By Harry Ironside
It is important for us to have God’s Word. If you do not remember a thing I say, if you will only get what is written here into heart and mind, it will be well worth while. For after all, as David says: “The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple,” and Paul tells us that we are cleansed by the washing of water by the Word. The Epistle to the Ephesians, as you doubtless well know, carries us up to the very highest peak of Christian privilege. It is the letter that pictures believers as having been raised up together and seated together in Christ in the heavenly places. You could not get any higher, as long as you are here on earth, than Ephesians carries you, but, on the other hand, this letter is just as intensely practical as it is deeply doctrinal.
The first three chapters are largely doctrinal, being mainly occupied with our place, our position, and our privileges in Christ. They contemplate us as members of that new creation of which our risen glorified Lord is the Head. But the last three chapters are perhaps as intensely practical as any portion of the Word of God. Unfortunately, very often in our study of this Epistle, we stop at the end of the third chapter. We delight to read of our privileges in Christ. We glory in the fact that we have been made accepted in the Beloved, that God has linked us up eternally with His Blessed Son, but we are inclined to forget that privileges such as these imply tremendous responsibilities. So if we delight in the first three chapters, we, should be glad to let the last three search us to the very depths of our being. You will notice in this Letter there is a great deal about the Christian’s walk. Seven times we have the word “walk,” and once the word “walked.” Twice the reference is to our walk in our unconverted days, the way we behaved before we were saved, and the other six references have to do with the walk of the new creation, that which should characterize us now as redeemed men and women.
Both appear in the 17th verse: “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind.” That is the way we used to walk, when we were unsaved. We walked in the vanity of our minds, just chasing after the vain empty things of this world, and we never found any satisfaction. Yet men and women all around us are living like that. Solomon tried it to the full and then gave his verdict: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and vexation of spirit,” or, as it might be rendered, “Emptiness of emptinesses, all is emptiness, and a chasing after the wind.” That is what the men of the world are doing. That is what we were once doing, we who are now saved; we walked after the vanity of our minds, until God, in infinite grace, awakened us and gave us a sight of His Beloved Son. What a wonderful event that was! What a marvelous thing, when we were brought to see something of our lost, ruined, undone condition, as poor, guilty sinners going on to judgment, and then God turned our eyes to the blessed Lord Jesus Christ, and trusting in Him, our souls were saved!
“I once was far away from God,
On ruin’s dark and fatal road,
And little dreamed I’d see the day
When I should tread the narrow way.
“But while from God I wandered far,
And with His holy will made war,
My Saviour met me far astray,
And beckoned me to come away.
“He said on Calvary’s Cross He died;
A sacrifice for sin was made.
And all because He loved me so,
Then how could I do else than go?”
So that ended one chapter in my life; that ended the times past, when I walked in the ways of the Gentiles. You know what that means, don’t you? Let me plead with you, whoever you may be, if you are out of Christ today, don’t think to find satisfaction in a world that has never satisfied anybody. It has disappointed everybody whoever sought satisfaction in it, during all these vast millenniums, and you can depend upon it, it is going to disappoint you. But oh, that even today, you might turn to One Who never disappoints, to our blessed Lord Jesus, and find in Him everlasting salvation! Then you may be able to sing:
“I tried the broken cisterns, Lord,
But ah! the waters failed!
E’en as I stooped to drink they’d fled,
And mocked me as I wailed.
“The pleasures lost I sadly mourned,
But never wept for Thee,
Till grace the sightless eyes received,
Thy loveliness to see.
!‘Now none but Christ can satisfy,
None other name for me;
There’s love, and life, and lasting joy,
Lord Jesus, found in Thee.”
The apostle Paul to the Ephesians is addressing people who have found Christ and been found of Him, and yet he has some very serious things to say to them, because the remarkable fact is that salvation does not necessarily imply that one enters immediately upon full holiness of life. Salvation is the start, it is the entrance into a new life, and then we shall know, if we follow on to know the Lord and to walk in His ways. So the command comes: “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk.” You are not to be like the world: you are not to go on in the way you once did, “in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them because of the blindness of their hearts.” We who have trusted Christ have received divine life, and with that there come new cravings and new longings, and, thank God, new possibilities! Our outward ways are expected to be different because of the light that we have received. He is our Lamp, and will lighten our darkness.
A great many people make the mistake of trying to live the life before they receive the life. The hardest thing I know is to try to live the Christian life when you do not have it to live. There must be a Christian life first, before you can exemplify and manifest it. To try to live a Christian life when you have never been born again is just as hopeless as for a chimpanzee to try and live a human life. I have seen some chimpanzees that could copy things people do in a remarkable way. At a Zoo in Philadelphia, they once said to me, “Come along and see a couple of your ancestors!” I went along; there were two trained chimpanzees who had learned to mimic human beings to a remarkable degree. They wore clothes, sat at a table, ate and drank, and in a clumsy way handled a knife and fork. When they got all through, they settled back, and put cigarettes in their mouths, and a keeper lit them, and they looked to me exactly like a lot of our own people do when smoking cigarettes. I never was in such difficulty in assuring myself that there is no truth in Evolution! But although they could do all those things, they did not know anything about real human life. They did not know anything of the principles controlling men and women. They were simply imitators.
Many people imitate Christians, and try to behave like them. They do not know anything of the power of the Christian life. They have never been born again. “Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of Cod.” Some people are seeking holiness of life when they need to be born again. They have joined the Church, they have observed certain ordinances. They hear people talk of a deeper, more wonderful life, and they say, “That is what I want: I must go on and get into this richer, more blessed life.” They try and try, and never get anywhere, because they have never begun right. They did not get in by the wicket gate. You remember in Bunyan’s immortal Allegory how Christian is going along a road, and a couple of fellows come jumping over the wall. “Who are you, and where do you come from?” he asked.
“We come from the town of Carnal Security,” they say to him. “We are going to the Celestial City.”
“Well, you didn’t get in where I did,” says Christian in surprise, “I got in at the wicket
“Oh, that is the old-fashioned way!” they reply, “we have a short cut over the wall. After we are over the wall, what difference does it make? You are in the way and we are in the way, and we are all headed for the same place. You’ll see we will come out just as well as you.” But they didn’t have the seal on their forehead. They had never been to the Cross; they did not have the robe of righteousness. You remember one fell over the cliff, and the other was lost in the forest. They never made their way to the Celestial City.
A lot of people get over the wall and not in by the wicket gate; never born again, they go striving for holiness, purity, and higher life, but it will be all in vain until they confess their sins in the presence of God, and trust the Saviour for themselves. They must give up all hope of righteousness in themselves, of being able to do anything to retrieve their condition, casting themselves wholly on Divine mercy. Then they are in the way, and can grow in grace.
The apostle talks to people in the way; be careful, don’t allow the spirit of the world to control you. In the world, you find people in ignorance, blindness, past feeling. The word “feeling” (v. 19 – it is a peculiar thing) this is one of the only two places where it is found in the New Testament. A lot of Christians talk so much about feelings that you would think it was to be found in every third chapter. Certain heathen here are “past feeling.”
The other place is in the Epistle to the Hebrews. “We have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” The word “feel” only occurs once in the New Testament. Paul was talking to the Athenians and said that God is not far from any one of us, “if haply they might feel after Him and find Him,” as “An infant crying in the night, An infant crying for the light, With no language but a cry.”
What are our words? “Trust,” “believe,” “receive.” When we believe God, there follows the happy, joyous emotion; no question about that, as we walk in fellowship with Him. The thing we are to be concerned about is not feeling, but trusting. Someone said: “Believing is the root, and feeling is the fruit.” So when we believe first, the joy comes. These outsiders are “past feeling, and have given themselves over to lasciviousness to work all uncleanness with greediness,” but you who are saved, “ye have not so learned Christ.” You have been linked up with a Risen Christ at God’s right hand, and He is the Holy One, the High Priest holy and undefiled. He says, as it were, Do not dishonor Him by linking any kind of impurity with His Holy Name. “Ye have not so learned Christ. If so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus.”
Why does he say “Christ” in the one place and “Jesus” in the other? You see, you and I became acquainted with Him in the glory. “God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified to be Lord and Christ,” and He is there, the Anointed One in the Glory. That is where we became acquainted with Him. We did not know Him down here on earth as Jesus. We never had that privilege. We know Him up there in His glory. He, the glorified One, undertakes to show you and me how we ought to live. He undertakes to show us the truth as to holy living. Do you know that He does? He points us back to the life Jesus lived on earth. There is the truth as to holy living, fully manifested. There is the truth in Jesus. The Risen Christ says: Go back now and see the path I took through this world, if you want to find out how you should walk in the world. I have left you an example, follow in My steps.
What a searching thing this is! I can hear all kinds of stirring sermons, perhaps, and they may deal seriously with sin and all the rest of it, but I can bow the head and let it roll over, and say, “I do hope those folk behind are taking it.” But bring me face to face with Jesus, solely Jesus. Occupy my mind with the life He lived when He walked in this scene, and I begin to shrivel up. I say “Oh, dear, is that what a man should be for God? Is that the divine ideal? Is that what I ought to be as a Christian?” I see the truth in Jesus, and while it does shrivel me up, and while it does humble me, it stirs within my soul an earnest desire to become increasingly like Him. I want to walk as He walked. I want to be before God as He was when He was in this scene. So the risen Christ is teaching us the truth in Jesus.
(An excerpt of Harry Ironside’s book, Changed by Beholding – in public domain)