Category Archives: 1 TIMOTHY 3

The apostle gives guidance about elders and deacons, and instruction about the local assembly and its duty to declare and defend the truth.

1 TIMOTHY 3

SURVEY OF THE CHAPTER
Verses 1-13 of this chapter form the third charge that Timothy was to pass on to the assembly at Ephesus. In verse 1-7 there is instruction concerning elders, and in verses 8-13 instructions concerning deacons. Paul had told the elders of the assembly at Ephesus that there were problems ahead for them, and men would rise up speaking perverse things. Because of this they were to be watchful. See Acts 20:31. This came to pass, hence the need for the instructions given here, only five years later.
Verses 14-16 form the third charge to Timothy himself, as is seen from the words, “these things write I unto thee”, (bearing in mind “thee” is singular). Timothy was to be encouraged by the charge to him, and then pass on the instruction to the assembly at Ephesus where he was in fellowship.
The whole of the epistle is about behaviour in the house of God, verse 15. Since Paul was writing to Timothy in the context of the needs in the assembly at Ephesus, the house of God in this context is the local church.

STRUCTURE OF THE CHAPTER

(a) Verses 1-7 Qualifications of true elders.
(b) Verses 8-13 Qualifications of true deacons.
(c) Verses 14,15 Third charge to Timothy.
(d) Verse 16 Truth about Christ to be declared and defended.

God requires that His house be orderly, and elders are responsible to Him for this. They should remember that they must give account at the Judgement Seat of Christ, Hebrews 13:17.

Various words are used for elders in the New Testament:
(a) Elder: Here the emphasis is on spiritual maturity, even if younger in years. Age is not specified in the qualifications, although we should bear in mind the word literally means “an old man”, but some are more mature at a younger age than others. A believer may be physically old, but not be an elder, either because he has not long been saved; or he has not matured, even though saved quite a while; or he is disqualified because he cannot meet the requirements this passage lays down.
(b) Pastor: Here the emphasis is on shepherd-care and teaching. Paul had exhorted the Ephesian elders to “feed the flock of God”, Acts 20:28. The Lord Jesus exhorted Peter to “feed My sheep”, John 21:16.
(c) Bishop, or overseer: Here the emphasis is on watchfulness and supervision. The Greek word is “epi-skopos”, to look over. Paul exhorted the Ephesian elders to watch, for there were enemies of the flock at hand. It is significant that the blind man was given his sight in John 9, and then the Lord Jesus spoke of Himself as the Good Shepherd in chapter 10. The once-blind man was potentially a watchful shepherd. He had showed great courage in confronting the Pharisees in chapter 9, and these were the wolves that would not spare the flock, see John 10:12; Acts 20:28-31. True shepherds do not avoid issues, but confront them.

Reasons for the list of qualifications:
(a) The apostles would soon be gone, (symbolised by Paul saying goodbye to the elders, saying he would not see them again, Acts 20: 38). There needs to be written instruction in their absence. It is not true that because there are no apostles today we cannot have elders. The apostles did not produce elders, or even authorise them, for these are Divine operations. This list is from the Lord through the apostles, and guides us now that they are gone.
(b) Paul had warned of men speaking perverse things, so we may use this list of features found in true shepherds to expose these “hirelings”, John 10:12.
(c) It sets out goals for younger men, showing plainly the high standard which is required of those who lead the people of God. The features mentioned in these verses are not developed overnight.
(d) It prepares young sisters for the possibility that they will marry a brother who will one day be an elder. The work of an elder will demand time and effort, and the elder’s wife must be aware of that and be sympathetic to it.
(d) It is a constant reminder to current elders. Serious lapses will have to be rebuked, 5:20, so elders need to “take heed therefore unto yourselves”, as Paul said to the Ephesian elders. They are to be “examples to the flock”, 1 Peter 5:3, so their character and conduct should be without blame.

In New Testament times, there was a plurality of elders in one assembly, as will be seen from Acts 20:17; Titus 1:5. It was only at a later date, when Scripture was departed from, that men asserted themselves so as to be the sole leader of a church. A further departure was to have one bishop over several churches. Then came the concept of an archbishop, which certainly has no sanction in the Word of God. It is only those who think lightly of God’s word that will go along with this idea. We need to continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship; for that is God’s standard for us.
The following are quotations from well-known writers and historians of the English “Established Church”:

Dean Alford: “The bishops of the New Testament have officially nothing to do with our bishops”.
Dr J. B. Lightfoot: “In the apostolic writings “bishop” and “presbyter”, (that is, overseer and elder), are only different designations of one and the same office”.
Dr Ellicott spoke of “the undoubted historical fact of the development of what we call the episcopate in the early part of the second century”.
Dr Handley Moule: “the title “bishop” in the New Testament does not denote a minister ruling over other ministers; this is generally admitted: he is the bishop not of the shepherds but of the flock. One local church might have several bishops”
“By the close of the second century a definite episcopacy in the latter sense of the word appears”.
Dean Stanley: “nothing like modern episcopacy existed before the close of the first century”.
Dr Hatch: “the diocesan system, as it now exists, is the effect of a series of historical circumstances. It is impossible to defend every part of it as being primitive”.
In view of these quotations, the Church of England is self-condemned, and should be separated from.

How we meet is important, for our God is the God of order, for “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints”, 1 Corinthians 14:33. So all churches should be ordered the same; they will be if they are guided only by Scripture. “One-man-ministry” and “clergy and laity” are left-overs from the Old Testament temple system. That has vanished away, as Hebrews 8:13 makes clear. All who continue with it are not in the good of what God has introduced in Christ.

It might be asked, how are elders appointed? Consider the following:
1. The apostle addressed the elders of the assembly at Ephesus as those “over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers”, Acts 20:28.
2. The Spirit indicated who were elders through the apostles at first, for they “ordained them elders in every church”, Acts 14:23. The word “them” refers to the believers, not the apostles. It was the believers who needed elders, so the apostles pointed out what was there already.
3. Then through Timothy and Titus with apostolic authority, Titus 1:5. (Note elders, plural, in every church).
4. Now through this passage, and also Titus 1:6-9 and 1 Peter 5:1-4.
So there is no room for self-appointment, for that would make a man “he that climbeth up some other way”, John 10:1. Nor is it appointment by existing elders, although they should be alert for the signs of a true elder as they manifest themselves in younger men. It is certainly not a successional system, with sons taking over from fathers.
The assembly should recognise the evidence of the Spirit’s work in a man. If he matches verses1-7, and desires the work, he is an elder- even if some do not acknowledge him as such. If he does not have the qualifications, then he is not an elder, even if some do acknowledge him as such, and he meets with those who are elders. Believers are to obey true elders, but they have no obligation to obey those who clearly have not the qualifications. In such a situation, the true elders should rise to the occasion and deal with the matter.
With these things in mind, we come to the teaching of the apostle on this important matter:

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY CHAPTER 3, VERSES 1 TO 7:

3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
3:3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
3:4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
3:5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
3:6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
3:7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

(a) Verses 1-7 Qualifications of true elders.

3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

3:1 This is a true saying- that is, is in line with “the faith” that is to be declared and defended by the local assembly. A true saying will correspond to the standard represented by “the faith”, that is, the whole body of apostolic doctrine.
If a man desire- so it is not forced upon him. As the apostle Peter put it, “not by constraint, but willingly”, 1 Peter 5:2. Those who are unwilling will soon tire of the work, or will give up when difficult decisions have to be made.
The office of a bishop- this is all one word, meaning overseership. The word office suggests work, which it is, first and foremost. The word bishop is in the singular here because verses 1-7 describe a particular sort of man. These are not qualifications that are distributed amongst the elders, for each individual must have them all.
He desireth a good work- so it is not a rank but a work. Good work needs good men to do it, hence the personal qualities required are listed next in verses 2-7.

3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

3:2 A bishop then must be blameless- because it is a good work, it must not be spoiled. An elder leads by example, just as in Bible times a shepherd went ahead of the flock. The sheep keep their eye on him and are safe. The Lord acted as shepherd to David, and led him in the paths of righteousness, Psalm 23:3. The word blameless means not open to just censure. An elder should not be held to ransom by those who make base-less charges. All believers ought to be blameless, but the elders must be.
Sober- that is, not given to excesses of any kind. We are all exhorted to “gird up the loins of your mind, be sober”, 1 Peter 1:13, and this is especially true of elders.
Of good behaviour- as noticed, the true shepherd walks in front of flock, and leads by good example. The elders should not do what the flock should not do.
Given to hospitality- this is literally “love of strangers”, for public inns were often not suitable for believers in those times, as indeed today. It is increasingly difficult for believers to find suitable accommodation and food, so Christian travellers should be helped, even if they are unknown. “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers”, is the word in Hebrews 13:2. And the possibility is held out that the unknown believer given food and shelter might indeed be an angel in disguise. Just because the word literally means “love of strangers”, we should not think the help in view should be limited to those we do not know. Is it consistent to entertain strangers, but not the believers you know?
Apt to teach- coming, as it does, in between “entertain” and “not given to wine”, this can include teaching given at home, as well as in assembly. This is in private conversation. An example of this is found in Aquila and Priscilla, who taught Apollos the way of God more perfectly in their home, for we read that having heard Apollos preach in the synagogue, they “took him unto them”. This does not lend support to the idea of the assembly splitting up into house groups, which often is just an excuse to escape from assembly order. It is the norm for all the believers to come together into one place, 1 Corinthians 14:23.
Elders are expected to know the truth and teach it. The good elder/shepherd will cause the flock to “lie down in green pastures”. He will be a one to “feed you with knowledge and understanding”, Jeremiah 3:15, as a good pastor. An assembly should not need to import teachers from elsewhere all the time, although teachers are given to the whole church, so have their place, Ephesians 4:11.

3:3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

3:3 Not given to wine- wine-drinking is not prohibited, for Paul counsels it in 5:23 for Timothy where he advises him, (no doubt informed on the matter by Luke, the beloved physician), to “use a little wine”, for medicinal purposes. The Lord Jesus supplied wine at His first miracle in John 2 and manifested His glory thereby. So wine in itself is not evil, but it is the excessive drinking of it that is wrong.
We should remember that in ancient times the water supply was not always very safe, hence wine filled a need. The water supply is safe in the developed world, so we do not need to drink wine out of necessity Wine is not needed by those who are filled with the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18, for their satisfaction comes from spiritual things, and these cannot be produced by winedrinking.
No striker- violent behaviour is not becoming to those who follow the one who did no violence, Isaiah 53:9. Those with moral authority have no need to use force anyway. The true shepherd has a rod and a staff, to comfort the sheep, not to terrify them. The ancient shepherds used their rod to beat off those who would attack the sheep. In this way the sheep would be comforted by the courage of their shepherd, knowing he would defend them at all times. Paul warned the Ephesian elders that grievous wolves would come, and they must be alert to this possibility.
Not greedy of filthy lucre- this is base gain of any sort, not just financial. A man might be greedy for fame, influence, or money. If he is like that in character, he will have no time for caring for flock; he will be too busy with other things.
But patient- he must be this with all men personally, lest the world arrive at a false view of Christ. He must be patient, too, with saints when teaching them, for some are slow to learn. We see this illustrated in the “Good Shepherd” chapter, John 10. Having introduced the subject of the true shepherd of the sheep, the Pharisees did not understand. So we read, “Then said Jesus unto them again”, verse 7. He did not walk away because they did not grasp his meaning the first time.
Not a brawler- this would mean not just being aggressive physically, but with words. The true elder will be able to make truth known without being forceful.
Not covetous- covetousness not only breaks the tenth commandment, but it is contrary to the spirit of Christianity. So much so that Paul exhorts later in the epistle that we withdraw ourselves from those who suggest that gain is godliness, as it was in the law-age, 6:5. Then, wealth was a sign of God’s blessing. Christ “became poor”, and thereby gave character to the gospel-age, which is marked by God giving “His unspeakable gift”.

3:4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;

3:4 One that ruleth well his own house- this is the training ground for those who have a desire to care for the flock of God. An elder’s household should be orderly, as he superintends with kindly authority. Even a Persian king knew that “every man should bear rule in his own house”, Esther 1:22. The husband is to rule the house, and his wife is to “guide the house”, 5:14. They thus complement one another.
Having his children in subjection with all gravity- children should be controlled, not running wild. It is not in their best interests to be undisciplined and lawless, apart from the stain on the testimony.

3:5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

3:5 For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?- this is irresistible logic. If a comparable but lesser task is not done well, the greater task will not be given. Note the change from “rule” to “take care”. The Christian father has authority from God to command his children, but he has not that sort of authority over the saints of God. He is to “command and teach” the word of God, 4:11, but the command is from the Lord, not from him.

3:6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

3:6 Not a novice- this is one who is inexperienced, one to whom Christian things are new. This may be because he is newly saved, or because he has not advanced in the things of God very far. This does not mean that a person must have had every experience before he can function as an elder, for Scripture gives us experiences of others, and the other elders may have gone through that experience and so may pass on their wisdom about it.
Lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil- if the one “full of wisdom”, Lucifer himself, could fall, the novice certainly can. See Luke 18:14. The condemnation of the Devil is the judgement the Devil received because he exalted himself in pride. He was cast out of heaven.

3:7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

3:7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without- his conduct must not attract just criticism. Of course, unbelievers are quick to find fault, but they must not be able to rightly do so. We should be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among ye shine as lights in the world”, Philippians 2:15.
Lest he fall into the reproach and snare of the devil- verse 6 is what Devil received because of pride, now we are warned as to what an elder falls into if he is not without reproach. Satan fell from his place, the elder can fall from his. The reproach is the consequence in the eyes of others, and God, of failure in testimony towards unbelievers, or as the apostle describes them here, “them that are without”, that is, outside the assembly. The snare of the Devil is the trap the Devil lays, into which the elder falls. How important it is that an elder should “take heed” to himself, as well as to the flock, Acts 20:28.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY CHAPTER 3, VERSES 8 TO 13:

3:8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
3:9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
3:10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.
3:11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
3:12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
3:13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

(b) Verses 8-13 Qualifications of true deacons.

Godly order in the Father’s household is further maintained by deacons. The word deacon used here is “diakonos”, having the idea of a servant with emphasis on his work. Paul used this word in Romans 15:8 when he wrote, “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God”. So even though the deacon is a worker, he has a dignity about him, because the work he does is from God, as Christ’s was. The usual word for those who serve God is “doulos”, and all believers are this. We should not confuse these two ideas, and call ministers of the word, for instance, the “Servants of God”, as if that was a use of the word “doulos”, and in that way suggest that other believers do not serve God.

A deacon is a person formally appointed to perform a specific task. Some deacons are appointed by God, but others are appointed by believers, hence we need a list of qualifications to guide us.
Deacons in the New Testament churches of two sorts, as indicated in Acts 6.
(a) Those who “serve tables”, Acts 6:2, meaning, in this context, those who were administering help for needy widows. This is called in verse 1 “the daily ministration”. Those who provide the resources should be involved in the choice of this sort of deacon, as we read happened in Acts 6:3. There is other deacon service, of course, such as having dealing with the gifts the saints have given. We see this in 1 Corinthians 16:3, where there were those who were appointed to journey to the apostle with a gift for needy saints. The same sort of thing is referred to in 2 Corinthians 8:19.
The deacons chosen were all men, but Phoebe is called a deacon in Romans 16:1,2. Phoebe was a deaconess in the assembly at Cenchrea. The apostle commends her for her work of being a succourer of many. The word “succourer” has legal connections. It was a word used in Athens of those seeking the welfare of aliens who were without civic rights. And it was used amongst the Jews of wealthy patronesses, those who provide resources for the destitute. This was her work as a deaconess, and she discharged her responsibilities well, hence the commendation of the apostle.
(b) Those who minister the word. The reference in Acts 6:4 is to the apostles, for they ministered the word, and the word is “diaconia”, the work of a deacon. Those who minister the word are appointed by Christ Himself, for it is the Word of God that is dispensed. In this case, the qualifications enable the saints to recognise false teachers, for false teaching always manifests itself in false behaviour. “By their fruits ye shall know them”, see Matthew 7:15-20.
It is interesting to notice that the same qualifications are needed for a minister of material things as are needed for a minister of spiritual things. This indicates the high standards the Lord expects of those who serve him. Just because a believer is “only serving tables”, that is no excuse for laxity of character.

3:8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;

3:8 Likewise must the deacons be grave- as with elders, these are things the deacon must be. They must not be casual about their work for the Lord, but take it seriously.
Not double-tongued- it is vital that those who minister the word of God are consistent. They should not say one thing on the platform and another privately. Or one thing in one assembly and another thing elsewhere.
Not given to much wine- the work of God demands clear thinking. The same remarks as were made about verse 3 are applicable here.
Not greedy of filthy lucre- those who are deacons must not expect monetary reward. If they are entrusted with administering in connection with the saints’ money they must have no tendency to dishonesty.

3:9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.

3:9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience- this must be true of both sorts of deacon, as is seen in Stephen. Those who hold error in their hearts will sooner or later fail, to the harm of the testimony.

3:10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.

3:10 And let these also first be proved- that is, let their character be tested against the requirements listed here, before they are entrusted with the task. It is not a question of being given a probation period to see whether they are able to do the work. Those Divinely enabled will not need this, although of course they will get better as they continue to serve.
Then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless- the testing has found no cause for concern. Blameless is the description of those who have no disqualifying features that make them unfit for beginning to undertake the task.

3:11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.

3:11 Even so must their wives- the plural pronoun might include the wife of an elder as well.
Be grave- serious-minded, like their husbands, verse 2.
Not slanderers- speaking evil of others, when the husband is trying to speak well of the Lord. The two do not go together.
Sober- a different word to that used in verse 2. This word means to be vigilant, alert to anything in their lives which spoils Christian testimony.
Faithful in all things- loyal to the Lord, and loyal to their husbands. Their character must not undermine the work of their husbands.

3:12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

3:12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well- the same requirements as for elders, showing the high standard required of all. This shows the high value God puts on godly Christian households.

3:13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

3:13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well- they value the opportunity of serving the Lord and His people, and discharge their responsibilities faithfully.
Purchase to themselves a good degree- acquire a reputation for faithfulness and integrity. Needless to say “purchase” does not mean buy with money, for we learn from Acts 8:18-24 that spiritual things cannot be bought. The idea is of gaining a firm hold of something. A carpenter may have difficulty removing a rusty screw because he cannot get any purchase on it, meaning his screwdriver will not grip it. A good degree is a high level of beneficial influence in the assembly, which the deacon obtains because of the strong grasp of the truths of the faith he has acquired.
And great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus- because they have the confidence of God’s people, true deacons have moral authority to uphold Divine principles. This word is used of Peter and John when they appeared before the Jewish authorities in Acts 4:1-14. They perceived that “they had been with Jesus”, meaning they were recognised as the two disciples that had been in the Palace of the High Priest the night the Lord Jesus was arrested, John 18:15. Peter had not been bold then, but was afraid before the accusation of a servant-maid. But he was anything but afraid when he is confronted with the hierarchy of Israel, and this is what surprised them. The secret of their boldness was the fact that their faith was under-girded by the resurrection of Christ; this gave them certainty and assurance.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY CHAPTER 3, VERSES 14 AND 15:

3:14 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:
3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

(c) Verses 14,15 Third charge to Timothy.
His behaviour in the House of God.

3:14 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:

3:14 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly- so the epistle is a personal word to Timothy in the first instance, to encourage and authorise him in the assembly in Ephesus. The epistle sets out what Paul would say if present. This is a great blessing to us now, for we have no excuse for ignorance as to the mind of God.

3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself- this is guidance for Timothy as he acts for the apostle. This shows the importance the apostle attached to the things about which he writes. They are not a matter of indifference, to be lightly cast aside. Nor are they matters which may be delayed in their application. Some wish to translate the phrase “how thou oughtest to behave”, as “how one ought to behave”, making it more general, but the Authorised Version, as ever, is correct. We may learn from this charge to Timothy, but it is directed to him, as is seen from the use of the singular pronoun “thee” in the previous verse. Making it general obscures the sense. In any case the matters dealt with in the epistle are not comprehensive, (there is no mention of the Lord’s Supper, for instance), but consist of matters in connection with which the believers at Ephesus needed adjustment. So whilst the epistle is valuable to us, it is first of all an epistle to Timothy, and we learn from it when seen in that light.
In the house of God- Timothy was directed to remain with the assembly at Ephesus, 1:3, so this is what is referred to here. The first mention of a house is in Genesis 7:1, where God says to Noah, “come thou and thy house into the ark”, so by the “law of first mention” we learn that “house” means the people in the household. Here the reference is to the house of God, so those who are born again, and therefore have the life of God in their souls, make up the house or household of God.
We may say the following things about the House of God:
(a) It consists of those in the family of God, being born again. “As living stones, are built up a spiritual house”, 1 Peter 2:5.
(b) It is the place where God’s presence is known- when Jacob was on his journey to Padan-Aram, he came to a place he afterwards called “Bethel”, meaning “House of God”, for he came to realise because of the dream he had, that “surely the Lord is in this place…this is none other but the house of God”, Genesis 28:16,17.
(c) It is where heavenly things can be reached, for Jacob said, “this is the gate of heaven”.
(d) It is where God’s Son administers as Firstborn, “but Christ as a Son over His (God’s) house, whose house are we”, Hebrews 3:6.
(e) It is ideally the place where the Father’s will is carried out, as is suggested by the words, “how thou oughtest to behave”. As the Father of the house, God has every right to order and discipline His house, so that it functions for His honour.

Every true believer is in the good of these things, but it is God’s desire that believers should gather together as an assembly, so that the teaching of the apostles may be applied to their conduct. The believers at Ephesus were gathered as an assembly, and Timothy was to serve God amongst them. This is God’s ideal.

Which is the church of the living God- this is a further aspect of the house of God, the local assembly. If “house” speaks of relationship, with the implication that those in the house have the life of the Father, then “church of the Living God” speaks of their responsibility to express that life. If He is the living God, then He can be relied upon to support and strengthen His people to maintain something for Him in a locality.
The Greek word rendered church is made up of two parts, the first meaning “out of”, the second meaning “a calling”. The two together indicate a called out company of people, separated from men in general and called together for specific purposes. The gospel calls out from the world. Christ calls together to Himself.

The use of the word “church”
The word is used in four main senses in the New Testament, but not always in connection with Christians. A brief look, however, at the way the word is used in other senses will help us to see why the Holy Spirit took it up to use in relation to believers.

The word is used in the following ways:
1. By Stephen, Acts 7:38, of the nation of Israel when they were in the wilderness.
2. By the town-clerk of Ephesus, Acts19:39, of a company of unbelievers.
3. By the Lord Jesus and His apostles of all the Christians of this present age, Matthew 16:18, Colossians 1:18.
By the Lord Jesus and His apostles of the Christians who meet together in a particular locality, Matthew 18:17, 1 Corinthians 1:2.

The first two uses of the word will help us to understand the last use, which is our present subject. A reading of the passages mentioned above will clearly show that the word church is never used of a material building. It is also clear from 1 Corinthians 5:2,13, that it is possible to be a true believer, and therefore in the church which is Christ’s body, and yet not be in a local church, either because one has been put away from it, or has never joined.

Stephen’s use of the word church
Stephen uses the word church of the nation of Israel because they were a called-out company. They had been redeemed by the blood of the Passover lamb, as described in Exodus 12; “baptised” in the Red Sea, Exodus 14:21,22; 1 Corinthians 10:1,2; and brought to the foot of Mount Sinai to listen to God’s word, Exodus 19:17, 20:1. As such they give to us an illustration of those in this age who have been called out of the world by the Gospel; redeemed by the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God; baptised in water to signify, amongst other things, allegiance to Him; and gathered together as a church in a locality to bow to the authority of the word of God. This illustration should not be pressed too far, however, or else we shall arrive at the unscriptural notion that since infants crossed the Red Sea, then infant baptism is in order. The Scriptures are crystal clear that this is not the case.

The use of the word by the town clerk
The town clerk of Ephesus used the word in its secular sense in Acts 19:39, when he spoke of a “lawful assembly”. The townsfolk would understand that he meant by this a gathering of those possessing civic rights in a free Greek city, who were called together for the carrying out of public affairs. Strangers, and those deprived of citizenship, could not be part of such a called out company.

Characteristics of the members of a local church
When we put these two uses of the word together, and apply them to a local church, we can say it has the following characteristics:
Only believers. It is composed only of those who have responded to the call of God in the Gospel, and have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, just as a civic assembly did not include strangers.
Only those sound in doctrine and morals. It is composed only of those who have not forfeited their rights because of moral or doctrinal evil, just as a civic assembly did not consist of those who had been deprived of the rights of citizenship through misconduct.
Only those baptised. It is composed only of those who have been baptised by immersion in water after they were saved, just as all the people of Israel went through the Red Sea to get to the wilderness.
Only those subject to God’s Word. It is composed only of those who are prepared to submit to the authority of the Word of God, just as Israel gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai to hear God speaking to them, and then said “all that the Lord hath spoken we will do”, Exodus 19:8. Moses called that day “The day of the assembly”, Deuteronomy 9:10.
Only those who have joined. It is composed only of those who have been exercised in heart to join, just as the Israelites had been exercised in heart to sprinkle the blood, cross the sea, and gather at Sinai. When Paul went to Jerusalem, he “assayed to join himself to the disciples”, Acts 9:26. The word for join means to cement, or glue, and therefore indicates an act of commitment, not the start of a casual relationship.

Returning to our passage in 1 Timothy 3, we may draw some contrasts between the worshippers of the goddess Dian at Ephesus, and the worshippers of God.
The Ephesian idolators worshipped a meteorite, a lifeless stone, as an image of Diana sent down from Jupiter, Acts 19:35. Believers worship the Living God, who sent His Son down from heaven to express the life of God.
Their temple was erected on a raft of brushwood, to protect from earthquakes. The local assembly is built on the firm foundation of Christ Himself, 1 Corinthians 3:11.
The temple of Diana was a museum, to preserve the things of this world. The assembly preserves truth, that which pertains to the world above.
It also acted as a bank, where the treasures of earth were stored. The assembly has access to the one “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”, Colossians 2:3.
Again, the temple was a school for instruction in Satanic mysteries. The believers in the assembly are instructed in the “mystery of godliness”, verse 16.
The pillar and ground of the truth- a pillar is erected in testimony. Jacob had used a stone on which to place his pillow as he slept at Bethel. Having had a revelation from God, he erected that stone as a pillar, to mark the exact spot where the revelation was given. The assembly should give clear testimony that the truth of God is to be found there. The assembly itself is the pillar, to bear testimony to Divine truth in its entirety, even what the apostle called “the whole counsel of God”, Acts 20:27. The temple to Diana had 127 huge pillars, engraved with the names of the great men who had donated them. The assembly bears testimony to just one great man, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is in fact greater than any man could be, being the Son of God in flesh.
The ground of the truth means that the assembly should support and defend the truth of God. A local church exists to testify to the truth and to defend it. It is not an entertainment centre, or a debating society, but the place where God may make His presence felt, and where His interests are promoted.
The apostle could write to the Philippians and say, “I am set (“posted as a soldier”) for the defence of the gospel”, Philippians 1:17. And he exhorted them to “Stand fast in one spirit, striving together for the faith of the gospel”, 1:27.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY CHAPTER 3, VERSE 16:

3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

(d) Verse 16    Truth about Christ to be declared and defended.

Verse 15 speaks of the assembly as pillar (implying declaration) and ground (involving defence) of the truth. Now we learn of the One who is central to that truth. The apostle does not list everything about Christ, but only those things that have mystery attached to them. Hence he does not speak of Christ’s death, because the Old Testament sacrifices had given much insight into what would happen during His sacrificial death.

3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness- the conjunction “and” shows that 15 and 16 are linked. Two things should result from our declaration and defence of the truth. Firstly, a sense of its greatness, and secondly, a resulting attitude of devotion to God, which is what godliness is. The mysteries taught in Diana’s temple resulted in devotion to Satan.
Note that the apostle writes “is”, not “was”, for the mystery cannot be fully explained. The truth concerning the person of Christ is beyond our full comprehension, for “no man knoweth the Son, save the Father”, Matthew 11:27. His coming into manhood has introduced a mystery into His Person that was not there before. The Father can be revealed by the Son, but the Son cannot be revealed fully, even by the Father, since the Son is God and man in one indivisible person, and we cannot comprehend that with finite minds.
A mystery in New Testament terms is truth which is hidden from ungodly men, but revealed to believers, as far as may be made known. Godly persons will accept the truth, appreciate the immensity of it, and worship God as a result.
Note also that it is mystery in the singular, telling us that it is the whole range of truth about the Son which godliness accepts. That whole range is not told us in this verse, but nonetheless the matters listed are part of that body of truth relating to the Son of God.
We come now to six individual statements about Christ which, taken together, present to us something of the mystery attaching to His person, but which, despite their mystery, are to be declared and defended by believers in assembly fellowship. We shall find that the first three have to do with events as recorded in the gospels, whereas the second group of three have to do with matters dealt with in the epistles.
We need to be aware that many “translations” do not read as the Authorised Version reads, but substitute “he who”, or “that which”, or similar. There is no need to be impressed with these alternatives. At the end of the Book of the Revelation we are warned against taking away or adding to the Word of God, Revelation 22:18,19. If we do not know what the Word of God is at any one time, how are we to know whether we are adding or taking from it?
The answer to these questions is found in the words of the Lord Jesus to His disciples in the upper room. He said, ” I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come”, John 16:13. We learn several things from these words. First, the teaching given by the Lord Jesus was only a start; He would continue to reveal things after He had ascended back to heaven. (This is implied also in the first verse of the Book of Acts, “all that Jesus began both to do and teach”).
Second, the teaching given by the Holy Spirit would be teaching given by Christ equally, hence He says “I have many things to say”, even though it is the Holy Spirit who speaks. Third, and connected with the previous idea, just as the Lord Jesus spoke what He heard, so the Holy Spirit will do the same. The Lord said, “but He that sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of Him”, John 8:26. Both their testimonies are in harmony with the Divine Conversation. The triune God is agreed, and the Persons of that Godhead unfold truth in full harmony with one another. Fourth, the Lord gives assurance that the Holy Spirit will not speak “of Himself”, as if acting independently of the Godhead. The Lord did not do this, as He asserts in the words, “For I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me gave me a commandment. What I should say, and what I should speak”, John 12:49, and neither will the Holy Spirit.
We may be confident, therefore, that what was revealed to the writers of the New Testament, and which they wrote down under the inspiration of the Spirit, was truth about which the three Persons of the Godhead were agreed. Confident also, that all we need to know would be conveyed, for it would be “all truth”. We see now why it is so serious to tamper with such a revelation, for that is in effect saying that we know better that God.
This explains why the apostle John lived to be an old man, whilst his brother did not. He was allowed to remain, so that as the New Testament was written there would be an inspired apostle at hand to verify that it was Divine truth. He would also be able to point out and condemn the spurious gospels that were produced at that time, and which infidel men delight to revive and propagate in our day. With the passing of John, Divine Revelation came to an end, so “gospels” written after that were by definition un-apostolic and false.
We should also remember that, as to the transmission of the Scriptures, the Jews were masters of this, having faithfully copied the Old Testament, and they would be just as careful as they copied the New Testament writings. The fact that they had authentic manuscripts to copy is seen in the fact that Tertullian was able to speak, at around 200AD, of “apostolic churches…in which their own authentic writings are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally”. So in the year 200 the original wording was available.
From the time of the apostles there were always those who preserved the text carefully. Sadly, however, the truth has enemies, and there were those who sought to introduce errors into the word of God. So there are a few manuscripts that have alternative readings in 1 Timothy 3:16. The faithful have always rejected these however, and only those who hold the truth of the Deity of Christ lightly, (if they hold it at all), would embrace them. It is not without significance that just as the 1880’s were the years when the theory of evolution gained popularity, (with its attack on God as Creator), so 1881 was the year of the publication of the Revised Version of the Bible, (with its attack on God as Revealer). It is well-named, for it was not merely a fresh translation of the Bible, but the result of adopting the spurious readings that godly men had rejected down through the centuries. Of course the Devil is much too clever to introduce the errors all at once, but little by little over the years, he has continued with his attack on the integrity of Scripture by scores of new “versions”, until we have a situation today where those who would be considered orthodox are prepared to adopt spurious readings. And this they are prepared to do in regard to the verse we are considering now. This is to be condemned. How can the truth be declared and defended by the use of error?
God was manifest in flesh- the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are equally God, but only the Son has become flesh. As John puts it, “the Word was God…and the word was made flesh”, John 1:1,14. It is not simply that the Son was manifest in flesh, although that is true. It is also that Deity was manifest in flesh when the Son came. Each of the Persons of the Godhead are involved when one of them is engaged in a particular thing, so when the Son of God was manifest, it was the Godhead who were revealing themselves through Him. When Philip asked that they might be shown the Father, the Lord Jesus expressed surprise, saying, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet thou hast not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, ‘Shew us the Father'”. John 14:9. Note the use of ‘seen’ and ‘known’. To know Christ is to see the Father, so the “seeing” is not physical, but spiritual; insight into who the Father is may be gained by knowing the Son by faith. This is why it is no disadvantage not to have seen the Lord Jesus physically. It is the spiritual truth He manifest that matters. To see that spiritual truth is to see the Father, even though the Father is not visible to the human eye.

By “flesh” is meant the holy manhood of Christ, not just His body. He was a real man, being born of Mary, but He was ideal man, not being begotten of Joseph. Even though He was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and not by Joseph, He was still a real man. After all, God formed Adam of the dust of the ground at the beginning, yet he was still a real man, even though not the product of natural generation. Manhood derives from the fact that we are made in the image of God. This is what distinguished man from the animals at the beginning, and still does so. God deliberately made the land animals the same day as He made Adam, to highlight the difference between them.
The sin-principle is not integral to manhood, for Adam was a real man before he sinned. Sin dwells in the person, according to Romans 7:20, it is not an essential part of the person. So Christ is real man, yet He has no sin-principle. 1 Corinthians 15:50 distinguishes between flesh and blood, and corruption, showing that our corrupt nature can be considered apart from our flesh and blood condition. The Lord Jesus took part of flesh and blood in like manner to the children, by birth of a mother, and He knew what it was like to be a man, Hebrews 2:14. This is why He was able to die, and also is now able to sympathise with us, for He was “in all points tempted like as we, yet without sin”, Hebrews 4:15.
The word used of believers in Hebrews 2 is partakers, meaning they have a common, equal share in humanity, whereas Christ took part, which involves coming in from outside the condition, a testimony to His pre-existence before birth, and also the fact that His conception was of God, not man. He had spirit, soul, and body, as men do, (but without their sin-nature), and therefore was able to experience the full range of conditions that men face.
The apostle Paul is very careful to safeguard the truth of the sinlessness of Christ in Romans 8:3. First, he tells us He was sent “in the likeness of sinful flesh”, thus highlighting that He did not come in sinful flesh, but in the flesh which in us is sinful, but which in Him was pure and holy. Second, that He came “for sin”, in order to deal with it effectively at Calvary. He could not do this if He Himself were not sin-free. Third, He “condemned sin”, Romans 8:3, so by His life of holiness He condemned the sin of men, and His sufferings under the wrath of God exposed it in all its wickedness.

He needs to be real man to:
(a) Experience sufferings so as to equip Him to sympathise with us, Hebrews 2:10.
(b) To enable Him to die, Hebrews 2:14.
(c) To be able unite us to Himself in resurrection, Romans 6:3-9.
(d) To give men the opportunity of responding to Him as a man, John 5:27.
(e) To rise from the dead to reign, Acts 2:30.

The following things are involved in Him being manifest in flesh:
(a) He gained the attributes of man without losing the attributes of God. He who is in the form of God “took upon Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men”, Philippians 2:6,7.
(b) He united sinless manhood to His God-hood for ever. He spoke to Saul from heaven as Jesus of Nazareth, Acts 22:8. The “same Jesus” will come to earth again. Acts 1:11.
(c) He possesses two natures, yet remains one person. The Godhead sometimes says “We”, being three Persons. Christ never spoke like this. We should not think of Him acting sometimes as man, and sometimes as God. He is one undivided, glorious Person.
(d) He retained His Divine glory, but varied the way He manifested it. For instance, He turned water into wine, and thereby “manifested forth His glory”, John 2:11, and “His disciples believed on Him”. But He did it without outward show.
(e) He volunteered to not make use of His Divine attributes at times. For instance, He is Omniscient, but chooses not to know the time of His return to earth, Mark 13:32. He is Omnipresent, yet said of the death of Lazarus, “I was glad for your sakes that I was not there”, John 11:15. He is Omnipotent, yet was “wearied with His journey”, John 4:6. He is the “Living One”, yet He “was dead”, Revelation 1:18.
(f) He took the place of subjection to His Father that being a man involved. He will reaffirm this subjection at the end of time, 1 Corinthians 15:28.

Justified in Spirit.
There is a mystery about the Lord Jesus being manifest in flesh, for there are many things about it which are beyond us. Because that is so, wrong thoughts are entertained by men about it. In order to deal with these wrong thoughts, which cast doubt on His integrity and genuineness, He needed to be justified.

In Scripture, the word justify is used in two senses:
(a) To declare a person just, who was not just before- so of believers it is said, “being justified by faith, we have peace with God”, Romans 5:1. We who were sinners before, have now been declared righteous or just by God on the ground of the work of Christ at Calvary, we are “justified by His blood”, Romans 5:9.
(b) To declare a person just who is already just, but whose character is maligned- so David said of God, whose name he had caused to be blasphemed, “that Thou mightest be justified in Thy sayings”, Romans 3:4. By repenting, David justified or vindicated God for His judgement upon him.
So it is that the Lord Jesus needed to be protected from the slanders of men that would inevitably follow the fact that He was a real man, yet claimed to be God.

He needed vindication after His birth:
(a) For His mother was not married to Joseph before He was conceived. She did marry Joseph before He was born, so He was legally the son of Joseph, but He was not his biological son. (Incidentally, this shows that two persons are truly married as soon as they say their vows, for Mary was truly married to Joseph at the birth of Christ, but was still a virgin at that point).
(b) He was called “son of Mary”, Mark 6:3, which was a way of referring to someone whose father was unknown.
(c) Hebrew mothers were required to offer a sin offering after giving birth, because they had brought another sinner into the world. Mary obeyed this law and offered a sin offering. Does that mean her child was a sinner?
(d) Job asked, “how can he be clean who is born of a woman?”, Job 25:4. The Lord Jesus was born of a woman; is He clean?

But He was justified or vindicated by the Holy Spirit.
We find Mary and Joseph and the forty-day-old Jesus in the temple in Luke 2. In verse 25 we read of Simeon that “the Holy Spirit was upon him”. He is being given power for his ministry of testifying about the Lord Jesus. Then we read, “It was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit” this assures us of the truth of his message. Further, “He came by the Spirit into the temple”, so even his movements are guided of the Spirit. Like Philip in Acts 8, he was in the right place at the right time.
So it is that the Spirit vindicates Christ in the centre of the nation, in the temple courts, for we read of Simeon, “Then took he Him up in his arms”. This would normally be done by the Levitical priest, as he accepted the child in the name of the Lord, There is a hint here that this child will bring in a better order of worship. The Lord is represented by Simeon, however, and it is he who accepts the child as the firstborn of Mary, consecrated to the Lord, Exodus 13:12.
So it is that a Spirit-empowered man accepts this child on God’s behalf, thus signifying heaven’s approval of Him. Simeon’s words also confirm this approval, for he prays to God and says, “Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation”. In the Old Testament there are occasions when the word “yeshua” is used of God’s salvation, and this is the direct equivalent of the name “Jesus”. Salvation of every sort is so invested in Him that He Himself can not only be rightly named Jesus, but also be said to be the salvation. He will save men and women from their diseases during His life; from their sins by His death; He saves His people to the uttermost by His present ministry in heaven, and He will save the nation of Israel from their enemies by His return to earth to reign. But if He is not sinless, He Himself would need salvation.
Simeon goes on, “A light to lighten the Gentiles”. Light is the symbol of purity, and exposes evil, as is seen in the expression, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all”, 1 John 1:5. That light has shone in Christ, for “light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil”, John 3:19.
As a climax Simeon declares that the child he holds in his arms is “the glory of Thy people Israel”. This is remarkable, for the glory of God had not been seen since it had departed centuries before, in Ezekiel’s day, but now it has returned. Far from shaming the nation, He glorifies it, and thus His sinlessness is vindicated by the Spirit through Simeon.

He needed further vindication after His life in Nazareth.
Nazareth had a bad reputation, as was expressed by Nathaniel, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?”, John 1:46. Moreover, He seems to associate with those who were baptized of John in repentance, Luke 3:21. Is He repenting, too?
This time the Spirit vindicates Him directly, for after He had been baptized we read, “And the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him”, Luke 3:22. It was fitting that the Spirit should come in bodily shape, for Christ had come in a body. It was fitting that He was like a dove, because that bird is holy (being used for sacrifice); harmless, (Matthew 10:16); undefiled, (Song of Solomon 6:9); separate, (Psalm 55:6-8). The Lord Jesus is said to be “holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners, made higher than the heavens”, Hebrews 7:26, so the dove is the appropriate symbol of that.
Significantly, John the Baptist sees in the descent of the Holy Spirit the sign that this one is the Son of God, John 1:34, so it is God manifest in flesh that is justified by the Spirit.

There needs to be further vindication after His death on Calvary.
He had been crucified as if a criminal, had been rejected by the priesthood who were supposed to be in touch with God, and God had not intervened to save Him from the cross.
Accordingly, His public vindication was not long in coming. Of course He was personally vindicated by His resurrection for the dead, for He was raised by the glory of the Father, the glory of the Father demanding that such a person should not remain in the grave a moment longer than was necessary.
He was publicly vindicated by the Spirit at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit had come down on the disciples who were gathered together in Jerusalem. As a result, they had been enabled to speak in languages they had never learnt. Peter builds on this as he addresses the multitudes. He reminded the nation that Jesus of Nazareth had been approved of God by the miracles which God did by Him. Some of the rulers had said He did the miracles by the power of Satan, as a result the Lord did no more miracles amongst them, but prophesied that He would rise again from the dead after three days; this would be the greatest sign of all, and it had come to pass as He foretold.
Peter goes on to point out that His resurrection showed He was God’s Holy One, as indicated in the words of Psalm 16. Moreover, the coming of the Spirit showed He had ascended to heaven, the sign that what He was and did on earth was acceptable to God. So it was that at crucial stages of His earthly ministry the Lord Jesus was vindicated by God.

Seen of angels.

It might be useful at this point to gather up some of the things the Word of God says about angels:
1. They are created beings, Nehemiah 9:6, who rejoiced at the foundation of the earth, so were made before the earth was, Job 38:4-7.
2. They worship God, Nehemiah 9:6.
3. They excel in strength, Psalm 103:20.
4. They are holy, Matthew 25:31, good, 1 Samuel 29:8, and wise, 2 Samuel 14:20.
5. They learn from the church, Ephesians 3:10; 1 Corinthians 11:10.
6. They are used by God to assess, “this matter is by the decree of the watchers”, Daniel 4:17; to judge, “the reapers are the angels”, Matthew 13:39; to protect, “the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him”, Psalm 34:7; to provide, as with Elijah, 1 Kings 19:5-8.

The word used for “seen” in the expression “seen of angels” means “to gaze with wide-open eyes, as at something remarkable”. So as we read the occasions when the angels had dealings with the Lord Jesus during His earthly life, we may see matters which must have caused them wonderment.

His temptation in the wilderness, Mark 1:12,13.
His temptation came immediately after the word of approval had come from His Father in heaven. Mark’s Gospel emphasises His Servant-hood, and so we could think of this approval as His character reference, before He embarks on His public ministry. Whatever man’s reaction to His work may be, he goes into the work confident of His Father’s commendation. The very fact that He is found as a man, able to be tempted, must have caused the angels to wonder.

1. The wonder of His incarnation.
The Son of God has become man, and has lost nothing in the process, for He is still God’s Son. The angels had praised God at His birth. They had done this when the earth was founded, but now the foundation of something that will be eternal is being established, culminating in God’s word, “Behold, I make all things new”, Revelation 21:5.
We read that the Spirit driveth Him into the wilderness, showing that not only is the Father confident of His ability, but the Spirit is too. The word ‘driveth’ does not imply Christ is reluctant to go, but He will gain reputation by His victory over Satan, so He does not push Himself forward, for “He made Himself of no reputation”.

2. The wonder of His temptation.
“And He was there…tempted of Satan”, but “God cannot be tempted with evil”, James 1:13, so how can He, just announced as the Son of God, and therefore verily God, be tempted? This is bound up in the mystery of His person. He had taken real manhood, and real manhood can be tempted. But He overcomes as Jehovah’s perfect Servant, rebuking the Devil with the words, “Him only Thou shalt serve”. This was His attitude, for He would serve only God, and God cannot be served by sinful actions.

3. The wonder of His devotion.
The angels watched Adam fall in paradise, but this one stands, in the desert. Refusing to deviate from God’s will, and only acting as His Father directed. He was perfectly well able to turn stones into bread, but no word had come from His Father to do so, so He refused to do it. For “by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God shall man live”, and nothing has come out of the mouth of God to instruct Him to turn stones into bread.

4. The wonder of His subjection.
He makes no request for angel-protection, but trusts Himself, as a dependant man, to the protection of His Father. Mark tells us He was with the wild beasts, not the domestic animals that serve man, but the wild beasts that savage man. Not with the holy angels that serve God, but with beasts whose savagery shows that sin has come in.
It was the faith of Daniel that stopped the mouths of the lions, Hebrews 11:33, and God’s response to faith was to send an angel to effect this, Daniel 6:21. But it is only Christ who can silence the Devil, the roaring lion, 1 Peter 5:8. And this he did, but then the angels ministered to His after His triumph. Only heavenly beings are able to support Him at this time. They had refused to rebel at Lucifer’s fall, and can strengthen Him after His great struggle, in which He had refused to rebel too.

5. The wonder of His resolution.
Michael the archangel cannot rebuke Satan, Jude 9, but Christ can with the words, “Get thee hence, Satan”, Matthew 4:10.

6. The wonder of His self-humiliation.
He has taken a place “lower than the angels”, Hebrews 2:9, and as such they can support Him in His exhaustion after the conflict.  There is another instance of angel-ministry in Luke 22:43:
“There appeared an angel unto Him, strengthening Him”- the very appearance of one from the place where God’s will is done, would be enough to strengthen Him in spirit to continue to do God’s will, even though this meant Calvary.

7. The wonder of His prostration.
The sight of the Son of God, prostrate on the ground, in an agony, and with blood-like sweat, must have been a source of wonder to the angels.

We read in Matthew 26:53, “Thinkest thou that I cannot pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled?”

8. The wonder of His determination.
More than twelve legions of angels waited the call to defend Him, and the call never came! The reason? – “How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled?”

Preached unto the Gentiles.
This is the next expression the apostle gives us as he tells of the mystery of godliness. The idea of preaching unto the Gentiles is common-place to us today, but this was not always the case. The Jews were full of prejudice against the Gentiles, as is illustrated by the attitude of Jonah when he found that God was prepared to spare Nineveh instead of judging it.
We also see it illustrated by what happened when the Lord spoke of blessing for “Naaman the Syrian”, and the “widow of Sarepta, a city of Sidon”, as He preached in the synagogue in Nazareth. As a result, the Jews sought to kill Him, Luke 4:24-30.
The same sort of thing happened when Paul said that the Lord had sent him “far hence unto the Gentiles”, Acts 22:21,22. The Jews tried to kill him also.
So we can see that there was some mystery attached to the idea of preaching to the Gentiles, and the apostle explained what it was in Ephesians chapter 3:1-13, to which we now turn.

Survey of the passage.
In this section the apostle sets out the details relative to the mystery that he was responsible for explaining to believers. This mystery, or hitherto unknown truth, has to do with the relationship between believers who had been Jews, and believers who had been Gentiles.
It was revealed to Daniel in Daniel 9:24-27, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem unto the reign of the Messiah would be a period of 490 years. That period was divided into three very unequal blocks of time. The first block was of 49 years, and extended down to the prophecy of Malachi, with which the Old Testament closes. The second block, consisting of 434 years, extended until the cutting off of Messiah at Calvary. At this point there remained one 7 year period still to elapse. Unknown to Daniel, it was God’s plan to have another period of time between the death of the Messiah and the final seven years. This is the present age. In Ephesians chapter3 and Colossians 1:23-29, the apostle explains the mystery about this church age of grace in more detail.

Structure of the section.

Verses 1-4 The mystery unveiled to Paul.
 Verse 5 The mystery unknown by Old Testament saints.
 Verse 6  The mystery unfolded to New Testament saints.
 Verses 7-9  The mystery understood by the saints.
 Verses 10,11  The mystery understood by the angels.
 Verses 12,13  The mystery underpinning boldness and confidence.

Verses 1-4 The mystery unveiled to Paul.

3:1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,

By the expression “for this cause” the apostle means “for the sake of this”, and not simply “because”. In Acts 21:28,29 Paul was accused of taking Trophemus, (a believer from Ephesus), past the middle wall of partition in the temple at Jerusalem, and we read that “forthwith the doors were shut”, verse 30. From this point on in the Book of the Acts, the apostle was a prisoner. The charge the Jews brought against him was as a result of his statement that the Lord had sent him to the Gentiles, Acts 22:21. Soon after this comes the first mention of the phrase “Paul the prisoner”, Acts 23:18. Rome may have bound Paul with a chain, but really he was a prisoner belonging to Christ Jesus, the man who is risen from the dead and ascended in glory to heaven. Because Christ is risen, the ultimate prison house, the grave, has been destroyed. All lesser imprisonments now become bearable. Paul was prepared to suffer for the sake of the truth. We might well ask ourselves how much we are prepared to suffer for it? Or are we going to compromise in the face of opposition?

3:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

The sufferings Paul endured as he travelled amongst the Gentiles were only worthwhile, from a human standpoint, if the believers heard with interest the things he had to say to them.
A dispensation is the handling of household affairs as a trusted steward. The word as used here does not denote a period of time, but rather, the administration of Divine things during a particular period of time. So as the dispenser or administer of the benefits God had for His people in terms of instruction in His ways, Paul so served that what God had for them was duly passed on to them. So the grace or favour of God in this instance consisted of doctrine, and Paul was the one chosen to pass on that doctrine.

3:3,4 How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

In chapter 2 the apostle had likened the church to a temple, which was a habitation of God through the Spirit, 2:21,22. Now in those times there was, in connection with the heathen temples, (and Ephesus was famed for its temple to Diana), a body of doctrine that was known as the mysteries of the god. Revelation 2:24 calls these the deep things of Satan, things that were revealed, not to the common worshippers, but only to a favoured few. The mysteries were mysterious only to those not initiated into them. But to those who were thus initiated, they were fully revealed. These doctrines were imparted by a specially selected interpreter of the gods, called a hierophant. When they had been instructed into the secrets of their god, the initiates would be allowed in to his immediate presence as those who were “perfected”.
The Spirit of God lifts these concepts from their pagan setting, and sanctifies them to their proper use. Paul was the interpreter, and the saints, once instructed, would have perfect knowledge in those things imparted to the apostle. This is why he is able to describe believers as “perfect”, 1 Corinthians 2:6, for they have all been initiated into the mystery. Ananias said to Paul that “The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know His will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of His mouth. For thou shalt be a witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard”, Acts 22:14,15.
Note that he received these things by revelation, for he could not study the Old Testament scriptures and discover them, for they were not found there. As far as saints of old time were concerned, these truths were hidden, but now that the apostle has exercised his stewardship, they are made known to church saints.
The “few words” he speaks of would include the following:
1. The words of chapter 2, where he shows that the cross of Christ is the basis whereby Jew and Gentile may be brought together into unity.
2. The words of Galatians 3 where Gentiles are brought into blessing as heirs.
3. The words of 1 Corinthians 12 where Gentiles are shown to be part of the body of Christ, the church. See on verse 6. He is enabled to give a coherent explanation for the fact that Jew and Gentile are united in one body.

Verse 5 The mystery unknown by Old Testament saints:

3:5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

The word for ages originally meant a begetting, being derived from the word to become. The meaning was transferred from the people to the time in which they lived, inasmuch as a period of time is often described in terms of what happened to the people during it. Paul is emphasising the heavenly origin of these mysteries, and that they are unique to this particular age. The phrase “sons of men” reminds us that the truths in question were not handed down from father to son in Old Testament times.
The apostle makes it clear that when he had visited Jerusalem after his conversion, he had deliberately avoided contact with most of the apostles. See Galatians 1:15-24. Fourteen years after his conversion, however, he went up “by revelation”. Now this may simply mean that he went to Jerusalem because Christ revealed to him that it was His will that he should go. Or it could mean that he went up according to, or in connection with, the revelation that he had been given about the mystery, which it was now the time to pass on to his fellow apostles. So this may have been part of what he told them when he “communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles”, Galatians 2:1,2. If this is correct, then it shows how the holy apostles and prophets had the truth of the mystery revealed to them. It also shows that Paul’s conception of the gospel was of far greater scope that we may sometimes think, for it included insight into God’s ways with men. This also disposes of the notion that the apostle Peter did not understand the church. When he writes that Paul wrote things “hard to be understood”, 2 Peter3:16. it does not necessarily mean he found them hard to understand. It was “the unlearned and unstable” who were puzzled.
The order, “apostles and prophets” is significant, for it prevents us thinking that the prophets were those of Old Testament times. The prophets referred to here were the ones the church was built upon, as to its doctrine, 2:20. They were holy men, set apart to God’s interests, and not in the least inferior to the Old Testament “holy men of God” that Peter speaks about, 2 Peter 1:21.
Now that these hitherto unknown truths have been revealed, and also written down, we have no need for apostles and prophets. In connection with this, we should note the following:
1. The faith, or body of truth, has been once for all delivered to the saints, Jude 3 (margin), so that they may earnestly contend for it.
2. The Lord Jesus promised the apostles in the upper room that the Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth, John 16:13, and this promise has been fulfilled.
3. The apostle Paul was the one who “fulfilled the word of God”, Colossians 1:25. That is, the doctrines he instructed the saints in was the climax, the fully filling up, of the body of truth we need to know whilst we are down here. “that which is perfect” has come, 1 Corinthians 13:10.
4. When we get to heaven, fresh truths will be revealed, for we shall fully know as we are fully known, 1 Corinthians 13:12; but we do not need that knowledge yet, even if we could understand it.
5. We should not expect fresh revelations of doctrine today. Those who declare they have a fresh word from the Lord, however acquired, should be asked what it is. If it turns out to be in the Scriptures anyway, their claim is pointless. If it is something outside of Scripture, then they fall foul of the curse pronounced on those who add to the word of God, Revelation 22:18.

Verse 6 The mystery unfolded to New Testament saints:

3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel:

We come now to the substance of the mystery. At first sight it might seem to be insignificant, until we realise how far-reaching and different these truths are. Each of the three expressions has the idea of togetherness about it. So in effect the Gentiles are said to be fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the same body, and fellow-partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel.

Fellow-heirs
The apostle Paul had begun the epistle by describing the wealth God has given us in Christ. Using words and phrases such as adoption of children, (“sonship”); “redemption”; “obtained an inheritance”; “earnest of our inheritance”; “redemption of the purchased possession”, he is clearly speaking of the believer’s spiritual inheritance in heavenly places in language that was used of Israel’s earthly inheritance in Canaan.

Note the following contrasts, however:
1. Whereas their blessings depended on obedience to the law, as Moses made clear to them in Deuteronomy 28, ours are secured in Christ, by grace, verse 3.
2. The nation of Israel was chosen because of the fathers, Deuteronomy 7:8, whereas believers of this age are chosen “in Him”, that is, Christ, verse 4.
3. Israel were accepted if they kept the law, whereas believers are accepted “in the Beloved”, verse 6.
4. Israel were redeemed nationally by the Passover lamb, whereas we have redemption “through His blood”, verse 7.
5. Israel’s continuance in the inheritance depended on their obedience to God, and their success in driving out the enemy, whereas we are sure of the inheritance, for the Spirit within is earnest or pledge of it.

So those who formerly were Gentiles, now they have believed, come into the inheritance because they are heirs of God just as much as believers who formerly were Jews. Their relationship with these Jewish believers is not a one-sided one. The believing Gentiles have equal share with the one-time Jews, since they are all joint-heirs with Christ, Romans 8:17, and He does not discriminate between them.
In Old Testament times, Gentiles came into blessing by being joined to Israel, whereas at this present time Gentiles come into blessing by being joined unto Christ.

Fellow-members of the same body
The apostle Paul is the only one to use the figure of a human body and its head to illustrate the relation between Christ and the church. Now that He is risen from the dead and ascended, Christ has become head of the body, the church, Colossians 1:18. Every true believer of this present age is linked to the Head in heaven when he believes the gospel, for “he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit”, 1 Corinthians 6:17, and “He that established us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God”, 2 Corinthians 1:21.
The apostle builds upon this illustration in 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 4.

Fellow-partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel
In 2:12 we learn that the Gentiles had no claim on the covenants that God made with Israel. Those covenants were as follows:
1. The promise to give them the land of Canaan, the Abrahamic covenant, Genesis 12:1-3.
2. The promise of blessings if they obeyed His law, the Mosaic covenant, Deuteronomy 6:3.
3. The promise of a king to reign over them, the Davidic covenant, 2 Samuel 7:12-17.
4. The promise of restoration if they went away from Him, the Palestinian covenant, Deuteronomy 29 and30.
The Gentiles had no claim on any of these promises because they were “without Christ”, that is, apart from, cut off from any relationship with Israel’s Messiah. It is through the Christian gospel that they have arrived at their present happy position of having a share in the spiritual and heavenly blessings Christ secures and guarantees.

Verses 7-10 The mystery understood by the saints

3:7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power.

It was the apostle Paul who was entrusted with the ministry of unfolding these truths to the other apostles, and to the saints. He could not do so in his own strength, or by his own ability. He could not, for instance, rely on his expertise as a trained rabbi, for these truths were unknown to the rabbis. To discharge his stewardship in a spiritual manner he needed, not the skill of men, but the help of God in the form of grace. This would ensure that both he and his hearers and readers would be in a fit state to receive the truth available to them, and to respond suitably. The effectual working of Divine power is needed, because Satan is opposed to the progress of Divine truth. The power of God which He put forth to raise Christ from the dead, Ephesians 1:19,20, is put forth again, to thwart the Devil’s hindering tactics.

3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

The apostle is almost overwhelmed by the responsibility laid upon him. When it was a question of him being a sinner, he said he was chief, 1 Timothy 1:15, but now that he has been made an apostle by the glorified Christ, he is deeply humbled. So much so that he invents a word to describe his status- “leaster”. No doubt the thing which humbled him in this context was the exceptional character of the truth he was commissioned to make known. The rich truth about Christ, and in particular, His relationship with His people at the present time.
This truth was unsearchable, a word which literally means untraceable, untrackable. Paul was enabled to announce truths that it is impossible to either discover or understand with the unaided human mind, and which, moreover, were untraceable by Old Testament saints. Only the believer of this age, energised by the Spirit of God, can enter into the deep things of God, see 1 Corinthians 2:9-16.

3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

Not only do we need to have the truth revealed to us, we need to be enlightened as to how to handle the truth once we have got it. For it is to be worked out in fellowship with other believers, as is seen in the three-fold use of the word fellow in verse 6.
The mystery has been hid in God. It was not hidden in God’s word, but in His heart, ready to be disclosed at the moment of His choosing. That moment was when His Son had returned to heaven, His work on earth completely finished. Confusion will result if we try to read the church into the Old Testament. We must not confuse the church with Israel. It is interesting to notice that it is Matthew’s gospel, the gospel of the King, which alone records the prophecy of Christ about the church. Interesting also, that after this has been done in chapter 16, the next chapter records the transfiguration of Christ, which confirmed to Peter that the Old Testament prophecies about the kingdom were still valid, 2 Peter 1:16-19. The kingdom is not cancelled, nor has the church replaced it.
Through Jesus Christ all things had been created, including the ages of time, (for time is part of God’s creation). Now, as the Architect of the Ages, He chooses to tell His secret to His people.

Verses 10,11 The mystery understood by the angels

3:10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

The angels had desired to look into the things that the prophets wrote concerning the sufferings and glory of the Messiah, 1 Peter 1:10-12. Now they are able to plainly see the results of His sufferings. The wisdom of God is His complete insight into the true nature of things. In the present context, it has to do with His ways in this age.
The angels had witnessed the way that Eve had by-passed the authority of Adam, and accepted the authority of Satan. The church is that company which accepts the authority of Christ, and expresses it in obedience to His will. The angels take great interest in those who, despite the fact that Christ left the earth 2000 years ago, having been given insight by God into the true nature of things through Christ who is the wisdom of God, express that wisdom in obedience and love. For instance, the covered head and long hair of the sisters is an object lesson to the angels, for they thereby see Christian women acting contrary to the first woman, who failed to submit to Divine order with disastrous results. We should never underestimate the value of this testimony by the sisters, for they maintain this testimony “because of the angels”, 1 Corinthians 11:10.

3:11 According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

Not only is the mystery hid in God, and hid from ages and generations, but it has been His purpose eternally to bless Gentiles this way. It is not an emergency plan devised after Israel refused its Messiah and crucified Him. Rather, that rejection of Christ as their Messiah was foreknown, and part of the plan. They still bear the full burden of guilt for slaying Him, but He was “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” in the ultimate sense, Acts 2:23.

Verses 12,13 The mystery underpinning boldness and confidence

3:12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him.

Those who were initiated into the mysteries were allowed to approach into the immediate presence of the heathen idol, behind which lurked an evil spirit. The believer’s privilege is far purer and greater, even that of approaching the true God with boldness, and with confidence. Boldness is literally the “absence of fear in speaking”, and would refer to the fact that, instructed in apostolic doctrine, the believer is able to speak to God with intelligence. He also has confidence too, for the truth unfolded by the apostles serve to strengthen the believer’s faith, and assure him of the dignity of the privilege that is his. Heathen idol-worshippers were driven by fear and ignorance- how different is the attitude of the believer!

3:13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

Having set forth the truth about the mystery in the previous verses, the apostle is now in a position to appeal to them to be encouraged in the Christian pathway. They should not allow the fact that he went through tribulations and distress as he went about ministering, to make them think that what he taught was not of God. Far from being a sign of God’s disapproval, the trials of the apostle were occasioned in the main by Jewish opponents, who were angry at his emphasis on Gentiles coming into blessing. This blessing was a glorious thing, for it linked them to Christ in glory. Far from being downcast, therefore, because of the apostle’s sufferings, they should see in them a sign that present and coming glories were assured.
In the parallel passage to this, Colossians 1:23-29, the apostle rejoices in his sufferings for them. He knew from the outset that he would have to suffer for the sake of Christ, being told it a few days after his conversion, Acts 9:16. He knew also that the full complement of those sufferings had not been reached, for there was “that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ”. This does not mean, of course, that there was shortfall in the sufferings of Christ. The shortfall was with Paul, for he had not yet endured the full complement of sufferings which being associated with Christ entailed. He rejoiced also in the riches of the glory of the mystery, verse 27. And so should we rejoice, as we contemplate the glorious things God has done, and will yet do.

Believed on in the world.
Like the expression “preached among the Gentiles”, we might think this phrase to be common-place, until we reflect a little. (One of the things Satan does today, in many cases very successfully, is prevent believers reflecting or meditating. He makes sure that there is so much readily to hand to entertain, that they neglect to turn consciously from the world, and think exclusively upon Divine things. We need to heed the Lord’s words to the disciples, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile”, Mark 6:31).
We need to find out what is meant by the word “world” in this passage. There are four Greek words that are translated “world” in the New Testament. They are as follows:

1. Cosmos, the world of people with opinions and beliefs. This world is a system constructed by the god of this world. This world began in Genesis 3, when man listened to the Devil instead of listening to God, and from that point “walked according to the course of this world”, and was governed by “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience”, Ephesians 2:2. The disobedience that marked Adam and his wife at the beginning is reflected in their offspring, who are therefore children of disobedience. The world is in rebellion against God, and shows it by its thoughts and actions.
2. Oikoumene, the world as the land-surface where those people live. At the time of the birth of Christ, “there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed”, Luke 2:1.
3. Aion, the world as a period of time during which they live. It is said of the Lord Jesus that “once in the end of the world hath He appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Hebrews 9:26. The word “world” is here in the plural, and does not refer to “the end of the world” as men speak of it, but the end or goal of all the ages, whether past or future. The work of Christ at Calvary is the goal God was moving towards as He superintended the affairs of this world as it moved through time. Whatever He was working for in successive ages, each one with its own character, was given point and meaning, and brought to finality at Calvary.
4. Ge, the world as the whole planet on which they live. This word is usually translated country, or earth, or ground, or land, but once it is translated world, in Revelation 13:3, where we read, “And all the world wondered after the beast”.
The word Paul uses is cosmos. So Christ is preached in the world of men with opinions, ruled by Satan, who is its god; the world that continues in the pathway of disobedience first trodden by their first parents.
So we ask ourselves how it is that Paul can say, “believed on in the world”, especially since the Lord Jesus said of the world, “they believed not on Me”? John 16:9. The reason is that this is part of the mystery of godliness, and can only be explained as we take note of what the Lord Jesus, and the apostles, had to say on the subject.
When certain Greeks sought to see Jesus, the Lord did not respond to them directly, for direct contact with Gentiles was not appropriate at the time. The reason for this was that the Lord had to die, for through that there would be produced much fruit, of which the Greeks were a sample. There was another reason, too. The Lord had dealings with the nation of Israel during His ministry, just as God had dealings with them in Old Testament times. But things were going to change, and the world, consisting of Jew and Gentile, is going to be judged for what it is, so that a fresh start can be made with men, so it will be said, “there is neither Jew nor Greek”, Galatians 3:28. At the present time God is dealing with men as men, not men as Jews, or men as Gentiles.
So it is that the Lord says, “Now is the judgement of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me”, John 12:31,32. The world revealed its true character when it crucified the Son of God. Jew and Gentile combined in their hatred of Him. Calvary was this world’s crisis point, and it had no hesitation in taking its stand with the Devil in opposition to Christ and His claims. This is the situation now, hence the word is, “now is”. But then the Lord says, “now shall”. The prince of this world sealed his doom when he moved men to crucify the Son of God. And one day he will be cast into the Lake of Fire, Revelation 20:10. This is secured on the basis of Calvary. So by urging men on to crucify Christ, he sealed his own doom.
Meanwhile, he is allowed a certain amount of liberty, and one of the reasons for this it to give God’s people the opportunity to show they can overcome him, for this will be one of the signs that his power is broken. The apostle John wrote about those in the family of God who had made progress in Divine things, and he said, “I have written unto you young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one”, 1 John 2:14. So the secret of triumph over the wicked one is to allow the word of God to have its right place in our hearts. This was the way the Lord Jesus defeated Satan in the wilderness. He said, “It is written”, and the enemy was defeated. Satan had succeeded in drawing Eve away from a position of obedience to the Word of God, and she listened to Satan instead of God. This had been the beginning of “the world”, a system of things hostile to the Word of God. The Lord Jesus will not be drawn away, and nor should we be, if we wish to gain the victory over the enemy
When He was teaching His disciples in the upper room, the Lord Jesus constantly told them He was going away. One of the reasons why that was necessary was, as He said, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and righteousness, and judgement: of sin, because they believe not on Me: of righteousness because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more; of judgement, because the prince of this world is judged”, John 16:7-11.
So when the Spirit came, the world would be reproved. This would happen in a two-fold way:
(i) The actual coming of the Spirit, for that is the sign that Christ has been rejected.
(ii) By the preaching of the gospel, which reminds the world of the Christ it rejected. The gospel is preached by the power of “the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven”, 1 Peter 1:12, so the preaching and Pentecost are linked.
The Spirit of God is said to reprove. The word “reprove” has four sides to it:
1. It means to correct false ideas.
2. it means to convince men that the gospel is true with no possibility of counter-argument.
3. It means to condemn their false ideas by presenting that which is true.
4. It means to condemn the person with the false ideas, as being guilty of rejecting God’s thoughts. Men should respond to this reproving by repenting. Repentance involves accepting God’s thoughts, even though they contradict our own. So the opinions of men can be changed by the Spirit of God as He applies the Word of God. When men do listen to God, repent and believe the gospel, they move out from the world and into Christ.

Notice the specifics of this condemnation of the world. The Lord said, “He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement”. We need to be aware that the idea behind the word “of” is “concerning”, or else we might wonder at the idea of the Spirit reproving of righteousness. So the Spirit reproves concerning sin. The basis of this reproof is the fact that “they believe not on Me”. It is true that the Spirit convicts men of their personal sins, but He also convicts the world in general, (the world as a system), of the sin of not believing on Him when He was here. This is not to say that individual sins will not be judged, for they will, but the point here is the specific sin of unbelief. The Son of God has been on earth, has spoken as no-one else could, (for He spoke the words His Father spoke), and done miracles that no-one else had done, (for His miracles were acts of His own Divine will, in harmony with the Father), John 15:22-25. No wonder the Spirit reproves of the sin of unbelief!
But He also reproves concerning righteousness, because the Lord has gone away and is not seen on earth now. When He was here, the Lord Jesus was the upholder of Divine righteousness, and by this men were rebuked. Now that He has gone, the Spirit of God takes over the work, and reproves the unrighteousness of men as the gospel is preached.
He also reproves because of judgement. Not the judgement that will come upon individuals at the great white throne, if they remain unrepentant, (for then the Lord would have said “judgement to come”, as Paul did before Felix, Acts 24:25), but the judgement on the world as a whole because it persists in still siding with the Devil, the prince of this world. Those who remain under the influence of the prince of this world, who instigated the crucifixion of Christ, will share his judgement.
As a result of the Spirit’s reproving work, some men repent and believe, and are born again, becoming part of the family of God. This is itself a triumph for God. But He also triumphs as His children overcome the world in an ongoing way. For as John says in his first epistle, “whosoever is born of God overcometh the world. “And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith”. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that jesus is the Son of God?”, 1 John 5:4,5. Notice the present tense, as indicated by the “eth” on the end of the verb, for the overcoming is ongoing. They have initially rejected the world’s thoughts about Christ in favour of God’s thoughts, and now, guided by the Word of God, have no reason to change their mind. The victory that the Lord Jesus had as He walked on earth, (“I have overcome the world”, John 16:33), is now shared by those who believe in Him.
Notice, too, that the faith is in Jesus as the Son of God. That was the way He presented Himself when He was here, a man who claimed Deity. But the world rejected His claim, despite all the evidence. Yet John can speak, and Paul also, of those who believe on Him in the world. They are still in the world as to physical location, but they morally distance themselves from its thoughts and decisions.

Received up into glory.
We now come to the sixth phrase the apostle pens on the subject of the mystery of godliness, the truths that the godly believe, and which encourage them in godly thinking and acting. Things, too, that all still have an element of mystery about them. This last one is no exception, for we notice its position. The ascension of the Lord Jesus is referred to after the phrases “preached among the Gentiles”, and “believed on in the world”. Now of course the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven well before the gospel went out to the Gentiles, so there must be some significance in the position of this expression. And indeed there is, for the glorious truth is that those who are preached to, and as a result believe, are associated positionally with the ascension of the Lord Jesus, and one day will be associated actually. This is taught in the epistle to the Ephesians, and we need to notice what the apostle has to say about these matters there.
In Ephesians 1:15-23 the apostle tells us the three things he prayed for in relation to the Ephesian believers:
1. In verses 15-17, that they might know the ministry of the Spirit of God in His capacity as the One who imparts wisdom and understanding.
2. In verse 18, that they might know the way God had made them His inheritance.
3. In verses 19-23, that they might appreciate the power that God exerted to raise Christ from the dead, and lift Him up to the place of highest honour in heaven. Or to put it another way, to receive Him into glory.

1:15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,

Wherefore I also- as well as blessing God, he prays for the blessing of believers, that they might progress in Divine things. We should pray like this too. Our main object in this life should be to get on in heavenly things. Notice that neither here nor in 3:14-21 are we given the actual words of the apostle’s prayers. Rather, we are told the desires behind the prayers.
After I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus- this is not just their faith initially, but continually, for he addressed them in verse 1 as those who were faithful.
And love unto all the saints- this is a sign that they loved God, and were therefore true believers. The apostle John wrote, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth Him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of Him”, 1 John 5:1. He went on to write, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments”, verse 2. In other words, we love fellow-believers best when we keep God’s commands. We do not show love to them by compromising on the matter of Divine truth.

1:16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers- the apostle appreciated that believers are under constant threat from the world, the flesh and the Devil. They need to pray for themselves, and for others.

1:17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him:

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ- it is appropriate to speak of God in this way, since He has put forth His power as God to raise and exalt Christ, as the apostle will soon show. This title also indicates that the one through whom we know God is the one who is “our” Lord Jesus Christ by faith. This sort of God is the ground of our confidence as we pray.
The Father of glory- He is the source and maintainer of all that glorifies Himself. This being the case, the answer to this prayer will glorify God.
May give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him- Paul is not praying that they might receive the Spirit of God, for he has just written that they were sealed with the Holy Spirit when they believed, verse 13, and that sealing is effective until the day of redemption, when the Lord comes, verse 14. What he is praying is that they might know the Spirit in His capacity as the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, who delights to impart the knowledge of Christ in increasing measure to those He indwells. In the matter of knowing Christ, the Spirit of God is indispensable.

1:18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

The eyes of your understanding being enlightened- when film cameras were in use, light would enter the “eye”, or lens of the camera, and fall upon the sensitive film at the back, and would translate into an image of the object that had reflected the light. So here, the apostle is praying that the light of the knowledge of Christ might fall upon our understanding, so that an indelible impression would be formed of Him.
That ye may know what is the hope of His calling- this is the first thing the apostle wants us to know, and about which the Spirit will impart wisdom and understanding. It has to do with the prospects that open up to believers as a result of God calling them in the gospel. The whole of the truth of the epistle to the Ephesians really has to do with this hope.
And what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints- it was said of Israel that “the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance”, Deuteronomy 32:9. So it is also true that God has a rich and glorious heritage in His people, not because of what they are in themselves, but because of what He has made them in Christ. After all, verse 6 has spoken of them as being “accepted in the Beloved”. So everything that God the Father finds attractive about His Beloved Son is attributed to His people. No wonder that inheritance is glorious, for He is glorious. Paul desires that we appreciate something of the riches that God finds in Christ.

1:19 And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power,

And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power- not content with speaking of “His power”, or even “the greatness of His power”, he goes further, and speaks of “the exceeding greatness of His power”. The apostle uses three different words for power in this expression, to emphasise the immensity of the work that God performed when He raised and exalted Christ.
“Working” means energy, involving efficient operation.
“Power” means inherent power.
“Mighty” means superior force.
The phrase is literally “the energy of the strength of His might”, which is best understood by working backwards from the end. The might of God, His superior force, derives its effectiveness from the fact that it is what He possesses because He is God. It is not acquired power, but inherent, part of His very being. When that superior, inherent power is put forth, it is put forth with energy, for God does nothing half-heartedly.
When Job spoke of God’s creation he said, “Lo, these are parts of His ways: But how little a portion is heard of Him? But the thunder of His power, who shall understand?” Job 26:14. The resurrection and ascension of Christ is the greatest display of power there ever will be, and represents the thunder of God’s power. Whereas Job wondered whether anyone could understand it, Paul prays that the believers might indeed do so, once the eyes of their understanding were enlightened by the Spirit of God.

1:20 Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places,

Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead- this is His vindication after all the treatment He received at the hands of men. He was raised “from among” the dead. The resurrection of Christ introduces a new dimension into resurrection. The Jews were familiar with the idea of a resurrection of believers, leaving unbelievers in the grave, (for they correctly interpreted Daniel 12:2 like this). As He approached the cross, the Lord Jesus moved less publicly, lest He arouse the hostility of the authorities to such a point that they moved to arrest Him before His hour had come. So it is that He charged His disciples to “tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of Man were risen from the dead”, Mark 9:9. Now what puzzled the disciples was the preposition He had used in the phrase “risen from the dead”. It was the preposition “ek”, which literally means “out of”. It can either be translated like this, or as “out from among”, depending on the context. Now since the word dead is a plural noun, it means dead persons. Clearly therefore the phrase does not mean “out of dead persons”, but rather, “out from among dead persons”. This is what perplexed the disciples, for they were expecting all the just dead to rise at the same time, in accordance with their right understanding of Daniel 12:2, yet here was the resurrection of one just person, leaving other just persons in the grave.
This is a new concept, but it is one which marks God’s dealings with His people of this age, for Christ is “the first that should rise from (among) the dead”, Acts 26:23, implying that there are others who shall follow. As is also implied in the words, “Who is the beginning, the firstborn from (among) the dead; that in all things He might the pre-eminence”, Colossians 1:18.
And set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places- this is His exaltation after His self-humbling to come to earth. His own words were, “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted”, Luke 14:11. Isaiah had prophesied that “He shall be exalted, and extolled, and be very high”, Isaiah 52:13. In Hebrews 1:3 Christ sits Himself down at the right hand of God, (for this is the force of the verb “sat down” in the Middle Voice). Here He is made to sit by the power of God. The place of supreme power as the one administering for God, (for the right hand of the Father is the place of the Firstborn, the one charged with the task of administering for the Father). Not only has He been raised to the right hand of God, but “by the right hand of God”, Acts 2:33. This is the fact that gives character to the whole epistle, for the emphasis throughout is on the place Christ has in heaven, and the way in which believers are associated with Him there.

1:21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:

Far above all principality- a rank of angel indicating first place in the administering of God’s affairs. Now it is Christ who has the pre-eminence, Colossians 1:18.
And power- every angel with authority must give way now to the supreme authority of Christ. They must defer to the one who said, “All power (authority) is given unto Me in heaven and in earth”, Matthew 28:18.
And might- those who have been given immense ability to act are now subservient to the one who was crucified through weakness, 2 Corinthians 13:4. He was made lower than angels, (who are greater in power and might than men, 2 Peter 2:11), yet now, as man, is elevated higher than the greatest of them.
And dominion- He is Lord of all, and those who had dominion and lordship before, must now bow to Him. Not that they did not do this before He came to earth, but now they do it to Him as a man.
And every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come- not only is He set over angels, but He is set over men too, whatever their reputation, (for name is equivalent to reputation). Those who have reputation as sinners among sinners in this world, (the word is “age”), or those who will have reputation as saints among saints in the age to come, all must defer to Him, for His name (reputation) is above every name.

1:22 And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church,

And hath put all things under His feet- there is no higher place that Christ can go, so all things must be under Him; He is in total control, whatever men might think. Adam’s dominion only extended to sheep, oxen, birds and fish, Psalm 8:6-8, but there is no limit to Christ’s control. Even death itself shall give way to Him at last, 1 Corinthians 15:25,26, (notice the quotation from Psalm 8 in that passage).
And gave Him to be the head over all things to the church- as Head, He is in the place of authority, with none to contradict Him. The idea of headship first comes in reference to God, when David said, “Thou art exalted as head above all”, 1 Chronicles 29:11. Here, as man, Christ is given the title that belongs to God, a testimony to His Deity. Notice that the headship is over all things, and it is the church that recognises it. The world will know this in the age to come, but it is only believers who acknowledge Christ as head at the present time. He has been given to be head, for it is an honour bestowed upon Him by God the Father as recompense for the trials of earth, and in response to His self-humbling, Philippians 2:9.

1:23 Which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.

Which is His body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all- so His headship is not merely one of administration, as when we speak of “the head of a corporation”, who might be detached and inaccessible. Christ’s headship is like that which the head of the human body exercises over the rest of the body. As head, He in every way and in every particular is the one who makes things complete. And yet, such is the high dignity granted to the saints, they are said here to be His fulness. It is as if He is not complete without the church. Just as it was not good for man to be alone, so God made Adam a help, meet or suitable for him, so here, Christ’s joy would not be complete unless He had His people with Him.
So the headship of Christ is exercised from His place at God’s right hand. The question is, how is that relevant to believers? The answer is found in the next verses, as the apostle traces, not the exaltation of Christ now, but that of believers in association with Him. He had hinted at this in verse 19 when he wrote that the power that God used to raise Christ is “to usward who believe”. In other words, the same power that lifted Christ, lifts believers. Now this is not a reference to the future, for when it happened to Christ, in God’s mind and purpose it happened to believers. So it is that in 2:5-6 we are said to be quickened together with Christ, raised up together, and seated together in Him in heavenly places.

Ephesians chapter 2 continues the theme of the exaltation of Christ, but whereas in 1:19-23 it was the power of God as it was exercised in relation to Christ, lifting Him to supreme heights of glory, in 2:1-10 it is the power of God as it is exercised towards those who believe.
The passage may be divided into two sections, verses 1-10, and verses 11-22, and these sections may be thought of in relation to one another as follows:
(i) In verses 1-10, the emphasis is on dealing with the relationship of Jew and Gentile to God, whereas in the remaining verses it is the relationship of Jews and Gentiles to one another.
(ii) In both sections there is a change, for by the time we reach verse ten, those who believe from both Jew and Gentile have come into the good of God’s salvation. And in the second half, those who believe, whether Jew or Gentile before, are brought into a right relationship with one another.
(iii) In the first section the emphasis is on the similarities between Jewish sinners and Gentile sinners. In the second section the differences between each group are stressed.

(a) Verses 1-3 The degradation of the sinner

We shall find in these verses that man is dead, deceived, disobedient, depraved, and doomed. Verse 4, however, will begin with the words, “But God”, and will show that He has the answer to man’s condition.

2:1 And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

And you hath He quickened- these words are in italics in the Authorised Version, having been supplied from verse 5 to give the sense. Christ was for three days and nights dead in a grave, but was raised from the dead by God, 1:20. Furthermore, God elevated Him to His own right hand, far above all angelic beings. Now God in mercy turns to deal with the condition of sinners, and, wonderfully, determines to link those who believe with His Son, so that they too are raised and elevated.
Who were dead in trespasses and sins- Christ was dead literally, but sinners are dead morally. Trespasses are false steps, blunders, acts that are contrary to Divine Government. Sins are a missing of the mark, a falling short of the glory of God, and an offence to the Divine Nature.
God had plainly warned Adam that the day he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die, Genesis 2:17. Although Adam lived to be 930 years old, he nonetheless died morally the day he sinned, for he was cut off from the life of God, and so was dead.
The idea of death is used in four ways in Scripture, as follows:
1. There is moral death, the separation of the sinner from communion with God. The apostle describes it as being “alienated from the life of God”, Ephesians 4:18.
2. There is physical death, the separation of the spirit of a man from his body, James 2:26.
3. There is carnal death, the separation of the believer from the enjoyment of spiritual things, in accordance with the words of Romans 8:13, “for if ye live after the flesh ye shall die”. In other words, just as the prodigal son was said by his father to have been whilst he was in the far country, separated from the joys of the father’s house, Luke 15:24, so the believer, for as long as he lives carnally, is not able to enjoy spiritual communion with his Father, and in this very precise and restricted sense, is said to be dead. Of course the true believer, whether carnal or spiritual, is eternally secure, because his salvation does not depend on him but on Christ. Nonetheless he can be dead to the joys of the spiritual life.
4. There is also, for the unrepentant sinner, eternal death, for the solemn words of Revelation 20:16 are, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire”, and in 21:8 we read, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerors, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death”.

The preposition “in” is Dative, and has the sense of “through”, or “in respect of”. So the trespasses and sins showed up the fact that man is dead to God. If he lived to God he would not habitually sin. It is clear from Genesis 3 that even as a sinner Adam could interact with God. He was in a state of unbelief, but that did not mean that he could not repent of that position, and start believing. Man believes with the same faculty as he disbelieves. Some teach that man is totally depraved, in the sense that he cannot respond to God at all. They say that man must be totally cast upon the mercy of God. But if he cannot respond in faith, neither can he cast himself on God. Faced with this dilemma, some say that man must be born again before he can believe. But God does not bestow eternal life on unbelieving sinners. When Nicodemus was confronted with the idea that he must be born again, he asked, (and remember he was dead in trespasses and sins when he asked the question), “How can these things be”? The force of this question is, “How can these things become my experience?” He saw clearly that the new birth was entirely of God, so how did it become a reality? The answer soon came to him, that it was “whosoever believeth in Him” that has eternal life. Faith in a crucified Saviour is the way eternal life is received; and to receive eternal life is to be born of God.

2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

Wherein in time past- the apostle will now show what being in trespasses and sins involves, hence the word “wherein”, or “in which condition”. Note the reference to “time past”, and then in verse 4, “but God”, and then “in the ages to come”, in verse 7.
Ye walked according to the course of this world- although dead to God, we were very much alive to the world. The word for world is “cosmos”, an organised system. We might think the world to be chaotic, and in one sense it is, but in another it is organised around the central idea of rebellion against God. And unbelievers are active in this environment; in fact their whole manner of life, (conversation) is governed by it.
Like a river, humanity is hemmed in by the banks on either side, unable to break free. Men are living their lives in accordance with the way the world is, with no ability to escape.
According to the prince of the power of the air- not only are men drifting down the river of humanity, hemmed in by its banks, and following the course of the river wherever it goes, but there is a worse thing. The position of those banks, or, in other words, the course they are forced to go, is determined by Satan himself, who is the prince of this world, John 14:30, and who sees to it that men live their lives according to his dictates. The emphasis is not on the personal name of this evil being, but on his power and his activity. He is a prince, indicating that he holds first place in the hierarchy of the forces of evil. He is the one who, as Lucifer, had rebelled against God at the beginning, and had influenced a third of the angels of heaven to likewise rebel, Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:14-17; Revelation 12:4. He is also called the god of this world, 2 Corinthians 4:4, because unwittingly, men further his interests, and so glorify him as if he were God.
He is the prince of the power of the air, meaning that those evil forces that he controls operate in the air surrounding this planet. There is no part of the globe not enveloped by the air, and so there is no part that is not under the influence of these evil agents.
The spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience- being a spirit, this prince can work unseen, and is able to influence men in various ways, filling their minds with ideas contrary to the word of God. It is not normal for him to speak directly to men, but he uses things like the media, a powerful way of instilling his rebellious thoughts into men’s minds. They do not realise this is happening, but happen it does, for men are called children of disobedience. The principle of disobedience that is part of our sin-nature, is constantly supplied with material which encourages further disobedience. So it is that Adam has begotten many children who have the same disobedient attitude as he manifested when he first fell.

2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh- so the condition described in verses 1 and 2 is not limited to the heathen; it is true of the men of Israel too. This was true even in the “times past” when they knew God’s direct intervention in their affairs as a nation. So occupation with religion, even a religion ordained of God, does not save from this situation. Religion cannot deal with our sin-nature, which works itself out in the lusts of the flesh. Instead of having desires after God, the sinner has strong desires for sinful things. The flesh is self, with its sin-principle within.
Fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind- the apostle now describes the Jews as fulfilling the desires of the flesh. They did not simply lust after sinful things, but went further and fulfilled and satisfied their lusts. The flesh would emphasise the sensual side of man, whereas the mind would emphasise the intellectual side. There are those who are refined and cultured, and not at all attracted to the baser impulses in man. These too must learn that they are dead in trespasses and sins, and also are under the influence of the enemy of God, Satan himself. For”there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”, Romans 3:22,23.
And were by nature the children of wrath, even as others- whatever the outward appearance, it is what man is by nature that matters. We learn here that the nature of man, sinful and corrupt as it is, is the object of the wrath of God. To be a child of wrath by nature is to be the product of a nature that merits God’s wrath.
Summing up these verses, we can say we were:
Dead in trespasses and sins, and cut off from the life of God.
Deceived by the prince of the power of the air, rejecting the truth of God.
Disobedient because of our link with Adam who disobeyed God, Romans 5:19, and rebellious towards the government of God.
Depraved because of our lusts, and contrary to the holiness of God.
Doomed to endure the wrath of God for all eternity, because of the justice of God.

(b) Verses 4-10 The salvation of the sinner.
In verses 4-5a we have the motive for God working. In verses 5b-6 there is the method of God’s working, and in verses 7-10, the manifestation of His working.

2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us,

But God- it is only when God intervenes that the situation can be remedied. His power is greater that Satan’s, and He triumphs in the salvation of sinners.
Who is rich in mercy- this is pity to those in need, illustrated by the Good Samaritan, who “had compassion on him”, Luke 10:33. Satan has no compassion, for he drags men down. God lifts men up in Christ. As Hannah sang, “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory”, 1 Samuel 2:8.
Notice that He is not simply merciful in a limited way, but is rich in mercy, lavishing His riches on those who believe, so that they possess “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”, 1:3.
For His great love- in verses 1-3 the light of God’s person shone upon us, exposing our sinfulness, but now the warmth of God’s love is known. His rich mercy is on the basis of, and to further the cause of, His great love. As the apostle John wrote, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins”, 1 John 4:10. His love was so strong that He sent His Son to suffer under the wrath against our sins.
Wherewith He loved us- God’s love is not a theoretical idea, but a practical reality. His love has been expressed. It is clear that the apostle is referring now to those who had believed, for it is only these that know the love of God described here. We should distinguish between God’s general love for men, expressed in the giving of His Son at Calvary, (notice the past tense in John 3:16, “loved”, referring to an historical event), and His particular and special love for His children. God does not, (and indeed cannot), love sinners with the special love He reserves for those who have become His children through faith.

2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

Even when we were dead in sins- so this personal love of God for His children began before they knew Him, for they were foreseen as those who would believe. Our state of being dead was no obstacle to God, for He was determined to bless.
Hath quickened us together with Christ- this shows that the reference in verse 4 onwards is to believers only. There is no mention of Calvary here, but it is implied in the fact that Christ was quickened and raised from the dead. Christ was quickened from the dead; those who would believe were reckoned in the mind of God as having been quickened together with Him. It awaited the moment of their conversion for this to become a reality. Only God’s love could motivate Him to do this; only His mercy would allow Him to do it.
(by grace are ye saved)- this is a salutary reminder of what verses 1-3 have told us about our condition. The apostle is immediately cautioning us to not think we have in some way merited God’s love and mercy. Far from us deserving this intervention, it is only on the ground of God’s grace (His unmerited favour), that it is available. He will return to this matter in verse 8.
There are three words used in this passage to express God’s attitude:
Grace is favour to the undeserving.
Mercy is pity to the needy.
Kindness is goodness in action.

2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

2:6 And hath raised us up together- not content with quickening us together with Christ, He raised us up as well, lifting us up from the grave of trespasses and sins we were in.
And made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus- there is more to being raised than this, however, for He was raised up to heaven, and so are believers, in the mind of God, and in association with Him. But there is still more, for He has been seated at God’s right hand, and this position is shared by believers, too. We are seated in Him now, (that is, His position is representative of our position), and we shall be seated with Him in a day to come. There surely cannot be any doubt as to the eternal security of the true believer, if he is already seated in Christ in heaven. Nothing can dislodge Christ from His position, so nothing can dislodge the believer. This all happens in reference to Christ Jesus, the ascended and glorified man. By raising us up out of death in trespasses and sins, God also raised us from walking according to Adam’s world. We have been removed from his influence, and brought into the sphere of influence of Christ Jesus.

2:7 That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

That in the ages to come- the eternal ages will all be needed to fully tell how rich His unmerited favour has been. Each age will beget another, and eternity will unfold the wonder of God’s purpose. God’s ultimate purpose is to glorify Himself, and this He will do throughout all eternity. Just as He has expressed Himself partially in the different ages of time, so He will do so perfectly in the varied ages of eternity.
He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us- the reason why He has dealt with us in kindness, is so that His grace might be magnified through all eternity. Divine kindness is the practical outworking of His heart of love towards us, motivated by grace, the desire to favour and bless. God will see to it that there is eternal remembrance of His kindness toward us as believers. It will take all eternity to tell it out.
Through Christ Jesus- this is the major reason why all eternity will be needed, for the workings of God’s grace are all through Christ, and so the unfolding of His glories is involved.

2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

For by grace are ye saved through faith- the apostle needs to reinforce this lesson about grace, because man proudly thinks that he has some merit before God. The apostle feels the need to make it very clear, before the ages to come start their course, that the position the believer will occupy in heaven is entirely of God’s grace and kindness, and not at all of our effort. Faith is indeed necessary, but in itself has no value- its value lays in the one believed.
And that not of yourselves- the position of being saved by grace on the principle of faith is totally of God’s doing, and we have no input at all. There are those who devise their own way of dealing with themselves as sinners. They invent a religion of their own, and vainly hope that because it satisfies them, it satisfies God. The apostle decisively condemns such an approach.
The exercise of faith is not a work, since elsewhere the apostle contrasted faith and works with the words, “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness”, Romans 4:4,5. Faith is ceasing from work, and resting in Christ. Grace is not of works, either, as Romans 11:6 shows, in the words, “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace”.
The gender of the word “that” would indicate that it refers to the whole phrase “salvation by grace through faith”, and not simply to the word faith.
It is the gift of God- the blessing of being saved by grace is God’s gift to those who believe. So the apostle cautions us against thinking we have merit, by saying “by grace”. He cautions us against thinking we have no responsibility, by saying, “through faith”.

2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Not of works, lest any man should boast- not only is salvation not of us, in that we are not worthy in ourselves to gain it, but it cannot be worked for, even by those who own up to the fact that as persons they are not worthy. Heaven will indeed be filled with those who boast, but it is a boasting or glorying in God that they are occupied with, not self-congratulation. As was said of Abraham, “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness'”, Romans 4:2,3.
So salvation is, positively, by grace and through faith; negatively, not of ourselves, and not of works.

2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works- far from being self-made, believers are God’s product, for, as those who are part of the new creation, (which new creation comes about because of the work of Christ at the cross and His subsequent resurrection), they are a new creation in Christ Jesus, 2 Corinthians 5:17. It is in the context of who He is to the Father, and what He has done for the Father, that believers are created anew.
Believers are to be occupied with good works, for that is what they have been created for; it was God’s goal when He did it. This will ensure that in eternity, God will be the more praised. He works through our works, so that His work may be magnified and His name glorified.
Which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them– in subsequent passages in the epistle, the apostle will speak of walking worthy of the calling, 4:1; of walking unlike the Gentiles, 4:17; of walking in love, 5:2; of walking as children of the light, 5:8; and of walking circumspectly, 5:16. These kinds of behaviour will result in works done for God’s glory in eternity to come, remembering that they were foreordained in eternity past, for it was God’s purpose that they should be engaged in. How noble a task it is to walk and work in harmony with Divine and eternal purpose! No wonder the apostle needed to pray that the believers might understand these things better, for they are so immense that it is impossible to take them in, or work them out in practice, apart from Divine help.