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‘GIFTS’ AND ‘GRACE.’
HAVING thus examined the chief passages of Ephesians, which now for the first time in St Paul’s extant Epistles clearly set forth the conception of a single universal Ecclesia, we must return to the passages of various dates in which he expounds his doctrine of χαρίσματα, and exemplifies it by various functions within the Ecclesia. The three passages are 1 Cor. xii. 4-11 and 28-31; Rom. xii. 6-8; Eph. iv. 7-12.
The meaning of the terms.
Χάρισμα a comes of course from χαρίζομαι; it means anything given of free bounty, not of debt, contract, or right. It is thus obviously used in Philo, and as obviously in Rom. v. 15, vi. 23 (the gift of God is eternal life); and less obviously but with I believe essentially the same force in the other passages of St Paul, as also in the only other New Testament place, 1 Pet. iv. 10. In these instances it is used to 154designate either what we call ‘natural advantages’ independent of any human process of acquisition, or advantages freshly received in the course of Providence; both alike being regarded as so many various free gifts from the Lord of men, and as designed by Him to be distinctive qualifications for rendering distinctive services to men or to communities of men. In this sense they are Divine gifts both to the individual men in whom so to speak they are located, and to the society for whose benefit they are ordained. This conception underlies not only the passages of St Paul which refer directly to membership of a body, but the various usages of the remaining passages, in which on a superficial view the word might be supposed to be used arbitrarily. (The usage of the Pastoral Epistles we shall have to examine separately by-and-by.) Thus in Rom. xi. 29 (“The gifts and the calling of God are beyond repentance,” He cannot change His purpose in respect of them) we have a saying of the utmost universality respecting God’s χαρίσματα in general, the special application being to the various privileges granted to Israel for the benefit of mankind. In 1 Cor. vii. 7 χάρισμα is the proper gift which each man has from God as bearing on marriage or celibacy, probably with reference to what St Paul believed to be involved in his own special χάρισμα as the wandering herald of the truth to the Gentiles. In 2 Cor. i. 11 (cf. vv. 3-7, 9, 13 f.) it is his recent deliverance from impending death regarded as 155a gift bestowed on him for the sake of the Gentiles to whom he had yet to preach. And in the anxiously reserved language of Rom. i. 11 it seems to be some advantage connected with his personal history and work, which he wished to share with the Romans (μεταδῶ) by meeting them face to face, for the strengthening of their faith (cf. 1 Thess. ii. 8).
This conception of χάρισμα is essentially the same as that of the talents in the Parable, if only we go behind the somewhat vulgarised modern associations of the word talents to its full sense in the Gospel; with the difference that the Pauline χάρισματα, covering the members of a body, have a more distinct reference to variety of use. Perhaps the clearest exposition is St Peter’s (1 Pet. iv. 9-11, “Each, as he received a χάρισμα, ministering it to one another as good stewards of a manifold bounty (χάριτος) of God”); the instances given being hospitality and teaching. The single fountain of God’s bounty or grace is thus represented as dividing itself manifoldly through all the inequalities of human faculty and possessions, that it may be the better distributed by the individual men as stewards each of what he has received, that it may be for the benefit of the great household.
It is important to notice that the associations connected with the term ‘grace’ as inherited by us from Latin theology, denoting a spiritual power or 156influence, whether received by individuals according to their need or appropriated permanently to a sacred ordinance or a sacred office, whatever may be the truth of the idea in itself, are only misleading in the interpretation of the biblical language respecting χάρις and χάρισμα. The dominant conception of χάρις in the Acts and the Epistles is the free bounty of God as exhibited in the admission of the Gentiles although they stood without the original covenant; and this is constantly associated in St Paul’s mind with the free bounty of forgiveness shown to himself the persecutor, making him the fittest of all heralds of the free χάρις, so preeminently in his own person a recipient of χάρις. And moreover the language in which he is accustomed to speak of the χάρις shown (in biblical language ‘given’) to him is by him transferred to those parts or aspects of the χάρις shown to Christians generally which constitute separate χαρίσματα. From this point of view it is well worth while to compare 1 Cor. iii. 10; Gal. i. 15, ii. 9; Rom. i. 5, xii. 3, xv. 15; Eph. iii. 2, 7, 8; and then to notice how in 1 Cor. i. 4-6 St Paul similarly thanks God, “for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus; that in everything ye were enriched in him, in all utterance and all knowledge, . . . so that ye fall short in no χάρισμα”: and again how Rom. xii. 6, “having χαρίσματα in accordance with the χάρις that was given (shown) to us, different [χαρίσματα],” looks back to v. 3, and how Eph. iv. 7 looks back to iii. 2, 7, 8.157
The source of the ‘Gifts.’
To come now to the instances given of various χαρίσματα within the Ecclesia, or of the persons to whom such χαρίσματα were assigned, we may look chiefly at 1 Cor. xii. and Eph. iv. First should be noticed the two verbs by which God’s relation to the various functions is expressed in the two Epistles severally. In 1 Cor. the leading thought is of the Divinely ordained diversity of members in the Christian body; hence in v. 18 “God ἔθετο (not merely ‘set’ but ‘placed,’ set as part of a plan) the members, each one of them in the body as He willed”; and so in v. 28 the same verb is repeated with obvious reference to the preceding exposition, “And some God placed in the Ecclesia, first apostles, etc.” In Ephesians the Divine χάρις or free bounty is the leading thought, each function being pronounced to be a Divine gift. Ps. lxviii. 18, in the form in which it is quoted in v. 8, supplies the verb ‘gave’ (“and gave gifts to men”), and so St Paul proceeds, “And Himself gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, etc.” The word χάρισμα does not occur in Ephesians: but ἔδωκεν in this connexion, associated with ἡ χάρις, is exactly the ἐχαρίσατο implicitly contained in χάρισμα.
‘Functions’ not formal ‘Offices.’
Then come the functions themselves. Much profitless labour has been spent on trying to force the 158various terms used into meaning so many definite ecclesiastical offices. Not only is the feat impossible, but the attempt carries us away from St Paul’s purpose, which is to shew how the different functions are those which God has assigned to the different members of a single body. In both lists apostles and prophets come first, two forms of altogether exceptional function, those who were able to bear witness of Jesus and the Resurrection by the evidence of their own sight — the Twelve and St Paul — and those whose monitions or outpourings were regarded as specially inspired by the Holy Spirit. Each of these held one kind of function, and next to these in i Cor. come all who in any capacity were “teachers” (διδάσκαλοι) without any of the extraordinary gifts bestowed on apostles and prophets. In Ephesians this function is given in a less simple form. First there are “evangelists,” doubtless men like Titus and Timothy (2 Tim. iv. 5) and Tychicus and Epaphras, disciples of St Paul who went about from place to place preaching the Gospel in multiplication and continuation of his labours without possessing the peculiar title of apostleship. Probably enough in St Paul’s long imprisonment this kind of work had much increased. Then come “pastors and teachers,” men who taught within their own community, and whose work was therefore as that of shepherds taking care for a flock. Here the list in Ephesians ends, while that in 1 Cor. proceeds to various functions unconnected with teaching 159and belonging rather to action, first, extraordinary powers and what St Paul calls gifts of healings; then two types of ordinary services rendered to members of the community, first helps4646Cf. Acts xx. 35 ἀντιλαμβάνεσθαι τῶν ἀσθενοὐντων, some places in LXX., but especially Ecclesiasticus [xi. 12; li. 7].. (ἀντιλήμψεις), anything that could be done for poor or weak or outcast brethren, either by rich or powerful or influential brethren or by the devotion of those who stood on no such eminence; and secondly guidances4747See especially its use in the LXX. version of Proverbs as the apparently exactly literal rendering of tăkhbūlōth (see Del. on Prov. i. 5), three times rendered ‘wise guidance’ in R.V. or governments (κυβερνήσεις), men who by wise counsels did for the community what the steersman or pilot does for the ship. Then last comes an exceptional class of extraordinary powers or manifestations, neither properly didactic nor properly practical, what are called ‘tongues’. The enumeration earlier in the chapter (vv. 8-10) not only omits apostles and helps and guidances, but, with other variations, seems to subdivide the function of teachers under three different qualifications, what are called “an utterance (λόγος) of wisdom,” “an utterance of knowledge,” and “faith”: and in Rom. xii. there are analogous subdivisions, among which occurs “ministration” (διακονία), a very comprehensive word, including e.g. (1 Cor. xvi. 15) the way in which apparently the household of Stephanas laid themselves out (ἔταξαν ἑαυτούς) to be hospitable and helpful to Christian strangers visiting Corinth.160
All this variation of enumeration, and also the variation in the form of description (persons and so to speak things being terms of a single series), becomes intelligible and natural when we understand clearly that St Paul is not speaking at all of formal offices or posts in the Ecclesia, much less enumerating them. The chief reason why he seems to do this is because apostles stand at the head in the two chief lists, and the apostolate of the Twelve and St Paul was in an important sense a definite and permanent office. But it was part of St Paul’s purpose to shew that the service which they were intended to render to the Ecclesia of that age was on the one hand, as in the other cases, the service4848Cf. 1 Cor. iii. 5-9, and indeed -15, on Apollos and Paul. of members to a body to which they themselves belonged, and on the other was too peculiar to be included under any other head. What is common in substance to all the terms of the series is that they are so many kinds of partial service, and from this point of view it was immaterial whether there were or were not definite offices corresponding to any or all of these kinds of service; or again whether two or more kinds of service were or were not, as a matter of fact, ever performed by the same persons. Hence these passages give us practically no evidence respecting the formal arrangements of the Ecclesiae of that age, though they tell us much of the forms of activity that were at work within them, and 161above all illustrate vividly St Paul’s conception of an Ecclesia and of the Ecclesia.
The image of the ‘Body.’
The passage of Ephesians which we have been examining (iv. 7-11) begins the second portion of a section which rings with the proclamation of the great supreme Christian unities. But the purpose for which they are set forth is to sustain an exhortation on the fundamental practical duty attached to membership of the Christian body, to walk worthily of the vocation wherewith ye were called (explained by Col. iii. 15, “Let the peace of the Christ preside in your hearts, unto which ye were also called in [one] body” — better to read “in a body,” i.e. to be members of a body) with all lowliness and meekness etc., giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, he proceeds in the familiar words which seem to glide from exhortation addressed to Christians of a few cities of Asia into affirmation respecting the whole body of Christians. But it would seem as though he dreaded the very semblance of representing an Ecclesia of God as intended to be a shapeless crowd of like and equal units. Accordingly he turns within, to claim as it were all varieties and inequalities as so many indications of divers functions needed to work together to a true unity. “To each one of us,” he says emphatically (Ἑνὶ δὲ ἑκάστῳ ἡμῶν), “was given the grace according to the measure of the 162bounty of the Christ.” Then comes the quotation from the Psalm and the rapid setting forth of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers as so many various gifts of God to men; and then in the same breath their present and their ultimate purposes; their present purpose the καταρτισμός, or perfecting and accomplishing of the saints (i.e. the individual members of the great community) unto a work of ministration (i.e. those more conspicuous functions were meant to train and develop analogous functions of ministration, in each and all); then secondly, as a single aim of this manifold accomplishing, the building up of the body of the Christ; and finally, as the ultimate purpose of these processes, the attainment of all together (οἱ πάντες), unto the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect [full-grown] man, unto a measure of stature [maturity] of [such as belongs to] the fulfilment of the Christ. Even here the sentence does not end. From the lofty heights of his own thought St Paul descends to its practical purport, the rising out of the old heathen state of distracted beguilement by unworthy teachers, and through a life of truthful intercourse one with another in the power of love (see 25 ff.) growing up into Him in all things who is the Head, Christ. Then he ends with a description of the action so to speak of the Head on the body of the Ecclesia, the fitting together and knitting together of the whole, the spreading of life as from a centre through every 163joint by which it is supplied, the action of each part in due measure in appropriating and using the life so supplied, and as the result the growth of the Body unto building up of itself in the power of love.
The image of ‘building.’
Twice here the image of the body has been supplemented by the image of building. In various forms this other image is widely spread through the apostolic writings, not only in the simple thought of building up as opposed to the contrary process of pulling down or dissolving and to the simulative process of puffing up; but as exhibiting the ranging of human beings side by side so as to form together a stable structure of various parts, all resting on a foundation. But the ruling element in the idea comes naturally from the special purpose of the building. It is a dwelling-place or house, and its inhabitant is God; so that it is further a sanctuary (ναός) or temple of God. When our Lord Himself said in the temple at Jerusalem, “Destroy (dissolve, λύσατε) this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” interpreted by St John to refer to the temple of His body, He must surely have been chiefly thinking of that temple, that body of His which St Paul identifies with the Ecclesia, for from the day of the Passion the temple of stones lay under doom. Such at all events was Stephen’s teaching so far as the old temple is concerned, when to the words of 1 Kings viii. how Solomon 164built Jehovah a house, he added the comment, “Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in things made with hands,” appealing to Is. lxvi. “Heaven is my throne,” etc. Such was also the teaching of his persecutor and disciple St Paul when at Athens he repeated how the Creator, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands. The positive side of the same teaching we have in St Paul’s adaptation of Lev. xxvi. in 2 Cor. vi. 16, “For we are a sanctuary of a living God, as God said, I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people,” where that second phrase, “and walk in them” marks the indwelling spoken of to be not of a carved image or of a vaguely conceived presence but of a living God. Here as also in the yet more familiar passage 1 Cor. iii. 16 f. (“Know ye not that ye are a sanctuary of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”), the individual local community is itself addressed as a sanctuary of God; and the same conception, if we are not to disregard both grammar and natural sense, is expressed with great generality in Eph. ii. 21 f. “in whom [i.e. Christ Jesus as Cornerstone] each several building (R.V.) (πᾶσα οἰκοδομὴ) fitly framed together groweth into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.” Indeed, if I mistake not, the thought of a universal spiritual temple of God is, to say the least, not definitely expressed anywhere by St Paul.165
The foundation of the Apostles and Prophets.
Before we leave the language derived from a building, one very familiar phrase in Ephesians ii. 20 claims notice, “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” which may be interpreted and has been interpreted in several different ways. To find who are meant by the apostles and prophets we must first take this passage with another (iii. 5 f.), “the mystery of the Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men as it was now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in spirit, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs and of the same body,” etc. etc. The position of “prophets” as second in both places puts the Old Testament prophets out of the question, unless indeed they were likewise meant by “the apostles”, which in c. iii. is impossible. It seems to me that both the sense of both places and the collocation of words in c. iii. determine the apostles themselves to be the prophets meant. It is truly said that we cannot lay much stress on the absence of a second article before ‘prophets’; but in iii. 5 the prefixing of ἁγίοις and subjoining of α̡τοῦ to ἀποστόλοις is difficult to account for, if the prophets meant were a second set of persons. Such a passage as Gal. i. 154949Cf. Is. xlix. 1. is enough to suggest that St Paul regarded the office of the old prophets as in some way repeated in himself; and if we consider such 166sayings of our Lord on the last evening as John xiv. 26; xv. 26 f.; xvi. 13 ff. on the office of the second Paraclete in relation to the disciples, we must see that so far as the words had a first and special reference to the apostolic band, their witness-bearing to Christ was conditioned by the interpretative and enlightening operation of the Holy Spirit, and further that utterances proceeding from such an operation exactly answer to what the Bible calls prophecy. In a word, the specially chosen disciples had need to be prophets in order to be in the strict sense apostles. The full revelation respecting the Gentiles to which St Paul refers in Eph. iii. 6 ff. was not obviously involved from the first in the charge to preach the Gospel to all nations. It was to St Paul himself doubtless that this prophetic illumination came in the first instance: but he might well rejoice to merge his own individuality in the concordant acceptance of what he had proclaimed by the twelve at Jerusalem, an acceptance which might well itself be referred to the inspiration of the prophetic spirit. The enumeration in iv. 11, “And Himself gave some to be apostles, and some prophets” is not a serious difficulty in the way of this interpretation, for, as we saw before, the enumeration is not of classes of persons or formal offices, but of classes of functions; and though in the true sense there were no apostles but the twelve and St Paul, we know there were many others who were called prophets.167
But in what sense were the heathen converts of Asia “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets”? The phrase might mean either the foundation on which the apostles and prophets had been built, or the foundation laid by them, or themselves as the foundation. That Christ Himself is here meant as the foundation, as 1 Cor. iii. 11 might suggest, is very unlikely, when the next clause makes Him corner-stone without any indication that there is a transition from one figure taken from building to another with reference to the same subject. The previous verse in 1 Cor. (iii. 10) and the other passage of Eph. (iii. 5) suggest that the apostles and prophets were the builders who laid the foundation; but it remains difficult to see what foundation they can be said to have laid, in connexion with which Christ could be called a cornerstone. It would seem then that they themselves constituted the foundation in the sense which the Gospels led us to recognise, the chosen band of intimate disciples, the first rudimentary Ecclesia, on which the Ecclesia of Palestine was first built, and then indirectly every other Ecclesia, whether it had or had not been personally founded by an apostle. The reason why they are designated here by this full and double title is because the reference here is to the building up of Gentile Ecclesiae, and because the admission of the Gentiles on absolutely equal terms was in St Paul’s mind associated with what were to him leading 168characteristics of apostleship and of prophecy under the New Covenant.
The Universal Ecclesia and the partial Ecclesiae.
We have been detained a long time by the importance of the whole teaching of ‘Ephesians’ on the Ecclesia, and especially of the idea now first definitely expressed of the whole Ecclesia as One. Before leaving this subject, however, it is important to notice that not a word in the Epistle exhibits the One Ecclesia as made up of many Ecclesiae. To each local Ecclesia St Paul has ascribed a corresponding unity of its own; each is a body of Christ and a sanctuary of God: but there is no grouping of them into partial wholes or into one great whole. The members which make up the One Ecclesia are not communities but individual men. The One Ecclesia includes all members of all partial Ecclesiae; but its relations to them all are direct, not mediate. It is true that, as we have seen, St Paul anxiously promoted friendly intercourse and sympathy between the scattered Ecclesiae; but the unity of the universal Ecclesia as he contemplated it does not belong to this region: it is a truth of theology and of religion, not a fact of what we call Ecclesiastical politics. To recognise this is quite consistent with the fullest appreciation of aspirations after an external Ecclesiastical unity which have played so great and beneficial a part in the inner and outer movements of subsequent ages. 169At every turn we are constrained to feel that we can learn to good effect from the apostolic age only by studying its principles and ideals, not by copying its precedents.
I said just now that the one Ecclesia of Ephesians includes all members of all partial Ecclesiae. In other words, there is no indication that St Paul regarded the conditions of membership in the universal Ecclesia as differing from the conditions of membership in the partial local Ecclesiae. Membership of a local Ecclesia was obviously visible and external, and we have no evidence that St Paul regarded membership of the universal Ecclesia as invisible, and exclusively spiritual, and as shared by only a limited number of the members of the external Ecclesiae, those, namely, whom God had chosen out of the great mass and ordained to life, of those whose faith in Christ was a genuine and true faith. What very plausible grounds could be urged for this distinction, was to be seen in later generations: but it seems to me incompatible with any reasonable interpretation of St Paul’s words. On the other hand, it is no less clear that this Epistle, which so emphatically expounds the doctrine of the Christian community, is equally emphatic in recognition of the individual life of its members. The universal Ecclesia and the partial Ecclesiae alike were wholly made up of men who had each for himself believed, whose baptism was for each the outward expression of what was 170involved in his belief, for his past and for his future; and who had a right to look on the fact that they had been permitted to be the subjects of this marvellous change, as evidence that they had each been the object of God’s electing love before the foundations of the world were laid.171
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