« PreviousContinue »
18 Brethren, the grace 18 ‘H zapis tov Kupov of our Lord Jesus Christ huwv Ingov Xpisov UETA TOU be with your Spirit. Amen. OVEVUATOS juwy, adenooi.
wounds which he received when stoned, and left as dead on the street of Lystra, the marks of the Lord Jesuz. Farther, as he was five times scourged by the Jews, and thrice beaten with rods by the Romans, 2 Cor. xi. 24, 25. he may have suffered some of these punishments before this epistle was written. And if the wounds which he then received left scars in his body, he might call them likewise, the marks by which he was distinguished as the servant of the Lord Jesus.-Chandler conjectures, that by forbidding any one to give him trouble, seeing he bare the marks of the Lord Jesus in his body, the apostle threatened to punish the Judaizing teachers with the rod : as if he had said, at his peril, let any map from henceforth give me trouble, by calling my apostleship in question. Perhaps he meant likewise to insinuate, that the marks of the Lord Jesus in his body, were much bet. ter proofs of his being Christ's servant, than the mark of circumcision, of which the false teachers boasted, was a proof of their being God's servants.
Ver. 18.-1. Brethren. The attentive reader must have taken notice of the severity with which the apostle treated the Galatians. His rebukes were sharp, (chap. i. 6. iv. 11. v. 15.) and the language, in which he gave them, cutting. For he twice called them senseless Galatians. Nevertheless, having lexpressed his persuasion, that after reading what he had written, they would not think differently from him, in the great articles of the Chris. tian doctrine, ch. v. 10. he shewed his love to them, not only by giving them his apostolical benediction, but by calling them brethren ; and by making that appellation the last word of his letter but one.
As it was the general belief of the Jewish nation, that salvation could only be obtained by obedience to the law of Moses, it is natural to suppose, that many of the Jews who embraced the gospel, would teach the Gentiles, that unless they were cir. cumcised they could not be saved: And, on the other hand, that such of them as knew the truth of the gospel, would op. pose that false doctrine with a zeal equal to the magnitude of its pernicious consequences. The truth is, this controversy actually took place very early in the church, and occasioned such keen disputation and dissention among the brethren, that it became necessary to apply to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem to have it determined. Accordingly, after deliberating on the matter with the chief brethren of the church of Jerusa
18 The grace of our 18 May the love of our Lord Jesus Lord Jesus Christ BE Christ be always felt in your mind with your spirit, brethren.1 brethren. Amen. See Ephes. vi. 24. Amen.
lem, they unanimously decreed, that circumcision was by no means necessary to the salvation of the Gentiles; and sent copies of their decree to the churches in Antioch, and Syria, and Cili.cia, by the hands of Barnabas and Paul. But the latter, who knew the extreme attachment of the Jews to the law, foreseeing, that notwithstanding the decision of the apostles and elders, some of the more zealous Jewish believers in every church, would urge the Gentiles to receive the law as necessary to their salvation; and knowing, that by the prevalence of that doctrine, the gospel would be overturned, he judged it proper, that the brethren of the Gentiles should be secured from being drawn into an error so pernicious. He therefore wrote immediately to the churches of Galatia, where, as he was informed, some had already gone over to Judaism, the letter in the Canon which bears their name, in which he proved by the strongest reasoning, that circumcision was not necessary to the salvation of either Jews or Gentiles, but faith working by love. The same doctrine he inculcated in most of his other epistles; and by his zeal for the truth of the gospel, and earnest endeavours to maintain it, he, at length, banished Judaism out of the Christian church. The epistic to the Galatians, therefore, in which this matter was.debated and settled, being, as Chandler observes, perfectly suited to the state of the Christian church in its most early period, carrieth in the very nature of the question of which it treats, a strong internal evidence of its antiquity and authenticity. For it is not to be supposed, that any person in the second or third age of Christianity, would be at the trouble to write such an elaborate letter, for the purpose of determining a controversy, which, it is well known, had no existence in the church after the apostle's days.
OF ST. PAUL'S
EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS.
SECTION I. Of the Introduction of the Christian Religion at Ephesus. St. Paul's first coming to Corinth happened in the year 51, as was formerly shewed, Pref. to 1 Cor. sect. 1. On that occasion he abode among the Corinthians somewhat more than eighteen months, Acts xviii. 11. 18. then departed by sea for Judea. In his voyage, touching at Ephesus, a city famed for its commerce and riches, and for its being the metropolis of the province of Asia, he preached in the synagogue there with some prospect of success. But hastening to go to Jerusalem to keep the feast of Pentecost, he left Ephesus soon, Acts xviii. 19, 20, 21. His first visit, therefore, to the Ephesians, was in the year 53. From the history of the Acts, it appears, that the Ephesians were a very dissolute people, and extremely addicted to magic; walking, as the apostle expresseth it, chap. ii. 2. according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit which work. eth in the children of disobedience. Their city, also, was the very throne of idolatry; the worship of idols being performed in no part of the heathen world with greater splendour than at Ephesus, on account of the famous temple of Diana, which was built between the city and the harbour, at the expense of all Asia, and in which was an image of that goddess, said to have fallen down from Jupiter, Acts xix. 35. This image, as we may well suppose, was worshipped with the most pompous rites, by a multitude of priests, and a vast concourse of votariex iring every quarter, who, to gain the favour of Diana, came u Lou sus to offer sacrifice at her shrine.
Such being the state of religion and morals among the Ephesians, St. Paul, who was expressly commissioned by Christ to turn the Gentiles from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, resolved, at his departure from their city, to return soon, Acts xviii. 21. that he might have an opportunity of attacking idolatry in this its chief seat. Accordingly, having celebrated the feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem, he went down to Antioch, and after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples, Acts xviii. 22, 23. And having passed through the upper coasts, he came to Ephesus, Acts xix. 1. On this occasion he preached boldly in the synagogue for the space of three months, discoursing concerning, and proving the things which related to the kingdom of God, ver. 8. But the Jews, who had heard him with pleasure at his former visit, now opposed him violently, when they perceived that he preached salvation, without requiring obedience to the law of Moses. They spake also with the greatest virulence against the gospel itself; insomuch, that the apostle found it needless, and even dangerous to frequent the synagogue any longer. Wherefore, separating the disciples from the unbelieving Jews, he discoursed daily in the school of one Tyrannus, who either was himself a disciple, or allowed the apostle the use of his school for hire, And this, we are told, Acts xix. 10. continued for the space of two years ; so that all they who dielt in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
After leaving the school of the philosopher Tyrannus, the apostle seems to have preached and worked miracles at Ephesus, in the places of most public resort; for his fame became so great, that from his body were brought unto the sick, handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, Acts xix. 12. About this time, also, the apostlc's fame was greatly increased, by what happened to the seven sons of Sceva, one of the Jewish chief priests, who went about pretending to cast out devils. In short, Paul's preaching and miracles were so blessed of God, that multitudes of the idolatrous inhabitants of Asia, strongly impressed by them, embraced the gospel; and among the rest, many who had practised the arts of magic and divination. These, to shew how sincerely they repented of their former evil practices, brought out the books which contained the secrets of their arts, and burned them publicly, notwithstanding they were of very great value: So mightily grew the word of