Lord, we can only pray from our hearts under a very deep sense of need, of dependence... of longing that Thou Thyself will stand fully possessed of every moment of this time and of this day to give Thyself with great application, and wisdom, and love, and power for securing the completion, so far as this time is concerned, of what Thou didst have in mind in bringing us together. Thou did say after feeding that multitude: “Gather up, gather up what remains over that nothing be lost”. That nothing be lost. We believe that this is Thine own desire that nothing be lost, and we pray that Thou would bring this very definitely into this day: that nothing be lost. We ask in the name of the Lord Jesus, amen.
In our occupation with the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through this week and our tracing of its application to different situations and conditions represented by the letters of the apostle Paul, we have this morning arrived at the letter to the Ephesians and the place that the Cross has and the meaning that the Cross has in that letter.
I hope that you may have read it before the meeting or that at least some knowledge of it exists in your minds so that it is not necessary for me to give you the content of the whole letter. We are not concerned with that at this time but with this one focus: what has the Cross to say to us through this letter?
The actual mention of the Cross in the letter is infrequent but references to it by way of implication are very evident. You will recall that early on the apostle addresses these believers as those who have been quickened together with Christ and raised together with Him. That thought occurs more than once in the letter implying that these believers had come by way of the death and the burial and the resurrection; and that they now stood on the other side of the Cross. The Cross had had its place and largely done its work in them. They, standing on resurrection ground, were now able at least to be shown what the meaning of the Cross is in its greater fullness.
And again we are impressed with the spiritual sequence of things in these letters. We have said the divine arrangement of them is so different from the human chronological arrangement, but you move in real spiritual sequence in these letters as they are given to us by the Holy Spirit in this present order. That, as I have just intimated, is very apparent and patent in the movement from Galatians to Ephesians. In Galatians something had to be got out of the way - the head of that giant, that Goliath Judaism and every other "ism" represented by it - had to be cut off. That giant head had to be decapitated and put aside. All legalisms of every kind, everything that makes Christ smaller than He is, makes the gospel smaller than it is, everything speaking of a wrong limitation, had to be put out of the way before you can get to Ephesians because, we are going to see, Ephesians is the emancipation from all circumscribed horizons.
The Cross and Emancipation from all Circumscribed Horizons
You’re going to move in a big realm aren’t you when you come into this letter! And of course anybody who knows this letter knows what a boundless thing it represents. I’m not going to recapitulate a lot of things that I have said in the little book with which some of you may be familiar, “The Stewardship of the Mystery” but I can remind you that this is the letter, more than any other in the New Testament, of superlatives. Indeed, this man of such tremendous ability intellectually and in other ways, was hard put to it when he wrote this letter, to find language to express what was in his heart, what he had come to see. His superlatives just topple over one another and spoil all his grammar. He will just build up: exceeding, abundantly, above all, and so on. It’s the letter of superlatives and therefore we can rightly sum it up in this way: as the letter of emancipation from every limited horizon.
I remind you again, there is a real aptness in this sequence... the Ai, going back to the Old Testament, and Ai’s issue having been settled and Achan; the element that would pull the people back onto the old Corinthian grounds which we have been seeing. Achan having been removed with all that belonged to him, wife and children. It looks very cruel, very unkind... ruthless to pull Achan out and his family and stone them all to death. But you must remember the Bible moves on spiritual principles and anything to do with this kind of thing, the thing itself, the Achan and any related thing to this that Galatians represents, has got to be wholly and entirely put out of the way. As Paul said, “Let it be anathema and again I say let it be anathema”. He is not having any compromise with any “ism” that limits Christ, or ground that is smaller than Christ. And that all being dealt with so thoroughly, now we can move on, come out into these great expanses of Christ which this letter represents. And if I indicate a few things (and I cannot do more than just indicate them with the most restricted comment) you will have to take it away and spread it over for all your future times with the Lord. But it is one thing into which all these things are gathered with which we are concerned on this last day of the feast, or so far as I am concerned. We get more presently.
Here then, we have in this letter a whole series of transitions from the limited to the unlimited. First of all there is the:
Transition from the Earthly to the Heavenly.
And all who know this letter know that the characteristic phrase of this letter five times repeated is “in the heavenlies”. A tremendous movement has taken place in the horizon here! It has been thrust far back from earth, from the earthly to the heavenly, the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.
Now, I know quite well that that is a difficult idea to grasp. And of course the natural mind immediately gets pictures of something out there far away... the heavens! What do you mean by that? And it is said that some people are so heavenly that they’re no earthly good. We’ll come onto that in a minute. Let us get quite clear as to what this really means “in the heavenlies”. It is true that Christ now is in heaven. It is true that there is a super mundane realm in which principalities and powers, world rulers of this darkness, hosts of wicked spirits operate... It is true that there is a realm, but it can be very unpractical if it is just a mental conception, a remote abstract idea: in the heavenlies.
The first thing said about this is that we have been made to sit in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. But we haven’t in another sense; we are sitting here in this place and very literally so, and probably as the hours go on with the talking you feel it is very literal to have to sit there - very real! And so an element of unreality can come into our mentality when we read this phrase repeatedly “in the heavenlies”. What is really meant by that?
Well of course our names are written in the heavens. In Christ in the heavens we have our place and all our resources are in Him and to come from Him as there. Our government has to be from heaven and many other things. But even so, this has got to be brought more definitely into our knowledge, our experience: the experience of being in the heavenlies... that is the point. And until we’ve got that settled, all this about emancipation from limited horizons is but a beautiful conception. What is it?
Now let me say at once, it is - for all practical purposes in the Christian life here and now, in this world, in this life - it is an inward thing. An inward thing. Very simple. If you have really been born again (and you know quite well that that is not the exact translation of the original language, it is "born from above" well, new birth) if you really have come into the experience of the new birth which is birth from above, what is your first consciousness, your first awareness from that time? Something that you come to realize right at the beginning? You know quite well that you've parted with this world and this earth. That is, that you no longer belong here. Something has happened that has been the nature of a translation inwardly. Your interests... those interests which were, are no longer your interests. Your associations... your own people now, your own people are the Lord’s people. Your gravitation is toward heavenly things. It is an inward awareness and consciousness and we all know something of that. As we go on in the life with the Lord that becomes more and more real.
We are on a spiritual pilgrimage, a spiritual pilgrimage inside of ourselves and our pilgrimage is away, away, away. We find it increasingly difficult to be at rest, at home in the things of this world and the things which the people of this world have as their ultimate.
Now that’s very simple isn’t it? But note: the apostle is saying this to people who had gone a fair way on the pilgrimage. He’d been with these people at Ephesus, and he said to them, their elders, “I have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God”. They had gone quite a way and yet here he is after all, in this particular connection, as we shall see in others, saying to Christians, to Christians well on the way: “Your life is not here. Don’t expect anything here, don’t look for anything here. All your resources are outside and are to come to you from outside. As truly as ever the manna had to come from heaven in type and symbol in the wilderness, day by day, so you have to, and you can, learn to live every day from above”. I say that’s almost elementary and simple but... what is your experience?
I say to you that after - I won’t mention the number of years - of seeking to walk with the Lord, today, today with all the grey hairs and all the years and all the experience, never a day comes but what more than ever before I am conscious that unless the Lord supplies from heaven today, I will not get through. They’re not words. It has to be like that. And even after the greatest fullness, we might have had large fullness yesterday, but we close the day with very rich provision from the Lord. We begin the day as though we had never had anything and we start all over again. It’s true! It’s got to be like that. That is the first great horizon into which we are emancipated: from earth to heaven.
Our whole way of life, if it is a true spiritual life, if the Cross has really cut in between us and this world, if we really have reached the sixth chapter of the letter to the Galatians, the last word about the whole situation of the earth touch and the earth bond, “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ whereby the world is crucified to me and I to the world”. If we really have reached that point of the Cross to cut in, then we’re in a position, really in a position to know this wonderfully enlarged heavenly sustenance, heavenly provision, heavenly fullness... “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus” where inwardly we are seated together with Him. It’s an inward thing, an inward consciousness.
You know, I am tempted to put in a big parenthesis there, “every spiritual blessing”. But I think it would be impossible to say even a sentence that would be adequate, but I remind you of what the apostle mentions here as some of the spiritual blessings into which we have come by reason of this transition inwardly in the spiritual life.
What does he say are these blessings? Chosen in Him. Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. Have you ever tried to contemplate that? Is that a blessing? No accident in our salvation; the working out of an eternal thought... chosen in Him. Dare I mention it: predestinated... to be conformed to the image of His Son. What a blessing! Accepted in the beloved. We could spend a whole conference on that alone couldn’t we? Redeemed, in Whom we have our redemption. Redeemed. Enlightened, these are words in Ephesians you know, enlightened. Endowed. Sealed. All in Christ Jesus, a few of the blessings in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. Wonderful things aren’t they? Now you see we need to extend the conference for another month or two!
Ah, this is where the conference ought to finish you know, with the twelve baskets full over. Such a conception, such a mighty conception of that into which we have been brought! With our horizon full of that, we go away breathless at the greatness of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Well, that’s only one of the transitions from the earthly into the heavenly. Next, the:
Transition from Time into Eternity.
Before the foundation of the world is where it begins and unto the ages of the ages is where it ends. Lifted completely out of what time means; its power. You know, in the other summary of the blessings in Christ given by Paul which we have considered this week, he says about the love of Christ, "Shall life or death..." (these are big things, the compasses of this earthly sojourn, life and death) he says no, they lose their power. They’re ruled out here in this horizon of eternity! How I’d like to dwell upon it... before the foundation of the world and of the counsels of God from eternity concerning the Church.
I think I must drop back here for this little bracketed statement. That word “predestinated” can limit your horizon if you’re not careful. I see the tragedy of this spread of ultra predestination theology. I have seen, I know companies of the Lord’s people going on in the freedom, the liberty, the life, and the joy; all moving on rejoicing, and then this thing has come in: predestination. And it is theological in perpetration and they start going round in their circles. And you can’t get anywhere at all beyond that. It’s like a dead hand, a dead hand upon everything. Be careful because predestination has nothing to do with individual salvation. Get that? It has to do with the eternal vocation of the Church. The Church! And that’s Ephesians. And that’s where you get the word.
Well, take that as intended to be helpful, to throw the horizon back to deliver us from this awful bondage. It’s one of the “isms” you know. A great man, good man was Calvin, but when it comes to Calvinism, be careful. Be careful. From time into eternity we are emancipated.
From the Temporal to the Spiritual.
Something very helpful if we can grasp it, it really is a deliverance this, an enlargement; to realize that the temporal - that is, the things of this life and the things of time, things which make up our daily lives, the events, the happenings, the permissive will of God in so many things, and the directive will of God in other things - all that has to do with our human life here is governed by the spiritual if... if we are in this compass: in Christ.
As I said, in Romans you have the whole thing gathered up comprehensively and then the letters following break it up. And so out of Romans we bring this to here, “All things work together for good to them that love God” don’t stop there “...and are the called according to His purpose.” And as we shall hear in a minute, that is the great word of this letter.
So that the temporal things, your sorrow, your loss, your disappointments... Oh what a large world of happenings, experiences, trials, difficulties, sorrows, sufferings, perplexities and so on; the things that come into our lives. We call them the temporal things because they belong to this life here if we are in this realm: in Christ Jesus and the Cross has really cut in and emancipated us from the finality of temporal things. And how often the temporal experience becomes a finality with us! We think that spells the end of everything. No, if in this realm in Christ, then the temporal things are governed by spiritual interests. Do I need to enlarge upon that?
Most of us look back upon things that have happened that we’ve thought were chances, were tragedies happening to us and they were pretty difficult, very hard... and we thought that they spelled the end and we can now see that they had very real spiritual values and that we should not have come into the knowledge of the Lord which we have today but for those things. They have not been narrowing things but enlarging things! “The things which happened unto me,” says Paul, “the things which happened, the happenings, have worked out, have turned out for the furtherance...” a way of saying: “enlargement”.
So this transition from the temporal to the government of the temporal by the spiritual. That’s a very large realm isn’t it when you can get out there, when by the grace of God we can say in the presence of this thing that’s happened which seems so devastating, so desolating, seeming to write over everything: loss, failure, disillusion. And when in the presence of that we, by the grace of God, are able to say: "There’s some spiritual value in this that would justify it, that will vindicate God’s wisdom in allowing it. There's something in this. I can’t see it now, I’ll come into sooner or later, come into it and I’ll look back on this and say: Right was the pathway."
He led them by a straight way? He didn’t, He led them round and round and round in the wilderness and yet the verdict is “He led them by a straight way”. However circuitous it may seem, if it’s going to reach His end, it’s straight.
Now it’s easy perhaps to say these things but, dear friends, these are things we have to learn to be emancipated from: the domination of the temporal into the government of the spiritual. You follow that up. Yes, and this letter is full of that, you know. Full of that and a lot of time is wanted to look at it. Let me remind you of chapter four, “I beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith you were called...” You’ve got to walk amidst conditions in this world which are very difficult. He’s writing to Ephesians and God only knows what those Ephesians had to live in, walk about, amongst, and how everything could have dragged them down, forced them down, kept them down: this and that and that which we will touch upon again. No, in the midst of it all, “Walk worthily of the vocation wherewith you were called”. Let the greater horizon lift you out of these temporal things and give you a motive, an incentive for living here in this world; the incentive of another dimension.
Or, to be very much more practical, lifting out of this letter these temporal things, very practical indeed: husbands and wives. That’s very practical isn’t it? Very practical in the world in which we live, husbands and wives and the relationship there. Oh, what a training ground that is! Just when you get married you’ve entered into utopia! You’re going to have no more trouble; that man is absolutely perfect you know! That woman... there’s never in the world anyone like her! We’re never going to have any trouble together... Now I don’t want to spoil it, and I am not speaking out of a history of disappointment, so no-one pass that on!
But we all know that this, this very relationship, is one of God’s through which we have to learn very much of Jesus Christ. It’s a temporal thing isn’t it? But look at the horizon into which this letter puts it: “Even as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it, so husbands love your wives”. Doesn’t that lift it out into a dimension, isn’t that a transition? My word! So Paul says, “I speak of a mystery, I speak of Christ and His Church when I’m speaking about husbands and wives and wives and husbands. I’m speaking about Christ and His Church.” Can you bring even your marriage relationship onto the ground of Christ and His Church and His giving Himself for her? For her? And the other way in which this applies, the opposite. But the point is, lifting it out of this poor scene as we know it in the world.
And as perhaps sometimes you are tried by your husband or your wife, sometimes perhaps (may I say it?) almost to breaking point... I don’t want you to divulge any secrets but I know human life well enough. Oh yes, I know it. Somewhere away in a box of all sorts of odds and ends, I put it away somewhere, there is a bullet. And I took that bullet from a gun with which a Christian man was going to shoot his wife; workers in the Church! That’s terrible, that’s perhaps an extreme case but you see you can be driven by the devil to all sorts of things because that relationship is intended by the Lord to represent something so great. Oh if the devil can really get in between husband and wife and smash that, he has succeeded in a very, very big thing. He has robbed Christ of a testimony to Himself and His relationship to the Church.
So I’m going to say that perhaps there are few, if any, relationships that the devil is against more than the relationship of a true partnership of husband and wife and wife and husband. It seems that he stops at nothing to spoil that because he’s going to gain a lot because as Paul says, “I speak of Christ and the Church”. Isn’t that lifting things out of one realm into another? That’s Ephesians. Suffer the word that we must be very faithful; that we’re not just roving in idealisms, but in very practical matters here.
Then we come to the next transition:
The Seen as Overshadowed by the Unseen.
I think that is probably implied in what I’ve been saying, but we might just underline the phrase: the overshadowing of the seen by the unseen. And here, dear friends, it is not just a statement in words; a phrase. To me - not that I am anything important or a model - but to me this is one of the most testing things in the Christian life. I know of few more testing words in Scripture than those words used by the apostle, not here but elsewhere: “...Our light affliction which is but for a moment worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory... for we look not at the things seen but at the things which are not seen; the things seen are temporal, the things which are not seen are eternal”. I repeat: I know of few passages of Scripture more testing.
The seen! The seen... so real, so real. It seems so ridiculous to shut your eyes to them, they are real. All these things that this apostle passed through were real: the shipwrecks (quite a number of them he says), a night and a day in the deep, perils of robbers, perils of false brethren and so on and on. Were they real? If not go and spend a night and a day in a shipwreck in the sea clinging to some bit of wood for a night and a day, is that real? No, your Christian science won’t save you there!
When I was a young Christian I was walking home from the city of London one evening after work. A fellow joined up with me in Hyde Park and I was suddenly in agony with toothache, I had an awful abscess in my tooth. This fellow joined up and asked me what was wrong and I told him. “Oh!” he said, “there’s no such thing as pain, it’s all imagination!”
Well, I was in my teens and I was a boxer... and I had been taught boxing by my brother who had excelled in amateur boxing and he had split panels of doors with the back of my head! So I said to this fellow, “Look here, my friend, let me give you a real left, right from the shoulder on the point of your jaw and then you say there is no such thing as pain! Will you stand by your philosophy?” Well he wasn’t allowing me to test him! I think his philosophy broke down at that point, it never happened. Do you see what I mean?
No, no, no, this won’t do, it won’t do at all. The things seen are very real; the things felt are very real. They are very real. And the things unseen seem unseen, seem to be abstract and unreal and yet the apostle says that the effect of what we are going through to bring an exceeding weight of glory depends upon our not being occupied with the seen but looking beyond... beyond to the unseen. I say: testing!
I mentioned before, one point in this is that you spend your life, pour out your life. Costly suffering for people, the people of God. And you come to the end of your life and as far as you can see there’s very little for it, and what you can see is a very great deal of discrediting of you and your ministry; that’s Paul. The Lord in His kindness, His great kindness, does sometimes lift the veil a little bit and someone comes along and says, “You know, thirty years ago I heard a message from you and I’ve never forgotten it, it’s made a difference in my life”. Just little bits like that, perhaps not enough to save you from seeing the things that are seen altogether, but afterward... the great afterward.
I believe, dear friends, we are going to see very much more in the afterward of what the Lord's values were in our being here than we can see at present. And it doesn’t seem very comforting to these souls to say, “Now, when you are gone from this world and perhaps know nothing about it, all the spiritual values of your life will come out”. Not very comforting is it? But what is our salvation? "Looking not at the things seen..." things not seen. Oh! We do want to see and we do want to be occupied with the seen don’t we? I say it’s the most testing passage. Well there we are, the unseen, the spiritual overshadowing the seen. We just hurry on.
The next transition here is from existence to purpose.
Existence to Purpose
It’s quite a big change over and enlargement of horizon. Have you ever wondered why on earth you were born? Why you came into this world? Perhaps that has never troubled you at all, you think it’s alright, it's quite a right thing that you were born; God made no mistake at all when He brought you into the world! But some of us, you know, have been down in the depths, “After all, well, did the Lord make a mistake? Did He get hold of the wrong piece of material, clay? Why, why, why?”
I tried to argue with an elder brother of mine once many years ago about this matter of salvation. Do you know what his answer was? He said, “I absolutely repudiate any responsibility. I was never asked if I wanted to come into this world, I was never given a chance to say yes or no. I’m here without any option being given to me and I do not, therefore, take any responsibility for being here in this world”. What could you say to that? Oh, but, but! What about God’s eternal purpose in your being here? Behind it all Paul knows: chosen in Christ, called according to His purpose. “according to His eternal purpose” is the great phrase in Ephesians. Existence! Mere existence, painful existence, all making the best of it saying: let us eat and drink, tomorrow we die. Existence. Doing the best you can because you’re just here and unless you commit suicide you’ve just got to go through with it. Or, compassed by God’s eternal purpose, out of the eternal counsels of the Godhead: called, chosen in Christ. That’s a dimension isn’t it? That’s not just making the best of life, and a poor thing at that. No, it’s emancipation from mere existence into great purpose. And with one remark I’ll pass from that.
Dear friends, don’t you feel that there’s a great lack in the preaching of the gospel today? The emphasis of most gospel preaching today is: well, get your sins forgiven and go to heaven; be happy ever after, have a good time. You’re not surprised are you that you have little tiny Christians who never grow up; immature! No, I do feel this: that in presenting Christ and the gospel to the unsaved we ought to present the greatness of the eternal purpose concerning every life. And if they grasp that, “My! Am I called to that? Is that the dimension of salvation?” They’ll grow, you’ll have a different type of person, conversion.
Oh, and then someone says “But you can’t bring to simple little children the great things of man and put that on their shoulders!” Well that may be a natural argument, but what I have seen is the best Christians that I know were converted in a ministry to the saints in great richness. Oh yes, at the Lord’s table and in the morning ministering when you were not thinking about the unsaved at all, some of the best Christians were born again in that. Purpose as overshadowing existence.
I hope I’m not tiring you, we have so many transitions here but let us look at another one.
Let us go into Ephesus the great city and what would impress us? What is it that these people are all so obsessed with, dominated by, talking about? The great temple of Diana of the Ephesians. One of the wonders of the world. You know how much that was to the Ephesians, they tried to kill Paul on that issue. “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” they cried! All other voices were quenched by their acclamation of Diana and her temple... magnificent it was, wonderful it was, with all its sensuality... too terrible to describe. Yet so magnificent, so wonderful. This is Ephesus. Paul represents to you something far more magnificent and glorious than the temple of Diana; the Church which is His Body, that He may present to Himself the Church, a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, Ephesian sensuality or any such, that the Church may be a glorious Church, the transcendent Church. Oh, Diana’s temple with all its magnificence fades from the horizon when Paul brings into view this Church which is His Body! Oh, the devil has defamed it, has done so much to spoil it and the great need is a recovery of the true conception of that heavenly nature.
And what an emancipation it is! Yes, all those years with all the clerical attire and the Churchianity, and the pulpits, and the whole ministerialism, and the whole thing... it was so much and then the Cross came in and through the Cross an opening up of the true heavenly nature of the Church, the Body of Christ, and this all went. What was holding and gripping so much the horizon, just faded out as nonsense; child’s play, playing at churches, playing at chapels, just the lot of it! Nonsense, child’s play... in the presence of this conception, this unveiling. It was emancipation.
And dear friends, that’s poor compared with the apostle Paul, it’s only a faint reflection. Look at the absolute domination of Jerusalem and its temple and its system in the light of this man. He had gone to the utmost limit of that earthly system in every way. My word, see him going out against those who won’t have it, who were called in to question. Vehement, fierce, relentless; men and women being cast into a prison. Stephen - and Saul, later Paul, standing by giving his consent - a young man, glorious life, and the light of heaven on his face... done to death. This is the man, the grip of this thing upon this man. What will emancipate him? What will get him out of that system and make it not only nonsense, but abhorrent? You’ll never get him out by preaching, by teaching, by persuasion, by coercion, nor by persecution. There is no force on this earth that would lift that man right out into this Ephesian position but what? He’s seen. He has seen! He has seen Christ and seen the implications and significance of Jesus Christ in God’s universe and one of the great implications: the Church which is His Body. He’s seen. He’s out. He’s out, so out, as you find him in Galatians, by slaughtering hip and thigh the very things by which he once found his very life. This is a large horizon. This is emancipation. The Cross did it!
I don’t want to call any one’s Christian life into question, cast any aspersions, but I believe that if the Cross is known as it ought to be known, you’ll be out of your “isms” and everything that here as an earthly thing spells limitation; you’ll be out! You won’t have to ask questions: “Ought I to leave this? Ought I to leave that? Ought I to give up this and that? Ought I?” Oh no! You won’t go round consulting with flesh and blood because He has been telling you and you’ll have to say, “I’m out! My spirit is out!” So much is left behind. However great was Diana of the Ephesians and her temple, what a poor, poor thing it is when once you’ve seen the heavenly Church!
Well there we are. There’s one more thing but it’s all included in what I’ve been saying. You notice as you come to this letter to the Ephesians, the apostle - where he begins to unburden his heart in the letter, not long after he’s started - hoping almost overwhelms him. He feels the hopelessness of this getting it over. Ever felt like that? It’s good ministry when you do feel like that you know. Your heart is so full, you’ve got something so great... how am I going to get this over? That’s what ministry ought to be! And he started out on this and it wasn’t long before he put the pen down (so to speak I don’t think he was writing it himself, he did dictation) he put the pen down and dropped on his knees in the presence of the overwhelmingness of this great dimension. He says, “I bow my knee unto the Father of glory... that He would grant unto you Ephesians who have so much, know so much, of whom I’ve given so much, yet to you, with all that you have, that He would grant unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your hearts being enlightened...”
Ephesus... the seat of learning, the seat of all the library of the books of pagan mysticism. You know when they were converted, when they came to the Lord, these believers gathered up all their books of the mysteries into a heap and made a great fire, burned them up. And the price is given of that, and it’s a tremendous price. All the learning, all the mysteries of paganism; all there in Ephesus. “That He would grant unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him”. That’s why he’s speaking about the mysteries of Christ here, other mysteries. “The knowledge, the eyes of your heart being enlightened. You Ephesians who had all this in the books, oh, there’s a horizon of spiritual knowledge, spiritual understanding which leaves that as mere ashes. Nothing; all that! You can have a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him which is beyond all human ability to comprehend!” That’s what he said, you know, to the Corinthians, “Eye has not seen, neither has ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him but God has revealed them to us by His Spirit”. Spiritual men who receive spiritual things which the natural man can never, never grasp. He’s in the dark, he’s in the dark by nature.
Now, Paul isn’t again moving in abstract realms, don’t you know something of this? You may say you know very little, but don’t you know something of this: that the eyes of your heart have been enlightened? That you have seen what you could never have grasped or understood until you were born from above? You may not be able to explain it any more than that man born blind in John 9, when they tried to put him through his paces on explaining his experience. How did He do it to you and so on. Explain it! Define it! Poor chap, he’s out of his depth so far as explanation and definition, the only thing is to say, “Well, how He did it I don’t know. Who He is I don’t know... but one thing I do know: I was blind and now I see!”
Now, you may not comprehend all the truth, but you know the principle that there is a work of the Holy Spirit, that is leading us beyond all our own abilities intellectually or any other way; we’re beginning to see things. And you know, it’s startling, it’s very startling, that angels (you think a lot of angels don’t you?) angels don’t know what is being revealed to the Church! It says “angels desired to look into”. Well, I don’t want to get you too much bewildered but what I’m saying is: here’s a horizon of understanding and knowledge which, by revelation of the Holy Spirit will take us far outside of this poor capacity - mental capacity or any other capacity - take us outside into another realm. That’s how it ought to be! It ought to be! Thank God, for some of us that has happened through that great crisis of the Cross, it has happened! A new dimension of spiritual knowledge and understanding has opened and although today we have to say we are only on the fringe, the fringe, oh there is so much beyond us! Nevertheless it represents a very big transition from what it was before.
Well, how? All this? Well, it’s the place of the Cross isn’t it? The Cross planted in our natural mind, in order to bring us the spiritual mind; taking us through death onto resurrection ground - that is such an expanse! The Lord Jesus lived and laboured under certain, very real limitations to Him, not in Himself but those in others, His disciples. How He tried to make them understand; but no. No, their horizon was just a natural one, and He cried, “I have a baptism to be baptized with and how I am pent up until it be accomplished, oh, that it were already accomplished...” but now an imprisoned spirit, imprisoned by the understanding, the apprehension, the grasp of these men around Him; imprisoned. He said, “I long for that time when all that will break down and give place to the greater dimension of spiritual understanding. It will not be until I’ve gone through the baptism of passion, the baptism of the Cross. Oh, that that were already accomplished!”
And now look after the accomplishment. Oh dear, the change in their apprehension, comprehension, and understanding on the day of Pentecost is literally amazing! Literally amazing, think of how they regarded the Cross itself before: an appalling prospect, “If ever that happens we lose everything. Far be it from Thee Lord, this shall never come to be. All our hopes and expectations will be blighted and devastated if that happens.” Look at the other side of it. Like this? No, not at all. The Cross has done something to liberate Him in that. And isn’t the Lord needing such an emancipation in us? It will only be by the same process: we die to ourselves, to our own minds, our own wills, the Self life, die to the soul life as we have been speaking of it, and rise and come out onto the ground of resurrection... the spiritual man. And then we begin to see as we could never see before. The things upon which we looked at one time as the things we could not accept, could not contemplate, are the very things we embrace, “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus!”
You, dear friends, must take this to the Lord. I can’t put you through this. I can tell you about it and tell you it’s real but I can’t put you into it; cannot do it for you. You must go to the Lord and say, “Now Lord, I do commit myself and trust Your grace to see me through the Cross, that I commit myself, You do the thing. You do the thing and when the pinch is on, and the cost is being applied and I am being in myself put out by men, Christian men and all that; hold me. Hold me, do the work, only see to it that I come into this great emancipation which the Cross is meant to bring about.”
Lord, relieve of all the burden that is tension, and stress... whether it be mental, or nervous or anything like that, even physical, and do bring us into something of the apprehension of the wonder... the wonder of that Cross and its tremendous possibility; what it can do. The wonder of Christ apprehended in a spiritual way. Oh, we don’t know how to pray, but we can only say now, if what has been said here today and this week through Thy servants is God’s truth, don’t let it pass into forgetfulness or store it up in artificial reservoirs, but do make it a river, a spring, breaking up in us unto life eternal. Cover all faults, all mistakes, every defect in presentation and personality... May it be Christ and His truth that abides with us, nothing else. We commit ourselves to Thee, in the name of the Lord Jesus, amen.