By Henry Law, 1884
Ephesians 3:1—13. Paul, the Preacher to the Gentiles
"For, this cause I Paul, the
prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles."
We are permitted by our gracious Father to commence another portion of this sublime Epistle. May His teaching presence be mercifully granted to us, that our souls may see more of His great salvation, and be "made vessels unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work." Lord, hear our cry, and multiply Your mercies towards us!
Paul began this letter by designating himself as "an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God." Thus he would claim attention by announcing his high authority and commission. He reminds those who he is an Ambassador sent from and instructed by the King of kings. It would therefore be daring impiety not to listen with submission and reverence to his words. When he arrives at this portion of his letter, he presents himself to their notice under a different title—"I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles." It might at first seem strange, that he, who was called to be an Apostle, no, the chief of the Apostles, should be allowed to be deprived of his liberty, and be manacled, and immured in a jail. But the Lord's ways are not our ways. He leads and guides each one of His children by the right path, though often that path is dark and mysterious, and contrary to our expectations. Among the many lessons which we are taught by a contemplation of Paul in prison, let us consider the following. (1.) The Lord's servants are called to suffering. (2.) In their sufferings they should seek opportunity of glorifying God. (3.) Satan's contrivances against the saints are sure to be defeated.
(1.) The Lord's servants are called to suffering. This seems an immutable law of the kingdom of grace. Believe in Jesus, and suffer with Him. Faith and affliction go hand in hand. Moses chose to suffer affliction with the people of God. He could not call them brethren without participating in their heritage. The great Master was pre-eminently a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief—and His servants must in all things be made like unto Him. Strange would it be for a crucified Head to have members entirely exempt from suffering—strange for the Brow to be pierced with thorns, and spit on, and the limbs to be honored and caressed. Hence "we must go through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of heaven." There is no exception; and we generally find that advance in grace, and perfection in the faith and love of Jesus, is proportionate to the heat of the furnace in which we are placed. Whose trials have exceeded those of Paul? "In stripes above measure, in prisons frequent, in deaths often." And who, among the saints, have been more dead to the world, and more filled with the Spirit? He could indeed speak of exceeding tribulation, but he could add, "To me to live is Christ." "The life which I live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." And when his earthly trials are brought to their close, he could exclaim, "I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith—henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day." Hence we see that the peaceable fruits of righteousness were the result of the chastenings which he endured.
(2.) In their sufferings the saints should seek opportunity of glorifying God. Such was the conduct of Paul. We do not find him uttering one word of complaint, or murmur, or making his confinement an excuse for remitting his exertions in the cause of the Gospel. It would have been natural to have reasoned, "I am deprived of liberty; I can no longer go from place to place preaching the kingdom of God; my commission therefore is cancelled, my mouth closed, my work finished; nothing remains for me but in quiet silence to await my deliverance from the burden of the flesh." But very different were his feelings. He instantly considered what doors were still open through which he might communicate the knowledge of his Lord. He soon found, that though he could not address multitudes by word of mouth, yet still he could by letter make known to them the unsearchable riches of Christ. So he penned in his prison some of those precious Epistles which have been the instruction and consolation of the Church in all generations. To this hour, how many have cause to bless God that Paul was a prisoner! Hence in sufferings the saints may glorify God. Let each believer remember this—and whatever afflictions may be his, let him be careful to consider that some means remain, by which the glory of the Lord may be promoted by him. If he cannot be active, he can endure with such humility, patience, and joy, as will evidence to all around the reality and power of the grace of God.
(3.) Satan's contrivances against the saints will surely be defeated. He thought that he almost extinguished the Gospel, when he locked up Paul, even as he thought he annihilated religion when he accomplished the death of Abel. But he is short-sighted and cannot see the end from the beginning. Paul commits to writing the precious truths of the Gospel—these winged and imperishable messengers fly abroad throughout the whole world, and descend through all ages. Wherever they come, Satan's locks are opened, his bars drawn back, and his prisoners made free. Hence Paul's confinement has been spiritual liberty to multitudes. Thus Satan was made to defeat himself.
Ephesians 3:2."If you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward."
Paul having declared his present condition, as a prisoner of Jesus Christ, subjoins the cause of his being thus bound. It is, he adds, "for you Gentiles." His avowal that the way of salvation, through the mercies of God in Christ, was open to every sinner, whether Jew or Heathen; that the distinctive privileges of the covenant were abrogated by the Cross; and that he was commissioned to call the Gentiles to behold the Lamb of God and live, excited the hostility which deprived him of liberty, and sent him chained to Rome. He here reminds the Ephesians of this fact. "I am the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles." He then adds our present verse. "If you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward."
We have here another instance of the settled habit of the mind of Paul to ascribe all the Lord's dealings with His people to His sovereign grace. Oh, that more of this mind were in us! All that we have been taught—all that we have received—has resulted from free grace. Our knowledge of ourselves, our faith in Christ, our separation from the world, our desire to glorify God, are all of grace. Every attainment in the divine life, every perception of truth, flows from the same source. We should deeply feel, and we should devoutly confess, "By the grace of God, we are what we are." Paul here especially declares, that his commission to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles was grace given unto him.
Let us illustrate this truth by showing that (1.) Grace disposed him. (2.) Grace enabled him. May our meditations be sanctified!
(1.) Grace disposed him. What prejudices must have been removed before he could believe that God could regard with mercy and call into His kingdom any except the descendants of Abraham! This exclusive feeling had been imbibed from his earliest years; and the natural ardor and determination of his temper had rendered him especially zealous for all the traditions of the fathers and distinctions of his nation. It would be a marvelous shock to his prepossessions to find that a people, who were called no people, were now to be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. He would have to do violence to his cherished feelings before he could go forth to persuade those who they had an interest in the Redeemer's kingdom.
But, as darkness flies before the rays of the rising sun, so the most deep-rooted ignorance vanishes before the teaching of God's Holy Spirit. Have we not experienced this in the case of our own spiritual life? Do we not now clearly see, and warmly embrace, truths which once we bitterly disliked and resolutely rejected? This teaches us how unwearied we should be in making known to others the pure doctrines of our Gospel. We may have to encounter determined prejudice, and the effort may seem foolishness. So indeed it would be, if our arguments or our reasonings were the instruments to effect illumination or conversion. But nothing is to be accomplished by our unaided might or power. The grace of God is the only agent to effect a spiritual change; and this grace which disposed the heart of Paul to preach Christ to the Gentiles, is able to soften any heart, and apply with overcoming efficacy any word. Oh! that this grace would stir us up to more lively interest in the souls of vast multitudes of our race who are perishing in ignorance and sin—perishing for lack of that Gospel which is in our hands, and which we might communicate! O Lord Jesus Christ, behold the expanse of this dark earth, still in captivity to Satan, still ignorant of Your precious, Your saving name. Arise, O Lord, put on Your power, and awaken Your people to be zealous and diligent in diffusing Your knowledge. The grace, which caused Paul to ask, "What will You have me to do?" is still the same grace—all-sufficient to remove each doubt, and to make willing for the mighty work.
(2.) Grace enabled Paul. It is a blessed thing to have the will to labor in the cause of Christ—but the will alone is insufficient without the power. Many qualifications are needful; especially patience, resolution, unwearied industry. All these gifts were wrought in Paul. After the example of his great Master, "he set his face like a flint," and was never discouraged by opposition, by persecution, by sneers, by seeming failure, by the falling away of the unstable. He went forward unmoved, immoveable. But this was not the fruit of nature, it was the grace of God. Oh! that the same grace might help our infirmities, and strengthen us to work with power and perseverance in our Christian calling! How short our day is! The night is fast coming, when no man can work. How little do the most laborious accomplish! At the close of the longest life who will not bewail unprofitableness and unemployed time! The Lord have mercy on us, and qualify us by His Spirit to trade diligently and ably with the talents entrusted to us!
Ephesians 3:3."How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; as I wrote afore in few words."
The truth that the Gentiles were to be partakers of God's promise in Christ Jesus is here declared to be a mystery, which had been long hidden in the secret purposes of God, and was now announced to the startled and wondering Jews. It is added, that by revelation God made this mystery known unto Paul.
Let us commence our meditation on this verse by examining the relation which is given of this fact. When Paul addressed the multitudes from the stairs of the Castle at Jerusalem, he says, "It came to pass, that when I came again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the Temple, I was in a trance, and saw Him saying unto me, Make haste, and get you quickly out of Jerusalem—for they will not receive your testimony concerning me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue those who believed on You—and when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the clothing of those who slew him. And He said unto me, Depart—for I will send you far hence unto the Gentiles." Paul thus relates one of the intimations which the Lord gave to him, that he was called to proclaim salvation in the name of Christ to the heathen world.
There is, however, a remarkable passage in connection with the conversion of Paul, in which this truth is mentioned. It is the Lord's announcement to Ananias. He seemed incredulous, and was inclined to oppose, when he was sent to Saul of Tarsus. He replied, "Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he has done to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on Your name. But the Lord said unto him, Go your way—for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and Kings, and the children of Israel; for I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake."
This is in accordance with what the Lord revealed to Paul when He appeared unto him in the way to Damascus, and which is thus declared in his defense before Agrippa—"At mid-day, O King, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and those who journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecute you me? it is hard for you to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who are You, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus, whom you persecute. But rise, and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared unto you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of these things which you have seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto you—delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send You. To open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision; but showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance."
Hence we learn by the statements of Paul himself, that it was not by any man's instruction, but by direct and immediate revelation from heaven, that the marvelous truth was revealed to him, that the Gentiles should hear from him the way of life. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" Upon the lands which had been so long lying in darkness and the shadow of death, at last the great and marvelous light was to arise. The wilderness, so long overgrown with briers and thorns, was at last to blossom as the rose. The abodes and habitations of cruelty and every inhuman rite, were at last to resound with praises in the name of Jesus, and adorations of the true and living God.
But now, O believer, it is time for you to come apart, and realize your own individual interest in the fact which was thus revealed to Paul. You are not a Jew by nature, but a sinner of the Gentiles. What, then, would have been your case, if the middle wall of partition had not been removed, and the command from heaven gone forth, "Go you into all the world and preach the Gospel unto every creature!" Admire and adore the riches of God's love in choosing for Himself a people out of the midst of this despised quarry of filth and ignorance! And oh! admire and adore the incomprehensible, the unspeakable riches of this love, which has selected you individually to be a monument of redeeming power, and has brought you into the family of the saints, and has given you a name and a place among the heirs of everlasting glory. How great our obligations to sovereign grace! Oh! for more of the indwelling and constraining power of the Holy Spirit, that we might in every word and work show forth His praise, and testify to all around that we who were dead now live!
Ephesians 3:4."Whereby, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ."
The same subject is continued. The call of the Gentiles is the mystery of Christ, of which Paul here speaks. And truly it was a mystery, for it was so utterly concealed from the Jews, that the bare thought had never occurred to them; and it was a mystery of Christ, because it was part of His mediatorial work to redeem them. They were a portion of the inheritance given unto Him by the Father, and by His blood they were purchased, and by His Spirit they were to be sanctified, and in His faith they were to walk. Hence the call of the Gentiles was a mystery of Christ, in which Paul had knowledge by immediate revelation from heaven, and to which he directs the minds of the Ephesians. But as we have already said much concerning this mystery, and as other verses will bring it again under consideration, it may not be a misplaced exercise to devote this present meditation to other mysteries of Christ, in which Paul had intimate knowledge.
(1.) The mysteries of the everlasting covenant of grace through the Spirit were revealed to him. He names this covenant distinctly in that remarkable benediction, "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant." He knew, then, that from all eternity, ages before the foundation of the world, a distinct covenant existed between the Father and the Son; that a clear, definite scheme of redemption was arranged, to the performance of which each party was pledged. He knew that by virtue of this covenant, God the Father promised eternal life to as many as were given to Jesus for redemption. This he thus testifies—"Paul, a servant of God, and an Apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; in hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began." This promise, which was antecedent to all creation, could only be made to His own co-equal and co-eternal Son; and therefore this must be one of the promises of the everlasting covenant. Let us pause here. Do we believe in Christ? We reply, through grace we believe. Help, O Lord, our unbelief! Then we have an interest in this covenant, and this promise of eternal life is ours. Before the foundation of the world God included us in this wondrous word. Oh! then, let us rejoice, and realize the blessed prospect which is before us. Who or what can harm us? No storm can destroy the bark which must surely reach the port. No temptation or affliction can destroy us, for it is pledged that we shall reach the land of eternal life.
(2.) Another remarkable feature in the mystery of Christ, is His Person. Would that we had more intimate knowledge of this mystery! Well might Paul exclaim, "Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh." Jesus is perfect God and perfect man. He is Jehovah's Fellow as touching the Godhead; He is our brother as touching flesh and blood. How wondrous this union! The possibility of it could never have occurred to thought of man or angel. But to effect our salvation, God became man without ceasing to be God, and the manhood was taken into Godhead still continuing to be manhood. Thus Jesus, as being very flesh and blood, was qualified to represent man, to stand as his substitute, and to be his surety—and His Godhead imparting infinity to all His doings and all His sufferings, enabled Him to bear to the very uttermost the unutterable torments due to each transgression. As God-man, He stands between Jehovah and the sinner. He puts one hand on each, and draws them into one in Himself. Let us study to become more acquainted with the glories of the Person of our Lord. Let us make daily and hourly use of Him as qualified to stand in our stead, and able to bear away the iniquity of all our transgressions. Let us make use of Him as mighty to redeem and tender to sympathize.
(3.) Let us next advert to a wondrous mystery of Christ which Paul preached—the willingness of the Father to impute to Christ the sins of His people. As individuals we are all debtors to the justice of God. The penalty of disobedience is due from our own people. It is a mere act of grace on God's part to allow Christ to stand in our stead, and to take of Him the payment due from us. Without this mercy, in vain would have been the willingness of Christ to suffer. But hear how Paul proclaims this grace—"All things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ—and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation. To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation." Thus where sin abounded, grace has abounded much more. It is impossible for thought to conceive, or word express how much we owe to this unspeakable grace! Let us magnify the love of God, which delighted to remove every spot and speck of foul and hateful iniquity from our people, and to transfer them to His own dear Son—and thus finding them on Him, to visit them with the full punishment which they merited. "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"
Ephesians 3:5."Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy Apostles and Prophets by the Spirit."
Paul here declares that a long period of darkness and ignorance was permitted to envelope the earth, during which the heathen were kept entirely excluded from all knowledge of the true and living God. During this time, the Jews, who had the light of His countenance and the teaching of His servants, regarded all other nations as doomed to eternal alienation, and heirs of death unto death. The notion that an outcast heathen could ever be reconciled to God's favor, and called to His service and delight in His love, had never approached the threshold of their minds. But during this long night of spiritual gloom, the Lord had purposes of mercy towards them, and now in His own appointed time, He revealed this unto the holy Apostles and Prophets by the Spirit.
We perceive that the Jew entirely abandoned the heathen as a vessel of wrath fitted for destruction; but in this judgment he was wrong. A practical lesson of much importance may hence be learned. There is a strong tendency in our minds to pass the sentence of condemnation upon others. We see them living long in total disregard of God, blindly following the devices and desires of their own evil hearts, resisting all the warnings of His word and providence, rebelling against the light which shines around them, and reviling His faithful servants. These indeed are sad and fearful signs. This is the mark of those who are in perilous condition. Much cause have we to tremble for such. But still we greatly err when we exclude them in our minds from all hope of pardon and reconciliation. While there is life, there is hope; for while there is life, there is access to the Cross of Christ, and "whoever believes in Him shall not perish." While there is life, grace may be given to call upon the name of the Lord—and "whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
There are indeed a few notable instances of those, who after a long life of iniquity and unbelief have found mercy. These are sufficient to forbid our despair of any. There is nothing too hard for the Lord to do. The Jews thought it impossible for the Gentiles to be saved. But now, while the natural branches are broken off, how many branches wild by nature are grafted in! The Lord has secret purposes unknown to us. Let us, therefore, in the spirit of lowly, persevering patience, never cease to warn the ungodly to seek the Lord while He may be found, and to provoke Him not by continued impenitence, lest He swear in His wrath "They shall never enter into My rest." Thus doing, we shall sometimes be cheered by finding the withered branch putting forth the blossoms of faith and love, and bearing the fruits of righteousness to the praise and glory of God.
Paul further declares in this verse, that the mystery of the call of the Gentiles was now revealed unto the holy Apostles and Prophets by the Spirit. We have here an intimation of a great truth, which we should always keep before our eyes—that the Spirit is the revealer of spiritual light and understanding to the soul. Man, by the natural powers of intellect with which he is endued, may make marvelous progress in the investigation of abstract truth, and discovery of the wonders of science and the phenomena of nature. But here is the limit—beyond this the highest order of mental ability cannot soar. These gifts are all earthly, and they cannot get beyond the narrow region of earth. Spiritual attainments belong altogether to a different class. They are the direct gift of God, by the presence and operation of the Holy Spirit.
No man ever yet learned the true nature of God—the value of his immortal soul—the real defilement and deformity of sin—the preciousness and the beauty of Christ—without the enlightening aid of this Spirit. Hence the Spirit is called the Spirit of truth. Hence of Him it is said, "When He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth—for He shall not speak of Himself, but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak, and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify me, for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you."
Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, enlighten our hearts more and more, we meekly beseech You, that we may grow in grace, and in the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ!
Ephesians 3:6."That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the Gospel."
Paul here specifies in three distinct expressions the great blessings to which the Gentiles were now called. They were to be (1.) fellow-heirs; (2.) of the same body; (3.) partakers of God's promise in Christ. Let us humbly consider what important truths are contained in these expressions—and may the Holy Spirit help and teach us, that we may hereby be enabled more fully to appreciate the blessed privileges which are our portion in Christ!
(1.) We are "fellow-heirs." What is it to be an heir? It is to stand in a position which legally and rightly entitles us to succeed to the inheritance. But the inheritance which is here meant is no earthly property—no worldly title or distinction—no wealth to be possessed only for the short, uncertain tenure of this fleeting life. It is an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fades not away; laid up for us in heaven. It is the inheritance of eternal life in the kingdom of God. It is to sit upon the throne of God's glory; to enjoy the greatness, the pleasures, and the dominion of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Our souls are lost in wonder, when we strive a little to imagine the exalted, glorified state of the Lord Jesus. We know that "He is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God—angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him." Now, great as His glory is, such will be the glory of His saints. His own words are, "The glory which You gave me, I have given them." And "the Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." Thus the inheritance to which the Gentiles are called, is nothing less than to be co-partners for ever with Christ in the happiness and glory of heaven.
O my soul, is such your position? Are these the joys before you? Live, then, worthy of this high vocation. Trample beneath your feet the sordid pleasures and worthless vanities of time, and keep looking onward—looking upward—to the fullness of joy, the pleasures for evermore which are at God's right hand.
(2.) We are "of the same body." There is a marvelous union among the true disciples of Christ. "We being many are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." And again—"We being many, are one bread, and one body." Of this mystical body Christ is the Head. From Him all life proceeds, and is diffused through the several members—and His people being thus connected with Him, become likewise connected and interwoven with each other. This truth teaches us the sympathy and love which we ought to bear towards each other. The hand delights not to injure the foot. The tongue proclaims not the defects of the eye. So believers ought to be tender and compassionate in all their communion with their brethren. "Bear you one another's burdens" is the Gospel-rule—and again, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with those who weep." And the warning is, "But if you bite and devour one another, take heed, lest you be consumed one of another."
(3.) We are "partakers of God's promise in Christ." The Gentiles being called to union with Christ, and mystical oneness with His body, become entitled to all the privileges of this fellowship. Among these privileges, Paul here particularizes the inheritance of God's promise. We know that God has given us many and exceeding great and precious promises in Christ. But the promise here especially intended is the promise of the Holy Spirit. We infer this from the parallel passage to the Galatians—"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us—for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree—that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." Jesus commanded His disciples not to depart from Jerusalem, but to "wait for the promise of the Father, which, says He, you have heard of me." This promise God fulfils to His elect among the Gentiles; pouring into their souls this heavenly power, by which they are taught their need, filled with conviction of sin, and brought to the Cross for salvation. All these mercies are communicated through the Gospel. It is through the preaching of the Word that the Spirit descends. Wherever this Word is proclaimed, the footsteps of Deity may be traced. This thought should make us diligent to hear and to propagate the glorious Gospel.
Ephesians 3:7."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."
Paul recognizes his high vocation. He sees his grand commission. He realizes the glorious work entrusted to his charge. Gratitude and love swell in his heart. But to what does he ascribe the mercy thus given? He feels that he is wholly indebted to free and sovereign grace. His feeling would be, I am a Minister of Christ—but I became so by the effectual working of free and unbounded grace. For all that I am—for all that I have been privileged to do—I bless and adore the God of all grace. Paul knew that by nature he was a child of wrath—a transgressor from his mother's womb—that the thoughts of his heart were only evil continually. He knew, too, that he had been devoted to all the forms and services of a typical creed, which had expired when Jesus hung upon the accursed tree, and the veil of the Temple was rent from the top to the bottom. He knew how great had been his zeal in furtherance of the twilight system—with what hatred he had persecuted believers in the blessed Jesus—how he had gloried in dragging them in bonds to slaughter. But now he counted all things but loss for the excellency of this saving knowledge—now his one delight was to proclaim the finished work of Christ; and to bring sinners to receive Him as all salvation and desire. Now he was bold and valiant before princes and rulers to preach Christ and Him crucified. Whence this change? Whence this marvelous light? Whence these heroic resolves? One only can be the reply—I am a Minister of Christ by the effectual working of God's sovereign power. From the expressive way in which this truth is conveyed, we are led to contemplate—(1.) God's grace in providing Ministers for His Church. (2.) The grace by which they are formed and called and blessed. (3.) The estimate in which Ministers should be held.
(1.) We see the gracious love of our Heavenly Father in providing Ministers for His Church. He would not have His people to be wandering and straying in the wilderness of this world without the guidance and the care of shepherds. He would not that they should languish in the maladies and miseries of sin without physicians to tell them of a saving cure. He would not that they should be tossed and imperiled amid storms and billows without some pilot to direct their bark. He would not that they should be harassed with cares and sorrows without some friend to alleviate and bring solace. He would not that they should mourn without someone to sympathize and comfort. Therefore in His mercy he has ordained that faithful pastors should be ever near. Grand and glorious indeed is the pastor's work. The blessed Jesus in His communion with His Father says, "As You have sent Me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world." Hence in pulpits they take their station as ambassadors for Christ, to proclaim the mysteries of redeeming love—to be witnesses to the grace of Jesus—to tell of the covenant of grace—to declare the finished work of Christ. Not only to be in public the unfolders of divine truth; but also in private tenderly to warn of the miseries of sin—its dreadful penalties and its final doom—and to entreat the rebels to lay down their weapons, and with meek contrition to seek life and pardon. But time would fail in all attempt to traverse the whole region of ministerial work. Let it suffice to add, God has appointed Ministers for the edifying of the Church—for the perfecting of the Saints—until the work of grace is wholly finished and the glorious kingdom is complete.
While we adore God for His guardian care over His beloved flock, let us mark the instruments employed by Him and fitted for the heavenly work. He sends men to minister to men—men of like passions and infirmities with ourselves—men who have hearts to sympathize with our need, and qualified with intelligence of our burdens. If He had sent Angels from the courts of heaven, trembling and awe would have been our state. Their brightness would have dazzled—their greatness would have overawed—their powers would have alarmed. But the message of love—of peace—of reconciliation is entrusted unto those who come as members of our own race—as brethren unto brethren.
(2.) Mark how God enables them. To have a fellow-feeling with us, they must themselves have realized their lost and ruined and wretched state by nature. The Holy Spirit therefore has entered their hearts—mightily convincing them of sin, and causing them to tremble before the wrath of God. But the spirits thus wounded have been mercifully healed. Their eyes have been opened to see the fullness of Christ's saving work—the power of His blood to cleanse from all iniquity—the glory of His righteousness to enrobe them for the courts of heaven—His willingness to receive all who flee to Him for refuge, and to present them faultless before His Father's throne. These precious truths are not regarded by them as cunningly devised fables, nor as a recital in which they have little interest. They have thoroughly embraced them, and therefore from deep experience they can call—invite—allure—strengthen—comfort, and build up. They have a word in season for every member of their flocks.
(3.) What is the estimate in which they should be held? They are entitled to all respect as messengers from the courts of heaven, as ambassadors for Christ—to all love, as those who feel so tenderly for us, and devote their lives to promote our good. We should strive in all things to promote their comfort—to arrange that they have leisure and ease for preparation for their work, and earnestly and diligently and incessantly should we pray God to have them in His constant care—to enrich them with supplies of grace—to bless them in all their work. Happy the Minister who has such a flock! Happy the flock that has such a Minister!
Ephesians 3:8."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."
Paul's eye continues to be fixed on his high calling to be a Minister of Christ, and on the glorious subject which it was his privilege to unfold. He speaks of himself and of his Lord. His view is twofold. When self appears, he sinks into the lowest depths of humiliation and of shame. When Jesus is discerned, his mind ascends with rapid wing to the heights of unbounded praise. Thus two points are before us. (1.) The Minister as viewed by himself. (2.) Jesus as a treasury of celestial gifts.
(1.) Paul calls upon His followers to be clothed with humility. He here shows that this was the clothing in which he was clad. He appears as the follower of Jesus, who was meek and lowly in heart. Humility is indeed a precious grace. It thrives not in nature's rank soil. The heathen had no term to depict it. How could they speak of that which to them was utterly unknown! It is a grace which the Spirit deeply implants, when He reveals the misery and filth of indwelling sin. It grows with the growth of faith, and ripens as the celestial home is approached. Paul is a notable example. With what shame he viewed himself when writing to the Corinthians! He says, "I am not meet to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God." When writing to the Romans he humbles himself as the very bond-slave of iniquity. He states that when he would do good evil was present with him. He finds a law in his members bringing him into captivity to the law of sin which was in his members. In the passage before us he gives precedence to all the people of God, and by invention of a new word in language, he calls himself "less than the least of all saints." Can he sink lower in self-estimation? When his long career of service had reached its close he casts his eye along his life of labor, and humbly bewails that of sinners he is the chief. Far be from us the thought that he did not recognize God's gracious work within. He truly felt, by the grace of God he was what he was, and with ascending step he pressed toward the mark for the prize of his high calling in Christ Jesus. His was no mock humility. He did not disparage self that he might win applause. But the more the light of heaven shone inwardly, the more it revealed the continuance and the vileness of inbred corruption. The more he knew God the more he loathed himself. The branch laden with abundance of fruit bends beneath the load. The barren twigs shoot upwards. Thus Paul deeply felt and humbly avowed that he was less than the least of all saints.
(2.) From these depths of humility he uplifts his eyes to Christ. He strives to behold unsearchable riches. What an object here meets our gaze! We approach hallowed ground. Let us take off earthly sandals and approach with hallowed minds. Angels veil their faces when they contemplate the heavenly glory. Into what abasement and reverence should we poor sinners sink! But we are bid to search the field in which Christ the boundless treasure is hid. He is indeed a treasure-house in which all-surpassing wealth is amassed. Who can measure the infinitudes of thought contained in the revelation, "In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily!" He is great as God can be, He is Jehovah's Fellow; co-equal, co-eternal with the Father—God of God—Light of light—very God of very God. Mark the attributes which are revealed to us. His power is omnipotence. His wisdom is omniscience. His presence—it is everywhere—without center, without circumference. Vain is the imagination which strives to embrace such object—vain the utterance, which would venture to depict it! These riches are indeed unsearchable.
But He takes the manhood into God. He humbles Himself and becomes bone of our bones, and flesh of our flesh. What motive urges Him to such condescension? It is zeal for His Father's glory, and love for sinners of our vile race. Behold again these marvelous riches! They are verily unsearchable. Shall we think of the merits of His cleansing blood, which obliterates forever the crimson-dye of our iniquity—the beauteous robe of perfect righteousness in which He decks His bride, and presents her faultless in the courts of heaven? Shall we speak of His prevailing prayers which solicit and obtain all the blessings which heaven can bestow? Shall we speak of His coming glory? Vision indeed is dazzled. We can only exclaim, The riches of Christ are unsearchable. But though the search can never reach an end, for while upon earth we can only see through a glass darkly, we should daily strive to advance more and more in the pursuit—to dig more deeply in this field—to draw water more and more from these unfathomable wells. Let too the truth be devoutly pondered that all that Christ is, is for His people—all His possessions are for them—His riches are their inheritance. True is His Word in supplication to the Father, "The glory which You gave Me I have given them." He reveals that His Gospel is for them—that the love with which the Father loved Him, may be in them, and He in them. Such is the subject which Paul was called to preach unto the Gentiles, and which the faithful Pastor is privileged to unfold unto his flock. What a subject is here before us! How vast—how boundless—how limitless—how inconceivable—how inexhaustible—how infinite! Let it not then be thought that matter for the pulpit is scanty and barren. Let not the preacher speak of littleness—of frivolity—of earthly speculations. Let him preach Christ—Christ only—Christ fully. The theme will be ever new. Hearers will never weary. They will be cheered, and gladdened, and saved.
Ephesians 3:9."And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ."
The eyes of Paul were widely opened to his wondrous call. He deeply felt what mercies had been given unto him. He realized the blessed work committed to his diligence and care. There was a time when he was dead in trespasses and sins; but now he lives unto God. His eyes had been fast locked in darkness; but now he saw Christ in all the glories of His finished work. His heart had been hard with enmity and rebellion; but now he loved the Savior who had loved him before the world began. He realized still higher blessings. He knew that it was his privilege to testify of Jesus to a world lying in the wicked one. Not only the darkness of unregeneracy was past, but the darkness of contempt of the Gentile world. As a Jew he had regarded all other members of the human race as odious, contemptible, vile—scarce worthy of the name of men—the off-scouring of all things. But this prejudice had vanished before the revelation of Gospel-truth. He now knew that the wall of partition was broken down—that an unseen hand had rent the veil from the top to the bottom, and that the Gentiles were admitted to direct communion with God through the knowledge of His Gospel-love. He knew that God from the very stones beneath his feet could raise up children unto Abraham. He knew that all severance had ceased, and that God was the God of the circumcision through faith, and of the uncircumcision by faith. He realized the amazing grace which now commissioned him to cry unto every human being, Look unto Jesus and be saved. Flee unto Him and find refuge. Receive Him, and accept the privilege of adoption. Come unto Him, and be translated from darkness to light, and from the kingdom of Satan to the happy family of faith. He realized his station as standing between the living and the dead, that the plague might be stayed. Thus he went forth enlightened by super-abounding grace—strong in the Lord and in the power of His might—to call men everywhere to the saving Cross; "to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ."
(1.) We see Paul's estimate of his high commission. It leads to a general contemplation of all ministerial work. This is the noblest work to which the faculties of man can be devoted. It is the grandest employment which earth can witness. It is to follow closely in the footsteps of our Lord who said, "As You have sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them." The pulpit is the highest throne on earth. No monarch has a seat so glorious, or wields a scepter of such potency. The faithful minister of Christ is called to make men see the wonders of the Gospel of God's grace—to remove scales from the benighted eyes—to cause the blind to see the wonders of redeeming love. The ministers of Christ are thus employed by God the Holy Spirit to give light to them who sit in darkness and the shadow of death—to cry in the regions of spiritual gloom, "Arise, shine, for your light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon You. Awake you that sheep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light."
The means which the faithful pastor uses are very simple though they are omnipotent. It requires little strength to use them—but much strength goes forth from them. The statement of Paul is very clear. "We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but unto those who are called, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God." The mandate is "Go you into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." Success will surely follow. The Word of God can never go forth in vain. It shall prosper in that whereto He sends it. "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree, and it shall be to the Lord for a name—for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off." Converts shall spring up among the grass, as willows by the water-courses. They shall fly as doves to their windows. Many an enlightened soul shall testify, I was blind, but now I see. We see then the happiness of those ministers who make the blessed Jesus and His finished work, and all the wonders of redeeming love, and the unsearchable riches of the covenant of grace their main proclamation. They are not called to elaborate new thoughts and invent another Gospel. There is woe, indeed, unto them who practice such folly, and occupy time in searching for man-wrought wisdom. The Gospel is a proclamation. All its waters flow in the broad, deep channel, "Thus says the Lord."
It is true indeed that this Gospel has existed from all eternity in the purpose of God. It originated in Christ before the world began. But now it shines forth in ineffable brightness, and men are called with open eye to view it—with open hand to receive it—with open heart to embrace it. It is not their work to fabricate a new sun, but with open eye to gaze on the Sun of righteousness, which has arisen with healing on His wings.
Paul sweetly adds when stating that the Gospel was hid in the ages past in the purposes of God, that He created all things by Jesus Christ. We learn hence that He is conjoined with the Father, as Creator of the whole human race. Hence the Ministers of the Gospel cease not their labor of love, but strive to approach every woman-born, and to cause all to hear the glad tidings of salvation. Hence, too, the fervent missionaries go forth into the dark places of the earth, calling the poor benighted heathen to cast their idols to the bats—to turn from them to serve the living and true God—to wash out all their sins in expiating blood—to hide all their iniquities beneath the covert of justifying righteousness, and to receive Jesus as all salvation and desire.
Ephesians 3:10-11."To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God—according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
The spread of the Gospel may be viewed with sad indifference on earth. It is not so in heaven. Cold hearts may hear of conversions to the faith of Christ, and still may be frozen as ice. It is far otherwise with the angelic hosts. Intently they watch—lovingly they adore. In the verses before us, they are described as principalities and powers in heavenly places. Mark their power—their pre-eminence—their dignity. Such is their strength that one slew in the Assyrian hosts a hundred fourscore and five thousand men in one night. What must be their united strength when their number is innumerable? But with tender interest they view our sinful race, and rejoice when one is brought home to the family of faith. We should bless God for their sympathy and their support. "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation?" Do they not surround us as unseen guards encamping around the Christian pilgrim? From what countless dangers do their overshadowing wings protect, to how many blessings does their guidance lead! Over the living—over the dying—they keep anxious watch.
But their admiration mainly rests on God's marvelous work in the scheme of redemption. They ponder His wisdom in the arrangement of the scheme before the foundation of the world, and in calling His beloved Son to undertake the blessed work. They marvel at the Son's love in freely consenting to bear our sins in His own body on the accursed tree, and in every step in redemption's path. They marvel when they behold Him on the Cross—when lying in the grave, when rising with all power, when ascending to His seat at God's right hand; and in the foresight of His coming glory.
They marvel at God's wisdom in His dealings with every ransomed soul. In these cases there is no circumstance which is not designed by infinite wisdom. Shall Angels admire God's wisdom in the path by which He leads us, and shall not our eyes be open! Let us be assured that nothing befalls us by blind chance. The whole scheme of the redemption of each saved soul was planned and pre-arranged before time was. Angels see this and admire. Let us pray for enlightening grace that we may see it more and more. So shall we trust and not be afraid. He who has begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Christ. We are assured that He will perfect that which concerns us. He called Abram from the land of idolatry, and into Canaan he safely came. Angels desire to see God's wisdom in His dealings with the Church. Let each one strive to see too God's wisdom in his own particular case.
It is a precious truth that eternal purpose regulates all matters in the Church. The Spirit in His mighty love gives frequent repetition. He would write it deeply on the tablets of our hearts. He would keep it shining brightly before our eyes. Sweet is the comfort which it never fails to give—mighty is the strength which it plenteously supplies. The believer is ofttimes brought into grievous trials—troubles—afflictions. The way seems to be dark, and to be hedged up with barriers. It seems to be long—and weary are the steps. The trembling heart is disposed to say, "All these things are against me." But when faith can see the Gospel-assurance, sweet peace pervades the heart—the tender voice is heard. "It is I—be not afraid." The path was foreordained. It leads safely to the foreordained mansions. Thus they are kept in perfect peace who rest on the unchangeable decree. It is said to be eternal. As it commenced in God, so in Him it constantly abides. Outward circumstances may vary; but in the purpose there is no instability. It is firm as God is firm. It is immovable as God is immovable. It is eternal as God is eternal. Blessed are they who dwell under the shadow of this glorious tree. They are sheltered from all storms. They know that they repose in safety; therefore they repose in perfect peace. In the days of their pilgrimage they can take up the everlasting song of praise. They never weary in the sublime ascription, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!"
But while we contemplate the glories of the everlasting covenant, let it be ever before our eyes that all arrangements are made in connection with Christ. He is declared to be the substance of the covenant. All the unchangeable purposes are yes and amen in Him.—Let Him then be the sum of our faith—the channel through which all blessedness flows down to us. While we see the glories of the Gospel-scheme, let us see their origin—progress—consummation in the Lord. He will work for His people—He will work in them until the pyramid is wholly completed, and the top-stone is brought forth.
Let us pause with blessings on our lips. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift. Thanks be to God for ordering all things for His glory in us through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ephesians 3:12."In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him."
Who can count the mercies which encircle the child of God! Gales of love waft him towards his heavenly home. He floats along a stream of eternal loving-kindness. He is seated high on a throne of blessedness. Time and thought fail before effort to unfold the goodness by which he is encompassed. The days of eternity will be too short to enumerate. Hallelujahs will not exhaust the theme. But the text before us bids us contract our roving thoughts and fix them exclusively on one signal blessing. The believer has boldness and access with confidence to God on His mercy-seat. The gate is ever open. At each moment he may enter, and claim celestial audience. He may draw near unto God, and God will draw near unto him. He may cry, "My Father;" and hear the reply, "My Son." Let us contemplate this wondrous privilege. This is not man's natural birthright. He was not born a member of this happy family. There was a time when he was afar off. Sins and iniquities had raised an apparently impassable barrier. A wide gulf parted him from the gates of heaven. But now the way is cleared. No obstacles block the path. He may come with boldness. He has access with confidence. How is this? Because he is one with Christ the firstborn among many brethren; because a Heavenly Father is pledged to give ready welcome; because the blood of Jesus has washed him clean from every stain of evil; because a robe of righteousness, in which the eye of omniscience can discern no blemish, renders him a meet inhabitant of the courts above. He may come boldly, because he pleads the infinite merits of Him with whom he is one; because he can plead the unanswerable argument, Christ died; because he brings in his hand the countless promises which are all yes and amen in Christ, and humbly asks, Do as You have said. Fulfill Your gracious word. He may thus come and plead boldly—with no fear of repulse he can reason with his heavenly Father. He can point to God's beloved Son bearing all his sins into the land of everlasting forgetfulness. He can point to justice and can urge that this attribute has no claims against him, because Jesus has given full satisfaction. He can point to truth and maintain that it would cease to be truth if petitions in the name of Jesus were not heard. He can point to mercy and show how tenderly God's mercy yearns over him. He can look to God's honor and glory, and show how they are all magnified in his uttermost salvation. Thus the believer may boldly plead.
He is confident of ready access. Heaven's gates are never closed. God's ears are never stopped. Whatever be his need, whatever be his circumstances, he may fly upward, and cast down his every care at the footstool of the mercy-seat. When he is in doubt, he may seek direction—when he is in perplexity he may ask guidance—when he is weak, he may supplicate strength—when his foes sorely press, he may sue for deliverance—when he is prone to faint, he may cry for support. He may ask grace for a living hour, and grace for a dying hour. Who can estimate this privilege of free access to the mercy-seat!
Did Sheba's Queen count Solomon's servants happy who were near his throne, and heard his wisdom; and are not believers happy among the happiest, who while they are detained on earth may still live in holy communion—in incessant converse with their God? O my soul! close not your eyes to this grand blessedness. Diligently use your privilege—never be long absent from the mercy-seat. What blessings you may there obtain for yourself, your relatives, your friends, your country, the world! Happy they who realize by experience that they are thus the children of a prayer-hearing God. Happy would be our land if such believers multiplied in number, and waxed stronger in the exercise of their privilege!
This text concludes not without distinctly exhibiting the door by which we enter into this boundless region of blessedness. The means of this happy access and this approach with confidence is faith in God's co-eternal and co-equal Son. Faith is that precious grace implanted by the Holy Spirit, by which we become one with Christ, and the new-born children of our heavenly Father. It cannot be too often repeated that faith is the eye that sees Him and all the glories of His finished work; the ear that hears the proclamation of His truth, and all His melting calls; the feet by which we run towards Him, and nestle in His wounded side, and wash in His all-cleansing blood; it is the hand by which we grasp Him, and hold Him so tightly that we cannot let Him go; the heart which welcomes Him with joy unspeakable and full of glory, and which beats warmly in the ecstacy of love. Faith makes us one forever, and binds us to Him with indissoluble bonds. Faith which thus unites makes us heirs of His kingdom and His glory. By faith we enter, and abide, and never more are willing to depart. How thankful should we be if this precious grace has been imparted to us! With what earnest zeal and unwearied diligence should we cultivate it! It is a growing grace. There are no bounds to its expanse. The more we possess the more we shall gain; and the more we shall realize its power to enter the courts of heaven, and boldly claim communion with our Lord.
Ephesians 3:13."Wherefore I desire that you faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory."
An earnest exhortation follows an exhibition of Gospel-truth. Holy precepts should spring from holy teaching. The truths of the Gospel should be the parent of Gospel-walk. As a tree is known by its fruits, so trees of righteousness planted in the garden of the Lord should present branches laden with righteous produce. When good seed is plentifully sowed, a good crop should plentifully spring up. The truths which Paul proclaimed should be prolific in abundant godliness. The exhortation here urges to steadfastness—firmness—unflinching courage—indomitable valor in the cause of Christ. They who draw the Gospel-sword cast the scabbard far away. Fears and timidities should be strangers to the christian heart. They who follow Christ fully march boldly forward. They who flee may be wounded unto death. There is no armor prepared for the back. Believers must stand fast in the Lord. They must quit themselves like men. "Only be you very courageous," is the mandate unto Joshua.
Exhortations to heroic walk abound. Jesus concealed not from His followers that as the world had hated Him, so surely it would hate them. To bear this enmity was their calling, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." Expect not smiles where Jesus encountered frowns. If He, whose whole life was love, failed to melt hearts, but rather provoked the hostile cry, "Crucify Him, crucify Him," can His followers expect different treatment? But they are taught to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. The prize of their high calling sparkles before their eyes, "Be you faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life." Paul preceded in the path to which he calls his followers. When it pleased God who had separated him from his mother's womb, and called him by His grace to reveal His Son in him, he was not told of the glories of his heroic course—of the triumphs which his preaching would effect—of the multitudes who would be saved through his word—of the power of his writings throughout all ages—no, rather the blessed Jesus warned him what great things he must suffer for His sake.
Did he draw back—did he shrink from the noble work—did he supplicate to be left in the obscurity of ease and peace? Far otherwise! He set his face like a flint—he bravely advanced to encounter all perils and foes. In the service of his heavenly Master he was immovably resolved to bear ridicule, reproach, and shame. His one desire was that Christ should be magnified in his body, whether by life or by death. Mark his brave words, "I go unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there, save that the Holy Spirit witnesses in every city saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus to testify the Gospel of the grace of God." And again he enumerates in striking terms the trials and the miseries which he has encountered. The history is a volume written within and without of anguish, persecution, and sufferings of intensest bitterness. He was ofttimes beaten with rods. He was in perils by water and by land—in watchings, hunger, and thirst—by false friends and cruel foes. He was regarded as the vilest of the vile—the most contemptible of the contemptible—the filth of the earth—the off-scouring of all things. Hence he warned, "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of heaven." Hence he sent to ascertain the steadfastness of the Thessalonians, fearful lest some of them should be moved by the report of his endurances. He reminds those who he had given them previous warning, and that all which occurred was in accordance with premonition.
Hence his present desire, that the Ephesians should not faint because he was so tried, and such cruelties beset him. Let us not think that the exhortation has no voice for us. We may not be exposed to the same cruelties—to the horrors of the Inquisition, or the agonies of the stake—but there is bitter trial in the sneer—in the scoff—in the ridicule—in the contempt to which the cause of Christ has ever been exposed. The offence of the Cross will never cease, while Satan rules the God of this world. But let us look up for help and boldly march onward. Let us fight the good fight of faith. Fierce may be the conflict; many and smarting may be the wounds, but the victory is secure.
Paul adds, "which is your glory." Double may be the interpretation. Briefly contemplate each. It is a glorious thing to be firm, and bold, and valiant, even as it is base to be timid and cowardly. Let praise be given to those who never flinch, or flee. "But the God of all grace, who has called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered awhile, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you." Let then this unwavering, unhesitating course be always ours.
But possibly Paul here points to the issue of his own manifold sufferings. In the multitude of his tribulations he boldly proclaimed the Gospel-truth. Hearers heard the glad tidings. They embraced the gracious Savior. They fled to His wounded side. They became through faith heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. They entered the kingdom of grace, and journeyed onward to the kingdom of glory. Thus the tribulations of Paul became the instrumental cause of their glory. May many see in us that the Lord still has a people—steadfast—unmovable—always abounding in the work of the Lord! May they be led to follow Christ as we do, and to rejoice in hope of the glory of God!