Roman Stones for Ephesians Temple

By Charles H. Welch

While the superstructure, the Temple, of Ephesians 2 is a ‘new creation’ (Eph. 2:15 (R.V.), 20-22), the foundation stones were laid by the apostle in his earlier ministry. Among the most prominent of these foundation stones is the doctrine of justification by faith. The conditions under which justification may be received are given in Romans 4:4,5 :

‘Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness’.

Such is the teaching of Romans. What does Ephesians teach?:

‘For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast’ (Eph. 2:8,9).

Here the general trend is identical:

‘Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith’ (Rom. 3:27).

If one should say that the omission of the word ‘justify’ or ‘righteousness’ from Ephesians 2 renders it unfit as a true parallel, we may turn to Philippians 3. There the apostle expresses the desire:

‘Be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by (through) faith’ (Phil. 3:9).

This passage is explicit. It practically sums up Romans 3:21,22:

‘But now the righteousness of God without the law ... even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ’.

This righteousness moreover is the breastplate in the ‘armour of God’ (Eph. 6:14).

The teaching of Romans 6 involves ‘dying with Christ’, and therefore an examination of the A.V. of Ephesians 2:1 seems called for. It is impossible to be quickened and raised without previously dying, and we believe that the teaching of Ephesians 2:1-6 is based upon Romans 6. Taking the rendering of Ephesians 2:1 as given in the A.V., we conclude that this is the state of man by nature, but translating the passage in exactly the same way as the phrase is translated by the A.V. itself in other parts, we have set before us the state of a man in grace. It must not be thought that by so saying we deny the deadness of all men by nature, our concern is to be sure that we have the truth of Ephesians 2:1. Now the epistle to the Ephesians was not written to those who needed the elements of the truth, but to those who, possessing both faith and love, and whose eyes were already enlightened, could appreciate the deeper things of God. Salvation from sin is not the theme of Ephesians. Ephesians 1:7 and 2:1,5 exhaust the references to both ‘trespasses and sins’ in this epistle, whereas Romans speaks of ‘trespass’ (offence) nine times, and ‘sin’, over forty times.

Those for whom this Analysis is primarily written are not expected to have the necessary knowledge to enable them to make a translation from the Greek New Testament for themselves, but we believe it is within the powers of all to follow the accompanying argument that depends solely upon comparing Scripture with Scripture. In the following passages we have a strictly similar construction as is found in Ephesians 2:1:

  • ‘We, that are dead to sin’ (Rom. 6:2).
  • ‘He died unto sin’ (Rom. 6:10).
  • ‘Dead indeed unto sin’ (Rom. 6:11).
  • ‘Dead to the law’ (Rom. 7:4; Gal. 2:19).
  • ‘Dead to sins’ (1 Pet. 2:24).

Taking the A.V. itself as our guide we translate Ephesians 2:1 as:

‘Who were dead to trespasses and sins’.

While the fruits of Ephesians 2 rise as high as ‘seated together’ in the heavenlies, its roots go down into Romans 6:11 :

‘Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord’.

The only other reference to sin in Ephesians is in 1:7 (2:5 is a restatement of 2:1), where it is connected with sin and forgiveness. Both redemption and forgiveness find their exposition in Romans 3:24 and 4:7 where they are closely allied with the other foundation stone, viz., justification by faith.

Both the epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians speak of putting off the old man and putting on the new. How the old man may be put off is discovered in Romans 6:6:

‘Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin’.

The new man is not mentioned in so many words in Romans, nevertheless its presence is felt in such passages as:

  • ‘Walk in newness of life’ (6:4).
  • ‘Serve in newness of spirit’ (7:6).
  • ‘Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ’ (13:14).

By comparing passages in Ephesians and Colossians we find that the teaching of Romans, that the old man was ‘crucified’, is latent in those passages also, e.g.:

  • ‘That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man’ (Eph. 4:22-24).
  • ‘And having spoiled (put off) principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it’ (i.e. the cross, previous verse) (Col. 2:15).
  • ‘Seeing that ye have put off (same as "spoiled", 2:15) the old man with his deeds’ (3:9).

Here it will be seen that the believer, like his Lord, can only ‘put off’ the old man by virtue of the cross. Moreover, the renewing of the spirit of the mind finds an affinity in the teaching of Romans 12:2. The references to these heavenly powers in Ephesians are primarily connected with the peculiar dispensational privileges of the church, but the six references in Ephesians and Colossians rest upon the basis laid in Romans 8:38. Before we can boast in the dispensational privilege of being raised ‘far above all’, we must know something of the doctrinal glory of being ‘more than conquerors’. Before we can appreciate this exaltation, this reconciliation, we need to know the solid fact of the absolute triumph of the risen Christ in every sphere, whether:

‘Death, life, angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come, height, depth, or any other creature’;

and when we know that, we can go on to learn of His exaltation:

‘Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the coming one’ (Eph. 1:21).

‘More than conquerors’ expresses the Roman foundation stone; ‘far above all’ the heavenly fabric erected thereon. Doctrine remains unchanged, it is dispensational truth that marks the change.

The two central chapters of Colossians are written around the doctrinal teaching of the inner section of Romans: chapters 5 to 8. For this, see Romans (p. 126), viz., the union of the believer with the death and resurrection of Christ:

  • ‘Wherefore if ye died with Christ ... ‘ (Col. 2:20).
  • ‘Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him’ (Col. 2:12).
  • ‘Therefore if ye be risen with Christ ... ‘ (Col. 3:1).

The doctrine of death, burial and resurrection with Christ receives its fullest exposition in Romans 6 to 8. (See Sanctification). Circumcision in its spiritual sense is found in Colossians 2:11, and is foreshadowed in Romans 2:26-29.

The prize of the high calling of Philippians 3 cannot very well be the prize of any other calling as well; the ‘out resurrection’ towards which the apostle pressed is unique. Nevertheless while one prize will differ from another, one principle is found operating throughout all the differing sections of God’s purpose. Caleb and Joshua were not running for the prize of Philippians 3, yet they were actuated by similar motives and guided by similar principles.

We have repeatedly drawn attention to the difference between ‘the hopeof the calling’ and ‘the prize of the calling’, and this distinction is seen in Romans 8:17:

‘And if children, then heirs; heirs of God’ The Hope.
‘And joint-heirs with Christ’ The Prize.

Both statements are qualified. There is an ‘if’ in each. The first, ‘if children’, associates all who are saved with inheritance, and excludes all others. The second, ‘if so be we suffer’, as surely excludes those who do not in some measure share in the rejection of the Lord:

‘Joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together’ (Rom. 8:17).

Glory awaits every child of God:

‘Whom He did predestinate, them He also called ... justified ... glorified’ (Rom. 8:30).

‘If we suffer with Him’ implies a voluntary and active fellowship, contrasted with the passive nature of birth, death and resurrection. The same principle is expressed in Revelation 3:21, for sitting with the Lord in His throne is parallel with being joint-heirs with Christ.

A very complete parallel with Romans 8:17 is found in 2 Timothy 2:11,12:

‘For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him’ The Hope.
‘If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him’ The Prize.

(See Philippians; Prize).

Reconciliation in the Prison Epistles

Two words are used to express the thought of reconciliation. Before Acts 28 the word translated reconciliation is katallasso, while after Acts 28, it is apokatallasso. The former is the basis of the latter. The two references to reconciliation in Romans underlie the two references in Ephesians and Colossians. Romans 5 and Colossians 1 deal with the subject basically. Romans 11 and Ephesians 2 deal with it as between Jew and Gentile.

Romans 5 does not settle the differences that existed between circumcision and uncircumcision, but goes back to the racial estrangementbrought about by Adam. Romans 11 touches the national estrangement that took place at Babylon (Rom. 1:18-32). This reconciliation hinges upon Israel’s setting aside:

  • ‘Through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles’.
  • ‘If the diminishing of them be the riches of the Gentiles’.
  • ‘If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world’.

The fuller reconciliation of Ephesians 2 is based upon Romans 11; the fuller reconciliation of Colossians 1 is based upon Romans 5. ‘Salvation’, ‘riches’, ‘reconciliation’, all came to the Gentiles in their fulness after Acts 28.

Did the dispensational change that came in after Acts 28 affect none but believers? Does it extend to the world outside? Are we to believe that the attitude of God towards the nations as such has changed from that shown during the Acts; that overflowing grace marks His dealings not only with the Church, but with the race? It is said, in the wisdom of the world, that ‘a straw shows the direction of the current’ as surely as a ship. Now in Romans 1:18-32 we have a picture of the Gentile world as it was in Paul’s day, and again in 2 Timothy 3:1-7 we have a description of the ‘last days’, presumably of this dispensation. As we read both passages we are conscious of being brought face to face with the same terrible abandonment. The same words are used in the two descriptions, e.g. boasters, proud, disobedient to parents, without natural affection, truce breakers, etc. The only change that is indicated is in connection with ‘religion’.

In Romans 1 there is what may be called ‘natural religion’, the evidence of creation and the voice of conscience. From this the Gentile world turned away, became subject to a reprobate mind (adokimos) and was given up to a demoralizing ignorance because they exchanged the truth (aletheia) for the lie. In 2 Timothy 3, after nearly two thousand years of the witness of the gospel of Christ, the days are marked by a ‘form of godliness’, with a denial of its power. Associated with this denial are men of corrupt minds, reprobate (adokimos) as to the faith, and men who oppose the truth (aletheia). It does not appear that the dispensational change of Acts 28 has any effect outside the circle of faith. God’s attitude to all flesh is based upon a covenant that goes back to the time of Noah (Gen. 8:22; 9:9-11), and remains unaltered even though many dispensations have intervened since that period. Long before reconciliation was made known, He made His sun and shower to bless both evil and good.

Just as there are two phases of reconciliation in Romans that underlie the two phases in Ephesians and Colossians, so there are two mysteries in Romans that underlie the two mysteries of Ephesians. The two mysteries of Romans are:

  • The mystery of Israel’s blindness (Rom. 11:25).
  • The mystery which had been silenced in age times (16:25).

The two mysteries of Ephesians are:

  • The mystery of Christ (Eph. 3:4,5).
  • The dispensation of the mystery (3:9 R.V.).

While it is of great help to see the relation of these two sets of teaching, it is disastrous to attempt to mingle them, or to try to bring the truth of one dispensation beyond its appointed boundary. The mystery of Romans 16 has a close connection with the preaching of Jesus Christ. This mystery had been silenced in age times, but at the time of writing had been made manifest by ‘prophetic writings’. Something similar had been said of the doctrine of justification by faith (Rom. 3:21). Like the gospel, this mystery was to be made known among all nations for the obedience of faith (Rom. 1:1-7).

The outer teaching of Romans is covered by the gospel; the inner teaching of Romans (viz. 5:12 to 8:39) is covered by the mystery of Israel’s blindness. This explains the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles and the national reconciliation. The mystery which had been silenced (Rom. 16:25-27), deals with Adam and Christ (see Mystery). Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 are the only passages in Scripture which show the fundamental connection between Adam, the seed and Christ. It was a mystery not made known until the call of Paul. It is a mistake to teach that Romans 16:25-27 and the mystery of Ephesians 3 are identical. Enough has been said, we trust, to establish the truth that the dispensational privileges and peculiar blessings of the mystery (while quite distinct from all previous blessings and callings) rest upon the great doctrinal basis of the epistle to the Romans, particularly that inner section (Rom. 5:12 to 8:39). Our answer to those who say, Do you not make void the gospel through this abounding grace? is, Nay, we fill out the gospel to its fullest measure.

While we have placed great emphasis upon the place of Romans, we wish to make it very clear that we do not teach any fusion, development or evolution of the two dispensations represented by Romans and Ephesians. There are some, whose liberty we recognize, that hold the view that the Ephesian position is a growth, an expansion of the earlier ministry of Paul, and we do not wish to have our emphasis upon Romans misconstrued as though we also taught this.

We believe that at Acts 28 the whole revealed purpose of God came to an end, and that the course that God would then take while Israel remained in blindness had not been revealed. We believe that the whole position of the mystery was a matter of revelation. Now God could have revealed:

  1. A new dispensation, a new doctrine, a new practice altogether, without reference to the past. Providing in fact a completely new Bible.
  2. That He could take the earlier position as taught by Paul in Romans, Corinthians, Thessalonians, with its gospel, its Jewish privileges, its spiritual gifts, and transfer it bodily to the Gentiles, developing it and bringing it to perfection, or,
  3. He could bring in a new dispensational standing and constitution, unlike that which had obtained during the Acts, leaving behind those things which were peculiar to the presence of Israel, such as the ‘gifts’, but keeping for its foundation that gospel and doctrine which the apostle Paul had so faithfully laid while Israel’s day of trial was running out.

No. 1 must be rejected as not being consistent with the facts as found in Ephesians itself.

Neither can we accept the teaching of No. 2 without involving ourselves in a series of denials of what is revealed elsewhere and of entanglements in things that have no place with us.

No. 3 represents the truth as far as we see it, and appears to fit the requirements of the case from every point of view.

We certainly believe that the Church of the Acts period was cut down before it had reached full growth, and we certainly see in the Ephesian Church ‘a new man’, but we do not believe the new man of Ephesians and the child of Acts is one and the same calling and company.

We believe it was ‘created a new man’ as Adam was at the beginning, and that the going on to the ‘perfect man’ of Ephesians 4 does not mean growth from the childhood state of 1 Corinthians 13, but from the condition of the newly-created man. With this note of explanation we draw to a close. Paul may well say to us, members of the church of the mystery, as he said to the Corinthians:

‘As a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation’ (1 Cor. 3:10),

and as we survey the gospel and its doctrine we shall readily agree with his words:

‘For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ’ (1 Cor. 3:11).

We are today still,

‘Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone’ (Eph. 2:20).

An Alphabetical Analysis

| About LW | Site Map | LW Publications | Search
Developed by © Levend Water All rights reserved