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The Apostle is still prosecuting the same Subject, as in the former upon the Church to follow God, under the Character of dear Children. He closeth his subject, in a most beautiful Representation of Christ, as the Head, and Husband, of His Body the Church.
(1) ¶ Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; (2) And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. (3) ¶ But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; (4) Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. (5) For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (6) Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. (7) Be not ye therefore partakers with them. (8) For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (9) (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) (10) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. (11) And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. (12) For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. (13) But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
I admire the very sweet, and interesting manner, with which the Holy Ghost, by his servant the Apostle, opens this Chapter. How affectionately the Church is called upon to follow God; and the way, in which they are to follow him. Not as children only, but as dear children. The expression is similar to the one used by our Lord in the days of his flesh, and upon the same occasion, when recommending his disciples to come to God, as their Father: Shall not God avenge his own elect ? Not simply his elect, but his own elect. See Luke 18:1-7 . and Commentary.
In order that the Reader may enter into the full apprehension of this very beautiful Scripture, of following God, as dear children; it will be proper for him to consider, in what terms, the Apostle entered on this Epistle. For, it should be always kept in remembrance, while reading the Epistles, that though divided into Chapters, they are, nevertheless, but one, and the same Epistle. Now, when the Apostle opened this Epistle to the Church, at Ephesus he began in an hymn of praise to God the Father, for his fatherly love, in choosing the Church in Christ, predestinating the Church to the adoption of children in Christ, and accepting the church in Christ. Hence, now, toward the conclusion of his Epistle, he reminds the Church of their relationship to God the Father, in Christ; and enjoins them to follow. God as dear children.
And as this is a point of infinite consequence in the life of a child of God; and yet, is not, I fear, as much considered by the Church of God in Christ, as it ought; I shall beg the freedom; to follow up what the Apostle hath here recommended, with a few observations. If I may judge of the general state of the Church by what comes within my own knowledge, I venture to believe, that the best saints alive, have too little actings of faith, upon the Person of God our Father, under this endeared and endearing character of Father. We lose sight of God's choice, and of God's predestinating us the adoption of children in Christ. The sweet Abba Father doth not dwell, as much as it ought, in our hearts, and upon our lips. Whereas if we kept in constant remembrance our birth-right, and the privileges arising out of it; should we not follow God as dear children; and go in, and out, the house of God, as our Father's house; and sit down in our place at his table, as his children; yea ; as his dear children ? Do earthly parents love to hear the voice of their little ones, as soon as they can lisp out father? And will not our heavenly Father be pleased with the name, when taught by the Spirit to call him Abba Father? Yea, is it not, as well the duty, as the privilege of his children, his adopted children, in Christ Jesus, so to do?
But let us consider the subject a little more closely. When the Holy Ghost bids the Church be followers of God, as dear children; the Lord doth it, we may be sure, upon grounds of the most sure certainty. They are not only children, chosen of God before the foundation of the world, but dear children in Christ. And the scripture gives the most abundant proof of it. For, first: what higher proof can we have, than God the Father's giving them to his dear Son? One, in whom he declared himself well pleased, and his elect, in whom his soul delighteth. Had he not highly prized his children, would he have given them to Jesus, and thereby manifested such a testimony of his love ? Secondly. He commanded Christ, as Christ, to love them. Not that Christ needed other motives, more than his own personal love to the Church, to love the Church when he gave himself for her redemption. But God the Father, in commanding his dear Son to love his brother, Leviticus 25:25 , plainly testified his love of the Church. Thirdly, and yet more. God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, to the end, that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 . And, the ultimate cause of all is, that he might adopt the Church to himself; for so the Apostle declares in the first Chapter, fifth verse. And who shall say, what this adoption of the Church, as children in Jesus Christ, in the fullest sense of the word means ? Who shall explain the extent of the dedication of the Church to himself; or the extent of the love of God to the Church ? Are they not then children, yea dear children, concerning whom such things are said ? Nay, what dearness of affection must they stand in to God, when Jesus himself, speaking to the Father concerning them, saith: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that thou, hast sent me, and host loved them as thou hast loved me. John 17:23 .
And, in what an high sense, God's children, yea, God's dear children so loved, may be supposed to be followers of God; every part of Scripture testifies. As chosen, adopted, accepted, redeemed, justified, sanctified, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; obedient children, not fashioning themselves according to the former lusts, in their ignorance; but as he which hath called them is holy, so, are they holy, in all manner of conversation. They are in Christ; yea, one with Christ. In Him their holiness, their righteousness is found. 1 Peter 1:14-16 ; Isaiah 45:24 . And hence their confidence, their joy, their peace, the assurance of the present, and everlasting portion. Reader! behold the blessedness in being followers of God as dear children!
But, we must not stop here. We are said to walk in love as Christ also hath loved us, and given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet smelling savor! How gracious was it in the Holy Ghost, to blend this love of Christ with the love, of the Father, that by both, under the blessed Spirit's influence, the Church might find everything that is persuasive, to a life of faith, in God the Father's love, and Christ's redeeming grace, during the whole time-state of the Church. Surely no motives like these can be found to suppress, and keep under, all the idle, unprofitable, and sinful conversation, of our corrupt nature. And, where the Spirit's grace reigns in the heart, there will be the surest security to mortify both the words and deeds of the body, in living by him. But here I need not enlarge.
(14) Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
I pause over this verse. Who is the speaker but God the Spirit. And to whom doth the Lord speak but to the Church? The promise with which the verse ends, proves this. For to whom is Christ promised but to his Church, both Jew and Gentile ? And, in whatever sense we consider the call, either to awaken in the first act of regeneration, or to rouse from a sleepy, drowsy frame, in the after stages of life; the call is most blessed. For Christ, in both instances, and in every other, is the sole life, and light of his people. Let us consider it under both.
If we consider the words, as addressed to the unawakened, before the act of regeneration hath taken place; they are the sweet voice of God the Spirit, in calling the sinner, dead in trespasses and sins. For I hope the Reader need not be told, that the child of God, though given by the Father to the Son before all worlds, and by virtue of that gift preserved in Jesus Christ, before he is called; yet, until God the Spirit, by his sovereign power, hath called from darkness to light; he is as much in the Adam-nature, dead in trespasses and sins, as all the fallen race. He is unconscious of his high interest, neither in a capability of enjoying it. Reader! pause over the subject. And if the Lord in mercy hath wrought this saving change in your heart, will you not feel the blessedness of what Paul said to the Church of the Corinthians, when reminding them of their former state of unrenewed nature. And such (said he) were some of you! But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God! 1 Corinthians 6:11 .
There is not, perhaps, a subject upon earth equally affecting, as when a child of God, escaped the shipwreck of a fallen nature, got on shore, through sovereign grace; looks back, and beholds the dreadful gulph he had been taken from. He sees the multitudes stranded, and sinking, never more to rise. He beholds thousands, not more undeserving than himself; lost forever. He stands amazed at are wonders of distinguishing mercy. He feels constrained to lift an eye to the God of his salvation, and with the astonishment of the Apostle, he exclaims: Lord! how is it that thou hast manifested thyself to me, and not to the world ! John 14:22 .
If we consider the words of the Holy Ghost as addressed to those of the regenerate, which in time past were called out of darkness, but are now fallen into a sleepy frame; the promise is equally the same, for it is Christ only that can give light. We have a striking example of the kind, in the instance of the Church, as recorded Song of Solomon 5:2 . The Lord Jesus had just before been regaling his Church at his banquet, and feasting her with his love. But, from the body of sin she carried about with her, she soon after fell into such a cold, and lifeless state, to the love-calls of Jesus, that though she knew his voice, yet she pleaded the most frivolous excuses to keep away. Reader! it is our mercy, that as in the first instance of awakening grace, so in all the after manifestations of it, the revival begins with the Lord. We love him, because he first loved us. And it is our mercy also, to learn our nothingness out of Christ. One of old, well taught of God, thus expressed himself in the view: hold thou me up, and I shall be safe ! Psalms 119:117 . If for a moment only, the Lord withdraws the arm of our support, our faith finds no holdfast. It is, I confess, distressing, yea, very distressing, thus to learn, what poor creatures we are. Nevertheless, if nothing short of such humblings, will serve to convince our proud hearts, that it is in Christ alone our strength and righteousness are to be found; spiritual poverty, and leanness, are blessed things, which ultimately tend to endear Christ.
I must not dismiss the view of this sweet scripture, before that I have added one word more, for the comfort of the Lord's people, under such dead and lifeless frames, which bring on leanness in the soul. Painful, and shameful, as they are, yet let every child God, who hath known, and experienced, the regeneration of the soul, learn to make a right estimate between the sleepy dying frames of a believer, and the dead state of the unregenerate sinner, dead in trespasses and sins ! There is an immense difference; and the issue must be different. The one is the frailty of the saint; the other, the hopeless state of the sinner. And let the child of God, while mourning over his calamity, recollect, that in that mourning the soul is pining after Christ, though not enjoying Christ. Christ is still known, still desired. And sure I am, that where these sweet graces are in the soul, there Jesus dwells, however unconscious for the time the soul is of his presence. Holy mourners after Christ are promised to be comforted. Matthew 5:4 . And it is blessed, when in a sorrowful frame, Jesus is looked for; though more desirable when we hold him fast, in the Bethel visits of his manifestations, or galleries of his grace. Song of Solomon 7:5 .
(15) See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, (16) Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (17) Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. (18) And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; (19) Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; (20) Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; (21) ¶ Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
I think it important to remark, on what the Apostle saith, concerning Psalms, and Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, that he evidently means, all such, as are in the word of God. It is not to be supposed, that the Holy Ghost prohibits the use of all others. But it is to be supposed, that the Lord the Spirit draws a strong line of distinction, between the Psalms and Hymns, and Spiritual Songs of the inspired writings of Holy Scripture; and the uninspired songs, or hymns, of the most godly men whatever. We may speak to ourselves, and to one another in words, which tend to godly edification. But, when we speak to the Lord, we cannot be too careful to use the Lord's own words. Hosea 14:2 . By the Psalms, are meant those, which go under the general name of David's Psalms, though some of them were written by other persons. By Hymns, are meant, such as are also scriptural. Jesus sung an hymn, it is said, before he went to the garden. And we have many spiritual songs in the word of God. The Song of Moses, Deborah, Hannah, etc. are of this kind.
(22) Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. (23) For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. (24) Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. (25) Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (26) That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (27) That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (28) So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. (29) For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: (30) For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. (31) For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. (32) This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (33) Nevertheless let everyone of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
I comprise all that is here said into one view, for it leads but to one and the same subject: and the sweetest of all subjects it forms; namely, Christ's marriage with his Church. We cannot be sufficiently thankful to God the Holy Ghost for it, as it so fully explains the soul-comforting subject, and throws such a beautiful light over many parts of Scripture which refer to the same.
Who should have thought, but from what God the Holy Ghost hath said here, that the institution of the marriage in Eden, between our first Parents, was a shadow of an union, long before formed in substance, between Christ and his Church ? But Paul so saith. This is a great mystery, (saith he,) but I speak concerning Christ, and his Church! Who would have conceived, that when at the creation of the first woman, the Lord said it is not good for the man to be alone, I will make him an help meet for him; Genesis 2:18 . and the Lord formed the woman from one of his ribs: that this had a much higher, and a far more early allusion, to the God-man Christ Jesus; concerning whom, it was not good, for the promotion of Jehovah's designs in the glory of Christ, that he should be alone, but that a Church should be raised up for him, and taken from himself; which might be his Spouse, his Partner, in all communicable grace here, and glory hereafter? Who would have seen Christ in that Scripture, when Adam, beholding his wife, called her bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh; Genesis 2:23 . had not God the Holy Ghost un folded its spiritual meaning, when here he tells us, that we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones? Precious Jesus! it was thou, and not Adam, for he had no father of the earth to leave, which didst leave thy heavenly Father, to cleave to thy wife, the Church; and thy Church is now one flesh with thee, in thy human nature, forever. Genesis 2:24 .
Paul might well call this a mystery, yea, a great mystery, for all the shadows of it sink to nothing, in comparison of the substance. And, indeed, all the affections, and relations of life, between man and man, are less than nothing, when we look to our relationship in Christ. I would beg the Reader's indulgence yet a little further, to consider one or two points more, of this great mystery, and seek the teaching of the Lord, that we may have a right understanding on a subject so truly beautiful and interesting.
And here let us take up the matter from the beginning. It appears then, from several parts of the Holy Scripture, that the marriage of Christ and his Church, took place from everlasting. For there can be no period, either in time, or in eternity, to which a date can be fixed, so as to say, that then it began. When Christ was set up, as the Head, and Husband of his Church, the Church must have been set up with him. For there could not have been an head, without a body: neither an husband without a wife. For, on the supposition that Christ, as Christ, that is, God and man in one Person, might have been before all others; yet not in his relative characters. He could not have been the everlasting Father, before he had children neither the Head, without a body: neither the Husband, without a wife. So that Christ and his Church, as Husband, and wife, are from everlasting together. And to this agrees all the Scriptures. Jesus, under the character of wisdom saith, that he was set up from everlasting. And that then his delights were with the sons of men. Proverbs 8:31; Proverbs 8:31 . He saith also himself, as the Husband of his people: I will betroth thee unto me forever. Hosea 2:19 . And, the Prophet agrees to the same, when he saith to the Church: For thy Maker is thine husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name: and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of the whole earth shall he be called. Isaiah 54:5 .
Secondly. It appears equally, plain from the Scriptures of truth, that God, when he chose the Church in Christ, before the foundation of the world, chose her to be holy and without blame before him in love. Ephesians 1:4 . Hence it must follow, that when the Church was presented to Christ, she was as the King's daughter all glorious within. Psalms 45:13 . And, though she hath since fallen into poverty and wretchedness by sin; yet, when Christ married her , she was holy, and without blame before him in love. And such she is again when washed from her sins, in his blood. And such will she be, as this Chapter states, when Jesus comes to present her to himself, at the last day, a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but to be holy, and without blemish. Oh! who shall conceive the glories of that day, when Jesus shall bring home his church; and when all the members, being fully prepared, in body, soul and spirit, for the everlasting enjoyment of her Lord in glory, s hall enter with him, into the marriage-supper of the Lamb, and be forever with the Lord!
AMIDST numberless blessed things, for raising reflection of a sweet, and spiritual nature, contained in this Chapter; I would beg of God the Holy Ghost, for grace, to fix my mind upon God the Father's love, in that, the Church is called by him dear children! Oh! for grace to consider the blessedness of such a name, and the proof, that all his redeemed are, indeed, dear children in his Almighty view. For He hath chosen them in his dear Son, given them to his dear Son, and given his dear Son for them, and chosen them to himself, as his adopted children in Christ. Oh! who that is enabled by grace, to enter into an apprehension of the unspeakable, mercy contained in such a relationship, but must cry out, with the Apostle: Behold ! what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us, that we should be called sons of God!
In like manner would I beg of God the Holy Ghost, to fix my mind upon God the Son's love, who hath so loved his Church, as to give himself, an offering, and a sacrifice, to God, for a sweet smelling savor. Oh! thou dear Emanuel! let the rich savor of thy blood, which hath perfumed heaven forever, sweetly cleanse my soul, from the savor of all uncleanliness!
And no less would I beg of God the Holy Ghost, to fix my mind upon his own glorious Person, and Godhead; and that, in the fruit of the Spirit, in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth, I may be a follower of God, as one of his dear children, and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved me, and given himself for me ! Oh! for grace, to be walking in the light, as children of the light, and as the members of Christ's body, his flesh, and his bones. Shortly, Jesus will bring home his Church; and all the great purposes of his mystery, will be accomplished. His people shall then see him as he is, and know even as they are known !
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ephesians 5". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany