The Grand Canyon of Scripture
by Ruth Paxson
One time when in need of special spiritual inspiration and refreshment I went to the Grand Canyon of Arizona. Of all God's wonders in His natural creation, which He has given me to see, none seems more wonderful than the Grand Canyon. Two never-to-be-forgotten days were spent there.
On the first day I just skirted a bit of the Canyon's rim, getting first-hand impressions of its magnitude, majesty and matchless beauty of colouring. For an hour or two I sat trying to compass in imagination the vast breadth of the gorge which at that point was thirteen miles across. Then I moved on to another spot, where, look ing straight down one mile, the sizeable river below looked like a white ribbon. At sunset I went to a distant point where the Canyon stretched itself out over eighty miles before one's eyes, and where it was all ablaze with a veritable orgy of indescribable colour, which left one silent and worshipful in the presence of the Canyon's Creator.
Physically tired, but spiritually renewed, I tumbled into bed for a brief sleep before rising at four to find my way, alone and unaided save by the tiniest ray of light, to the road that led me again to the sunset point, that I might there see the sunrise. On and on I went, until in semi-darkness, standing on the rim of the Canyon, I looked down into an absolutely black abyss. Not even one ray of the sun's light shone upon its rocks to bring out their exquisite beauty. All was unrelieved, awesome darkness in that gaping gorge. As one strained the eye in the vain attempt to discern something to lighten the awful, terrifying blackness, shades of darkness seemed discernible, - the blackness at the bottom seeming to shade off into dark purple and then into lighter purple. Still all was darkness every where in the Canyon before sunrise. I am not ashamed to admit that, looking into the Canyon devoid of sunlight, I trembled from head to foot.
Soon the sun began to rise, first flashing its glory light upon the heavens above, making them look like the divine painter's palette; then gradually touching one point after another in the Canyon and lighting it into gorgeous colouring. One stood transfixed in wonder and worship at each transforming touch.
Finally, the sun was fully up, and with all its resplendent, full orbed light flooded the Canyon and made the thing which was terrifying in the darkness something of transcendent beauty and glory in the light after sunrise.
Reluctant to leave this spot, and yet oh! so eager to get still more of the Canyon into my vision and into my heart, I walked rapidly back to the hotel to eat a hasty breakfast before going with a party down the steep, winding trail of the Canyon, seven and one- half miles, to the river below. I rode a burro. At one time the trail was so sharp in its curve that the forefeet of that sure-footed little animal were on the very edge of a sheer precipice, a depth straight down of twelve hundred feet.
After a short time at the river, we began our ascent. There were times in ascending the trail when all below was out of sight and thought, and one was just lost in the wonder of the height of the Canyon, of continually going up and up, with always more above and beyond, until finally the very expanse of the heavens seemed to roof the Grand Canyon, beyond which one's sight could not go.
The ascent over, and again on the Canyon's rim, I could not leave till I had one last view with the afterglow of the sunset upon it. From darkness to dawn, -- from full sunlight to twilight, this wonder work of God had poured out a wealth of inspiration.
Only this once have I seen the Grand Canyon, and that was twenty-eight years ago, but to-day , with eyes closed and memory active, its stands out before me as though it were seen only yesterday. In those two days the Grand Canyon became a part of me.
Ephesians is the Grand Canyon of Scripture. A well-known Bible teacher says of it, "In this epistle we enter the Holy of Holies in Paul's writings." Dr. A. C. Gaebelein writes, "This epistle is God's highest and best. Even God cannot say more than what He has said in this filling-full of His Word."
So will you spend a while in this Grand Canyon of Scripture with me? Let us first just skirt the rim of Ephesians to get some first hand, vivid impressions and viewpoints of this masterpiece of God's supernatural creation, a sinner transformed into a saint, and the Body of Christ constituted from Jew and Gentile as fellow-members.
Do not stop for details, but just let your eye run to and fro over the entire epistle, and get God's own description of the high lights of its truth. "The salnts"; "In Christ"; "his calling"; "his inberitance"; "the purchased possession"; "the Church, his body, the fulness of him"; "his workmanship"; "one new man"; "one body"; "the household of God"; "an habitation of God"; "a perfect man"; "members of his body"; "members one of another"; "a glorious church"; "the wiles of the devil"; "principalities, powers, world rulers of this darkness"; "the whole armour of God." What vast distances we have scanned, and what glories of our salvation in Christ have been silhouetted upon the horizon of our thought! Does it not give us food for many a day's study?
But now let us get a nearer view of the majesty and might and matchless grace of the sovereign God in His own workshop, as opened to our view in the first three chapters. Here man is scarcely seen save as the recipient of God's grace and the beneficiary of His mercy and love in salvation. Our first glimpse is into the eternity of the past, where God formed His eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. All the rest is the execution of that purpose. Let us note a few outstanding impressions of His workmanship.
The Sovereign God is Working according to the Good Pleasure of His Will
1:5. "Having predestinated us according to the good pleasure of his own will."
1: 11. "Being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
The method by which man comes into the family of God as His child, and all other matters pertaining to his life in God's household, are predetermined by God. Man has nothing whatsoever to say about these things. In man's redemption God's will is the first cause and the determining factor. If man is not saved God's way, then he is not saved at all.
The Sovereign God is Working according to His Eternal Purpose
3:11. "According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
The sin in the garden of Eden did not take God unawares, nor was man's salvation an afterthought of God. He had anticipated the fall, and was prepared for it. Before the Cross of Christ was ever set up in history on Calvary, or even in promise in Eden, it was existent in the heart of God in the dateless eternity of the past. The blueprints for the holy temple in the Lord which was to be God's habitation on earth were made by the triune God before the foundation of the world.
The Sovereign God is Working to Magnify His Grace and His Glory
1:6. "To the praise of the glory of his grace."
1: 12. "That we should be to the praise of his glory."
Whether in creation or in redemption, God never acts save for His own glory. The salvation of sinners magnifies His wondrous grace in giving His only begotten Son to die that they might live.
The Grand Canyon of Arizona, -- the workmanship of God in natural creation, -- may one day give place to something even more wonderful in majesty and beauty in the new earth which He will make. But the Grand Canyon of Ephesians will abide in all the ages upon the ages to come, "that he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
The Sovereign God is Working according to His Mighty Power
1: 19. "The exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe according to the working of his mighty power."
3:20. "According to the power that worketh in us."
6:10. "Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might."
His mighty power is at work for us in Christ, our Saviour; in us in Christ, our Life; and through us in Christ, our Lord.
May we now move on to another point on the rim of this Grand Canyon of the Word to get another view. In Chapter two the impression is of the vast distances, the far-reaching and all-inclusive breadth of salvation. We see the richness of God's mercy and the greatness of His love in creating a saint out of a sinner. We see His masterpiece in workmanship in the constitution of the Church out of two races, irrevocably far apart by nature, but made one in Christ by grace. The gospel of conciliation with one another through reconciliation with God has made of the Jew and the Gentile one Body over which Christ is the Head.
Now at the end of our first day with the Grand Canyon of Scripture, Jet us go back to a time before time, and with a divine fieldglass look on down through the centuries at the Church as God purposed it, even on to a time after time. For Ephesians is "the meeting-point of two eternities" in God's conception of the Church. As we trail the Church from glory through grace to glory, we shall comprehend a new measurement -- the length of the love of Christ for lost sinners.
1:4. "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world."
2:7. "That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace."
Now let us rise before dawn that we may see sunrise in the Grand Canyon of Scripture. I promise you it will be a never-to-be-forgot ten sight. We will travel along the road mapped out in Romans 1-3, for it is this road that leads to Ephesians 2:1-3:11,12; 4:17- 19; 5:8. Here we stop at the rim of the Canyon before sunrise. What do we see? A gaping gorge where all is darkness, degradation, death. There is not one ray of light to relieve the terrible darkness; not one ray of hope in the midst of enveloping death. "Dead"; "trespasses"; "sins"; "ignorance"; "blindness"; "lasciviousness"; "uncleanness"; "greediness"; "darkness"; "children of disobedience and wrath."
There may be degrees in the degradation to which a sinner goes. He may go the full length of sin in the eyes of the laws of earth and be imprisoned as a thief, a gangster, a murderer; or he may be a highly respected citizen, even occupying a professor's chair, or a pulpit, in whose inmost heart God sees pride, unbelief, and enmity to ward Him. But one is as "far-off" from God as the other, for both are "without Christ" and "without God," and so "without hope." Standing on the rim of 2:1-3, one trembles in anguish of heart at the thought of the present condition and the future destiny of the sinner left in his sins.
2: 12. "That at that time ye were without Christ... having no hope; and without God in the world."
But look up and behold the glory light in the heavens! God has come to the sinner's rescue, and in His infinite mercy and love has made a way of escape out of the pit of sin and death.
2:4-5. "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love where with he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved)."
1:7. "In whom we have redemption through his blood."
A Saviour provided for the sinner! A Redeemer gone down into the slave market of sin to buy the slave and to set him free.
Light now shines into the sinner's heart and brings life. A touch here and a touch there; "chosen"; "predestinated"; "accepted"; "redemption", "forgiveness", "obtained inheritance", "sealed", and the sinner is delivered from the power of darkness and is translated into the kingdom of his dear Son. The Sun of righteousness has arisen and shone into his heart, and has begun His transfiguring work.
Tarry a bit longer. The sinner is saved, but God would have him sanctified also, for he was "chosen to be holy." The believer in Christ is now a saint, for he is positionally separated unto God, by which the fountain of fulness in Christ has been opened to him. But as there are degrees of degradation in sinnerhood, so there are degrees of holiness in sainthood. As the trend of the sinner's life with out Christ is always down, so the trend of the saint's life in Christ is always up. Christ came that we might have life, and might have it more abundantly. So for the Church and for the Christian there is fulness of life in Christ.
23. "The church, the fulness of him that filleth all in all."
3:19. "Filled unto all the fulness of God."
5:18. "Be filled with the Spirit."
Have we not now come to the end of the truth brought to our view in Ephesians? Surely we have seen enough to occupy us in contemplation and assimilation for the rest of our lives! No, we have not yet gone down to the deepest depth, nor reached the highest height of our scriptural Grand Canyon. Do not become a spiritual tourist, soon surfeited with the beauty and glory of this precious bit of Scripture, and rush superficially on into some other field of study. Take time to go down to the river bottom, though the trail is steep and narrow. As far as possible know the unknowable love of Christ for sinners; aye, fathom the depths of the Saviour's love for you before you leave Ephesians.
1:20. "Christ -- dead."
He went to the deepest depths to which He could go to bring us from death unto life. Christ, the Saviour, became the sinner's substitute; taking the sinner's position; becoming sin in order to bear sin; dying to abolish death. "Christ dead" that the sinner might live.
1:20. "Christ -- raised from the dead and set at his own right hand in the heavenly places."
Coming out of the grave, Christ ascended to the highest heights to which He as the God-man could go. He ascended to glory as victor over Satan and all the forces of evil, and upon His triumphal return was exalted to the place of Lordship over the universe, and was made Head over all things to the Church.
1:21. "Far above all principality, and power, and tnight, and dominion."
1:22. "And gave him to be head over all things to the church."
Christ, risen, ascended, exalted, shares not only His glorified life but even His exalted position with the new-born race of men who become one with Him through faith.
2:4-6. "God -- hath quickened us together with Christ -- and hath raised us up together, and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus."
Can we grasp the significance of these words? We, who are in Christ, are seated together with Him in that position of power and victory, "far above all." This is the highest height the saint can reach. Even in the eternity of the future we shall not obtain a higher position than we now occupy in Christ, for there is nothing higher. Christ, as the crucified Saviour, went with us to as deep depths as He could go that, as the exalted Lord, He might raise us up with Him to the highest heights to which we can go.
Now may we pause for one last look at Ephesians as a whole be fore we begin a study of its component parts? May it be to us a glimpse of our Grand Canyon of Scripture in the afterglow of the setting sun.
The Scope of Ephesians:
After quiet contemplation, will you answer these three questions to yourself:
What is your most vivid impression of this Grand Canyon of Scripture?
What is the greatest desire this study has aroused in you?
To what extent has this Grand Canyon of Scripture become a part of you?
Pause again for another moment of worship and adoration of God, our Father; of His Son, our Saviour; and of His Spirit, our Sanctifier.