Who is closer to us than a brother? Who walks with us everywhere we go, every minute of every day? Who lives inside us to love us and guide us in our earthly journey? Who helps us walk like a brother? That’s right – the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit to them when He returned to His Throne in Heaven.
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” John 16:7-13
Notice that Jesus said, “It is to your advantage that I go away.” I find that statement fascinating in the face of what the disciples would experience in the next 40+ days of their lives. The Lord would die on the Cross, rise from the grave, appear to His disciples multiple times, then physically ascend to Heaven as they watched. Jesus was their Lord, their Teacher, their Mentor. How could it possibly be to their advantage for Him to go away? Jesus answered their question before they asked it: “for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.” Do you see the beauty of God’s Plan? God the Father sent God the Son Who sent God the Holy Spirit. The Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) determined before Creation the part each would play in our salvation and regeneration. The Father loved and gave – the Son loved and died – the Spirit loved and empowered.
Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians is filled with the foundational doctrine of the Church and its application. Let’s look quickly at the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in Ephesians, then at the application. Paul begins his letter by writing, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3) God the Father has blessed everyone Christian with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Who imparts those spiritual blessings? Read on – “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14) We receive every spiritual blessing through the Holy Spirit. We were “sealed” with the Holy Spirit of promise. He is the “guarantee” of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession. Ancient kings placed their royal seal on documents and envelopes that contained their commands and promises. That royal seal was proof to all who saw it that it carried the promise of the king. The seal would not be opened until the documents were handed to the person addressed on the envelope. The Holy Spirit is the Royal Seal on us and in us that proves we have the promises of King Jesus.
Jesus died for our sins – He bought us with His Blood – we are His purchased possession. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guarantee our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession. Important question – what is the address that Jesus placed on us? Important answer – God the Father! Jesus did all that He did for His Father. Read John 17 in that light and you will see that we who are members of the Body of Christ are the Lord’s love gift to His Father.
The Holy Spirit is also our “access” to God the Father – “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:18) Jesus’ death gives us the right to become children of the Father – the Holy Spirit gives us access to our Father. How amazing is our life as the redeemed of God! Not only do we access to God the Father through the Holy Spirit, but we are also a place for God to dwell (katoiketerion – permanent place to live), and He does that work through His Spirit.
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19-22
Notice how God built the Church. He began with His Son as the chief cornerstone, then added the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Next, God expressed His Grace to Jews and Gentiles and brought them together as one household. The Lord used all of these to build a new holy temple, in which He dwells through His Spirit. Do you see what God has done here? He took lost and pitiful sinners who had no hope and no permanent home and brought them together to become His dwelling place on earth. In the past, God took up temporary residence in an earthly tabernacle and temple built with hands. But now, God has taken up permanent residence in His people through the agency of His Spirit. That’s you and me!
The next doctrine Paul taught the Ephesians was how the Holy Spirit revealed a mystery to the apostles and prophets (the foundation upon which the Church was built).
“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.” Ephesians 3:1-7
Paul was a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the Gentiles and said that God had made known to him the mystery – which he called “the dispensation of the grace of God.” The Greek word for “mystery” is musterion and means that which is made known to those initiated into the mysteries. How was Paul initiated into this mystery of God? By special revelation – “by revelation He made known to me the mystery.” The word revelation (apokalupsis) means “an uncovering.” God had kept something covered for thousands of years that He uncovered and specifically gave to Paul so he could reveal it to the Gentile world. What was that mystery? The Dispensation of the Grace of God. The word dispensation (oikononia) means the management of a household. God has had many households of faith through time and is managing the current household (dispensation) through His Grace. That’s why Paul called it the “dispensation of the grace of God.” The way God was going to manage a new household of faith that included primarily Gentiles with a smaller number of Jews was a mystery, but the Holy Spirit revealed it to Paul, and Paul revealed it to the Ephesians and other believers of his time.
Paul was tremendously committed to God’s calling for him to preach the riches of Christ and make everyone understand this mystery of God. Paul also pointed the Ephesians to a higher reason for this new way for God to work with Gentiles. The Lord was using them to demonstrate His wisdom to the principalities and powers in heavenly places! The Lord is doing the same with us today.
“To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.” Ephesians 3:8-13
The first three chapters of Ephesians are doctrinal in nature. Paul is laying the framework of the Dispensation of the Grace of God to help the Ephesian believers understand why they should live the way God was telling them to live. But before Paul revealed how the Ephesians should live their lives, he first bowed his knees to God and prayed for them.
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-21
This is one of the most extraordinary prayers in the Bible and holds great insight to how we can walk with great power and success in our lives and ministries toward others. Next week, we’ll look closer at this amazing prayer and see the wonderful role the Holy Spirit plays in that success.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”