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Part 66: The Epistle to the Ephesians

by Pastor J. C. O'Hair

For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.

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The Epistle to the Ephesians is one of Paul’s Prison Epistles. It was written by Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God “to the saints which are at Ephesus,” and to the, faithful in Christ Jesus.

After presenting the glorious Truth in Chapters One and Two, the Apostle writes: “FOR THIS CAUSE, I PAUL, THE PRISONER OF JESUS CHRIST FOR YOU GENTILES.”

At the time Paul wrote this wonderful message, he was in the jail at Rome. We can truthfully say that Paul was in jail for telling a secret. The word “mystery” occurs five times in the Epistle. The Greek word is “musterion,” which literally means “secret.” Some translate the word “sacred secret.”

After telling of the believers’ warfare with evil heavenly spirits and describing the believer’s spiritual armour, the apostle closes with the words,

“PRAYING ALWAYS WITH ALL PRAYER AND SUPPLICATION IN THE SPIRIT, AND WATCHING THEREUNTO WITH ALL PERSEVERANCE AND SUPPLICATION FOR ALL SAINTS, AND FOR ME, THAT UTTERANCE MAY BE GIVEN UNTO ME, THAT I MAY OPEN MY MOUTH BOLDLY, TO MAKE KNOWN THE MYSTERY (SECRET) OF THE GOSPEL, FOR WHICH I AM AN AMBASSADOR IN BONDS; THAT THEREIN I MAY SPEAK BOLDLY, AS I OUGHT TO SPEAK.”

Ephesians 6:18 to 20.

Thus we see that the Epistle to the Ephesians deals with that peculiar phase of Divine Truth, designated by the Holy Spirit, “the Mystery,” or “God’s secret.”

But we read in the first chapter, verse nine,

“HAVING MADE KNOWN UNTO US THE MYSTERY OF HIS WILL, ACCORDING TO HIS GOOD PLEASURE WHICH HE HATH PURPOSED IN HIMSELF.”

Of course, a secret revealed should no longer be considered a secret. But it is sad to know that this most profound Divine Truth of Ephesians is still a secret so far as the majority of members of the Body of Christ are concerned.

There are six chapters and one hundred and fifty-five verses in the Epistle to the Ephesians. Unlike Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians, to the Philippians, to the Thessalonians, and others, in the Epistle to the Ephesians there is little reference to the local assembly at Ephesus, no specific reference to Paul’s ministry in that city, only a hint or two.

Ephesians deals with the Church, as the Body of Christ, the entire Body, specifically setting forth God’s spiritual program under “the dispensation of grace”; namely, the building up of the Body of Christ. This is according to the eternal purpose of God. The fact of the matter is, that the word “Ephesus” is missing in most of the original manuscripts. God’s program is stated in Ephesians 4:10 to 13. Read these verses carefully and prayerfully,

The Epistle to the Ephesians is addressed “to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” The writer of Hebrews says, “strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age (perfect).” “Every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe.” Hebrews 5:13 and 14. The Lord desires that believers be established in the Truth contained in Ephesians.

“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried away with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” Ephesians 4:11.

The great majority of Christians never get beyond the milk diet. There is much strong meat in Ephesians. However, the saving gospel of grace is clearly presented in very simple language

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:8 to 10 and 13.

And there are some very plain instructions in Ephesians concerning the believer’s walk and behaviour, messages for what we call practical Christianity.

The Holy Spirit would not have directed Paul to write to the Corinthians the profound Divine Truth contained in Ephesians. He did write to them: “Behold, I shew you a mystery.” I Corinthians 15:51. But about all he could say about the mystery of Ephesians, he said in I Corinthians 2:7:

“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.”

The explanation is found in I Corinthians 3:1 to 3:

“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”

When Paul preached at Corinth and at Ephesus, he found the same kind of ungodly sinners in both cities. He preached to them that Christ died for their sins and was buried and was raised again. The sinners at Corinth are described in I Corinthians 6:9 and 10. What awful sinners they were! But note the great change: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” I Corinthians 6:11. Note I Corinthians 12:2: “Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.” The sinners at Ephesus are described, in Ephesians 2:1 to 3 and Ephesians 2:11 and 12. What awful sinners they were! But note the great change in Ephesians 2:13 and 19: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.”

Thus we see the human material out of which the God of all grace makes saints and the Divine process by which they are made. The believing sinners at Corinth, saved by grace, became saints. The believing sinners at Ephesus, saved by grace, became saints. Note how Paul opens each Epistle

“Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours; Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 1:2 and 3.

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 1:1 and 2.

A saint is a sinner saved by grace. Every saved sinner is a saint. Only the Tri-Une God can make a saint out of a sinner. The believing sinner becomes a saint the very moment he believes unto the saving of his soul.

But what a difference between the carnal sectarian saints at Corinth, who walked as men, and could not take the meat of God’s Word, and the faithful at Ephesus, to whom Paul wrote, “wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints.” Ephesians 1:15.

Note the contrast in I Corinthians 6:7 and 8: “Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law with one another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.” They were carnal. There was a sin among them. They defrauded one another. There was division. There was some real sinning. I Corinthians 5:1 to 5. Some of them drank judgment unto themselves at the Lord’s Table. Some of them denied the resurrection. Some of them ate meat offered to idols. There was confusion in their assemblies in speaking with tongues. There was little love for all saints and for one another in the local assembly. But, in spite of all their faults and carnality, they exercised all the sign gifts: “For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gift of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.” I Corinthians 12:8 to 10.

It is obvious then that the presence of the sign-gifts among Christians did not prove that those Christians were unusually spiritual or extraordinarily faithful; for undoubtedly we have observed that not one of these sign-gifts are mentioned in the Ephesian letter, to the faithful in Christ Jesus.Now a little visit to God’s “saint factory.”

TO THE SAINTS—AS BECOMETH THE SAINTS

Let us note Ephesians 1:1: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, TO THE SAINTS which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” And Ephesians 5:3 and 4: “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, AS BECOMETH SAINTS; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.” “TO THE SAINTS.” “AS BECOMETH SAINTS.” It was one thing to become a saint. It was something different to behave as becometh a saint. So in Ephesians we are taught that lesson, which every believer should learn, “becoming a saint” and “as becometh a saint. “

In Ephesians 2:4 to 9, we are told how a sinner becomes a saint. By grace through faith, because of God’s great love and rich mercy. By the blood of Christ. What results? Note Ephesians 4:32:

“And be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Then in Chapters Three, Four, Five and Six, the saint is instructed how to behave “as becometh a saint.” Note Ephesians 2:10:

“FOR WE ARE HIS WORKMANSHIP CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS UNTO GOOD WORKS, WHICH GOD HATH BEFORE ORDAINED THAT WE SHOULD WALK IN THEM.”

The sinner, by faith, must become God’s workmanship before he can be God’s workman and walk in the good works whereunto he is ordained.

“NOT OF WORKS”—“UNTO GOOD WORKS”—The sinner becomes a saint by believing the gospel of his salvation. Ephesians 1:13. Note this wonderful truth in II Timothy 1:9 and 10:

“Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. But now is made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, Who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

Then note II Corinthians 9:8:

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”

And Ephesians 1:19:

“And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.”

“All grace” and “all Divine power,” available for the sinner saved by grace, to enable him to behave “as becometh a saint,” to walk in the good works unto which he is ordained.

Thus we learn that not one religious ceremony, one moral deed, one single human endeavor, is necessary to make a saint out of a sinner, which is one hundred per cent the work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit when the sinner believes the truth. Note how this is stated in II Thessalonians 2:13: “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the Truth.”

After salvation by grace the believer is called to a life of separation. Note the instructions in Ephesians 4:1:

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.”

We are not saved because we behave, or because we walk well pleasing to the Lord, but we should behave and walk well pleasing because we are saved, by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves; because we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works that God hath foreordained that we should walk in them.” Let us always remember these gracious words, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”

GRACE, MERCY, PEACE

Refer to Paul’s Epistles, and see how frequently he uses a salutation similar to Ephesians 1:2: “Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” “Grace to you” and “peace.” In other Epistles he adds “mercy” and “ peace.” Beautiful words! Even in the sound. Even more beautiful because of the meaning. What an awful predicament the sinner is in! What a fool the unbeliever is! God’s grace, God’s mercy, and God’s peace are available for any kind of a sinner because of the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Romans 3:24, we read the good news, that the believing sinner is declared righteous without a cause, by God’s grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood. The Lord Jesus Christ by His blood is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. The Lord Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasteth death for every man. God will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the Truth. God is called “the God of all grace.” I Peter 5:10. God is called “the Father of mercies.” II Corinthians 1:3. God is called “the God of peace Who brought from the dead the Lord Jesus Christ.” Hebrews 13:20. In Romans 5:21 we learn that grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. In Colossians 1:20, we learn that Christ made peace by the blood of His cross. In Ephesians 2:4 and 5. we learn that God, Who is rich in mercy for the great love wherewith He loved us, when we were dead in sins, hath made us alive together with Christ in the heavenlies. Therefore grace be to you from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Ephesians, God is called “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “the Father of glory.” Ephesians 1:3 and 17. The Divine message of Ephesians is the message of grace and glory. The spiritual benefits and blessings guaranteed to the members of the Body of Christ, in Ephesians, are “according to the riches of God’s grace” and “according to the riches of His glory.” Ephesians 1:7 and Ephesians 3:16. In Ephesians 1:7 we learn that it is “according to the riches of God’s grace” the believer has redemption through Christ’s blood, the forgiveness of sins. In Ephesians 4:32 we learn that the believing sinner’s sins are forgiven “for Christ’s sake.”

To the praise of the glory of His grace, the Father hath made the believer accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6. Remember, this is to the praise of the glory of God’s grace, not of works, lest any man should boast.

But compare with this statement the statement of II Corinthians 5:9:

“WHEREFORE WE LABOUR, THAT WHETHER PRESENT OR ABSENT, WE MAY BE ACCEPTED OF HIM.”

Here we learn of the acceptance of the believer, because of the believer’s endeavors. But let us not accuse the Holy Spirit of contradiction. The Holy Spirit does not confuse salvation with service. He does not confuse salvation as a gift with reward for the believer’s good works. As Noah was saved, and secure, because he was in God’s judgment-proof ark, so also is the sinner saved and secure, because he is in Christ.

About eighty times Paul uses the expression “in Christ”—“in Christ Jesus”—“in Him”—“in Whom.” In Ephesians the believer “is saved”—“he is sainted or sanctified”—“he is sealed”—“he is seated in the heavenlies “—“he is secure.” It is all of grace, and because he is in Christ Jesus; God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus.

Let us see how the truth of II Thessalonians 2:13, which we quoted, agrees with the truth of Ephesians 1:13 and 14: “In Whom ye also trusted after that ye heard the Word of Truth, the gospel of your salvation: in Whom also on believing (pisteusantes), ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.” The individual is chosen unto salvation by God through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: “Ye heard the Word of Truth, the gospel of your salvation, in Whom on believing (not, after that ye believed) ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” That Holy Spirit sealing is the believer’s earnest until the redemption of the purchased possession, and he is sealed unto the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30.

Salvation is of the Lord. A man can receive nothing except it be given him from above. Eternal life is the free gift of God. God’s Word is Truth. God’s Son said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” The sinner who believes the Truth is chosen unto salvation through sanctification of the Spirit. Note Hebrews 10:10: “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.” When this takes place the believer is indeed sanctified once for all; he is sealed once for all; he is anointed once for all; he is baptized once for all; he is joined to the risen Christ in an eternal and inseparable union once for all. This is all accomplished by the One Divine baptism of Ephesians 4:5. Ephesians is God’s message of union and unity.

Note the truth of Ephesians 5:31 and 32: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.” The Father’s will is expressed in Ephesians 4:15: that His children should grow up unto Him in all things, which is the Head, Christ. There is One Head and One Body, as there is One Father and One Spirit.

It is interesting to note that the One Body is called, in Ephesians 3:6 (in the Greek), the “Joint-Body.” The members of the Body are joined to the Head: “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office, so we, being many, are one Body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” Romans 12:4 and 5.

Let us keep in mind God’s purpose in Ephesians, as we study this wonderful Epistle. God’s purpose is to build up the One Body of Christ, to make the One New Man of Ephesians 2:15. God is completing His Household, “in Whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord, in Whom ye also are buildeth together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. Ephesians 2:21 and 22.

For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.