A Meditation on the Ephesian Prayers.

Ephesians 1:3-23, Ephesians 3:14-21.

No. 1.

While it is my primary intention as enabled by the grace of God, to engage your heart more particularly with the two prayers of the beloved apostle Paul in this epistle, I should like to make a brief survey of this land, where there is much gold. In a spiritual sense it is a goodly land, a land of water brooks, of fountains and depths that spring out of the valleys and hills; a land of barley and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey. I well remember when reading the 33rd chapter of Isaiah, some years ago, being greatly impressed with the poetic beauty of the 17th verse, "Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off." The first part of the Scripture presented no difficulty, the matchless beauty of God's king, in the glory of His Person, entrancing the soul, saturating it with the dew of heaven, yea watered as with the sweet distilling of the Spirit, as Scripture after Scripture concerning God's king passed in review: "Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion" (Psalm 2): and "A king shall reign in righteousness," as declared by Isaiah, the prophet of God's salvation. And I smelled the sweet fragrance of the garments of the king spoken of in the 45th Psalm,

All thy garments smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces; "the garments of Him, who is "King of kings and Lord of lords." The latter clause of the 17th verse of Isaiah 33 however, was somewhat difficult to understand, until my attention was drawn to the marginal rendering, "the land of far distances." Moses on Pisgah's lofty height beheld Immanuel's land, the earthly inheritance assigned to the children of Israel, in the dispensational ways of God with men. In Ephesians, we stand upon superlatively greater elevations, and view the glorious landscapes of the new creation, where "all things are of God." This epistle has been aptly described as "The epistle of the heavenlies;" and we stand upon these heavenly altitudes breathing the pure and stainless atmosphere of heaven itself, and see the glorious vistas of this "land of far distances," stretching out far and away beyond our ken, to the limitless bounds of the universe of God. As contemplating this scene, the heart finds relief as the lips utter that beautiful doxology of the apostle, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!

It is unquestionably true that the apostle Paul was specially gifted of God, to communicate to men His eternal counsels and His ways in Christ, and also the glory of Christ, in which our eternal blessing and security are so vitally bound up. A careful and prayerful study of these two sublime prayers, so exquisitely phrased, would amply repay the diligent, exercised student of the word of God.

In the narrow compass of a few brief verses we have a masterly setting forth of the great truths which are developed throughout the epistle. Please note the attitude of the speaker, remarkably significant, he makes mention of the saints in his prayers, desiring that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory might give them the spirit of wisdom, etc. Paul desired that the truths he was communicating should lay hold of the heart and conscience of those to whom he was writing. Can we not emulate the apostle in this act of intercession? In spite of the tremendous volume of energy and zeal expended by us in the Gospel, how many are sincerely affected by our preaching? And in spite of all the faithful ministry to the saints of God, both written and oral, why is it that our practical, everyday lives are so low in moral tone, sometimes not exceeding the common standards of the world? Is it not because we have not spent sufficient time before God regarding the matter, desiring that His Word may be productive of good in the lives of saint and sinner?

In this remarkable prayer, three great subjects are mentioned; "The hope of His calling;" "The riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints;" "The exceeding greatness of His power towards us," that has wrought to put us into the calling and make us His heirs. Please observe that it is "HIS calling," "HIS inheritance," and "HIS power." Everything in this epistle is operative from God; man after the flesh is regarded as dead in trespasses and in sins, without one moral movement Godward, the object of divine mercy and compassion, the subject of divine workmanship, "For we are His workmanship." We are looked upon, in this epistle, as no longer in Adam, but in Christ, for "If any man be in Christ, there is new creation."

Verses 4-6 bring out the calling of God, taking us back into an eternity that is past, long before the dawn of this world's tragic history. But as yet it is no question of the activity of the divine counsel; it is simply the blessed fact that God chose us in Christ. The time was to come for the effectuation of all the counsels of God, when divine strength would clothe itself in human weakness for the accomplishment of these counsels, which were all divine. As yet, in these verses, it is but the revelation of the benevolent intentions of God, to have us holy and without blame before Him in love. Beloved saint, has your heart laid hold of this amazing conception, that God is to have us before Him as the objects of His love continually, partaking of the blessed features of our glorious Lord, "holy and without blame," so that the holy eye of God can rest upon us with the same delight as it rests on that blessed One, of whom God said, "In Whom I have found my delight." And what position are we to occupy before God? the position of sons, for He has predestinated us to this, not merely to make us happy, or to give us relief from the tremendous load of our sin and guilt, but to gratify His own blessed heart. The prophet Zephaniah says, "He shall rest in His love, and joy over us with singing." God has laid the basis of His eternal joy in the salvation of guilty sinners like ourselves. To have been brought into the position of angels would have been a great mercy, but angelic relationship would never have satisfied the counsels of eternal love. His desire was to have us before Him, as partakers of the divine nature, capable of enjoying His counsels and Himself; so that we are brought into favour in the Beloved. You have no doubt noted the change of expression here; it is not "in Christ," but "in the Beloved;" as though God would emphasise and intensify the thought of the wondrous place of near and intimate affection into which His grace has brought us.

Now we come to the second object of His desire for us, that we might know "the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." In His calling we look above: the inheritance, as it were, stretches out beneath our feet. This is found in verses 10 and 11, and brings us to the magnificent result of all God's ways in government in the dispensations of time. It is not merely the kingdom, though it includes the kingdom; but the thought is much fuller; it is everything in heaven and on earth headed up in Christ. We are not the inheritance, we are the heirs, "Heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ." Just as God took possession of Canaan as His inheritance, by putting Israel into possession, so when Christ takes possession of all things as Head of the universe, He does so by putting the heavenly saints in possession, and it, becomes the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.

Finally, we come to the power, demonstrated in Christ's resurrection, that was to put us into the calling and bring us as heirs into the inheritance. That mighty irresistible power that was operative in giving Christ that glorious triumph, in raising Him from the dead and setting Him down at His own right hand, far above every principality and authority, and power and dominion, and every name named, etc.; a power greater far than that displayed in calling mighty worlds into being, is operative towards us who believe, in bringing us into the unclouded, unspeakable joy and blessedness of those heavenly and eternal things. A wealthy place beloved!

No. 2.

The first prayer upon which we have meditated is a prayer of glory, contemplating our standing and God's power for us; the second is a prayer of love, contemplating our state and God's power in us.

It might be profitable for a little to explore the avenues of divine truth, which have been opened up for the unrestricted exploration, and prayerful investigation, of the one whose heart is diligently set upon acquiring a deeper knowledge of God the Father and His ways of grace and glory.

In Ephesians 1 we have a wonderful setting forth of the eternal counsels of God, God working all after the counsel of His own will; everything operative from God. It is God's calling, God's inheritance, God's power, the surpassing greatness of which is displayed in raising His blessed Son from the dead, and setting Him at His own right hand, far above every principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. This same chapter shows us God doing all the wonderful things spoken of according to the good pleasure of His will, according to the riches of His grace, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. These are the activities of One, who, after man's disastrous fall, fell back upon the resources of His grace and power, and who wrought for the express purpose of giving effect to all these eternal counsels of glory and blessing.

In Ephesians 2 we have the merciful intervention of God on behalf of those who were dead in trespasses and in sins, those who were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, those who were sinners of the Gentiles, outside the pale of national blessing, apart from Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. But these were the subjects of divine mercy, and as the workmanship of God grow unto an holy temple in the Lord, and are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit. Beloved saint of God, has this amazing conception thrilled your soul? Has the immensity, of this thought left its deep impression upon you that every redeemed sinner is a member of the body of Christ, and is a living stone, forming part of that divine structure which is the dwelling place of God upon earth?

Ephesians 3 gives us Paul's administration of the mystery, so preciously disclosed in the previous chapters. Paul was a prisoner for the Gentiles, because he had preached to them the Gospel of the unsearchable riches of Christ, and because he had made known to them this glorious mystery, which had been hid in God from eternity. The mystery discloses that the Gentiles are joint heirs, a joint body, and joint partakers of God's promise in Christ; and God has created all things to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the all-variegated wisdom of God. These spiritual intelligences had seen creation arise and expand before their eyes, they had seen the mighty acts of God in judgment and in providence, but now these exalted beings saw something altogether new in this divine conception, the assembly of God.

With these weighty truths engaging His thoughts and filling His heart, the beloved apostle bows his knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom every family in heaven and earth is named. God had been known as Jehovah, the God of heaven, the Lord of the whole earth, and by other names, all more or less restrictive in application; but at the mention of the name of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, every family in heaven and on earth, angels, Jews, Gentiles, and the assembly, range themselves under it. Then lie goes on to say, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit, in the inner man. Here we have the work of the Spirit of God, a work of spiritual formation within the heart, providing for Christ there a suitable dwelling place; so that he can say "That the Christ may dwell, through faith in your hearts." In the first chapter, we are in Christ; here, Christ is in us, so that being rooted and grounded in love we may be able to apprehend with all saints what is the breadth. … As Christ dwells in our hearts by faith we become rooted and grounded in love, and in this fertile soil the new nature grows, expands, and becomes exceeding fruitful, and seeks to apprehend with all saints — for love will never leave one saint of God out — the wonderful system of divine glory of which Christ is the centre. The Spirit of God alone can make these things real and precious to us. What mortal tongue, yea, what angelic tongue, can describe those heavenly wonders, that stretch far and away beyond mortal ken to the limitless bounds of the universe of God. As we view these wondrous things, truly we are lost, not in perplexity, but in "Wonder, love and praise."
A. Shepherd.