Reflections on Ephesians
Pastor Cornelius R.Stam
There is no epistle in which we find more about the grace of God than that great and wonderful epistle of Paul to the Ephesians! It is one of his prison epistles and, interestingly enough, he was actually and literally in jail for telling a secret, the secret of the mystery (Eph. 6:19,20). Evidently he had a great deal of opposition in trying to make this secret known. That’s rather unusual, isn’t it?
The Ephesian epistle was probably written about 64 A.D., and was evidently sent by the hand of a man named Tychicus (6:21,22), along with two other letters, one to the Colossians (Col. 4:7-9), and that to Philemon (Col. 4:7-9 cf. Phile. 10-12). Never, never were more valuable documents entrusted to human hands!
Now, in the earlier epistles of Paul, we learn a great deal about dispensational change and development, but in Ephesians we have arrived, and find ourselves on the highest, broadest spiritual ground. Here the Holy Spirit reveals to us, in all their fullness, those blessed truths which distinguish this dispensation from others.
For example, the mystery or the sacred secret is here revealed in all its fullness. He says that this secret is now made known (1:9) through him (3:1-3), but it is for all to see (3:9), for it concerns our close relationship to Christ (5:30,32). And since Satan will oppose the proclamation of this secret, boldness is needed to proclaim it (6:19,20).
In this epistle, the one Body of Christ, the Church of this dispensation, is emphasized throughout. The whole body, he says, is the fulness, the complement, the fulness of Christ (1:23). He says God is making one new man today (2:15), reconciling Jews and Gentiles to Himself in one body (2:16), a joint body (3:6), in which we are to keep the unity of the Spirit (4:3,4). The Body, he says, must grow up, and it must build itself up in love (4:11-16). Christ is the Head of the Body, and its Savior (5:23), and we are the members (5:30). How close that brings all believers to each other! How close it brings us to Christ!
Our position in the heavenlies is prominently brought out in this epistle. We read that, immediately upon conversion, we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies (1:3). We’re told that God’s power in raising Christ from the dead and exalting Him far above all is now extended to us-ward who believe (1:19-21). Positionally, he says, we’ve already been raised from the dead and seated in the heavenlies (2:6). Now, he says, it is ours to occupy this position by faith, as a witness to the principalities and powers in the heavenlies (3:10). Hence we must wrestle with the rulers of the darkness of this age, wicked spirits in the heavenlies (6:12). And for this, he says, we’re going to need the whole armor of God (6:10,11).
In this epistle, all is grace. Read Ephesians and see how it is permeated with grace. Even the salutation speaks of grace and peace (1:2). Compare that with what we read about the second coming of Christ to this earth, where He will come to judge and make war (Rev. 19:11). Grace and peace is the exact opposite of judgment and war! Thank God He hasn’t declared war yet. He hasn’t visited this world in judgment yet. He still offers to sinners everywhere, and to saints, of course, in greater measure, grace and peace.
Now the doxology—oh, what a doxology of grace! The doxology in the Ephesian epistle is the longest of all of Paul’s doxologies, and in the original it is his longest sentence. We’re blessed because we are chosen by God the Father to the praise of His glory (1:4-6). We’re made accepted in the Son to the praise of His glory. We’re sealed by the Spirit to the praise of His glory. Glory to the triune God! Glory for His grace!
We read individual things, too, about the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All throughout this epistle, everything emanates from the Father. The Father is always the source. The Father has chosen us (1:3,4) according to the good pleasure of His will (v. 5), according to the riches of His grace (vv. 6,7), according to His good pleasure (v. 9), according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will (v. 11), according to the working of His mighty power (v. 19), and according to His eternal purpose (3:11). There’s more about that in the epistle, showing that everything finds its source in the will of God.
Then we see how our salvation centers in the Son. He’s always the second person in the Trinity. His place is always in the midst. We read, for example, that we’re blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ (1:3), and have redemption through His blood (v. 7), in whom we are greatly enriched (v. 11), in whom also we are saved (v. 13), and sealed (v. 13). Think of that! We are in Christ, and because of His finished work, the believer is sealed until the day of redemption.
Then we come to the Spirit. It all comes down to us through, or by the operation of, the Spirit. We’re sealed by the Spirit (1:13), and we have access to God the Father by the Spirit (2:18). We are an habitation of God through the Spirit (2:22), and we’re strengthened by the Spirit (3:16). We must not grieve the Spirit (4:30), but rather bear the fruit of the Spirit (5:9). We must be filled with the Spirit (5:18), use the sword of the Spirit (6:17), and we must pray in the Spirit (6:18).
What a tremendous, tremendous epistle!