Paul's first prayer for the Ephesians.
Having spoken of the inspiration of the adopted children, the apostle proceeds next to his first prayer on their behalf. He has a still more remarkable prayer in Ephesians 3:1-21 ., but the present one is most instructive too. It begins, as usual, with thanksgiving for the faith towards the Lord Jesus, and love to all the saints which the Ephesians cherish. This need not detain us, but we may at once proceed to the substance of his petition for them. In a word, it is that they may know spiritually the Divine purpose regarding them, and thus be able the better to co-operate with God in the fulfillment of it. This Divine purpose is determined by the Divine power, and the progress of the Christian is simply an experience of "the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power." The point of the passage and of the prayer consists in the measure of the mighty power. This is found in the experience of Christ. His experience, in fact, becomes the measure of the Christian's hope. When the Father can do such wonders in the person of Christ and in the interests of Christ's people, how much may we expect him to do for ourselves!
I. THE FATHER SHOWED HIS MIGHTY POWER IN RAISING CHRIST FROM THE DEAD . (Verse 20.) The mighty power of God is illustrated in the work of creation; but, as A. Monod pointedly puts it, "Creation is an emanation; resurrection is a victory." Christ was dead; apparently he had been vanquished; the king of terrors seemed supreme. But the first day of the week dawned upon a "risen Savior," and the Father's mighty power received ample illustration. Now, it must have been a marvelous experience for our Savior to Dass from death into newness of life. For the life after he rose was different from the life before he suffered. It was immortal. He could henceforth die no more. Hence he said in apocalyptic vision, "I am he that liveth, and was dead, and, behold, I am alive for evermore ." It was thus a transformation from mortality to immortality, from death to everlasting life. The previous resurrections, as far as we know, were only to mortal life. The children raised by Elijah, Elisha, and Christ, and the adults as well, rose to die once more. So that previous resurrections were only foreshadowings of the resurrection of Jesus out of death into life eternal.
II. THE FATHER SHOWED HIS MIGHTY POWER IN CAUSING CHRIST TO ASCEND TO HIS OWN RIGHT HAND IN THE HEAVENLY PLACES . (Verses 20, 21.) Had Christ been left in this world with his immortal nature, he would have had a wide sphere for influence and authority. The opposing terrestrial powers would have gone down before him in due season, and an emancipated world been the result. But when we consider how limited in size this earth is compared with the rest of the system, we can understand how the Father would resolve to put his best beloved Son in a wider sphere of influence than this world affords. What principalities, powers, mights, and dominions lie beyond this "little sand-grain of an earth" we cannot yet tell; but we are assured here of one fact, that the Father has set the Son above them all, at his own right hand in the heavenly places. Now, the "right hand of God" means the seat of power. It is the very focus and center of that mighty energy which we are now considering. Consequently the Father has lifted the Son in his immortal human nature into the very center of power, and given him the universe as his empire. This, again, must have been a marvelous experience for Christ. What a joyful enlargement! To pass out of the narrowness and provincialism of this tiny world into the magnificence of a universal empire; to have all created things and beings as his subjects; to be supreme Administrator under the infinite Father;—this must have been a mighty and a joyful experience for the risen Christ.
III. THE FATHER SHOWED HIS MIGHTY POWER IN PUTTING ALL THINGS UNDER CHRIST 'S FEET . (Verse 22.) The administration is thus guaranteed to be triumphant. Some portions of the vast empire may be rebellious. They may refuse the reign of the Man Christ Jesus. Their rash words may be, "We will not have this Man to reign over us." But they are only putting themselves under the feet of the reigning Christ. Their defeat is certain; the Father's mighty power is pledged to Christ's supremacy. And though, in the words of the Epistle to the Hebrews, "we see not yet all things put under him, we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor," and this is the Father's pledge of ultimate triumph.
IV. THE FATHER SHOWED HIS MIGHTY POWER IN GIVING CHRIST THE HEADSHIP OF THE CHURCH . (Verses 22, 23.) Now, the administration of a state and the headship of a Church are very distinct things. If the Church is the body and Christ the Head, then it stands in closer relations to Christ than subjects do to any sovereign. Christ thinks for the Church; the Church acts for Christ. Just as the body is the instrument of the head, carrying out in the details of practical life the commandments of the head, the seat of the mind and will, so the Chinch is designed to be the instrument in the hand of Christ for the carrying out of his purposes. What a mighty power is needed to bring about a relation so close as this! What gracious power is needed to subdue the individual self-will, and enforce submission to the will and the word of the living Head! This intimate and glorious union between believers and their Lord is what the mighty power of the Father has brought and is bringing about, and this again must be a glorious experience on the part of Christ.
Here, then, we have resurrection, ascension, enthronement, and headship all secured to the once dead Christ by the mighty power of the Father. In such a system what possibilities are opened up for each of us! If this is the measure of the Father's mighty power, which Paul invoked on behalf of his Ephesian converts, truly they may lift up their heads in hope of redemption, complete and glorious, drawing nigh. The more we meditate upon the mighty power of the gracious Father, the more we are assured that mighty grace shall be manifested to us as we need it. When our Lord has had such experience granted him, his members may expect similar experiences in their season. We shall see a parallelism in the experience when we advance to the succeeding section.—R.M.E.
Prayer for the Ephesians.
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 (verse 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.
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 plēroma , or fullness. As he himself is called the Plēroma of God, so the Church is called his plēroma . 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.
"Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, tar above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all." This passage, which is confessedly somewhat involved and obscure in some of its expressions, may be homiletically regarded as illustrating apostolic philanthropy . There is a great deal of what is called philanthropy in this age. Most men who are candidates for public suffrage profess to feel its inspiration, and advocate its claims. Indeed, there are not a few who trade in its holy name. Under the cover of serving their race, they gratify their own vanity and enrich their own coffers. Amongst so much of spurious philanthropy it may be well to take a glance at the genuine thing. Paul was a philanthropist of the true type; his love for his race was disinterested, self-sacrificing, and unconquerable. The passage before us gives us a glimpse of philanthropy as it existed in his noble soul. We observe—
I. HIS PHILANTHROPY REGARDED SPIRITUAL EXCELLENCE AS THE ESSENTIAL NECESSITY OF MANKIND . Two elements of spiritual excellence are mentioned here, which must be regarded, not merely as the specimen of others, but as the root of all genuine goodness of heart.
1. Practical faith in Christ . "Faith in the Lord Jesus." In the New Testament this is everywhere made the one thing needful. Faith in him is represented as essential in the moral restoration of man to the knowledge, image, and fellowship of God; and both the philosophy of the human mind and the experience of mankind concur in demonstrating that practical faith in the Son of God can alone confer real and lasting good on man.
2. Genuine love for the good . "Love unto all the saints," i.e. all the genuine disciples of Jesus Christ. The love is virtuous, it is for men on account of their goodness—"saints." This love is catholic, it is for "all the saints." Now, Paul regarded these two things as existing in the Ephesian Church as the most hopeful and essential things. He makes no reference to their secular education, to their mercantile progress, to their artistic improvements, to their political advancement; he knew that these were comparatively useless without spiritual excellence, and that with spiritual excellence these would grow up to highest perfection. He looked to the reformation of souls as that which was a good in itself, and which alone could give value to any other reformation.
II. HIS PHILANTHROPY LIVED IN THE RELIGIOUS EXERCISES OF HIS SOUL . " Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of yon in my prayers." Observe three things concerning Paul's religious devotions.
1. They were profoundly reverential . How great did that God whom he worshipped appear to him!
2. They were unceasing in thanks and prayer . "Cease not to give thanks for you," etc. In prayer and supplication he made known his requests to God. Unceasing thanks for the past, and prayer for the future, is the grand duty of all, and the happy life of Christians.
3. They were ever animated with love to men . As he appeared before this great God in worship, he bore the interest of the Church at Ephesus in his prayers. He presented Ephesus to the care and love of him who alone can save and bless. True philanthropy has ever used, and must ever use, prayer as its chief instrument. The prayer of Abraham all but saved Sodom and Gomorrah. On the day of judgment it will be seen that the world's greatest benefactors were the men of greatest prayer.
III. HIS PHILANTHROPY EARNESTLY SOUGHT MAN 'S ADVANCEMENT IN SPIRITUAL INTELLIGENCE . He desired the increase of their knowledge in three things.
1. In Divine truth . He prayed that God "would give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him." He wished for them clearer and broader views of the Eternal.
2. In Christian privilege . "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling." The general idea is that you may know the transcendent and. inexhaustible blessings that God has provided for you.
3. In personal attainment . "What is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward." The idea is that you may more deeply feel the change that God's power has wrought in you. How great was the change that God's almighty energy had wrought in these people (see Acts 19:1-41 .)! Such was the knowledge that Paul was anxious to promote, and this, indeed, is the knowledge to bless humanity.
IV. HIS PHILANTHROPY TRACED ALL GENUINE IMPROVEMENT IN HUMAN CHARACTER TO THE DIVINE POWER THAT WAS MANIFESTED IN CHRIST . The mighty power which had done such wonders for them was the "power which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead," etc. The power:
1. Was manifested in the resurrection , of Christ . Christ's resurrection might be regarded
2. Was manifested in type exaltation of Christ . He exalted Christ "far above all principalities," etc. That power will also exalt the soul, give it a dominion over self and circumstances; that power makes men "kings and priests unto God." Paul's philanthropy led him to trace all the improvement at Ephesus, not to his own labors, though he had labored there long and hard, but to God's power, and to God's power as manifested by Jesus Christ.
V. HIS PHILANTHROPY IDENTIFIED MAN 'S INTEREST WITH THE LIFE OF THE SON OF GOD . Those on]y, he felt, were truly blessed of men who were vitally connected with Christ, as body and soul. "Which is his body," etc. The figure implies:
1. Christ ' s animation . The soul animates the body; Christ animates the good.
2. Christ ' s control . The soul controls the body; Christ controls the good.
3. Christ's manifestation . The soul manifests itself through the body; Christ manifests himself in the good.
4. Christ ' s Church . It is a unity. The body, with all its members, is one whole.—D.T.
Although St. Paul could soar into strange heights of contemplation, his interest was not confined to cold theological abstractions. If he meditated on the final consummation of all things, he was never negligent of the spiritual condition of the Christians of his day. No man could show more deep, earnest, personal concern for those committed to his charge, than the great apostle evinced for the Churches of which he had the oversight. They were ever m his thoughts and in his prayers. Their prosperity or adversity was his joy or sorrow. It was happy when, as in the case of the Christians of Asia, to which the Epistle to the Ephesians was addressed, St. Paul had little to blame and much to rejoice over. We may learn something by considering what, in St. Paul's estimation, were the marks of Christian prosperity, and how he regarded that prosperity.
I. THE TRUE PROSPERITY OF A CHURCH CONSISTS IN THE GROWTH OF SPIRITUAL GRACES AMONG THE MEMBERS . We make much of numbers, as though prosperity were a matter of arithmetic. "The statistics of the Churches" will never serve as a divining rod with which to discover the precious metal of piety. St. Paul cared less for the number of adherents to Christianity than for the quality of the true Christians. While we busy ourselves in counting the attendants at church, who is to measure the growth or decrease of spiritual life? Then St. Paul's idea of prosperity was not accumulating wealth, the creation of more imposing buildings, a higher social status—things about which some of us are so greatly concerned. All he cared for was spiritual progress. The two essential elements of this are growing faith in Christ and growing love towards one another.
II. THE GROWTH OF SPIRITUAL PROSPERITY IS DESERVING OF JOYFUL RECOGNITION AND THANKSGIVING . If St. Paul is fearless in rebuking where rebukes are necessary, he is ungrudging in his congratulations where these are earned. Some people seem to be afraid of provoking the vanity of others in praising them, if they are not prevented from giving them their due by jealousy. We might better encourage one another if we were more ready to anticipate the great Master's generous "Well done, good and faithful servant." At the same time, it must be remembered that the glory is due to God, as the grace came only from him. Thus our congratulations should pass into thanksgivings.
III. WHILE THANKFULLY RECOGNIZING SPIRITUAL PROSPERITY , WE SHOULD PRAY FOR THE INCREASE OF IT . The present graces are not enough. We shall deceive our brethren if our congratulations lead them to think that there is no need for further progress. On the contrary, the present attainments are reasons for praying for greater increase. Thus St. Paul makes mention of the faith and love of the Christians of Asia in his prayers. The reward of one grace is the addition of another. One prepares the way for another. Certain spiritual attainments are grounds on which new and higher attainments may be built.—W.F.A.
PRAYER FOR THEIR SPIRITUAL GROWTH .
Wherefore I also, having heard of the faith among you in the Lord Jesus, and your love which extends to all the saints. The "wherefore" has reference to their present standing in grace, described in the verses preceding: since ye have heard, believed, been sealed, and thereby shown to be in the right line, I apply myself towards promoting your progress, towards advancing you to the higher stages of the Christian life. Special mention is made of their faith and love, as cardinal Christian graces, to which elsewhere the apostle adds hope ( 1 Corinthians 13:13 ; 1 Thessalonians 1:3 ; 2 Thessalonians 1:3 ). The literal expression, "faith among you" ( καθ ὑμᾶς ), indicates that it was a marked social feature, but perhaps not universal; while their love was not mere general amiability, but a love that embraced the saints as such, having a special complacency in them, and being directed to them all. If it be asked—Could this knowledge of the condition of his correspondents have been derived from hearsay ("having heard") if the letter was addressed to the Ephesians, among whom Paul had lived so long, and whose condition he must have known by personal intercourse ( Acts 19:10 ; Acts 20:31 )? we reply that, though he derived his first acquaintance from personal intercourse, it was some years since he had been at Ephesus, and the ἀκούσας refers to what he had heard in the interval (see Introduction).
Prayer for spiritual growth.
General characteristics of Paul's prayers (see Exposition, Ephesians 1:16 ). The prayer is
I. RETROSPECTIVE . Consists of thanksgiving ( Ephesians 1:16 ). Happy key-note for prayer.
II. PROSPECTIVE . Of supplication. Here we may note:
1. The name by which God is invoked ( Ephesians 1:17 ; see Exposition).
2. The blessing sought, viz. further illumination in the knowledge of God's will.
3. The points needing to be more fully revealed, viz.:
4. The working of God's power in Christ, as foreshadowing his working in believers.
To what a glorious elevation we are carried in such prayers! We seem to luxuriate in infinite stores of blessing. Observe, again, that all is connected with Christ and his redemption. If the power that raised Christ should raise us, to what a glorious elevation should we rise!