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IN CHRIST JESUS
The Sphere of the Believer's Life

BY
Arthur Tappan Pierson,
(1837-1911)

CHAPTER 4

The Epistle to the Ephesians

The very first verse contains the expression, "faithful in Christ Jesus," and the third verse furnishes the key to this epistle in one short sentence, comprising the sum of all its exalted teaching: "Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ."

This letter to the Ephesians lifts us to the very summit, the third heaven of privilege, and is especially rich in that phrase which we are now devoutly tracing throughout the New Testament. We find here at least ten separate uses or combinations of the words in Christ or in Him, as applied to the present estate of the believer, and as exhibiting His possible heavenly life even while on earth; and there is one besides which refers to coming blessing. These features of this epistle we shall find singularly true also of the companion Epistle to the Colossians.

In this epistle we are declared to be, in Christ,

["Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 1:1).]

chosen,

["According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love" (Ephesians 1:4).]

predestinated to the adoption of children,

["Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will" (Ephesians 1:5.]

accepted;

["To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).]

to have redemption and forgiveness,

["In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7).]

to be quickened or made alive,

["And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1).]

raised,

["And hath raised us up together" (Ephesians 2:6).]

seated in the heavenlies;

["And made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6).]

to have been sealed and to have obtained an inheritance:

["13 In Whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the Word of Truth, the Gospel of your salvation: in Whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of Promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:13-14).]

these are the ten present blessings, and the one, yet future, is that in Him we are to be gathered together in one, with all saints, at His coming.

The peculiar truth thus introduced to our view in this epistle is, therefore, the heavenly nature and divine fulness of this sphere of the new life. When by faith we enter into Christ, the life we are introduced into, is not earthly, but essentially heavenly. It is not to be confounded with joys and privileges which are of this world, however pure and lawful. In Christ we are lifted above the level even of saintly communion as such. Our human ties and relations with God's own people are very precious, but that of which the Spirit here treats is something higher than the human relation which disciples sustain here to each other. We ascend in thought above the Church on earth, with its assemblies of saints, its sacraments, ordinances, and fellowship; here we are viewed as one with Christ and one in Christ. He, indeed, in heaven, and we on earth; yet our life in Him a heavenly life because it is in Him who is in heaven. Hence the word "places," supplied by the translators, may mislead, for we are not as yet in heavenly places but in earthly places, though we may and ought to be in heavenly states of mind, heart, and experience.

The difference is not a mere verbal distinction. A devout woman whom I once visited, to condole with her on the recent departure of an aged and most saintly mother, said to me with a smile: "For forty years, my dear mother's mind has been in heaven." And I could not but recall those exquisite lines of Goldsmith:

Like some tall cliff that lifts its awful form,
Swells from the vale but midway leaves the storm,
Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread,
Eternal sunshine settles on its head.

While yet in the body and on earth, the mind and heart may be in heaven; we ought to be essentially living on a higher, celestial level. This is the grand possibility and privilege to which the Holy Spirit turns our eyes. And, as all saints are, alike, in Christ Jesus, they are all in Him one. This thought of our unity in Christ runs side by side with the other, of our high privilege in Him, throughout these chapters. In fact, this unity is itself one of the most exalted forms of this heavenly life, and is more emphasized here than perhaps anywhere else, more figures being here employed to give it expression than in the whole New Testament besides.

Let us first of all glance at the teachings here contained as to this unity of saints in Christ Jesus.

To begin with, the conception of Christ, as the sphere of all holy living, implies this unity. This sphere is invisible, however real, and our entrance into it and our abiding in it are not therefore matters of sense. Our place in it has to be obtained or received through the Spirit's working, and recognized or perceived through the Spirit's teaching. We must also recognize the place of other saints in the same sphere, by the same spiritual discernment. As we come into contact with true fellow believers and perceive in them the Christ image―as we see that they breathe the same air and live the same life, that they also belong to Christ and partake also of His Spirit, our conception of the unity of all believers in Him grows continually in vividness of impression. We cannot help our love going out to them; to whatever different sphere they may belong, in family, social, or national life, they belong with us to that supreme sphere which is celestial and eternal. And here is the only real hope of unity in the Church: it is found in the recognition of our mutual relation to Christ, and in Him to each other―as our Lord prayed, "that they also may be one in us" (John 17:21).

The spheres of family life, social life, church life, and national life are all visible, and they impress us with a vivid sense of our unity, as brothers, neighbors, fellow church members, fellow citizens. But, to a true child of God, the invisible bond that unites all believers to Christ is far more tender, and lasting, and precious; and, as we come to recognize and realize that we are all dwelling in one sphere of life in Him, we learn to look on every believer as our brother, in a sense that is infinitely higher than all human relationships. This is the one and only way to bring disciples permanently together. All other plans for promoting the unity of the Church have failed. Let us live more and more in Christ, and then we shall and must live more and more in the bonds of a holy love and peace. It must be first of all the unity of the Spirit.

This unity in Christ is so prominent in this epistle that we must not lightly pass it by. Besides the general conception of Christ as the sphere of holy life, common to all these epistles, we shall find the following other figures used here to express the same thought:

1. The body of which He is the Head and we the members (1:22-23; 2:16; 4:12-16).

["22 And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the church, 23 which is His Body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" (Ephesians 1:22-23).

"And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby" (Ephesians 2:16).

"12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 but speaking the Truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ: 16 from Whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:12-16).]

2. God's workmanship (2:10).

["For we are His workmanship <Greek, poiema>, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).]

Poiema―same word as in Romans 1:20,

["For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made <Greek, poiema>, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20).]

a creation with a definite purpose, or object, and we, all, parts of that sphere of creation―"God's poem".

3. A commonwealth (2:12).

["That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth <Greek, politeia> of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of Promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12).]

Politeia―a community in which we are citizens, introduced into it by the blood (2:19).

["Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19).]

4. A temple, with the middle wall of partition broken down (2:14). "He is our peace." Two courts―one.

["For He is our Peace, Who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us" (Ephesians 2:14).]

5. One new man (2:15).

["Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the Law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain One New Man, so making peace" (Ephesians 2:15).]

A very remarkable expression, nowhere else used.

6. One household of God (2: 19).

["Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household <Greek, oikeios> of God" (Ephesians 2:19).]

Oikeios, members of one household.

7. One building or temple (2:20, 22).

["20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Corner Stone; 22 in Whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:20, 22).]

In this case with reference to the one foundation, etc., and one habitation of God through the Spirit.

8. Fellow heirs (3:6).

["That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His Promise in Christ by the Gospel" (Ephesians 3:6).]

Co-heirs, participators of one inheritance.

9. Family (3:15).

["Of whom the whole family <Greek, patria> in Heaven and Earth is named" (Ephesians 3:15).]

Patria, tribe or race from one father―an amplification and expansion of the idea of one household.

10. One body and one Spirit (4:4).

["There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling" (Ephesians 4:4).]

The septi-form of unity is contained in chapter 4, one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father.

["4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One LORD, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Ephesians 4:4-6).]

11. The bride, or wife (5:22-23).

12. The panoply (6:10 and the following verses). All true believers are wearing the same armor, and panoplied in the same divine power.

This unity with Christ and in Him is in this epistle made to depend on our partaking of His Spirit, and hence the prominence of the Holy Spirit, to whom the references are very frequent and varied:

Thus there are at least twelve or thirteen references to the Spirit of God.

Here, then, is the added teaching of the Epistle 1 to the Ephesians, as compared with the preceding:

Christ is the sphere of all heavenly privilege and blessing. We have first of all fellowship with Him, so that, as He is so are we in this world. We are so in Him that God looks on us only as in Him, as having been and done and borne and achieved all that He has Himself. In Him we are God's elect, accepted, forgiven, redeemed, raised from the dead, sealed as His own, and seated with Him, in the heavenlies.

Our fellowship is thus with the Father, in Him, as close as His own fellowship.

And our fellowship is also with all saints in heaven and on earth, of time, past, present, and future. We all belong, in Him, to Him and to one another, and the more we know Him, the more we shall know and love all who are His and who are in Him.

If there be anything higher than this, it is the heavenly life involved in all this teaching. We are already in heaven, so far as this becomes real to us, and have the earnest or foretaste of the one final inheritance of all saints.

For example, take chapter 6:10

["Finally, my brethren, be strong in the LORD, and in the power of His might" (Ephesians 6:10).<See above.>]

and following. In our wrestling against the powers of darkness that encompass us round in the sphere of the earthly, what a refuge to be consciously environed by the heavenly! to feel Christ as between us and all hostile principalities and powers. Observe, how ever close our foes may be, the panoply is between us and them.. And so it is of the believer. Christ is the panoply of our warfare. He is next to us and between us and all our foes. How elaborately this thought is wrought out in this chapter. The powers of darkness are here represented in a sixfold aspect, as assailing the head, the heart, the vital parts, and the feet, and as needing to be met by an all-encompassing coat of mail.

How are they to be confronted? Only in Christ. He is to be the hope of salvation, and so a helmet for the head; He is to be our righteousness, and so a breastplate; He is to be our truth, and so a girdle that holds us and embraces us; He is to be our sandals, and so alacrity for our feet; He is to be the sword of our defense and offense, and the shield that quenches all the fiery darts of Satan.

We have, therefore, Christ here presented, not only as the heavenly sphere of fellowship with God and with saints, but as the sphere of absolute security from all foes.

There is added one word of warning. It is amazing that the epistle which thus reveals our highest privilege should close with the most terrible caution against Satanic wiles. Here where the Spirit of God is most conspicuous as the indwelling power of the believer, the spirit of evil is the most conspicuous as the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience.

Why is this warning? Because we are never in so great danger as when we have most confidence that we are filled with the Spirit. We are just then most apt to be confident that all our impulses and leadings are divine leadings, and so we forget to try the spirits whether they be of God. There are men and women who claim to be Spirit filled, and yet are daily doing things that are uncharitable and unrighteous; who apologize for many things that are not only foolish and unwise, but unholy in tendency and selfish in spirit; running to all sorts of fanaticism and folly, perhaps into impurity and iniquity, under the plea that they are guided by the Spirit, until the reality of the Spirit's guidance is brought into contempt. Now observe that this epistle itself puts us on our guard against all this subtle error. It gives us four criteria whereby to know the Spirit's leading.

1. He is the Spirit of obedience (2:2-6).

["2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 4 But God, Who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:2-6).]

Any spirit that leads to disobedience, that makes us slaves to fleshly lusts, the wills of the flesh and of the mind―and the course of this world―is of the devil.

2. He is the Spirit of unity (4:3-4). Any spirit that sows seeds of strife, bitterness, rancors, and enmity among disciples, is not of God.

["3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling" (Ephesians 4:3-4).]

3. He is the Spirit whose fruit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth (5:9). By their fruits ye shall know them.

["(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)" (Ephesians 5:9).]

4. He is the Spirit whose sword is the Word (6:17).

["And take the Helmet of Salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" (Ephesians 6:17).]

And any guidance which is not through the Scriptures and conformed to and confirmed by them, is false and delusive.

No other epistle is so emphatic in its presentation of the danger to be apprehended from hostile and demoniacal principalities and powers, even in the heavenlies. We can never get so high in our spiritual life that we are beyond the reach of satanic wiles and lies, and seductions and suggestions. Nay, it is the most mature disciple that Satan most surely assaults. While we are under the sway of fleshly appetites, and of worldly allurements, the prince of darkness may safely leave us to our bonds. But when these bonds are broken and we are enjoying the liberty of sons of God, then we are sure to be the objects of his malignant assault. It is as in human wars; no general-in-chief troubles himself about helpless captives; it is the soldier that is free to fight and strong to overcome, that he watches and seeks to vanquish and destroy.

If there be any one aim in Ephesians which marks this epistle as separate from all others, it is found in 3:18-19. "That we may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height," etc., to measure the immeasurable dimensions of this sphere of heavenly life, and love, and privilege. The two prayers of Paul which find record in this epistle (1:16-23; 3:14-21),

["16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 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: 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, 20 which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the Heavenly Places, 21 far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 which is His Body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" (Ephesians 1:16-23).

"14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, 15 of Whom the whole family in Heaven and Earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the Power that worketh in us, 21 unto Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen" (Ephesians 3:14-21).]

find in this their great petition, that the eyes of the heart may be so opened and illumined as that the Ephesian disciples may clearly see and know what is the hope of their calling, and what the riches of the glory of God's inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward believers; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.

As believers we discredit our own privileges and possessions. The statements of the Word of God seem incredible―they pass our comprehension and even apprehension. We cannot believe that such things are true. And except the Spirit of God shall open our eyes, illumine our understandings and hearts, and so enable us to know, we shall be blinded by the very glory of our own privileges in Christ, and shall account the whole of this, not only a mystery, but a myth―a poem, a dream. The Holy Spirit alone can make us either to possess or to apprehend what an inheritance we have in God.

The fourfold work of the Spirit is therefore presented in this epistle as nowhere else within the same brief compass: First, anointing, which affects the understanding; second, renewing, which reaches the disposition; third, sealing, which affects the heart and conscience; and fourth, filling, which makes speech and conduct full of God. But let us observe that first of all comes that anointing, which makes apprehension of these spiritual truths possible. He must become to us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him before He can make any other of these blessings realities.

Let us then seek to reach to the greatness of this truth. Christ Jesus is essentially a heavenly sphere of life. In Him we are already exalted to the heavenlies. He in heaven as the Head imparts to the body an essentially celestial experience, the earnest of the full and final inheritance.

Among these heavenly powers and privileges we may find here suggested even if not expressed:

1.A heavenly knowledge of divine mysteries

2.A heavenly life or divine quickening

3.A heavenly union with Christ and His saints

4.A heavenly fellowship with all holy being

5.A heavenly earnest or foretaste of bliss

6.A heavenly access with boldness unto God

7.A heavenly frame, renewed in love

8.A heavenly walk or conduct, manifest in all the life

9.A heavenly growth to the fulness of stature

10.A heavenly strength and power to overcome

11.A heavenly assurance or sealing of the Spirit

12.A heavenly security within the panoply of God

 
 
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