« AnteriorContinua »
too, as well as the gentiles, who were converted to the christian faith, were discharged from their former obligation to the ritual law of Moses, and freed from those observances, may be doubted: because, as we see, they had not at all instructed their converts of the circumcision, of their being set at liberty from that yoke; which, it is very likely, they would not have forborn to have done, if they had been convinced of it themselves. For, in all that discourse concerning this question, Acts xv. 1-21, there is not one syllable said, of the jews being discharged, by faith in the Messiah, from the observance of any of the mosaical rites. Nor does it appear, that the apostles of the circumcision ever taught their disciples, or suggested to them, any such thing, which one can scarce imagine, they could have neglected, if it had been revealed to them, and so given them in charge. It is certain, their converts had never been taught any such thing. For St. James himself acquaints us, Acts xxi. 20, that the many thousands, that believed, were all zealous of the "law." And what his own opinion of those rites, was, may be seen, ver. 24, where he calls keeping this part of the law, walking orderly:" and he is concerned to have St. Paul thought a strict observer thereof. All which could not have been, if it had been revealed to him, as positively and expressly as it was to St. Paul, that all believers, in the Messiah, jews as well as gentiles, were absolved from the law of Moses, and were under no obligation to observe those ceremonies any longer, they being now no longer necessary to the people of God, in this his new kingdom, erected under the Messiah; nor indeed was it necessary, that this particular point should have been, from the beginning, revealed to the other apostles, who were sufficiently instructed for their mission, and the conversion of their brethren, the jews, by the Holy Ghost bringing to their minds (as was promised) all that our Saviour had said unto them, in his life-time here, amongst them, in the true sense of it. But the sending them to the jews with this message, that the law was abolished, was to cross the very design of sending them; it was to bespeak an aversion to their doctrine; and to stop the ears of the jews, and turn their hearts from them. But St. Paul, receiving his whole knowledge of the gospel, immediately from heaven, by revelation, seems to have this particular in
struction added, to fit him for the mission he was chosen to, and make him an effectual messenger of the gospel, by furnishing him presently with this necessary truth, concerning the cessation of the law, the knowledge whereof could not but come in time to the other apostles, when it should be seasonable. Whether this be not so, I leave it to be considered.
This, at least, is certain, that St Paul alone, more than all the rest of the apostles, was taken notice of to have preached, that the coming of Christ put an end to the law, and that, in the kingdom of God, erected under the Messiah, the observation of the law was neither required, nor availed aught; faith in Christ was the only condition of admittance, both for jew and gentile, all, who believed, being now equally the people of God, whether circumcised, or uncircumcised This was that, which the jews,, zealous of the law, which they took to be the irrevocable, unalterable charter of the people of God, and the standing rule of his kingdom, could by no means bear. And therefore, provoked by this report of St. Paul, the jews, both converts as well as others, looked upon him as a dangerous innovator, and an enemy to the true religion, and, as such, seized on him in the temple, Acts xxi. upon occasion whereof it was, that he was a prisoner at Rome, when he writ this epistle, where he seems to be concerned, lest now, he, that was the apostle of the gentiles, from whom alone the doctrine of their exemption from the law had its rise and support, was in bonds, upon that very account, it might give an opportunity to those judaizing professors of christianity, who contended that the gentiles, unless they were circumcised after the manner of Moses, could not be saved, to unsettle the minds, and shake the faith of those, whom he had converted. This being the controversy, from whence rose the great trouble and danger that, in the time of our apostle, disturbed the churches collected from among the gentiles. That, which chiefly disquieted the minds, and shook the faith of those, who from heathenism were converted to christianity, was this doctrine, that, except the converts from paganism were circumcised, and thereby subjected themselves to the law and the jewish rites, they could have no benefit by the gospel, as may be seen all through the Acts, and in almost all St. Paul's epis
tles. Wherefore, when he heard that the ephesians stood firm in the faith, whereby he means their confidence of their title to the privileges and benefits of the gospel, without submission to the law (for the introducing the legal observances into the kingdom of the Messiah, he declared to be a subversion of the gospel, and contrary to the great and glorious design of that kingdom) he thanks God for them, and, setting forth the gracious and glorious design of God towards them, prays that they may be enlightened, so as to be able to see the mighty things done for them, and the immense advantages they receive by it. In all which he displays the glorious state of that kingdom, not in the ordinary way of argumentation and formal reasoning; which had no place in an epistle, writ as this is, all as it were in a rapture, and in a style far above the plain, didactical way; he pretends not to teach them any thing, but couches all, that he would drop into their minds, in thanksgivings and prayers, which affording a greater liberty and flight to his thoughts, he gives utterance to them, in noble and sublime expressions, suitable to the unsearchable wisdom and goodness of God, shown to the world in the work of redemption. This, though perhaps at first sight, it may render his meaning a little obscure, and his expressions the harder to be understood, yet, by the assistance of the two following epistles, which were both writ, whilst he was in the same circumstances, upon the same occasion, and to the same purpose, the sense and doctrine of the apostle here may be so clearly seen, and so perfectly comprehended, that there can hardly be a doubt left about it, to any one, who will examine them diligently and carefully compare them together. The epistle to the colossians seems to be writ the very same time, in the same run and warmth of thoughts, so that the very same expressions, yet fresh in his mind, are repeated in many places; the form, phrase, matter, and all the parts quite through, of these two epistles do so perfectly correspond, that one cannot be mistaken, in thinking one of them very fit to give light to the other. And that to the philippians, writ also by St. Paul, during his bonds at Rome, when attentively looked into, will be found to have the same aim with the other two; so that, in these three epistles taken together, one may see the great design of the gospel laid down, as far surpassing the law,
both in glory, greatness, comprehension, grace, and bounty, and therefore they were opposers, not promoters of the true doctrine of the gospel, and the kingdom of God under the Messiah, who would confine it to the narrow and beggarly elements of this world, as St. Paul calls the positive ordinances of the mosaical institution. To confirm the gentile churches, whom he had converted, in this faith which he had instructed them in, and keep them from submitting to the mosaical rites, in the kingdom of Christ, by giving them a "nobler and more glorious view of the gospel, is the design of this and the two following epistles. For the better understanding these epistles, it might be worth while to show their harmony all through, but this synopsis is not a place for it; *the following paraphrase and notes will give an opportunity to point out several passages wherein their agreement will appear.
The latter end of this epistle, according to St. Paul's usual method, contains practical directious and exhortations.
He that desires to inform himself in what is left upon record, in sacred scripture, concerning the church of the ephesians, which was the metropolis of Asia, strictly so called, may read the 19th and 20th of the Acts.
CHAP. I. 1, 2.
THESE two verses contain St. Paul's inscription, or introduction of this epistle, what there is in it remarkable for its difference, from what is to be found in his other epistles, we shall take notice of in the notes.
1 PAUL, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace be to you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
PAUL, an an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the declared will and special appointment of God, to the professors of the gospel, who are in Ephesus; converts, who stand firm 2 in the faith of Christ Jesus; Favour and peace be to you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 a Tos ayios, though rightly translated "saints," yet it does not mean any other than a national sanctification, such as the jews had, by being separated from the gentiles, and appropriated to God, as his peculiar people; not that every one, that was of the holy nation of the jews heretofore, or of the holy church of Christ, under the gospel, were saints, in that sense that the word is usually taken now among christians, viz. such persons as were every one of them actually in a state of salvation.
b II, "faithful." We have observed above, that this epistle, and that to the colossians, have all through a very great resemblance; their lineaments do so correspond, that I think they may be twin-epistles, conceived and brought forth together, so that the very expressions of the one occurred fresh in St. Paul's memory, and were made use of in the other. Their being sent by the same messenger, Tychicus, is a farther probability, that they were writ at the same time. so therefore being found in the introduction of both epistles, and no one other of St. Paul's, there is just reason to think, that it was a term suited to the present notion he had of those he was writing to, with reference to the business he was writing about. I take it, therefore, that, by "faithful in Christ "Jesus," he means here such as stood firm to Jesus Christ, which he did not count them to do, who made circumcision necessary to salvation, and an observance of jewish rites a requisite part of the christian religion. This is plain from his express words, Gal. v. 1, 2, "Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty, wherewith "Christ hath made us free, and be not intangled again with the yoke of bondage. "Behold I Paul say unto you, that, if ye are circumcised, Christ shall profit "you nothing, &c." And those, that contended for submission to the law, he calls" perverters of the gospel of Christ," Gal. i. 7, and more to the same purpose may be seen in that epistle. We shall have an occasion to confirm this interpretation of the word is, "faithful," here, when we come to consider the import of the word wisis, "faith," ver. 15. They that would have "and," not exegetical here, but used only to join, under the title of "faithful "in Christ Jesus," the converts in Asia, I shall desire, besides Col. i. 2, to read also 1 Cor. i. 2, and thereby judge in what sense they are to understand "and to "the faithful in Christ Jesus" here.