The Mystery in EphesiansTom Ballinger
This epistle was written from a Roman prison by the Apostle Paul around 64 A.D. It was written to the saints at Ephesus, and to “The faithful in Christ Jesus” anywhere. The truth contained in this epistle is the most profound truth in all the Word of God. It is the loftiest truth in the Scripture where there is no room for anything but PRAISE and PEACE from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The “Mystery” is here revealed. It had been kept secret since the world began; not made known to the sons of men (3:5); hidden in God (3:9)., never revealed in the Scriptures, but made known to the Apostle Paul by means of a special revelation (3:3). The great “Mystery” (i.e. the secret), is that of the Church of the “One Body” (2:16) with Christ Jesus revealed as its Head. It concerns the “one new man” (2: 15), (i.e. “a perfect man”) (4:1 3). It makes known a sphere of blessing “Far above all heavens” (4:10) which had never been the subject of man’s delight. But now it is made known that God has an election out of the earth that was chosen in Christ before the world began ( 1 :4).
This calling is destined to occupy the heavenly places where Christ is now enthroned and seated at the Father’s Own Right Hand. Those who have received the “adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto Himself” ( l :5) will one day be received up into glory “far above all principality and power” ( l :21). and there to enjoy the inconceivable glory. Truth contained in this epistle is immeasurably higher than the glorious truth concerning the Kingdom. This company of believers has already been blessed with “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places” (1 :3). They are viewed as having been quickened, raised, and exalted together with Him.
The Church of the One Body is the only company and calling of God’s redeemed that is said to be “To the praise of the glory of His grace.” Paul is given a revelation of such a nature that man and all his religion find no place for forms and ceremonies. We learn in the Ephesian epistle that God is concerned with His own purpose. His own will, His own Son, and His own inheritance.
Ephesians is for those who have enlightened eyes that they may see the revelation of the Mystery. This epistle is considered “strong meat” of the Word. It is certainly for those who have grown in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is written for those who are faithful (i.e.full of faith). It is impossible for those who still hold to ritual, rites, form and ceremony to grasp the truth recorded here. It is for those who have passed on from types and shadows and symbols. It concerns the realm of the spirit where full grown men of God are to live, even while they are tabernacling in the flesh. As the Lord Jesus Christ grants wisdom and revelation in the Word of Truth, full grown, mature men of God are to grow accustomed to seeing the things that are invisible, as they begin to move in mind, heart, and spirit among the invisible and eternal things.
This Ephesian Epistle was written after the landmark of Acts 28:28 was reached. The dispensational boundary line was crossed at Acts 28:28 and Israel’s hope was left behind, unfilled and set aside. The churches which had been established during the Book of Acts found that the miraculous had ceased. Signs, wonders, and miracles were no longer the order of the day, but rather SILENCE.
Perhaps the most awesome and far-reaching pronouncement made since the angels heralded the birth of Christ was made in a Roman prison when the Apostle Paul solemnly pronounced Israel’s blindness in Acts 28. For with his pronouncement in Acts 28:28, Kingdom truth ended abruptly. Ephesians explains God’s purpose and silence during this present age.
Shortly after Paul made known to the Christians that the Lord is no longer dealing on Kingdom grounds but rather on the basis of the Mystery, they turned from him and the new revelation. Before Paul is martyred he testifies that all they that are in Asia be turned away from him (2 Tim. l :15), and all have forsaken him (2 Tim. 4:16). Most evidently, the majority of Christians in Paul’s own day failed to acknowledge the landmark of Acts 28, as they do today. They took truth made known after Israel was set aside and read it back into those epistles Paul wrote before he knew the Mystery. Paul told Timothy that as a workman that needeth not be ashamed, he must rightly divide the Word of Truth (2 Tim. 2: l 5). That is, he must differentiate between those epistles written during the age of the miraculous and those written after. This we will do as we set forth below the two sets of epistles. Recognize that the Apostle had two ministries – one during the Acts period and the other after the Acts period ended.
MINISTRY DURING THE ACTS PERIOD MINISTRY DURING THE POST ACTS PERIOD
Present Truth is found in those epistles written after Israel was set aside. When Paul ceased being BOUND FOR ISRAEL’S HOPE and became A PRISONER OF JESUS CHRIST FOR THE GENTILES, he received a new and fresh revelation.
The epistles written by Paul after the Acts 28 crisis are seven in number. Five are written from prison and two are written between the Roman imprisonment recorded in Acts 28 and the imprisonment that ended in his death. Charles H. Welch gives a good outline of the seven epistles in his work entitled, “Heavenly places” which we will set forth below.
A. Ephesians The dispensation of the Mystery made known to and through the Apostle, as the prisoner of Jesus Christ.
B. Philippians Bishops and Deacons; Prize of the high calling; Work out . . . salvation; Try the things that differ.
C. Colossians The dispensation of the Mystery, and similar teaching to Ephesians with warning added concerning the prize. Personal exhibition of truth.
Teaching having personal regard to individual servants with respect to work of administration while the new teaching was being established.
A. 1 Timothy
The Mystery of Godliness; Bishops and Deacons appointed; Special instructions in view of the great dispensational change.
Bishops appointed to maintain the truth against Judaistic opposition. The truth which is after godliness.
C. 2 Timothy
No Bishops or Deacons; Intensely individual. The Crown; Right Division; Opposers of the Truth.
THE SALUTATION “PauI, 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. ”
1 .1-2. The Apostle Paul is the writer of this epistle and he says so in the salutation of the letter. Paul is writing this to the saved at Ephesus. AIl the saved are saints; “saints” means set apart ones. You don’t wait until after you are dead for some church to make you a saint. This epistle is of necessity addressed to the saved and not only that, it is addressed to the FAITHFUL. There is a big difference between being a saint and being a FAITHFUL saint. Remember that all the saved are “Saints” but not all the saints are “FAITHFUL”. The word FAITHFUL means “believing what God has said.” This letter is addressed to the saints , but more in particular to the ones who will believe the latest revelation from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. You have many people who are saints but don’t believe the latest revelation that we have from God. The Lord would have us understand and believe the latest TRUTH we have from Him. A FAITHFUL saint believes the latest report that he has heard from God.
Now “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing (cometh) BY THE WORD OF GOD.” (Rom. 10:17). The Apostle Paul, as the “prisoner of Jesus Christ for the Gentiles”, has a special revelation that is connected with him as the Lord’s prisoner. This special revelation given to Paul after Israel is set aside is called Paul’s “prison ministry.” It is while he is in prison that the RISEN-ASCENDED- GLORIFIED Lord Jesus Christ gives the latest revelation to Paul the Apostle. He reveals to him a most carefully hidden secret. This secret, called “the Mystery”, has been hid in God. God the Father had kept a secret and had not made it known until He gave it to Paul the prisoner by special revelation. Paul calls this special revelation “the testimony of the Lord’s prisoner” in 2 Tim. 1:8. He tells Timothy not to be ashamed of this testimony. In PLAINER WORDS, the testimony for PRESENT TRUTH is to be found in the epistles written BY PAUL THE PRISONER, not Paul the free man. However don’t misunderstand.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine,for reproof for correction, and for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16)
Present truth for the church which is “His body the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” is found in this peculiar cluster of epistles we call the prison epistles. The FAITHFUL believe what is heard from God, not just that which is written for other ages and dispensations but those who believe that which was written by the Lord’s prisoner. The PRISONER of the Lord is the chosen vessel to make known God’s secret purpose. It is in the epistle to the Ephesians that this secret, the Mystery, is made known. The high truth concerning the Church of the One Body is explained and revealed here. The FAITHFUL recognize Paul’s distinctive ministry as the great revelator of God’s secret purpose. That is, the purpose that God had planned before the world began, before any promises were made to any of the “fathers”. It is only the faithful who will believe PRESENT TRUTH. That’s why Paul addresses this to the saints at Ephesus and the FAITHFUL IN CHRIST JESUS.
As he always does, he bestows the blessings of “Grace, and peace” to the readers of this epistle. Grace is, of course, the main characteristic of Paul’s ministry. In Eph. 3:2, Paul says that “the dispensation of the GRACE OF GOD is given me to you-ward”. So, since God’s administration of HIS program of GRACE was given to Paul to explain, it is natural that Paul opens his epistles with that famous salutation of his – GRACE BE TO YOU AND PEACE from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. You might notice that Grace and Peace has God the Father as the originator and source and this GRACE and PEACE comes through and flows out from The Lord Jesus Christ. There is no grace or peace apart from being in Christ. The unsaved have no peace with God; they are at enmity with God, but after being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1). Those that have peace with God can also have the peace of God (Phil. 4:7).
Because of being unable to “rightly divide” the prophecies, many Rabbis in Israel had to invent two Messiahs. It was beyond their comprehension that one Messiah could both suffer and reign. Human reason just couldn’t imagine how one could possibly meet the requirements of Messiah. They could not separate the first and second coming of the Messiah. The first coming to suffer; the second to reign.
The same is true concerning this PRESENT AGE. God’s present purpose as found in this dispensation, THE MYSTERY, is as unreasonable to modern day ”Rabbis,” as was the first and second coming of Christ to their ancient counterparts. The Mystery is unreasonable to the carnal mind and to those who have not bothered to rightly divide the Word. It is absolutely essential that the Word of God be divided aright if one is to see the Mystery. As long as Israel is robbed of her blessings and her hope by believers, the Word of Truth is dishonored, and the Holy Spirit is not at liberty to “enlighten” the eyes of their understanding (Eph. 1:18).
It should also be pointed out that just because somebody is rightly dividing the Word does not guarantee he knows the Mystery. All too many are wrestling with the problem. They talk a great deal about “right division.” They make a difference between the Jews and the Gentile, between Peter and Paul, between the Kingdom and the Church. and between law and grace, and yet do not comprehend THE MYSTERY. It is regrettable that some of these folks are enemies of the truth. They sow discord and confusion and hinder many from coming to the knowledge of the truth. AII too often believers rely on their teachers and thereby follow some man, who is dedicated to defending his position or his persuasion. Regrettably all too often believers are approaching the knowledge of the truth and in checking with his “leader” is warned not to pursue this line of truth and thereby is a victim of the warning in Colossians 2:18. Thus the believer is “beguiled of his reward”and fails to personally check the Scriptures himself.
On the other hand, many sincere Bible believers who endeavor to rightly divide the Word of Truth have asked the question, “Just what exactly is the Mystery?” We are going to attempt to answer that question in “Plainer Words” by giving an outline of the unique characteristics of the Mystery. The characteristics that make the Church of the Mystery as a distinct and separate calling from any of God’s other company of redeemed are:
THE MYSTERY WAS A SECRET
This out-calling of believers fulfills a secret purpose of God known only to Him (Eph. 3:11). It was not made known until Israel was officially and judicially set aside in unbelief.
”Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive. For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” (Acts 28:26-28)
This called-out group of believers make up a company of redeemed that is referred to as “the Church which is His Body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. l :22- 23). This secret was given EXCLUSIVELY to the Apostle Paul BY REVELATION” (Eph. 3:3).
THE MYSTERY WAS A SPECIAL CALLING
The word “calling,” is used to make known dispensational truth. The Bible reveals at least three callings.”
(1) The calling of Israel
(2) The calling of the church before Acts 28
(3) The calling of the Church of the Mystery.
Each calling differs in its Origin, Constitution and Sphere of blessing. The special calling of the Mystery is said to be the “HIGH CALLING OF GOD” (Phil. 3:14), and a “HOLY CALLING” (2 Tim. l:9), and we are to know “what is the HOPE OF HIS CALLING” (Eph. l :18).
THE MYSTERY WAS “HID”
This was not only a secret, but also a well-kept secret – the depository was the Heart of God. This secret was “HID IN GOD” (Eph. 3:9) from the beginning of the world.” Notice that it was NOT HID IN THE OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES! It was “hid in God”. The Mystery was hid from past ages and past generations “BUT NOW is made manifest to His saints”(Col. l :26). This eternal purpose (Eph. 3:11) was not known by “the fathers” or “the prophets.” It was God’s most sacred secret, and who could wrest a secret from Him until He was ready to make it known?
THE MYSTERY WAS PLANNED “BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN” (2 Tim. 1:9)
This present Church is the only company of believers that is said to have its origin “BEFORE THE FOUNDATION of the world” (Eph. 1 :4). The calling of the “kingdom” is related to a calling FROM THE FOUNDATION of the world” (Matt. 25:34). The “ONE HOPE” (Eph. 4:4) of the Church of the Mystery was promised “BEFORE the world began” (Titus 1:2).
THE MYSTERY WAS REVEALED EXCLUSIVELY TO PAUL, THE PRISONER
The internal evidence in Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 2 Timothy, and Philemon designate that they were the Apostle’s writings while he was a “prisoner of Jesus Christ.” Paul also states that he is a prisoner for you Gentiles” (Eph. 3: 1). Paul refers to his prison ministry in :
”For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles. ” (Eph. 3:1)
“I Therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, ” (Eph. 4:1)
”And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that l may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as l ought to speak. ” (Eph. 6:19-20)
“Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because l have you in my heart, in asmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. ” (Phil. 1: 7)
”So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places,” (PhiI. 1:13)
”For l am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:” (Phil. 1:23)
”Withal proving also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which l am also in bonds.”’ (Col. 4:3)
”Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Tim. 1:8)
” The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:” (2 Tim. 1:16)
”Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: Wherein l suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God if not bound. (2 Tim. 2:8-9)
“At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. ” (2 Tim. 4:16-1 7)
” Yet for love’s sake l rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom l have begotten in my bonds:” (Phile. 1:9-10)
The Mystery was revealed to Paul BY REVELATION” (Eph. 3:3) and the revelation was associated with Paul the “prisoner” not Paul the FREE MAN. The body of Truth for the Church of the Mystery is contained in a FORM OF SOUND WORDS” (2 Tim. l :1 3), (i.e. the Prison Epistles).
THE MYSTERY WAS A NEW CREATION
The Church which is “His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” is a new creation called “One New Man” (Eph. 2:15). This indicates that it like all of God’s creation was indeed a CREATION not an evolved entity. The Church of the Mystery did not evolve from the book of the Acts of the Apostles, but rather it was a new creation, created when the “Hope of Israel” was put in abeyance in Acts 28:17-28. Eph. 2:15 says . . . for to MAKE (create) in Himself of twain (i.e. Jew and Gentile) One New Man. so making peace.” Notice it says “to make”. The same expression is found in Gen. 1: 26 when the Godhead said, “Let us MAKE man in Our image.” Gen. I:27 explains in no uncertain terms that the word “make” of Verse 26 means to CREATE. Thus as Adam was created so also was the One New Man, the Church of this dispensation. The workmanship of Eph. 2:10 that was “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” has reference to the new creation of the One New Man. This body of believers is therefore a company of redeemed that form a new creation not a group that is a result of ”evolution.”
THE MYSTERY WAS FOR THE GENTILES”
Paul says in Acts 28:28 that salvation. which had been of the Jews, is “NOW sent unto the Gentiles. and that they will hear it.” Gentiles during God’s dealings with Israel and until the casting aside of them had a DISPENSATIONAL DISADVANTAGE. Ephesians 2:12 says that at “that time ye (Gentiles) were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:”, but notice how this is changed by the coming in of a new dispensation. “BUT NOW in Christ Jesus ye (Gentiles) . . . are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2: 13). It was “for this cause” that Paul was a “prisoner of Jesus Christ for YOU GENTILES” (Eph. 3:1 ). The ministry of the Word of God has been given to the Gentiles. Until the revelation of the Mystery the oracles of God were committed to Israel (Rom. 3:3). The “restoration of Israel” is now no longer possible as long as God’s secret purpose is operative and as long as the Gentiles NOW have the DISPENSATIONAL ADVANTAGE.
THE MYSTERY WAS NOT RELATED TO ANY “COVENANTS” OR “PROMISES”
This sacred secret was promised “in Christ before the world began” (Titus 1 :2). The “covenants” and the “promises” belonged to “the fathers of Israel (Rom. 9:3-5), not to the Church of the One Body. The promises made to the “fathers” were “FROM THE FOUNDATION of the world ” and the “covenants” were made “SINCE the world began.” This company of called-out believers was called with a “holy calling, not according to our works. but accordingly His Own purpose and grace. which was given us in Christ Jesus BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN’* (2 Tim. l :9), thereby eliminating the Church of the One Body from any connection with “covenants and promises” that were made in time (i.e. since the world began).
Romans I5:8 says that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision (Jews) for the purpose of CONFIRMING THE PROMISES MADE UNTO THE FATHERS, not the Church of the One Body. The “covenants” were with Israel.
The Lord promised a NEW COVENANT with the “house of ISRAEL and JUDAH” (Jer. 31:31-36), not the Church of the One Body. The Mystery was “hid in God” (Eph. 3:9), it was not in a veiled language in the Old Testament, and the Mystery has no connection with any “covenants” either “old” or “new”. God’s present purpose was planned before the world began, thus eliminating the need for any ties with “promises or covenants.”
THE MYSTERY HAS A UNIQUE SPHERE OF BLESSING
“The company of the One Body is ASCENDED, ACCEPTED. BLESSED, and SEATED together “IN HEAVENLY PLACES in Christ Jesus”.
“And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:” (Eph.2:6)
” To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Eph. 1:6)
”Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:” (Eph. 1:3)
No other company of God’s redeemed is said to enjoy this place of blessing. The sphere of blessing is at GOD’S OWN RIGHT HAND, where Christ sits; FAR ABOVE ALL (Eph. l :21), up above the firmament of Gen. 1:6 where the heavens are stretched out like a curtain (Isa. 40:22),up to the heaven of Gen. l : 1 . It is there, FAR ABOVE ALL HEAVENS (Eph. 4:10) that the Church of the One Body enjoys its unique sphere of blessing.
Israel “according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3) had for its hope the EARTH as a place of blessing. Matthew 5:5 states ”Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the EARTH.” This sphere of blessing is associated with the “Kingdom” and an earthly city, EARTHLY JERUSALEM. This is the sphere of blessing that listeners to the Sermon on the Mount were told to pray for – “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done ON EARTH, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
The faithful from the call of Abraham to the close of Acts had for its hope a HEAVENLY sphere, not “far above all heavens,” but one that was associated with a HEAVENLY CITY (Heb.11: 10). This city is referred to in Galatians 4:26 as “Jerusalem which is ABOVE” in Hebrews l 2:22 it is referred to as “the city of the living God, the HEAVENLY JERUSALEM.” The ”overcomers” of the book of Revelation are also associated with this city called “the Bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Rev. 2 l :9). This heavenly sphere of blessing is viewed as coming “DOWN FROM GOD out of heaven.” In other words it is seen descending after the new heavens and new earth appear (Rev. 21 :1- 2, 9-10). Those believers who made or will make up that company of redeemed will enjoy their place of blessing in New Jerusalem, not in “HEAVENLY PLACES, FAR ABOVE ALL, WHERE CHRIST SITS.”
THE MYSTERY HAS ITS OWN FIGURE
The Church of the One Body is figured as ONE NEW MAN (Eph. 2:15). The Church of the Acts economy and the Great Tribulation is likened to a BRIDE.
”For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. ” (2 Cor.11:2)
”And 1 John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. ” (Rev. 21:2).
”And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God, ” (Rev. 21: 9-10)
Israel according to the flesh was a called out nation from among other nations, and is referred to as Jehovah’s WIFE that is now cast off, but will be reunited in the Millennium. (Hos. 2: 19-20; 3:3-5).
Each of three spheres of blessing is associated with a peculiar destiny.
|WIFE||BRIDE||ONE NEW MAN|
|the earth||New Jerusalem||Far Above All Heaven|
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. ” (Eph. 1:3)
BLESSED BE GOD WHO HATH BLESSED US
Paul writes this epistle as a prisoner. There is not one note of disappointment, not one tone of sorrow in the entire epistle. At the very outset of the letter he blesses the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It should be kept in the reader’s mind when this epistle was written. This was written after Israel was no longer the center of God’s purposes. It was written after Israel, as a nation with all of her privileges, was set aside. The Apostle Paul had pronounced blindness upon the whole nation as fulfillment of Isa. 6:9-10. The Holy Spirit led the Apostle to say in Acts 28:25-28,
“Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the Prophet unto our fathers (i.e. the fathers of Israel), Saying, “Go unto this people (i.e. Israel) and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive; For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.’ Be it known therefore unto you, (i.e. Israel), that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.”
Paul said this to his kinsmen according to the flesh. For l5 years or so the Apostle had been a minister to the Gentiles. ministering the Gospel of God. He had been performing the work of a priest in offering up the Gentiles to God that they might be acceptable to Him (Rom. 15:16). As the Apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13) he magnified his office by working harder than any of the other apostles (2 Cor.11:23) and by not being ”a whit behind the very chiefest apostles” (2 Cor. 11:5). Paul’s office was magnified by the “abundance of revelations” he received; for he says, “for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles” (2 Cor. 12:5). Truly the signs, wonders, and mighty deeds were done by him as the Apostle to the Gentiles, all for the purpose of provoking Israel to jealousy. Paul’s Acts ministry was one of being an “able minister of the New Testament” (2 Cor. 3:6). This new testament was the one God had promised Israel in Jer. 31:31- 33. However, as long as Israel was in unbelief as she was during the Book of Acts, the old testament (i.e. covenant) was not done away with; the new covenant was simply superimposed over the old for those individuals who had been made partakers of the Abrahamic blessings – that is the “promise of the Spirit” (Gal. 3:14). The nation was still under the old, Paul’s desire was for the new to be established. For when God would establish the new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, then the “times of refreshing would come from the presence of the Lord” and the Kingdom would be restored to Israel. For years Paul labored among the Gentiles as their Apostle. He taught and witnessed both to the small and great saying nothing except that which was in harmony with what Moses and the prophets said should come to pass (see Acts 26:22).
Paul’s overriding desire during his Acts ministry was for his nation. His labors were in their behalf. Even though his basic work was among the Gentiles, it was for the purpose of making Israel jealous, that they might emulate the faith of the Gentiles and be saved (Rom. 11:11-14).
“I say the truth in Christ, and lie not . . . That l have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh. Who are Israelites…” Rom. 9:1-4.
But all his efforts to win Israel culminated in a Roman prison where he calls the chief men of the Jews in Rome together and explains that he is BOUND FOR ISRAEL’S HOPE (Acts 28:20). To these he expounded out of the Scriptures and testified concerning the Kingdom. He spoke out of both the Law of Moses and the Prophets all one day from morning till evening (Acts 28:23). The Roman Jews agreed not among themselves. The Spirit of God moved upon Paul to pronounce the Nation’s total blindness. The axe is laid to the root. The Hope of Israel and all that Paul had ministered for ended abruptly in Acts 28:28. The anticipation of the returning King, Jesus Christ, was set aside. Signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost ceased. The restoration of the Kingdom was NOW impossible. Israel reached the great crisis and failed to enter “Into His rest” because of unbelief’.
It would appear that all of Paul’s efforts had failed. You might expect him to really be experiencing heaviness and continual sorrow, for it looked as though years of ministry was “down the drain”. But now in Ephesians we learn that he received a subsequent revelation. It was such a grand and glorious revelation that he bursts forth with . . . BLESSED BE THE GOD AND FATHER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. That is to say in Plainer Words: “Speak well of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Why? Because He HATH BLESSED US WITH ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS IN HEAVENLY PLACES IN CHRIST.
He is saying BLESS GOD because HE HATH BLESSED US. Paul received a new and fresh revelation from God concerning His secret purpose called ”the Mystery”. The truth connected with the Mystery is such a higher and more glorious truth than Kingdom truth that Paul no longer experiences sorrow for his kinsmen after the flesh. But rather he blesses God for having made known to him the “revelation of the Mystery.”
Paul no longer finds himself in prison bound for Israel’s hope but rather he learns that he is “an ambassador in bonds” to make known the Mystery (Eph. 6: 19-20). It is as the prisoner of the Lord that he learns the present testimony of our Lord (2 Tim. 1:8). The Lord’s present testimony is made known fully in the Ephesian Epistle. It concerns the fact that a new company of believers is formed which is to make up a body of believers over which Christ Jesus is the HEAD. It concerns a truth that Christ is now among the Gentiles and is their Hope of Glory. The truth concerning the Mystery is so glorious that it now overshadows that which Paul had previously worked so hard to see come to pass. Now that the Mystery is made known to him by means of a personal revelation from Christ he can only be filled with PRAISE AND PEACE. Thus the praise is BLESSED BE THE GOD AND FATHER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.
ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS
As members of the Church of the One Body we are to bless God because He has already blessed us. We don’t pray to be blessed but rather we praise God because we have already been blessed with all spiritual blessings. We are not to seek blessings, but we are to speak well of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ because HE HATH BLESSED US. The “us” is the Church of the One Body. The blessings of the Church of the One Body are not limited; they are limitless. They include ALL the BLESSINGS that are in “heavenly places”. The Church of the One Body is to enjoy every blessing in the heavenlies. These blessings are the RICHES OF GLORY.
Spiritual blessings are in contrast to blessings of the Spirit, (i.e. “spiritual gifts”). The Church of God, the company of believers which was in view from Acts 2 to Acts 28, received gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts were Divine enablements. They were supernatural in character and enabled the believers to perform supernatural arts. The gifts of the Spirit during the Acts period were nine in number: (1) the word of wisdom. (2) the word of knowledge, (3) faith, (4) gifts of healing, (5) the working of miracles, (6) prophecy, (7) discerning of spirits, (8) divers kinds of tongues (i.e. foreign languages) and (9) the interpretation of tongues. l Cor. 12:8-10.
The spriritual gifts were the “promise of the Spirit” referred to in Gal. 3:14.,
“That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
The Abrahamic blessings are not the blessings of the Church of the One Body. The promise of the Spirit was to Abraham and his seed (i.e. those who walked in his steps). The promised Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost. The Church of God was endowed with power from on high (Lu. 24:49). The one hundred and twenty on the Day of Pentecost formed the remnant that received the Abrahamic promise of the Spirit. From that day in Acts 2 until the great dispensational landmark was reached in Acts 28 the miraculous abounded. The gifts of the Spirit prevailed. The believers were granted a foretaste of the powers of the age to come (Heb. 6:5). When the crisis of Acts 28:28 was reached and blindness pronounced, the miraculous ended abruptly. With the ending of the miraculous the outworking of the Kingdom purposes of God ended. With the Kingdom purposes being set aside, God also set aside His use of the Church of God. The Church of God was His instrument in accomplishing His earthly purpose. So with Israel’s failure to believe, He set aside the Church of God. This was not because of the failure of the Church of the Acts period but rather it was because of Israel’s unbelief. The nation was given every opportunity to acknowledge Christ as Messiah and the Son of God. The Lord stretched out His arms for over 30 years to the disobedient and gainsaying people. They would not respond in the main. Thus the crisis is reached, Israel’s hope is abandoned, the olive tree is rooted up and the “spiritual gifts” are buried in Israel’s grave, only to be revived with Israel’s restoration in a future age.
When the landmark of Acts 28:28 is reached prophetic truth ends. A new and fresh revelation is committed unto the Apostle Paul. The Mystery of the Church which is Christ’s Body is made known to Paul. The blessings connected with the Church of the Mystery are spiritual in nature. These are now in contrast with blessings which are physical, or supernatural. The blessings of the Church of the new calling are those riches which are awaiting us in heavenly places.
Whatever the riches of heavenly places are, no matter how many there are, every one of them belong to the Church of The One Body as our inheritance. The spiritual blessings are ours now; we are to enjoy them by faith. However, as members of the Church of the One Body, we will enjoy them in reality in resurrection. This is a fact which is hard to grasp. All of the riches in the realm of God’s Right Hand, Far Above All, falls into the category of “all spiritual blessings”. None are omitted.
As one reads verses 3-6 he becomes aware of the fact that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has willed certain things to the Church of the One Body. He willed ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS to the Church of the One Body; not to Israel, nor to the Church of God. With every blessing stored and banked in heavenly places for the members of the Church of this dispensation there is no need for a second blessing. He has willed everything in Glory to those who make up his family in the sphere FAR ABOVE ALL HEAVENS. In view of what is ours in the heavenlies, to ask for more would seem to be ungrateful. Yet there are Christians who continually beg God for more. All the while ignoring the fact that He has already blessed us with ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:” (Eph. 1:3)
We are not given much insight into what “spiritual blessings” are. What physical, material blessings would be in the earthly sphere, spiritual blessings would be in the heavenly sphere. They would be in perfect harmony with the environment for which they are designed. The wealth of Glory has been willed to the members of the Church over which Christ Jesus is the Head. No wonder Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”
The Church of the One Body is to be received up into Glory one day. When this takes place the Church will then receive its inheritance. While we pilgrim through this world, the material blessings that we enjoy from time to time are only as manna in the wilderness. The real joy of our blessings awaits us. Thus, we are instructed to “set our affections on things above, not on things on this earth” (Col. 3:2) . What the blessings of the Land of Promise will be to Israel and what the blessings of New Jerusalem will be to the Overcomes, that is what every spiritual blessing will be to the Church of the One Body. This will be realized in resurrection on the tip-top of the universe up above the firmament; up where Christ is now seated at God’s Right Hand.
As members of the Church of the One Body we may be called upon to suffer need or want, sickness or sorrow, or we may abound and be full. Whatever our state, we are to ”therewith be content”. There is no guarantee for abundance in this life. The ungodly may seem to prosper. Some saints may appear to be so richly blessed, but to judge a man’s spiritual worth by what we see would be foolish. Members of the One Body are to live in light of a new plane; that is, a spiritual plane. This plane is on resurrection and ascension ground where every blessing that is spiritual is reserved for this new company and calling.
What the Promised Land will be to redeemed Israel, what New Jerusalem will be to the Overcomer and what the New Earth will be to Job (and others), “heavenly places” will be to the Church of the One Body. Each company of God’s redeemed is to enjoy a particular sphere of blessing. ”Heavenly places” answers the question of where the Church of the Mystery will enjoy its blessings. No other company or calling was ever given any hope at all of “heavenly places” being the place of their Inheritance. Not until the Apostle Paul received the revelation of the Mystery did anyone ever entertain a legitimate hope of living again in the highest heaven. A legitimate hope would be based upon a promise from God. Most all pagans and heathens had the idea that upon death they would go to “the great spirit in the sky”, or to “the happy hunting ground in the sky” or to “hillbilly heaven” or some other such place. But God had never given anyone a promise they they would live again in “heavenly places” until the Mystery was made known to Paul the prisoner.
Until Acts 28:28 all of God’s redeemed looked either to the land of Palestine, Paradise restored (i.e. the New Earth) or New Jerusalem as their place and sphere of blessing. No one who believed what God had revealed had any idea of heaven becoming their abode. For it was known by Bible believers that:
“The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s: but the earth hath he given to the children of men. ” (Ps. 115:16)
Those who looked for the establishment of the Kingdom were told by the Lord, Himself, that the meek shall inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5).
Even Job was assured his Redeemer lived and that in the latter day in resurrection he would see God “upon the earth” (Job 19:25-26).
Those who walked in the steps of faithful Abraham from Genesis 12 to Acts 28 “looked for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. l 1:10). ”For God hath prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:16). It is heavenly in origin and character, but it comes down from God out of heaven (Rev. 21:2,10) and comes to rest upon the New Earth. This city is the ”city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22). Even the Apostle Paul (the writer of Hebrews) said during the Acts economy, “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” (Heb. 13:14). He did not say that they sought it to go to” but rather one to come” He refers a “Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all (i.e. that walk In Abraham’s steps of faith” (Gal. 4:26).
When the Acts 28 crisis was reached and Israel blessings connected with the Kingdom program were set aside, Paul ceases being bound for Israel’s hope (Acts 28:20), and then became an ambassador in bonds to make known the Mystery (Eph. 6:19-20; Col. 4:3).
“Heavenly places” is then revealed to be the place of blessing for the new calling, the Church of the One Body. The new and fresh revelation which Paul receives from the Ascended – Enthroned – Exalted Christ Jesus is that there is now going to be a called-out company that is to be blessed with all spiritual blessings, not in the land, not in Paradise restored, nor in the City of the Living God, but in HEAVENLY PLACES.
“Heavenly places” is a phrase that only occurs in the Ephesian Epistle. This fact makes its association with the Mystery even more obvious.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us (i.e. the Church of the One Body) with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Chest: ” (Eph. 1:3)
“. . . according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,” (Eph. 1:19,20)
“And hath raised us (i.e. members of the Church of the One Body) up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: ” (Eph. 2:6)
“To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, ” (Eph. 3:10)
Heavenly places is uniquely associated with the Mystery as Indicated by the fact that nowhere else in Scripture is this phrase used. This sphere of blessing is unparalleled and unequaled in all the Word of God.
Therefore it could be said, the destiny of the Church over which Christ is the head is heavenly places. It is a definite place. Its location is above the highest heaven (Eph. 4:10). It is up above the firmament of Genesis 1:6. It is far above all principality, and power,” (Eph. 1:21). It is at God’s Own Right Hand where Christ ascended and is now seated. The calling of the Church of the Mystery has the unique privilege of being the only company and calling of God’s people who will inhabit the heavenlies. The Church of God was looking for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, that is, His coming. He was in heaven: the Church of God was anticipating His return from heaven. Notice the contrast between the two callings. The Church of God looked for His coming; the Church of the One Body looks for its manifestation with Him in Glory (Col. 3:4).
The fact that the Church during the Book of Acts looked for the Lord’s return is very significant when we realize that after Acts 28:28 Paul receives the revelation of the Mystery and ceases looking for the Lord’s return, because His return was postponed. The Lord is no longer in heaven awaiting Israel’s repentance. The possibility of Israel’s repentance ended with Acts 28:17-28. Thus ended the possibility of the Lord’s return to earth. This did not take the Lord by surprise. He was not “left holding the bag.” The purposes of God were not frustrated. Instead, Paul, the prisoner, learns that God ushered in His ”eternal purpose” (Eph. 3:11) and it concerns the Great Secret (i.e. the Mystery). That is to say, Christ is now the Head over all things to the Church which is His Body (Eph. 1:22-23), as well as Head over all principality and power (Col. 2:10).
When God’s “eternal purpose” is worked out with the Church of the One Body then He will again deal with Israel. Revelation Chapter One will pick up where Acts Chapter Twenty-Eight ended. Then the Lord’s return will be imminent.
The first verse in the Bible calls our attention to two spheres – the heaven and the earth. Another sphere is made known in the Ephesian Epistle and that is the place to which Christ ascended, “far above all heavens” (Eph. 4:10). He has not ascended to a place among the heavenly beings but rather to a place designated as being “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion” (Eph. 1:21).
The Apostle Paul makes known that the Church of the Mystery is viewed as having been ”raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:” (Eph. 2:6). The Church is to be received up into this realm. Then and there will faith give way to sight and “all spiritual blessings” will be enjoyed as the inheritance that The Father willed this company of redeemed.
Spiritual blessings are for heavenly places. There is only one company of believers that is destined to enjoy both. Ephesians l :4 tells us who they are. It is those who were chosen in Christ before the world began.
“According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, . . . ” (Eph. 1:4)
GOD HATH CHOSEN
One of the Bible facts that is over-stressed by certain segments of Christianity is the fact that God is selective. This same fact while over emphasized by some is ignored by others. In fact, many remain so silent on the subject it is as if the Bible, Itself, said nothing about it. However, the Word of God is not silent on the subject.
God does make choices. He chooses, He is selective, He chooses one over another. He chooses people, places and things. For Him to choose necessitates the fact that He makes a choice. To choose one item and not choose another demonstrates God’s selectivity. In order to choose one He must of necessity pass over the other.
The definition of the word choose is (1) To pick out; to select; to take by way of preference from two or more things offered; to make a choice of. “The man whom the Lord doth choose, he shall be holy.” Nu. 16:7 (2) To take in preference, “Let us choose to us judgment:” Job 34:4, (Webster’s Dictionary, the 1828 Edition).
Notice some of the clear choices God has made.
He chose a people.
“For thou (i.e. Israel) art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. (Deut. 7:6)
”The Lord did not set His love upon you.. nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: ” (Deut. 7:7)
He chooses men.
“Thou art the Lord the God who didst choose Abram . . ” (Neh. 9: 7)
But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. ” (Isa. 41:8)
God also chose places.
“Then there shall be a place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there;” (Deut. 12:11) (cf. 5.14, 18, 26)
He chooses the place for sacrifice.
“Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the pass-over unto the Lord thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the Lord shall choose to place His name to dwell there. ” (Dent. 16..2) (cf. 5, 14, 18, 26)
He chooses cities.
“…and he (Rehoboam) reined 17 years in Jerusalem, the city the Lord did choose out of all the tribes of Israel, . . . ” (1 Kings 14:21)
“Since the day that I brought forth my people out of the land of Egypt I chose no city among all the tribes of Israel to build an house in, that my name might be there; neither chose I any man to be a ruler over my people Israel.. But I have chosen Jerusalem, that my name might be there; and have chosen David to be over my people Israel. ” (2 Chrn. 6:5-6)
He chose tribes.
“Moreover He refused the tabernacle of Joseph and chose not the tribe of Ephraim.. But chose the tribe of Judah, ” (Ps 78:67-68)
The Lord passed over all thy tribes of Israel but the Levites. He chose the tribe of Levi ”to stand to minister in the name of the Lord, him and his sons forever. ” (Dent. 18:5)
He chooses nations.
“And say unto them, “Thus saith the Lord God; In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob,…” (Ezk. 20:5)
He chooses disciples, and out of those he makes a further selection, passing over some and choosing others.
“And when it wet day, He called unto Him his disciples.. and of them he chose twelve, whom He named apostles;” (Lk. 6:13)
“Jesus answered them, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?’.” (Jn. 6:70)
Of all those in Israel the Lord could have selected, He chose Saul of Tarsus.
”But the Lord said unto him, ‘Go thy way.. for he (i.e. Saul who became Paul) is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.. ‘ ” (Acts 9: 15)
There are many more references to choices which God has made. Just a sample was given to point out that He does have preferences. We do not know what the reasons are for His choices but we know He does make them.
For He “hath chosen us (i.e. the Church of the One Body) in Him.” The only reason given for His choice is that it was:
“according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1 :5)
In Plainer Words it could be said that His reason was – “just because.”
Some Bible expositors say that the selection (i.e., “hath chosen us”) is corporate and not individual. That is, the Church of the One Body was ”chosen in Him before the foundation of the world,” not the individual members. Others explain, however, that individual members make up the One Body, therefore, it must refer to individual selection as well as corporate selection.
Whatever view is held, both would agree that God the Father did make a choice. If we take note of Paul’s first prayer in Ephesians, where he petitions ”the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory” (1:17), we see that the prayer is for The Father to give:
1. The spirit of wisdom and revelation (v. 17)
2. Knowledge of Him (v. 17)
3. Enlightened understanding (v. 18)
in order that believers may know:
1. What is the hope of His calling (v. 18)
2. What is the riches of His inheritance (v. 18)
3. What is the greatness of His power (v. 19).
A careful study of this prayer yields much to the believer. The central thought behind it is the Apostle’s concern that the Lord “may give” enlightenment to the truth of this calling. This certainly indicates that without the divine enlightenment there is no knowledge of Him in relationship to the Mystery. Not all have enlightened eyes. Those that do have the eyes of their understanding enlightened must be the ones that were “chosen in Him”.
Those having once been enlightened to the truth who become entangled in error find there is no release except “if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil,” (2 Tim. 2:25-26). Thus release from the devil’s snare is granted by the Lord. A man does not disentangle himself, the disentanglement is – “if God peradventure (i.e. by chance or perhaps)” will give them release.
If becoming disentangled from error is granted by the Lord and if enlightenment to truth is given by the Lord, it would seem that He makes individual choices and selections regarding truth. If God selects or picks out certain individuals to give them spiritual eyes to “see”, then He too passes over others, indicating some are not the object of His “enlightenment.” Those who are, ought to bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ because He hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places ”according as He hath chosen us in Him”.
If a conclusion must be drawn from the Father’s choice, it would be that His choice was “us” both corporately and individually. That is to say, He chose the Church of the One Body and its members to be the object of His ”eternal purpose” (Eph. 3:11).
Truth does come to us two ways. There are two sides of the coin regarding God’s choosing; one side is His choice, the other side is our response. Those He chooses turns out to be those “who believe” Eph.1:19).