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427

CHAPTER XXX.

REQUEST: COMMENDATION: BENEDICTION.

“And [pray] on my behalf, that the word may be given unto me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

“But that ye also may know my affairs, how I do, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things: whom I have sent unto you for this very purpose, that ye may know our state, and that he may comfort your hearts.”—Eph. vi. 19–22.

The apostle has bidden his readers apply themselves with wakeful and incessant earnestness to prayer (ver. 18). For this is, after all, the chief arm of the spiritual combat. By this means the soul draws reinforcements of mercy and hope from the eternal sources (ver. 10). By this means the Asian Christians will be able not only to carry on their own conflict with vigour, but to help all the saints (ver. 18); and through their aid the whole Church of God will be sustained in its war with the prince of this world.

The apostle Paul himself stood in the forefront of this battle. He was suffering for the cause of common Christendom; he was a mark for the attack of the enemies of the gospel.176176   Col. i. 24—ii. 1; Phil. i. 16. On him, more than on any other man, the safety and progress of the Church 428 depended (Phil. i. 25). In this position he naturally says: “Watching unto prayer in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—and for me.” If his heart should fail him, or his mouth be closed, if the word of inspiration ceased to be given him and the great teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth no longer spoke as he ought to speak, it would be a heavy blow and sore discouragement to the friends of Christ throughout the world. “My afflictions are your glory (iii. 13). My unworthy testimony to Christ is showing forth His praise to all men and angels.177177   Ch. ii. 7, iii. 10; Phil. i. 20; 2 Tim. iv. 17. Pray for me then, that I may speak and act in this hour of trial in a manner worthy of the dispensation given to me.”

Strong and confident as the apostle Paul was, he felt himself to be nothing without prayer. It is his habit to expect the support of the intercessions of all who love him in Christ.178178   I Thess. v. 25; 2 Thess. iii. 1; Rom. xv. 30–32; Col. iv. 3, etc. He knew that he was helped by this means, on numberless occasions and in wonderful ways. He asks his present readers to entreat that “the word179179   Out of the instances in which the English Version renders λόγος in St Paul by utterance, the Revisers have substituted word for utterance only in Col. iv. 3. One wishes they had done so throughout. For λόγος surely implies the content, the import of what is said. This passage reminds us of John xvii. 14: “I have given them Thy word”; and xiv. 24: “The word which ye hear is not mine, but His.” may be given me when I open my mouth, so that I may freely make known the mystery of the gospel, on which behalf I serve as ambassador in bonds, that in it I may speak freely, as I ought to speak.” This sentence hangs upon the verb “may-be-given.” Jesus said to His apostles: “It shall be given you in that hour what you shall speak, when brought before rulers and kings” (Matt x. 18–20). The apostle stands 429 now before the Roman world. He has appealed to Cæsar, and awaits his trial. If he has not yet appeared at the Emperor’s tribunal, he will shortly have to do so. Christ’s ambassador is about to plead in chains before the highest of human courts. It is not his own life or freedom that he is concerned about; the ambassador has only to consider how he shall represent his Sovereign’s interests. The importance which Paul attached to this occasion, is manifest from the words written to Timothy (2 Ep. iv. 17) referring to his later trial. St Paul has this special need in his thoughts, in addition to the help from above continually required in the discharge of his ministry, under the hampering conditions of his imprisonment (comp. Col. iv. 3, 4).

The Church must entreat on Paul’s behalf that the word he utters may be God’s, and not his own. It is in vain to “open the mouth,” unless there is this higher prompting and through the gates of speech there issues a Divine message, unless the speaker is the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit rather than of his individual thought and will. “The words that I speak unto you,” Jesus said, “I speak not of myself.” The bold apostle intends to open his mouth; but he must have the true “word given” him to say. We should pray for Christ’s ambassadors, and especially for the more public and eloquent pleaders of the Christian cause, that it may be thus with them. Rash and vain words, that bear the stamp of the mere man who utters them and not of the Spirit of his Master, do a hurt to the cause of the gospel proportioned to the blessing that comes from such lips when they speak the word given to them.

Such inspiration would enable the apostle to “make known the mystery of the gospel with freedom and confidence of speech”: the expression rendered 430 “with boldness”180180   Ἐν παρρησίᾳ: comp. iii. 12; Phil. i. 20; Philem. 8; 2 Cor. vii. 4; 1 Thess. ii. 2, etc. means all this. Before the emperor Nero, or the slave Onesimus, he will be able with the same aptness and dignity and self-command to declare his message and to vindicate his Master’s name. “The mystery of the gospel” is no other secret than that which this epistle unfolds (iii. 3–9), the great fact that Jesus Christ is the Saviour and the Lord of the whole world. Jesus proclaimed Himself to Pilate, who represented at Jerusalem the imperial rule, as the King of all who are of the truth; and the apostle Paul has the like message to convey to the head of the Empire. It needed the greatest boldness and the greatest wisdom in the ambassador of the Messianic King to play his part at Rome; an unwise word might make his own life forfeit, and bring incalculable dangers on the Church.

St Paul’s trial, we suppose, passed off successfully, as he at this time anticipated.181181   Phil. i. 25, 26, ii. 23, 24; Philem. 22. The Roman government was perfectly aware that the political charge against their prisoner was frivolous; and Nero, if he personally gave Paul a hearing on this earlier trial, in all probability viewed his spiritual pretensions on his Master’s behalf with contemptuous tolerance. If he did so, the toleration was not due to any want of courage or clearness on the defendant’s part. It is possible even that the courage and address of the advocate of the “new superstition” pleased the tyrant, who was not without his moments of good humour nor without the instincts of a man of taste. The apostle, we may well believe, made an impression on the supreme court at Rome similar to that made on his judges in Cæsarea.

St Paul’s bonds in Christ have now become widely 431 “manifest” in Rome (Phil. i. 13). He pleads in circumstances of disgrace. But God brings good for His servants out of evil. As he said at a later time, so he could say now: “They have bound me; but they cannot bind the word of God.”182182   2 Tim. i. 7–12, ii. 3–10. He was “not ashamed of the gospel” in the prospect of coming to Rome years before (Rom. i. 16); and he is not ashamed now, though he has come in chains as an evil-doer. Through the intercessions of Christ’s people all these injuries of Satan are turning to his salvation and to the “furtherance of the gospel”; and Paul rejoices and triumphs in them, well assured that Christ will be magnified whether by his life or death, whether by his freedom or his chains (Phil. i. 12–26). The prayers which the imprisoned apostle asks from the Church were fulfilled. For we read in the last verses of the Acts of the Apostles, which put into a sentence the history of this period: “He received all that came to him, preaching the kingdom and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, with all boldness, none forbidding him.”


The paragraph relating to Tychicus is almost identical with that of Colossians iv. 7, 8. It begins with a “But” connecting what follows with the statement the apostle has just made respecting his position at Rome. As much as to say: “I want your prayers, set as I am for the defence of the gospel and in circumstances of difficulty and peril. But Tychicus will tell you more about me than I can convey by letter. I am sending him, in fact, for this very purpose.”

St Paul knew the great anxiety of the Christians of Asia on his account. Epaphras of Colossæ had 432 “shown him the love in the Spirit” that was felt towards him even by those in this region who had never seen him in the flesh (Col. i. 8). The tender heart of the apostle is touched by this assurance. So he sends Tychicus to visit as many of the Asian Churches as he may be able to reach, bringing news that will cheer their hearts and relieve their discouragement (iii. 13).183183   Comp. Phil. i. 24–26. The note sent at this time to Philemon indicates the hopeful tidings that Tychicus was able to convey to Paul’s friends in the East: “I trust that through your prayers I shall be given to you” (Philem. 22). To the Philippians he writes, perhaps a little later, in the same strain: “I trust in the Lord that I myself shall come shortly” (Phil. ii. 24). He anticipates, with some confidence, his speedy acquital and release: it is not likely that this expectation, on the part of such a man as St Paul, was disappointed. The good news went round the Asian and Macedonian Churches: “Paul is likely soon to be free, and we shall see and hear him again!”

In the parallel epistle he writes, “that you may know” (Col. iv. 8); here it is, “that you also may know my affairs.” The added word is significant. The writer is imagining his letter read in the various assemblies which it will reach. He has the other epistle in his mind, and remembering that he there introduced Tychicus in similar terms, he says to this wider circle of Asian disciples: “That you also, as well as the Churches of the Lycus valley, may know how things are with me, I send Tychicus to give you a full report.” It is not necessary, however, to look beyond the last two verses for the reference of the also of verse 21: “I have asked your prayers on my behalf; 433 and I wish you in turn to know how things go with me.” Possibly, there were some matters connected with St Paul’s trial at Rome that could not be fitly or safely communicated by letter. Hence he adds: “He shall make known unto you all things.” When he writes “that ye may know my affairs, how I do,” we gather that Tychicus was to communicate to those he visited everything about the beloved apostle that would be of interest to his Asian brethren.

The apostle commends Tychicus in language identical in the two letters, except that in Colossians “fellow-servant” is added to the honourable designations of “beloved brother and faithful minister,” under which he is here introduced. We find him first associated with St Paul in Acts xx. 4, where “Tychicus and Trophimus” represent Asia in the number of those who accompanied the apostle on his voyage to Jerusalem, when he carried the contributions of his Gentile Churches to the relief of the Christian poor in Jerusalem. Trophimus, his companion, is called a “Greek” and an “Ephesian” (Acts xxi. 28, 29). Whether Tychicus belonged to the same city or not, we cannot tell. He was almost certainly a Greek. The Pastoral epistles show Tychicus still in the apostle’s service in his last years. He appears to have joined St Paul’s staff and remained with him from the time that he accompanied him to Jerusalem in the year 59. From 2 Timothy iv 9–12 we gather that Tychicus was sent to Ephesus to relieve Timothy, when St Paul desired the presence of the latter at Rome. It is evident that he was a man greatly valued by the apostle and endeared to him.

Tychicus was well known in the Asian Churches, and suitable therefore to be sent upon this errand. And the commendation given to him would be very welcome to the circle to which he belonged. The 434 apostle has great tact in these personal matters, the tact which belongs to delicate feeling and a generous mind. He calls his messenger “the beloved brother” in his relation to the Church in general, and “faithful minister in the Lord” in his special relation to himself. So he describes Epaphroditus to the Philippians as “your apostle and minister of my need.” In conveying these letters and messages, this worthy man was Paul’s apostle and minister of his need in regard to the Asian Churches. He is a “minister in the Lord,” inasmuch as this office lies within the range of his service to the Lord Christ.

We observe that in writing to the Colossians the apostle applies to Onesimus, the converted slave, the honourable epithets applied here to this long-tried friend: “the faithful and beloved brother” (Col. iv. 9). Every Christian believer should be in the eyes of his fellows a “beloved brother.” And every true servant of Christ and His people is a “faithful minister in the Lord,” be his rank high or low, and whether official hands have been laid upon his head or not. We are apt, by a trick of words, to limit to the order which we suitably call “the ministry” expressions that the New Testament applies to the common ministry of Christ’s saints (comp. iv. 12). This devoted servant of Christ is employed just now as a newsman and letter-carrier. But what a high responsibility it was, to be the bearer to the Asian cities, and to the Church for all time, of the epistles of Paul the apostle to the Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon. Had Tychicus been careless or dishonest, had he lost these precious documents or tampered with them, how great the loss to mankind! We cannot read them without feeling our debt to this beloved brother and faithful servant of the Church. 435 Those who travel upon Christ’s business, who link distant communities to each other and convey from one to another the Holy Spirit’s fellowship and grace, are “the messengers of the Churches and the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. viii. 23).

The Benediction.

“Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith,

From God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ

In incorruption” (vv. 23, 24).

Grace and Peace were the first words of the epistle,—the apostle’s salutation to all his Churches. In Peace and Grace he breathes out his final blessing. The benediction is fuller than in most of the epistles, and exhibits several peculiar features.

To the Thessalonians (2 Ep. iii. 16) St Paul wished: “Peace continually, in all ways, from the Lord of peace Himself”; and he commends the Romans twice to “the God of peace” (ch. xv. 33, xvi. 20): the Corinthians he bids to “live in peace,” so that “the God of love and peace” may be with them (2 Cor. xiii. 11). There is nothing in the least degree strange or un-Pauline in the wishes here expressed, except the fact that they are put in the third person—“Peace to the brethren,” etc.—instead of being addressed directly to the readers in the second person, as in all other of the apostle’s extant closing benedictions. This peculiarity, as we observed in the first Chapter, is in accordance with the encyclical and impersonal stamp of the epistle.184184   See pp. 13–17. It is Paul’s most catholic benediction, his blessing upon “all the Israel of God” (comp. Gal. vi. 16).

“With faith,” that “love” is desired whereby, 436 according to the Pauline ethics of salvation, faith works (Gal. v. 6), the love which as a vitalizing organic force creates the new man, formed in all his doings and dispositions after the image of Jesus Christ. From chapter iv. 1–3 we have learnt how “peace” and “love” attend each other. Love is the source of the forbearance, the mutual consideration and self-sacrifice, without which there is no peace within the Church. Peace springs from love: love waits on faith. Amongst brethren in Christ, members of the same household of faith, peace and love have their home. These are the sons of peace: with good will and good hope, entering or quitting their abode, we say, “Peace be to this house!”

The peace that the apostle looks for amongst Christian brethren is the fruit of peace with God through Christ. Such “peace guarding the thoughts and heart” of each Christian man, nothing contrary thereto will arise amongst them. Calm and quiet hearts make a peaceful Church. There are no clashing interests, no selfish competitions, no strife as to who shall be greatest. Differences of opinion and taste are kept within the bounds of mutual submission. The awe of God’s presence with His people, the remembrance of the dear price at which His Church was purchased, the sense of Christ’s Lordship in the Spirit and of the sacredness of our brotherhood in Him, check all turbulence and rivalry and teach us to seek the things that make for peace.

“Peace and love,” the apostle desires. Love includes peace, and more; for it labours not to prevent contention only, but to help and enrich in all ways the body of Christ. By such “toil of love” faith is made complete. We are bidden indeed, in certain matters, to “have faith to ourselves before God” (Rom. xiv. 22). 437 This maxim holds where one has a special faith in regard to such things as eating flesh or drinking wine, in which any one of us may without offence differ from his brethren. But it is a poor faith that dwells upon questions of this nature, and makes its religion of them. The essentials of faith, as we saw them delineated in chapter iv. 1–6, are things that unite and not distinguish us.

As faith grows and deepens, it makes new channels in which love may flow. “We are bound to thank God always for you,” writes St Paul to the Thessalonians (2 Ep. i. 3), “for that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the love of each one of you all toward one another multiplieth.” This is the sound and true growth of faith. Where an intenser faith makes men disputatious and exclusive; where it fails to breed meekness and courtesy, we cannot but suspect its quality. Such faith may be sincere; but it is mixed with a lamentable ignorance, and a resistance to the Holy Spirit that is likely to end in grave offence. “Contending earnestly for the faith” does not mean contending angrily, with the weapons of satire and censoriousness. It is well to remember that we are not the judges of our brethren. There are many questions raised and discussed amongst us, which we may safely leave to the judgement of the last day. It is too easy to fill the air with matters of contention, and to excite a sore and suspicious temper destructive of peace, and in which nothing but fault-finding will flourish. If we must contend, we may surely debate quietly on secondary matters, while we are one in Christ. If we have not love with faith, our faith is worthless (1 Cor. xiii. 2).

Deep beneath the peace that dwells in the Church 438 and the love that fills each believer’s heart, is the eternal fountain of grace. “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ,” says the apostle. Grace is theirs already; and they desire nothing so much as its increase. Their love to Christ is the fruit of the grace of God that is with them. This wish includes all good wishes; it surpasses both our deservings and desires. All that God prepared for us in His eternal counsels, and that Christ purchased by His redeeming love, all of good that our nature can receive now and for ever, is embraced in this one word: Grace be with you.

“With all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ,” Paul says; for it is to lovers of Christ that God gives the continuance of His grace. If our love to Christ fails, grace leaves us. God cannot look with favour upon the man who has no love to His Son Jesus Christ. In giving his blessing to the Corinthians, St Paul was compelled to write with his own hand: “If any man love not the Lord, let him be anathema.” The blessing involves the anathema. God’s love is not a love of indifference, an indiscriminate, immoral affection. It is a love of choice and predilection—“If any man love me,” said Jesus, “my Father will love him.” Is not the condition reasonable,—and the inference inevitable? The Father cannot grant His grace to those who have seen and hated Him in His Son and image. By that hatred they refuse His grace, and cast it from them.

On the other hand, a sincere love to the Lord Jesus Christ opens the heart to all the rich and purifying influences of Divine grace. The sinful woman, stained with false and foul love, who washed the Saviour’s feet with her tears, attained in that act to a height of purity undreamed of by the virtuous Pharisee. This new and 439 holy flame burns out impure passion from the soul: it kindles lofty thoughts; it makes crooked natures straight, and timid and weak natures brave and strong. “To them that love God, we know, all things work together for good.” To them that love Christ, all things contribute blessing; all conditions and events of life become means of grace. If we love Christ, we shall love His people,—the Church, the bride of Christ from whom He will never be parted in our thoughts. If we love Christ, we shall love the work He has laid upon us, and the word He has taught us, and the sacramental pledges He has given us in remembrance of Him and assurance of His coming. If we love Him, we shall “keep His commandments,” and He will keep His promise to send us the “other Helper, to be with us for ever, even the Spirit of truth.” The gift of the Holy Spirit is the all-sufficiency of grace.185185   Ch. i. 14, iv. 30. See Chapter IV., above. Here is the innermost sanctuary of our religion, the fountain and beginning of the soul’s eternal life,—in the love which joins it to the Lord in one spirit.

In incorruption is the last and sealing word of this letter, which we have been so long studying together. It “stands as the crown and climax of this glorious epistle” (Alford). Like so many other words of the epistle, at first sight its interpretation is not clear. The apostle has used the term in several other passages, as synonymous with immortality186186   Rom. ii. 7; 1 Cor. xv. 42, 50, 53, 54; 2 Tim. i. 10. See Alford’s excellent note on this passage. and denoting the state of the blessed after the resurrection, when they will stand before God complete in body and in spirit, with all that is mortal in them swallowed up of life—“raised in incorruption.” But there is nothing in this context440 to lead up to the idea of personal, bodily immortality. Those who construe the apostle’s words in this sense, place a comma before the final clause and treat it as a qualification of the main predicate of the sentence: “Grace be with all them that love our Lord,—grace [culminating] in incorruption”—or in other words, “grace crowned with glory!” But it must be admitted that this is somewhat strained.

The rendering of our ordinary version, “in sincerity” (in the Revised rendering, “uncorruptness”), gives an ethical sense to the word that is scarcely borne out by usage. It is a different, though kindred expression that St Paul employs to express “uncorruptness” in Titus ii. 7.187187   Ἀφθορία: ἀφθαρσία is deleted in the critical texts.

It appears to us that the term “incorruption,” in its ordinary significance, applies fitly to the believer’s love for the Lord, when the word is read in accordance with the symbolism of the epistle. This love is the life of the body of Christ. In it lies the Church’s immortality. The gates of death prevail not against her, rooted and grounded as she is in love to the risen and immortal Christ. “May that love be maintained,” the apostle says, “in its deathless power. Let it be an unspoilt and unwasting love.”

Of earthly love we often say with sadness:—

“Space is against thee: it can part!

Time is against thee: it can chill!”

Not so with the love of Christ. Neither death nor life parts the soul from Him. Our love to the Lord Jesus Christ seats us with Him in the heavenly places,—above the realm of decay, above this wasting flesh and perishing world.


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