Chapter 12: The Holy Spirit in Ephesians
by Thomas Bentley, Malaysia
It certainly is enlightening as it is encouraging to know that in the first and last chapters of our Bible there is a most significant mention of the Holy Spirit of God. While indeed, the Spirit of God is not mentioned in every book of our Bible, it is vital to recognize that He is the Source and the Means of Divine communication that gives the Bible its authority, authenticity and acceptability.
The concept of modernistic and cultic elements is that the Holy Spirit is merely an abstract influence, hence denying His Divine personality. But we must observe that:
The Word of God affirms that:
The Holy Spirit’s Divine capacity is clearly declared by the sevenfold title found in Isa.11.2, "And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD".
It is vital that saints of God are truly aware of the Scriptural titles that are applied to the Holy Spirit, which can be classified under the following headings:
Luke, by the Spirit of God in the Acts, records three significant incidents when three different classes of people received the Holy Spirit of God. They were Jews, chapter 2, Samaritans, chapter 8 and Gentiles, chapter 10. When, however, Paul came to Ephesus he faced twelve men who had been baptised unto John’s baptism and who had not known that the Spirit of God had come, as their language conveyed: "Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Ghost was given," Acts 19.2, R.V. V.6 adds, "And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues and prophesied."
It therefore cannot be without significance that when Paul later, by the Holy Spirit, communicates with the assembly in Ephesus that twelve distinct references are made to the Holy Spirit, which forms our subject from this point forward.
In Relation to Divine Purpose - 1.13
In this passage of such Divine consequence, we learn of the Spirit’s completion of the work of the Mediatorial Trinity, in which we have the purpose of the Father, vv.2–6, the purchase of the Son, v.7, and the presence of the promised Holy Spirit realised, vv.13,14. If my salvation depends on Divine sovereign choice alone, then what need have I to believe? Surely Paul is not confounding the issue. He, by Divine inspiration, is confirming my tremendous privilege to have heard the gospel, followed by the necessary reaction of believing, at which moment I was sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
In Relation to Divine Provision - 1.17
The enriching mercy of our God is registered for our spiritual good and encouragement, as is seen in giving unto us "the Spirit of wisdom and revelation," by whom we are capable of apprehending the purpose of Divine provision. Hence we have Divine Enlightenment, v.18a, Encouragement, v.18b, Enrichment, v.18c, Empowerment, v.19. If a soul never believes, this blessing will never be his, for His power is "to us-ward who believe".
In Relation to Divine Presence - 2.18,22
The enriching ministry of the Spirit of God is greatly valued when we realise that our consciousness of the Father is firstly, the result of the work of the Lord Jesus to both Jews and Gentiles saved by grace and that blessed access which we esteem as one of our greatest privileges is experienced by the power of the Spirit. Not only have we this privilege but in v.19 we recognise with inexpressible delight, that we as Gentiles, are no longer "strangers and sojourners" but "fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God". But there is more ahead, for as we ponder the ongoing work of grace, not only have we been brought unto the Father, but also the Father as our God is brought unto us as v.22 affirms: "in whom also ye are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit", R.V.
In Relation to Divine Precept - 3.5; 6.17
The very nature of this dispensation of grace far exceeds natural comprehension. People around us without Christ are totally unaware of the character of the day in which we live, and have no comprehension that there are some people alive who are born of God and belong to God. Here, in Eph.3.5, the Word of revelation for the present dispensation is communicated by the Spirit of God. Few in our day accept the complete finality of Divine revelation, but Paul is surely making it clear that this great and enriching communication of God, for the blessing of His own, is given through "the apostles and prophets by the Spirit". The greatest farce of present day claims is that the Spirit of God is still communicating Divine revelation. It is important for saints to study each word of consequence in any passage of Holy Scripture and in doing so in Eph.6.17, it will be enlightening to recognize that the expression used for the "word" is rhema and not the usual word "logos". From this distinction we learn the Divinely given Word is ever suitable and appropriate for the occasion.
In Relation to Divine Power - 3.16; 5.18
The paragraph, 3.14–19, wherein our subject is found records Paul’s second prayer exercise for the saints at Ephesus. Paul’s exercise for the saints is that the Father may grant them to be strengthened in the inner man by the Spirit, that Christ may have an abiding place in their hearts. Here is a most encouraging issue in relation to the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. It is He Who can give us the power to extend to the Saviour a dwelling place. We recall with deep concern that when He first came to earth, "there was no room for them in the inn" Lk.2.7. But when He spoke to Zacchaeus His words were wonderful, "for, today I must abide at thy house". It is only by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we can offer to the Saviour an abiding place.
In 5.18, we are enabled by the Spirit to live in abounding praise to Christ from our hearts continually. Each of us fully understands the implications of the first part of this verse, for on many occasions we have been faced with those who are controlled by another type of spirit and have witnessed the consequences. But just to be filled with the Spirit enables us to return abounding praise to our blessed Lord with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, making melody with our heart unto the Lord.
In Relation to Divine Privilege - 4.3,30
On having recourse to this direct and most needful exhortation, it is gloriously assuring that we are not asked to create this unity. It is already in existence as the result of Divine sovereignty, therefore it is our obligation to respond and to keep that which already exists and that by the power and help of the Holy Spirit Himself.
Already in v.3 we are told to keep the unity, now in v.30 a command regarding sensitivity appears which teaches us not to grieve the Holy Spirit. According to Isaiah’s account even the people of God in a past day did this very thing, 63.10. Such an action would create displeasure and warrant Divine retribution in severe chastisement.
In Relation to Divine Provision - 4.4; 6.18
The place the Holy Spirit takes in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 is similar to that in the passage before us now, since each announces the bestowal of gifts for the edification of the body of Christ, locally in Corinthians, but in a dispensational context in Ephesians. Hence the Holy Spirit is constantly providing for our spiritual growth with resources that are Divinely inexhaustible. Not only does the Spirit of God bestow the gift but He bountifully supplies the power, grace and ability by which the gift functions. By what power does a servant of God as an evangelist experience help, fruit and blessing? It is only by the power and grace of the enabling Sprit of God. Likewise a teacher, an elder, or in whatever capacity service is rendered, no blessing will be experienced or enjoyed apart from the Spirit’s power and enablement.
If the term "preaching" covers the service we have considered in the previous paragraph, we could say that the word "praying" accommodates the exercise in Eph.6.18, which the Spirit alone promotes. V.18 has a simple yet most educative use of what we will term a ‘small’ word. It is small because it is composed of only three letters, but its embraciveness is vast, as indeed "all" always is. Note "all prayer" - The Practice of our Exercise; "all seasons", R.V. - The Perpetuality of our Exercise; "all perseverance" - The Perseverance of our Exercise; "all saints" - The People of our Exercise.
As at all times we strenuously avoid mere repetition, it is however, a most useful and encouraging exercise to view these twelve references to the Person and work of the Holy Spirit in a personal manner which will bring that fullness and grace of the Spirit of God right into our lives daily, practically and effectively.
My Inheritance and Assurance - 1.13
Nothing offers greater assurance to a person, who has come into an unexpected inheritance, than to have all the details authorised by a legal document. He could be told by word of mouth, but nothing could be more assuring than to have the proof confirmed by a seal of such significance. Each believer in the Lord Jesus has the same assuring comfort that we all have in terms of our spiritual and eternal inheritance. This is gloriously confirmed by the fact that "we are sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise". A reflection upon the words of Paul to the Corinthians, 2 Cor.1.22; 5.5, is confirmative of the assurance he is giving to the saints at Ephesus and to all who have placed their implicit trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. While it is factual, it is also incredible, that many today advance the possibility (as they put it), "that a person can be saved today, but lost tomorrow". The God Who has saved us and has blessed us with such a comforting assurance, adds, "which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession".
The significance of the word "earnest" (arrhabon) is worth considering, as it not only confirms the security of the issue, but it also implies meaningfully the continuity of the blessing our God has so graciously bestowed.
My Instruction and Apprehension - 1.17
Speaking from a natural standpoint, had I been writing this valued expression, I would have put the theme of revelation first and then wisdom, but how enlightening it is to recognise that the order God follows betokens His work of grace in our hearts. Hence the theme before us is rich and real as we receive enrichment and then enlightenment. At the moment we trusted the Lord Jesus, we acted in obedience to the gospel. However, there was much about our new state that we did not appreciate but we were given the Divine enablement to fully know the cause and course of our change. In v.18 Paul is confirming the Revelation of our Enlightenment (cp. Ezra 9.8, The Recovery of it; Ps.13.3 -The Reality of it; Ps.19.8 -The Rectitude of it; Prov.29.13 - The Resources of it; 1 Sam.14.17–28 - The Replenishment of it). This is followed by something to Encourage, "that ye may know what is the hope of His calling"; something to Enrich, "the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints"; something to Energise, "the exceeding greatness of His power".
My Introduction and Access - 2.18
What a blessed reality Paul expresses in v.14 as he uses the simple word "one": "who hath made both one." It is always useful to make sure we understand the simple words and the grammatical structure that the Holy Spirit employs. The word "one" here is in the neuter gender, making it abundantly clear that Paul is stressing that the two positions are one, which unfolds clearly that those of Israel that have trusted Christ with the Gentiles stand before God in one position. Now look at the same word in vv.15,16, "one new man"; "one body". Here it is in the masculine gender, hence the people are one. That brings us to our privilege, that as we approach the presence and Person of our God and Father we do so by the power and help of the "one" Spirit Who made the aforementioned unity.
My Inbuilding and Awareness - 2.22
Yet again we come to another feature of our mutual privilege and position. Never miss the fact that Paul is speaking of the Church of the dispensation, of which we are part by grace Divine. Paul begins with "in whom" that surely is the Person mentioned in v.20 as "Christ Jesus", R.V. and as "Lord". The next words are "ye also", signifying the people. What a privilege this unfolds as we dwell upon the grace of God that brings us into such association. Then there follow the words "are builded together", denoting the process. The structure is incontestable, the unanimity is indisputable, the oneness is immutable. But there is more, as Paul by the Spirit unfolds the purpose, "for a habitation of God", it is absolutely overwhelming just to think that our God has chosen such a dwelling place. Finally the power of this truth is "in the Spirit", R.V. Had this gracious act of God in purpose and in plan been left to us as His people, it is obvious that due to our human weakness, it would never have been realised. It is this that draws forth our worship and adoration of His sovereign grace and power as displayed in and by the Holy Spirit of God.
My Inclusion and Association - 3.5
First of all, Paul records that he was granted by God to apprehend the truth of the mystery by Divine revelation, as he states in v.3. This brought the apostle into a clear concept of Divine purpose as he confirms in the words of v.4 "ye can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ", R.V. In v.5 Paul readily confirms that he was not alone in receiving this truth, for he adds "as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit". Proceeding to v.6 we learn that in Divine purpose we are "fellow-heirs," "fellow-members of the body" and "fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel". Nothing can equal our privilege, but may it be our sincere intention to live in keeping with what the purpose of God by Divine grace has brought us into. The completeness of it fills our hearts with gratitude and assurance, thus bringing into clear condemnation any claim of further revelation, which definitely reduces the passage before us as being incomplete.
My Intimacy and Activity - 3.16
One instructive feature in most of Paul’s epistles is the mention he makes of his prayerful exercise for those to whom he is writing. Already we have observed his prayer exercise in chapter 1 which deals with issues positional, but in the passage before us, vv.14–19, Paul’s exercise relates to things practical. This is manifested delightfully in his fivefold use of the simple but instructive word "that", R.V. The first aspect of Paul’s exercise denotes his desire for our enrichment, "that He would grant unto you," which only our blessed God can give. Next is our empowerment, "that ye may be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inward man". Can there be anything we need more today than that this request by Paul may be truly and fully realised in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit of God? That is true, but there is more, as Paul makes request regarding our endowment, in the words "that Christ my dwell in your hearts through faith". Often the words of the Saviour to Zacchaeus come to mind, "Today I must abide at thy house". Just to have Him in such a close consciousness, is precious, but is it constant? The next use of this telling word is, "that ye, being rooted and grounded in love", and here we can employ the appropriate word environment as being truly descriptive of Paul’s exercise. Nothing will enrich the soul more than to be daily conscious of the worth, wealth and worship His love promotes. We come now to the final use of the word, "that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God", which enables us to realise our spiritual enlargement which is not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.
My Involvement and Acknowledgement - 4.3
Although the preservation of things that are essentially Divine is safe, being Divinely protected by the power of God, be assured that should anyone or anything intrude with the purpose to defile or to destroy, righteous judgment will inevitably ensue. Yet right here in this verse Paul addresses the saints and invites their constant vigilance by using the words, "giving diligence". What is the issue in the mind of the apostle? It is "to keep the unity of the Spirit". This will preserve us as God’s people to desist from introducing anything that is contrary to Divine principle or practice. It is our greatest responsibility to maintain what our God in His grace has revealed. It must be obvious to all that where there was resolute disobedience to this directive from heaven, disruption of the Truth and division of the testimony has been the sad result. Such behaviour often has upset the harmony of the saints and hence the need to desire grace to fulfil the clearly defined requirement of the Spirit to maintain unity "in the bond of peace".
My Interests and Acceptance - 4.4
The fact that the Holy Spirit, as in 1 Cor.12.4–11, takes such a place in terms of the Godhead, it assures us of His Divinity and authority, which must be effectively and constantly acknowledged in every aspect of our service as we exercise the gift imparted by Him. In the course of our Bible study we ought to exercise the principle of interpretation that the truth of the Word is never compromised, otherwise, truth becomes clouded and the teaching of Scripture is confused. Beloved in the Lord, allow me to emphasize this work of the Holy Spirit, for many in these days choose to disregard adherence to the Word. He helps us to exegete (to draw out of), rather than, to read into Scripture.
My Insensitivity and Alertness - 4.30
Is it possible that I can be insensitive to the fact that I can grieve the Holy Spirit? Trace the occurrence of this word "grieve" (lupeo), used 26 times in the New Testament. Generally its use indicates a state of sorrow. Can it be that by my manner of life in any form or category, I can bring sorrow to the Holy Spirit of God? May the Lord in His mercy preserve us from such a possibility, as this sadly can be the case. It has been noted previously that Isaiah makes it clear this is what Israel did, 63.9–16. It is a sure token of grace, that our unfavourable action does not alter our security, for we are "sealed unto the day of redemption" by the same Spirit.
My Invigoration and Aim - 5.18
A reference to Lk.1.15 will confirm that from his birth, John was to conform to the features of a Nazarite in what he was not to do, and that he was by Divine grace "filled with the Spirit". In the measure that we move in spiritual Nazariteship, we in this day of grace, can know the privilege of being filled with the Spirit. Nothing will exert our actions, labour and service more than to be truly conscious of the presence and power of the indwelling Spirit. It will result in a fullness of praise to our blessed Lord, personally and collectively, v.19, as well as continuous giving of thanks to our God and Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, v.20. These precious acts of worship and adoration are to be followed by a spiritual submission one to another in the fear of God, v.21. How sad it is to know that brethren can speak to the Lord in meetings of whatever nature, and yet often fail purposely to speak to their brethren.
My Instrument and Armour - 6.17
It is wonderful how our God has equipped us for the stand He expects us to maintain in these days of spiritual conflict. The loins being the source of contribution we certainly require them to be girded about with truth, else issues can emerge from us that will be wholly contrary to the mind and will of God. Similarly the source of our affection requires to be preserved, lest our love and longing be directed to others and not to our God. Likewise our feet must be shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace, for many we know today in the service of the Gospel tread in areas where spiritual disobedience and dishonour prevails. Added to our protection is the "shield of [the] faith". This is the large body shield and here is depicted as the full-orbed revelation of God as being a strong shelter from the fiery darts of the evil one. Nor can our full protection be complete without two essential items of our armour being employed, namely, "the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit". It is the "helmet of salvation" which preserves the mind from accepting unreservedly anything other that the Word. "The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" is not the totality of the Bible. We have noticed earlier that the word for "word" used here by the Spirit of God, denotes the word for the moment. Hence our need to be fully and daily acquainted with the Word of God, cp. Neh.8.18a. So in the rich provision that our God has made for our head and hand we have adequate resources that will more than preserve and promote our ability to "stand against the wiles of the devil".
My Intercession and Asking - 6.18
Paul has assured us that in our praying we require that Divine enablement which only the Spirit of God can give, Rom.8.26,27. Likewise Jude v.20 has these words of spiritual advice: "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost." Now we come to the last mention of the Holy Spirit in the Epistle to the Ephesians and it brings Him into a very needful aspect of our life for our God. In our prayer exercise we require His Divine enablement that we may pray according to His Word, asking for those issues He will freely bestow if they be according to His will. Admittedly while the term "all saints" embraces many whom we do not know, nor are we aware of their need, yet it is assuring that the One to Whom we make our requests, knows all. There are those whom we know personally, and obviously for these our prayers can be specific, as indeed Paul makes clear as he directs the prayerful exercise of the Ephesian saints in respect of his own service for the Lord, v.19,20.
To all that read these lines, we close with the words of the Apostle ere he laid down his pen:
How apt are the words of Albert Midlane:
- Our Father and our God!
- We bless Thy sacred name;
- The promises to us fulfilled,
- Thy faithfulness proclaim;
- Through Jesus glorified,
- The Holy Ghost hath come,
- To swell within Thy children’s breast,
- The earnest of their home.
- The treasures that are found
- In Jesus He displays;
- He wins our heart, by Jesus’ love,
- To love of Jesus’ ways;
- And by His power constrained,
- The witness round we give
- Of Jesus and His sacrifice,
- Through whom the dead may live.
- He, by Thy faithful Word,
- Sheds on our pathway light;
- And He upon His people’s hearts
- That holy Word doth write.
- The promises become
- To us a portion sure;
- And, in the hope of things to come,
- We by His might endure
- Him may we never grieve,
- But walk in light and love,
- In joy of holy fellowship,
- Foretaste of joy above.
- Led by Thy Spirit on,
- As sons of God, unknown,
- Sealed, till the full redemption’s day
- When Thou Thy sons wilt own.