Philemon. In view of the fact that in his epistle to the Colossians (4:16), he speaks of another epistle already written to the Laodiceans, and to be read by them. This may have been a somewhat circular letter, sent to Ephesus first, and later to the Laodiceans.
It is peculiarly a church epistle. It deals with that body of which Christ is the Head; and which is called “the Church of God.”
The Apostolic Greeting (Ephesians 1:1-2), is worthy a chapter, but we pass it over in the interest of what follows, viz. the three authors of salvation.
This chapter indelibly impresses three great truths,—The believer is predestinated by the Father; the Believer is purchased by the Son; the Believer is empowered by the Spirit.
THE BELIEVER IS PREDESTINATED BY THE FATHER
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as He hath chosen us, in Him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1:3-6)
This language holds a number of words upon which the student of Scripture should pause. First upon the word—“Father.” God is not a force, but a Father! A writer says, “When I say ‘A force’ I am somewhere, at large; and almost think I am lost; but when I say ‘Father’ I am at home, and all my heart grows still.” You remember the language of the sweet singer:
“I was in God’s nursery to-night as the evening was getting dim, [Him;
And I sat with God’s children, and they were talking of
And another child was with them, though Him I could not see,
They say that God has an elder Son, I think it was He.
‘Father’ He said first of all; though I could not see for the gloom,
Yet the instant He said it I felt someone else in the room;
And the room itself must have grown in a very little space,
For the child called to Father in heaven and heaven is a far-away place.
But oh, what an echo was left by that one single sound.
It crept into every corner and wandered round and round;
The very air felt holy wherever the echo came;
Cried the children, ‘Oh, that it were ever so. ‘Hallowed be that Name’!”
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Sir Robert Anderson once said to me, “Never again speak of “Jesus,” it suits the Unitarian too well, and the critical student as well; employ the biblical phrase “the Lord Jesus Christ. Defend His claims; decry His critics; declare His deity!”
“Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ.” We are told that “places” is a poor translation and that “in the heavenlies” is right, reminding us that in the earth we are but “pilgrims and strangers;” and that our spiritual experiences are forever suggesting the Home to which we journey and the land to which we truly belong, to all of which we are heirs in Christ, “according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”
It is a remarkable phrase—“Chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” God always expected to have a Church. God, from the beginning, knew what agency He would set against the world’s sin; and from the beginning, God knew that “the gates of Hell should not prevail” against Him “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” Here let us pause and begin an outline!
Predestination is by the exercise of God’s will. It is, therefore, all of grace. Peter, in his first epistle, second verse, speaks of the “elect according to the fore-knowledge of God, the Father.” Jesus said to His own disciples, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.” The sinner, of himself, would never even seek salvation, much less secure it! “The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost” and it is all of grace; all of the good will of God from the beginning. The term “predestination” which has alarmed many, is only another expression of the eternal compassion, the eternal plan, the eternal purpose, the eternal project—REDEMPTION!
The Believer’s position, however is by the exercise of man’s will. He has “purchased us unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will;” but He will never foreclose on that which He has purchased without our personal consent. The day one is willing to be adopted, that day he becomes God’s child. And yet, lest we boast, that after all we have the merit of our wills, we ought to be reminded that He makes us “willing in the day of His power,” Now, adoption is to be bring to all the privileges of the truly born. Dr. Jowett, says truly that “sin is a voluntary breaking away from the Divine order, a conscious and deliberate violation of the Divine will” and that “sin results in a certain distortion, a certain twist in our relationship to the Highest, which evidences itself in the disturbing and maiming sense of guilt.” A great experimental thinker has said that “sin is the God-resisting disposition in virtue of which, man, in self-sufficiency and pride, opposes himself to God, and thereby withdraws himself from the active ministry of God’s life and love.”
Whatever relationship we may have maintained by reason of original creation it has been distorted and twisted and needs to be righted and straightened and God has provided for that “by Jesus Christ.” As Jowett says “Matthew Arnold once told us that “sin is an infirmity to be got rid of but forgot to tell us how!” Another counsels “Get rid of sin by healthy developments and favorable conditions.” But, alas, who has found such conditions and accomplished such development? Men who have made endeavors, have been compelled to cry out at last, as Paul—the educated, as Paul—the beautifully environed, as Paul—the noble, as Paul—the eloquent cried, “Oh, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?” And no man who has been unable to say “I thank God through Jesus Christ my Lord” has ever found another way. All of this is “to the praise and glory of His grace, wherein He hath accepted us in the Beloved.”
Now, experience is the realization of this relationship. We saw a child taken out of a Home, a few days since, to be adopted. The act itself had little significance to him; but of the fruitfulness of that adoption he will find out from experience! As he comes later under the hand of that beautiful woman: as he comes into the fulness of her love, and into that of the noble man who united with her in that adoption; as he shares with them that home, and sees that the best even is reserved for him; as he goes forth beautifully clothed and abundantly fed; as he goes forth to the public school, and later finds himself in the University, his experience will deepen his relationship. It is so with us! Our adoption is done the moment we consent to it; but the joy of it all, to the praise and glory of His grace—comes to us in ever increasing measure until we shall break forth in song:
“My Father is rich in houses and lands,
He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands!
Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold,
His coffers are full,—He has riches untold.”
And then add the refrain to express our relationship—“I am the child of a King!”
But, as we have been predestinated by the Father so we have been
PURCHASED BY THE SON
“In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace; wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him; in whom we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will: that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:7–13).
This Scripture justifies three remarks. First;
The Believer was bought by the Son of God. You can object as much as you like to the term redemption, defined as “buying back;” you can say as often as you will that ‘you never belonged to the devil, consequently you could not be bought back,’ but the testimony of all human experience is against your claim. Christ said, “Ye are of your father, the devil” and men have never failed to illustrate it. “His servants ye are whom ye obey.” If we are to be manumitted, One must appear and purchase us that He might set us free. Dr. James M. Gray had occasion to write:
“O listen to our wondrous story,
Counted once among the lost,
Yet, One came down from heaven’s glory
Saving us at awful cost.
No angel could His place have taken
Highest of the high tho’ He,
The loved One on the cross forsaken,
Was one of the Godhead three.”
and greater occasion even for his refrain:
“Who saved us from eternal loss?
Who but God’s Son upon the cross?
What did He do,
He died for you?
Where is He now?
In heaven interceding.
Believe it thou,
In heaven interceding!”
“There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus; neither is there salvation by any other, for there is none other name given under heaven and among men whereby you must be saved.” It is reported that Charles Lamb on one occasion was sitting with a body of friends and the question was asked “what would you do if Plato, Aristotle or Shakespeare should enter the room at this moment?” “I would rise,” said Lamb, “and receive them with great respect.” “And what would you do if Christ should enter?” “I should kneel at His feet,” replied the same great writer. Lamb is supposed to have belonged to the liberal wing of the visible church, and to have denied the deity of Christ; yet, by this answer, he practically confessed that, after all, he recognized Him as more than a man—as the very God who appeared in our behalf.
The price He paid for us was His own precious blood. “In whom we have redemption through His blood.” It is the day when men hate the doctrine of the blood. They have found a new name for it, and called it “the gospel of the shambles;” but apart from it, there is no Gospel at all, since “without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” The Lamb “slain from the foundation of the world” is presented in Scripture as its one and only hope. Abel’s blood by another generation was good, but we must have “a blood that speaks better things than that of Abel,” or sinners are forever doomed.
Dr. Clark tells in his journal of missionary travel, how once in India, he listened in a humble tent to the song of a lot of coolies who had been a band of cutthroats and murderers, and yet had been marvelously redeemed. One of them named Kothabye, had been the chief of a robber band and had at last been captured and sold as a slave. But no master would keep him, he was so wicked. At last a missionary bought him with the hope of saving him. One day he heard the missionary tell how the blood of Christ could cleanse a sinner. Coming to him he asked, “Could He cleanse a murderer?” “Yes” said the missionary. “But if he had killed five men?” “Yes” said the missionary, “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.” “But if he had killed ten men?” “Yes,” said the missionary, “all manner of sin shall be forgiven men.” “But if he had killed twenty men?” “Yes” said the missionary “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” “But if he had killed thirty men?” “Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool,” answered the missionary. “Then” said he “I am that sinner, for I have killed thirty men.” But the blood of Jesus Christ saved even that man, and he was now the leader of the coolie band and they were the greatest company of soul-winners known to that region. The writer, referring to it, said: “Perhaps you have no such record, and no deep sense of sin. Listen, the sin offering was for sins of ignorance especially, the very condition of guilt was this, “Though he wist it not, yet he is guilty.” God knows that without the shedding of blood there is no remission; and Christ appeared to make the sacrifice in behalf of each and every one!
The praise, then, belongs to Him and to Him alone. One of the greatest sermons to which I ever gave audience was preached by Thomas Spurgeon, and one of the most impressive features of it the oft-repeated phrase “It is all of grace!” The blotting out of the sins of the past is His gracious work. A writer declared that he walked across the valley of Dead Men in the South Island. Looking back over the way, he saw his tracks in the sand and marked how crooked his path, though he had intended to walk straight. It became a parable to him, he said, “This is my life. Every footprint, crooked!” “Then I fell asleep. When I awakened hours afterwards, I could see no marks on the sand; every footprint was gone; not one to be seen; the tide had been in, and when it receded there was no sign of the crooked steps; and I said to my soul, “that is a fresh reminder of what God has done for me.” Yes; but it was through the Son, and the praise belongs to Him. That is why we sing:
“All hail the power of Jesus’ name,
Let angels prostrate fall,
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all.
And that is why
Sinners whose love can ne’er forgot
The wormwood and the gall,
Should spread their trophies at His feet,
And crown Him Lord of all.”
But we call attention to the further suggestion of this Scripture, namely, that if the Church has been predestinated by the Father, and purchased by the Son, it is
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT
“That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:12–13).
There is nothing in all human thought so wonderful as the redemption of man. We ought not to marvel, therefore, that the entire God-head—Father, Son and Spirit engaged together; nor should we be surprised to discover that each holds His specific office, and does His specific work. If the Father predestinated redemption and the Son purchased it, the Spirit makes it possible.
He seals the Lord’s servants. A careful study of the words employed with reference to the Spirit will also show that wherever there is a distinction, there is also a difference. “Baptize” is one word; “endue” is another, “seal” is a third. On one occasion Jesus Christ said to the multitudes that had sought Him for the loaves and fishes: “Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for Him hath God the Father sealed.” A. J. Gordon says: “This sealing must evidently refer back to His reception of the Spirit at the Jordon.” It is maintained that the old Jewish priest had a custom of carefully examining the lamb selected for the offering, and if he found no defect in it, he put the temple seal upon it, thus certifying that it was fit for sacrifice and for food. Just previous to His baptism, John called attention to Christ, by saying “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” It ought not to amaze us, therefore, that when He appeared at Jordan, under the Father’s omniscient scrutiny, He was a Lamb “without blemish and without spot,” concerning whom the Father Himself could say: “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased;” and then set upon Him “the seal of the Holy Spirit,” descending in the form of a dove.
Gordon contends that the disciple is like his Lord in this, “In whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” In conversion the believer receives the testimony of God and “sets his seal to it that God is true;” in consecration God sets His seal upon the believer, that he is true. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Now He which establisheth us with you in Christ, and anointed us, is God; who also sealed us and gave us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Cor. 1:21, 22).
Christopher Wordsworth, realizing this truth wrote:—
“Come, ever, blessed Spirit, come,
And make Thy servant’s heart Thy home;
May each a living temple be
Hallowed forever, Lord, to Thee;
Enrich that Temple’s holy shrine
With sevenfold gifts of grace divine,—
With wisdom, light and knowledge bless,
Strength, counsel, fear and godliness.
Oh, Trinity, in unity!
One only God and persons three
In whom, through whom, by whom we live,
In Thee we praise and glory give;
Oh grant to us to use Thy grace,
That we may see Thy glorious face,
And ever with the heavenly host
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”
He instructs the Lord’s Servants.
The Apostle prayed for the Ephesians 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; The eyes of your understanding being enlightened that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe” (Ephesians 1:17–19).
G. G. Findlay, a great English expositor remarks “The spirit of wisdom and revelation will proceed from the Holy Ghost dwelling in those Gentile believers (Ephesians 1:13).
When the mind of the Old Testament prophet is illumined it is the work of the Spirit.
Daniel’s wisdom in interpreting dreams was given to him by “God,—the revealer of secrets”—an adequate description of the Third Person of the God-head. In the New Testament, Christ said of the Holy Ghost, “When He is come He shall guide you into all truth.” The effect of His instruction is found in the circumstance that men of different creeds, and coming from all quarters of the earth, discover a marvellous harmony of thought, when the Holy Ghost illumines them.
Bernard was a monk, steeped in the spirit of Catholicism. But when his heart was opened to the Holy Ghost, he wrote,—
“Jesus, the very thought of Thee,
With sweetness fills my breast.”
And every true member of the Protestant Church, listening to that song, believes that Bernard was visited by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the “eyes of his understanding being enlightened, and that he knew what was the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe.”
In other words, the Spirit-led men of the earth, called by whatever name you may care to employ, separated by any distance that may intervene, and partitioned by any Denominational labels that may be employed, are, in spite of all, an answer to the Master’s prayer,—
“That the Disciples may be one, even as He and the Father are one.”
But the chapter does not conclude until a further step is taken.
He, the Holy Ghost, exalts God’s Son. It was that Holy Ghost of promise.—
“Which wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, 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: and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head of all things to the Church, Which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:20–23).
The same Spirit that quickened Christ from the dead, inspires every believer in Christ to exalt Him, above all;—all men—all angels—all archangels; to name Him as the Head over all, “to the Church which is His body,” to mention Him as that one which filleth all in all.
In other words, He is literally fulfilling the Lord’s promise, “He shall not speak of Himself, but He shall take of the things of Mine and show them unto you.” And wherever a man is Spirit-illumined, Christ is not only His Lord, but He is the only Lord and Lord of all. You may find Him in the fold of Unitarianism; his philosophy and theology may be as unsound and unscriptural as commonly characterizes that company, and yet if the Spirit of God ever breathes upon him, He will bring him to say of the Christ as Sir John Bowring the great singer,—
“In the cross of Christ I glory
Towering o’er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.”
THE THREE SUBJECTS OF SALVATION
THREE times it was my privilege to give audience to America’s best Bible student and teacher, Dr. A. J. Gordon. Many years ago I heard his eloquent appeal for the Congo mission. Grattan Guinness had come back from Africa and asked the Baptists of the Northern States to take over that great territory, and there was grave doubt whether they should do it, and much debate against it. Gordon’s address turned the tide and American Baptists have been made richer by their experiences upon that field. Two years later, in Philadelphia, I gave audience to him the second time, and shortly thereafter, in Chicago, I heard him as he stood before the minister’s Conference and spoke on “The Jew, The Gentile and the Church of God.”
That speech impressed me more than did either of the others. The subject was new to me. Until then I knew no difference between “the Jew,” “the Gentile” and “the Church of God,” and consequently was not equipped to teach the Word. To be sure, I had finished a theological seminary course, but in that I had heard but little of this distinction so plain and palpable that it becomes a wonder that even a way-faring man could walk through the teachings of sacred Scripture and not see it. As Dr. C. I. Scofield remarks “More than one half the contents of the Bible relates to one nation—Israel. They have a distinct place in the dealings and counsels of God; and the Old Testament is devoted to their history, and the development of their divinely appointed religion. The New Testament to a considerable extent, reports the out-reach of the Gospel to the Gentile world, and elaborates upon the circumstance that out of converted Jew and regenerated Gentile there came “the Church of God.”
As, then, in the first chapter of this epistle we saw “the three Authors of salvation,” so in this second chapter we are to study “the three subjects of salvation;” and no man has a key to the Scripture until he knows the difference between “the Jew,” “the Gentile,” and “the Church of God.”
The first chapter of this book concludes with attention rivited upon the fact that the Holy Spirit raised Christ from the dead, and set Him at God’s right hand,
“far beyond 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. And hath put all things under His feet, and given Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.” (Ephesians 1:21-23)
The opening of the second chapter is to remind us that in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave, the Believer’s resurrection from the death of sin was also accomplished, hence the language “You hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”
Here the apostle deliberately binds the Jew and the Gentile together in the act of sin, and the certainty of condemnation. “We all had our conversation,” for Paul was a Jew; and so it is that the Jew needed redemption by Jesus; the Gentile had no hope save in Christ, and the Church of God cannot exist apart from Him who is its Head.
I want us to consider these three in order.
A little search will show you who he is. Paul, writing to the Romans, speaks of Israelites—“to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises: whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever” (Romans 9:4–5).
Jesus said to the woman at the well, “Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.” (John 4:22)
Of the Jew let me make three remarks, and advocate them from the Sacred Scriptures.
1—He was the Lord’s own by election.
The record of it is in the eleventh and twelfth chapters of the book of Genesis, and involves the call of Abraham and all the promises made to him; for those promises swept far beyond the individual and anticipated the nation of Israel. Did you ever stop to analyze them, and think how altogether different they are from any of the promises made to the Church, or even to the Gentile converts? “They are the promises of earthly inheritance. If faithful and obedient they were to be great, rich, and powerful; if unfaithful and disobedient, they were to be scattered “among all people, even from one end of the earth to the other.” And God has made His word good, in a literal sense. So long as they were faithful to Him, no matter what adverse circumstances, no matter what enemies rose to trouble them, they prospered, multiplied, grew rich, dominated; but when they became unfaithful to the Lord, and finally rejected and put His Son to a cruel death, even from that time until now the Jew has been scattered and peeled; the very inheritance promised him, taken away, the very land he once owned has been stripped from him, and he is the one nation of the earth that has not a solitary inch of space to call his own. The Jew came into favor by grace; he lost that favor through sin. He has illustrated the law of life. All favor is of grace; all judgment is against sin. When God made promise of lands to Abraham he was a sojourner among strangers; when He made promise of children to him he was childless, and his wife past maternity by reason of old age; when God declared to him that he should be a blessing to the whole world he counted himself a benediction to nobody! But this election to the grace of God made all these things possible, and Abraham’s descendants became the occupants and owners of the riches of the world; he himself became the father of a family as numberless as the stars of heaven, and through him, every bit of light that has broken upon the world has come—Christ the Lord, included.
His generation was God’s household. “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the children of men, He set the boundaries according to the number of the children of Israel.” They were His own! Jesus Christ reminded them of that fact when they began to reject Him, by saying of Himself, “He came unto His own and His own received Him not.” In the old day, remembering the covenants and promises, when men wanted to boast being children of God, it sufficed to say, “We be Abraham’s seed.” When Paul writes his epistle to the Romans he raises with them the one question,” “Hath God cast away HIS people?” And no man debated what the Apostle meant. If so, Paul would have put him right by adding, “God forbid; for I am an Israelite. God hath not cast away His people, which He foreknew.” Jesus Christ declared that when He came, He came “not but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel;” they were His own. That is the thing to which the apostle refers in his epistle to the Ephesians when he speaks of that “middle wall of partition” that formerly existed between the Jew and the Gentile—a wall which the Jew himself had made more thick and high than ever was intended by God, by reminding himself that he was “Abraham’s seed,” “the chosen of the Lord,” and by insisting that Gentiles were only dogs.
The grace of God came to the Jew by covenant and promise. “The rites and commandments contained in ordinances” to which our text refers, is the very same of which the Apostle writes to the Romans, when he raises with them the question “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?” and answers it “Much every way; chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” And when one remembers the part the oracles of God have played in human history and all moral and mental development, it makes Paul’s term “much” simply unspeakable.
We may hate the Jew as much as we like; we may compel him to go to war against his own desire and be slain upon the battle field; but it forever remains a fact that the world owes a debt to him undischarged; and yet, the Jew ought to be reminded of the fact that he was made subject to the grace of God by election, and to him God made covenant and promise, and through him brought the oracles of wisdom unto the world.
But the opening sentence of this chapter deals with
and we may be pardoned if we make three remarks concerning him, basing them upon the text. They are remarks that will sound in no wise complimentary; and yet they are true to the facts of history.
He was the child of this world. The phrase evidently does not refer so much to the fact of having belonged to the world, as to the circumstance that his whole tendency was in the world-direction. “The course of this world” is a phrase quite up to date, and is probably a parallel with “the spirit of the times.” That is the very thing that many men are now lauding; and we are told that they are even looking for ministers who are “abreast of the times” or who are “keeping pace with the world,” who are “in touch with the world” and so on. All of this indicates that people who speak after this manner have been poor students of the Scripture. John, penning his first epistle, wrote: “The whole world lieth in wickedness.” (1 John 5:19) And one does not need to go far before he finds a confirmation of the Apostle’s indictment. The spirit of the times is commonly in direct opposition to the Spirit of God. And the age in which Paul lived was peculiarly so. One describes it as “godless in the last degree” and says: “The stream of the world’s life then ran in turbid course toward moral ruin. The political world and the system of pagan society seemed to be in the throes of dissolution,” and of it the poet wrote:
“On that hard Pagan world disgust
And secret loathing fell;
Deep weariness and sated lust
Made human life a hell.”
That is the age to which the Apostle refers and of which he spoke as “the course of this world.” We imagine that ours is vastly better; that two thousand years have marked progress, and men and women have reached a higher level; and yet a close examination would prove that “the course of this world” is not Christward but away from Him rather. How easy it is for men to spin philosophies that have neither scientific nor Scriptural basis. When Robertson Nicoll was editing “The Expositor’s Bible” a few years since, one of his safest and best authors, said: “Science and Commerce, those two strong-winged angels and giant ministers of God, are swiftly binding the continents together in material ties. The peoples are beginning to realize their brotherhood, and are feeling their way in many directions towards international union.” If our “two strong angels—Science and Commerce” ever had any flight, their wings are now broken; or worse still, they have ceased to use them in trying to bind continents together, and like black angels indeed, fresh from the infernal pit, are employing them to beat into insensibility their foes. Science has apparently reached its highest endeavor by creating the most deadly and hellish instruments of destruction known to the world, and Commerce has reached its acme by getting the world into a hopeless conflict. One of the greatest subjects now being discussed by Americans is how we can make the most out of the late conflict from a material standpoint, and we are daily advised by the materialists of the world to get rich, to profit by the present pandemonium and to pluck all possible profit from the bleeding and exhausted Old World Nations. It was science and commerce combined,—the so-called advance of immigration and civilization—that took America from the hands of its rightful owners, the aborigines, finding it cheaper to banish them to a burying ground than to buy from them at a fair price. It was “the course of this world” that made England—once counted so noble as to banish slavery from her territory—willing, at a later time to curse China with opium; and the “course of this world” that compelled the same American ships that carried missionaries to foreign lands to bear also alcohol that destroyed her peoples without number. It was “the course of this world” that led the king of Belgium to believe that he ought to profit by his commerce in Africa even to the extent of cutting off hands and otherwise mangling the men who did not provide him with rubber and ivory in sufficient amounts. Have we forgotten that it was written in the Book even before the late war broke out, “When He maketh inquisition for blood, He will remember”? When one falls to praising the world that “lieth in the Evil One” he will do well to read the characterization by the pen of inspiration; and if he have no taste for Scripture, then let him turn at least to Philip Mauro who, illumined by the same Spirit, hath spoken things sufficient to shatter one’s confidence in the things of “this world.” They are not in line with God’s word. The commerce of the hour is not acknowledging Christ; the civilization of the time is giving Him scant attention, if any at all. “The course of this world” is not influenced by the cross.
Sometime since a writer in the Examiner of New York said: “A few years ago a picture was placed on exhibition in the Royal Academy of London, which made a profound impression. It was entitled “Despised and Rejected of Men.” The painter was Sigismund Goetze. And on it was inscribed “Erected to an Unknown God.” Bound to the altar is the Christ, thorn-crowned, with bowed head and sorrowful face. Beside Him stands an angel, holding a cup from which He must drink. Is it still that bitter cup of Gethsemane? Filing past, on either side of the altar, is a procession, representative of the present-day world: the Roman Catholic priest and the Protestant minister, the scholar and the scientist, the politician and the laboring man, the soldier and the sport, the society man and woman, the mother and the child, the newsboy and the flower girl, the sister of charity and the hospital nurse. Of all these, only one, the nurse, sees the Christ, bound to the altar, and she is startled and alarmed. All the others are absorbed in their own thoughts and interests. Above this group, hovering in midair, is to be seen a circle of cherubim, gazing in open-eyed amazement on the self-absorbed crowd beneath. The message of the picture is, of course, that Christ is despised and rejected to-day, as the suffering Saviour of the world; He is the unknown God; and it is a true picture of the “course of this world,” or “the spirit of the times” of which the apostle Paul speaks.
But he makes a second indictment of this Gentile company.
They had also been the subjects of the Adversary.
“Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” (Ephesians 2:2)
“The prince of the power of the air” is a phrase all Scripture students understand. It can apply to but one person. He is the leader of the hosts of hell. His name is Satan! He rules in the lives of unregenerate men. We do not mean to say, at all, that every unregenerate man does nothing but at the devil’s dictation; but we do mean to say that he has not God in his thoughts; does not inquire of God what he shall do, and consequently is not the subject of the Father’s will. Such men are described also by the Apostle in this same epistle (Ephesians 4:18–19+) as having their understanding darkened, and as being alien from God through ignorance, because of blindness of heart; who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” So, we do mean to say that wherever uncleanness is wrought, with greediness, wherever the understanding is darkened, the life is alienated from God; wherever the higher moral sensibilities are benumbed, and lasciviousness is common, Satan reigns, and all such as are subject to him, are influenced by his will and wiles, for it is “the prince of the power of the air,” that, now worketh in the children of disobedience, among whom we also had our conversation in times past.” What Christian ever thinks of it without confessing it with shame?
But even this is not the end, for the apostle concludes by declaring the Gentile to have been the victim of fleshly lust. “The lusts of the flesh fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” How men can contend for natural good, we have been unable to understand. Jesus, on one occasion, said: “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth out of the heart; and out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies; These are the things that defile a man.” And when Paul was writing to the Galatians he gave us another picture of what the works of the flesh meant, consequently a definition of his own phrase in this text: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.”
Poor Voltaire lived his life without God and probably imagined that he could die his death without Him. But when he came to that event at last, he is reported to have said to his physician, Dr. Trochin, “I am abandoned by God and man, I will give you half of what I am worth if you will give me six months of life. And when told that his life could not be restored, he replied, “Then I shall go to hell!” Tom Paine, in his last hour, cried, “I would give worlds if I had never written “The Age of Reason.” “Oh Lord help me, Christ help me. Stay with me! It is hell to be left alone!”
But now, out of all this hell, the Gentiles have been redeemed, and the figure that the apostle Paul employed in describing that redemption is the figure of the One risen from the dead, and here employed as quickening those “dead in trespasses and sin.” The great type of Resurrection is Jesus’ resuscitations; and upon whom did He work them? Jairus’ little daughter, type of the fact that the child also is dead in trespasses and sins. The Widow’s son, doubtless her solitary hope, as well as her dependence and pride, a type of the fact that the moral man, in the midst of his splendor and strength, is still dead and needs to be quickened into life, and Lazarus, not only dead, but decomposition having set in, a type of the fact that tho men be advanced in years and sin; yet even they may have life, for such hath He quickened; brought back from the dominance of the devil, from the dominance of the flesh, to live such a life as to be worthy a place in
THE CHURCH OF GOD
What a marvelous phrase the apostle here introduces concerning even the resurrection from the dead, involving both Jew and Gentile, saying
“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved). And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:5-7)
The word “us” is employed with discretion. It involves both Jew and Gentile, and as they united in crucifying the Christ, so they must unite again in paying Him tribute and in creating the Church of God.
The Church of God is the blood-bought from both. “For by grace are ye saved through faith.” “Created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Brought from “having no hope and being without God in the world” to divine nearness “by the blood of Christ” (vs. 13). That is the significance of the Old Testament lamb. The shedding of his blood never sufficed to take away the sins of Israel, but it did point Israel to the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world, in whom alone was their hope. The law had only a shadow of good things to come, and not the very substance of the things. It could never, by the sufferings of those sacrificed, be final; but must be offered year by year. It is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to cleanse, but “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” The late war has lent new emphasis to the vicarious atonement. Again it has been illustrated that salvation can only be had by the shedding of innocent blood.
The red soaked fields of France are a protest against that sacrilegious denomination of His self-offering as “the Gospel of the Shambles.” It was not only “expedient for the nation, that one man should die;” but it was expedient for all nations that that one man should be none other than Jesus—the Christ! He alone had the infinite merit that sufficed for the sins of both Jew and Gentile, and His blood both cleansed them and thereby united them in one blood-bought brotherhood—“the church.”
Christ is the corner stone of that church. It is built upon the foundations laid by Apostles who were also prophets; but Christ was, and must forever remain, its “chief corner stone.” A corner stone not only “joined two walls” as Thayer contends; but it also holds the whole fabric in place and poise!
Christ did unite Jew and Gentile “in one body” “the church;” and more; without Him, there is not only disunion; but disintegration. Deny Christ and the church dies! You may have buildings and organizations left, and you may call them churches. But it is a misnomer! Apart from Christ, Christianity perishes. The Rejectors of Christ are trying to keep Christianity. It is a walking corpse! They are also trying to retain “the church.” It is a headless Ghost!
Nearly fifty years ago, the great Dr. Dale said truly—“If only a theory of inspiration were breaking down, if men were discussing nothing more serious than the precise and minute accuracy of the four Gospels, if we were threatened with nothing more formidable than the demonstration of the historical untrustworthiness of a few chapters here and there, in the Old Testament, we might look on calmly and wait for the issue of the conflict, with indifference. But it becomes plainer every year that the real questions in debate are far from these. The storm has moved around the whole horizon; but it is rapidly concentrating its strength and fury above one Sacred Head. This, then, is the real issue of the fight. Is Christendom to believe in Christ any longer, or no? It is a battle in which every thing is to be lost or won. It is not a theory of ecclesiastical policy which is in danger, it is not a theological system, it is not a creed, it is not the Old Testament nor the New, but the claim of Christ Himself to be the Son of God and the Saviour of mankind.”
Dr. Dale’s clear presention of the issue raised by Modernism, gives occasion to the logic of the great M. Guizot addressed to his Synod long since, when this Modernism, in another form, swept over France, He said,
“As for me, I am a Christian! I know what my symbol is! There are men sitting by my side who do not accept the Christian Religion. They have a sincere belief in God. I have been careful not to deny that these men have a religion. Let them form a deistical church! I shall be glad of it. But assuredly the difference is great between them and Christians.”
If the Moderns of this moment, in America and other countries, believe as they teach, the time has come for them to find a new name for their religion. It is nothing short of traducing the Christ to deny His deity and yet continue to traffic in His dear name, and claim a place in “the church” purchased by “His precious blood.”
Finally “the Church” is the one earthly temple to Father, Son and Spirit. In the first chapter we studied the three authors of salvation. In this second chapter we have found the three subjects of salvation. The first and second the Jew and Gentile, when saved, make up the third—“the church.”
It is most natural since Father, Son and Spirit wrought in salvation, that all three should inhabit the temple of the saved. So we find them united in the life of the church, even as they were in bringing her to being. “In whom all the building, fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together, for a habitation of God through the Spirit.” This three fold relationship to salvation and to the saved, we have already elaborated, and may now properly conclude this study in the words of that great singer Charles Wesley,
Come Thou Almighty King
Come Thou Incarnate Word
Help us Thy name to sing
Gird on Thy mighty Sword
Help us to praise
Our prayer attend
Father all glorious
Come and Thy people bless
O’er all Victorious
And give Thy word success
Come and reign over us
Spirit of Holiness,
Ancient of days.
On us descend!
Come Holy Comforter
To the great one in three,
Thy sacred witness bear
The Highest praises be,
In this glad hour
Hence ever more,
Thou, who almighty art,
His Sovereign Majesty,
Now rule in every heart,
May we in glory see,
And ne’er from us depart
And to eternity
Spirit of Power.
Love and adore!
THE THREE-FOLD EFFECT ON PAUL
IN beginning the study of Ephesians I felt sure it could be accomplished in three discourses but this epistle grows upon one as he continues his study until he realizes that every verse in it is not only worthy of remark, but tempts one to extended discussion; and even in expository work it seems impossible to do justice to more than a chapter at a time.
There is a sense in which the third chapter of Ephesians links itself intimately with the second, namely in that Paul was the one apostle who saw most clearly and emphasized most wisely the three subjects of salvation—the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God; and in this third chapter, he is but rehearsing his personal relationship to this great subject. But, in his explanation of that relationship the apostle says things of such supreme moment that one would be inexcusable for passing them over lightly or even for treating them briefly.
In the first chapter we saw the three Authors of salvation: in the second chapter we saw the three subjects of salvation: in this chapter we may see the three-fold effect on Paul, involving at once his appointments, his prayers, and his praises.
THE APOSTLE’S APPOINTMENTS
“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward, how that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;) that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power. Unto me who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ; To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him. Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory” (Ephesians 3:1–13).
This text gives occasion for certain important remarks, and more than a passing consideration of them.
Paul was manacled on account of the Gentiles.“For this cause, I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles.” The reference is to his suffering in the prison at Rome, in which place the epistle was penned. It was his proclamation that Christ stood ready to receive the Jew and Gentile alike, and that this was the Divine plan from the beginning, that had roused against the apostle the bitter enmity of Jews, whose constant indictments against him finally effected a farce of a trial and a final imprisonment. On occasion they had cried, “Away with such a fellow from the earth.” And again, “It is not fit that he should live.” More than forty of these Jews had bound themselves under a curse neither to eat nor to drink until they had killed Paul. And their continued and bitter opposition made its impression upon the Roman officials who finally concluded that a man against whom so much was spoken must certainly be guilty of some crimes, and Paul was now suffering the penalty of that opinion. He was one of the first in that noble line of sufferers whose blood became the seed of the Church, and that for making no distinction between Jew and Gentile. While William Tyndale, the noble Ridley, old Samuel Rutherford, John Bunyan, and others, have gone to prison for the same offense, namely the preaching of the grace of God toward all men, and endured nobly, the great apostle was to each of them, in turn, example and inspiration.
Our modern missions to the heathen have effected a repetition of the Pauline experiences on the part of the apostles of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Think of what Judson endured; of what Boardman suffered; and the hardships of Livingston; and the times of a hundred years since knew not all the noble martyrs! When the Boxer movement, in China, was on, Horace Pitkin was among those whose death had been determined upon by the Boxer crowd. His wife and child were in this country and as they led him out to the place where he was to be beheaded, he said to a friend, “If you survive, tell my son that when he is twenty five years of age, I want him to come out here and take my place as a missionary of the Lord Jesus.” It is the spirit of Paul, living still, and offering itself in modern ministry. He was willing to be manacled that the Gospel might be preached to the Gentiles.
God made him a minister of grace to them. “If so be that ye have heard of that dispensation of the grace of God which is given me, to you-ward.” Upon one fact Paul forever continues to marvel, namely that God should have chosen him to the high office of preaching His Gospel of grace to the Gentile world. People sometimes speak of the minister and say “He honors his office”! Certainly if the remark could ever have been made of any man it might have been spoken of Paul. On the contrary, our Apostle feels that the office honored him. Prof. Findlay, of Leeds, says: “The immense favor humbles him to the dust. He strains language, heaping comparative upon superlative, to describe his astonishment, as the import of his mission unfolds itself;” “to me, who am less than the least of all the saints, was this grace given.” We have no doubt that that favor seems all the more marvelous to Paul as he reminds himself of his former attitude toward the Saviour and the whole subject of the Gospel. He had been a Pharisee of the Pharisees and a persecutor of persecutors; and in his judgment, “the chief of sinners” in both. What a marvel then, that God should make him to be a minister of grace to the Gentiles! He scarcely writes an epistle without reference to it. To the Galatians he said: “It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen” (Galatians 1:15–16+). He can never forget his astonishment when “one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews” came to him and said unto him, “Brother Saul, receive thy sight - the God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know His will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of His mouth. For thou shalt be His witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard” (Acts 22:13–15). In that hour his narrowness gave place to a worldly breadth, and his Jewish bigotry went down before God’s commission to the Gentiles.
It is little wonder that the Gentile church reveres the name of this man as it does. We are told that when Florence Nightingale, worn and sick, appeared among the soldiers of the Crimean war, they looked upon her and said, “How homely”; but before she had finished her ministry to them, they declared her the most beautiful of women and believed her to be an angel from God. It is Paul’s ministry to the Gentile world that has so exalted him in the Gentile judgment. And, as God goes on fulfilling His promises to His Son that He should “have the heathen for His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the world for His possession,” the star of Paul will rise, for whilst he was not God’s original minister of grace to the Gentiles, he was easily God’s greatest minister of that all-inclusive truth.
He was also the master of the mystery of the ages. And that he has voiced in the text, claiming that “by revelation” there had been made known unto him “the mystery, (as I wrote afore in a few words whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ).” (Ephesians 3:4)
What is the mystery of the ages?
It is not that the Gentiles could be saved! That was a long known truth! That is what God meant when He sent Abraham to live among Gentiles, and by precept and practice show them the way. That is what God meant when He permitted Joseph to go down into Egypt. That is what He meant when, by the lips of every Old Testament prophet, He proclaimed the truth to the nations round about Judah; that is what He meant when Jonah preached in the streets of Nineveh and was a prophet to the Gentiles. That is what Jesus meant when He carried His blessing, as well as the truth beyond Judea! That is what He meant when He sat with sinners and ate with them and received them. That is what He meant when He said, “The Son of man is come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” “To seek and to save,” not the favorites of God, but “the lost!” The Gentile of the Old Testament, as the Jew, is pointed to the Messiah to come, and in Him “they that sat in darkness,” were to see a “great light.” “The mystery,” now announced, is the fact that the saved Jew and the Gentile, should form one temple, one body, one church of the living God—moving on to the inheritance of the saints in light, that the middle wall of partition should be broken down, and in the Divine plan there should be no longer a distinction between Jew and Gentile. That is “the mystery” made known to Paul.
The very definition of this mystery occurs in the sixth verse, namely “that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel.” This is the unsearchable riches of Christ that Paul was to preach to the alien—or heathen people. What an announcement for a Jew to make! What excitement it must have wrought when one who had been most high among them in official station, and most arrogant in his exclusive opinions, came out to boldly declare that those opinions were born of bigotry and nothing better, and were hatched of self-esteem, and came not from that God who was no respecter of persons. I can never forget the effect upon Americans when thirty and more years ago Ward Beecher went about the country delivering his famous lecture on “Immigration.” It was a time when the descendents of the Puritan fathers were asserting their superiority and expressing regret that the typical American was in danger of degradation by reason of the great influx of common folk. Legislation had been proposed to shut our doors, in order to save the purity of our blood. Beecher’s famous illustration was “Brethren, if I eat bear I do not become bear: bear becomes me. America ought to be great enough to receive and transform and also improve all peoples who put their feet upon her shores. I stand for open doors!” Religiously, that is the thing for which Paul stood. He wanted the Gentile world to believe that the God of the Jew was their God; that the Father of the Jew, Abraham, by faith had become their Father; that the grace which the Jew had so long enjoyed was freely offered to the Gentiles; that, in Christ Jesus, “no good thing would He with-hold,” and whether there would ever be a universal salvation or not, there was universal provision for it, and Christ was profitable to all men.
It was a new era in religion: it was a spiritual Magna Carta; it was the revelation of the Divine mind; and Paul was God’s appointee as teacher of the Gentiles in this faith and verity (1 Tim. 2:7). It seems strange to us now that such a declaration could ever have stirred the world and astounded students of the Scriptures, and yet when we recall that it is only a little more than one hundred years ago that the first man, constrained by the Spirit, started on a mission to the heathen nations of the world; and what he did and endured that they might know that God was as ready to save the East Indian as He was the German, the Englishman or the American, we should easily understand the apostle’s attitude and interpret the national stir growing out of the same.
Think now, if you please, upon the fact that the manacled man is made the minister of this grace, and the master of this mystery, and you will be ready to turn from the apostle’s appointments to
THE APOSTLE’S PRAYERS
We call attention to the fact that the Apostle started in to pray and had not far proceeded before he broke out into teaching, so full was his heart of the great truths that must find deliverance. But when he has made his declaration, so far as his appointment as a minister of grace, he returns to his prayer, and “bowing the knee, unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,” he makes certain petitions:
1st—That the Gentile believers might have spiritual power.
In his exact language to the Gentiles
“That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man.” (Ephesians 3:16)
It is a prayer as pertinent as needful. The language of it is another illustration of verbal inspiration. Paul did not come near saying what he meant; he said it with exactness. “That he would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man.” It was a prayer for the Gentiles. It was a prayer resting in the riches of God’s glory. It was a prayer that looked to the Holy Spirit for the answer. It was a prayer that involved strength divine for the inner man. Oh, how many of us need to have such a prayer answered! We go on thinking our needs for the outer man are great; we go on asking for food and clothing and houses and lands and position and fame and power. It is a fool’s petition. These are not our needs! The great need is for the inner man. If he is strengthened with might it makes little difference about the outer man; but if he is weak, all external appearances, all outward graces, are a sham if not a shame. How many a man still wears the best of clothing, sits at the richest of festal boards, mingles in exclusive circles, exerts an influence that is felt far beyond the confines of his city or state, is honored at home and abroad, and yet is poor in spirit. Nobody else knows it. The very moment when other people are praising him he feels his poverty most; and sometimes that which is true of the individual characterizes a whole church; and if they come to describe themselves, or to be depicted by another, they might be spoken of as “rich and increased with goods, and having need of nothing” and yet, as a matter of fact, be “poor and blind and naked,” as was true of the Laodicean body.
The second feature of his prayer was that Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith. (Ephesians 3:17)
Paul knew the Christ appropriating faculty—faith. He would have been ready to sing:
“O gift of gifts! O grace of faith!
My God! how can it be
That Thou, who hast discerning love,
Shouldst give that Gift to me?
The crowd of cares, the weightiest cross
Seem trifles less than light:
Earth looks so little and so low
When faith shines full and bright.
O happy, happy that I am!
If thou canst be, O faith,
The treasure that Thou art in life,
What wilt Thou be in death?”
It is a great Christian faculty and in proportion as a man exercises his Christian faith he increases his strength. The trouble with most of us is that our Christ is only a Saviour from sin. He is not to us an exceeding great and inspiring presence, an ever ready and needful power. The reason is not far to seek. We do not fully know Him. Our material interests have made such great inroads on the mind and heart; external subjects have so far pushed Him aside, that the Christ we know is a little Christ instead of the great and glorious Son of God. This is not only the weakness of the individual but of the Church. Its life is languid in proportion to its low estimate of Christ, and its enterprises contemptible in proportion to its neglect of Him; and its spiritual decline is in proportion to its declining interest in the Christ. Christ is not merely a subject for theological speculation and discussion! Christ is the power of God in the personal life; and if we do not make Him so we miss the mark of our high calling. Joseph Parker once said, “Your God is small or great in proportion to the use you make of Him.” It was a sage remark. What sort of Christ have you to-day? Is he merely a Christ that could pardon your past sins? Or, is He a Christ that can indwell you by His own Spirit; inspire you for every undertaking, insure you success by His own presence, reveal to you the truth; and as you make His acquaintance, be to you life, light, power and all else that is essential to the greatest and most glorious spiritual existence? Is He the Christ that dwells in you daily, hourly, momentarily, making you more than conqueror? Such was the apostle’s prayer for the Gentile Church, and such his desire for all believers.
The third feature of his prayer was that they might be established and instructed.
“That they might be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth and length and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth understanding, that they might be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19)
This is knowledge worth while; this is instruction to be coveted, “to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.” The reference to these four special magnitudes of the Divine affection are interpreted by Hoffman after this manner, “It stretches wide over all the nations of the East and the West. In its length it reaches through all time unto the end of things; in depths it penetrates to the region where the faithful sleep in death, and it rises to heaven’s height, where Christ lives.” Piconio, the great spiritual papist, said: “Wide as the furtherest limits of the inhabited world, long as the ages of eternity through which God’s love to His people will endure, deep as the abyss of misery and ruin from which He has raised us, high as the throne of Christ in the heavens where He has placed us—Such is the breadth and length and depth and the height. To know that is to be established indeed. To know that is to have incomparable instruction!
But I am persuaded that one will never know the meaning of the breadth, length, depth and height apart from an earnest, Spirit-guided study of the Book. One must see the Christ revealed in Scripture in order to experience His fullest revelation in life. A man once said to Dr. Southworth: “The Lord can get on without your eloquence and learning.” “Yes” was the reply, “And He can do without your ignorance.” To be taught of God first of all is the essential secret of teaching others; to speak of the Christ at the right time is to understand something of the length, and breadth, and depth and height of His love. We have in the revised version the statement, “The Lord hath given me the tongue of the taught that I should know how to speak to him that is weary.” The instructed man is the man who is able to instruct in the “faith once for all delivered.” There is then an occasion for the Apostle’s prayer, “To know what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height” of knowledge.
It must have been easy for Paul to pass from such prayer to
THE APOSTLE’S PRAISE
In that praise he pays tribute to the exceeding power of God.
“Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)
Paul could never dispute the power of God. He had known its meaning! It had changed the whole course of the apostle’s life. It turned him from enmity to love; from persecution to praise. It had been sufficient to turn the stream of the centuries out of its channel, as Jean Paul Richter had said; and the Apostle had seen it accomplished. The power that raised up Jesus from the dead was, in the judgment of Paul, the same that had quickened him—dead in trespasses and sin,—unto life, and was therefore, worthy of all praise.
It is reported that Queen Mary of Scotland, feared the prayers of John Knox more than she did an army of ten thousand men. That is only another way of saying that Queen Mary, of Scotland, realized the power of God and believed that John Knox had access to the same, and feared accordingly. Truly, the “fear of God is the beginning of wisdom,” and the knowledge of His power is the increase of the same. “He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,” and He is worthy of our praises.
He makes this power manifest in the Church and in Christ.
“Unto Him be glory, in the church, by Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 3:21)
We may say what we please against the local church, or against that larger body that we sometimes call “the Church of God;” we may remind ourselves and our fellows that it is an imperfect institution; but the fact will forever remain that it is the medium of Christ’s manifestation. God has received His glory in the Church by Jesus Christ; and it will forever remain a fact that God must receive His glory in the same institution, by the same glorious representative. The great secret hidden from the ages, was finally made known through the Church. It was to it that God voiced His power; through it that God declared His love; by it that God revealed His greatness;
“I love thy Church, Oh, God,
Her walls before Thee stand,
Dear as the apple of Thine eye,
And graven on Thy hand.
For her my tears shall fall;
For her my prayers ascend:
To her my cares and toils be given,
Till toils and cares shall end.
Beyond my highest joy
I prize her heavenly ways,
Her sweet communion, solemn vows,
Her hymns of love and praise.
Sure as Thy truth shall last,
To Zion shall be given
The brightest glories earth can yield
And brighter bliss of heaven.
The man who sings is not praising the institution so much as he is praising the God revealed by it.
Finally, the Apostle imagines this power age-long, or everlasting.
“For unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.” (Ephesians 3:21)
It is the phrase for eternity. We know full well that the time can never come when God’s praises will end. The office of the Spirit seems to be limited to the dispensation of the Church; and the Kingship of the Son, to the millennium period. But when He shall have finished His reign, He will deliver up the Kingdom to God, even the Father, and of that Kingdom there shall be no end.
“O where are kings and empires now
Of old that went and came?
But, Lord, Thy church is praying yet,
A thousand years the same.
We mark her goodly battlements,
And her foundations strong;
We hear within the solemn voice
Of her unending song.
For not like kingdoms of the world
Thy holy church, O God!
Though earthquake shocks are threatening her
And tempests are abroad.
Unshaken as eternal hills,
Immovable she stands
A mountain that shall fill the earth,
A house not made by hands.
THE THREE-FOLD APPEAL TO THE CHURCH
TO refresh the memory, let us recall the teachings of the Ephesian chapters over which we have already passed. We saw in the first chapter “The Three Authors of Salvation”—the Father, the Son and the Spirit. In the second chapter we studied “The Three Subjects of Salvation”—the Jew, the Gentile and the Church of God; while in the third, we saw “The Three-fold Effect on Paul”—The Apostle’s Appointment, the Apostle’s Prayers, and the Apostle’s Praises.
This fourth chapter records the three-fold appeal to the Church. It is made by Paul the prisoner of the Lord; It is voiced in the most ardent way; he himself describing it as a “beseeching”, and it is grounded in the circumstance that they belong to the Church—or the called-out company. Furthermore it is suggested that their response to this three-fold appeal should be “with all lowliness, and meekness; with long suffering, forbearing one another in love.”
And now for the appeal itself: It involves The Unities in Grace, the Diversities in Gifts, and the Essentials in Growth.
THE UNITIES IN GRACE
Dr. Scofield, in his reference Bible, declares that the unities to be kept, are, in number, seven. God so often makes use of that numeral to express perfection that one is tempted to believe that there may be something in Ivan Panin’s Bible numerics.
The Unities include, (1) “one body,” (2) “one spirit,” (3) “one calling,” (4) “one Lord,” (5) “one faith,” (6) “one baptism,” (7) “one God!” (Ephesians 4:3-6)
I will not dwell upon these in separate discussions, but remind you, rather, of their three-fold classification under the names of the Spirit, the Son, and the Father—the three authors of salvation!
The unification is of the Spirit. “The unity of the Spirit,” employed in the third verse, reminds one of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, in which he takes occasion to remind the members of that church that though there be “diversities of gifts,” they “are all of the same spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:4). “The one body” is the result of “the one spirit,” and “the one calling” is but the voice of the same. Lately we have come to believe that there are no schisms worthy the mention in the true body of Christ; and increasingly we are coming to feel that all those who have accepted Jesus—the Spirit’s revelation—as their God and Saviour, and the Scriptures—the Spirit’s expression—as their rule in faith and practice, are absolutely one; and the prayer of Jesus that they shall “all be one, even as He and His Father were one,” is answered.
Some years since Dr. Bridgman, Episcopalian, in New York City, speaking on this subject, said: “Christian unity is not to be secured through doctrine or ritualistic agreement. An easier, more rational way is through spiritual experience. Burkhard, Pascal, Cramner, Whitefield, Wesley, Newman, represented different schools of thought, but all felt the throbbing of one religious life in the soul, loved the same Lord, bowed before the same cross, and worked under the impulse of the same Divine life.” If one asks the reason, he will get it in the fact, and a fact it was, that they were dominated by the same Spirit, and under His dominion they discovered an essential unity.
Who then, are my brethren? All the people that bear the name of Baptist? No!
Who then are my opponents? All those that practice sprinkling vs immersion, and those that believe in autocracy or hierarchy vs democracy in Church government? No!
My true brethren in the Church are those men whose creeds and conduct are alike controlled by “the one Spirit,” even the Holy Ghost. That does not mean that a man is guiltless when he adopts an unbiblical church administration; and it does not mean that he is excusable when he accepts a substitute for Scriptural baptism; but it does mean that these aberrations do not break the bond of brotherhood as between those over whom the one Spirit broods, since the unification of the Spirit is a thousand fold more real and more effective and results in a far sweeter fraternity, than any agreement in the externals of government, forms or ordinances can ever accomplish. True brethren in the Lord are “in the bonds of the one Spirit.” By that Spirit the Jews and the Gentiles were brought together and “the manifestation of that Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” “And all these worketh that one and the self-same spirit, dividing to every man severally, as He will. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:4, 11, 13).
The indoctrination is about the Son. “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). The first of these three interprets the other two. So long as men retain “one Lord,” “one faith” is easy, and “one baptism” is certainly secured. The point of important debate, now, is not over the question of “faith,” nor the ordinance of “Baptism,” but it is over Jesus of Nazareth! Is He the Lord? That determined, you get your “faith” from Him. Is He the Lord? That settled, the question of “baptism” is simple and certain; it is to be after the manner of His example and in keeping with His plain precept.
But these are days in which men deny the Lordship of Jesus. They do not so much “divide Christ” as they divide about Christ. Who is He? Whom do men say that this Son of Man is? Some say He is a Prophet, the superior of Isaiah! Some say He was a social reformer, more dependable than Carl Marx. Some say He is the super-man, and it is doubtful if the centuries will produce His match. But Paul will have none of these! He says, He is “LORD.” The “one Lord,” the only Lord, the Christ who died for our sins, who was buried and rose again the third day, who hath ascended to the right hand of the Father to make intercession for us, and who, completing His Priesthood, will come into His Kingship; and will reign solitary and alone, “from sea to sea and from the rivers unto the ends of the earth,” That is the Apostle’s Christ! No man from Nazareth, merely. He is that, but more! Paul would have joined in saying “Ecce homo”—“Behold the man!” provided we permitted him to add—“Ecce Deus”—“Behold God!”
Dr. Samuel H. Howe asks the question—“What sort of a Christ does your theology give you?”—“a great redeeming Christ, bearing away the sins of the world; a Christ with all power in Heaven and in earth? Or does your theology give you a little Christ, shorn of infinite power, unable to work miracles, unable to atone for the sins of the world, and, of course, unable to conquer, and guarantee His kingdom!” It is a pertinent question just now. Paul’s Christ was the Christ of the prophets, the Christ to be born in humility, I grant you; but to be exalted above all principalities and powers, angels and archangels; a Christ to be hated by the world’s governments, but a Christ to whom the kingdoms of the world were all promised, the Christ into whose face, sin-stained men would spit their contempt; and yet the Christ upon whose face John should finally look and see it shining with a brilliance above the sun; a Christ who would go to the cross as a lamb before his shearers, dumb; and yet a Christ who would speak eventually with such a voice as to wake the dead; a Christ against whom “the rulers of the earth should set themselves;” and yet a Christ to whom every king of earth should be compelled eventually to hand over his scepter. That is the Lord of this text, and beside Him there is none other.
Recently, in Hamilton, Ontario, I called attention to Reginald Campbell’s employment of the word “deity” applying it to a man, and reminded the auditors that that was a breach of faith with every dictionary upon the face of the earth, whereupon a man came up to me, with a snarl, and said, “you don’t believe, then in the divinity of man?” I said, “I do not!”
“Do you believe men are gods?” I asked. “Yes” he declared. “Pardon me for not falling at your feet” I answered. “You are nearly six feet tall, but I should call you a poor specimen of a God; I should cover my face with shame at the thought of worshipping you!”
There is “one Lord,” and just on that account there can be but “one faith.” Mohammedanism is not the faith: it is fancy! Buddism is not the faith: it is fiction; Christian Science is not the faith: it is insanity! “To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him” (1 Cor. 8:6).
The organization is from the Father. “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:6). Paul says to the Ephesian Church what he had said to the Corinthian Church, and what he is still saying to every local body of believers. “There is but one God the Father, of whom are all things.” Diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all” (1 Cor. 12:6). Perhaps the reason the Apostle declares that He is “over all” is in the fact that He sent the Son; He gave the Spirit; He began the work of grace in the world, that out from its citizens He might call the Church; and He will complete that which He hath commenced, for while there is a dispensation of the Spirit and a dispensation of the Son, both dispensations come to an end, the Father’s will having been done of them; and both the Son and Spirit will yield up to God the Father, the glorious kingdom that “God may be all and in all,” even as from the beginning He has been “above all and through all and in you all.” It is a good thing for one to remind himself occasionally that the very God is over all, and in all; that the Creator and owner is the Keeper. A Southern woman tells the story of a slave who had to wash some dormer windows, and in order to get at them sat on the outer end of a plank pushed through from the inside of the room. Being a bit fearful lest he fall, he said, “Missus, I will sit out thar and wash them winders if you will sit on the other end of the plank, while I’m doin it.” To this his mistress replied, “Won’t Mandy do? You would trust your wife, wouldn’t you?” “Well, I don’t know; she might forgit. But I belongs to you and you are not goin to forgit what you own. I had ruther you set thar yoself.” Oh, Believer, that is the ground of your safety; your owner is your Keeper. “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep!”
THE DIVERSITIES OF GIFTS
“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now He that ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:7–12).
In the study of this Scripture there comes at once the suggestion:
The gifts are attended by special grace. “Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” It is a good thing! Gifts without grace would be dangerous! The world’s most gifted people, without the grace of God, are the world’s most dangerous people; think of Bob Ingersoll: and the christian with gifts, but without special grace is a menace to the Church. Think of Reginald Campbell! Do you recall in the parable of the talents where Christ tells us concerning the man who is shortly to go into the far country, that he called his servants “and delivered unto them his goods, and unto one he gave five talents, and to another, two, to another one; to every man according to his several abilities?” That was just! But God does better than that; He makes a special grant of ability to those upon whom He bestows His gifts. Think of how Mr. Moody illustrated this. Evidently God made up His mind that Moody could be trusted with ten talents, and straightway He took the uncouth, uneducated lad and bestowed upon him such special grace as to make the handling of all that He committed to him the work of a master. One can never think upon the name of this loved evangelist and easily forget the fact that he did not begin life with such natural ability, nor such favorable environment as did his cotemporary Robert G. Ingersoll. As someone has said, They were born about the same time. They died within a few months of each other. They died of the same disease. They were were alike far-famed. But in character they were poles apart. Moody believed in God and accepted Jesus Christ as His Son, and the Bible as His revelation. Ingersoll was an agnostic, denying the deity of Christ, and disputing the authority of the Bible. Moody lived a life of prayer. Ingersoll lived a life of profanity. Moody taught his followers to love the God of the Bible. Ingersoll lectured upon christian subjects in the sole interest of silver and gold. Moody established schools and gave all the money he could spare to the spiritual instruction and nourishment of young men and women. Ingersoll deliberately destroyed the faith of the youth and inveigled them into paying him for the devastation. Moody called men to Christ and to christian living. Ingersoll derided the Christ and sought to crush Christianity. When the end came the Dobbs Ferry home was dumb, desolate and dark; but the Northfield home was the gate of Heaven and Moody’s last vision on earth included also the open gates of the Celestial City. Ingersoll died unwept save by the little circle of relatives and skeptics. The death of Moody baptized the christian world in tears!
What was the difference? Not in natural talents surely! Not so much in human environment! They were alike born of Christian parents, but in the circumstance that Moody had a gift from Christ and grace bestowed according to the measure thereof; and Ingersoll refused Christ and failed of the gift of grace.
Christ’s gifts are men; not enablements! The Christ who ascended on high, “gave some, Apostles, and some, prophets, and some, evangelists, and some, pastors and teachers.” Paul has noted the progress made in the parables of Jesus Christ and, by the pen of inspiration, expresses it. Do you remember in the Kingdom parables of Matthew 13, Christ begins in the nineteenth verse explaining the parable of the Sower by making “the seed” the Word of God, sown in the heart? But in the parable of the tares of the field, He reminds them that “the good seed” are “the children of the Kingdom,”—or the word incarnate in life. Exactly that progress is made in the apostolic teaching here. The gifts of the Spirit to the individual are enablements, such as “the word of wisdom,” “the word of knowledge,” “faith,” “healing,” “working of miracles,” “prophecy,” “discernment of spirits,” “divers kinds of tongues,” etc.; but the gifts of the Son to His Church are men—“the children of the kingdom”—“apostles,” “prophets,” “evangelists,” “pastors,” “teachers,” etc. There is a reason for this, as there is for everything God does. You cannot give a tongue to the Church; you have got to give it to an individual, in the Church. But you can give a prophet to the church, and Ephesians is a church epistle! To the Church you can give an “apostle,” an “evangelist,” “a teacher,” and how rich the church is, in God’s gifts of men! How we ought to thank Him for the gift of Paul, for the gift of Peter, for the gift of Polycarp, for the gift of John Bunyan, John Calvin, John Wesley, for the gift of Martin Luther, for the gift of Fenelon, for the gift of Spurgeon, and Moody, and Parker, and Lorimer. Upon the individual He can bestow one gift or more, but upon the Church God bestows all these gifts,—“apostles,” “prophets,” “evangelists,” “pastors,” “teachers” and they are all essential to its growth.
They are the grant of the Son, not of the Spirit. Paul seems to make this clear distinction in 1 Cor. 12 the gifts are the Spirit’s gifts—and they are enduements, “for one is given, by the Spirit, the word of wisdom; to another, the word of knowledge, by the same Spirit,” etc. Here it is not the descending Spirit’s grant, but, rather, the grant of the ascended Son. “When He went up on High, leading captivity captive, He gave gifts unto men.” Every single apostle of the New Testament was called by the Son; even Paul came to that vision by the special appearance of the Son, and by the voice of the ascended Lord. Gordon is right when he declares that it is not the province of schools nor yet of ordaining councils to determine the ministry of the Church. The Master has retained that as His special prerogative, and no man has a right in any one of these, apart from the appointment of the Son.
Paul further expresses this fact in the introductions to his epistles. Writing to the Romans he speaks of himself as “the servant of Jesus Christ.” Writing to the Corinthians, he declares himself to be an “apostle of Jesus Christ, through the will of God.” Writing to the Galatians, he declares himself “an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and the Father, who raised Him from the dead.” In other words, he never once mentions his commission as from the Spirit; but, rather, as from the Son,—the second person of the Godhead; whereas his enduements are all from the Spirit. It is as if there had been an agreement between these two Persons that the first should appoint and the second should endue, and Jesus, in keeping with that contract, besought His disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they “should be endued with power from on High;” and reminded them that that was “the promise of the Spirit.”
THE ESSENTIALS IN GROWTH
Scofield, in his Bible, calls attention to the purposes of the ministry of gifts. According to Paul, the chief purpose was “growth.”
Evidently he thought that growth could be quickened by its goal. The goal he mentions is “the perfecting of the saints!” It is to be accomplished by “the work of the ministry,” and its object is “the edifying of the body of Christ,” “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12–13). Beyond all doubt men are affected by the circumstance of birth and are influenced by breeding and environment; but even more potent still, in determining mature manhood, is the ideal that one puts before himself—the goal to be reached. You recall in Charles Kingsley’s “Hypatia” how old Miriam, the sorceress, after a conversation with Philamon, drew from her bosom a broken talisman exactly similar to the one which she coveted so fiercely, and looked at it long and kissed it, wept over it, spoke to it, fondled it in her arms as a mother would a child; and her grim, withered features grew softer, purer, grander, and rose, ennobled for a moment, to their long-lost “might-have-been,” to what Kingsley calls “that personal ideal which every soul brings with it into the world, which shines dim and potential in the face of every sleeping babe before it has been scarred and distorted in the long tragedy of life. And Kingsley says of her, “Scarred she was, Sorceress, panderer and slave dealer, steeped to the lips in falsehood, ferocity and avarice; yet that paltry stone brought home to her some thought, true, spiritual, before which all her treasures and all her ambition were as worthless in her own eyes as they were in the eyes of the angels of God.” But what is such an ideal worth when the one who once entertained it is held in the grip of Satan, scarred and wrecked by sin, and incapable of high thought or holy endeavor?
Paul does not speak to such, but to men—set free in Christ; and who, because they are free, can work onward and upward toward that perfect man, “Unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;” and such possibilities, with such a goal unite to create an inspiration that is adequate, viz. “Christ is formed in us the hope of glory.” A clipping which came to my hand a while ago says: “When a girl adopts a plan of self-improvement she begins usually with her complexion or her figure, but let us in confidence betray a beauty secret that deals not in cosmetics or lotions, that does not tend to injure the skin or fatigue the body, yet which adds more genuine loveliness to a woman’s heart and mind than all the contents of the little jars and cut-glass bottles on many a lady’s toilet table could ever hope to effect.” And then the writer prescribes: “Take a culture course, become a reader. Seek out the best, poetry, fiction, history, and you may depend upon it that such a course will do more towards making you a charming and delightful companion for those who appreciate the beauty of intellect than the fleeting power of a beauty that is not backed by brains.” All of that is true, and all of that involves the betterment of self; but let us not forget the old German proverb, namely that “The better is the enemy of the best.” And, if one wants to obtain the best, rather than the better, then let him cultivate reading, not books, but “the Book;” and not noble friends, but the noblest of all friends, and seek not the increase of mental brilliance but the stature of spiritual fulness.
Years ago when the old Emperor was on the throne of Germany, he felt called upon to lecture the artists of Berlin Opera House and the Berlin Royal Theatre, on the dangers arising to their profession from materialism. He informed his privileged auditors that he had been educated in idealism, and that the stage should seek to fashion mind and character and assist in educating moral conceptions. In concluding he said: “Let every one of you, in his own way, and firmly trusting in God, strive to serve the spirit of idealism and to continue the struggle against materialism and against those un-German ways into which so many German theatres have already unfortunately deviated.” It is a pity the old Emperor is not now alive to revoice the sentiment! It was the growth of the “materialistic” and “rational (?) idea” that has flung Europe and portions of Asia and all the world into the late sea of blood. Oh, could we only have kept the ideal before men—faith in God—and the hope of Sonship before the eyes of the professed followers of Jesus Christ and the knowledge of His Son, which should make for “a perfect man,” measured by the “stature of Jesus Christ,” how different would Europe look to-day and how different the world would be!
The failure of the Church in this awful hour is as sad as the collapse of civilization. Where are the men, who in the knowledge of the Son of God, are measuring up to the demands of the moment, and who are the men that stand forth in the fullness of Christ? A few? Yes! But how feeble a company! Why? Oh, the call of God’s Church has not been sufficient. Let us lift the standard; without accepting the unscriptural doctrine of eradication, let us remind ourselves God will be satisfied with nothing short of “perfected saints.” His word standeth fast—“Be ye perfect, even as I also am perfect.” That is our call! God pity us that we have so often forgotten it, and thereby lost the inspiration of the ideal.
This growth expresses itself in grace. Those who have it will “be henceforth no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. But speaking the truth in love, may grow up unto Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ. From whom the whole body, fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:14–16). What beauty is therein suggested—the beauty of stability, the beauty of true speaking, the beauty of comely form as affected in Christ, to the end that the children—the body—the true church of God—may edify itself in love.
Years ago when I was in Chicago, a young woman died in the chair of an operator in a beauty parlor. A newspaper reporter, finding it out, ran into the parlor to make investigation; and, as he came out, he saw an old woman, well-dressed. She stopped him and asked him if the girl was dead. Being answered in the affirmative, she said “Do you think there would be great danger in my going in to take this treatment? I want to get rid of these wrinkles.” He told her the facts about the girl and that the treatment killed her. But the old woman answered, “I know; but I think I am strong enough to bear whatever pain may be inflicted upon me, and I must get rid of these wrinkles.” So women crave that beauty of complexion, of form, about which their brothers and lovers have talked until their heads have been turned, and no sacrifice is too great to make if only it can be secured. Would God, spiritual perfection were equally prized. Then men would not be veered by every wind of doctrine that blows; then men would seek to know the truth that they might speak the same; and to grow in grace, that in Christ’s sight they might be comely. Yea, as a part of His body to take their place in its upbuilding; as a part of His body they might be so fully joined together with their brethren and sisters as to provide for Him a glorious bride, whose beauty of holiness would become the Lamb’s wife.
Finally, the consequence of this growth is goodness. Paul completes this fourth chapter by an appeal to the members of the body of Christ that they put away every thing that could scar, and accept from the Spirit all that would add charm to the Church of God. They are to put away the Gentile lusts, the old life of ignorance and “lascivious living,” “all uncleanness,” “with greediness;” “the former conversation of the old man,” which was corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts, and “to be renewed in the spirit of their minds, which after God is created in righteousness and holiness,” “speaking every man truth with his neighbor,” “letting not the sun go down upon their wrath,” “giving no place to the devil,” “engaging no longer in theft,” “voicing no further corrupt communication,” but seeking the good—exercising “all kindness,” being “tender hearted,” feeling only “the forgiving spirit” (Ephesians 4:17–32). It is a picture of approaching perfection. And as a man marks growth in spiritual things his life completes the picture.
As a review of this chapter, with the one preceding it, and the one to follow it, I am led to conclude in the language of Dwight Hillis: in his tribute to Scripture Study—
“Be our theories of inspiration what they may, this book deals with the deepest things in man’s heart and life. Ruskin and Carlyle tell us that they owe more to it, in the way of refinement and culture, than to all the other books, plus all the influence of colleges and universities. Therein the greatest geniuses of time tell us of the things they caught fresh from the skies, ‘the things that stormed upon them, and surged through their souls in mighty tides, entrancing them with matchless music;’ things so precious for man’s heart and conscience as to be endured and died for. It is the one book that can fully lead forth the richest and deepest and sweetest things in man’s nature. Read all other books, philosophy, poetry, history, fiction; but if you would refine the judgment, fertilize the reason, wing the imagination, attain unto the finest womanhood or the sturdiest manhood, read this book, reverently and prayerfully, until its truths have dissolved like iron into the blood. Read, indeed, the hundred great books. If you have no time, make time and read. Read as toil the slaves in Golconda, casting away the rubbish and keeping the gems. Read to transmute facts into life, but read daily the Book of conduct and character—the Bible. For the book Daniel Webster placed under his pillow when dying is the book all should carry in the hand while living.”
The ideal presented in this Epistle will be realized only by the men and church that know both God, manifest in Christ, and study His will as revealed by the Spirit!
THE THREE FEATURES OF THE BELIEVER’S WALK
IN this study we part company from the man of chapters. It is commonly understood that the chapters in our Bible are purely man-made, and the divisions suggested thereby are often more mechanical than logical. When, in the fifth chapter, one passes the twentieth verse he comes upon a new subject, and passes from the Church to the domestic realm.
Following again the line of our theme we find that these twenty verses are characterized by a three-fold use of the word “walk”; and consequently we have been led to entitle this study “The Three Features of the Believer’s Walk,” and the phrases that introduce these features are these: “Walk, in love” (Ephesians 5:2); “Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8); and “Walk circumspectly” (Ephesians 5:15).
In a wonderful way these three phrases compass the believer’s course, and I may aid you in retaining the suggestions of these phrases by discussing them under the three heads—
“Walk in Perfect Love;
Walk in Present Light, and
Walk by a Prudent Look."
WALK IN PERFECT LOVE
“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour” (Ephesians 5:1–2).
A short sentence will somewhat fully compass these two verses.
Let Christ be your copy! The word translated “followers of God” here is even better phrased “Imitators of God.” We are justified, therefore, in our suggestion that Christ be our copy, since Christ is the “express image of the Father,” and only as we come into fellowship with Him can we know God. It was Christ “offering himself for us,” “a sacrifice to God,” that was a revelation of the Father’s heart.
In the light of this act John 3:16, “God so loved the world” became meaningful; and it is in the acceptance of this sacrifice,—“a sweet smelling savour to God,”—that we have the assurance of the acceptability of our service when rendered in the Saviour’s spirit.
The highest type of service, therefore, possible to the performance of a Christian must at once be inspired by affection and at the same time involve a sacrifice. Such an act in God’s sight is of great price and can never be forgotten. Judas, in his deadness to spiritual things, did not appreciate this pertinent truth! When Mary of Bethany, came with her costly offering for the head of the Master, he complained that it might have been sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor, little realizing that an act of such love would bear fruit in the poor’s behalf far exceeding that sum. The centuries, however, have demonstrated the unthinkable proportions of a sacrifice permeated by love, and the poor of the world have been gainers by it thousands upon thousands of times, and in a measure past computation. Sometime since I was in an Eastern city at the edge of which is located a struggling Bible School. Two brothers of an adjoining town began a year or two ago to endow the institution by setting aside a certain cash sum as an interest payment so that the school might have the accrued benefits therefrom, as from all endowment. But who can compute the interest upon Mary’s gift, prompted by the love of God and loyalty to Christ? And who can tell what is to be the final fruits of affectionate endeavors? Truly, as Prof. Findlay has said: “Every act of love rendered to Him deepens the channel of sympathy by which relief and blessing come to sorrowing humanity.”
But this walk in perfect love involves a second suggestion; namely—
Let cleanness be your custom. “Fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints: neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (vs. 3–5). It is evident that the Apostle, writing by the pen of inspiration, included in this denunciation both physical and moral uncleanness. Most men readily consent to the uncleanness of fornication, and pass just sentence upon the whoremonger; but, in the judgment of the Apostle, “foolish talking” and “jesting” and “covetousness, which is idolatry,” belong in the same catagory of unclean things, and the people guilty of them, as those guilty of the former iniquities, are declared disinherited from “the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
There is then, a befouling of the body; and there is also a besmirching of the soul. Leprosy—which was the expression of the first, was none the less the symbol or type of the second; and Christianity is known to be the foe of both! In fact, we have long had a saying “cleanliness is next to godliness,” and while there is no biblical phrase corresponding with this remark, there is abundant authority in the Book for believing that Christianity and cleanness are well nigh synonymous. We are told that when Mary Moffatt, wife of the great missionary Robert, began to have conversions among the poor down-trodden women of Africa, the husbands came to Moffatt and said that they could no longer afford to have conversions continue, for their wives required too much soap and calico! In other words, cleanness and clothing came as the instant resultant of Christ’s reception. Seven dippings in the Jordan river resulted in clean flesh for Naaman; but nothing short of the baptism of the Spirit can result in a clean soul for any man. In the sight of man, “who looketh on the outward appearance,” a clean body well nigh suffices; but in the sight of God, “who looketh on the heart,” a clean soul is even more essential. “Fornication” is physical adultery, but “covetousness” is spiritual adultery; the first is committed in the flesh against one’s fellow, the second is committed in spirit against one’s God. If you would know why God speaks of this as “filthiness” also, and affirms it as rendering one too unclean to make possible any inheritance in His kingdom, let a man, goaded on by inordinate greed of gain, by misrepresentation and other lying methods, take money from your pockets, and as you think of him afterward, you will know the exact meaning of this text. His presence affects you as would the presence of a physical leper, and you would feel less befouled if you went into a pest house and shook hands with a man who had the smallpox than you would feel if you had to touch the fingers that yesterday filched your pocket. How else, then, can God think of covetousness than to condemn it, for if the robbery of man is unclean how much more the conduct that robs God, keeping back His tithe and appropriating it to our personal advantage.
But the Apostle has not yet finished the discussion of this walk in perfect love! He makes a third suggestion, namely—
Let discernment be your keeper.
“Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be ye not therefore partakers with them” (Ephesians 5:6–7).
The longer one lives the more he marvels at the number of people who can be deceived, and the ease with which it is accomplished. You remember that our leading showman Barnum once declared that the American public liked to be humbugged. It is not strange that the children of Satan are easy subjects of deception, for their father is a liar from the beginning; but the very fact that one has received Christ ought to make that devil’s deed more difficult.
There are certain kinds of fish in the northern lakes that will take any bait, but they are not the best kind. You can rig up what you please and pull it through the water and the pickerel will bite; but good fish behave with more intelligence and exercise more discernment. I have sometimes thought that we could almost tell now what the line of division between the good and the bad will be in the last day by the fact that men who know God and His Word are not attracted to every fad that comes into view, nor caught by every suggestion spoken in the name of “science” or uttered in the name of professed “patriotism.”
Years ago Prof. Findlay said of certain men in the old country, “If these men have their way and European society renounces the authority of God, how quickly will that tree of God’s planting, the vast growth of Christian virtue and beneficence, wither to its topmost bough; and the next storm will bring it to the ground, with all its stately strength. Unbelief in God lays the ax at the root of human society.” And lately on the fields of Europe, we had the confirmation of Findlay’s fears; and yet, so easily are men deceived that America is not learning her lesson, but with all the rapidity consequent upon her prosperity and powers, she is walking into the same deadly trap in which the devil has already taken one half the nations of the earth. He told them that the “way of peace” was to “prepare for war” and they foolishly believed it. And yet, the uncovering of that deception before our very eyes is not sufficient to correct either our judgment or our conduct. Truly, as Findlay continued “Since Jesus Christ our forerunner entered the heavenly places, the anchor of human hopes has been cast within the veil; if that anchor drags there is no other that will hold. The rocks are plain to see on which our richly freighted ship of life will flounder. Without the religion of Jesus Christ, our civilization is not worth a hundred years’ purchase.”
Oh, Paul! you put a better policy before the Christian world when you besought them against such devilish practices, and warned them against “the wrath of God,” destined to come upon “the children of disobedience.”
WALK IN PRESENT LIGHT
The Apostle’s injunction is “Walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8) He pleads for the essentials to the walk in that light. Let us take note of some of them.
Profit by past darkness. There is an intimate relation between the seventh and eighth verse “Be not ye therefore, partaker with them. For ye were sometimes darkness.” Jesus tells us that when “the eye is evil the body also is full of darkness”, and enjoins us to take heed, therefore, that the light which is in us be not darkness.” The world is full of men and women who imagine that they have light, but it is not the light that illumines any spiritual path, the rays of which reach the bounds of the soul at all. One never realizes this fact until he has found the true light; then he looks back upon the light in which he formerly walked with veritable shuddering. Bishop Whipple, Apostle to the North American Indians, said, “An Indian came six hundred miles to visit me at my home. When he reached the door he knelt at my feet and said, ‘I kneel to tell you of my gratitude that you pitied the Red Man!’ He then told in a simple, a straightforward way of how he had been a wild man, living far beyond the Turtle Mountains. He knew his people were perishing. He said, “I never looked into the face of my little child without making my heart sick. My father had told me that there was a Great Spirit, and I have often gone to the woods and tried to ask Him for help, and I only got the sound of my voice.” And then the Indian looked into Bishop Whipple’s face and said, “You do not know what I mean! You never stood in the dark and reached out your hand and took hold of nothing.”
But the Red Man was mistaken; that is what every unregenerate man is compelled to do. What a change, therefore, to come out of such a curtained night into the bright day of God’s light. It is doubtful if, of all the miracles wrought by Jesus Christ, there was any one that so impressed its subject as the healing of the blind; and we do not marvel that when the blind man near Jericho had his sight given him, that he not only followed Jesus but went glorifying God; nor yet that all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God! And yet, that matchless miracle was but a slight type of the more marvelous change yet accomplished when the darkened soul is brought into the light of God! It is an experience never to be forgotten and the memory of it ought to be not alone to our profit, but to God’s praise.
The man who experiences it ought to find himself ready and willing to obey the Apostle’s injunction and walk as a child of light; in other words:—
We should practice present light. Paul tells us how we may do that; by the exercise of “goodness” and “righteousness” and “truth” which are fruits of the illuminating spirit. Each of these words suggests a separate grace, and the three of them combine in making Christian character. The first of these is a fundamental of the Christian life. It is hard for the world to believe that a man is a Christian man unless he be a “good” man. In the early history of the church Barnabas was an outstanding disciple and of him it is written, “He was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith, and much people was added unto the Lord.” Jesus said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good.” And again, “For a good man, peradventure, one would even dare to die.”
Somebody has illustrated the vitality of good deeds by telling of a traveler in the south of Spain, who, coming at night-fall under the heights of Granada, wearied with the long journey, heard the splash and ripple and murmur of running waters by the side of the dusty road; and on investigation, discovered that they were the irrigating streams whose channels had been cut five centuries before by the Moors. The empire of the Moors had fallen, their creed had been suppressed by fire and sword, their splendid palaces were now a mass of ruins, but the streams of water with which they refreshed the thirsty places and turned a desert into a garden, still flowed on. So it is with goodness; it opens a fountain which brings freshness and fertility to our hearts and to all lives touched by its benign influence.
But to “goodness” the Apostle adds “righteousness”. This, while an equal essential to the practice of present light, is a more austere and forbidding virtue. “For a righteous man scarce would one die”. He is a man who will have no wrong, who will not endure its practice in his presence, who will not be silent at the sight of it, who holds in contempt the superficial and the sentimental, and demands the justice of the genuine. Such people are not popular as a rule with their fellows who want to live a life of ease, of luxury, and possibly of lust; but they are approved of God; and the application is wider than the individual, for “righteousness exalteth a nation.”
But to these two must be added “truth!” We have come upon a time in which thousands of men, and not a few of them ministers of the Gospel, are disposed to believe that if one is “good”—by which men mean, “correct in habit”, it makes little difference what philosophies or opinions he may entertain or seek to propagate. And yet, the declaration of the Apostle is that “truth” is also a fruit of the Spirit; and it is a scientific axiom that “truth is the most intolerant of all possible things.” No man can be spiritually free who does not know “the truth;” and no man should attempt to be a spiritual instructor who does not believe the truth, and we have a plain declaration concerning God’s Book—“Thy Word is truth.” The man, therefore, who disputes the authority of that Book does more than injure himself; if you will pardon my coining a phrase—he unChrist’s himself. Joseph Cook, in one of his poems says:
“Light obeyed increaseth light,
Light resisted bringeth night.
Who shall give me will to choose,
If the love of light I lose?”
Ward Beecher must have been thinking along the very line of Cook’s statement—“Light obeyed increaseth light,” and “Light resisted bringeth night”—when he said to the people of Plymouth Church “We have here a large organization for diffusing knowledge, and we are brought to a standstill in many respects because we have here people who are not willing to take their light and use it. There is in this congregation a vast amount of educated ability that is rotting in sentimental selfishness,” which is only another way of putting before the church-men the difference between profession and possession, between living in the true light and radiating the same forth,—shining by a borrowed light into the dark places of the world as the moon shines upon the earth, or on the other hand giving occasion to Christ’s words “If the light that is in thee be darkness; how great is that darkness.”
But the Apostle makes another appeal namely that...
We prove the light, and reprove darkness. He expresses it in the words, “Prove what is acceptable unto the Lord, and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness; but rather, reprove them.” Now, the proof of light is in our behaviour before others, and the reproof of darkness in our attitude toward others. But let it be understood that a man, in order to reprove darkness, does not need to fly like a fury into every face upon which the shadows have fallen. The fact is that silent reproof is often more effective than a spoken one, and Paul beseeches these Ephesian christians to reprove by works rather than by words; and reminds them that “it is a shame even to speak of those things” which are done by the unregenerate in secret. “But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light; for whatsoever maketh manifest is light.” In other words, the way to shame a sinner’s conduct is to set it in the presence of sinlessness; the way to reprove sin is to practice holiness. In my youth I knew a young man who was famed for the fact that he never spake unkindly of his neighbors, and I noted, even then, that other people seldom passed calumny in his presence. A recent writer tells of another who always refused to listen to calumny. If one began to voice it in his presence he would straightway leave the circle. He never said a word, but in silence he took his hat and went. He was not a cynic. Under ordinary and righteous circumstances his face was a sheen, wreathed in smiles; but the moment his companions turned to uncomplimentary phrases regarding others, there was a silence and he was gone. You can easily imagine the result; his ears were not assailed by many calumnies. It is reported that Archbishop Leighton once said that “if nobody took calumny in and lodged it, it would starve and die of itself.”
Returning then, to our text, we restate the Apostle’s appeal, that we profit by our past darkness, that we practice our present light, and that we prove light and reprove darkness. “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepeth, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” That is the portion of the quickened soul.
WALK BY A PRUDENT LOOK
“See then that ye walk circumspectly.” (Ephesians 5:15)
You know the meaning of the word “circumspectly”—looking ahead, and looking around,—taking in your surroundings, to such an extent that you will not be stumbling over stones in the way or falling into pits, or putting your feet into traps. In the language of the Apostle “Walk not as fools, but as wise.”
Wisdom should characterize the Christian. It is no excuse to say, “I was not born with the illumination of wisdom” if one has been “born again.” As a son of God, he has claims upon the Father’s promises “If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given unto him.” The children of darkness are hardly condemnable when they stumble; the path before their eyes is invisible! It should not be so with the “children of the day.” And yet, the times are evil; the arch-enemy of the Christian is mighty and the lesser foes are a multitude, and nothing short of carefulness will keep the Christian’s feet from slipping, his profession from being turned to hypocrisy and his standing to a fall. And yet, in view of the promises of God to grant wisdom to those who seek it, what excuse have we for failure? Have we come to doubt the words of Solomon, “Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honor, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee” (Prov. 4:5–9). In fact, when one watches the course of this age, he realizes how much it needs to hear Solomon again, who after having walked in both ways, came back to tell his people that “in the light of the king’s countenance is life; and his favor is as a cloud of the latter rain” and to remark “How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver” (Pr 16:16). “Wherefore be not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”
Wantonness should insult the spiritual. “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” This Scripture certainly had a wider interpretation, however, than intemperance and drunkenness. The great principle of spirituality as opposed to carnality is involved in the sentence. We are fully persuaded that the carnality of this present time does not run even chiefly to excess in drunkenness. The more one looks upon society and realizes the difficulty of distinguishing by their conduct the men who name the name of Christ from those who have no fellowship with the Church whatever, the more he will be sympathetic with a recent writer who calls much of this conduct “the new unrighteousness” and who says “The essence in the new sin is betrayal rather than aggression,” and declares “the little finger of chicanery has come to be thicker than the loins of violence.” To illustrate; If you want to pick the pockets of a fellow do it by a railway rebate instead of with fingers, and you escape all the opprobrium that follows upon the latter course. If you want to murder a man for money, do not employ the old time bludgeon but sell an adulterated food, and you can do the deed just as effectively and profit by it to the extent of millions, and move in the “elect” circles. If you want to burglarize a house, do not employ a jimmy or as brutal a looking thing as a pistol, but meet the head of it in his office and put up a twenty minute lie about the advantages of your Ins. Co. and take away his money, as I had a man do with me recently. If you want to get rich faster still, do not scuttle your ship, but scuttle your town and take the profits from special legislation. Truly, does this writer say, “The stealings and slayings that lurk in the complexities of our social relations are not deeds of the dive, the dark alley, the lonely road and the midnight hour. They require no nocturnal prowling with muffled step and bated breath; no weapon nor offer of violence. Unlike the old-time villain, the latter-day malefactor does not wear a slouch hat and a comforter, breathe forth curses and an odor of gin; go about his nefarious work with clenched teeth and an evil scowl.” And man, if you would steal from your fellow his light, get him to give up his personal God and worship a principle, surrender the Saviour in exchange for a term,—Truth, and the personality of the Holy Spirit in barter for the promise of mental peace; smile while you lie and the thing is easy. That is the “newer unrighteousness.” And Satan never did his best until he cast away his mask of darkness and assumed an angel’s veil of light. No wonder the Apostle urges us to walk “circumspectly” and expects us to behave not as “fools but as wise”, “redeeming the time” since the “days are evil.”
But He expects even better; He expects us to speak to one another in “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord.”
In other words He expects salvation to express itself in a song. Why should He not expect it? It has always been so! The saved saints have something to sing about, and you cannot take that something away. You may put them into prison; you may manacle their hands, chain their feet; but in that midnight prison those in the adjoining cells will hear Paul and Silas voicing themselves in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. It is the rapture of an indwelling spirit; it is the voice of expectancy keyed to the note of praise. Henry Crocker tells about his friend Scott Dixon, the negro who was known as “Scotty” and who used to keep a lunch-room in a railroad station in Rhode Island. Scotty was very popular and was known everywhere as a sincere christian and a true gentleman. When he was a young man Scotty paid his master a definite sum annually and was permitted to have whatever he could make beyond that. He found employment in a large iron works and became skilled in the handling of the forge and the delicate work of judging when the steel was rightly tempered, or when the metal had reached just the right heat to be worked. At his bidding the heavy forges were swung from the fire to the anvil and beaten into the desired shape under the blows of four sledge hammers, swung by as many brawny men. The establishment was a large one and the number of workers so many that the noise was great. One morning Scotty came to his work with a heavy heart. Sin rested upon him and darkened everything. The smoke and din of the great factory only added to his depression. Every thing was loud and his burden beyond his strength. Then for a few minutes he left his forge and stealing away to a back shed, he knelt and lifted his soul to God in the prayer of the penitent sinner. The response was instant. Great peace came into his soul, and a joy that was as great as his pain had been. He went back to the factory, and in speaking of it in later life he said, “Never can I forget the music that greeted me! The whole air was filled as with the sound of bells. The ring of those anvils was the sweetest music I had ever heard. They all seemed to be singing a chorus, an anthem of praise to God.” It is little wonder then that the converts to Christ have always expressed themselves “in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” and Paul’s plea will, with the spiritual, find an easy response. Like the Psalmist of old, when we have sung to the best of our endeavor we will appreciate that our praise is all too small, and will call upon the hosts of earth and of heaven, and say “let everything that hath breath praise the Lord!”
THE THREE-FOLD APPEAL TO THE FAMILY
IN taking up this additional lesson from the Ephesian epistle, one finds no occasion to change from the three-fold basis upon which the entire study has proceeded. We here have the three-fold appeal to the family.
Since this epistle is distinctly a church epistle, the family herein described is necessarily a Christian family. Quite truly, as Dr. Alexander MacLaren said, “In the family, Christianity has most signally displayed its power of dignifying, honoring and sanctifying earthly relations. Indeed that domestic life, as seen in thousands of Christian homes, is truly a Christian creation.” The unity, integrity and sanctity of the household was never fully seen or clearly admitted save by those who, being students of God’s Word, caught the Divine conception. Of all the peoples of the earth the Jewish and Christian, alone, have conceived and accomplished the ideal family.
In that relationship as here discussed by the Apostle, he discovers Wives and Husbands, Children and Parents, Slaves and Masters! That is the three-fold relationship of a single house. He makes his appeal to each of these in turn.
First of all to...
WIVES AND HUSBANDS
Let me here remark that whether one believes in verbal inspiration or not; whether he thinks that the epistle is Paul’s creation or the dictation of the Holy Ghost, he must be impressed with a double order that the apostle here introduces. And, we are inclined to think that if one study this order carefully he will be compelled to admit that it is also a divine order. Purposely wives, children and servants are placed in one class; husbands, parents and masters in another. From the first the Apostle demands submission. On the part of the second he counsels a careful and generous administration. In each instance he speaks to the weaker first and to the stronger later; and there is an implication that wives and children and servants are first in need of counsel, while husbands and parents and masters are in no wise infallible in conduct.
If we are to listen to the Scriptures at least three things are definitely determined.
1—The wife’s submission is here clearly commanded!
“Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, and he is the Saviour of the body” (Ephesians 5:22, 23).
Doubtless some will smile that so old-fashioned a notion should even be brought forward at this time in the twentieth century, and others will declare that this Bible teaching is a touch of the barbarism of the day in which the Apostle lived and wrote. But I beg you to withhold both judgments until you have given consideration to what is involved in this plain teaching of Scripture. Some of us believe that the marvel of Revelation is its accord with reason, and the proof of inspiration is in scientific accuracy; and, strange as it may sound to say it, I am fully persuaded that here reason and revelation speak together and the counsel of an apostle is approved by the course of history. It is doubtful whether there has ever been a single instance of the reversal of this teaching of revelation that has resulted well. In fifty years of observation we cannot recall one case where the woman ruled the home and the man was the vassal of her will and word, and both were content, and the family a model. In fact, we could go further and say that we have never known a woman, no matter how weak her husband was, who took the headship of the house and maintained it as her right, who was herself half satisfied, or at all spiritual. I am inclined to think that the great Alexander MacLaren had it right when he declared “No woman ever had a satisfactory wedded life who does not look up to and reverence her husband. * * * For its full satisfaction a woman’s heart needs to serve where it loves.” We know women who are neglected, maltreated and tyrannized over by indifferent, vindictive and brutal men, who are more positively content with life itself and keep a more feminine and affectionate spirit then do their sisters who live in affluence, command every situation, give orders to competent husbands, as they would give them to slaves, and in modern parlance “run the ranch.”
Twenty five years ago, I became a woman suffragist and as opportunities have risen, I have advocated the vote as a woman’s right. Today I seriously doubt whether I have had either reason or revelation to back up my opinions upon that subject. A study of this text, and related Scripture, has shaken my convictions, and I have been compelled to ask myself the question if the woman who modestly and with the spirit of reverence for her husband, and in a sweet enslavement for her children, influences the house as she can do only when she occupies such a place and exercises such a spirit, is not already the determining factor in social and political life? She, who holds the heart of her husband and controls the conduct of her sons, governs the state. She does it directly, positively, and gloriously. If she fails to do these two things, she thereby proves her unfitness to rule in the state.
It is said that there are exceptions to all rules, but the Apostle is careful not to pronounce an exception here. It is a real question whether history has created one. I have in mind at this moment two people who have lived as husband and wife half a century. The woman is physically and mentally the stronger member of that union, but in fifty years she has never once made the husband feel that fact. She counsels with him as carefully as though he were a Gladstone in intellect, and reverences him as truly as though he were a prince, and the sweetness of the relationship is at once an inspiration and an ensample. Such women find little difficulty in “sanctifying even unbelieving husbands” and after all, that is the greatest work that any wife can accomplish. When eternity breaks, presiding over public assemblies in stunning gowns, making eloquent speeches, playing the part even of a Washington picket in the interests of suffrage, will look mighty small, if the whole of it has resulted in the husband’s spiritual demoralization, and in spiritual death to the neglected souls of the children. God has spoken. “The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church,” and whenever the Church forgets the worship of Christ and assumes to be itself ruler in all spiritual things, ecclesiastical anarchy is the result; and, the disaster to spiritual things is no greater than a reversal of this divine relation is disastrous to the domestic realm. “Therefore, as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives submit themselves unto their own husbands in everything.”
But Paul did not stop here; he would be a poor preacher if he did. No household would be complete, and no family would be ideal without the proper headship; hence the necessity of counsel to husbands!
Affection is the first law of a husband’s life. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh” (Ephesians 5:25–31).
We would think it almost strange that Paul does not counsel a wife to love her husband. Here is another proof of the inspiration of our text. Women seldom need to be counselled to love:
“Man’s love is of man’s life, a thing apart,
’Tis woman’s whole existence!”
Her temptation, as a rule, is not so much to fail at the point of affection; the fact that she is a woman fairly secures her there! Her whole nature reinforces her affectionate conduct! Her temptation is to quit her realm and lord it over all.
On the other hand, the husband is made to rule. In his very creation God gave to him the governing spirit, and there is danger that our natural talents should expand to the point where the less natural, but equally desirable ones, shall be crowded out. Affection is not so natural to man as it is to woman; but if he is to live in the marriage relation it is even more needful. His very masculinity may tempt him to too many mandates, and his conscious physical power may tempt him to be a conscienceless potentate, if not a tyrant! I have known men, and I now know some, who at the office, in the place of business, are smiling and sweet the whole day long, suave and civil to every patron approaching them, but when they once turn in at home they are critical, caustic and even contemptible. Such men cannot lift their wives in spiritual things, as Christ exalted the church, and will not, in the last day, present them as trophies of their grace, as He will present His bride, the Church, whom He hath redeemed by His own blood.
The longer I live the more I am persuaded that the average husband is making a mistake at the very point where he has supposed himself to be most successful. He can delve sixteen hours a day, and coin a mint of money and construct a beautiful house, and have it swept about by a great and attractive lawn, and multiply his automobiles and increase the number of his servants, and every bit of it will be accepted by the woman who is his mate as her natural right, and then when he has no time left in which to be tender and gentle and gracious and complimentary as in the old days of his poverty and wooing, she is almost certain to conclude that his affection has gone. If I had the counsel of young men, entering upon married life, I should advise that if they want domestic happiness, stay on the basis of comparative poverty; but multiply tender expressions, continue in gracious conduct, and, above all things, forget not the potency of manners and flowers. Paul may have been a bachelor, and some may say “he knew nothing on the subject of domesticity;” but God was not ignorant, and when by the Holy Ghost, He moved Paul to say these things he was stating the absolute essentials of wedded success!
In these mutual relations there exists a symbol of mystery. “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (vss. 32–33). The word “mystery” is here properly employed; and yet there are some points of parallelism between the relation of husband and wife and Christ and His church, that are not difficult to trace. According to the first book in the Old Testament the side of man was opened to make the wife possible; according to the first book in the New Testament the side of Christ was opened to make the church possible. According to the Old Testament the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam that that painful process might be accomplished; according to the New Testament the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon Christ that the church might be brought to her birth. According to the Old Testament the woman was a very part of Adam; according to the New Testament the church is a very part of Christ. According to the Old Testament Adam and Eve became one flesh; according to the New Testament Christ and the church are also one; He is the head and she is the body. According to the Old Testament Adam deliberately chose to share the destiny of Eve, brought about by sin; according to the New Testament, Christ deliberately determined to suffer the sentence that had been justly passed upon “His own!” According to the Old Testament the promises of redemption made to Adam were shared in by Eve; according to the New Testament, the redemption wrought by Christ is enjoyed to the full by the church.
Prof. Findlay had a biblical basis for saying, “The bond that links husband and wife, lying at the basis of collective human existence, has in turn its ground in the relation of Christ to humanity.” He sees a similitude that runs through this entire Scripture and finds in the bath of the bride a type of the washing of the church by “the water of the Word,” as well as a symbol of the baptismal rite which typifies a cleansing of the filth of the soul, and suggests a clean commencement in the experience of grace; and, as Christ and His redeemed church work together for the salvation of the world, so husband and wife are to work together for the salvation of the house. Louis Albert Banks said what we have often noted, “Out in the western mountains, every train up the grade is drawn by two locomotives. It requires the combined power of two engines to reach the summit. So the building of a true home is a matter of such tremendous importance, and the difficulties in the way are so many and so complicated, that it requires the combined forces of husband and wife to accomplish it.”
But the Apostle passes to
CHILDREN AND PARENTS
There is little occasion for the introduction of a chapter here! It would be far more fitting to have put that break between verses twenty one and twenty two of chapter five; or better yet, not to have created it at all.
“Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise) that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:1-3)
The child is to be both obedient and filial. He is to take commands and execute them. But his spirit, while about it, is to be expressed by the phrase “Honor thy father and thy mother.” There may be one exception in the matter of obedience, and that is when the parent’s command clashes with the plain will of God. “Ye ought to obey God rather than men!” There are no exceptions to the demand that father and mother are to be “honored.” I have heard people say, “I cannot honor my father, he is a drunken lout.” “I cannot honor my mother, she is an ignorant wench!” And yet, I have known people who were big enough and sweet enough to honor unworthy parents! And, on the other hand, I have known children who, just because they happened to know more of geometry than father does, or speak a better English than mother is capable of uttering, straightway imagine that they no longer have any occasion of honoring the parents that brought them into being, loved them with an unutterable affection, sacrificed to make their successes possible, denied self for the children’s sake, and stood ready at any moment to die even in the babe’s behalf.
The times upon which we have come have so many suggestions of the end of this age that one can hardly call into question the world’s approach to an awful catastrophe; and yet with the “wars, and rumors of wars,” “famine,” “pestilence,” defection from the faith, profession of religion without the power of it, no one of these is more marked than the spirit of insubordination which characterizes the twentieth century. Men and women alike are revolting against government; socialism is in the ascendency, and anarchism is too often its animating spirit; and, I suppose that when the truth is known, we will discover that all of this has had its birth in “disobedience to parents” which is now common, the world over, and which is one of the greatest curses of the hour. It may be possible that parents are to blame in having relaxed parental authority, in having swung from the old extreme of tyrannical government to the misplaced tenderness of the present time. But the fact of insubordination is no longer debatable; too much liberty has resulted in license. Love without law may express “Science and Health,” but it is not in line with the Scriptures; may represent Mrs. Eddy’s babblings but not God’s Book, or God’s behaviour. The child lacking in filial reverence, the child reveling in rebellion, is not only a menace to the peace of the house of which he is a member, but a prophecy of menace to society and to the State, and, eventually, the destroyer of his own soul. There was a time when the great and good Dr. Johnson walked into the market place at Litchfield bare-headed, and let the cold rain beat upon him, and when the passers by inquired why he thus behaved, he answered, “To punish myself for my disobedience to my dear dead father.” But somehow conscience does not work as clearly now and as effectively as it did in our fore-father’s time; not every child who disobeys mother and rebels against father feels remorse for the same and suffers the stings of conscience in consequence. Yet this command to obey and to honor is declared by the Apostle to be right, and as long as the relationship of parent to child exists the law of the Lord cannot change; and the dutiful child will find God forever ready to keep His promise, and the obedient child has never yet missed the Divine blessing, nor will he while God sits upon the circle of the heavens, and rules in human affairs.
Parents are to be both considerate and Christian. “And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (6:4). An irritable father makes inconsiderate children; and a non-christian mother dooms the spiritual hopes of the house. When Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians he talked on this same subject, and he said, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger”—bursts of temper. It is a needful injunction! Sometimes the parent will produce a burst of temper, and the wrong member of the house is punished for its expression. The child has his rights, and they should be regarded, and among them is, that neither father nor mother demand model conduct from children while failing or refusing to set them a fit example. Authority cannot be eternally retained upon the basis of relationship; but it can be forever kept by a righteous course of conduct. Our friend and former co-laborer, Louis M. Waterman, has just published a little volume of poems called “Cheery Chimes” in which appears one entitled “God and Dad,” and it reads after this manner:
“God likes my Pa a lot, I know,
He’s such a dandy chap!
If a feller makes a bit of noise
He doesn’t care a rap.
And after supper, many a time,
My Pa he plays with me,
At marbles or at mumblypeg,
As long as we can see.
Then, just before it gits quite dark,
He helps me do my chores;
And how we laugh, till folks come out
To listen to our roars!
God likes my Pa a heap, I know—
He’s such a jolly lot;
Every time I say: ‘Let’s have some fun!’
He’s Johnny on the Spot!
When Sunday comes and Pa he says:
‘Come, Tom, let’s go to church,’
You bet I go, for do you s’pose
I’d leave him in the lurch?
Not on your life! And when the men
That preach to us allow
That God on High is like my Pa,
That hits me hard, I vow!
Why, thinkin’ God is like my Pa
Makes lumps come in my throat
At things I’ve done, till I calls myself
A mean and measly shoat!
And swear I’ll be more like my Pa
So God’ll love me, too,
And I pray to Him, down in my heart:
‘Say, God, just help me through!’
And He sure does! He’s most like Pa—
He always comes to time,
And never gives a penny when
I need a silver dime!
God likes my Pa a lot, I know,
And I like God, you bet!
When I thinks of ’em—say, don’t you tell—
Sometimes my eyes gits wet!”
West said “The consciousness of my mother’s love made me a painter.” In the last analysis the child is like to be a reflection of father and mother. It was this very thought that broke the heart of the late Gen’l Clinton B. Fisk, and brought him to Christ. Mrs. Fisk tells the story. “We were blessed in our home with two children, a son and daughter. It was our joy to each take a child and prepare him or her for bed, always, of course, hearing these dear little people say their prayers. One evening the General had our little daughter. She knelt at his knee, and asked God to bless father and mother and brother and then, looking up into her father’s face, said “Papa, why don’t ’oo pray?” These words, spoken by the child, so dear to him, broke his heart and brought him to Christ, for he said, “If I am to lead her I must go before her,” and from that night he was a redeemed man.
The adult’s future is determined by the child’s fidelity. “Honor thy father and thy mother, which is the first commandment with promise, That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” History is replete with illustrations of this promise perfectly fulfilled. The world has seldom produced great men except out of good children. Almost without exception its out-standing souls have had the promise of greatness in the delightful conduct of the youth. Spurgeon’s mother expected great things of Charles, and John Quincy Adams’ mother great things of John, and Abraham Lincoln’s stepmother great things of the homely lad. Literature is packed with testimonials from great men to the effect that the very parental expectations became the spur to righteous endeavor.
Robert Eyton, the English author, in a volume entitled “The Ten Commandments” in writing in chapter five, which involves the honoring of father and mother, reminds us that here we are face to face with that which changes not, “with no temporary safe-guard for preserving reverence, or giving a distinctive character to a portion of time, but we are face to face with an abiding relationship which will remain while the world lasts, a relationship full of power, full of sweetness on both sides. We are here brought into touch with Joseph, the son of Jacob, and David the son of Jesse, and Jesus the Son of Mary, and Augustine the son of Monica, and with countless others; the filial relationship is eternal.” To fail in it is to cloud the future; to succeed in it is to have a right to claim the eternal promise of God.
But Paul passes again, and this time to...
SLAVES AND MASTERS
Someone might rise up to remind us that here the words of the Apostle are out of date, since slavery is abolished; but such would be a very superficial remark. Servants and masters are as much in evidence now as ever. It is doubtful if there will ever be a change until the millennium comes and makes all men masters permitting each to sit under his own vine and fig tree. In fact, if reports be true, the Hun has introduced wholesale and brutal slavery into civilization again. And, in this instance, proceeding by brutal force, he has enslaved his superior. But even in our own so-called Christian America, we have servants and masters, and the text teaches three things:
1—Servants should ever be obedient to masters.
As the wife is to be obedient to the husband and as the children are to be obedient to parents, so servants are to be obedient to masters, “according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as unto Christ” (Ephesians 6:5–6).
Let us not savagely dissent from this teaching and therefore fail to give it serious consideration. I have been in the employ of men, and have found it to my personal profit, as well as to their pleasure, to be “obedient in everything” and to render my service, not with reference to “the master’s eyes,” but with “singleness of heart” and with splendid enthusiasm. Had I done less I might have been a servant to this day. The law of the Lord then, is more in the servant’s interest than it is in that of the master. The trouble with a good many people is that they regard too many duties as beneath them. The dignity of labor is not one half so much in the thing done as in the way it is done. A. J. Gordon, in 1877, in a Moody inquiry meeting, asked a splendid looking man if he was a Christian, and he answered “Yes.” “Then go over to that woman and lead her to Christ.” He turned pale and said, “I couldn’t; I shouldn’t know what to say!” Then Dr. Gordon himself went, but the woman’s baby was restless and she could not give Dr. Gordon attention. The man, watching, saw the situation, and shortly that big strong fellow went over, gave the baby some sweets, took her in his arms and carried her to the other side of the church and held her for an hour while Dr. Gordon led the woman to Christ. Tending baby, if it be done in such a spirit, is as loyal an engagement for Christ as leading an army against the Germans was for country.
2—Masters should be graciously considerate of their servants.
“And ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven” (Ephesians 6:9).
It has been said a thousand times, and always truthfully, that a good master makes a good servant, and the rule is that a gracious master receives gracious service. An irritable and oppressive master excites rebellion. Some women can never keep a cook, and they are the ones that lodge the most complaints against the servant classes; but if the truth were known the trouble is not one half so much with the incompetence of the employee as it is with the inconsiderate and complaining spirit of the mistress. With a master, gracious, and a servant, obedient, no sense of injustice is felt on either side. The old colored fellow and family that belonged to my father when the war broke out, could not be driven from the home after the emancipation.
Finally, Before God men are brothers, not slaves and masters. I read a recent tract on “Will Christ come again?” which discredited the authority of sacred Scripture, insisted that to believe the New Testament was to believe that the world was flat, and slavery was desirable, etc.’ True, Paul does not here say a word against slavery; and yet he enunciates in this very verse a truth destined to destroy it from the face of the earth, namely that in God’s sight there is no such thing as slavery, since there is “no respect of persons with Him.” New Testament teaching has taken the chains from the ankles of practically every enslaved people in the world. No writer in the New Testament struck it more sledgehammer blows than Paul, possibly Christ excepted. The writer of that tract was as sadly mistaken and unscriptural about the N.T. and slavery as he was upon the second coming. Truly did the great Alexander MacLaren say of the Gospel which Paul preached, “It has in it opinions which would pull slavery up by the roots.” It was Paul who taught that in Christ Jesus “there is neither bond nor free.” He was wise enough to know what many of our moderns miss—The way to reform society is to regenerate the individual: the way to produce a civilization that would abolish slavery, bring an end to the saloon, and finally make war upon war itself, is to preach a Gospel of grace and peace. So, as Alexander MacLaren claims, “If Christianity did not set itself to fall this upas tree of slavery, it girdled it, stripped the bark off of it, and left it to die” and that is the way to treat every sin. When this doctrine is accepted, dominating corporations and union labor organizations will find less occasion for controversy and conflict. When this doctrine is accepted tyrannical potentates will no longer be in danger from oppressed peasants; and “autocracy” and “democracy” will be but phrases of past history. The only hope for a millennium in this poor world rests absolutely with the triumph of the Master’s Gospel and with the triumphant presence of the Master Himself!
THE THREE-FOLD EXPRESSION OF SPIRITUAL LIFE
IN this study we come to the conclusion of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. Sometimes when the minister says “Finally, my brethren” his wearied audience rejoices, and even the children scattered through the same, breath a sigh of relief; but Paul is never a wearisome preacher. When we come to the end of one of his discourses we regret its brevity rather than its length. His “Finally” startles one into the wish that he would go on, rather than into pleasure that the end is nigh.
This apostolic conclusion, like the epistle itself, rests upon three basal words—Power, Prayer, and Peace, and those three are the expression of spiritual life. The first is introduced in the tenth verse, the second, in the eighteenth, and the third, in the twenty third.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:10–17).
Even a superficial search through this Scripture suggests, The source of power: The provision for power: and The employment of power.
The source of power! “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” It is an axiom of the Christian life—“All power belongeth unto God.” One of the proof texts of the very deity of Christ is in His own claim “All power in heaven and in earth is given unto Me.” In the fact of the Christian’s faith he finds alike his courage and his hope, “for it is written, Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” Possibly the secret of Christ’s never-failing victory was in the fact that He was never out of touch with God. His continual fellowship with the Father explained his never-failing strength and resource. A writer says, “In the great factory there is a power room. It is usually a place of perfect quiet. The great wheel there is revolving at a terrific rapidity, but as silently as the moon pursues her journey. The ponderous revolutions of that titanic wheel would not disturb an infant’s slumbers, and yet it is sending power to every tube and piece of machinery in the entire factory. In other parts of the building there is activity and noise and clatter, but the effectiveness of every piece of machinery in it depends upon its relationship to the power room, as the effectiveness of every saint depends upon his vital connection with the Lord, who is our strength. That is why the ascending Jesus could say “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.”
The provision for power.
“Put on the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”
This Scripture clearly suggests that God has provided an adequate panoply, and it suggests with equal clearness that man can avail himself of it. It is God’s armour, but man has to put it on. Man must stand against the wiles of the devil but God provides him against the day of that experience.
At times I confess I have been led to question, at least, just who has enjoyed the baptism of power. There is so much of profession and so little of possession! To make sermons on “power” is an art of which hundreds of ministers are well nigh adepts; but to reveal its experience is so exceptional that one is led to wonder about the provision of power itself. That wonder increases as we listen to these discussions; but it is at an end when one comes upon the actual experience. It is an old story, and has been used often, but it is altogether a patent illustration of my thought. They declare that years ago, before the Australian gold fields became famous, a party of experts were sent through that country to explore a certain district and report on its mineral possibilities! They made their survey, sent in a voluminous report, gave it as their decided opinion that gold could be found there, and said there were auriferous strata. Men read that opinion, remained at home and refused the investment of their money, concluding that though it might be true, it was a speculation; and people were slow to act upon it. Finally there came into the market one day some shepherd lads who had brought down to Melbourne from the bush, pockets full of ore. They showed it about and began to trade it for goods. They were asked “Where did you get it?” And they replied “up country;” “Is there any more there?” “Yes, plenty!” The next morning there was a stampede; everyone that could raise a cart was off to the diggings.
Once I found myself in despair on this matter of provision for power. I had heard so much about it and had seen so little of it. Then, suddenly, one of our girls from the Bible Training School gave to all of us such evidence of having received the power of the Spirit that our skepticism was at an end. She had put on “the armour of God” and since God is no respecter of persons, the experience is for all.
The employment of power.
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:13–17).
When one remembers that he “wrestles not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the forces of evil in this present world,” he realizes his need of this entire panoply. And when he comes into God’s armory he finds that it is completely stocked. There is the loin cloth of truth; there is the breast-plate of righteousness; the sandals of the Gospel of peace; there, the shield of faith. But these are days of trench warfare; the head is now exposed more than any portion of the body and God did not forget that?” “The helmet of salvation” hangs in that armory, waiting the use of him who will put it on. And yet, trench warfare is not one of resistance only; there are times when the soldier is ordered to go “over the top,” and needs the implements of aggression, and he will find “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” both ready to hand and altogether adequate. And all of this makes application in the spiritual warfare. The entire man needs spiritual protection. He is vulnerable at every point; but, as things are now, his greatest danger point is in his head. More men have lost their religion through the intellect than in almost any other way. Not that Christianity is not reasonable, but that it fails to fit itself to false reasoning; Not that Christianity is not scientific, but that it refuses to square itself with science—falsely so-called. Nine out of ten of the boys who are in the denominational colleges and State Universities and even the theological seminaries of the present hour, have targets made of their heads, and professors of German infidelity are attempting to storm and capture the head of every student, knowing full well that the intelligence is central with the soul, and that when it is taken captive there will follow a spiritual collapse. If we are to judge by school results, no student is able to withstand them who does not have “the helmet of salvation,” and does not know how to wield “the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.” I have long been convinced that the method of education we employ in the Northwestern Bible Training School is of God. Young people ought not to be exposed to the wiles of the adversary, as he has wrought those out in modern education, until they have first been clad with the armour of God, including “the helmet of salvation,” and made adepts in the use of “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
But from the discussion of Power, the Apostle passes to
We are not surprised to find Paul a man who emphasizes prayer. He was a man who did that not alone in his teaching, but put upon his teaching a better emphasis by actually praying. Prayer is sometimes spoken of as the source of power. Coleridge is reported by a friend who was at his bedside when Coleridge was dying, to have suddenly broken out, “Oh, my dear friend, To pray; to pray as God would have us; to pray with all the heart and strength, with the reason and the will; to believe vividly that God will listen to your voice, this is the last, the greatest achievement of the Christian’s warfare on earth. Teach us to pray, oh, Lord!” “And then” says the narrator, “he burst into a flood of tears and begged me to pray for him.”
Paul would have agreed with Coleridge that it was “the greatest achievement of the Christian warfare.” He would have us pray in the Holy Spirit, he would have us pray in incessant supplication, he would have us pray in specific petition.
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds; that wherein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things: Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might comfort your hearts” (Ephesians 6:18–22).
He would have us pray in the Holy Spirit. I do not know that I can tell you what it is to pray in the Spirit. People who have never prayed in the Spirit could not understand if they were told; people who have ever prayed in the Spirit do not need to be told; they understand. Certainly it is to pray, conscious of the Divine presence; certainly it is to pray having the very thoughts as well as the words, prompted by the Holy Ghost. When the Welsh revival was on, Campbell Morgan went to visit in that country and study it at first hand. His report of the revival was a report of prayer. He told how men prayed by the hour; how assemblies came together to change from praying only by breaking out in praise. How in the midst of silence, someone would cry out “Pray for my brother”—giving his name and address, and then a great volume of petition would go up to God and Campbell Morgan described it all as a spontaneous answer of souls to God. Doubtless that is “praying in the Spirit.”
But Paul says that prayer should be by incessant supplication. “Praying always, with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” The average man prays too little. He does not give time to it; he does not give thought to it. One of the finest books on prayer published in years is from the pen of E. M. Bounds. The author says, “Much time spent with God is the secret of all successful praying. Jacob’s victory of faith could not have been gained without that all night wrestling. God’s acquaintance is not made by pop-calls. God does not bestow His gifts on the casual or hasty comers and goers.” He then illustrates. Bishop Andrews spent the greater part of five hours a day at prayer. William Bramwell was on his knees for hours at a stretch, almost living there. He went over his circuits like a flame of fire. The fire was kindled by the time he spent in prayer. He often spent as much as four hours in a single time. Sir Henry Havelock, if the encampment was struck at six, would rise at four. He was up and at prayer before the day broke. Judson prayed India into the light. Paul spent hours in this exercise. Jesus commended the woman whose importunity compelled the unjust judge to heed her cries, and He, Himself prayed so incessantly that the fourth night watch often found Him upon His knees. An English preacher says: “When He was baptized He prayed; when He made choice of the twelve apostles He prayed: when He performed mighty works, He prayed: when He was in the transfiguration He prayed: when, at the grave of Lazarus, He prayed; when the public enthusiasm was equal to making Him a real King, He prayed: when their enthusiasm cooled and they rejected Him, He prayed! With prayer He agonized in the garden of Gethsemane; with prayer He looked up for support upon the walk to the cross; in prayer He breathed out His spirit into the Father’s hands.”
When the Apostle, therefore, beseeches us to “pray always, with all perseverance and supplication” he is but pointing us to the custom of Christ.
And yet, the Apostle is wise, and he petitions us to make our prayers specific! “And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (vss. 19–20). I heard Rev. Walt Holcomb, son-in-law of Sam Jones, say that “when one prays for all creation, he prays for nothing; but when he prays for a specific thing, he prays for something; for a specific person, he prays for somebody.” Then Holcomb illustrated by the girl that he heard in agony in the rear of the church. As he drew nigh with silent feet, she was saying, “Oh, God, Give me my father and my brothers, to-day, or I die!” And that night the father and three brothers came to penitent form and offered themselves to God. If you will go back over your past history you will find that your answered prayers have been prayers that were specific and that expressed some deep desire of the heart. When God said “Ask and ye shall receive” He meant some specific gift; and when He said “Knock and it shall be opened unto you” He meant at some definite door. This specification is one that ought to be put into the prayer of every saint, of every plea to God for those preachers of the faith “that utterance might be given unto them, and that they might open their mouths boldly to make known the mysteries of the gospel.”
Strangely again Paul here follows the line of thinking that is the exact opposite of the usual. We usually speak of peace, prayer, and power; but Paul turns it about—power, prayer, and peace. He knows perfectly well that no man ever did pray until the power of the Spirit was upon him; and he also knows that no man ever enjoyed peace until after prayer.