The Holy Spirit in the Letter of Ephesians
Although there are marked similarities between the epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians, there are clear distinctions. The former unfolds the purpose of God, and in relation to it brings out the blessings that belong to the saints as united to Christ the Head of the body, whereas Colossians brings before us the greatness of the Head of the body, and the sufficiency that is in Him for His assembly. It is noticeable that while Ephesians has mentions of the Holy Spirit in every chapter, there is but one mention in the whole of Colossians, “Epaphras … also declared unto us your love in the Spirit” (Eph. 1:7-8). In Colossians the life of our heavenly Head is expressed in the members of His body; but in Ephesians the Holy Spirit is the One who gives us the good of all our divine blessings, and enables us to be here for the will and pleasure of God
Sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise
Having believed the Gospel of their salvation, the message of the death and resurrection of Christ, the Ephesian believers were claimed by God for Himself, and He put His seal, the Holy Spirit, upon them (Eph. 1:13). A seal is the claim to ownership, and everyone who truly believes in the Lord Jesus, as having died for his sins, and having come out of death, is marked by God as His own possession through His Spirit. The believer is wholly claimed for God, body, soul and spirit; and the body that enters into death will be claimed and changed at the coming of the Lord Jesus.
In the type of the cleansing of the leper, the blood of the trespass offering was put upon the tip of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, and on his thumb and on his great toe, “and of the rest of the oil that is in his hand shall the priest put upon the tip of the right ear, upon the blood of the trespass offering” (Lev. 14:14-17). The oil is put upon the blood, for God seals by His Spirit one who has heard with the hearing of faith the Gospel of God’s salvation.
The Earnest of Our Inheritance
When Christ is publicly manifested as Head over all in the dispensation of the fulness of times, those whom God has made His sons will have an inheritance along with Christ. God will take up all those who are joint-heirs with Christ. We are already God’s sons and heirs, but await the coming day to enter into all that God has called us to inherit. Israel’s inheritance was earthly, ours is heavenly in association with the heavenly Christ.
While waiting the day of possession, God has given to us the Holy Spirit which He promised when the Lord Jesus was on earth. The Spirit not only assures us of the inheritance, but gives us to foretaste that which we shall enjoy in the coming day. Nothing could be greater than this, not even the possession of the inheritance itself, for the divine Person who indwells us is surely greater than that which He gives us to inherit.
Access to the Father by One Spirit
There was no access to God under the legal system. Once a year the high priest entered the presence of God to make atonement, and with the grave warning “that he die not” (Lev. 16:2, 13) accompanying the divine instructions of the manner in which he was to enter. The common people could only get to the door of the tabernacle. If this was Israel’s position as near to God, what was that of the poor Gentiles, as “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world”? (Eph. 2:12).
Christ’s coming, and His death upon the cross, had altered the position of Jew and Gentile who believed in Him. “Now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (verse 13). It was not that the Gentile was brought to share the place that the Jew had under the law, but that, the law having been set aside as a means of obtaining blessing, and as separating them, they might both share together in a new place provided through the death of God’s Son.
This new place was before the Father who was revealed in the Person of the Son. It was through the Son that both had access to the Father’s presence, but by One Spirit. One Spirit had been given to both, thus uniting them in life to each other and to Christ their Head, and this One Spirit, God’s Holy Spirit, enabled them to enjoy the place of nearness and liberty God had given to them before the Father. Only sons could have this place of nearness, that they might enjoy communion with the Father, and be worshippers before Him.
A Habitation of God by the Spirit
The saints of God who enjoy this near place of favour and access have been formed into a dwelling place for God. On the foundation of the apostles and prophets, who brought the testimony of God concerning His Son, this divine structure is being reared. No doubt this foundation consists of the apostles and prophets personally, for they are the foundation laid by God; but it may also include their testimony, the word given to them to preach and minister, and through which the saints who were to be built into this divine structure were secured for God.
In this building the chief corner stone is Jesus Christ, the One upon whom every line of the structure is directed. Silently, like Solomon’s temple, the divine building grows, and on its completion it will be seen as God’s holy temple, the shrine of His glory, where the light of God will shine out for the enlightenment of the universe.
Before that day of glory, God is dwelling in His people by His Spirit, even as it is written “In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22). Here is truth that we find elsewhere also, that the Spirit not only indwells the believer individually, but also dwells in the house. The church could not have been viewed as God’s house if the Spirit of God had not taken up His abode in it. In spite of all the failure of the church, and the present ruin, God still dwells in His habitation by the Spirit.
Revelation by the Spirit
To Moses, God directly revealed His thoughts, but sometimes God sent messages by angelic messengers. When the Son of God came, He not only revealed God’s will, but revealed God Himself, and when He returned to the Father, the Spirit of God came as the means of divine revelation as the Lord foretold His disciples, and as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10).
In Ephesians 3 the Apostle is writing of the mystery, the great secret of God concerning Christ and the Church which had been hid from ages and generations. Regarding this Paul writes, “By revelation He made known to me the mystery” (verse 3). This was evidently a special revelation given to Paul personally because he was to be the minister of the mystery, and it would seem to have been given to him directly by the Lord from heaven.
Although the other apostles and prophets were not to minister this special truth, they nevertheless received the revelation of it, not directly from the Lord in heaven, not through an angel or through Paul, but through the Spirit of God. God’s wisdom is seen in this. Peter speaks of some things hard to be understood in Paul’s writings, and had not the Spirit of God revealed these truths to the other apostles, there might have been the danger of their refusing them, and thus setting aside the unity of the Spirit we are to keep.
The Inner Man Strengthened by the Spirit
Having made known the precious truth of the mystery, and the unsearchable riches of the Christ, the Apostle prays for the saints to whom he is writing, desiring that they might be able to apprehend “with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height” of all these wonderful revelations relating to the Father’s glory, Christ’s unsearchable riches, and the church’s place with Him.
To apprehend the truth there must be a spiritual state consonant with the truth, and this is produced by the Spirit of God. Occupation with the riches of the Father’s glory as seen in relation to Christ, the Man of His purpose, will enable the Spirit to form within us the desired spiritual state. This is not a mere intellectual exercise, but the heart and conscience affected by the truth with which it is engaged in communion with Christ by the Spirit.
The Unity of the Spirit
We are exhorted in Ephesians 4:3 to endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace. This unity exists essentially in the One Spirit, and as such cannot be broken; but practically, the unity has been ruined by the failure of the saints of God. Had it not existed essentially when the Apostle wrote, he would not have spoken of it as a unity. On the other hand, had it not been possible to break it practically, he would not have exhorted the saints to endeavour to keep it.
Although we are in days of great ruin and weakness. it is still possible for two or three who meet together to the Name of the Lord to endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace. Where there is meek submission to God’s will among the saints, and the absence of self-will, there will be this godly endeavour, and the blessing that comes from the help of an ungrieved Spirit.
“Grieve Not the Holy Spirit”
This exhortation of Ephesians 4:30 makes plain the sensitive personal feelings of the Holy Spirit, who can be affected by anything that is allowed in the lives of the saints of God that is contrary to the holiness of God, and to the nature and character of God. We can grieve the Holy Spirit by the allowance of anything in our personal lives, or anything relating to the things of God in His assembly, or in our service. Every department of our lives affords the opportunity for manifesting the features that the Spirit of God produces, and for pleasing God.
God’s Spirit who has claimed us for God will not let us go, but will bring us to “the day of redemption.” This is the day of the redemption of the body, when all who belong to Christ will have bodies of glory like Christ’s. It is also the time of the redemption of the “purchased possession,” the vast inheritance that Christ has bought with His precious blood, and which He will redeem when He comes to take up the whole universe for God.
Filled with the Spirit
“The fruit of the Spirit,” in Ephesians 5:9 should probably read “The fruit of the light,” but we have the former in Galatians 5:22. There are many examples given in Scripture of those who have been filled with the Spirit, and of the effects produced, as in the cases of the parents of John Baptist (Luke 1:41-45, 67-79), Simon Peter (Acts 4:8-12), and Stephen (Acts 7:55-56). Those who were appointed to look after the business of caring for the widows, when the murmuring arose at the beginning of the church’s history, were men “full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” (Acts 6:3).
The marks given in Ephesians 5:19-21 of those filled with the Spirit are not extraordinary expositions, like some of those considered above, but what should mark us all at all times, singing and making melody in the heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things unto God the Father, and submitting ourselves to one another in the fear of God.
The Sword of the Spirit
This part of the divine panoply is not simply quoting Scripture, but using God’s word under the control of the Holy Spirit. Satan quoted Scripture when tempting the Lord, but the Lord replied with Scripture as the sword of the Spirit. When meeting the enemy we must be fortified with the knowledge of God’s word, but there must also be the spiritual state which will enable the Spirit of God to use our knowledge of the word to meet the situation that confronts us.
Prayer and Supplication in the Spirit
The Lord Jesus is our great Exemplar both as using the sword of the Spirit, and also as “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.” In Luke’s Gospel the Lord is often found in prayer, ever in the attitude of dependence on God. We are to be always in the attitude of prayer, but prayer under the influence of the Spirit of God, if we would successfully meet the wiles and fiery darts of the enemy. In Gethsemane, it is written in Luke 22:44, “Being in conflict He prayed more intently.” In the wilderness the Lord used the sword, but in the Garden He used “prayer and supplication” to meet the foe.