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قراءة كتاب St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians: A Practical Exposition

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St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians: A Practical Exposition

St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians: A Practical Exposition

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 5

class="x-ebookmaker-pageno" title="{16}"/> a necessary connexion between the two. The narrow Judaism of the Galatian reactionaries did in fact logically involve a narrow and therefore a false conception of the person of Christ. As Dr. Hort expresses it[11], 'to accept Jesus as the Christ without any adequate enlargement of what was included in the Messiahship could hardly fail to involve either limitation of His nature to the human sphere, or at most a counting Him among the angels.' This logical connexion was in fact verified in history. The Judaizers of the earliest period of Christian history who insisted on circumcision for all Christians pass into the Ebionites of the second century who rejected the Church's doctrine of the person of Christ, as the eternal Son of God. And conversely it would be scarcely possible to accept the doctrine of the universal Christ, both divine and human, as St. Paul developes it, without perceiving that men must be made acceptable to Him and to His Father by something deeper and wider than any particular set of observances or 'works.' The relation therefore between the argument of St. Paul's epistles to the Galatians and the Romans on the one side, and that of his epistles to the Colossians and the Ephesians on the other is one of unity rather than of contrast.

The relation of these two groups of epistles may be expressed also in another way. The argument of the earlier epistles is directed towards the Judaizers. Its purpose is to vindicate the right of the Gentiles to an equal place and position with the Jews in the kingdom of God. But at the time of the later group this right had been secured. On the basis of their acknowledged title the ingress of Gentiles into the churches of Asia had been even alarmingly rapid. Now it is time for St. Paul to address himself to these emancipated Gentiles and to exhort them in their turn not to relapse into unworthy and narrow conceptions of their redeemer, or into conduct unworthy of their new position: they must 'walk worthily of the vocation wherewith they are called.'

Our present political situation in England offers an analogy which may bring home to us the position of the Gentile Christians and the function of the Epistle to the Ephesians. The time is past for us when there is any necessity to contend that a vote should be given to all responsible men. So far at least as the male population is concerned, the title of the citizen to the vote has been substantially acknowledged; but the time is by no means past when the newly enfranchised citizens need to be stimulated to realize what their enfranchisement carries with it of privilege and responsibility. And we may express this by saying that if our English political Epistle to the Galatians has been written and has done its work, our Epistle to the Ephesians is still surely very much needed.

It is very strange, or at least would be strange if we were not acquainted with the historical circumstances that have accounted for it, that St. Paul has been, out of all proportion to the facts of the case, identified in popular estimation with only the earlier of the two great arguments described above, with that which has given the basis to Protestantism, and not that which is, in fact, the charter of the Catholic Church.

We are all familiar with the fact that St. Paul taught the doctrine of justification by faith, and insisted therefore on the necessity and privilege of personal acceptance on the part of each individual of the promises of God in Christ. We all know how, when this aspect of things has been ignored and over-ridden—when an almost Jewish doctrine of the merit of good works[12] has been current in Christendom—it has afforded a pretext for a Protestant reaction of the most individualistic kind, of the kind which pays no regard to outward unity or catholic authority. But certainly in St. Paul's own teaching there is nothing individualistic in justifying faith. It is that by which man wins admittance into the body of Christ; and the body of Christ is an organized society, a catholic brotherhood. Salvation, as we shall see, is as much social or ecclesiastical as it is individual; and perhaps there is nothing more wanted to correct our ideas of what St. Paul understood by justifying faith than an impartial study of the Epistle to the Ephesians. It is true that this great epistle only freely developes thoughts which were already unmistakably in St. Paul's mind when he wrote his epistles to the Corinthians, and even those to the Thessalonians. Already the social organization of the Church is a prominent topic, and the ethics of Christianity are social ethics. But now, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, the idea of the Church has become the dominant idea, and the ethical teaching can be justly characterized in no other way than as a Christian socialism.


But it is time to examine somewhat more closely the circumstances under which St. Paul wrote this epistle and their bearing upon its contents. It was written by him during that imprisonment at Rome[13] the record of which brings to an end the Acts of the Apostles. He can therefore put into his appeals all the force which naturally belongs to one who has sacrificed himself for his principles. 'I, Paul,' he writes, 'the prisoner of Jesus Christ, on behalf of you Gentiles.' He speaks of himself as 'an ambassador in a chain' bound, as he was no doubt, to the soldier which kept him. But the fact that he is a prisoner does not occupy a great place in his mind. In part this is because his imprisonment was not of a highly restrictive character. The Acts conclude by telling us that he was allowed to dwell in his own hired dwelling and to receive all that came to him without let or hindrance to his preaching. And the tone of the 'epistles of the first captivity' is cheerful as to the present and hopeful for the future[14]. But it is more important to notice that the thought of being in prison is apparently swallowed up in St. Paul's imagination by other considerations. For, in the first place, St. Paul was, under whatever restraints, at Rome. He had reached his goal—a new centre of evangelization which was also the centre of the world. Step by step the centre of Christian evangelization had passed toward Rome as its goal. From Jerusalem, which told unmistakably that 'the salvation was of the Jews,' it had moved to Antioch, where in a Greek city Jew met Gentile on equal terms. From Antioch, under St. Paul's leadership, it had passed to Corinth and Ephesus. These were indeed thoroughly Gentile cities, and leading cities of the Empire, but they were provincial. No imperial movement could rest satisfied till it established itself at the centre of the great imperial organization—till it had got to Rome.

If we are to understand at all adequately the world in which St. Paul wrote, the thought of the Roman Empire and of the unity which it was giving the world must be clearly before our minds: and it will not be a digression if we pause to dwell upon it at this point when we are considering the significance of St.