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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
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promise of return, left his work there to Priscilla and Aquila. On his third missionary journey Ephesus was the centre of his prolonged work. It was accordingly the only city of the first rank which, so far as any trustworthy evidence goes, had as the founder of its Church in the strictest sense—that is, as the first gatherer of converts as well as organizer of institutions—either St. Paul or any other apostle[40].

St. Paul's first activity on arriving at Ephesus illustrates the stress he laid on the gift of the Holy Ghost as the central characteristic of Christianity. He was brought in contact with the twelve imperfect disciples who had been baptized only with John the Baptist's baptism, and had not so much as heard whether the Holy Ghost was given. St. Paul baptized them anew with Christian baptism, and bestowed upon them the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of his hands[41]. Then it is recorded how he began his preaching as usual with the Jews in the synagogue. The Jews of Asia Minor were regarded by the Jews of Jerusalem as corrupted and Hellenized[42]. But at any rate they exhibited the same antagonism to the preaching of Christianity as their stricter brethren. Thus St. Paul, when he had given them their chance, abandoned their synagogue and established himself in the lecture-room of Tyrannus, where he taught for two years and more[43]. And this became the centre of an evangelization which, even if St. Paul himself did not visit other Asiatic towns, yet spread by the agency of his companions over the whole of the Roman province of Asia—to the churches of the Lycus, Colossae, Laodicea, Hierapolis, and probably to the rest of the 'seven churches' to which St. John wrote in his Apocalypse.

Ephesus was full of superstitions of all sorts as would be expected, and St. Paul's miracles were such as would not unnaturally have led the magicians to regard him as a greater master in their own craft. So among others the Jewish chief priest Sceva's seven sons began to use the central name of Paul's preaching as a new and most efficient formula for exorcism. 'We adjure thee by Jesus whom Paul preaches.' But it is frequently noticeable that St. Paul refused to allow himself to use superstition as a handmaid of religion. The providential disaster which befell these exorcists gave St. Paul an opportunity of striking an effective blow where it was most needed against exorcism and magic. The Christian converts came and confessed their participation in the black arts, and burnt their books of incantations, in spite of their value. The whole transaction must have impressed vividly in the minds of the Ephesians the contrast between Christianity and superstition.

St. Paul had already encountered opposition as well as success at Ephesus, for when, writing from Ephesus, he speaks to the Corinthians[44] of having 'fought with beasts' there, the reference is probably to what had befallen him in the earlier part of his residence through the plots of the Jews; that long Epistle to the Corinthians can hardly have been written after the famous tumult recorded in the Acts. But that tumult, raised by the manufacturers of the silver shrines of Artemis, was of course the most important persecution which befell St. Paul at Ephesus. The narrative of it[45] is exceedingly instructive. We notice the friendliness of the Asiarchs, i.e. the presidents of the provincial 'union' and priests of the imperial worship, and the opinion of the town clerk, that St. Paul must be acquitted of any insults to the religious beliefs of the Ephesians[46]. Christianity had not, it appears, yet excited the antipathy of the religious or civil authorities of the Empire, but it had begun to threaten the pockets of those who were concerned in supplying the needs of the worshippers who thronged to the great temple at Ephesus. We need not inquire exactly how the little silver shrines of Artemis were used; but they were much sought after, and their production gave occupation to an important trade. The trade was threatened by the spread of Christianity. The philosophers despised indeed the idolatrous rites, but they despised also the people who practised them, and had no hope or idea of converting them[47]. St. Paul was the first teacher at Ephesus who touched the fears of the idol makers by bringing a pure religion to the hearts of the ordinary people. Hence the tumult against the teachers of the new religion, raised not by the civil or religious authorities of Ephesus, but simply by the trade interest.

As soon as it was over St. Paul left Ephesus not to return there again. But on his way back to Jerusalem he came not to Ephesus but to Miletus, and sending for the Ephesian presbyters thither, he made them a farewell speech[48], which is in conspicuous harmony with the features of his later Epistle to the Ephesians. Already the doctrines of a divine purpose or counsel now revealed, of the Church in general as the object of the divine self-sacrifice and love, and of the Holy Ghost as accomplishing her sanctification and developing her structure, appear to be prominent in his mind, and to have become familiar topics with the Ephesian Christians. 'I shrank not from declaring unto you the whole counsel of God. Take heed unto yourselves and to all the flock, in the which the Holy Ghost hath made you bishops, to feed the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood.... And now I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you the inheritance among all them that are sanctified.' These words from St. Paul's speech to the Ephesian presbyters are in remarkable affinity with the teaching of our epistle.


v.

We have been assuming that this epistle was addressed to Ephesus, but there are reasons to believe that it was not addressed to Ephesus only, but rather generally to the churches of the Roman province of Asia, of which Ephesus was the chief. The reasons for thinking this are partly internal to the epistle. St. Paul's personal relations to individual Ephesian Christians must have been many and close, and we know his habit of introducing personal

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