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“For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you, and which ye shew toward all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to that working of the might of His strength, which He wrought in the Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and made Him to sit at His right hand in the heavenly places.”—Eph. i. 15–20.

Because of this: because you have heard the glad tidings, and believing it have been sealed with the Holy Spirit (vv. 13, 14). I too: I your apostle, with so great an interest in your salvation, in return give thanks for you. Thus St Paul, having extolled to the uttermost God’s counsel of redemption unfolded through the ages, claims to offer especial thanksgiving for the faith of those who belong to his Gentile province and are, directly or indirectly, the fruit of his own ministry (iii. 1–13).

The intermediate clause of verse 15, describing the readers’ faith, is obscure. This form of expression occurs nowhere else in St Paul; but the construction is used by St Luke,—e.g., in Acts xxi. 21: 66 “All the Jews which are among the Gentiles,” where it implies diffusion over a wide area. This being a circular letter, addressed to a number of Churches scattered through the province of Asia, of whose faith in many cases St Paul knew only by report, we can understand how he writes: “having heard of the faith that is [spread] amongst you.”—The love, completing faith in the ordinary text (as in Col. i. 4), is relegated by the Revisers to the margin, upon evidence that seems conclusive.6161   See Westcott and Hort’s New Testament in Greek, vol. ii., pp. 124, 125. The commentators, however, feel so strongly the harshness of this ellipsis that, in spite of the ancient witnesses, they read, almost with one consent,6262   Dr. Beet abides by the critical text. He solves the difficulty by giving πίστις a double sense: “the faith among you in the Lord Jesus, and the faithfulness towards all the saints.” See his Commentary on Ephesians, etc., pp. 284–6.your love toward all the saints.” The variation of the former clause prepares us, however, for something peculiar in this. In verse 13 we found St Paul’s thought fixed on the decisive fact of his readers’ faith. On this he still dwells lingeringly. The grammatical link needed between “faith” and “unto all the saints” is supplied in the Revised Version by ye show, after the analogy of Philemon 5. Perhaps it might be supplied as grammatically, and in a sense better suiting the situation, by is come. Then the co-ordinate prepositional phrases qualifying “faith” have both alike a local reference, and we paraphrase the clause thus: “since I heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is spread amongst you, and whose report has reached all the saints.”

We are reminded of the thanksgiving for the Roman Church,67 “that your faith is proclaimed throughout the whole world.”6363   In 1 Thess. i. 7–9; 2 Thess. i. 4, the same thought enters into Paul’s thanksgiving; comp. 2 Cor. ix. 2. The success of the gospel in Asia gave encouragement to believers in Christ everywhere. St Paul loves in this way to link Church to Church, to knit the bonds of faith between land and land: in this letter most of all; for it is his catholic epistle, the epistle of the Church œcumenical.

In verse 16 we pass from praise to prayer. God is invoked by a double title peculiar to this passage, as “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory.” The former expression is in no way difficult. The apostle often speaks, as in verse 3, of “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”: intending to qualify the Divine Fatherhood by another epithet, he writes for once simply of “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This reminds us of the dependence of the Lord Jesus upon the eternal Father, and accentuates the Divine sovereignty so conspicuous in the foregoing Act of Praise. Christ’s constant attitude towards the Father was that of His cry of anguish on the cross, “My God, my God!” Yet He never speaks to men of our God. To us God is “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,” as He was to the men of old time “the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.”

The key to the designation Father of glory is in Romans vi. 4: “Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father.” In the light of this august manifestation of God’s power to save His lost sons in Christ, we are called to see light (vv. 19, 20). Its glory shines already about God’s blessed name of Father, thrice glorified in the apostle’s praise (vv. 3–14). The title is the counterpart of “the Father of compassions” in 2 Corinthians i. 3.

68 And now, what has the apostle to ask of the Father of men under these glorious appellations? He asks “a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full-knowledge6464   This is the emphatic ἐπιγνῶσις, so frequent in the later epistles. See Lightfoot’s note on Col. i. 9; or Cremer’s Lexicon to N.T. Greek. of Him,—the eyes of your heart enlightened, in order that you may know,” etc. This recalls the emphasis with which in verses 8 and 9 he set “wisdom and intelligence” amongst the first blessings bestowed by Divine grace upon the Church. It was the gift which the Asian Churches at the present juncture most needed; this is just now the burden of the apostle’s prayers for his people.

The spirit of wisdom and revelation desired will proceed from the Holy Spirit dwelling in these Gentile believers (ver. 13). But it must belong to their own spirit and direct their personal mental activity, the spirit of revelation becoming “the spirit of their mind” (iv. 23). When St Paul asks for “a spirit of wisdom and revelation,” he desires that his readers may have amongst themselves a fountain of inspiration and share in the prophetic gifts diffused through the Church.6565   See ch. iii. 3–5, iv. 11; and comp. 1 Cor. xiv. 26–40, etc. And “the knowledge—the full, deep knowledge of God” is the sphere “in” which this richer inspiration and spiritual wisdom are exercised and nourished. “Philosophy, taking man for its centre, says, Know thyself: only the inspired word, which proceeds from God, has been able to say, Know God.”6666   Adolphe Monod: Explication de l’épître de S. Paul aux Éphésiens. A deeply spiritual and suggestive Commentary.

The connexion of the first clause of verse 18 with the last of verse 17 is not very clear in St Paul’s Greek; there is a characteristic incoherence of structure. The 69 continuity of thought is unmistakable. He prays that through this inspired wisdom his readers may have their reason enlightened to see the grandeur and wealth of their religion. This is a vision for “the eyes of the heart.” It is disclosed to the eye behind the eye, to the heart which is the true discerner.

“The seeing eyes

See best by the light in the heart that lies.”

Yonder is an ox grazing in the meadow on a bright summer’s day. Round him is spread the fairest landscape,—a broad stretch of herbage embroidered with flowers, the river gleaming in and out amongst the distant trees, the hills on both sides bounding the quiet valley, sunshine and shadows chasing each other as they leap from height to height. But of all this what sees the grazing ox? So much lush pasture and cool shade and clear water where his feet may plash when he has done feeding. In the same meadow there stands a poet musing, or a painter busy at his easel; and on the soul of that gifted man there descends, through eyes outwardly discerning no more than those of the beast at his side, a vision of wonder and beauty which will make all time richer. The eyes of the man’s heart are opened, and the spirit of wisdom and revelation is given him in the knowledge of God’s work in nature.

Like differences exist amongst men in regard to the things of religion. “So foolish was I and ignorant,” says the Psalmist, speaking of his former dejection and unbelief, “I was as a beast before Thee!” There shall be two men sitting side by side in the same house of prayer, at the same gate of heaven. The one sees heaven opened; he hears the eternal song; his spirit is a temple filled with the glory of God. The other 70 sees the place and the aspect of his fellow-worshippers; he hears the music of organ and choir, and the sound of some preacher’s voice. But as for anything besides, any influence from another world, it is no more to him at that moment than is the music in the poet’s soul or the colours on the painter’s canvas to the ox that eateth grass.

It is not the strangeness and distance of Divine things alone that cause insensibility; their familiarity has the same effect. We know all this gospel so well. We have read it, listened to it, gone over its points of doctrine a hundred times. It is trite and easy to us as a worn glove. We discuss without a tremor of emotion truths the first whisper and dim promise of which once lifted men’s souls into ecstasy, or cast them down into depths of shame and bewilderment so that they forgot to eat their bread. The awe of things eternal, the mystery of our faith, the Spirit of glory and of God rest on us no longer. So there come to be, as one hears it said, gospel-hardened hearers—and gospel-hardened preachers! The eyes see—and see not; the ears hear—and hear not; the lips speak without feeling; the heart is waxen fat. This is the nemesis of grace abused. It is the result that follows by an inevitable psychological law, where outward contact with spiritual truth is not attended with an inward apprehension and response. How do we need to pray, in handling these dread themes, for a true sense and savour of Divine things,—that there may be given, and ever given afresh to us “a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God.”

Three things the apostle desires that his readers may see with the heart’s enlightened eyes: the hope to 71 which God calls them, the wealth that He possesses in them, and the power which He is prepared to exert upon them as believing men.

I. What, then, is our hope in God? What is the ideal of our faith? For what purpose has God called us into the fellowship of His Son? What is our religion going to do for us and to make of us?

It will bring us safe home to heaven. It will deliver us from the present evil world, and preserve us unto Christ’s heavenly kingdom. God forbid that we should make light of “the hope laid up for us in the heavens,” or cast it aside. It is an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. But is it the hope of our calling? Is this what St Paul here chiefly signifies? We are very sure that it is not. But it is the one thing which stands for the hope of the gospel in many minds. “We trust that our sins are forgiven: we hope that we shall get to heaven!” The experience of how many Christian believers begins and ends there. We make of our religion a harbour of refuge, a soothing anodyne, an escape from the anguish of guilt and the fear of death; not a life-vocation, a grand pursuit. The definition we have quoted may suffice for the beginning and the end; but we need something to fill out that formula, to give body and substance, meaning and movement to the life of faith.

Let the apostle tell us what he regarded, for himself, as the end of religion, what was the object of his ambition and pursuit. “One thing I do,” he writes to the Philippians, opening to them all his heart,—“One thing I do. I press towards the mark for the prize of my high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” And what, pray, was that mark? 72—“that I may gain Christ and be found in Him!—that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means I may attain unto the final resurrection from the dead.” Yes, Paul hopes for heaven; but he hopes for something else first, and most. It is through Christ that he sees heaven. To know Christ, to love Christ, to serve Christ, to follow Christ, to be like Christ, to be with Christ for ever!—that is what St Paul lived for. Whatever aim he pursues or affection he cherishes, Christ lies in it and reaches beyond it. In doing or in suffering, in his intellect and his heart, in his thoughts for himself or for others, Christ is all things to him and in all. When life is thus filled with Christ, heaven becomes, as one may say, a mere circumstance, and death but an incident upon the way,—in the soul’s everlasting pursuit of Christ.

Behold, then, brethren, the hope of our calling. God could not call us to any destiny less or lower than this. It would have been unworthy of Him,—and may we not say, unworthy of ourselves, if we are in truth His sons? From eternity the Father of spirits has predestined you and me to be holy and without blemish before Him,—in a word, to be conformed to the image of His Son. Every other hope is dross compared to this.

II. Another vision for the heart’s eyes, still more amazing than that we have seen: “what is,” St Paul writes, “the riches of the glory of God’s inheritance in the saints.”

We saw, in considering the eleventh and fourteenth verses, how the apostle, in characteristic fashion, plays upon the double aspect of the inheritance, regarding it now as the heritage of the saints in God and again as His heritage in them. The former side of this relationship 73 was indicated in the “hope of the Divine calling,”—which we live and strive for as it is promised us by God; and the latter comes out, by way of contrast, in this second clause. Verse 18 repeats in another way the antithesis of verse 14 between our inheritance and God’s acquisition. We must understand that God sets great store by us His human children, and counts Himself rich in our affection and our service. How deeply it must affect us to know this, and to see the glory that in God’s eyes belongs to His possession in believing men.

What presumption is all this, some one says. How preposterous to imagine that the Maker of the worlds interests Himself in atoms like ourselves,—in the ephemera of this insignificant planet! But moral magnitudes are not to be measured by a foot-rule. The mind which can traverse the immensities of space and hold them in its grasp, transcends the things it counts and weighs. As it is amongst earthly powers, so the law may hold betwixt sphere and sphere in the system of worlds, in the relations of bodies terrestrial and celestial to each other, that “God has chosen the weak things to put to shame the mighty, and the things that are not to bring to nought the things that are.” Through the Church He is “making known to the potentates in the heavenly places His manifold wisdom” (iii, 10). The lowly can sing evermore with Mary in the Magnificat: “He that is mighty hath magnified me.” If it be true that God spared not His Son for our salvation and has sealed us with the seal of His Spirit, if He chose us before the world’s foundation to be His saints, He must set upon those saints an infinite value. We may despise ourselves; but He thinks great things of us.

74 And is this, after all, so hard to understand? If the alternative were put to some owner of wide lands and houses full of treasure: “Now, you must lose that fine estate, or see your own son lost and ruined! You must part with a hundred thousand pounds—or with your best friend!” there could be no doubt in such a case what the choice would be of a man of sense and worth, one who sees with the eyes of the heart. Shall we think less nobly of God than of a right-minded man amongst ourselves?—Suppose, again, that one of our great cities were so full of wealth that the poorest were housed in palaces and fared sumptuously every day, though its citizens were profligates and thieves and cowards! What would its opulence and luxury be worth? Is it not evident that character is the only possession of intrinsic value, and that this alone gives worth and weight to other properties? “The saints that are in the earth and the excellent” are earth’s riches.

So far as we can judge of His ways, the great God who made us cares comparatively little about the upholstery and machinery of the universe; but He cares immensely about men, about the character and destiny of men. There is nothing in all that physical science discloses for God to love, nothing kindred to Himself. “Hast thou considered my servant Job?” the Hebrew poet pictures Him saying before heaven and hell!—“Hast thou considered my servant Job?—a perfect man and upright: there is none like him in the earth.” How proud God is of a man like that, in a world like this. Who can tell the value that the Father of glory sets upon the tried fidelity of His humblest servant here on earth; the intensity with which He reciprocates the confidence of one timid, trembling human heart, or the 75 simple reverence of one little child that lisps His awful name? “He taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy!” Beneath His feet all the worlds lie spread in their starry splendour, our sun with its train of planets no more than one glimmering spot of light amongst ten thousand. But amidst this magnificence, what is the sight that wins His tender fatherly regard? “To that man will I look, that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembles at my word.” Thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity. The Creator rejoices in His works as at the beginning, the Lord of heaven and earth in His dominion. But these are not His “inheritance.” That is in the love of His children, in the character and number of His saints. We are to be the praise of His glory.

Let us learn, then, to respect ourselves. Let us not take the world’s tinsel for wealth, and spend our time, like the man in Bunyan’s dream, scraping with “the muck-rake” while the crown of life shines above our head. The riches of a Church—nay, of any human community—lies not in its moneyed resources, but in the men and women that compose it, in their godlike attributes of mind and heart, in their knowledge, their zeal, their love to God and man, in the purity, the gentleness, the truthfulness and courage and fidelity that are found amongst them. These are the qualities which give distinction to human life, and are beautiful in the eyes of God and holy angels. “Man that is in honour and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.”

III. One thing more we need to understand, or what we have seen already will be of little practical avail. We may see glorious visions, we may cherish high 76 aspirations; and they may prove to be but the dreams of vanity. Nay, it is conceivable that God Himself might have wealth invested in our nature, a treasure beyond price, shipwrecked and sunk irrecoverably through our sin. What means exist for realizing this inheritance? what power is there at work to recover these forfeited hopes, and that glory of God of which we have come so miserably short?

The answer lies in the apostle’s words: “That ye may know what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us that believe,”—a power measured by “the energy of the might of His strength6767   In this amplitude of expression there is no idle heaping up of words. The four synonyms for power have each a distinct force in the sentence. Δύναμις is power in general, as that which is able to effect some purpose; ἐνέργεια is energy, power in effective action and operation; κράτος is might, mastery, sovereign power,—in the New Testament used chiefly of the power of God; ἰσχύς is force, strength, power resident in some person and belonging to him. This is the order in which the words follow each other. Compare vi. 10 in the Greek. which He wrought in the Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” This is the power that we have to count upon, the force that is yoked to the world’s salvation and is at the service of our faith. Its energy has turned the tide and reversed the stream of nature—in the person of Jesus Christ and in the course of human history. It has changed death to life. Above all, it certifies the forgiveness of sin and releases us from its liabilities; it transforms the law of sin and death into the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

We preachers hear it said sometimes: 77 “You live in a speculative world. Your doctrines are ideal and visionary,—altogether too high for men as they are and the world as we find it. Human nature and experience, the coarse realities of life are all against you.”

What would our objectors have said at the grave-side of Jesus? “The beautiful dreamer, the sublime idealist! He was too good for a world such as ours. It was sure to end like this. His ideas of life were utterly impracticable.” So they would have moralized. “And the good prophet talked—strangest fanaticism of all—of rising again on the third day! One thing at least we know, that the dead are dead and gone from us. No, we shall never see Jesus or His like again. Purity cannot live in this infected air. The grave ends all hope for men.” But, despite human nature and human experience, He has risen again, He lives for ever! That is the apostle’s message and testimony to the world. For those “who believe” it, all things are possible. A life is within our reach that seemed far off as earth from heaven. You may become a perfect saint.

From His open grave Christ breathed on His disciples, and through them on all mankind, the Holy Spirit. This is the efficient cause of Christianity,—the Spirit that raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. The limit to its efficacy lies in the defects of our faith, in our failure to comprehend what God gave us in His Son. Is anything now too hard for the Lord? Shall anything be called impossible, in the line of God’s promise and man’s spiritual need? Can we put an arrest upon the working of this mysterious force, upon the Spirit of the new life, and say to it: Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther?

Look at Jesus where He was—the poor, tortured, wounded body, slain by our sins, lying cold and still in Joseph’s grave: then lift up your eyes and see Him 78 where He is,—enthroned in the worship and wonder of heaven! Measure by that distance, by the sweep and lift of that almighty Arm, the strength of the forces engaged to your salvation, the might of the powers at work through the ages for the redemption of humanity.

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