Eph. 1:19b “. . .according to the working of his mighty power,”
The Apostle, not satisfied to speak of the “exceeding greatness” (v. 19a) of God’s power, now begins an attempt to speak the unspeakable. He wants to give fuller expression to a divine thought. His language begins to swell to correspond with the nobility of the theme.
Thinking of power has triggered Paul’s imagination, and caused him to catch on fire. As is often the case in this epistle, the Apostle is having trouble containing himself. His mind is skyrocketing into infinity, and if we plan to scale his thoughts, we must go chasing after him.
Trying to describe more adequately the power available to believers, Paul stacked words on top of words. Grasping for every synonym possible, he used the strongest terms language could offer. “Power” refers to sheer, awesome, brute strength. “Mighty” portrays this power as capable of conquest. “Working” denotes an energizing action, an effective, propelling force.
A casual observer may view this heaping of words as hyperbole, but people intent on godliness see it otherwise. Saints actively engaged in daily and hourly struggles with inward and outward corruptions have no trouble believing such excessive amounts of power are essential.
Believers have a power which hundreds of metaphors and adjectives could not adequately describe. Words can not measure this amount, enumerate this total, or gauge this quantity. Language leaves us wondering, “How much power is available to me? How much divine strength is at my disposal?” Not even Paul’s extensive mental thesaurus yielded vocabulary adequate to provide an exhaustive answer to these questions.
Despite his herculean effort to describe with words the power available to believers, Paul realized he was restricted by the limitations of human vocabulary. Knowing words could never adequately describe the power available to believers, Paul chose to use an example. He will illustrate the power by its greatest manifestation in history.
The power available to believers is “according to,” in proportion to, the power displayed on one occasion. Paul now turns our attention to this scale by which we measure the possibilities of the divine power available to us.
Eph. 1:20a “. . .which he wrought in Christ, when he raised
him from the dead,”
The power available to believers was supremely displayed in the resurrection of Jesus. The power working in us is not a weaker power, or another, but the same in kind and in degree as the power which was displayed in the resurrection of our Lord.
The power exerted in Christ’s resurrection is now my power. We have access to “the fountain that laughs at drought” (Maclaren). Such a truth is simply overwhelming. It boggles the mind, and leaves us reeling, but we must steady our dizzying heads and begin to contemplate the fact. As best we can, we need to ponder the power available to us.
”How much power was necessary to take Christ, crucified, mutilated, disgraced, dead, and to raise him in newness of life, radiant, triumphant, glorious?” (Eerdman). In trying to answer this question we begin to fathom how much power is available to us for everyday living. Our feeble minds will never be able to perceive a full answer, or to compute the power’s full quantity, but as we stand beside Paul and look toward the Jerusalem tomb, the logo of our faith, we can begin to unveil the full extent of what is ours.
I can not “preach” this truth into your heart, but please, in your mind’s eye, come walk with me and let us together gaze into the garden grave. To learn the lesson of this text, we must let “the chamber in the rock” be our classroom. The Father will be our guide, the Holy Spirit our teacher, the mangled and bloodless body of our precious Savior shall be our object lesson.
Please come with me. If our thoughts go elsewhere, they will not learn of the power. Take your eyes off self. Obsessive self-contemplation leads only to despair. Our condition looks hopeless on the surface. Sin continues to dwell within us, death ever looms on our horizon. The warfare is hard and relentless. We never leave the trenches. Problems aplenty perplex us every step of the way every day. We often feel spiritually lifeless. The body sometimes seems to be a sepulchre in which all our spiritual vitality is entombed.
We all know these things are true, but must look away from them a moment. Only by looking in a different direction will we be able to see the potential capabilities of the power available to us.
Please come with me. If we are teachable, by the time we leave the tomb, we will have flung away every ounce of despair lingering in this auditorium. A Christian who learns the lesson of the tomb should never again feel insecure, forsaken, or powerless.
The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates the magnitude of the power available to us by revealing in graphic detail its ability to overcome every obstacle which can enter our path. The forces of evil array themselves against us in three ways: the world, the flesh, the devil. Jesus, in his death, was under attack by these exact same forces. In His resurrection, Christ decimated evil on all three of these fronts.
Do you fear the jeers and taunts of the world? Are you frightened by your own fascination with its glitter and pomp? Are you afraid in the moment of testing you will be unable to stand?
The world hurled its worst attack against our Savior. Men carried spite, and “scoffing rude,” to its most hellish intensity against Jesus. Society carried human hatred to the ultimate limit to eliminate Christ.
You wonder, “Is the power in us able to overcome the world?” Do not ask me. Sit beside me in the tomb, look at the corpse, and ask it, “Is the power sufficient to stop the world?” The answer is soon forthcoming. Behold! The corpse begins to stir. The world at its worst has fallen before the power which now indwells us. The world’s power has been utterly broken. Fear it no more. We have a power stronger than the world.
We all shutter before the flesh, and shiver at the thought of our own weakness. Our old man relishes sin, and often shuts us up in a crypt of evil habits. A part of me actually yearns for evil. I carry an enemy within me. The Adamic nature haunts me.
Can the power available to me defeat this indwelling enemy? Can the flowing tide overcome the sin of my flesh? Again, sit beside me in the tomb. Look at the corpse. See what our sin has done. Agonize for a moment. Your sin and mine have brought the pallor of death upon His form. Sin–your sin, my sin, the product of our own flesh–has invaded and permeated His perfect flesh. He who knew no sin became sin–my sin, your sin. The thought causes me to abhor myself. I can hardly stand to say it–my evil put the furrow on His brow, my sin broke Him, my wickedness put the agony in His cry. All sin–past, present, future–has been compressed into His body. Our flesh, the natural habitat of sin, could never be any stronger than this. The flesh has done all it can to destroy Him.
Lean forward and ask the corpse, “Is the power we have sufficient to stop the flesh?” Look! The answer is given. His body which was broken stirs again. The flesh has met its conqueror, a power which flows in me.
I hear you whining, “Yes, but what about our adversary, the roaring lion?” Sit with me again in the tomb. Satan is doing all he can do to hold Jesus. The wrestling match of the ages is underway. Satan has mustered every force in his arsenal to retain Jesus in the realm of the dead.
Wait! I feel a rumbling. Earth is shaking, the stone is rolling away, the keepers are quaking and falling down as dead men. Something extraordinary is happening. We had better ask our question quickly, “Is the power given to us able to overcome the devil?” Our answer is rushing forth. Step back, a power is surging through the tomb. Watch out!
Do you “know” (v. 18) this power? Has this illustration helped you understand it better? The power which surged through the tomb still floods toward us today. Its current is continuous and unabated.
Learn from the resurrection of Jesus. No power could withstand Him. No influence could match Him. No antagonist could equal Him. The mightiest foes, the “big boys”–the world, the flesh, the devil–have already been vanquished by the exact same power now given to believers.
Ours is a verified power. The resurrection of Jesus proved its potency, and pictured the extent to which it is available to us.
Only one question remains. How can we harness this energy? First, sit. This is the theme of these opening verses of Ephesians. Take time to meditate, to contemplate. Read the Bible often. Pray at length. Prayer-ettes and devotion-ettes will not help.
Second, crave. You can never experience the power while having a flippant attitude. We constrict the flow of God’s power by our own carelessness and worldliness. The filled ones are the ones who hunger and thirst after righteousness (MT 5:6). Even in his more mature years, the mighty Apostle was still seeking to know Jesus, “and the power of his resurrection” (PH 3:10). The Apostle who for years had made powerful strides and advances in the Christian faith desired to know even more of the power.
Third, yield. God is willing to work through you and in you; be willing to be worked upon. Drop yourself like moldable clay at the potter’s feet. Let him put you on the wheel and mold you at his pleasure.
When we “know” (v. 18) the power, our question will change from “How can I overcome?” to “How can I not overcome?”
Eph. 1:20b “. . .and set him at his own right hand. . .”
The power possessed by believers was illustrated by the resurrection of Jesus (v. 20a). This resurrection-power given to us not only lifted Jesus from the dead, but also raised His physical body from Earth to Heaven.
The resurrection and ascension provide a powerful example of the power available to believers. The power which lifted Jesus from the grave, enabling Him to walk on Earth again, lifts us from spiritual death to walk on Earth in newness of life, a truth symbolized in baptism (RM 6:4-5). The power which lifted Jesus from Earth to Heaven will ultimately remove us from this world. Even as Christ was lifted up from Earth, so shall the believer be in the moment of physical death, and on the day of resurrection.
We have no doubt about these things. The power which was sufficient for Christ to be resurrected and to ascend is sufficient for us.
We have already illustrated the power we possess by looking at the resurrection of Jesus (v. 20a). Now we continue our study of the power by looking at the ascension and exaltation of Jesus.
Paul often spoke of Jesus being at the right hand of God. The concept obviously made a deep impression on Paul. I cannot help but believe this was at least partly due to the setting where he first encountered the idea.
Before he was saved, when a young zealot on a mission to destroy Christianity, he served as a helper at the execution of Stephen. Saul of Tarsus heard the saintly deacon exclaim, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (AC 7:56).
For years, Saul possibly woke up many nights in a cold sweat, hearing those words echoed from a nightmare of conscience. Oh how the evils we have done haunt us! God forgives us long before our own memories do.
The idea of Jesus at God’s right hand was driven with a spiritual pile-driver deeply into the heart of Paul. It was a truth very real to him. He presents it here as another illustration of the power available to believers.
The power given to us is a power which was able to lift Jesus to the highest place in the Universe. This was no small accomplishment. Jesus had to be raised from cross to crown, from Golgotha to Glory.
A war had to be waged to restore Jesus to what had been His before Bethlehem. Count the battle wounds in His body. Stand in awe before nail-prints in His hands and feet. Adore the spear-wound in His side, and thorn-scars on His blessed brow, the same brow of which Samuel Stennet wrote in R. G. Lee’s favorite song, “Majestic sweetness sits enthroned upon the Savior’s brow.”
The grueling warfare left the precious Son of God bearing in His own body the marks we should have borne. Jesus is the only marred thing in Heaven, an everlasting reminder that our eternal perfections are due to His eternal war-scarred “imperfections.” Ah, in Heaven, though, we will not view them as imperfections, we shall count His wounds the most beautiful sight of Glory. They are the reminder that power was exerted through Him in our behalf, a power which continues to surge into our very beings.
The power we possess was sufficient to lift Jesus to the most elevated position one can conceive. A King’s right hand was the position of honor. From this ancient custom we derive the phrase “right-hand man,” which refers to an individual who is almost an extension of one’s own self. For Alexander it was Hyphestion; for Washington, Lafayette; for Napoleon, Marshall Ney; for Lee, Stonewall Jackson; for God the Father, God the Son.
Having done all God wanted Him to do, Jesus has taken the place which rightfully belongs to Him, the chair of honor, the highest seat in the Empire. Jesus is the honored guest of Heaven. His excellent dignity is the crown of Glory.
Christ is the Hero of the Universe. What a moment it must have been, when Jesus returned to Heaven and heard the Father say, “Come! Up here! Sit beside Me, at my right hand.” Surely all in Heaven lifted their voices in one grand chorus of consent, “Amen! Yes! So be it! Let it be! He deserves the honor!”
As He ascended past all others present, the chorus continued to swell until thousands upon thousands in Heaven were crying out in a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing (RV 5:12).
Amen! It is fitting and proper. Jesus has earned every right to sit in the place of honor. He who knelt in anguish in Gethsemane, He who stood a criminal before Pilate, He who hung in blood upon a cross, He who lay a corpse in a tomb, He is now at the right hand of God receiving uninterrupted praise; and the power which accomplished all this is the same power which flows “to us-ward who believe” (1:19).
Eph. 1:20c “. . .in the heavenly places,. . .”
We have already been introduced to “heavenly places” (1:3). It is the God-dimension, the eternal order beyond the world perceived by our five senses. It is the present, at hand, home of believers, a region neither remote nor faraway.
Jesus is at this very moment in the position of power distributing the very power which lifted Him. “Heavenly places” forces us to deal with a difficult concept, “Where is this dispensing done?” Our thoughts on the whereabouts of Jesus are often shallow and restricted. Our minds need to be deepened and expanded.
Where is Jesus? I offer three answers, each of which has significant bearing on our understanding of the power which is available to believers.
Where is Jesus? In Heaven. In one localized place. He has a glorified, physical body, and thus we are forced to think in terms of spatiality and locality.
This localized concept of Jesus allows us to see Him as an august Lord, as One who sits on a throne “high and lifted up,” from which He reigns in power. The person seated at a King’s right hand had full delegated powers. Jesus is secure now. His enemies can no longer reach Him. He abides in a place where His adversaries cannot come. Jesus has won the victory over sin. Never again will He have to let His body become the receptacle of sin. Power, power, power, surrounds Him, envelopes Him, flows from Him–this same power is the one given to believers. Visualizing Jesus in one, exalted place highlights how preeminent is the power available to us.
Where is Jesus? In “heavenly places,” a concept presented as plural, which by definition means more than one. The plural indicates Jesus is not restricted to only one place. His human nature resides in one place, Heaven, but by His Holy Spirit He is able to be everywhere.
The Father has no material body, and thus no literal, fleshly, physical, right hand. God fills all in all. He is omnipresent, and wherever He is, Jesus is at His “right hand,” at His side, and thus also has to be omnipresent. “As the right hand of God fills heaven and earth, it follows that the kingdom and power of Christ are equally extensive” (Calvin). Visualizing Jesus in many places highlights how pervasive is the power available to us.
Where is Jesus? In you and in me. “Heavenly places” is where we live as believers (2:6). Thus, there is a way in which Christ sits beside the Father’s right hand in you and me. Visualizing Jesus in us highlights how penetrative is the power available to us.
It is already within us. The power which lifted Christ from the grave, and raised Him to the ultimate seat in the Universe continues to surge wherever He is enthroned beside His Father, including within our hearts. The power is not far off, or hard to find, it indwells us.
The resurrected, ascended, exalted, power-dispensing Lord is at hand, accessible, near. This truth is perfectly portrayed in the ascension itself.
When Jesus ascended, a remarkable miracle of true levitation took place. A human body, contrary to the laws of nature, and in defiance of everything Newton learned, was borne upward into the air.
However, the Bible is careful to point out the fact Jesus did not go up and up and up and up before He disappeared from the disciples. “While they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight” (AC 1:9). He did not enter the stratosphere and then disappear, as if to indicate distance. He went up only a ways and then disappeared, to indicate nearness and removal into a nearby, albeit different, dimension. He left the realm of time and space to enter the order of infinity and eternity. He entered “heavenly places,” the spiritual abode of believers.
Paul understood the full significance of this. He said, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (GL 2:20). Paul could not understand himself. He had become an enigma, a perplexing puzzle to himself. He was always amazed at the power flowing from within himself. He often found himself giving flesh to a force beyond his own natural human abilities.
We, too, should be going from victory to victory. Things should be happening to prove we are indwelt by a divine power. Evidence should be readily available that a power beyond ourselves indwells us. You should often be able to muse, “Is it possible? Did I really accomplish this? Such victories are not the “old” me.”
Far too often we think of Christian living in terms of forgiveness. We think God cancelled our debt and then sent us on our way to fend for ourselves as best we could. When we think this way, we miss the grandness of it all, and we especially miss the power available to us. Jesus has not sent us alone on our way, He walks the way Himself, enclothed by us.
Eph. 1:21a “Far above all principality, and power, and might,
We again find Paul stacking up words to make a point (see 1:19). The power which resides in believers exalted Jesus even above “the mighty kingdoms angelical” (Coleridge).
The words in our text were traditionally used by the Jews to designate the angels according to rank. In His administration of the Universe, God has divided the angels into classes and categories. We know little about these gradations, and must be careful to avoid idle curiosity regarding them. We must not become so intent on the angels that their lustre dazzles our eyes and obscures the brightness of Christ.
About all we can safely say about the categorization of angels is that they are divided by rank. The Bible definitely teaches the existence of orders and authorities in the angelic world. This reminds us angels are first and foremost soldiers, warriors. They are never portrayed in the Bible as singers, but as ministering servants who help us in our spiritual warfare.
Jesus has authority over all these spiritual fighters. He created them (CL 1:16). They belong to Him. “The Son of man shall send forth his angels” (MT 13:41). Jesus exercises lordship over them all, and the power which exalted Him to this position is the power which indwells all believers.
Eph. 1:21b “. . .and every name that is named,”
Finding vocabulary deficient, Paul uses a catch-all phrase similar to his “any other creature” of Romans 8:39. This is his way of saying, “In case I forgot anything. . .” Whatever a name can be given to, Jesus is over it. When we enter a royal court, we may not know the names of all the courtiers, but we can quickly determine who the king is. We know Christ is above all, though we do not the exact names of all powers under Him.
Eph. 1:21c “. . .not only in this world, but also in that which
is to come:”
Christ’s rule will know no end. He oversees all forces, whether present or future, temporal or eternal. No matter how the administrative structure of the cosmos is changed in the next world, Christ will still be preeminent. Whatever powers may yet rise up will be absolutely inferior to Christ.
Jesus is above every spiritual power we know about, and above every one yet totally unknown to us. The power which has done all this is the same power available to believers today.
Eph. 1:22a “And hath put all things under his feet,”
“Put under” translates a military term for subjecting one to another. “All things” means nothing which exists is excluded from Christ’s domain.
In the preceding verse, angelic orders were mainly in view, “but here the idea is widened to include all created things in heaven and in earth, rational and non-rational, organic and inorganic, visible and invisible” (Scroggie). God has subjected “all things” to Jesus.
The thorn-crowned brow now bears a diadem. The hand once nailed to a cross now sways the scepter of the whole Universe. The feet once pierced now stand atop the world’s powers. Pompey once boasted he could rouse all Italy to arms with one stamp of his foot. Jesus can claim the same of all creation. It all lies subjected to Him at His feet.
Ancient conquerors often trampled vanquished foes under the feet of their horses, and crushed them with their chariot wheels, as Jezebel learned at the command of Jehu. A conqueror sometimes actually put his foot on a defeated foe to show subjection. Joshua, after defeating an alliance of five kings, had the defeated monarchs brought before him. He commanded his captains to put their feet upon the necks of the subdued sovereigns (JS 10:24). This pictured absolute victory on the part of Joshua and Israel.
This is the imagery Paul is calling to our minds in this passage about Jesus. Christ is Lord of “all things.” Paul was a fact-denying optimist. Though jailed, persecuted, and hounded, he believed he was on the winning side. He knew he was serving the King of kings and Lord of lords, and also realized the power which enthroned Jesus was available to believers.
I dare not leave this verse without one further thought. God placed the government of His Universe in the hands of Christ; we should be willing to entrust control of our lives to Jesus’ care. The Father trusts His Son with everything. We ought to leave our particular concerns in Christ’s hands. He who rules all can also manage the details of our life.
God trusts Jesus, man should do no less. Dear unbeliever, Jesus is entrusted with your whole Universe. Be wise, and trust Him with your self.
Eph. 1:22b “. . .and gave him to be the head over all things
to the church,”
“All things” refers to the same “all things” placed under Jesus’ feet (1:22a). “To” carries the thought of “in behalf of, for the sake of.” “All things” have been put under Jesus in order to benefit the Church.
”Ecclesia,” a wonderful word we translate “Church,” is literally “ones called out.” It refers to the ones called out of the fallen world to enjoy vital union with Christ. The word does not refer to organizations or buildings, but highlights the spiritual relationship between God and His people.
For our benefit, we are joined to a Head who is also Head over “all things.” The conquering, ruling Christ is God’s gift to the Church.
We are blessed to have a Head endowed with ultimate power and authority. The Church could not go forward if Her Lord were not able to crush Satan. If our Head did not have power over death, He could not give us life. Fortunately, Jesus has all authority in Heaven and Earth (MT 28:18), which makes possible the “therefore” in the Great Commission (MT 28:19-20). Nothing can prevent the realization of Christian hope. Nothing can pre-empt the ultimate fulfillment of God’s purpose for each believer in particular and the whole Church in general.
The events of our individual lives are ordered of the Lord. God “works all things together for good to them that love Him” (RM 8:28). Affliction or affluence, rain or sunshine, sickness or health, pain or gladness–none can enter our lives without the Head of “all things” allowing it. Whether we deem circumstances as positive or negative, Providence works through them all to accomplish His purpose in each believer’s life.
The Church as a whole is the focal point of history. Time revolves around her. Providence works in a special way for the good of the Church. History is ruled by Christ, who dictates it according to His intentions regarding the Church. In managing the Universe, God always consults the best interest of the Church. He dispenses time with His people in mind.
Christ uses His power over “all things” to perfect His Church. He allows the storms which try the Church. Fire and flood are brought to bear upon her to purge what is polluted and profane.
Christ uses His power over “all things” to perpetuate the Church. The fortunes of nations rise and fall according to the destiny of God’s chosen people. Egypt, the premiere empire of the world, was warned of famine to come in order to spare Jacob’s family. Assyria and Babylon were lifted up to punish God’s people. Cyrus the Persian gained preeminence to restore Israel to its land. Alexander the Great vanquished the known world, providing one common language to facilitate the spread of the soon coming Gospel. Rome ruled the world in order to build roads for Paul and other Christian missionaries. Rome’s widespread reign also allowed for freedom of movement by the first heralds of the good news.
Charles Martel defeated the Moors at the battle of Tours in 714 AD, thereby saving western culture as Christian. The evil hordes of Islam were allowed to come so far, but no farther. God blew the Spanish Armada into oblivion in 1588 to save the English speaking world for Protestantism. Mr. Carter may have been President primarily to secure the release of Pastor Vins from a Russian prison. Baptists had long prayed for this to happen.
God sets up kings, tears down kingdoms, confounds the councils of monarchs, and controls the conflicts of armies, all on behalf of His Church. Why has communism fallen? We know the technical, economic, and social factors, but should also know the ultimate reason: communism defied the living God and put its hand on the Church, the apple of His eye.
The communists have been totally confounded. They do not know what to do with Lenin’s body. Three years ago his tomb was the most visited attraction on Earth; now it is an embarrassment. We Christians have trouble relating to this type of a problem. We never have to worry about what to do with the body of our Leader. Our Founder is not encased in a mausoleum; He is enthroned in a paradise.
Jesus lives, and He rules the world for the benefit of His people. Julian the Apostate spewed his wrath upon the Church, trying to obliterate her from the face of the earth. As he grew more powerful, and seemed invincible, one of his followers, Sibanius Julianus, a teacher of paganism, taunted a Christian teacher, “What is the carpenter’s son doing?” The believer replied, “He is preparing a coffin for Julian.” Soon Julian was lying on a battlefield, dying with the words, “Galilean, thou hast conquered.”
“No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord” (Isaiah 54:17a).
Eph. 1:23a “Which is his. . .”
The Church (1:22) is “His” body–it belongs to Jesus. In this possessive pronoun, the Church finds its Lord, its beauty, its life, its Director.
As the Head of “His” body, Jesus is Lord of the Church. Jesus exerts absolute sovereignty over us. It is improper to call anyone else the Head of the Church. The Pope claims to be Head of the Church–No! The Sovereign of Britain is deemed by his subjects as Head of the Church–No!
The Church does not have one head on earth and another in heaven. A body with two heads is a monster, a freak. Christ alone is Head of the Church, and His only vicar, or viceregent, on earth is His Holy Spirit.
As the Head of “His” body, Jesus is the beauty of the Church. Believers never have to worry about being embarrassed by their Head. Jesus is our loveliest attraction. We must strive to reflect His beauty. May we never be a distraction, or diminish His lustre.
As the Head of “His” body, Jesus is the life-source of the Church. A body lives only as the head lives. This explains why a guillotine is extremely effective. Once beheaded, no life remains in the body. The headman’s sword ends a John the Baptist or a Paul; a bullet to the head ends a Lincoln or a Kennedy. Without Jesus, the Church would have no existence, but because He lives, the Church enjoys a life indestructible.
As the Head of “His” body, Jesus is Director of the Church. The head is the nerve-center of the body. Every body part is controlled by nerves and the nervous system. Every muscle receives life as a response to nervous energy and power. All nerves can ultimately be traced back to the head.
Each body part depends upon the head for direction. The Church must rely entirely upon Christ. “Lord Jesus, see for us, hear for us, pray for us, send down food for us. Teach us to look to You for everything.”
The Church adores Christ as her all in all. He is our Lord, our beauty, our life, our Director. In His grace and love, He has bound us to Himself in a bond so binding that the final result is best described as a. . .
Eph. 1:23b “. . .body,”
Being royalty, Jesus has every right to have a group of loyal followers. “How could he be a king if he had not a kingdom?” (Henry). His domain could have consisted of love-slaves who did nothing but stand before Him in praise. He chose instead to treat His followers as His body, as a band of people extending His very life and work. The Church is Christ continued.
When Jesus wanted to demonstrate by His own example the meaning of service, and had to offer Himself as a sacrifice for the sin of the world, He needed a physical body. Thus He indwelt the secret parts of the virgin, and took on Himself human flesh. He still indwells this body in Heaven.
For His work on earth, Jesus spiritually indwells another body, His Church. He is made visible, tangible, and touchable in our flesh. We are hands to do His work, feet to run His errands, voices to speak His words.
I reverently say, Jesus is omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent. He did not choose to use us due to any insufficiency in Himself. He rather chose in His Providence to need us. He honored us by making us His helpers.
By the Father’s appointment, and by His own sovereign decision, Jesus holds the position of a head. He thus, by definition, needs a body. Every head needs a body. As a boy I saw an episode of a science fiction television series entitled “Way Out!” A man’s body organs ceased functioning, and his wife was able to spare only his brain and one eye, which she stored in a large fish bowl. She connected sensors to her husband’s brain in order to gauge his emotions. She had always disliked her cruel husband, and did everything she could to see his anger register on the monitors. She would blow smoke in his eye, and taunt him about spending his hard earned money on her own silly luxuries. The poor man could only float in his bowl and seethe. He was helpless, a mind without a body.
As a body with two heads is a freak, a head without a body is weak. A head cannot exist happily or productively without a body.
This is the relationship to which Christ has, by His own sovereign choice, stooped. He has elected to do His work on earth through us as “His body.” Through a body a head communicates with the outside world. Similarly, Christ our Head relates to the world through the Church His body.
Jesus wishes to think with our minds, see with our eyes, hear with our ears, talk with our tongues, walk with our feet. He wants to move with our joints, touch with our limbs, and love through our feelings. Jesus wants to conceive, plan, dream, imagine, and then fulfill these designs through us.
In a healthy situation, the head dictates, and the body responds. Something is seriously wrong when the brain determines one thing, and a body part does something else. Let me illustrate. My Grandfather Marshall could not bend his left index finger. Straight all the time, it provided only one advantage–it made an excellent “preaching finger.” Grandpa pointed it straight at his congregation. Some say this is why we Marshall preachers point a lot in our sermons. We learned the habit from watching Grandpa.
Grandpa lost the use of his finger when he was a boy. He was sent one day to cut wood for the cook-stove. Each piece had to be about an inch and a half long. He held the axe with his right hand, the wood with his left. He miscued and severed the finger from his hand. The finger was shoved back on and held in place while Grandpa was rushed to a country doctor, who sewed it in place. The finger stuck, but never worked again.
Many believers are like Grandpa’s finger–part of the body, but not responding well to signals from the head. Our responsibility is to represent Christ aright in this world. We must manifest His grace, His love, His hatred of sin, His compassion for the lost. The world must see Him in us.
This can happen only as believers understand and fulfill their role as members of His body. A head and a body refer more to an organism than to an organization. An organism is a living thing in which all its components parts are vitally knit together–same flesh, same blood, same constitution, same body fluids, same DNA–there is living cohesion.
“The body is not a bunch of loose parts somehow attached to each other” (Hughes), like pieces of a Marionette, or parts of a car engine. Our fingers are not glued on, our arms not tied on, our legs not buckled on.
“Body” bespeaks utmost intimacy and union. Anything not vitally interconnected is not a member of the body. Bro. W. D. Tucker, a delightful friend to me in my Mississippi pastorate, was one of the jolliest fellows I ever knew. When he drove his tractor in front of the parsonage on his way to his garden, we could hear him whistling above the engine noise. Bro. Tucker had a wooden leg which he attached below his knee every morning. He loved to play a trick on those who did not know about his attachment. He would take an ice pick in hand, pretend to be angry, and exclaim, “That makes me so mad I could ram this ice pick into someone.” He would then ram it into his wooden leg and laugh at the onlooker’s horrified reaction.
The only reason Bro. Tucker could ram an ice pick into his leg was because it was not a member, it was an attachment. The Church suffers from attachments–people who claim to be Christians, but do not live in vital union with Christ. They have never known Him as Lord.
My seminary friend Ronnie had a glass eye he could easily slip out of its socket. When leaving the table, he would sometimes say, “I have to leave, but I want to keep an eye on you while I’m gone.” He would then put his glass eye on the table and walk away laughing.
Ronnie’s glass eye was an accessory, not a member. Church rolls bear the names of many who are accessories–people who completely dissociate themselves from the body. Many of these absentees never were members.
Unfortunately, we take this word “member” and apply it to those whose names we enroll in our churches and other organizations. I was a member of the St. Louis African Violet Society. I am a member of the Smithsonian Associates, a member of AAA, a member of East Side Baptist Church, but not in the sense I am a member of the body of Christ. I wish we could have maintained the word for the vital union we ought to have with Christ.
A living power unites us to Christ and to one another. The same fluids flow through each part. There is a vital connection. On the Damascus Road, Saul heard Jesus say, “Why persecutest thou me?” Saul had been hurting the body, and the Head said, “Ouch!”
The Church shares with her Head the same life, the same nature, the same vitality. The life emanating from the Head is found in every portion of the body. The body is a single unit, no part has independent existence. There is organic unity. We are thus enabled to live victorious lives. . .
Eph. 1:23c “. . .the fullness of him that filleth all in all.”
Since we share vital union with Christ, the same divine power which enlivens the Head also indwells the body. Supernatural energy flows from the Head to every member of the body.
Jesus fills “all in all,” all things in the whole creation (1:22) in all ways, but the Church is His “fullness.” His power upholds the Universe and directs history, but finds ultimate expression in the Church, His body. The Church is meant to be filled with the sheer majesty and awesome power of God. We are the vessels chosen to best display Christ’s glory.
There should be no spiritual lack among us. Take heart, poor, trembling believer. Power indwells you. God wants to manifest His fullness in you, to make you a living monument to show forth His own perfections.
Eph. 2:1-3 Introduction
In Ephesians 1 Paul stretched our understanding of God’s dealings with His people. We pondered the protracted length of God’s predestination–“before the foundation of the world” (1:4), the extensive breadth of Christ’s domain–“all things under His feet” (1:22), the lofty height of Christ’s exaltation–to God’s “own right hand” (1:20).
Chapter 2 introduces a fourth dimension, the chasmic depth of God’s operations. God has to stoop amazingly low to fathom the abyss into which man has sunk. To appreciate salvation, one has to consider the full horror of lostness. To value a cure, one must realize how critical the illness is.
The first three verses of Ephesians 2 may be Scripture’s clearest statement on the sinfulness of man. They paint a picture which is unpleasant, but help increase our adoring sense of wonder. By viewing how low we had fallen, we will more readily revel in how high we have been lifted.
Eph. 2:1a “And you hath he quickened,. . .”
In our King James Version of the Bible, “hath he quickened” is in italics. This means the words are not in the original Greek, and have been added by the translators to make the text more easily read. The verb does eventually come (v. 5), but the translators inserted it here to keep the reader from being in suspense a long time. By omitting the verb here, Paul postponed his full exposition of the grace of God until after presenting the desperate sinfulness of man.
Eph. 2:1b “. . .who were dead. . .”
Life before conversion is death. When used of people, “death” never means annihilation. Every living soul will exist forever. Death is not extermination. It is rather separation. Physical death separates one’s self from a body. Mental death divides one from his intellectual faculties. Eternal death is everlasting separation from the presence of God. Our text (2:1) refers to spiritual death, the separation of one’s spirit from God.
Every lost individual is “dead”–not almost dead, not critically ill, not in danger of death–DEAD! The most disgusting thing most people can imagine, death, is the very image Paul uses to describe the lost man’s condition before God. Until the life of Jesus is planted within, men, women, boys, and girls are all dead–dead now, dead this very moment.
My dear missionary friend, Harold Renfrow, chides me a bit about my favorite Bible verse. He says, “John, the most important verse in the Bible is not John 3:16, but John 3:18, “He that believeth not is condemned already.”” Dr. Renfrow believes the realization of this truth would drive us to more fervent efforts for evangelism. Lostness is terrible now, not only in the future. To be lost is to be “dead” now.
In a way, Earth is a huge cemetery, and could rightfully be named Death Valley. Of its 5.3 billion residents, only 1 billion make any claim at all to be followers of Jesus. This means at least 4.3 billion of Earth’s citizens are “dead.” The thought is staggering, 4.3 billion dead! They move through their daily activities, but “it is a case of death walking” (John Eadie). They are zombies, the walking dead. The body moves around, but death is attached. Lostness is a living death.
In the last fatal duel fought near Edinburgh, a bullet struck the spine of the challenger. He lived only a few hours, the whole time paralyzed from the neck down. When asked how he felt, he replied, “I feel exactly what I am–a man with a living head and a dead body mysteriously joined together.” Thus it is with a lost person, life and death are conjoined in a strange, unnatural mixture: the body alive, the spirit dead.
If we could see the lost with spiritual eyes, as God sees them, the sight would be unpleasant and offensive. Nothing is more solemn than the sight of a dead body.
It hurts to think the beloved’s limbs we now coddle will someday be a “carnival for worms” (Spurgeon). In and out of eye sockets, loathsomeness will eventually crawl. The body you hold and love will someday be cold and hard, and shall soon thereafter begin to become nauseous.
Even of those you love most dearly, you will inevitably say, as Abraham did of his beloved Sarah, “Bury my dead out of my sight” (GN 23:4). The look of decaying flesh is offensive. We have to turn away from it.
We also flee the noxious odor of a reeking corpse. Nothing compares to the smell of death. We hold our breath while quickly removing rotting meat from our refrigerators and garbage cans. When a mouse dies in the wall of a house and cannot be reached for removal, the dwelling becomes almost uninhabitable due to the odor.
There is no beauty in death, and thus no beauty in lostness. The latter is a terrible affront to God. It confronts His eyes with ugliness and assaults His nostrils with an offensive odor.
Despite this, Jesus came to dwell among us. He could see our rottenness and sense our corruption, but came to walk with us anyway. This is the message of Christmas. Jesus left Paradise to dwell among putrefaction, He left Glory for a graveyard, He left angels for zombies.
Eph. 2:1c-2a “. . .in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time
past ye walked. . .”
These words describe the sphere in which the spiritually dead exist. They are in “trespasses,” a word which means to deviate, to go in the wrong direction, to stray from the straight and narrow path prescribed by God.
“Sins” is a term taken from archery. The word meant to miss the mark or target. It came to be used in reference to falling short of any goal or standard or purpose. Mankind’s original target was to bring glory to God, but all fail at this. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (RM 3:23).
“Walked” is a Hebrew expression for habitual action. Lost people take step after step in evil. Everything the lost man does is done in the realm of sin.
The lost man is in “trespasses,” he has crossed the boundary and left the right road. He is in “sins,” heading toward the wrong goal. His incorrect heading is a “walk,” something he does all the time. A lost person’s whole life is wrong. A person on the wrong road can do absolutely nothing on the right road.
Everything an unbeliever does is done in the realm of sin. His whole life is nothing but sin. All is wrong. “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. . . .The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the Lord. . . .The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord” (PR 15:8a,9a,26a). “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination” (PR 28:9).
Do you think of your lost friends and family members this way? Do you realize the horror of their lostness? The difference between being saved and being lost is not a pinch of morality or a dash of decency. The difference is as stark as life and death. God raised Jesus from the dead, and had to resurrect believers, also, from death.
Divine regeneration is every lost person’s only hope. They do not require help, education, or encouragement; they require life. They are dead, walking in trespasses and sins. Their spirit is lifeless, motionless toward God. The possibility of spiritual growth is totally lacking within them. “You cannot live a life for God until you receive life from God” (Anon.).
A dead person cannot inherit an estate; a dead soul cannot inherit the kingdom. A dead person’s only hope is for Jesus to give life. Fortunately, this is no problem for Him. He has ample power to make the dead live. He desires to implant His own life within the believer.
Eph. 2:2b “. . .according to the course of this world,”
The lost are spiritually “dead” (2:1b). Their spirits separated from God, they are zombies, the walking dead. They exist in the sphere of “trespasses” and “sins” (2:1c), deviating from the path prescribed by God, and moving toward the wrong target. This incorrect heading is a “walk,” habitual action done all the time. A lost person’s whole life is nothing but sin.
Lost people walk “according to the course of this world.” “According to” means after the leading of, in conformity to. “Course” refers to all the opinions, maxims, aspirations, and desires at any time current in a society. “This world” is human society organized for its own pleasure and profit without thought of God as He truly is.
A lost person governs his life-style by following the world’s standards and conforming to its values. Society formed without reference to God produces a mind-set, a mentality, an outlook which determines the way most people live their lives.
The lost are willing, albeit often unwitting, slaves to the customs, fashions, and value system of the world around them. They take their standards from magazines, novels, popular books, radio personalities, television soap operas, and spend more time with Donahue and Oprah than with Peter and Paul.
Whatever the spirit of the times acknowledges is deemed of value and significance. The latest public opinion poll is all-important. The lost are more concerned about hearing from George Gallup than from God. “Everyone is doing it” is their motto.
Before their conversions, believers felt perfectly at home in this environment. When careless, we are still in danger of being influenced by its subtle temptations. Worldly wisdom, like an old shoe, is comfortable, easy to “walk” in. We must ever fight against returning to the thought patterns of our past.
The believer seeks to please God in every detail of life. The world leaves God out, and sets self and its desires at the center.
A Christian abides by the dictates of God. Certain things are always right, other things always wrong. The worldling lives in a nebulous fog, trying to abide by the world’s shifting standards of right and wrong.
The believer is a Biblicist. He looks to Scripture for all matters of faith and practice. The lost man says we should always be open-minded. The only thing I know of that stays open all the time is a sewer. This is the very reason we are in a moral cesspool on the issue of abortion. The Bible teaches that life belongs to God the Father. The world claims life in the womb belongs to Woman the Mother. I do not know of an avid supporter of abortion on demand who uses the Bible to bolster his position. The abortionist supports his position with human reasoning.
The standards of the Church and the world differ vastly. Christ says forgive, the world says avenge–“Don’t get mad, get even.” Jesus commands us to love our enemies, the world says crush them. The Bible calls us to serve, society tells us to rule. Our Lord taught us to sacrifice, the world says indulge. A worldling “knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” This is why he cannot understand a missionary who will leave wealth and ease to endure poverty and discomfort.
Let the Church beware! At all cost avoid “the course of this world.”
Eph. 2:2c “according to the prince,”
“The course of this world” is universal, and universally wrong. The world presents a common voice of error, not by chance, but because it is under one leader. Even as the Church has one Head, so does the world. To belong to the world is to belong to the kingdom of Satan.
The Devil originated evil, and thus is the personification of rebellion against God. He masterminds mutiny, and leads insurrection. Thus, when one casts off God, he is immediately, by definition, in Satan’s realm.
Satan is “the prince” of evil. This Greek word “archon” refers to the first of an order of persons or things. Michael, as archangel, is first in the armies of good. His counterpart, Lucifer, is first in the armies of evil.
Satan is number one in the diabolical kingdom of the cosmos. He is “the prince of demons” (MT 9:34b). Jesus called him “the prince of this world” (JN 12:31). Paul described him with the blood-curdling phrase, “the god of this world” (2 C 4:4). He is a villainous General who has at his disposal many equally sinister lieutenants.
Eph. 2:2d “. . .of the power. . .”
”Power” (same word in 1:21) is singular, referring to the legions of apostate angels as one unit. Under their one chief, Lucifer, the demons form a cluster, one cohesive, compact, crackerjack, close-knit army. The evil forces aligned against us are organized in marshal array, and move as one at the beck and call of their commander.
Eph. 2:2e “. . .of the air,”
This little phrase is rich in information. It succinctly tells us at least three vital truths about our satanic enemies.
First, “of the air” marks the evil forces as immaterial. They are spiritual, not physical. They have no material bodies, but exist and live and move. Without any perceptible noise, without waking the slightest suspicion of their presence, they carry out their diabolical schemes.
Second, “of the air” denotes immanence. Satan’s cohorts are universally distributed, and thus near every human being. Our own atmosphere is the primary realm of Satan’s operations, the haunt of evil forces.
“Paul recognized that the air is full of the Devil” (Parker). Since we are slow to grasp the pervasive presence of evil, Paul pictured the whole atmosphere as filled with evil spirits. We are so close to them that if we had spiritual ears we could hear the quietest whisper of Lucifer himself.
“The air” surrounds us, and is the region of stimuli to our senses. As a result, evil forces have ready access to us, and can at any given moment suggest thoughts and kindle desires in our minds. They are ever at hand to tempt man, and to do much damage throughout the world.
Third, “of the air” pictures evil forces as an impediment, an obstruction between God and man. Do not miss this poignant, positional picture. God is in Heaven, man on Earth, evil spirits are between, in “the air,” trying to keep the two apart. In His parable of the sower, our Lord used “birds of the sky” (LK 8:5,12) as the figure of the tempter. The devil and his demons come and take away the good seed out of men’s hearts.
During the great “war in heaven” (RV 12:7-9), Michael and his angels fought the dragon and his angels. As a result, Satan “was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Lucifer was thrown down from the higher levels of the stratosphere.
“The air,” the lower atmosphere, became the seat of Satan’s kingdom. By God’s decree, Satan was granted permission to operate in the lowest regions of the atmosphere.
In this realm, God placed our race to test our loyalty to Himself. We chose to cast off God. The Lord responded with a severe, yet appropriate, punishment–He let us have what we wanted. We chose to be like the devil in the devil’s world, and this has been our lot since Eden. What a terrible fate! “What is Satan but God’s executioner to punish man’s ingratitude?” (Calvin).
“Executioner” is a good word to describe the devil. He rules in “the air” and the sway of his scepter is as ruthless as it is universal.
“Christian, seek not yet repose;
Cast thy dreams of ease away!”
Christians pine for ease, and long for a life without strife and struggle, but it will not happen in this world. Powers of evil are everywhere in “the air.” As a doomed, condemned race, they attack believers with the ferocity of a caged animal, the reckless abandon of a kamikaze pilot, and the frequency of beings consumed with malice. Satan hates us and grants us no place in our environment to avoid his attacks of temptation.
Remember, we are fighting against one who had the brazen audacity to confront the Son of God Himself. All the patriarchs and great believers of the Old Testament fell before him time after time.
Satan is absolute in his own kingdom. Demons obey, worldlings submit. Such a thought leaves us quivering, “Is there no place to flee? Have we no respite?” Take heart, trembling heart. We cannot escape Lucifer’s attacks, but there is a place where the power of his advances is shattered.
Within the family of God, Satan’s power is broken. He is absolute in “the air,” but he can at worst harass and tempt all who dwell in “heavenly places.” There is a place to flee–into the kingdom of God. Men can escape the devil’s tyranny, thus when they do not do so they are without excuse.
Never underestimate the devil. At the same time, never overestimate him. Some believers spend too much time dwelling on him. He is a foe you cannot defeat, but he is a foe God’s power in you can crush.
The God who saves us keeps us. Without Him we cannot stand one minute. With Him we are invincible.
Eph. 2:2f “. . .the spirit. . .”
“The prince of the power of the air” is also the prince of “the spirit” which governs life among the unsaved. An evil principle determines the thought-patterns of the lost. The devil and his demons tempt and harass believers, but dominate and direct unbelievers by controlling what we commonly call the spirit of the times.
The world is easily led astray because it begins with a false assumption regarding independence. Society does not want to be controlled by the true, living, holy God. Donning a god-mask, society casts off God in hopes of finding independence, but absolute freedom is not a viable option for man. When God is cast off, men do not find freedom. They instead fall under the control of a different “spirit.”
Rebellion was in the universe before man arrived. A kingdom separate from God’s had already been established prior to Eden. When man was created, he had only two choices–God’s kingdom, or Satan’s. These are still the only two options. The saved are under the dominion and protection of God; the lost are subject to a “spirit” directed by Satan.
Eph. 2:2g “. . .that now worketh. . .”
”Worketh” is “energeo” (1:11,19), the root of our words energy and energetic. “Worketh” denotes energizing action, an effective, propelling force. The “spirit” ruled by Satan energizes human society, and animates the lost.
An energy failure stopped my office clock last week. Once I inserted a new battery, the clock began working fine again. The battery energizes (“worketh”) the clock, controls it, determines its life, directs its activity. Similarly, unsaved society is directed by a spirit energized by powers of evil. Satan animates and dictates worldly culture, permitting just enough decency to be mixed in to keep the naive from running in panic.
Note the present tense of “worketh.” Satan never rests. He is always at work, degenerating whatever is good into something bad. He then “worketh” on the bad to make it worse, and on the worse to make it the worst. Once he accomplishes his meanness, he rejoices over the devastation.
His gruesome handiwork is obvious everywhere. “I believe in the devil because I have to. I have to, not merely because it is here–that is enough for me–but I believe it because I cannot explain life without it” (Lloyd-Jones). To ignore Satan is to fail to understand our world.
Satan is a force to be reckoned with in this world. Never try to argue him out of existence. “Paul assumed the devil, revealed him, declared him, took him into account, lectured upon him, defied him, sometimes was rebuffed by him–“Satan hath hindered us”” (Parker). Satan is.
Why has evil always been omnipresent in our world? Satan’s pervasive presence is the only logical explanation. He has ever been at work, making evil a continuous, unbroken mass. Human history is impossible to understand without realizing Satan dominates a “spirit” which has always been at work within society.
Study history. There is uniformity and repetition in it. Man has changed very little. Human thought has remained consistent. A subtle, sinister “spirit” has always been at work.
It is futile to ponder the story of man without reckoning with the devil. Would you write a history of the now defunct Soviet Union and not refer to Lenin or Stalin? Do you think we could understand China without studying the life of Mao Tse Tung? Imagine writing a book on Cuba and never mentioning Fidel Castro. It would be equally ridiculous to analyze world history without taking into account the devil.
Lloyd-Jones tells of a Dr. Joad, who before World War II was an atheist, an unbeliever. After the war, though, he became a believer in God, and explained why. He said the second war convinced him the Bible was right in at least one thing–there is a principle of evil at work. He said he could not explain World War II any other way. It was not an accident. Devilish powers were working in concert at various corners of the globe.
Evil in the world has never been isolated or accidental. Sin has always been everywhere, and produced, spawned by a timeless, international “spirit” ruled by Satan himself. Evil is highly organized.
Eph. 2:2h “. . .in. . .”
Do not overlook this preposition. It is little in size, but big in meaning. “In” emphasizes intimacy. Working “in” this world pictures Satan as near at hand, among us. Society is his workshop. As a blacksmith works in his forge, and as a carpenter works in his shop, Satan works in the midst of men, using lost people’s body parts as his tools of sin.
Eph. 2:2i “. . .the children of. . .”
“The children of disobedience” is a much stronger term than merely calling lost men “disobedient.” “Children of” is a Hebraism which denotes a vital connection, total identification. Children share the essential nature of their parents. Children of disobedience are people who “spring from disobedience as the mother who gave them birth” (Hendriksen).
Disobedience is the source and essence of a lost man’s life. Believers, never forget your true ancestry. We began with Adam’s sin, and added to it our own sins. We were heirs of original sin, and parents of actual sins.
Man is the offspring of disobedience, the descendant of defiance. Dissent is in our constitution, a part of the warp and woof of our very being. Only divine regeneration can place within man a nature strong enough to resist and overcome our native bent to disobedience.
In the central ego of every lost person abides a spirit antagonistic to the true claims of God. This disobedience is not negligible or incidental, but integral and affecting everything else. It is the lost person’s parentage, the dominant characteristic of his standing before God. This being the case, it behooves us to know for sure what this condition actually consists of. . .
Eph. 2:2j “. . .disobedience:”
The lost are ruled by a disposition of “disobedience.” The word is “apeithes,” which literally refers to a refusal to be persuaded. The word describes one who will not comply, who refuses to be convinced. It denotes people who, obstinate in error, display toward God a resistance of the will.
We often underestimate the terribleness of lostness. Every day we see lost people in whom we find nothing terribly wrong. Yet if we were to tell such ones face to face they need to repent, they would snarl. A lost man may be decent, ethical, outwardly moral, and respectable, but if we press the claim of God on his life strong enough, loud enough, and long enough, the devil in him will eventually lift its ugly head. Tell a lost man to admit every minute of his life has been wrong, and he will respond with disdain.
God “commandeth all men every where to repent” (AC 17:30). This is not an option, but the lost disobey. They refuse to be persuaded.
What caused the men of Noah’s day to perish in the flood? Their sin? No. Their sin caused the rains to fall, but had they repented and entered the ark, they would have been spared. According to I Peter 3:20, they were “disobedient,” the same Greek word as is used here in Ephesians 2:2. What destroyed them was their refusal to be persuaded of their own error.
What caused the Israelites to spend forty years in the wilderness? Their vile deeds? No. These things brought punishment upon them, but the forty years of wandering was caused by their obstinate attitude. They could not enter God’s rest because they “believed not” (HB 3:18), the same Greek word as used here. At Kadesh-barnea, they refused to be persuaded from the error of unbelief, though Moses, Joshua, and Caleb pled with them.
Why is King Agrippa in Hell? Due to his sins? No. His life was surely an ongoing debauchery, but this did not seal the condemnation of his soul. He is in Hell because he would not be persuaded, he refused to be convinced of Paul’s doctrine. He came close to salvation, but fell short by saying, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (AC 26:28). “Persuadest” is the same Greek word, minus the negative prefix, as used here.
P. P. Bliss perfectly portrayed the tragedy of this type of “disobedience” in a magnificent gospel song:
“Almost persuaded” now to believe;
“Almost persuaded” Christ to receive;
Seems now some soul to say, “Go, Spirit, go Thy way,
Some more convenient day, On Thee I’ll call.”
“Almost persuaded,” harvest is past!
“Almost persuaded,” doom comes at last!
“Almost” cannot avail; “Almost” is but to fail!
Sad, sad that bitter wail–“Almost,” but lost!
Even as a lad, when our church sang this as an invitation hymn, my heart was wrenched by the pathos in each line of the song. Fortunately, the hymn contains another verse, which extends hope to the listener:
“Almost persuaded,” come, come today,
“Almost persuaded,” turn not away;
Jesus invites you here, Angels are ling’ring near,
Pray’rs rise from hearts so dear; O wand’rer, come!