A Word on Ephesians 1:7
There is at least one strand of thought running through these first verses of Ephesians which no enthusiastic student of the prison epistles can claim to be a new exclusive feature of Truth. Although Paul’s detention under arrest had afforded him more time to think and reflect, his words explanatory of redemption through the precious blood reveal but little expansion or development over the thoughts of his earlier days. From his very earliest missionary days he taught the great theme orally and in his earliest writings it is also to be found. Redemption, based on the death and resurrection of his beloved Lord, was the scarlet strand which he wove into and out of every theme, for indeed to him it was always the prime essential foundation for everything else that had followed. Moreover, when he wanted to prove the verity of God’s abounding love—the fountain of all grace—he does so by stating that the death of Jesus was its full and final proof (Rom.5:8).
Here, now, among these towering mountain‑peaks of truth, he brings it in again, and says, “In whom (the Beloved) we have our redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace…” (RV) That is great doctrine; worthy to rank with any feature of Divine Truth. To say the least, this sacred theme provides a connecting link between those earlier days of intensive missionary activity, when unceasing service crowded out opportunity to ponder and reflect, and the later restricted days when, though the body was in chains, the mind was free to soar aloft to greater heights, and range abroad over the fields of time from pre‑creation days to the coming sinless days when God will be all‑in‑all, and death shall be swallowed up in victory. This interlinking truth shows the higher flights of those prison days were not the statements of exclusively new truths, except in the same sense that a fully blooming rose is a new flower. The delicacy of its tints, the perfection of its form, the richness of its texture, and the fragrance of its perfume may all appear to adorn the well‑kept rosary in a single summer’s day, but its winsome charm and beauty had not been spun overnight by fairy fingers out of early morning dews. Nature’s mysterious and subtle forces had been working days and weeks in readiness for the “opening day.”
So with Paul’s greater thoughts. He had carried them treasured up in his retentive mind, and from time to time when circumstances allowed, he brought to view the green immature buds of thought, to rouse or comfort fainting hearts. Such developed thoughts were not appropriate for “babes in Christ” and many “babes” came to birth as consequence of the early missionary travail. All such babes needed “milk” and other lighter foods. Among these foods were the facts concerning the death of the Lord and His resurrection from the dead. The story of a Saviour who died to save the people from their sin was an easier thought for the newly‑stricken conscience to grasp than the amazing facts of an election predetermined before the world began. It was a simpler theme to assure the new‑fledged believer that Jesus died “for” him, than to ask him to consider himself dead with Christ, and baptised into His death.
While, then Paul’s restless feet were hurrying back and forth over land and sea, over mountain and plain, seeking hungering souls which waited for the light, not only had he insufficient time to sit and ponder and develop the full outlines of the Truth committed to his care, but to have done so would have deprived thousands of waiting souls the assistance for which they called. Both among Jews and Gentiles were many benighted individuals for whom life held no ray of light. To live day in, day out, a hopeless Godless existence—”without God and without hope in the world”—was the common lot of myriads of frustrated souls, fated otherwise to pass from the cradle to the grave without aim or purpose in the rounds of life, of no higher outlook than that of mere brute beasts. Paul knew all this. His heart was deeply touched with the deep tides of sorrow which surged within and around the hearts of the vast groaning creation of his day.
He also knew he held the secret or the world’s unceasing need in his own soul. He knew what Jesus of Nazareth had done for him. He knew also what Jesus could do for all who would hear the message which he carried from town to town and land to land. Knowledge such as this gave impetus to his feet, and urgency to his task, enabling him to scorn pain or difficulty, or any other of a thousand things with which Satan sought to block his path.
Paul had himself felt the deep soul‑need. He once knew the hunger which naught could satisfy. He had known the pain‑pangs of a bruised heart, which in its search after higher things had tried to soar aloft, only to fall crashing to a stony earth. He could remember that it had been his privilege to drink deep of his nation’s philosophy at the feet of one of Israel’s really great sons, and find its choicest waters turn to wormwood in his soul. He could not forget that his ardent nature had searched the deepest mines of his own and of former days, to find the secret way to life, but had found every turn did no more than mock him in his quest. In spite of his scholarly genius and accomplishments, his deeper self had ever remained unillumined and unsatisfied. No crumb of satisfaction had ever reached the vital depths of his famished soul till he looked on the resplendent glory on the Damascus way. There, for the first time in his adventurous career he tasted the first real morsel that satisfied. There, the God of his fathers—the God he had sought with all the passion of his white‑hot heart, began to reveal His Son to his astonished gaze. It broke upon his arrested mind that the Son of God loved him, and had given Himself up for him (Gal.2:20). And when others made boast of this or that, this greatly satisfied heart made boast of one thing alone “…far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal.6:14 RV). And this, let us not forget, was the fervent statement of his pre‑prison days.
Thus the memories of his own famished soul, and of the satisfaction that now filled his life in every part, sent his travel‑stained feet hurrying over hill and plain, over land and sea, to take to other fainting souls the same cup of life from which his own lips had drunk their fill. Men waited in black darkness for the story of Jesus’ death—of redemption through His blood—and of reconciliation to a God of Love—what wonder then that Paul slaved beyond his strength, to tell that simpler phase of the great truth committed to his charge, leaving the deeper fuller aspects to later days, when he himself had time under the leading of the spirit of truth to trace those deeper things in more detail, and his converts and brothers had grown to greater stature in Christ, and were thus able to understand that a kindly Providence shaped all his path, and gave to him and through him all that was best for every time of need—milk for the infant days, meat for the fuller grown.