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· Ver. 1-7. For this cause I, Paul, am a prisoner of Jesus Christ for you heathen, according as you have heard of the office of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward. For by revelation was this mystery shewed unto me, as I wrote above in few words ; whereby when ye read it, ye may perceive mine understanding in the mystery of Christ, which (mystery) in times past was not open unto the children of men, as it is now declared to his holy Apostles and Prophets by the Spirit: namely, that the heathen should be inheritors also, and of the same body, and partakers of his promises in Christ by the Gospel, whereof I am made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God, which is given me according to the working of his power.
St. Paul here marvellously doth bring and get to hin the favour and the benevolence of these Ephesians ; in that he saith, and truly saith, that he suffered imprisonment, and was in stocks and in fetters for their sakes, and for their health and salvation ; that is to say, because he preached to the Ephesians and to other Gentiles the Gospel of Jesus Christ : of the which Gospel preached, the Ephesians and the other Gentiles received faith in Christ Jesu ; and so through faith came to life and eternal salvation. For this cause, and for none other, Paul was cast in prison, in chains, and in fetters at Rome by Nero le Emperor, where he was when he wrote this Epistle ; and in prison, and therefore, he saith, I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ bound fast in prison, not for mine own sake or for my cause, but for Christ's sake and for his Gospel, which was the health of the Gentiles. When these Ephesians should hear these things, how could it be, but they must needs favour and love Paul, and embrace his doctrine, which for Christ's sake and for their health and salvation was in prison, and suffered pains for their cause? Kind men cannot but they must love them again, that suffer for their sakes and for their health. Thus St. Paul obtained the favour of these Ephesians and of the Gentiles.
Paul cast in prison, not for his sins or any notable faults or crimes, but because he preached to the Gentiles the Gospel of Christ, by the which the Gentiles were delivered from sin, death, heil, and eternal damnation ; and made good, just, and obtained eternal life, and partakers of the heavenly inheritance. This St. Paul sheweth, that it is no new thing that true preachers of God's word are cast in prison, and suffer pains, for the Gospel's sake, of eril inen, and he inoveth them to take patiently their pains in prison and afflictions, that they may be with Paul, the prisoner of Christ suffering only for the Gospel's sake, and not for their own faults, crimes, or deservings.
Learn here, that a good and a holy man St. Paul, yea, an Apostle of Christ was cast in prison, not for any evil, but for good, for preaching of the Gospel to the salvation of the people. He was cast in prison of an evil man and of a cruel tyrant called Nero, an Emperor of Rome. At whose commandment St, Paul was cast in prison and laid in fetters, so the good Apostle of God was in prison, and the evil tyrant, Nero, at liberty : so God suffereth in this world the evil man to have the upper hand of the good man; yea, God suffereth that the good is punished in this world, and the evil escapes punishment, but in the world to come the good shall be in joy, and the evil in pain. This place sheweth plainly, that St. Paul was in prison, when he wrote this Epistle to these Ephesians, whose health he more regarded than his deliverance out of prison.
These that put St. Paul in prison, peradventure, they thought they did an acceptable work or sacrifice to God in so doing, thinking Paul a great malefactor, and a breaker of the law; they thought it was not lawful that the Gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, yea, and against the law of God, that forbad the Jews to have company with the Gentiles, or to make marriages with the Gentiles, much more they thought it was not lawful to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, which was a thing hid from the world, and never heard of before. Therefore, they casting St. Paul in prison, thought they did an high sacrifice to God: such men fall of their good zeal, but without God's word hath been amongst us that hath cast men in prison for preaching that it was lawful for layien or lay-women to have the New Tes. tament in English, we may see what blind zeal, without God's word doth, and how it hath ever cast the true servants of God into prison, and brought them to trouble, pain, punishment and infamy in the world, although they were the true and faithful servants of God. But at the last, God delivered his servants, and punished this blind zeal, and so he will do now, if they will not repent and amend.
According as you have heard of the office of the grace of God given to me toward you. Here, the Apostle sheweth the disposition of the Gospel was com:nitted to him, not of himself, nor yet of his will, wind, merits, or deservings, but alone of the mere mercy, and grace of God; and that when it pleased God to call him by revelation from his iniquity and sin, as is written Acts, ix. xxij. that the while praise and land may be given not to man, but to Goddalone. Of the which we may learn that true preachers of God's word be sent of God, for the
salvation of men, to whom the Gospel is purely preached : and it is a sure token that God will save those to whom he sends true preachers of his word. Of the hearers' part is required that they should diligently hear the word of God, give evidence to it, and live according to God's doctrine ; or else it profiteth them nothing that the Gospel is truly preached of faithful men sent of God.
When ye read it ye may perceive mine understanding in the mystery of Christ. As if he should say; I have shewed you before that I was called to be the minister of God, and received the knowledge of the Gospel by revelation, and that office committed to me of God to preach the Gospel of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, which thing you may know, if you will read that I have written before. In these words he giveth them liberty to read this Epistle, and willeth that they should perfectly know what things he had written to them. This place maketh against them that would not the lay-people should read the Scriptures in their vulgar tongue. St. Paul would have had his writings known of every one, both priest, layman and laywoman, that every one might have profit by his writing. What profit, I pray you, should the layman have of it, if it were not lawful for him to read it in the language he understandeth?
In times past this mystery was not opened to the children of men. What was this mystery that was hid from the children of men in times past? It was the open preaching of Christ's Gospel, as well to the Gentiles, as to the Jews : and that the Gentiles should be saved by Christ, as the Jews : and that the Gentiles pertained to the heavenly inheritance, as the Jews. This mystery was not known to the world, till Christ's incarnation; and till after his death, chiefly it was known to a few that believed
both of the Jews and also of the Gentiles, which were saved by faith in Christ to come, before Christ's incarnation. But it was seen, in comparison to them that did not know it, and therefore it was counted to be hid from the world. And also, those that believed and did know that the Gospel should come to the Gentiles, and by it their salvation ; yet they knew it not so clearly, how it should come, and by what means, as those that were after Christ's incarnation, and believed in Christ. Nor yet were there so many before Christ's incarnation that believed in Christ as were after ; for this mystery was shewni much more plainly, and more clearly, and to more after Christ's passion, than before his passion. For, as St. Hieroine saith, that it is another thing in the spirit to know things to come, and to see them fulfilled indeed.
This mystery of the Gospel, to be preached to the Gentiles, was so hid froin men, that the Apostles of Christ did not know it at the beginning, and did doubt whether it were lawful for thein to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles or no, and to call Gentiles to salvation by the Gospel, without circuincision and other ceremonies, necessary to be observed. To instruct the Apostles of Christ in this matter, was the Holy Ghost sent to them, and given in Pentecost; and also this mystery was opened to them by visions, as to Peter, Acts, x, and that by the will of God, and of God's goodness ; of the which we may learn to glorify God now, as the Apostles did, when they saw the mystery opened, that was hid from the beginning of the world to their time. So, let us now glorify God that hath now in our time opened, and shewn inore plainly and more clearly the truth of his word, long hid, obscured, and darkened by man's traditions and inventions, than it was in our fathers' tiine, and nothing marvel at the goodness of God,