By Charles H. Welch
To these who have seen that Acts 28 is the dispensational boundary, the
epistle to the Ephesians is like the Magna Carta is to English freedom. There,
the member of the Body of Christ learns the nature and sphere of this high
calling, and with this epistle as his standard he can freely range all
Scripture, receiving blessing and illumination from Law, or Prophets, from Psalm
or Gospel, yet without confusing the various callings or robbing others of their
own peculiar blessings. Ephesians is one of five
EPISTLES and under that heading the inter-relationship of these epistles has
been set out. Let us first of all see the structure of the epistle, and then
seek to discover some of its distinctive teaching. Upon examination, it will be
found to divide itself up into two main portions, chapters 1 to 3:13 being
mainly DOCTRINAL, chapters 4 to 6 being mainly
PRACTICAL, the whole pivoted as
it were upon the great central prayer, chapter 3:14-21.
This balance of subject matter we have set out in the form of a
tree, each branch bearing three fruits, and each branch corresponding with
another on the other side of the tree.
The epistle to the Ephesians has seven sections of Doctrine, seven
corresponding sections of Practice, and a central section devoted to Prayer that
leads up to ‘All the fullness of God’.
Doctrine (1:3 to 3:13).
Practice (4:1 to 6:20).
THE THREEFOLD CHARTER (1:3-14).
(a) The Will of the Father.
(b) The Work of the Son.
(c) The Witness of the Spirit.
THREEFOLD EXHORTATION (4:1-6).
(a) Walk worthy of calling.
(b) Forbear in love.
(c) Keep the unity.
THE THREEFOLD PRAYER (1:15-19).
(a) That ye may know.-Hope.
(b) That ye may know.-Inheritance.
(c) That ye may know.-Power.
THREEFOLD MEASURE (4:7-19).
(a) The gift of Christ.
(b) The fulness of Christ.
(c) The measure of every part.
THE THREEFOLD UNION (1:19 to 2:7).
(a) Quickened together.
(b) Raised together.
(c) Seated together.
THREEFOLD APPLICATION (4:20-32).
(a) Put off old man.
(b) Put on new man.
(c) Put away the lie.
THREE WORKS (2:8-10).
(a) Not of works.
(b) We are His work.
(c) Unto good works.
THREEFOLD WALK (5:1 to 6:9).
(a) Walk in love.
(b) Walk as light.
(c) Walk circumspectly.
THREEFOLD PEACE (2:11-19).
(a) Far off nigh.-Peace.
(b) Two made one.-Peace.
(c) He came and preached.-Peace.
THREEFOLD STAND (6:10- 13).
(a) Stand against Devil.
(b) Withstand evil day.
(c) Stand having ‘worked out’.
THREEFOLD UNION (2:19-22).
(a) Citizens together.
(b) Framed together.
(c) Builded together.
THREEFOLD EQUIPMENT (6:14-18).
(a) Girdle and breast-plate.
(b) Shoes and shield.
(c) Helmet and sword.
THREEFOLD EQUALITY (3:1-13).
(a) Heirs together.
(b) Members together.
(c) Partakers together.
THREEFOLD PRAYER (6:19,20).
(a) Open mouth.
(b) Speak boldly.
(c) As I ought.
The Central Prayer (3:14-21)
(a) That He
would grant strength.
(b) That ye may be able to
(c) That ye might be filled unto
all the fullness of God.
THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS
The Structure of the epistle as a whole
EPISTOLARY. a 1:1.
Grace and Peace.
B 1:3 to 2:7.
c 1:3-14. ALL
That He may give.
That you may know.
The hope, riches,
power of the Mystery.
e 1:19 to 2:7.
THE MIGHTY POWER INWROUGHT.
GOSPEL. New Creation and Walk.
(The shortest section of
THE NEW MAN. Once aliens.
FITLY FRAMED TOGETHER,
Apostles and Prophets,
PRISONER OF CHRIST JESUS.
‘The same body’.
‘All the fulness of God’.
PRISONER IN THE LORD.
‘There is one body’.
FITLY JOINED TOGETHER,
And adjusting ministry.
THE NEW MAN. Once aliens (see verse 18).
C 5:1 to 6:9.
PRACTICE. New Creation and Walk.
(The longest section
of the epistle).
B 6:10-20. e
6:10-13. THE MIGHTY POWER WORKED OUT.
ALL SPIRITUAL ARMOUR.
PRAYER FOR PAUL.
That utterance may be given.
That I may make known.
The mystery of the
EPISTOLARY. a 6:21,22.
Peace and grace.
We read in the R.V. at Ephesians 1:1 that ‘some very ancient authorities omit
at Ephesus’, and some have leaned to the
idea that the epistle to the Laodiceans, mentioned in Colossians 4:16 is the
epistle to the Ephesians. For a fuller examination of this question, the reader
is directed to an article in The Berean
Expositor, Vol. 35, page 169, where the matter is considered from several
angles, and the conclusion arrived at, is there thus stated.
‘The truth of the matter seems to be that the epistle was originally
addressed to the Ephesians, but that copies of it were circulated among the
churches, and that in some few of these copies a space had been left so that
the name might be filled in’.
The question of whether any particular epistle was or was not addressed to
Ephesians, Galatians, Romans or Corinthians is mainly of historic interest only,
and if that were the only thing that mattered we could no more take ‘Ephesians’
to ourselves than we could ‘Hebrews’. For no reader to-day lives in literal
‘Ephesus’. We therefore have to remember that a personal letter addressed to a
specific company, long passed away, remains a living message from the living
God, to all those whose dispensational position and characteristics are
comparable with the original recipients. As we, Gentile believers, today, are on
this side of Acts 28, we cannot be, if we wished to be, ‘wild olives’ grafted
contrary to nature into the olive tree of Israel. As we have believed the
testimony of the Lord’s prisoner, we have as much right to the epistle to the
Ephesians, as any believer living in Ephesus in the years A.D. 64-66.
It is one thing to be able to answer to the description ‘to the saints which
are at Ephesus’ but quite another ‘to the faithful in Christ Jesus’. By virtue
of redemption the believer is a ‘saint’ even though his walk may be far from
‘saintly’ (see 1 Corinthians where the Corinthians are called ‘saints’ yet were
rebuked for gross immorality). It is otherwise with the word ‘faithful’. No one
is ‘faithful’ by reason of redemption, faithfulness is an act of a responsible
agent, however much it may be the outcome of Divine grace. It is obvious that
pistos ‘faithful’ cannot be translated
simply by the word ‘believing’ in such passages as:
‘But God is faithful’
(1 Cor. 10:13).
‘But as God is true’ (2 Cor.
‘This is a faithful saying’ (1
‘Faithful high priest’ (Heb.
The word occurs in the Prison Epistles nine times as follows:
‘The faithful in Christ Jesus’ (Eph. 1:1).
‘Faithful minister’ (Eph. 6:21).
‘The ... faithful brethren’ (Col. 1:2).
‘A faithful minister’ (Col. 1:7).
‘A faithful minister’ (Col. 4:7).
‘A faithful ... brother’ (Col. 4:9).
‘Faithful men’. ‘Faithful saying’. ‘He abideth faithful’.
(2 Tim. 2:2,11,13).
‘The saints’ therefore are ‘the faithful’ and both are ‘in Christ Jesus’. The
double title suggests the two-foldedness of their calling. As saints they have
been redeemed, called, sanctified and assured of glory. This, however, does not
mean that because salvation is not of
works, it is not unto works. Those who
are thus called and sanctified are expected to respond. They rise and walk in
newness of life, and this is largely expressed in faithfulness. More than half
the passages cited from the Prison Epistles, are connected with service. It is
therefore not entirely to be unexpected, that some who are most certainly
believers in Christ, yet who are prevented from being ‘faithful’ by reason of
undispensational views, tradition and denominational bonds and practices, the
fear of men, the refusal to contemplate a lonely path, ‘the other things’ that
choke the Word, fail to ‘see’ the transcendent glory of the calling here
revealed, who say with the traditionalists who were before them ‘the old is
We have called Ephesians 1:3-14 ‘the charter of the Church’ because it
includes some of the distinct features that make this Church a unique company in
the Scriptures. One way in which the teaching of Ephesians 1:3-14 can be set
before the eye of the reader is to take the recurring word ‘according’ as the
pivot, and make a simple alternation as follows:
A Eph. 1:3.
B Eph. 1:4.
PURPOSE. ‘According as He chose us’.
A Eph. 1:5.
PREDESTINATION and SONSHIP.
B Eph. 1:5-8.
PURPOSE. ‘According to the good pleasure of
A Eph. 1:9-.
B Eph. 1:-9-10.
PURPOSE. ‘According to His good pleasure ‘.
A Eph. 1:11-.
PREDESTINATION and INHERITANCE.
B Eph. 1:11-14.
PURPOSE. ‘According to purpose ... will’.
This fourfold revelation of blessing beyond compare is interlinked with four
statements of purpose, immutable grace, irreversible will, unfaltering counsel,
and unalterable purpose.
- Eph. 1:4. ‘According as He hath chosen us in Him
before the foundation of the world’.
- Eph. 1:5. ‘According to the good pleasure of His
- Eph. 1:9. ‘According to His good pleasure which He
hath purposed in Himself’.
- Eph. 1:11. ‘According to the purpose of Him Who
worketh all things after the counsel of His own will’.
The word ‘according’ could be translated ‘in harmony with’, ‘in accord’.
Viewed externally, the promises of God appear to be baulked by evil, and
threatened with extinction, yet viewed from the Divine standpoint, there is
complete ‘accord’. He rules and overrules. We read in the Old Testament that
Jacob and his mother ‘believed God’, but they attempted to help God fulfil His
purposes by using the despicable means of fraud and deceit. What Jacob received
from Isaac by deceit, he never enjoyed. Isaac pronounced the words ‘plenty of
corn and wine’ (Gen. 27:28), but what a hollow mockery this promise must have
sounded when Jacob was obliged to send his sons down to Egypt to buy corn!
Nevertheless, in God’s own time and way, the original promise made to Jacob was
given freely and without constraint (Gen. 28:3,4).
While this alternation of ‘blessing’ and ‘purpose’ is useful, it does not
quite present the structure of this passage. Upon reading carefully, it will be
perceived that Ephesians 1:3-14 is punctuated three times with the refrain:
‘To the praise of the glory of His grace’ (Eph. 1:6).
‘To the praise of His glory’ (Eph. 1:12).
‘Unto the praise of His glory’ (Eph. 1:14).
On one occasion we remember likening this passage to a hymn of three verses
and a refrain, and made the suggestion that someone in the congregation might be
led to write such a hymn for our use. The next week a fellow believer and reader
of The Berean Expositor who was present
at the meeting, handed to us the following hymn, which is incorporated in the
hymn book used at the Chapel of the Opened Book and in many meetings along
similar lines up and down the country. The reader may like to see this, and if
he so chooses, to interrupt his reading by a song of praise.
Blessed be our God and Father,
Who such wondrous love hath shown,
Choosing us in Christ our Saviour
Ere the world was overthrown;
We shall see Him face to face,
Praise the glory of His grace.
Blessed be our Lord Christ Jesus,
God’s own well-beloved Son,
Who from sin and bondage frees us,
Shares the glories He has won;
With Him in the highest place,
Praise the glory of His grace.
Blessed be the Holy Spirit:
Love, joy, peace, and life, and light,
All the blessings we inherit
Reach us through the Spirit’s might;
Men of every clime and race
Praise the glory of His grace.
Threefold cord that nought can sever
Father’s love and Saviour’s grace,
Spirit’s might, in one endeavour
Saves our fallen human race,
And of sin leaves not a trace,
Praise the glory of His grace.
With this song of praise in our ears and hearts, we may the better appreciate
the structure of Ephesians 1:3-14 which is as follows:
Ephesians 1:3-14. All spiritual blessings
THE WILL OF THE FATHER.
3. Blessed be God.
b 3. The believer blessed -
4. The Father’s choice - Us.
d 4. The Father’s object -
e 4. The Father’s motive -
5. The Father’s predestination - Us
d 5. The Father’s object -
e 5. The Father’s motive -
6. Praise of glory of grace.
b 6. The believer accepted -
THE WORK OF THE SON.
C 1 7. Redemption
IN WHOM (en
D 1 7,8. According to riches of
C 2 8,9. Mystery of His will.
D 2 9. According to His good
C 3 10,11. Inheritance
IN WHOM (en
D 3 11. According to purpose (kata).
THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT.
E 12. The praise of His glory.
F 12. The prior hope.
f 13. Hearing. The word ...
g 13. Believing.
f 13. Seal. The Spirit ... our
g 14. Earnest.
F 14. The purchased possession.
E 14. The praise of His glory.
We have seen that the opening section of Ephesians is threefold, and deals
- The WILL of the Father (Eph. 1:3-6).
- The WORK of the Son (Eph. 1:7-11).
- The WITNESS of the Spirit (Eph.
Each department in this great passage is devoted to one phase of the truth
and together make up the charter of the Church. We go back in time to ‘before
the foundation of the world’ (Eph. 1:4), and on to the future day of redemption
(Eph. 1:14 with 4:30). This redemption comes under the heading ‘The Work of the
Son’ for He alone is the Mediator, He alone the Redeemer, for He alone offered
Himself without spot an offering and a sacrifice for sin. The Spirit’s seal and
earnest follows, and does not precede this great redemptive work; the Witness of
the Spirit combines together the ‘Promise’ given before age times (2 Tim. 1:8-10
and Eph. 1:4) and the ‘Redemption’ accomplished by Christ.
In Ephesians 1:3-6 we have ‘The Will of the Father’.
WHAT does the believer inherit? The
answer is: ‘All spiritual blessings’. WHERE
will this inheritance be enjoyed? The answer is: ‘In heavenly places’.
WHEN was this will made? The answer is: ‘Before
the foundation of the world’. WHO will
inherit? The answer is: those who receive ‘The adoption’.
WHY did the Father thus choose? The answer is:
‘The good pleasure of His will’.
While these five subdivisions of this mighty subject do not actually state
all that is written, it will be found that they will help us as we endeavour to
grasp something of the stupendous revelation which is here made to us. ‘All
‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ, Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in
Christ’ (Eph. 1:3).
Our blessings are not so much in mind in this opening passage as an
overwhelming sense of grace. ‘Blessed be God’. No petition rises to the Father,
no confession, no vows of reform, no statement of failure, but thanksgiving and
worship, full and free ascends unto the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
No blessing is sought or desired, ‘all blessings’ are acknowledged. The opening
words of this glorious revelation are NOT ‘May I be blessed’, but ‘May HE be
blessed.’ This note struck so early, should never be forgotten by the reader as
he follows his guide through chamber after chamber of unspeakable glory.
‘He hath blessed us’. The word
‘blessings’ eulogia is derived from the
verb ‘to bless’ eulogeo, which is a
compound of eu ‘well’ and
lego ‘to speak’. The reader will
recognize that this word is the origin of the English ‘eulogy’ a word meaning a
high form of praise. Once, the word translated ‘blessings’ in Ephesians 1:3 is
actually translated ‘fair speeches’ namely in Romans 16:18 which reveals the
primary meaning of the word. Eu is an
adverb, and is found in Ephesians 6:3: ‘That it may be
well with thee’. It is of frequent use as
a particle in combination with other words as is most familiar to the reader in
the word evangel or ‘gospel’ where the letter ‘u’ is pronounced ‘v’ in English.
Writing to the believer, before the great dispensational landmark of Acts 28,
Paul speaks of ‘the blessing of Abraham’ coming on the Gentiles, but Abraham is
never mentioned in the ‘Prison Epistles’, and no blessing of Abraham is
associated either with ‘heavenly places’ or ‘before the foundation of the
world’. There are some terms used in the Scriptures, which by their very nature,
and the place they occupy in the scheme of salvation, come over and over again
in the writings of the apostles. Such terms as ‘faith’, ‘redemption’
‘justification’ will come to the mind immediately, and are found in many of the
epistles whether written before or after Acts 28. No one moreover could deny the
use of the word ‘blessing’ when speaking of these great doctrines of salvation,
yet the fact remains that Romans 15:29, ‘the fulness of the blessing of the
gospel of Christ’, 1 Corinthians 10:16, ‘the cup of blessing which we bless’ and
Galatians 3:14, ‘the blessing of Abraham’ are the only other occurrences of the
word in Paul’s epistles. So far as the Prison Epistles are concerned, Ephesians
1:3 stands alone, the word ‘blessing’ meeting us in the very opening words of
the new revelation, and never again employed in any capacity by the apostle.
Terms such as ‘seated together’ and ‘blessing’ receive emphasis by their
glorious solitariness. They stand alone and are beyond compare.
These blessings of Ephesians 1:3 are moreover peculiar in this, that they are
‘all spiritual’. As the record stands in the A.V. ‘all spiritual blessings’ must
be considered as plural. The fact is, however, that in the original the word is
singular, and a literal rendering is ‘In (or with) every blessing (that is)
spiritual’. Where the Greek word pas
‘all’ is used of one it means ‘the whole’, ‘entire’ or ‘all the ...’ but if it
be used to cover several items, it means ‘every’. Green, in his handbook says
that where the adjective pas ‘all’ in the
singular number is written without the article ‘the’ it signifies ‘every’, but
with the article it means ‘the whole of’ the object which it qualifies. Thus
pasa polis means ‘every city’,
pasa he polis or
he pasa polis ‘the whole city’, and
he polis pasa would have a slightly
different meaning - either ‘the city, all of it’ or ‘the city in every part’.
The Church of the One Body is blessed ‘with every blessing that is
spiritual’. This is even wider in its scope than to say ‘all spiritual
blessings’ for if the number of the blessings were but few - say four, they
could be defined as ‘all spiritual’, whereas the mind reels as it endeavours to
grasp the fact that there is no blessing that comes under the category of
‘spiritual’ that is omitted. It is highly improbable that while we are in this
life we shall be able to appreciate a tithe of what is here so freely bestowed.
We turn our attention from this vision of unspeakable glory, to consider the
nature of the blessings thus bestowed. They are ‘spiritual’ Greek
Pneuma ‘spirit’ is derived from the idea
of ‘breath’ and goes back to the equivalent terms that are found in the Hebrew.
It would be a mistake, however, just here and now, to attempt a dissertation of
the origin and usage of pneuma for that
would take us so far afield that we should be in danger of forgetting our
immediate quest. We discover that pneumatikos
occurs three times in Ephesians.
‘All spiritual blessings’ (Eph. 1:3).
‘Hymns and spiritual songs’ (Eph. 5:19).
‘Spiritual wickedness’ (Eph. 6:12).
Without comparison or consideration we might have been tempted to think that
‘spiritual’ blessings, must mean any blessing that comes from God, that they
must be good, that they must refer to redemption and so on. But Ephesians 6:12
gives us pause, for there we read of ‘spiritual WICKEDNESSES’. It is manifestly
absurd to speak of ‘good’, ‘holy’ or ‘Divine’ wickedness, and therefore we
realize that the word spiritual has other and different connotations if it can
be used in the same epistle of both ‘blessings’ and ‘wickedness’. In Ephesians
6:12 ‘spiritual’ wickedness is set over against ‘flesh and blood’. It is evident
that the word ‘spiritual’ is the opposite of the word ‘corporeal’, and this is
what we find elsewhere. Paul writing in the epistle to the Romans, places the
idea of the ‘spiritual’ over against the ‘carnal’. ‘For we know that the law is
spiritual pneumatikos; but I am carnal
sarkinos’ (Rom. 7:14). ‘For if the
Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also
to minister unto them in carnal things’
(Rom. 15:27). In 1 Corinthians he not only contrasts spiritual with carnal, but
‘The natural man (psuchikos) ... but
he that is spiritual’ (1 Cor. 2:14,15).
‘It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural
body, and there is a spiritual body’ (1 Cor. 15:44).
The ‘carnal’ things of Romans 15:27 were good. We can learn from other
passages, that the apostle was very earnest in his endeavour to fulfil the
injunction received at Jerusalem that in the exercise of his ministry among the
Gentiles, he should remember the poor saints at Jerusalem, and quite a large
portion of the epistles to the Corinthians is occupied with this ‘collection’.
These ‘carnal’ things would include food and drink and clothing, and other
necessities of this life. The ‘natural’ is placed over against the spiritual,
for the spiritual is supernatural and is enjoyed on resurrection ground. In
complete contrast with the spiritual blessings of the Mystery, are the ‘carnal’
or ‘natural’ blessings of the law.
‘Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field
... blessed shall be thy basket and thy store ... The LORD shall command the
blessing upon thee in thy storehouses ... The LORD shall make thee plenteous
in goods ...’ (Deut. 28:3-13).
‘Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in His ways. For
thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be
well with thee. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine
house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table’ (Psa. 128:1-3).
How completely opposite all this is from the experience of the believer under
the dispensation of grace. Like Paul, he may know what it is to suffer need, to
be in want, to know what it is to be continually in trouble. He will have no
guarantee of a settled dwelling place, he has no promise of special protection
during periods of danger, his ‘basket and store’ may show impoverishment, while
the ungodly may appear to prosper. It would be foolish to assess a man’s
spiritual worth today by the size of his bank balance, or the weight of his
watch chain. Ephesians 1:3 does not speak of daily bread, of dwelling place, of
home comforts, or of business success, it visualizes a new plane, the spiritual,
which is on resurrection ground. The earnest of our inheritance is not a bunch
of grapes as it was when the spies returned with the grapes of Eshcol, neither
are our enemies men of flesh and blood, but spiritual foes.
The individual believer, like the rest of mankind, must needs find the means
of living and provide things honest in the sight of all men, but these come to
him as the blessings of the wilderness. They are no more ‘spiritual blessings’
than the ‘manna’ of the wilderness was the fruit of the land of promise. A
member of the One Body may be rich or poor, sick or well, in trouble or
tranquil, but such conditions have no reference to ‘every blessing that is
spiritual’ for two reasons.
- By reason of their nature.
- By reason of their sphere.
The second reason refers of course to the words ‘in heavenly places’ and this
we must now examine.
In heavenly places.
En tois epouraniois. We
have said elsewhere that this phrase is unique, that it occurs in the epistle to
the Ephesians and nowhere else. The unwary can easily be disturbed when they
read that in spite of what we have said,
epouranios occurs in
fifteen other places, outside of Ephesians, as widely distributed as Matthew,
John, 1 Corinthians, Philippians, 2 Timothy and Hebrews. We have been accused of
misleading God’s people and of misquoting the Scriptures, and yet, in spite of
all that has been or can be said we repeat that the phrase ‘in heavenly places’
en tois epouraniois
is unique, occurring nowhere else than in the epistle to the
The word ‘heavenly’
epouranios most certainly
occurs elsewhere, this we have never denied. We read in Matthew 18:35 of ‘My
heavenly Father’, and in John 3:12 of ‘heavenly
things’, in 1 Corinthians 15:40 of ‘celestial bodies’ and in Hebrews of those
who ‘tasted the heavenly gift’. No one, so far as our knowledge permits us to
say, has ever maintained that those Hebrews who had tasted of the heavenly gift,
had actually ascended up to heaven itself in order to taste it. Many things may
be heavenly in origin and in character that are not enjoyed ‘in heaven’.
First let us consider the implications of this term ‘in heavenly places’.
What justification is there for the added word ‘places’? The reader will agree
that the word ‘places’ answers the question ‘where?’ and our first consideration
must be to examine the Scriptures to see whether ‘this is so’.
Pou is an adverb of place, and is used
elliptically instead of the full expression
topou ‘in what
place’. We read in Colossians 3:1, ‘seek those things which are above
WHERE Christ sitteth on the right hand of God’.
Presently we shall see that ‘heavenly places’ is synonymous with ‘where Christ
sitteth on the right hand of God’, and that it is moreover allied with the word
ano ‘above’ which also is directly connected with these heavenly places. This
one passage, Colossians 3:1 establishes that Christ is represented as being some
WHERE, and if He is said to be seated at the
right hand of God in heavenly places in Ephesians, no more need be said on that
score. That such a statement is true, every reader is aware, for Ephesians
1:21,22 directs our wondering attention to the exalted position of Christ, Who
being raised from the dead was set ‘at His own right hand in the heavenly
places’. Now this sphere of exalted glory is further defined, it is said to be
‘Far above all principality and power’ (Eph. 1:21). The simple connective
is sufficient to take us to ‘where’ Christ sitteth at the right hand of God
(Col. 3:1), consequently the intensive
huperano employed by the apostle,
and translated ‘far above’ in Ephesians 1:21, cannot, certainly mean
less, it must mean
more than the simple
If we allow the apostle to speak for himself, we shall be left in no doubt as to
the nature of this exaltation. In Ephesians 4 we read:
‘He that descended is the same also that ascended
up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things’ (Eph. 4:10).
Let us notice one or two important features in this passage. ‘He ascended up’
anabaino literally means
‘to go up’ as one would a mountain (Matt. 5:1); or as the false shepherds who
‘climb up’ some other way (John 10:1). The Ascension is put in contrast with His
This also primarily means ‘to go down’ as rain descends (Matt. 7:25); or when
one descends a mountain (Matt. 17:9). Ephesians 4 tells us that His descent was
to ‘the lower parts’
katoteros and that His
ascent was ‘far above all heavens’, and lest we should be tempted for any reason
to set a limit to this ascent, we are further informed that this descent and
this ascent was in order that He may ‘fill all things’. Consequently, the
Saviour ascended to the highest conceivable position in glory.
Now this position described as
huperano, ‘far above all
heaven’ is found in Ephesians 1:21: ‘Far above all principality and power’. They
are coextensive in scope and meaning. In other parts of the New Testament we
read of this Ascension and one or two passages give further meaning and point to
the phrase we are examining ‘in heavenly places’. For when the apostle speaks of
the Ascension, when writing to the Hebrews, he says of Christ that He ‘is passed
into the heavens’, which the R.V. corrects to read ‘passed through the heavens’.
The word here is
dierchomai ‘passed through’ as Israel passed through the
Red Sea (1 Cor. 10:1) or as the proverbial camel is spoken of as going through
the eye of a needle (Matt. 19:24). Again, in Hebrews 7:26 Christ is said to have
been made ‘higher than the heavens’. We can therefore understand that the
in the compound
epouranios does really
indicate position and place - every reference so far considered points to that
one fact, this is ‘where’ Christ sits, this is ‘where’ all spiritual blessings
will be enjoyed.
We have not yet concluded our examination, however. Christ is said to be ‘in
heaven’ (Heb. 9:24) in the self-same epistle that says He ‘passed through the
heavens’. How can this be? The Hebrew reader acquainted with the first chapter
of Genesis would need no explanation. The heaven, which is ‘at the right hand of
God’ is the heaven of Genesis 1:1. The heavens through which Christ ‘passed’ and
above which He ascended are called the ‘firmament’ or ‘expansion’ in Genesis
1:6. This ‘heaven’ spread out during the ages, ‘as a curtain’ and ‘as a tent to
dwell in’ is to pass away. The Lord is far above this limited ‘heaven’ and so is
the sphere of blessing allotted to the Church of this dispensation. While there
are references in the Old Testament Scriptures as well as in the New Testament
which show that saints of old knew that there were ‘heavens’ beyond the limited
firmament of Genesis 1:6, no believer ever entertained a hope that the sphere of
his blessing was THERE where the exalted
Christ now sits ‘far above all heavens’, yet this is what we are now to learn.
The expression en tois epouraniois
occurs five times in Ephesians as follows:
A Eph. 1:3. ‘In heavenly places’.
Dispensation of fulness of times.
Mystery of His will.
The purpose in
B Eph. 1:20. ‘In heavenly places’.
Principality and power.
C Eph. 2:6. ‘In heavenly places’.
A Eph. 3:10. ‘In heavenly places’.
Dispensation of the grace of God.
The purpose of the
B Eph. 6:12. ‘In high places’ (A.V.)
Principality and power.
(heavenly places R.V.) Strong, power, might.
We will not attempt to examine these references here, but each one will come
before us in its turn, and will be given the attention that such a revelation of
grace demands. We have been concerned with one thing only in this study. To
establish two things:
- That ‘in heavenly places’ refers to a sphere, a
place, a condition that answers to the question ‘WHERE?’
- That ‘in heavenly places’ is unique, and is found
only in the Epistle to the Ephesians.
The Mystery, concerning which Ephesians was written, is the only calling of
believers that goes BACK so far, even to ‘before the foundation of the world’
(an expression that awaits examination), it is the only calling of believers
that goes UP to where Christ ascended when He passed through the heavens, when
He ascended up ‘far above all heavens’. If these two features alone do not make
the calling of the Church of the One Body UNIQUE,
language is emptied of its meaning, and our attempt to let the Scriptures speak
for themselves is so much waste of time. If ‘unique’ means ‘having no like or
equal; unmatched, unparalleled, unequalled, alone in its kind of excellence’,
these references to the phrase
en tois epouraniois do
most certainly indicate a sphere of blessing ‘unparalleled, unmatched,
unequalled’ in all the annals of grace or glory.
The unique blessings of the Church of the One Body are ‘according’ to an
elective purpose. Now, it is by no means true to say that ‘election’ or
‘predestination’ is a peculiarity of the dispensation of the Mystery, the very
distribution of these terms sufficiently disproves such a statement, and no one
has ever put such a proposition forward. Yet there is something unique in
Ephesians 1:4, that when once perceived, makes the calling of the Church of the
One Body, completely separate from that of any other company spoken of in the
Scriptures. The peculiarity of this calling does not rest on the word
‘foundation’ whatever that word shall ultimately prove to be, it rests on the
word ‘before’, this is the unique feature.
All other callings are related to a choice and a purpose that is dated ‘from’
or ‘since’ the foundation of the world, this calling of Ephesians alone, is
related to a choice and a purpose that goes back ‘before’ that era. As a certain
amount of doctrine must be built upon these two prepositions ‘before’ and
‘from’, some acquaintance with them seems called for.
‘before’ is a preposition that indicates time, place or preference.
- Before in respect of place:
‘The Judge standeth before the door’ (Jas. 5:9).
- Before in respect of time:
‘Judge nothing before the time’ (1 Cor. 4:5).
- Before in respect of preference:
‘He is before all things’ (Col. 1:17).
‘from’ is a preposition that indicates separation or origin. The primary use of
apo is with reference to place, but by a
recognized transition, it can be employed of the distance of time, of the
temporal terminus ‘from which’:
‘From that time Jesus began to preach’ (Matt.
‘From two years old and under’ (Matt. 2:16).
‘From the beginning of the world’ (Eph. 3:9).
The two expressions ‘from the foundation of the world’ and ‘before the
foundation of the world’ occur as follows:
FROM THE FOUNDATION
- With reference to the use of parables, in speaking of ‘the mysteries of
the kingdom of heaven’: ‘That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the
prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which
have been kept secret from the foundation of the world’ (Matt. 13:35).
- With reference to the separation of the nations at the second coming of
Christ: ‘Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed
of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the
world’ (Matt. 25:34).
- With reference to the character of those who killed the prophets sent to
them: ‘That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation
of the world, may be required of this generation’ (Luke 11:50).
- With reference to the typical character of the Sabbath: ‘As I have sworn
in My wrath, if they shall enter into My rest: although the works were
finished from the foundation of the world’ (Heb. 4:3).
- With reference to the character of the offering of Christ: ‘Nor yet that
He should offer Himself often ... for then must He often have suffered since
the foundation of the world’ (Heb. 9:25,26).
- ‘Every one whose name hath not been written from the foundation of the
world in the book of life of the Lamb that hath been slain’ (Rev. 13:8, R.V.
margin). ‘They whose name hath not been written in the book of life from the
foundation of the world’ (Rev. 17:8, R.V.).
- With reference to Christ alone:
- ‘Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world’ (John 17:24).
- ‘As of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was
foreordained before the foundation of the world’ (1 Pet. 1:19,20).
- With reference to the Redeemed:
‘Chosen us In Him before the foundation of the world’ (Eph. 1:4).
Comment upon the most obvious difference between these two sets of passages
is unnecessary. Let us, however, not miss one precious item of doctrine that is
revealed by comparing the three references to ‘before the foundation’ together.
In John 17:24 Christ was ‘loved’
agapao, in 1 Peter 1:19,20
He was ‘without blemish and without spot’
amomos. In Ephesians 1:4
the believer is said to have been chosen before the foundation of the world ‘in
love’ agape, to be ‘blameless’
Here, those who were chosen in Christ, were looked upon as being so closely
identified with Him, that the same terms are used. No wonder that as we proceed
we read of further identification with the Beloved that not only speaks of being
‘crucified together with Christ’, but ‘raised together’, ‘seated together’ and
ultimately to be ‘manifested together with Him in glory’. These two sets of
terms ‘before’ and ‘since’ indicate two distinct time periods. Further studies
will show that ‘before’ and ‘since’ the age times is a somewhat similar set of
terms, but before this we must arrive at some understanding of the meaning of
the word ‘foundation’.
Our thoughts naturally turn to such passages as Job 38:4 and Isaiah 48:13
where the Lord speaks of ‘laying the foundation of the earth’. Now, happily, we
have a New Testament quotation in Hebrews 1:10, where the word ‘foundation’ is
expressed by the word
themelion, but when we
turn to any of the passages where the words ‘before’ or ‘from’ the foundation of
the world occur,
themelion is not found, but instead the word
is employed. It is impossible to argue, that Paul for some peculiar reason would
not and did not employ the word
themelion, for it occurs
as the translation of the foundation of a temple in Ephesians 2:20, ‘the
foundation of the apostles and prophets’, and again in 1 Corinthians 3:10 and 2
Timothy 2:19. There must be, therefore, some good reason for choosing so
different a word as
This word has entered into our own language as a biological term -
metabolism, being the name given to the process in an organism or a living cell,
by which nutritive material is built up into living matter, and this process is
divided into (1) constructive metabolism,
which is called anabolism, by which
protoplasm is broken down into simpler substances to perform special functions;
and (2) destructive metabolism, which is
In its biological use,
It is strange, if the word means to place upon a foundation, that it should
have been adopted by scientists to indicate disruption. The verb
is used three times in the New Testament.
but not destroyed’ (2 Cor. 4:9), and
‘The accuser of our brethren is cast down’
indicate clearly the meaning of the word. In Hebrews 6:1 the word is used
the true word for a foundation, and there it appears to have its primitive
meaning ‘cast down’ but not in the sense of overthrowing, but of laying a
Examples can be adduced to show that in some passages of classical Greek, the
kataballo approximate to the translation of the A.V. and
speak of laying a foundation, but there are many references that can be brought
forward to prove exactly the opposite sense. Liddle and Scott in their Lexicon
give in explanation of
kataballo to throw down,
cast down, overthrow, lay down, to strike down, kill, to bring down to nothing,
to let fall, drop down, to cast off, reject, neglect, abandon and only in the
middle voice are examples given of laying down a foundation. So under
the meaning is divided between laying foundations and paying down installments,
and periodical attacks of illness and generally any disease, a cataract in the
eye. It will be seen that classical usage points in two ways, but with the
preponderant weight in favour of the translation ‘overthrow’.
The Septuagint version knows no such
diversity. This version comes down solid for the translation ‘overthrow’
and uses the verbal form of
Eph. 2:20) when it wishes to speak of laying a foundation, see for example
Joshua 6:26, 2 Chronicles 8:16 and Job 38:4. If the apostle wished to speak of
‘laying a foundation’ he had this word
themelioo right to hand. In
Ephesians 1:4, he evidently did not wish to speak of ‘laying’ a foundation, and
so chose by divine inspiration a word that consistently means in the Septuagint
‘overthrow’. It should be remembered, moreover, that there is no word for
‘foundation’ in Ephesians 1:4 apart from
katabole, the word under
It is possible to dig out from the writings of antiquity examples that go to
prove that katabole
kataballo are employed to mean ‘to lay a foundation’, and
similar examples can be found of most important words. When, however, the
believer learns that the Septuagint consistently uses
to mean ‘overthrow’ and employs
themelioo to mean ‘lay a
foundation’ the matter is settled. If the apostle, when writing to the
Ephesians, introduced a word with a new meaning from that which had been
associated with it in the sacred books of the Jews for over two centuries, then
it would have been necessary for him to have warned his readers of the change.
With these prefatory remarks, the reader is invited to consider the
scriptural meaning of the words of the apostle translated in the A.V., ‘before
the foundation of the world’.
occurs some thirty times in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament
Scriptures. It will strengthen the faith of many, and deepen the conviction of
most, if these references which contain the word
kataballo are quoted, but
to avoid occupying a disproportionate amount of space, verses will not be given
in full. We will also quote from the A.V. instead of giving translations of the
LXX version, except in those cases where the LXX has an entirely different text.
Those who have access to the LXX will not be hindered, and those who cannot
refer to it will be helped.
2 Samuel 20:15.
(LXX 2 Kings.) ‘Joab battered the wall, to
throw it down'.
2 Kings 3:19,25.
(LXX 4 Kings.) ‘Ye (they)
shall fell (felled) every good
2 Kings 6:5.
(LXX 4 Kings.) ‘As one was felling
2 Kings 19:7.
(LXX 4 Kings.) ‘I will cause him to fall
by the sword'.
2 Chron. 32:21.
‘They ... slew him there with the
‘Behold, He breaketh down, and it
cannot be built again'.
‘He teareth me in His wrath'.
‘He breaketh me with breach upon
(LXX 36.) ‘To cast down the poor
(LXX 72.) ‘Thou castedst them down
(LXX 105.) ‘To overthrow them in
‘She hath cast down many wounded'.
(LXX 8.) ‘A fool's mouth is his
‘Like a city that is broken down,
and without walls'.
‘Esebon and Eleale have cast down
thy trees' (LXX translation).
‘The lofty city, He layeth it low'.
‘I will cause them to fall ...
before their enemies’.
‘I will cast down your slain men
before your idols’.
‘Thy remnant shall fall by the
‘They shall destroy the walls of
Tyrus, and break down her towers’.
‘He shall cast down with his
swords’ (LXX translation).
‘He shall cast down thy walls’ (LXX
‘I will leave thee thrown into the
‘I will cause the sword to fall out
of his hand’.
‘Have cast him down upon the
mountains’ (LXX translation).
‘Will I cause thy multitude to fall’.
‘Thou shalt fall upon the mountains
‘He shall cast down many ten
This is rather a formidable list, and the verification of each reference is
no light task, yet we believe it is impossible for any reader not to be
impressed with the solidarity of its witness. Every single reference is for the
translation ‘overthrow’, not one is for the translation found in the A.V. of
Ephesians 1:4. This, however, is not all. If each reference be read in its
context, the references will be found to be those of battle, of siege, of
destruction, of judgment, which tilt the beam of the balances still further. If
still further we discover what Hebrew words have been translated by
in the LXX our evidence will be complete. These we will supply, for the benefit
of any who may not have the facilities to discover them.
|‘To cast down, to fall’ (LXX ref. 2 Sam. 20:15 and sixteen other
|‘To crush’ (LXX ref. Job. 12:14; Ezek. 26:4,12).
|‘To mar, corrupt or destroy’ (LXX ref. Ezek. 26:4).
|‘To leave, spread out’ (LXX ref. Ezek. 29:5; 31:12).
|‘To break down’ (LXX ref. Ezek. 26:9).
|‘To break forth’. (LXX ref. Job 16:14).
|‘To tear’ (LXX ref. Job 16:9).
Not a solitary Hebrew word is here that means to build, to lay a foundation,
to erect, but a variety of words all meaning destruction, spoiling, causing to
fall. This is ‘proof positive’, no reasoning is necessary except the most
elementary recognition of fact when it is presented. From every point of view,
the word katabole
in Ephesians 1:4 should be translated ‘overthrow’. The Church of the one Body
consequently is blessed with peculiar blessings, these blessings are to be
enjoyed in a peculiar sphere, and now we learn, they are according to a purpose
made and to a peculiar period.
Where, and what is intended by the words: ‘The overthrow of the world’? We
can do two things at this point. Summarily deal with this particular passage,
and condense all that we have to say into the closing paragraphs of this
article, or, seeing the importance of the subject, we can devote a complete
article to its examination. The reader is accordingly directed to articles
entitled TOHU AND BOHU, FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD,
CHERUBIM and ANGELS, for
other aspects of this great subject.
We cannot give an exposition of Ephesians in this analysis, but we believe
that the exhibition of these distinctive features, when supplemented by
reference to articles bearing such titles as BODY;
PRINCIPALITY AND POWER ;
EPISTLES ; DISPENSATION , and the like will make it abundantly clear that in the
epistle to the Ephesians we have a fundamental epistle for the Church of the