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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: 7

if the Roman authorities were ready to recognize it, they would find in the Church their most efficient ally.

And there is no doubt that all this tendency to use the empire as the ally and instrument of the Church began with St. Paul. The closer St. Paul's evangelistic travels are examined the more apparent does it become that he, the apostle who was also the Roman citizen, was by the very force of circumstances, but also probably deliberately, working the Church on the lines of the empire. 'The classification adopted in Paul's own letters of the churches which he founded, is according to provinces—Achaia, Macedonia, Asia, and Galatia; the same fact is clearly visible in the narrative of Acts. It guides and inspires the expressions from the time when the apostle landed at Perga. At every step any one who knows the country recognizes that the Roman division is implied[20].' Nor can we fail to be struck with the regularity with which St. Paul, wherever he mentions the Empire, takes it on its best side and represents it as a divine institution whose officers are God's ministers for justice and order and peace[21]. It is from this point of view alone that he will have Christians think of it and pray for it[22]. There is the confidence of the true son of the empire in his 'I appeal unto Caesar[23].'

Further than this, when St. Paul is addressing himself to Gentiles who had received no leavening of Jewish monotheism, it is most striking how he throws himself back on those common philosophical and religious ideas which were permeating the thought of the Empire. 'The popular philosophy inclined towards pantheism, the popular religion was polytheistic, but Paul starts from the simplest platform common to both. There exists something in the way of a divine nature which the religious try to please and the philosophers try to understand[24].' Close parallels to St. Paul's language in his two recorded speeches at Lystra and at Athens, can be found in the writings of the contemporary Stoic philosopher Seneca[25], and in the so-called 'Letters of Heracleitus' written by some philosophic student nearly contemporary with St. Paul at Ephesus[26]. In exposing the folly of idolaters he was only doing what a contemporary philosopher was doing also, and repeating ideas which he might have learnt almost as readily in the schools of his native city Tarsus—which Strabo speaks of as the most philosophical place in the world, and the place where philosophy was most of all an indigenous plant[27]—as at the feet of Gamaliel in Jerusalem. Certainly Paul the apostle to the Gentiles was also Saul of Tarsus and the citizen of the Roman Empire in whose mind the idea and sentiment of the empire lay already side by side with the idea of the catholic church.

Such a statement as has just been given of the relation of the Roman organization to the Church is undoubtedly true. And it is also indisputable that St. Paul was in fact the pioneer in using the empire for the purposes of the Church. But it is more questionable to what extent the idea of the empire as the handmaid of the Church was consciously and deliberately, or only unconsciously or instinctively, present to his mind; and in particular it is questionable how far the peculiar exaltation of the epistles of the first captivity is due to St. Paul's realization that in getting to Rome, the capital and centre of the Empire, he had reached a goal which was also a fresh and unique starting-point for the evangelization of the world.

To some extent this must certainly have been the case[28]. While he is at Ephesus[29] preaching, he already has Rome in view, and a sense of unaccomplished purpose till he has visited it, 'I must also see Rome.' When a little later he writes to the Romans, the name of Rome is a name both of attraction and of awe. He is eager to go to Rome, but he seems to fear it at the same time. So much as in him lies, he is ready to preach the gospel to them also that are at Rome. Even in face of all that that imperial name means, he is not ashamed of the Gospel[30].

Later the divine vision at Jerusalem assures him that, as he has borne witness concerning Christ at Jerusalem, so he must bear witness also at Rome[31]. The confidence of this divine purpose mingles with and reinforces the confidence of the Roman citizen in his appeal to Caesar. The sense of the divine hand upon him to take him to Rome is strengthened by another vision amid the terrors of the sea voyage[32]. At his first contact with the Roman brethren 'he thanked God and took courage[33].' This sense of thankfulness and encouragement pervades the whole of the first captivity so far as it is represented in his letters. He had reached the goal of his labours and a fresh starting-point for a wide-spreading activity.

Certainly no one can mistake the glow of enthusiasm which pervades the epistles of the first captivity generally, but especially the Epistle to the Ephesians. It is conspicuously, and beyond all the other epistles, rapturous and uplifted. And this is not due—as is the cheerful thankfulness of the Epistle to the Philippians, at least in part—to the specially intimate relations of St. Paul to the congregations he was addressing, or to the specially satisfactory character of their Christian life. On the contrary, St. Paul perceived that the Asiatic churches, and especially