1:3,20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12; 1:6,9-10; 3:11,21.
In meditating on the
subject of spiritual enlargement as seen in Paul's
epistles, when we pass into this letter to the Ephesians
we come into an entirely new realm. It is like passing
from one world into another. In 'Corinthians' we find
everything earthbound in a carnal and soulish way, and
all the features which we find there are due to an
earthliness of Christian life. In 'Galatians' we still
find things earthbound, but this time in a religious way.
When we pass into 'Ephesians,' the earthly ties are
severed. The one governing word is "the
heavenlies." It is a new realm with a new time
factor. We have passed out of the earthlies into the
heavenlies, and out of time into eternity. We want to
understand as far as we can what that means.
Limiting Effect of Things 'On the Earth'
We can, of course,
conclude at once that if our horizons are pressed back so
far and if that is our realm, it must surely mean
spiritual enlargement. But how? If we want to interpret
this word 'heavenlies' in a practical way, we find the
key in verse 3 of the first chapter of the letter -
"...hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in
the heavenlies in Christ." It means that now, in
this realm of the believer's life, spiritual values are
pre-eminent. That is easily seen by a comparison with the
two letters preceding. In 'Corinthians' spiritual values
were not really pre-eminent. Personal interests governed
there. Everything was judged from the standpoint of the
advantage to the people concerned and of its effect upon
them here in this life on the earth. Even spiritual
things were pulled down, spiritual gifts were dragged
into the realm of display with a view to making something
of the people themselves.
In the Galatian letter
the same thing is true, but from the standpoint of
religion. All is brought down to earth. The Apostle put
his finger upon the heart of the matter when he said of
the Judaizers who were capturing the Galatian believers
that they wanted to glory in their flesh (Gal. 6:13);
that is, that they might be able to count heads and say,
'See how many converts we have! See how successful our
movement is, how many people are joining us!' And he sets
that over against the offence of the Cross. The offence
of the Cross is that there is nothing to glory in in the
flesh. All the glorying in the flesh, even in a religious
way, is removed by the Cross. There is an earthliness
even of religious life that wants to make of Christianity
something here, seen and sentient. It is earthliness in
another form. It is an earthly 'Church.'
Spiritual Value Counts with God
So here, when we come
into the 'Ephesian' position, we are at once introduced
to the pre-eminence of spiritual values. That is what 'in
the heavenlies' means - how things are viewed from above;
not what they look like and seem to be from the earthly
standpoint, not how we weigh and measure them down here
on this earth, but how they stand from heaven's
viewpoint, how the ascended Lord looks at them. That is
what governs all the way through this letter, at every
point - spiritual value; not numbers, not what men call
success, not all these things which are of such
importance to people here, but just that which weighs
with God; and that is spiritual value.
blessed us with every spiritual blessing," or, more
properly and literally, "every blessing of the
Spirit." We saw how Paul sought, with both the
Corinthians and the Galatians, to get them away to the
place where the Spirit was the great, dominant reality.
Now here that realm is brought fully into view, where the
spiritual matters more than anything else. So if we want
spiritual enlargement, if we are really coming to that
greater fulness, we shall have to forsake these earthly
standards and judgments and interests, and get to the
place where, after all, nothing matters but spiritual
value. How far is a thing of value in the Lord's sight?
We may take it as settled that only spiritual value
counts with God.
of Christ in Heaven the Measure of Spiritual Value
in heaven. We must know Him now only in a spiritual way,
and no longer after the flesh. We do not know Him as men
know one another on the earth. He truly said, "The
world beholdeth me no more; but ye behold me" (John
14:19). For the moment, that raised a problem for His
disciples: they could not understand Him. They said
"What is come to pass that thou wilt manifest
thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" They came
afterward to understand that perfectly well. Christ can
be known truly now only in a spiritual way; He is in
heaven. So here again the great phrase is "in
the heavenlies in Christ"; that is, the great
spiritual values are Christ known in a spiritual way.
Enlargement is a matter of knowing Christ. "Ye shall
know the truth and the truth shall make you free"
(John 8:32). Paul tried to make the Galatians see that.
His epistles are full of the name 'Christ' - the Galatian
epistle as much as any.
Features Must Not Govern
letter to the Ephesians begins - not only ends - with
that: "...every blessing of the Spirit in the
heavenlies in Christ." That is, knowing Christ in a
spiritual way is the way of spiritual enlargement; there
is no other way in which we can truly know Him. So in
'Ephesians' we find this idea of the spiritual. The
Spirit and 'spiritual' occur frequently in this letter.
The earth touch, we have said, is severed. That earth
touch seen in the Corinthian letter meant divisions -
"I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Peter":
parties, circles, sects, dividing the Body. That is the
earthly aspect and the earth touch, and we always come
into the realm of divisions if we touch one another on
the earth level. In 'Corinthians' and in 'Galatians' it
is - Jew and Greek, bond and free, male and female (Gal.
3:28). That is the earth touch, the divisions of the
earthly life. But "in the heavenlies" there is
no earth touch, and that results in there being no earth
man. Here in 'Ephesians' we come into touch with the
heavenly man, Christ, and then with the "one new
man." Here there is neither Jew nor Greek: it is not
Jew and Greek brought together in fellowship; here there
are not bond and free; here there is nothing of those
divisions at all, but one new man in Christ. "He...
made both one, and brake down the middle wall of
partition... that he might create in himself of the two
one new man" (Eph. 2:14). So that spirituality and
heavenliness mean that we meet all believers solely on
the ground of Christ. We do not meet them for what they
are in themselves, nor on the ground of what their
connections are religiously - whether they belong to this
or that, or do not belong to this or that. Those things
do not come into consideration at all. We meet them on
the ground of Christ, and the measure of our practical
unity will be the measure of Christ. We go as far as we
can with the spiritual measure of everyone; we make that
the thing that governs.
Now, if we
are to deepen and increase in fellowship we must grow in
spiritual measure. Spiritual enlargement will result in
the fuller expression of fellowship. That is the teaching
of this letter.
enlargement, then, is a matter of getting away from the
old-man-level, 'the earthlies' in the Corinthian sense -
and even religiously, in the Galatian sense - to 'the
heavenlies,' in this sense, that Christ known in a
spiritual way is the ground upon which we live. Other
things do not govern at all; it is the Lord Himself and
the things that are spiritual which predominate with us.
That is heavenly ground. When we get there, we are
introduced to the realm of very considerable spiritual
enlargement. There is so much more, of course, in this
letter, but that is just a beginning.
Spiritual Values to Concern Us
what weighs with me most? Where am I living? Is it on
this wretched, earthly ground of people and things down
here, or is it on the ground of Christ? Is it spiritual
life and spiritual values that matter? If we can get up
there and say truly, 'It does not matter one little bit
to me how a thing affects me personally; the question is
- how much of the Lord is there in this? How much can
there be for Him? I am not influenced by people's
relationships down here; I take the higher ground of the
heavenlies and meet them, not as this, that or something
else according to earthly designation, but I meet them on
the ground of Christ, the one new man.' On that level
there is nothing to impede spiritual enlargement.
Spiritual measure is not a matter of anything here, even
for the Lord - its success, its support, its maintenance
- but just how much it is answering to the full thought
of God in a spiritual way. That is what counts, and that
is heavenly ground. We know so well that if people are
more concerned with the maintenance of something for the
Lord on this earth - keeping it going, building it up,
making it successful - they are in a realm of spiritual
limitation, and not until they are completely lifted out
of such considerations with the one question - How far is
this answering to the Lord's fully-revealed mind? - and
are governed by that alone, can there be real progress
and spiritual enlargement. Is it not true? And it is
impressive that people who are really tied up with some
thing - some organization, some piece of work, some
society, some mission, some institution - even though it
be for God in all sincerity - if that is their horizon,
if that constitutes their world, they are limited
spiritually. They go just so far spiritually and no
farther. They are bound by their own earthly fences, the
fences of that particular thing. Get away from things,
out to the vast range of God's eternal, timeless purpose,
and you find all fences are down and spiritual
enlargement takes place. It is the only way.
So we come
back. What is the Lord after? - not just good things for
Himself, however good; He is after nothing less than that
great summing up of all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10).