Why I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love to all the saints,…
I. FOUNDED ON INFORMATION.
1. Regarding their faith. "For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you." He had already more than once referred to their Christian faith; he refers to it now as ground for his prayer on their behalf. We are to pray for "all men," even for unbelievers; but whoever through faith are admitted into the same Christian circle, claim a special interest in our prayers.
2. Regarding their faith as manifested saintward. "And which ye show toward all the saints." "Love" is omitted in the Revised translation; but the thought must be "faith working through love." It was toward the saints. They were saints themselves (ver. 1); they were kind to the saints as to those who were actuated by the same lofty sentiments. They recognized them as having the first claim on their sympathies, according to the order laid down in Galatians 6:10. It was toward all the saints. They exhibited catholicity. They did not confine their interest to their own immediate circle, but extended it to the whole circle of the saints. They did not boast of their superiority to other Churches, but were able to appreciate Christian excellence wherever it was to be found. They were not restrained in the outgoings of their brotherly love by any difference in unessentials.
II. IT COMBINED TWO THINGS.
1. Thanksgiving for them. "Cease not to give thanks for you." His information supplied him with matter for thanksgiving. He heard of their faith and its manifestations, and so he thanked God for them. This is a very interesting part of our priestly office. All joys of others we then make ours.
"I saw thee eye the gen'ral mirth
With boundless love." We can only do this when we turn to God in thanksgivings for all men (1 Timothy 2:1). The apostle had peculiar delight in the Ephesians; and as their faith was genuine, and was ever receiving new manifestations, his thanksgiving for them was unceasing.
2. Intercession for them. "Making mention of you in my prayers." He was in the habit of praying for the Churches by name, as a parent prays for his children by name. They were among the number prayed for, from the time of their becoming a Church. He had special points of interest connected with them. He had been long resident there, and he had not forgotten the affectionate leave-taking at Miletus. And having kept up his information regarding their affairs, he was supplied with matter for intercession. Observe the twofold use of information. It is important to circulate missionary information, that we may be supplied with subjects for thanksgiving. "Daily shall he be praised" as the result of praying for Christ continually (in an unsaved world) and giving of the gold of Sheba; but how shall we praise unless we have the means of hearing? It is important also to know the condition of Churches and of individuals, that our prayer for them may be more intelligent, and may not, from vagueness and indirectness, miss the mark.
III. IN WHAT CHARACTER GOD IS ADDRESSED IN PRAYER. "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory." As is not unusual in prayer, God receives a name from what is to be prayed for. The prayer is to relate to glory; and so God is styled sublimely the "Father of glory." The glory in store for us is not from ourselves; it is from God. To him all glory essentially belongs, and by him as Father it must be produced in us. The first part of the designation is striking; it cannot be said to be startling. That God should be called "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ" is in keeping with the language of human dependence on the cross: "My God, my God," and also with the language of identity with his own before his ascension: "I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God." Using this language, we identify ourselves with Jesus Christ as our Lord. Taken along with the other part of the designation, the meaning is that God is the First Cause (Father) of that glory which Jesus Christ has obtained for us, and which it belongs to him as our Lord to bestow.
IV. IT IS A PRAYER GENERALLY TO KNOW ABOUT GOD. "May give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him." Than the thorough knowledge of God which is here implied, there is nothing more worthy of attainment. "Every one's elevation is to be measured first and chiefly by his conception of this great Being; and to attain a just and bright and quickening knowledge of him is the highest aim-of thought. In truth, the great end of the universe, of revelation, of life, is to develop in us the idea of God. Much earnest, patient, laborious thought is required to see the infinite Being as he is; to rise above the low, gross notions of the divinity, which rush in upon us from our passions, from our selfish partialities, and from the low-minded world around us." A spirit of wisdom is that in which we rightly estimate things, vain things as vain, worthy things as worthy, and all things according to their relative vanity or worth. As applied to God, it is the spirit in which we learn to appreciate his infinite worth. It is also a spirit of revelation. It is the dawning of his beauty upon our minds. It is the reception of much about God that we could never have found out by our reason. Condition. "Having the eyes of your heart enlightened." There is a noticeable change from "understanding" to "heart" in the translation here. It is true that God is an object for the heart more than for the intellect. The Church says in the Song of Solomon, "I sleep, but my heart waketh." It was the heart that detected the voice of the Beloved. The eyes of our heart, more than of our intellect, have been filmed over by sin. We cannot naturally appreciate the Divine unselfishness, what in self-forgetfulness he has it in his heart to do for us. For this there is necessary the cleansing and quickening of our spiritual vision by the revelation without us and through the inward operation of the Spirit. To God, then, we must look for the presence of this condition of Divine knowledge.
V. IT IS A PRAYER SPECIFICALLY TO KNOW ABOUT GOD THE GLORY WHICH HE HAS DESTINED FOR US. "That ye may know what is the hope of his calling, what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints." There is a hope which his calling produces in our hearts. This is the hope of the inheritance which has already been referred to in the fourteenth verse. Having, then, connected the Divine purpose with the inheritance, he now prays that they may have some worthy conception of it, as that to which they were called. There is an accumulation of language to impress us with the greatness of the inheritance as worthy of the donor. The glory of the inheritance in the saints. The glory of a thing is its highest, most beautiful form, as when the fields are in their summer loveliness. The glory of the inheritance in the saints is all that an inheritance can flower out into for them, the final thought of God regarding the condition of his own. It must excel what was the glory of Canaan, as it is an inheritance formed with richer materials. The riches of the glory. The riches of his grace ends in the riches of the glory. The open flower, of which there was a representation in the Jewish temple, is but a suggest, ion of the glory which God will manifest in the saints. The higher the existence the richer the efflorescence. So rich is the glory in the saints that it is difficult to form a conception of what it shall be. It is difficult for us to think of ourselves beautified as we shall be in our nature and in our surroundings. But that it may be worthily conceived is an object for which we are to pray for ourselves and for others. It is true that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him;" but that is not the whole statement, for it is added, "God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit." We are therefore to seek, with the materials we have, some clear, vivid, uplifting conception of the future inheritance.
VI. IT IS A PRAYER TO KNOW ABOUT GOD THE POWER WHICH IS TO EFFECT THIS GLORY TO THE SAINTS. "And what the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe." Again the apostle heaps up language, as though the idea were too great for expression. The power of God has not only greatness; it has exceeding greatness. "The power of God is that ability and strength whereby he can bring to pass whatsoever he pleases, whatsoever his infinite wisdom can direct, and whatsoever the infinite purity of his will can resolve" (Charnock). "God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this: that power belongeth unto God." It belongs to him originally, inalienably. Job discourses of the power of God as seen in the lower parts of the world, in hanging the earth upon nothing, in holding up the clouds, in compassing the waters with bounds till day and night come to an end, in commotions in air and earth, in his garnishing the heavens. Then sublimely he concludes: "Lo, these are parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of him? but the thunder of his power who can understand?" The apostle goes to a different field in which to study the power of God. It is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe. It is the power of God as manifested toward the Church of Christ.
VII. IT IS A PRAYER TO KNOW ABOUT THE DIVINE POWER THAT WHICH WAS MANIFESTED IN THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST, "According to that working of the strength of his might which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead." He has spoken of the power of God abstractly; this gives coloring to it. He would show what God can do for the Church, by pointing to what he has already done for Christ. It was power displayed upon Christ in extraordinary circumstances. For how powerless was Christ, when his body was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb! He continued for a time under the power of death. His humanity was unnaturally divided. The spirit was disembodied, leaving the once active body a pale and motionless corpse. But upon this utter powerlessness the power of God was signally put forth, that power by which he can subdue even death to himself. He recalled the spirit, and gave it to retenant the body subdued to a nobler mold. This, then, is the power which is to give us the riches of the glory of the inheritance. And is it not pertinent as well as sufficient? For our being raised by a similar forth putting of power is preparatory to our bring instated in the inheritance.
VIII. IT IS A PRAYER TO KNOW ABOUT THE DIVINE POWER THAT WHICH WAS MANIFESTED IN THE RAISING OF CHRIST TO HIS RIGHT HAND. "And made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." The working of the strength of the Divine might did not terminate with the raising of Christ from the dead. For a time he remained on earth, and was seen by mortal eye. But by another grand forth putting of power Christ was raised above earth, was raised to the right hand of God. This denotes an intimacy with God in power such as is beyond any mere creature. And yet it was mysteriously in our creaturely nature that he was raised to the right hand of God. There he was seen afterwards, and recognized, by the prisoner of Patmos; and there he still sits. This is in the heavenly places, the height from which, according to the former thought, the Church is blessed. He has been raised above every form of superiority or prerogative. Four words are used which cannot be distinguished. Earthly orders or powers seem to be included as well as heavenly. Christ is King of kings, whether these are of the human or of the angelic type. He has also been raised above every name that is named, i.e. every one who has personal subsistence or, it may be, is the representative of power. And this has reference, not merely to the present, but to the future order of things as well. Thus, with necessary vagueness, is the superiority of Christ set forth. "We know that the emperor goes before all, though we cannot enumerate all the satraps and ministers of his court; so we know that Christ is set before all, although we cannot name all who are under him."
IX. IT IS A PRAYER TO KNOW ABOUT THE DIVINE POWER THAT WHICH WAS MANIFESTED IN THE GIVING OF CHRIST TO BE HEAD OVER ALL THINGS TO THE CHURCH. "And he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be Head over all things." There is a climax. He raised him from the dead; he raised him to sit at his right hand; raised to sit at his right hand, he gave him to be Head. The apostle thinks of the Father as First throughout, and in viewing him as Head he thinks of the Father preparing for the position by first putting all things in subjection under his feet. His seat at the right hand of God is a seat of government. From it he exercises unlimited, universal sway. The elements of earth and air and water, all living things on our planet, the bodies and souls of men, the whole material universe, the invisible world and its inhabitants, are in his hands to be sovereignly disposed of according to his thought. But let us look at the full bearing of the headship of Christ on the Church.
1. Christ is given as lead over all things to the Church. "To the Church." By the Church we are to understand the collective body of believers, or of those who are called out of the world. The latter conception, to which the derivation points, excludes the holy angels, whose life must be essentially the same with ours, but who have never been called out of a depraved condition. It is the Church of the redeemed, then, about which sublime statements are made. Christ is here set forth as the great Donation to the Church. "Given to the Church" is the language of the apostle; and the gifts of God, we are told, are without repentance. He does not withdraw his Bible, nor his Son to whom it testifies. This is a gift which strikes us with a sense of the disproportion between its value and the recipient. God's own Son given to the Church - how inconceivable a mark of the Divine favor! But it is in his headship over all things that he is gifted to the Church. Had he reigned only within the Church, its interests could not have been sufficiently guaranteed. Danger might have arisen from the quarter to which his reign did not extend. But, as he reigns over all things, he can make all things - without the Church and within the Church too - work together for its good. "The whole economy of creation stands at his disposal as the basis and sphere of activity for the economy of redemption." He does not need to be indebted to the earthly powers for a sphere for carrying on the operations of the Church in the era that is proceeding. "For the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." He has proprietary rights over it of the most absolute nature as Mediator. It has been put in subjection under his feet; it has been handed over unconditionally to his control. And the earthly powers only hold from him their portion of the surface and riches of the earth. They are no more than tenants-at-will; he appoints to them the bounds of their habitation; and they can be used by him for his ends; their schemings and commotions can be overruled for the advancement of the Church. As for the Church, Christ, having unlimited power, can place it where its discipline can best be secured, and where it can have the widest door of usefulness. And even the worldly elements which find entrance into the Church, although they may be allowed to work for a time, can be checked, controlled for his Church's triumph over them. If the Church has a vast work before it, and is yet far from coming up to the prophetic mark, may it not trust to the greatness of its Head? And if the Church is promised a great future after this era has run its course in the eternal order of things, is not its great Head invested with power sufficient to bring it about?
2. The Church stands in an intimate relationship to Christ. "Which is his body." As we stand in relation to our body, so Christ stands in relation to his Church. The body of man is a marvelous piece of workmanship. "Fearfully and wonderfully made" is language applicable to its structure. But the apostle contemplated it, not from the strictly scientific, but from the religious or more particularly the Christian standpoint. He says that the Church is the body of Christ. This raises the body of man to an exalted position. It is not the degraded thing it has been sometimes thought to be. It is after the pattern of things in the heavens. This is the true way of putting it; not, certainly, that the Church is made after the pattern of the body, but that the body is made after the pattern of the Church. Just as fatherhood existed in God before it existed in man, so body existed in the Divine conception of the Church before it existed in the human body. Let us look into the bearing of it.
(1) It is in relation to Christ that the Church has life. The head or brain is the great seat of bodily life. It is here that there takes place the mysterious union of soul to body. From this as a center the soul animates the body. There is an equally mysterious union of Christ to the Church. Upon him as animating Head the Church depends.
(2) It is in relation to Christ that the Church is organized. An organism is a living structure that, by means of organs, serves its uses. The human body is an elaborate structure of this kind. It is a number of organs arranged to form an organic whole. It is from the brain that it is organized. From it proceed the various ramifications throughout the body. In the same way the Church is the great living structure, even more elaborate than the human body. It is an organization intended to serve certain uses. It is from Christ as Head that the Church takes the type of its organization.
(3) It is by Christ that the Church is governed. The brain is the thinking, ruling center in the body. There the thinking is done. From it the whole regulation proceeds. Its commands are carried by the nerves to every part. So Christ is the brain or center where the thinking goes on for the Church, whence commands are issued to all the dependent parts.
3. The Church is that in which Christ is to be fully manifested. "The fullness of him that filleth all in all." We are to understand it to be Christ that filleth all in all. It is he who fills the sun with its light-giving properties. He fills the seed with its germinating power. He fills the flowers with their power to blossom forth into beauty. He fills the souls of men with all their natural qualities. It is Christ, then, who is to be seen in the sunshine, in the waving corn, in the flowers that deck the field, and also in the blossoming forth of genius. But the Church stands in a special relation to Christ. It is his body, and therefore he is to fill it fuller than he does anything else. It is here called his pleroma, or fullness. As he himself is called the Pleroma of God, so the Church is called his pleroma. There is a high sense in which the body is intended to be the manifestation of the soul. We think of Christ in the days of his flesh as having a body with an ideal beauty corresponding to his spiritual excellence so far as flesh would allow. It was not a mere sensuous beauty, but rather a beauty that was expressive of holiness. At the same time, it was not a beauty that excluded marring by sorrow and struggle. In the same way the Church is to manifest Christ. It is to be a fitting temple for the Christ within. It is to be that in which he is to body himself without any barrier, other than that which marks the Church's finitude. He is to bring up his Church into the highest form so as to body forth his beauty. All deformity and weakness are to be excluded, as unworthy of him who is receiving manifestation. All imperfection is also to be excluded, such as belongs to lower things which can only, though filled by him, have broken rays of his glory. What a glorious destiny is this for the Church! How fitting that it should be held up before it in all the grandeur of the conception! And how fitting that we should see to it that we belong to the Church, and are guided and ruled by Christ, so that in us, as part of the whole, the glory of Christ shall shine forth! - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,