Ephes. 3:17-21; 4:1-10.
The fact that the Lord Jesus is the Heavenly Man is
touched upon at various points in this reading. Here in
chapter 4 we have the statement that "He... ascended
far above all the
heavens" while all that follows in the chapter
is related to the present expression of the
Heavenly Man as here in the world.
We have already noted this feature in John's Gospel;
for we have there seen the Heavenly Man in person as
both present here in the world and at the same time in
heaven. We now meet with it again in Ephesians, but this
time in a wider sense; for here we have to do with the
corporate expression of the same Heavenly Man in His
Body, the Church.
These two are one, not merely by their relatedness,
but by their very life; one in their resources, one in their
mind, one in their consciousness, one in their nature, one
in the laws of their life, one in their purpose, one in their
method, one in their times. There is nothing which relates
to them as the Heavenly Man in which they are not one.
It is not just the oneness that springs from an
understanding or an agreement, but that which is the
result of being one in substance, one in essence.
Again, we are speaking of Christ as the Heavenly
Man, and not of Him as God. In this corporate expression, it is not a case of the Body acting for the Head, of the Church acting for the Lord. There is no independence nor separate responsibility. It
is the Lord Himself continuing His own life and work in
and through His Body; the whole is one Man. Not that
the Lord has given up a personal identity and ceased to
be a separate person, but as out from His very heavenly
manhood He has given His own substance,
constituents, His own life, to constitute a Body which is
so one with Him, in this utter way, as to be part of
Himself. That is the Body of Christ as set forth here.
That is the Heavenly Man corporately expressed.
The Body, the Church, was never meant to be
something in itself, but from eternity was always intended
to be "the fulness of him that filleth all in all." Therefore it
has no existence apart from Him, nor has it existence
apart from God's purpose in Him. These facts, simple as
they are in statement, are very profound, and very
searching in their meaning. They govern and determine
what the Church is. Nothing which bears the name "Church" (in the New Testament acceptation of that
term) and is not the continuation of His Son in this
universe, exists in the thought of God.
Now this involves several things, and these are
presented in the chapter we have before us.
One Life in Christ
Firstly, this involves the one life that by the Holy Spirit
is in all the members of Christ. "There is... one Spirit";
"Giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit..." There
is the one life by the Holy Spirit. Only thus does Christ
come to His fulness in His Body, does the Church fulfil
the Divine thought for its existence, come to the Divine
We have already sought to see how the Heavenly
Man in person was in every detail governed by the Spirit,
inasmuch as upon such a government depended the
fulfilment of the whole revelation of God concerning Him.
All the Scriptures which had gone before pointed to Him,
and waited for their fulfilment in Him, and He was to be
the fulfilment of all those Scriptures to a detail. It would
have been an impossible, overwhelming, crushing
responsibility to have taken that on mentally, to have felt
a consciousness every instant of His life that He was
responsible for everything that was written in the
Scriptures. To have had that on His mind would have
been an intolerable burden impossible of bearing. He
would have been the most introspective person that had
ever lived. Every moment He would have been asking:
Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing it in the right way? Am I doing what I ought to be doing according to that
Book, that standard? But His life, being governed by the
anointing, being under the control of the Spirit, meant that
He spontaneously, and by the inward consciousness that
was His through the Holy Spirit as to what was, and
what was not, the mind of God, did fulfil the whole
Now what was true of Him personally has to be true
of Him in the corporate sense. Here is a revelation
concerning Jesus Christ, which has come out of the
eternal counsels of God, a revelation of vast meaning, a
destiny, a great spiritual, heavenly system summed up in
Him, and which is to be expressed, to be wrought out, to
be realised in Him corporately as in Him personally. But
how is it possible for us to fulfil it, to realise it, to attain
unto it; for it to have its fulfilment and its expression in us? Only on the basis of the one life by
the Holy Spirit in all.
That is what gives force to the exhortation in this very
letter to "...be filled with the Spirit". That gives the real
meaning and value to the whole teaching concerning the
Holy Spirit - the receiving of the Spirit, walking in the
being led by the Spirit - because only so can that which
has been produced by the mind of God, concerning His
Son, and which is to have its full realisation in the Body
of Christ, be reached. How necessary, then, for us all to
live in the Spirit. It is not enough that some of us should
live in the Spirit; it is important that all should do so, and
that none should walk after the flesh.
An Inter-related and Inter-dependent Life
The second thing, which is really a part of the same
truth, but with perhaps a rather closer application of it, is
the need for a recognition of, and diligence to keep, an
inter-related and inter-dependent life. It is something to
be recognised first of all, to be taken account of, and
then something we are to be diligent to maintain. That is
to say, all the members of Christ are related; there is an
inter-relationship. We are not so many separate parts,
fragments, individuals, we are all related; and not only
so, but we are all dependent on one another. For God's
end, for God's purpose, we cannot do without one
another. On any level other than that we might be able to
do without one another. If we were living on any natural
level, we could perhaps say of some people, that we
could do without them, but when we come into the light
of God's purpose, then we are governed by an inter-dependence. We find that we need one another, that we
are dependent upon one another, in respect of God's fulness. Of this fact we have a clear indication in the
words "strong to apprehend with all the saints".
cannot apprehend apart from the rest. No one of us will
ever be able to apprehend the whole. We need the
strength of all saints to apprehend with all saints.
This is not only a statement of fact, but a truth by
which we are immediately put to the test. Do we say:
Well, we have seen the Body of Christ, we have seen
the Church! As to whether we have seen that aright, will be proved by whether we realise our inter-dependence. If any one of us should ever take the
attitude that we can dispense with another member of
Christ, or be of that spirit, such a one has not truly seen
the Body of Christ. Maybe there has been a seeing of
something, but not the Body of Christ; it has not been
seen that this Body is to be the fulness of Christ. For that
fulness all saints are needed. The Lord Jesus in His own
own parabolic way, was putting His finger upon
principles and laws all the time - "See that ye
despise not one of these little ones..." (Matt.
18:10); "Inasmuch as ye did it not unto
one of these least..." (Matt. 25:45). This is
not just a community kind of thing, a fraternity;
we are face to face with a law when it is said
that it will take all saints to come to, and to
express, His fulness. If we have seen the Body
of Christ we must have seen the inter-relatedness
and the inter-dependence of all members, and must be living on the basis that the Body is one.
The Apostle exhorts to diligence in relation to that.
We must recognise that the Body is one, and then give
diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit. I expect the
Apostle, by the time he wrote his letter, well knew how
much diligence that required. He was beginning to see
how easy it was for Christians to dispense with one
another, to take the attitude that they could do without
one another, or without certain ones at any rate; how
easy it was for them to fall apart, to take a careless
attitude, to be anything but diligent in keeping the unity.
This maintaining of the unity is a positive thing. It
represents a being on full stretch for something. It is not
just a case of our desiring it, wanting it, of our
considering it to be the best thing and even necessary,
but of our applying it. It takes application to give
diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit.
This is what is meant by being "renewed in the spirit
of your mind" which, again, is "unto the putting on of the
new man", the corporate Heavenly Man. Thus in the
passage before us, the practical exhortation immediately
follows: "Wherefore, putting away falsehood, speak ye
truth each one with his neighbour: for we are members
one of another". The renewing of the spirit of the mind
works out in each one speaking truth with his neighbour,
in the putting away of all falsehood. Why tell yourself a
lie? We would not do that deliberately. What would be
the point in my telling myself something that is not true?
What would be the sense of my left hand doing my right
hand an injury, seeing that ultimately both must suffer?
Similarly "we are members one of another". In the other
mind, the mind of the old man, which is mentioned here,
there is a lack of this sense of corporate life, this inter-dependence, this inter-relationship, where it is recognised that everyone is necessary, indispensable.
You can put people off in that realm; you can get rid of
them, can gain your end, gain an advantage by just
suspending the truth. But here we are dealing with one
entity, and that entity must not be conflicting, must not be
different things but one thing. We must be renewed in the
spirit of our mind by putting on this new corporate
These verses are worth our noting again in the light of
what we are saying :-
"...if so be that ye heard him, and were taught in him,
even as truth is in Jesus: that ye put away, as
concerning your former manner of life, the old man,
which waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit; and
that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put
on the new man, which after God hath been created in
righteousness and holiness of truth. Wherefore, putting
away falsehood, speak ye truth each one with his neighbour: for we are members one of another"
That is the new mind of the "new man", which is
renewed in the spirit on the principle, the law, the reality
of inter-relatedness and inter-dependence.
need you; you are indispensable to me. I can never realise my destiny, the purpose of my being, apart from
you. What, then, is the point in my telling you lies? If
there is someone without whom our destiny, the purpose
of our being, our whole objective is impossible, is lost,
and, in the face of such a fact, a deceptive, lying
relationship, what a contradiction! That is the force of
the words here. "We are members one of another",
therefore we must have one mind; and speaking truth
one with another is a mark of the "new man", the
Heavenly Man who has only one mind. Lies all speak of
Gifts in Christ
The third thing that this implies is that for the
progressive realisation and expression of this Heavenly
Man in time and in eternity, the heavenly Head has given
"When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive,
and gave gifts unto men. (... He that descended is the same also that ascended
far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)" Ephes. 4:8-10.
There is the Heavenly Man in person as the heavenly
Head, giving gifts among men for the progressive
realisation and expression of Himself as the corporate
Now we must break that up and look at this
parenthesis in verses 9 and 10. It carries with it this fact
that He descended before He ascended. He did not have
His beginnings here. Of course we know that, but this is
the argument of the Apostle; His origin was not here. By
His ascending it is to be understood that He first
descended. There is the Heavenly Man coming down
and being here among men, the Heavenly Man in
incarnation; He came down out of heaven. Having
descended, He ascended, that He might fill all things. The
whole universe is to be filled with the Heavenly Man.
Now you have to get that background before you can
understand and appreciate what follows about these gifts.
In relation to that filling of all things by the Heavenly Man,
there is to be the increase of the Body. This chapter is all
of a piece. Christ is not here as separated from His
Body. Here the Heavenly Man in person and the
corporate Heavenly Man are brought together as one in
purpose. Earlier in the letter the Apostle has shown how
before times eternal, in the thought of God, this Heavenly
Man has come out of heaven to be found here, but whilst
here, is still in heaven. Now He personally is to be the
universal fulness, and that fulness is to be by the Church: "...glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all
generations, unto the ages of the ages". In relation to that
universal filling there is to be this increase of the Body: "...in whom each several building,
fitly framed together,
into a holy temple in the Lord..." In the letter
to the Colossians there is a very similar word:
"...And not holding fast the Head, from whom all the
body, being supplied and knit together through the
joints and bands, increaseth with the increase of
God" (Col. 2:19).
He is to fill all things by His Body, which is His fulness.
Then the Body must grow, the Body must make increase,
the body must add to its stature, until it comes to the full measure of Christ.
Now with a view to this increase,
the heavenly gifts are given by the Heavenly Man to this
Then I want you to notice another thing. These gifts
are themselves a measure of Christ: "But unto each one
of us was the grace given according to the measure of the
gift of Christ" (Ephes. 4:7). The gifts are a measure of
Christ, and therefore they are all intended to produce
the fulness of Christ, to lead to that fulness. In their own
way they represent a fulness of Christ ministered in the
Body. They are to make up the full measure.
Having seen that, we are able to look at the gifts
Authority in Christ
"And he gave some apostles..." (It does not say "to
be" apostles). Then we need to know what the apostle
represents as a measure of Christ. What is his value in
bringing the fulness of Christ by way of the Body, the
Church, the corporate Heavenly Man? It is impressive
to recognise that the apostle stands first on account of
the value associated with the apostle. What are apostles? There is one word which expresses the meaning of
apostles, and that word is "authority". Authority comes first.
We know that grammatically speaking the word
means "one sent". But look again to see its signification
in the Word of God. Take the word wherever you find it
and see what is in it. Look, for example, at the parable
of the householder who planted a vineyard. He sent unto
them his servants to receive of the fruit. They came with
his authority, and the wicked husbandmen, in slaying the
servants, wholly repudiated the master's authority. You
see the application to Israel there is so piercing. The
point of the parable is that they were refusing to
acknowledge the authority of God in Christ. When the
owner of the vineyard comes himself to deal with the
situation he will miserably destroy the husbandmen. On
what ground will he do this? Because he did not get his
own personal gratification in the fruits? No! Because
they had refused to recognise his authority in his son - "...he sent unto them his son..." Wherever you find the "sent" of the Lord, you find the authority of the Lord.
That is an apostle.
As you carefully consider the matter of apostleship,
you will see that everything that constituted an apostle
represented what made for authority. An apostle was a
specially constituted servant of the Lord. There was a
very rigid law governing apostleship, that an apostle
must have seen the Lord in resurrection. He could not
be an apostle if the Lord had not appeared unto him, for
he had not had firsthand knowledge of the risen Lord.
That firsthand knowledge of the risen Lord invested
an authority. It was a matter of the Lord
having Himself appeared unto him.
If you turn to the letter to the Hebrews you will find
that the Lord Jesus is spoken of as God's Apostle and
High Priest. The very phrase at once carries us back in
thought to the writings of Moses, and we mark how it
combines what God has set forth in Moses and Aaron
respectively. Moses as the apostle, and Aaron as the
high priest, represent two aspects of the Lord Jesus.
Moses represents authority. From the beginning of
God's using of Moses, right to the end, Moses
represented the authority of God. The rod which was
Moses' rod, became the rod of God, and by that rod the
authority of God was displayed. The authority of God
was so much vested in him that God was able to say to
him, regarding Aaron, "...thou shalt be to him as God"
We see later how that worked out. When there were
those who tried to displace Moses, or tried to take an
equal place with him, see how the authority found
expression. Moses never had to fight for his position.
When the dispute arose touching his position, being the
meekest of men, he just said to the Lord, in effect: Lord,
am I here by Your authority, or am I not?
Have I grasped this position? Have I sought authority,
or have You put me here with it? I count on You to let it
be known whether my position is of my own taking, or
whether of Your appointing. The Lord called the people
to the door of the tabernacle and took up the case of
Moses, and you know what happened. It was because
of what he represented as an apostle.
"All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and
on earth. Go ye therefore..." (Matt. 28:18). Thus an
apostle is one who stands in Divine authority for the
setting up, and the carrying on, of the Divine testimony.
You can see that in Moses. The Lord appeared unto
Moses and spake with him face to face. No one else
came into that realm. Even though they came up into the
Mount, they did not come into exactly the same place as
Moses. It was with Moses that the Lord communed
and spake as a man speaks to his friend, face to face.
Then for ever after, the one thing that governs Israel is
this: "...as the Lord spake unto Moses..."
At the end of the constituting of the tabernacle, there is a
whole chapter in which some seven or eight times this
one phrase occurs: "...as the Lord commanded Moses."
It speaks of authoritative
government by what had come through Moses, God's
apostle. Well, in that authority he set up the testimony,
and maintained it; the authority was his to that end.
Or, again, take the Apostle Paul, who perhaps above
all others stands out as an apostle, and you see that his
commission and his authority was, first of all, for the
setting up of the testimony everywhere, and then for the
maintaining of the testimony. He says to the Corinthians
that, if he comes to them in the authority that he has
received, it will go ill with some of them, because he is
invested with this authority to maintain the testimony in
Now what does this say to us? It is the Lord!
This is the factor of Christ's heavenly authority in the
corporate Heavenly Man. That may be administered
through individuals. The point is that it is a feature of the
Heavenly Man, and is active in the Church. We are face
to face with the fact that Christ in His heavenly authority
is in the Church for the setting up of His testimony, and
the maintaining of it. Where the Lord's testimony is by
the Holy Ghost, there the authority of the Lord is, and
people have to reckon with that.
Of course, while we have to take these things to heart
in our own personal lives, we are saying them as to those
who have to instruct others. As the Lord's servants, you
cannot have too clear a recognition of how definite is this
operation of the authority of Christ in His Body. None
can anywhere come into relationship with that corporate
expression of Christ, which is constituted by the Holy
Ghost, without becoming responsible for the Lord's
testimony which is there, and if you violate it you suffer.
You cannot just attach yourself, and escape the
implications. If you make a breach of the testimony, of
the oneness of the Body of Christ, when you have been
brought into real touch with it, and do not put that right,
you will die. You may die physically. You may have a
tragic end. You will undoubtedly go through sufferings
and chastening; because you have not become a member
of a movement, something merely of man; you have
come into the place where the custodianship of eternal
purpose is invested in the Holy Ghost working in the
spirit of apostleship, and the authority of Christ is there.
This is the precise meaning of those searching words in
the first letter to the Corinthians: "For this cause many
among you are weak and sickly, and not a few sleep." -
"not discerning the Lord 's body" (1 Cor.
have come into a realm where things are not to be taken
as mere doctrine, as an organisation, as something of
man with which you can do as you like; you have come
to the place where the authority of Christ is an operating
reality. It is a terrible thing to get into the house of God if
you are not of a mind to become suitably conformed.
That is one side, and a terrible side. But there is
another side that makes for heart rest and assurance for
those who carry extra responsibility in the house of God,
where it is possible to say: 'Well, we have not to bear
the full responsibility that properly is in the hands of the
Holy Ghost, in the authority of Christ, to meet that which
is contrary to the truth, and to the law of the house of
God.' We need not be anxious, in that sense, because it
is our responsibility. The heavenly Lord has put a
functioning of His authority in the Church. There may be
a disputing of that authority in the vessel. Hell may
dispute, as at Philippi, or at Ephesus, or many another
place, and may show its hand in vehement antagonism
and resistance. But what is the issue? Every time the
authority of Christ triumphs.
The establishment of the testimony throughout the
Roman Empire through the Apostle Paul, is a marvellous
manifestation of the supreme Lordship of Jesus Christ
over all powers. It is not just a case of getting the better
of man's mentality, of overcoming prejudice and
difficulties amongst men; it is the conquest of the evil
forces of hell. Cosmic forces are beaten and broken
when the testimony is established through an apostle. It is
the fact of Christ's heavenly authority in the Body, by the
Spirit. Christ truly expressed in the assembly really
cannot be set aside without suffering.
The Mind of God in Christ
Now what are the prophets in the assembly?
In a word, the prophet is the instrument for the
expression of the mind of the Lord, and this is
usually set over against the expression of the
mind of man. Of very great moment is the injunction we have noted already, "...be renewed
in the spirit of your mind..." because, in the
corporate Heavenly Man, the Body, the mind of
the Lord is to predominate, to operate, to be
supreme. The Lord's mind is the only mind in this "new man", this Heavenly Man. You
must be renewed in the spirit of your mind, if
you are to come to the Lord's mind. The Lord's
mind comes through an instrument called a
prophet. He is the interpreter of the mind of the
Lord. He brings into the Body the knowledge of
the mind of the Lord. That, as we have said,
involves the setting aside of the mind of man.
We are thinking, of course, of how the Old
Testament prophets are a source of confirmation of
what we have just said; for if you examine the point,
you will find that they come before the people in relation
to the rights of God in His house. Those rights were
being set aside by His people. The mind of man was
taking the place of the mind of God, and that worked
out usually to very great evil, so that before long the very
rights of God were denied Him in His own house,
amongst His own people.
Take Elijah as an example. Elijah stands out preeminently amongst the prophets in relation to the rights
of God, and Carmel is the great crisis as to Baal's rights
and God's rights in Israel. Elijah is the instrument for
establishing the rights of God in an utter way, unto the
complete destruction of that other mind, represented in
the prophets of Baal. Those rights are expressed in
terms of God's mind for His people, and so all the
prophets bring in the mind of God, interpret it, keep the
mind of God before God's people, and do battle in
relation to it, that God shall have His place, have things
according to His mind.
This, again, is a functioning of the Heavenly Man in
His Body, to keep things according to the mind of God.
We are not thinking, at the moment, particularly of
people whom we may think to call prophets amongst
us. We are not thinking of office, but of function. Vital
functioning is what is before us, and anyone who is
anointed and endowed by the Holy Spirit, to keep God's thoughts clear in the
midst of His
people, to make
His people know the mind of God, so that God gets His
place and His rights, and all other minds are set aside,
is fulfilling the ministry of a prophet. We are so apt to
start at the other end, with the technical line of things,
that of appointing prophets. Let us look at the function,
not the man, and let us see that it is Christ who is the
Prophet, and that in this character He ministers through
some whom He gives for the expression of the Divine
mind as in Himself. It is quite possible to combine these
functions in one individual.
The Heart of God in Christ
Now what are the evangelists? In a word, the
evangelist is the one to make God known through the
Gospel, to disclose the heart of God in grace, and the
function of the evangelist is to secure material for the
expression of the Heavenly Man corporately. Thus we
begin with authority in Christ, Christ in the place of
supreme authority far above all heavens. Then we have
the mind of God in Christ. Here we have the heart of
God in Christ. The Gospel of grace is to secure increase
by gathering material for the corporate Heavenly Man.
Resources of God in Christ
We now come to the pastors and teachers. These
two are brought together. The material is being
gathered, the corporate Heavenly Man is being
progressively brought into being and coming to His
eternal completeness. Now while the material is being
gathered, and the corporate Heavenly Man is being
progressively brought together, the next need is for
pastors and teachers, and the function here is that of the
adjustment and fitting of that Heavenly Man. Adjustment
is brought about by teaching, by instruction. The purpose
of the instruction is to adjust us, to bring us into our
place, into our right relationship, to bring us into an
understanding of Christ, of our relationship to Him, and
of our relationship to one another in Him.
The instruction has to do with such matters as
the believer's resources in Christ, and all that is
signified by the Heavenly Man. This is the work
of the teacher. The pastor is one whose function
is to fit, to shepherd, to nurture. Building up by
right adjustment to revealed truth is what we
But all does not end there. The apostle, the prophet,
the evangelist, the pastor and teacher, are given in order
that the corporate Heavenly Man, deriving the values of
these functions, shall itself minister to its mutual building
up; for the making complete of the saints unto the work
of ministry, unto the building up of the Body of Christ.
Mutual building up, mutual ministry, is to result from
these gifts. Because we are receiving the benefits of this
ministration in Christ to us, we have to make those
benefits a mutual ministration, so that the Body builds
itself up, increases with the increase of God, each
separate part in due measure making increase.
If this sounds like technique to you, may we urge you
to get away from teaching, and anything like a system of
truth, and get the Lord in view. Keep the Lord Himself in
view, and see that the one thing which governs all is
Christ's coming into ever greater fulness of life and
expression in this universe by means of the Church which
is His Body.