Chrysostom Ep 500
500 who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” (Ep 2,11-16)
501 There are many things to show the loving-kindness of God. First, the fact, that by Himself He hath saved us, and by Himself through such a method as this. Secondly, that He hath saved us, as being what we were. Thirdly, that He hath exalted us to the place where we are. For all these things both contain in themselves the greatest demonstration of His loving-kindness, and they are the very subjects which Paul is now agitating in his Epistle. He had been saying, that when we were dead through our trespasses, and children of wrath, He saved us; He is now telling us further, to whom He hath made us equal. “Wherefore,” saith he, “remember;” because it is usual with us, one and all, when we are raised from a state of great meanness to corresponding, or perhaps a greater, dignity, not so much as even to retain any recollection of our former condition, being neurished in this our new glory. On this account it is that he says, “Wherefore remember.”—“Wherefore.” Why, “wherefore?” Because we have been created unto good works, and this were sufficient to induce us to cultivate virtue; “remember,”—for that remembrance is sufficient to make us grateful to our Benefactor,—“that ye were aforetime Gentiles.” Observe how he lowers the superior advantages of the Jews and admires the disadvantages of the Gentiles; disadvantage indeed it was not, but he is arguing with each respectively from their character and manner of life.
“Who are called Uncircumcision.”
The honor then of the Jews is in names, their perogative is in the flesh. For uncircumcision is nothing, and circumcision is nothing.
“By that which is called,” saith he, “Circumcision in the flesh made by hands, that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope, and without God in the world).
Ye, saith he, who were thus called by the Jews. But why when he is about to show that the benefit bestowed upon them consisted in this, in having fellowship with Israel, does he disparage the Israelitish prerogative? He does not disparage it. In essential points he enhances it, but only in these points, in which they had no fellowship, he disparages it. For further on he says, “Ye are fellow-citizens of the saints and of the household of God.” Mark, how far he is from disparaging it. These points, saith he, are indifferent. Never think, saith he, that because ye happen not to be circumcised, and are now in uncircumcision, that there is any difference in this. No, the real trouble was this, the being “without Christ,” the being “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.” Whereas this circumcision is not “the commonwealth.” Again, the being strangers from the covenants of promise, the having no hope to come, the being without God in this world, all these were parts of their condition. He was speaking of heavenly things; he speaks also of those which are upon earth; since the Jews had a great opinion of these. Thus also Christ in comforting His disciples, after saying, “Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” adds the lesser point of consolation, “for so,” saith He, “persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (). For this, compared with the greatness of the other, is far less, yet in regard to the being nigh, and believing, it is great and sufficient, and has much force. This then was the sharing in the commonwealth. His word is not, “separated,” but “alienated from the commonwealth.” His word is not, “ye took no interest in,” but, “ye had not so much as any part in, and were strangers.” The expressions are most emphatic, and indicate the separation to be very wide. Because the Israelites themselves were without this commonwealth, not however as aliens, but as indifferent to it, and they fell from the covenants, not however as strangers, but as unworthy.
But what were “the covenants of the promise?” “To thee and to thy seed,” saith He, “will I give this land,” (Gn 17,8). and whatever else He promised.
“Having no hope.” he adds, “and without God.” Though gods indeed they worshipped, but they were no gods: “for an idol is not any thing.” (1Co 10,19).
Ver 13.-15. “But now, in Christ Jesus, ye that once were far off, are made nigh in the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in His flesh the enmity.”
(Is this then the great privilege, it may be said, that we are admitted into the commonwealth of the Jews? What art thou saying? “He hath summed up all things that are in heaven, and that are in earth,” and now dost thou tell us about Israelites? Yes, he would say. Those higher privileges we must apprehend by faith; these, by the things themselves. “But now,” saith he, “in Christ Jesus, ye that once were far off, are made nigh,” in reference to the commonwealth. For the “far off,” and the “nigh,” are matters of will and choice only.
“For He is our peace, Who made both one.”
502 What is this, “both one?” He does not mean this, that He hath raised us to that high descent of theirs, but that he hath raised both us and them to a yet higher. Only that the blessing to us is greater, because to these it had been promised, and they were nearer than we; to us it had not been promised, and we were farther off than they. Therefore it is that he says, “And that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.” (Rm 15,9). The promise indeed He gave to the Israelites, but they were unworthy; to us He gave no promise, nay, we were even strangers, we had nothing in common with them; yet hath He made us one, not by knitting us to them, but by knitting both them and us together into one. I will give you an illustration. Let us suppose there to be two statues, the one of silver, the other of lead, and then that both shall be melted down, and that the two shall come out gold. Behold, thus hath He made the two one. Or put the case again in another way. Let the two be, one a slave, the other an adopted son: and let both offend Him, the one as a disinherited child, the other as a fugitive, and one who never knew a father. Then let both be made heirs, both trueborn sons. Behold, they are exalted to one and the same dignity, the two are become one, the one coming from a longer, the other from a nearer distance, and the slave becoming more noble than he was before he offended.
“And brake down,” he proceeds, “the middle wall of partition.”
What the middle wall of partition is, he interprets by saying, “the enmity having abolished in His flesh, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances.” Some indeed affirm that he means the wall of the Jews against the Greeks, because it did not allow the Jews to hold intercourse with the Greeks. To me, however, this does not seem to be the meaning, but rather that he calls “the enmity in the flesh,” a middle wall, in that it is a common barrier, cutting us off alike from God. As the Prophet says, “Your iniquities separate between you and Me;” (Is 59,2). for that enmity which He had both against Jews and Gentiles was, as it were, a middle wall. And this, whilst the law existed, was not only not abolished, but rather was strengthened; “for the law,” saith the Apostle, “worketh wrath.” (Rm 4,15). Just in the same way then as when he says in that passage, “the law worketh wrath,” he does not ascribe the whole of this effect to the law itself, but it is to be understood, that it is because we have transgressed it; so also in this place he calls it a middle wall, because through being disobeyed it wrought enmity. The law was a hedge, but this it was made for the sake of security, and for this reason was called “a hedge,” to the intent that it might form an inclosure. For listen again to the Prophet, where he says, “I made a trench about it.” (Is 5,2). And again, “Thou hast broken down her fences, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her.” (Ps 80,12). Here therefore it means security and so again, “I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be trodden down.” (Is 5,5). And again, “He gave them the law for a defence.” (Is 8,20). And again, “The Lord executeth righteous acts and made known His ways unto Israel.” (Ps 103,6-7). It became, however, a middle wall, no longer establishing them in security, but cutting them off from God. Such then is the middle wall of partition formed out of the hedge. And to explain what this is, he subjoins, “the enmity in His flesh having abolished, the law of commandments.”
How so? In that He was slain and dissolved the enmity therein. And not in this way only but also by keeping it. But what then, if we are released from the former transgression, and yet are again compelled to keep it? Then were the case the same over again, whereas He hath destroyed the very law itself. For he says, “Having abolished the law of commandments contained in ordinances.” Oh! amazing loving-kindness! He gave us a law that we should keep it, and when we kept it not, and ought to have been punished, He even abrogated the law itself. As if a man, who, having committed a child to a schoolmaster, if he should turn out disobedient, should set him at liberty even from the schoolmaster, and take him away. How great loving-kindness were this! What is meant by,
“Having abolished by ordinances?”
For he makes a wide distinction between “commandments” and “ordinances.” He either then means “faith,” calling that an “ordinance,” (for by faith alone He saved us,) or he means “precept,” such as Christ gave, when He said, “But I say unto you, that ye are not to be angry at all.” (Mt 5,22). That is to say, “If thou shalt believe that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (). And again, “The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thine heart.
503 Say not, Who shall ascend into heaven, or who shall descend into the abyss?” or, who hath “brought. Him again from the dead?” Instead of a certain manner of life, He brought in faith. For that He might not save us to no purpose, He both Himself underwent the penalty, and also required of men the faith that is by doctrines.
“That he might create in Himself of the twain, one new man.”
Observe thou, that it is not that the Gentile is become a Jew, but that both the one and the other are entered into another condition. It was not with a view of merely making this last other than he was, but rather, in order to create the two anew. And well does he on all occasions employ the word “create,” and does not say “change,” in order to point out the power of what was done, and that even though the creation be invisible, yet it is no less a creation than that is, and that we ought not henceforward start away from this, as from natural things.
“That He might in Himself of the twain.”
That is, by Himself. He gave not this charge to another, but Himself, by Himself, melted both the one and the other, and produced a glorious one, and one greater than the first creation; and that one, first, was Himself. For this is the meaning of “in Himself.” He Himself first gave the type and example. Laying hold on the one hand of the Jew, and on the other of the Gentile, and Himself being in the midst, He blended them together, made all the estrangement which existed between them to disappear, and fashioned them anew from above by fire and by water; no longer with water and earth, but with water and fire. He became a Jew by circumcision, He became accursed, He became a Gentile without the law, and was over both Gentiles and Jews.
“One new man,” saith he, “so making peace.”
Peace for them both towards God, and towards each other. For so long as they continued still Jews and Gentiles, they could not have been reconciled. And had they not been delivered each from his own peculiar condition, they would not have arrived at another and a higher one. For the Jew is then united to the Gentile when he becomes a believer. It is like persons being in a house, with two chambers below, and one large and grand one above: they would not be able to see each other, till they had got above.
“Making peace,” more especially towards God; for this the context shows, for what saith he?
Ep 2,16. “And might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the Cross.”
(He saith, not merely “might reconcile,” (katallaxh) but “might reconcile thoroughly” (apokatallaxh ) indicating that heretofore human nature had been easily reconciled, as, e.g., in the case of the saints and before the time of the Law.
“In one body,” saith he, and that His own, “unto God.” How is this effected? By Himself, he means, suffering the due penalty.
“Through the cross having slain the enmity thereby.”
Nothing can be more decisive, nothing more expressive than these words. His death, saith the Apostle, hath “slain” the enmity. He hath “wounded” and “killed” it, not by giving charge to another, nor by what He wrought only, but also by what He suffered. He does not say “having dissolved,” he does say “having cancelled,” but what is stronger than all, “having slain,” so that it never should rise again. How then is it that it does rise again? From our exceeding depravity. For as long as we abide in the body of Christ, as long as we are united, it rises not again, but lies dead; or rather that former enmity never rises again at all. But if we breed another, it is no longer because of Him, who bath destroyed and put to death the former one. It is thou, forsooth, that travailest with a fresh one. “For the mind of the flesh,” saith he, “is enmity against God;” (Rm 8,6). if we are in nothing carnally-minded, there will be no fresh enmity produced, but that “peace” shall remain.
504 Moral. Think then, how vast an evil is it, when God hath employed so many methods to reconcile us, and hath effected it, that we should again fall back into enmity! This enmity no fresh Baptism, but hell itself awaits; no fresh remission, but searching trial. The mind of the flesh is luxury and indolence, the “mind of the flesh” is covetousness and all kinds of sin. Why is it said the mind of the flesh? While yet the flesh could do nothing without the soul. He does not say this to the disparagement of the flesh, any more than when he says the “natural man,” (1Co 2,14). he uses that expression to the disparagement of the soul, for neither body nor soul in itself, if it receive not the impulse which is far above, is able to achieve any thing great or noble. Hence he calls those acts which the soul performs of herself, “natural; yukica” and those which the body performs of itself “carnal.” Not because these are natural, but because, inasmuch as they receive not that direction from heaven, they perish. So the eyes are good, but without light, will commit innumerable errors; this, however, is the fault of their weakness, not of nature. Were the errors natural, then should we never be able to use them aright at all. For nothing that is natural is evil. Why then does he call carnal affections sins? Because whenever the flesh exalts herself, and gets the mastery over her charioteer, she produces ten thousand mischiefs. The virtue of the flesh is, her subjection to the soul. It is her vice to govern the soul. As the horse then may be good and nimble, and yet this is not shown without a rider; so also the flesh will then show her goodness, when we cut off her prancings. But neither again is the rider shown, if He have not skill. Nay he himself will do mischief yet more fearful than that before named. So that on all hands we must have the Spirit at hand. This being at hand will impart new strength to the rider; this will give beauty both to body and soul. For just as the soul, while dwelling in the body, makes it beautiful, but when she leaves it destitute of her own native energy and departs, like a painter confounding his colors together, the greatest loathsomeness ensues, every one of the several parts hastening to corruption, and dissolution:—so is it also when the Spirit forsakes the body and the soul, the loathsomeness which ensues is worse and greater. Do not then, because the body is inferior to the soul, revile it, for neither do I endure to revile the soul because it hath no strength without the Spirit. If one need say anything at all, the soul is deserving of the greater censure than the body; for the body indeed can do no grevious harm without the soul, whereas the soul can do much without the body. Because, we know, when the one is even wasting away, and has no wantonness, the soul is busily employed. Even as those sorcerers, magicians, envious persons, enchanters, especially cause the body to waste away. But besides this, not even luxury is the effect of the necessity of the body, but rather of the inattentiveness of the soul; for food, not feasting, is the object of the necessity of the body. For if I have a mind to put on a strong curb, I stop the horse; but the body is unable to check the soul in her evil courses. Wherefore then does he call it the carnal mind? Because it comes to be wholly of the flesh, for when she has the mastery, then she goes wrong, as soon as ever she has deprived herself of reason, and of the supremacy of the soul. The virtue therefore of the body consists in this, in its submission to the soul, since of itself the flesh is neither good nor evil. For what could the body ever do of itself? It is then by its connection that the body is good, good because of its subjection, but of itself neither good nor evil, with capacity, however, both for one and for the other, and having an equal tendency either way. The body has a natural desire, not however of fornication, nor of adultery, but of pleasure; the body has a desire not of feasting, but of food; not of drunkenness, but of drink. For in proof that it is not drunkenness that is the natural desire of the body, mark how, whenever you exceed the measure, when you go beyond the boundary-lines, it cannot hold out a moment longer. Up to this point it is of the body, but all the rest of the excesses, as e.g., when she is hurried away into sensualities, when she becomes stupefied, these are of the soul. For though the body be good, still it is vastly inferior to the soul, as lead is less of value than gold, and yetgold needs lead to solder it, and just so has the soul need also of the body. Or in the same way as a noble child requires a conductor, so again does the soul stand in need of the body. For, as we speak of childish things, not to the disparagement of childhood, but only of those acts which are done during childhood; so also are we now speaking of the body.
Yet it is in our power, if we will, no longer to be in the flesh, no, nor upon the earth, but in heaven, and in the Spirit. For our being here or there, is not determined so much by our position, as by our disposition. Of many people, at least, who are in some place, we say they are not there, when we say, “Thou wast not here. And again Thou art not here.” And why do I say this? We often say, “Thou art not at (en) thyself, I am not at (en) myself,” and yet what can be more material (a stronger instance of corporeal locality) than this, that a man is near to himself? And yet, notwithstanding, we say that he is not at himself. Let us then be in ourselves, in heaven, in the Spirit. Let us abide in the peace and in the grace of God, that we may be set at liberty from all the things of the flesh, and may be able to attain to those good things which are promised in Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, and might, and honor, now and henceforth, and for ever and ever. Amen.
600 and peace to them that were nigh, for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father. So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the chief corner-stone. In whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord. In whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.” (Ep 2,17-22 Ep 3,1-8)
601 He sent not, saith the Apostle, by the hand of another, nor did He announce these tidings to us by means of any other, but Himself did it in His own person. He sent not Angel nor Archangel on the mission, because to repair so many and vast mischiefs and to declare what had been wrought was in the power of none other, but required His own coming. The Lord then took upon Himself the rank of a servant, nay, almost of a minister, “and came, and preached peace to you,” saith he, “that were far off, and to them that were nigh.” To the Jews, he means, who as compared with ourselves were nigh. “For through Him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father.”
“Peace,” saith he, that “peace” which is towards God. He hath reconciled us. For the Lord Himself also saith, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you.” (Jn 14,27). And again, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16,33). And again, “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name that will I do.” (Jn 14,14). And again, “For the Father loveth you.” (Jn 16,27). These are so many evidences of peace. But how towards the Gentiles? “Because through Him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father,” not ye less, and they more, but all by one and the same grace. The wrath He appeased by His death, and hath made us meet for the Father’s love through the Spirit. Mc again, the “in” means “by” or “through.” By Himself and the Spirit that is, He hath brought us unto the Father. “So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but fellow-citizens with the saints.”
Perceive ye that it is not with the Jews simply, no, but with those saintly and great men, such as Abraham, and Moses, and Elias? It is for the self-same city with these we are enrolled, for that we declare ourselves. “For they that say such things,” saith he, “make it manifest that they are seeking after a country of their own.” (He 11,14). No longer are we strangers from the saints, nor foreigners. For they who shall not attain to heavenly blessings, are foreigners. “For the Son,” saith Christ, “abideth for ever.” (Jn 8,35).
“And of the household,” he continues, “of God.”
The very thing which they at the first had, by means of so many toils and troubles, hath been for you accomplished by the grace of God. Behold the hope of your calling.
“Being built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets.”
Observe how he blends all together, the Gentiles, the Jews, the Apostles, the Prophets, and Christ, and illustrates the union sometimes from the body, and sometimes from the building: “built,” saith he, “upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets;” that is, the Apostles and Prophets are a foundation, and he places the Apostles first, though they are in order of time last, doubtless to represent and express this, that both the one and the other are alike a foundation, and that the whole is one building, and that there is one root. Consider, that the Gentiles have the Patriachs as a foundation. He here speaks more strongly of that point than he does when he speaks of a “grafting in.” There he rather attaches them on. Then he adds, that He who binds the whole together in Christ. For the chief corner-stone binds together both the walls, and the foundations.
“In whom each several building.”
Mark, how he knits it all together, and represents Him at one time, as holding down the whole body from above, and welding it together; at another time, as supporting the building from below, and being, as it were, a root, or base. And whereas he had used the expression, “He created in Himself of the twain one new man;” (Ep 2,15). by this he clearly shows us, that by Himself Christ knits together the two walls: and again, that in Him it was created. And “He is the first-born,” saith he, “of all creation,” that is, He Himself supports all things.
“In whom each several building, fitly framed together.”
Whether you speak of the roof, or of the walls, or of any other part whatsoever, He it is supports the whole. Thus he elsewhere calls Him a foundation. “For other foundations,” saith he, “can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1Co 3,11). “In whom each several building,” he saith, “fitly framed together.” Here he displays the perfectness of it, and indicates that one cannot otherwise have place in it, unless by living with great exactness. “It groweth saith he into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom ye also,” he adds, “are builded together.” He is speaking continuously: “Into a holy temple, for a habitation of God in the Spirit.” What then is the object of this building? It is that God may dwell in this temple. For each of you severally is a temple, and all of you together are a temple. And He dwelleth in you as in the body of Christ, and as in a Spiritual temple. He does not use the word which means our coming to God, (prosodo") but which implies God’s bringing us to Himself, (prosagwgh) for we came not out of ourselves, but we were brought nigh by Him. “No one,” saith Christ, “cometh unto the Father but by Me.” And again, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (Jn 14,6).
602 He joins them with the Saints and again returns to his former image, nowhere suffering them to be disunited from Christ. Doubtless then, this is a building that shall go on until His coming. Doubtlesss it was for this reason that Paul said, “As a wise master builder, I laid a foundation.” (1Co 3,10-11). And again that Christ is the foundation. What then means all this? You observe that the comparisons have all referred to the subject-matters, and that we must not expound them to the very letter. The Apostle speaks from analogy as Christ does, where He calls the Father an husbandman, (Jn 15,1). and Himself a root. (Ap 22,16).
Ep 3,1. “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles.”
(He has mentioned Christ’s great and affectionate care; he now passes on to his own, insignificant indeed as it is, and a very nothing in comparison with that, and yet this is enough to engage them to himself. For this cause, saith he, am I also bound. For if my Lord was crucified for your sakes, much more am I bound. He not only was bound Himself, but allows His servants to be bound also,—“for you Gentiles.” It is full of emphasis; not only do we no longer loathe you, but we are even bound, saith he, for your sakes and of this exceeding grace am I partaker.
Ep 3,2. “If so be that ye have heard of the dispensation of that grace of God, which was given me to you-ward.”
(He alludes to the prediction addressed to Ananias concerning him at Damascus, when the Lord said, “Go thy way, for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles and Kings.” (Ac 9,15).
By “dispensation of grace,” he means the revelation made to him. As much as to say, “I learned it not from man. (Ga 1,12). He vouchsafed to reveal it even to me, though but an individual for your sakes. For Himself said unto me, saith he, “Depart, for I will send thee forth far hence unto the Gentiles.” (Ac 22,21). “If so be that ye have heard” for a dispensation it was, a mighty one; to call one, uninfluenced from any other quarter, immediately from above, and to say, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” and to strike him blind with that ineffable light! “if so be that ye have heard saith he, “of the dispensation of that grace of God which was given me to you-ward.”
Ep 3,3. “How that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote afore in few words.”
Perhaps he had informed them of it by some persons, or had not long before been writing to them. Here he is pointing out that the whole is of God, that we have contributed nothing. For what? I ask, was not Paul himself, the wonderful, he that was so versed in the law, he that was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel according to the most perfect manner, was not he saved by grace? With good reason too does he call this a mystery, for a mystery it is, to raise the Gentiles in a moment to a higher rank than the Jews. “As I wrote afore,” saith he, “in few words,” i.e., briefly,
Ep 3,4. “Whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive.”
Amazing! So then he wrote not the whole, nor so much as he should have written. But here the nature of the subject prevented it. Elsewhere, as in the case of the Hebrews (He 5,11). and the Corinthians, (1Co 3,2). the incapacity of the hearers. “Whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive,” saith he, “my understanding in the mystery of Christ,” i.e., how I knew, how I understood either such things as God hath spoken, or else, that Christ sitteth at the right hand of God; and then too the dignity, in that God “hath not dealt so with any nation.” (Ps 147,20). And then to explain what nation this is with whom God hath thus dealt, he adds,
Ep 3,5. “Which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed unto His holy Apostles and Prophets in the Spirit.”
What then, tell me, did not the Prophets know it? How then doth Christ say, that Moses and the Prophets wrote “these things concerning Me?” And again, “If ye believed Moses, ye would believe Me.” (Jn 5,46). And again, “Ye search the Scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life, and these are they which bear witness of me.” (Jn 5,39). His meaning is this, either that it was not revealed unto all men, for he adds, “which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed;” or else, that it was not thus made known by the very facts and realities themselves, “as it hath now been revealed unto His holy Apostles and Prophets in the Spirit.” For reflect. Peter, had he not been instructed by the Spirit, never would have gone to the Gentiles. For hear what he says, “Then hath God given unto them the Holy Ghost, as well as unto us.” (Ac 10,47). That it was by the Spirit that God chose that they should receive the grace. The Prophets then spoke, yet they knew it not thus perfectly; so far from it, that not even did the Apostles, after they had heard it. So far did it surpass all human calculation, and the common expectation.
Ep 3,6. “That the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body and fellow partakers.”
603 What is this; “fellow-heirs, and fellow-partakers of the promise, and fellow-members of the body?” This last is the great thing, that they should be one body; this exceeding closeness of relation to Him. For that they were to be called indeed, that they knew, but that it was so great, as yet they knew not. This therefore he calls the mystery. “Of the promise.” The Israelites were partakers, and the Gentiles also were fellow-partakers of the promise of God.
“In Christ Jesus through the Gospel.”
That is, by His being sent unto them also, and by their believing; for it is not said they are fellow-heirs simply, but “through the Gospel.” However, this indeed, is nothing so great, it is in fact a small thing, and it discloses to us another and greater thing, that not only men knew not this, but that neither Angels nor Archangels, nor any other created power, knew it. For it was a mystery, and was not revealed. “That ye can perceive,” he saith, “my understanding.” This alludes, perhaps, to what he said to them in the Acts, that he had some knowledge that the Gentiles also were called.This, he says, is his own knowledge, “the knowledge of the mystery,” which he had mentioned, viz., “that Christ will in Himself make of the twain one new man.” For by revelation he was instructed, both he and Peter, that they must not spurn the Gentiles; and this he states in his defence.
Ep 3,7. “Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of that grace of God which was given me according to the working of His power.”
(He had said, “I am a prisoner;” but now again he says, that all is of God, as he says, “according to the gift of His grace;” for according to the power of the gift is the dignity of this privilege. But the gift would not have been enough, had it not also implanted in him power.
Moral. For a work indeed it was of power, of mighty power, and such as no human diligence was equal to. For he brought three qualifications to the preaching of the word, a zeal fervent and venturous, a soul ready to undergo any possible hardship, and knowledge and wisdom combined. For his love of enterprise, his blamelessness of life, had availed nothing, had he not also received the power of the Spirit. And look at it as seen first in himself, or rather hear his own words. “That our ministration be not blamed.” (2Co 6,3). And again, “For our exhortation, is not of error, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile, nor a cloke of covetousness.” (1Th 2,3 1Th 2,5). Thus thou hast seen his blamelessness. And again, “For we take thought for things honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.” (2Co 8,21). Then again, besides these; “I protest by that glorying in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.” (1Co 15,31). And again; “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution?” (Rm 8,35). And again; “In much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in watchings.” (2Co 6,4 2Co 6,5). Then again, his prudence and management; “To the Jews I became as a Jew, to them that are without law as without law, to them that are under the law as under the law.” (1Co 9,20). He shaves his head also, (Ac 21, 24–26). and does numberless things of the sort. But the crown of all is in the power of the Holy Ghost. “For I will not dare to speak,” saith he, “of any things save those which Christ wrought through me.” (Rm 15,18). And again, “For what is there wherein you were made inferior to the rest of the Churches?” (2Co 12,13). And again, “For in nothing was I behind the very chiefest Apostles though I am nothing.” (2Co 12,11). Without these things, the work had been impossible.
It was not then by his miracles that men were made believers; no, it was not the miracles that did this, nor was it upon the ground of these that he claimed his high pretension, but upon those other grounds. For a man must be alike irreproachable in conduct, prudent and discreet in his dealings with others, regardless of danger, and apt to teach. It was by these qualifications that the greater part of his success was achieved. Where there were these, there was no need of miracles. At least we see he was successful in numberless such cases, quite antecedently to the use of miracles. But, now-a-days, we without any of these would fain command all things. Yet if one of them be separated from the other, it henceforth becomes useless. What is the advantage of a man’s being ever so regardless of danger, if his life be open to censure. “For if the light that is in thee be darkness,” saith Christ, “how great is that darkness?” (Mt 6,23). Again, what the advantage of a man’s being of an irreproachable life, if he is sluggish and indolent? “For, he that doth not take his cross, and follow after Me,” saith He, “is not worthy of Me;” (Mt 10,38). and so, “The good shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep.” (Jn 10,11). Again, what is the advantage of being both these, unless a man is at the same time prudent and discreet in “knowing how he ought to answer each one?” (Col 4,6). Even if miracles be not in our power, yet both these qualities are in our power. Still however, notwithstanding Paul contributed so much from himself, yet did he attribute all to grace. This is the act of a grateful servant. And we should never so much as have heard of his good deeds, had he not been brought to a necessity of declaring them.
And are we worthy then so much as even to mention the name of Paul? He, who had moreover grace to aid him, yet was not satisfied, but contributed to the work ten thousand perils; whilst we, who are destitute of that source of confidence, whence, tell me, do we expect either to preserve those who are committed to our charge, or to gain those who are not come to the fold;—men, as we are, who have been making a study of self-indulgence, who are searching the world over for ease, and who are unable, or rather who are unwilling, to endure even the very shadow of danger, and are as far distant from his wisdom as heaven is from earth? Hence it is too that they who are under us are at so great a distance behind the men of those days; because the disciples of those days were better than the teachers of these, isolated as they were in the midst of the populace, and of tyrants, and having all men on all sides their enemies, and yet not in the slightest degree dragged down or yielding.
604 Hear at least what he saith to the Philippians, (Ph 1,29). “Because to you it hath been granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer in his behalf.” And again to the Thessalonians, (1Th 2,14). “For ye, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judaea.” And again in writing to the Hebrews (He 10,34). he said, “And ye took joyfully the spoiling of your possessions.” And to the Colossians (Col 3,3). he testifies, saying, “For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” And indeed to these very Ephesians he bears witness of many perils and dangers. And again in writing to the Galatians, (Ga 3,4). he says, “Did ye suffer so many things in vain? if it be indeed in vain.” And you see them too, all employed in doing good. Hence it was that both grace wrought effectually in those days, hence also that they lived in good works. Hear, moreover, what he writes to the Corinthians, against whom he brings charges out of number; yet does he not bear even them record, where he says, “Yea, what zeal it wrought in you, yea, what longing!” (1Co 7,11). And again, in how many points does he bear them record on this subject? These things one shall not see now-a-days, even in teachers. They are all gone and perished. And the cause is, that love hath waxed cold, that sinners go unpunished; (for hear what he says writing to Timothy, (1Tm 5,20). “Them that sin, reprove in the sight of all;”). it is that the rulers are in a sickly state; for if the head be not sound, how can the rest of the body maintain its vigor? But mark how great is the present disorder. They, who were living virtuously, and who under any circumstance might have confidence, have taken possession of the tops of the mountains, and have escaped out of the world, separating themselves as from an enemy and an alien and not from a body to which they belonged.
Plagues too, teeming with untold mischiefs, have lighted upon the Churches. The chief offices have become saleable. Hence numberless evils are springing, and there is no one to redress, no one to reprove them. Nay, the disorder has assumed a sort of method and consistency. Has a man done wrong, and been arraigned for it? His effort is not to prove himself guiltless, but to find if possible accomplices in his crimes. What is to become of us? since hell is our threatened portion. Believe me, had not God stored up punishment for us there, ye would see every day tragedies deeper than the disasters of the Jews. What then? however let no one take offence, for I mention no names; suppose some one were to come into this church to present you that are here at this moment, those that are now with me, and to make inquisition of them; or rather not now, but suppose on Easter day any one, endued with such a spirit, as to have a thorough knowledge of the things they had been doing, should narrowly examine all that came to Communion, and were being washed [in Baptism] after they had attended the mysteries; many things would be discovered more shocking than the Jewish horrors. He would find persons who practise augury, who make use of charms, and omens and incantations, and who have committed fornication, adulterers, drunkards, and revilers,—covetous, I am unwilling to add, lest I should hurt the feelings of any of those who are standing here. What more? Suppose any one should make scrutiny into all the communicants in the world, what kind of transgression is there which he would not detect? and what if he examined those in authority? Would he not find them eagerly bent upon gain? making traffic of high places? envious, malignant, vainglorious, gluttonous, and slaves to money?
Where then there is such impiety as this going on, what dreadful calamity must we not expect? And to be assured how sore vengeance they incur who are guilty of such sins as these, consider the examples of old. One single man, a common soldier, stole the sacred property, and all were smitten. Ye know, doubtless, the history I mean? I am speaking of Acham the son of Carmi, the man who stole the consecrated spoil. (). The time too when the Prophet spoke, was a time when their country was full of soothsayers, like that of the Philistines. (Is 2,6). Whereas now there are evils out of number at the full, and not one fears. Oh, henceforth let us take the alarm. God is accustomed to punish the righteous also with the wicked; such was the case with Daniel, and with the three holy Children, such has been the case with ten thousand others, such is the case in the wars that are taking place even at the present day. For the one indeed, whatever burden of sins they have upon them, by this means lay aside even that; but not so the other.
On account of all these things, let us take heed to ourselves. Do ye not see these wars? Do ye not hear of these disasters? Do ye learn no lesson from these things? Nations and whole cities are swallowed up and destroyed, and myriads as many again are enslaved to the barbarians.
If hell bring us not to our senses, yet let these things. What, are these too mere threats, are they not facts that have already taken place? Great is the punishment they have suffered, yet a greater still shall we suffer, who are not brought to our senses even by their fate. Is this discourse wearing? I am aware it is myself, but if we attend to it, it has its advantage; because this it has not, the quality of an address to please,—nay more, nor ever shall have, but ever those topics which may avail to humble and to chasten the soul. For these will be to us the ground-work of those blessings to come hereafter, to which God grant that we may all attain, in Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Ghost be glory and might and honor, now and henceforth, and forever and ever. Amen.
Chrysostom Ep 500