AS, FROM TIME TO TIME, we read the Ephesian letter, we are moved by the quality of grace unfolded in its words. The eyes of the heart view indeed a veritable landscape of glory. We see that marvel of grace, our standing in Christ, our position of foreseen, fixed, unalterable union with Him. And, thus seeing, we pass from scene to scene of unveiled glory.
In the words of a saintly expositor: "It is the light of Christ which shines upon those steeps and summits. He looks out upon the believing soul from the mysteries of the choice, and the foreordination, and the blessing, and the acceptance. It is no law of fate, no iron destiny, with which we deal. It is the will of the Father, manifested and effected in the Son. Nothing there can be alien, really and ultimately, from eternal love."
Truly, a landscape of glory, for is not the ground upon which we will one day stand, that of the on-heavenlies? Shall we not walk and talk thereon, in verity and grace, ours, because His? Even now we are there in spirit. God "seats us together among the celestials." Dead, He bids us live; far off, He brings us nigh, to privileges even celestials would fain behold.
Think of the resources, the endowments of God's grace. The qualities, too, of His will, His delight, His grace and His glory. How they move to their great climax in the Beloved. For it is through Him the plenitude comes, the fulfillment of grace as seen in the eccelesia which is His body.
His body, the vehicle and implement of the Father's purpose in realms above. Christ the Head. Was there ever such headship, so wondrous wise, so inviolate? One, supremely above all things, "above every sovereignty and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this eon, but in that which is future, also." Even such an One has lifted frail and obscure beings of earth to realms of celestial grandeur.
In three expressive scenes we see the distinction placed upon this unique company. Its transcendent choice and inception, its impressive witness, and final, faultless glory. What dignity of title--the eccelesia which is His body! Here is a church indeed, known to God from first to last. Chosen in a past unthinkable to science, and given His sovereign seal in an august, conquering hour of time. What cause for such an hour, and what an issue!
But there is a scene of the living present, and occasion for this honored community to cast a reflected glory upwards. Language could not be clearer, or more explicit, than that of Paul's in the very heart of his epistle. The words are so in keeping with the ecclesia's high destiny. Down the centuries, in a most blessed interval of grace, this momentous now has made a silent yet eloquent appeal. And should it not in these last days receive our deep attention?
Let us inscribe them on the tablets of memory. And may we never forget, "that now, to the sovereignties and the authorities among the celestials, may be made known, through the eccelesia, the multifarious wisdom of God, in accord with the purpose of the eons, which He makes in Christ Jesus, our Lord" (Eph.3:10,11).
Day by day, there is intimated, by means of the church, the variegated, versatile, and manifold wisdom of God. Not for the illumination of the world. The world, blinded by its god, and satisfied with its own wisdom, is not interested to note the wisdom of God. No, it is the watchers above, among the celestials, who are educated by the knowledge of God's rare wisdom. Bending to the contemplation of this mortal scene, they learn from us. And what call for wonder, and even awe, must be theirs, as they perceive the way of God with His own!
The serene intelligence of these lofty ones finds matter for profound reflection in the phenomenon of faith. They see how faith persists in spite of all antagonisms. How it triumphs in the perplexities of life. They see, too, this community of mortal beings as the very intimates of their Father's heart. Even as His own dear children, they can speak freely to Him, for they are one with the Son of His love.
The innumerable aspects of God's wisdom are thus displayed to the powers above. Man is, seen as God's masterpiece, marred though he be by the strange inter play of sin and death. He is beheld as "in Christ," a dignity thus attaching to him not found elsewhere. And all these living units compose the church which is His body, an ineffable reality of faith and love.
Seen by human eyes, however, and defined by human sense, it but faintly bears the celestial mark. But, as God's ideal, and seen by Him, it is a community originated, ordered, and completed in sovereign grace. Grace pure and simple, the stewardship of God's grace being centered therein. We may think of it, too, as a building, for we are "being built together for God's dwelling place, in spirit."
How wondrous is such a body! With what forethought and wisdom was it designed, and with what riches invested! Even the untraceable riches of Christ, a wealth in spirit, shared by all whom God has drawn within its sheltering bond. And, a joint- body. What a world of meaning in a phrase! Would that all believers grasped its meaning and beauty! That there is but one body, and is character such as to admit no other. For, grace being so glorious a leveler, there is no difference, no distinction. Outsiders are but those to whom the realization of God's grace has not come. And the only knowledge called for is the knowledge that we are bought with a price. But to fathom such knowledge, even in small measure, is to display a radiant facet of God's many-sided wisdom.
A further and most blessed view in this landscape of glory, is of the time when Christ "should be presenting to Himself a glorified ecclesia, not having spot or wrinkle or any such things but that it may be holy and flawless." What a conclusion to Christ's love for the church, His body! What proof of His hallowing and cleansing power! How it bespeaks His infinite pity, His forbearing patience, His all-embracive thought! Well may such love astound the universe. It transcends knowledge, yet amazingly satisfies the heart. And, in God's purposed interval of grace, we thank Him that such a love has not passed us by.
"Not having spot or wrinkle, or any such things." What transforming power! And even now the rich promise of such power may be seen in those whose hearts the Lord has opened. A testimony to Christ's cleansing and changing power was once given by Dr. Guthrie, when pleading for his ragged schools. A man rose and said, "You expect to make decent folks of those people? The very rags on which your feet step as you go along the street, are better than they!" Filled with indignation the doctor waved a piece of notepaper before his audience, and said, "Is not this paper made out of those very rags? If the paper mill can make white paper out of cast-off rags, Christ can transform the most unlovely into His blessed image, for He came into the world to save sinners."
Yes, a transformation is truly effected in those whom God awakens, and to whom He gives sight. We have known and seen this marvelous change. But how much more will it be heightened if we take in the full meaning of the language in this letter. To see how very high and glorious the Christ of God is made to be, and how lifted and upheld we are in Him. Can we reiterate the thought too much, or dwell unduly on its implications? Not when we have traversed the Ephesian pathways, thrilled and impressed by the glories of the way.
In words specially coined we are told that "God, being rich in mercy, because of His vast love with which He loves us...makes us alive together in Christ...rouses us together, and seats us together among the celestials in Christ Jesus, in order that, in the on-coming eons, He should be displaying the transcendent riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:4-7).
How markedly our union with Christ is confirmed by the word "together!" And what a prospect attaches to the might of it! Grace of such magnificence will be displayed, that all who see it will marvel. Continuous in flow and exercise, it will augment until the entire universe is affected by its power. For it is not ourselves only who are to be made so richly aware of God's grace, nor even the august celestials among whom we shall move as its happy participants. A wider circle is yet to acclaim the glory of its transforming penetration.
This stupendous thought comes to us from a peak of outstanding glory. We see it in Paul's opening paragraph, wherein words of breath-taking intensity lead up to a wonderfully expressed headship of Christ. All things, in heaven and earth alike, are to be gathered up in Him. There is a looking forward to a consummation of unutterable glory. And this glory will have as central cause and attraction, the Christ of God.
Beings of every order, creatures of every clime, will come under His spell. Headship will be supremely His, and it will then be seen that we were taken up on the way, only that others might follow in the wake of so great a wave of grace. We are all, without exception, unworthy. The glory, then, of our choice, of our being selected as subjects of the vanguard of grace, is God's alone.
Were we chosen as the only recipients of grace, it might justly be thought that God's favor was at fault. For who, and what, are we, to realize perpetual pleasure while others, as some think, experience endless woe? It is not enough to say that we believed, and others did not. Did we draw ourselves to Christ, or were we drawn? Only too well we know that our introduction to such grace and salvation was wholly of God.
But grace is not yet through with its inexpressibly wise and wondrous work. It may be that now but few realize the marvel of its power. When, however, all are brought beneath its spell, understanding will come. Then, indeed, a symphony of praise will arise, and with no false note. No cry of anguish will mar the scene, nor thoughts rebellious obtrude. Thus, the subjection associated with such a fulfillment of divine purpose, leaves nothing to be desired.
The presence and preeminence of God's Messiah will be of telling effect. And His last gesture, that of giving up the kingdom to His Father, crowns His perfect rule. Then, with amazing self-effacement, He Himself becomes subject to His God. But for what an end--that God may be All in all!
Such, then, is the ultimate of His Headship, and the lasting glory of God's purpose, even "the purpose of the cons, which He makes in Christ Jesus our Lord." No wonder Paul is bowing his knees to the Father glorious, overwhelmed as he must have been by the aspects of grace revealed.
From such visions and prospects of favor, we turn, as it were, to the valleys of experience. But even there, the pathway is simplified for the daily walk. And there is still a glory--the glory of a freedom purely of God. What an atmosphere pervades the scene presented! We are to walk worthily of the calling to which grace assigns us. Our bearing must answer to our great and wonderful standing, and to the endowments it gives. A citizenship is conferred upon us, a nobility to which we may mould our lives. For, do we not see that, the grander our place and our resources, the more conspicuous is the sovereign mercy which has conferred them?
Therefore, we are to walk "with all humility and meekness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, being diligent to keep the unity of the spirit with the tie of peace: one body and one spirit, according as you were, called also with one expectation in your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, Who is over all, and through all, and in all" (Eph.4:2-6).
What unity, what solidarity of life is here! It is a oneness which is always really there, but so rarely acknowledged for the thing of beauty it actually is. A sevenfold unity, not a manifold uniformity. A positive one, too, prepared already, not awaiting some creedal, accommodating arrangement. And how blessedly simple its texture! Nothing bewildering, no vagueness, but with true meaning ever and always making for life.
Let us draw upon these glories of grace, coming again and again to these and other ineffable unfoldings of wealth. In ourselves there will always be a ceaseless and unaltered poverty, things to deplore and even hate. But in Christ, immediate, assured, and continual riches. Grace for grace, literally, grace "instead of grace." A perpetual flow, like to the water of a spring which is displaced by that which this moment fills it, and is "instead of" what was there to meet the need now past.
The Ephesian glories are prepared glories, and there is no en to their value. O that we might be so filled with a sense of their majesty, so be brought alongside their pure splendor, as to live in the celestial light of them. For we are chosen, not only to a high place, but to a rare privilege.
Chosen--in a mighty Saviour, thro' the Father's wondrous grace
Poured upon His precious vessels, meetened for the heavenly place;
Chosen--to show forth His praises, to be holy in His sight,
Chosen--unto grace and glory, chosen unto life and light.