Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. MARK THE EXPRESSIVENESS OF THE TERM. It is strange to find it applied to living men. But there are certain suggestive points of similarity between natural and spiritual death.
1. The dealt have all the organs of sense, but no sensibility. As the psalmist said of the idols of the heathen, so are the dead: "Eyes have they, but they see not: they have ears, but they hear not" (Psalm 115:5, 6). So the spiritually dead have no susceptibility in regard to the things of God; they see not the beauties of holiness; they see not God or Christ.
2. The dead drove all the machinery of motion, but the machine is at rest. So the spiritually dead have all the natural faculties of life - judgment, memory, imagination, feeling, conscience - but they are unable to renew themselves into spiritual life. The inability is not natural, but moral, and therefore sinners are responsible for it. They cannot, because they will not. "Ye will not come unto me, that ye may have life" (John 5:40).
3. The dead are cold to the touch. The living body retains its heat very much in the same manner as a fire retains its heat, and, in a very true sense, we are all literally burning out like the fuel that is consumed in our fires. The dead are cold as the grave that covers them. So are the spiritually dead; they have no warmth of Christian love going out either to God or man. Though intellectually alive to all purely worldly interests, they are coldly indifferent, or even hostile, to the interests of the kingdom of grace.
4. The dead go onward to corruption. The process of corruption may be arrested for a time by the skill of man, but it will prevail in the end, and man returns to the dust whence he came, as the spirit has returned to the God who gave it. So the spiritually dead are corrupt, constitutionally, in virtue of the sin of Adam, and they are still more corrupt through temptation to actual transgression. The absence of love to God interposes no check to the progress of corruption in a human heart. What a terrific picture is that of a dead soul!
II. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OR CONDITIONS OF SPIRITUAL DEATH. We see our dead surrounded successively by the shroud, the coffin, the hearse, the grave. So likewise the spiritually dead are surrounded by "trespasses and sins." These two expressive terms indicate, not simply the cause of death, but its conditions and circumstances.
1. Trespasses. This term is exceedingly expressive as embodying what is involved in the original term.
(1) It suggests the idea of a landmark fixed by God, which he has commanded us not to pass. Yet who can say that he has not passed the landmark? Who can say that he has not trespassed upon God's preserves? For what God had reserved for himself out of all the trees of the garden of Eden, cur first parents trespassed upon; and who among ourselves has not again and again trespassed upon that reserved territory of love wherewith God has surrounded himself and surrounded each one of our neighbors?
(2) The word suggests the further idea of a barrier which God has placed in our way, and told us that we are not to force it or pass it. There is the barrier of his Law, which he has strengthened by terrible penalties, and upon which he has inscribed his own fearful curse: "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the Law to do them" (Galatians 3:10). Yet who can say that he has not passed this barrier, though God's curse was inscribed upon it? There is the barrier of conscience which God has built up strongly in every man; and who can say that he has not again and again passed this barrier, often bringing the artillery of worldly advantage or pleasure to bear against it and break it down?
2. Sins. This term points to the sinful movements of the soul - sins of thought and purpose, as trespasses seem to point to the various developments of a sinful nature. The sins are the fruit of moral corruption which has its seat in the heart, and radiates thence to every department of human conduct. The principle of sin is not merely negative, for it is a positive negation of the Divine will, putting something else in its place. The term "sins would, more exactly than the other, include sins of omission, which are necessarily much more numerous than sins of commission. It is a solemn thought that men are dead in sin" by every duty they omit, by every opportunity they neglect, by every blessing they despise, as well as by every positive transgression of the Divine Law. The radical significance of both terms implies a real hostility to God, which is only brought into prominence the moment the sinful spirit comes into sharp and painful collision with the pure Law of God. This dark picture of the sinner's state suggests that
(1) we ought to mourn for the dead, as we mourn for our dear ones who are carried forth to burial;
(2) that we ought to pray for the dead, that God may grant them "a quickening together with Christ;"
(3) that we ought to warn the dead that, if they die in their trespasses and sins, they will be buried in their trespasses and sins. - T.C.
I. CONSIDER THE RESURRECTION OF THE SOUL. (Vers. 1-5.) In these verses the apostle represents our souls as by nature dead like Christ's body in the tomb. They are not sick through sin, but dead. And the death of the soul is manifested in the corruption of the nature, so that we live as the world lives, according to the devil's desires, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and becoming most deservedly the "children of wrath" like others. All this corruption of the nature is the manifestation of the death in sin. But the Spirit, who raised up Christ's body from the tomb, comes to quicken our dead souls. We are quickened together with Christ. The Father in his wondrous love works this miracle within us, so that we are raised out of death into a new life. Now, just as Jesus entered by resurrection into a new because immortal life, so we by resurrection enter into a new and immortal existence. We feel assured that we cannot die, since we have been raised into the new life with Christ. This idea of the death of the soul is found in the ancient and in the modern classics. In such authors as Plutarch, Cicero, Heraclitus, and Persius, as well as in such a modern as the poet Gautier, it may be found; but in them it is an utterance of despair. It is only Paul who can take it and show how the death can be terminated in the victory of resurrection.
II. CONSIDER THE ASCENSION OF THE SOUL. (Ver. 6.) Not only is the soul raised together with Christ, but it is "made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." In other words, we are made to have an ascension experience as well as a resurrection experience. Now, when Christ ascended far above all principality and power, he must have entered a joyful experience such as this world could never afford. He would never have enjoyed such a delight had he lingered in a limited world like this. In the same way the risen soul is enabled to ascend into a seraphic experience, a joy in the Lord such as was never dreamed of. It is to be feared that many have experienced the spiritual resurrection who have not gone on to the experience of the ascension; in other words, they are living lives comparatively joyless. They do not live as if they were already within the golden gates and rejoicing always in the Lord. But the thing is not only possible, it is pre-eminently desirable. The world would be vastly the better of souls that had realized the ascension.
III. CONSIDER THE BELIEVER'S CONSEQUENT REIGN. (Ver. 6.) For Jesus ascended that he might occupy a throne. And we ascend in spirit that we may be kings of men. It is Christ's purpose that we should be kings and priests unto God and his Father (Revelation 1:5, 6). Now, joyful Christians cannot but influence others for good. They come to their kingdom, and others are glad to submit to their sway. They hold men by the heart and assert a proper sovereignty over others. The reign of Christ is carried out in some measure when we have learned lovingly to reign.
IV. THE PURPOSE OF SUCH SPIRITUAL GIFTS IS THAT THE EXCEEDING RICHES OF GOD'S GRACE MIGHT BE REVEALED. (Ver. 7.) For if we had never died in sin, God's mighty power in raising us would never have been appreciated. If the creatures had never fallen, who would have known the wealth of God's love and power in lifting them up again? The physical universe can only illustrate a small part of the power and love of God. It requires the moral universe as a background to set off the brightness of his redeeming mercy. It is out of a sinful world the greatest examples of Divine power shall be forthcoming. God is rich in mercy; how rich only sinners can illustrate and with some fullness appreciate. Every risen, ascended, and reigning soul is intended to be a fresh example of the exceeding riches of God's grace. - R.M.E.
resurrection and exaltation of Christ. In order now to bring out how they were benefited thereby, he calls up to them their original condition. He shows them the pit out of which they have been dug, the rock out of which they have been hewn. In the first and second verses he has special reference to Gentile Christians, in the third verse he includes Jewish Christians in his description.
I. GENTILE CHRISTIANS.
1. They were dead. "And you did he quicken, when ye were dead." It is a comprehensive word for the evil of their condition. There is a natural condition for plants, which they lose in their decay. There is a natural condition for animals, which they lose in their death. So there is a natural condition for rational beings, which they lose in what we call spiritual death. And, as there is nothing higher in kind than spiritual life, so there is nothing more dreadful than spiritual death. It is not extinction, but it is a condition against nature, on the ground of an immortal existence. It is not loving God with our whole soul and strength and mind, but living at enmity with him; and how wearing out to contend with our Maker! It is not loving our neighbor as ourselves, but seeking our own selfish ends; and how narrowing is this to our souls!
2. Their deadness was caused by themselves. "Through your trespasses and sins." If there is any difference between these two words, it is that the former refers more to overt transgressions, while the latter is inclusive of evil thoughts that have only been entertained in the heart. When Adam and Eve overtly transgressed in eating of the fruit, death at once passed upon them in the loss of confidence in God, of unconsciousness, of ingenuousness, of devotedness to each other. And the act was not long in bearing bitter fruit in the hate, which led Cain to take a brother's life. Overt transgression makes matters worse, in the evil that is wrought on others in the entanglements to which it leads. At the same time, it is true that evil imaginations that never find expression in words or acts have a deadening effect on the soul. They may indicate daring rebellion against God; and, even though they are only vain thoughts that lodge in the mind, they are not there without the spreading of a baneful influence over the life.
3. They were only causes of deadness. "Wherein aforetime ye walked." In trespasses and sins they walked. Their life was one continual trespassing and sinning. Their fountain was constantly sending forth bitter water. Their tree only brought forth evil fruit. And how could it be otherwise, seeing that they were corrupted at the very center of their being? There were some of their acts that were better than others, but none that were thoroughly right in principle or motive. All their acts had a fatal defect, and many of them, as the first of Romans shows, had a positive vileness.
4. They stood related to this world. "According to the course of this world." This world is opposed to the world as it should be, or the kingdom of God among men. It is the world content with itself, and seeking to be independent of God. And as the kingdom of God has an age or ages for its holy development, so this world, it is implied here, has an age for its unholy development. For the word translated "course" is properly "age." In the mysterious providence of God evil has scope for its development. "The mystery of iniquity doth work." And when it is said here that they once walked according to the course of this world, the meaning is that their characters had not the normal form of the kingdom, but had one or other of those abnormal forms which belong to the world.
5. They stool related to the head of evil. "According to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience." He is here called the prince of the power of the air. He is a prince with other evil spirits under him. Evil is divisive; his then must be a mighty, prince-like influence that he keeps them united under him for evil ends. He is dependent on God, a mere instrument in his hand, at his absolute disposal, as it is with every creature; but he is allowed, through his emissaries, to have great power upon earth. The singular epithet is applied to him here in allusion to his surrounding us with temptation as the atmosphere surrounds the earth. As the air borders on the earth, so there is a sphere bordering on our spirits, subtle, invisible like air, through which evil suggestions can readily be conveyed to us. Or it may be that the evil spirits have an affinity to air, which they do not have to grosser matter, so that it is their haunt within this region. There is here what we cannot understand; but we can understand this - temptation being skillfully presented to our minds, against which we must invoke the skill of another, else we are taken in the tempter's meshes. He is further called the prince of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience. It is not usual to connect a spirit, or principle, with its prince. But he is undoubtedly the principal representative of the spirit of disobedience. In him disobedience takes its most virulent form. The object on which he is bent is to spite God, to thwart his holy ends. This is the spirit which he as its original source breathes into his subordinates, and which they in turn under his direction seek to breathe into men. And those in whom it finds a sphere of operation are called the children of disobedience. They stand related to the evil principle as its unclean progeny. It was from heathendom that the description here was taken. It was very much man left to himself. It was the truest representation of what "this world" is. It was Satan having his own way. It was rampant disobedience. For though the heathen world was under the Divine providence, yet it was without special helps, without special checks. Depraved human nature was allowed to bring out its own ignorance of God, its own profanity, its own licentiousness. It was from that heathen world that these Gentile Christians had been taken. There they could see what they once had been. But, lest the Jewish Christians might think that it had been better with them, he proceeds to bring them under the same description in respect of their original condition.
II. JEWISH CHRISTIANS ALSO. (Ver. 3.) "Among whom we also all once lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest." Especially are they classed with Gentile Christians, as having originally been children of disobedience. Among whom we also all once lived. Their disobedience appeared in their living in the lusts of the flesh. Those lusts that had their root in the flesh, or unrenewed nature, they ought to have brought into subjection to reason or the will of God; but, instead of that, they lived in them. This is further described as "doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind." Evil wishes spring from the flesh; but in order to be gratified they require the consent of the mind, and so they become desires, not only of the flesh, but of the mind. And were by nature the children of wrath, even as the rest. "By nature" is a qualifying clause. The Jews could not be spoken of in the same terms as the Gentiles without qualification. For they were different in having a covenant position, in having Divine helps vouchsafed to them, in being placed under special training. And though they did testify to depravity in their frequent rebellions, yet was there alongside a work of grace, which showed itself conspicuously in some. It could only be said, then, that by nature, that is, apart from covenant grace, they were the children of wrath, even as the rest. What a testimony is there here to universal depravity! All have the Divine displeasure imprinted on their nature. In the condemning voice of conscience there is an echo, often very faint, of the condemnation of God. Our evil tendencies, which we so soon exhibit, are tokens that God is angry with us. His righteous sentence has gone forth upon us, even in our present condition. This is unpalatable truth, but it agrees with the facts. It is well that we should keep it in mind, in order that we may be humbled by it, and in order that we may realize the forces against which we have to struggle.
III. OUR SALVATION.
1. Its explanation. "But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses." The mercy is mentioned first, as standing in closest connection with the miserable state which has been described. And as their former state was described in strong terms, so now is there set over against it the superlative quality of the mercy. He is not content with the expression," God in his mercy." That language is too bare in view of what they once were. So he applies his common epithet, "rich." "God, being rich in mercy." The mercy is a particular outgoing of the Divine love, viz. toward sinners. So he traces it up to the more general feeling, which leads him to seek the good, and nothing but the good, of all his creatures whatsoever. And to this in turn he applies another common epithet," great." "The great love wherewith he loved us." And the greatness of the Divine love is here presented under a special aspect. In the fifth of Romans it is said, "God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." The thought is very similar here. "Even when we were dead through our trespasses he quickened us." Stress is laid upon the moment of the Divine movement. When we were dead and could do nothing for ourselves, that was the time for the going forth of the great love of God in rich mercy toward us. And it is in this connection that we are to bring in the words within brackets, "By grace have ye been saved." For, though he has it in his mind to magnify the Divine grace further on, yet now, having the opportunity to make a point, he cannot let it pass. And the incidental way in which he brings it in shows the great importance which he attached to that doctrine.
2. Its nature. "Quickened us together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus." It is set forth in relation to our previous deadness. And it will be observed that the description here is connected with a certain historical point. The idea is that we were dead up to the time when Christ was quickened. We were dead, even as Christ was dead in the tomb. Nay, more, we were dead with Christ in the tomb. For it was as our Representative that he was lying there. And when he was quickened, it was as our Representative too. He was quickened, not for himself, but for us whom he represented. And therefore it can be said that, when the life-giving power went forth upon him in the grave, we were quickened with him. And it did not stop there; but when he was raised up we were raised up with him, in the whole breadth that language can bear. And not only so, but the consummation applies to us too. It is not indeed said that we were made to sit at the right hand of God, as is said of Christ in the first Chapter and twentieth verse. But it is said that we were made to sit with Christ in the heavenly places. Even here on earth we are sitting with Christ in the heavenly places. We are sitting there in him as our Head. That is no fancy, but the actual language which is applied to us by an inspired apostle. Oh, what a glorious privilege is conferred on us! How does it become us to be thankful, and to be humbled! Let us, in our life, rise to the height of our position. Let us not be as creeping on the earth, but as sitters with Christ in the heavenly places.
3. A purpose served by our salvation. "That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. The language is applicable to after ages on earth. There is encouragement to us, even now, in the fact that such kindness was shown to Ephesians who had been dead through trespasses and sins. But the language is also applicable to the eons of which the Scripture speaks beyond this life. For if there is not room there for sinners being encouraged, there certainly is room for the demonstration, the more complete realization, of the Divine grace. It will be one of the lessons of those ages to learn how much in our history on earth we were individually indebted to grace. Here again, in the fullness of emotion, he gives an ample characterization of the grace, the exceeding riches of his grace, in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. The latter expression has reference to benefits conferred, viz. our quickening.
(1) The exceeding riches of his grace appears in the complete exclusion of human merit. "For by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, that no man should glory." Our salvation is given to the subjective disposition of faith. It is when we believe, that the union between our souls and Christ takes place, and the first, not the completed, quickening goes forth upon us. But this believing does not make us the authors, or give us the merit, of our salvation. It, that is to say, our salvation, is the gift of God. And believing is just taking it as a Divine gift, taking it as that for which we have given nothing. Christ has paid the full price for it; he has paid the uttermost farthing, and so we can receive it as a free gift. But works are out of the question; for it is just as impossible for a dead man to rise and do the works which he was wont to do, as it is for the dead through trespasses and sins to work out their salvation. Divine help is the plainest necessity, and to such an extent that there is no room for boasting.
(2) The exceeding riches of his grace appears in good works following on the Divine workmanship. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them." "An honest man's the noblest work of God." A Christian is certainly the noblest work of God. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus." We are the result of all the means that God has used. It may be seen in us, as saved persons, what Christ has done by his blood. And we are not his workmanship because of works which we were afterwards to do; but we were created "for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them." It may be said of a tree that it is afore prepared for the fruit which it is to bear. It may be said of a vessel that it is afore prepared for the uses which it is to serve. But as the fruit is not the cause of the tree, nor the uses served by a vessel the cause of the vessel, so neither can it be said that the works we perform are the cause of the Divine workmanship that has gone before. Our salvation, then, is wholly of grace. - R.F.
the greatness and graciousness of gospel reformation. The gospel is a reformative system; it is revolutionary in its spirit and its aim. It uproots the noxious in life, and plants the wholesome. It pulls down the corrupt and builds up the holy. It burns up man's old moral heavens and creates new ones, "wherein dwelleth righteousness." It reforms society by reforming the individual man; it reforms the individual by regenerating his spirit, and making him a new creature in Christ Jesus. It works from the center to the circumference. Observe -
I. THE GREATNESS OF GOSPEL REFORMATION. The greatness of the change it effects in mankind will be seen if we consider two things which are so prominently set forth in this passage.
1. The state of man preceding its work. There are several striking expressions in this passage indicating the original depraved condition of sinners, their condition before the gospel touches them.
(1) They are morally dead. "Dead in [through] trespasses and sins." What is moral death? Not insensibility, for sinners feel; not inactivity, for sinners act. What, then? Destitution of the true principle of moral life. What is that? Supreme love to God. He is the true Life of the soul Humanity has lost it, and it is dead. Corporeal death is a separation of the soul from the body, moral death is the separation of the soul from godly love.
(2) They are practically worldly. "They walked according to the course of this world." What is the "course of this world"? Carnal, selfish, devilish. The spirit of the world is their inspiration, the maxims of the world their law.
(3) They are Satanically ruled. "The prince of the power of the air" works in them. He rules and fashions them to his purpose.
(4) They are wickedly associated. "Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past." Their social natures are so perverted that they are linked with the corrupt; all their social alliances are false and impure.
(5) They are carnally debased. "In the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh." The body with its gross impulses dominates over the soul; they are "carnally sold under sin." Their souls are animalized.
(6) They are perilously situated. "Children of wrath." Where is the wrath? It is of their own creation. "They treasure up wrath." From the eternal law of retribution their sins must bring on their ruin.
2. The state of man succeeding its work. The passage teaches that they are brought by the gospel into the most vital connection with him who is the embodiment, the standard, and the medium of all human excellence, "the Lord Jesus Christ."
(1) His life is theirs. "Quickened us together with Christ." That love which is the life of the soul has been imparted. This life is his life. "Together with him." They are quickened by his ideas, with his Spirit, with his aim.
(2) His resurrection is theirs. They are "raised " - raised from the grave of carnality, worldliness, and moral corruption, and their resurrection is with him. "Raised us up together." Christ's resurrection is not merely the instrumental cause of their spiritual resurrection, but its inspiration and its type.
(3) His exaltation is theirs. They are made to "sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." They are morally exalted - exalted in their power over themselves and over circumstances; exalted in their sympathies, ideas, and aims; exalted in their fellowship. They are in "heavenly places" now, their "citizenship is in heaven." All this exaltation is enjoyed together with Christ.
(4) His character is theirs. "They are created in Christ Jesus unto good works." God has recast their character; he has molded it after the ideal embodied in Jesus Christ. The general meaning of all these expressions is thorough Christianization. Man, after the gospel reformation has been effected, is like Christ in spirit and character. "He is conformed to the image of Christ." How great the change! how thorough! how sublime! How infinitely transcending all the reformations of men! This is the reformation that is wanted; this is the reformation that every true philanthropist should strenuously advocate and zealously promote.
II. THE GRACIOUSNESS OF GOSPEL REFORMATION. What is the great, originating, efficient cause of this glorious moral reformation? The text answers the question. "God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ." Instrumental causes, such as the Word of God, gospel ministry, Christian example and influence, are many, but eternal grace is the cause which originates all and blesses all. The passage indicates four things concerning this Divine grace.
1. It is great. It is ascribed to the richness of mercy and the greatness of love. "God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love," etc. God's love is the spring of all his activities; it is as deep as his own heart; it is as infinite as himself. "It passeth knowledge."
"O Love! the one sun! O Love! the one sea! 2. It is mighty. It quickens, raises, exalts, recreates human souls. It is as mighty as the power that raised Christ from the dead. How mighty is that power that thoroughly Christianizes even one soul! No power but the power of God can do that. "Not by might, nor by power." 3. It is manifestable. "In the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." The conversion of every one is designed to manifest it. The conversion of the sinner, though a good in itself, is not an ultimate end; the event has remote issues, ulterior points, bearings and relations interminable. "Ages to come;" intelligences that will rise thousands of years in the future will study and adore the infinite grace of God in the spiritual reformation of mankind. "Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting" (1 Timothy 1:16). 4. It is unmeritorious. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works." The expression, "not of works," does not mean, of course, that men are to do nothing. This would be contrary to the general teaching of Scripture, contrary also to the constitution of the soul and the nature of the work. Man is so constituted that no moral change can be effected in him irrespective of his own efforts. He must work. All that the expression means is that man's works are not the cause. "By grace are ye saved through faith." But if faith is required, and it is an undoubted necessity, where is the freeness of the grace? Elsewhere Paul says that "it is of faith, that it may be of grace." Two remarks will explain this. (1) Faith is essentially an unmeritorious act. Because it is the simplest act of the mind, and an act for which man has a strong propensity; he has never taken credit for it; he never can. There is no virtue in believing. (2) This essentially unmeritorious act is itself the gift of God. ]Not a gift in the sense in which existence is a gift, but in the sense in which knowledge is a gift. It is a gift, because God gives the mental capacity for it, reveals the true objects for it, and furnishes the opportunities for studying the evidence essential to produce it. - D.T.
2. It is mighty. It quickens, raises, exalts, recreates human souls. It is as mighty as the power that raised Christ from the dead. How mighty is that power that thoroughly Christianizes even one soul! No power but the power of God can do that. "Not by might, nor by power."
3. It is manifestable. "In the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." The conversion of every one is designed to manifest it. The conversion of the sinner, though a good in itself, is not an ultimate end; the event has remote issues, ulterior points, bearings and relations interminable. "Ages to come;" intelligences that will rise thousands of years in the future will study and adore the infinite grace of God in the spiritual reformation of mankind. "Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting" (1 Timothy 1:16).
4. It is unmeritorious. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works." The expression, "not of works," does not mean, of course, that men are to do nothing. This would be contrary to the general teaching of Scripture, contrary also to the constitution of the soul and the nature of the work. Man is so constituted that no moral change can be effected in him irrespective of his own efforts. He must work. All that the expression means is that man's works are not the cause. "By grace are ye saved through faith." But if faith is required, and it is an undoubted necessity, where is the freeness of the grace? Elsewhere Paul says that "it is of faith, that it may be of grace." Two remarks will explain this.
(1) Faith is essentially an unmeritorious act. Because it is the simplest act of the mind, and an act for which man has a strong propensity; he has never taken credit for it; he never can. There is no virtue in believing.
(2) This essentially unmeritorious act is itself the gift of God. ]Not a gift in the sense in which existence is a gift, but in the sense in which knowledge is a gift. It is a gift, because God gives the mental capacity for it, reveals the true objects for it, and furnishes the opportunities for studying the evidence essential to produce it. - D.T.
1. The process. This is a history of spiritual lift. It reverses the order of natural history. Instead of "funeral marches to the grave," we have a resurrection gladness, as the soul grows upward from death to life eternal.
I. THE PROCESS BEGINS WITH DEATH. The death here referred to is not a future penalty, but the past condition of many men and the present state of all others.
1. There is a spiritual death in the midst of natural life. The body is flushed with the glow of health; the intellect is keen in worldly affairs; but the spirit is dead. The busy life of the lower nature may hide the scene of death, but it cannot destroy it, and to right-minded observers this noisy energy is painful and revolting like the revelry of a wake. Spiritual death bears all the hideous marks of real death:
(1) a failing of spiritual strength;
(2) a loss of faculties of spiritual discernment - Divine truth fades from the darkened vision, the ear of conscience grows deaf to the voices of heaven;
(3) an unconsciousness of its own mournful condition - the spiritually dead give no more evidence of realizing their condition than we can see in the mute, immobile countenance of a corpse;
(4) the commencement of corruption - the dead soul rots and spreads a miasma of sin.
2. Spiritual death is caused by sin. There are positive "trespasses," in which men go beyond the bounds of the lawful and commit what is forbidden; and negative "sins," in which people miss the mark, fail of their duty, and omit what they ought to do. Both have fatal consequences - the one killing with the poison of bad thoughts, imaginations, and affections; and the other with an atrophy of spiritual organs that waste away for want of exercise.
3. Innumerable influences provoke to sin:
(1) from without, in the general customs of the times, "the course of this world," and. indirect temptations, "the prince of the power of the air;"
(2) from within, in bodily appetites, "lusts of the flesh," and in mental propensities, "desires of the mind." The resulting condition of death becomes a second nature, normal and chronic; yet it is not the less odious in the sight of God, but rather the more so, treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath.
II. THE PROCESS RESULTS IN LIFE. The life is described in three stages.
(1) It is not an external change, such as the removal of penalties, the gift of blessings, and the entrance to a place called heaven, but an internal change in the soul of the redeemed.
(2) It is not the soothing of a troubled conscience nor the endowment of mere comfort and happiness, but life - energy, Fewer, activity - life that begins with painful cries and the awakening of sad repentance rather than with peace and comfort. The other blessings may be added, but this is first and most essential. It is useless to load the grave with treasures. The dead soul must come out of the tomb before it can be loosed from its cerements and enjoy its inheritance.
2. A present exaltation. "Raised us up;" "Made us sit with him in heavenly places." Lazarus comes forth from the tomb. The Christian does not linger long among the scenes of his miserable past. He is not forever sitting on the stool of the penitents. In his new life he walks in God's sunlight, he breathes the free air of heaven, he is called to a high vocation and endued with glorious privileges.
3. A future blessedness. The Divine life is but in the germ on earth. Its fairest flowers will bloom on a happier shore and its sweetest fruits ripen in a sunnier climate. There are "exceeding riches" of grace to be revealed in "the ages to come." The life for which they are preparing is eternal. No disease will blight it, no age bring it decrepitude, no death lay it low. As it develops eternality, so will the riches of Divine love fill it in an ever-increasing abundance. - W.F.A.
2. The secret. What is the secret of the wonderful reversal of the order of nature that is seen in the spiritual transformation from death to life? The power is put forth by the grace of God, and the method of its influence is through union with Christ.
I. THE POWER THAT TRANSFORMS FROM DEATH TO LIFE IS THE GRACE OF GOD.
1. The power is Divine.
(1) Men cannot quicken themselves. The dead can never rise from their graves. Silent, stiff, and cold, dead souls will never shake off their lethargy and begin a new spiritual life.
(2) Men cannot quicken one another. Before life is extinct, by chafing the chill limbs, by giving cordials and other remedies, the fast-ebbing vitality may be restored to the dying man. But when the last breath is breathed, and the heart has ceased to beat, and the patient is really dead, science and love are both baffled. We can galvanize the corpse into a shocking mockery of life, but that is worse than useless. Now, nothing short of death has come upon those who are under the power of sin. They are too far gone for human restoratives such as education, social influence, reward and punishment, exhortation and rebuke.
(3) God alone can and does effect the great transformation, because he is the Source of all life, and because this return from death to life is a pure miracle.
2. The power is put forth by the grace of God. He might leave the dead to bury their dead, and concern himself only with fresh new lives. But he has infinite pity even for the dead. Nothing but grace could inspire such pity. For we have no claim upon God after we have become" by nature children of wrath." We must look for the motive in the love of God alone. But that love is so great that it is a very treasure-house of mercy. God is "rich in mercy." Then our very helplessness appeals to his compassion. The more dead we are the more will God desire to quicken us.
II. THE MEANS THROUGH WHICH THE GRACE OF GOD TRANSFORMS FROM' DEATH TO LIFE IS UNION WITH CHRIST.
1. All through the history of the wonderful process, St. Paul traces, step by step, the progress of the Christian, in the very experience through which Christ went.
(1) We begin in death as Christ stooped to die for us.
(2) We are "quickened together with Christ," and have fellowship with the resurrection of Christ.
(3) We are exalted in the likeness of Christ's ascension (ver. 5).
(4) And we look forward to sharing in his future glory. Thus we are not merely to receive the benefits of the death and resurrection of our Lord; we have to enter into his very experience and pass through it ourselves spiritually. Then his life and his victory become ours.
2. This experience is realized by our union, with Christ in faith. It is vain and hopeless to attempt to follow Christ by painfully attempting an exact imitation while we are going alone and in our own strength. The way is too dark, too steep, too rough. And this is not what is expected of us. But if we trust Christ our faith unites us to him, and by the influence he puts forth over us he carries us along with him; so that through him we receive the gift of life from the grace of God. - W.F.A.
Colossians 3:7). The direction of their walking is - away from God, with their backs turned upon him, for unbelief is a departure from the living God; and the end of their walking is death, as it is all through, for "it is the way of death" (Proverbs 2:18), and "their steps take hold on death" (Proverbs 5:5). Well may we pray with David," Lord, search me and know my heart: ... see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23). - T.C.
the whole world lieth in the wicked one," and it includes, as its totality of possession, "the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life." There is no schism in this dread conspiracy against man's life.
I. THE WORLD. Sinners walk "according to the course of this world."
1. The world is here to be distinguished from worldly objects and pleasures, or mere "things of the world," which are more definitely included in "the lusts of the flesh" (ver. 3). It refers to men of the world, as where it is said, "The whole world lieth in the wicked one" (1 John 5:19), and, "The world will love its own" (John 15:19). These are "the children of the world," who are "wiser in their generation than the children of light" (Luke 16:18). The world is a great creator of opinion, sentiment, and habit, and thus becomes an immense obstacle to the Church of God.
2. The course of the world. "Every age hath almost a new dress, though it is the same world, and still carnal men live according to it" Though no age is independent of the ages which go before it, each age has its own-peculiar drift or tendency, which makes it influential for good or evil. We hear of the spirit of the age - the zeitgeist - which is supposed to shape the thought and the action of men; but it cannot command Christian homage, except so far as it works in the line of truth and righteousness. The Ephesians were neither before their time nor after their time, but in their time, living like other Gentiles, in the same errors, delusions, and idolatries; above all, being specially attached to the worship of Diana.
3. It is the duty of Christian people to oppose the course of this world. The apostle solemnly commands us, "Be ye not conformed to this world" (Romans 12:2), and. the reason is because "we have not received the spirit of this world, but we have received the Spirit which is of God" (1 Corinthians 2:12). Let the world be ever so refined, it cannot divest itself of carnal principles and ideas, and the saying of our Lord will always be true, "The things that are in great esteem with men are an abomination unto God" (Luke 16:15). His own mission was "to deliver us from this present evil world" (Galatians 1:4). Therefore, while we use this world, with all its lawful callings and occupations, so as not to abuse it, and honor every true principle that is held by "them that are without," let us resolutely stem the tide of the world's evil tendencies in the strength of that faith which will yet give us the complete conquest of the world (1 John 5:4).
II. THE DEVIL. This enemy, older than the world, has a vast influence in controlling its tendencies and movements.
1. He is described by two names - "the prince of the power of the air," which seems to point to his headship over the fallen angels; and "the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience," in relation to his power as the "prince of this world." The moral nature of his influence may be inferred from the character ascribed to him in Scripture: as a sinner from the beginning; as a homicide from the beginning; as an arch-liar - " the father of liars" - as a renegade, who, with the angels under him, fell from his first estate, probably through pride, as the principal cause of his fatal fall. His name is expressly identified with the sin of Adam, the murder of Abel, the treachery of Judas, and with a constant opposition to the kingdom of God. He is accuser, tempter, corrupter, and has, in virtue of sin, a certain power even in death (Hebrews 2:14). The existence of such a being is no more a difficulty than the existence of wicked men, who live to corrupt and destroy their fellow-men.
2. It is not easy to understand the mode in which he acts upon the minds and hearts of men, nor to distinguish a direct temptation of Satan from those which spring from the world or from our own hearts. He works in and through these two things. An evil man or an evil woman can inject an evil thought and suggestion into the nature of another, either by word or by glance. If God, who is a Spirit, can have access to our minds so as to influence us supremely for good, why may not Satan, as an evil spirit, have a similar access for evil? Accordingly he is represented as putting it "into the heart of Judas to betray Christ" (John 13:2). He can, like a bird, pick up the good seed out of the heart (Luke 8:12); he can fill a man's heart so as to instigate falsehood (Acts 5:3); and he can dwell in a man's heart, like a strong man in a castle (Luke 11.). His action is, indeed, "with all deceivableness of unrighteousness" (2 Thessalonians 2:10), as if he were bent upon destroying the moral order of the universe.
3. Though Satan is the tempter of men, the sins of men are not the less their own sins. If the tempter were human, there would be no question about responsibility. They are called "the children of disobedience," because they refuse to obey God, and therefore "the wrath of God" is said to come upon them (Ephesians 5:6). These are they who are "carried away captive by the devil at his will" (1 Timothy 2:26). Believers are therefore warned not "to give place to the devil" (Ephesians 4:27); "to resist the devil" (James 4:7), as they are led to glorify that grace which originally translated them out of the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God's dear Son (Colossians 1:13).
III. THE FLESH. The spiritually dead find an instigation to sin in "the lusts of the flesh," as well as in the suggestions of Satan and the temptations of the world. The flesh is a large term, which covers more than mere sins of the body, for it includes "hatred, variance, emulation, wrath, strifes, seditions, heresies," as well as "adultery, fornication, murder, drunkenness, and revellings" (Galatians 5:19, 20). There is a "spiritual wickedness that cannot be traced to the body of man. The reason of the term being thus applied is probably, first, to distinguish it from the spirit; then because the things of the flesh" are the supreme objects of desire to worldly men, or, as they are differently phrased, "earthly things" (Colossians 3:2); and, thirdly because it comes by birth: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh" (John 3:6). Thus the lusts of the flesh have their outlet in the desires at once of the flesh and of the mind. They are described as "ungodly lusts" (Jude 1:18), because they are based on a disregard for or on an enmity to God; "worldly lusts" (Titus 2:12), because, in the absence of God, they "run out to all things in the world;" "foolish and hurtful lusts" (1 Timothy 6:9), because they end in shame, disappointment, and ruin; "deceitful lusts" (Ephesians 4:22), because they fail to answer all a sinner's expectations. Therefore we see the glory and fitness of the gospel, which leads us "to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1). The Apostle Paul suggests the danger of the flesh in setting forth the grand principle of his life - " The life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God." All life is in this world exposed to risk of some sort. Spiritual life exists in a body with passions prone to evil, as well as in a world with many seductions and cares. Christians must strike the true mean between the sensualism which dishonors the body, and the asceticism which, regarding it as an enemy, denies it those innocent enjoyments which Scripture and nature equally sanction. It is not the body of flesh, but the body of sin in the flesh, that is the real trouble of the Christian. We must learn, by God's grace, to honor the body as the temple of the Holy Ghost; to make it the servant, not the master, of the soul; to dedicate it as a vessel unto honor sanctified and "meet for the Master's use." - T.C.
I. THAT WE NEED REDEMPTION FROM THE MOMENT OF OUR BIRTH The sacrament of baptism is meaningless on any other theory. "The wicked are estranged from the womb." Why do all men certainly sin from the beginning?
II. THAT ALL MEN, JEWS AND GENTILES, ARE BORN IN THIS STATE OF CONDEMNATION. Because "all in Adam die" (1 Corinthians 15:22).
III. THAT GOD'S WRATH IS A REALITY. It is grounded in his essential holiness, as appears from the fact that God swears in his wrath (Hebrews 3:11), and it belongs to the idea of the personal God as he acts in history, who cannot look with equal indifference or equal satisfaction upon virtue and vice, piety and impiety, wisdom and folly. It is not to be regarded as a mere modification of Divine love, as either love-sorrow or the anger of love. It is not Biblical to say that a God who has wrath is not a God of love. The objective reality of Divine wrath on account of sin is an axiom of natural theology (Romans 1:32) as well as of revealed; it is presupposed in the atonement, and must be carried into any conception we may form of future retribution. - T.C.
Ephesians 1:19, 20), but of love, mercy, grace, and kindness.
I. OUR SALVATION IS OF GOD'S MERCY. "God who is rich in mercy." There is a distinction between mercy and love, for love is the foundation of mercy. God is called the "Father of mercies" (2 Corinthians 1:3); mercy is his delight, for "he delighteth in mercy" (Micah 7:18); he betrotheth us to himself in mercies (Hosea 2:19); he begets us again "according to his abundant mercy" (1 Peter 1:3); and we are led to pray, "Lord, according to the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions" (Psalm 51:1). Believers are therefore well described as "vessels of mercy" (Romans 9:23).
II. OUR SALVATION IS OF LOVE. "According to the great love wherewith he hath loved us." The apostolic saying, "God is love," supplies us with the best Christian idea of God, as welt as with the right key to explain all his actions. God's love is more than kindness, which is, indeed, one of his attributes, but love is, properly speaking, the nature of him who unites all these attributes in himself. The incarnation of the only begotten Son is the greatest fact of the Divine love, but is not disjoined from the deep humiliation and suffering to which it enabled him to descend. The love of God to sinners is
(2) an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3);
(3) an unchanging love (Malachi 3:6);
(4) an invincible love (Romans 8:39);
(5) it is like the Father's love to the Son, "As thou hast loved me" (John 17:23).
III. OUR SALVATION IS OF GRACE. "By grace ye are saved."
3. We have a good hope through grace.
4. Our election is of grace (Romans 11:5).
5. The grace of God abounds in faith and love (1 Timothy 1:14).
7. It is the greatest of all concerns to establish men's hearts in "the true grace of God" (1 Peter 5:12).
IV. OUR SALVATION IS OF GOD'S KINDNESS. (Ver. 7.) "The word here," says an old writer, "implies all sweetness, and all candidness, and all friendliness, and all heartiness, and all goodness, and goodness of nature." Scripture speaks of God as kind (Psalm 36:5; Luke 6:35), and of his "loving-kindnesses" (Isaiah 64:7). It is made the root of mercy in God (Titus 3:4); for the apostle here speaks of his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Thus our salvation, first and last, is attributed to nothing in ourselves, but to love, mercy, grace, and kindness in God. - T.C.
Romans 6:4, "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." These words indicate a bond of connection between the spiritual life of the believer and the resurrection of Christ. The new life is, in fact, a participation in the risen life of the Savior.
I. QUICKENED TOGETHER WITH CHRIST.
1. Consider the nature of this quickening. It implies a previous identification with Christ in his death. "We are buried with Christ by baptism into death." We have, in fact, died unto sin exactly as Christ died unto sin; for "in that he died, he died unto sin once" (Romans 6:10). Christ died unto sin when he underwent death as the wages of sin and exhausted all the woe that sin entails as its punishment. He died for sin that he might become dead to sin; the parties having become dead to each other, taking their own path henceforth, never to meet or cross each other unto eternity again. And we are dead unto sin in precisely the same sense in which Christ is dead unto sin; for the apostle says, "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin," because we are exempted from all its curse on the ground of its curse being already executed. How can this be, as we never suffered the curse of sin? Because we have been baptized into Christ. Mere water-baptism cannot accomplish this blessed result. It is the Holy Spirit who is the Baptist, for he engrafts us into Christ and makes us one body with him (1 Corinthians 12:12, 13). We are united to Christ by faith.
2. Consider the effects of this quickening. This new position involves our seeing what the dead can never see. When we are quickened by the Spirit of God:
(1) We see God: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." We see him as a Father, because we have seen Christ, for "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father." We see a Father's power, love, and compassion.
(2) We see Christ in his person and in his work, as a sufficient Savior, as a willing Savior, as a loving Savior, with a work accomplished on the ground of which we shall be accepted and saved.
(3) We see the sin that is in ourselves and the sin that is in the world. The dead see nothing. "They have no speculation in their eyes." Men of the world do not see sin as sin, but often as a source of profit or amusement. "Fools make a mock at sin." But the quickened sinner sees the sin of the world as he sees the sin of his own heart, and mourns over it.
(4) He sees heaven and hell. The eye of man sees many stars in the sky on a dark night, but there are many blank spaces in which no twinkling glories can be seen. Men of the world see heaven and hell as blank spaces, or, at best, as dim and shadowy. But the quickened see them as supreme and transcendent realities. They see heaven as the home of Jesus and the saints; they see hell as the place prepared for the devil and his angels.
(5) He sees the world in its true character. How different the view of the same city from two opposite standpoints! Not more different is the view of the world from the standpoint of eternity, for the saint sees it as a doomed world at enmity with God, and is thus led to place his citizenship on high, "setting his affections on things above, not on things on the earth" (Colossians 3:2).
II. RAISED TOGETHER WITH CHRIST. For as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life. The connection between the believer's life and the Redeemer's resurrection is one not merely of certainty and similarity, but of participation, and thus we come to know the power of his resurrection (Philippians 3:10). There was a change in Christ's own relation to God established by his resurrection; "for in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God" - in an entirely new relation to God, which shall endure forever, for when he shall appear the second time, it will be without sin unto salvation. Formerly he was condemned, now is he justified in the Spirit; he liveth now to God with no curse to bear, no sacrifice to offer, no suffering to endure, no service to achieve; and therefore the God of peace, in token of the acceptance of the Surety, brings again from the dead that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant. So likewise we are to count ourselves "alive unto God through Jesus Christ," in that same relation of irreversible acceptance into which Jesus has entered. The apostle here not only represents believers as ideally raised in Christ, but as actually raised just as Christ actually came forth from his sepulcher, leaving his grave-clothes behind him. Similarly we are not to be as "the living among the dead;" we are to cast from us our grave-clothes, which only impede the free movements of our spiritual life.
III. THE SESSION WITH CHRIST IN THE HEAVENLY PLACES. We are enthroned with Christ. Christ is already represented as "set at God's own right hand in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 1:20). We sit there representatively, because our Head is there, and therefore we are, though still on earth as to our practical calling and life, citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). We are guided by the laws of heaven; our hearts are cheered by the hope which, as an anchor, is fastened within the veil, and we now by faith enter the holiest of all by the blood of Jesus. We are even now" kings and priests"(Revelation 1:6). We are justified in regarding our future glorification as only a continuation of our present spiritual life. The guarantee of both is alike in Christ. Meanwhile, though representatively in heaven, we are personally and actually here. Sin is here; we are to watch and fight against it; but "our life is hid with Christ in God," only hereafter to be manifested in full glory. - T.C.
1 Timothy 1:16).
I. IT WAS TO ENCOURAGE THE GREATEST SINNERS TO HOPE IN GOD'S MERCY THROUGH CHRIST. Sinners often, when pressed with the urgent calls of the gospel plead that they are too wicked to be reached by it. The examples of salvation in the Scriptures - those of the Ephesians, the dying thief, Lydia, the Philippian jailor, the Apostle Paul himself - are all designed to meet the difficulties that men interpose in the way of their receiving Christ, as if any worthiness could attach to the persons thus described. It is a great comfort that what God did then he does now and will do till the end of the world. His mercy and grace are not exhausted.
II. IT IS IMPLIED THAT SALVATION IS NOT OF WORKS, BUT BY GRACE. This fact cuts up by the roots all theological systems which imply that man has any power to save himself.
III. IT IS IMPLIED THAT THERE WILL BE A CHURCH ON EARTH THROUGH "ALL THE AGES TO COME," in spite of all the malignity, the ungodliness, the unbelief of men.
IV. IT IS IMPLIED THAT THE SCRIPTURES ARE TO CONVEY THE RECORDS OF GOD'S GRACE DOWN TO THE LATEST GENERATIONS. We could not know of God's gracious work at Ephesus but by the Scriptures. How much we ought to prize such records!
V. THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH SINCE THE DAYS OF THE APOSTLES proves how God has fulfilled the design involved in the dispensation of mercy. The stream of grace has flowed more or less freely and fully in every age.
VI. MARK THE TRUE SUBJECT OF PREACHING. Not mere moral counsels, not mere philosophizings, but "the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Jesus Christ." A noble text for the pulpit of all ages!
VII. THE ULTIMATE DESIGN OF GOD IS TO MANIFEST HIS OWN GLORY. Not the mere glory of his power and wisdom, but of his abounding grace and mercy.
VIII. IT IS IMPLIED IN THE TEXT THAT THE APOSTLE DID NOT EXPECT, AS SOME AFFIRM, THAT THE END OF THE WORLD WAS AT HAND. There were ages to come in which the exceeding riches of his grace could he shown forth in the salvation of sinners. - T.C.
I. THE PRIVILEGE OF BELIEVERS. "Ye are saved."
1. It is implied that the salvation is a present reality. It is not, "Ye shall be saved." They were already in an actual state of salvation; they had passed from death unto life; and the life was everlasting.
2. The salvation was more than a deliverance from the guilt of sin, so as to exempt sinners from future punishment. This is, indeed, the first step in salvation. There must be likewise a deliverance from the power of sin. To be saved from sin is the climax, the consummation, the essence of salvation. Holiness is the most essential thing in salvation. Therefore, while believers may rejoice that they have received pardon through the blood of Christ, let them still more rejoice that Jesus "saves them from their sins" by a continuous supply of his living grace.
II. POWER FOR GOOD WORKS IS INCLUDED IN SALVATION. "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." We are saved because we are thus created. This was the Divine purpose in the mission of the Son; God sent Christ to bless us "by turning every one of us away from our iniquities" (Acts 3:26). We have learnt to believe that our works have nothing to do with our pardon - our evil works have not hindered it, our good works have not helped it; our pardon is of pure grace. But the apostle teaches, in the tenth verse, that what is true of pardon through the death of Christ is equally true of power by his life - that if we are delivered from the punishment of sin by the atoning death of Christ, we are also delivered from the power of sin by the loving grace that streams from the fountain of the cross. Salvation, if it be salvation at all, is "unto good works;" good works not being the root on which salvation grows, but the fruit which grows upon the tree of life.
III. HOW IS THIS FULL SALVATION TO BE OBTAINED? "By grace are ye saved, through faith." You are "God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works."
1. Grace is the fountain at once of pardon and of holiness. The purpose of God is of grace, for "he hath saved us according to his own purpose and grace" (2 Timothy 1:9); the atonement is of grace, for "ye know the grace of ... Christ, that, though he was rich, for your sakes he became poor" (2 Corinthians 8:9); the application of it is of grace, for it is "grace that bringeth salvation" (Titus 2:11); and it is according to this grace "we are called with an holy calling" (2 Timothy 1:9). Now, we have learned to say of pardon that it is "not of works;" equally true is it of our purification that it is not of works - that is, not of our working - for we are "his workmanship, created... unto good works." The old man cannot work. The new man receives the power in the very structure of his spiritual being; for, having died with Christ, he is risen with him that he should walk in newness of life.
2. Faith is the instrumental cause of our salvation. "By grace are ye saved, through faith;" and thus the gospel becomes "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." Power as well as pardon flows forth from Christ to every one that believeth. We are not to suppose, however, that salvation is given as a kind of reward of faith, for, in a true sense, faith is part of the salvation itself. But the apostle uniformly represents faith as that which apprehends the salvation. It is in no sense the ground of salvation; "the righteousness of God which is by faith of Christ Jesus" is the only ground of it, and it is therefore called "the gift of righteousness" Romans 5:17); but faith is the hand by which it is received. There is thus no merit in faith any more than there is in the hand of the beggar who receives an alms.
3. Good works are the predestined way along which the saved walk. "Which God hath before prepared that we should walk in them." This might be true in a double sense: either that, by the revelation of the moral law, he has fixed the firm and unalterable pathway of the believer's obedience - prepared, as it were, the sphere of our moral action; or that, by creating us in Christ Jesus, he has preordained our disposition and aptitude for this obedience. It is evident from the apostle's doctrine that
(1) good works are not necessary to qualify us for believing in Christ,
(2) or are the ground of our expecting a future inheritance in glory. But they are necessary, notwithstanding, on the following grounds: -
(2) They are necessary as acts of obedience to the Lord's commands (John 14:15);
(3) as acts of gratitude for all his goodness to us;
(4) as evidences of the sincerity of our faith in Christ;
(5) as tending to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior, and to glorify his Name;
(6) as contributory to our inward peace and comfort. - T.C.
I. GRACE IS THE ROOT OR CAUSE OF SALVATION. (Ver. 8.) By "grace" is meant the free, undeserved favor of God. It is etymologically the same as "gratis" and "gratuitous;" it occurs in the business phrase, "three days of grace" given in connection with the payment of a bill; it signifies therefore a Divine manifestation to which man has no title. In other words, we do not deserve salvation. We can never deserve it. No works of ours could entitle us to it. Yet we are saved by grace, by the free and sovereign favor of the Lord. It is most important that we should have clear views of the cause of salvation. Its cause is the gracious love of God. Its cause is outside of us, and. we have no part or lot in causing salvation. It is entirely of grace.
II. FAITH IS THE HAND OF THE HEART WHICH RECEIVES SALVATION. (Ver. 8.) God might conceivably save men without asking us to trust him. But would it be worth our while to get emancipated from deserved punishment to live on in perpetual suspicion? The fact is that to have any comfort in our relations with God, we must trust him. But there is no merit in trusting him. If we refuse him our trust we do him grievous wrong. This shows that trusting God is only giving him his due. Besides, the more we know ourselves the more we realize that faith just as well as salvation is his gift. Had not the Spirit come and transformed our suspicion into trust, we should not have ceased suspecting him. It is a blessed change, but the change is God's gift through the Spirit.
III. GOOD WORKS ARE THE FOREORDAINED FRUITS OF SALVATION. (Ver. 10.) A free and gratuitous salvation is supposed by some to be a dangerous and immoral doctrine. But the consequences of salvation have been all provided for. God saves men that we may serve him. Good works constitute the outcome, the dividend, the fruit which God gets from the salvation. "We are his workmanship." Just as a mechanic constructs a machine that he may get a certain amount and kind of work out of it, so God- saves us that he may get a certain amount and kind of work out of us. Nor has he left it to any haphazard, He has foreordained the good works in which we ought to walk. He has planned our lives as believers. Bushnell wrote a famous sermon in which he tried to show that "every man's life is a plan of God." We modify the thought and recognize in every believer's life a plan of God. Every good work is down in God's design, it has its place, and it will exercise its influence. While, therefore, God will save no man for his good works, he saves every soul unto good works. They are the fruit, though they cannot be the root of salvation. Foreordination covers the effects of salvation as well as salvation itself. God's plan embraces the whole problem, and it is thoughtless to rob him of a single element in the glorious result. - R.M.E.
I. SALVATION IS GIVEN BY GRACE. To see the natural reasonableness of this axiom, we must first understand in what salvation consists. In the Bible the word "salvation" is not a technical theological term. It means deliverance generally. Any special import in a particular passage must depend on the context. In the present instance the context clearly shows what kind of salvation St. Paul is thinking of. This is not rescue from earthly poverty and pain - the lower old Jewish salvation, nor escape from future torment - the lower Christian salvation. It is deliverance from a present spiritual death (vers. 4, 5). The soul is saved from itself. Such a salvation must be by grace, because we cannot escape from ourselves; because the evil of spiritual death involves the loss of power in spiritual things; because God only can create life; and because the death results from sin, and therefore implies an ill desert that can only appeal to the mercy of God. The facts of the work of Christ and the recovery of dead souls to life by the gospel prove that this salvation exists and is accomplished by grace.
II. GRACE WORKS THROUGH FAITH. This principle, if axiomatic, must be also natural and reasonable. We must not think of faith as a mere assent to the doctrine of grace. Faith is the soul opening out to God. As the flower cannot be quickened into fertility while the bud is closed, the soul' that is self-contained can by no means receive the grace of God. The door is barred, and. Christ will not force an entrance. Faith is a capitulation of the proud soul. It means flinging wide the gates in submissive receptivity, and yielding to the voice of Divine love in obedient activity. When the soul has faith in God, the grace of God streams in with life and healing. As distrust severs souls, faith unites them. Thus faith is like the wire joining earth to heaven, while grace is like the electric current which waits, but only waits, such a connection to hasten to us with light and fire and life.
III. FAITH COMES FROM GRACE. Even faith itself is "the gift of God." Faith is a spiritual act and habit, and. therefore it would be impossible in a soul quite dead spiritually. But he who provides the salvation provides the means wherewith to enjoy it. If faith be ever so feeble we may cry, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief," with the assurance that there is no prayer more certain of an answer. - W.F.A.
I. AS CHRISTIANS, CREATED IN CHRIST, WE ARE GOD'S WORKMANSHIP. It cannot be that our salvation comes by our works, because it is such a quickening from death to life as amounts to nothing short of a new creation, and because God is the only Creator. We only become new creatures through union with Christ, and by the grace of God that is in him. To know if this is our condition, we must see if we bear the traces of the great Worker upon our persons. God's work must have the characteristics of good work.
1. Fitness. God finds us out of joint. He shapes us suitably for our vocation. A house without adaptation to its ends may look handsome, but it is a failure. A true Christian will not only have a saintly bearing, he will have a practical suitability for his mission.
2. Thoroughness. How thorough is God's work in nature as seen in the microscopic organs of the smallest insects! The new creation is as thorough as the old creation. Down to every thought and fancy God shapes the character of his redeemed.
3. Beauty. The best work is graceful and fair to look upon. God's spiritual work is adorned with the beauty of holiness.
II. WE ARE THUS CREATED FOR THE PURPOSE OF DOING GOOD WORKS. Good works are more honored by the doctrine of grace than they are by the scheme of salvation by works; for in the latter they appeal only as means to an end, as stepping-stones to be left behind when the salvation as reached; but in the former they are themselves the ends, and are valued on their own account. Thus we are taught not to perform good works as an only or necessary means for securing some ulterior boon, but are invited to accept that boon just because it will enable us to do our work better. Instead of regarding the gospel as a pleasant message to show us how we may save ourselves the trouble of work, we must hear it as a trumpet-call to service. The Christian is the servant of Christ. In spiritual death we can do nothing. Salvation is quickening to a new life. The object of this life is not bare existence. All life ministers to some other life. Spiritual life is given directly with the object of enabling us to do our work. It fails of its object if it is unfertile. The barren tree must wither, the fruitless branch must be pruned away. Purity and harmlessness are but negative graces, and are not sufficient justification for existence. The great end of being is the doing of positive good. The judgment will turn on the use we have made of our talents.
III. THE WORKS FOR WHICH WE ARE CREATED HAVE BEEN PREARRANGED BY GOD. The road has been made before we have been ready to walk on it. And there is a road for every soul. Each of us has his vocation marked out for him and fixed in the ancient counsels of God. No life need be aimless since every life is provided with a mission. How may we know the mission?
1. From our talents. Men do not gather grapes of thorns, nor poetry of commonplace minds, nor heroism of feeble souls. The nature of the tool proclaims its use. The hammer cannot be made to cut, nor the saw to drive nails. God's workmanship bears on its special form the indications of its purpose. To know our work we must pray for light that we may know ourselves, or we shall fall into the common error of mistaking our inclination for our capacity and our ambition for our ability.
2. From our circumstances. God opens providential doors. Let us not refuse to enter them because they are often low and lead to humble paths. If they face us they indicate the work for which we are created, and that should suffice obedient, servants. - W.F.A.
I. IT TENDS TO DEEPEN THE HUMILITY OF SAINTS AS WELL AS TO INCREASE THEIR GODLY SORROW FOR SIN.
II. IT TENDS TO MAKE US GRATEFUL FOR OUR MERCIES AND TO MAKE US MAGNIFY THE GREATNESS AND FREENESS OF DIVINE LOVE. Where sin did much abound, we have found that grace did much more abound.
III. IT TENDS TO INSPIRE US WITH A STRONGER LOVE FOR CHRIST, WHO HAS PLACED US SO HIGH IN HEAVENLY PLACES. The woman in the gospel loved much when she remembered how much was forgiven her. "The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant in faith and love" (1 Timothy 1:14) to the Apostle Paul in the remembrance of his old blasphemies and injuries to the gospel.
IV. IT TENDS TO QUICKEN US TO GREATER ZEAL AND ACTIVITY IN THE LORD'S SERVICE. We think sadly of our lost time in the service of sin, and are led now to work with increased energy for the cause of our Redeemer.
V. IT TENDS TO MAKE US MORE HOPEFUL OF THE CONVERSION OF OTHERS WHO ARE NOW WHAT WE ONCE WERE AS SINNERS. Yet this remembrance of our past condition is not to be a rueful, self-accusing thing that will kill hope and heart, but rather that which leads onward to a higher joy and a more complete consecration to the Lord's work. - T.C.
spiritual temple." It is this main figure which we shall now keep before us. And -
I. CONSIDER THE RAW MATERIAL OUT OF WHICH THE SPIRITUAL TEMPLE IS TO BE BUILT. (Vers. 11-17.) This is Gentiles and Jews, the Uncircumcision and the Circumcision, those far off from God and those that were nigh. The Gentiles were "without God" (ἄθεοι ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ), by which we are not to understand "atheists" in the sense of disbelieving the Divine existence, but simply "without God in the world," as men who cling to the world in its corporate capacity, wherein it ignores the Divine sovereignty and lives an alien citizenship. The Jews, on the other hand, were nominally citizens of the sacred commonwealth, and the covenants of promise were in their hands, and they had hope in consequence. Yet the raw material in both cases was rough and unsightly until the Lord undertook its preparation for the temple wall. Both were under sin, both had to be redeemed from evil, taken out of the quarry of nature and fitted by Divine grace for their place in the building.
II. THE FOUNDATION OF THE TEMPLE. (Ver. 20.) The spiritual temple is here said to be built on the "foundation of the apostles and prophets." This, of course, signifies that it is upon the revelation God made through apostles and prophets that the edifice is erected. It is not upon speculations or dreams, but upon "the sure Word of prophecy," that the structure rests. Without the witnesses in the inspired Word, we should have no basis for spiritual unity and no foundation for edification. Hence our deep indebtedness to the sacred writers. We cannot do without "the Book;" we should only be building on the sand.
III. THE CORNERSTONES. (Ver. 20.) The next consideration here is the cornerstones. Now, Christ is called here the "chief Cornerstone," that without which the two walls could not be bound into one. He lies at the foundation of the structure, the massive stone, so to speak, which unites the two great wails. Above him and. upon him are laid other but minor corner-stones; for every Christian soul who longs to promote unity among men is so far a corner-stone in the great building. Hence the minor honor of being elements of union is given unto Christ-like souls. But Jesus is the indispensable Cornerstone. And the apostle shows how Jesus is the bond of union between Jew and Gentile. Both as under sin needed an atoning Savior; but only one Savior and one blood were provided. The Savior of the Jews was the Savior of the Gentiles also. Thus both Jews and Gentiles were brought of necessity to the one Savior; the one sacrifice on Calvary atoned for both; the one blood blotted out the transgression of both; the one crucifixion reconciled both to God, and. peace produced between both and God secured at the same time peace with each other. Jew and Gentile are united and brought nigh to God by the one blessed Savior.
IV. THE UNITY OF THE TEMPLE. (Vers. 18, 19.) The seemingly discordant elements are reduced to real harmony, and the unity of the whole is realized in the Spirit which pervades all hearts. For when the Gentiles and the Jews realize access unto the Father by one Spirit, then the alienation has passed away, and citizenship and. the family feeling have supervened. It thus appears that "Christian prayer is a witness of Christian citizenship." We squabble about differences until we are united at the throne. It is the united prayer which really is felt to unite believers. Alienation cannot survive union at the throne of the heavenly grace.
V. THE AUGUST GUEST WHO INHABITS THE TEMPLE. (Vers. 21, 22.) Every temple is erected for some god as guest. It may only enshrine a phantom or an idol, which is nothing in the world, and yet the idea in temple-building always is the enshrining of a god. Now, this temple, whose stones are the souls of religious men, and whose unity is realized in religious exercises, is meant to be the dwelling-place of the Holy Ghost. He does not dwell in temples made with hands, but he dwells in those temples which are made without hands. The personalities of saintly men become his glorious home, and he condescends to dwell within us richly and- to fill us with his fullness. It is the unifying power of his presence that moulds all into one. The temple grows from within, like every growth in nature. The guest determines the character of the temple. The Holy Ghost secures a holy temple. To this unity Paul desires the Ephesians to come. - R.M.E.
I. THOSE THAT WERE GENTILES BY NAME. "Ye, the Gentiles in the flesh." The name "Gentiles," both in the Hebrew and in the Greek, is "nations." It was applied by the Jews to all nations except their own, just as we distinguish Christians and heathen. The Jews were one nation over against many; and though Christians are relatively more numerous than were the Jews, still they are the few and the heathen the multitudinous. But the apostle has reference to what the Gentiles were "in the flesh," and so he applies a second name to them.
II. THOSE THAT WERE THE UNCIRCUMCISION. "Who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands." The Jews were distinguished by a bodily mark. It is referred to in the language "in the flesh, made by hands." By this surgical mark on them, they were known as God's. They were therefore properly called "the Circumcision," as all others who had not the mark were properly called "the Uncircumcision." And when the apostle uses the noticeable language here, "Who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision," he is not to be regarded as reflecting on the distinction, or on the names founded on it. He is simply exercising a little caution. Those who called themselves Circumcision, as superior to those whom they called Uncircumcision, should have answered to the name. But he will not say that circumcision in the flesh was also circumcision in the spirit. There is often this distinction to be drawn between what we are called and what we are. We are Christians in name; but are we also Christians in truth? We have many honorable names applied to us as Christians; but do we answer to them? Is there a broad line of distinction between us and men of the world in our characters?
III. THEIR BEARING THE NAME OF THE UNCIRCUMICISION IMPLIED MUCH.
1. Separate from Christ. "That ye were at that time separate front Christ." They were not, indeed, without some connection with Christ. For it is only on the ground of his suretyship and work that men have a lifetime on earth, brief at it is. There was, therefore, indebtedness to Christ, even on the part of the uncircumcised; but they were separate from him in that they did not have him as their Messiah. There were Greeks and Romans that had more culture than Jews; where they came behind was in their having no Messianic privilege. There was no intimation to them of a Savior who was to come into the world. There was no presentation in type to them of the atonement that was to be made for sin. They were, therefore, excluded from such saving relation to Christ as was open to the Jews. The want of Christ is still the greatest want of the heathen world. He is not made known to them for their salvation. The radical defect in an unconverted man's position is that he is out of Christ, and so has none to give him shelter and help.
2. Separate from the Church. "Alienated from the commonwealth of Israel." Israel was a commonwealth, as constituted, not for the good of a section, but for the good of all alike. It was constituted, not for mere political purposes, but for religious purposes principally. It was the Church more than the state. And the great privilege which every member of the commonwealth enjoyed was nearness to God. He was allowed to draw near to him and worship him in his temple, Now, when the Jews were thus constituted into a Divine commonwealth, the Gentiles were kept at an outside. The arrangement we know was for the ultimate benefit of the whole race; but none the less deplorable was their condition as aliens, or persons out of privilege. There is no arrangement now by which any are excluded from the Church of God, and yet it is with many as though such an arrangement existed. There are some, in Christian lands, who are alienated from the Christian Church, it may be, to a certain extent owing to the faults of its members; but can it be wholly put down to that, when there is in the gospel such a representation of goodness as ought to attract all who are not prejudiced against goodness? "Strangers from the covenants of the promise." There were promises to the Gentiles, but they did not pertain to them who lived before the coming of the Messiah. The Jews had the covenants of promise, viz. the covenants made to the patriarchs, founded, not on what had been effected for them, but on what was to be effected for them in the future, and which was promised. These covenants were their charter as a Church; what they could fall back upon as the reason for their existence. To these covenants the Gentiles were strangers; they had no share in them; theirs was an uncovenanted position. The covenant is not founded now on promise; it is founded on accomplished fact, it has been sealed with Christ's blood. None now occupy an uncovenanted position, such as the old heathen world did; and yet it is with many as though no change had taken place.
3. Miserable condition in the world. "Having no hope." Not having the "covenants" to go upon, they had no hope at all. Reason did not suffice to give them a hope beyond the grave. The hereafter was not a certainty, but only a vague conjecture. It was not lightened up as it was to Old Testament saints. We Christians have a rich hope. It is the hope of a glorious resurrection, and of a perfected and. endless life with Christ as our risen Savior. When such a hope has been brought to the world, how sad that there are so many in heathen lands who are looking forward into a dark and cheerless future! And sadder far it is that there are those in Christian lands who place no value on the life and immortality that have been brought to light by the gospel. "Without God in the world." Out of the Church, they were in the world. And the great evil of their being in the self-seeking, God-forgetting world was that there they were unbefriended by God. They could not live in the sunshine of his love, for they did not know him to be the God of love. It was a loss for which nothing could compensate. What a gain would it be to the heathen of our day to conceive of God as having given his Son for them! And yet, of those who have the opportunity, how few enter into the felicity of the enjoyment of God's love!
IV. THEIR ALTERED POSITION. "But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ." God had his earthly dwelling-place in the temple at Jerusalem. The Gentiles were literally far off from this center, compared with the Jews. But the distance in space was only emblematic of the moral distance at which they stood from God. They were at a distance, in their being out of harmony with his character. They were at a distance, in the displeasure with which he regarded their actions. But in Christ, in his becoming the personal historical Jesus, all this was altered. They were brought into a position of nearness to God. Christ ejected this by his blood. The blood which was shed on Jewish altars was only for Jews. The Jewish high priest represented the twelve tribes, but no more. The blood of Christ had a wider reference. It was for Gentiles as well as for Jews. And that being the case, Gentiles were kept no longer at a distance.
V. JEWS AND GENTILES BROUGHT INTO AMICABLE RELATIONS. "For he is our Peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the twain one new man, so making peace." There is a change from "ye" to "our." There is a difference of opinion as to the extent of meaning belonging to the words, "he is our Peace." It is admitted that, in the two verses here, the idea of peace between both receives decided expression. But some think that there is also to be brought in, though subordinately, the idea of the peace of both toward God. The objection to that is, that it is superfluous. For already it has been said of the Gentiles that obstacles have been removed out of their way, and afterward there is the thought of both being reconciled to God, and also of peace, i.e. reconciliation to God, being preached to both. It seems much simpler, then, here to confine the thought to peace between both. Christ is this Peace in his own person. In him there is neither Jew nor Gentile. His work is described as making both (parts) one; and the manner of his doing it as breaking down the middle wall of partition. It seems warrantable to explain this by an intended reference to the arrangement in the temple. There was there a separating of Jews from Gentiles. There was a wall or boundary beyond which Gentiles were forbidden to advance. As by the rending of the veil was signified the opening of the way into the holiest of all, so by what is described as the breaking down of the middle wall of partition we are to understand that Jews and Gentiles are brought into the same nearness to God. The middle wall of partition is explained to be the late of commandments contained in ordinances. The Mosaic Law was, on one side, a system of separation. It was like a wall enclosing the Jews and shutting off the Gentiles. It forbade all familiar intercourse with the Gentiles. As Christ was called Peace, so the Mosaic system is here made synonymous with enmity or estrangement. The Jews were not to hate other nations (for Jehovah was the God of all the earth, and they were told of a time when all nations were to be blessed); but, as things were, they were necessarily separated in feeling from them. And the Gentiles, on their side, were not slow to hate the Jews for their exclusiveness. The Mosaic system, then, in its incidence especially on the Gentiles, was enmity. And this enmity, we are told here, Christ abolished in his flesh. The Jewish Law he fulfilled, and, by fulfilling, abolished, so that it was no more a separation, or cause of estrangement. The rending of the veil pointed to a rending of his flesh. So the breaking down of the wall suggests a breaking in his flesh. It was a breaking, it is further suggested, that, Jew and Gentile perishing, there might rise out of both a new creation, viz. Christian. "That he might create in himself of the twain one new man." The breaking thus resulted in a peacemaking: "So making peace."
VI. HOW THIS WAS SHOWN.
1. In their being placed in one Church as reconciled to God by the same means. "And might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby." There is an advance from "one new man" to "one body." "Christian" was created; but it was in order that a body of Christians might be formed. In this body Jews and Gentiles might very well be together; for they had the deepest ground of union in their both being reconciled to God. This equality extended even to the instrument of reconciliation, viz. the Cross. When they were thus reconciled to God by the same means, "the enmity was slain;" and there was no need for two Churches - the Jewish Church continuing, and a Gentile Church forming a separate community. But there was the clearest case for one Church, viz. the Christian Church, containing both.
2. In their having the same gospel of peace preached to them. "And he came and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh." When it is said that Christ came and preached peace, we are to understand that it was under his authority and through his instruments. In comparison with what he himself had to do with it, others might very well be left out of account. There were obvious reasons for the clause in the parting command, "beginning from Jerusalem." But that only, as is implied, indicated the point of departure. And it was the same gospel that was to be proclaimed to all alike: "And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his Name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem." So here, with a certain emphasis in the repetition of the word "peace," as the purport of the message (to be understood in its God-ward sense) - "peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh." If, then, the gospel was preached to them in the same Name and in the same terms, they might well be "one body."
3. In their having, as reconciled, the same spiritual privileges. (Ver. 18.)
(1) Access unto the Father. "For through him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father." To Old Testament saints God was not unknown as Father. "I said, Thou shalt call me, My Father." But it is true that this is the distinction and favorite designation of God in the New Testament. And the Messiah is correspondingly the Son of God. The relationship stands out as it did not do before, and gives peculiar pathos to the whole story of redemption. Sonship too becomes a more blessed reality, as it was a new-gained right. The idea here is that both could exercise the right of sonship in going to the Father and asking his blessing. Why, then, should they be apart?
(2) Same Introducer. In Eastern courts there was one who acted the part of introducer into the presence of royalty. This part Christ performs for us. He not only acted for us on the cross, but, on the ground of his sacrifice, he still intercedes for us. And every time we go into the presence of God we need his services, if we are to be acceptable. This part Christ performed for both alike.
(3) Assistance of the same Spirit. There is not one Spirit with Jewish proclivities, and another Spirit with Gentile proclivities. But there is the one Spirit, making their interests one, and putting common desires into their hearts when approaching God. The equality thus extends along the whole line.
VII. PRACTICAL CONCLUSION, IN WHICH THE EPHESIAN CHRISTIANS ARE ADDRESSED IN A THREEFOLD CHARACTER.
1. They are members of the spiritual commonwealth. "So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints." "Fellow-citizens with the saints." They are citizens in relation to God as Head of the commonwealth. "They are no more strangers and sojourners." There were those who stood in this relation to the Grecian states. They did not live on Grecian soil, or they lived on it without possessing the rights of "citizens." Such had been the relation of the Ephesians to the Jewish commonwealth. But now they were fully enrolled and recognized as citizens in that commonwealth in which were incorporated both Jews and Gentiles. The members of this commonwealth are designated "saints," as were the Ephesians in the opening of the Epistle. It points to their bearing a certain character, and having certain duties to perform. But the leading idea is the privileges of citizens. And these may be particularized.
(1) There is the privilege of good laws. In a civil community, laws are good where as much liberty of the subject is secured as is consistent with the public good, and where the interests of all classes are equally regarded. In this land we have been blessed in large measure with good laws. And our legislators are always trying to work out more perfectly the idea of justice. In the spiritual community, we do not need to concern ourselves about the improvement of the laws. They have had the character of finality from the beginning. We never need to distinguish here between law and equity. We can feel that the whole Divine dealing is characterized by the utmost fairness, reasonableness. "I know the thoughts which I think concerning you."
(2) There is the privilege of protect/on. A British subject, so long. as he keeps within the laws, has really the whole British power at his back. If a foreign state allows him to be trampled upon, he can claim protection from home. Such cases not unfrequently have arisen, and, where redress has not been given, there has been resort to punishment. A member of the Divine commonwealth who is possessed with its spirit has the theocratic power at his back - has, it may be said, ten legions of angels at his command, as the Master had. "Whoso toucheth you toucheth the apple of mine eye." There was this protection enjoyed by the Israelites very remarkably in connection with their going up to their feasts. And, in the Christian commonwealth, we can feel there is a wall of protection round about us. We can boldly say, "If the Lord is on our side, who are all they that can be against us?"
(3) There is the privilege of petitioning. It is a fundamental principle of the British constitution that every British subject has the right of petitioning the sovereign or Houses of Parliament. There is the same right vested in those who belong to the commonwealth of God. This right Daniel exercised when he made his petition three times a day.
2. They are members of the household of God. "And of the household of God." The relation in the family is closer than in the state. The theocracy was as a house in relation to which they had been strangers or sojourners; but now they had the full rights of members of the family.
(1) There is the right of a place in the household. "The servant abideth not in the house forever; but the son abideth ever." There is no breaking up of the household of God, such as is witnessed in earthly families. There is no banishment, such as there was from the household of David.
(2) There is the right of intercourse. Not the right of interview, let it be noticed, but the right of living in the Father's presence, and, in communion with him, entering into his thoughts and plans. "The servant" knoweth not what his master doeth. But of this intercourse we have not yet the full manifestation.
(3) There is the right of being provided for. "If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." God holds himself bound by covenant to make all suitable provision for us, here and hereafter. And in our Father's house there is enough and to spare.
3. They are part of the temple of God. We are really subjects and really sons, but we are only compared to stones. It is a comparison by which are brought out some important truths.
(1) Apostles and prophets are foundation-stones. "Being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets." The latter, in accordance with Ephesians 3:5 and Ephesians 4:11, are regarded as New Testament prophets. It is supposed that the meaning of the language, "the foundation of the apostles and prophets," must be ruled by 1 Corinthians 3:10, where Christ is called the only Foundation. But, apart from the consideration that a figure does not always need to be used in the same way, the sense in which the apostles and prophets are the foundation is supported by Peter being called the Rock, and also by the twelve foundations being identified with the twelve apostles. There is nothing derogatory in such an interpretation to Christ, to whom in the connected clause is given the place of preeminence in the foundation. All that we are to understand is that, in what they had of Christ in their life and teaching, they were stones on which others were laid, and they were not stones far up in the building, but were at the very foundation of the Ephesian Church. Nay, they were foundation-men for the Christian Church as a whole, and it can he said that we are builded on them. And they were men that subserved the Divine purpose well.
(2) Christ Jesus himself is the chief Corner-stone. "Christ Jesus himself being the chief Corner-stone." Having said so much of the subordinates, he could not omit saying this of the Master. They were only ordinary stones of the foundation; but Christ was the chief Stone of the corner, not only supporting, but combining. He was a Stone disallowed by the Jewish builders. He was to be of no use in the Church or theocracy with which they had to do. And yet it was, in the wonderful working of God, in the very disallowing of him by these builders that he became the chief Stone of the corner. It is entirely owing to him as cause that a temple of God is being erected, each stone a saved soul.
(3) There are many buildings, but only one temple. "In whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord." It will be seen that, in the Revised translation, there is a change from "all the building" to "each several building." It is admitted that for the latter there is a necessity of scholarship; but for the former there is supposed to be a necessity of thought. It does not appear, however, that the naturalness and beauty of thought suffer by the translation which the Revisers have adopted. The key to the understanding of it seems to be Matthew 24:1. His disciples came to him to show him the buildings of the temple. Here the very word is used in the plural. There were parts that might have formed buildings by themselves. And if we think of the time when these buildings were going up together, extending in all directions, different sets of builders being employed at different points, would there not have been appropriateness in saying that the buildings were growing into, or toward, a holy temple? These Ephesians knew what a massive imposing structure was, in their temple which covered an immense area. And such is the Church of God, as it is now going forward in the world. Buildings, each with its set of builders, and they are growing, not into separate temples, but into one holy temple. Let us go out with the Master and view them, and form some idea of the imposing structure it is to be.
(4) The temple takes its whole conformation from Christ. "In whom ye also are builded together."
(a) Each several building in its parts. The idea of regulation is brought out in the word which is translated "fitly framed together." "Joint" and "reason both go into the word. There is not a mere putting of parts together, but there is a jointing as in the human body, and a jointing moreover that displays reason. It is in Christ as Cornerstone that this is done. tie, then, is the reason or thought of God (Logos he is called), according to which the various parts of the building are put together. It is on this thoughtful connecting of the parts that the stability of a building, which is a main excellence, depends. A noble craft is that of mason: a good building will last longer than most books, than one book out of a million" (Carlyle).
(b) The several buildings as a whole. Regulation here also is pointed to in the word "grows." For there is a type according to which every living thing grows (which is from the Logos, by whom all things are made). So also is there a plan or distinct thought (in the mind of the Architect) according to which the buildings, separately proceeding, are made to "grow" into a holy temple. This also is in the Lord. The whole connecting of the spiritual structure belongs to him, and is shadowed forth by his being Cornerstone.
(5) The temple is for the habitation of God. "For a habitation of God in the Spirit." In the Revised translation there is an easy transition from the twenty-first verse to the twenty-second verse, from "each several building" to the Ephesian Church. That Church was one of the buildings. It was designed with a view to a habitation of God. But any one Church is too narrow for the dwelling-place of God. And so the Ephesians are reminded in the word which is employed that they were only a building along with other buildings - all of which are needed to make up the habitation of God. How intimate the union between God and his people that they are as a house in which he dwells! We are the habitation of God in the Spirit who puts all holy thoughts within us. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" - R.F.
condition of its subjects, the nature of its agency, and the blessedness of its achievement.
I. THE CONDITION OF ITS SUBJECTS. They are here presented in two aspects - aspects in which all men in their unregenerated state are found. 1. As socially disharmonized. Between the Jews and the Gentiles there was no accord; on the contrary, there was a deep, mutual variance in sympathy and soul. There was a "middle wall of partition between them." That wall was built by political prejudices and religious differences, and was cemented by a mutual "enmity." So that they were "aliens," and "strangers," and morally "far off" from each other. There are these social differences between unregenerate men now, the world over. Instead of union, there is division - harmony, there is discord - love, there is enmity. Hence the eternal feuds, domestic, social, ecclesiastical, political. Some "middle wall of partition" divides family from family, class from class, nation from nation, man from man.
2. Is religiously disharmonized. There was not only a mutual variance between Jew and Gentile, but there was a variance between both and God. Religiously the Jew is represented here as being "without Christ," ignorant of him, and uninterested in him; "without hope," without any well-founded hope of future good; "without God" practical atheists. Living every day as if no God existed, Does not this describe the religious condition of all unregenerate men in every part of the world? What a picture of the moral world! Hideous, yet life-like!
II. THE NATURE OF ITS AGENCY. Who is the great Reconciler? Who is he that reconciles men to men, and all to God? There is One, and only One. "Now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh." The passage gives three ideas about this reconciling.
1. It is the work of self-sacrifice. Christ does it by his "blood," by his "cross." What is the blood of Christ? Not, of course, the vital fluid which flowed through his corporeal veins - not his mere existence, but the governing moral spirit of his life. The real life of a man is his governing disposition. This is the moral blood that circulates through all his activities. What is the governing spirit of Christ? Self-sacrificing love. "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ," etc. It is by that self-sacrificing spirit of his in teaching, working, praying, and dying, that he does the work of the world's reconciliation. Love alone can kill enmity. Christ's moral blood is the atoning power.
2. It is the work of abolishment. Christ's mission is destructive as well as constructive. He pulls down as well as builds up. He came to destroy the works of the devil.
(1) He abolishes dividing forms. He breaks down the "middle wall of partition." When he died upon the cross, not only was the veil in the great temple of life, which divided men from God, rent asunder, but the wall that divided man from man was broken down. "The whole law of commandments contained in ordinances" was abolished. "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14). He gave man one system of worship. "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."
(2) He abolishes the dividing spirit. "The enmity." The abolishment of the mere separating forms would still leave souls asunder if enmity existed. He slays the enmity.
3. It is the work of preaching. "Preaching peace." "And came and preached peace to you." Christ preached peace himself both before and after his death. His personal ministry was emphatically a ministry of peace in spirit and in doctrine - in example and in aim. He preached by his servants. This was the grand subject of the apostolic ministry. This is the grand subject of all ministers. The gospel is a gospel of peace; Christ was the Prince of peace.
III. THE BLESSEDNESS OF ITS ACHIEVEMENT. What is the grand result of his reconciling agency?
1. Union of man to man. "To make in himself of twain one new man." Giving all men, however diverse in temperament, circumstances, and education, one moral soul. This is the true union, the union of heart, making men one - one in sympathy, one in purpose, one in Christ.
2. Union of man to God. "And that he might reconcile both unto God." In truth, man can only become truly united to his brother man, by first becoming united to God. He must love the-great Father supremely before he will love his race with the affection of a genuine brotherhood. True philanthropy grows out of piety. Men thus united to God, the passage suggests, are united together:
(1) As citizens of the same spiritual state. They are "fellow-citizens with the saints." The common "citizenship" of all is in heaven. All are alike loyal to the same authority, obedient to the same laws, inheritors of the same rights.
(2) As members of the same spiritual family. They are of the "household of God." They are united not by mutual interests or covenant arrangements, but by the clinging instincts of family affection. They are of the family of God.
(3) As parts of the same spiritual temple. "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets," etc. In some respects the parts of a building are more united even than the members of a family. In a well-constructed edifice one part is so dependent on another, that to disturb a portion would be to injure the whole. All whom Christ reconciles are parts of a grand temple.
(a) Beautifully united, "framed together."
(b) Gradually advancing: "groweth," the growth of a living organism, not the mere growth of a building.
(c) Religiously consecrated: "a holy temple." What a glorious temple is this! The temple of Diana these Ephesians originally considered as the glory of the world, but it would appear to them contemptible by the grand spiritual temple that Paul here pictures to their imagination. - D.T.
I. THEY WERE UNCIRCUMCISED - were "Gentiles in the flesh." Circumcision, according to the apostle, might mean very little or very much. It might mean very much, in so far as it was a "seal of the righteousness of faith" (Romans 4:11) and was a spiritual thing - "the circumcision of the heart" (Romans 2:29), involving "the worship of God in the Spirit, rejoicing in Christ Jesus, and having no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3). But it might mean "the circumcision in the letter," after the habit of those Jews who ascribed objective power to the mere external rite, regarding it as a channel of grace, irrespective of the subjective condition of the recipient. It was only in the spiritual sense of the rite that the Gentiles were disadvantaged by their want of it, not only because it meant the obligation of withdrawing all the relations of life from the dominion of nature, but because it implied a covenant union with God, involving the blessings of redemption itself.
II. THEY WERE WITHOUT CHRIST. The Jews were not without him; for "salvation was of the Jews;" Abraham, the first Jew, saw the day of Christ afar off, "and was glad' (John 8:56); the Jews drank, in the wilderness, of the "Rock which was Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:4). But the Gentiles were without him, because
(1) they had no knowledge of him;
(2) they had no faith in him;
(3) they had no union with him;
(4) they were therefore
Without pardon, life, grace, hope, and comfort. How dark and cheerless was heathenism even under its reign of culture! It had no experience of the threefold blessing of the gospel - "Christ for us, Christ in us, Christ with us" - the grand totality of Christianity.
III. THEY WERE ALIENS FROM THE COMMONWEALTH OF ISRAEL. They were so civilly as well as spiritually, for the Jews had no dealings with Gentiles.
1. The word "aliens points in the original to a lapse from a former unity or fellowship. Universalism characterized the first dispensation of the race of man: deliverance was to come through the Seed of the woman; but when the race took a direction contrary to the will of God and fundamentally wrong, the circle was narrowed into particularism, which in its turn tended toward a universalistic goal, for all nations of the earth are to be blessed in Abraham's seed. Jew and Gentile thus stood apart for ages, till, in the fullness of times," they met at last round the cross of Christ in an act of supreme rebellion, only to be united in Christ forever in the future development of the kingdom of God.
2. Their estrangement from the Israelitish commonwealth was an immense spiritual loss; for to it belonged the oracles of God (Romans 3:2), and "the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the service of God, and the promises" (Romans 9:4). It was a privilege to belong to a people expecting nothing from their own power or wisdom, but everything from the interposition of their God. It is a great blessing to be born within the pale of the visible Church, so as to partake of her privileges. The Gentiles were outside the whole apparatus of religious instruction provided for the special guidance of the Jews.
IV. THEY WERE STRANGERS TO THE COVENANTS OF PROMISE.
1. The plural reference is to the successive renewals of the covenant with the patriarchs. It was but the one covenant of promise - "the promise made to the fathers" which God fulfilled in "raising up Jesus" (Acts 13:32). The word "covenant occurs two hundred and thirty-six times in our English Bible, and in more than two hundred instances it is a Divine covenant. The covenant with Abraham was the Magna Charta of Israel; the covenant with David rests upon this earlier covenant, marking out mere clearly the line in which the Divine purpose of blessing would be fulfilled to Jews and eventually to all nations. The new covenant of the New Testament, which has in Christ a Mediator greater than Moses and is established upon better promises," is no other than the ancient covenant made with Abraham (Galatians 3:14).
2. Thus we can see how the Gentiles were strangers to the covenant in all its historic developments. They had no national covenant with God, and no land of promise in the present world. As Gentiles, the covenant had never been revealed to them, and, except so far as they may have been included in the Israelitish commonwealth, it could bring them no blessing.
V. THEY WERE WITHOUT HOPE. They had no covenanted hope - no hope of the Messiah and of salvation by him, of a future state of eternal life. "Such as are Christless must be hopeless; such as are without faith must needs be without hope; and such as are without the promise must necessarily be without faith; for the promise is the ground of faith, and faith is the ground of hope." It is a miserable state to be without hope. "If in this life only we have hope, we are of all men most miserable." The future to the heathen was a night without a star. In the Roman catacombs hope is the commonest inscription. There is no such word on the tombs of the heathen dead.
VI. THEY WERE WITHOUT GOD IN THE WORLD. This marks the climax of their misery. They were without God, though they were not atheists, for they had a thousand gods that were no gods. And they were not bold deniers of God, for many of them were "feeling after the Lord." But
(1) they were without the knowledge of the true God;
(2) they had no faith in him;
(3) they lived without relation to him; and
(4) they had no consciousness of his presence to bless and guide and comfort them.
They were without God "in the world" - in contrast with the position of the Jews entrenched within their commonwealth privileges - and were thus homeless and forsaken in that world which had Satan for its prince. This is the picture of the heathen world given by the apostle - without Christ, without Church, without covenant, without hope, without God. At the period to which he refers, religion had outlived itself, unbelief mocked at the superstitions of the vulgar, and skepticism gradually became the sole wisdom of the cultured classes. Along with the power of truth the power of morality was irrecoverably lost; and yet there was a deep yearning at the heart of paganism for the God unknown whom it was the high destiny of Christianity to make known to the Gentiles. They were without God, yet were not outcast from his favor, for those Ephesian Gentiles were in due time called by his grace. - T.C.
I. CHRISTLESS. The Gentile world had no Messiah. Worldly interests - business, pleasure, culture - have their advantages; but they bring no Savior, no Physician of sick souls. As Christ is the Foundation-stone of the new temple, to be without Christ is to have nothing on which to erect subsequent Christian blessings. If we have the doctrine and discipline of the New Testament without the Christ, we have nothing of real profit. The dumb, pathetic helplessness of spiritual hunger in the finer inquiring and doubting minds of our day is a proof that to be without the light and life and love of Christ is as great a loss to us as it was to any in old times.
II. CHURCHLESS. "Alienated from the commonwealth of Israel." The Church is now what Israel was in pro-Christian times - the home and family of the people of God. Only it is not marked by the visible boundaries of any "Holy Land." The true Church, the fellowship of kindred followers of Christ, contains many a choice soul that has been accounted a schismatic and cut off from the organized communities of Christendom. Real excommunication comes not by the fulmination of an anathema, but by the breach of spiritual sympathy. Without the union that comes through our relation to Christ we voyage in solitude over lonely seas of thought.
III. UNEVANGELIZED. "Strangers from the covenants of the promise." The Jew had a gospel in Messianic prophecy. The Christian has his in New Testament history. What covenant is there in science? What promise in art? What gospel in commerce? We may discover laws and hers of the universe, and create works of skill and beauty, and accumulate treasures of wealth. But still stricken souls cry, "Is there no balm in Gilead?" for all this brings no peace to the weary and the brokenhearted.
IV. PESSIMIST. "Having no hope." Pagan Rome and Greece were verging towards pessimism in the days of St. Paul, when philosophers advised suicide and historians taught contempt of mankind. Pagan Europe now manifests the same tendency. Culture fails to convert the Philistine. Science dwarfs humanity before nature, and discovers no soul and no heaven. Business, politics, and society drive man to a weariness that sees no rest.
V. ATHEISTIC. Speculative atheism is rare, if it ever exists. Practical atheism is more common and more disastrous. It is worse to believe in God and to live as if there were no God, than to doubt his existence. To be without God is not to look for his help nor to obey his will. This is death, since in God we live and move and have our being. Glorious must be the gospel that redeems us from such a depth of ruin. - W.F.A.
I. THE GENTILES REMOTE FROM GOD. "You that were afar off." They were in a geographical sense far off from Palestine, the center of the true religion. This land was, with a truly providential design, selected as the home of God's chosen people, because it held a central place between Europe, Asia, and Africa. But the nations were still more apart from Palestine, so as to have no share in its theocratic life. In this case, the expression "far from God," or "far off," was a phrase in common use to designate the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:1; Acts 2:39). But there was a moral distance - an alienation of the Gentile heart from God - which was more serious than any geographical remoteness from the seat of theocratic institutions. It is both the sinfulness and the misery of sin that men are at a distance from God. Unbelief is a "departure from the living God." The Gentiles were far from Christ, from the Church, from the covenant, from hope, from God. There is no divider like sin.
II. THE GENTILES MADE NIGH IN THE BLOOD OF CHRIST. Just as Israel at Sinai was by the sprinkling of blood made to be the people of God, brought near to him, kept year by year in covenant, so the blood of Christ was the element or sphere in which the new covenant took its shape with its all-inclusive relations both to Jew and to Gentile. It was the blood that obliterated the interval between the Gentiles and God. They have now communion with God, and are established in their nearness to him. It is not merely in Christ Jesus, but in the blood of Christ, that our nearness is established. It was not the incarnation but the death of the Son of God - the designed complement and issue of the incarnation - that has secured our privilege of access to God. It often happens in the history of grace that these very far from God in character and hope are made nigh by the blood of the cross. There is a marvelous power in the blood of the lifted-up Redeemer: "And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:82), irrespective of national distinctions. - T.C.
I. CHRIST MAKES PEACE. He was predicted as the Prince of peace. His birth was heralded by the good news, "On earth peace."
1. Peace between man and man. In Christ the enmity between Jew and Gentile ceases. Christianity forbids all envy, jealousy, hatred, and strife. It is cosmopolitan, and will not sanction national selfishness cloaked by the sacred name of patriotism. It is brotherly, and will not favor sectarian animosity sheltering under the mask of loyalty to truth.
2. Peace between man and God. Both Jew and Gentile are reconciled "unto God" (ver. 16). The discord between man and man is but a symptom and after consequence of the deeper quarrel between man and God, just as the unrestrained war of factions is a result of the overthrow of the central authority in a state.
II. CHRIST'S PEACE IS STABLE. A hollow peace which like an unstable equilibrium is liable to be upset at any moment, and is little better than an armed truce, is only a deception and a snare. But Christ's peace is solid and secure, involving two great safeguards.
1. Reconciliation. A duel may be interrupted by the police, and yet the combatants may still cherish mortal hatred to one another. The forced agreement of Jew with Gentile under the Roman empire was no real peace. The order of a state in which criminals are curbed but not reformed, and the decorum of a society in which only social fear prevents outrageous insults to purity and godliness, are no proof of real peace with God and man. But Christ reconciles, takes away all disposition for quarrelling., and establishes peaceable affections between man and man and between man and God.
2. Union. The old fends between Norman and Saxon can never be revived, simply because the two races have been blended together. So Christ would blend Jew and Gentile, and establish a common family union between Christians and also between the whole Christian brotherhood and our one Father in heaven.
III. CHRIST'S PEACE DEPENDS ON THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CAUSES OF DISCORD. It does not merely heal the surface-symptoms, but it goes to the root of the evil and cuts this out. The Law, which was the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile, is abolished. The religion of Law, which provoked constant enmity between man and God, is done away. In the place of rigid, painful exactions, never by any possibility fully satisfied, we have the service of the Spirit, which is the same for all and which is possible to all.
IV. CHRIST'S PEACE IS BROUGHT ABOUT BY THE SACRIFICE OF HIMSELF.
1. In relation to God. Christ makes reconciliation by his great propitiatory offering of himself. As we look at the cross our enmity to God dies down, and we learn in humble penitence to seek for forgiveness.
2. In relation to man. Christ has died for every man. Before that awful tragic event all mutual enmity should be hushed. In the love of our Peacemaker, which is shown in his dying for us, we have the strongest possible motive for a common fervor of love to him that should quench and drown all petty animosities and unite all Christians into one body. - W.F.A.
1 Corinthians 1:30), and while thus he is our Peace toward God, he is the ground of peace in every other relation, and especially between man and man. Thus he abides our continual Peace, for he did not make peace and end his relation toward us, but is the Source of our abiding reconciliation with God as well as of the continuous enjoyment of peace. Thus the Old Testament prophecies which connect peace with the Messiah find their just fulfillment (Isaiah 9:5, 6; Isaiah 57:2, 7). Peace was the legacy which he left to his disciples (John 14:27). It is "the peace to which we are called in one body" (Colossians 3:15). It is that which "keeps our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7). Consider -
I. HOW HE HAS MADE PEACE BETWEEN JEW AND GENTILE.
1. He did so by leveling in the dust the middle wall of partition that separated them widely for ages, in a word, by abolishing the narrow particularism of Judaism. The wall in question was the ceremonial law - "the law of commandments contained in ordinances" - given to Israel as a separate people and of positive appointment. The moral law was no part of the partition wail, and contains in itself nothing either to excite enmity or to establish separation between man and man. The death of Christ did not abolish it; it was the law of ceremonies only that was abolished in the cross, for when he died, it disappeared like a shadow when the substance was come. The moral law, as embodied in the Decalogue, was older than the Mosaic institute, and therefore survived its fall. The partition wall that kept Jew and Gentile apart was
(1) an ancient barrier of separation. It lasted sixteen hundred or two thousand years, according as we date its origin from Abraham or Moses. A Puritan Father says, "The foundation of the wall of separation was laid in Abraham's time when circumcision was first given, for that began the quarrel; reared up higher by Moses' rites; further lengthened and stretched out in all times of the prophets, throughout all ages, till Christ, who came to abolish it and break it down."
(2) It was a high barrier. It kept the Jew effectively apart for more than a millennium and a half, that he might be trained for the universalist dispensation that was to be established in the fullness of times.
(3) It engendered a deep hostility on both sides. It was this "enmity that made the barrier so serious an element of separation. The Jew regarded the Gentile with a proud and supercilious superiority, and the Gentile regarded the Jew as an enemy of the human race. Literature is full of the evidences of this continuous hostility. The Gentiles were called in contempt the uncircumcised" and "sinners of the Gentiles." Juvenal, Tacitus, Martial, Horace, repay the debt in the language of bitter and contemptuous sarcasm.
2. Consider the grand instrument of reconciliation between Jew and Get, the. "In his flesh." The language refers expressly to the condition of penal curse-bearing to which the atoning Savior spontaneously subjected himself. As the apostle once represents sin as being condemned in Christ's flesh (Romans 8:3), so here our Lord is regarded as having in his flesh taken upon him the sins of his people, as the great cause of enmity and disunion, and having exhausted at once the sin of man and the wrath of God on the cross, he thus at once abolished the law of ceremonies and annihilated the enmity which found its occasion in it. The cross is still the instrument of reconciling man to man. The world has made many efforts to unite men on a basis of liberty, equality, fraternity - often trying to bring about a union even by the most terrible bloodshed; but no principle has yet been discovered to unite man to man save the gospel of Christ, with its doctrine of atonement through the blood of the cross.
3. Consider the ultimate result of the death of Christ. "To make of twain one new man, so making peace." Those previously sundered were by the cross lifted into a higher unity, and placed upon a platform of equal privilege that obliterated all the old causes of division. The reconciling power of the cross ran through all the relations of men and all the relations of life. The person of Christ crucified became henceforth the great Center of unity.
II. HOW CHRIST IS OUR PEACE IN EFFECTING RECONCILIATION BETWEEN GOD AND MAN. "That he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby." Nothing can be more explicit than the declaration that Christ's mission was intended to reconcile God and man, who were previously alienated by sin. It is often contended that, as God is essentially a God of love, it becomes us to think only of reconciliation on man's Side. There are, in fact, two reconciliations, the one based on the other - a reconciliation of God to man, and a reconciliation of man to God. The apostle says elsewhere that "God has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:18), and that it pleased "the Father, having made peace through the blood of the cross, to reconcile all things unto himself" (Colossians 1:20). The scheme of salvation, whether we take account of the incarnation or the atonement, emanated from the Divine good pleasure as the supreme source of all blessings. It is always important to emphasize the fact that the atonement is the effect, not the cause, of God's love. The peace here spoken of is peace on a basis of law and justice; for the offering up of Christ so magnified the Law and exhausted all its demands, that, on the ground of that propitiation, God could be at once just and the Justifier of the ungodly. This is according to another passage: "God hath sent forth his Son to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness" (Romans 3:25). If this be so, it is an error to hold that the only purpose of Christ's death was the manifestation of Divine love. It was, in fact, a manifestation of Divine justice as well as of Divine love; and if it was not a manifestation of Divine justice, that is, if there was no righteousness making that death necessary, it is difficult to see how there could be a manifestation of love in his dying. It follows also that it is an error to depreciate the importance of Christ's death, and to lay the main emphasis of his mission upon the virtues of his life. The Bible knows nothing of a gospel without a cross, or of a gospel which makes the cross a mere affecting incident at the close of a sublime career; it rather exhibits the cross as the grand procuring cause of life and redemption to man. If you take away the cross, you dry up the stream of blessing which has flowed down through all Christian ages, you put an end to the abiding peace of God's people, and you paralyze the right arm of the ministry. Therefore we are justified in regarding the reconciliation between God and. man as resting on Christ's work, and this work as charged with reconciling power, not as it moved the human heart or led to a new conduct in man, but as it introduced a new relation in which men were placed before God. - T.C.
I. HE WHO IS OUR PEACE IS THE PUBLISHER OF PEACE. "And came and preached peace." He came as the Prince of peace, spoke of peace before his death as his parting legacy to the Church, and after his ascension to heaven sent forth his ambassadors with the gospel of peace to say, "We pray you in Christ's stead be ye reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20). What Christ does by the apostles he does by himself.
II. THE BURDEN OF THE GOSPEL - PEACE. The first word of the angelic annunciation was, "Peace on earth."
1. It is peace through the blood of Christ, which thus "speaketh better things than that of Abel."
2. It is peace through the righteousness of Christ: "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).
3. It is the staple of the gospel, which is a gospel of peace proclaimed by ministers who are the publishers of peace.
4. It introduces sinners into the covenant of peace, which cannot be removed.
5. It has peace for its fruits, for believers have "joy and peace in believing;" "Great peace, have they that love thy Law;" "To be spiritually minded is life and peace;" "They that trust in the Lord are kept in perfect peace;" "They dwell in peaceable habitations, in quiet resting-places."
III. THE PERSONS TO WHOM PEACE IS PREACHED. "To you that are afar off and to them that are nigh." There was peace for both Jew and Gentile. It was peace for the world. There is no restriction upon the message of peace. "The Lord shall bless his people with peace" (Psalm 29:11). "Great shall be the peace of thy children." The proof that the peace has this wide and blessed efficacy is our free access to the Father by Jesus Christ. - T.C.
I. THE APPROACH IS TO THE FATHER. It is not to a stern Judge or a God wielding terrible power against us, but to a gracious Father, we have access in virtue of Christ's atoning work. It is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who is represented in this Epistle as having blessed us with all spiritual blessings; it is the Father who has made known to us his purpose to reconcile all things to himself in Christ; it is the Father who has made peace through the blood of the cross. We must ever seek the true origin of our salvation, not in the suffering of the cross, but in the bosom of the eternal Father.
II. OUR ACCESS TO HIM IS THROUGH CHRIST.
1. We are brought near to God through his blood (ver. 13).
2. Through his intercession.
Jesus, as Mediator; Advocate, Forerunner, takes us, as it were, by the hand, and presents us to God. This is the doctrine of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which introduces the era of the better hope, under which we draw nigh to God with true heart, in full assurance of faith, because we have such an High Priest over the house of God. But our Savior is more than High Priest; he is Forerunner; he is not merely Representative of believers, as the high priest of Judaism was representative of the theocratic people, but he is Forerunner, entered within the veil, whither his people can follow him to the very place which he has gone before to prepare for them. There is no longer a restriction upon our access to God. It is a free access, an open access, an access that may well inspire confidence, because it is in Christ: "We have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him" (Ephesians 3:12).
III. THE ACCESS IS BY ONE SPIRIT.
1. It is by his influence we are first brought home to the Father. It is by him we are baptized into one body.
2. The indwelling of the Spirit is necessary to the perpetuation and power of "our fellowship with the Father and the Son."
3. It is the Spirit especially who helps our infirmities in prayer (Romans 8:26). Thus we see how the three Persons of the Trinity are concerned in our salvation. - T.C.
I. THE CITY MAY BE REGARDED EITHER AS THE CHURCH ON EARTH OR THE CHURCH IN HEAVEN. They are equally the city of God "which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." It is a city strongly fortified with the walls and bulwarks of salvation, and is surrounded by a river of love, which ministers to the wants of its citizens. There God dwells in the midst of them. It is a city possessing glorious franchises and ordered government. It is not limited, like the Jewish theocracy, to one nation; it is not bounded by the frontiers of any land; it is the kingdom which is not of this world, and destined ultimately to triumph over all other kingdoms.
II. THE GENTILES ARE NO LONGER STRANGERS IN IT, like those who have no home, no property, no privileges, no interests, in common with its inhabitants. They are now naturalized citizens of the Christian commonwealth, living on terms of perfect equality with all the other members, as to privilege, protection, and government. They are thus brought into relation, not with the Jews either of the present or the past, but with saints of all dispensations and all times; for the Church of God which Jesus "purchased with his own blood" does not date from the day of Pentecost, but covers the whole period of human history since the beginning of time. The abrogation of old theocratic distinctions leaves a new community in which "there is neither Jew nor Greek, circumcision nor uncircumcision."
III. THE HEAVENLY CITIZENSHIP HAS IMPORTANT ETHICAL BEARINGS. Those whose "citizenship is in heaven" are not to "mind earthly things" (Philippians 3:20), but to think of the Savior who is to be revealed with transforming power in the final resurrection. The laws of heaven are to be our guide on earth. Our calling is, therefore, a "high calling." - T.C.
Leviticus 22:10), but "members of the household of God."
I. THE CHURCH IS OFTEN LIKENED TO A FAMILY OR HOUSE, which is a much more intimate brotherhood than the city with all its precious franchises. The Church, which is the pillar and ground of the truth, is the house of God (t Timothy 3:15); we are Christ's house (Hebrews 3:6), and it is at this house of God that judgment often begins in the dispensations of Divine providence (1 Peter 4:17). This is the house of which Moses was a servant (Hebrews 3:5); therefore it was in existence before Pentecost. This is the true "household of faith" (Galatians 6:5).
1. It has God for a Father. This relation is more tender than that of a civil ruler. And therefore we are more than fellow-citizens of the saints; we are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26).
2. Christ is the Firstborn and eider Brother, "a brother born for adversity," allied to us by the dearest ties of sacrifice and sympathy.
3. It is a large family, for it includes "the whole family in heaven and in earth" (Ephesians 3:15) - saints old and young, of all lands, of all times.
4. We enter this family, not by birth, but by adopting grace.
5. It is a separated family, its members divided by time and space, opinion and feeling; but all the members will be at last brought home to "the house of many mansions," the "holy place not made with hands," which our Savior has gone before to prepare.
II. THE GENTILES ARE NO LONGER SOJOURNERS, BUT MEMBERS OF THIS HOUSEHOLD OF GOD. They are not like guests, abiding for a time, but eventually going forth again. The blessing of Abraham "having come upon the Gentiles" (Galatians 3:14), they have been born again; they have become children of God by faith (Galatians 3:26); they have become heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ; they are "clothed with the beautiful garments of salvation;" they shall go no more out, for they have received an eternal inheritance.
III. THIS POSITION OF PRIVILEGE ought to make us jealous of our Father's honor, mindful of our Father's guidance, loving in all our relations to the members of the great household, and studiously careful to promote its harmony and prosperity. - T.C.
I. THE MATERIALS WITH WHICH THE TEMPLE IS BUILT.
1. The foundation. "The foundation of the apostles and prophets" must be the work of the earliest and leading Christian teachers who laid the first stones of the Church. They preached the fundamental truths on which the Church stands - primarily Christ crucified, for Christ is the real Foundation - and they gathered in the first converts. The Church receives its Divine recognition in being apostolic and. in being founded by inspired men - "prophets."
2. The stones. These are the men and women who compose the Church. A building cannot be all foundation. The Church must be the union of individual Christians. It is not the teachers and authorities, but the several members who constitute the Church. These, therefore, are the rich gifts and the honorable mission of the Church. All classes are here united, and those who were once furthest from God - publicans, Samaritans, Gentiles, heathen, corrupt judicials, the neglected, the ignorant, and the base - are brought in.
3. The Cornerstone. Christ crucified is the foundation laid by apostles and prophets in their preaching; Christ glorified is the crowning completion of the whole structure. We begin with Christ; we end in Christ. The temple starts with Christ, and as it rises tier by tier it is growing up to Christ. Christ, the Head of the body and the chief Cornerstone of the Church, is both the supreme authority and the perfect glory of his people.
II. THE PLAN ON WHICH THE TEMPLE IS DESIGNED.
1. The adjustment of a variety of separate parts. "Each several building" is "fitly framed together." It is as though the vast temple were begun in several distinct centers, and, as the building progressed, these approached one another till they met and combined in one vast harmonious structure. There is variety all through, for the "frozen music," architecture, is a blending of many different notes. In the Church there are necessary differences. The hot imagination of the South must produce a different type of Christianity from that molded by the cool, practical temperament of the North. All parts of the temple are not for the same ends. One is to take a lowly place in the monotonous run of stones in a wall; another, to be carved into the delicate grace of a capital, conspicuous to all eyes. But every one has its place, and the union is dependent on variety. There is no unity in a heap of cannon-balls. The fitting together of the various parts of an elaborate structure constitutes the highest unity.
2. Ultimate unity. To this the harmonizing of the several parts is tending. Do we not see the work progressing now in the cooling of ancient ecclesiastical feuds side by side with an enlarging liberty of thought? The true unity will be oneness of sympathy, brotherly love, and mutual helpfulness. Every Christian should strive to realize his share of this and beware of the selfishness of individualism. Christianity begins with individual faith, but it grows into an enlarged brotherhood and the formation of one temple.
III. THE USE TO WHICH THE TEMPLE IS DEDICATED. A temple is a house in which a god dwells. The spiritual temple is "a habitation of God." "God dwelleth not in temples made with hands." He inhabits the humble and contrite spirit. The real presence of God is in the Church. He does not only bless his children, he visits them and abides with them. He does not confine his presence to a select few - inspired prophets, ordained priests, etc. He fills the whole Church with his presence as the incense spreads through every quarter of the temple.
1. Herein is the true glory of the Church - not in outward magnificence, but in the spiritual presence.
2. From this arises the responsibility of the Church, not to defile the temple of the Holy Ghost, but to let the glory of God shine out through every door and window unsullied by any cloud of sin. - W.F.A.
1 Peter 2:4, 5). Each believer is a living stone, dug out of the quarry of nature, hewn by the Word and ministry, laid in the foundation, and built into the heavenly structure. The Church is God's building, not man's. There are four things observable in the apostle's account of this blessed structure.
I. IT HAS A GOOD FOUNDATION. Built on the foundation of "apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief Cornerstone." It is built on the foundation that apostles and prophets laid, namely, on Jesus Christ himself, who is at once Foundation and Cornerstone: "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus" (1 Corinthians 3:11). This was the Foundation which the apostle was always laying: "I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon" (1 Corinthians 3:10). But it was God himself who laid this stone in Zion: "Behold, I lay in Zion a chief Cornerstone, elect, precious" (1 Peter 2:6). The foundation is not, therefore, in man, but in God, not in Rome, but in heaven. Therefore it is an indestructible building. Jesus Christ is called "the chief Cornerstone,' which has its true supporting-place in the foundation, because it is the binding-stone of the building, holding two walls because it is built into both. Perhaps there is a reference to the union of Jews and Gentiles in Christ, who has made both one, and thus builds the whole number of believers into the glorious temple, and bears the weight of the whole structure.
II. IT IS FITLY FRAMED TOGETHER. It is not a mere heap or mass of heterogeneous materials.
1. The materials must be prepared for their place in the building so as to promote its unity and compactness. All the members of the Church must first be joined to Christ as the Foundation, and then cemented to one another by love. Thus their unity gives beauty as well as strength to the structure. "Happy, indeed, the stones that God chooses to be living stones in this spiritual temple; though they be hammered and hewed to be polished for it by afflictions and the inward work of mortification and repentance."
2. The members are to have each their proper place in the building. Thus only can it become a compact structure. Some have a higher, some a lower place; some are appointed to teach, others to be taught; some to lead, others to be led; some to counsel, some to execute; but all the stones are to keep their due place, and thus grow up into a holy temple, "edifying itself in love" (Ephesians 4:16). The Lord requires stones of all sorts and sizes, the smallest as well as the largest, for his temple; and it ought to reconcile us to our respective positions, that it is the Lord's own hand which not only fits us into our place, but keeps us there.
III. IT IS IMPERFECT BUT STILL GROWING. "It groweth into an holy temple." It is growing by the accession of new stones, or by the addition of new members, and by the addition of new graces in the individual members. Provision is made for a vast increase in its size and height, but as it is fitly framed together in its growing dimensions, it will lose nothing in symmetry and strength by its continuous elevation.
IV. THE END OR DESIGN OF THE BUILDING. "For a habitation of God." When we build houses, it is that men may dwell in them. Thus the Church is the temple of God. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16). "I will dwell in them, and walk in them" (2 Corinthians 6:16). Thus "we will be filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:19). Thus we have the true temple of the Father, built in the Son, inhabited in the Spirit, the offices of the three blessed Persons being distinctly pointed out: God the Father in all his fullness dwells in, fills the Church; that Church is constituted to him a holy temple in the Son; is inhabited by him in the ever-present indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
1. Think of the safety and glory of the church. Christ is its Foundation. All the stones are knit to the Cornerstone. It is well proportioned, because the Holy Spirit is the Architect; it is vast in its proportions, for it is spread over the earth; and it is inviolable, for it is devoted to the Lord.
2. Think of God dwelling in the Church. The Christian is an epitome of the Church. He is himself a temple of the Holy Ghost.
(1) What condescension in God to dwell in human hearts! "It is a marvel that the habitation he has chosen for himself is an impure cue."
(2) What a fearful thing it would be to be in collision with such a God!
(3) How careful we ought to be not to defile this temple! We ought to live purer lives, to breathe a sweeter air, to open our hearts to all that is heavenly.
(4) What an awful thought, that the holy God dwells in our unholy hearts, watching us in our secret moments, and reading our very thoughts!
(5) Yet let us remember with gratitude and love that "the high and lofty One who inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy," selects his dwelling-place "with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit." - T.C.