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by Thomas Coke
THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE EPHESIANS.
IN this Epistle St. Paul inculcates the most important doctrines of religion, and the most sacred duties of Christian morals. It seems at if he had written it with an intention of composing a complete Treatise on the Church, and to clear up the chief questions which might arise upon a subject so important, and which includes so many others. We observe him speaking of the Church in almost every chapter, and keeping it in view throughout the whole Epistle. He begins by considering its origin; after which he speaks of the Head of the Church; and teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Head, and that the Church is his Body. This is the subject of the first chapter. And herein St. Paul demonstrates, that the Church, properly so called, consists not in that confused assemblage of people, who appear together in outward communion; but of those only who are regenerated by the Holy Ghost; because of such holy and living members alone can a body be formed, which has the honour to be the body of Jesus Christ, and from him, as its mystical Head, to receive life, motion, and being. The second chapter is employed in shewing, first, what is the natural condition, not only of mankind universally, but even of those who have accepted of the offers of grace, and yield to be saved through the alone merit of Jesus, and by the alone power of his Spirit: they were, by mere nature, dead in trespasses and sins, but are now quickened by the Spirit of Christ: they were children of wrath, but are now adopted into the family of God.
The rest of the chapter treats of the extent of the new Dispensation, which proposes the highest privileges of grace to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. The Apostle continues, in the third chapter, to speak of the calling of the
Gentiles, that great stumbling-block to the Jews, who would not believe that these nations, who for so many ages had been kept from any visible alliance with God, should now, equally with the seed of the patriarchs, enjoy the rights and privileges of the gospel. St. Paul then goes on to prove, in the fourth chapter, the unity of the Church; and to shew that, of whatever nations it may consist, and in whatever countries subsisting, there are not many Churches, but ONE, worshipping every where one only God, having one only Saviour, animated by one Spirit, one faith, one baptism, ch. Ephesians 4:4-5. He next speaks of the ministry established by the Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of the nations, and for instructing and consoling the Church; after which, at the end of this chapter, and in the two following, he insists upon the most important duties of believers: he shews, that the most essential characteristic of the Church is holiness; and hereupon sets forth the combats the Church has to sustain, the difficulties to overcome, and the necessity of calling forth all her courage and resolution for withstanding the repeated and violent attacks of her enemies. To this end, he furnishes the believer with every weapon, every means that may tend to make victory easy; and, as he himself was then engaged with the enemy, who kept him in bonds, (for the Apostle was in prison at Rome when he wrote this Epistle,) he beseeches the Ephesians to fight with him by their prayers; and concludes, as his custom is, with ardent wishes for the Church, and for all those that love our Lord Jesus Christ.
the Second Week of Advent