In His Letter to the Ephesians (continued)
A Superlative Vessel and A Superlative Calling
Now this superlative vessel or instrument or people has a superlative or transcendent calling. The Jews had an earthly calling to serve an earthly purpose, a vocation of time on this earth. Many believe very strongly that they are yet to serve such a purpose. There are others, and among them outstanding Bible teachers, who believe that the day of the Jew is finished as in the economy of God, and that everything has been transferred to the Church now because of the Jew's failures. I am not going to argue that; that does not come into our consideration at all. The fact remains that the Jews were raised up to serve an earthly and temporal purpose in the economy of God. But this Church, eternally saved - eternally chosen, as the Apostle says, in Christ Jesus before the world as - this has a superlative calling to serve the purpose of God in Heaven. It is something timeless, superlative in calling, in vocation. It is a tremendous thing that is here.
We have often put it in this way, and indeed it is what the Letter to the Ephesians teaches - we have to touch on this in another way presently - that this world, as to its conduct, is influences by a whole spiritual hierarchy. Even men who have not a great deal of spiritual discernment, men whom we would hardly think of as Christian men, in the essential sense of being born-again children of God, have recognized this and admit it: that behind the believer of this world there is some sinister force, some evil power, some wicked intelligence. They may hesitate to name it, to call it satan, the devil, and so on, but the Bible just calls it that. Behind the course of this world's history, as we know it - behind the wars, the rivalries, the hatred, the bitterness, the cruelty, all the clash and clamor of interests, and everything else - there is an evil intelligence, a power at work, a whole system that is seeking to ruin the glory of God in His creation. And that whole system is here said to be in what is called "the heavenlies", that is, something above the earth; in the very air, if you like, in the very atmosphere. Sometimes you can sense it: sometimes you can almost "cut the atmosphere with a knife", as we say; sometimes you know there is something in the very air that is wicked, evil. You cannot just put it down to people; there is something behind the people, something about. it is very real - sometimes it seems almost tangible, you can almost smell it - something evil and wicked. It is that which is governing this world system and order.
Now what is here in this letter is this, that this Church, eternally conceived, foreknown, chosen, and brought into existence in its beginning on the day of Pentecost, and growing spiritually through the centuries since - this Church is to take the place of that evil government above the earth. It is to depose it and cast it out of its domain, and ITSELF take that place to be the influence that governs this world in the ages to come. That is the teaching here: a superlative calling, a superlative vocation, because of a superlative people in their very nature. There is something different about them from other people. That is the secret of the true Christian life - of the true ones in Christ: there is something about them that is different. To this world, Christians are a problem and a conundrum. You cannot put them into any earthly class. You cannot just pigeon-hole a Christian. Somehow or other, they elude you all the time. You cannot make them out.
Now, in this letter Paul speaks first of all of that superlative calling, and then he says that, because of the greatness of that calling, this Church must behave itself accordingly. "I ... beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called" (Ephesians 4:1). Conduct has to be adjusted to calling. Oh, that Christian people behaved correspondingly to their calling - to their great, eternal, heavenly vocation! But because of this calling, this destiny, this vocation, this position, that mighty evil hierarchy is set to its last ounce to destroy this vessel called the Church, and therefore there is an immense and terrible conflict going on in the air over this whole thing, and Christians meet it. The more you seek to live according to your calling, the more you realize how difficult it is, and what there is set against you. It is fierce and bitter spiritual conflict.
(continued with # 24 - (Superlative Resources)