"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." — Ephesians 1:3
O, could our faith but embrace a little, were it only a little, and O, could we daily come and drink but a few drops of this pure fountain of immortal joy, in the sweet realization of being blessed, already blessed, fully blessed, unalterably, irreversibly blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ, what strength and consolation would it impart to our often cast down soul! Look at the words; examine them again and again; think over in your mind, one by one, the spiritual blessings that you most covet. Is it pardon? Is it peace? Is it the love of God shed abroad in your heart? Is it the spirit of adoption, enabling you to cry, "Abba, Father?" Is it communion with God? Is it the enjoyment of his presence and smiles? Is it deliverance from every doubt and fear? Is it a large measure of his fear in your heart, a subduing of all your lusts and corruptions, a godly, holy life, and a happy, blessed death? Are not these the spiritual blessings which you prize above house or land, wife or husband, child or relative, or any earthly good? With these, then, and with every other are you blessed, already blessed, if you are one of God"s saints and a believer in Christ Jesus. God has not yet to bless you, beyond giving you a foretaste here and the full enjoyment hereafter. He has already blessed you with them all in Christ Jesus.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." Ephesians 1:3
If you are blessed with all spiritual blessings, it is only "in Christ" you are so blessed. If you were chosen before the foundation of the world, it was only "in Christ" that you were chosen. He is our covenant Head. What we are we are only in him. There is nothing in SELF no fixedness there. All is fluctuating here below; all is uncertain as regards man. Certainty is with God; and the fixedness of God"s purposes is our grand, our only support. Thus the doctrine of election received into the heart diffuses a sacred blessedness over the whole truth of God, for it gives stability to it. It is not a dry doctrine which men may toss about from hand to hand like a tennis ball; it is not an article of a creed written down in church articles, or a theory to be argued by divines. Nor is it a mere loose, floating idea gathered from a few dim and doubtful passages of God"s word. It is no meteor light dancing over morasses and swamps. It is a steady light set by the hand of God in the Scriptures, as he set of old lights in the skies of the heavens to give light upon the earth. It therefore diffuses its rays over the whole of God"s truth.
For it is "in Christ" his people were chosen, and therefore election being in Christ, it is reflected with all the beams of the Sun of righteousness upon every gospel truth. There is not a single gospel truth, or a single spiritual blessing, which does not derive its blessedness from its connection with the Person and work of the Son of God; and what is true of all, is true of this, that the blessedness of election is because it is "in Christ."
But some may say, "These things are hard to believe." They are very hard to believe, for our unbelieving heart finds it very hard to believe anything that is for our good. We can believe Satan"s lies with great readiness; we can give an open, willing ear to anything which our evil heart suggests. But to believe God"s truths so as to enter into their beauty and blessedness, to feel their quickening power, and live under their cheering, invigorating influence, this is another matter. But where is the life of our religion when these things are taken away from it? Take, if you could take—God be praised it is beyond the reach of human hand!—but take away that solemn fact, that God has blessed the Church with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, where would there be room for any blessing to rest upon our soul? Why, any sweet promise that comes rolling into your breast, any lifting up of the light of God"s countenance in seasons of darkness and adversity, any liberty in prayer, any looking up and receiving out of Christ"s fullness; all hang upon this grand point, the blessings with which God has already blessed us in Christ Jesus. So that all we have to do—and it is a great thing to do—God alone can enable us to do it—is to receive what God has been pleased so mercifully to give; and as he has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, to feel their power, to enjoy their sweetness, and to know for ourselves by the sealing of the Spirit that he has blessed us, even us, and that with life for evermore.
"According as he has chosen us 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." Ephesians 1:4-5
It is a very solemn but a very true assertion, that no man can quicken his own soul; and it is an equally solemn, we might almost say, a tremendous truth, that the gospel only comes in power to those whom God has chosen unto eternal life. Indeed the one flows from the other; for if no man can quicken his own soul, it necessarily follows it must be of sovereign grace that it is quickened at all. Once allow the fall, and acknowledge that a man is by nature so thoroughly dead in trespasses and sins that he cannot raise himself up out of this state to newness of life, and the doctrine of election necessarily follows.
A living soul may reason thus—"Am I quickened? Yes. Did I quicken myself? No. I could not; for I was dead in sin. Did God then quicken me? Who but he could have given life to my dead soul? But why did he quicken me, when dead in sins? Because he loved me, and chose me in Christ to be an heir of his eternal glory." Whether, however, you can speak thus or not, there is no doubt that the Lord has a people who are dear to him, and to whom he makes himself dear. These, though despised of, or unnoticed by men, are the elect of God; and if you are a vessel of mercy whom he has thus chosen to eternal life, the gospel either has already come, or, in his own time and way, will be made to come with power to your heart and conscience.
"Accepted in the Beloved." Ephesians 1:6
We are ever looking for something in SELF to make ourselves acceptable to God, and are often sadly cast down and discouraged when we cannot find that holiness, that obedience, that calm submission to the will of God, that serenity of soul, that spirituality and heavenly-mindedness which we believe to be acceptable in his sight. Our crooked tempers, fretful peevish minds, rebellious thoughts, coldness, barrenness and death, our alienation from good, and headlong proneness to evil, with the daily feeling that we get no better but rather worse, make us think that God views us just as we view ourselves. And this brings on great darkness of mind and bondage of spirit, until we seem to lose sight of our acceptance in Christ, and get into the miserable dregs of SELF, almost ready to quarrel with God because we are so vile, and only get worse as we get older.
Now the more we get into these dregs of SELF, and the more we keep looking at the dreadful scenes of wreck and ruin which our heart presents to daily view, the farther do we get from the grace of the gospel, and the more do we lose sight of the only ground of our acceptance with God. It is "in the Beloved" alone, that we are accepted, and not for any good words, or good works, good thoughts, good hearts, or good intentions of our own.
And a saving knowledge of our acceptance "in the Beloved," independent of everything in us either good or bad, is a firm foundation for our faith and hope, and will keep us from sinking altogether into despair.
"Who works all things after the counsel of his own will."— Ephesians 1:11
By these words the apostle brings before our eyes God"s omnipotent power as carrying into effectual performance the counsel of his own will towards the objects of his distinguishing favor. An especial blessing is couched in this. Next to a believing view of the purposes of God"s grace, and a sweet persuasion of our interest in them, nothing is more strengthening and encouraging than a realizing apprehension of the power of God to carry them into full execution.
Feeling, as we do, our own miserable helplessness, sinking under the pressure of our daily weakness, mourning over continual failures, and grieving on account of perpetual backslidings—encompassed by foes, and distressed by fears—how strengthening it is to our faith, thus tried to the utmost, to believe that he who has purposed has power to perform. This persuasion of the almighty power of God was the support and strength of Abraham"s faith, which bore him up in the face of seeming impossibilities, and whereby he gave glory to God ( Romans 4:18-21). When, then, as walking in the steps of the faith of Abraham, we can look up believingly to the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, as we behold sovereign grace in his heart, and infinite wisdom in his mind, so we see almighty strength in his arm, and thus become sweetly persuaded that all which his loving heart feels, his infinite wisdom directs, and his omnipotent power can execute.
"In whom also after you believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise." Ephesians 1:13
Sealing is subsequent to believing—"In whom after you believed, you were sealed." In legal documents the writing always precedes the sealing. That is the last Acts, and follows even the signing, putting an attesting stamp on the whole document, from the first word to the last signature. So in grace. The Spirit begins the work. He writes the first lines of divine truth on the soul; he makes the first impression on the heart of stone, which under his operation becomes a heart of flesh; he writes every truth that he thus makes known on the fleshy tables of the heart. He thus gives faith and hope, and then he comes with his special inward witness, and seals the truth and reality of his own work, so as not only to make it plain and clear, but to ratify and confirm it beyond all doubt and fear, questioning or dispute, either by our self or others.
The work of God on the soul sometimes seems to lie as if dead and dormant; little prayer goes up, little answer comes down. Then doubts and fears arise whether the work be genuine, and much bondage and darkness sensibly gather over the mind like a dark and gloomy cloud, which much obscures the handwriting of the divine finger. Now the blessed Spirit revives his work by some application of the word with power, some softening and melting of the hard heart by his divine influence, some communication of a spirit of prayer, some discovery of the gracious Lord, some strengthening of faith, reviving of hope, and drawing forth of love. He thus puts the seal on his own work, and stamps it as genuine.
Under the sweetness and blessedness of this attesting seal many a poor child of God can look back to this and that testimony, this and that Ebenezer, this and that hill Mizar, this and that deliverance, blessing, manifestation, answer to prayer, special season under the word or on his knees, which were almost lost and buried in unbelief and confusion. But especially when he bears witness with their spirit that they are the children of God, and shedding abroad the love of God in their heart becomes in them the Spirit of adoption, whereby they cry, "Abba, Father," is his sealing manifest and complete.
"In whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the pledge of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." — Ephesians 1:13-14
Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. Holy are its inhabitants, holy its employments, holy its enjoyments. Therefore unless we know something of the teaching, the work, and witness of the Holy Spirit here on earth, and are made partakers of a new, holy, spiritual, and heavenly nature; we have no pledge of our interest in the inheritance of the saints in bliss. A carnal, unsanctified, unholy, unrenewed heart is utterly incapable of understanding, entering into, longing after, and loving an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fades not away. But every holy desire, heavenly affection, gracious longing, spiritual enjoyment, and believing, hoping, loving, looking unto and cleaving to the Lord of life and glory by the power of the Holy Spirit, are all so many pledges of a saving interest in the glorious inheritance of the saints in light.
The love, the joy, the peace, the calm tranquillity, and holy acquiescence in the will of God; the ravishing views of the glory of Christ which change the soul into the same image, from glory to glory; the delight felt in him, and the whole surrender of the heart and affections to the blessed Lord as the chief of ten thousand and the altogether lovely, are all so many pledges of the inheritance above, as being heaven begun below.
"Until the redemption of the purchased possession." Ephesians 1:14
The Church has been redeemed by price, but is not as yet fully redeemed by power. Christ has bought with his precious blood both the souls and bodies of his people, but he has not yet redeemed them openly. This redemption is still future, and will not be accomplished until the glorious resurrection morn, when the bodies of the dead saints will be raised, and the bodies of the living saints changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. This, therefore, is "the redemption of the purchased possession;" and this being future we have to wait for it, as the Apostle speaks, "But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it" ( Romans 8:25).
Our body is not yet redeemed from its native corruption. But, in the resurrection morn, when the dead will be raised incorruptible, then the redemption of the body will be complete. Then the inheritance will be fully entered into. The risen and glorified saints will inherit Christ, and Christ will inherit them; and his purchased possession will be forever delivered from every foe and every fear, from every sin and every sorrow, from every corruption of body or soul, and be crowned with an exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Unto this day of redemption the Holy Spirit seals all the living family of God ( Ephesians 4:30), not only by assuring them of their saving interest in the inheritance, and himself being the earnest of it, but as thereby securing to them the most certain possession of it.
"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." Ephesians 1:17
Revelation means literally an uncovering or unveiling of a concealed or covered-up object. It is used, therefore, sometimes in the sense of manifesting, making known, or bringing to light, what had before been hidden in darkness and obscurity. This revelation Isaiah, therefore, either outward in the word, or inward in the soul, and the two strictly correspond to and are counterparts of each other. Immediately when, by the power of divine grace, a poor Gentile sinner turns to the Lord, the Spirit of revelation removes the veil off the Scriptures, and off his heart. Have we not found it so? What a sealed book was the word of God once to us! How we read or heard it without one real ray of light to illuminate the dark page; and what a thick veil was there of ignorance, unbelief, prejudice, self-righteousness, and impenitence on our heart. But the gracious Spirit of revelation took this double veil away, and by giving us the light of life, made the word of God a new book, and gave us a new heart; and ever since the day when the entrance of his word gave us light, God"s word has been a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path.
But the Spirit of revelation is chiefly given to lead us into a spiritual, experimental, and saving knowledge of Christ. Without this blessed Spirit of revelation Christ cannot be effectually or savingly known. When, therefore, Peter made that noble confession of his faith in Christ as "the Son of the living God," our Lord said to him—"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah; for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you, but my Father who is in heaven."
"And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead." Ephesians 1:19-20
Man needs to be roused by a mighty and effectual power out of his state of sleep and death. It is not a little pull, a gentle snatch at his coat, a slight tug of his sleeve, which will pull him out of his sins. He must be snatched from them as a person would be snatched out of bed when the house is on fire, or pulled out of a river when sinking for the last time. Let us never think that the work of grace upon the heart is a slight or superficial one. Indeed, there needs a mighty work of grace upon a sinner"s heart to deliver him from his destructions. We always, therefore, find the work of grace to begin by a spiritual sight and sense of our ruined condition before God. But this alone will not suffice to make us true-hearted disciples of Jesus. It is a preparation, a most needful preparation for a sight of the King in his beauty, but it is not the same thing as to see and believe in the Son of God unto eternal life. We must have something far beyond any convictions of sin or any sense of our lost and ruined condition. We must have by faith a view of the blessed Lord more or less manifested to our souls by that Holy Spirit whose office it is to take of the things of Christ and to reveal them to the heart so as to see his suitability, his grace, his glory, his work, his blood, his obedience; and to so see these divine and blessed realities by the eye of faith, as to know and feel for ourselves that they are exactly adapted to our case and state; that they are the very things we require to save us from the wrath to come; and that so far as we have a saving interest in them we are saved from the floods of destruction.
Wherever this believing sight of Christ is given to the soul, it creates and maintains a faith that works by love. Thus wherever there is a view of Jesus by the eye of faith, wherever he manifests and makes himself in any measure precious to the soul, love is the certain fruit of it; for we love him because he first loved us, and, when we begin to love the Lord, love gives us a binding tie which creates union and communion with him. As, then, he unveils his lovely face, and discovers more and more of his beauty and blessedness, it gives him a firm place in the heart"s warmest, tenderest affections, and then he comes and takes up his abode in the soul and rules there as its rightful Lord.
The following things therefore are indispensably necessary to true discipleship; first, a spiritual sense of our lost, ruined condition; then a knowledge of Christ by a gracious discovery of his suitability, beauty, and blessedness; and thirdly, a faith in him that works by love and purifies the heart, overcomes the world, and delivers from death and hell.
"And his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 1:19-20
It is no great mystery that the Son of God should be exalted to the throne of power. It is but a step from the bosom of the Father to his right hand. But that one in our nature should be exalted to that seat of pre-eminence and power; that the Mediator between God and man should be the man Christ Jesus; that the hands which once were nailed to the cross should now hold the scepter, and that the feet which once walked on Lake Gennesaret, which were weary and dust-soiled at Jacob"s well, which were washed with a sinful woman"s tears and kissed in penitential grief and love with polluted lips—that these very feet should now have all things put under them both in heaven and earth—there is the mystery.
And yet what food for faith. The living family of God need a living Savior, one who can hear and answer prayer, deliver out of soul-trouble, speak a word with power to the heart when bowed down with grief and sorrow, sympathize with them under powerful temptations, support them under the trials and afflictions of the way, maintain under a thousand discouragements his own life in their soul, sustain under bereavements the mourning widow, and be a father to her fatherless children; appear again and again in providence as a friend that loves at all times and a brother born for adversity, smile upon them in death, and comforting them with his rod and staff as they walk through the valley of its dark shadow, land them at last safely in a happy eternity.
"And has put all things under his feet." — Ephesians 1:22
How vast, how numerous, how complicated are the various events and circumstances which attend the Church of God here below, as she travels onward to her heavenly home! But if all things as well as all persons are put under Jesus" feet, there cannot be a single circumstance over which he has not supreme control. Everything in providence and everything in grace are alike subject to his disposal. There is not a trial or temptation, an affliction of body or soul, a loss, a cross, a painful bereavement, a vexation, grief or disappointment, a case, state or condition, which is not put under Jesus" feet.
He has sovereign, supreme disposal over all events and circumstances. As possessed of infinite knowledge he sees them, as possessed of infinite wisdom he can manage them, and as possessed of infinite power he can dispose and direct them for our good and his own glory. How much trouble and anxiety should we save ourselves, could we firmly believe, realize, and act on this! If we could see by the eye of faith that every foe and every fear, every difficulty and perplexity, every trying or painful circumstance, every looked-for or unlooked-for event, every source of care, whether at present or in prospect, are all, as put under his feet, at his sovereign disposal, what a load of anxiety and care would be often taken off our shoulders!
"And has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all." — Ephesians 1:22-23
In the mind of God, and as chosen in Christ, the Church is a perfect body. It Isaiah, therefore, the fullness of Christ. Just as our head and members, in their union with each other, form one perfect harmonious body, so it is with Christ and the Church. As the natural head would be incomplete without the body, as the body would be incomplete without the head, so it is with Christ mystical, and his body the Church. Each needs the other, and the union of both makes the whole complete.
The Son of God, by becoming incarnate, needed a body of which he should be the Head. Without it, he would be as a bridegroom without the bride, a shepherd without the sheep, a foundation without the building, a vine without the branches. He did not need the Church as the Son of God, but he needed her as the Son of man. In her all his love is complete, his work complete, his grace complete, his glory complete; and when she is brought home to be forever with him in glory, then all the purposes of God, all his eternal counsels of wisdom and grace, will be complete. In this sense we may understand the expression, "the fullness of him that fills all in all." What a wonderful thought it is that he who, as the Son of God, fills all in all—fills all places with his omnipresence—should yet stoop to have a relative fullness in his body the Church!
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Philpot, Joseph Charles. "Commentary on Ephesians 1". Commentary by J.C.Philpot on select texts of the Bible. https://pro.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany