Just for Openers – The Whole Epistle

006 Ephesus

Ephesus on the map.

If Paul’s letter to the Romans was written by a man who had been round the world and back learning how to reason his faith with mankind, Ephesians was clearly written by a man who had been to heaven and had never properly returned, after having heard God Himself give a rationale for the faith. The man that wrote what we call, “The Letter to the Ephesians” gets almost tongue tied in his attempts to explain what he knows. Imagine it, he had been reasoning with God Himself.  John leaned on the breast of Jesus at the last supper (John 13:23.13:25). Ephesians was written by a man who had spent time leaning on Christ’s shoulder while He was seated at the right hand of the Father, hearing the whisperings that go on unceasingly between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, feeling the timbre and authority of the divine interaction. What John did on earth, Paul seems to have done with Christ in heavenly places, and in so doing, he heard things that he claimed were unlawful to repeat on earth. If some of the things he saw and heard were unlawful to utter down here, what he can tell us seems almost too stupendous to talk of lightly. He talks of God in outrageously frank, solid language. No doubts! No hypotheses! No inner feelings! No tomes of theology and dry rhetoric. He makes claims that are just plain, in hard, concrete terms about all things spiritual. This man saw plainly what he wrote about. To many, the first half of Ephesians is full of abstract, invisible concepts. To Paul it was simply a few statements about the concrete realities of life and the unseen cosmos as it had been revealed to him. He had crystal clear revelations of the invisible. God had shown him things as he had promised at the moment of his conversion (Acts 26:16).

001 Ephesus

In the arena where the silversmiths riot was perpetrated.

Paul talks almost as if he was there at the foundation of the world, as if he had the sole freehold of the heavenly places that he refers to several times in Ephesians, and as if he has proof read the Galleys of the Book of Life where God has written about the things that are pre-destined for everybody who has ever lived. Ephesians gives us terminology and statements that claim to literally see into the Father’s heart and mind.  These 155 verses of scripture tell us what God’s own pleasures, delights and motives are. It explains how God shows His character to angels and demons alike via that group of human beings who defy their five physical senses and dare to believe that Jesus Christ died for them and rose again to make them conquerors in life. These six chapters let us know that the writer was candidly and fully intimate with the extravagant divine love that his heart and soul were obviously marinated in. This is a letter from Paul the Revelator.

Ephesians was not written to be the beautiful sensitive poetry that it unarguably is, but a rock solid steam roller that grinds the nuts of doubt and unbelief into non discernible dust, blown away by the breath of a personal faith.  The letter was written for utility not aesthetics. It was written for the blood bathed battlefields of life, not the sensitivities of an academic classroom.  It is a manifesto for outright aggressive “live or die” warfare, not a casual read on a Sunny Sunday afternoon to help us sleep better. It is a whirlwind of terrible proportions, destroying all false concepts of God and His ways. This is revelation about the unspeakable serenity of being “in Christ,” and the bloody intensity of the struggles of life, and how the two are in reality conjoined twins in the Christian paradigm.

The writer of Ephesians is lost in language and words that are pin-pointedly arrowed and aimed at our feeble understanding. The man who wrote this letter is utterly inebriated by having seen the Invisible God, and stared into the depths of the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. He has run his fingers through the priceless coins in the heavenly chests of divine currency and is crying, “Treasure! Treasure! Treasure! It’s all mine and can be all yours!” He has somehow been intimate with, and looked into the whites of the eyes of the eternal only wise God, and his very being is tingling with the rock like realities of heaven, hell, Christ, angels, life, love and people. He has discovered that spiritual realities are physically tangible when faith lays hold of them. This man oozes with so much revelation, all of it unseen by human eyes.

003 Ephesus

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Ephesians is parabolic. It may be likened to explaining to a person who was blind from birth the difference between light and dark, black and white, and the spectrum of the rainbow. Ephesians is telling the ephemeral physical and human cosmos that has been spiritually blind almost since birth, what the concrete world of the spiritual is like. Paul believed in creation. The physical was birthed out of the womb of the spiritual. The spiritual cosmos is therefore greater than the physical. God the Spirit spoke when there was nothing but He. In the beginning God, who is invisible, created the heavens and the earth, only one of which is naturally visible to mankind. To Paul, when he talks of these things, he is discussing tangible, aromatic, audible, textured reality, whilst to many readers his words are blandly referred to as, “about spiritual things”, a term that, though skeletally and minimally correct, seems to fall so far short of a true definition as to make it untrue. It is like saying Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” is simply “A book about Napoleon and the Tsar’s,” or, Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” is “A book about France.”  Both statements are absolutely true, yet at the same time have utterly missed the point. Revelation can sound quite mystical to the untutored.

Ephesians educates us about both the seen and the unseen worlds and how the two interact and interface. It gives us a thorough insight into man’s role in the entire drama, as well as the interplay of angels, demons and spiritual forces both good and evil. Ephesians is an atom bomb filled with the force of God’s life and power created by quill and parchment via Paul’s understanding of his revelations of the invisible. It is the means of bringing a human revolution and cosmic correction initiated by words and thoughts that came to one human being while simply gazing upon Christ and His glory.  These 3,039 Greek words tell us what God was thinking before the world began. They inform us what He will be saying when everything is wrapped up and finished. It is a missive we are given in the form of six chapters, telling us exactly where God started and precisely where He will finish. Paul’s revelations see through the blindfolds and non windowed walls of time, as he telescopically sees before the beginning of things and after the end of it all. Paul is living in the same dimension that God lives in; the dimension of faith, vision, revelation and glory.

004 EphesusGod lives outside of time and space, yet pervades them both to reach us. The inspired scripture declares, “The Holy Spirit fell on them” (Acts 11:15). One cannot get more spacial or timely than that. In these verses of Ephesians we are awed to find out what angels, demons, and the whole of humanity, as well as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, are actively doing during each moment of time in the world in which we live as well as what they see from way beyond and outside of time. These scriptures are the source of knowing the motives and directional intentions of all things that are bigger and more powerful than us.  Ephesians takes “God-talk” in its entirety out of ethereal prognostications, and into the practical reality of changed lives, and how and why to live. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is, in short, “Revelations of the Invisible.” God, give us more revelation!

Revelation is an act of God. It is literally a move of God, the divine activity of communicating to a person truth which otherwise would simply never be known. Revelation may be oral (as with the majority of the scriptures of the writing prophets), written (as with the first writing of the Decalogue on stone (Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 4:13; 5:22, 10:4)), visual (as in Isaiah 6, Jeremiah1, Ezekiel 1, Abraham in Acts 7, and Moses on Sinai), by vision (Acts 10:9-16) or by dream (Matthew 2:13 & 2:19). In all the examples stated above, it was God that broke in to the physical world to uncover and reveal His mind and thoughts to people. It was of God’s initiation. It was God’s action.  It was the same with the apostle Paul. Paul was literally visited by the risen, ascended and glorified Christ on the road to Damascus. The visit was unannounced, un-prepared for (from Paul’s perspective), and from Paul’s point of view, up to the moment the revelation took place, utterly unnecessary. In that revelation Paul saw and heard things that he otherwise would not have believed or accepted. It was a revelation not of abstract concepts or philosophies, but of the person of Christ Himself. However, the revelation of His divine person carries a whole universe of imperatives and serendipities with it. One cannot be the same after meeting the risen Lord. That is what an opening of the heavenly curtains, showing the otherwise invisible Christ brings about. This is revelation.

Inspiration is a totally different thing. Inspiration is when the Holy Spirit, having exerted a supernatural influence on a person, facilitates that person to understand, write, speak, sing or prophesy, by virtue of which their words, writings, sermons and/or activities have Divine veracity and weight behind them. Daniel was inspired to write the revelations he saw. The constant flow of inspiration within Paul, the solid Niagara wall of his apostolic authority, the weight of his letters and his teachings had the confluence of a trio of verifying rivers to bring them about.  A. The primary initiator of the teachings, writings and sermons of Paul was always the Holy Spirit. It is His activity that causes resulting inspiration. 2. Paul, the human agent is inspired by the Spirit’s activity and is submitted and obedient to all the Spirit prompts. I am told that the root meaning of the Hebrew verb, “to inspire,” includes the thought of being, “unable to fall.”  3. The result of the revealing God showing secrets to the inspired servant is the sermon, book, letter, or action that speaks to those who are audience to the inspired recipient of the revelation. Character, miracle, and other verifying aspects that convince people of the divine nature of a revelation in the person inspired, lead to faith and edification of believers. This is the definition of New Testament ministry.

005 Ephesus Main StreetIt is self evidently manifest that this process of revelation and inspiration leading to product, is superlatively peaked in the gathered canonical writings that we refer to as the Old and New Testaments. God’s method of an objective, comprehensive, recorded revelation in scripture is the solid safeguard against abuse, and far superior to an immediate direct revelation to each person, which would interfere with human fallibility, involve endless repetition and open the way for contradiction and contrary statements. It is certain, satisfactory and permanent, far removed from being passed on by word of mouth and changed from one generation to another.

Illumination is a lesser word than the previous two. Illumination is that grasp of understanding, that act of believing activated by the influence of the Holy Spirit which enables people to come to faith, and thereafter continue to be established and grow in that faith. It is a lesser revelation, the turning on of a lesser light that facilitates understanding of what God has revealed to inspired men, and grasping the meaning of those revelations.

Revelation is the act of God giving truth to a person. Inspiration is person being moved upon by God, and under divine control, accurately receiving the truth thus given, and producing some presentation of that revelation that can be seen or heard, and concretely understood, being either accepted or rejected. At the point of rejection, illumination has failed and just was not empowered to happen. Where acceptance is made, the illumined person has seen to a lesser degree what the inspired person has presented. Revelation on God’s part involves the origin of truth; inspiration on man’s part deals with the inerrant redaction of that truth into production for human consideration, all processed by the Spirit of God working on the receiver of the revelation. In brief, inspiration is help from God to keep the content of divine  revelation free from error. As God revealed Himself to Moses, and thereafter Moses with a shining face revealed himself to the people thus revealing the glory of God that Moses had seen first-hand, so in our explanation of terms, God is the source Revelator, the inspired recipient is the secondary revelator, and the illumined are those who see what the divine Revelator gave to the human revelator, only to be illumined and revealed to people in general.

Both revelation and inspiration, which concern the origin and accurate reception and recording of a divine word, may be clearly distinguished from illumination, in that the illumination is clearly promised to all believers whatever, wherever. Illumination is a thing of gradation and variant depths, but ever present in the born again human spirit. That it admits of degrees is clear as it increases or decreases, not depending so much on God’s sovereign initiation as on personal adjustment to the Spirit of God. Without it none is ever able to come to faith (I Corinthians 2:14), or the knowledge of God’s Son and His revealed truth.”

In summary, it may be said, revelation involves origin, inspiration relates to reception and recording and illumination concerns understanding or comprehension of the human production and presentation of the original revelation. This leads us to an important part of our illumination on this matter.

002 Ephesus

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God does not speak with a wandering mind, or abstract concepts for us to play about with. God speaks straight and direct.  So what has been revealed, inspirationally recorded and presented for our illumination is not up for grabs, or for anybody to guess a whimsical notion of what may or may not be meant by the revelation. It has a meaning fully meant by the divine revelator.

With all revelation, great and small this is an ever present principle with which to understand preachers, prophets and, most of all, the scriptures themselves.

The apex of this principle is embedded in scripture on the very issue we are discussing. 2 Peter 1:20-21 says, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”  This decisively important statement is as direct an assertion of the divine origin of Scripture as is 2 Timothy 3:16. It proceeds to deal with the question of how the Scriptures were given. The terms “prophecy of scripture” and “prophecy” in this passage are certainly equivalent to the word “scripture” as in II Timothy 3:16. The word, “prophecy,” here is clearly referring to the whole of scripture as prophetically revealed through inspired men. These two verses educate us as to how the Bible did not originate in man. It has not come by some writer’s whimsical fancy or idea. It is not of “private interpretation,” that is, it is neither the result of human research nor the product of the Writer’s own thought. It did not “come into being by the will of man.” Man did not purpose to record it, determine its verbal matter or plan its outlay.

Peter disabuses us of faulty thinking by explaining how the bible did originate. “Men,” chosen men, “spoke from God,” the Source, and spoke so accurately as to have spoke with the voice of God, as the very ambassadors from heaven itself. These men spoke as they were being carried along by the Holy Spirit. This being carried along is analogous to a ship being propelled forward by the wind. A definite operation of the Holy Spirit upon man is indicated, making the message His, not theirs. Under such an influence it was impossible for the writers to fall or fail in their function.

It is in the context of all these dynamics that Saul of Tarsus, later known as the apostle Paul, received revelation upon revelation, again and again. Even though, in Scripture, nowhere is the nature of inspiration’ fully explained, meaning the exact modus operandi as to how an inspired person operates, yet it is possible to see dimly how Paul responded to things by chewing the cud over the statements he makes concerning revelation.

I am aware that revelation and inspiration in the context of the apostle Paul are indicating the absolute peak of what things were revealed, and what he was inspired to produce for our illumination. In that respect Paul is unique. But there is deep, deeper and deepest in all the three realms of revelation, inspiration and illumination. The dynamics must be the same, or the bible tantalises us with theoretical things that happened in bible days and do not happen today. I reject the thought that God has ceased to give revelation to mankind since the early apostles left this life. I refuse to accept that people today cannot receive revelation and be inspired to bring light and illumination to a lost world.” In His light, we see light” (Psalm 36:9). We need revelation. We hunger for inspiration. We pray for God’s light on all issues of life.

Revelation is seeing something that one did not see previously. It is not that what is revealed was not there before. It is discovering something that was hidden to the degree that it was utterly ignored by virtue of the reason that it was just not known to be there. In the Bible, Abraham was just about to kill his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God when the Angel of the Lord stopped him. It then says that Abraham “looked up,” and …oops! How could he have possibly missed it? An adult ram caught in a thicket! That is revelation, i.e. seeing clearly what was there all the time, yet somehow unseen and uninvented until that moment of revelation. Once seen by Abraham it had, from nowhere, appeared and supplied the answer to his most troublesome problem of that moment.  Seeing the ram at that moment can be said to have changed Abraham’s life’s direction forever, as well as Isaac’s.

Inspiration normally comes from something that we already have a clue about. I read something, or I hear something from God, then as I ponder what I have received I have a Eureka moment where I see the fruits of wilfully trying to remove the curtains that kept me from a certain understanding or response to what I have read or heard. The cry of “Eureka,” has a self evident presupposition that I was looking for something, and now I have found it. That is inspiration.

The contents of Ephesians are pure divine revelation. It is in no way restricted by the human vessel that delivers by inspiration what has been revealed.

The gospel message itself is divine revelation. Do not be misled. Simply because Christianity has been used and abused for two thousand years, as well as having many aberrations and deviations, flavours, denominations and brands, the message as is and as was delivered by Paul and the first twelve apostles, is nothing else but pure undiluted revelation.

Ephesians is a letter that was a circular to the churches of Asia. (Asia at that time was what we call western Turkey today.) Some of the earliest manuscripts of this letter have a space where the Greek text in most of them says, “at Ephesus”. It is as if Paul had manuscripts written of the entire letter, and then asked the men delivering them to insert the place name of the church where each copy was being delivered. I believe it was written as a hard copy of his most pertinent teaching that was delivered while he was campaigning in Ephesus as explained in Acts 19 and 20. As Ephesus was the “mother church” of Asia, it is quite appropriate that we refer to the letter as Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, even though it must have done the rounds to all the churches founded in Paul’s three years or so in that place.

If, therefore, Christianity is a thing of the spirit (as well as of the Spirit), and if it is to be delivered to the human spirit as the divine revelation that it is, and if Paul encapsulated his three years of preaching and teaching into this remarkable piece of literature, which I believe he has, then this letter needs to be taken to heart very seriously. When it comes to revelation from heaven, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians defines the term.

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5 thoughts on “Just for Openers – The Whole Epistle

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