Secrets of God's Kingdom
...to Whom Do They Belong?
IN THE PREVIOUS UNDERSTANDING article, we pointed out three sections in Ephesians. Each is important in the development of what we call "Ephesians Truth." We begin now to go through its revelation with a determination to let it work its way into our daily lives. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us receive its abiding truth so it can lodge in our minds and hearts and nothing can take it from us. The days will come when the truth we receive from Ephesians will provide strength to withstand an onslaught of evil like the world has never known.
It has taken me some time to bring Ephesians Truth over into applied living, but I could never have come as far as I have had I not soaked my soul in its word since 1948. I fear there is not so much time for you to take for this process.
I tell the following story to give the setting for a time the Holy Spirit chose to release a new dimension of Ephesians understanding in me. It came in a rather foolish situation, not unlike the situations that come upon many lives. If we are not sure of who and where we are in Christ, the enemy will entrap us and make us vulnerable and weak before his attacks. Many become caught in circumstances, like we were in the story I tell. But, negative circumstances need not change our position with Christ in the heavenlies nor His dwelling in us.
Jesse Grey and I had made an appointment to meet an African Pastor in Bungoma, Western Kenya. We would then travel with him to a gathering of some other Pastors and workers, a number of whom would walk over from Uganda. It was a difficult time for all of them. Relationships between the two countries were not good. The Ugandans had suffered under some horrifying internal conditions. To arrive in Bungoma we had to spend the night in Kisumu at an African guest house near the bus park. The only available room was a small one with two cots and nothing but canvas to cover three of the walls. I had a sore throat and didn't feel very well, but we were determined to press on.
That night several Anglican ministers stayed at the same guest house. They had attended a conference in town and were very excited to see one another. They talked with much laughter and animation until 2:30 A.M. That's when I stepped out of our little chamber and asked if they might quiet down. My request was not unreasonable, but I don't think I bore a very good witness. We had been working at building a relationship with them. Back in bed I felt I had missed a good opportunity, so even with them quiet I couldn't sleep.
We arose early the next morning, found something strange to eat, and walked to the bus park to take the only vehicle leaving that day for Bungoma. We boarded the dilapidated bus, an old diesel with its engine running as it waited for forty-five passengers. We finally left. Our only comfort was that it had apparently made many trips and would hopefully make one more to get us to our appointment at midday. The steep incline out of Kisumu was arduous. It took about an hour to cover fifteen miles. We arrived at the top of a plateau where we thought we could travel more easily, only to be stopped by the police.
The driver became so nervous he stopped the engine and entered a heated debate with the road officials. We soon learned the bus was "not road-worthy" and must return to Kisumu. We then perceived why the motor remained running while it sat in the bus park. It had no starter. About half the men had to get out and push it. By then it was time for our appointment in Bungoma. Because I didn't feel well and because it seemed we were in an insane situation, I wasn't very inclined to pray or rejoice. My rest in the Lord was fragile that day and my attitude not very positive.
We finally arrived back at the bus park only to have the driver walk away without apology or any offer to return our fare. We were trying to be obedient to the Lord but found ourselves stuck. A little African saw our plight and said he knew how to get to Bungoma by way of Kakamega, and he would be happy to accompany us but he had no money after spending it on the other bus. We paid his fare and he accompanied us. But it was far to late to meet the brother who had expected us at noon. We arrived in Bungoma long after dark. It was raining and, of course, there was no one to meet us.
My feeling of victory was thin.
There were several lodging places in Bungoma, a very African town. We selected one and they said they did, in fact, have rooms available. I asked Jesse to remain with our stuff while I went upstairs to see them. When I stepped into the dark hall, two women met me with a warm welcome. They were waiting for us. I don't think I hit even one of the steps going back down. I must admit I was frightened at being in such a place and told Jesse we must get out.
Back into the dark rain we went, not knowing how we would ever contact any of those Pastors again. Someone told us that down the road was a "Teacher's Hotel." Perhaps we might find lodging there. Would you believe it! They had a room with a bathroom and hot water. Late that night we sank into our beds, clean, tired and bewildered. We didn't know how to pray our way out of the situation, so we went to sleep. We felt foolish that we had not made better arrangements. Sometimes situations like that make you feel very unspiritual, but all you can do is rest.
The next morning a young African Evangelist came to our door. I had met him in Nairobi. He said he had come to take us to the Pastors who were still gathered. We asked how he knew where we were. He said the Lord had told someone.
Away we went, with little time to spend before the Lord. I was still unhappy at what had happened the day before and felt we had missed some valuable time with those Pastors. We finally arrived at the little mud meeting house. I did not have my thoughts collected, nor did I feel any anointing to teach. Everything I thought I had ready had been knocked out of me. I did have my Bible and a bundle of our literature that had become increasingly cumbersome.
The men, seated on little benches, seemed eager enough to hear us. They rejoiced at our arrival and were ready right away to turn the meeting over to us. As I was stepping over into the building, its floor freshly covered with cow manure which they commonly used to seal a dirt floor, the Lord spoke to me. It seemed an astounding thing. He said, "Teach them the secrets of my Kingdom as revealed in Ephesians."
I thought, "What secrets?"
Until then it had never occurred to me that Ephesians contains any "secrets of God's Kingdom."
While the leaders went through their welcome, I said, "Lord, please tell me what are the secrets of Your Kingdom revealed in Ephesians?" It seemed He was requiring something from me I did not even know.
But years of study and love for God's Word had deposited something deep inside me. The Holy Spirit was ready to make it alive. I hadn't been walking very well in its appropriation but it was nonetheless planted inside me. It's strangely wonderful how the Holy Spirit will reach in and activate something inside us when it is planted there. A spirit of revelation came upon me before that group of African Pastors. I could see clearly and I told them what I saw.
I saw that the secret of the POWER of God's Kingdom is revealed in Eph 1:1-3:21. It lies in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. No other kingdom has available to it the kind of power released by that one Event. It is available to all believers now.
Then I saw that the secret of the RIGHTEOUSNESS of His Kingdom is revealed in Eph 4:1-6-9. It is in the new man we put on in Christ Jesus. Other kingdoms exercise control by laws and human restraints. They come at problems from without, leaving the inner man unchanged. But in God's Kingdom, a new Man, Who is Christ Himself, comes inside us to live out His life in us.
Finally, I saw how the secret of the AUTHORITY of His Kingdom is laid out in Eph 6:10-24. It is a spiritual authority, backed by the Throne and all the triumph of the Lord Jesus Christ. He releases this authority from the heavens to move through us in the earth against principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places.
I think the Lord wanted me to see all that spectrum of truth in the humblest of circumstances, especially when I myself felt so unworthy to receive so powerful a revelation. I had never seen the Holy Spirit so ready to release understanding in a people. This stays with me to this day, making me know He is ready now to move in the humblest of hearts and in the most dire circumstances.
The Holy Spirit helped me teach those dear men how the power of God's Kingdom would move through them to deal with the spiritual forces that hindered the purposes of God in their villages. A work began that day that continued. Here is an excerpt from a letter one of them wrote. I have never seen like I have seen last month how the Lord spoke to me from the Book of Ephesians. It has brought a great awakening to my mind and soul. I have been spending hours every day studying. There is like a dark cloud covering everything, but Ephesians 6:13,14 is ringing in my ears and heart like a bell. It is flowing water out of my heart and this force is going up and away from me.
Ten years later I still hear from those men even though I've only been able to return to them but once. The seed we planted was an enduring seed-one we're endeavoring to plant even now in your heart, dear reader.
This Letter that claims our attention was sent by Paul to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus-1:1. Both these terms are very significant. The earlier copies of the Letter, however, all done by hand, seem to have left out the name of the town Ephesus. This probably means it was an open letter from Paul, sent to a number of churches. The content of it was general and meant for saints and faithful believers everywhere. We will get to the faithful later, while for now we consider these people called saints. What a significant designation! To them belong the secrets of the Kingdom.
The New Testament Greek word for saint is hágios. It is a wonderful word. It means that which is separate from evil and set apart unto the Lord for His exclusive use. It can have use as a Noun or an Adjective. When used alone as a Noun it generally is translated "saint." As an Adjective it means "holy, or sanctified." Paul used the word fifteen times in Ephesians-two times to speak of the Holy Spirit, thirteen times to speak of "holy" persons. Consider also that he used it in Rom 1:2 to speak of the holy Scriptures and in Heb 9:3 to speak of the Holiest of all (the Holy of Holies). Peter used it to speak of the holy mount in II Pet 1:18.
God Himself is the One absolutely separate from evil. He repels from Himself every possibility of sin or defilement and He wars against all this in His creatures. He obtains the title of Holy by the highest right of all. See this Leviticus passage: …This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh Me, and before all the people I will be glorified-Lev 10:3. Then see this powerful word from Revelation: And the four beasts ("living creatures") had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Which was, and is, and is to come-Rev 4:8. There is some ancient Greek manuscript-I have lost my information regarding it so it is retained only in my mind-that has the repetition of hágios in this verse nine times. This would emphasize the infinite, never ending, adoration of all creation before Him Who alone is absolute in holiness. Those of us who gain the use of the word to describe ourselves come into it only by the acceptance of God's grace. That powerful force from Him begins viewing us as holy in the Lord Jesus Christ, then undertakes to work a practical holiness into every avenue of our lives, and then releases us to stand holy and without blame before the accuser himself. This is the scope of Ephesians Truth.
Since we have not only been defiled, but impaired also, by the effects of sin, we are faced with the impossibility of true holiness unless there comes within us the life principle of a new person. That One is Christ Jesus Who not only took our place in the penalty for sin but is also now ready to take our place to withstand the very force of sin itself. This is the second secret of the Kingdom revealed in Ephesians, and thus, the force behind the righteous walk unto which we are called. One brother of mine calls it "a call unto impossible living." It is possible only to Him Who will live in us.
Saints are separated unto the Lord from the world and its evil pull. They are not ruled by emotion, strong personal will, carnal desire, circumstances, human need, principalities or powers opposing Christ, seducing spirits, or the need for acceptance or approved. A saint is under the very practical and wonderful rule of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul's use of the word hágios is woven into the whole Epistle. This may not be of any inspired significance, but to me it is a wonderful thing that he used the word thirteen times with reference to people. In ancient Jewish symbolism, thirteen is the number of the evil one. Cannot these thirteen references point to the final day when all the work of that evil one will be replaced by the work God has wrought in and through the saints? Let's look now at those thirteen passages.
1 The entire Ephesian message is to the saints. See this: Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus-1:1. This is an "apostolic word," sent from one appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. It bears so many marks of divine inspiration that there is no need to argue the point. It's power and force stand to bear this out. To the saints which are is from an interesting group of words in the Greek New Testament. It is tois hagíois tois oúsin-"the saints who have their being." We are deemed saints, not because of what we do but because of what we are, indeed, in Christ Jesus.
2 From before the foundation of the world it was God's determination to have this holy company through whom He would make His works known. According as He hath chosen us in Him (that is, in Christ Jesus) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love-1:4. If our minds cannot grasp the whole of this, let our spirits do so. We can join in its statement with a confession: "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him." How can this be? It is because our choosing is in Christ. Only in Him do we become saints who are chosen.
3 The Ephesian message speaks of a love that flows in the church unto all the saints. For Paul, and for us, this is a call to pray one for the other-without barriers. There is little the devil fears so much as a local body where there is love and where prayer is made for one another. Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers-1:15,16.
4 Because Paul recognized the value God has placed in the saints, he prayed that they might know this. This is a guide for us in praying. …that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints-1:18b. We learn to pray that each may know the exceeding value he or she holds in the eyes of the Lord. What a healing can take place here!
5 The power of what God revealed to Paul regarding this holy people reached beyond the Jews to touch the Gentile nations. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God-2:19. There is not a kindred, tongue, people, or nation (Rev 5:9) where this word will not work.
6 Paul presented the amazing revelation that the worldwide body of believers would become God's holy temple. See Eph 2:21-In Whom (that is, in Christ Jesus) all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. Hágios is used here with reference to the temple, generally considered a building. But most definitely, Paul meant a building made of living stones.
7 Then Paul tells of the holy ministries appointed by the Lord to guide saints into the realization of the secrets about which we tell. He spoke of the mystery ("the secrets") of Christ, 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-Eph 3:4b,5. Those who reject the ministries He has appointed reject the understanding of the mystery that will come through their ministry.
8 In his humility, Paul saw himself as one of the least of the saints, perhaps because of the severe persecution against believers in which he had participated before his conversion. 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-Eph 3:8. Yet, even under the burden of his own sinfulness, Paul saw the amazing grace that was given to him to make known among the Gentile nations the mystery of Christ's wealth.
9 Paul continues his prayer for the saints that they might be enabled to lay hold on the super-abounding love of God. Take note of how he prayed: …that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God-Eph 3:17b-19. Able to comprehend means "strong to lay hold on." So great is the love God proffers us, we must be strengthened by Him to receive it.
10 Then, in one of his most amazing revelations, Paul shows how five ministries appointed by the ascended Lord Jesus Christ are set to bring to completion the necessary work in the saints. And he gave some, Apostles; and some, Prophets; and some, Evangelists; and some, Pastors and Teachers; for the perfecting of the saints-Eph 4:11,12a. To gain a better understanding of the Greek word here translated perfecting we should see a similar word in Mark 1:19 translated mending. It is katartismós, and means to adjust thoroughly; to bring to a place where one is qualified for the task at hand. This lets us know that saints, though perfect before God in Christ, have yet to undergo adjustment and training to qualify them for their calling and purpose in the earth.
11 At this point Paul names certain unclean acts not to be named among the saints and which will prevent the expression of the Kingdom's power and authority in them. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient (proper and fitting for a believer): but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God-Eph 5:3-5.
12 As He drew near the conclusion of his revelation, Paul spoke of the Lord Jesus Whose desire is for a holy church. That he might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish-Eph 5:27.
13 Finally he calls for us to pray strongly for all other saints, everywhere. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints-Eph 6:17,18.
In the Book of Revelation also are *thirteen verses that speak directly of the saints. This is another powerful testimony that the people, in and through whom the government of God's Kingdom will find expression in the earth, will prevail over all the works of the evil one. Daniel made a fine concluding statement regarding all this. But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever-Dan 7:18. Amen!
*Rev 5:8 (saints); 8:3; 8:4; 11:18; 13:7; 13:10; 14:12; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24; 19:8; 20:9; and 22:11 (he that is holy)
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