Allow me to present to you a brief oudine of what has struck me as to the true path of a Christian, or rather the principle and measure of his walk, as taught in Ephesians 4 and 5. I purpose merely to draw attention to the great principles.
I should gladly see some application or exhortation added by yourself.
We get the principle and the measure of this walk; its double principle in chapter 4. If we have learned the truth as it is in Jesus, it is that we “have put off” (not to “put off”) “as concerning the former conversation the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and that we have put on the new man.” And here we at once get the true character of this new man. It is “created after God in righteousness and true holiness” —not yet love, though this will never be separated, but its intrinsic moral nature in respect of good and evil.
God has been perfectly revealed through the work of Christ, and revealed in respect of evil and sin. He has been revealed in His dealing with others, with evil and with good where it is, with what glorifies Him, that is Christ. He is righteous. He has been revealed in His own nature too, as regards good and evil: abhorrent of evil and having His delight in what is pure and good, He is holy. Adam was innocent; he did not know good and evil till after he had eaten the forbidden fruit. Now we know good and evil, and if we are to be “after God” it must be more, far more, in nature than Adam’s estate. It must be in righteousness and holiness of truth. The power of the divine word revealing God, as Christ as now sitting at the right hand of the majesty in the heavens has brought Him to light, and quickening us, gives the true character of holiness in which we are created after God. (Compare John 17:17, 19.) God is known now not merely as a Creator who saw all as very good which had come out of His hands, but as one whose whole nature is revealed in the dealings and work of redemption, when evil and good are fully manifested, when evil is there and rife. But redemption, the new creation in which we are quickened out of our state of death in sin and raised as Christ out of His grave, has taken us completely out of that condition, and has made us, as so quickened, the living expression of the divine nature thus fully revealed. We are created again after God, in righteousness and true holiness. (Compare Col. 3:9-11.) What God is, in respect of good and evil, we are in nature as having put on the new man created again in Christ Jesus; and this, as we see in Colossians, connected with a true full knowledge of God as so revealed. We are partakers by a new creation of the divine nature as fully revealed in Christ.
This is the first great principle of our walk as Christians. It is our life, what we are.
The second is the presence of the Holy Ghost as dwelling in us.
God Himself dwells in us by His Spirit, and sheds His love abroad in our hearts. We have been thus sealed for the day of final, full redemption. We are not to grieve so holy and blessed a guest. Nothing inconsistent with His presence, where all is peaceful and holy love, is to be allowed in our hearts. It is not now merely a new nature, holy and righteous in itself, and capable of enjoying God blessedly revealed in Christ, but God dwells in us, shedding His love abroad in our hearts, sealing us for the time when we shall fully enjoy Him. He guides, orders, reveals the things of Christ to our minds, communicates what is blessed to us, filling us with what is divine; but especially, here, is present in us, so that nothing inconsistent with God’s own presence in love is to be allowed in us. Nay more, we are to walk according to the love of the divine nature.
Such are the two great principles of the Christian’s walk. He has put off the old man, the first Adam, with all its lusts and will, and put on the new man which, with the knowledge of God’s estimate of righteousness and holiness, is created after God according to this righteousness and holiness; and the Holy Ghost is present with him and in him, and he is not to grieve Him. No word or temper unsuited to that holy guest who sheds abroad God’s love in our hearts, and seals us for the day when all will be holy and blessed, is to find a place in our mouth or in our heart. In a word, the divine nature with its moral effect, and the presence of God in love, and the power of holy hope, form the Christian. We now get the measure of this. In the latter we already get the walking of love. Chapter 5 gives us the measure, if measure indeed we can call it.
God takes two essential names: Love and Light—none else. These are taken as characterising the walk of the Christian. The measure of it Christ Himself, being the practical model, Christ in whom we see the life of God, God Himself, in a man. And this it is leads us to the full extent and character of what is looked for from the Christian. We have seen that we have been made partakers of the divine nature, created after God, and that the Holy Ghost is given to us—we are sealed by it. The measure of the Christian is not what man ought to be, but what God is, and has been to him; of course this does not refer to His Omniscience and Omnipotence and the like, but morally, in holiness and love. The latter we are never said to be. It is the prerogative of God to be it, and love without a motive. We, that it may be also holiness, and withal as creatures, must have an object, and a motive. We cannot be it and love sovereignly; for we are not sovereign but subject. Yet we shall see how blessedly the divine character of this love in us is maintained, though God Himself becomes its full and final object. Light we are said to be, for purity of nature we can have, and have, as regards the new man.
We are called then to be imitators of God as dear children. Being born of Him we are to imitate and follow Him in our actions and spirit, as partaking of the divine nature, and in relationship with Him as children. We are to be followers of God and walk in love. We find a double character of this, by which, as I just now intimated, its divine perfectness is maintained. We are to be tender-hearted and forgive, shew grace to one another as God has forgiven and shewn grace to us. Compare Matthew 5:48, and the preceding verses; see also Colossians 3:13.
But there is another element in divine love in man, which has a very deep stamp of perfectness on it. I have said Christ is given as the model of the display of God’s character in man, as naturally it must have been. It is said here, “And walk in love as Christ has loved us and given himself for us, a sacrifice and an offering to God for a sweet-smelling savour.” Perfect love was here shewn in giving up Himself. So we are called to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, our intelligent service. Two principles characterise this perfectness. First, offering up himself. It is not loving my neighbour as myself—a true and perfect principle where evil is not, a state which the law as such would produce if efficacious to do so—but where evil, moral or external, or sorrow requires it, wholly giving up offering up oneself. This Christ did. He offered up Himself, perfect in love. Our path is to follow Him in this. As in 1 John 3, “Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” The second seal of perfectness is that it was an offering to God. The object and motive were perfect. If He had only given Himself for us, there might have been touching generosity, nobleness of character; but the object which formed the motive was inadequate to give perfection to the act, take men as good, or simply evil; for it was love in a man and had a motive, though divine love; and it is in that He is a model to us. But He offers Himself to God, though for us. Here our worthlessness only adds to the proof of the perfectness. But the offering being to God the motive was adequate—the act of love perfect. Hence, too, we are called to add to brotherly kindness charity or love, which, we are told, is the bond of perfectness. Absolute, sovereign love is where there is no motive in the object. This we have seen in the last verse of chapter 4 and in Colossians. And this we are called to imitate as concerns our matters, that is, when any wrong is done to us. But when it is love with an object or motive in a man, when the motive gives its true character, then to be morally perfect, self must be given up to God. In us it may have been an evil self. But whatever it may be, it is given up, and, in our own case, the body presented a living sacrifice.
We are not, then, said to be love, for sovereign love we cannot be; but we are called to be followers of God in it, as forgiving in grace, which rises above all injury, and to walk in a love which gives self wholly up to God, as Christ did. Blessed privilege!
The other essential name of God is Light—essential purity of nature. And this in the Lord we are said to be. For in as far as Christ is our life, as having put on the new and put off the old man, we are so. Christ is our life. This is not prerogative with an object in grace, it is a nature which we have. We were darkness, but now are we light in the Lord. It cannot be separated from the love, because that gives us purity of motive, setting aside self. (Compare 1 Thess. 3:12, 13.) Yet it is a different thing. It is the purity of nature, thought, and object which were manifested in Christ. I do not add conduct, because that is a matter of exhortation. “Walk as children of light.” God is light, purity itself, and making all things manifest. Whilst Christ was in the world, He was the light of the world. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” And in Him we have life, and thus become light in the Lord, in a crooked and perverse generation, among whom we shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life, as Christ (1 John 1) was the manifestation of the word of life. God has shined in our hearts to give out the light of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord in the face of Jesus Christ. Then indeed it was for the full purpose of apostolic testimony. Still as having Christ as our life, the fruits of light are manifested, divine intelligence of good as in Christ Himself contrasted with the darkness of the world (a darkness which belonged to our nature) and the separation of good from the evil by the word, but by the living knowledge of Christ as He is, which was practically expressed in all His life. As it is written, “Sanctify them through the truth; thy word is truth. For their sakes I sanctify myself that they may be sanctified through the truth.” So even in our intercourse with God, “Such a high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undented, separate from sinners and made higher than the heavens.” It is the revelation of Christ as He is now that acts by the Holy Ghost on our souls, “We beholding with unveiled face the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory.” The effect produced, in walk, is what His walk was on earth; and for the same reason He could then say the Son of man who is in heaven. That, no doubt, was the glory of His Person, but so far as we are introduced by faith, livingly, through the power of the Holy Ghost into what is heavenly, we, as to object and motive are purified according to that in our walk here, while His lowly path here engages our affections in imitating and following Him. That of which the power is seen in what He is was manifested to the understanding heart in His life down here. He was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from among the dead. In us it is a nature, a new man, but, as the creature must, having an object, Christ. “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in. me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” So in Ephesians 5, “Ye are light in the Lord.” Then not only are reproveable things manifested by the light, but Christ is Himself the perfect standard and light of the soul. “Awake, thou that sleepest,” sunk into ease and apathy as a Christian, like the dead, though not dead, “and Christ shall give thee light.” God is light, we are light in the Lord, and the perfect divine expression of this light in man, in which we are to walk, is Christ. The eye is upon Christ. “Christ shall give thee light.”
Such, then, is the true measure of Christian walk—what God is in His nature as love and light, brought down to its true, perfect, and blessed expression on the earth, in man, in Christ. Thus we are to be followers of God as dear children, the fruit of the light, the purity of the divine nature to be seen in us.