Chap. iii. ver. 1. "For this cause I Paul, the prisoner
of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles."
He has mentioned Christ's great and affectionate care; he now passes
on to his own, insignificant indeed as it is, and a very nothing in comparison
with that, and yet this is enough to engage them to himself. For this cause,
saith he, am I also bound. For if my Lord was crucified for your sakes,
much more am I bound. He not only was bound Himself, but allows His servants
to be bound also,-"for you Gentiles." It is full of emphasis; not only
do we no longer loathe you, but we are even bound, saith he, for your sakes
and of this exceeding grace am I partaker.
Ver. 2. "If so be that ye have heard of the dispensation of that
grace of God, which was given me to you-ward."
He alludes to the prediction addressed to Ananias concerning him at
Damascus, when the Lord said, "Go thy way, for he is a chosen vessel unto
Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles and Kings." (Acts ix: 15.)
By "dispensation of grace," he means the revelation made to him. As
much as to say, "I learned it not from man. (Gal. i: 12.) He vouchsafed
to reveal it even to me, though but an individual for your sakes. For Himself
said unto me, saith he, "Depart, for I will send thee forth far hence unto
the Gentiles." (Acts xxii: 21.) "If so be that ye have heard" for a dispensation
it was, a mighty one; to call one, uninfluenced from any other quarter,
immediately from above, and to say, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?"
and to strike him blind with that ineffable light! "if so be that ye have
heard saith he, "of the dispensation of that grace of God which was given
me to you-ward."
Ver. 3. "How that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery,
as I wrote afore in few words."
Perhaps he had informed them of it by some persons, or had not long
before been writing to them. Here he is pointing out that the whole is
of God, that we have contributed nothing. For what? I ask, was not Paul
himself, the wonderful, he that was so versed in the law, he that was brought
up at the feet of Gamaliel according to the most perfect manner, was not
he saved by grace? With good reason too does he call this a mystery, for
a mystery it is, to raise the Gentiles in a moment to a higher rank than
the Jews. "As I wrote afore," saith he, "in few words," i.e., briefly,
Ver. 4. "Whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive."
Amazing! So then he wrote not the whole, nor so much as he should have
written. But here the nature of the subject prevented it. Elsewhere, as
in the case of the Hebrews (Heb. v: 11.) and the Corinthians, (1 Cor. iii:
2.) the incapacity of the hearers. "Whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive,"
saith he, "my understanding in the mystery of Christ," i.e., how I knew,
how I understood either such things as God hath spoken, or else, that Christ
sitteth at the right hand of God; and then too the dignity, in that God
"hath not dealt so with any nation." (Ps. cxlvii: 20.) And then to explain
what nation this is with whom God hath thus dealt, he adds,
Ver. 5. "Which in other generations was not made known unto the sons
of men, as it hath now been revealed unto His holy Apostles and Prophets
in the Spirit."
What then, tell me, did not the Prophets know it? How then doth Christ
say, that Moses and the Prophets wrote "these things concerning Me?" And
again, "If ye believed Moses, ye would believe Me." (John v: 46.) And again,
"Ye search the Scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal
life, and these are they which bear witness of me." (John v: 39.) His meaning
is this, either that it was not revealed unto all men, for he adds, "which
in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath
now been revealed;" or else, that it was not thus made known by the very
facts and realities themselves, "as it hath now been revealed unto His
holy Apostles and Prophets in the Spirit." For reflect. Peter, had he not
been instructed by the Spirit, never would have gone to the Gentiles. For
hear what he says, "Then hath God given unto them the Holy Ghost, as well
as unto us." (Acts x: 47.) That it was by the Spirit that God chose that
they should receive the grace. The Prophets then spoke, yet they knew it
not thus perfectly; so far from it, that not even did the Apostles, after
they had heard it. So far did it surpass all human calculation, and the
Ver. 6. "That the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of
the body and fellow partakers."
What is this; "fellow-heirs, and fellow-partakers of the promise, and
fellow-members of the body?" This last is the great thing, that they should
be one body; this exceeding closeness of relation to Him. For that they
were to be called indeed, that they knew, but that it was so great, as
yet they knew not. This therefore he calls the mystery. "Of the promise."
The Israelites were partakers, and the Gentiles also were fellow-partakers
of the promise of God.
"In Christ Jesus through the Gospel."
That is, by His being sent unto them also, and by their believing; for
it is not said they are fellow-heirs simply, but "through the Gospel."
However, this indeed, is nothing so great, it is in fact a small thing,
and it discloses to us another and greater thing, that not only men knew
not this, but that neither Angels nor Archangels, nor any other created
power, knew it. For it was a mystery, and was not revealed. "That ye can
perceive," he saith, "my understanding." This alludes, perhaps, to what
he said to them in the Acts, that he had some knowledge that the Gentiles
also were called.This, he says, is his own knowledge, "the knowledge of
the mystery," which he had mentioned, viz., "that Christ will in Himself
make of the twain one new man." For by revelation he was instructed, both
he and Peter, that they must not spurn the Gentiles; and this he states
in his defence.
Ver. 7. "Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of
that grace of God which was given me according to the working of His power."
He had said, "I am a prisoner;" but now again he says, that all is of
God, as he says, "according to the gift of His grace;" for according to
the power of the gift is the dignity of this privilege. But the gift would
not have been enough, had it not also implanted in him power.
Moral. For a work indeed it was of power, of mighty power, and such
as no human diligence was equal to. For he brought three qualifications
to the preaching of the word, a zeal fervent and venturous, a soul ready
to undergo any possible hardship, and knowledge and wisdom combined. For
his love of enterprise, his blamelessness of life, had availed nothing,
had he not also received the power of the Spirit. And look at it as seen
first in himself, or rather hear his own words. "That our ministration
be not blamed." (2 Cor. vi: 3.) And again, "For our exhortation, is not
of error, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile, nor a cloke of covetousness."
(1 Thes. ii: 3, 1 Thes. ii: 5.) Thus thou hast seen his blamelessness.
And again, "For we take thought for things honorable, not only in the sight
of the Lord, but also in the sight of men." (2 Cor. viii: 21.) Then again,
besides these; "I protest by that glorying in you which I have in Christ
Jesus our Lord, I die daily." (1 Cor. xv: 31.) And again; "Who shall separate
us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution?"
(Rom. viii: 35.) And again; "In much patience, in afflictions, in necessities,
in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in watchings." (2 Cor. vi:
4, 2 Cor. vi: 5.) Then again, his prudence and management; "To the Jews
I became as a Jew, to them that are without law as without law, to them
that are under the law as under the law." (1 Cor. ix: 20.) He shaves his
head also, (Acts. xxi: 24-26.) and does numberless things of the sort.
But the crown of all is in the power of the Holy Ghost. "For I will not
dare to speak," saith he, "of any things save those which Christ wrought
through me." (Rom. xv: 18.) And again, "For what is there wherein you were
made inferior to the rest of the Churches?" (2 Cor. xii: 13.) And again,
"For in nothing was I behind the very chiefest Apostles though I am nothing."
(2 Cor. xii: 11.) Without these things, the work had been impossible.
It was not then by his miracles that men were made believers; no, it
was not the miracles that did this, nor was it upon the ground of these
that he claimed his high pretension, but upon those other grounds. For
a man must be alike irreproachable in conduct, prudent and discreet in
his dealings with others, regardless of danger, and apt to teach. It was
by these qualifications that the greater part of his success was achieved.
Where there were these, there was no need of miracles. At least we see
he was successful in numberless such cases, quite antecedently to the use
of miracles. But, now-a-days, we without any of these would fain command
all things. Yet if one of them be separated from the other, it henceforth
becomes useless. What is the advantage of a man's being ever so regardless
of danger, if his life be open to censure. "For if the light that is in
thee be darkness," saith Christ, "how great is that darkness?" (Mat. vi:
23.) Again, what the advantage of a man's being of an irreproachable life,
if he is sluggish and indolent? "For, he that doth not take his cross,
and follow after Me," saith He, "is not worthy of Me;" (Mat. x: 38.) and
so, "The good shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep." (Jo. x: 11.)
Again, what is the advantage of being both these, unless a man is at the
same time prudent and discreet in "knowing how he ought to answer each
one?" (Col. iv: 6.) Even if miracles be not in our power, yet both these
qualities are in our power. Still however, notwithstanding Paul contributed
so much from himself, yet did he attribute all to grace. This is the act
of a grateful servant. And we should never so much as have heard of his
good deeds, had he not been brought to a necessity of declaring them.
And are we worthy then so much as even to mention the name of Paul?
He, who had moreover grace to aid him, yet was not satisfied, but contributed
to the work ten thousand perils; whilst we, who are destitute of that source
of confidence, whence, tell me, do we expect either to preserve those who
are committed to our charge, or to gain those who are not come to the fold;-men,
as we are, who have been making a study of self-indulgence, who are searching
the world over for ease, and who are unable, or rather who are unwilling,
to endure even the very shadow of danger, and are as far distant from his
wisdom as heaven is from earth? Hence it is too that they who are under
us are at so great a distance behind the men of those days; because the
disciples of those days were better than the teachers of these, isolated
as they were in the midst of the populace, and of tyrants, and having all
men on all sides their enemies, and yet not in the slightest degree dragged
down or yielding. Hear at least what he saith to the Philippians, (Phil.
i: 29.) "Because to you it hath been granted in the behalf of Christ, not
only to believe on Him, but also to suffer in his behalf." And again to
the Thessalonians, (1 Thes. ii: 14.) "For ye, brethren, became imitators
of the churches of God which are in Judaea." And again in writing to the
Hebrews (Heb. x: 34.) he said, "And ye took joyfully the spoiling of your
possessions." And to the Colossians (Col. iii: 3.) he testifies, saying,
"For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God." And indeed to these
very Ephesians he bears witness of many perils and dangers. And again in
writing to the Galatians, (Gal. iii: 4.) he says, "Did ye suffer so many
things in vain? if it be indeed in vain." And you see them too, all employed
in doing good. Hence it was that both grace wrought effectually in those
days, hence also that they lived in good works. Hear, moreover, what he
writes to the Corinthians, against whom he brings charges out of number;
yet does he not bear even them record, where he says, "Yea, what zeal it
wrought in you, yea, what longing!" (1 Cor. vii: 11.) And again, in how
many points does he bear them record on this subject? These things one
shall not see now-a-days, even in teachers. They are all gone and perished.
And the cause is, that love hath waxed cold, that sinners go unpunished;
(for hear what he says writing to Timothy, (1 Tim. v: 20.) "Them that sin,
reprove in the sight of all;".) it is that the rulers are in a sickly state;
for if the head be not sound, how can the rest of the body maintain its
vigor? But mark how great is the present disorder. They, who were living
virtuously, and who under any circumstance might have confidence, have
taken possession of the tops of the mountains, and have escaped out of
the world, separating themselves as from an enemy and an alien and not
from a body to which they belonged.
Plagues too, teeming with untold mischiefs, have lighted upon the Churches.
The chief offices have become saleable. Hence numberless evils are springing,
and there is no one to redress, no one to reprove them. Nay, the disorder
has assumed a sort of method and consistency. Has a man done wrong, and
been arraigned for it? His effort is not to prove himself guiltless, but
to find if possible accomplices in his crimes. What is to become of us?
since hell is our threatened portion. Believe me, had not God stored up
punishment for us there, ye would see every day tragedies deeper than the
disasters of the Jews. What then? however let no one take offence, for
I mention no names; suppose some one were to come into this church to present
you that are here at this moment, those that are now with me, and to make
inquisition of them; or rather not now, but suppose on Easter day any one,
endued with such a spirit, as to have a thorough knowledge of the things
they had been doing, should narrowly examine all that came to Communion,
and were being washed [in Baptism] after they had attended the mysteries;
many things would be discovered more shocking than the Jewish horrors.
He would find persons who practise augury, who make use of charms, and
omens and incantations, and who have committed fornication, adulterers,
drunkards, and revilers,-covetous, I am unwilling to add, lest I should
hurt the feelings of any of those who are standing here. What more? Suppose
any one should make scrutiny into all the communicants in the world, what
kind of transgression is there which he would not detect? and what if he
examined those in authority? Would he not find them eagerly bent upon gain?
making traffic of high places? envious, malignant, vainglorious, gluttonous,
and slaves to money?
Where then there is such impiety as this going on, what dreadful calamity
must we not expect? And to be assured how sore vengeance they incur who
are guilty of such sins as these, consider the examples of old. One single
man, a common soldier, stole the sacred property, and all were smitten.
Ye know, doubtless, the history I mean? I am speaking of Acham the son
of Carmi, the man who stole the consecrated spoil. (Joshua vii: 1-26.)
The time too when the Prophet spoke, was a time when their country was
full of soothsayers, like that of the Philistines. (Isa. ii: 6.) Whereas
now there are evils out of number at the full, and not one fears. Oh, henceforth
let us take the alarm. God is accustomed to punish the righteous also with
the wicked; such was the case with Daniel, and with the three holy Children,
such has been the case with ten thousand others, such is the case in the
wars that are taking place even at the present day. For the one indeed,
whatever burden of sins they have upon them, by this means lay aside even
that; but not so the other.
On account of all these things, let us take heed to ourselves. Do ye
not see these wars? Do ye not hear of these disasters? Do ye learn no lesson
from these things? Nations and whole cities are swallowed up and destroyed,
and myriads as many again are enslaved to the barbarians.
If hell bring us not to our senses, yet let these things. What, are
these too mere threats, are they not facts that have already taken place?
Great is the punishment they have suffered, yet a greater still shall we
suffer, who are not brought to our senses even by their fate. Is this discourse
wearing? I am aware it is myself, but if we attend to it, it has its advantage;
because this it has not, the quality of an address to please,-nay more,
nor ever shall have, but ever those topics which may avail to humble and
to chasten the soul. For these will be to us the ground-work of those blessings
to come hereafter, to which God grant that we may all attain, in Jesus
Christ our Lord, with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Ghost
be glory and might and honor, now and henceforth, and forever and ever.
Chapter III. Verses 8-11.-"Unto me, who am less than the
least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles
the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the
dispensation of the mystery, which from all ages hath been hid in God,
who created all things: to the intent that now unto the principalities
and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the Church
the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose, which He
purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
They who go to the physician's have not merely to go there and nothing
further; they have to learn how to treat themselves, and to apply remedies.
And so with us then who come here, we must not do this and nothing else,
we must learn our lesson, the surpassing lowliness of Paul. What ? when
he was about to speak of the vastness of the grace of God, hear what he
saith, "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace
given." Lowliness indeed it was even to bewail his former sins, although
blotted out, and to make mention of them, and to hold himself within his
true measure as where he calls himself "a blasphemer, and a persecutor,
and injurious;" (1 Tim. i: 13.) yet nothing was equal to this: for "formerly,"
saith he, such was I; and again he calls himself, "one born out of due
time." (1 Cor. xv: 8.) But that after so many great and good deeds and
at that time he should thus humble himself, and call himself "less than
the least of all," this is indeed great and surpassing moderation. "To
one who am less than the least of all saints;" he saith not, "than the
Apostles." So that that expression is less strong than this before us.
There his words are, "I am not meet to be called an Apostle." (1 Cor. xv:
9.) Here he says that he is even "less than the least of all saints;" "to
me," saith he, "who am less than the least of all saints was this grace
given." What grace? "To preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches
of Christ, and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery,
which from all ages hath been hid in God, who created all things, to the
intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly
places, might be made known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God."
True, to man it was not revealed; and art thou enlightening Angels and
Archangels and Principalities and Powers? I am, saith he. For it was "hid
in God," even "in God who created all things." And dost thou venture to
utter this? I do, saith he. But whence hath this been made manifest to
the Angels? By the Church. Again he saith, not merely the manifold (poixiloj)
but the much-manifold (polupoixiloj) wisdom, that is, "the multiplied and
varied." What then is this? Did not Angels know it? No, nothing of it;
for if Principalities knew it not, much less could Angels ever have known
it. What then? Did not even Archangels know it? No, nor even they. But
whence were they going to know it? Who was to reveal it? When we were taught
it, then were they also by us. For hear what the Angel saith to Joseph;
"Thou shalt call His Name Jesus, for it is He that shall save His people
from their sins." (Matt. i: 21.)
Paul himself was sent to the Gentiles, the other Apostles to the Circumsion.
So that the more marvellous and astonishing commission was given, saith
he, "to me, who am less than the least." And this too was of grace, that
he that was least should have the greatest things entrusted to him; that
he should be made the herald of these tidings. For he that is made a herald
of the greater tidings, is in this way great.
"To preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ."
If His "riches are unsearchable," and that too after his appearing,
much more is His essence. If it is still a mystery, much more was it before
it was made known; for a mystery he calls it on this account, because neither
did the Angels know it, nor was it manifest to any one else.
"And to make all men see," saith he, "what is the dispensation of the
mystery which from all ages hath been hid in God, who created all things."
Angels knew only this, that "The Lord's portion was His people." (Deut.
xxxii: 8, Deut. xxxii: 9.) And again it is said, "The Prince of Persia
withstood me." (Dan. x: 13.) So that it is nothing to be wondered at that
they were ignorant of this; for if they were ignorant of the circumstances
of the return from the Captivity, much more would they be of these things.
For this is the gospel. "It is He that shall save," it saith, "His people."
(Matt. i: 21.) Not a word about the Gentiles. But what concerns the Gentiles
the Spirit revealeth. That they were called indeed, the Angels knew, but
that it was to the same privileges as Israel, yea, even to sit upon the
throne of God, this, who would ever have expected? who would ever have
"Which hath been hid," saith he, "in God."
This "dispensation," however, he more clearly unfolds in the Epistle
to the Romans. "In God," he continues, "who created all things by Jesus
Christ." And he does well to say "by Jesus Christ;" forasmuch as He who
created all things by Him, revealeth also this by Him; for He hath made
nothing without Him; for "without Him," it is said, "was not any thing
made." (John i: 30.)
In speaking of "principalities" and "powers," he speaks both of those
above and those beneath.
"According to the eternal purpose." It hath been now, he means, brought
to pass, but not now decreed, it had been planned beforehand from the very
first. "According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus
our Lord." That is, according to the eternal foreknowledge; foreknowing
the things to come, i. e., he means the ages to come; for He knew what
was to be, and thus decreed it. According to the purpose of the ages, of
those, perhaps, which He hath made by Christ Jesus, because it was by Christ
that every thing was made.
Ver. 12. "In whom we have," saith he, "boldness, and access in confidence
through our faith in him."
"Have access," not as prisoners, he says, nor yet, as persons candidates
for pardon, nor as sinners; for, saith he, we have even "boldness with
confidence," that is, accompanied with cheerful trust; arising from what
source? through our faith in Him."