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A

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

TO THE

PARAPHRASE AND NOTES

ON

THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS.

THE apostle Paul is universally allowed to be the author of this

m

excellent epistle: but Dr. Mill and others have contended that it was written, not to the church of Ephesus, but to that of Laodicea. This they would argue from some passages of this epistle, (chap. i. 15; iii. 2; and iv. 21,) which seem more suitable to persons whom he had never seen, which was the case of them at Laodicea, (Col. ii. 1,) than to the Ephesians, with whom he had been conversant about three years; Acts xx. 31. (See note on that text, (Vol. VIII. section xlvi. p. 211.) But what is principally urged for this opinion, is the direction given by the apostle at the close of his epistle to the Colossians, (Col. iv. 16), " that they should cause the epistle which he wrote to them to be read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and they should likewise read the epistle from Laodicea." From whence it is inferred that the epistle now before us must be that which is intended there, and was originally written to the Laodiceans.

These several objections will be obviated in the notes upon those places on which they are grounded, and can be no sufficient warwant, in opposition to the first verse of this epistle, in which it is addressed expressly to the saints at Ephesus, to introduce an alteration in the text which hath not the authority of any single manuscript in being, or any ancient version, to support it.

We are told, indeed, it was affirmed by Marcion, an early heretic of the second century, that what is called the epistle to the Ephesians was inscribed to the Laodiceans: but he is censured upon this account by Tertullian*, (who wrote against him in the beginning

Tertull. contra Mercion. lib. v. cap. 11, 17.

• Basil.

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A General Introduction

beginning of the third century), as setting up an interpolation of his own in opposition to the true testimony of the church. And though Basil and Jerom † in the latter part of the fourth century, speak of some copies in which the words EQ were omitted, yet they allow at the same time that this epistle was written to the saints at Ephesus; whom, by a strange interpretation, in allusion to the name by which the Lord revealed himself, Exod. iii. 14, some would suppose, the apostle calls in a peculiar sense the saints who are, as being united unto Him who is. But this omission evidently makes but a very odd reading, unless we admit of the conjecture of Archbishop Usher, that a void space was left after the saints who are,-and this might be intended for a circular epistle to any of the churches of the Lesser Asia, whose name might be occasionally inserted to fill up the blank.

There is however no sufficient reason for departing from the common established reading, which incribes this epistle to the saints at Ephesus, especially when we find in the most early times, that Ignatius, one of the apostolic fathers, (who lived at the time when this epistle was written, in the smaller copy of his own epistle to the Ephesians, sect. xii. speaks to them of St. Paul" as making mention of them in a whole epistle, which Cotelerius says, it is in vain to understand of any other epistle than this, and Dr. Lardner observes, must plainly mean the epistle of Paul to the Ephesians §. And in the larger copy of the same epistle, sect. vi. he declares to the Ephesians, "Ye are, as Paul wrote to you, one body and onc spirit," where it is manifest there is a reference to the very words of St. Paul in this epistle, chap. iv. 4. So that the testimony of Ignatius, is expressed in both the copies, which ever be received as genuine, to which indeed the smaller has apparently the better title. The same is also still more clear with respect to Irenæus, and Clement of Alexandria, who were both fathers of the second century, and have both quoted this epistle in express terms under the title of the epistle to the Ephesians . No further testimony therefore can be needful to make it manifest that this epistle was received in the first ages of the church, as written by St. Paul to the Ephesians.

It is well know that Ephesus was the chief city of the Proconsular Asia, which was a part of what was called the Lesser Asia. It was particularly famous for the temple of Diana, a most magnificent and stately structure, which was reputed one of the seven wonders of the world: and its inhabitants were noted in their Gentile state for their idolatry and skill in magic, and for their luxury and lasciviousness. The apostle Paul, at his first coming to them in the year of our Lord 54, according to his usual custom, preached to the Jews there in their synagogue, many of whom were settled in that city and the neighbouring parts: but, as he then was hastening to the passover at Jerusalem, he only spent

Basil, adv. Eunom. lib. ii. p. 733.
Usher Annal. ad. A. C. LXIV. p. 686.
Iren, lib. v. cap. 2. § 3. & Clem.

one

+ Hieron. Comment. in Ephesus. init § Lardn. Credibil. part ii. Vol. I. p. 157. Alex. Strom. lib. iv. p. 409.

To the Epistle to the Ephesians.

one sabbath there, and left them with a promise to return to them again, (Acts xviii. 19-21.) Accordingly he came again to Ephesus the following year, (Acts xix. 1,& seq.) and preached the word with such success, and wrought such extraordinary miracles among them, that a numerous church was formed there, chiefly made up of Gentile converts, whose piety and zeal were so remarkable, that many of them, in abhorrence of the curious arts which they had used, burnt their magical books to a great value; (Acts xix. 19.) And such was the concern of the apostle for their spiritual advantage, that he did not leave them till the year 57, when he had been about three years among them; (Acts xx. 31.) After this he spent some time in Macedonia and Achaia, and in his return to Jerusalem in the year 58, he sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus to Miletus, and most affectionately took his leave of them, as one that should see them no more; appealing to them with what faithfulness he had discharged his ministry among them, and solemnly exhorting them to look well to the flock committed to their care, lest they should be corrupted by seducing teachers, who would arise among themselves, and artfully endeavour to pervert them; (Acts xx. 17, to the end.) And we see afterwards, from the coolness and declension they are charged with in the epistle to the angel of the church of Ephesus (Rev. ii. 4, 5), how just and seasonable was this caution that he gave them at his parting from them.

From what the apostle says of himself in this epistle, it appears that it was written by him while he was a prisoner (chap. iii. 1; iv. 1; vi. 20); as he was likewise when he wrote to the Colossians; (Col. iv. 18.) And there is such a manifest correspondence be tween these two epistles, both in their subject-matter, and in the very form of the expressions, that it may justly be concluded they were written at the same time, and sent together by Tychicus; who was intrusted with the care of both (Eph. vi. 21, 22; and Col. iv. 7, 8), but was attended by Onesimus when he delivered that to the Colossians (Col. iv. 9). Now, as it is not to be thought the apostle Paul would have employed Onesimus in such a service till after he had been with his master Philemon, it appears highly probable from hence, that the apostle sent him first with his epistle to Philemon, by whom he was received (agreeably to his request) not as a servant, but as a brother (Philem. ver 16), and had his freedom given him; and, from the confidence the apostle had in the obedience of Philemon, and in his readiness to do even more than he said (ver. 21), he might well take this opportunity of his going with Tychicus to recommend Onesimus to the Colossians, by joining him in his message to that church. Since then the apostle was in expectation of being soon released from his confinement when he wrote to Philemon, and trusting he should shortly visit him, desires him to prepare a lodging for him (ver. 22), this may induce us to conclude that he wrote that epistle towards the close of his first imprisonment at Rome: and as the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians appear to have been sent at the same VOL. IX.

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time with that to Philemon, it may be inferred that he wrote these not long before, and sent them all together in the year of our Lord 63, which was the 9th of the Emperor Nero. (See Vol. VIII. sect. Ix. note 3, p. 305.)

The design of the apostle Paul in this epistle (the former part of which is doctrinal, and the latter practical) was "to establish the Ephesians in the faith; and to this end, to give them more exalted views of the eternal love of God, and of the glorious excellence and dignity of Christ; to shew them they were saved by grace, and, howsoever wretched they were once, the Gentiles now have equal privileges with the Jews; to encourage them, by declaring with what stedfastness he suffered for the truth, and with what earnestness he prayed for their establishment and perseverance in it; and finally, in consequence of their profession, to engage them to the practice of those duties that became their character as Christians."

The doctrinal part of this epistle is contained in the three first chapters: in which the apostle introduces several important truths for the instruction of the Ephesians in the great doctrines of the gospel, that they might be well grounded in the faith; and, for the encouragement of the Gentile converts, acquaints them with the Christian privileges to which they were entitled. And here,

I. After saluting the Ephesians with an acknowledgment of their faith (chap. i. 1, 2), the apostle testifies his thankfulness to God for his distinguishing love and favour to them, in calling them to be partakers of the blessings of the gospel, in consequence of his eternal purpose to glorify his grace in their sanctification and salvation, through the blood of his Son and the communication of his Spirit; (ver. 3-14.)

II. He assures them of the fervency of his prayers for them, that they might have a clearer knowledge of the great objects of their hope and expectation; ar.d, from an experimental sense of the exceeding greatness of the power of God, might have a fixed regard to the supreme authority and dignity of Christ, who by that power is raised from the dead, and exalted to be Head over all things to the church; (ver. 15, to the end.)

III. To magnify the riches of Divine grace, and to affect them with a more grateful sense of their obligations to it, the apostle leads them to reflect upon that wretched state of moral death in which the gospel found them; and shews then it was owing to the rich mercy and the great love of God that they were raised in Christ from death to life, and in the whole of their salvation it was evident that they were saved by grace, and not by works, or any righteousness of their own; (chap. ii. 1-10.)

IV. He represents the happy change that was thus made in their condition; that they who once were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and afar off from God, were now received into his church, and had an equal right to all the privileges of it with the Jewish converts; the middle wall of partition having been broken down by Christ in favour of the believing Gentiles, who being re

conciled

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