Category Archives: Ephesians

“Bless us, Lord God, with faithfulness” by D.A. Carson

“And now, Lord God, I ask your blessing on all who read this book, for without it there will be no real benefit.

We may have education, but not compassion; we may have forms of praying, but no fruitful adoration and intercession; we may have oratory, but be lacking in unction; we may thrill your people, but not transform them; we may expand their minds, but display too little wisdom and understanding; we may amuse many, but find few who are solidly regenerated by your blessed Holy Spirit.

So we ask you for Your blessing, for the power of the Spirit, that we may know You better and grow in our grasp of Your incalculable love for us.

Bless us, Lord God, not with ease or endless triumph, but with faithfulness. Bless us with the right number of tears, and with minds and hearts that hunger both to know and to do your Word.

Bless us with a profound hunger and thirst for righteousness, a zeal for truth, a love of people. Bless us with the perspective that weighs all things from the vantage point of eternity.

Bless us with a transparent love of holiness. Grant to us strength in weakness, joy in sorrow, calmness in conflict, patience when opposed or attacked, trustworthiness under temptation, love when we are hated, firmness and farsightedness when the climate prefers faddishness and drift.

We beg of You, holy and merciful God, that we may be used by You to extend Your kingdom widely, to bring many to know and love You truly.

Grant above all that our lives will increasingly bring glory to Your dear Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip us with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

–D.A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992), 225-226.

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“The orb of Jesus’ sovereignty” by D.A. Carson

“What would you have chosen to describe God’s power? When you think of God’s sovereignty, to what does your mind turn?

I confess I am inclined to think of God’s power in creation. He speaks, and worlds leap into being. He designs the water molecule, with its remarkable atomic structure that ensures greater density is achieved at four degrees Centigrade than at the freezing point, so that lakes and rivers freeze not from the bottom up but from the top down, providing a blanket of ice with water underneath so that fish can survive.

I think of God calculating the mathematics of quarks, with half-lives in billionths of a second. I think of God designing each star and upholding the universe by His powerful word. I think of the pleasure he takes in the woodpecker, with its specially designed tailfeathers that enable it to peck with such force. I marvel at a God who creates emus and cheetahs and the duck-billed platypus. His power extends beyond the limits of our imagination.

But that is not what Paul turns to. After all, for an omnipotent God there cannot be degrees of difficulty. There is no one act that is ‘most powerful.’ Paul does not hunt for the most powerful or the most difficult displays of God’s power, since such categories are essentially meaningless. Rather, he hunts for the most glorious, the most revealing. As a result, he focuses on three events.

Paul mentions the power exerted when Christ was raised from death. The power that Christians must experience is like the power God exerted in Christ ‘when He raised Him from the dead’ (1:20). Paul thinks of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here is the undoing of death, the destruction of sin; Christ’s resurrection is the firstfruits of the mighty resurrection that will mock the death of death and inaugurate a new heaven and a new earth. Small wonder Paul elsewhere declares that he wants to know Christ and the power of His resurrection (Phil. 3:10).

Paul describes the power displayed in the exalted Christ. The power that Christians must experience is like the power God exerted in Christ ‘when He … seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come’ (1:20–21). There are levels of authority of which we know very little, demonic powers and seraphic powers, not only in this world but in the heavenlies (see Col. 1:16). But over all of them is Christ Jesus, elevated to the Father’s right hand in consequence of His obedience to death and His victorious resurrection (see Phil. 2:6–11).

Indeed, this vision controls part of the line of argument in chapter 2. There Paul says that although we were dead in our trespasses and sins and were by nature objects of wrath (2:1), nevertheless because of His great love for us, God, ‘who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.… [and] raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus’ (2:4–6). Of course, in one sense I’m still here, not there. But because God views me as ‘in Christ,’ and Christ is seated with His Father in the heavenlies, therefore God views me as there in principle. That is my destination; that is where I properly belong, because of God’s great love for me. That is why my Canadian citizenship can never be more than secondary: I’m already a citizen of the new Jerusalem, and I am seated with Christ in the heavenlies.

Paul declares the power exercised by Christ over everything—for the church. ‘God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way’ (1:22–23). All of God’s sovereignty is mediated through Christ (see 1 Cor. 15:27; Ps. 110:1), and all of this sovereign power is for the good of the church. Christ is the head over everything: that is, He exercises authority over everything. But this ‘head’ metaphor takes a sudden shift when the ‘body’ is introduced. Although Christ is the head over everything, He is in particular the head of the church, which is His body. He is ideally placed to ensure that all of His sovereignty is exercised for His people’s good.

Not a drop of rain can fall outside the orb of Jesus’ sovereignty. All our days—our health, our illnesses, our joys, our victories, our tears, our prayers, and the answers to our prayers—fall within the sweep of the sovereignty of One who wears a human face, a thorn-shadowed face. All of God’s sovereignty is mediated through One who was crucified on my behalf.”

–D.A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992), 178-180. Carson is commenting on Ephesians 1:3-23.

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“A spotless, pure, complete, and incomparable righteousness” by Thomas Brooks

“A second property of an humble soul is this, He overlooks his own righteousness, and lives upon the righteousness of another, to wit, the Lord Jesus. So the apostle, (Philip. 3:8–10), overlooks his own righteousness, and lives wholly upon the righteousness of Christ: ‘I desire to be found in him,’ saith he, ‘not having mine own righteousness.’

Away with it, it is dross, it is dung, it is dog’s meat! It is a rotten righteousness, an imperfect righteousness, a weak righteousness, ‘which is of the law; but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,’ that is a spotless righteousness, a pure righteousness, a complete righteousness, an incomparable righteousness; and, therefore, an humble soul overlooks his own righteousness, and lives upon Christ’s righteousness.

Remember this, all the sighing, mourning, sobbing, and complaining in the world, doth not so undeniably evidence a man to be humble, as his overlooking his own righteousness, and living really and purely upon the righteousness of Christ. This is the greatest demonstration of humility that can be shewn by man, (Mat. 6:8).

Men may do much, hear much, pray much, fast much, and give much, &c., and yet be as proud as Lucifer, as you may see in the Scribes, Pharisees, Mat. 23, and those in Isa, 58:3, who in the pride of their hearts made an idol of their own righteousness: ‘Wherefore have we fasted,’ say they, ‘and thou seest it not? wherefore have we afflicted our souls, and thou takest no knowledge?’

Oh! but for a man now to trample upon his own righteousness, and to live wholly upon the righteousness of another, this speaks out a man to be humble indeed. There is nothing that the heart of man stands more averse to than this, of coming off from his own righteousness.

Man is a creature apt to warm himself with the sparks of his own fire, though he doth lie down for it in eternal sorrow, Isa. 50:11. Man is naturally prone to go about to establish his own righteousness, that he might not subject to the righteousness of Christ; he will labour as for life, to lift up his own righteousness, and to make a saviour of it, Rom. 10:4.

Ay, but an humble soul disclaims his own righteousness: ‘All our righteousness is as filthy rags.’ ‘Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified,’ Ps. 143:2. So Job, ‘Though I were righteous, yet I would not answer, but I would make supplication to my judge,’ Job 9:15.

Proud Pharisees bless themselves in their own righteousness: ‘I thank God I am not as this publican; I fast twice in the week,’ &c., Luke 18:11, 12. Ay, but now a soul truly humbled blushes to see his own righteousness, and glories in this, that he has the righteousness of Christ to live upon.2 Rev. 4:10, 11, the twenty-four elders throw down their crowns at the feet of Christ.

By their crowns you may understand their gifts, their excellencies, their righteousness; they throw down these before Christ’s throne, to note to us, that they did not put confidence in them, and that Christ was the crown of crowns and the top of all their royalty and glory. An humble soul looks upon Christ’s righteousness as his only crown.”

–Thomas Brooks, “The Unsearchable Riches of Christ,” in The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 3, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 11-12.

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“We can never plumb its depths” by Peter T. O’Brien

“To speak of Christ’s love as ‘surpassing knowledge’ means that it is so great that one can never know it fully. We can never plumb its depths or comprehend its magnitude. No matter how much we know of the love of Christ, how fully we enter into His love for us, there is always more to know and experience.

And the implication, in the light of the following words, is that we cannot be as spiritually mature as we should be unless we are empowered by God to grasp the limitless dimensions of the love of Christ.”

–Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, PNTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 264.

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“You will never go beyond this” by John Calvin

“Almost all men are infected with the disease of desiring useless knowledge. It is of great importance that we should be told what is necessary for us to know, and what the Lord desires us to contemplate, above and below, on the right hand and on the left, before and behind.

The love of Christ is held out to us as the subject which ought to occupy our daily and nightly meditations, and in which we ought to be wholly immersed. He who holds in possession of this alone, has enough.

Beyond it there is nothing solid, nothing useful– nothing, in short, that is right or sound. Go abroad in heaven and earth and sea, you will never go beyond this without overstepping the lawful bounds of wisdom.”

–John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, trans. T.H.L. Parker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 169. Calvin is commenting on Ephesians 3: 18-19.

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