The Epistle to the Ephesians
The Household of God. The Gentiles now enjoy with their brethren of Jewish origin a fellowship exceeding in scope and intimacy anything ever known in Israel. They are no longer “strangers from the covenant of promise,” but subjects of the grace set forth in the ministry of the new covenant. Consequently, they are not aliens from any whom God owns as His people; they are “fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God,” enjoying the privileges of those whom God has distinguished from the world by setting them apart for a holy purpose. As such their citizenship is in Heaven even although they are actually upon the earth. As God’s household they are built “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” the foundation built by their ministry of Christ. As the “Chief Corner Stone” Jesus Christ unites in Himself, as it were, the two sides of the building, — the Jew and the Gentile: “He is the foundation of the whole” (Grant). “The building fitly framed together” is constructed of living stones; as “living” they have derived life from Christ (1 Pet. 2:5), and thus are suitable material for the structure which He builds.
The Body referred to earlier, and the Building under present consideration, are two descriptions of the Church, and are closely related. The former is adequate to express the mind of Christ the Head, the latter to maintain the truth as a practical witness to the character of God.
Christians must behave in a manner suitable to Him who dwells therein (1 Tim. 3:3-15). The close relation between these two aspects of the Church is seen in the fact that our Lord’s “body” is called the temple of God; and the body of the believer is called the temple of the Holy Spirit (John 2:19-21; 1 Cor. 6:19). However, in the view of this structure as a “holy temple” in the Lord, it is said to be growing toward completion. Nevertheless, at this present time God has His habitation wherein He dwells by the Spirit. It may be that as this “holy temple”, the Church, is regarded as complete in glory, whereas in its present character as the “habitation of God” it is seen in its tabernacle character upon the earth.
Administration Of The Mystery (Chapter III)
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, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which 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” (3:1-8).
Qualification for this Ministry. The Apostle reminded the Gentiles that he was in bonds for them; he suffered severely because of the nature of the work given him to do. To be sure the other apostles suffered for Christ’s sake as well as Paul; but to him was added a special and most persistent persecution from his own countrymen because of his labours among the Uncircumcision, for he was followed from city to city by antagonists who made his work very difficult. We learn that after the attack upon him in Jerusalem (Acts 21:27-22:23) by a murderous mob (from which he was rescued by the chief captain of the Roman guard), when permitted to address his assailants, they listened until he arrived at that stage of his address where he related that while he hoped to reach his fellow-countrymen with the gospel, Christ warned him that they would refuse him an audience, saying: “Depart; for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles” (Acts 22:14-21). Then they shouted: “Away with such a fellow from the earth; for it is not fit that he should live!” Enraged, they cried out, cast off their clothes, and threw dust in the air. Such was the treatment of Paul from his own countrymen because of his zeal in carrying out the commandment of the Lord in going to the Gentiles with the gospel.
But if we go back to the time of his conversion we learn how he received the impulse of his ministry, as he listened to the appeal: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” (Acts 9:4). Thus he learned that those he persecuted comprised the Body of Christ, and the Head suffered in the members. Hence, in an unforgetable way, at the very start of his new career, the truth of the “mystery” was impressed upon him. In the phrase “As I wrote afore in few words,” the Apostle alludes to a former writing in which he had briefly reminded them that a special training qualified him to minister this truth. Statements as to the mystery are found in his Roman and Corinthian Epistles, but these do not seem to be what he refers to, seeing he is not alluding to the message, but to his qualifications for making it known. Some have thought he means the Galatian Epistle as showing the character of his call and the accompanying impressions fitting him for the work to be undertaken. However, it does not say that he alone received this truth, but that the Spirit had revealed it to the holy apostles and prophets of Christ.
The Mystery. What is the mystery? It is “that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same Body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel.” A distinction between Israel and the nations had no place in this mystery, for it was in the nature of new creation. Those known as Gentiles were now members of “the same Body” as those formerly known as Jews who, on becoming Christians, were fellowmembers with them. Christ was the Head of this Body. He had made in Himself of two “one new man.” But this could never have been accomplished had not God intervened to make both jointly “partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel” (Gal. 3:8), a gospel addressed to all mankind. That was the first necessary move toward the scheme of things described.
Grace in Choice of Paul. While there was a God-given suitability in the vessel of testimony selected for this ministry; nevertheless, we are to see in it peculiar grace. He is careful in a personal way to remind us that he was “less than the least of all saints,” and that it was by grace to him and continually working in him that he was maintained in the spiritual competency for the work that was necessary, even, as he says: “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 had been hid in God.” There had come to light a purpose carried out according to resources which God ever had in His Son, even “unsearchable riches.”
“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” (3:9-13).
Witnessed by Angels. The Apostle laboured to make all see the truth of the mystery in its practical demonstration in this world, so that all might observe what God had in His mind before the foundation of the world. Moreover, God had ordained that “principalities and powers” would learn by observation in the Church “the manifold wisdom of God.” A striking part of the mystery of godliness is couched in these words: “He was seen of angels” (1 Tim. 3:16). When Christ was born these heavenly beings celebrated His birth. We find them attending to His need after the temptation in the wilderness (Matt. 4:11); one of them “strengthening Him” in Gethsemane; they were on hand, attending to His interests “where the body of Jesus had lain.” And although in John’s Gospel, He says: “I ascend,” as having in Himself the power to do so, we do not forget that Luke tells us He was “carried up into Heaven” (Luke 24:41), no doubt in great honour, by His servants the angels. Now they behold in the Church the “manifold,” the all-varied, wisdom of God, exceeding the utmost conceptions of the creature. They begin to understand that by incarnation, redemption, resurrection, and ascension, and by the descent of the Holy Spirit, God has secured a people from every wing of the human family to be the reproduction in character of His Son, as being His Body and therefore adequate for this purpose, so that by “principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by (means of) the Church the manifold wisdom of God.” What wisdom on the part of God, and what triumph on the part of the One who suffered to bring it to pass! This is the One “in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him.”