7. Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
7. Cujus factus sum minister, secundum donum gratiae Dei, quod mihi datum est secundum efficaciam potentiae ejus.
8. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
8. Mihi omnium sanctorum minimo data est gratia haec, ut evangelizem in Gentibus impervestigabiles divitias Christi;
9. And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
9. Et omnibus conspicuum faciam, quae sit communio mysterii, quod absconditum fuit a saeculis in Deo, qui omnia creavit per Iesum Christum;
10. To the intent that now, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
10. Ut nunc patefieret principatibus et potestatibus in coelestibus per ecclesiam varie multiplex sapientia Dei,
11. According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
11. Secundum propositum aeternum, quod statuit in Christo Iesu Domino nostro,
12. In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
12. Perquem habemus audaciam, et aditum in fiducia, per fidem ejus.
13. Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
13. Quare peto, ne deficiatis in afflictionibus meis pro vobis, quae est gloria vestra.
7. Of which I was made a minister. Having declared the gospel to be the instrument employed in communicating grace to the Gentiles, he now adds, that he was made a minister of the Gospel; and thus applies to himself the general statements which had been made. But, to avoid claiming for himself more than is proper, he affirms that it is the gift of the grace of God, and that this gift was an exhibition of divine power. As if he had said, |Inquire not what I have deserved; for in the free exercise of kindness, the Lord made me an apostle of the Gentiles, not for any excellence of mine, but by his own grace. Inquire not what I formerly was; for it is the Lord's prerogative to exalt them of low degree.'| (Luke 1:52.) To produce something great out of nothing, shews the effectual working of his power.
8. To me, who am the least. He labors to exhibit himself, and everything that belongs to him, in as humiliating a light as possible, in order that the grace of God may be the more highly exalted. But this acknowledgment had the additional effect of anticipating the objections which his adversaries might bring against him. |Who is this man that God should have raised him above all his brethren? What superior excellence did he possess that he should be chosen in preference to all the others?| All such comparisons of personal worth are set aside by the confession, that he was the least of all the saints.
This is no hypocritical declaration. Most men are ready enough to make professions of feigned humility, while their minds are swelled with pride, and in words to acknowledge themselves inferior to every one else, while they wish to be regarded with the highest esteem, and think themselves entitled to the highest honor. Paul is perfectly sincere in admitting his unworthiness; nay, at other times he speaks of himself in far more degrading language.
|For I am the least of the apostles, and am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.|
(1 Corinthians 15:9.)
|Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief| (1 Timothy 1:15.)
But let us observe, that, when he speaks of himself as the meanest of all, he confines his attention to what he was in himself, apart from the grace of God. As if he had said, that his own worthlessness did not prevent him from being appointed, while others were passed by, to be the apostle of the Gentiles. The grace of God given to me is the expression used by him, to intimate that it was a peculiar gift, as compared with what had been bestowed on others. Not that he alone had been elected to discharge that office, but that he held the highest rank among |the teachers of the Gentiles,| -- a title which he employs on another occasion as peculiar to himself.
|I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not,) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.| (1 Timothy 2:7.)
By the unsearchable riches of Christ are meant the astonishing and boundless treasures of grace, which God had suddenly and unexpectedly bestowed on the Gentiles. The Ephesians are thus reminded how eagerly the gospel ought to be embraced, and how highly it ought to be esteemed. This subject has been treated in the Exposition of the Epistle to the Galatians, (Galatians 1:15, 16; 2:7, 9.) And certainly, while Paul held the office of apostleship in common with others, it was an honor peculiar to himself to be appointed apostle of the Gentiles.
9. What is the fellowship of the mystery. The publication of the gospel is called a fellowship, because it is the will of God that his purpose, which had formerly been hidden, shall now be shared by men. There is an appropriate metaphor in the words photisai pantas, to enlighten all men, -- conveying the thought, that, in his apostleship, the grace of God shines with the brightness of noon-day.
Which hath been hid in God. This is intended, as before, to obviate the prejudice of novelty, -- to oppose the rashness of men, who think it improper that they should remain in ignorance of anything whatever. Who will question the right which God has to keep his own purposes concealed, until he shall be pleased to communicate them to men? What presumption, -- yea, what madness is it, not to admit that God is wiser than we! Let us remember, therefore, that our rashness ought to receive a check, whenever the boundless height of the Divine foreknowledge is presented to our view. This, too, is the reason why he calls them the unsearchable riches of Christ; intimating that this subject, though it exceeds our capacity, ought to be contemplated with reverence and admiration.
Who created all things by Jesus Christ. This cannot so properly be understood of the first creation as of the spiritual renewal. It is, no doubt, true, and is frequently declared in Scripture, that by the Word of God all things were created; but the connection of the passage lays us under the necessity of understanding by it that renewal which is comprehended in the blessing of redemption. But it may, perhaps, be thought that the apostle is illustrating this renewal, by an argument drawn from the creation. |By Christ, as God, the Father created (John 1:3) all things; and why, then, should we wonder, if by Christ, as Mediator, all the Gentiles are now brought back to one body?| I have no objection to this view. A similar argument is used by him in another Epistle.
|For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, is the same who hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.|
(2 Corinthians 4:6.)
From the creation of the world he concludes, that it is the work of God to enlighten the darkness; but what was visible in the former case is ascribed to the Spirit, when he comes to speak of the kingdom of Christ.
10. That now to the principalities and powers. Some are of opinion that these words cannot apply to angels, because such ignorance, as is here supposed, could not be found in those who are permitted to behold the brightness of God's countenance. They choose rather to refer them to devils, but without due reflection; for what could have been regarded as extraordinary in the assertion, that, by the preaching of the gospel and the calling of the Gentiles, information was, for the first time, conveyed to devils? There can be no doubt that the apostle labors to place in the strongest light the mercy of God toward the Gentiles, and the high value of the gospel. For this purpose he declares, that the preaching of the gospel exhibits the manifold grace of God, with which, till now, the heavenly angels themselves were unacquainted. The wisdom of God, therefore, which was manifested by uniting Jews and Gentiles in the fellowship of the gospel, ought to be regarded by men with the highest admiration.
He calls it polupoikilon sophian, manifold wisdom, because men are accustomed to try it by a false standard, confining their view to a particular department, and thus forming a most inadequate conception of the whole. The Jews thought, for example, that the dispensation under the law, with which they were acquainted and familiar, was the only form in which the wisdom of God could be seen. But, by making the gospel to be proclaimed to all men without exception, God has brought forth to view another instance and proof of his wisdom. Not that it was new wisdom, but that it was so large and manifold, as to transcend our limited capacity. Let us rest assured that the knowledge, whatever it may be, which we have acquired, is, after all, but a slender proportion. And if the calling of the Gentiles draws the attention, and excites the reverence, of angels in heaven, how shameful that it should be slighted or disdained by men upon earth!
The inference which some draw from this passage, that angels are present in our assemblies, and make progress along with ourselves in knowledge, is a groundless speculation. We must always keep in view the purposes for which God appointed the ministry of his word. If angels, who are permitted to see the face of God, do not walk in faith, neither do they need the outward administration of the word. The preaching of the gospel, therefore, is of no service but to human beings, among whom alone the practice exists. Paul's meaning is this: |The church, composed both of Jews and Gentiles, is a mirror, in which angels behold the astonishing wisdom of God displayed in a manner unknown to them before. They see a work which is new to them, and the reason of which was hid in God. In this manner, and not by learning anything from the lips of men, do they make progress.|
11. According to the eternal purpose. How carefully does he guard against the objection, that the purpose of God has been changed! A third time, he repeats that the decree was eternal and unchangeable, but must be carried into effect by Christ Jesus our Lord, because in him it was made. Thus he declares, that the proper time for publishing this decree belongs to the kingdom of Christ. Literally the words run, |according to the eternal purpose (hen epoiesoen) which he made.| But I consider the meaning to be, which he purposed; because the present discussion does not relate solely to the execution of the decree, but to the appointment itself, which, though it took place before all ages, was known to God only -- till the manifestation of Christ.
12. Through whom we have boldness. The honor of reconciling the Father to the whole world must be given to Christ. From the effects of this grace its excellence is demonstrated; for faith, which is possessed by Gentiles in common with Jews, admits them into the presence of God. When the words, through Christ and by the faith of him, are used by Paul, in connection with the name of God, there is always an implied contrast, which shuts up every other approach, -- which excludes every other method of obtaining Divine fellowship. Most important and valuable instruction is here conveyed. The true nature and power of faith, and the confidence which is necessary for calling upon God, are beautifully expressed. That the consequences of faith, and the duties which it performs, should be the subject of much controversy between us and the Papists, is not surprising. They do not properly understand the meaning of the word Faith, which they might learn from this passage, if they were not blinded by prejudice.
First, Paul denominates it the faith of Christ; by which he intimates, that everything which faith ought to contemplate is exhibited to us in Christ. Hence it follows, that an empty and confused knowledge of Christ must not be mistaken for Faith, but that knowledge which is directed to Christ, in order to seek God in Christ; and this can only be done when the power and offices of Christ are understood. Faith produces confidence, which again, in its turn, produces boldness. There are three stages in our progress. First, we believe the promises of God; next, by relying on them, we obtain that confidence, which is accompanied by holiness and peace of mind; and, last of all, comes boldness, which enables us to banish fear, and to come with firmness and steadiness into the presence of God.
To separate faith from confidence would be an attempt to take away heat and light from the sun. I acknowledge, indeed, that, in proportion to the measure of faith, confidence is small in some and greater in others; but faith will never be found unaccompanied by these effects or fruits. A trembling, hesitating, doubting conscience, will always be a sure evidence of unbelief; but a firm, steady faith, will prove to be invincible against the gates of hell. To trust in Christ as Mediator, and to entertain a firm conviction of our heavenly Father's love, -- to venture boldly to promise to ourselves eternal life, and not to tremble at death or hell, -- is, to use a common phrase, a holy presumption.
Observe the expression, access with confidence. Wicked men seek rest in forgetfulness of God, and are never at ease but when they remove to the greatest possible distance from God. His own children differ from them in this respect, that they |have peace with God,| (Romans 5:1,) and approach to him with cheerfulness and delight. We infer, likewise, from this passage, that, in order to call on God in a proper manner, confidence is necessary, and thus becomes the key that opens to us the gate of heaven. Those who doubt and hesitate will never be heard.
|Let him ask in faith,| says James, |nothing wavering: for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.| (James 1:6,7)
The sophists of the Sorbonne, when they enjoin men to hesitate, know not what it is to call upon God.
13. Wherefore I desire. His reason for alluding formerly to his imprisonment is now manifest. It was to prevent them from being discouraged when they heard of his persecution. O heroic breast, which drew from a prison, and from death itself, comfort to those who were not in danger! He says that, he endured tribulations for the Ephesians, because they tended to promote the edification of all the godly. How powerfully is the faith of the people confirmed, when a pastor does not hesitate to seal his doctrine by the surrender of his life! And accordingly he adds, which is your glory. Such lustre was thrown around his instructions, that all the churches among whom he had labored, had good reason to glory, when they beheld their faith ratified by the best of all pledges.