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Monday, November 19, 2012

The Secret Revealed # 4

This, then, is the tremendous situation which this Letter deals with and answers. We have already seen that this great spirit of schism had its beginning far back at some dateless point in heaven, dividing angelic hosts into two irreconcilable camps; later it involved the earth and has had a long, long history, gaining momentum in ever multiplying and intensifying wars. Then it invaded Christianity and the entail is grievous indeed. So, it is no small thing that this Letter deals with and to which it gives the answer.

We have also seen that the heart of this whole matter is reached and touched by one phrase which sums up the purpose of God at the end. That phrase is: "Unto a dispensation of the fullness of the times, to sum up (reunite) all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth; in Him, I say ..." (Ephesians 1:10). But, while we may embrace that as the end, beyond this age, our concern is for this age. Is there no way or hope for at least an approximation to that now? The Letter would surely leave us in our dilemma if it only pointed to a future age and had no answer to the present tragedy. But it has the answer. This answer is given by several means and ways. Perhaps the simplest, most direct, and most helpful way will be to let Paul himself be the answer. Seeing that the Apostle makes such strong and categorical claims as to his own personal revelation, it will be best to examine that revelation, and what it did in this man's life. We noted at the end of chapter four that the personal name of Jesus Christ is mentioned some forty times in this short letter, plus all the pronouns "He," "Him," "His", "Whom." This, in itself, is the strong clue. In his Letter to the Galatians Paul made the statement in these words: "An apostle (not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father ...)";  "Neither did I receive it from man ... but through revelation of Jesus Christ"; "It was the good pleasure of God... to reveal His Son in me" (Gal. 1:1, 12, 15, 16).

In the Letter to the Ephesians, which is our present consideration, the Apostle makes much of revelation; indeed, he bases all the "full knowledge" upon a "spirit of wisdom and revelation." Very well, then; the answer to this great question which is before us and which is the occasion of all this feverish discussion and deliberation in Christendom is found in the revelation and apprehension of God's Son. It is wholly a question as to whether or not God's Son has been really seen by an operation of the Holy Spirit.

The kind of seeing to which we refer is an epoch, an encounter, a revelation, a crisis. There is no power on this earth which could have changed that rabid, fanatical, bigoted Saul of Tarsus, a "Pharisee of the Pharisees," into the apostle of the Gentiles" (Romans 11:13); the fierce and intolerant persecutor and destroyer of everything and everybody related to Jesus of Nazareth into His greatest friend, advocate and devotee! Argument would not have done it. Neither persuasion nor persecution nor martyrdom would have effected it. But it was done! That "conversion" stood the test of all the persecutions, sufferings, and adversities possible to man for the rest of his life. Moreover, it provided the substance of the greatest of all apostolic ministries; so intrinsic as to have extended and exhausted all efforts, through many centuries, to fathom, explain and comprehend. What did it? Paul would answer, "It pleased God ... to reveal His Son in me"; or, in other words, "I have seen Jesus Christ." 

Right at the foundation and root of this man's life was a "seeing" which split his life in two and emancipated him from the tightly bound fetters of a mighty tradition. He said, "The God of the great creative fiat Who said Let light be, and there was light, shined into my heart, and in that act and light I saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). In that face Paul saw God's eternal purpose as to man. He saw God's method of realizing His purpose. He saw the vast significance of God's Son in creation and in the universe: and he saw - in that One - the Church as His Body.

We cannot make too much of this matter of revelation, illumination, seeing. It is basic in salvation (Acts 26:18). It is essential to effective ministry (2 Corinthians 4:6) and it is indispensable to full knowledge and full growth (Ephesians 1:17). Jesus made a tremendous amount of spiritual seeing, as a reading of John's Gospel will show. "Eyes" were - in His teaching - a criterion of life or death. Indeed, a fundamental and preeminent work of the Holy Spirit has to do with spiritual enlightenment and that supremely as to the significance of God's Son, Jesus Christ. It is all in the Scriptures, but still our eyes may be holden. Let us be quite categorical in stating that we can never see the Church until we have seen the Son of God, and we cannot truly see the Son of God without seeing the Church. This is the point in the incident at Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:16-18). Leave all your debate of whether Peter is the Rock on which the Church is built and light on the real key to what Jesus said: "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven." 'My Father in heaven revealed it'; revealed what? "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." What then? "Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Can anything built upon Peter, even converted Peter, withstand the power of hell or death? It is Who Jesus Christ is, revealed from heaven, that is foundational to the Church, and "other foundation can no man lay" (1 Corinthians 3:11).

"Ephesians" is tremendously contemporary, that is, up-to-date. In our time it is customary, practically instinctively, for Christians meeting for the first time to ask, or be asked, "what denomination, or mission, or society do you belong to?" Some such question is almost inevitable. The "Church" (?) is designated by a national, a doctrinal, a color, a "State", a "Free," a personal name (e.g. Wesley, Luther, Calvin, Mennonite, etc. etc.) title. If the Apostle Paul were to step into Christendom today and be asked such a question as to "association," membership, he would open his eyes wide and look with pained astonishment and say, "Oh, brother, I have seen Jesus, the Son of God, and in seeing Him I have seen the Church, and in that only true Church there is not this mix-up of nationalities, colors, names, social or cultural differences and distinctions." "In Christ Jesus ... there can be neither Greek nor Jew, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye are all one man in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).  " ... where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is ALL, and in ALL" (Col. 3:11). He would add, "there cannot be Paul, Apollos, Cephas, or any other name." The very least that such a seeing of Christ would do would be to revolutionize our phraseology, our manner of speaking.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 5)

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