THE EPHESIAN letter contains the revelation of the headship of Christ over all. It includes the subjection of all celestial and terrestrial creation under Christ as its acknowledged Head (1:10). That is the expectation of its calling (1:18), which the Father promised Him. Every knee must bow to Him and acclaim Him as Lord (Phil.2:10,11). As that is still future, the Son waits for it as His coming allotment.
And now let us consider how God brings this revelation to us: "...the riches of His grace, which He lavishes on us; in all wisdom and prudence making known to us the secret of His will (in accord with His delight, which He purposed in Him) to have an administration of the complement of the eras, to head up all in the Christóboth that in the heavens and that on the earth..." (Eph.1:8-10). From God's provisions, which He makes in His paternal, loving care, so that His own can grasp this secret of His will, it becomes apparent what is necessary. Before giving this revelation, God fills us with wisdom and prudence. These are needed in order to get a grasp of His wise purpose. Paul himself realizes that he is setting strong spiritual food before us, so he immediately puts down a special prayer for the ecclesia. From this it is evident that it needs a special filling with a spirit of wisdom and revelation to receive it. "Therefore, I also, on hearing of this faith of yours in the Lord Jesus, and that for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention in my prayers that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may be giving you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the realization of Him, the eyes of your heart having been enlightened, for you to perceive what is the expectation of His calling and what the riches of the glory of the enjoyment of His allotment among the saints" (Eph.1:16-18).
How much there is in this prayer which Paul prayed for us! What a fountain of blessing did he open for the ecclesia! In order to understand its depths it is necessary to have a basic knowledge concerning the spirit. Every believer should be clear as to this, that he received the spirit when he believed, and never needs to beg for this, and may always count on the operation of this spirit from that time on. Now Paul seems to seek for a further spirit.
How is it that Paul seeks for a spirit for those who already have the spirit? Although we read often that God gave His spirit, that is only relative. The answer is given in connection with Pentecost, in the quotation from the prophet Joel: "And it shall be, in the last days" God is saying "I shall be pouring out from my spirit..." (Acts 2:17). So are we to understand the reception of the spirit. At first we do not receive the whole of His spirit, but only from His spirit. How could the myriads of believers all receive the whole of His spirit?
We could call His spirit the spirit of His life, for it really is an outflow of His limitless vitality. So we can understand that the reception of His spirit is not a final act, but allows that we may, at any time, receive further supplies out of His fullness of life, each of which has a special effect, for the furtherance and growth of believers.
This explanation is confirmed by the exhortation to those who have the spirit, "be filled full with spirit" (Eph.5:18). From this divine instruction it is evident that believers can be filled further with spirit. This occurs on the path of faith obedience, by means of daily crucifixion of the old human, by prayer, and by diligent reading of the Word of God.
At the first fundamental reception of the spirit, it operates to impart the knowledge and assurance of salvation in the resurrected Christ. That is the beginning of the knowledge of the divine will. But God has much more than the gift of salvation for His own. The chief function of the spirit consists in giving us the knowledge of that which He has graciously given to us (1 Cor.2:12), and to lead us farther into an acquaintance with His will. This is accomplished by a continual renewal of spiritual power, but only by reading and weighing the Word and the expositions of teachers called and enlightened by God.
That is the meaning of Paul's prayer for his ecclesia (Eph.1:17). He neither pleads for the gift of the spirit, which all receive when they believe, nor does he ask for another spirit, but for a further filling with it. Through this the saints should be able to grasp the special divine wisdom, and the deepest revelations that are theirs. In the Original this thought is very marked. There it reads "MAY-BE-GIVING TO-YOU spirit OF-WISDOM AND FROM-COVERing IN ON-KNOWLEDGE of-Him" (Eph.1:17). What His wisdom planned may be grasped only through that which His spirit gives of this wisdom. That this concerns mature knowledge is evident from the following verse (18), "the eyes of your heart having been enlightened." He goes back to faith's beginning, when they were turned from darkness to light (Acts 28:18). This is an absolute necessity before there can be a further filling with spirit, to learn of God's wisest works, which He gave to His Son to carry out. Then Paul tells us plainly why he wishes this spirit of wisdom and revelation for all believers in this administration:
" for you to perceive what is the expectation of His
We see that Paul now endeavors to lead believers further into the untraceable riches of Christ. Not for their whole lifetime are they to make their personal salvation the center of their thoughts, but rather Christ and the greatness and glory which God has granted Him. Surely, every believer should know something of the overpowering joy which fills the heart when we first know that Christ is our personal Saviour. Yet not to build on this gracious foundation, and never go beyond our own happiness may, in time, become a hindrance to the life of faith. God's object is not exhausted in the personal salvation of single souls in this administration. We should enter into the universal greatness and glory of our Saviour, and this is what Paul enables us to do in the prison epistles.
This whole passage, in a wonderful way, deals with the
exaltation of God's Son. Alternately, the spirit directs our
attention to God, then to His Son: "the realization of Him...His
calling...His allotment...His power...His strength...rousing
Him...seating Him at His right hand...subjects all under His
feet...gives Him as Head over all...the complement by which all in
all is being completed," ( Eph.1:17-23). This is Christ's
In brief, God has given Christ the headship over all. He is already elevated to this high position. Through His obedience on the cross He has won the right to this place. Today, however, most creatures in the heavens and on the earth are stubborn to the divine will. The subjection of all to the Son is still an unfulfilled promise. In every divine declaration, however, which deals with this theme, this victory of Christ shines clearly forth. Phil.3:21 speaks of the operation of Christ which enables Him to subject all to Himself. According to Phil.2:11 this will lead every creature in the universe to own Him as Lord. According to 1 Cor.15:27,28 He will reign so successfully in the eons of the eons that all will willingly bow to His rule, so that He may lay aside His authority, and Himself be subject to God, so that the Father may be All in all.
(To be continued)