THE ADDRESS ON THE ENVELOPE
BY: ADOLPH E. KNOCH
GOD has revealed Himself in many ways in His Word. The historic, prophetic and literary portions are usually in the form of short scrolls or pamphlets. His latest and highest communications have come to us in the form of letters, or, being formal and of public character, epistles. When the postman brings a large stack of mail, we must first sort it out, if several receive their letters at the same address. Before we open it and read it we must make sure for whom it is intended.
In early days there were no envelopes, so the address of an epistle was always the burden of its opening lines. So the epistolary portions of the Scriptures are usually introduced by some specific indication as to the particular person or persons from whom the epistle comes and to whom it is to go. Peter and James are especially particular on this point. Paul always prefixes his name, and usually follows with the character he assumes in writing and a concise description of those he is addressing.
The name “Paul” has a strange sound to one accustomed to the Hebrew titles of so many of the ancient scrolls. Of course, Paul was an Israelite, like most of the other sacred penmen, but God changed his Hebrew name, Saul, to a foreign one, “Paul.” This change was made at that crisis in his career when he was severed from his associates for a special ministry to the nations (Acts 13:2,3). Not only that, but the very first time that we read of the evangel being proclaimed directly to a gentile, not a proselyte, we are told casually that Saul “is also Paul.” Furthermore this gentile was also called by this name, for he was the proconsul Sergius Paul. Still more significant are Paul’s dealings with Elymas, the magician, who sought to pervert the proconsul from the faith. He undoubtedly is representative of Israel, and foreshadows the opposition to Paul’s ministry for the nations. The climax is capped by Paul’s miracle, so unlike his other gracious deeds. He brought blindness on the apostate Jew “until the appointed time.” What a marvelous miniature of Paul’s ministry! During Israel’s blindness he brings salvation to the nations (Acts 13:6-12).
The name “Paul” is in full accord with his ministry. Though usually taken as a Roman name meaning “little,” it seems far more likely that it is Greek, (though the Latin also had this root) from the element pau, meaning CEASE, from which our English word pause is derived. His name should always suggest to us the pause in God’s dealings with Israel, the interval during which the nation is blind, like Elymas, until the appointed time. How suggestive this is! Every time we attempt to enter one of Paul’s epistles we are notified that what follows is to be applied during the period of Israel‘s blindness. And the fact that all of his epistles are thus marked, stamps them as one, and identifies them with this period, when God’s grace goes out to the nations.
Paul introduces himself according to the character of the epistle. Is it concerned with service? Then he speaks of himself as a slave. Is it authoritative? Then he appears as an apostle. Where fellowship is the theme he associates others with him in his salutation. The Perfection epistles, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, are fine examples. As he alone is the authoritative revelator of the mystery, he presents his credentials in Ephesians as an apostle; as service and fellowship are uppermost in Philippians, he introduces himself as a slave, along with Timothy; as Colossians is concerned with correction and communion, he is again an apostle, along with Timothy.
The revelation of the mystery depends on the authority of Paul as an apostle. There were not wanting those who questioned or denied his right to the title. He was not one of the twelve. He could not qualify for such a place. He did not become an apostle until after the main ministry of the twelve had been accomplished. The one who took Judas’ place had to be taken from among those who had been with Christ all the time from John’s baptism until His ascension (Acts 1:21,22). This was the one condition, and Paul had not been with Him at all. Moreover, his apostleship was based on the very reverse of this. It was necessary that he should not know our Lord until after His ascension, for he is the apostle of Christ Jesus, the glorified, not Jesus Christ, the rejected Messiah.
The title apostle has often been defined as “one sent.” But it has not the usual element for send. This is pemp. Apostle is made up of two elements, apo, FROM, and stel PUT. Its literal meaning is to put some one at a distance, as a representative. Its nearest English equivalent is commissioner. An apostle was given a commission, with authority to enforce it. The commissions for the twelve were given them by the Lord while He was yet with them. Paul did not receive his from them or through them, but from the Lord Himself. The vast differences between his commissions and those of the twelve should show how utterly impossible it is that Paul should be numbered with the eleven.
Apostolic authority was by no means confined to the twelve. Among the Circumcision there must always be so many, and no more or less, for Israel‘s twelve tribes call for twelve rulers. But no such condition determines the number of apostles among the Uncircumcision. Paul, however, is so great that he overshadows the others far more than Peter does his fellow apostles. Indeed, it is probable that, if we confine ourselves strictly to this final and culminating revelation of the mystery, Paul is its only apostle. Though Timothy is included in the Salutation to Colossians, his apostleship is not recognized there. He is simply brother Timothy. And, now that the men have passed away, and Paul alone has left inspired epistles, he has become for us the one and only apostle, the only authority in doctrine and practice.
Repeatedly, Paul ascribes his apostolic office to the will of God (1 Cor.1:1; 2 Cor.1:1; Col.1:1; 2 Tim.1:1). None of the twelve do this. They were chosen by Christ in accord with the revealed counsel of God. Their commissions, their careers, all about them, was in line with Jehovah’s promises in the Law and in the Prophets and in the Psalms. Some details and developments may have been secret, but their whole course was in keeping with a program previously prepared. One of the special points in Paul’s call was that he should know God’s will (Acts 22:14). This cannot refer to a knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures, but to matters still unrevealed. It was Paul’s special privilege to explore new and unknown fields of God’s purpose. To be appointed an apostle by His will is suggestive of a fresh departure in the divine activities.
Thus far the writer of the epistle has introduced himself. Now he writes the address on the envelope. When he indicates the destination of his letter, he characterizes those to whom he is writing. He sends it “to all the saints who are, and believe in, Christ Jesus.” It is said that an expert can read the history of a man’s health by looking at his teeth. So we can see the apostasy from Pauline teaching in the interpolations and mistranslations and interpretations of these simple words.
It is evident that the force of “being…in Christ Jesus” was lost very early. As is the case today in many quarters, the names and titles of our Lord had no special significance. Indeed, in the highest evangelical circles the irreverent use of our Lord’s personal name is very painful to sensitive spirits. And how few would recognize the great distinction between “Christ Jesus” and “Jesus Christ!” Yet this is the whole point in this address. In a recent study of the titles of our Lord these two forms were combined in the statistics, as though the order of the words was only accidental, and carried no significance.
All who are in touch with God are holy ones or saints. This is the most inclusive name by which they can be known. From Adam and Abel to the last to be called in the eons to come, in every era, and in all the various administrations not only men but messengers, are called holy ones, or saints. When Paul wrote this epistle the saints were divided into two classes. One group, associated with the twelve apostles, mostly of the Circumcision and proselytes, were proclaiming Jesus Christ as the rejected Messiah. The other group, associated with Paul, mostly of the Uncircumcision, recognized His present heavenly exaltation, which is expressed concisely and forcibly in the title Christ Jesus. To this class this epistle was sent.
No more correct or concise direction could be given for the delivery of this epistle. It is not for unbelievers, but for saints. It is not for those in Jesus Christ, but those in Christ Jesus. Try as we will, we cannot find any better address for the envelope, even though we should add much to it. It is for some Jews and some gentiles, hence we cannot easily draw a line there. Though mostly for the Uncircumcision, it also includes some of the Circumcision. We cannot use this distinction. There is only one way to divide them, and that is their attitude toward Christ, as expressed in the two titles Jesus Christ and Christ Jesus.
Since the significance of the title “Christ Jesus” was lost, this sentence in the salutation has been beyond the apprehension of copyists and translators, hence they have tried to remedy the apparent fault. So the scribe of Alexandrinus, or some one before him, added “in Ephesus” in order to make sense. It is most likely that this epistle was sent to Ephesus as well as to all the Pauline ecclesias, and there may have been a tradition to that effect which led to the insertion of this phrase. But the character of the epistle is such that it is clearly a circular letter, one copy of which might be addressed particularly to Ephesus, but which is by no means to be confined to that ecclesia.
We are confirmed in this position by the fact that both Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, the most ancient of our manuscripts, were originally written without “in Ephesus.” In Vaticanus someone has added it in the margin. This is shown in the plate on page forty-eight of the Introduction to the CONCORDANT VERSION. It can be seen at the end of the third line of the center column, not far below the heavy ornamental bar, which disfigure’s the upper margin of the manuscript. In Sinaiticus it is by a later hand. It is clear that the phrase has crept in, and was not a part of the early texts, or of the original autograph. Only the difficulty of translating without it, has kept it there. The critical editors usually put it in square brackets. A few mark it to be omitted in their margin. Hardly any hold with the so-called “received text” in retaining it without question. It should be omitted.
This epistle contains no local allusions. The apostle has no special place in mind. The theme is developed along the broadest lines. There are no special expedients as in Corinth, no corrections as in Galatia and Colosse. Every part of the epistle applies equally to all the ecclesias. It is of such a character that it could not be withheld from any saint in Christ Jesus, in any place or at any time. It applies to us today as fully as if we had just received it fresh from the pen of Paul.
This epistle was for all the saints in Christ Jesus. It should have been sent to all the saints who had come under Paul’s teaching and it would not have been understood by any others. Since it was written for them, surely it must have been sent to them. Only some of these were at Ephesus. Others were at Corinth and Thessalonica and in Galatia, as well as Philippi and Colosse, wherever Paul and his preaching had penetrated.
We call it “Ephesians.” As we need some name to distinguish it, this will serve the purpose better than any other because it has become inseparably associated with this epistle in all that has been said and written about it for centuries. So “Ephesians” it shall be, with the distinct understanding that this name is a mere expedient. If the title had not already been misappropriated we would suggest calling it “Paul’s General Epistle.” Jude’s epistle certainly is not entitled to this term. Perhaps we can compromise on “Paul’s Perfection Epistle,” as we have already used the plural of this phrase for Ephesians and its companion epistles.
In the transitional era preceding the present secret administration of God’s transcendent riches of grace, Paul wrote his epistles to the Thessalonians and to the Romans, the Corinthians, the Galatians, as well as his first letter to Timothy. The question arises, did the revelation of the secret in Ephesians and its companion epistles annul the previous revelation completely, and ignore its recipients, so that Romans to Galatians and Thessalonians are obsolete, or do they still stand just as they are, so that Ephesians is a mere addition to their message? Or is there a third course indicated, between these two extremes, their acceptance as a whole, yet with modifications in detail to accord with the later revelation? Is this epistle addressed to those in Christ Jesus to whom Paul wrote his previous epistles?
The third item of the secret settles these questions for us satisfactorily. We are joint partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus, through the evangel of which Paul became the dispenser (Eph.3:6,7). Note the past tense of became. It tells us that Paul is speaking of the evangel, which he had preached. It is limited by the title “Christ Jesus” to that which is recorded in his previous epistles and does not include his ministry in the synagogues in Acts. In this evangel the nations had been partakers, but not joint partakers. It was to the Jew first. The nations had a secondary place. The secret now revealed is not that the nations are to be partakers, but that they are to be joint partakers.
Broadly speaking, we have a complete answer to our questions here. All of Paul’s previous epistles are definitely declared to be ours, yet with such modifications as the abrogation of Israel‘s priority involves. Ephesians does not restate Paul’s previous evangel, for that would have been useless. All to whom the new revelation came were acquainted with it. All that they needed was the ability to adapt it to the larger light.
As a consequence, the epistle to the Ephesians is full of contacts and contrasts with Paul’s previous teaching. Not only are we given the broad basis on which to build our attitude toward Paul’s other writings, but many of the details are developed for us and the character of the link between the two is carefully considered. We will confine ourselves in this study to these two aspects. In what particulars and how does the fact that we are now joint partakers affect Paul’s previous epistles? What is the character of the link between them? Is it a sheer break, a mere development, or a superseded glory?
The third item of the secret is elaborated in the last eleven verses of the second chapter. There the apostle would have them remember what they were in flesh, during the previous era, before Ephesians was penned. This chapter will help us greatly in our quest. But it is of the utmost importance to note that the contrasts are not between the position the nations occupied in spirit, as revealed in Paul’s epistles, but with their place in flesh, as seen in the book of Acts. Indeed, the great difficulty, which almost every one has in understanding this chapter, lies in the failure to make this distinction.
The disabilities are all physical, not spiritual. In Paul’s previous epistles the spiritual unity of Jew and gentile is emphasized; in Acts their physical differences are to the fore. It is only in flesh, as seen in Acts, that the nations are apart from Christ, alienated from the citizenship of Israel, guests of the promise covenants, having no expectation, and without God in the world. This is graphically illustrated for us by the presence of Trophimus, the Ephesian, in Jerusalem, where the very rumor that he had been brought near to God in the sanctuary caused the riot which led to Paul’s imprisonment (Acts 21:27-29).
All these physical disabilities are largely ignored in Paul’s writings, so the contrast is developed by references to Acts. The great change is symbolized by the razing of the central wall of the barrier, which Trophimus was supposed to have passed (Eph.2:14), the nullifying of the apostolic decrees (Eph.2:15; Acts 15:20; 16:4), and the crucifixion. The consequence is that the place accorded the nations in the book of Acts is no longer true at all. There they were guests and sojourners now they are fellow citizens. There they were outsiders; now we are members of God’s family; there they were kept away from the sanctuary; now we are one of the temple buildings (Eph.2:19-22).
Now these contrasts are emphatically not with the position of the nations in spirit in Paul’s previous epistles, but with their physical standing at the time when these epistles were written. In them these physical disabilities are hardly mentioned, and one who reads them today would scarcely know that these existed. The great gulf between Paul’s written ministry and the record in Acts may be seen by comparing the record of his stay in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9) with the epistles written to the same place not long afterward. In Acts it is all Jewish. In the epistle one would hardly guess that there were any Jews in the city. To be sure there were a vast multitude of the reverent Greeks allotted to Paul, but the very term in Acts suggests proselytes.
The point for us to see is that, while Acts is in contrast to Ephesians, the epistles are in contact with it. Without actually revealing the secret of joint participation, the nations, in spirit, have access into the presence of God (Rom.5:1,2), unhindered by the barrier wall in the sanctuary at Jerusalem, the decrees issued by the apostles are not even mentioned, and physical relationship to Christ is definitely ignored (2 Cor.5: 16). These epistles are preparatory to Ephesians. Trophimus and Paul, in Acts, are far apart in flesh; in the early epistle they are near, in spirit; in Ephesians they are one.
The second item of the secret is that we are a joint body. No body is known in Acts, though it undoubtedly existed at the time. But Romans and Corinthians reveal the existence of the body long before the secret of the joint body was made known. Our main question might be restated in concrete terms thus: Is the body of Romans and Galatians the same one as we have in Ephesians, or a different one entirely? We are compelled to take a middle ground. It is the same body, but changed. It is composed of the same class of saints, but its constitution has been altered to agree with the higher and later revelation.
The body in Corinthians is not a joint body. The meaning of this term is not as clear as it might be in English. It describes a body in which all the members are of equal rank, respectability and honor. There is no such thing on earth. No bodies we are acquainted with are joint bodies. The word had to he coined in Greek, for the thought was unknown. It may be that there are celestial bodies like this, but none on earth. The body as described in Corinthians at such length was such as we know–an earthly body in which the head held the highest rank and each member differed from all the others in respectability, strength and honor. God blended them together by mutual sympathy and need.
In the Corinthian body the Circumcision would claim the better parts. The gifts – first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers, and after these the lesser graces – would claim superior places. But in a joint body these distinctions disappear. Now Jew and gentile are both the subjects of such transcendent riches of grace that they are joined in one (Eph.2:1-10). The inequalities produced by the gifts are no longer possible in the realm of purest grace. No one can boast, for all are His achievement.
We are warranted, then, in taking the truth of the one body as in Romans (12:4-8) and Corinthians (12:12-31) with such modifications as Ephesians calls for. The body is the same, it is composed of the same class of saints, but it has been affected by the change in administration. Not only are the members all of the same rank now, being a joint body, but the gifts in the body are readjusted. Those which accorded with the kingdom ministry of Acts have ceased, for blessing on earth is no longer in view. Only apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are found in Ephesians (4:11).
This is in perfect accord with the teaching of the thirteenth of first Corinthians, for some of the gifts are there definitely limited to the era of immaturity. Even prophecy is given its place in Ephesians. It, together with the apostolic office, is in the foundation (Eph.2:20). Now that the foundation has been securely laid we have no need for the authority of an apostle or the revelations of a prophet. Any prophecy which could come today could only lay a different foundation, which is not of God. Of all the false prophets who have proclaimed themselves in later years, not even one has so much as understood what the true foundation for the present grace is.
The destiny of the one body is not clearly revealed in the earlier epistles. Only Ephesians gives us the grand truth that it is the complement of Christ with respect to His celestial place, and will be His executive in ruling the entire universe (Eph.1:22,23). It could not be revealed at that time, for the secret of Christ’s universal headship had not been made known. Acts gives Him no sovereignty in celestial realms. So far as its testimony goes, He has no kingdom until He returns to earth, and will have none elsewhere.
But there are hints in Paul’s previous epistles, which need little stressing to suggest a celestial sovereignty. Paul asks the Corinthians, “Are you not aware that we shall be judging messengers…” (1 Cor.6:3)? And he insists that there are celestial bodies in the resurrection (1 Cor.15:40). Is not this almost equal to saying that some of mankind would have a celestial destiny?
The first item of the secret is that the nations now are joint enjoyers of an allotment (Eph.3:6). This is elaborated in the opening section of Ephesians (1:3-14). The subject is developed until we are given a distinct point of contact with Paul’s previous epistles. This new revelation was to be limited to those at that time who were in a state of prior expectancy in Christ (Eph.1:12). There is not a single suggestion of such a class in the book of Acts. Yet it is the burden of the Thessalonian epistles. There we find that they were waiting for His Son from heaven (1 Thess.1:10). They were not in darkness, that the day of the Lord should overtake them as a thief (5:4). They were not appointed to indignation, such as the saints in Israel must endure before the Lord comes to them. They were to procure salvation, whether watching or drowsing. This was to occur by the Lord’s descent from heaven, and their snatching away to meet Him in the air (1 Thess.4:13-17). This was a special revelation through Paul, after his separation from the Circumcision, not even alluded to in Acts, so altogether outside the kingdom ministry to the nation of Israel. It gave the nations a prior expectation. It became a distinguishing mark of those who receive Paul’s message, so that, in seeking for some feature to indicate the recipients of the new revelation, he seizes on this special expectation, to be realized before Christ came to the Circumcision.
But what does this involve? The saints, as well as the subject, are left “in the air.” This is hardly a permanent dwelling place. Will they come down again and be subservient to Israel? Or will they ascend with Him to celestial realms? Ephesians supplies the answer. Should they descend, they could never be joint allottees. Israel has the first place on earth for the eons. We cannot oust them. God’s gifts may be delayed, but they are never regretted. We must ascend if we are to be joint allottees. But how can we have any place among the celestials apart from Christ? So the apostle first unfolds the secret of Christ, His universal headship (Eph.1:10). We are to have our position with Him in the heavens.
The first Corinthian epistle leads to similar reflections. How were we to judge messengers, or rule them, from our inferior station on the earth? The way of a bird in the air is beyond our control. How shall we exercise authority over messengers who can fly through the fields of space? The answer is hinted in his fifteenth chapter. Why speak of celestial bodies in connection with our resurrection? What has the glory of the sun, the moon and the stars to do with our vivification? He does not say. But he tells a secret. We shall be changed. Are not all to be changed in resurrection? That is no secret. But the instantaneous change he alluded to was something unknown before. It could be nothing less than a body fitted for celestial serenes.
Thus, while we find a continual contrast to all that pertains to the Circumcision and the book of Acts, we find a continual contact with Paul’s previous epistles. It is enigmatic (1 Cor.13:12), to use Paul’s own characterization. The tendency is clear enough, for it is away from the physical and terrestrial to the spiritual and celestial. But our destiny is not, and, indeed, could not be revealed so long as God was lingering over His apostate people Israel. It was from glory to glory, each higher revelation being built on its predecessor (2 Cor.3:18).
Another satisfactory solution of our inquiry can be found in the special provision made to bring the saints of Paul’s day into their new standing in Christ Jesus. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are given for the readjusting of the saints, with a view to the work of dispensing, for the upbuilding of the body of Christ, until we should all attain to the unity of faith, and the realization of a son of God, to mature manhood to the adult stature of Christ’s complement, that we should by no means still be minors (Eph.4:11-14).
The words we have italicized are worthy of close study in this connection. None of them suggests a break. The first one is the most important. What is meant by readjusting? Our common version renders the verb mend (Matt.4:21; Mark 1:19), perfect (Matt.21:16; Luke 6:40; 2 Cor.13:11; 1 Thess.3:10; Heb.13:21; 1 Peter 5:10), fit (Rom.9:22), restore (Gal.6:1), prepare (Heb.10:5), frame (Heb.11:3), perfectly join together (1 Cor.1:10). It is evident that it is impossible to get the true sense through the English renderings. The CONCORDANT VERSION uses the synonyms adapt, readjust, attune.
The most of the usual renderings are in accord with our contention that there was no rupture, no break, in passing from the previous to the present administration of God’s grace. Yet one word, mend, does suggest this. We are told that James and John, with their father, were in the ship mending their nets (Matt.4:21). Now this is must unusual. I have seen some fishermen readjusting their nets in their ship, so that there will be no trouble when they leave it fall over the side for another catch, but I have not noticed that nets were mended on board. They are taken to some more convenient, roomy place. Every time they are used they must be folded in their place for the next catch. Only seldom were they mended. The evidence is all in favor of adjusting rather than mending.
There are some passages in which mending will not do at all. The Lord did not come with a mended body, but one adapted to His new sphere of service (Heb.10:5). It was not the form of God repaired. So we may be sure that the gifts were given to readjust, adapt, attune, the saints to the new revelation. The same ministry is needed today, for those who have received the truth of Paul’s earlier epistles. We freely concede that much more than this is needed in most cases, for the majority of the saints are stranded in Acts. Nothing but a decided break with that administration will be sufficient to prepare them for even the rudiments of the grace which is ours in Christ Jesus. The adaptation was based on the change from an incomplete to a complete revelation of God’s purpose, from an inferior to an equal station in His grace, and from a terrestrial to a celestial destiny.
The next important function of the gifts to the ecclesia was to bring them out of minority into maturity. This may be a sudden transition, but it does not involve the repudiation of everything, far reaching as the change may be. Paul, in the thirteenth of first Corinthians, dwells at some length on minority and maturity and makes it clear that, in that era, the saints were not mature. “For,” he says, “at present we are observing by means of a mirror, in an enigma, yet then, face to face.” He is not speaking here of meeting the Lord, but of full knowledge in an era yet to come when the saints would become mature. That time came when Ephesians went forth.
It is still the function of the pastor and teacher to lead his hearers out of minority into maturity. But, alas, how many of the leaders of His beloved saints are themselves mature? The most alluring spiritual height seems to be those gifts which mark minority. The body of Christ is being dragged down, not built up. Spirituality is usually confounded with emotion, and often with direct disobedience to the plainest precept of God’s spirit.
Is there any wonder that they are surging hither and thither, and whirled about by every wind of teaching? So long as the saints prefer the minority of Paul’s earlier epistles or the infancy of Acts, they will be unstable as to the truth, or firmly fixed in error.
Another interesting token of the close relationship of all Paul’s writings is found in the latter part of Ephesians. He does not hesitate to appeal to teaching not found in the earlier portion. The panoply of God (Eph.6:13) consists, in part, of righteousness and of the evangel of peace. This evangel is for the feet – indicating our contact with the world. It is not the peace of the second of Ephesians, between Jew and gentile, but of the fifth of Romans and the fifth of second Corinthians. Righteousness takes us back to the third and fourth chapters of Romans.
Justification is not mentioned in the prison epistles. Neither is conciliation. These themes are practically confined to Paul’s preparatory epistles. They are not affected by the new revelation and suffer no vital modification, unless we wish to note that the different prepositions used in regard to the justification of the Circumcision and Uncircumcision – out of and through – no longer have any force (Rom.3:30). Both are now justified through faith, for there are no longer any believers among the Circumcision who have not become participants of this grace.
The rendering “ordinances” (Eph.2:15), suggests that all the observances, especially baptism and the Lord’s dinner, are done away. But the translation is quite incorrect. The reference is to the decrees issued by the apostles (Acts 15:20). There is no hint that observances, as such, are abolished. Each must be examined on its own merits. Whatever was given specially to Paul after his separation has a strong claim on permanence. What drifted in from the previous kingdom testimony is not so secure.
Baptism in water was never given to Paul. Christ sent him, not to baptize, but to preach the evangel (1 Cor.1:17). He seldom did it himself. He teaches that we all were baptized by one spirit into one body (1 Cor.12:13). The body of Christ cannot exist apart from the baptism of the spirit. So there are two baptisms in his earlier epistles. In Ephesians there is but one (Eph.4:6). Baptism in water loses even the precarious place it had. Water baptism is not for us.
The Lord’s dinner is very different. Paul did not receive it from those before him, as we would expect. He received it by special revelation from the Lord (1 Cor.11:23). He commended it to the Corinthians, and corrected its abuse. How different from the treatment accorded baptism in the same epistle!
Another important contrast is the continuance of the gifts. They were to be limited to minority and to vanish with the advent of maturity. But, with the full realization of the impending change, he ignores any suggestion of recall when dealing with the Lord’s dinner. It is to be observed till Christ’s coming. The “covenant” associated with it is the dispensation of righteousness (2 Cor.3:6, 9) which comes before us in literal language in the third and fourth chapters of Romans.
To conclude: Ephesians is a general epistle written by Paul to those who, like himself, had been severed from the rest, and associated with Christ in glory, rather than in His rejection. While the destiny of the twelve apostles and those associated with them had been clearly revealed, and culminates in the kingdom of Israel on earth, the destiny of this new departure was unknown. Ephesians unfolds this secret, hence it is only for those who are “in Christ Jesus.” Today, notwithstanding the fact that the church knows nothing of this, and follows the twelve apostles, and rejects Paul and his teaching, the kingdom administration is no longer in force. By grace, all are associated with the risen and ascended Christ. Let us pray that God would reveal to His saints the transcendent glory which is theirs in “Christ Jesus.”
© Concordant Publishing Concern
ADDRESS ON THE ENVELOPE, THE [Adolph E. Knoch] 1