April 29, 1941
Turn to the first chapter of Ephesians, verse 3. “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 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.” Also verses 15 to 23; 3:14-17, 20, 21; 6:11-19.
The epistle to the Ephesians in one sense stands alone, because it opens out to us the eternal counsels of God, and His purposes, which, of course, were in His mind before the world began. God is the eternal I AM, and never changes His purposes and His counsels, and as there was no one to consult Him in those eternal by-gone ages, God delights Himself in doing exactly what He pleases.
In the ages past God had a divine program in His own almighty mind, and He does whatever He pleases, whatever He delights in, and the marvel is that in those eternal ages beyond He purposed what we are here told: “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.”
Nothing, so to speak, delights the heart more than to know God has a free hand to do exactly what He pleases, and He delights in blessing, and so this marvelous epistle begins with thanksgiving to Him: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us.” Then in verse 16 we read, “I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 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.” These two titles, “The God of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” are the keys to the Epistle. They begin and end chapter one.
It is a very important thing to notice divine titles. It is “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” as revealed to us in our time, not as Jehovah, nor as the Almighty, but as we know Him “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That is how He reveals Himself. There is no mention of “loving Father” or “Heavenly Father,” but “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,” which gives the thought of power.
“The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” speaks of Divine love. He has revealed Himself in these closing days by these titles, which give to us an opening up of the revelation of His name, as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; and, therefore, without being too critical, terms that we often use, were suited to the time when the Lord was here upon the earth—He taught His disciples to say, “Our Father, which art in heaven,” which speaks of Him as the Father of Israel—but now the term is “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and I just want to bring to you a little of the Divine power, power towards us, power in us, and power through us. Paul prays in chapter 1:17-20: “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, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenlies.”
The power of God has taken our Blessed Lord from Joseph’s sepulchre and put Him in the highest heavens, crowned Him with all glory and honor and given Him to be “the Head of the Church, which is His Body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all,” but the wonderful thought is that He has put us there too. So in chapter 2, the words in italics, “And you hath He quickened,” rather spoil the sense in that verse. Not only has He put Him there, but He has quickened us together with Christ and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Him as we learn in verses 5, 6. Verse 4 reads: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, 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 same mighty power, which was exercised by our Blessed Lord has been exercised for the believer, raising us up, seating us in Him in these heavenly places. His power has put us in connection with the glorified Man up yonder in the heavens, “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.” Thus we are united to Him where He is. But in Ephesians 1, God delights in His own heart and yours. Let us hang on there for a minute or two. It delighted the heart of God “that we should be holy, and without blame before Him in love.” In His mighty activities in the past Eternity, “He hath chosen us in Him, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” In His mighty eternal counsels of the past that was His activity towards us and under His eye, “holy and without blame before Him in love.” Imagine yourself under the eye of God in that respect. Do not look at yourself, or you will spoil the whole picture. That is the heart of God, having us under His eye of compassion. Think of your own unworthiness, but do you not see God is putting us there to delight Himself in it, that we “should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” Now that stands related to Him as God.
The next verse (chap. 1:5) speaks of the Father having predestinated us to sonship. Here we have the same thing coming out, that God is delighting Himself as Father, choosing us to sonship by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. If we would only stay in that pure light of unsullied love, what marvellous things would overflow our hearts. To think that God would delight Himself in doing this, as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!! And now He sees me in Him holy and without blame before Him in love. He has exercised the same power towards us according to the working of His mighty power which was wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead. Quickened us, raised us, and seated us in Him in the heavens, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” That is His power towards us.
At the end of chapter 3 we have the other side of the picture—“For this cause, I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” Not that you should dwell with Him up there, but that He should dwell in your hearts down here. The first chapter takes us up there into the heavenlies, and chapter 3 strengthens us by might by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith down here. He does not dwell in the heart of every Christian. That Christ may dwell in your heart means that He may be the very centre of your moral being, the very centre of your affections, and, in order for that to be so, the Spirit of God has to work in us. “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell.” The Spirit of God has to work in us, for the Lord Jesus Christ to become the very centre of our affections and activities by enlarging the sphere of our affections. In chapter one we are “in Him” in the heavenlies; the power of God has put us there, and we are with Him in every spiritual blessing, but now the Spirit of God has to strengthen us down here. “That Christ may dwell”—He has to work in us to this end, that the blessed Lord Jesus Christ may become the very centre of our affections. Tell me what is the first thing in your heart, and I will tell you what is controlling you. The man who is controlled by money or ambition, has it written upon his moral heart—you can tell what his activities will be. And so the Holy Spirit must work in us in order that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith. “That ye being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height.” The length, breadth, depth, and height does not refer to the love of Christ, but to the Father’s eternal counsels. The figure of it comes in the story of Abraham in Canaan, where God says, “Look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward.” Take in the vastness of the country. “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith”—that clears out everything unsuitable to Him. We are not only in Him, but the Spirit of God has to work in us to make Him the very centre of our heart’s affections, and, to finish this chapter, “Now unto Him, that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” It was His power toward us that put us in the heavenlies, and now it works in us. There is nothing more important than the Holy Ghost working in us; and so the two things are put together. He is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” If He is working in me. He will remove the hindrances, He will warm the affections, He will make a larger sphere for Christ. And this is how He answers our prayer— “According to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages.”
And now we come to Chapter 6:10-12, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor 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.”
There are three conflicts in the New Testament. In Romans 7, it is the old nature and the new nature fighting against each other, “When I would do good, evil is present with me.” In Galatians 5, it is the Holy Ghost and the old nature, and there the Holy Ghost wins over Adam. In Romans 7, the old nature wins every time, the flesh gains the mastery—“the evil I hate, that I do.” In Galatians 5, the Spirit of God gains the victory, and this is because He is the power. The new nature is not the power. To be born again, that in itself is not the power. The power is the Holy Ghost Himself. He came down at Pentecost, and He sheds abroad His love in our hearts. And so in Galatians 5, the Holy Spirit gains the victory over Adam. In Ephesians 6, it is the conflict in the heavenlies, and to gain the victory, the power to do so is in the heavenlies. But we must put our heads down, and we see that as it was with Abraham so it was with us; he took possession only once, when he put his foot on the land. “Everywhere your foot travels is yours.” He went across the land only once, and that was when he brought Lot back from being taken prisoner. He went to the north as far as Dan, and, wonderful man that he was, he did not lay hold of the Divine purpose in the way he should have done. “The Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward; for all the land, which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth; so, that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee/’ Have we, beloved, put our foot down in the heavenlies? Do we realize we are a heavenly people? Not that we ought to be, but that we are. 1 Corinthians 15:48 says that we are: “As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” Beloved friends, we belong to a heavenly Man; the last Adam, the quickening Spirit, was from heaven, and we are blessed with all spiritual blessings with Him in the heavenlies. Have I put my foot down there? If I do not, I shall not have this conflict, for the devil will let me alone. Here we are told to have this conflict with our terrible foe; and, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” The Devil is sure to be after you to make you realize you are a heavenly man. He will drive you from the enjoyment of it if he can, but he cannot drive you out of Christ. But he tries to drive us from the enjoyment of the land in the heavenlies, and so I must put my foot down to realize it. “Everywhere you put your foot down is yours.” But we shall not have the heavenly conflict, if we are not in the heavenlies in our own souls. The two natures must be opposed one to another. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord.” Put your foot down in the power of the Holy Ghost, saying, “I realize I am in Him, I stand before Him, holy and without blame before Him in love, and I want to realize some of the blessedness of these heavenly things, with which God has blessed us. Are we making them our own? If we are not, the Devil would have us quiet and asleep. Make it your own. “As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly, and as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” We do not bear that image yet. Our mortal bodies are not made like His, but “we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ.” Material blessings, earthly prosperity, are not the Christian’s peculiar blessings. God gives us great mercies and blesses us along the pilgrim path. “So-and-so is doing wonderfully well,” you say; “the Lord has wonderfully blessed him.” But money is not His blessing. Material mercies are not the Christian’s peculiar blessings. “All spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ.” I am not making light of God’s mercies to you, physically or materially, but, those in themselves are not God’s spiritual blessings to the Christian. Material prosperity has been a peculiar curse to many a person. I know a man now, whose father was converted, and I think this is true of him. I remember his father well, and the night he stayed behind after the meeting, to speak to me about his soul. He came back three times, and, when he came back the third time, he confessed the Lord as his Saviour. His son made millions of money, but today he is worldly, far away and indifferent, that is, to Divine things. His material prosperity has gone far against him spiritually. I freely admit it is a mercy to have a healthy body and to have material mercies along the road, but do not confound that with spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ. That is what He has blessed us with. Am I enjoying Him? Am I making Him my own? Am I walking through the land, so to speak? Are we enjoying spiritual blessings in the heavenlies? I am not wanting you to be cramped, or make little of the material mercies of God, but do not confound them with the spiritual blessings unfolded to us in this wonderful Epistle. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” And haven’t you noticed that he puts these titles in the New Testament in this way, but in John you will always find “Father” and “love.” In John 20, speaking to Mary Magdalene, He says, “Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father and to your Father; and to My God, and your God.” But, when you come to Paul’s writings, it is “God and Father.” One great reason is that John specially and peculiarly unfolds the Father to us, and puts Him first. These are not whims and fancies. They are there in the Scriptures. We are not trying to make up something outside of the Scriptures.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He has not only put His beloved Son at peerless heights of glory, but He has put us into association with Him where He is, and the more I realize my association with Him where He is, the more I appreciate Him, and the better will I represent Him where He is not. And I shall be walking with moral consistency in His blessed footprints here below.
We shall just look at Ephesians 6:10. What is the first thing He tells us? “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” That is His power through us. We have had His power towards us, putting us there. We have had His power in us, doing “exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think,” but now it is His power through us. It is only His might in us that can overcome the Devil. You remember in the temptation, the enemy sought to take the blessed Lord from the path of Divine obedience. “If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” I do not say it irreverently, the Lord practically said, “I am not hear to command; I am here to obey.” “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:3, 4). What a mighty victory he achieved! Think of it! In the desert the Devil is assailing Him on every point that he could, but the Blessed One overcomes in every temptation with, “It is written.” First, in dependence on God, and then in devotedness to God, and thirdly, in confidence in God. Believer, let us seek to realize, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that our association is with the glorified Man in the heavenlies, and that we are down here to trace His footsteps, to follow Him, and, if we do put our foot down in the consciousness that the heavenly places are ours in Him, we shall have the enemy after us. “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand.” Why don’t you advance? Because you cannot advance in Ephesians; you are at the top. “Blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand therefore.” First of all, I must put my foot down to stand. There is no armor for the back for cowards. You must not run away. “But having done all, to stand.” And if the Devil is assailing you, if he is attacking you, it is, in some way, a blessed proof that you are putting your foot down in the heavenly country. “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth—“Girt about with truth.” Not holding truth loosely, but braced up with truth. How much of it? Every bit of it. Your loins girt about with truth. This is part of the armor of the heavenly man, who has some realization that he belongs to the glorified Man, blessed, with Him, with all spiritual blessings and truth, and the Lord Jesus does not say, “I am true,” but, “I am the Truth.” The Way to the Father, and the Truth about the Father, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Here we have our loins girt, or braced up. In these last days of Modernism, we must have our loins girt about with truth. To give up the truth is to give up what is most important. Are we girt about? Do we read our Bibles as much as we used to? The loins girt about with the truth of God, so when the Devil comes along with the blasphemies of these last days, I know how to stand up against him. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” And so the first thing we put on here is truth. “Having on the breastplate of righteousness,” that is, we have a good conscience, maintaining a good conscience; as the Apostle Paul said, long ago, “Having a conscience void of offense towards God and man,” and upright before Him. That will give us immense power in dealing with the adversary, for once we become unrighteous or bigoted about truth, the Devil steals a tremendous march upon us. “Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” It is not having your feet shod with the gospel of peace, but the preparation of it. If I am walking with well-shod feet, following in His blessed footsteps, it will have an immense effect upon those to whom I speak. What prepares for the Gospel? Our godly walk, our well-shod feet, our ways.
I remember, long ago, in Indiana, the manager of a large Packing House had some dealings in business with a friend of mine. My friend said to himself, “This man seems different from the rest of the business men with whom I deal. He speaks no slang; he is not stupid, and is an aggressive man of business. But his manner, his whole deportment, made me think that there was something different there. And when we had done our business he handed me a card, and said, ‘Will you come to the meetings?’ This key to the whole business, this little card, was preceded by a manner which seemed different to that of the ordinary worldly man. ‘Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.’ It is not our preaching so much, but our feet shod with the preparation of gospel of peace. It prepares them, the actual life prepares for the gospel.”
A nephew of mine was an ungodly fellow, and one day a worldly neighbor addressed him as follows, “Jack, I have not seen you with a cigarette in your mouth lately.” “Well,” he said, “I have been brought to God and have been converted.” That man’s whole family had been brought to God, “Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” The people with whom I work from day to day take stock of me. They take stock of the way we walk. And every time I say something, there is dynamic behind it. The man whose feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace has a part of the heavenly armor. You do not find this spoken of in Galatians or Romans. The conflict in Romans and that in Galatians, but not of this kind. This is seen in the man who shows by the grace of God, that he belongs to a glorified Christ in the heavenlies. He must walk here amongst men on earth, but he brings the pattern of that relationship and the power of it down here in practical daily life.
“Above all, taking the shield of faith.” If ever we need the shield of faith and its protection, we do now, when the Devil sends his fiery darts and insinuations of all kinds at the believer. But the shield of faith quenches all the fiery darts of the Wicked One. The prophet Habakkuk writes: “The just shall live by faith,” and the worldly man says, “It is all very well to live by faith, but I believe in a good meal of chops, steaks, etc.,” and he sneers at it. But that same man who says the just shall live by faith, in chapter 2 of his prophecy, shows you how to do it in chapter 3. He says, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom,” there is nothing left and the whole place is withered, “yet will I rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of my salvation.” After he says, “The just shall live by faith,” he takes the shield of faith and shows you how to do it. When the Devil comes with his fiery darts, the shield of faith quenches them. “The sin that so easily besets us” is unbelief. “Lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily besets us, and run with patience the race set before us, looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of faith.” So the shield of faith, here, is for quenching “all the fiery darts of the Wicked One.”
“Take the helmet of salvation; the helmet points upward, the helmet of salvation. Beloved friends, the Blessed Helmet of Salvation may materialize tonight. I do not say He will be here tonight. It speaks in Thessalonians of “the hope of salvation,” but in Ephesians of “the helmet of salvation,” because we are looked at as there. When our Lord comes to the air, we will have a glorified body—and that is the helmet pointing up—and salvation then will be complete. “He will appear the second time, without sin unto salvation.” It is a big word—salvation. I have been saved seventy years, and I have been saved all along the way, by the mercies of God. It is characteristic of the grace of God that saved me, though I cannot say I have never slidden back, never strayed in heart, but characteristically the Lord saved me; He saves me day by day along the road. We are saved by His intercession. “He ever lives to make intercession for us,” but here we have the helmet of Salvation pointing to the coming of our blessed Lord, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. This is not my sword, but His sword, the sword of the Spirit, searching us, taking us to pieces, to put us together. Not laying us down cold, but putting us warmly together. Yet He searches us, and a blessed thing it is to be searched, “Thou hast searched me and known me,” and again at the end of Ps. 139 David speaks of the same thing when he says, “Search me, and know me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
I realize how little I have been able to bring before you these three forms of power—power toward us, power in us, and power through us, for God does “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask of think, according to the power that worketh in us.” Beloved, that is what we want more of. In the end of the Epistle, the Enemy, the Devil is seen to be after us. And if I wish to be a heavenly man in my ways, conduct, and life before others, the Enemy will be after me. “Oh, you say, there is no harm in worldly pleasures, in cards, in dances, in pictures,” etc. These are little things. The Devil will be after us if we want to reproduce on earth the Heavenly Man, our glorious Lord, who is now at the right hand of God. And in order to win the title of a heavenly man, we must put on the whole armor of God, and “having done all, to stand.” May the Lord help us to do so,
“Until we meet and soar away,
To the bright realms of endless day,
And sing, with rapture and surprise,
His loving-kindness in the skies.”