AN EXHORTATION TO UNITY (4: 1-6)
"He exhorteth to unity", the A.V. tells us in the summary at the head of chapter 4. The closing words of the third chapter are a well defined conclusion to a section of the letter. The first part has been devoted to the exposition of doctrine; in the second part Paul turns to exhortation. But the two must not be separated too much: exhortation not only follows doctrine but is the logical outcome of it. What a man believes should (and will, if sincerely and heartily believed) influence his life. Hence the use of the word "therefore" in the opening verse: "I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called". Paul has before spoken of himself as "the prisoner of Christ Jesus" (3:1). In this place he is "the prisoner of the Lord". The titles of Christ, like the titles of God, are full of meaning, and are not used haphazardly. "Jesus" directs attention to the man, and, according to the meaning of the name, his mission. "Christ", the Anointed, is a title, and denotes his office. "Lord" translates a word which means owner. "It expresses the authority and lordship arising from and pertaining to ownership." It is translated "owner" in Luke 19: 33, in harmony with the primary meaning of the word. A precise association of ideas occurs in the phrase of Peter, when he speaks of certain "denying the Lord that bought them", and therefore owned them. Paul's use of words is appropriate in each case. He prefaces his exposition of his ambassadorship and of the secret he had to explain by calling himself the prisoner of Christ Jesus. But when he is about to exhort them to holiness he designates himself prisoner of the Lord, whose servant he is, and who is owner of all the saints, to whom therefore there is due the service of which he writes. The appeal is "to walk worthily of the calling wherewith they were called". "Vocation" (A.V.) suggests a choice they had made € a work they had taken up themselves. But it is the divine calling that is before us, "his calling" (1: 18).
Paul wants them to appreciate the greatness and value and responsibility of being so called, and to respond thereto fittingly. He exhorted the Philippians, "Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Phil, 1: 27), or as the R.V. margin more literally puts it, "Behave as citizens worthily". There is a local touch here. Philippi was a colony, and its citizens were proud of their imperial citizenship and tried to respond worthily. The Philippian saints were now citizens of a divine commonwealth, and not less but more eagerly should they live this citizen-life worthily. In the other prison epistle, he prays that the Colossians "might walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God" (1: 10). He charged the Thessalonians "as a father doth his own children", "that ye should walk worthily of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory" (1 Thess. 2: 12). There is an exhortation on "Walking Worthily" in Seasons of Comfort, based upon the last passage. In it the writer says: "The thing that Paul would always exhort us to do, if he were among us, would be to 'walk worthy of God'. This defines the matter comprehensively; presents it clearly, and fixes its character unmistakably. Need we be at a loss to decide our course, as saints, if we remember that it is to be € worthy of God'? The application of this single text will always, with an earnest man, easily settle controversies on practical questions which men of another type find enveloped in fog. Even earnest men need to apply it energetically." "It is not for us to trust ourselves in deciding what sort of a walk is worthy of God. We must be guided solely by what is revealed. We are safe in taking the cue from the Scriptures. We are in danger if we trust to our own thoughts, and still more so if we yield to the sentiments current in society. Here we have to wage a constant war, in which we ought to make victory our strenuous aim. It is a warfare in which he only that overcomes will obtain the benefit. To be overcome here is to lose all. Men have certain ideas of how we ought to think, how we ought to talk, how we ought to use our leisure, how we ought to use our money and our abilities, how we ought to carry ourselves in society, and what we ought to aim at. This is one school, large, flourishing, and popular. The Spirit of God, by the apostles and prophets, has promulgated other thoughts on these subjects. There is another school, which is the opposite of prosperous at present. The two schools are incompatible. We cannot belong to both. It is Jesus who has said 'No man can serve two masters'."
"To 'walk worthy of God', then, is first to have the heart where Christ's heart was, and then to let the words of our lips and the deeds of our hands follow suit. Christ's heart was fixed on the Father and the Father's will, and the Father's work and the Father's purpose in the days to come. He had no other interest, no other love, though this indeed, truly comprehends all interests and all love." "Paul warned the brethren night and day with tears: do we need the warning less? Rather do we stand in more imperative need of it. An apostasy of centuries has trampled the whole system of divine ideas in the dust, and there is danger that with nothing but the written word to reclaim us from the abounding darkness, we may receive an inadequate impression of what is required of us. There is danger that we may stop short at the beggarly idea that sonship to God consists of knowing the nature of man and the purpose of God, and being baptized and breaking bread. There is danger of our failing to see that Christ wants men with whom he will be the ruling affection, and with whom the love of God prevails unto sanctification and separation from a world that knows Him not and obeys not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is a danger of our being content with the external compliances of saintship, having a name to live while dead, professing to be Christ's while remaining in league with the world for which he did not pray, and which he will shortly destroy, and us with it, if we make ourselves of it. No wise man will be content in this matter with anything short of the genuine apostolic ideal."
The accompaniments of a worthy walk given by Paul in Ephesians bear particularly upon the subject before him. Jew and Gentile had been brought together into one body; built up together into one temple; constituted together one new man. There existed in an ecclesia made up of men of different races, of varied social standing, slaves and free man, all the elements for discord and strife. The "calling" required the development of such mental dispositions as would destroy the sources of friction. Hence the appeal for lowliness and meekness, for long-suffering and forbearance with one another in love; with the exercise of earnest care to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace.
Centuries of Christian teaching have established as virtues the points of character here mentioned, however little men may seek to develop them. But the insistence upon them as necessary traits of human character was a new thing in the world of the first century. Says Trench: "The very work for which Christ's gospel came into the world was no other than to put down the mighty from their seat, and to exalt the humble and meek. It was then only in accordance with this its mission that it should dethrone the heathen virtue, arrogance, and set up the despised Christian grace, lowliness of mind, in its room, stripping that of the honour it had unjustly assumed, delivering this from the dishonour which as unjustly had clung to it hitherto. Indeed not the grace only, but the very word is itself a birth of the Gospel; no Greek writer employed it before the Christian era, or, apart from the influence of Christian writings, after" (New Testament Synonyms).
Humility was regarded as a vice of nature, fit attitude for a slave. A full life had no place for it. But the teaching and example of the Son of God put humility in a different position. It was not a weakness to be despised, but strength that expressed itself in service and self-sacrifice. It is recorded that in the closing acts of his life, "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God, riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments ; and took a towel, and girded him-self. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded." There is more than a hint of this service of Christ in the exhortation of Peter to be "clothed with humility" (1 Peter 5:5). Paul also points to the example of Christ when he puts lowliness of mind over against strife and vain glory as the condition of acceptable service. "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. . . . Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus . . . who made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant . . . and humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2 : 3-8). If the sinless Son of God could say, "I am meek and lowly of heart", how necessary it is that the sinful sons of men should cultivate lowliness, recognizing that there is no room for boasting, but need for the confession of sins.
"Meekness" was opposed to savageness, rudeness and harshness. On its God-ward side it expresses itself in submission to God's arrangements and disposition of affairs; and as a consequence is unresentful of the wrongs and provocations of fellowmen. With lowliness and meekness there must be long-suffering. This is "opposed to resentment, revenge and wrath", and indeed is explained in Paul's next phrase, "forbearing one another in love". Particularly was this forbearance called for when the general incompatibility of Jew and Gentile had to be overcome. It is even necessary to make possible the harmonious working together of men of one race with a certain amount of community of interest and outlook. Individuality so easily expresses and asserts itself in one form or another that there is always need for forbearance. Mutual forbearance must spring from love. On this it has been well said: "Christian forbearance is not to have for its motive the moral superiority felt by the man who does not yield to the temptation of a sharp or angry retort, but kindly feeling and regard for the other person, on account of his being a member of the same body, and that body, Christ's". These qualities named are essential to the achievement of the last item of Paul's appeal € the point to which he has been leading € "giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace". What is this unity? and why is it called the unity of the Spirit? The previous chapters have told us what it is. It is something already existing, to be kept; but it is also something not attained in fulness until "all" the saints are incorporated therein, a goal not reached until the coming of Christ (4: 13). The unity is that pertaining to the "one new man", the "one body" (2: 15). The consummation is that for which Christ prayed: "that they may be one, as we are" (John 17: 11). It is the unity of the Spirit because it is the Spirit's unity, that is, the unity that God has brought into being. The Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, coming upon the apostles after the Lord's ascension, led them, according to his promise, into all truth. The apostles' doctrine was the basis upon which all met together. In process of time they were "led" to the proclamation of the Way to the Gentiles, and Jew and Gentile met in one body. Thus was the Spirit's unity established. The keeping of this unity was not and is not an easy matter. The religious world is working for unity in these days, but it is not upon the apostles' doctrine, and is not the unity of the Spirit. The conditions for incorporation in this unity are indicated by Jesus: "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one". "I have given them thy word." " Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word." Thus he alludes to the teaching of the apostles, and its importance as the means of instructing men concerning himself. But the religious world will have none of the doctrine of the apostles, and men busy themselves in erecting some Tower of Babe) centre to which they propose to rally. But the coming of Christ will sweep away the refuge of lies, and reveal the sandy foundation of human schemes. Rome exults in a unity. She claims a high antiquity and a uniform discipline throughout the world. She points to disunion among other ecclesias as a proof that they are not the ecclesia of Christ, and some are attracted thereby. But this unity is "the man of sin" and not "the one man". And the man of sin was a development of "the iniquity" already working in the days of the apostles, which is also called an apostasy, a falling away. Because they received not the love of the truth, God sent them a strong delusion that they should believe a lie. It is not a cause for dismay, though it may be for sadness, that the career of the one body from apostolic times has not been one of uninterrupted progress as viewed by the world. Even in the days of the apostles there were difficulties, for Paul writes to the Corinthians: "There must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you" (1 Cor. 11: 19). The apostles insisted upon an unqualified acceptance of their teaching. "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment " (1 Cor. 1: 10). But some spoke other things, saying that the resurrection was past already, that Christ had not come in the flesh, and many other doctrines as the apostasy developed. The epistles for the most part are illustrations of apostolic endeavour to keep the unity by instructing in truth and combating error. But when error was persistently maintained then fellowship was withheld (2 John 8-10; 1 Tim. 6: 3-5; Titus 3: 10, etc.). If a man refuses the truth as it is unfolded in the Scriptures he disqualifies himself for fellowship. Faithful men will not be deterred by the scoffer pointing the finger of derision at what he considers to be merely "failure to agree. We individually contribute our part to the keeping of the unity of the Spirit when we hold fast the form of sound words, and walk worthily of our calling. The appeal for unity is supported by the enumeration of seven unities:
ONE BODY. This has been the subject of reference several times in the epistle. The ecclesia is "his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (1:23). In Christ, Jew and Gentile are "one new man" reconciled unto God in "one body " through the cross of Christ (2 : 15-16).
ONE SPIRIT. This also has been mentioned before. All have their "access in one Spirit unto the Father" (2: 18). This mode of access is that of which Jesus spoke to the woman of Samaria. The time was coming "when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth" (John 4: 22). Spirit and truth can be best understood by their contrasts. The law had a system of external ordinances, sacrifices and offerings, which it was possible for a man to observe and yet be devoid of worship. Against this, Jesus puts "in spirit" € the sincere heartfelt drawing near to God in worship. But the law was a type of this spiritual worship. In contrast to the typical form Jesus puts "in truth" € "in truth", not as opposed to that which is false but to that which is a shadow or representation. In the same way he spoke of himself as the true vine; all the lessons to be learnt from the natural vine were fulfilled in him. The one true spiritual worship in and through Jesus Christ is that which is indicated by the "one Spirit".
ONE HOPE. The one hope is the hope connected with God's promises. Paul has called it the hope of His calling (1: 18). Abraham was "called out" and promised the land of Palestine for an everlasting possession. The nation of Israel occupied the land temporarily. The restoration of their kingdom is the Hope of Israel, and is one aspect of the hope of the promise made of God unto the fathers of the nation. God will certainly bring it to pass; He is "the Hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in the time of trouble" (Jer. 14: 8).
ONE LORD. There were many lords in the pagan world, "my lord Serapis" being the one perhaps most frequently named. But "Jesus is Lord" (1 Cor. 12:3); a phrase which succinctly expressed allegiance to Christ and acceptance of all the teaching of the apostles about him. On the other hand, "Jesus is anathema "was the formula of rejection of the things concerning the name of Jesus Christ." To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him " (1 Cor. 8:6).
ONE FAITH. With the heart man believeth unto righteousness. There is no restriction of race or class, for "whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed". Thus Paul reasons, adding, "For there is no difference between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord over all, and is rich unto all that call upon him" (Rom. 10: 12). There is one basis of justification, by faith. Paul practically says that this follows from the fact that God is One; "If so be that God is one, and He shall justify the circumcision out of faith, and the uncircumcision through the faith" (Rom. 3 :30). Faith is an attitude of mind and heart which the Jew must exhibit towards the promises of God's word which was in his possession. "The faith" is the sum of that teaching now made known to the Gentiles, which they must accept in faith.
ONE BAPTISM. There were divers washings under the law, and various lustrations in the pagan cults. There is only one baptism of saving value, that "into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit"; which is also variously described as "the name of Jesus Christ"; "the name of the Lord"; "the name of the Lord Jesus" ; other equivalents being "baptized into Jesus Christ" and "'baptized into Christ" (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38; 10 : 48; 19 : 5; Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3 : 27). No one is baptized into this name apart from first believing the gospel.
ONE GOD. God is supreme, the source of all things. All live in Him whether physically or spiritually € He is "through all". He is "in all'"; at last to be "all in all ". He is ONE € the Holy One of Israel. And His Oneness leads to the conviction that His purpose will be completed by including others in Himself, so that they will be one as Jesus and the Father are one.
The promises of God involve this, but the law of Moses did not. "It was added because of transgressions till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one: but God is one" (Gal. 3: 19, 20). This twentieth verse contains the same thought as Rom. 3: 30, and tells us that Moses was not the mediator of the unity to be established, but God, Who is One, has one way of salvation for all, faith in Him and the promises He has made Thus the apostle finds doctrinal implications in the fact that God is One.
DIVERSITY IN UNITY (4:7-16)
The appeal to walk worthy of the calling in the exercise of lowliness and meekness and forbearance, giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit, together with the enumeration of seven unities to enforce the appeal, has occupied the opening verses of chapter 4. But unity does not mean that each individual member shall be just like all others with exactly the same gifts. As the various parts of the body have different functions, but all work together for the well-being of the body of which they form a part, so is the body of Christ. There is a distribution of gifts, whether we look at the special gifts of the Spirit in the first century, or at the natural individual characteristics of the brethren of later centuries. The work to be done is of many kinds, and each one is called upon to do the part for which he is adapted in the spirit Paul has described in verses 1 and 2, the great object being the growth of the whole in Christ. In explaining this diversity and the object of it, Paul begins, "But unto each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ ". To Paul had been given "grace" for the ministry to the Gentiles. To them was given the same grace as to him, but in varying form, according to Christ's will. And then before he proceeds to explain why these gifts had been given, the word "gift" leads him to quote a verse from Psalm 68, prophetic of Christ's ascension and his bestowal of gifts, this in turn leading him to open up some of the things involved in the verse quoted. So he writes, "Wherefore he saith, When he ascended on high he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men". Then comes the comment, "Now this ' He ascended', what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things" (verses 8-10).
Two words in particular are remarked upon € "ascended" and "gave". He first argues that the words "He ascended" imply a prior descent. The English word carries no such implication. Weymouth translated it "He re-ascended" and added a footnote in support of the idea that the prefix used by Paul can have the force of "up again". But Weymouth's editors in the later editions have reverted to the A.V. and the R.V. in the text, and have cancelled his note. This does not alter the validity of Paul's inference, which does not rest upon the force of a Greek prefix but upon the meaning of the Psalm writer. We must look, therefore, at the Psalm. David was the author of Psalm 68. The first verse recalls the words used when the ark of God set forward during the wilderness sojourn: "And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered ; and let them that hate thee flee before thee" (Num. 10: 35). It has been thought that the Psalm was written in connection with the taking of the ark to Zion by David: all its allusions are appropriate to this occasion. David recalls God's leading of His people through the deserts (verse 4, R.V.), and the wilderness, to Sinai: "O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness; the earth trembled, the heavens dropped at the presence of God: even yon Sinai trembled at the presence of God, the God of Israel " (verses 7, 8). The subsequent victories are touched upon (verse 12), and then reference is made to choice of Zion. Poetically, the other hills of the land are represented as being jealous of Zion. "A mountain of God (that is, a great mountain) is the mountain of Bashan; an high mountain is the mountain of Bashan. Why look ye askance, ye high mountains, at the mountain which God hath desired for his abode? Yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever" (verses 15, 16). This is the culminating point of God's work € He led them out of Egypt, settled them in this land to have a dwelling place among men. So David's mind is taken back from this to the beginning of their national life, to Sinai (verses 17, 18), and since God is a God of deliverances (verse 20), He will certainly deliver Israel from all enemies, even by a second exodus. Then all princes and kingdoms will serve the Lord, bringing presents to Him because of His temple at Jerusalem (verses 22, 29, 31, 32). In the light of this broad outline, in which we see Sinai linked with Zion, we look at verses 17 and 18 in greater detail: "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the sanctuary. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men: yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them."
The first thing to notice is that God was among them at Sinai accompanied by thousands of attendant angels. He went forth before His people; the earth trembled at the presence of God (verses 7, 8). God had come down. The force of this is not minimized when we recognize that He came down by means of a manifestation in an angel in whom His name was placed. When God exercised His power for the deliverance of His people He is said, in Scripture style, to come down. Thus we read: "And the Lord said, I have seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt . . . and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians " (Exod. 3: 7, 8). "Be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai . . . And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire . . . And the Lord came down upon mount Sinai" (19: 11, 18, 20). Compare also Exod. 33: 9; 34: 5. There is a further allusion to these events in Nehemiah 9: 13 € "Thou earnest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments and true laws, good statutes and commandments". Stephen quotes the word of God to Moses, "I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt . . . and I am come down to deliver them" (Acts 7: 34). When God had accomplished the deliverance for which He was said to come down, then it might be said that He had ascended. Thus when God had effected the deliverance of Judah in the days of Hezekiah it was written, "God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet" (Psa. 47: 5). The future manifestation of God in the person of the Messiah is the subject of petition by Isaiah: "Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence . . . When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou earnest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence" (64: 1, 3). In this passage the Exodus and the future redemption of Israel are linked together. These passages interpret the language of David in Psalm 68: "Thou hast ascended on high". Looking back to the events of the Exodus when God came down, David speaks of the return of God to heaven when the deliverance was accomplished. And this being the historical basis of this Psalm-prophecy, we can easily follow out the meaning of the successive items by turning back to the events associated with the deliverance from Egypt. "Thou hast led captivity captive." The Companion Bible comments that "captivity" by metonymy is put for "captives". Rotherham translates, "Thou hast led in procession a body of captives"; the American R.V. gives us, "Thou hast led away captives"; and so others, to the same effect. In Paul's quotation of this verse the A.V. margin reads, "He led a multitude of captives". The reference is to the leading out of Egypt of the hosts of the Israelites, who had been bond-slaves and captives in Egypt. "Thou hast received gifts for men." Once more the early history of Israel provides the explanation. God arranged a service of worship for the nation and appointed the tribe of Levi as priests. The language of the Psalm has its source in the description of the separating of the tribe and its appointment for the work assigned to it. It is written, "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister unto him. And they shall keep his charge, and the charge of the whole congregation ... to do the service of the tabernacle . . . And thou. shall give the Levites unto Aaron and to his sons: they are wholly given unto him out (on the behalf, R.V.) of the children of Israel" (Num. 3: 5-10). This appointment of the Levites is described as a "gift unto God". "And thou shalt bring the Levites before the tabernacle of the congregation . . . and thou shalt bring the Levites before the Lord . . . and the Levites shall be mine. For they are wholly given unto me from among the children of Israel . . . And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the children of Israel" (Num. 8: 9-19). It is further written, "And I, behold, I have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel: to you they are given as a gift for the Lord (they are a gift, given unto the Lord, R.V.), to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation" (Num. 18: 6). It would appear that the tribe of Levi is at the same time regarded as a gift to the Lord, and as given unto the people. This corresponds with the Psalm: "Thou hast received gifts for men". The word translated "received" has "a twofold meaning, i.e., receiving and giving". The two sides of the word come out in the Psalm and the Epistle. The Psalm has "received gifts",' Paul quotes it "gave gifts". The whole of the facts remove the difficulty that some have found in Paul's change of words; he is stressing another aspect of the word.
"Yea, for the rebellious" How this describes the nation whether in the wilderness or in their subsequent history! "I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware" (Deut. 31:21). "Ye rebelled against my word at the waters of Meribah" was even said concerning Moses and Aaron (Num. 20: 24). "Ye would not go up (into the land) but rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God'' (Deut. 1: 26).
"That the Lord God might dwell among them" God arranged as the outcome of the deliverance of Israel that there should be a dwelling place for Himself in the midst of them. The order of events in Exodus is most instructive in this connection. In the night of the Passover sprinkled blood was the basis upon which divine protection was afforded the firstborn of Israel. They were led out of Egypt into the wilderness. Bread from heaven was provided, and water from the smitten rock. The terms of the covenant were made known and the assent of the people received. Then the Lord came down upon mount Sinai to the terror of all, even Moses saying, "I exceedingly fear and quake". Bounds were put around the mount lest the people should approach too near, the penalty for disobedience being death. The next event was the confirmation of the covenant by shed blood, and this was immediately followed, in contrast to the previous prohibition, by the ascent of Moses and others appointed into the mount. "THEN (after the blood had been sprinkled upon the people) went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and the seventy of the elders of Israel: and they saw the God of Israel . . . And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: and they saw God and did eat and drink" (Exod. 24: 8-10). The contrast in Israel's relationship to God is emphasized by the noting of the fact that upon the nobles fell no divine judgment; previously none could come near, all being effectually held at arm's length by the threat of death for touching the mount. The once captive nation, now the people of God, are next required to make Him a sanctuary (chapters 25-27).
What a striking order of events, typical of redemption, detailing the elements necessary! Passover, the Bread of life, the Water of life, the blood of the covenant shed € all these before God dwells with men. And then, not before, is appointed the priesthood to intercede for the redeemed people (chapters 28-29). When the tabernacle was erected the glory of God descended upon it, and the Lord dwelt among His people. The nation was called upon always to bear in mind that God was in their midst: "Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel" (Num. 35: 34). How deplorably Israel forgot, and rebelled again and again.
When the tabernacle was superseded by the temple, that became God's dwelling place (1 Kings 6: 13). The glory which had filled the tabernacle descended upon the temple (8: 11). All these matters to which the Psalm we are considering refers, were patterns of greater things: and thus it is that the passages which are based upon such a history become prophecies of "good things to come". The history helps to define the meaning accurately, and guides us in our look forward. We therefore turn now to Paul's exposition of these verses in which he shows their relation to Christ, who is the substance of it all. Two words principally in the Psalm are the subject of comment by Paul. We have already noticed that it is the word "gift" which leads him to quote the Psalm. He comes back to this word, but before doing so he builds up an argument upon the words "He ascended". "Now this 'He ascended', what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?" The history upon which the Psalm rests supplies the explanation. When God moves for the help of His people He is said to come down. The deliverance effected, God is then said to have ascended. When the Psalmist says God ascended it is evident that He must have first descended to earth.
The greatest work of God on behalf of His people is their eternal redemption, and this work is bound up with the mission of His Son. All other theophanies look forward to this, the greatest of all. Christ's mission is to lead an exodus. Moses and Elijah on the mount of transfiguration spoke of the decease (exodus) which he would accomplish at Jerusalem. Surely the use of that word there means more than death, or "departure" from life, as in the R.V. margin. It takes the mind back to Israel's exodus, so typical of Christ's work; for what he accomplished was a departure from the bondage of the grave. We must now observe that the divine origin of Jesus is described in the style of past theophanies as a descent from heaven. God dwelt among the nation in the person of His Son. "The word was made flesh and dwelt among us." "I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me ... I am the bread which came down from heaven" (John 6: 38, 41). And to the "stumbling" disciples Jesus further said, "What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?" (verse 62). "He that cometh from above is above all" (3: 31). "I am from above" (8: 23). These were hard sayings for the Jews, and many Gentiles find them equally hard. Jesus ascended. But "no man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended out of heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven " (John 3: 13). The ascent indicates an accomplished work of redemption; but redemption is God's work; therefore Christ is from God, and "descended out of heaven". Only one who was a theophany, if we can put it that way, could ascend to heaven. Christ ascended, therefore he was a manifestation of God, and in Scripture language, was "from above". The statement that he ascended involves his prior descent to the lower parts, even to earth € a phrase taken from the prophecy of Christ's birth in Psa. 139: 15. But Paul takes the argument a step further, and links it with the theme of the epistle: "He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things" (verse 10). There had been derangement in the relations of man and God. Man could not restore the harmony; God only could do that. And "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself". The One who descended for this work, is the same that ascended; for God does not manifest Himself in vain. This is the same as saying that God who descended at the birth of Christ ascended in him. The reconciliation effected, He will at last "fill all things". In 1: 23 the body of Christ is called "the fulness of him that filleth all in all". "God was in Christ", and by and through Christ God will be "all in all ". Lest this language should still prove a hard saying, let us prosaically relate it to the simple facts. Jesus is said to have come down from heaven because his birth was the result of the operation of the Spirit of God as recorded in Luke 1. He was raised from the dead, and quickened by the Spirit, becoming the Lord the Spirit and a life-giving Spirit. During his lifetime God was with him, and from his baptism he was filled with the Spirit without measure. He therefore spoke of his words as being the Father's, and his works as the works of Him that sent him. "I will put my words in his mouth" God had said long before (Deut. 18: 18). Brother Thomas has expressed it thus: "'The Spirit breathes where he pleases and thou, Nicodemus, hearest his voice; but thou perceivest not how he is come, and in what he goes away; thus is everyone who has been born of the Spirit.' Nicodemus and his contemporaries heard the Voice of the Spirit, breathed forth in the words of spirit and life, uttered by Mary's Son, who they knew was a teacher come from God. But they did not perceive that this teacher was the Eternal Spirit, nor did they comprehend how he came. Judging by flesh-appearances, they only saw Mary's son, as they saw Isaiah or one of the prophets, as teachers from God. They did not perceive that Jesus was 'a body prepared' by special Spirit-creation, the Cherub upon which the effluent power of the Eternal Substance rested: and that upon him and through him, he walked through the country, breathing forth his voice in the doctrine taught, and his power in the miracles performed; not perceiving this, still less did they comprehend that the Effluent Power would so thoroughly change the constitution of the 'Body Prepared', that it should be no longer corruptible flesh perpetuated in life by blood and air, but should be transformed into spirit-flesh and spirit-bones, constituting a Spirit-Body € a material, corporeal substance € essentially incorruptible, glorious, powerful, deathless, and quickening ; that in this, as corporealized spirit, the Effluent Power that had 'come down from heaven' € from the abode of the Eternal Substance, 'which no man can approach unto' € would 'ascend where he was before'."
Only a few words are needed now to trace out the parallel between the Exodus and the work of Christ. He is the Passover Lamb; the Living Bread from heaven; the smitten Rock from whence flows the water of life; his blood is "the blood of the new covenant, shed for many for the remission of sins". We come into relationship with Christ when we understand the elements of truth connected with the various aspects of Christ and his work as unfolded in the Scriptures, and when we render obedience in the waters of baptism. We then enter into covenant fellowship with God, and become part of His house, with Jesus appointed as priest for us. The bondage from which we are delivered is the bondage to sin and death. This is a house of servitude. We yielded ourselves as bond-slaves to sin (Rom. 6: 16-20). But we are now made free from sin's servitude (verse 22). The hosts of captives led from this house of bondage by Christ are those who respond to the call to "come out" from that which is "spiritually called Egypt" (Rev. 11: 8).
Turning to the further point that Paul makes in connection with the word "gifts": he proceeds in verse 11: "And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers". He does not speak in the abstract of the office; he does not say that He gave some the gifts of apostleship, and so onwards. He gave the apostles and the other spirit-gifted brethren to the Israel after the spirit, just as the sons of Levi had been given to Israel. The way the apostle states the matter is in exact accordance with all we have found in connection with the Psalm that he quotes in verse 8. The object of their being given is next explained.
We have already seen in our consideration of this section of the epistle that God has given, through Christ, certain brethren to the body of Christ, endowing them with the necessary powers for the discharge of the work committed to them. In this place Paul enumerates apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. There were other gifts besides these, fuller catalogues being given in Rom. 12: 6 and 1 Cor. 12: 28. The selection here has to do with the making known of the purpose of God, and we should consider this to be the primary object of the bestowal of the gifts. Other gifts were subsidiary to this object. In view of some modern claims to the possession of spirit gifts, it is desirable that we understand the purpose they served, and then we shall see why they were discontinued. Paul defines the object in verse 12: "For the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ". This is the R.V. translation; the A.V., by introducing each clause with the word "for", suggests that we have here three parallel clauses € that the perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry and the building up of the body are all the work of the brethren with the gifts named. This is not the case: each clause depends upon the one preceding.
The object then of the bestowal of the "gifted" brethren to the ecclesias was "for the perfecting of the saints". Every careful reader of the Bible is aware that the word "perfect" is used in the Bible in senses which are not exactly the same as given to the word in everyday speech. The Companion Bible gives a list of ten words which are all translated "perfect", all occuring in the N.T. They variously represent such ideas as "accurately", "diligently", "fitted", "ended", "complete". The word used in this passage calls for consideration. The verb occurs thirteen times. Liddell and Scott define it as follows: " I. € to adjust or put in order again, restore: to settle by acting as mediator, to reform: to repair, refit : to set (as a broken bone). II. € generally, to prepare, train or furnish thoroughly (in N.T.)." Grimm-Thayer's Lexicon gives it: "Properly, to render fit, sound, or complete: (a) € to mend; (b) € to fit out, equip, put in order, arrange, adjust; (c) € ethically, to strengthen, perfect, complete, make one what he ought to be."
The thirteen passages are appended. "Mending their nets" (Matt. 4:21; Mark 1); "Thou hast perfected praise" (Matt. 21: 16); "Every one that is perfect shall be as his master" (Luke 6: 40); "Be perfectly joined together in the same mind" (1 Cor. 1: 10); "Be perfect, be of good comfort" (2 Cor. 13: 11) ; "And might perfect that which is lacking in your faith" (1 Thess. 3: 10); "Make you perfect in every good work to do his will" (Heb. 13: 21); "The God of all grace make you perfect" (1 Pet. 5: 10); "Vessels of wrath fitted for destruction" (Rom. 9: 22); "The worlds were framed by the word of God" (Heb. 11: 3); "But a body hast thou prepared me" (Heb. 10:5); "Restore such an one in the spirit of meekness" (Gal. 6: 1). The nets mended were fitted for their work. So also was the body which was prepared. The brother restored was brought to fitness for his position as a brother. It has been remarked on the passage before us that the word "suggests the bringing of the saints to a condition of fitness for the discharge of their functions in the Body"; or, "with a view to the full equipment of the saints". Weymouth gets the idea well: "in order fully to equip His people for the work of serving". The perfecting of the saints is therefore the fitting or equipping of the saints for service.
The equipment came through the instruction and encouragement and comfort in the message of God given through the apostles and New Testament prophets. The message at first was given orally, but as occasion arose it was committed to writing. The epistles and gospels, as produced, were classed with the "other scriptures" of the Old Testament (2 Pet. 3: 15, 16). With the giving of the Apocalypseto John, the seal was put upon the New Testament writings. With the completion of the New Testament the equipment was complete: the oral message gave place to the written one, and the spirit gifts ceased. No addition has since been made to our knowledge of God's purpose. The messages which are supposed to be given under the guidance of gifts to-day very often conflict with the "law and the testimony", and show that darkness and not light is within the speakers. Paul taught that the gifts would not continue. His chapter in praise of love (1 Cor. 13) is really part of a discussion on the gifts of the spirit which begins in chapter 12 and is concluded in chapter 14. In chapter 13 he is showing a more excellent way than exhibiting rivalry for the possession of the best gifts, such as some of the Corinthians were doing. And in showing the excellency of love he points out that the gifts they were so striving to obtain were only given for a time. "Whether there be (gifts of) prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be (gifts of) tongues, they shall cease; whether there be (gifts of) knowledge, it shall vanish away." He goes on further to say that "part" of the ecclesia had one gift, and "part" had another, showing that none of them were complete in themselves. We might possibly look back sometimes to the early days of Christianity and think of the advantages they had with spirit-endowed brethren in their midst. The manifesta tions of the spirit must have been impressive. But there were soon abuses. Some brethren who had not certain gifts pretended to have them. At Thessalonica it was proposed to meet this difficulty by suppressing all exhibitions of the spirit. But Paul counselled another course, namely, to test the spirits, reject the spurious but retain the genuine. Thus he wrote: "Quench not the spirit; despise not prophesyings; prove all things; hold fast that which is good; abstain from every form of evil" (1 Thess. 5: 19-22). Other epistles indicate other difficulties. At Corinth in particular there was much strife and jealousy arising from the gifts. Then, again, each message was only a part, and it had to be retained in the memory, failing which it passed away. On the whole we should judge that the privilege of the possession of the completed Word of God is at least equal to the possession of the "gifts" of those days. With its wonder ful internal witness to its divine origin, the Word of God is always available for every individual; it is not dependent upon an assembly of the saints for a message to be given, though the meetings of the brethren afford opportunities for its exposition and the drawing from it of words of con solation and guidance. Those who repine at the cessation of the "gifts", or, worse, those who make a pretence of the possession of them, fail to appreciate the great provision God has made for the equipment of the saints in the providing and preserving of the Scriptures. If Paul could say that Genesis was written "for us" (Rom. 4: 24), how much more may it be said that the apostolic writings are for us also. But, as the oral messages were only of value as the hearers applied themselves to that which they heard, so now we must apply ourselves to the reading of the written Word, and to following out its counsel. To return. The messages given equipped the hearers of them for service, for ministry. An illustration of service is to be found in the house of Stephanas: "Ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints" (1 Cor. 16: 15). The Lord himself is the great example: "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister" (Mark 10: 45). "Whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth" (Luke 22: 27). The object of the equipment is service; the aim of the service is "the building up of the body of Christ". Here we meet once again a combination of metaphors. The saints are a building; they are also a body, the body of Christ. In the figure taken from building the literal is largely lost sight of. When we speak of edification we are not conscious of the basis of the word € the erection of a building. Possibly that is the case also with Paul on some of the occasions when he uses the word. Yet at other times he lays such stress on the matter that he appears to be fully alive to the underlying idea: "Let us follow after things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one another. Overthrow not for meat's sake the work of God" (Rom. 14: 19). We get a similar emphasis in his discussion of the gifts in 1 Cor. 14. Repeatedly he speaks of the edifying of the ecclesia. "Seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the ecclesia" (verse 12). Paul himself was "a wise masterbuilder" (1 Cor. 3: 10).
How long has the service of the saints in the building up of the body of Christ to continue? The answer is, "till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (verse 13). The unity here mentioned is the same as he before described as the "unity of the Spirit", the unity God had brought into being in the work of His Son. Whereas the unity of the Spirit describes the source of the unity, the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of Christ describes its basis; it is a unity produced by faith in, and knowledge of Christ. The words also cover the thought of the character of the unity; it is a unity characterized by faith in, and knowledge of, Christ. The unity has a present phase, to the keeping of which Paul has exhorted them to give diligence (verse 3). It has also a future aspect, set before us for attainment, in this thirteenth verse.
The attainment of the unity is described by two more phrases. It is a coming unto "a fullgrown man" or a "perfect man". He does not say fullgrown men. The Christ-body € the "New man" € is before his mind. This will be manifested in the day of the return of the Head. The goal is lastly described as attainment "unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ". "The fulness of Christ" Paul has before defined as "his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (1: 23). In words previously quoted, the apostle filled up that which was behind of the sufferings of Christ. We have to think of Christ under two aspects: individually, where the Lord Jesus alone is contemplated; multitudinously, where all who have put on Christ, and who are in him, and who constitute the "fulness of him", are all together with their Head viewed as One Body. It is this latter which is the "measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ", for all his brethren will be like him, sharing his nature, morally and physically; and even so, there will be an enlargement of the number of redeemed men and women who are members of his body at the end of the millennium when the consummation of the work of Christ is reached. So long as the Lord remains away the "we all" have not attained that fulness. The work of taking out of the Gentiles a people for His name still proceeds, but that work ends when the fulness of the Gentiles has come in. When the Times of the Gentiles end there will be a gathering to the judgment seat of Christ. The accepted there will then be incorporated in "The Unity", "The Perfect Man", "The Fulness of Christ".
In verse 14 we are told the negative side of the purpose in the equipment of the saints by means of the instruction of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers: "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive". Until the completed revelation was in the hands of the ecclesias there was much scope for the speculation of teachers who desired to introduce some new doctrine from the theories of the world without. The new ecclesias, apart from the guidance of the divinely instructed brethren, would have been at the mercy of every aspirant for leadership. The effect of unrestrained speculation is compared to the tossing of the sea, unstable and insecure, with danger of shipwreck. Well instructed teachers steered them safely through the storm. There is the suggestion of craft and deceit on the part of false teachers. "The sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error", has underlying it a comparison to "the dexterous handling of the dice and the smart cleverness of the schemer". There was a dishonest handling of the Word of God. Paul was very much opposed to any such work. "We are not as many, which corrupt (make merchandise of, huckster) the Word of God; but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ." "We have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the Word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in sight of God" (2 Cor. 2:17; 4:2). As Paul found it, so it has continued to be. The Scriptures have been perverted and mishandled in the interests of opinions. "Craftiness" Paul does not hesitate to call it, "after the wiles of error". "But", he continues, introducing the contrast, that we, "speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
Much more than € speaking the truth € is in the apostle € s mind. Being sincere, dealing truly, the margins of our versions give it. € Truthing it in love € though not English, expresses the idea. It is a matter of being true, though word action ringing true. € I am the truth € said Jesus; not "I teach truth", although he did that; but "I am the truth". Truth was embodied in him, and was manifested in all his ways. Nothing he did had for its cause any other motive. We may do right sometimes for fear of being found by others in the wrong, or for fear of another's opinion of us. The ideal is to do right because it is right € to be true. Love must be the companion of truth. It is the ideal combination. "Love rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth." Apart from truth love soon degenerates into sentimentality. On the other hand, truth can be and often is expressed with harshness, causing offence thereby. Truth itself gives offence sometimes, and this cannot be avoided. Instead of being weak and changeable in matters of faith, strength, confidence and courage without harshness and offensiveness is the desired attitude. When these conditions of truth and love exist, there is growth "in all things into him, which is the head, even Christ". The growth is unto a fitness for inclusion in "the fulness of the Christ". We grow in him by "abiding in him", he then abides in us, and "the same bringeth forth much fruit". In this there is a realization of living union with Christ, by being a member of his body. The Christ-body, like the human body, is a frame well knit together, consisting of various parts, each contributing its share in varying ways to the maintenance of the body. The whole being in vital contact with the Head, harmonious working is ensured; the co-operation of all resulting in all being built up in love.
THE NEW LIFE (4: 17-24)
In the opening verse of this chapter an appeal has been made to the brethren to walk worthy of the calling wherewith they were called. The necessities of that walk, in lowliness, humbleness and meekness, led to the description of the unity that God is bringing into being in Christ. This was followed by an explanation of the diversity in that unity, comparable to the many parts of the body which work together in harmony for the good of the whole.
Paul now returns to the exhortation concerning the new life in Christ, taking up from verse 1 the figure of a walk, but expressing the duty in negative form: "This I say therefore and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness" (verses 17-19).
"The creation was subjected to vanity" (Rom 8: 20). Because of man's sin, there was frustration and failure to attain the purpose God desired. Again, Paul says of the Gentiles that "when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations (reasonings), and their foolish heart was darkened" (Rom. 1: 21). To a large extent this failure to attain the end that God had in view is true of most, whether Jew or Gentile. As the Preacher found, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity" (Eccl. 1: 2). "Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity" (Psa. 39: 5). But this "every man" of the Psalmist has an exception. The Lord Jesus Christ exhibited a purposeful life in harmony with the will of God; and while his days in mortal life were as "a handbreadth", yet he arose from the dead to "length of days for ever and ever". It was, however, only too sadly true that Gentiles walked in the vanity of their mind. Despite all their reasonings and their philosophies, they failed to see the right aim of life. This "vanity" had an intellectual result; the understanding was darkened. They had no clear vision. Their eye being evil, the whole body was full of darkness, and, as Jesus adds, "If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is the darkness" (Matt. 6: 23). The believing Gentiles had been led out of this darkness; the eyes of their heart had been enlightened, and they had come to know the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints (Eph. 1: 18). In this state of darkness, Paul says they were "alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them". Ignorance alienates; it cuts one off from the life of God. A very tolerant Christendom, largely returned to Greek thought concerning man's nature, ignores this fact. Although the world is full of Bibles, the ignorance has not been dispelled. The situation to-day, as always in the past, requires earnest insistence on Christ's statement, "He that believes (the gospel) and is baptized shall be saved". On the other hand, "Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish" (Psa. 49: 20). Why was there this almost universal ignorance? Paul says it was because of the blindness (or hardening) of their hearts. This fate befell Israel € "the minds were blinded" and "a veil is upon their heart" (2 Cor. 3: 14, 15). Thus in relation to the gospel Jew and Gentile manifested the same attitude. "If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that are perishing: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them" (2 Cor. 4: 3, 4). This intellectual obtuseness was a judgment of God. "Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind" (Rom. 1: 28). There is first on man's side an abandonment to the inclinations and desires of the human heart; a service to the god of this world. "Being past feeling", or, ceasing to care, they "gave themselves up" to evil ways. That expresses the human act which is the basis of the divine punishment. Three times in the first chapter of Romans, Paul says "God gave them up" to the course of life they had chosen (verses 24, 26, 28). The vice indulged became a master. The picture Paul describes, both in Ephesians and Romans, is one of an outrageous and reckless indulgence in lust without any sense of shame. It should occasion no surprise that God should use the besom of destruction at times, employing one nation to sweep away another. The irretrievableness of men and women in such a state has been recognized by responsible men who have had to deal with such matters.
Speaking of the iniquity of the Amorites (Gen. 15: 16) Sir Robert Anderson has said: "This is not a subject for plain speaking. I will dismiss it with the strange confession that prior to knowledge acquired at Scotland Yard these divine judgments upon Canaan were a difficulty to my faith. There are some kinds of vice that seem to spread like leprosy, and to become hereditary". But the right aim of human life had been brought to the notice of the Ephesians in the preaching of the gospel. While the world about them was in ignorance and living in vice, they had learned of better things. "But ye have not so learned Christ", or the Christ (verse 20). To learn the Christ certainly involves that we know about the anointed of God, about the work of God's prophet, priest, and king. He was one sent of the Father, revealing the Father (John 14: 7, 11). He had a message to declare; he had to live a life of obedience, ending in a voluntary death; he had to be raised from the dead, and at last to be exalted in the earth. All these things were connected with the Christ. In learning of this purpose they have received knowledge of the character God desired of men, which was altogether a contrast with the mode of life about them. There was no doubt about their having received the instruction. "If so be that ye heard him, and were taught in him, even as truth is in Jesus." This "if so be" is not an expression of doubt, but is a strong affirmation € "if so be, as I know ye did". They had heard Christ in the apostolic presentation of his work, as Jesus said, "He diat heareth you heareth me" (Luke 10:16). "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10 : 27).
They had also passed on to a fuller knowledge than the elementary principles as first taught to them. Though "in him", their instruction had continued. And Paul adds "even as truth is in Jesus". To expand the thought a little, Paul appears to say, You know the ways of the world about you, how futile and vain they are. You have learned something different. You have not so learned the Christ. You have been informed of God's purpose in an Anointed, through whom redemption has come. The grace of God, bringing salvation, has appeared, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, and righteously, and godly in this present world. And the things that you have heard are true for they have to do with a historic personality, even Jesus, and truth is in him.
The words have often been misquoted. Paul does not say "the truth as it is in Jesus". That would imply that the particular aspect of truth as revealed in Jesus was the one which they had learned, but that there are other aspects of truth revealed in other teachers. He says, "even as truth is in Jesus", thereby indicating that truth is in him, and in him alone.
When we examine the phrase "the truth is in Jesus" we can see that to learn Christ is much more than learning about him. We must know what he is in himself as is indicated by the word "truth". What then is meant by "truth" exhibited in Jesus? Truth is that which is according to the facts of the case; agreement with reality; true state of things or facts; practice of speaking the truth; an established principle. It describes the fact in opposition to illusion, the genuine as against the counterfeit. It has usually an intellectual association, in connection with thought or fact. But Paul gives it a moral value. Ye did not so learn Christ as to follow the ways of the world. As truth is in Jesus, you must change your life, and discard the corrupt past mode of living. It is evident that the word in Biblical usage has a fuller meaning than is usually given to it. To the Hebrews God was the standard of truth. He was truth. "Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn to our fathers from the days of old", is the conviction of the prophet (Micah 7: 20). That God was true, Paul treats as axiomatic (Rom. 3:4). The purpose of God must triumph. Since truth and righteousness and holiness are essential parts of His character, the opposites of those characteristics must at last be put away from the earth. For the moment the righteous may suffer; evil may at present prevail; but it will not, cannot, always do so. The future would see truth triumphant. Isaiah tells of a "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness", when "Jerusalem will be a rejoicing and her people a joy ". At that time, "he who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth" or "amen" (R.V. margin). This "God of amen" is Jesus Christ, who takes the title to himself when he writes to Laodicea, "These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness" (Rev. 3: 14). Again Paul says "that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy" (Rom. 15: 8). Christ's title, the Amen, is appropriate to his mission. To say that "truth is in Jesus" is not merely to say that he spoke the truth. The vindication of the truth of God, for which the Jew looked in the Messiah, had been accomplished in Jesus, in his life, death and resurrection, and in the effects connected with him. Jesus was the Christ. Truth is not only a system of doctrine revealed in the written Word, but also a mode of life illustrated in Jesus, who is also the Word of God. We have to be "of the truth" (John 18:37), and to "have the truth in us" (1 John 1: 8); but it is also required that we "walk in truth" (2 John 4), and "do the truth" (John 3).
In learning Christ, then, the Ephesians had been instructed in certain doctrines pertaining to his work. The instruction also concerned a "walk in newness of life" in union with him. To be allied with the Christ was to know the truth about him, and to copy the truth which was exhibited in him. In Paul's words, as he continues his letter, "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" (verses 22-24).
The language of this exhortation is very similar to that used in other places. In calling upon the Romans not to continue in sin Paul says, "If we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (6: 5, 6). The same lesson is drawn from baptism in the letter to the Colossians: "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who raised him from the dead. . . . If then ye be risen with Christ ... lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man and his deeds, and have put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him " (2 : 12 ; 3 : 1, 9).
The ideas underlying the phrases "the old man" and "the new man" have their roots in the facts connected with the "first Adam" and the "last Adam". We are clothed about with a nature from which spring evil thoughts and acts. It is corrupt according to the lusts of deceit. The typical case, and the first case, of deceiving lust is seen in the transgression in Eden. "Ye shall not surely die ... ye shall be as gods", was the seducing promise of the serpent. Desire awakened, and encouraged by a deceitful promise, the woman "partook of the fruit . . . and gave also unto her husband with her ". Sin is deceitful; hence Paul says, "Exhort one another daily, while it is called To-day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end " (Heb. 3: 13, 14). Sin promises what it cannot fulfil; evil, not good, follows in its wake. The nature of Adam's offspring has not improved with the passing of time. Where there is no influence from the Word of God the impulses of the flesh reign, and "the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty ". The "new man" is a new creation, differing from the old creation, in that it is created out of the old. Christ's existence was due to the creative act of God (Jer. 31: 22). He was never deceived, but always overcame temptation by "it is written". And those who put on Christ, in so doing put on the new man, which after God's likeness "is created in righteousness and holiness of truth". There is here a pointed contrast between the deceit pertaining to sin, and the truth from which springs righteousness and holiness. The new man is after the pattern of Christ, who is truth; and the same energy of truth manifests itself in his disciples. But although the old man was repudiated and the cause of the new man espoused at baptism, the actual change is a slow process. It is only brought about by the continual renewing of the mind. As yet the renewal is of € the spirit of your mind" € that is, "the spirit, even the mind". Whether there will be a change of the body from corruption to incorruption at Christ's return will depend upon how far the renewal process in connection with the mind has proceeded, and if God sees there is some fitness for perpetuation through the constant endeavour to please Him. In almost identical words Paul exhorted the Romans to "be transformed by the renewing of your mind". Only the Word of God can effect this. Even its effectiveness depends upon ourselves; if we neglect it there will be no transformation. Daily study and meditation builds up the thought processes which in the course of time change the conduct, and there is revealed" an upright walk according to the truth of the gospel".
The principles of the new life € putting off the old man, putting on the new man, and daily renewing the mind € need application to details of life. Paul next illustrates their application to six forms of sin, and provides us with examples of the right steps to take in true character development.
AN EXHORTATION TO UNITY (4: 1-6)