Deliverance from the Earthlies
We shall now pass on to those companion letters known to us as Ephesians and Colossians, but more truly, circular letters to churches in an area. Here the particular application relates to the deliverance from the earthlies and the matter in view is the Fullness of Christ. In Colossians it is fullness in Christ as Head of the Church, the Body. "He is the head of the body, the church: ... that in him should all the fullness dwell". "... in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge...". "In him dwelleth all the fullness ... and in him ye are made full".
In Ephesians, the fullness is in Christ in the Church. "... gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all". "...that ye may be filled unto all the fullness of God". "...till we all attain unto ... the fullness of Christ".
This is all revealed to be the object of "the eternal purpose," the "counsel of his will." It dates back to before times eternal and on to "the ages of the ages." It is a vast and unspeakable Divine intention, and one unto which not all will attain. It costs the Apostle much travail, agony, and striving on behalf of the Church (Col. 1:28; 2:1).
This "attaining" demands a special application of the Cross and consequent operation of the Holy Spirit. A phrase particularly characteristic of these letters is "the heavenlies." Ephesians has it five times, and the point is carried on in Colossians. This is shown to mean a spiritual position, life, and vocation, and when we look at the context we find that it is of very practical implications. Of course, it is especially related to the Church, the Body, and is corporate; but what is true of the Body must be true of every member, hence many personal exhortations. The practical implications referred to combine to emphasize that "fullness" is heavenly and spiritual, and therefore the Lord's people - if they are to attain, not to salvation but to "purpose" - must live on the heavenly line. Thus, all merely earthly features as governing factors have to be left behind. There is nationality. "There cannot be Greek and Jew." We have got to leave that ground, both as to ourselves and others. If we stand on national ground, which not only means nationalism, but temperament and disposition, we are going to cut short spiritual growth. The same applies to the social - "bondman, freeman"; to race or civilization - "barbarian, Scythian"; to religious rites - "circumcision, uncircumcision" (Col. 3:10-11).
The point is this: Christ is in heaven. He is there as "head of the Body." Christ is essentially a heavenly Man, representative of a new humanity, not of this divided, conflicting, chaotic, disrupted race. He is other and different. Divine fullness will be only known in Him as such. We have got to leave the ground of this humanity at every point and live on the ground of Christ - where "Christ is all in all."
To do otherwise is to lower Christ, to divide Christ, and to limit Christ.
Unto this heavenly position and fullness the Holy Spirit has come to lead the Church - which, as the "One Body," cannot recognize or tolerate schism or divisions except to its own destruction. So we have in these companion letters much about the Holy Spirit. See Eph. 1:3 (instead of "spiritual blessing" it should be "blessing of the Spirit")
But this work of the Spirit demands that the Cross has really come in between earth and heaven, and that - because of it - in a true spiritual apprehension we have taken our place with Christ in heaven. "Made us to sit with him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus."
Because of the advanced position set forth, the Cross is largely taken for granted in Ephesians.
"We have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses." "The exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe ... which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead ..." "And you did he quickened when you were dead ... and raised us up with him." "That ye put away ... the old man ... and put on the new man." (Eph. 1:7, 19; 2:1, 6; 4:22, 24).
In Colossians it is more definite still. (2: 11, 12, 13, 20; 3:3, 9).
It is a vast revelation which is given in these letters, a "land of far distances" and of inexhaustible riches. We shall only keep ourselves out of it if we live on, and become actuated by, earthly considerations. Here we are forbidden to talk in a discriminating way, either favorably or unfavorably, about British, American, Chinese, German, etc.; social distinctions; or any other feature of the old humanity. If that were our realm of business and sole consideration then we should have to be so affected; but in Christ's interests and in the Church we are crucified to all this, and now we seek to meet believers solely on the ground of Christ. Only so can there be a building up of the Body. There are many other dividing factors among the Lord's people, both as to their natural constitution and their religious acceptance. The Cross is the remedy for all, and the Spirit of God demands the Cross if spiritual fullness is to be reached.
Our final word for the present will arise from the Letter to the Philippians. It is the climax of the risen life.
(continued with # 14 - "The Cross and the Throne")