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“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints, who are indeed faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”11   The translation given in this volume is based upon the Revised Version, but deviates from it in some particulars. These deviations will be explained in the exposition.Eph. i. 1, 2.

In passing from the Galatian to the Ephesian epistle we are conscious of entering a different atmosphere. We leave the region of controversy for that of meditation. From the battle-field we step into the hush and stillness of the temple. Verses 3–14 of this chapter constitute the most sustained and perfect act of praise that is found in the apostle’s letters. It is as though a door were suddenly opened in heaven; it shuts behind us, and earthly tumult dies away. The contrast between these two writings, following each other in the established order of the epistles, is singular and in some ways extreme. They are, respectively, the most combative and peaceful, the most impassioned and unimpassioned, the most concrete and abstract, the most human and divine amongst the great apostle’s writings.

Yet there is a fundamental resemblance and identity of character. The two letters are not the expression of different minds, but of different phases of the same 4 mind. In the Paul of Galatians the Paul of Ephesians is latent; the contemplative thinker, the devout mystic behind the ardent missionary and the masterly debater. Those critics who recognize the genuine apostle only in the four previous epistles and reject whatever does not conform strictly to their type, do not perceive how much is needed to make up a man like the apostle Paul. Without the inwardness, the brooding faculty, the power of abstract and metaphysical thinking displayed in the epistles of this group, he could never have wrought out the system of doctrine contained in those earlier writings, nor grasped the principles which he there applies with such vigour and effect. That so many serious and able scholars doubt, or even deny, St Paul’s authorship of this epistle on internal grounds and because of the contrast to which we have referred, is one of those phenomena which in future histories of religious thought will be quoted as the curiosities of a hypercritical age.22   The case against authenticity is ably stated in Dr. S. Davidson’s Introduction to the N. T.; see also Baur’s Paul, Pfleiderer’s Paulinism, Hilgenfeld’s Einleitung, Hatch’s article on “Paul” in the Encyclopædia Britannica. The case for the defence may be found in Weiss’, Salmon’s, Bleek’s, or Dods’ N. T. Introduction—the last brief, but to the point; in Reuss’ History of the N. T.; Milligan’s article on “Ephesians” in Encycl. Brit.; Gloag’s Introduction to the Pauline Epp.; Meyer’s, or Beet’s, or Eadie’s Commentary; Sabatier’s The Apostle Paul.

Let us observe some of the Pauline qualities that are stamped upon the face of this document. There is, in the first place, the apostle’s intellectual note, what has been well called his passion for the absolute. St Paul’s was one of those minds, so discomposing to superficial and merely practical thinkers, which cannot be content with half-way conclusions. For every principle he seeks its ultimate basis; every line of thought he 5 pushes to its furthest limits. His gospel, if he is to rest in it, must supply a principle of unity that will bind together all the elements of his mental world.

Hence, in contesting the Jewish claim to religious superiority on the ground of circumcision and the Abrahamic covenant, St Paul developed in the epistle to the Galatians a religious philosophy of history; he arrived at a view of the function of the law in the education of mankind which disposed not only of the question at issue, but of all such questions. He established for ever the principle of salvation by faith and of spiritual sonship to God. What that former argument effects for the history of revelation, is done here for the gospel in its relations to society and universal life. The principle of Christ’s headship is carried to its largest results. The centre of the Church becomes the centre of the universe. God’s plan of the ages is disclosed, ranging through eternity and embracing every form of being, and “gathering into one all things in the Christ.” In Galatians and Romans the thought of salvation by Christ breaks through Jewish limits and spreads itself over the field of history; in Colossians and Ephesians the idea of life in Christ overleaps the barriers of time and human existence, and brings “things in heaven and things in earth and things beneath the earth” under its sway.

The second, historical note of original Paulinism we recognize in the writer’s attitude towards Judaism. We should be prepared to stake the genuineness of the epistle on this consideration alone. The position and point of view of the Jewish apostle to the Gentiles are unique in history. It is difficult to conceive how any one but Paul himself, at any other juncture, could have represented the relation of Jew and Gentile to each 6 other as it is put before us here. The writer is a Jew, a man nourished on the hope of Israel (i. 12), who had looked at his fellow-men across “the middle wall of partition” (ii. 14). In his view, the covenant and the Christ belong, in the first instance and as by birthright, to the men of Israel. They are “the near,” who live hard by the city and house of God. The blessedness of the Gentile readers consists in the revelation that they are “fellow-heirs and of the same body and joint-partakers with us of the promise in Christ Jesus” (iii. 6). What is this but to say, as the apostle had done before, that the branches “of the naturally wild olive tree” were “against nature grafted into the good olive tree” and allowed to “partake of its root and fatness,” along with “the natural branches,” the children of the stock of Abraham who claimed it for “their own”; that “the men of faith are sons of Abraham” and “Abraham’s blessing has come on the Gentiles through faith”?33   Rom. xi. 16–24; Acts xiii. 26; Gal. iii. 7, 14.

For our author this revelation has lost none of its novelty and surprise. He is in the midst of the excitement it has produced, and is himself its chief agent and mouthpiece (iii. 1–9). This disclosure of God’s secret plans for the world overwhelms him by its magnitude, by the splendour with which it invests the Divine character, and the sense of his personal unworthiness to be entrusted with it. We utterly disbelieve that any later Christian writer could or would have personated the apostle and mimicked his tone and sentiments in regard to his vocation, in the way that the “critical” hypothesis assumes. The criterion of Erasmus is decisive: Nemo potest Paulinum pectus effingere.

St Paul’s doctrine of the cross is admittedly his 7 specific theological note. In the shameful sacrificial death of Jesus Christ he saw the instrument of man’s release from the curse of the broken law;44   Gal. iii. 10–13; 2 Cor. v. 20, 21, etc. and through this knowledge the cross which was the “scandal” of Saul the Pharisee, had become Paul’s glory and its proclamation the business of his life. It is this doctrine, in its original strength and fulness, which lies behind such sentences as those of chapter i. 7, ii. 13, and v. 2: “We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses—brought nigh in the blood of Christ—an offering and sacrifice to God for an odour of sweet smell.”

Another mark of the apostle’s hand, his specific spiritual note, we find in the mysticism that pervades the epistle and forms, in fact, its substance. “I live no longer: Christ lives in me.” “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.”55   Gal. ii. 20; 1 Cor. vi. 17. In these sentences of the earlier letters we discover the spring of St Paul’s theology, lying in his own experience—the sense of personal union through the Spirit with Christ Jesus. This was the deepest fact of Paul’s consciousness. Here it meets us at every turn. More than twenty times the phrase “in Christ” or its equivalents recur, applied to Christian acts or states. It is enough to refer to chapter iii. 17, “that the Christ may make His dwelling in your hearts through faith,” to show how profoundly this mysterious relationship is realized in this letter. No other New Testament writer conceived the idea in Paul’s way, nor has any subsequent writer of whom we know made the like constant and original use of it. It was the habit of the apostle’s mind, the index of his innermost life. Kindred to this, and hardly less conspicuous, 8 is his conception of “God in Christ” (2 Cor. v. 19) saving and operating upon men, who, as we read here, “chose us in Christ before the world’s foundation—forgave us in Him—made us in Him to sit together in the heavenly places—formed us in Christ Jesus for good works.”

The ethical note of the true Paulinism is the conception of the new man in Christ Jesus, whose sins were slain by His death, and who shares His risen life unto God (Rom. vi.). From this idea, as from a fountainhead, the apostle in the parallel Colossian epistle (ch. iii.) deduces the new Christian morality. The temper and disposition of the believer, his conduct in all social duties and practical affairs are the expression of a “life hid with Christ in God.” It is the identical “new man” of Romans and Colossians who presents himself as our ideal here, raised with Christ from the dead and “sitting with Him in the heavenly places.” The newness of life in which he walks, receives its impulse and direction from this exalted fellowship.

The characteristics of St Paul’s teaching which we have described—his logical thoroughness and finality, his peculiar historical, theological, spiritual, and ethical standpoint and manner of thought—are combined in the conception which is the specific note of this epistle, viz., its idea of the Church as the body of Christ,—or in other words, of the new humanity created in Him. This forms the centre of the circle of thought in which the writer’s mind moves;66   See ch. i. 9–13, ii. 11–22, iii. 5–11, iv. 1–16, v. 23–32. it is the meeting-point of the various lines of thought that we have already traced. The doctrine of personal salvation wrought out in the great evangelical epistles terminates in that of social 9 and collective salvation. A new and precious title is conferred on Christ: He is “Saviour of the body” (v. 23), i.e., of the corporate Christian community. “The Son of God who loved me and gave up Himself for me” becomes “the Christ” who “loved the Church and gave up Himself for her.”77   Gal ii. 20; Eph. v. 25. “The new man” is no longer the individual, a mere transformed ego; he is the type and beginning of a new mankind. A perfect society of men, all sons of God in Christ, is being constituted around the cross, in which the old antagonisms are reconciled, the ideal of creation is restored, and a body is provided to contain the fulness of Christ, a holy temple which God inhabits in the Spirit. Of this edifice, with the cross for its centre and Christ Jesus for its corner-stone, Jew and Gentile form the material—“the Jew first,” lying nearest to the site.88   Rom. i. 16; Eph. ii. 17–20.

The apostle Paul necessarily conceived the reconstruction of humanity under the form of a reconciliation of Israel and the Gentiles. The Catholicism we have here is Paul’s Catholicism of Gentile engrafting—not Clement’s, of churchly order and uniformity; nor Ignatius’, of monepiscopal rule. It is profoundly characteristic of this apostle, that in “the law” which had been to his own experience the barrier and ground of quarrel between the soul and God, “the strength of sin,” he should come to see likewise the barrier between men and men, and the strength of the sinful enmity which distracted the Churches of his foundation (ii. 14–16).

The representation of the Church contained in this epistle is, therefore, by no means new in its elements. Such texts as 1 Corinthians iii. 16, 17 (“Ye are God’s temple,” etc.) and xii. 12–27 (concerning the one body 10 and many members) bring us near to its actual expression. But the figures of the body and temple in these passages, had they stood alone, might be read as mere passing illustrations of the nature of Christian fellowship. Now they become proper designations of the Church, and receive their full significance. While in 1 Corinthians, moreover, these phrases do not look beyond the particular community addressed, in Ephesians they embrace the entire Christian society. This epistle signalizes a great step forwards in the development of the apostle’s theology—perhaps we might say, the last step. The Pastoral epistles serve to put the final apostolic seal upon the theological edifice that is now complete. Their care is with the guarding and furnishing of the “great house”99   1 Tim. iii. 15, 16; 2 Tim. ii. 20, 21. which our epistle is engaged in building.

The idea of the Church is not, however, independently developed. Ephesians and Colossians are companion letters,—the complement and explanation of each other. Both “speak with regard to Christ and the Church”; both reveal the Divine “glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus.”1010   Eph. iii. 21, v. 32. The emphasis of Ephesians falls on the former, of Colossians on the latter of these objects. The doctrine of the Person of Christ and that of the nature of the Church proceed with equal step. The two epistles form one process of thought.

Criticism has attempted to derive first one and then the other of the two from its fellow,—thus, in effect, stultifying itself. Finally Dr. Holtzmann, in his Kritik der Epheser-und Kolosserbriefe,1111   Kritik d. Epheser-u. Kolosserbriefe auf Grund einer Analyse ihres Verwandtschaftsverhältnisses (Leipzig, 1872). A work more subtle and scientific, more replete with learning, and yet more unconvincing than this of Holtzmann, we do not know.
    Von Soden, the latest interpreter of this school and Holtzmann’s collaborateur in the new Hand-Commentar, accepts Colossians in its integrity as the work of Paul, retracting previous doubts on the subject. Ephesians he believes to have been written by a Jewish disciple of Paul in his name, about the end of the first century.
undertook to11 show that each epistle was in turn dependent on the other. There is, Holtzmann says, a Pauline nucleus hidden in Colossians, which he has himself extracted. By its aid some ecclesiastic of genius in the second century composed the Ephesian epistle. He then returned to the brief Colossian writing of St Paul, and worked it up, with his own Ephesian composition lying before him, into our existing epistle to the Colossians. This complicated and too ingenious hypothesis has not satisfied any one except its author, and need not detain us here. But Holtzmann has at any rate made good, against his predecessors on the negative side, the unity of origin of the two canonical epistles, the fact that they proceed from one mint and coinage. They are twin epistles, the offspring of a single birth in the apostle’s mind. Much of their subject-matter, especially in the ethical section, is common to both. The glory of the Christ and the greatness of the Church are truths inseparable in the nature of things, wedded to each other. To the confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” His response ever is, “I will build my Church.”1212   Matt. xvi. 15–18; John xvii. 10: I am glorified in them. The same correspondence exists between these two epistles in the dialectic movement of the apostle’s thought.

At the same time, there is a considerable difference between the two writings in point of style. M. Renan, who accepts Colossians from Paul’s hand, and who 12 admits that “among all the epistles bearing the name of Paul the epistle to the Ephesians is perhaps that which has been most anciently cited as a composition of the apostle of the Gentiles,” yet speaks of this epistle as a “verbose amplification” of the other, “a commonplace letter, diffuse and pointless, loaded with useless words and repetitions, entangled and overgrown with irrelevancies, full of pleonasms and obscurities.”1313   See his Saint Paul, Introduction, pp. xii.–xxiii.

In this instance, Renan’s literary sense has deserted him. While Colossians is quick in movement, terse and pointed, in some places so sparing of words as to be almost hopelessly obscure,1414   See Col. ii. 15, 18, 20–23. Ephesians from beginning to end is measured and deliberate, exuberant in language, and obscure, where it is so, not from the brevity, but from the length and involution of its periods. It is occupied with a few great ideas, which the author strives to set forth in all their amplitude and significance. Colossians is a letter of discussion; Ephesians of reflection. The whole difference of style lies in this. In the reflective passages of Colossians, as indeed in the earlier epistles,1515   E.g., in Rom. i. 1–7, viii. 28–30, xi. 33–36, xvi. 25–27. we find the stateliness of movement and rhythmical fulness of expression which in this epistle are sustained throughout. Both epistles are marked by those unfinished sentences and anacolutha, the grammatical inconsequence associated with close continuity of thought, which is a main characteristic of St Paul’s style.1616   See the Winer-Moulton N. T. Grammar, p. 709: “It is in writers of great mental vivacity—more taken up with the thought than with the mode of its expression—that we may expect to find anacolutha most frequently. Hence they are especially numerous in the epistolary style of the apostle Paul.” The epistle to the Colossians is13 like a mountain stream forcing its way through some rugged defile; that to the Ephesians is the smooth lake below, in which its chafed waters restfully expand. These sister epistles represent the moods of conflict and repose which alternated in St Paul’s mobile nature.

In general, the writings of this group, belonging to the time of the apostle’s imprisonment and advancing age,1717   Eph. iii. 1; Phil. i. 13; Philem. 9. display less passion and energy, but a more tranquil spirit than those of the Jewish controversy. They are prison letters, the fruit of a time when the author’s mind had been much thrown in upon itself. They have been well styled “the afternoon epistles,” being marked by the subdued and reflective temper natural to this period of life. Ephesians is, in truth, the typical representative of the third group of Paul’s epistles, as Galatians is of the second. There is abundant reason to be satisfied that this letter came, as it purports to do, from Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through God’s will.

But that it was addressed to “the saints which are in Ephesus” is more difficult to believe. The apostle has “heard of the faith which prevails amongst” his readers; he presumes that they “have heard of the Christ, and were taught in Him according as truth is in Jesus.”1818   Ch. i. 15, iv. 20, 21. He hopes that by “reading” this epistle they will “perceive his understanding in the mystery of Christ” (iii. 2–4). He writes somewhat thus to the Colossians and Romans, whom he had never seen;1919   Col. i. 4, ii. 1; Rom. xv. 15, 16. but can we imagine Paul addressing in this distant and 14 uncertain fashion his children in the faith? In Ephesus he had laboured “for the space of three whole years” (Acts xx. 31), longer than in any other city of the Gentile mission, except Antioch. His speech to the Ephesian elders at Miletus, delivered four years ago, was surcharged with personal feeling, full of pathetic reminiscence and the signs of interested acquaintance with the individual membership of the Ephesian Church. In the epistle such signs are altogether wanting. The absence of greetings and messages we could understand; these Tychicus might convey by word of mouth. But how the man who wrote the epistles to the Philippians and Corinthians could have composed this long and careful letter to his own Ephesian people without a single word of endearment or familiarity,2020   “My brethren” in ch. vi. 10 is an insertion of the copyists. Even the closing benediction, ch. vi. 23, 24, is in the third person—a thing unexampled in St Paul’s epistles. and without the least allusion to his past intercourse with them, we cannot understand. It is in the destination that the only serious difficulty lies touching the authorship. Nowhere do we see more of the apostle and less of the man in St Paul; nowhere more of the Church, and less of this or that particular church.

It agrees with these internal indications that the local designation is wanting in the oldest Greek copies of the letter that are extant. The two great manuscripts of the fourth century, the Vatican and Sinaitic codices, omit the words “in Ephesus.” Basil in the fourth century did not accept them, and says that “the old copies” were without them. Origen, in the beginning of the third century, seems to have known nothing of them. And Tertullian, at the end of the second century, while he condemns the heretic Marcion 15 (who lived about fifty years earlier) for entitling the epistle “To the Laodiceans,” quotes only the title against him, and not the text of the address, which he would presumably have done, had he read it in the form familiar to us. We are compelled to suppose, with Westcott and Hort and the textual critics generally, that these words form no part of the original address.

Here the circular hypothesis of Beza and Ussher comes to our aid. It is supposed that the letter was destined for a number of Churches in Asia Minor, which Tychicus was directed to visit in the course of the journey which took him to Colossæ.2121   Ch. vi. 21, 22; Col. iv. 7–9. Along with the letters for the Colossians and Philemon, he was entrusted with this more general epistle, intended for the Gentile Christian communities of the neighbouring region at large. During St Paul’s ministry at Ephesus, we are told that “all those that dwell in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts xix. 10). In so large and populous an area, amongst the Churches founded at this time there were doubtless others beside those of the Lycus valley “which had not seen Paul’s face in the flesh,” some about which the apostle had less precise knowledge than he had of these through Epaphras and Onesimus, but for whom he was no less desirous that their “hearts should be comforted, and brought into all the wealth of the full assurance of the understanding in the knowledge of the mystery of God” (Col. ii. 1, 2).

To which or how many of the Asian Churches Tychicus would be able to communicate the letter was, presumably, uncertain when it was written at Rome; and the designation was left open. Its conveyance 16 by Tychicus (vi. 21, 22) supplied the only limit to its distribution. Proconsular Asia was the richest and most peaceful province of the Empire, so populous that it was called “the province of five hundred cities.” Ephesus was only the largest of many flourishing commercial and manufacturing towns.

At the close of his epistle to the Colossians St Paul directs this Church to procure “from Laodicea,” in exchange for their own, a letter which he is sending there (iv. 16). Is it possible that we have the lost Laodicean document in the epistle before us? So Ussher suggested; and though the assumption is not essential to his theory, it falls in with it very aptly. Marcion may, after all, have preserved a reminiscence of the fact that Laodicea, as well as Ephesus, shared in this letter. The conjecture is endorsed by Lightfoot, who says, writing on Colossians iv. 16: “There are good reasons for the belief that St Paul here alludes to the so-called epistle to the Ephesians, which was in fact a circular letter, addressed to the principal Churches of proconsular Asia. Tychicus was obliged to pass through Laodicea on his way to Colossæ, and would leave a copy there before the Colossian letter was delivered.”2222   Compare Maclaren on Colossians and Philemon, p. 406, in this series. The two epistles admirably supplement each other. The Apocalyptic letter “to the seven churches which are in Asia,” ranging from Ephesus to Laodicea (Rev. ii., iii.), shows how much the Christian communities of this region had in common and how natural it would be to address them collectively. For the same region, with a yet wider scope, the “first catholic epistle of Peter” was destined, a writing that has many points of contact with this. Ephesus being 17 the metropolis of the Asian Churches, and claiming a special interest in St Paul, came to regard the epistle as specially her own. Through Ephesus, moreover, it was communicated to the Church in other provinces. Hence it came to pass that when Paul’s epistles were gathered into a single volume and a title was needed for this along with the rest, “To the Ephesians” was written over it; and this reference standing in the title, in course of time found its way into the text of the address. We propose to read this letter as the general epistle of Paul to the Churches of Asia, or to Ephesus and its daughter Churches.

But how are we to read the address, with the local definition wanting? There are two constructions open to us:—(1) We might suppose that a space was left blank in the original to be filled in afterwards by Tychicus with the names of the particular Churches to which he distributed copies, or to be supplied by the voice of the reader. But if that were so, we should have expected to find some trace of this variety of designation in the ancient witnesses. As it is, the documents either give Ephesus in the address, or supply no local name at all. Nor is there, so far as we are aware, any analogy in ancient usage for the proceeding suggested. Moreover, the order of the Greek words2323    Τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν ... καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῳ Ἰησοῦ. The interposition of the heterogeneous attributive between ἁγίοις and πιστοῖς is harsh and improbable—not to say, with Hofmann, “quite incredible.” The two latest German commentaries to hand, that of Beck and of von Soden (in the Hand-Commentar), interpreters of opposite schools, agree with Hofmann in rejecting the local adjunct and regarding πιστοῖς as the complement of τοῖς οὖσιν. is against this supposition.—(2) We18 prefer, therefore, to follow Origen2424   Origen, in his fanciful way, makes of τοῖς οὖσιν a predicate by itself: “the saints who are,” who possess real being like God Himself (Exod. iii. 14)—“called from non-existence into existence.” He compares 1 Cor. i. 28. and Basil, with some modern exegetes, in reading the sentence straight on, as it stands in the Sinaitic and Vatican copies. It then becomes: To the saints, who are indeed faithful in Christ Jesus.

“The saints” is the apostle’s designation for Christian believers generally,2525   See, e.g., ver. 18, ii. 19, iii. 18, iv. 12, v. 3. as men consecrated to God in Christ (1 Cor. i. 2). The qualifying phrase “those who are indeed faithful in Christ Jesus,” is admonitory. As Lightfoot says with reference to the parallel qualification in Colossians i. 2, “This unusual addition is full of meaning. Some members of the [Asian] Churches were shaken in their allegiance, even if they had not fallen from it. The apostle therefore wishes it to be understood that, when he speaks of the saints, he means those who are true and steadfast members of the brotherhood. In this way he obliquely hints at the defection.” By this further definition “he does not directly exclude any, but he indirectly warns all.” We are reminded that we are in the neighbourhood of the Colossian heresy. Beneath the calm tenor of this epistle, the ear catches an undertone of controversy. In chapter iv. 14 and vi. 10–20 this undertone becomes clearly audible. We shall find the epistle end with the note of warning with which it begins.

The Salutation is according to St Paul’s established form of greeting.

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