The Epistle To The Ephesians
On Bowed Knees
“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole (every) 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; 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; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (3:14-21).
In the earlier prayer (Chapter one) there is no mention of the bodily posture of the Apostle, although there is no reason to suppose that he did not “bow” his knees on that occasion, as well as on this one. Here, however, it is very purposely mentioned to impress upon the saints the intensely sympathetic frame of mind accompanying his request for them, and the deep realization he had of the necessity of a divine intervention on their behalf by a subjective work in them.
The prayer is addressed to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom every family in Heaven and earth is named, each family named as expressive of certain qualities known to the Father. There was the early family of the antedeluvians; of Job, Abraham, Melchisedec, and others unnamed, and that of Israel. There is now the Church; there will be in the future the sealed of every tribe in Israel, and the unnumbered out of every nation. “Under the name of Jehovah there were only the Jews. You only have I known of all the families of the earth (Amos 3:2)… . But under the name of the Father of Jesus Christ all families — the assembly, angels, Jews, Gentiles, all — range themselves. All the ways of God in that which He has arranged for His glory were co-ordained under that name, and were in relation with it” (Darby).
The prayer is that the Ephesians would be “strengthened by might in the inner man,” by the Father’s Spirit, so that the unseen Christ might have His place in their hearts, and they “rooted and grounded in love;” “the eyes of their hearts apprehending with all saints the breadth, and length, and depth and height.” It is not defined of what, it being understood that we will see it refers to the subject of testimony heretofore considered, even the range of divine counsels. Some have noted that Abraham, at the very centre of his inheritance, was told, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward” (Gen. 13:14); but nothing was said about “depth and height” as is said to us. For “the breadth of His work includes all His creatures. The length of it is from Eternity to Eternity. The depth of it could only be rightly known by that depth to which Christ has descended for us; and the height by that place which He has given us with Himself” (Numerical Bible). But in the contemplation of this, the stay of our hearts is the knowledge of the “love of Christ which passeth knowledge,” love immeasurable. Thus are we filled “unto the fulness of God,” as another has said: Like a basket floating in the immensity of the ocean, “filled” with the ocean, but unable to contain it all.
“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, unto Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” The request had been presented by one who was filled with confidence in the power and beneficence of the Father, One who was able “to do exceeding abundantly” according to “power that worketh in us,” a power at work in the Ephesians, increasingly, he believed. Thus does the Father furnish glory to Himself in the Church by Christ Jesus now and through eternity.
Walking Worthy Of Our Calling (Chapter IV)
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one Body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (4:1-6).
Our Heavenly Vocation. “The vocation wherewith we are called” is really “our heavenly calling”, it denotes our heavenly portion in Christ Jesus; it is the “calling on high of God in Christ Jesus.” As a heavenly people we are called upon to walk as those whose interests are connected with a heavenly Christ. And although God has made us to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” that is intended to impress upon us the necessity of a walk upon earth that is consistent with such a position, in Christ who represents us on high. This will be in “lowliness” before God and in “meekness” in our dealings with men. Longsuffering and not impatience well becomes those who have known “the longsuffering of our Lord” which is “salvation” (2 Pet. 3:15).
The Unity of the Spirit. As walking in lowliness and meekness we will endeavour “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the (uniting) bond of peace.” Unity has been formed by one Spirit uniting us to each other and to our Head in Heaven. The realization of this gives diligence to encourage holy relations with each other. Saints will be “holding the Head from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of “ God” (Col. 2:19), the “joints” speaking of spiritual movement or action, the “bands” of the grace that binds together in the uniting bond of peace. The Spirit works along these lines. But when the mind of the flesh takes hold of these matters, it will even use the statement “there is one body” as the battle cry of disruption, party logic superseding the Spirit’s grace.
One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. This intimates the recognition of Jesus as “Lord” by those in the Christian profession. The Epistle ‘to the Hebrews takes account of this. It addresses its audience as “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling,” their profession assumed to be real unless proved otherwise. But that letter shows the possibility of some in that profession falling away and becoming apostate, thereby showing that they had never been converted. There are many today in the public profession of Christianity who are proving themselves to be false, there are even some remaining actively within it who have all the earmarks of apostasy.
“One faith” is the truth “commonly believed among us” who are Christians, and is therefore called “the faith.” “One baptism” is the outward confession of Christ in baptism by water. It is no allusion to the baptism of the Spirit; had it been that it would have been found in the previous verse which deals with the subject of the “Spirit.” Where the term “baptism” is used in the epistles it refers to baptism by water; where baptism of the Spirit is meant it is so stated (1 Cor. 12:13).
One God and Father of All. He is said to be “above all, and through all, and in you all.” This speaks of God’s relation as Father to all His intelligent creatures, angelic or human.
The phrase “over all” speaks of His supremacy over all things: “through all” of His omnipresence; whereas “in you all” is an allusion to God in the wide extent of creation. We need to recognize that the expression “Father” is sometimes used to show the relation of God to angels and men (See Heb. 12:9). In Luke 15, in the last section of a three-fold parable (for it is one parable - V.2), the term sons is applied to sinners, for the parable is told to justify Christ’s reception of “sinners.” The Apostle spoke according to this in his dealings with the Athenians, describing mankind as “the offspring of God” (Acts 17:28, 29). The passage before us in our Ephesian chapter is not in reference to our spiritual relationship with God as our Father (See 1 John 3:1), but as Creator and in that sense Father, the question of sin and its alienating results is not considered in the passage.
We have been considering then, three circles. (1) An inner circle, —“One body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.” All is vital and eternal here, no apostasy possible. (2) “One Lord, one faith, one baptism,” — a larger circle, even that of the public profession of Christianity, real and unreal. (3) A still larger circle in its relation to the Father in His universal “ubiquity.”