The Spiritual History of the Ephesians – this passage corresponds, in the spiritual
creation to Genesis 1 and the physical and material creation of the world.
vs. 1-3 – Chaos
vs. 4 – The Dawn – the Spirit of God moving on the face of the waters (human heart)
vs. 5-10 – The Work of Creation (Salvation) - in its successive stages
v. 1 – “dead in trespasses and sins” – The killing effect of sin is here indicated.
As sins of sensuality kill truthfulness, industry, integrity, and all
virtue, so sin generally affecting as it does our whole nature, kills
or does not suffer to live, the affections and movements of spiritual
life – a state of “death” implies previous life but it implies also a
state of insensibility, of utter powerlessness and helplessness!
v. 2 – “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world”
(in unholy activity)
Like a galvanized corpse or of one walking in sleep, impervious to the future
life, thinking only of the “NOW” - things seen, temporal and passing.
Where there is spiritual death there is insensibility to these things!
“according to the prince of the power of the air” (the authority obeyed)
The term seems to denote that evil spirits, who have some power of
influencing us by their temptations, have their abode in the atmosphere,
or at least haunt it, being invisible like it, yet exercising a real influence
on human souls and drawing them in worldly directions, and contrary
to the will of God.
…………….…………..“The spirit which is now working in the sons
of disobedience” – (the companions accepted) The fact that this spirit is still
working in others makes the escape of the Ephesians from him the more
striking. He is not destroyed, but vigorously at work even yet. Though Jesus
beheld him fall from heaven as lightning, and though he said that the prince
of this world had been judged, these expressions denote a prophetic rather
than an actual condition. This spirit energizes in the “sons of disobedience.” This
designation is striking; it denotes persons born of disobedience, bred by
disobedience, having disobedience in their very nature; comp. Romans
8:7, “The carnal mind is enmity against God,” and passages where fallen
man is called a rebel (Isaiah 1:2; 63:10; Psalm 68:6; Jeremiah
5:23, etc.). It denotes the essential antagonism of man’s will to God’s,
arising from man’s devotion to this world and its interests, and God’s
regard to what is higher and holier — an antagonism often held in check
and suppressed — but bursting out wildly at times in fierce opposition, as
inherent dislike to God’s will, and encourages outbreaks of it.
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v. 3 – “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past (spent
our life) in the lusts of our flesh” (a state of unholy indulgence in
the lowest part of our nature)
We were all in the same condemnation, all in a miserable plight, not
merely occasionally dipping into sin, but spending our very lives in the
lusts or desires of our flesh, living for no noble ends, but in an element
of carnal desire, as if there were nothing higher than to please the
carnal nature. “To be carnally minded is death but to be spiritually
minded is life and peace” – Romans 8:6
“fulfilling the desires of the flesh and the mind” (the lusts of the mind
is a little higher, but still most unworthy to be the chief aim)
The waywardness of our thoughts seems to be denoted, the random
roaming of the mind hither and thither, towards this pleasure and (emblematic
that, sometimes serious, sometimes frivolous, but all marked by the of today)
absence of any controlling regard to the will of God.
THE LIFE INDICATED IS A LIFE OF INDULGENCE IN WHATEVER
NATURAL FEELINGS MAY ARISE IN US – BE THEY RIGHT OR BE
“by nature children of wrath” (a state of condemnation)
“By nature” denotes something in our constitution, in our very being; and “even as the rest” denotes that this was universal, not a peculiarity affecting some, but a general feature applicable to all. “Children of wrath” denotes that we belonged to a race which had incurred the wrath of God; our individuality was so far absorbed by the social body that we shared the lot under which it had come.
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THE DAWN (the Source of this light is God, not man)
v. 4 – “But God, who is rich in mercy”
Man’s extremity becomes God’s opportunity. The “but” is very emphatic,
and wonderfully reverses the picture. The sovereignty of God is very
apparent, on its gracious side. It interposes to rescue those who would
otherwise plunge into irretrievable ruin.
We have here the filling up of that Divine saying, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed
thyself, but in me is thine help.” (Hosea 13:9) The genesis of salvation is
declared to be in two of God’s attributes, of which the first is mercy, or
compassion. God has a tender, yearning feeling towards men brought to
misery by their own sins. And this feeling is not shallow or spare — he is
rich in mercy
God is also “abundant in goodness and truth” – Exodus 34:6
Plus “there is forgiveness with thee” and “with Him is plenteous redemption”
“for His great love”
Besides mercy, the other great attribute from which the plan of salvation
sprang (before the foundation of the world – Rev. 13:8) is God’s love.
Love is more than compassion – compassion may be confined to the breast,
but love goes forth in active beneficence. It cannot rest till its object is put
THE WORK OF SPIRITUAL RECREATION (SALVATION BY GRACE)
v. 5 – “Even when we were dead in sins”
Repeated from ver. 1,in order to set in its true light the declaration that follows
of what God did for us to make more emphatic the free and sovereign mercy of God.
Though sin is the abominable thing which He hates, loathsome to Him in the last
degree, He did not turn from us when we were immersed in it; nor did He wait till we began to move towards him: He began to influence us even when we were dead.
“quickened us together with Christ” – made us alive with the life which is in
Christ and which flows from Christ.
The life we had lost was restored, the life we had lost by transgression.
“by grace ye are saved” – Grace in opposition to human merit is at the root
of the whole arrangement; free, undeserved mercy.
As Bro. Christian used to say:
G – God’s
R – Riches
A – at
C – Christ’s
E – Expense
Grace is not anything that God is bound to by the necessity of His nature.
It is the result of His will, not of His nature. Had it not been for His good
pleasure, salvation had never been seen!
Salvation in a real sense is a present possession. When we are one with Christ we are justified freely by God’s grace, our trespasses are all forgiven. The spirit of new moral life has been given to us; we are made alive to God. But while salvation is a present attainment in a real sense, its full realization is future, for that includes perfect holiness, and also the glorification of the body. In this sense salvation is to come (Romans 8:24; 13:11).
v. 6 – “And hath raised us up together, and made us to sit together in
heavenly places in Christ Jesus”
This means that an elevation of spirit is experienced as if heaven were
already begun. This is done in the person of Christ – it is this “one with
Christ” that this raising comes to us.
I remember years ago of an essay contest that Billy Graham was having
about heaven. I considered writing on this theme: Sitting together in
Heavenly Places with Christ – although I cannot explain it – it is one of
the many blessings God gives to His children as we walk through this world.
v. 7 – “That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of
His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
Throughout eternity we will be shown by God, Himself, the great grace
and mercy He has given us in Christ!
vs. 8-10 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:
it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For
we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,
which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them”
THERE IS NOTHING PLAINER IN SCRIPTURE. HOW ELOQUENT IS
THE PLAN OF SALVATION!
For by grace have ye been saved, through faith. He repeats
what he had said parenthetically (ver. 5), in order to open the subject up
more fully. On the part of God, salvation is by grace; on the part of man, it
is through faith. It does not come to us by an involuntary act, as light falls
on our eyes, sounds on our ears, or air enters our lungs. When we are so
far enlightened as to understand about it, there must be a personal
reception of salvation by us, and that is by faith. Faith at once believes the
good news of a free salvation through Christ, and accepts Christ as the
Savior. We commit ourselves to Him, trust ourselves to Him for that
salvation of which He is the Author. In the act of thus entrusting ourselves
to Him for His salvation, we receive the benefit, and are saved. It is not that
faith is accepted by God in place of works, but because faith indicates that
attitude of men towards Christ in which it pleases God to save them,
transferring to Him all their guilt, imputing to them all his merit. And that
not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Which of the two things is meant
— salvation or faith? The grammatical structure and the analogy of the
passage favor the former view, “Your salvation is not of yourselves,”
though many able men have taken the latter. The apostle is so anxious to
bring out the great distinguishing doctrine of grace that he puts it in all
lights, affirms it positively, contrasts it with its opposite, and emphasizes it
by repetition. It is a gift, not a purchase; a free gift, without money and
without price; what would never have been yours, but for the generosity of
God. It is very usual in the New Testament thus to represent salvation; cf.
our Lord’s words to Nicodemus (John 3:16); to the woman of
(2 Corinthians 9:15); “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus
Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23); and 1 John 5:11, “God gave unto
us eternal life, and the life is in His Son.” This usage confirms the view that
it is not merely faith, but the whole work and person of Christ which faith
receives, that is meant here as the “gift of God.”
Ver. 9. — Not of works, lest any man should boast. Exegetical of the
last clause, “Not of yourselves; certainly not of your works.” The
suppression of boasting was a purpose of God in his scheme of salvation;
not the chief or final purpose, any more than the manifestation of His grace
in coming ages was His chief or final purpose in showing mercy to the
Ephesians, but inseparable from the nature of His plan. The spirit of
glorying is essentially unsuited to the relations between the creature and
the Creator, between the Redeemer and the redeemed. It is the very
opposite of the spirit, “Not unto us, O Lord” (Psalm 115:1) — the
spirit that casts its crown before the throne, and that breathes in the songs
of heaven, “Unto him that loved us ... be glory and dominion forever and
ever” (Revelation 1:5, 6).
Ver. 10. — For we are His workmanship. Another illustration and
evidence of grace. We have to be fashioned anew by God before we can do
anything aright (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). Anything right in us is not the
cause of grace, but its fruit. There seems to be no special reason for the
change from the second to the first person. Created in Christ Jesus for
good works. So little inward capacity had we for such works, that we
required to be created in Christ Jesus in order that we might do them. The
inward new birth of the soul is indicated. When good works were required,
this gracious change had to be wrought to secure them. The purpose of the
new creation is to produce them. Christ “gave himself for us, to redeem us
from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a people of his own, zealous of
good works.” It is not good works first, and grace after; but grace first,
and good works after (see Titus 2:11, 14). Which God hath before
ordained that we should walk in them. A further proof of the true origin
of good works. They are the subjects of a Divine decree. Before the
foundation of the world it was ordained that whoever should be saved by
grace should walk in good works. The term “walk,” here denotes the
habitual tenor of the life; it is to be spent in an atmosphere of good works.
Here we have one of the Divine safeguards against the abuse of the
doctrine of salvation by grace. When men hear of salvation irrespective of
works, they are apt to fancy that works are of little use, and do not need to
be carefully attended to. On the contrary, they are part of the Divine
decree, and if we are not living a life of good works, we have no reason to
believe that we have been saved by grace.
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Creation was grand; the new creation is grander. To bring a world out
of nothing was great; to restore a world from chaos is greater. At the first
creation, God saw all that He had made, and it was good. At the new creation,
He experiences even a deeper emotion of joy. There is an imperfection of the new creation in this life in human souls that will only be remedied when Jesus comes
again. Let us seek that in us it may become continually more complete and more glorious. It is not that we are called to work, but rather to allow God to work in us!