by B. H. CARROLL
Late President of Southwestern Baptist
Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas
J. B. Cranfill
Grand Rapids, Michigan
New and complete edition
Copyright 1948, Broadman Press
Reprinted by Baker Book House
with permission of
First Printing, September 1973
Second Printing, September 1976
PHOTOLITHOPRINTED BY GUSHING - MALLOY INC
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
I The Book of Colossians Historical Introduction
II Analysis, Pauls Thankfulness and Christs Person (1:1-17)
III Christs Relation to the Church (1:18-22)
IV Christs Relation to the Father and the Universe (1:23-2:7)
V Human Philosophy Versus the Enduring Gospel of Christ (2:8-3:17)
VI Practical Applications on Colossians (3:18-4:18)
VII The Book of Ephesians Historical Introduction
VIII Election, Foreordination, Adoption, Grace Salvation Cornerstones (1:1-14)
IX Christs Atonement and Pauls Prayer (1:15-21)
X Christ the Head of the Church (1:22-2:10)
XI The Wall of Partition (2:11-22)
XII Pauls Second Great Prayer (3:1-21)
XIII The Great Unities (4:1-16)
XIV The Necessity of Regeneration (4:17-5-21; 6:1-9)
XV The Church in Glory (5:22-33; 6:10-24)
XVI The Book of Hebrews Authors Introduction Part I
XVII Authors Introduction Part II
XVIII Analysis of Hebrews and Our Lord's Sonships
XIX Christ's Superiority over Angels Good and Bad (1:1 to 2:18)
XX Christ Greater Than Moses and Joshua and
the Christian Sabbath Greater Than the Jewish (ch. 3-4)
XXI Jesus Christ, High Priest of the New Covenant,
Greater Than Aaron, High Priest of the Old Covenant (4:14 to 8:5)
XXII The Better Promises of the New Covenant (8:6 to 10:39)
XXIII The Promise of the Surety and of the Sacrifice
XXIV Promises of the New Covenant (8:6 to 10:39)
XXV The Heroes of Faith (11:1 to 12:17)
XXVI The Heroes of Faith (CONTINUED) (11:6-40)
XXVII The Outcome of the Christian's Life (12:18-24)
XXVIII The Better Festivals
XXIX Exhortations and Special Messages
XXX Exhortations and Special Messages (CONTINUED)
THE BOOK OF COLOSSIANS
(Note: For helps commended on the Letters of the Roman Imprisonment see Introduction to Philippians.)
It is necessary at the beginning to get the geography of this history clear in mind to trace out on the map in the Bible Atlas the places mentioned. Indirectly, where not directly, all the churches established in this region were Pauline churches. Colosse is only sixteen miles from Hierapolis and only six miles from Laodicea all right there together, all on the Lycus, a tributary of the Meander.
The man who planted these three churches who directly established them was Epaphras, an evangelist, who lived at Colosse. He established the churches, but Archippus, the son of Philemon, was the pastor at Colosse a rather slow going pastor. He needed to be stirred up right sharply, and Paul takes occasion in two of his letters to stir him. These people ethnologically were Phrygians, but politically they belonged to the Roman province of Asia.
The occasion of the letter to the Colossians was the visit of Epaphras to Paul in Rome, giving him an account of the state of affairs in the Lycus valley. The conditions were much sharper at Colosse than elsewhere, but the same errors prevailed in all three churches, and the form of error prevailed somewhat in the whole province. Hence, while he wrote a special letter to Colosse, he used the main thoughts of the letter and elaborated them into a circular letter. The letter to the Ephesians was certainly not addressed primarily to Ephesus. A great many copies were made and these copies were distributed among the churches of Asia. The letter that went to Ephesus was one of the copies preserved. A great many copies were not addressed to any particular place, but left blank. There is a reference in Colossians to a letter which they would receive from Laodicea, which doubtless is the circular letter which we call the letter to the Ephesians. As the letter to the Romans elaborates the line of thought presented in Galatians, making it an abstract discussion, so Ephesians elaborates the line of thought in the letter to the Colossians, making it an abstract discussion. Both Ephesians and Colossians, on the face of them, show that Paul did not personally visit these places, but doubtless saw some of the people at the time he was in Ephesus holding that big meeting which lasted two years or more.
The report that Epaphras brought disclosed a prevalent and dangerous form of error sapping the Christian faith. Before discussing what that error was, I call attention to some commentaries. The most scholarly of all, for both Greek and English students, is Lightfoot. There is also a very fine expository commentary by Alexander Maclaren, but having read both, I greatly prefer, for English students, Dr. Dargan's commentary, in The American Commentary, published by the American Baptist Publication Society. Dr. Dargan, late of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, though he wrote it when comparatively a young man, gives us a perfect gem, and it is sound in the faith. His introductory chapter is even clearer in its statement of the case than Canon Farrar gives in his Life and Epistles of Paul, and even better than Conybeare and Howson.
It has generally been held that the error which was sapping the faith of these churches in the Lycus valley was Gnosticism. Gnosticism is derived from the Greek word gnosis, which means "knowledge," like "agnosticism," which means ignorance not knowing. The knowledge to which they pretended was a mystical knowledge above that which was written, and it took the place of the written word. We get some conception of Gnosticism from mystical dreamers. We occasionally meet them in the present time. They are very confident of everything, saying, "I know, I know, I know." "How do you know?" "Well, I just feel that it is so." "Can you prove it from the Bible?" "The Spirit moves men now as well as he did in Bible days." So he goes on Spirit knowledge, as he calls it, and places what he says above what is written.
Another form was this: They would say, "The letter is nothing; the Spirit is everything. You must not interpret the Bible literally. For instance, when you read about Adam and Eve, it must be interpreted as an allegory, and the book of Jonah is an allegory." Mystics have always been dreamers. They are opposed to all forms of organization. If we ask one, "Do you belong to the church?" he will answer, "I belong to the universal, the invisible church. Your little local concern is nothing to me. I belong to the big church." Personally, I never did have much use for these vague, loose people. I believe that all real faith is susceptible of a clear statement, and that any doctrine which cannot be clearly derived from the plain passages in the Word of God is to be rejected.
I believe that the Word of God is more reliable than any mystic philosophy, and if a modern mystic wants me to accept his vagaries, let him give the signs of an apostle. Let him by miracle accredit his inspiration. Let him raise the dead and perform other miracles, and then I will be ready to accept what he says, provided it harmonizes with God's written Word.
Gnosticism did not come in its full development and full fruitage until about A.D. 150, much after this time. Then for about 100 years it swayed a large part of the Orient. It was rampant before John died. We have an example in Cerinthus. John had such a horror of him, it is said, that when he went to a public bath house and found Cerinthus there, he would say, "Let us get away from here, lest that building fall on us for keeping such company."
What did that mystical philosophy teach? What did it pretend to account for? First, the creation of the world, or how things came to be. Their position as to God was agnosticism, just as the later position of Huxley, Herbert Spencer, and John Stuart Mill, namely, God is unknowable. These mystics further taught that it is impossible for a finite being to come in touch with God that only through several grades of eons, or emanations, could men learn from God. These grades of hierarchy in angelic beings by shading down lower and lower might finally get low enough to touch man. Through these grades, or classes of angels they held that the world was created; that God did not create it; that Jesus was one of these eons, or intermediate angels; that the eon took possession of him at his baptism of Jesus the mere man, born of Joseph and Mary and when he was crucified the eon left him; that he had no real divinity, and that there were a number of eons higher than he.
The second thing they tried to account for was the origin of evil. They held to what in theology is called dualism that there are two principles in the world, a good principle and an evil principle. Doubtless they got that from the Persians. They said that evil resided in matter; that matter was evil and spirit good, and therefore they had what is called ascetic doctrines, the denial of appetite, just as far as one could and hold soul and body together; for instance, they would take a drink of water and a crust of bread, have just one simple garment of clothing, would not marry, lived in caves, and withdrew from the world just as much as possible. That was the ascetic part of it, and by doing this, as the body was matter, they triumphed over sin. Roman Catholics incorporate a great part of this in their belief. Abstinences, fastings, refusal to eat certain things, penance, scourging, etc., are examples.
Paul takes occasion to tell when here that this is not at all valuable in overcoming passions; that they have no good effect in that direction. Many a monk has found that out. Though he retire from the world and devote the time to scourgings and fastings, there on the hard rocks temptation would bind him temptation to sin in the vilest forms, just as they come to men out in the world. The Bible idea of sin is that it originated in the spirit and not in the body; the body is simply the instrument. "All sin," says the apostle in another place, "is without the body, but the sin of fornication is against the body." These were their dual ideas-spirit and matter, both eternal matter evil and spirit good, and that there must be a conquest over matter. They directly controverted the Bible doctrine of sin. When they took the position that the world was created by eons and when they assigned Christ a low place among the eons, they denied his divinity. A large part of this teaching comes nearer the doctrine of the Essenes than of the Pharisees. In the time of Christ there were three sects of Jews Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. The Essenes had their headquarters at Engedi, near the shore of the Dead Sea. They were communists, had everything in common, were opposed to marriage, etc.
So we find here that this error was more likely to have come from the Essenes part of Judaism than from the Pharisees. They had their proscriptions touching everything to eat, drink, and wear. Hence the apostle says, "Let no man take you to task about what you eat and drink." The part of their doctrine most Pharisaic was the strict observance of the sabbatic cycle, that is, weekly sabbaths, monthly sabbaths, and annual sabbaths. So that this Colossian heresy was partly Jewish and partly heathen, and altogether unchristian. Epaphras felt that it created a situation which he could not master. So he came to Rome to lay the case before Paul. He had planted these churches, they were very dear to him, and he wanted to refer the matter to an apostle upon whom inspiration rested for the correction of all these evils. That is the occasion of the letter.
Before going into the exposition we need to look somewhat at the history of these places. Colosse was one of the stopping places of Xerxes, king of Persia, when on his way to invade Greece. At Hierapolis was born a contemporary of Paul, the philosopher Epictetus, one of the most famous of the stoic philosophers. Cicero, when proconsul of Asia, stopped here at Colosse, and for a part of the time his headquarters were Hierapolis. Hierapolis and Laodicea were both great cities. Colosse never did become a great city, and it was more conservative than the others, clinging to the old Greek customs, while the others went over to the Romans when Rome conquered that territory, hence they prospered more.
A long time after Paul and John were dead, in the fourth century, a council was held at Laodicea and, strange to say, when this council was held the matters disposed of were the very errors that Paul is refuting here in this letter to the Colossians. That shows how tenacious of life heresy may be, since at least 250 years afterward it lingered in the Lycus valley. In the book of Revelation we find that to be the ruling spirit at Laodicea in the last days of John.
The value of the letter to the Colossians is almost unspeakable. We now study one after another, three marvelous books Colossians, Ephesians, and Hebrews. In Colossians the person and the work of Christ, in Ephesians the church, which is the glory of Christ, in the letter to the Hebrews the superiority of the new covenant over the old covenant, or the sacrifice and priesthood of Christ. We have a perfect feast before us in the study of these great doctrinal letters on the person of Christ, his original divinity, his creative power, his redemptive power, his relation to the church and to the universe. We find nowhere else in the Bible so perfect and complete a statement as appears in this letter to the Colossians.
In the study of the harmony of the gospels, when we get to that part where John commences, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; by him all things were created that were created," I put in Paul's Gospel by the side of that, and always incorporate right there this great passage from Colossians, the great passage from Philippians, and certain similar passages from Hebrews. Indeed, Hebrews supplements and interprets Colossians. Every preacher should have clear ideas of the person of Christ in his relation both to the universe and to the church as we have them in these letters.
There is a textual difficulty in this letter. See 2:20 and note the difference in the parenthetical clause between the King James and the revised versions.
1. Does taking the "touch not, taste not, handle not" from the parenthesis materially alter the sense?
2. Are the precepts, "touch not, taste not, handle not," Paul's precepts, or is he here condemning them?
3. Have they any bearing on the modern prohibition of the liquor habit and traffic, as sometimes applied by Prohibitionists?
An old deacon once in my hearing quoted this passage, "Touch not, taste not, handle not," as a decisive scripture against both the liquor traffic and habit. I told him he had better let that passage alone, since if it were pertinent to the subject of prohibition, it furnished a most plausible and forcible argument to the saloon man. He would use it this way: "Let no man take you to task about what you eat and drink, which things perish in the using. If you are a Christian, free from rudimental things, why are you subject to such decrees as 'Touch not, taste not, handle not?' How could you answer him except by denying the application of the passage to the liquor habit and traffic? Your defense would consist in showing the real application." Paul was teaching a salvation of grace through faith in Christ, and opposing a salvation through ritualistic observances of the Mosaic sabbath feasts, the rudiments of Old Testament typical teaching, or by trying to kill sin through ascetic applications of the body. The whole sabbatic cycle was nailed to the cross of Christ. They were but shadows of which he was the body or substance. That old typical food distinction between clean and unclean animals was abrogated. Therefore he says, "Let no man take you to task about what you eat and drink." "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day [annual sabbath] or a new moon [monthly sabbath] or a sabbath day [seventh day]." In other words, "Why do you subject yourselves to such ordinances as, 'Touch not, taste not, handle not'?" That means that the Christian is not to be under subjection to a ritualistic system which was a shadow of the things to come, but to the body of Christ. That ritualistic system said, "You may eat a goat but not a rabbit; you may eat a sheep but not a hog." Paul says that every one of these things was nailed to the cross; he is not discussing the temperance question of drinking whiskey, but he is discussing the Levitical law and the superadded traditions.
When a Jew says that we should keep the seventh day our reply is: "That was nailed to the cross. There remaineth a sabbath-keeping to the people of God which is the first day of the week." And if when we want to eat a squirrel or a catfish he says, "Touch not, taste not, handle not," our reply is, "These distinctions were rudimentary and typical. They perished with the using. Being shadows, they are fulfilled. So we understand, then, that it is not Paul who is saying, 'Touch not, taste not, handle not.' "
Let us close this discussion in a few words of review. Who wrote the letter? Paul. When? About A.D. 62 or 63. To whom? Brethren at Colosse. That includes the regular church, also the churches in the private houses. Who is associated with him in the letter? Timothy. What is the occasion of the letter? The coming of Epaphras stating the false doctrines prevalent in the churches in the Lycus valley, particularly the churches at Colosse, Hierapolis, and Laodicea. What the trouble? It was a blended error partly heathen and partly Jewish, and altogether unchristian. In its asceticism it embodies the doctrines of the Essenes; in its ritualism, the doctrine of the Pharisees; in its dualism the Persian doctrine of spirit and matter. As a philosophy it proposed to answer two questions: 1. How the world or universe first came to be. 2. The origin and seat of sin, and the means of its conquest. As a doctrine it denied the divinity of Christ, relied upon mystic, esoteric knowledge as above God's word, and taught the worship of angels.
1. Locate on the map the cities of the Lycus valley.
2. Who planted the three churches in this valley?
3. What the occasion of this letter?
4. What its relation to Ephesians?
5. What the purpose of both of them?
6. What commentaries commended?
7. What was the error widespread in the Lycus valley?
8. What the derivation and meaning of the term?
9. What another form of this term?
10. Give examples of their biblical interpretation.
11. What is a notable characteristic of these people?
12. When did this doctrine reach its full development?
13. Give an example.
14. What did this mystical philosophy teach (1) As to the origin of the world? (2) As to the origin of evil and its logical results?
15. What three sects of Jews in the time of our Lord?
16. Which of these more nearly approached this doctrine?
17. What their headquarters and some of their characteristics?
18. What part of their doctrine most Pharisaic?
19. What noted characters of history connected with Colosse and Hierapolis, and how?
20. What the council of Laodicea, and what doctrine was up for settlement?
21. What the theme of Colossians, Ephesians, and Hebrews, respectively?
22. What passage in John's Gospel parallels Paul's in this letter?
23. What passage from Philippians parallels John's?
24. What textual difficulty in 2:20? Explain its meaning and application.
25. In Review answer: (1) Who wrote this letter? (2) When? (3) To whom? (4) Who is associated with Paul in this letter? (5) What the occasion of the letter? (6) What the trouble? (7) What its threefold origin? (8) As a philosophy it proposed to answer what questions? (9) What of it as a doctrine?
ANALYSIS, PAUL'S THANKFULNESS AND CHRISTS PERSON
We now begin to expound Colossians. There are new words in its vocabulary, and especially compound words, suggested by the occasion, which makes exposition in English alone very difficult. The temptation is strong to refer to the Greek text for nice shades of meaning. Remembering, however, that but few of the mass of readers have studied Greek, our endeavor shall be to give the sense of obscure passages as best we can without confusing the mind by references to a language of which so many are ignorant. Moreover, in all matters of importance we may thoroughly rely on getting the best sense by comparison of the several English translations.
First of all we need an analysis of the whole letter, that we may understand, as we progress in exposition, the development of the argument and the relation between its parts. While we find in the several commentaries analyses more or less simple, we will follow throughout the author's analysis which is as follows:
1. Textual introduction: (1:1-14).
(1) Greeting, (1:1-2).
(2) Thanksgiving, (1:3-8).
(3) Prayer (1:9-14).
2. Doctrine of Christ's Person, (1:15-23).
(1) In relation to the Father (l:15a.)
(2) In relation to the material universe and all its intelligences, both human and angelic (l:15b-17).
3. Parenthetical explanation of the apostle's mission to the Gentiles and consequent concern for them (1:24 to 2:7).
4. Polemics against false teachers and teaching at Colosse (2:8 to 3:17).
(1) As limiting by a false philosophy the sufficiency of Christ and their completeness in him (2:8-15).
(2) Against the folly of this philosophy in accounting for creation, and in defining sin, and in the insufficiency of its means for the conquest of sin, such as, (a) A Pharisaic observance of an obsolete sabbatic ritual; (b) A self-imposed humility; (c) The worship of angels, supposed to be emanations from God, himself unknowable; (d) A bondage to impracticable ascetic precepts based on the idea that sin resided in matter, which precepts were but expressions of will worship and powerless to hedge against temptation or to subdue the passions, or to supply objects high enough to incite to love motives (2:16-23).
(3) Against the substitution of a mystic knowledge (Gnosis) as a standard instead of the gospel (2: 16-23).
(4) But the gospel, on the other hand, raises us with Christ and makes us sharers of his life and exaltation, supplies us with heavenly objects of thought and desire, and pledges our manifestation in glory with Christ (3:1-4).
(5) It shows sin to be an evil nature called "the old man," resident in mind, not matter, and expresses itself in fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, covetousness, anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking (3:5-9).
(6) It provides for the real conquest of sin (a) by regeneration, putting off the old man and putting on the new man a re-creation after the image of God expressing itself in a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, forbearance, forgiveness, love; (b) by the process of sanctification through the instrumentality of God's Word and through spiritual worship in teaching, prayer, and song, and (c) by supplying the dominant motive in all word, deed, or thought, the glory of our Lord (3:10-17).
(7) It unifies in Christ all races, nations, and social castes (3:11).
5. Exhortations, by way of application (3:18 to 4:6).
(1) To family relations and duties (3:18 to 4:1).
(2) To their spiritual devotions (4:2-4).
(3) Their outward walk and speech (4:5-6).
6. Personal matters, salutations, and directions (4:7-17).
7. Attestation of the letter and benediction (4:18).
This outline emphasizes the distinctions between doctrine, polemics, and practice. The Historical Introduction having been given in a previous chapter, we now take up in order the divisions of the text outline.
1. Textual introduction (1:1-14). This introduction consists of the greeting, thanksgiving, and prayer. It is a New Testament method, particularly a Pauline method of commencing a letter. Paul, declaring his apostleship and courteously associating Timothy with himself, addresses the letter, nor formally to the pastor nor indeed to the church, but "to all the saints and faithful brethren in Christ at Colosse." We may infer a reason for this address from the fact that there were at least two churches at Colosse (see Philemon 1:2). We reserve to the close of the exposition an important observation on the plurality of churches in one city, characteristic of Hierapolis also (4:15), as we find it to be of Rome (Rom. 16:5).
Paul always finds some reason for thanksgiving. Note carefully for what he expresses thanks in this case: "Having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, of the love which ye have toward all the saints, because of the hope which is laid up for you in the heavens." The proof is decisive that Paul himself had not planted the churches in the Lycus valley. He "hears" and "learns" of their faith and love through his disciple, Epaphras, the evangelist, who probably planted these churches (Col. 4:13). Note that "hope" in verse 5 is used objectively, meaning the inheritance for which they hoped. It is common with Paul to use words objectively. See an example in Galatians 3:23, "But before faith came," i.e., before Christ, the object of faith, came.
With Paul thankfulness for great blessings glides into prayer for other blessings. Dissatisfied ever with his own attainments, he constantly reaches out to higher things (Phil. 3:10-14) and so would incite them to progress. Note therefore the precise things for which he prays in their behalf: (1) "That ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding," (2) "Strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory;" (3) "Giving thanks." So he prays then for increase of their knowledge and power and thankfulness. They must not be content to stand still. His prayer calls for progress. But mark that each blessing sought is toward a practical end in service and character.
He asks for nothing to be hoarded, nothing for mere enjoyment. The "increased knowledge of his will" must, when received, lead them "to walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work." And so the increased power must be used "unto all patience and longsuffering with joy."
It is worthy of note that all New Testament teaching is on the same line. The constant cry is "forward," "higher," and "excelsior." Not only so, but there is a close and necessary connection between increase of knowledge and increase of growth. On this point Spurgeon's great sermon on 2 Peter 3:18, "Grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," deserves careful study, since he stresses the thought that we grow in the grace by growing in the knowledge. We must know more to be more and do more. The emphatic thought here is that a new convert is but a babe in Christ, able to be nourished only by the "sincere milk of the word," i.e., its simplest truths, and by continued indoctrination in higher truths he attains through fulness of knowledge to maturity of manhood in Christ. Compare Peter's similar teaching by letter to the same people (1 Peter 2:2). In Ephesians, the companion letter to Colossians, we find the thought greatly amplified and elaborated. (Eph. 3:11-16).
Later, Paul in the letter to the Hebrews rebukes them for remaining babies: "For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that someone teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. For everyone that partaketh of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But solid food is for full-grown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil. Wherefore leaving the doctrine of the first principles of Christ, let us press on unto full growth."
This prayer of Paul that the Colossians might have increase of knowledge and spiritual power was most pertinent to their condition as reported by Epaphras. If they had known more of the gospel, they would have been less at the mercy of the false teachers leading them astray with vain philosophy, and if they had attained greater spiritual power they would not have been in danger of falling through weakness. It is the ignorant and undeveloped Christians who support impostors, freaks, and cranks. On this point it might be profitable to read my sermon on "Lambs, Little Sheep, and Sheep."
We need now to consider carefully what things Paul regarded as worthy of thanks in the Colossians. When we study them we understand why Paul prayed that they might be thankful to the Father. Here are the items: (1) "Who made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." (2) "Who delivered us out of the power of darkness." (3) "Who translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love." (4) "In whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins."
To make "meet" is to make fit or suitable. Adam had a help suitable to him. Heaven is not only a prepared place, but for a prepared people. An unprepared man would not enjoy heaven. It would be hell to him. A wolf hates the light. A sinner of the world, with a mind that is enmity against God and holiness, would hate heaven's light. Even now we Christians are not fully prepared for heaven. While regeneration has given a holy disposition to our minds so that we love God and approve right things, yet we need the process of sanctification to complete our holiness of spirit, and we further need the resurrection and glorification of our bodies that the whole man may be prepared for the heavenly estate.
The delivery from the power of darkness deserves special thankfulness. As bearing on this, compare Paul's commission (Acts 26:18), being sent to the Gentiles "to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me." Darkness is the realm of Satan and he is its power, as light is the realm of Christ and he is its power. We ought to cultivate thankfulness that we have been rescued from Satan.
In illustration I have sometimes cited this fact of border warfare. A settler's camp had been surprised by savages. This was the scene when help came: the father was lying across the wagon tongue killed and scalped; a little boy mangled and scalped was hanging in a thorny bush. A painted Indian brute was standing over a helpless girl, his left hand twisted in her golden hair, his right hand brandishing the bloody scalp knife, with the mother kneeling before him pleading for her child. What must have been her thankfulness for the opportune rescue of her girl? But how shall this scene compare in horror with that of a sinner under the power of Satan, led captive at his will toward the pit of darkness where his fetters may be riveted on the victim forever. In the "Three Hours of Darkness," in that devil darkness, Christ on the cross triumphed over Satan and rescued us from his power.
The thankfulness increases on our transfer to the kingdom of the Son of his love. The phrase, "Son of his love," needs explanation. It does not mean the "well beloved Son," for that expresses the Father's love for the Son. It means that the Son is the representative and depository of the Father's love toward us. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life."
The final ground of the thankful spirit which he invokes on the Colossians is "our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins." There can be no more disturbing thought than the exact record of our sins. Books are kept in heaven. Therein is written every evil desire, imagination, thought, word, or deed. This book of the transgressions of the finally impenitent will be opened at the judgment. But just now in the day of mercy our Lord stands with uplifted hands - the nail pierced hands - over that record, and promises to any penitent believing sinner to bring down that hand and blot out the record forever.
I would have the reader lay to heart the solemn fact that we all sin in not cultivating the spirit of thankfulness. We continually pray, "Give! Give! More! More!" and show not due appreciation of what we receive.
This binders the efficiency of our prayers. God more freely gives to the thankful. I recall an incident in my own life. Once I spent a half-hour impressing on my mind, item by item, the grounds of gratitude in this passage, and was surprised to realize its instant effect on my own state. I was blue when I commenced and happy when I finished. The fruit ripened at once in my own heart, and I was conscious of great unction and power in prayer. We come now to the second division of our outline:
2. The doctrine of Christ's person (1:15-23). This doctrine is presented here in three relations to the Father, to the material universe with all its intelligences, and to the church. This passage has been a battleground of controversy for ages. "What think ye of Christ?" has ever been a touchstone question. Let us consider Christ's person in each relation.
(1) In relation to the Father. The words expressing this relation are few: "Who is the image of the invisible God." "Image" and "invisible" stand over against each other, "image" meaning that which may be seen, "invisible" that which may not be seen. So that, as it were, we might read, "Who is the visible of the invisible God." Compare Hebrews 1:3: "Who being the effulgence [shining forth] of his glory and the very image of his substance." Compare John's expression, "God manifest." Compare his mission to "reveal the Father." Compare his reply to Philip: "Lord, show us the Father and it sufficeth us. Jesus said unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. How sayest thou, Show us the Father?" And particularly Philippians 2:6: "Existing in the form of God." This makes "image" equal to John's declaration, "The Logos was God," i.e., essential deity in nature.
(2) In relation to the universe with all its created intelligences. Here we have six strong expressions: (a) First-born of all creation; (b) creation was in him; (c) creation was through him; (d) creation was unto him; (e) he was before all things; (f) by him all things consist.
The Arians in later days contended that "firstborn of all creation" meant that he was the first to be created, as "firstborn from the dead" in verse 18 means the first to be raised from the dead. This, of course, denies his essential deity and eternity of being, since it makes him a mere creature. To the Arian interpretation we must oppose (a) the fact that it is not consistent with the five other strong terms of the context. (b) In the original there is a difference of construction between "firstborn of creation" and "firstborn from the dead." (c) It is out of harmony with the corresponding passages in John and in the letter to the Hebrews. When creation is said to be "in him," "through him," and "unto him" and "consists by him," and "He was before all created things and beings," we cannot count him a creature. The reader must note the great force of the prepositions, "in," "through" and "unto." "In him" denotes source, potentiality, as in John, "In him was light, in him the life," denoting origin, source, fountain. "Through him" denotes the creative act, "Unto him" the creative end or purpose. "Consisting by him" denotes the standing, or continued preservation concerning all the powers of providence. As Lightfoot puts it, "He is the source of the life, the center of its development, the mainspring of all its motions." The reader will note the Arian false interpretation of Philippians 2:6-7, in the exposition of that letter.
In view of the Colossian heresy we should particularly note the sweeping statement, "In the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers," and should compare the teaching in Hebrews on the infinite distinction between Christ and the angels. "Firstborn" in Colossians 1:15 must refer back to its ancient meaning, expressing sovereignty, heirship, as primal head and Lord. It has been well said, "The idea of the Son of God being a part of creation was foreign to Paul's mind and to the thought of his day." Words cannot be formed to express the idea of essential deity if the words of John and Paul do not express the deity of the Son of God who was manifested and became flesh in order to our redemption.
1. What the difficulty of exposition in this letter?
2. Give the authors analysis.
3. What distinction emphasized in the outline?
4. Of what does the textual introduction consist?
5. To whom. addressed, and why?
6. What the ground of Paul's thanksgiving here?
7. What the meaning of "hope" in verse 5?
8. Itemize Paul's prayer for them.
9. What is the relation of knowledge and growth?
10. What Paul's rebuke to the Hebrews?
11. What the application to the Colossians?
12. What things did Paul consider worthy of thanksgiving?
13. What is the meaning of "meet" in 1:12? Illustrate.
14. What is the meaning of "delivered us out of the power of dark- ness" in 1:13? Illustrate.
15. What is the meaning of "Son of His love?"
16. What the greatest blessing for which we should be thankful to God?
17. What three relations of the person of Christ?
18. What expresses his relation to the Father?
19. With what scriptures should this be compared?
20. Sum up all these in one sentence.
21. On his relation to the universe, answer: (1) What the Arian contention relative to "firstborn of all creation," and upon what scripture is this interpretation based? (2) What the threefold reply to this contention? (3) What the meaning of "creation was in him"? (4) What the meaning of "creation was through him"? (5) What the meaning of "creation unto him?" (6) What the meaning of "He was before all things?" (7) What the meaning of "By him all things consist"?
22. On 1:16, "Thrones, dominions, principalities, powers," answer: (1) Are angels referred to? (2) Do the terms express a hierarchy, i.e., a graded order of angels? (3) Does the apostle express his belief in a hierarchy of angels?
23. Then what is the meaning of "firstborn of all creation"?
CHRIST'S RELATION TO THE CHURCH
Before taking up this chapter proper let us review briefly the doctrinal part of the previous chapter. We stopped at 1:17, and the special points made were that Christ in his relation to the Father was the image or visible of God invisible. The term "image" was further carefully explained in this context, being interpreted by the subsequent qualifications that creation was "in him," "through him" "unto him" and "consisting by him," and he was "before all things." All these expressions were in turn carefully explained in their own context and compared with the parallel passages in John's Gospel and Revelation, in Hebrews and Philippians, and their bearing on the essential deity of Christ was pointed out, together with their pertinence to the prevalence of the heresy at Colosse. We should especially fix clearly and definitely in our minds the meaning of the words "image," "firstborn," "consist," and the force of the prepositions "in," "through," "unto" and "before."
This chapter, commencing at 1:18, considers Christ's relation to the church expressed in the figure of a head and body. Whenever this figure (a common one with Paul) is employed, the church is conceived of as an organism, a much stronger term than organization, but by that very fact emphasizing the inherent, essential idea of organization in the word "church." The word "head" implies not only sovereignty but rule, the source of the body's life and growth through vital connection with it. In every sense of the word "church," Christ is the head. He is the head of every particular church in which alone the institution expresses itself, and he is the head of the prospective church in glory, whose constituent elements, or component parts, will be the whole number of the elect saved by him.
The only sense in which the church in the third meaning above now exists, is in the gathering and preparing of material, which, when all is gathered and fully prepared, will be constructively fitted together as an everlasting habitation of the Holy Spirit. The time and circumstances of the constitution of the universal, or glory church, with every orderly step leading thereto, are as clearly set forth as in the case of any particular church here on earth: (1) Jesus will come in glory, (Matt. 25:31); (2) he will bring with him the spirits of the Just made perfect, (1 Thess. 4:14); (3) will raise and glorify their bodies, (1 Thess. 4:16) ; (4) will change, or transfigure, living Christians, (1 Thess. 4:17; and 1 Cor. 15:51-54); (5) will separate Christians from sinners, (Matt. 25: 32,33); (6) will present the church to himself as a glorified bride, (Eph. 5:27; Rev. 21:2, 9; 19:7-9); (7) infilling of the finished temple by the Holy Spirit, (Rev. 21:3). This church when constituted, will be a local, visible, organized assembly. It is as yet only a concept to become an actuality, a plan of the architect according to which he continually works in order ultimately to a finished house, a purpose of the divine mind conceived of as fulfilled, because with him the end is present as well as the beginning.
It is every way important that the reader should have clear ideas of the several meanings of the word "church," set forth above, and be able to determine from the context which one of the meanings is employed in any particular passage. While this is essential to a right interpretation of the word where ever it is used in the New Testament, it is emphatically so in Colossians and Ephesians which, while employing the word in all its meanings, especially stress the third meaning. Full discussion of this matter will be reserved to the exposition of Ephesians whose usage is much more extended and elaborate. And I say in advance that whoever can expound the word "church" in Colossians and Ephesians is a past master in exegesis so far as that term is concerned.
We find next the expression: "Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead." There is here a relation between "the beginning" and the "firstborn from the dead." The two expressions seem to be in apposition, the second modifying or defining the first. That is, Christ is called the beginning from the dead in that he was the first-born from the dead. He had the preeminence in relation to the creation, as has been set forth, and the preeminence in relation to the church, just expressed, so must he now have pre-eminence in relation to the dead, being the beginning or first-born from the dead. Thus it pleased the Father that in him ail the fulness should dwell fulness as to being God's image, fulness as to creation, fulness as to the church, fulness as to the resurrection.
On the meaning of "firstborn from the dead" the question of fact has been raised: Was the resurrection of Christ absolutely the first one in history? We must say, "Yes, absolutely." Elsewhere he is called "the firstfruits of them that are asleep." It has been objected that Lazarus and others were raised from the dead. But all these were but restorations to life under the old conditions. The bodies were not glorified. They were yet subject to mortality, weakness, dishonor, and corruption. They all died again. In Christ's case he rose to die no more. There was complete and final triumph over the grave. "I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore." Again, it has been objected that Moses, who certainly died and was buried, was seen alive on the Mount of Transfiguration. Yes, but was not alive in the body. The Jewish myth of the assumption of the body of Moses is as false as the later papal myth of the assumption of the body of the virgin Mary. The bodies of Moses and of Mary are yet "Mouldering in the ground." Elijah, indeed, was bodily visible on the Mount to Peter, James, and John, but Elijah, like Enoch, was translated that he should not see death. The disciples were illumined to see Moses in the spirit as well as Elijah in the body. The purpose of the transfiguration is defeated if we interpret that Moses was there bodily. The transfiguration scene was designed, at least in part, to give a miniature representation of the second coming of Christ, as follows: (1) When he comes he will come in glory (Christ was there seen glorified). (2) When he comes living Christians will be glorified without death. Elijah represented that class. (3) When he comes he will raise the dead. Moses represented the class to be raised. So that the transfiguration scene imaged in miniature the power and majesty of the second advent. John so understood it, for he testifies: "We beheld his glory, as the glory of the only begotten from the Father" (John 1:14). Peter so understood it, for he testifies: "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there was borne such a voice to him by the majestic glory, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased: and this voice we ourselves heard borne out of heaven, when we were with him in the holy mount" (2 Peter 1:16-18). He had said, "There are some of them that stand here who shall in no wise taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom" (Matt. 16:28). Or, as Mark puts it: "Till they see the kingdom of God come with power" (Mark 9:1). Or, as Luke puts it: "Till they see the kingdom of God."
Matthew prefaced his statement with the words: "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels," thus showing that the kingdom they would be enabled to see before death was not the kingdom in any of its earthly aspects, but the glory kingdom as his second advent. The promise finds no fulfilment except on the Mount of Transfiguration, and both Peter and John declare it to be a vision of Christ in glory as at his second advent. Hence to represent Moses as having already risen from the dead destroys the completeness of the Transfiguration imagery to represent all the power and majesty of the second advent.
Again it has been objected that some of the saints rose from the dead at the moment Christ died on the cross. This objection misreads the scripture, which says, "And the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep were raised; and coming forth out of the tombs after his resurrection they entered into the holy city and appeared unto many" (Matt. 27:52-53). Let us not balk at the doctrine. It is fundamental. Christ is the first-born from the dead. In that old English classic, The Spectator, is an article by Addison entitled, "The Vision of Mizra." In this vision Mizra sees a flowing river whose source and exit are hidden in clouds, but across the section visible is a bridge over which pours the tide of successive generations. The bridge is sadly out of repair, and so, sooner or later, each passing pilgrim drops through some crevice into the river below and is swept away into the impenetrable darkness which veils its exit. The vision was designed to teach that unaided human philosophy can neither discover the origin of life nor the destiny to which death bears us. Shakespeare also represents death as "that bourne from which no traveler has ever returned." Like the tracks of the animals which visited the sick lion in the cave, they could all be seen going in, but none could be seen coming out. So was death a dark realm until Jesus was raised and brought life and immortality to light. He is the one traveler who has returned from death and for us flashes light on its secrets. He tells of the state of disembodied spirits, good and bad, of his coming advent in glory, bringing with him the souls of the saints in heaven and dragging to him the souls of the wicked in hell, and the general resurrection of both the just and the unjust, the reunion of long severed souls and bodies, the general judgment of all, and the final state of the just and the unjust.
All this is pledged in his own resurrection. He is declared to be the Son of God with power by his resurrection. Or, as the psalmist puts it: "This day have I begotten thee," referring to the demonstrations of his sonship by the resurrection. Just here it is important to note that what we call the second advent will be really the third. When he suffered on the cross his spirit left this world and went to the Father. There, as high priest, he made the atonement behind the veil by sprinkling his own blood on the mercy seat in the true holy of holies. On the third day he returned to earth for his risen body, and this was his second advent. So "when he bringeth his only begotten again into the world, he said, Let all the angels of God worship him" (Heb. 1:6). His first advent was to assume by incarnation the body of his humiliation. This was when he was born of Mary. His second advent was when he returned from heaven to assume his body of glory. This was when he was born by the resurrection. His third advent will be when he comes to assume his mystical body the church and to judge the world.
This is a great doctrine a multiform doctrine the resurrection of Christ. It is the one sign of his divinity and the one pledge of our glory. As a historical fact it is attested by witnesses. John says, "That which we have seen with our eyes, heard with our ears, and handled with our hands that we declare unto you." He himself said, "A spirit hath not flesh and bones, such as ye see me have handle me and see." Luke said, "He showed himself alive after his passion, by many infallible proofs."
The church, with all its officers and ordinances, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is the witness through the ages to his last advent that Jesus is alive he was dead, but is alive forevermore. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are all witnesses to this one great pivotal fact that Jesus is risen indeed. Baptism is a witness to the same fact whenever administered in font, pool, flowing stream, lake, gulf, sea, or ocean. It memorializes all spectators on earth, in hell, in heaven, that Christ is risen, is alive, is exalted to be the head of the church, and head over all things to the church. The Lord's Supper testifies that he died for our sins, but is alive now, and points its finger of triumphant hope to his last advent, for "as oft as ye do this ye show forth the Lord's death till he come."
Both all preeminence and all fulness are vested in Christ. So is the Father's good pleasure. That there are heights and depths in this thought seldom realized by the profoundest Bible students will appear as we examine the next thought, the thought of reconciliation and its scope. Mark the text: "And through him to reconcile all things unto himself . . . whether things upon the earth or things in the heavens." Or, as the thought is more broadly expressed in Philippians 2:10, "That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of beings in heaven, beings on earth, and beings under the earth."
In some real sense the atonement made by Christ in the holy of holies in heaven, based upon his expiation on the cross, will touch either to save, confirm, or subdue every angel in heaven or hell, every man, saint, or sinner. The saints it saves, the good angels it confirms, bad men and demons it subdues, so that they ground arms of active rebellion, and in receipt of final punishment and chains show that the war against God is over forever, and the whole universe is pacified.
Throughout the universe the authority of God is forever established. The kingdoms of this evil world have become the kingdom of Christ; Satan's kingdom is overturned; the earth itself is redeemed unto the liberty of the children of God; death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire, and even Gehenna itself shall float no flag of rebellion. There is no more conspiring or fighting against God. Gehenna's inmates, men and demons, in everlasting punishment, endure, but resist no more. All things through Christ are in this way reconciled. As when a victorious army marches through a revolting province, disperses all armed companies, captures all strongholds, receives the surrender of all antagonists, rescues and rewards all the loyal, expels, confines, and punishes all the disloyal.
Angels and men finally lost are not merely conquered in the sense that they surrender and are by banishment and confinement debarred from future revolt, but they are forced to see and publicly acknowledge on bended knee that Christ is King and their punishment is just.
More than this: Because angels were appointed to be ministering spirits to man, who was made originally "lower than the angels," Satan, through pride, revolted. He was unwilling to be subordinate to the lower creature man. This was the origin of sin in heaven, and led to Satan's being cast out from heaven with his fellow apostates. Hence his hatred of man and his purpose through temptation to alienate him from God and thereby destroy him, and thus defeat the purpose of God in subordinating him to man. This led to sin on earth, and thus man passed under bondage to Satan with the earth, his home.
But Jesus, the Second man, was appointed to destroy the devil and his works. On the cross of expiation he triumphed over Satan, making a show of him openly, despoiling principalities and powers as we see further on in this letter. Through his consequent exaltation to the throne of the universe, he makes all things work together for good toward the consummation described above. Now the unfallen angels were yet on probation. They did not follow Satan, but it remained to be seen if they would actually become ministering spirits to the human heirs of salvation achieved by Christ's expiation. If they did so become, then they would be confirmed and so lose all liability to fall, and thus things in heaven would be reconciled. When the saints at Christ's advent sit with him on his glory throne they will "judge angels." Their testimony of help received vindicates and confirms the unfallen angels. The fallen angels who fell trough unwillingness to be under man are now brought before men to be judged. Think of it! Peter and Job judging Satan! When Satan and his angels thus bow the knee to redeemed and glorified humanity, confess their sovereignty, and receive sentence of punishment from them and go away into everlasting confinement, the war is over and all things are reconciled. What a pity that Milton in his great epic, Paradise Lost, so misconceived the reason of Satan's rebellion! And what a greater pity that in his feebler epic, Paradise Regained, he stops at Christ's resistance to Satan's temptation, so very short of the cross. But Milton, in more points than one, was a very unsound theologian.
This letter to the Colossians transcends all other scriptures in its comprehensive grasp of the atonement. Very clearly it shows that the cross is the keystone of the arch, the hinge on which swings open every door of revelation. No wonder its author could say elsewhere: "I determined to know nothing among you but the cross. God forbid that I should glory save in the cross, and if an angel from heaven should preach any other gospel, let him be anathema."
We thus see that Christ's first advent was to assume the body of his humiliation and in it to make expiation on the cross, followed by his making the atonement, or reconciliation in heaven, where, for this purpose, his spirit went immediately after his death, and this, in turn, followed by his second advent to earth for his risen or glorified body, and this followed by his ascension, soul and body, to the throne of the universe, and this followed by his sending of his vicar, the Holy Spirit, to accredit, endue, and abide with his church, and this followed by his reign in heaven and the Spirit's reign on earth in the church, and this followed by his third advent to assume his mystical body, the glorified church, and this followed by the final judgment, and this followed by the Spirit-filled glorified church, descending to occupy the now purified and redeemed earth, not only completes the story of reconciliation, or purification of the universe, but shows how the reconciliation severally touches all beings and things, saving saints, confirming good angels, subduing and forever expelling evil angels and men, so that in all his holy mountain there is nothing left to offend, to make afraid, to awaken tears, or to incite to pain, sickness, or death.
But while all this presents reconciliation in its general aspects, we need to consider it, as does Paul, in its special relation to the Colossians. Reconciliation implies previous alienation. Sin alienated God from men and men from God. Christ is the mediator who brings the two together. The ground of his mediation is his sacrificial and vicarious death. This satisfies the punitive demands of the law, and so propitiates or placates toward God. The offering of the blood of the sacrifice by Christ as high priest, in the holy of holies in heaven, reconciles God. The reconciliation of men to God is effected by the ministry of the gospel, savingly applied by the Holy Spirit. Accordingly Paul says in our text: "And you, being in times past alienated and enemies in your mind and in your evil works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh, through death, to present you holy and without blemish and unreprovable before him."
The last clause shows not only the end of reconciliation, but indicates that their salvation involves more than justification. Not only must the penal sanctions of the law be satisfied, but they must be internally fitted for presentation to God. That is, not only saved from guilt and condemnation of sin, but also from its dominion in their hearts and lives. This makes the doctrine of reconciliation intensely practical. It involves regeneration, sanctification, and glorification. The presentation of the redeemed in the completeness of salvation is a definite and official transaction. Indeed, it is compared to a marriage. We are engaged or betrothed to Christ by faith here in time. Paul says: "I have espoused you to Christ as a chaste virgin." The marriage comes later. The bride must be made ready for the husband. This marriage takes place when our Lord comes again. In the accompanying letter to the Ephesians the thought is amplified, closing thus: "That he might present the church unto himself a glorious church, not having a spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."
The grandest scene of time or eternity will be this presentation of the redeemed considered as a unit, a bride, glorious in her apparel. So in the apocalypse John saw and heard: "And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunders, saying, Hallelujah: for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigneth. Let us rejoice and be exceeding glad, and let us give the glory unto him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And it was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright and pure; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they that are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Rev. 19:6-9).
Reconciliation is therefore a call to holiness. Let not Baptist preachers skip this "if" of Paul's: "If so be that ye continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel." A transient faith is not the faith of the gospel. Any professed regeneration that does not move on toward sanctification is not true regeneration. It was not the purpose of God to imitate human rulers who, when exercising power, turn loose a criminal on society. "Whom God justifies, them he sanctifies and glorifies."
1. Row is Christ's relation to the church expressed?
2. What the conception of the church ill. the use of this figure?
3. What does the word "head" imply?
4. In what senses of the word "church" is Christ the head?
5. In what sense only does the glory church now exist?
6. What the time and circumstances of the constitution of the glory church? (State this in seven orderly steps.)
7. When so constituted, what will be the nature of this glory church?
8. Which meanings of the word "church" are employed in Colossians and Ephesians?
9. What the relation between "the beginning" & the "firstborn from the dead"?
10. What do they mean?
11. What question of fact raised here?
12. What its answer?
13. Explain, then, the cases of Lazarus, Moses, and Elijah, and their bearing on the transfiguration.
14. Give proof that the transfiguration gave a miniature representation of Christ's second advent.
15. What a second objection and its answer?
16. What the vision of Mizra?
17. What is it designed to teach?
18. Explain his several advents, and the purpose of each.
19. What the one sign of Christ's divinity & the one pledge of our glory?
20. What the witnesses to the fact that Jesus is alive?
21. What the scope of Christ's reconciliation? Explain fully.
22. Give an account of the origin of sin: (1) By whom originated? (2) Where? (3) The cause? (4) The result?
23. Who was appointed to destroy the works of the devil, and when was it accomplished?
24. What the position of the unfallen angels now?
25. What the position, of the saints at the judgment?
26. What vital mistake in Milton's Paradise Lost? In Paradise Regained?
27. In what does this letter transcend all other scriptures, and what the keystone of the arch of revelation?
28. On reconciliation in its special relation to the Colossians answer: (1) What does it imply? (2) Who the mediator? (3) What the ground of reconciliation? (4) How effected? (5) How applied?
29. Show that salvation involves more than justification, and that reconciliation is intensely practical.
30. Compare the redeemed to a bride.
31. Describe the scene when the bride shall be presented to her husband.
32. What is, therefore, the call of reconciliation?
33. Give the clause following Paul's "if."
34. What the evidences of real faith?
CHRIST'S RELATION TO THE FATHER AND THE UNIVERSE
Colossians 1:23 to 2:7.
This chapter commences with a question based on the King James Version of Colossians 1:23: "Which was preached to every creature which is under heaven." In my younger days the Hard Shell Baptists used this passage to prove that the commission in Mark 16:15-18, commanding to "preach the gospel to every creature" was literally and finally fulfilled by the apostles to whom alone it was given. They supported their contention by citing the fact that the "signs" in Mark 16:17-18, which were to accompany and confirm missionary work had long since failed, and therefore missions were ended; that the "signs" were a part of the commission, and whoever now claimed authority to do mission work under that commission must show the signs or stand convicted of imposture. I used to press this point on Missionary Baptist preachers to see how they would answer it. Finally one of them passed the question back to me, "You are a Missionary Baptist yourself how do you answer it?" My reply was this:
1. Mark 16:15-18 must be construed with Matthew 28:18-20. The perpetuity of the Matthew commission appears from "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world," and from the fact that the "make disciples of all nations" is co-extensive with "teaching them to observe all things, etc.," which Hard Shells themselves admit to be binding now.
2. Even after Paul had written, "which was preached to every creature which is under heaven," he himself went right on in the mission work and commanded others to do the same, which examples prove the continuity and perpetuity of the commission. So also does Peter, as appears from his letters written after Paul wrote Colossians. And so, also, does John. See particularly the letter to Gaius long after Colossians, in which John commends Gaius for helping the missionaries and condemns the Hard Shell Diotrephes, (vv. 6-10).
3. We must look to the apostle in subsequent teaching to learn if the "signs" are always to accompany the mission work, or are to cease when their accrediting purpose is accomplished (1 Cor. 13:8,13).
4. The accuracy of the King James Version of Colossians 1:23 is questionable. The revision thus renders Mark 16:15, "Preach the gospel to the whole creation," and renders Colossians 1:23, "which was preached in all creation under heaven." Compare Romans 10:18.
5. Whatever the rendering, the Hard Shell interpretation is manifestly erroneous. The gospel must be preached to all the world, generation by generation, and not merely to one generation. The church, as the pillar and ground of the truth, must continue to instruct the angels in the manifold wisdom of God until Jesus comes (Eph. 3:10) and must, by its mission work, exhibit the glory of God throughout all generations (Eph. 3:21). Ephesians was written after Colossians.
6. Paul was operating under a direct commission given subsequently to the one in Matthew 28 and Mark 16, (see Acts 9:15; 22:14-21; 26:16-18), and transmitted to others the carrying on of the same mission work (2 Tim. 2:2).
The next item in the analysis is the parenthetical explanation of the apostle's mission to the Gentiles, and his consequent concern for these Colossians. That item of the analysis extends from 1:24-2:7. He is expounding here the object of his mission to the Gentiles.
We recall that when Paul was so long a time at Ephesus, the capital of the Roman province of Asia, in which were these Lycus valley cities, that representatives from this Lycus valley attended these meetings, among whom were Philemon and Epaphras, of Colosse, who were both converted. And while he himself at the time of this great meeting, did not personally visit these Lycus valley cities, those who were converted by him did visit them and plant the gospel there; so the establishment of the churches there was indirectly attributable to him, and so he would have an interest in them.
But apart from that fact, he was the Christ-appointed missionary to the Gentiles, and they were mostly Gentiles. In this valley there were some Jews. The population was blended. While ethnologically most of them were Phrygians, they were a mixed people; some were Jews, some Greeks, and some Romans. But he was concerned because the whole Gentile mission had been turned over to him, as to Peter and the other apostles was given the mission to the Jews. So we note when Peter writes a letter to these very people later, he confines himself to the Jewish inhabitants, thus: "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect who are sojourners of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." While Peter writes to the elect of the sojourners of the dispersion to the dispersed Jews Paul writes as an apostle to the Gentiles. What is the difference between the "to whom" that Paul wrote and the "to whom" that Peter wrote? Paul wrote as an apostle to the Gentiles, and the whole cast of his letter is Gentilic. Peter wrote to the Jews of the dispersion, and the whole cast of his letter is Jewish. So then, because Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, it is a matter of concern to him that they should take on false doctrine.
I call attention to some expressions in verse 24. He says, I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church." Did Dr. Gordon in his book on the Spirit rightly interpret that passage, "I fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ"? Or does Paul's suffering have anything to do with Christ's sacrificial suffering, in order to the salvation of man? Or does he mean that his sufferings supplement the nonsacrificial sufferings of Christ? Some of Christ's sufferings were for our example and others were not. As proof I cite 1 Peter 2:20: "For what glory is it, if, when ye sin, and are buffeted for it, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow in his steps." So we may now follow the example of Christ's sufferings, except that expiatory part, and our sufferings may supplement his sufferings except that expiatory part. There we cannot come in. Those who deny the substitutionary or vicarious expiation of Christ are accustomed to quote this passage from Peter and this passage from Paul to show that the sufferings of Christ were merely martyr sufferings, not unlike Paul's martyr sufferings and Peter's, and serve merely as an example of patience, and that they had no expiatory nature. It is necessary to emphasize this point as to the distinction between what he did as a vicarious sacrifice for sinners and the ordinary sufferings of Christ, such as we and all of his people participate in. He himself refers to this when he says, "If the world hateth you, ye know that it hath hated me before it hated you. If ye were of this world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of this world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, A servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.
In verse 26 we have a word that needs explanation. What does Paul mean by "mystery"? He says, "I was made a minister according to the dispensation of God, which was given me to you-ward, to fulfil the word of God, even the mystery which hath been hid for ages and generations, but now hath been manifested to his saints." What is this mystery? He explains it in the next verse: "To whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles." In the letter to the Ephesians he elaborates on that mystery this way: "Wherefore remember that once ye, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands; that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were afar off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and he came and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh: for through him we both have access in one Spirit unto the Father. So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Eph. 2:11-19).
The mystery then was this that in the beginning of the human race God had purposed not to make any discrimination between people, and salvation was to be as free to one nation as to another and that in electing the Jews and isolating them from all other people, it was not done because they were better than other people, nor was it done to confer special grace upon them, but simply to make them the depository of his truth for the time being, which in the fulness of time would include all the human race. This is the mystery. But the Jews supposed that God was partial to them that they were not merely the custodians of revelation for all mankind, but that between them and the Gentiles there was a wall that could not be broken down. They would stand up on that wall, glorying in their sanctity, and saying to outsiders, "You dogs! Don't touch me! I am holier than you!" They carried that so far that they would go home from the crowded streets, immerse themselves, and wash their clothes to remove possible defilement by contact with a Gentile. Paul does not use the word "mystery" in the sense that what he now reveals is mysterious, but that his revelation makes clear what was once a mystery that the purpose of grace for the whole human race was veiled in the Old Testament times but unveiled in New Testament times.
So John, in Revelation, talking about the scarlet woman, says that she is "mystery," meaning that for the time being the truth was veiled under a symbol. The symbol was a woman dressed in scarlet, sitting upon a beast. All Bible critics confront the question, What is the meaning of "mystery" in the New Testament? It has several meanings. The context determines in each case. Paul in a letter to Timothy says, "Confessedly, great is the mystery of godliness," and then gives all the elements of that mystery of godliness, commencing, "God made manifest in the flesh."
In Colossians 2:2 he says, "That their hearts may be comforted, they being knit together in love and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, that they may know the mystery of God, even Christ." The idea is that God, out of Christ, is a mystery, unknowable, but in Christ he is declared and the mystery solved.
Consider also that word "assurance." We have three samples of its use: We have faith and the assurance of faith. We have hope and the assurance of hope. We have understanding and the assurance of understanding. There is a distinction between a man's simple faith in Christ and the assurance of that faith. Faith, hope, and understanding are all objective, in that they go out of us and take hold of an external object. But assurance is subjective. It does not raise a question concerning the merits of the object of faith, but rather the question, Do I really believe? So with hope and understanding. Hope looks to certain things reserved in heaven; assurance of hope is a kind of certificate to a person that thoroughly satisfies him that his hopes are well grounded.
These Gentiles did not understand that the gate of salvation was to be just as wide open to them as to the Jews. When they took hold of it they took hold of it timidly. So Paul says, "I want you to get full assurance of understanding that you are entitled to this that God meant you just as much as he meant a Jew." We see that if the Gentiles could reach full assurance of understanding that they were entitled to salvation under the same law and the same terms as the Jew, then Judaizing teachers could not subvert them, could not shake them by saying, "You must be circumcised in order to be saved." The reply would be, "I have an understanding of that matter, and I have full assurance of the understanding, and I know that I do not have to become a Jew in order to be saved."
So Paul continues in 2:4: "This I say that no one may delude you with persuasive speech." That is exactly what was taking place there. There was a false teacher in Colosse who was endeavoring to make proselytes to his philosophy, and one part of that philosophy was that they must observe all sabbatic rituals, whether the seventh-day sabbath, monthly sabbath, or annual sabbath. That is precisely the point that this false teacher was trying to make. Paul says to these Gentiles, "I have a deep concern for you, and I want to lead you into a clear practical understanding of this gospel, lest somebody come and delude you with persuasive speech."
In verse 6 we have another variation of the same thought: "As therefore ye received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him." In other words, "You received him by simple faith, without conformity to Jewish ritual; continue as you commenced." Compare Galatians 3:1-3, "O foolish Galatians, who did bewitch you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified? This only would I learn from you: Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh?"
He continues the assurance thought: "Rooted and builded up in him and established in your faith, even as ye were taught." Those three words, "rooted," "builded up" and "established" contain the thought he was trying to impress: "I want you to be so well indoctrinated that you cannot be turned aside by specious error."
The same thought prevails in his letter to the Ephesians in his prayer, 3:4-19: "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God." That is one denomination and another between justification and longer emphasize doctrine. We would be amazed if we were to call up our entire church membership, and as each one comes up begin to catechize to see if every member was thoroughly indoctrinated in the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Many of them cannot discriminate between one denomination and another between justification and sanctification. Herein the Presbyterians excel the Baptists in the use of the catechism.
Where a church has been faithfully ministered unto by a pastor who selects, not high sounding texts whose mere sound led him to the selection, but who has from his deliberate conviction preached from the themes that they needed for their rooting and grounding and establishment in faith, that man will have an indoctrinated church. But there is a class of wishy-washy, "milk and cider" preachers who would rather say it does not make any difference what one believes if the heart is all right; it does not make any difference how he is baptized; they do not care whether he is a member of the church or not. That class of preachers raise up congregations to become the prey of any evangelical tramp or crank. Such an ill-trained congregation does not make even good militia, much less veteran soldiers.
To illustrate: Recently a Boston Baptist preacher, moderator of an association, published in The Baptist Watchman a full four-page article that would degenerate a vertebrate into a jelly fish. He denies that baptism is a prerequisite to church membership, denies that a church has anything whatever to do with receiving members or judging of their qualifications, affirms that when a man believes it automatically makes him a member of the church, prefers to make baptism essential to salvation rather than essential to church membership. In a word, the whole article is made up of "airy nothings" without a stalwart thought in it. The wonder is how that man ever got into a Baptist church. It must have been automatically, for no true Baptist church, if it had been consulted, would have received him.
To illustrate again: One day a man called at my house who denied that a church was either an assembly or an organization at all, saying that it was merely a living community. God help us when such jellyfish views about the church are taught by those in authority!
Two parts of this letter are of transcendently great importance. One is the doctrine and the other is this part the fourth item of the analysis. Let us look at what the analysis says:
Polemics against the false teacher and teachings at Colosse (2:8 to 3:17).
(1) As limiting by a false philosophy the sufficiency of Christ and their completeness in him.
(2) Polemics against the folly of this philosophy in accounting for creation, and in defining sin, and in the insufficiency of its means for conquest of sin, such as (a) a Pharisaic observance of an obsolete sabbatic ritual, (b) a self-imposed humility, (c) the worship of angels, supposed to be emanations from God, himself unknowable, (d) a bondage to impracticable ascetic precepts based on the idea that sin resides in matter, which precepts were but expressions of will worship and powerless to hedge against temptation or to subdue the passions, or to supply objects high enough to incite to love motives.
(3) Against its substitution of a mystic knowledge ("gnosis") as a standard instead of the gospel (2:16-23).
(4) But the gospel on the other hand raises us with Christ and makes us sharers of his life and exaltation, supplies us with heavenly objects of thought and desire, and pledges our manifestation in glory with Christ (3:1-4).
(5) It shows sin to be an awful nature called the "old man," resident in mind, not matter, and expresses itself in fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, covetousness, anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking (3:5-9).
(6) It provides for the real conquest of sin by regeneration puts off the old man and puts on the new man, a recreation after the image of God, expressing itself in a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, forbearance, forgiveness, love, and by the sanctifying instrumentality of God's word, and by spiritual worship, in teaching, prayer, and song, and by supplying the dominant motives in all word, deed or thought, the glory of God (3:10-17).
(7) It glorifies in Christ all races, nations, social castes (3:11).
There was a false teacher, not teachers it was one person. We do not know who, but there was one prominent man there in the Lycus valley who possessed and held this false philosophy. This philosophy was partly Pharisaic in its adherence to the sabbatic ritual, and partly of the Essenes in its ascetic teaching. This philosophy held that the world was not created by God, because God is unknowable and cannot touch man and things, but that it was created by emanations from God eons and therefore, instead of worshiping God, they worshiped eons, or angels. They said that they should not worship God because they could not know him. They worshiped intermediate beings that came in touch with them.
Then this philosophy taught that as sin resided in matter, the way to conquer it was by conformity to ascetic precepts that one should retire from the world, live like the Essenes in a cave on the border of the Dead Sea, not marry, have just as few clothes as possible, all the time working on the destruction of the body, because there is where sin resides, since the soul is all right. That was one phase of the philosophy. Paul was combating that, as shown in his doctrines: Christ in his relation to the Father, the universe and its intelligences, and that by him, in him, and unto him was creation, and that he was before all things, and in his relation to the church.
With reference to sin, notice what things he enumerates as expressions of sin, and see whether it be of the body: "Evil desire, covetousness, anger, wrath, malice, railing, lying, shameful speaking out of your mouth." Some of these are overt acts, but sin, according to that teaching, resides in the soul and not in the body. The body is merely used as an instrument in a great many sins, but sin does not reside in the body. To show further how Paul was controverting this philosophy as to the nature of sin, he calls it the old man, the old Adam. How then is sin to be conquered? It is to be conquered by something that will change the nature that will put off the old man and put on the new man. That is regeneration, and then follows a sanctifying power that will carry on the regenerating work, so that instead of the deeds of the old man like anger, wrath, malice, etc., we put on the deeds of the new man, like love, kindness, a heart of compassion, forbearance and forgiveness. Then he goes on to show what instrumentalities are necessary to bring this about: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." So we see the difference between the two philosophies in question.
1. State the Hard Shell contention based on the King James Version of Colossians 1:23, and reply to it.
2. What the difference between the "to whom" Paul is writing and the "to whom" Peter later writes?
3. Expound 1:24, "I fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ," and show Dr. Gordon's interpretation.
4. What the meaning of "mystery" in 1:25 and elsewhere by Paul, does it mean the same thing when used by the Synoptic Gospels and by John in Revelation, and does it mean the same thing when used in the classics and by modern secret societies?
5. Expound the word "assurance," in Colossians 2:2, distinguish between "knowledge" and the "assurance of knowledge," between "faith" and the "assurance of faith," between 'hope" and the "assurance of hope," and apply the context showing the value of the "assurance of knowledge."
6. Show the variation of the same thought in verses 6-7.
7. What similar expressions in Ephesians 3, and what the application there?
8. What defect in many Baptist churches, what the kind of preachers that promote it, and wherein do Presbyterians excel us at this point?
9. Illustrate by the article in The Baptist Watchman and by a modern definition of the word "church."
10. What the two very important parts of this letter, and what a brief summary of the second as indicated in the analysis and the brief discussion which follows?
HUMAN PHILOSOPHY VERSUS THE ENDURING GOSPEL OF CHRIST
Colossians 2:8 to 3:17.
This chapter continues the exposition of Colossians. While on broad general lines, the main teaching part of the letter has already been considered, we need to examine somewhat in detail certain words and phrases in the long paragraph commencing 2:8 and ending 3:17. In 2:8 "spoil" has the sense of captives "make you a spoil," and in the same verse, on the word "philosophy," note
1. The derivation of the word literally "a love of wisdom," i.e., human wisdom, or reasonings, in accounting for things, as opposed to divine revelation in accounting for things.
2. The province of philosophy. Certain matters come legitimately within the realm of human philosophy upon which its reasonings and even its working suppositions may be heard tentatively, its conclusions, or hypotheses, continually subject to modification as investigation affords new light.
But certain other matters are entirely outside its realm, e.g., whatever is supernatural cannot be settled by natural reasonings.
Whatever touches ultimate origin and destiny lies entirely outside the realm of human science, and hence when human philosophy attempts to settle matters beyond the reach of human science it becomes mere speculation. Its dogmatic claims are, as the apostle here puts it, "vain deceit." All its voluminous, varied, and contradictory literature upon these subjects from the beginning of time till this hour is as valueless as the "airy nothings" of a dream. If every book of it were burned today in one huge bonfire, as were the magical books of the Ephesians, the world would be better off.
The only light in it all is the light of its burning. See 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:16.
Do not understand me to deny all legitimate scope to human philosophy. Within bounds it has a great place, but even in that place its value may be greatly overestimated. I am quite sure that more than half of the matter in the textbooks on philosophy in all our schools, colleges, and universities is the most worthless rubbish, and some of it rank poison.
I am not talking of science. A man who denies the value of science real science rails at God's appointed method by which man is commanded to subdue the earth and lay under tribute all nature's potentialities. The predicate for all schools of human learning is God's dower of authority to man over land and sea and sky, and his commission to subdue the earth. Here in the natural world human philosophy is the avant-courier and handmaid of science. It supposes, it experiments, it makes myriads of tentative explorations and flights, shedding off the failures, utilizing and improving the successes, and thus ever contributing to the enlargement of science.
Philosophy becomes a fool only when it invades the realm of ultimate origins, destinies, and the supernatural. Here it is vainer than a peacock, and blinder than a mole, which, burrowing under the earth, is a fine judge of earthworms, but utterly incompetent to become a critic of landscapes, sky views, and ocean wonders.
"Ne sutor ultra crepidam." On these matters all God's treasures of wisdom and knowledge are stored up in Christ, who is the only revelator of God's hidden things. A human philosophy which, leaving out God (deifying instead, Chance or Fate), leaving out man's highest nature and highest relations, leaving out distinction between matter and spirit, attempts a scheme of the universe and the related human life perpetrates a folly unworthy of preservation in human literature. Observe next in 2:8,
3. "After the tradition of men." "Tradition," that which is handed down transmitted from father to son, or from one generation to another may be either good or bad according to its origin or subject matter. In the New Testament the word is accordingly used sometimes in a good sense, sometimes in a bad sense. Paul commands Timothy to pass on to other good men the deposit of good doctrine which he had received from Paul. If the original matter be a revelation from God, it does not cease to be good because, "handed down," provided only it be held sacredly intact and transmitted unimpaired. The supreme test of an oral "tradition" is its conformity with the word written. The Pharisees made void the written word of God with rabbinical traditions. And so tradition in the early Christian centuries began that undermining of the simplicity of the written gospel which culminates in our day into that which is another gospel or no gospel.
The context (v. 11 to 18) indicates that "the traditions of men" here rebuked by the apostle is a Jewish element of Gnosticism rather than heathen, because these traditions are in the same verse said to be "after the rudiments of the world" and not "after Christ." But what is meant here by "rudiments"? In a general way "rudiments" means what is elemental the first principles. Of course, "rudiments of the world" may mean worldly first principles, referring to mere human origin, but this hardly accords with the New Testament usage of the word "rudiments" or with the immediate context. The rudiments of revelation were the types, shadows and ritual of the Old Testament. It was characteristic of the Jew in the time of our Lord, and is so even now that he went not beyond these rudiments. He would not see in Christ the substance of these shadows, so he never went on to maturity.
Moreover, by their traditions they corrupted and distorted even the shadows. This corruption might appear in stressing the letter which killeth against the Spirit which maketh alive. Or by their endless elaborations, interpretations, emendations, infinite trifling details they might convert the law into a burdensome yoke impossible to be borne. Or by merely human speculation on the fact that the law was given by "the disposition of angels" they might merge Jewish speculation into the heathen element of Gnosticism, a creation by eons graded emanations from God. To meet which Paul presents Jesus as having in himself "all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." Let the reader particularly note the force of this expression, perhaps the strongest in the New Testament.
Observe (1) "Godhead." The Greek theotes means "deity" not the weaker word "divinity" the natural force of which may be evaded, or shaded down. The expression is even stronger than John's "The Word was God (Theos)."
Observe (2) "fulness," not in part nor in certain directions, but "all the fulness of Deity."
Observe (3) "bodily" (somatikos), i.e., "bodily-wise." The word is carefully chosen. Here Lightfoot speaks to the point: "It is not 'in a body' for Deity cannot be so confined. It is not 'in the form of a body' for this might suggest the unreality of Christ's human body, but 'bodily,' i. e., bodily-wise, or with a bodily manifestation."
Observe (4) "dwells" (katoikei): "In him dwells all the fulness (pleroma) of Deity bodily," as just before, in contrast with their vain deceit, their philosophy, he has affirmed that in Christ "all the treasures of wisdom [sop/no] and of knowledge (gnosis) are stored" (2:3).
Observe (5) "And ye, in him, are complete," i.e., filled full (pepleromenoi). Being in union with Christ, there is no need to seek from human sources a wisdom, a knowledge, a philosophy, on the matters stated.
Observe (6) Instead of Christ being a low grade eon, or emanation from God a subordinate angel "He is the head of all principality and authority" Kreek, he Kephale pases arches hai exousias. He then goes on to show that in being united to Christ they received the real, or spiritual circumcision, and their baptism was in a figure both a burial and a resurrection with Christ. In other words, the antitype of circumcision is regeneration, and baptism symbolizes Christ's burial and resurrection and pledges our own. He then reaches his true climax in a double direction:
1. That in his death on the cross he fulfilled, cancelled, and abrogated all the Old Testament economy took it entirely out of the way took it forever away.
2. That on the cross he not only conquered, but made an open show of Satan and all his demons. Here he follows the imagery of a Roman triumphal procession, accorded to their conquering generals, dragging captive princes in their train. (See the author's sermon on the "Three Hours of Darkness.") He came in triumph, by resurrection and ascension, after the battle on the cross, not to imperial Rome, but to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of God, shouting, Lift up your heads, O ye gates, And be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, And let the King of Glory come in.
"When he ascended up on high he led captivity captive," i.e., he broke all the chains of bondage which Satan had bound on men, redeeming the captives of the terrible one, and he gave as largess the outpoured Holy Spirit with all his varied gifts to men. Truly that was "the crisis of this world."
Let not the reader fail to note the apostle's conclusions from this victory on the cross:
1. Let no man judge you in meat and drink according to the Mosaic distinctions between the clean and unclean. That distinction is abrogated.
2. Let no man judge you on any part of the sabbatic cycle, either the seventh-day sabbath, the lunar sabbath, the three great annual sabbaths, the land sabbath or the Jubilee sabbath. They were all shadows; the body is of Christ. The whole old covenant with its sacrifices, types, ritual, and priesthood, has passed away. This passage is the death blow to all sects which observe the seventh day sabbath. They are either Jews on this point or merely keepers of a sabbath which commemorates creation. Yet when we come to consider the more elaborate arguments in the letter to the Hebrews, written a little later, we will find that "there remaineth to the people of God a sabbath-keeping" (Sabbatismos) which commemorates not rest from creation nor deliverance from Egypt, but our Lord's rest after his greater work of redemption.
3. Let no man seek to impose on you circumcision of the flesh. Ye are regenerated, having the spiritual circumcision.
4. Let him not judge as one of the Essenes, trying to kill sin by afflicting the body, saying, "handle not, taste not, touch not" this or that. All their minute rules, all their asceticism, all their adjournment of marriage, all their retirement from the world into caves, nunneries, or monasteries, all their regimen of diet and scourging of the body is mere will worship and availeth nothing toward shutting out temptations. Allurement, lust, passion, envy, jealousy, malice, and covetousness, that run riot in the world, will find a man in his seclusion. Walls of brick and stone cannot shut out human passion. God meant for us to live in the world, but not to be of the world. "I pray not that they may be taken out of the world, but that they may be kept from the evil one," says our Lord. The true remedy is to set our affections on things above, where our citizenship is. Let the expulsive power of new affections drive the old loves out of the heart. Put off the old man and put on the new man, which, after God, is re-created unto knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. Let the reader note that chapter 3:11 of this letter and Ephesians 4:24, both allude to man's original creation in the image of God, and this image involved "knowledge" (epignosis), "righteousness" (dikaiosune) and "holiness of truth" (hosioteti tes aletheias).
5. Where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondmen, freemen, but Christ is all and in all.
These five conclusions from Christ's work on the cross constitute a priceless heritage, ever to be most jealously guarded. They are summed up as follows:
1. The distinctions between clean and unclean meats and drinks is forever obliterated.
2. The creation sabbath and all the cycle of Jewish sabbaths are superseded.
3. Circumcision of the flesh, distinguishing Jew from Gentile, is abrogated.
4. Asceticism and seclusion from the world as a preventive of temptation and passion is valueless.
5. Distinction of race, caste, society slavery and freedom, civilization and barbarism, culture and ignorance are all impossible in Christ. He died for man, as man. Regeneration, or the new creation, ignores all artificial distinctions. There will never be a kingdom of Jesus over Jews, as Jews. There will never be a restoration of the Jewish polity. It would be a horrible anticlimax.
Christ was crucified because he would not restore the national Jewish polity, but established a spiritual kingdom.
Seventh Day Adventism and all premillennial adventism representing Christ as coming to reign for a thousand years in a restored earthly Jerusalem over a restored Jewish nation, with the Gentile world in subjugation, nullify the cross and seek to rebuild what he there forever cast down.
Since the cross, and forever since the cross, it will be true "Where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondmen, freemen; but Christ is all and in all."
There will be a Jerusalem, the capital of this world. But it will be the heavenly Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven after the general judgment. The Holy Spirit will infill it, according to John's vision (Rev. 21:10-14). "The twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the several gates was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God the Almighty, and the Lamb, are the temple thereof. And the city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine upon it: for the glory of the Lord did lighten it, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb. And the nations shall walk amidst the light thereof: and the kings of the earth bring their glory into it. And the gates thereof shall in no wise be shut by day (for there shall be no night there): and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it: and there shall in no wise enter into it anything unclean, or he that maketh an abomination and a lie: but only they that are written in the Lamb's book of life," (Rev. 21: 10-14, 22-27).
There never will be a reversion to Moses. The great central truth of the cross and what it abrogates, set forth in Colossians, enlarged in Ephesians and elaborated in every detail in the letter to the Hebrews, makes an eternal break with Judaism, as is fitly followed by the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple and the eternal cessation of its sacrifices and priesthood. Therefore the author cannot bear the thought that anyone should fail to learn the lesson of Colossians 2:14-15. As the Crusaders failed, so will the Jewish Zionists. The tomb is empty. The sanctity is forever gone from the earthly Jerusalem and the land. Let Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic have their quarrels over the empty tomb and vacant temple site, regulated by Moslem police. Our Lord is not there; he is risen. The Jerusalem that now is answereth to Mount Sinai and is in bondage with her children. The Jerusalem that is above is our mother, and regeneration is our certificate of citizenship. Heaven is our Holy Land. Let us by illumination, faith, hope, and love make tours to that holy land. I am far from denying that God overruled the Crusades to much reflexive good. But the Crusades themselves, so far as their immediate purpose and hope are concerned, have no rivals in the history of folly.
I have no desire To climb where Moses stood And view that landscape o'er but would prefer to be caught up with Paul into the third heaven, into the paradise of God. "And view THAT landscape o'er."
I continually rejoice that I am not coming unto the dark, thunder-rocked, fire-crested, smoke-shrouded, trumpet-riven Mountain of the Law, there to quake and tremble, but unto Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, unto God the judge, unto the general assembly and church of the first-born, unto the spirits of just men made perfect, unto Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, unto the blood of sprinkling in the true holy of holies whose atoning efficacy speaks better things for us than the blood of Abel's typical animal sacrifice. Oh! when, thou city of my God, Shall I thy courts ascend?
I have not the temperament of the archaeologist. I could never potter with Old Mortality among the tombs of men once heroes, but seek the company of living heroes. I could not be a Chinese with his back to the future, worshiping his ancestors, and am entirely without desire to go East except "by way of the West." Campbell's Pleasures of Hope is a greater book than Rogers' Pleasures of Memory. I lift my hat when I hear Paul shouting: "Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out to the things that are before I press on toward the goal of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
I have been scornfully asked, why the waste of the letters to the Colossians, Ephesians, and Hebrews, since Titus in less than a decade would obviate their necessity by the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish polity?
My answer was, because he foresaw the great apostasy which, under the guise of Christianity, would revert to the Old Testament type and revive its hierarchy, its priesthood, its human mediators, its ritual, its anointings, its genuflexions commanding to abstain from meats and forbidding to marry and which would foist on half the world a blended Jewish and heathen system of superstition, tyrannizing over the cradle, the grave and the spirit world, and over governments, while drunk with the blood of the saints.
1. What the meaning of "spoil" in 2:8?
2. What the derivation of the word "philosophy"?
3. What the province of human philosophy and its value there?
4. Into what realm may it not intrude, and what the value of its literature when intruding there?
5. Into this realm beyond the scope of human philosophy, what, according to 2:3 of this letter, is the position of our Lord, and how does he make known its secrets?
6. What the meaning of "tradition" in 2:8, and how is the word used in the New Testament?
7. What the meaning of "rudiments" in 2:8, and to what does the New Testament usage of the word usually refer?
8. Show from the context that a Jewish element of Gnosticism is under consideration here.
9. At what point in the argument does the Jewish element blend With the heathen?
10. Ill what great, declaration concerning Christ does Paul meet the false philosophy? (2:9.)
11. Meaning of "Godhead" in verse 9, and how often elsewhere in the New Testament does the word occur, and compare its force with John's "the Word was God."
12. Meaning of "bodily," and quote Lightfoot on the choice of the word?
13. Meaning of "complete in him"?
14. What the antitype of circumcision, and the relation of baptism thereto?
15. State the great climax of Paul in two directions.
16. State the five conclusions from his argument.
17. What the value of the conclusions as a heritage?
18. What the effect as to Judaism of the central truth of the cross as argued in Colossians, Ephesians, and Hebrews?
19. Wherein the great error of Seventh-Day Adventism, and most premillennial teaching?
20. What the folly of the Crusades?
21. Will there ever be a restored earthly Jerusalem, with Christ as King over the Jews, and Gentiles in subjection?
22. What the Jerusalem before the saints?
23. Why, in view of the destruction of Jerusalem in less than a decade, did Paul write these prison letters to make a final break with Judaism?
PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS ON COLOSSIANS
Colossians 3:18 to 4:18.
In this chapter we take up the practical application of this letter. From 3:18 to 4:1 the exhortations relate to the family or home and are based on reciprocal relations. From relation arises obligation. These relations are husband and wife, parent and child, master and servant. The first two relations are natural, the third artificial.
God himself created the relation between husband and wife. He made them one in the beginning, himself performing the marriage ceremony. Adam was first made. Eve was derived from his body and soul. Hence the name, "woman," meaning derived from man. This marriage relation is the basis of the home, the family. It was intended to be indissoluble. The New Testament permits only one ground for divorce. The sanctity of the bond cannot be maintained without regard to the reciprocal duties. There can be but one head to a family. The husband is that head. This involves subjection on the part of the wife. She must honor and obey, but it is not a slavish obedience. Her realm is the home. She lives in her husband and children. The husband must love his wife and be not bitter toward her. This thought is elaborated and illustrated in the accompanying letter to the Ephesians. As Christ loved the church and gave himself for it, so must husbands love their wives. Where this great love is extended by the husband it is easy for the wife to honor and obey, and the children born of the marriage will be a heritage of the Lord.
Children, too, are in subjection. They must honor and obey; that is the first commandment with a promise. This honor and obedience must be in letter, spirit, and form. A look or a gesture may disobey. Dr. Adam Clarke, the great Methodist commentator, says that his mother was a Scotch Presbyterian, famous for teaching and enforcing family discipline that on one occasion when commanded by her to do an unpleasant service, he obeyed, but looked disobedient. His mother caught the meaning of disrespect in his eye, and, shaking her finger in his face, quoted the proverb: "The eye that mocketh at his father and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out and the young eagles shall eat it." Her solemn denunciation impressed him much. Her words rang in his ears. Walking out alone in the woods, he was startled by the cry of a raven overhead, "Caw! Caw! Caw!" His mother's words burned in his mind like fire, and, placing his hands over his face, he ran back home, crying out: "Oh, my eyes, my eyes, let not the ravens pick out my eyes!" But the law binds not the child alone. The parent must not provoke the child. Many a child has become discouraged in honoring and obeying parents by their provocations.
These exhortations on the sanctity of family ties were very pertinent to the matter in hand. The false philosophy prevalent at Colosse discountenanced marriage and the raising of children, as tending to sin. Their selfish delusion was that the escape from sin was to be found in abstinence from marriage and retreat from social claims to the solitude of a cave. While a few free lovers have denounced what they call the bondage of marriage, and while the trend of modern society is to multiply causes for divorce, yet, on the whole, the common sense of mankind honors both the sacred institution of marriage and the mutual laws governing marriage and children. They respect the New Testament declaration that "He that provideth not for his own hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel."
But some over pious people have taken great offense at the gospel because it does not peremptorily inculcate the abolition of slavery, and incite to servile insurrection. They greatly mistake the purpose of the gospel. It did not undertake to be a political and revolutionary force. It came to serve religious ends. It would have perished in the beginning if it had pronounced on forms of political government or the legality of social conditions. Whenever its legislation touched a social or political evil, it was to ameliorate its harshness, but it relied mainly on the leavening power of its great principles. Slavery abounded everywhere. It taught the slave God's care for him and led him into spiritual freedom. It taught him to be honest, industrious, conscientious, as living unto his Lord. It revealed to him that God, unlike man, is no respecter of persons, and held out for his patient hope the heritage of the world to come. It laid a restraining hand upon the Christian master, curbing his passions, enjoying justice and mercy in the treatment of the slave, and called upon him to remember, first, that he was Christ's bondman, and, second, that in Christ there were no distinctions between the bond and the free. Thus indirectly, by the leavening power of its principles, it is reforming all evils of government and society, and will ultimately purge the earth of all wickedness of whatever kind.
The exhortations pass from these social relations to inculcate the habit of thankful prayer, suggesting as a special object of petition his own case. But he solicits on his behalf no selfish gain, only "that God may open to him a door for the word" and that when it is open he may unveil the mystery of the gospel "as he ought to speak." These two objects of prayer, repeated in the letter to the Ephesians, are very suggestive. He conceives of prayer as able to influence the workings of Providence, and to influence the Spirit's power on his own heart. In view of them, let us take heed that we fall into no infidel attitude concerning prayer, nor raise in our minds the doubt, "What profits shall we have if we Pray unto him?" They also suggest that if an inspired apostle deeply felt the need and longed for the power of the prayers of his brethren, how foolish in us to discount so valuable a service.
From devotions we pass to outward walk and speech. "Walk in wisdom before them that are without." How little are Christians sensible of the fact that they all, as well as the apostles, are "a spectacle to the angels," to demons, and to men. What a text for preachers! "Them that are without." Note the frequency of the phrase and its several contexts, for example, Mark 4:11; 1 Corinthians 5:13; 1 Timothy 3:7. Indeed it is a qualification of the preacher that "he have a good report of them that are without." Apart from the exact form of the phrase are many passages embodying the thought in other words. Moreover, as words count as much as conduct with "them that are without," "let your speech be always with grace seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer each one." The outside world bristles with interrogation points toward Christians and Christianity. How often we injure the cause by injudicious answers. How closely Peter follows Paul's lead in this exhortation: "Ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15).
Concerning these exhortations on family duties, devotions, outward walk and speech, observe, first, how close the connection between Colossians and Ephesians, and, second, how uniform the teaching by all the New Testament writers and speakers on all these grave matters. Compare, for example, on husbands and wives, Paul's teaching in these prison letters (Col. 3:18-19; Eph. 5:22-23) with Peter's (1 Peter 3:7) writing later to the same people in part. The letter refers them to its bearers, Tychicus and Onesimus, for detailed information of his state and work.
In the salutation he distinguished between his Jewish and Gentile companions in labor. Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus are Jewish Christians, while Luke, Demas, and Epaphras are Gentiles. It is gratifying to note that he takes pleasure in the association and cooperation of Mark. Evidently in some way his mind toward Mark is changed since his refusal to let him be a companion on his second missionary tour (Acts 15:37-40). We have no evidence of the ground of the reconciliation, and so cannot say whether Paul revised his original judgment, or Mark evinced repentance for his former abandonment.
In the first letter from Peter, written a few years later from Babylon to these same Colossians, he reports that both Silas and Mark, with others, are with him. In the separation Barnabas took Mark and Paul took Silas. Peter has fallen heir to both of the companions on that divided second missionary tour. We learn in these salutations that Luke was a physician, which many terms of his writings indicate, and that Epaphras was an evangelist who probably planted the three churches of the Lycus valley Colosse, Hierapolis, and Laodicea.
In his second imprisonment at Rome we find Paul complaining that the Demas he here commends had forsaken him, having loved this present world (2 Tim. 4:10). And what a difference in his own salutation when 2 Timothy is written! Only Luke is with him. He urges Timothy to come and bring Mark. Tychicus had been sent to Ephesus.
In his directions we find a household church in Hierapolis as well as in Colosse. We find more than one of these churches in Rome. Doubtless these churches in private homes came about from the fact that they had no public meetinghouse for all the churches in a city, and services were held in the home of some leading brother or sister who could afford the most room.
The number of these churches in one city is a disproof of the now current theory that in apostolic times all Christians of a metropolis were in one church organization, presided over by a leading bishop, with subordinate bishops supplying the various sub-congregations, assembling in different parts of the city.
As bearing upon this point Rev. W. T. Whitley, in delivering the "Gay Lectures" before the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on the topic, "The Story of Missions in Five Continents," special topic, "Expansion in America and Australia," has this to say, as reported in The Review and Expositor, January, 1908:
Look next at church organization. To these shores were transplanted from Britain three patterns, monarchical, aristocratic, democratic. Already a Methodist Episcopal has been produced an ingenious crossing of two of these. Always in Tasmania the Baptist leaders examined their Bibles to see if Baptist traditions were absolutely in harmony with New Testament principle; whether a few baptized believers who build a house for prayer and praise, paying a few men and women to conduct it, with one pastor at the head, form a "church" on divine right, on a necessary pattern. They decide not, and all the Baptists in the island form really one community, with the ministers the ministers of the whole body. Church extension and matters of general interest are decided by the whole, and selfish isolation is discouraged. The same question occurs to a minister in this town, and he asked whether New Testament precedent did not point to a single church of Louisville, like the church of Ephesus or Corinth. American conservatism frowned down the heretic, and he sought refuge at Rome. But the same question has again been raised in Britain, the president of the Baptist Union stating as his New Year's message that our usual plan is at best of human origin, and not ordered in scripture, while many of its developments are absolutely anti-scriptural. For the next few years English Baptists are likely to inquire diligently whether the congregational system blindly adopted by Robert Browne is the last word in organization, or whether the New Testament does not show us all the baptized believers in a town forming one church, with a plurality of elders both to teach and to administer business, and probably many houses for worship. Indeed, in one great town this system is just being tried, and the question has been ventilated by papers at our last session of the Baptist Union.
As further illustration of the dangerous trend, I cite a letter from The Argus. The title of the letter is: "The Baptist Outlook in Great Britain," by J. H. Shakespeare. Under the head of "Ministerial Recognition" the writer gives as news:
The regular door into the Baptist ministry is through one of our recognized theological colleges. Hitherto as soon as a student left college and became the pastor of a church, his name was placed on the list of "accredited ministers" in The Baptist Handbook. This recognition, as it was called, carried with it the right to share in the Annuity Fund, and other privileges of membership with the Baptist Union. The pastors who entered the ministry without first passing through one of the recognized colleges were required to pass two examinations before being placed upon the accredited list of the Baptist Union. At our last spring assembly, however, a new scheme of ministerial recognition was all but unanimously adopted, and our pastors are henceforth to be divided into two sections, probationers and recognized ministers. Collegiates who receive satisfactory certificates from their college principals will be at once placed upon the probationers' list, and noncollegiates will have the same privilege on passing one examination. All ministers on the probationers' list, whether collegiate or noncollegiate, will be required to pass a Baptist Union examination, and to submit satisfactory proof as to their pastoral efficiency before their names can be transferred to the accredited list, and they then become recognized ministers. It is hoped that these new regulations will, to some extent, guard the portals to the ministry, and make it more possible to infer that if a man is a Baptist minister he shall not only be spiritually qualified, but also be an educated person.
These two extracts indicate a most dangerous trend. The first surrenders the old-time definition of a church, not only advocating the metropolitan idea but the provincial idea of a church. The second goes to a greater extreme. An association of purely human origin assumes to "guard the portals of the ministry" to divide them into classes of probationers and accredited into collegiates and noncollegiates, usurps the church prerogative of subjecting to its examination, and seeks to limit the ministry to "educated persons."
The stupendous folly of the whole business, its suicidal unscripturalness, becomes apparent by applying the rule to New Testament apostles, evangelists, and pastors, and to past Baptist history. God forbid that we should follow the English Baptists!
The direction about exchange of letters between Colosse and Laodicea (4:16) throws light on two points: (1) That m all probability the letter from Laodicea was the letter which we call Ephesians. (2) We learn how New Testament manuscripts were passed around before there was a collection of them into one book or library. And how some lists, after collections were formed, and even some earlier versions, did not have all the New Testament books. We note also in the directions that Archippus, son of Philemon, was a minister, and one, too that need to be stirred up somewhat in the line of duty. The reader will note the usual attestation of Paul's letters by his autograph signature, a habit adopted since he wrote his first letter, caused by report of forged letters in his name.
1. Where does the practical part of this letter commence, and what reciprocal relations expressed in 3:18 to 4:1?
2. What the character of these relations, and what arises from them?
3. Who the author of the relation between husband and wife, what the history and nature of this relation?
4. How may the sanctity of the marriage relation be maintained, and what does this involve?
5. Where do we find the subject of the marriage relation elaborated and illustrated, and what the essential points in the discussion there?
6. What injunction here for children, and what, in detail, the striking illustration given?
7. What the special application of the exhortations on the sanctity of family ties to the Colossians?
8. What the gospel's attitude toward the institution of slavery, and what special precepts here touching this subject?
9. What the lessons here on prayer?
10. What the lessons on outward walk and speech?
11. How does this teaching harmonize with other New Testament teaching on the same subject, and what the proof?
12. Who were the bearers of this letter, and what trust did Paul commit to them besides this letter?
13. What distinction does Paul here make in his salutation, what gratifying bit of information here relative to Mark, and what the probable ground of this reconciliation?
14. What information touching these brethren from Peter, and what information about Luke and Epaphras found in this closing salutation?
15. What is here said of Demas, what is said of him in a later letter, and what the lesson?
16. What some modern ideas of the church, and what the bearing of the household churches referred to here and in Romans on such ideas?
17. What Rev. W. T. Whitley's position on this and kindred questions J. H. Shakespeare's idea of the ministry?
18. What the fault with each of these positions, respectively?
19. What light here on important matters from 4:16-18?
We now come to consider the great letter to the Ephesians. The history of Paul's connection with the Ephesians may be found in Acts 18: 19-21; 19; 1-41; 20:17-38. His latest connection is in the two letters to Timothy. Peter's connection with all of the dispersed Jews in the province of Proconsular Asia, including Ephesus, appears in his two letters, 1 and 2 Peter. There is very little in that; the only connection is his writing to the Jewish part of them. John's connection with these churches in Asia is presented in the book of Revelation. Unquestionably the tradition is correct that John in his old age moved to Ephesus and from that place as headquarters he conducted his last apostolic labors. It was from that point that he was arrested and banished to the isle of Patmos, and there wrote the book of Revelation, and that book of Revelation was addressed to the seven churches in Proconsular Asia.
Much of what is called historical introduction is omitted in this chapter. The reasons are that all of these matters have been treated in the discussions on Acts 18-20, and mainly because this letter is more of a circular letter than a special communication to a single 'church. There is an utter absence of any local tone in the letter. That it is a general letter appears from the following considerations:
1. The absence of all personal messages an unaccountable thing in a special letter to the church at Ephesus, in view of his long stay there, and the necessary intimate personal relations established. When we read the letter to the Romans we see that one whole chapter is devoted to personal salutations, and we notice in almost all of his special letters that there are personal messages showing intimate acquaintance. This letter has none of that.
2. It would be impossible for Paul, in writing a special letter to the Ephesians, to use these two expressions: "Having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you" (1:15). In reading those three chapters in Acts we note that it was not a matter of hearing with Paul to be acquainted with the affairs at Ephesus, especially about their faith in Christ. The second expression is: "If so be that ye have heard of the dispensation of that grace of God which was given me to you-ward." That shows that he had to know about them by hearsay, and that they had to know about him by hearsay, which does not fit at all with the facts in the case concerning Paul's relation with the Ephesus people. Then he goes on to say: "As I wrote before in few words, whereby) when ye read, ye can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ," that is, "When you read my former letter you will perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ." It is impossible that these two expressions could have been used by Paul in writing the church at Ephesus a special letter. Then that reference to the former letter to them is a reference to the letter to the Colossians. He wrote to the Colossians first, but before he got a chance to send it he wrote the more extended letter which we call the letter to the Ephesians. The same persons who were in his mind when he wrote to the Colossians were evidently in his mind when he wrote to the Ephesians.
3. Again, the reference in Colossians 4:16 to a letter from Laodicea which they were to get and read, just as the Laodiceans were to get and read the letter to the Colossians, shows that what is called the letter from Laodicea is the letter which we call the letter to the Ephesians. Both Colossians and Ephesians were intended primarily for the churches in the Lycus valley, which he himself had not planted, but of which he had heard.
4. The phrase "at Ephesus" in verse I, "To the saints that are at Ephesus," is not in the two oldest manuscripts the Sinaitic and the Vatican. Yet again, the earliest fathers, when commenting upon this letter to the Ephesians, say that the expression "at Ephesus" was not in the copies they had. It remains, then, to be explained how the name "Ephesians" got into the title, and especially how "at Ephesus" got into the text. These titles were not a part of the original letters) but were added much later to all of them. How did it happen that all manuscripts have the title, "To the Ephesians," and how did it happen that "at Ephesus" got into the first verse? The reasonable explanation is this: The letter is a circular letter, a general discussion of a great theme introduced in the Colossian letter, but here elaborated for all the churches in Proconsular Asia. A copy would probably be addressed to the Laodiceans, other copies might be given to other churches. The original letter may have been this way: "To all the saints that are at ..................," leaving a blank for the insertion of the name of the church to which a copy would be sent. It was the object of Paul that this letter which we call "Ephesians" should have general circulation. There is no local tone about it; it is Just as applicable to one church in Asia as to any other. It is certain that one copy, probably the original one, reached the church at Ephesus, the metropolis of Proconsular Asia, so that this copy would naturally and more readily be preserved and passed into history. The testimony is both substantial and sufficient that Ephesus had this letter in her archives. So the world at large would hear and know of this Ephesian copy of the letter.
The Alexandrian manuscript which is one of the three oldest (in the order of their antiquity (1) Sinaitic, (2) Vatican, (3) Alexandrian) has "at Ephesus." What is still more important is that the Peshito-Syriac version, which is older than any manuscript that we have, has "at Ephesus," so the evidence is clear that some of the copies of the New Testament did have "at Ephesus." The Alexandrian manuscript and the Peshito-Syriac version prove this. Other copies did not have it; the Vatican and Sinaitic manuscripts and the early fathers prove this. The absolutely nonlocal tone of the letter shows its general character. We know that Paul wrote the circular letter. He might have filled in one of the blanks, "at Ephesus." Tychicus, who carried the letter, was very probably an Ephesian. There is no clear proof as to whether his home was at Colosse, Laodicea, Hierapolis, or Ephesus, but the probabilities are in favor of his living at Ephesus.
Now, this is why, in giving this discussion, the usual matter of General Introduction is omitted, viz.: because this letter does not concern Ephesus any more than Laodicea, Hierapolis, or Colosse. While a copy went to Ephesus, unquestionably a copy also went to Laodicea and one to Colosse. Therefore it would be out of order for me in & discussion on the general introduction to go into details on the history of Ephesus.
The relation of Ephesians to Colossians is even more evident and striking than the relation of Galatians to Romans. The reader should carefully study the parallels between these letters so ably set forth in the introduction to the Commentary on Ephesians by Moule in the "Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges," which I here quote entire:
1. Christ the head of the church: Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Colossians 1:18; 2:19, This view of the Lord's position and function is practically confined to these epistles.
2. Christ supreme over angelic powers: Ephesians 1:21; Col. 2:10.
3. The church Christ's body: Ephesians 1:23; 4:12. 5:23-30, etc.; Colossians 1:18,24.
4. Articulation and nourishment of the body: Ephesians 4:16; Colossians 2:19. The imagery is peculiar to these epistles.
5. Growth of the body: Ephesians 4:16; Colossians 2:19.
6. The body one: Ephesians 2:16; 4:4; Colossians 3:16.
7. Christians once dead in sin.: Ephesians 2:1,6; Colossians 2:13.
8. Once alienated from God and grace: Ephesians 2:12; 4:18; Colossians 1:21. The Greek verb is confined to these epistles.
9. Once in darkness: Ephesians 4:18; 5:8; Colossians 1:13.
10. Now risen with Christ: Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12; 3:1. The Greek verb is confined to these epistles.
11. Made alive with Christ: Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13. The Greek verb is confined to these epistles.
12. Reconciled through the death of Christ: Ephesians 2:1316; Colossians1:20-21. The Greek verb is confined to these epistles.
13. Redeemed, in the sense of pardon of sin, in. Christ: Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14. The exact phrase is peculiar to these epistles.
14. In the light: Ephesians 5:8-9: Colossians 1:12. 15. Rooted in Christ: Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 2:7. The Greek verb is confined to these epistles.
16. Built up as a structure: Ephesians 2:20; Colossians 2:7.
17. On a foundation: Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 1:23.
18. Spiritually filled: Ephesians 1:23; 3:19; 5:18; Colossians 1:9; 2:10.
19. The fulness: Ephesians 1:23; 3:19; Colossians 1:19; 2:9.
20. The old man. and the new man.: Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9-10.
21. Similar classes of sins reproved: Ephesians 4:2-3; Colossians 3:12-14; Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:5-8.
22. The wrath of God coming: Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6.
23. The duties of home enforced, in the same order and similar words: Ephesians 5:22 to 6:9; Colossians 3-18 to 4:1.
24. The walk of sin: Ephesians 2:2; 4:17; Colossians 3:7.
25. The walk of holiness: Ephesians 2:10; 4:1; 5:2; 5:15; Colossians 1:10; 2:6; 4:5.
26. Redemption of opportunity: Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5. The phrase is peculiar to these epistles.
27. Prayer and intercession: Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2.
28. The mystery revealed: Ephesians 1:9; 3:3-4, 9; 6:19; Colossians 1:26-27; 2:2; 4:5.
29. Riches: Ephesians 1:7, 18; 2:7; 3:8, 16; Colossians 1:27; 2:2.
30. Ages and generations: Ephesians 3:21; Colossians 1:26. "Generation" occurs in Paul only in these epistles and the Philippians.
31. The word of truth: Ephesians 1:13; Colossians 1:5.
32. Character & commission of Tychicus: Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7.
The reader will note the great characteristics of this letter to the Ephesians:
1. It is a letter of great prayers. There are two prayers in this letter that beat the world on prayer. One of them staggers credulity itself. When we come to expound the letter both of these great prayers will be analyzed. I venture to say that most people never in their lives prayed for some of the things which Paul prayed for here.
2. Then it is a letter of salvation by grace. It certainly presents the doctrine that salvation is by grace, from its incipiency in the divine purpose to its consummation in glory.
3. It is a letter of great unities. Nowhere else do we find such complete unities. For instance, Jew and Gentile are made one one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Holy Spirit, all members of the church one, consisting of one body.
4. In the next place it is a letter concerning the multiform views of the word "church," such as we find nowhere else.
5. Finally, it is a letter of great love. We find when we come to Revelation that Jesus has just one thing against the church at Ephesus, and that is, that it had left its first love. We find in 1 Corinthians 13 a marvelous apostrophe on the power of love, but that only presents love in one of its aspects. This letter to the Ephesians presents it in many forms,
We now come to the analysis. We need a plan, or scheme of study, so here I give the following analysis:
1. The greeting (1:1-2).
2. The sublime ascription of praise (1:3-14)
3. The thanksgiving (1:15)
4. The first great prayer (1:16-21)
5. Christ's exaltation and its purpose toward the church (1:22-23)
6. Salvation by grace (2:1-10)
7. The breaking down of the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile, and their union in one church as an institution, which finds expression in each particular church (2: 11-22).
8. The relation of Paul to this great mystery (3:1-13)
9. His second great prayer (3:14-21)
10. The great unities, and the instruments for securing them (4:1-16)
11. Consequent exhortation: (1) To a life of holiness in a wicked world (4:17-21) (2) To a life of holiness in family relations (5:22 to 6:9)
12. Christ and the bride, illustration (5:25-32)
13. The Christian armor (6:10-20)
14. Tychicus, the messenger (6:21-22)
15. The benediction (6:23)
Attention needs to be recalled to the development of thought in these letters written during the first imprisonment at Rome that they concern the person and office of Christ. In Philippians on the person and office of Christ we have presented his great humiliation in laying aside the form of God and taking upon himself the form of a slave and becoming obedient unto the sacrificial death on the cross, then his transcendent exaltation to be King of kings and Lord of lords. This is the thought in Philippians. When we come to Colossians we have the person of Christ in his relation to the Father, in his relation to the universe, and in his relation to the church. When we come to Ephesians we have the relation of Christ to the universe not much stressed, and his relation to the church, with emphasis on the church. In other words, Ephesians is a letter more concerning the church than concerning the person of Christ. Colossians is more concerning the person of Christ than concerning the church. And Philippians is altogether concerning the person of Christ. Thus Philippians, the person of Christ alone; Colossians the person of Christ mainly, church partly; Ephesians, person of Christ somewhat, church mainly. That is the development in these letters.
Whoever can expound the references to the church in the letter to the Ephesians is a past master on the New Testament usages of the word, and nobody is a master or expert on the New Testament usage of the word "church" who cannot find in Ephesians all three great senses of the word "church," that is, the church in glory conceived in the mind of God as a unit, all the elect; the church as an institution, and the church as a particular congregation. Every one of these will be seen when we come to expound the letter.
1. Where do you find the history of Paul's connection with the church at Ephesus prior to this letter, and where his subsequent connection?
2. What the slight connection between Peter and Jude with the Christians of Proconsular Asia?
3. What John's connection?
4. What matter is usually given in an introductory chapter to a letter written to a particular place, and why omitted here?
5. What expressions in the letter itself make it impossible that this letter is especially for the Ephesians?
6. What authorities omit "at Ephesus" in verse 1, and what retain it, and how do you account for this discrepancy?
7. What the letter to which Paul refers in Colossians 4:16, and what references in Ephesians confirm it?
8. Give the parallels between Colossians and Ephesians, and state what they prove.
9. What the great characteristics of this letter?
10. Give the author's analysis,
11. Trace the development of thought in Philippians, Colossians, and Ephesians on the person of Christ and his relations, and show the change in emphasis as the development proceeds.
12. What the position of one who can give the several senses of the word "church" in this letter?
13. Collocate the references to each and expound them.
ELECTION, FOREORDINATION, ADOPTION, GRACE
SALVATION CORNERSTONES Ephesians 1:1-14.
In the historical introduction attention was called to the characteristics of this letter. Let us recall these characteristics. It is a letter of exuberant Joy. There is not a pessimistic note or tone in it. The circumstances of Paul's own imprisonment cast no shadow over its glowing pages. It treats of salvation by grace.
Salvation, from its incipiency in the divine purpose before the world was created, to its consummation in glory, is all of grace.
The divine sovereignty is exalted throughout, and the divine love is the fountain medium and application of salvation. This brings out in a marked degree the Holy Trinity Father, Son, and Holy Spirit distinguishing with great clearness the peculiar office of each in the salvation of men. The Father is the source, the Son is the medium, and the Holy Spirit applies. All the divine attributes are magnified infinite holiness, love, wisdom, omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.
The salvation is according to a well-ordered plan, and worked out without accident or confusion to a glorious end. What love desired, that wisdom planned, intelligence chose, will decreed, and Providence worked out, making contributory thereto the whole universe with all its material laws and spiritual intelligences. No detail is left to chance; all means are included, whether friendly or hostile. Each link of the chain is forged by infinite wisdom and power, and the whole phain, infallibly strong in all its parts, extends from eternity to eternity.
What of this plan was mystery to the finite mind in Old Testament days is made manifest in the revelation of Christ. God's apparent partiality toward a particular nation is now disclosed to be an equal love for all nations. Jew and Gentile are made one, and aliens and strangers become fellow citizens in the commonwealth of him who is no respecter of persons. Christian character and service) as fruits of antecedent grace, magnify him whose holiness is repugnant to sin and idleness. The whole letter is designed, not only to glorify the sovereignty of God, but to promote purity of heart and life.
We take up the exposition, following the order of the analysis given in the last chapter. The first item of the analysis is the greeting (v. 1). In most of his greetings Paul first announces his authority, "an apostle," and, second, that he is such by the will of God. Those addressed are called "saints" with reference to their profession rather than character, and "believers" or "faithful" with reference to their subjective state. He invokes on them, as upon all to whom he writes, grace) and peace.
We come now to the ascription of blessedness to God because he blessed us. This item extends from verse 3 to verse 14. Let the reader note the use of the past tense (the Greek aorist), and not the perfect tense. It is hardly proper in this connection to say "who hath blessed us." It means "who blessed us," referring to a time long past. That tense goes all the way through. We will be able to see the force of this presently.
Let us notice, in the second place, the distinction in meaning when we bless God and when he blesses us. When we bless God we ascribe blessedness to him; when he blesses us he confers blessings. In the Old Testament the term "blessed" 18 applied quite often to men. In the New Testament the term is used, I think, about eight times, and always refers to God.
Now let us analyze a sentence twelve verses long (v. 3-14). I have yet to find a man who has thoroughly followed that sentence clear through and kept up the connection. The grammatical construction is exceedingly difficult, making a clear analysis very hard, because the apostle, like a Titan, piles mountains upon top of mountains in his thoughts. He is very economic in his use of periods. No matter how difficult, let us try to analyze it, particularly that "blessed us," which in verse 3 is in the past tense. We want to analyze it as follows: Place where he blessed us? He blessed us in heavenly places. Time when he blessed us? Before the world was. In whom he blessed us? In Christ we were not there personally. In what he blessed us? In all spiritual blessings; temporal blessings are not taken into account at all. How did God bless us then and there, that is, in heaven before the world was? In election, foreordination, and grace. That is how he blessed us before we existed; in his purpose of election, in his foreordination, and in his grace. We notice how frequently he brings in both foreordination and election, and therefore as he blessed us in election and foreordination we want to see what those words mean.
I take up the first one election. What is it? Abstractly it means choice. Concretely there may be an election of a nation, like Israel, for a national or typical purpose, but that is not what he is discussing here. He is discussing the election of individuals, or persons. When did this election take place? Before the world was. As it took place then, and as we were not existing then, in whom did it take place? We were elected in Christ. To what end were we elected? That we should be holy and without blemish in love. That is what the text says about the election.
The other term used is "foreordination." First, what is it? It is a decree beforehand. To obtain is to decree, and foreordination is a decree beforehand. Who were ordained? The individuals that were chosen. Unto what were they ordained? Unto adoption as sons. Through whom were they adopted as sons? Through Christ. According to what was this foreordination of the adoption as sons through Christ? According to the good pleasure of his will? It could not be according to anything in us; it was anterior to our being. To what end was that foreordination? To the praise of the glory of his grace.
Let us now see how far we have advanced. He blessed us where? In heaven. When? Before the world was. In whom? In Christ. In what? All spiritual blessings. How could he do that then and there? In election, foreordination, and grace. What is election? Choice toward individuals. When was this choice made? Before the world was. As we were not there then, in whom was it made? In Christ. To what end? That we should be holy and without blemish in love. He blessed us at that time in foreordination. What does that mean? To decree beforehand. Concerning whom? The particular individuals that were elected. Unto what? Unto adoption as sons. Through whom? Through Jesus Christ. According to what? According to the good pleasure of his will. To what end? To the praise of the glory of his grace.
That brings in another term grace in which he then blessed us. What is grace? Unmerited favor. How is that bestowed? Freely, gratuitously. I once heard a man say, "free gratis, for nothing, without charge." That is the way it is bestowed. As we were not there, in whom was it bestowed? In Christ, the beloved. The blessings that I am to receive as a Christian were not bestowed upon me, the hateful, but in Christ, the beloved. I will get to them by getting into him, and be complete in him.
So far we have analyzed that sentence up to the specifications of the blessings. The first specification is adoption. What is adoption? Adoption is a form of law by which one not naturally a child is legally made a child and heir. Just as if a father should go to the Orphans' Home and select a little orphan, with nothing in it to recommend it, take that child according to the forms of law and receive it into his family, so that under the law it will inherit just as much as if it were born in that family. That is adoption.
When does adoption take place? It is not like election and foreordination. We were foreordained to adoption; when the time comes we get it. We are all children of God by faith, but as John expresses it, "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become sons of God, even as many as believed on him." So our adoption takes place at the time when we believe, and when we receive Christ as our Saviour. Foreordination took place way back yonder in eternity, but the fruitage, the adoption, takes place in time. How is this adoption signified to us? How am I to tell when I am adopted? Whenever in the heart of a believer there comes a filial feeling toward God, "He hath sent forth the spirit of adoption whereby we cry Abba, Father."
I remember distinctly when that filial feeling came into my own heart. Before I was converted I thought of God as distant, dreadful, unapproachable, and did not like to think about him. But when I believed on Jesus Christ and the spirit of adoption came into my heart, I could not say often enough, "Father! Father! Father!" I would wake in the night and say it.
In heaven, before the creation of the world, he blessed us in all spiritual blessings, but he blessed us then in election, foreordination, and grace. Later the election, foreordination, and grace fruited in adoption. He elected us, foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.
Let us take the next blessing that is specified. "In whom we have our redemption." What is redemption? To redeem means to buy back that which bad been sold. We were sold under sin, we were in bondage, under the power of Satan, a lawful captive to Satan. Christ proposes, as one of the blessings of salvation, to buy us back, to redeem us. So redemption is buying back. What is the price? His blood on the cross. We notice over in Peter, he says: "You were purchased, not with corruptible things like silver and gold, but with the blood of Christ." Redemption and adoption are both legal terms. They relate to the external aspects of salvation, while regeneration and sanctification relate to the internal aspects.
The next blessing is forgiveness of our sins. This stands in apposition with redemption redemption, which is the forgiveness of sins: "Our redemption, even the forgiveness of our sins. " That idea of redemption is peculiar to these prison letters. In Colossians the word "redemption" is so interpreted, but let us get the distinction between redemption and forgiveness. Redemption, or buying back, implies that we were sold under sin and had to be bought back. Redemption consists in loosing the bond of sin, it consists in remission or forgiveness of sin. Forgiveness of sin, throughout the Bible, particularly throughout the New Testament, is a great covenant blessing. See how it is referred to in Hebrews as one of the three great blessings of the new covenant (8:9-13) to wit:
1. "I will write my law in their minds" not on tablets of stone.
2. "All shall know me experimentally."
3. "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." In the sacrifices of the Old Testament the sins were simply passed over until the true expiation came. So that we may count the actual expiation of sins as a great blessing of the new covenant.
Just here arises a question which has confused many. If sins under the old covenant were merely passed over until the antitype of the sacrifices came, were men really pardoned before Christ died? The difficulty lies in confounding two quite distinct things expiation Godward and forgiveness manward. No sin was expiated Godward till Christ died, but sins under the Old Testament dispensation were forgiven manward whenever the sinner's faith looked beyond the typical sacrifice to the antitypical. The Son's pledge to expiate in the fulness of time was accepted by the Father as if performed, and the transgression of the offender who believed was reckoned to Christ and not imputed to the transgressor. The moment a creditor's debt is charged to the surety, the debtor is released.
At this point also we need to clear up another matter. If I am justified, declared innocent, when I believe on Jesus Christ, how can there be any forgiveness of sin? I have been tried and acquitted, and after I have been acquitted why say, "I will forgive thee"? I will explain. A owes $10,000 and B is surety. A becomes bankrupt, is unable to pay, and the surety pays it. B having paid it, if the creditor were to bring suit against A for it, he would stand acquitted before the law, because he holds the receipt that B has paid it. While he is declared free, so far as the original creditor is concerned, he still owes B, his surety, and B may remit the debt. So when Christ paid our debts we were acquitted before the law) but were left under obligation to the surety. Now the surety, having saved us from the law, can say to us, "I will freely forgive you what I have paid for you on certain conditions."
We are now ready to go back and take up those blessings adoption, redemption) forgiveness of sin. These are the specifications of the blessings in Christ. They have all been explained. According to what are all these? Our text tells us that they are "according to the riches of his grace." How are these riches of his grace made to abound in us? By revelation of the mystery of his will. Suppose we are in sin; we do not know a thing about what took place way back yonder before the world was. We do not know that way back yonder we were elected and foreordained and have a portion in Christ. Our text says, "According to the riches of his grace which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, making known to us the mystery of his will." When was this mystery fully made known? In the dispensation of the fulness of time.
This brings us to another point. What object had God in view in all these things explained so far, in blessing us in all spiritual blessings, in election, foreordination, and grace, which blessings are adoption, redemption, and forgiveness of sin? To what end? Here we get on Colossian ground: "To sum up, gather together, or re-collect all things in Christ." To re-collect means that there has been a dispersion. That dispersion took place when sin came into the world. Not only was man lost, but the world in which he lived was accursed. Now the object was to sum up, re-collect, all things in Christ. In Colossians we considered the person of Christ: (1) in his relation to the Father; (2) in his relation to the universe; (3) in his relation to the church. All things in heaven --that includes the angels; all things in earth that includes man. He gives two samples or specifications of this gathering together, or re-collection, which takes place here on earth (v. 12): "We who had before hoped in Christ." (v. 13) "In whom ye also having heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation." "We" and "you" that have been dispersed are to be brought together in Christ. Who are the "we"? Those who hoped in Christ before the gospel times the Jews, with types and prophecies to guide them. Who are "ye"? Those who heard the gospel. It is the purpose of all the election and predestination and foreordmation to re-collect all things and to sum them up in Christ.
Let us see the process with reference to "we." (1) It is said "we are made God's heritage." That is the first item. (2) "Having been foreordained." (3) "According to his purpose." (4) To what end? "That we should be unto the praise of his glory."
Let us look at the "you" also. "In whom ye also having heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, first believed, then were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise." He is called the Holy Spirit of promise because he was promised. "Behold I send upon you the promise of the Father." The prophets promised, John the Baptist promised, Christ promised. What is the seal? Pedobaptists tell us that it is baptism. This is error.
Baptism is never called a seal. We were sealed with the Holy Spirit. We were sealed unto the day of redemption. The object of the seal is to indicate ownership and to safeguard what is sealed unto its destination.
We take a package down to the express office addressed to A. B.C., Los Angeles, California. The package is sealed; on the seal is the signet of the express company. If the company is strong enough to guarantee the sanctity of the seal, it will remain sealed until it gets to its destination. When we believe, something takes place that is called sealing, and whatever it is, it is done by the Holy Spirit and not by baptizing. In the letter to Timothy we find an account of the signet pressed on the seal. That signet had two inscriptions, one on each side. On one side this: "The Lord knoweth them that are his." We may not know; we may make a mistake about it. The devil may make a mistake about it, but the Lord knows. On the other side: "Let him that taketh the name of the Lord depart from iniquity." The seal of the Holy Spirit makes distinct impressions that God will always recognize.
The lumber camps furnish an illustration. Many parties cut down the pine trees and roll the logs into the river. In the succeeding freshet they all come down to the boom together. How do they determine separate ownership? Each log has its distinguishing mark. So the mark or seal of the Spirit given unto us declares God's ownership and guarantees that we will reach our destination the day of redemption.
This seal is God's witness with our spirit that we are his. Each one has the witness in himself. "They shall all know me from the least unto the greatest." It is a matter of personal experience and consciousness. It is even more, for the next thought is, "it is an earnest of our inheritance." But what is an earnest? The grapes of Eschol brought by the spies illustrate. The Israelites had in these grapes a foretaste of the Promised Land? It was a sample only, but it prophesied more to follow. So the joy that comes to the new convert, when he is sealed by the Holy Spirit, is the same in kind, though not in degree, of the inheritance laid up in heaven for the saints. While the blessing of this earnest of the Spirit is fresh in our hearts, we say, "This is heaven on earth."
In commercial matters an earnest is a part of the purchase money, binding the contract, and guaranteeing the rest of the payment. Whoever accepts the earnest is bound to abide by the full terms of the contract. So our text says this earnest is "unto the redemption of God's own possession." The seal declares his title to us, and is an earnest that "He who commenced a good work in you will perfect it unto the day of Jesus Christ." Not only does it assure us of God's personal interest in his property, and of his purpose to complete what he has begun, thereby making it God's own concern and interest that our salvation receive its consummation, hut it commits God to the redemption of the cursed earth, man's habitation. See the thought elaborated in Romans 8: 19-23: "For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body."
1. In the plan of salvation set forth in this letter, how is the distinguishing office work of the persons in the Trinity brought out?
2. In the working out of the salvation, in what order are the divine attributes exercised, and the part of each?
3. When was the plan a mystery, and when was the mystery un- veiled by revelation?
4. In addressing the letter to "saints," does the apostle use the term as a designation of actual character or of profession and consecration?
5. Mark the terminals of Paul's ascription of blessedness to God because he blessed us.
6. What the tense and signification of the verb in his blessing us?
7. What the distinction in meaning between our blessing God and his blessing us?
8. In analyzing this long compound sentence, 1:3-14, answer: (1) Where, when, in whom, and in what did he bless us? (2) Define the terms election, and foreordination, and the order and time of each. (3) When, in whom, and according to what the adoption? (4) What is grace, how bestowed, in whom, and how do we get it? (5) What the three specifications of the blessings we receive? (6) Define and explain the three.
9. When and how were sins expiated?
10. Explain how sins in the Old Testament dispensation were not expiated and yet were forgiven.
11. Explain how one justified is yet forgiven.
12. What the end, or purpose, of God in the blessings, as in election, foreordination and grace?
13. Distinguish between the "we" and the "ye" in 1:13, and give the process in each.
14. Why is the Holy Spirit called the "Spirit of Promise" and cite both Old Testament and New Testament instances of the promise, and when was the promise fulfilled?
15. Explain the "seal" in 1:13, what it is, when and by whom done, and the purpose.
16. Explain "earnest in 1:
17. How may we subjectively know or be assured that we are adopted?
CHRIST'S ATONEMENT AND PAUL'S PRAYER
Before taking up this part of the exposition I will answer a question arising from the discussion in the previous chapter, viz.: "Did Christ expiate the sins of all men, or the sins of the elect only, and does not universal expiation demand universal salvation?" This question belongs to the department of systematic theology. Without desire to intrude into that department, yet as biblical theology cannot be altogether separated from the teaching of the English Bible, I submit a reply for the benefit of those who may never study systematic theology. It is every way a difficult question, and calls out in its answer all the theories of the atonement advocated in the Christian ages. In general terms it is the old question is the atonement general or limited? Perhaps no man has ever given a precise answer satisfactory to his own mind even, and it is certain no one has ever satisfied all others.
It must be sufficient for present purposes to deal with the question briefly, relegating to systematic theology the critical and extended reply derived from a comparison of all the prominent theories of the atonement in the light of the Scriptures. The following passages of Scripture doubtless suggest the question: Hebrews 2:9, "Jesus hath been made a little lower than the angels . . . that by the grace of God he should taste death for every man." There must be some real sense, some gracious sense, in which he tasted death for every man. 1 Timothy 4:9-10: "Faithful is the saying and worthy of all acceptation. For to this end we labor and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe." Here again it is evident that God in some real sense is the Saviour of all men, but not in the special sense in which he is the Saviour of believers. A more pertinent passage is 1 John 2:2, "And he [Jesus Christ] is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world."
The first question is answered here if anywhere. The question is, "Did Christ expiate the sins of all men?" And this passage says, "He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world." Further on in the letter (4:14) John says, "And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father hath sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world," this language doubtless referring back to John 1:29, "On the morrow he [John the Baptist] seeth Jesus coming unto him, and sayeth, Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world!" Here "Lamb of God," the vicarious sacrifice and "taketh away the sin" must refer to the expiation in some real sense. Moreover, it accords with "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life," and quadrates particularly with the sincerity of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:16, and the intense earnestness with which the apostles pressed home upon every heart the duty and privilege of all men to accept the salvation offered.
The case of Paul is much in point, because of the use of the very word in question, 2 Corinthians 5:1-20, "But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation. We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God." This particular passage is the more pertinent and important since it discriminates so clearly between the two reconciliations, to wit: (1) God was reconciled to us through the expiation of Christ, satisfying the claims of justice and placating the wrath of the law on account of sin. (2) Our reconciliation to God through acceptance of Christ tendered in the ministry of the word.
Here it is evident that expiation becomes effective to us through faith in Christ. And it is perfectly clear from many scriptures that no matter in what sense expiation was effective toward God for all men, it cannot result in universal salvation, since "he that believeth not, shall be damned." The second question is answered, to wit: No matter in what sense expiation was for all men Godward, it can avail to usward by faith alone. The question of universal salvation is not therefore bound up with reconciliation Godward, whatever its extent, but with the ministry of reconciliation and our acceptance or rejection of the tendered mercy. Speculate theorize, philosophize as we may on the extent of the atonement Godward, we are shut up peremptorily by the Scriptures to the conclusion that "he that believeth not, shall be damned."
It is the opinion of the author that universal or limited salvation is not connected with the atonement Godward, but with the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, the question is not, "Unto how many was God reconciled through Christ?" but, How many of us are reconciled to God through faith in Christ?
It seems to the author that the crux of the whole matter lies in three thoughts: (1) That in the final judgment the supreme test for men and angels is the question, "What was your attitude toward Christ, either in himself, his people, or his cause?" See particularly Matthew 25:31-46, where this principle is applied to all men. And see 1 Corinthians 6:3, where the test is implied toward angels, else saints could not judge them. Again, this decisive principle of the final judgment is expressly taught in Matthew 12:41-42 in the reference to the men of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba, and yet again in our Lord's denunciation of the Galilean cities, (Matt. 11:21-24). (2) The second thought lies in our Lord's teaching that only one sin is an eternal sin, having never forgiveness in either world (Mark 3:2-30); Matthew 12:31-32, showing that condemnation comes from action in the Spirit's realm of application. See the culmination of unpardonable sin in "doing despite to the Spirit of grace" (Hebrews 10:26-29). (3) The effect of the death on the cross conferred on the Messiah, i.e., not the Son of God in eternity, but the Son of God by procreation, born of the virgin Mary) the sovereignty. of the universe. See Philippians. 2:5-11.
I hold James P. Boyce to be the greatest all-around Baptist ever produced by the South. While in his Systematic Theology he teaches that expiation of the sins of all men must mean universal salvation, yet before he closes his discussion he uses these remarkable words, which I cite:
(1) While for the elect he made an actual atonement, by which they are actually reconciled to God, and because of which are made the subjects of the special divine grace by which they became believers in Christ, and are justified through him.
(2) Christ at the same time and in the same work, wrought out a means of reconciliation for all men, which removed every legal obstacle to their salvation, upon their acceptance of the same conditions upon which the salvation is given to the elect. Abstract of Theology, revised by F. H. Kerfoot, p. 296.
(3) On page 297 he says,
The atoning work of Christ was not sufficient for the salvation of man. That work was only Godward, and only removed all the obstacles in the way of God's pardon of the sinner. But the sinner is also at enmity with God, and must be brought to accept salvation, and must learn to love and serve God. It is the special work of the Holy Spirit to bring this about. The first step here is to make known to man the gospel, which contains the glad tidings of salvation, under such influences as ought to lead to its acceptance.
For the purpose of comment I mark these paragraphs (1), (2), and (3). It seems difficult to reconcile (1) with (3) but (2) and (3) are in perfect harmony. In (1) he says that "for the elect he made actual atonement" . . . "they were actually reconciled to God." But in (3) he says that "the atoning work was not sufficient for the salvation of man, that work was only Godward, and only removed all the obstacles in the way of God's pardon for the sinner." This language applies of course to the elect. But in (2) he says, "Christ wrought out a means of reconciliation for all men which removed every legal obstacle to their salvation." Then for the elect the atonement "was not sufficient for the salvation of man" and "only removed all the obstacles in the way of God's pardon for the sinner," and if for the nonelect the atonement wrought out a means of reconciliation," "removing every legal obstacle to their salvation," what is the difference Godward? What is the difference so far as Christ's work is concerned? Does not the difference come in the Spirit's work in connection with the application of the atonement and the ministry of reconciliation? Do election and foreordination become operative toward atonement or toward acceptance of the atonement? These questions are submitted for consideration in the realm of the study of systematic theology. The author does not dogmatize on them. While he has only a very moderate respect for philosophy in any of its departments as taught in the schools, and prefers rather to accept every word of God without speculation, and believes it true and harmonious in all its parts, whether or not he is able to philosophically explain it, yet he submits merely for consideration along with other human philosophizing on the atonement the philosophy of Dr. Wm. C. Buck on this matter. It is found in his book, The Philosophy of Religion. On the question of general or limited atonement he takes this position, as I recall it: Jesus Christ through his death repurchased or bought back the whole lost human race, including the earth, man's habitat. The whole of it and all its peoples passed thereby under his sovereignty. What debt they once owed to the law they now owe to him, the surety who paid the debt. From his mediatorial throne he offers to forgive this debt now due him to all who will accept him. But all alike reject him. The Father, through the Spirit, graciously inclines some to accept him. Thus those really saved are saved according to the election and foreordination of God, not operative in the atonement which was general, but in the Spirit's application which was special. Those thus saved were originally promised by the Father to the Son. He dies for the whole world as the expression of the Father's universal love. He died for the elect, his church, as his promised reward.
Dr. Buck illustrates, so far as such an illustration can serve, by supposing a raid by Algerian pirates on a Spanish village, leading a multitude into captivity in Moorish North Africa. A philanthropist, touched by their piteous condition, ransoms all of them by one price, and now, owning them all, offers remission of the debt and free passage back to native Spain to all who will accept. Some prefer bondage and remain, others accept joyfully and go back home. Of course this illustration takes no account of the Father's work or the Spirit's work, touching only the question of ransom for all, the passing of the debt over to the surety, his sovereignty, in its remission and their acceptance or rejection.
Let us do with this or any other philosophy what we will, but let us not hesitate to accept all that the Scriptures teach on this matter. When we read John 10:14-16; 11:26-29; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:28-29; Ephesians 5:25-32, let us not abate one jot of their clear teaching of Christ's death for the elect and their certain salvation. And when we read John 1:29; 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:10; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:2; Ezekiel 33: 11; Matthew 28:19; 1 Timothy 2:4, let us beware lest our theory, or philosophy, of the atonement constrain us to question God's sincerity, and disobey his commands. There are many true things in and out of the Bible beyond our satisfactory explanation. Let faith apprehend even where the finite mind cannot comprehend.
The exposition proper commences with the third item of the analysis, which is the thanksgiving. On that item we have only 1:15: "For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you, and the love which ye show toward all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you." We can see that there are two things for which he is thankful: First, their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, their love for all the saints.
We come now to the first great prayer, the fourth item in the analysis, which extends from 1:16-21: "Making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, etc." That is the person to whom he prays. We may say, "Of course he prays to God." But successful prayer has its relation to Jesus Christ. Paul says, "I pray to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory." That settles the first point to whom does he pray? The next thing is, for what does he pray? "May give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; having the eyes of your heart enlightened." That is what he prays for, "a spirit of wisdom and revelation, having the eyes of your heart enlightened." We can put in one word the whole thing. That word is "illumination." "I pray that you may be illumined."
There are three terms revelation, inspiration, and illumination. Revelation discloses that which we could not otherwise know. Inspiration infallibly records it. Illumination causes us to understand it. Some people read the Bible and find in it nothing to them. But consider these passages: "Open thou mine eyes that I may understand the wonderful things in thy law." "The Lord opened the heart of Lydia so that she attended unto the things spoken by Paul."
Illumination, then, is that work of the Holy Spirit which causes one to get the real spiritual meanings of the Bible. Time and again have I come to some passage and said, "That looks like it was intended to mean much, but somehow I cannot get hold of it." It was like a fog to me, and I could not see the real spiritual meaning. I have long since found out that mere intellectual study does not find the meaning. The Spirit indicted that passage and the Spirit knows what it means; for us to understand it, an opening of the eyes of the heart must take place. Paul prays for these people to whom he writes, that they may have illumination, that is, "the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him," or as he otherwise expressed it, "the opening of the eyes of the heart." Illumination covers the whole thing. That is what he prays for.
The next question is, What the end or object of that illumination? Why should he pray that they might receive illumination? "That ye may know." Let us see what are the things that they were to know. They are as follows: (1) "The hope of his calling." (2) "The riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints." (3) "The exceeding greatness of his power toward us." These are the things that he prays for that they might receive illumination and know these three things. That through illumination they were to know: (1) The hope of their calling. Hope here is used objectively; it means the things hoped for, to which we are called; (2) that we may know what the things are that God called us to; (3) and what we hope for. That is a great prayer.
In the letter to the Hebrews the thought is presented this way: "Ye are come unto Mount Zion and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem." That is the place we are coming to. We are coming unto this companionship: (1) Angels--an innumerable company. (2) The general assembly of the church of the first-born. (3) The spirits of the just made perfect. (4) To God, the judge of all. (5) To Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant. (6) To the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better than that of Abel. Now his prayer is that they may be illumined in order that they may know the riches of the inheritance that is laid up in heaven for the saints. The reason so many Christians are weak and fruitless is that they have no grip on the things extended to the hope of the Christian. The powers of the world to come do not take hold of them.
I heard a most estimable lady member of the church say once, "Heaven? Oh, I do not know anything about it! It is 'way off yonder, very vague!" I said, "My sister, if heaven was vague to me I could not preach. I know what I am hoping for. I have clear conceptions of the world to come: the place, state, company, joy, all is clear in my mind, and in that way it attracts."
To illustrate: "Jesus Christ, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross and despised the shame." Take the case of Moses. How was it that he was enabled to refuse to become the son of Pharaoh's daughter? "He had respect unto the recompense of reward." He saw something better than the pleasures of sin. He saw something more durable than the riches and glory of this world. What was it that enabled Abraham to bear up, wandering about, living in a tent? "He sought a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." So Paul, seeing that they had faith and love toward the brethren, prayed that they might be illumined to know the things which a Christian hopes for, and to which he is called.
I delight to preach on heaven. There is a tremendous power over the mind and heart in it. If a man does not know the hope of his calling, there is not the incentive to action which comes from the hope of reward. The mind of man is influenced by motives the hope of reward and the fear of punishment. Once when I was preaching at Belton, not getting results, I went out and prayed three times that God might make me, the preacher, realize the nearness and certainty and eternity of both heaven and hell. When I got that in my mind and heart the revival broke out, heaven came down, and we were in the glory of the mercy seat. A Methodist preacher who was there said he had to take hold of a table to keep from shouting.
"I pray that ye may be enabled to know what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints." Mark well the distinction between the first and second thing that he prayed for. The first related to their inheritance in Christ, the object of their hope. The second related to Christ's inheritance in them. We should know both. Does that distinction suggest anything at all? Is it not clear that Christ had an object when he died? There was a joy set before him so precious that he was willing to bear all things for it. Here are two scriptures that will give an idea of it: 2 Thessalonians 1:10, "When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be marvelled at in all them that believed, in that day." Christ's glory is to be in his saints not as we are on earth, but as the finished product will be up yonder in heaven. Then take this passage in Ephesians 5:27, "That he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." The inheritance of Christ in his saints stood as an incentive to bear their sins. He had an interest in them.
One of the most wonderful .buildings in the world is Westminster Abbey. As we step into that building we see this inscription: "Whosoever would see a monument to Sir Christopher Wren, look around." Sir Christopher Wren was the architect, and a real monument to him was that building. A sculptor, when he undertakes to make a fine piece of work first goes to the quarry or marble yard and selects a piece of marble of fine texture a great, big, uncouth block. He stands there and looks at it and thinks out his plan, and at last he sees an angel in it. He goes to work with his mallet and chisel, lopping off here and there, and after a while it begins to assume shape; we see the head, then the wings, then the feet, and when the finishing touches are put on we stand in the presence of an angel that looks like it could breathe, fly, and talk.
So when Christ's work is completed, the body raised, then we see the inheritance that Christ has in the saints. The best person in the world, taken as he is, after grace has done so much, is, after all, an imperfect recommendation of Christ. But when Jesus is done with him, his body has been raised and glorified, the spirit sanctified and made perfect, with all mortality, corruption, and dishonor gone, in all beauty and holiness like him not one, not hundreds, not thousands, but a great multitude that no man can number each one with a crown upon his head, each one with a harp in his left hand, and a palm leaf of victory in his right hand, and each one praising God that is Christ's inheritance in the saints. Paul says, "I want you to know that." We ought to know it for our own sakes, because our conception of heaven will determine the kind of respect we have for heaven. If our aspiration is to be only an ordinary man, we will not have much self-respect, but we should have a burning in our heart, "This is not the best of me. Ah, no! I have climbed the mountain somewhat, but, like Paul, I must say, 'Higher! Higher! Excelsior!' After a while I will sit on God's throne and judge the world, judge the angels;" that is the thing we must know.
Let us take the next thing we must know: "And what the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe." We must know, if we are illumined, "the greatness of his power toward us who believe." He illustrates thus: "According to that working of the strength of his might which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in heavenly places, made him King of kings and Lord of lords." That power will be exercised toward believers. We may die away off by ourselves; the world may not even know that we have lived; no monument may mark our resting place; in our last illness no loving hand may be there to wipe the death damp from our brow, but if we are children of God, we ought to know what is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us.
That unknown grave will open; the angels will come down; that body will be raised and glorified and reunited with the spirit, taken to the throne in heaven and made joint heir with Christ upon the throne of the universe.
But his primary meaning is not directed to our bodily resurrection. He means that in our inward development as Christians the power exerted shall be as the power that raised our Lord's dead body.
Let us sum up this first great prayer: (1) Unto whom? God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2) For what? Illumination, expressed here as the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, an enlightenment of the eyes of the heart. (3) To what end? That they might know the hope of their calling; that they might know the riches of the glory of Christ's inheritance in the saints; that they might know the greatness of his power toward believers.
1. What double question of systematic theology arises here?
2. What old theological question does this question revive and what theories?
3. What scriptures were cited as bearing on the first part of the question?
4. What the special value, as bearing on this question, of 2 Corinthians 5:18-20?
5. What passage makes it clear that no matter whether expiation be for all men or for the elect, universal salvation does not follow?
6. In what three thoughts lies-the crux of the whole matter, according to the author's judgment, and what the scriptures underlying each thought?
7. Cite the three passages from Boyce's Systematic Theology, and Eve your own view of their harmony with each other,
8. On the whole, then, do election and foreordination become opmun or effective toward atonement, whether general or limited, or ward the Spirit's application of the atonement?
9. State the view of Dr. William C. Buck in his Philosophy of Religion and give his illustration.
10. Whatever man's philosophy, or theory of the atonement, what is our plain duty toward the scriptures cited pro and con?
11. What the distinction between "apprehend" and "comprehend," and are there many things in the Scriptures we must apprehend, even though we may not comprehend?
12. For what two things does the apostle express thanks?
13. On the first great prayer, 1:16-21, answer: (1) To whom? (2) For what?
14. What one word covers all he prayed for?
15. Distinguish between revelation, inspiration, and illumination.
16. Define illumination and give its purpose. or end.
17. What three great things will the illumination enable us to know?
18. Distinguish between the first and the second.
19. What the meaning of the first?
20. What the meaning of the second? Illustrate.
21. What the meaning of the third?
CHRIST THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH
Ephesians 1:22 to 2:10.
We now come to that part of the analysis, item 5, Christ's exaltation and its purpose toward the church (1:22-23). These two verses express the following thoughts: Christ exalted, first, to be the head of the church; second, to be head over all things to the church, which is a very different idea; third, that the church is the body; fourth, as his body the church expresses his fulness.
Christ exalted to be the head of the church. "Head" expresses, first, sovereignty, or rulership. When we say the husband is the head of the family, we mean he is the ruler of the family. Head expresses in the next sense the source of vital connection. In this letter to the Ephesians, as we will find a little later, that vital connection between the head and every member of the body is greatly emphasized and elaborated.
If Christ is the head of the church in the sense of sovereign or ruler, then it is impious to call anybody else the head of the church. Some claim to be the head of the church in the sense of vicegerent, or vicar. For example, the Pope claims to be the head of the church in that he is Christ's vicar. The only vicar that Christ has is the Holy Spirit. When Jesus went up to heaven he did send a vicegerent to take his place; another Paraclete to abide with and to guide the church. It is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for a mere man to claim to be the head of the church.
Spurgeon in his many volumes of sermons has one polemical volume. One of the sermons in that polemical volume is the most excoriating denunciation of the claim that the sovereign of England is head of the church that I have ever seen. He read a proclamation: "I, Victoria Regina, by the grace of God head of the church." Then immediately following that he quoted Paul's words: "J suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority." Everybody should read, particularly, that eighth volume of Spurgeon's sermons. The greater part of Christendom today is under bondage to the thought that the Pope of Rome is the head of the church. They mean by that that he stands in the place of God, and that whatever he speaks, ex cathedra, is infallibly true, and that his authority is ultimate.
In 1870 the capstone was put on the papacy by the Vatican Council, in servile obedience to the Pope, proclaiming his infallibility as head of the church. The head of the church also carries with it the idea of authority, which is called the key of power. Christ is the head of the church. There is no other. We see on earth a body, but the head is above the clouds; we cannot see it. The head of the church is in heaven, the body here on the earth. It is a vital and fundamental article of the Christian faith that we should accept no head of the church of Jesus Christ except the Lord Jesus Christ himself. The disciples of Pythagoras were accustomed to end a controversy by saying, "Ipse dixit et ipse Pythagoras." But there should be no question of absolute deference to mere human authority.
We will now take up the second thought: Christ the head over all things to the church. Not the head of the church; we have just discussed that, but the head over all things to the church, which is a very different thought. It means that by virtue of his sacrificial expiation here upon the earth, and the atonement made in heaven based upon that expiation on the cross, he received the name which is above every name, was made King of kings and Lord of lords, that he now holds in his hand the scepter of universal dominion, and that he is over all things to, or in behalf, of, the church.
We see him express this thought when by anticipation he commands his church, assembled upon a mountain in Galilee, about 500 being present, to go out and preach the gospel to every creature. The statement, "And all authority in heaven and upon earth is given unto me," means that he is the head of all things to the church; that he exercises the entire sovereignty of the universe in behalf of the church. Oftentimes when we get a little frightened or blue, become intimidated either by the formidable adversaries with whom we have to cope or by the insuperable obstacles that block our pathway, we are prone to forget that the Saviour is head over all things in our behalf; that there is nothing hard for him; that when it comes to exercising his power in behalf of the church there are no limitations; that we can draw on him to the last possibility.
That is why I have said that the Texas Baptist Convention once foolishly got scared over a little financial flurry, forgot that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. They ought to have gone on serenely laying out their work, having faith in God, who is able to raise the dead.
Surely if God could in the wilderness for forty years feed so many families, and see to it that their clothes did not wear out, that there was a shade over them every day so that the sun did not smite them, and that their camp was illumined by night a light brighter than the most luminous display of electric lights in the cities of our time if he could call rocks to open and send forth waters, and the quail to come at his bidding, and angel's food to fall at his will, what are we, Christ's people in New Testament days, that we should hesitate on account of difficulties in the way of discharging duties incumbent upon us?
For illustration, I recall the first mission rally held in Johnson County. I prepared the program. That county was in danger of Antinomianism. Some of the noblest pastors in "hat association purposed to get together and sound a higher note. The program compared missions to a suspension bridge across a mighty river, not a prop under that bridge where the waters rolled, but on each shore there was the basis for the support of the bridge. The first pedestal was "All authority in heaven and earth is given unto me;" on the other shore, the pedestal, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." That is, if he had authority and power, we his people have no right to hesitate at any time in the discharge of his plain commandments. That is what is meant by Christ's being the head over all things to the church. Consider carefully what that means. Every attribute of God is made contributory to the church infinite love, infinite justice, infinite compassion, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, all engaged to help the church in the accomplishment of its mission. Note carefully that this headship is headship of an organization. But we come next to a new thought that the church is his body. Wherever that expression occurs it implies not so much an organization as an organism. An organism is a living thing. John the Baptist, after he was beheaded, had no life. There was a vital relation between the body of John the Baptist and his head. When his head was severed his body died. In the letter to the Romans, again in the first letter to the Corinthians, again in the letter to the Colossians, and preeminently in this letter to the Ephesians, the church is called the body of Christ, which means that whatever sense of the word be employed, then Christ is the head.
Some people unnecessarily" trouble themselves in trying to apply the double sense of headship to the triple sense of the church. That is, the word church is used in the New Testament in three distinct senses:
1. Abstractly as an institution (Matt. 16:18).
2. A particular congregation at one place ( 1 Cor. 1:2).
3. All the redeemed conceived of as a unit and glorified as a bride or city (Eph. 5:25-27 and Rev. 21:9-10). In applying this headship we say that Christ is the head of the church and head over all things to the church as an institution, or as a particular congregation, or as the general assembly of the redeemed in glory.
We now come to the last thought in that paragraph, "The fulness of him that filleth all in all." The church is the fulness. If I want a true conception of God the Father, I look at Jesus: "In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, the express image of the person of God." If I want a true conception of Jesus Christ, I look at the church, which is the fulness of Christ, the fulness of authority, the fulness of power, the fulness of divine love, and the fulness of glory, as it ultimately will be. The fulness of Christ in the church is very much like the thought expressed in "The glory of his inheritance in the saints." We have already noted the distinction between our inheritance in Christ and his inheritance in us.
To see the fulness of Christ in the church, turn to the last chapter of Revelation, "And I saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God; and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away."
Again the angel asked John if he would like to see the Bride, the Lamb's wife, and there is given a picture of the redeemed in the fulness of their redemption. If when that time comes one should ask, "Where shall I look to see the fulness of the Father?" Look at Christ. "Where shall I look to see the fulness of Christ?" Look at that church in glory. Behold how many nations are represented in it! See the ends of the earth come together in it. Behold how many varieties of men, some very great men intellectually, and some very simple folk; some very wicked, others just as wicked by nature, who were not so wicked by practice, but now all are redeemed. We have the fulness of Christ presented in this, that all peoples, regardless of distinguishing nationalities and distinguishing castes, are there. As the Genesis creation was an expression of God, so that "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork," so the re-creation, or redemption, will more manifest his glory. Not one of them but has arrived through regeneration and glorification. Not one of them but connects back with the eternal foreknowledge, election, and predestination of God. That is the fulness of Christ.
The next item of our analysis is salvation by grace (2: 1-10). That is the text upon which Jerry Clark, in some respects the greatest preacher in Texas, preached his famous sermon before the General Association of Texas in Waco when I was a young pastor there. I had heard a great deal about Clark; that he was the greatest preacher living, if one could only get him to preach. His extreme modesty made him an expert dodger. One of his friends said, "If you want Clark to preach you must challenge him on the doctrines of grace. That will stir him." So I had him assigned to my house and set a trap for him. In a private conversation I said to him that I had heard of preachers who were willing enough to preach salvation by grace in the backwoods, but would shirk if called upon to preach it before a cultured city audience. His eye flashed fire and he said, "I am not afraid to preach it anywhere." "Very well, then, you are appointed to preach Sunday night from Ephesians 2:8-10." He preached from it and made the stars fairly sparkle. It was the greatest pulpit classic I ever read. It stirred all the dry bones in the valley!
Salvation by grace! The first thought is, "And you did he make alive when you were dead." There is the sinner, spiritually as dead as a door nail. Has a dead man power m himself, or is he able to call from any source whatever the power to start to be alive? That is the question. The declaration is: "When you were dead God made you alive." That is what old theologians called regeneration. I do not think that is what the New Testament calls regeneration, because it stops short of a full idea of regeneration as expressed in many scriptures, yet it is that power of the Holy Spirit which makes the soul sensitive. It is a new creation and is antecedent to any manifestation of life. That is perfectly clear in the teaching of the Scriptures.
Of course, with that kind of a start, spiritually dead, if a man is saved at all he is saved by grace. It is impossible for a dead man to make himself alive. Notice how that deadness is expressed in this paragraph: "And were by nature children of wrath." That knocks the bottom out of the thought that sin consists in the wilful transgression of a known commandment, as the Arminians say. Sin is lawlessness, first of all lawlessness in nature before there have been any external manifestations in overt actions.
We may take a baby rattlesnake, carry him home, feed him on milk, never let him see his father or mother, pet him and try to educate him out of his nature. As that snake grows the poison secretes, the fangs form, and the rattles come, and if we were to put him in heaven he would throw himself into a coil, sound his alarm and strike at the angels passing by. Why? Because the snake is a snake.
This sin of nature of depravity digs up by the root any idea of salvation by external ordinances. I recall an illustration before a Sunday school by Harvey Chamberlain, who desired to impress the lesson in John 3:7, "Ye must he born again." He had provided a basin of water with soap and a sealed bottle of ink, and called on the little fellows to come up and wash the black off of that bottle. The outside washing only revealed the blackness yet more. The ""Lowest sham ever imposed upon the credulity and gullibility of exceedingly simple folk is the doctrine of literally washing away sins in baptism. Grace finds us by nature the children of wrath that is the original sin. Then it found us dead in trespasses and sins that is practice. From that basis it starts by making alive, or making sensitive, which is the initial touch of the Holy Spirit, superinducing in us contrition, or Godly sorrow for sin, repentance, or a change of mind toward God on account of sin, conversion, or turning from sin, and faith in Christ. So we are born anew.
The second thought is, "dead in trespasses and sins." These are expressions of the inward nature, and sustain the relation of fruit to the tree. They are symptomatic of the inward state. Our Lord declares that out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, evil speech, and evil deeds. Notice the third thought. Dead by nature, dead by actual trespasses and sins, and now "walking according to the course of this world." By the "course of this world" is meant its spiritual trend expressed in its maxims of business, pleasure and every form of selfishness. It erects its own shifting standard of right and wrong. It leaves God out. Yea, it is in its spirit and mind the enemy of God. But the course of the world is not the result of chance.
This leads to the fourth thought that Satan is by usurpation the de facto prince and ruler of this world. There is a guiding intelligence, the directing will of a master. So our text adds: "According to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." What a succession of thought, and what a climax I Dead by nature, dead by practice, swept along on the tide of the world spirit, under the domination of Satan! What a hopeless outlook for salvation by human merit! What a predicate for salvation by grace! What a reinforcement of the thought in Paul's commission, Acts 26: 17-18: "Delivering thee from the [Jewish] people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom I send thee, to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me." He is to "turn them from darkness to light"; so they are in darkness. He is to "turn them from the power of Satan unto God"; so they are under the power of Satan. "That they may receive remission of sins"; so they are unpardoned. "That they may receive an inheritance"; so they are bankrupt. "An inheritance among them that are sanctified"; so they are now unholy. "An inheritance among them that are sanctified through faith in Christ"; so they are without faith. Think of a preacher going out relying on himself to undertake a job like that I
We are not through yet. "Among whom we also once lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind." Those whom we found dead by nature, dead by practice) bound up in the chains of the world, under the power of the devil, are also found to be under the dominion of the desires of the flesh. As John puts it: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the vainglory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away and the lust thereof" (1 John 2:15-17). Or, as James puts it: "Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?" (James 4:4).
The reader will note particularly the relation of good works to salvation, expressed both negatively and positively: Not of works" but created and saved "unto good works." They do not cause or even contribute to salvation, but flow from it as a result. As our Lord puts it: "First make a tree good and then the fruit will be good." Or, as Paul later expresses it: For we also once were foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God, our Saviour, and his love toward man appeared, not by the works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he poured upon us richly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Faithful is the saying and concerning these things I desire that thou affirm confidently, to the end that they who have believed God may be careful to maintain good works" (Titus 3:3-8). The relation of good works to salvation is here expressed very clearly.
While good works before salvation are impossible, yet it is the instruction of saving grace that they follow salvation. So Paul again says: "For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to the intent that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world, looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who" gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works" (Titus 2:11-14).
Lest we might, by attributing some merit to faith, place it among good works antecedent to salvation, our text is careful to say, "and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." True, it is fairly questioned that the "gift" here is grammatically limited to faith. This matters nothing, since it includes faith; elsewhere most unequivocally faith itself is reckoned as a grace, a gift. Like repentance (Acts 11:18) faith is a gift of grace before it is a human exercise, being a fruit of the regenerating Spirit (Phil. 1:29; 2 Peter 2:1; Acts 13:48).
Moreover, as the essence of faith is merely to receive an offered gift, its exercise cannot be classed as a work. The old hymn holds good:
Grace first contrived the way To save rebellious man; And all the steps that grace display Which drew the wondrous plan.
Grace led my roving feet To tread the heavenly road; And new supplies each hour I meet While pressing on to God.
Grace all the work shall crown, Through everlasting days; It lays in heaven the topmost stone, And well deserves the praise.
Let us note particularly that the whole paragraph on salvation by grace is clothed with the imagery of creation, with an evident comparative reference to the Genesis creation, Creation is the bringing into being without the use of pre-existing material, so that "what is seen hath not been made out of the things which appear," and so "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation." This imagery absolutely excludes and forbids the idea of any antecedent good or merit in the subjects of grace. Indeed, redemption is a much higher order of creation than the Genesis creation and deserves and obtains another memorial, as we will later learn from the letter to the Hebrews, which shows that when God had finished the original creation he sanctified the seventh day to commemorate it; but when Jesus finished the creation of redemption, he also rested from his work, as God had done from his, and so "there remaineth a sabbath-keeping for the children of God" a first day of the week to commemorate the new creation, after Christ had nailed to his cross and blotted out the whole cycle of Jewish sabbaths. (Heb. 4:9-10; Col. 2:14-17).
The creative idea in salvation is according to the power put forth when Jesus was raised from the dead and exalted to the throne of the universe. This power is infinitely superhuman. Regeneration is a spiritual resurrection from the dead (Ezek. 37:1-14; John 5:25-26). The bones in the valley were very dry. There was no life power in them. Only after the divine breath was breathed on these bones did they live.
Pointing to the sinners dead by nature, dead by practice, borne as dead, nonresisting leaves on the tidal course of this world, a course impelled by Satan, until like a frail boat in the suction of Niagara whose fall just ahead is like the doom of eternity pointing, I say, to such sinners, we may re-echo the words of Jehovah to Ezekiel, "Son of man, can these dry bones live?" The only possible answer is, "Not of themselves only by God's creative power of grace."
The reader will notice the distinction in idea between the salvation in Ephesians 2:1-10, and the salvation arising from redemption, justification, and adoption in Galatians and Romans. Here the salvation is in us; there it is for us. There the salvation is in relation to its legal aspects; here, to its spiritual effects. Redemption is Christ's work justification and adoption, the Father's work on account of Christ's work. Regeneration, sanctification, and glorification are the Spirit's work applying the benefits of Christ's work. It is not meant that Romans and Galatians leave out the Spirit's work, but that the prison letters change the emphasis and stress the internal salvation.
1. What the four thoughts in Ephesians 1:22-23?
2. What two ideas involved in "The head of the church?"
3. Where now is "the Head of the church?"
4. How, then, does "the head" in heaven rule the church on earth?
5. What impious claims have been made as to a human, vicar, or vice-regent?
6. When and by what act was the capstone put on the Roman papacy?
7. What is meant by "Christ head over all things to the church?" Illustrate by the Great Commission.
8. Comparing the Great Commission to a suspension bridge, what the anchorage on either shore?
9. What idea is involved when the church is called the body of Christ, the head, and what the distinction between this idea and the idea of headship in regard to the execution of the Great Commission just considered.
10. In what three senses does the New Testament use the word church" and how do you apply the double idea of headship to the triple idea of the church?
11. On whom must I look to find the fulness of God, the Father?
12. Where must I look to find the fulness of Christ? Illustrate.
13. In the paragraph 2:1-10, what the first thought?
14. What the first way ill which the sinner's deadness is expressed? Illustrate by the snake and ink bottle. What the bearing of this deadness on the dogmas of salvation by external ordinances?
15. What the second thought of the deadness and its relations to the first? Illustrate.
16. What the third thought of the deadness, and what the appropriate scriptures?
17. What the fourth thought, and what the appropriate scriptures from other books of the New Testament? Illustrate by Paul's commission.
18. What the relation of "good works" to this salvation, and what the proof texts?
19. What the imagery of this whole passage, and how does this support the teaching so far?
20. What sabbath commemorated the material creation?
21. What additional idea underlies the Jewish sabbath?
22. What scriptures prove the abrogation of the Jewish sabbath?
23. What sabbath supersedes and commemorates the greater work of redemption?
24. Cite passages to prove the creative idea in the Spirit's application of our Lord's redemption.
25. What distinction in the idea of salvation in Ephesians 2:1-10 from the idea in Galatians and Romans arising from redemption, justification, and adoption?
THE WALL OF PARTITION
This chapter commences with the seventh item of the analysis the breaking down of the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile, and the uniting of the two into one church, as an institution, which finds expression in every particular church. The particulars of the statement of the condition of the Gentiles prior to the proclamation of the gospel after Christ's ascension are thus given in our text:
1. Separate from Christ having no knowledge of him, or any interest in him "salvation is of the Jews."
2. "Having been alienated from the commonwealth of Israel" i.e., as uncircumcised, not entitled to citizenship in it. The force of "alienated" here is about this: The original promise of the gospel was to the race. Through both the antediluvian and Noachic periods the promise was universal in its application. But after these two race falls, particularism in a single nation succeeded. The race probations culminated at the Tower of Babel in the dispersion of the nations, followed by the call of a particular nation. This was the time of their alienation. In the Hebrew politeia or "citizenship condition," including country, constitution, economy, they had no part. The call of one nation made the others aliens.
3. "Strangers from the covenants of the promise." Mark the plural, including all covenants made with Abraham or any of his descendants. Mark the word "promise," not promises in general, but the promise, that is, of the Messiah.
4. "Having no hope." This does not deny desire or aspiration, but expectation based on definite and reliable grounds. Hope is composite a blending of two elements, desire and expectation. We may desire what we may not expect and expect what we do not desire. Many heathen desired better things, but had no assured ground of hope. They had no accredited revelation. Mommsen in his History of Rome says, "In Hellas [Greece], at the epoch of Alexander the Great, it was a current saying, and one profoundly felt by all the best men, that the best thing of all was not to be born, and the next best to die." Testimonies from the classics might be multiplied on this point.
5. "Without God in the world." Mark the Greek, Atheoi i.e., "atheists," not in the active but passive sense. They had indeed gods many their own creation. The one true God was unknown to them. See Paul's speech at Athens referring to the altar inscribed to the "unknown God."
6. "Far off." Compare Romans 1:18-32, to see not only how far off, but just how they sinfully arrive at that dark and guilty distance.
7. "A wall of partition" rigidly separated them from the people who were custodians of the Oracles of God, and the heirs of all the covenants from Abraham to David.
The reader will miss the mark at this point if he does not look back carefully to the first eleven chapters of Genesis. There are in these chapters three distinct race probations. First, in Adam, as head of all human beings. Adam fell, and all his posterity, without distinction, fell with him and in him. Second, after his fall and expulsion from the garden of Eden, the throne of grace was set up at the east of the garden, and all his descendants, without distinction, were privileged to approach the God of grace and mercy through typical sacrifices based on the promise to the race, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." This race probation culminated in the flood, and a third race probation commenced with Noah, as the new head of the race and under a special covenant.
When this third race probation failed at the Tower of Babel, and the dispersion of the nations then followed (Gen. 12) the call of Abraham, and the fourth probation, commenced through one family to become a chosen nation under national covenants. The very constitution of one nation to become God's organized people, by isolating laws and ordinances, left out all other nations as aliens and strangers. These segregating laws and ordinances constituted the wall of partition between the Hebrews and other nations.
Circumcision, the entire sabbatic cycle, priesthood and sacrifices, with their ritual, all social and political ordinances of separation, prescribed limitations of citizenship, a special homeland, indeed the entire Sinaitic legislation, with its later developments in Numbers and Deuteronomy, entered into the wall of separation. There is no parallel in history to the isolating, exclusive legislation of Moses.
We find in the New Testament that Christian Jews wanted to keep up that wall of partition to deny that Christ had broken it down. They said in order to be saved one had to become a Jew had to be circumcised. All of these laws with reference to their altar, the way of approach to God, etc., as embodied in the tabernacle, or its successor, the Temple, and its offerings setting forth ways and means by which one could come to God, were in the partition wall. In Galatians Paul says that even believers in Christ, up to the time the object of faith came that is, until Christ came were under these laws and had to observe these old ceremonial laws. The heirs by faith were under tutors until Christ died.
So we see Christian Jews in New Testament times still wishing to keep up this wall of partition. When Peter went into the house of Cornelius and ate with the Gentiles he was sharply rebuked by some of the church at Jerusalem, but by patient explanation of all the circumstances he quieted the opposition, but did not conquer it.
It reappeared at Antioch in the demand that the Gentiles must be circumcised in order to be saved. This was a vital and fundamental matter. So Paul and Barnabas sternly resisted it, and as these Judaizing teachers came from Jerusalem and claimed authority from the apostles and the mother church, the whole case was referred to them and resulted in the council described in Acts 15. Paul's contention was fully sustained. Peter, and even James, sided with him.
But even this solemn decision did not end the matter, so far as the Jews were concerned. The question of eating with the Gentiles was reopened at Antioch. While a Gentile might be saved without becoming a Jew, a Jewish Christian must remain a Jew. In this form of the question Peter and Barnabas were led to dissimulation, the more reprehensible on Peter's part, since this was the very form of the question on which he had stood so nobly in the case of Cornelius. Paul won again, but the war went on.
How did Christ break down the wall? In the letter to the Colossians is the clearest passage in the whole Bible on how the whole Jewish law was abrogated, 2:14: "Having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us; and he hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross, having despoiled the principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat or in drink, or in respect of a feast day, or a new moon, or a sabbath day."
Christ nailed the whole thing to the cross blotted it out. These things were typical. When Christ, the antitype, came they were done away forever. The whole sabbatic cycle is set forth in this passage; feast days, or annual sabbaths; new moons, or monthly sabbaths; a sabbath day, or weekly sabbath, are all blotted out, just as Hosea predicted: "I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feasts, her new moons, and her sabbaths and all her solemn assemblies." Seventh Day Adventists try to get people to go back to keeping the seventh day instead of the first day of the week.
That means Christ has not come that we are still under the bondage of types and ceremonies. Whoever believes that, announces himself as a Jew of the old kind.
It took a Paul to make people see that the wall was broken down, ground to powder, and swept out of the realm of obligation by the breath of God's abrogation. It is utterly gone. Paul would sometimes as a matter of expediency, out of consideration for weak brethren who believed it was something awful to eat meat offered to idols, refrain from eating meat. He said, "The idol is nothing. That is all done away with in Christ. And all of these laws about clean and unclean animals have no force now, but so far as I am concerned, if my eating meat will cause some weak brother to stumble and fall down and keep on falling, I will let it alone. I do not let it alone because there is any harm in it to me, but because of these weak brethren for whom Christ died."
While that wall of partition stood, on one side were men without God, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenant, who had no hope in the Messiah, therefore without God. It said to the Gentile, "You stand off yonder." In Mark 7, to show how extreme their position became, in addition to the law, they observed their added traditions; if a Jew went to market, when he came back he must immerse himself to be free from possible defilement by contact; he must immerse the table on which he ate, the couch on which he slept, the pots and vessels which he used. That entire typical ceremonial legislation which shut out the Gentile was abrogated. It was blotted out, abolished, and nailed to the cross of Christ.
We will now see how the thought develops. The old distinction between Jew and Gentile being blotted out, he now uses a series of figures. The first figure is marriage, by which two entirely different individuals become one: "They twain shall be one flesh." The scripture on that is verse 14: "He hath made both one." And in verse 15: "That he might create in himself of the two, one new man." The wall being broken down, it is the purpose of Christ to take the Jew and Gentile and make one new man, so that in Christ there will be neither Jew nor Greek. That is the first figure.
The next figure is the new commonwealth. He says, "Ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow citizens with the saints." Here is a citizenship, and it is just as good and proper for the Gentiles to be citizens in Christ Jesus as for the Jews. The next figure is the household, or family. This is the language: "And of the household of God." So we have a new man, a new commonwealth, a new family.
He changes the figure again to the Temple, or house of God. Here is the language: "Being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone." That Temple at Jerusalem was one of the strongest factors in the wall of partition. Why? There was a certain place that the Gentiles were permitted to go the court of the Gentiles but they could not go any further. No Gentile could go up into the Jewish court.
Now Paul says, "That old Temple is out of the way; he builds a new temple that the old one foreshadowed," and in this new temple Gentile material will be used as well as Jewish material. The chief cornerstone in the foundation of this new temple is the rock, Christ Jesus. A cornerstone is one that holds two walls together. We notice in a building where two walls come together a large stone that goes into each wall and holds them together. Of course there are cornerstones all the way up, but the chief cornerstone is down next to the foundation. Every Christian who exercises the holding-together power is a cornerstone. Some just stick in the wall. Others we may call intermediate cornerstones. That is the imagery of the temple.
In verse 18 he shows a much more precious thought: "Through him we both [Jew and Gentile] have access to the .Father." Before, it was only the Jews who had access, but under this new economy, the Gentiles as well as the Jews have access in Christ to the Father. I stated that when Christ died he nailed to his cross all discriminating legislation. There was a signal token. Just at the time Christ died the veil in the Temple was rent in twain from top to bottom. That veil was said to be 70 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 4 inches thick. Ten yoke of oxen could not have torn it. It was closely woven and beautifully colored. At the moment Christ said, "It is finished," it was rent in twain, commencing at the top and going all the way down. This signified that the way to the holy of holies was then made open to all.
Paul refers to that in the letter to the Hebrews when he says, "Wherein God, being minded to show more abundantly unto the heirs of the promise the immutability of his counsel, interposed with an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have a strong encouragement, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us: which we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and entering into that which is within the veil; whither as a forerunner Jesus entered for us, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." Christ destroyed two enmities; first the enmity between Jew and Gentile, and made peace between these two and converted them into one; then he made peace between each one of them and the Father. Being reconciled to the Father through Christ we are reconciled to our fellow men.
We now come to a very important thought. When Paul talks about the new man, and the church is said to be the bride made one with Christ, as Adam and Eve were made one, and when he talks about one commonwealth and one citizenship, and when he talks about them being one housebold, and being made into one temple, he is speaking of the church as an institution. God established a time institution. That institution is exemplified, becomes operative, in particular churches.
This thought is expressed in verse 21: "In whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord." That is to say, each particular congregation, particular church, is an expression of the church as an institution, and its only expression. For instance, a new state may provide for "trial by jury." There, "jury" is an institution, of which each particular jury is an expression. So the expression, "I will build my church," when that institution becomes operative, it is exemplified in a particular church. We must make the distinction in usage according to the laws of language between an institution in the abstract sense and its expression in every particular, concrete case. Speaking abstractly, we may say that the church is a temple. Speaking concretely, each particular church is a temple. Such usage of language is common. We never misunderstand its import in other matters. We never make the abstract sense a conglomeration. If we say abstractly "the husband is the head of the wife" we do not mean all husbands are blended into one big universal husband. But we mean that in every particular case the husband is the head of the wife. Just so in Ephesians 1:22; 2:12-20; 3:10, 21 the church as an institution is discussed under several figures. But always Ephesians 2:21-22 (revised text) shows what the institution is in its expression. It becomes operative in particular churches only. Later Ephesians 5:23-33 will discuss the glory church.
The Judaizing Christians fought Paul's Gospel on every field of evangelism, and notwithstanding his letters to the Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, and Hebrews, he foresaw the coming of a great apostasy that after his day would revert to a national church with an earthly head and reincorporate into the Christian. system the ideas, priesthood and ritual of an abrogated economy. He foresaw the coming of Christian interpreters. who would revert to the Jewish sabbath and insist on this restoration of a Jewish kingdom with a returned Christ a: King at Jerusalem and with the Gentile world in subjugation Tens of thousands of pulpits in Christendom today are seeking in some fashion to rebuild that wall which Christ demolished on the cross, and whose crumbling stone and wasting wood were pulverized and scattered as fine dust.
From the old covenant, and from effete heathen religions and customs, they gathered fragments and blended them into a new yoke of bondage, setting aside the liberty and simplicity of the gospel. And particularly on the ideas of the church there is yet before Baptists a hard battle, whose preliminary skirmishes have already commenced.
So far only the general line of thought has been followed. But we need to look more critically at some particular expressions, even though there be repetition.
Verse 14. "For he is our peace." What the strict meaning? Is it limited to peace between Jew and Gentile, or is it the peace of both Jew and Gentile with God, or both? The peace under discussion is a reconciliation by the cross.' The cross must have here an expiatory sense; it must propitiate toward God, making peace between him and the. sinner, and as both Jew and Gentile draw near to God they draw near to each other. As all the diverging spores of a. wheel come together and unite in the hub, so Jew and Gentile find in Christ, the center, primarily, peace with God, and, secondarily, peace with each other. Isaiah (9:5-6), Micah. (5:6), and Zechariah (10:10) predict peace through the coming Messiah.
Verse 15. "The enmity." Here again the enmity is not merely or primarily the hatred between Jew and Gentile, but the enmity of both toward God. This is what stood in the way of peace. Enmity which antagonizes and holds nations apart can never be converted to peace until first the giunity toward God on the part of opposing nations is gotten out of the way. In the death of enmity toward God is also the death of enmity toward each other. The thought is beautifully imaged in the two staves of the prophet, the staff, "Beauty," and the staff, "Bands," the first representing the tie uniting Ephraim and Judah to God, the second binding the two together. "Bands" cannot be broken until "Beauty" is first broken.
"Create in himself of the two one new man." This is not demanding that a Gentile shall become a Jew, nor that a Jew shall become a Gentile; this would not be a creation. But he creates a new corporate body, i.e., the church as an institution. But as the two elements, Jew and Gentile, are blended into the new corporation, this would not be a creation on account of the use of pre-existing material. A mere blending, therefore, does not express the thought. The blending would be purely artificial if unchanged, incoherent elements are bound together. By the creating power of regeneration the Jew is made a Christian, and so the Gentile. This Christian material of the new corporation did not exist before. In this way he created in himself of the two one new man, i.e., a new church. As the corporation was new, so the elements which composed it were made new.
Verse 16. "Reconcile them both in one body, unto God, through the cross." Here it is evident, what has been expressed before, that the reconciliation of peace is toward God, and sacrificially through the cross, and hence their peace with each other is only a secondary thought resulting from the first.
Verse 17. "And he came and preached peace to them that were far off and peace to them that were nigh." "And he came. When and what this coming? It was the coming m the Holy Spirit on Pentecost the beginning of the execution of the commission given before this ascension. Instrumentally the church, endued with power by the Spirit, did the preaching.
Verse 18. "For through him [Christ] we both [Jew and Gentile] have access, in one Spirit, unto the Father." Here in one short sentence we have all the persons of the Trinity in their distinguishing office work.
Verse 20. "Foundation Cornerstone." Christ is really the foundation and the cornerstone ( 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 1 Peter 2:6-7). The New Testament apostles and prophets are the foundation only in the sense that they laid it in their preaching, and in that way their vital doctrines, or what they preached, is called the foundation (Heb. 6:1). Real foundation = Christ Teaching foundation = the apostles and prophets Doctrinal foundation = what they preached
Verses 21-22. Let the reader particularly note that the church as an institution, whether called "one new man," "one body," "one commonwealth," "one household," or "one temple," finds expression in "each several building" or particular congregation, and that the leading idea of its mission is to become a habitation of God through the Spirit.
1. Cite and explain each particular of the condition of the Gen- tiles prior to the gospel proclamation.
2. What race probations in Genesis 1-11, and what change commences in chapter 12?
3. What the wall of partition?
4. When and how abrogated?
5. Prove that this includes abrogation of the Jewish sabbaths of all kinds.
6. In what letters of Paul is all this made plain?
7. Yet what did he foresee?
8. In this chapter what various images are employed to express the idea of the church as an institution?
9. Prove that this institution finds expression in particular churches.
10. What the meaning of "Christ our peace"?
11. What the meaning of enmity?
12. What the meaning of "He came and preached peace, i.e., when and how was this coming?
13. What verse of this chapter presents all the persona of the Trinity, distinguishing between their office work?
PAUL'S SECOND GREAT PRAYER
This discussion covers chapter 3, connecting two items of the analysis, to wit: Paul's relation to the mystery of the gospel to the Gentiles, and his second great prayer. And what a prayer it is! Let us notice that in verse I he starts to pray, sidetracks it for twelve verses, and then resumes. This is peculiar to Paul, starting on a main thought and then leaving it to branch out on a collateral thought. But he always comes back, as we see here in verse 14. A man who does that shows an earnest, fruitful, tenacious mind. We have noticed the trait in lower animals. A dog starts out and follows a deer until he crosses a fresher bear track. His hunting instinct turns him immediately into the cross-trail, but he returns to take up the original trail. Unlike the dog, some preachers start with a text and follow it until they flush a new thought, then take after that and never get back to the text, leaving their sermon as Tacitus, the historian, leaves that great German hero, Arminius, standing on a bridge, his readers not knowing whether he ever crossed over, went back, or is standing there yet. Other preachers, alas! follow this order: (1) They take a text. (2) They instantly leave it. (3) They never get back to it.
Paul starts off: "For this cause I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles." This introduces his prayer, but a parenthesis follows showing why he prays. This parenthesis is the eighth item of the analysis. It occurred to him that he ought to explain why he was so earnest in praying for them. His interest grew out of a special relation, such as no other man sustained, expressed in these words: "The dispensation of that grace of God which was given me to you-ward." There was a special dispensation of the grace of God given to Paul. In the letter to the Galatians he uses this language bearing upon the thought: "When they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, even as Peter with the gospel of the circumcision (for he that wrought for Peter unto the apostleship of the circumcision wrought for me also unto the Gentiles) ; and when they perceived the grace that was given unto me, James and Cephas and John, they who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision."
To explain his prayer for the Gentiles, he says that the dispensation of the gospel for the Gentiles was specially committed to him. God himself divided the work. He created a foreign mission department and put it in the hands of Paul. The home mission department he left to the original twelve; they were to go to the Jews and Paul was to go to the Gentiles. There is the scriptural thought and justification for our division of the mission work into home and foreign departments. To illustrate: If our foreign mission secretary starts to write a letter touching a mission station in Mexico, Brazil, China, or Africa, he pauses to explain his interest that the Southern Baptist Convention has given him the dispensation of the foreign mission work, and that is why he is writing.
The next point is that this dispensation was given to him by revelation of Jesus Christ. He did not get it second hand from Peter. He is clear to say that this gospel did not come from man. It was a direct revelation from Jesus Christ to him. That is demonstration against even the idea of a human pope, for here is a man whose gospel is entirely independent of the gospel committed to the twelve. And he insists that he is not a whit behind any of them; he is not indebted to any of them for the authority with which he preaches, and they were forced to concede that the same God who wrought mightily through Peter to the circumcision, wrought just as mightily through Paul to the Gentiles. He makes these points clear.
In Acts 9 we have the first account of God's designating Paul to this work, setting him apart to be a great foreign missionary. And as time developed, he called him more specifically to that work. To show the strenuousness and insistence of this separation of Paul to this work, note that he himself had an intense desire to be a home missionary, and on one occasion, contrary to the direct teaching of the Spirit of God, he went to Jerusalem, and when he got there, God met him in the Temple and said, "They will not hear you. Go work where I sent you." In other words, it is as much the province of the Lord Jesus Christ to select the field of labor as it is to call a man to preach, and the preacher who disregards the divine jurisdiction over the place where he is to preach, is sure to get into trouble and bring shame and failure to himself. After God had purposed that this should be his work, and after God had called him to that work, he still kept hanging around the home mission department. So the Lord came to the church at Antioch and said, "Set apart Paul and Barnabas for the work to which I have called them." Church action followed the divine action.
Just here we come to an expression that causes some people a little trouble. Verse 3: "How that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote before in a few words." The question is, if this letter was intended primarily and exclusively to be for the Ephesians, when did Paul ever write them about the dispensation having been committed to him? Some commentaries say that it is in the first part of this letter, but there is not a syllable about it in the first part of this letter. We find it in Colossians 1:25: "Whereof I was made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which was given me to you-ward, to fulfil the word of God, even the mystery which hath been hid for ages and generations: but now hath it been manifested to his saints." That is where he "wrote before in a few words." That shows that there is a very close relation between Colossians and Ephesians. The letter to the Ephesians elaborates the letter to the Colossians, and justifies the position taken in the introductory chapter about the phrase, "at Ephesus."
We now come to the word "mystery." The word is frequently used in the Bible, but not always with reference to the same thing. John, in Revelation, presents a picture of a woman dressed in scarlet sitting on a wild beast with seven heads and ten horns, and on her forehead is written "MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH." In that figure, under the name, Babylon, he represents the mystery of the Roman Catholic Church. In another place Paul himself says in his letter to Timothy: "Great is the mystery of godliness." That is a different mystery, to wit: (1) That God was veiled in the flesh. (2) That, though veiled, the angels recognized him. (3) That thus veiled he was preached unto the Gentiles. (4) That he was believed on by the Gentiles. (5) He was received up in glory. "Confessedly, great is the mystery of godliness."
But Paul uses the word "mystery" in this passage in a different meaning. It is not a mystery to him, nor will it be a mystery to them after he explains. The mystery will be taken away. Here is the secret of the mystery, in verse 6: "That the Gentiles are fellow heirs, and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers in the promise of Christ Jesus through the gospel." It was a mystery in Old Testament times; it was then veiled. The Jews seemed to be everything there. But the mystery unveiled shows that even in the beginning God looked kindly toward all nations of men. God intended that all nations of men should seek him and find him, that when the typical age passed, his gospel through his Son should go to all nations that inhabit the face of the earth. That was all hidden in Old Testament times, but it is not mysterious now.
In that remarkable letter to the Romans (11) where the same matters are under discussion, he points out that Israel, the chosen nation, loses the kingdom of God; that through their fall the Gentiles receive the kingdom of God; that through the fulness of the Gentiles the Jews come back to the kingdom of God; that the failure of the Jews helps the Gentiles; that the fulness of the Gentiles helps the Jews. He says that the whole thing was according to divine purpose, and then ends with this exclamation: "0 the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen."
Our thoughts so far are: (1) That the dispensation of the gospel to the Gentiles was given to Paul. (2) That this dispensation was given to him by special revelation; it did not come secondhand; he was to be the great foreign missionary man. (3) That this was formerly a mystery, but is now explained. (4) The purpose of God is that the Gentiles shall be fellow heirs, fellow members of the body and fellow partakers of the promise of Christ Jesus through the gospel.
He adds a thought showing a more distant and extensive end of his ministry: "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 for 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." This is my great my favorite text. It sets me on fire. I could wake suddenly in the night and preach from it offhand. Through Paul, by special divine appointment, all men are to be made to see this mystery unveiled. Not only so, but unto angels by the church must this manifold wisdom of God be made known. The church is a pedagogue to angels. By the church they are instructed.
The first time I ever met my cousin, J. L. Carroll, he preached a sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention in Jefferson on the text: "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter." In this discussion he quoted verbatim the entire poem on "The Tapestry Weavers", one that I have never seen anywhere except in Goodrich's old Fourth Reader. One weaver was complaining that everything went wrong; the other believed that everything went right, and he said to his brother weaver: "You see in part only. Let your carpet instruct you. While in the loom you see only its outside. There appears to be a chaotic jumble warp and woof and flying shuttle. But when complete and the rolls are fitted on the floor, the pattern is plain. Fragments of design in one roll find their counterpart in another. So to us just now the world is a carpet inside out it is yet in the weaving at the end the design and the pattern will appear." I thought I had never heard anything more appropriate than this illustration.
"Now," says Paul, "those angels up yonder are flaming spirits, but there are many things they do not know. They have had their curiosity aroused ever since Christ interposed to save man, 'which things the angels desired to look into.' " On the mercy seat the curiosity of the angels is represented by two golden cherubim on either side leaning over, looking down where the blood is dropping. These heavenly students are trying to study out God's wisdom, and God's wisdom is manifold, it is rolled up in a great roll and the angels cannot see. The church comes along and takes hold of the roll and unrolls, unrolls, unrolls, the many folds, and as the church unrolls, the angels behold the manifold wisdom of God.
That is a beautiful thought. It elevates one in his own mind to know that he is helping explain difficult things to the angels. Not only were the apostles a "spectacle to the angels," but the church in its work is a spectacle to the angels, in unfolding to their view the marvelous election, foreordination, predestination, and foreknowledge of God, developed in redemption and made apparent through the ministry of the church in preaching the gospel. The church comes opening one door and sets Jerusalem on fire, and the angels clap their hands and praise God, 3,000 Jews saved. The church turns a key, throws open another door, and the Gentiles come in. The angels clap their hands and sing, "Glory to God in the highest." The church goes to Ephesus, 100,000 perhaps are converted there; it crosses the Bosphorus and enters Europe, goes to Athens, Corinth, and to Rome itself. From there it goes to Britain, and then on gospel wings it flies across the Atlantic Ocean, the gospel is carried across the American continent, rises in another flight to the islands of the sea, the Orient, flies over the walls of China, and goes into Tibet, that darkest, most isolated place in the world. All of that the angels learn as the kingdom develops.
We come now to a point that always thrilled me.
I never could understand why some Baptists rejoice to say there is no church succession.
I would like for them to take hold of these two passages in this chapter, "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," coupled with the last verse, "Unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations forever and ever. Amen."
Whenever church work stops) then the glory stops. Did God intend for it to stop? If he did, why did he say, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world"? And why should we tell the church when celebrating the Lord's Supper, "As often as you do this you show forth the Lord's death till he come"? Why does he provide for perpetuity? I am not discussing church history now. I am discussing God's purpose in establishing the church. Jesus said, "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it." I do not believe they have. They have never been able to convince me that the gates of hell have prevailed against the church.
I believe that God not only has had people in all ages, but that he has had an organized people.
He provided for transmission: "The things which I have committed to you, the same commit thou to faithful men." How do men have faith? By hearing. How can they hear without a preacher, and how can they have a preacher unless he be sent? Did he not send the church all gifts apostolic gifts, prophetic gifts, evangelistic gifts, and pastoral gifts? He set every one of them in the church. The apostles and prophets served the church; when they were taken away, there remained pastors, evangelists, teachers. On whose authority? Christ's. Where placed? In the church. I am satisfied that if the angels, after watching the unfolding of the wisdom of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ, from the time Christ died until the time the apostles died, they have not had a recess since of a thousand years. They are not left in suspense, vainly bending over to learn more through silent centuries. The school goes right on. The purposes ripen. The ordinances continue to tell their story. Churches come from churches somewhat as horses come from horses. History cannot trace every detail of the pedigree showing how a certain drove of wild mustangs in western Texas are descendants of the Spanish barbs, brought here by the discoverers 400 years ago. The fact that the mustangs are here proves the succession, since only like begets like.
I do not undervalue church history, but far more important to me than fallible human records of passing events is the New Testament forecast of church history. The former may err the latter never.
Before the Louisiana Baptist Historical Society it was my pleasure to discuss this very theme.
We now consider the marvelous second prayer of Paul for the Ephesians, which is the ninth item of the analysis. The petitioner is Paul. He is a prisoner. The chain on his hand clanks with every line he writes. But the word of God is not chained, the Spirit of God is not chained, and the spirit of this man who prays is not chained. It is amazing that a man in his circumstances could so far forget himself in the riches of his benevolences and go out in his supplications and entreat for such blessings as are embodied in this petition.
The next thought is the relation of this prayer to preceding things. This relation is expressed in these words: "For this cause I pray." What cause? It has just been stated: first, that it was the purpose of God that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and that Paul was the minister selected who should preach to these Gentiles that the kingdom of heaven was open to them. So it was for this cause because God intended that they should have these benefits, and because he designated Paul as the instrument by which they should come to them, therefore he prayed.
Let us look at the attitude which was very reverent and very deliberate: "I bow my knees." To whom? To the Father. There is a modifying phrase that we need now to consider, bearing on why he prayed to him, and especially why Paul prayed to him in this connection. This modifying phrase is "from whom every family in heaven and earth is named." There is something in the modifying clause suggesting why Paul offers this petition to the Father, but we have a difficulty in determining what it means. The common version reads: "For whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named." It is very easy to understand what that idea is. It is exactly the idea expressed in this hymn:
Let saints on earth unite to sing With those to glory gone; For all the servants of the King In heaven and earth are one.
One family we dwell in him, One church above, beneath, Though now divided by the stream, The narrow stream of death.
If the King James Version is the correct rendering, that is what it means, and we can see the idea at once when he prays to the Father from whom the whole family, Jews and Gentiles, those in heaven and those on earth, and those yet to be born, is named. It is a very beautiful thought. The objection to that being the proper rendering is that there is no article in the Greek, and therefore grammatically the revised version is more accurate, not referring to the whole family collectively but distributively: "From whom every family is named," that is, those who go to heaven may constitute a family; down here on earth they are not all assembled in one. There was a family at Rome, one at Corinth and one at Ephesus. In this sense the word "family" is a synonym for "church." Which is correct? The revised version is very accurate: "I pray unto the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named." Every church is named, whether you conceive of it as the church of the spirits of the just, made perfect in glory, or distributively, each particular congregation of Christ's disciples here upon earth. There is, quite possibly, another meaning which we find in the margin of our Bible: "From whom every Fatherhood is named." That does not make the sense materially different from the sense of the revised text. Fatherhood upon earth is a reflection of the true fatherhood in heaven. All fatherhood gets its idea and ideal from God, the Father.
These are the three possible meanings of this passage. I do not like to be on the fence myself, and after studying about it a great deal I am inclined to think that the King James Version has the true idea, and I am quite sure it can be defended exegetically and grammatically, because we find in the Greek New Testament four or five places where the article is absent and yet the unity is there, and it is so rendered by the revisers themselves. I think this makes the best sense and connects better with Paul's thought. He has just been telling them that under the old economy the Gentiles were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, without God, and without hope in the world, but that under the new revelation of the mystery of God's purpose it is evident he intended Jew and Gentile to be one in Christ. And he is speaking of the unity continually, the gathering together, and I prefer that translation: "From whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named." The Gentile belongs to that family just as much as the Jew.
So we advance in our thought. We have Paul the petitioner, the Father petitioned, and the power according to which he asks that things be granted "according to the riches of his glory." What does he ask for? We see the whole Trinity in this: The Father is the source, therefore the petition is addressed to him. He asks one blessing that touches the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Trinity, and several touching Christ, the second person in the Trinity. The first thing for which he asks is strength: "That ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man." We often see physical giants, like John L. Sullivan, Jim Jeffries, strong on the outside but not strong on the inside. Then we see some frail, weak men, like William of Orange, who was so sick that he could not stand up, but strong inside and commanding his army. And we see the general on the other side, the Duke of Luxemburg, who was so frail and sick that his soldiers had to carry him about on a litter. A man who did not have strength inside would have been whining in the hospital and asking for a furlough, but these two generals were strong inside, and they directed their armies while they fought one of the most famous battles of history. Even so, and more so, is it with the Christian. The outward man perishes, but the inward man is renewed day by day. The fact is that no man is whipped until he is whipped inside, and when whipped inside he is whipped altogether. Just as long as his soul is firm and steadfast he is invincible by any force that can be sent against him. We will now look at the Christ side of it, and there are several parts in that. First, "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." There is a great difference between taking permanent residence and paying an occasional visit. It seems that some Christiana, at occasional intervals, receive visits from Christ, not very welcome visits on their part, and he has to stand outside and knock: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." Paul does not pray for that, but that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith. That means to abide, not just a visitor staying over night, but owning the house and living in it, and he can dwell in your hearts only through faith.
The second thing is stability: "That being rooted [that is the image of a tree] and grounded [there he changes the figure to a house with strong foundations] in love." That is stability. Look at a China tree; a little wind will blow it over. Why? Because it has no tap root. One cannot turn over a post, but he can turn over a block of wood that is resting on the ground. The use of the lateral roots of the tree is to feed the tree. All of those little fibrous roots close to the top of the ground furnish the tree food and water. But that big root that goes straight down is not to feed it, but to hold it firmly. So Paul prays for stability: "being rooted and grounded." Some of those buildings in San Francisco with their rock foundations and steel frames, the rock holding them together under the ground and the steel frames holding them together above the ground, were not shaken by even the earthquake.
The third thing is, "That ye may be strong to apprehend with all the saints." Apprehend what? Certain dimensions breadth, length, height, and depth of the love of Christ. In other words, "I pray that you may be able to apprehend the dimensions of the love of Christ; that you may see how high it is, how deep it is, how broad it is, and how long it is." All the saints are invited to join in it. Sir Isaac Newton said that he was just a little child on the coast picking up shells. He claimed not to know much. So Paul said, "I have not apprehended all things for which he laid hold of me, but I pray that you Ephesians may be strong to apprehend the dimensions of the love of Christ."
The fourth thing is knowledge "to know the love of Christ." That refers to personal experience, not a mental conception, but a realization of it in the heart, i.e., to know experimentally the love of Christ. We learn some things about Christ intellectually and put them in our hearts and assimilate them, but let us learn them personally. As each lesson comes, let us put it in our hearts and learn it personally. That is why we are called upon to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. We know now in part, but not altogether.
The fifth thing connected with Christ that he prays for, "That ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God." Paul is not here offering a prayer for one person, but he is praying for the church, which is the temple of God, and the temple of God is to have the fulness of God.
Several years ago in a controversy I quoted this passage and a man asked, "What do you get out of that? I have read it many times but I do not get anything out of it." I said, "The church is the habitation of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is in the church, not in part of his power, but in the fulness of his power. The church has the fulness, but may not have the realization of the fulness. You let a church get into a great meeting and those who have been doing wrong repent and confess; and those who have become alienated become reconciled, the proud become humbled, and the selfish become unselfish, those who could not pray learn to pray, and in that realization they begin to pray for big things. Before that, if they could get fifteen or twenty around one sinner, they might have faith enough to pray for him, but now they pray for men who are far off."
I have seen the old Waco church in the fulness of God. I went down one day in the great meeting and my nerves tingled; I could feel prickling sensations running all over me, the presence of God was so sensibly felt. I asked the church to pray for a certain one who was very dear to me. They got down and prayed a very short, sweet prayer, and that very moment while the words were still coming from the lips of the one offering the petition, God converted that man from infidelity, and on the next train he was at the church to tell them how he was saved at the very hour of the prayer.
These are the five things in connection with Christ: The indwelling of Christ by faith, being rooted and grounded in love, to be able to apprehend the dimensions of Christ's love, to know the love of Christ and to be filled with the fulness of God.
That brings us to the benediction. That benediction is an offering of glory. To whom? To the Father. In what sphere? In the church. Through what medium? Christ. How long? World without end. That means church perpetuity.
1. What two items of analysis are discussed in this chapter?
2. What characteristic of Paul's letters appears in the beginning of the chapter, and wherein, does he differ from some other preachers?
3. What special relation of Paul to those addressed was the reason. of the prayer now to be offered?
4. What passage in Galatians bears on the matter, and does this justify our present division of the missionary work into two distinct departments home and foreign?
5. How did he receive this dispensation of the grace of God, and what the bearing of it on the question of a human pope?
6. What three passages in Acts give the history of this commitment of the Gentile work to Paul?
7. Where do we also find in Acts a revelation from God to the church to ordain Paul to this work unto which our Lord had called him, and what two things does this prove?
8. How do you explain the phrase, "As I wrote you before in a few words"?
9. What the meaning of "mystery" here as distinguished from its meaning in 1 Timothy 3:16 and Revelation 17:5?
10. What additional thought in Paul's conception of his mission, and to what marvelously glorious end?
11. What then the relation of the church to angels?
12. What the lesson and application in the story of the two weavers?
13. Cite two passages in this chapter having a bearing on church perpetuity, and explain the bearing.
14. Which the more important, the New Testament forecast of church perpetuity or the testimony of church history on that point, and why?
15. What verses of this chapter contain Paul's second great prayer for those addressed?
16. On this prayer answer: (1) What the circumstances of the petitioner? (2) What not chained? (3) What the cause of the prayer? (4) What the attitude or posture of the petitioner? (5) To whom addressed? (6) What the three varied renderings of the clause modifying the Father, what the difference in meaning, and which do you prefer?
17. Name the things asked for in this prayer.
18. Illustrate how a church may now be filled with all the fulness of God.
THE GREAT UNITIES
We have come to the tenth division of our analysis of Ephesians the great unities, and the means of securing their recognition. The importance of this section (Eph. 4:1-16), cannot be overstated. It would be well to memorize this section verbatim. It would be well for the reader to drill himself on it until every thought in it is rooted unto such stability that no whirlwind could uproot the sturdy oak tree of his faith or, changing the figure, until the composite structure of his faith is so grounded in the rock, so tied at the corners, so compacted in each layer of stones, so jointed and roofed that no storm of wind and wave could undermine, tear apart, or shake it down. These nine unities are thus named:
One God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all.
One Lord, who is Jesus Christ.
One bond of peace, which is Christ's atonement.
One Spirit, which is the Holy Spirit.
One calling, meaning the inheritance to which we are called.
One body, which is the church.
One act of faith, by which we have access into grace.
One baptism, a prerequisite of church membership.
One system of faith, i.e., "The Faith," which is the church creed.
In a true sense this chapter begins the practical side of the letter: "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk -worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called, with all .lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
From doctrines come morals. The relation is philosophical and the bond is indissoluble. All the modern hue and cry against dogma is really against morals. The more we reduce the number of the creed articles, the more we undermine practical religion.
Neither Christ nor the apostles predicate morals on any other than a doctrinal foundation. If we are to walk worthily of our calling, we must first know the doctrine of the calling, that is, unto what we were called. And all our "lowliness and meekness and longsuffering and forbearance toward each other, and diligent keeping of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" are dependent on the antecedent doctrines set forth, otherwise there is no force in Paul's "therefore." And what one of the doctrines in the three preceding chapters or in this can we omit from our creed without omitting something profitable in our life? A Christian's creed should enlarge, and not diminish, up to the last utterance of revelation in order that each article might be transmitted into experience.
A church with a little creed is a church with a little life. The more divine doctrines a church can agree on, the greater its power, and the wider its usefulness. The fewer its articles of faith, the fewer its bonds of union and compactness.
The modern cry: "Less creed and more liberty," is a, degeneration from the vertebrate to the jellyfish, and means less unity and less morality, and it means more heresy. Definitive truth does not create heresy it only exposes and corrects. Shut off the creed and the Christian world would fill up with heresy unsuspected and uncorrected, but none the less deadly.
Just so it is not good discipline that creates backsliding and other sins of Christians. But discipline is oftentimes the only means of saving a church. To hold to discipline for immoralities and relax it on doctrine puts the cart before the horse and attempts to heal a stream while leaving the fountain impure. To Christ and the apostles false creeds were the most deadly things, and called most for the use of the knife. Let us apply these reflections to the great unities in this chapter:
1. One God and Father of all, who is over all, through all and in all. That declaration not only dethrones the idols of the world, but digs under the multitudinous and gross immoralities arising from the idolatries. Not only so, but it uproots all the false philosophies and cosmogonies; for example, materialism, pantheism, Stoicism, Epicureanism (more recently labeled Darwinian evolution), and the like.
2. "One Lord." This limits revelation, mediation, priesthood and kingly rule to Jesus the Messiah, the image of God. How vast the sweep of this exclusive truth, and how multitudinous the immoralities it outlaws!
3. "One bond of peace." That is one sacrifice through which our peace with God is secured and our peace with each other is assured. Apart from this there is no real peace between God and man, and between man and man.
4. "One Spirit." This limits the vicarship and the vicegerency to one, and so not only cuts off the head of Pope and king who claim to be vicars of Christ, but outlaws all approaches to Christ or interpretations of him not directed by the Spirit, and closes up the way to all immoral attempts to penetrate the future through demon, wizard, witch, diviner, or soothsayer. Moreover, it limits all application of the atonement to the Holy Spirit.
5. "One calling." This refers not only to the act of calling, but to the inheritance to which we are called. It means the complete salvation of man and his heavenly home, with all the riches of its glory. We are all going to one place the heavenly land of promise.
6. "One body," or one church. Applying this to the redeemed in the aggregate, it limits salvation to those in Christ and vitally connected with him. Applying it as we may and must to the time institution he established, it overturns the claims of all human institutions affecting equality with God's institution, or assuming the right to be recognized as a branch thereof. Applying it as we may, and as Paul does, to a particular church, the only expression of the institution, it excludes all so called churches not modeled after the New Testament pattern in its terms of membership, polity, doctrines, ordinances, and officers.
7. "One faith." This, construed with verses 13-14 below, as it may be construed, would evidently not refer to an individual's trust in Jesus, but to the system, or body of truth taught by Christ and the apostles. But construed with baptism and the body, which is a nearer and better connection, then it means two things:
(1) The one means of contact with Christ, i.e., "by faith we enter into this grace wherein we stand," and so becomes an essential prerequisite to church membership and to salvation.
(2) It would also mean one definite transaction through which justification comes once for all. The thought excludes the heresy that we may lose justification and so be under the necessity of repeating the saving act of faith. Faith, in the act of receiving and relying on Christ for justification, is not repeated. It is one faith. We may go on, we may not go back to relay the foundation. This one definite act of faith is instantaneous. It receives Christ, as a woman in marriage takes a man to be her husband. It commits the keeping of the soul to Christ and relies on his ability to keep that which is so committed until the judgment day. Neither the taking in marriage nor the making of a deposit is progressive or contingent. And so justification, following faith, is not contingent nor progressive. It is a declaration of the court of the last resort that one is acquitted definitely, at once, and is forever free.
8. "One baptism." The reference here is unquestionably to the ordinance of water baptism that follows faith and precedes church membership. By a figure of speech other things are called baptism. The overwhelming of Christ in suffering is so called (Luke 12:50'). The overwhelming of the saints in the outpoured Spirit is so called (Acts 1:5). The final overwhelming of sinners in the penal fires of judgment is so called (Matt. 3:10-12). But these figures of speech baptism in suffering, baptism in the Holy Spirit, baptism in fire gather their significance from a likeness in the overwhelming act to the immersion of a believer in water. The one baptism of our text means the one immersion in water according to Christ's example and precept. It therefore implies two things:
(1) Baptism is one definite thing immersion and not permissibly one of three things sprinkling, pouring, or immersion.
The baptism of our Lord in the river Jordan settles the whole matter and fixes the particular meaning, even if the word had many meanings, for John, in baptizing Jesus, did only one thing. He either sprinkled or poured water on Christ or immersed Christ in water. He did not do all three. What he did is the one baptism, for when, through his disciples, Christ also baptized, and baptized more than John did, the act was the same as that to which he had submitted himself (John 3:22-23; 4:1-2). And what he submitted to himself that he also commanded to be done by his disciples (Matt. 28:19).
(2) It is not only one thing as distinguished from others, but one in that, unlike the Lord's Supper, it may not be repeated, when the elements of its validity are all present. These elements are: (a) proper authority; (b) proper subject; (c) proper act; (d) proper design, upon all of which the receiving church must pass judgment. By the consensus of Christendom, baptism is prerequisite to church membership, and consequently to participation in the Lord's Supper, which is peculiarly a church ordinance.
9. "The unity of the faith" (v. 13). Here certainly, if not in verse 5, the reference is to the system or body of truth constituting the creed of the church, as sufficiently appears from its direct connection with verse 14. It certainly teaches the importance of all gospel truth, and the necessity of bringing all babes in Christ, or new converts, into unity of belief to safeguard them from divisions and from becoming the prey of cunning craftiness, to hedge against shifting from doctrine to doctrine, all in order to their reciprocal growth so as to affect the maturity of the church in Christian knowledge and the consequent maturity of development as the body of Christ.
"The faith" here coincides with its use in Jude 3: "Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints." Here is a sacred deposit of truth called "the faith" a deposit delivered to the saints a fixed deposit delivered once for all. This truth certain heresiarchs, who had crept privately into the church, were seeking to undermine, "denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." And as Jude shows powerfully this departure from the faith was followed by immorality in life.
Paul refers to this deposit and its sanctity in several places. Notably 1 Corinthians 15:3-8: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received," itemizing (1) Christ's death for our sins according to the Scriptures, (2) his burial, (3) his resurrection, (4) his appearance. Again, concerning the Lord's Supper, he says: "For I received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you" (1 Cor. 11:23-34). And yet again: "Now I praise you that ye hold fast to the things handed down, even as I delivered them unto you" (1 Cor. 11:1). To Timothy he writes, "O Timothy, guard that which is committed unto thee, turning away from the profane babblings and opposition of the knowledge which is falsely so called; which some professing have erred concerning the faith" (1 Tim. 6:20-21). And again: "And the things which thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). Thus does he provide both for keeping and for transmission. Concerning himself about to die, he says, "I have kept the faith" (2 Tim. 4:7).
This body of truth, constituting the creed of the church, is held as of inestimable value, and was ready to pronounce anathema against an angel from heaven who would preach any other gospel. It is a radical mistake to say that these New Testament articles of faith were few and simple. They touched, among other things, the nature, being, attributes, and offices of the triune God; the Holy inspired Scriptures, the church with its polity, terms of membership, officers, ordinances, and mission; the whole plan of salvation from election, foreordination, and predestination to glorification; the family; the citizen; the whole of this life, and the whole of the life to come; the ministry of angels good and the opposition of angels bad; and the final judgment.
Particularly they touched the personality of the Messiah, his pre-existence and deity, his emptying himself of his heavenly glory and prerogatives to assume in his first advent the body of his humiliation, in order to his vicarious expiation of sin on the cross, his going in his spirit after death to make the atonement in the holy of holies; his second advent to earth in order to assume his body of glorification, and his ascension and exaltation to the throne of the universe as a royal priest; his sending of his vicar, or vicegerent, the Holy Spirit, to accredit, infill, endue with power, and to abide with his church on earth; his third advent to assume his mystical body, the glorified church, to raise the dead and judge the world.
Broad as is the foregoing statement, it does not include all the clearly defined articles of the New Testament faith. So the reader may find it interesting and profitable to study in connection with the nine unities of Ephesians 4:1-16; Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; and these other scriptural declarations or summaries of the faith: Matthew 16:16; 28: 18-20; Romans 8:28-30; 1 Corinthians 5:1-8; and especially 1 Timothy 3:15-18. The last is quite important, for after setting forth that the church is the pillar and ground of the faith, i.e., the keeper, conservator, publisher, illustrator, and vindicator of the truth, the apostle then summarizes the elements of the truth at least the elements that enter into the mystery of godliness thus:
1. God was manifested in the flesh.
2. So manifested he was justified, or vindicated, by the Holy Spirit, (1) at his baptism (Matt. 3), (2) in offering up himself as a sacrifice (Heb. 9:14), (3) in his resurrection (1 Peter 3:18; Rom. 1:4), (4) by his descent at Pentecost (Acts 2).
3. Though veiled in the flesh, he was recognized by the angels (Luke 2:9-14; Matt. 3: II; Luke 22-43).
4. Preached among the nations.
5. Believed on in the world.
6. Received up into glory.
Very solemnly I would warn the reader against any teaching that decries doctrines, or which would reduce the creed of the church into two or three articles.
We are entitled to no liberty in these matters. It is a positive and very hurtful sin to magnify liberty at the expense of doctrine. A creed is what we believe. A confession of faith is a declaration of what we believe. The church must both believe and declare. The longest creed of history is more valuable and less hurtful than the shortest. While "the faith" has many articles, there is unity in them. They articulate. And it is intensely important to bring all members of the church into unity touching all the faith. This brings us to a consideration of
The means for securing unity. These are all of divine appointment. If we ask, what? They are all summed up in the one word "gifts." These gifts are men teaching men. As here enumerated they are:
Apostles, who are inspired.
Prophets, who are inspired.
Evangelists, who labor in the kingdom at large.
Pastors and teachers, whose work is in the particular churches.
The first two were inspired to fix the limits of the faith. The second two were illumined to understand and expound these limits. If we ask where are these gifts set, or placed? They are set in the church (1 Cor. 12:28). If we ask, why, i.e., to what end? This is the answer: "For the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ; till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." That is the answer to the positive side. Negatively it is expressed thus: "That we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error." The standard is the holy Scriptures.
The apostle now gives, under the figure of head and body, as a living organism, the most vivid description in the Bible of a well-organized and thoroughly instructed church: From Christ the head, "all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love."
This is an ideal church. It constitutes the standard of perfection toward which every pastor should work. It teaches not only that each individual member should have vital connection with Christ through faith, but should have living articulation connecting with the whole body of church members, and should contribute in due measure toward the development of the whole church. In other words, it excludes absolutely the idea of unsaved men in the church, and even of saved men who refuse to be articulated with others, and even those articulated who will not cooperate according to ability. So that it provides not only for individual salvation, but for the organization of individuals into a corporation and the full developments of corporate life.
To change the figure, it provides not only for good individual horses, but for a well-harnessed team of horses to pull together; not only for good individual soldiers, but for a well-drilled phalanx, moving and fighting as a unit. One balking horse spoils the team. One deserter from the line leaves an opening through which the enemy may penetrate and break up the phalanx.
Dr. Burleson used to say of a certain town: "It has more individual excellence, and more general worthlessness than any other town in Texas." He meant that they had no organized community life. Their magnified individuality went off in every direction on tangential lines. We Baptists, in stressing individual liberty, are continually sacrificing the power of united forces.
Just so the present trend toward cutting off every article of faith to which some individual crank may object, will, if tamely unresisted, leave the church without a creed and without a moral life. Turning away from doctrines toward God, we necessarily turn away from the injunction, "Love the brotherhood." We need to restudy Zechariah 11:10-14. Whenever the staff, "beauty," which binds us to God, is broken, then will be broken the staff, "bands," which binds us to each other.
This discussion is incomplete until we consider the source of the gifts which make for corporate unity and development. Our text declares that Christ is the author of the preacher gifts. The continued supply of these gifts results from his exaltation to the mediatorial throne and this exaltation results from the previous humiliation. The one who ascended to bestow the gifts is the very one who first descended to make the expiation which is the basis of the gifts. He was dead, but is alive forevermore.
We may close with these observations: (1) While even babes in Christ may be received into the church for further instruction and development, those appointed to instruct and develop must have far higher qualifications of character, capacity, and knowledge. The minimum of entrance qualification into the church can never be made the limit of the church creed, and especially cannot be made the limit of examination for ordination to the ministry. This would assume that a babe must teach a babe. (2) The limit of ordination examination on doctrine is the maximum of church creed on doctrine. The teacher must develop each new-born soul unto the ultimate height of church belief in doctrine. Therefore the injunction: "Lay hands suddenly on no man not on a novice." The minister must be "apt to teach." A teacher is one long past the milk diet, and who himself nourishes on stronger meat, by reason of use has his senses exercised to discern between good and evil. He must himself be "sound in the faith." Even a deacon must be a proved man, "sound in the faith." (3) Unless "the faith" is a needed creed of definite vital truth, there is no basis for examination looking to ordination and no standard up to which the convert must be developed. The church, being the pillar and ground of the truth, must have a standard of truth to uphold and conserve. Upon the one point of the mystery of godliness, Paul cites six distinct creed items. On the plan of salvation he cites many others. See Romans 8:28-30, 33-34; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; and on the ordinances yet others. (4) As the church must publish the truth, it must know what to publish. As the church must illustrate the truth in ordinances it must know the ordinances and their import. As the church must vindicate the truth in discipline, it must know what is a vindication of truth in either doctrine or life.
Again, I solemnly warn the reader against all who depreciate creeds, or who would reduce them to a minimum of entrance qualifications into the church.
1. Name the nine unities in Ephesians 4:1-16.
2. What side of the letter does this chapter commence?
3. What the philosophical relation between doctrines and morals?
4. What bearing has this relation on creeds?
5. What the particular effect of this modern cry: "Less creeds more liberty"?
6. Apply the foregoing to each one of the nine unities in order, making clear the meaning and result of each, citing appropriate scriptures.
7. What scriptures may be profitably studied in connection with Ephesians 4:1-16?
8. Why is a long creed better than a short one?
9. What the means of securing unity in doctrine, where placed, and why, both positively and negatively, and what the standard?
10. What the teaching of Ephesians 4:16?
11. Who the source of the gifts, and how the continual supply?
12. What the difference in standard between receiving converts into a church and a man into the ministry, and why?
THE NECESSITY OF REGENERATION
Ephesians 4:17 to 5:2l; 6:1-9
This section extends from Ephesians 4:17 to 6:9, except we leave out the illustration in 5:21-33, Christ and the Bride. That will follow in the next chapter.
Attention has already been called to the remarkable parallels between Colossians and Ephesians. They are nowhere more striking than in the exhortations to newness of life in the world and in the family. In both we find the sharp distinction between the philosophy of a corrupt life and the philosophy of a pure life.
Effects are traced in each case to an adequate cause. The unrenewed nature causes the first. The renewed nature, which is a new creation, causes the second. Nowhere else in the Scriptures, except perhaps in Romans I and 7, is there more clearly shown the power and depravity of original sin, the inheritance of sin nature, and the necessity of regeneration in order to a life of holiness. That is the capital thought in this section.
The two sources of such divergent life are here called the "old man," and the "new man." In the first the fruit is bad because the tree is bad. In the second the fruit is good because the tree has first been made good. The whole exhortation powerfully expounds the words of our Lord to Nicodemus: "Except a man be born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God," therefore, "Marvel not that I said unto you, Ye must be born again." If any man has any doubt about the necessity of regeneration, let him read this section. It is the most powerful argument on the necessity of regeneration anywhere in the Bible.
Henry Ward Beecher, the great Congregationalist preacher, who had several heretical tendencies, was once subjected to an examination on orthodoxy before a council of his people. I have the paper which he submitted at that time. One of the points on which he was examined was the subject of regeneration. He said, "I unswervingly hold to the necessity of regeneration by the Holy Spirit in order to be a Christian." That looks all right. But when one of the examiners asked, "Do you hold that regeneration is necessary for any other reason than the actual transgressions of men?" What a searching question that! His reply was a dodge: "I believe that a man needs to be regenerated because he is an animal." He would not admit original sin. He would not admit inherited depravity. He said that the Adam man was an animal and must be regenerated before he can become a spiritual man in Christ. That was new to me. Beecher was one of the most remarkable thinkers the world has ever known. Nobody else would have thought of replying just that way. If I had been there I would have asked Mr. Beecher some questions on the letter to the Ephesians.
The reader will notice that every gradation in process of corruption is set forth with philosophical power in this section. In analyzing it we see that he starts with spiritual ignorance. That produces vanity of mind, darkness of understanding, and alienation from the life of God. Then evil practice hardens the heart until we lose sensitiveness to right and wrong, become past feeling, so that the whole life is surrendered to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
How much we are reminded here of the terrible process set forth in Romans 1:21-32! There also the whole process is given: "Because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their imaginations, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." Because they did not like to retain the knowledge of God, God gave them up to reprobate minds, to the working out of all evil passion. Read the whole of that awful indictment against the Gentile world.
A great missionary in the early days here in Texas preached for me in Waco on this theme: "Are the heathen lost without the gospel?" His answer was, "Yes, lost." He took the first chapter of Romans and showed how what is there said fits just as well to conditions in heathen lands today as then; that human nature is always the same, and that through the fall of Adam an evil nature was inherited. That evil nature develops into acts. The wicked man waxes worse and worse and finally becomes crystallized, past feeling, without God, and without hope in the world. That was once the condition of these Ephesians. Many of them were Greeks, who prided themselves upon the greatest intellectual development in the world. Highest in art, science, sculpture, painting, eloquence, philosophy, they thought themselves the cream of the earth, but notwithstanding this culture their moral corruption was extreme. But new in Christ, renewed in mind, they are exhorted to put off the old man with his lusts, his anger, falsehood, idleness, theft, evil speaking, bitterness, clamor, railing, malice, fornication, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talking and jesting, and drunkenness. These are overt acts. As soon as we are renewed in Christ we are obliged and empowered to put on the new man with his truth, industry, generosity, thankfulness, spirituality, mercy, love, praise, and prayer.
We see in the letter to the Galatians the fruits of the two trees contrasted. Galatians 5:22: "The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law." Galatians 5:19: "The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like." When I was a young preacher I preached a sermon on the two trees the tree of the flesh and the tree of the Spirit and stated that some people spend half a lifetime trying to find out whether or not they are converted. I held up these two trees, saying, "Under which tree do you stand? There is a practical way of knowing that you are a child of God. Here are the things that are the fruits of the flesh, and here are the things that are the fruits of the Spirit. You know the fruit of your life; judge from that. If a man sows to the flesh, he reaps corruption; if he sows to the Spirit, he reaps life everlasting." Our Lord said, "By their fruits ye shall know them." The carnal nature and spiritual nature are opposites and antagonists. He had already shown the source of the different fruits: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." They are just as wide apart as possible. There is, however, one difficulty in reaching a correct judgment from the fruit, to wit: Even the renewed man, until sanctification is complete, finds a war in himself, as we learn from Romans 7. Sometimes the soul is on top and sometimes the fleshly lusts. In such cases there are yet two ways of ascertainment:
1. What is the trend of the life, good or evil, and is there progress toward the good?
2. Which trend does the person deliberately encourage and make provision for?
"You may not be able to keep a bird from lighting on your head, but you can keep him from building a nest in your hair." "You may not be able to keep the devil from knocking at your door, but you are able to refrain from asking him to spend the night."
In this careful elaboration of both good and evil fruits there are several expressions calling for special notice: "Be ye angry and sin not: let not the sun go down on your wrath: neither give place to the devil." The first part of this statement shows that there is no sin per se in indignation against a wrong. Christ became terribly indignant at many evils which he saw in his day. We cannot stand by and see a great, burly boy browbeat and evil treat a weak little fellow without being indignant, that is, if we are any good ourselves. If a man sees a snake creeping up just about to strike a child, love in that case reaches out after a stick and hits quickly, and hits to hurt. In this way a man may be angry and sin not.
We come now to a nice point of discrimination: In our indignation at what is wrong there is a great hazard of committing a sin, so our text puts in three cautions. One is, "do not let the sun go down on your wrath," that is, "do not cherish it until it breaks out in the wrong direction get rid of it before night." When a man carries anger in his heart and broods over it for a week, or a year, or waits, as Absalom did, two years before striking, it grows into malice. There are two things the sun ought never to go down on, viz.: Never let the sun go down on your anger cool off before night and never let it go down on unpaid wages due a day laborer. Many are entirely dependent on each day's pay. So let us pay our washerwomen and not forget that there are some obligations that a gentleman cannot defer. The next danger in anger is this: We are apt, if we are very hot about a matter, to take vengeance into our own hands. I will cite a passage which explains: "Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God; for it is written, vengeance belongeth to me; I will recompense, saith the Lord. But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."
I knew a man once to make a wrong application of that. While he was conducting family prayer his boy kept doing something that angered him, and he overcame evil with good by throwing the family Bible at him and knocking him down, which was not promotive of reverence for that service.
No matter how angry we get, we should never forget that vengeance is a divine prerogative. Nobody is qualified to take vengeance except God. He never forgets, and he takes everything into account. Our text says, "Neither give place to the devil." When a Christian gets angry there stands the devil, whispering, "Hit him!" "Kill him!" "Take vengeance in your own hands!"
I saw a man once walk the floor for hours, and finally I said to him, "What is the matter?" "I am trying," said he, "to get rid of a desire to get on the train, go to a certain place and cowhide a man until his skin hangs in strings. It is not right for me to do that, but I am continually reaching out my hand and trying to take hold of the thunderbolt of the Almighty and hurl it."
The question has been asked, "What bearing has Ephesians 4:19, 'being past feeling' on the unpardonable sin?" It is the tendency of turning away from light to have less light; turning away from the feeling to have less feeling. A young man in a protracted meeting may be wonderfully impressed. He is convinced that the Bible is true, that Christ is a Saviour and that he is a sinner. He is stirred up over the matter, and feels impelled to go and fall upon his knees and say, "God have mercy on my soul," but says, "Not right now at a more convenient season some other time." The next time he will not feel that impression as strong as the first time. The third time he feels it still less, and after a while he is past feeling cannot be awakened. The sun shines on wax and melts it. The sun shines on soft clay and hardens it. So light followed gets brighter; light neglected dims into darkness. Being past feeling may well, in some cases, indicate the unpardonable sin, but not in all cases. Some feel, by anticipation, the pangs of hell. Remorse can be active when there is no repentance.
The next particular passage is verse 28: "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have whereof to give him that hath need." The point that I want to impress is this: Many people in the church think, because they have no real estate, no bank account, and are not rich, that they ought not to help. They say, "I have nothing." Here is the answer: "Go to work, get something, and help. You have strength." One of the sweetest offerings ever laid upon the altar of God is the offering of the poor which is the result of the labor of their hands.
One day when I was taking up a great collection, people calling out in hundreds all over the house, an old woman, who had to be helped up, came on her crutches to the table and put on the table a pair of socks which she had knit. I felt the tears running down my face, and I almost listened to hear a voice from heaven say, "Behold, she hath done more than they all!" She felt that she had a right to help, even if she was poor, and that God did not require her to give beyond her ability. She could labor with her hands and make a contribution.
Next consider specially 5:4: "Nor filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not befitting." This is the "fly in the apothecary's ointment" in the case of many preachers. Many a good meeting has been ruined by the talk in the preacher's tent. Let a young man who has been deeply concerned about his salvation hear that foolish talking and jesting in the hour of the preacher's relaxation, and it hurts him; he is led to question the sincerity of the previous exhortation.
That is why, in my young manhood, I made a covenant with Dr. Riddle, moderator of our association, that we would never tell an obscene anecdote and never let anybody tell us one. He and I made that covenant when camping out on the prairie between Waco and Groesbeck. Afterward many people joined us in that covenant. It had a marked effect. I would like to see every preacher solemnly enter into an agreement with God to set a watch before his lips, to avoid foolish jesting and foolish, obscene stories.
I was in a stage traveling from Canyon to Plainview, one other Christian besides myself on the stage, and two worldly sinners. One of them started to tell a very vulgar anecdote. I said, "Stop! I imagine that is going to be tough. Let me get out and walk; I do not want to hear it. I am willing to help you while away the time by telling anecdotes, if they be good ones without any twang in them." He said, "If you will let me tell this one, I will not tell any more." "But I do not want to hear that one; I know it is bad, and I do not want to hear it." "Why?" he asked. "Sir," I said, "I made a covenant with a man who is now in heaven that I would never allow any one to tell me a smutty anecdote." "Well," he said, "Dr. Carroll, I respect your wishes in the matter." I said to him, "Now you feel better; you have a better taste in your mouth."
The next passage is 5:5: "Nor a covetous man, who is an idolater." Just look at that language! We claim that idolatry has passed away. But there stands that text: "A covetous man is an idolater." He worships an idol, and that idol is money.
No devotee ever bowed before Moloch, or any other hideous idol in China or India, who was more of an idolater than a covetous man is.
When I was a boy a book of poetry was largely read called Pollok's Course of Time. I am sorry people stopped reading it. It describes a miser in hell with the devil pouring melted gold down his throat.
The miser is the meanest, ghastliest, grizzliest of all gross men!
Milton does the same thing in Paradise Lost when he comes to describe Mammon. He makes other demons somewhat respectable, but when he comes to Mammon, there is nothing in him to admire.
We now notice 5:7. Here arises the question, "What are you going to do with this evil tide all around you?" (.1) "Be ye not partakers with them." We cannot help what they do, but we should not be partakers. (2) We should have no fellowship with their unfruitful works. (3) We should reprove them. I do not say that we ought to go out on the streets and denounce them. Our lives will reprove them if we show by the way we live that we do not touch those things. We cannot walk down the street without condemning them.
Again, verse 14: "Wherefore he sayeth, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon thee." That is a great text. Who can locate that text in the Bible? On that passage one of the greatest sermons I ever read is by Dr. Addison Alexander, a Presbyterian. I give the divisions of his sermon:
1. Sin is a state of darkness "Christ shall give thee light."
2. A state of sleep "Awake, thou that sleepest."
3. A state of death "Arise from the dead."
Let us look at 5:18: "Be not drunken with the wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit." There are two kinds of intoxication, one of wine and one of the Holy. Spirit. I have seen people under the intoxication of the Spirit. I remember one lady one of the sweetest ladies I ever knew. I was not a Christian, but it did me good to watch her in a meeting. When the power of the Spirit would begin to fill her heart, she would begin to show her intoxication. Her face would become luminous, her lips would quiver and she would commence to sing: "Oh, Love Divine, how sweet thou art." It was like the rustling of the wings of an angel.
A preacher oftentimes needs a stimulant. The trouble is that some of them take the wrong kind. One thing I know: Nobody respects a preacher who, before he enters the pulpit, takes a little toddy or opium to enable him to take hold of things lively while in the pulpit. One of the most brilliant preachers in the South made a shipwreck of himself that way. I was called on to preach for him in his church, and when he got up to make his introductory remarks he was braced up right sharply with whiskey, and said some very foolish things. He could get a church anywhere at first, but at last he could get a church nowhere. Whenever we want to be stimulated, we should go off and pray. As we are infilled with the Spirit, we become enthusiastic; a divine afflatus rests upon us, enabling us to think thoughts that breathe, to speak words that burn and to sing songs that have more convincing power than the sermon. That is spiritual intoxication.
It is often a practical question: "What shall we do with exuberant feelings?" How may we find a safe vent for our enthusiasms, ecstasies, exultations? Edward Eggleston tells of a crowd of intoxicated boys raising this very question. One of them said, "Let's do something lu-dick-er-ous." When asked what he would call a "ludickerous" thing he replied, "Let's go and rock the Dutchman's house." There was one inoffensive German in the neighborhood, and their rocking his house led to some costly and disastrous results. But verse 19 suggests a better and safer vent: "Speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord." I have known churches intoxicated with the Spirit to do that very thing, the members going from house to house holding glorious song services that did much to deepen and widen the religious awakening.
From the general discussion of "the old" and "the new man" expressed in life's work, he turns to the application in life's relation, viz.: husband and wife, parent and child, master and servant, pointing out clearly as he does in other letters the reciprocal obligations, but as these relations have been discussed in the letter to the Colossians, we pass them here.
1. What philosophy of a good or evil life does this section give?
2. What the bearing of the philosophy on the necessity of regeneration in order to a good life?
3. Cite the case of Henry Ward Beecher's examination by a council of his people.
4. Are the heathen lost without the gospel?
5. What our Lord's standard for our judgment of men's professions?
6. What the difficulty in applying this test, and how obviated?
7. Expound: "Be ye angry and sin not."
8. What the first hazard in being angry, and how guarded?
9. What the second, and how obviated?
10. What the third, and how obviated?
11. What the bearing of "past feeling" on the unpardonable sin?
12. Show how the poor should help in Christ's work. 13, What danger attends the preacher's hours of relaxation, and what examples cited?
14. Prove that we have idolaters among us.
15. What two poets describe the miser?
16. Where do you find the quotation: "Awake, thou that sleepest, etc.," who preached a great sermon on the text, and what his outline?
17. What two intoxications are contrasted?
18. What prescription in this section for finding a safe vent to religious exuberance, and what Edward Eggleston's account of a different vent for worldly exuberance?
THE CHURCH IN GLORY
Ephesians 5:22-33; 6:10-24.
This chapter closes the exposition of the letter to the Ephesians, elaborating the twelfth and thirteenth items of our analysis, to wit: Christ and the bride, or the church in glory. The Christian's enemy, warfare and armor.
First, we will expound the relation between Christ and his church, so far as set forth under the figure of husband and wife. We need to recall so much of the first part of our definition of the word "church" in New Testament usage as applied to our subject: "In the divine purpose from eternity and in its consummation in glory, the whole number of the redeemed are conceived of as a unit, set forth in the Scripture under the figure of the bride, or wife, of the Lamb." This divine conception was foreshadowed in Eve, the first woman, derived from Adam, the first man, so as by derivation to be bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. As Adam was the head, or lord, over Eve, so is Christ head, or Lord, of the church. As Eve was .derived from Adam, being made a part of himself, extracted from his side in a deep sleep, so the church is derived from the body of Christ in the sleep of vicarious death on the cross. As Eve, when fashioned gloriously, was presented to Adam and united to him in marriage, to be his companion, so the church, when complete as to its number, and complete as to the glorification of each member, will be presented to Christ and married to him, to be his companion forever. Under this imagery the church is the mystical bride of the Lamb.
The reader will readily see that the church in this mystical sense has no real existence now except in the continuous preparation of its members. It is not yet a church except in purpose, plan, and prospect. It is called a church by anticipation. Some of its members are already prepared in both soul and body, for example, Enoch and Elijah, and perhaps those who rose after Christ's resurrection (Matt. 27-53). Some are prepared in spirit, and constitute the "spirits of the Just made perfect," whose bodies yet sleep. Some on earth yet are prepared so far as regeneration, justification and adoption go, but are not yet sanctified in spirit or glorified in body. By far the greater number are not yet even born. To be a church they must be assembled and organized. What is called the "presentation and marriage" is a definite transaction yet for the future.
We hear much of the "universal church." The word, katholikos ("universal"), is not found in the Greek Bible in either the Old or the New Testament. When those so fond of this phrase as expressive of a now existing church are called on to define it, they go to pieces. Some of them say it means all existing denominations, which are branches of the church. Others say that it means all the particular churches collectively. Yet others, that it means all living Christians, whether or not they are members of the church. And so they go. In all probability, i.e., judging from the prophecies of the uncountable number that will ultimately be saved, not one thousandth part of the elect are yet in existence. How can a thousandth part of the whole be universal?
It has no actual existence beyond the preparation of material for it, constantly going on. One may say, "I believe in the Catholic (universal) church," just as he may say, "I believe in the judgment to come," "I believe in the second advent," "I believe in the regeneration of the earth."
The whole of the modern Baptist idea of a now existent "universal, invisible church" was borrowed from pedobaptist confessions of faith in the Reformation times, and the pedobaptists devised it to offset the equally erroneous idea of the Romanist "universal visible church." We need to be well indoctrinated on this point, because the error is not harmless. It is used to depreciate Christ's earth church, "the pillar and ground of the truth."
Let us carefully analyze the paragraph before us:
1. "Christ loved the church," that is, he loved the people who were to be given to him all of them. In eternity a joy was set before him a future reward.
2. "He gave himself for it," that is, he died for his promised people. They in prospect constituted the travail of his soul. It was promised that he should see the travail of his soul and be satisfied.
3. He will cleanse it in order to its holiness. Our text reads, "that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it."
4. This cleansing is to be by "the washing of water with the word" that is, a method of cleansing was established. In the Old Testament time this cleansing was by the water of purification, which was the sprinkling on the unclean the ashes of the red heifer mingled with water. The sprinkling was done with a bunch of hyssop. (See Numbers 19; Psalm 51:7; Ezekiel 36:25). This typical water of purification finds its antitype in the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:13-14). So that the washing of water in our text means simply the application of the blood of Christ by the Holy Spirit in regeneration. Hence it is called "the washing of regeneration" (Titus 3:5). In regeneration there are always two elements: (1) Cleansing by the application of Christ's blood; (2) Renewing or changing the heart, or nature (Ezek. 36:25-26; Titus 3:5) : Christ gave himself for his people that he might cleanse them by washing them in his blood. (See revised text of Revelation 7:14; 22:14.) This cleansing is also, of course, "by the word." It is the gospel preached that leads to regeneration. (See John 1:9,13,15; James 1: 18; 1 Peter 1:23; l Corinthians 4:15.) The word of God is not only an instrumentality of the cleansing part of regeneration but also of the continued sanctification. It includes all expressed in the prayer for the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 5:23), "body, soul, and spirit" and "wholly." It includes the glorification of the body. So that when complete it is a glorious church, not having spot nor wrinkle nor any such thing, but that it be complete in the presence of all its members, and complete in the full salvation of every member.
5. He makes it holy. Our text says, "That he might sanctify it, having cleansed it." Cleansing or regeneration first, then holiness. "Sanctify" here may not mean to set apart, to consecrate. The glorified church is set apart to its eternal mission, but more naturally "to make holy," as is implied by the next thought.
6. "That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish." This means complete holiness as God is holy. This presentation is the offering of the Bride to the Groom at the marriage altar. She is adorned as a bride for her husband. Psalm 45, which is intensely messianic, anticipates this presentation thus: Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; Forget also thine own people, and thy father's house: So will the king desire thy beauty; For he is thy Lord; and reverence thou him. PSALM 45:10-11 The king's daughter within the palace is all glorious: Her clothing is inwrought with gold. She shall be led unto the king in broidered work. PSALM 45:13-14a
7. Then follows the marriage. Let inspiration describe it: "And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunders, saying Hallelujah: for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigneth. Let us rejoice and be exceeding glad, and let us give the glory unto him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And it was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright and pure: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they that are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Rev. 19:6-9).
The event here described is the crowning glory of the future. It follows the advent of our Lord. He will come in glory. He will bring with him the spirits of the just made perfect. He will raise and glorify their bodies. He will transfigure the living saints. He will catch up all the redeemed to himself in the air and thus separate between the sheep and the goats. He thus assumes his mystical body, the church, as at his first advent he assumed the body of his humiliation, and as in his second advent he assumed the resurrection body of his glory.
How vivid the picture in Matthew 25:5-12: "Now while the bridegroom tarried, the virgins all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, Behold the Bridegroom! Come ye forth to meet him. . . . And they that were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us I But he answered them and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not."
On this great day is fulfilled the scripture: "He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied." Now to the universe appears "the riches of his inheritance in the saints." "When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all them that believed."
We thus see in these prison letters of Paul the several meanings of the word "church," all illustrated:
As an institution, it is one new man made out of the Jew and Gentile; it is one commonwealth in which both alike are citizens. It is one temple. It is one body. It is one bride. As an institution it is appointed to instruct angels, and to be the depository of the divine glory unto all generations.
As a particular church, in which alone this institution finds expression, "each several building fitly framed together groweth into a holy temple of the Lord for a habitation of God in the Spirit." Each particular church is a body "fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part."
As a glory church it includes all the redeemed, and each one of the redeemed saved fully, in body, soul, and spirit. The use of the word "church" in a sense too broad for application to a particular church must be found in this letter, if anywhere. In view of this fact, it is fortunate that we have such historical passages touching the Ephesian church as appear in Acts 20:17-39 and 1 Timothy 3:14. In both these passages there can be no doubt that the address concerns the particular church at Ephesus, and yet these broad terms are used: "Take heed to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood." "These things write I unto thee . . . that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." There is no term so broad, whether house, temple, body, flock, bride, but may be applied to a particular church, because each particular church in itself alone foreshadows the church in glory.
The several steps which lead up to the assembling, organization, visibility, and locality of the universal church the steps which lead to its constitution are as clearly set forth in the Scriptures as the steps looking to the constitution of any particular earth church. These steps are as follows:
1. Jesus will come, bringing with him the souls in heaven ( 1 Thess. 4:13-14).
2. He raises and glorifies their bodies ( 1 Thess. 4:16).
3. He glorifies without death the Christians then living, ( 1 Cor. 15:51-55).
4. Both classes are caught up in the clouds with the Lord ( 1 Thess. 4:17). This is the separation of the righteous from the wicked (Matt. 13:24-30; 24:27-31; 25:10, 31-32). They are now for the first time an assembly an organization and they can discern between the righteous and the wicked (Mal. 3:17,19).
5. At this time the world is purified by fire (Mal. 4: 1-3; 2 Peter 3:4-12; Rom. 8:19-23).
6. Presentation and marriage of the bride (Eph. 5:27; Psalm 45:10-15; Rev. 19:6-9).
7. The church then sits on the throne and with Christ judges the evil man and angels (Rev. 3:21; 1 Cor. 6:2-3; Matt. 19:28). This judgment is final (Matt. 25:41-46; Rev. 20:11-15).
8. There is now a redeemed earth, purified by fire (2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21:1) and the glorified church rules therein (Rev. 21:2-27); so that lost paradise with its tree of life is regained (Rev. 22:1-15) and at last "the meek inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5).
9. The wicked, both men and angels, having bowed the knee and confessed Christ's sovereignty (Phil. 2:10), are isolated forever in their final prison (Rev. 20:14-15; Matt. 25:41, 46) and so the pacification is complete and then cometh the end ( 1 Cor. 15:24-28).
The entrance qualifications for the church in glory may be summed up in one sentence: The complete and eternal salvation of the entire man body, soul, and spirit. That derivation of the woman from the man, and God's uniting them in marriage, while a historical fact, foreshadowed a greater mystery the derivation of the church from the Lord, and their final marriage in heaven.
The latter part of this book commences with 6:6 and goes to the end of the chapter. This paragraph presents to us the Christian's warfare, the Christian's enemies, and the Christian's armor. We make a very great mistake if we think that in the happy hour of our conversion all trouble, battle, and strife are over. They have just commenced. That is the day we enlisted. The whole war is ahead of us not a war for our salvation, but a war in Christian service. The writer brings out very clearly the nature of the enemies with which the Christian has to contend. He expressly says that they are not human enemies not flesh and blood. He must not be understood as denying that "the flesh" is an enemy, for that enmity has been clearly expressed in Romans 7, but "flesh and blood" as here used mean simply human enemies who are unimportant when compared with the superhuman enemies of whom he speaks. He refers to these greater enemies and specifies thus: "Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood (human enemies), but against principalities, against powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places." These are the enemies in his mind. He tells us who is the leader of these enemies: "That we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."
It is the teaching of the Scriptures that Satan, a distinct angelic person, sinned in heaven and led away with him a great number of angels. My own judgment of the occasion of that sin is that he revolted against being put lower than man. God having announced that the new creature, which at first was made for a season a little lower than the angels, would ultimately be put above the angels and that the angels should be ministering spirits unto them. That caused the revolt of Satan in heaven. That was the cause of his downfall, and it also accounts for his enmity to the human race.
Having been expelled from heaven because he refused to submit to this divine enactment, he determined to wage a perpetual warfare against man to thwart the purpose of God that man should be put above the angels. That accounts for the introduction of sin on earth, in the garden of Eden. He determined to bring about the downfall of the human race. If he could make them enemies to God, and God an enemy to them, they would become his subjects, and he would still be over them.
He certainly did win his fight in the garden of Eden. He captured the whole world in capturing the head of the human race, and from that time on the whole human race has been in bondage to Satan. He and his evil spirits are the world rulers. He dictates its maxims of pleasure and business. Of course, when grace comes in to destroy the work of the devil and to rescue the human race from his dominion, and people were converted into the power of this grace, the devil did not give up the fight. If he cannot destroy Christians who have escaped from him, he at least can worry them, and he will wage a warfare against Christian people who, as he calls them, are rebels against him. They were in his kingdom, and are now trying to pull down his strongholds, lessen his empire, and spread revolt in his kingdom.
It is to the reality and intensity of this struggle that the apostle calls attention here. He is very careful to teach that Christians unaided are unable to cope with such adversaries that if they go into this fight, they need to go into it protected in every possible way defensively, and equipped with effective offensive weapons.
In a most beautiful allegory Bunyan brings out the whole thought. As soon as Christian gets rid of the burden of sin at the cross, he is led to the Interpreter's house (the house of the Holy Spirit), where many things are explained to him, and before he starts off on his pilgrimage to heaven he is led into the armory, where he puts on the armor which God has provided for his people. Long before a child can appreciate the spiritual significance of the book, he is delighted and carried away with its imagery of warfare. Christian soon, in going down the hill Difficulty, commits a sin and meets Apollyon, who straddles his pathway. There ensues a terrible conflict. The book in its allegorical form describes the victory which Christian won over Apollyon.
Our text says that in view of these enemies, in view of the wiles of the devil and his demons, on account of their cunning, on account of their malice, on account of the hold that they have on the Christian through the remains of his carnal nature yet with him, for he is not yet sanctified, and in going out to this battle he needs an armor, or panoply. The idea is doubtless suggested to Paul by the fact that even as he wrote he was chained to the soldier of the Praetorian guard, the most formidable of Roman soldiers. The soldier has on a helmet, breastplate, a military girdle, war sandals, and has a sharp two-edged sword, certainly the most formidable weapon ever devised for warfare, and a long shield with which, when he goes out into battle, he protects himself. So Paul takes this imagery to show how the Christian must guard against the wiles of the devil that the Christian must be panoplied.
As has been said, Paul illustrates by the armor of a Roman soldier, so familiar to him from being chained to one of the Praetorian guard every day. The pieces of armor specified are all defensive, except the sword and prayer, which are offensive weapons. The office of the girdle was to gather up and hold together both the loose dress and parts of the armor. In the place of this girdle he offers truth, that is, the truth of the gospel. In the place of the breastplate, whose office is to protect the heart, he offers righteousness. Of course this raises the question, Whose righteousness Christ's as imputed, or the Christian's own right doing? Something May be said for the second, but more for the first. It is true that right doing is a conscious defense against false charges. But the devil is not apt to confine himself to false charges. He will hurl the fiery dart of true charge against some weakness, infirmity and sin of the Christian. The imputed righteousness of Christ is impervious to any missile whatever.
The office of the spiked sandal was to insure safe footing on slippery or treacherous ground. For this he offers the preparation of the gospel of peace. Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, and if God be for us who can be against us? Peace in the heart, the peace of God which passeth all understanding, will aid to step surely and stand firmly.
The office of the helmet is to protect the head, another vital part, and for this Paul offers salvation. He means salvation so far as justification goes, and all its pledges. The thought is: "He that believeth hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation." If God justifies, who can condemn? Who can lay any charge to God's elect? This thought nourished in the heart protects from any fiery dart of doubt Satan may hurl at the mind.
The office of the shield is more general. It is carried on the left arm and covers the whole vital part of the body. In the place of this, Paul offers faith. But the question arises: Is faith itself a shield, or is it the hand that interposes the true shield? In Genesis 15, where, in giving an account of Abraham's conversion, so many new words appear for the first time in the Bible, among them, "shield," "believe," "imputed righteousness," God says, "I am thy shield." God, then, is the shield of faith the shield that faith lays hold of and interposes between the soul and danger. We are not equal to Satan. God is greater than Satan. When we see Satan coming faith puts God, the shield, between our weakness and Satan; we hide behind God. One of Aesop's fables says. "A kid standing on the roof of a house railed at a wolf passing by, to whom the wolf replied: Not you, but the roof raileth at me." This fable teaches that time and place often make the timid brave. A timid little fellow gets behind a big brother and valorously shakes his fist at an opponent from whom he had just fled.
One of the great magazines-illustrated that point. Andrew Johnson wanted to get rid of Secretary Stanton. Stanton refused to resign or to be removed, and defied Johnson, whereupon Johnson appointed U. S. Grant war secretary. Stanton dared not defy him. The magazine, in telling the illustration, pictures the irate and terrible Stanton charging on the little President, but just before he get to him, Johnson reaches back and pulls Grant in front of him. Under the picture it reads: "Let me see you hit him!" So faith puts God, its shield, between us and the devil.
The office of the sword is offensive. With it an enemy is thrust or smitten. Paul commends as the Christian's sword the Word of God. This is called the sword of the Spirit, not merely because the Spirit inspired it, but also because the Spirit gives it point and edge when rightly used. Just here we need to connect Hebrews 4:12: "For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of the soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart." With this compare Isaiah 49:2 and Hosea 6:5. The most striking example for us in the right use of this sword against Satan is our Lord's use of "It is written" in replying to Satan's temptation. Another one is the case of Michael mentioned in Jude 6.
The second offensive weapon of the Christian is prayer: "With all prayer and supplication, praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints."
This praying covers a wide field: (1) All prayer and supplication. (2) At all seasons. (3) In the Spirit. (4) Watching thereunto. (5) In all perseverance. (6) For all the saints.
Helmet, breastplate, girdle, sandals, and shield are defensive they protect us. The Word of God, and prayer, are offensive weapons; with them we smite Satan. Satan trembles when he sees The weakest saint upon his knees. Cromwell's Ironsides, about to join battle, first prayed, then, singing a battle song, they smote with the sword.
1. Give so much of the definition of the word "church" as relates to Christ as bridegroom and the church as bride.
2. In what sense only does this glory church now exist?
3. Why must we call it a church in prospect, and not an actuality?
4. What is the Greek word for "universal," and how often is it used in Greek Old Testament and New Testament?
5. Where do all break down who claim that there is now a universal church? Cite examples.
6. Who invented the phrase, "A universal, spiritual, invisible, church," and why, and how did Baptists obtain it?
7. In analyzing the paragraph, point out what Christ did or will do.
8. Expound the cleansing, showing Old Testament type and New Testament type, giving scriptures.
9. What the instrumentality employed, and what the scriptures?
10. When this marriage between Christ and the church, and what scriptures?
11. As this letter, more than any other, gives the usage of the word "church" in broad senses, show from Acts and Timothy the application of these broad terms to the particular church at Ephesus.
12. Cite every use of the word "church," or any corresponding in this letter, and locate each use under one of three heads the church as an institution, a particular church, the glory church.
13. Give carefully all the steps of the constitution of the glory church.
14. What its entrance qualifications?
15. Who the Christian's most formidable adversaries?
16. How are Christians qualified to cope with them?
17. What great Baptist author illustrates all this in an allegory?
18. Name and explain each piece of defensive armor.
19. Give the offensive pieces, and an illustration of each.
20. What circumstances of Paul's prison condition suggested the imagery?
AUTHOR'S INTRODUCTION PART I
This letter has evoked more controversy than any other New Testament book except Revelation. The controversy has been mainly on two points, somewhat related its canonicity and authorship. A book may be determined canonical whose author may not be named in the text not otherwise determinable. But while positive knowledge of the author is not essential to canonicity, it strengthens the claim, if the author is shown to be a prophet or an apostle.
CANONICITY OF THE LETTER
The elaborate discussion of this question belongs to the department of historical introduction, but a condensed yet reliable statement of the case is here given:
1. In the East its place among the New Testament books has never been seriously questioned.
2. In the West: (1) It was recognized as authoritative in the first century, as appears from the letter of Clement, pastor at Rome, about A.D. 96, addressed to the church at Corinth. Irenaeus speaks of Clement as embodying in his letter the teaching which he had recently received from the apostles. (2) From the end of the second century to the close of the fourth its place in the New Testament books was retained, but its apostolic origin questioned by some. Jerome states the case in his time thus: "The epistle to the Hebrews is not included in the Latin canon, nor Revelation in the Greek canon, and yet we receive both; following by no means the usage of the present time, but the authority of ancient writers, who for the most part freely refer to passages of both as canonical." (3) From the end of the fourth century it was firmly established in the Western canon, and remained undisturbed for more than a thousand years. (4) In the Reformation period, like many other books, it was subjected to doubt, both on authorship and somewhat of its matter. Some examples will indicate the nature of the doubt:
Erasmus denied both the received title and subscription and the Pauline authorship, but says, "I do not think that the faith is exposed to peril if the whole church be mistaken in regard to the title of this epistle (the title attributed to Paul) so long as it is settled that the Holy Ghost is its author, and on this point we are agreed."
Luther questioned Paul's authorship because, as he interpreted them, some passages, particularly 6:4-6, were unlike Paul. He is the first to suggest, by way of a mere guess, that Apollos was the author, and others since have adopted his guess, notably Henry Ward Beecher.
Calvin wrote, "I, indeed, embrace it without controversy among the apostolic epistles. . . . As to the question, 'Who composed it,' we need not trouble ourselves much." Much later, Dean Alford: "Nowhere are the main doctrines of the faith more purely or more majestically set forth; nowhere holy scripture urged with greater authority and cogency; nowhere those marks, in short, which distinguish the first rank of primitive Christian writings from the second are more unequivocably and continuously present."
Without multiplying citations we may count it settled that the letter to the Hebrews is an integral and very important part of the inspired Word of God. The questions evoking discussion, and wide divergence of views, are: When, where, to whom, and by whom written?
Canonicity established and conceded, it may be asked, Why consider the relatively unimportant questions of author, date, place, and persona addressed? The sufficient reply is, that answers to these questions will aid much not only in the interpretation of the book itself and of other books as well, but what is more important, the relation of the New Testament books to each other, and their adjustment as component parts of a complete and final revelation of God to man, will appear. When these books are considered in their adjustment, New Testament revelations is no longer so many disjoined fragments, but a complete and symmetrical system of orderly developed truth.
The reader will understand that on these matters not vital, and concerning which the best scholars of Christendom have honestly differed, there must be no assumption of dogmatism. With the utmost respect for the opinions of others, with our own fallibility of judgment premised, we will for ourselves approach the subject in our own way, announcing in advance that our conclusions are no mightier than the arguments back of them. First of all, then, come
THE TITLE AND SUBSCRIPTION
In our common version the title reads "The Epistle of Paul, the Apostle, to the Hebrews." And the subscription reads: "Written to the Hebrews from Italy by Timothy." In the Canterbury revision, the title is simply "To the Hebrews," and there is no subscription. It is at once conceded that the oldest New Testament manuscripts support the Canterbury revision, both as to the superscription and the subscription, and yet it cannot be denied that both are evidence of an early and general conviction that Paul wrote this letter from Italy by Timothy.
Our next question is: Who are intended by "The Hebrews"? It accords with well-established usage to employ the term "Hebrews" to distinguish Palestinian Jews from Hellenists, or Jews of the dispersion, as in Acts 6, but the word may also be employed to distinguish Jews from Gentiles. In every case the context determines whether the term must be understood in its restricted or general sense. In other words, if the subject matter applies equally to the Hebrew people, regardless of locality, we cannot fairly limit it to the Palestinian Jews. You may not say this letter was written to the Jerusalem Jews merely because the superscription says, "To the Hebrews." Paul himself claimed to be a Hebrew of the Hebrews, and yet he was not a Palestinian Jew, but a Cilician one of the dispersion. It cannot be questioned that both the argument and the exhortation apply to Jews abroad as well as to the Jews at home. We must gather, then, from the letter itself the locality of the persons addressed. Indeed, the superscription, no matter who put it there, tells us nothing more than, yea, not as much as the letter itself. From the initial sentence to the benediction the letter is to the Jews only, as if there was not a Gentile in the world. Nor may we in advance say that it was written to the Jews of one city only, that is, to Jerusalem Jews, or Alexandrian Jews, or Ephesian Jews, or Roman Jews. Everything in the letter is too general to admit of such an extreme local restriction. One thing however, everybody will admit it was written exclusively to Jews professing to be Christians. Neither saint nor sinner, ancient or modern, denies that. It being evident beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was written to Christian Jews, the question recurs to Christian Jews, where?
Forgetting everything we may have heard, believed, or read, let us go to the letter itself for light. Let us open our book and read the following passages: 5:12-14; 6:1-3; 6:10; 10:32-34; 12:4; 13:3, 18, 19, 23.
From these passages the following facts appear:
1. The religious history of the persons addressed was well and personally known to the writer and he to them.
2. Considerable time had elapsed since their conversion.
3. They were in a state of arrested development.
4. The writer and Timothy had labored together with and for them.
5. They had suffered persecution when converted, were despoiled of goods, had been made a "spectacle" by either their own afflictions or through their compassion for imprisoned leaders, but had never themselves been persecuted to martyrdom.
6. They had been particularly noted for their ministering to the saints.
7. They were tempted to abjure Christianity and relapse into Judaism.
8. They were called upon to pray for the writer's restoration to them, and are supposed to be glad of that prospect and of Timothy's being set at liberty, and of the prospect of seeing the two together again.
There is absolutely nothing in any of these facts to suggest Alexandrian Jews as the persons addressed. Nor did the Alexandrian Jews ever suppose themselves to be those to whom the letter was written. The facts also exclude the Jerusalem or Palestinian Jews, no matter who the writer. For example: Assuming Barnabas for the author, Timothy does not fit; he never worked with Barnabas anywhere, much less in Jerusalem or Alexandria. Assuming Apollos for the author, and Jerusalem Jews addressed, the facts will not adjust themselves. He could not have written to Jerusalem Jews the passage at 13:19, 23; and the passages at 6:10 and 12:4 could not fit the Jerusalem Jews. From the beginning the Jerusalem Christians had resisted unto blood. It was the martyr church of the New Testament, and but recently James, the brother of our Lord, had been murdered. From the beginning they had been ministered unto by the churches abroad, and had never themselves so ministered, and there is no New Testament evidence that they were in danger of apostasy. Assuming Apollos to be the author and Alexandrian Jews addressed, it is simply incredible that his own people received a letter from him and never attributed it to him at any time in their history.
All of the passages exactly fit the known history of the Christian Jews of Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Achaia, and the Christian Jews of no other place. They knew Timothy. They had been persecuted and despoiled of goods when they were converted. They had been made a spectacle in their own afflictions and in their compassion for imprisoned leaders. They had not themselves been persecuted to martyrdom. They were in a state of arrested development, and from the beginning had been under the fire of temptation to apostatize, as is evident from letters written by Paul, Peter, Jude, and John. They had been and were yet noted the world over for ministering unto the poor saints of Jerusalem and Judea.
There is absolutely nothing in the letter to limit its address to one town or city. The context does not favor one church a great majority of which were Jews. On the contrary, some of the exhortations can be better understood by supposing the Jewish Christians addressed to be in the minority, and staying away from the church meetings because the pastors were Gentiles or the Gentile element predominated. The author, therefore, voices the conviction rather than a dogmatic assertion
It is impossible that this letter was written to Jews either at Jerusalem, Alexandria, Rome, Caesarea, or Syrian Antioch.
All of them are out of the question. No one of them ever claimed for a moment to be the recipient of the letter. Moreover, at the most probable date of this letter all Judea was seething in revolt against Rome, like a boiling pot, and in no condition to receive a letter from any one. Therefore, in answer to the question, "To whom addressed?" my reply is, To the Jewish Christians of Asia Minor and Greece, Of course this answer includes Proconsular Asia as a part of Asia Minor. There are much stronger arguments on the persons addressed that can be better cited under other heads.
The occasion of the letter. On this point there is absolute unanimity. Indeed, the whole trend of the letter leaves no room for doubt. These Jewish Christians, wherever they were, were in eminent danger of abjuring Christianity altogether and relapsing into Judaism. That this may be evident let us open our book and read the following passages: 2:1-3; 3:6, 12-14; 4:1-2, 14-16; 10:19-36; 12:1-3, 12-17.
Here again the context forbids the idea that the persons addressed were Palestinian Jews. The New Testament history nowhere indicates that the Jerusalem church was in danger of abjuring Christ altogether and totally relapsing into Judaism. The evidence is indeed abundant that many of them desired to make Gentiles become Jews in order to become Christians, and that others, while waiving this point, yet insisted that Jewish Christians must hold themselves aloof from social contact with Gentile Christians, but nowhere is there a hint that they were about to abjure Christianity altogether.
In the Sadducean persecution (Acts 3-4) and in the Pharisee persecution, led by Saul of Tarsus, and in the persecution by Herod, they had remained as firm as a rock in their faith. When James and Jude, brothers of our Lord, and Peter write letters exhorting to steadfastness in faith, they write to the Christian Jews of the dispersion, and not to the Palestinian Jews. When in the persecution which had but recently led to the martyrdom of James, there is no historical evidence that Jerusalem Christians were in danger of abjuring Christianity.
Just here comes another very forcible argument against the idea that Palestinian Jews are being addressed. There is not a word in the letter that supposes the danger of apostasy to arise from witnessing the imposing ceremonies of the Herodian Temple. While indeed the letter incidentally proves that the Temple is yet standing, and while it clearly threatens the near and utter destruction of the whole Jewish polity as a covenant, its entire argument is based upon the ancient historic Judaism as established by Moses, Aaron, and Joshua. It is not even germane to the argument to mention the first Temple built by Solomon. It is a question of origins, of the dignity of founders, and not of present imposing rites and ceremonies. In other words, the argument goes to the root of things, and not to the superficial present. From Pentecost to the destruction of Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Jews were safeguarded against total relapse into Judaism. But not so with the Jews of the dispersion. If addressed to the Palestinian Jews, the absence of special reference to the services of the Herodian Temple is inexplicable.
Our next question inquires for the cause of the danger of apostasy. What juncture of affairs constituted the temptation to abjure Christianity? The letter itself explains. First of all, the bitterness of persecution was wearing out their patience, and the pressure of non-Christian Jews tempting them to apostatize was very great. The Lord did not come to avenge them, as had been promised, and they were weary and despondent. They were losing respect for their leaders, many of whom were Gentiles. They were absenting themselves from the popular assemblies. This can be best accounted for if they were in the minority and the Gentile element predominant; in such case they would not feel at home in this mixed crowd.
In the meantime a very subtle philosophy was constantly appealing to them, which has been described in letters preceding this one. The discussion against gnosticism, so prominent in the letters to the Colossians and the Ephesians, is carried on in this letter. Its methods of approach were esoteric not exoteric. It worked privately from house to house. It slipped and crept and slid around and whispered:
"No use to go to church; you can learn better at home. Public gatherings may suit the vulgar, 'the great unwashed,' the hoi polloi, but this philosophy appeals to the cultured few. The Christian Messiah at best was only a lower eon, or much shaded down emanation of God. You may accept this philosophy and remain a Jew of the type of the Essenes if you are inclined to asceticism; or you may accept it and remain a Jew of the Pharisee type if you want to cling to ritualism and the cycle of weekly, new moon, or annual sabbaths. Or you may accept it and turn to license and pleasure, seeing that sin resides only in matter. This Christianity is too harsh, rigid, and exacting. It calls on you to sacrifice everything. Why needlessly put your head in the fire? Why give up everything? You have waited in vain for that promised coming of the Lord. Your own Moses, Aaron, and Joshua, and long line of prophets were greater than this Nazarene, who, after all, was executed as a felon, and it is a shame to become the followers of a publicly convicted and executed felon. Christianity is impractical. Humanity cannot endure its requirements."
It will be shown later in the exposition that this letter was especially intended to controvert this many-sided philosophy of blended Jewish and heathen elements; that its arguments closely follow and connect with the letters to the Colossians and Ephesians, and is itself closely followed by and connected with the letters of Peter and Jude addressed to the same people and called forth by the same emergency. This writer, and Peter and Jude, recognized the same danger of apostasy, the same lack of patient endurance, the same temptation to deny the Lord Jesus Christ, and the despair about his second advent. And so did John, last of all, long after the Temple had fallen, write his letters and the book of Revelation to the same people. Indeed, this emergency called forth all of John's writings. In other words, the provocation to apostatize was the old-time Jewish reluctance to pay the cost of a spiritual religion, whose rewards were in another world; to endure its privations in this life; to patiently wait for the Lord. All the exhortations in the letter are on this line. And here again we find another strong argument against the thought that it was written to the Jerusalem Jews. The gnostic philosophy originated in the Lycus valley of Proconsular Asia, and spread over the section to whose people this letter was addressed. There is no evidence that the Jerusalem Jews were ever tempted to apostatize through this philosophy.
We now come to the question: Who wrote the letter to the Hebrews, when did he write it, and where? Just where, in order of time, is its place among the New Testament books? And in what language did he write it? Again disclaiming dogmatism, the author here expresses in one sentence an answer to all of these questions thus:
It was written in Greek, by the apostle Paul, near the close of the first Roman imprisonment, just after the letter to the Ephesians, and was addressed exclusively to professing Jewish Christians in Asia Minor and Greece. It completes the group of letters of the first Roman imprisonment.
In order to account for Timothy's imprisonment and release, the reader will please look at the beginning of Philippians, Philemon, and Colossians. In all three of these Timothy is associated with Paul at Rome, as the author of the letters. But when we look at the beginning of the letter to the Ephesians we do not find Timothy's name associated with Paul's. There is no evidence that he had left Rome, and unless he was imprisoned at this juncture, there is no fair way to account for his not being associated with Paul in the letter to the Ephesians. He was speedily released after that imprisonment, however, and in the letter to the Hebrews, following the letter to the Ephesians, it is announced that Timothy has been set at liberty, and when we take up the first letter to Timothy we can see how the subscription may have been added: "Written from Italy to the Hebrews, by Timothy."
While not contending for the superscription and subscription as a part of the original text, I am thoroughly convinced that both express facts, and generally recognized at the time they were appended to the letter.
Without arguing another matter at all, the abiding conviction is expressed that the letter is not a translation from a Hebrew original, nor is it a treatise, speech or sermon by Paul which has been used substantially by another writer, but clothed in his own style and language. There is only one mind in the letter. It is not a composite work. It is not Luke or Clement or Timothy working out the thoughts of Paul. The author of the thoughts is the author of the style and of the words. Any attempt to make Luke the author because some parts of the letter resembles Luke's style fails from the fact that the parts which make it resemble Luke's books are matters originally coming from Paul and merely quoted by Luke. Undoubtedly Paul fixed Luke's style on these points.
The letter is a careful and elaborate composition throughout. The arguments, each followed by exhortation, extend down to verse 18 of the last chapter. It is a calm, quiet, painstaking, deliberately prepared document, and yet a genuine epistle. It grows out of preceding letters. Not as a 2 Corinthians grew out of 1 Corinthians, but as Romans grew out of Galatians, and as Ephesians grew out of Colossians. Having written a special letter to the Colossians against the gnostic heresy, he wrote a circular letter elaborating the same line of thought, which letter we call Ephesians. And having written the letter to the Ephesians addressed to the whole body of the churches to which it was sent, it fits exactly that he should continue the same thought or subject in a letter addressed to the Jews only.
Careful preparation is evinced, moreover, in the studied self-repression of the author and in the rigid restriction of the argument to the one viewpoint and purpose.
While the author of Hebrews does not sign his name, for reasons to be given later, the restraint is not with a view to conceal his identity. He knows well to whom he writes, and well knows that they will know him as well as if he had signed. his name in the usual fashion. It is not therefore a case of an anonymous communication, nor of a non de plume, to put people to guessing at the author. A writer who wished to conceal his identity by absence of a signature would never say, "Pray that I may be restored to you." "Our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you." And it may be said here that Asia Minor never doubted from whom the letter came, nor did any other place down to the middle of the second century.
1. On what points has this letter mainly evoked controversy?
2. May a book be canonical whose author is not named?
3. Give brief statement of canonicity of this book.
4. Apart from canonicity, what questions have been widely dis- cussed, with divergent views?
5. Why are these questions important?
6. Tell of the title and subscription, and their value.
7. To whom was the letter addressed?
8. In what two senses may this word "Hebrews" be employed, and how determine in a given case which is meant?
9. Why may we not conclude that the letter is addressed to Jews of a particular church or city?
10. To what class of Hebrews is it addressed?
11. What passages in the letter bear on the "where" of these Hebrews, and the facts developed?
12. Show why these facts do not fit Jerusalem Jews or Alexandrian Jews.
13. The facts of these passages fit the Christian Jews where?
14. What the occasion of the letter, and the passages bearing on it, and why do these passages exclude Jerusalem Jewish Christians?
15. What other fact bears in the same direction?
16. Why does this letter make no reference to the Temple at Jerusalem?
17. What causes were operating at this time to provoke relapse into Judaism on the part of Christian Jews in Asia Minor and Greece, and which of these causes also make against the theory of the letter being addressed to Jerusalem Jews?
18. In one sentence give the author's view of who wrote this letter, where, when, and in what language, to whom, and in what group of letters?
19. Account for the reference ill the letter to Timothy's being set at liberty.
20. Why not take the position that the thoughts are Paul's, either written originally in Hebrew and translated by another, or that Paul's thoughts are wrought out by another in his own style?
21. Where do the arguments stop?
22. Show how the letter is evolved from and fits into other letters.
23. Why is not the letter anonymous in the ordinary sense of that word?
AUTHOR'S INTRODUCTION PART II
The question yet before us is, Who is the author of this letter? External evidence is what has been handed down by tradition or history; internal evidence is gathered from the letter itself, that is, what may be inferred from its doctrines, historical statements, and style style to be used in a very comprehensive sense, including the purity of the Greek text, rhetorical form, vocabulary, phrases, terms of expression, etc.
The argument against Paul's authorship is based entirely on internal evidence. A fair examination will disclose that there is not a shred of external evidence either against Paul or for any other man. When, in history it has been conjecturally attributed to others, this has been based upon some inference from internal evidence. The external evidence, be it much or little, is all one way. It is axiomatic that external evidence cannot be set aside by internal evidence, unless the latter be overwhelming, conclusive, and demonstrative. Internal evidence is available by comparison only, i.e., this questioned letter must be compared with history, doctrines, and style, as set forth in unquestioned sources of information. Various names have been suggested as the possible author. Of these the only one worth a moment's consideration are Paul, Luke, Barnabas, Apollos. In the case of Apollos there is not a scrap of his writing left to us with which to compare this letter. If he ever wrote anything we do not know it. He had opportunity to know Paul and Timothy. He was an Alexandrian Jew, an eloquent man and mighty in the Hebrew scriptures. That is the only foundation for Luther's guess 1,500 years after the letter was written.
Barnabas left no certain literary remains with which to make comparison. The matter of the one document attributed to him would never suggest that he wrote this great, immortal letter. The Barnabas of Acts 14: 37-39 and Galatians 2:13 could never have made the complete break with Judaism that is disclosed in this letter.
Luke alone, in his Gospel and Acts, leaves us a basis for comparison. But these books present him only as a historian, carefully tracing out what others did and said. He himself makes no speeches, does no arguing or interpreting. In him appears only a hand and pen to record the deeds and words of others. Moreover, Luke was not a pure Hebrew, and perhaps a Gentile. In Colossians 4, he is not reckoned among the circumcision. He, if wholly a Gentile, is the only one writing a Bible book. The author of this letter was a Hebrew of the Hebrews. The parts of Luke's books which most nearly resemble this letter are reported speeches of Paul, or matter that he derived from Paul. In Paul's case there is no lack of documentary matter with which to make comparison. But in making comparison, objectors to Pauline authorship have not only ignored the variety of Paul's style, but have based their conclusions upon the distinction between Hebrews and only a part of Paul's writings mainly his letters to the Galatians and Romans. They fail to discriminate between Paul's method and style in writing to Gentiles and in writing to Jews exclusively.
We go very far toward the settlement of this question when we understand the full extent of the Pauline literature with which Hebrews must be compared. We must take all of the thirteen conceded letters of Paul, and of the reported speeches in the Acts and even Stephen's speech, supposedly reported to Luke by Paul.
Apart from Hebrews, these books give us our knowledge of Paul's life, doctrines, and styles. It is admitted at once that if from any or all of the books involved in the comparison, it could be proved that Paul died before the letter to the Hebrews was written, that, of course, would settle the case against the Pauline authorship. But there is no such proof. It is impossible to fix either the exact date of Paul's death or the writing of this letter. It would be something in a negative way if it could be shown that this letter could not be made to fit well into the period of Paul's life. But it is quite easy to find one period of Paul's life into which it fits exactly, and another period where it could possibly fit. It fits all around just after the letter to the Ephesians, as the closing letter written in Paul's first Roman imprisonment. A case could also be made out, but not so strong, that it follows 2 Timothy. This would make it the very last of Paul's letters.
A critic like Luther gets his idea of Paul's doctrines and style from Galatians and Romans, ignoring the fact that not all of Paul's doctrines nor all of his styles are confined to these two books. A statement on the case of authorship is about this: The field against Paul. It is the only way to make any kind of a plausible showing against him. The opposition breaks down when it attempts to support the claim of any other one name.
It maintains a precarious standing by alternatives only, saying, "The author was Barnabas, or Luke, or Clement, or Apollos, or some other man." Limit the issue to Paul against Barnabas alone, or any of the others, and there would be no case worth trying.
Moreover, the opposition breaks down when attempt 18 made to secure a consensus of judgment on the internal evidence. The ground continually shifts as taken by individual objectors like the location and formation of loose desert sand driven by contrary winds. What one objector to Paul regards as quite conclusive, another concedes to be very questionable. It is like the testimony of expert doctors in a case at court. The expert in a specialty is the most incompetent of all witnesses out of his particular line; he cannot generalize. Ne sutor ultra crepidem. Of all men he has the least judicial mind. His dependence upon presuppositions his contempt for external evidences, his conceit of his own power to dissect the most ancient documents, or to put aside as worthless the most ancient traditions, may qualify him for special pleading, but never to be a safe juryman or a sane judge.
Inasmuch as all of the argument against Paul's authorship is based upon internal evidence, it may be well to submit a fair statement of these objections as developed from time to time in the history subsequent to the apostles, i.e., all of it worth considering as a reply thereto. They may be summed up under the following heads:
1. The absence of his name in either the address or farewell. The force of this objection is strengthened by the fact that his name does appear in the address of his genuine letters, and after 1 Thessalonians, for reasons stated, his autograph is appended to them at the close.
2. The author of Hebrews at 2:3 concedes that he was not an apostle, but derived his gospel second hand from the apostles, whereas Paul's gospel was independent, original, and first hand. To put the objection in other words, whoever wrote Galatians 1:11-12 could not have written Hebrews 2:3. Dr. Farrar ventures to call this decisive against Paul's authorship.
3. The severity of two passages, Hebrews 6:4-8 and 10:26-31 is not apostolic, and their doctrine of apostasy not Pauline. These two passages underlie the opposition of more critics to Pauline authorship than all others. Some, in the early centuries, rejected the letter because they supposed that the first of these passages favored the Novationists. The supposed teaching of apostasy in these passages was one of the chief causes of Luther being unwilling to receive the letter as Paul's. Tertullian, in trying to make Barnabas the author, does so in the very chapter in which he quotes' Hebrews 6:4-8.
4. It is objected that the style the word "style" here used in its comprehensive sense is un-Pauline; that it is an I Alexandrian style, evincing such an acquaintance with Philo as was not possessed by Paul. On this ground of style, Origen, while conceding Paul's virtual authorship, attributes the form of the composition to an unknown amanuensis.: Erasmus, the great scholar in the beginning of the Reformation time, declared the style of Hebrews wholly unlike Paul's, and Luther, on the same ground, after being disturbed by: the passages 6:4-8 and 10:26-31, and recalling Acts 18:24. ' 28, made the first guess known to history that Apollos was '' the author. It has become quite fashionable now to count; Luther's guess, made 1,500 years after the letter was written, a demonstration.
5. The absence of certain favorite terms of Paul, e.g., "justify" (Greek dikaioo) used so often in Galatians and Romans, and the use of "purify" (Greek katharizo) instead, . and the infrequent use of Soteria "Salvation."
6. The relative purity of the Greek. On one or the other or all of these internal grounds, some learned men, while attributing the doctrine and thought to Paul, have assigned the composition and rhetorical form to an amanuensis, while others have denied to Paul any connection with the authorship. Let us consider these objections seriatim:
1. It is admitted that the absence of Paul's name in either the address or farewell is contrary to his custom, and certainly calls for rational and adequate explanation. When once, however, the explanation is sufficient, the absence of the name constitutes a strong presumption of Paul's authorship. For example, while no good reason can be assigned why Apollos should omit his name, if he were the author, the reasons of Paul's omission of his name, under the circumstances, are very strong. Let us consider these circumstances. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. This letter is exclusively to the Jews. Its whole line of argument designedly stops short of his own call and testimony. To make it thoroughly effective, to strike from it an embarrassing complication he must utterly repress any illusion to his own mission, in this case, rigidly carry out one of the great self-repressing never acceptable to Jewish minds. In other words, he must, in this case, rigidly carry out one of the great self-repressing principles of his life so forcibly expressed by himself elsewhere: "To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews. I am become all things to all men that I may by all means save some" ( 1 Cor. 9:19-23). The object of the letter is to prevent Christian Jews from abjuring Christianity and relapsing into Judaism. The argument is limited to this view. Gentiles are not considered. Hence as Paul writes he does not write as the apostle to the Gentiles. The argument is necessarily shut up to proof anterior to his own call, and apart from his own special mission. His usual official signature or any appeal to his own testimony would unnecessarily complicate his problem and prejudice its solution. His problem, hence, is not "Shall Gentiles become Christians?" or "Shall they become Jews in order to become Christians?" or "Shall Jews admit Gentile Christians to social fellowship?" but it is "Shall professing Jews abjure Christianity altogether and return to strict Judaism?" Therefore, not being an apostle to the circumcision, he omits his name and apostleship, but being a Jew he has the feeling of a Jew that intense desire to speak and write to his brethren according to the flesh, expressed so forcibly in his other letters. The man who wrote Romans 9:1-5; 10:1-3; 1 Corinthians 3:5; 9:19-23 would not hesitate to suppress himself and his signature in this case in order that his arguments might stand upon their Jewish merits, unhandicapped by official signature which would necessarily introduce a view of the case not at all within his purpose or the scope of his argument, and this self-repression is a marked characteristic of Paul. Its delicacy in this case surpasses that displayed in, Philemon 8. This man always preferred to be a home missionary, and had to be choked off that line of work. He. kept turning his face toward Jerusalem against both divine and prophetic interdiction (see Acts 22: 13-21; 21: 10-13). In all the history of missions, if perhaps we except Jonah's case, there is not another so remarkable a man burning as with unquenchable fire to be a home missionary, but divinely thrust out and whipped into being a foreign missionary.
2. The second objection to Pauline authorship is based on Hebrews 2:3 which reads, "Which salvation having at first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed to us by them that heard." This language does not concede that the author was not an apostle, nor does it intimate that he derived his own gospel of salvation from others. It simply affirms that Christ first spoke his own gospel of salvation, and that it was confirmed to the Jews by the original apostles, after the gifts at Pentecost, all of which was literally true before Paul's conversion and call. His own call and independent gospel did not concern Jews, to whom exclusively he is now writing, and whom he is addressing strictly on a line that would appeal to them. Under such circumstances to say that it is unlike Paul to omit reference to his call and gospel, contradicts a striking incident of his life, for he makes substantially the same statement under like circumstances at Pisidian Antioch, as reported in Acts 13:31. What is there in one case more than the other? Compare them fairly. It is true in Hebrews he says the gospel spoken by our Lord was confirmed to us by them that heard it. Addressing Jews only at Antioch he says: "He was seen for many days of them that came up from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses." This does not intimate that Paul himself had not seen the risen Lord, nor that he was not now a witness. In both cases and for the same reason he omits reference to himself. Then, if he at Antioch of Pisidia, addressing Jews only might refer exclusively to the confirmation of Christ's resurrection by the testimony of the twelve, without impugning his own independent testimony, which he does not there even mention, why may he not, in a letter to Jews only a letter whose argument designedly stops short of his own call to the Gentiles refer to the same kind of confirmation of the gospel, without disparagement of his independent gospel and testimony? In other words, with equal propriety, he might be the author of Acts 13:30-31 and Hebrews 2:3-4. We may always distrust an inference that is decisive to Dr. Farrar when it comes to historical criticism.
3. The objection to Pauline authorship based on the passages 6:4-8 and 10:26-31 arises solely from the objectors' questionable interpretation of these passages. It is an assumption merely that the severity complained of in them is not apostolic. It is many times paralleled in the words of our Lord and in the teachings of Paul elsewhere. Moreover, it is no easier to find apostasy here than in many unquestioned utterances of Paul. When we come in the exposition to interpret these passages, it will not be difficult to show that there is nothing here to contradict the final preservation and perseverance of the saints. This objection is on a line with Luther's going off at a tangent against the letter of James because he misunderstood its import. Neither James nor Hebrews is "an epistle of straw."
4. The objection based on style in its broadest sense is equally inconclusive. The most indeterminate method of proving authorship known to literature is the style method. All historical critics, like other experts, lose the power of generalization in the narrowness and depths of the rut into which specialism leads them. A blind mole burrowing is an authority on earthworms, but is no judge of landscapes or mountain scenery. Let it be repeated as proverbial that a specialist is unsafe on a jury or on the bench.
A man, by a life devoted to microscopic details concerning a very small matter, may become an authority on the variety of hummingbirds, and might be able to prove ultimately that the sprigs of down on a mouse's tail are more numerous than the stickers on a grasshopper's hind leg, but that would not qualify him to judge of the spiritual beings of the cosmos.
We have seen the result when style adepts have turned themselves loose on Junius, Shakespeare, Homer, or Milton. Each one is able to prove to his own satisfaction anything he chooses, but let him not hope to convince his brother adepts. Each of them has his own demonstration, equally worthl