Near Lexington, Ky., Dec., 1857.
My Dear Sister: – Your very kind and appreciated letter of the 4th instant was duly received, and but for engagements rather pressing upon me should have met an earlier response. So far from upbraiding you for the liberty taken in asking my views of the text quoted, I am exceedingly gratified when I find the children of God inquiring for the truth, as designed by the inspired writers of the holy Scriptures. It is to me evidence of a healthy state of mind in matters of the last moment to us, while in this wilderness of sin and sorrow. How much more rational for Christians to be employed in searching the mind of the dear Redeemer, as declared in the record God has given of his Son, than in descanting on the faults of their brethren, or upbraiding the unregenerate for their unbelief.
The text to which you invite my attention is found in Ephesians i. 12: “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.” The following two verses will be found in close and inseparable connection with the one you have quoted, and make the solution of it less difficult. Those verses, being part of the paragraph, read as follows: “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” You will not forget that when the Savior delivered the commission to his apostles, he expressly commanded them to “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The apostles of the Lamb were all Jews, and received their commission to preach directly from the Redeemer. They were limited in their first ministry to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel;” in other words, to the Jews, who were nationally God’s chosen people. Nor was the commission enlarged until Christ had by his obedience, suffering and death, broken down the middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles. After his resurrection he enlarged the field of their labors; hence, “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, T am with you alway, even to the end of the world. Amen.” Although the Savior was so explicit in the commission, and although, as we might suppose, the language of the commission is so clear and unmistakable, yet we find it was not without a miracle being wrought; the prejudices of the apostles against the Gentiles were so far broken down as that they became convinced that Gentiles as well as Jews were made participants in the mediatorial work of the Lord Jesus. Hence, “Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” Head on including the forty-third verse of the tenth chapter of Acts, “While Peter yet spake these; words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision [Jews] which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost: for they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” – Acts x. 44-48. Hence Peter’s former conclusion, that the Gentiles were common or unclean, and consequently excluded from gospel privileges and ordinances, was corrected, and he could now join Paul, in the revelation made to him, “That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” Allow me to invite your attention to the following: Acts xi. 1-16, and then hear Peter, “Forasmuch then as God gave them [the Gentiles] the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, what was I, that I could withstand God? When they [the apostles and brethren, who belonged to the circumcision, or Jewish family,] heard these things they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” The following verse shows conclusively that the apostles, up to this time, preached ” the word to none but unto the Jews only.” Allow me to call your attention further, to Acts xiii. 45-47, when the following occurs, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” From all which it is most palpably manifest that Jewish believers trusted in Christ before the gospel was sent to the Gentiles; and I had formerly believed that the correct rendering of the text would be as follows: That we Jews who first trusted in Christ, should be to the praise of his glory in whom also ye (Gentiles) trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. The apostles and early christians trusted in Christ before the Gentiles to whom the apostle was writing, yet I have some doubt whether it is what the apostle designed.
On a close examination of the chapter, with the grammatical construction of the language used, I am led to doubt whether by the term “who,” the apostle did not mean the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” as brought to view in the fourth verse of the chapter.
It is worthy of remark, that the apostle does not associate with himself, as writer of the letter to the church at Ephesus, any one. “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ,” in the singular number, not apostles, in the plural. He addresses himself to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus. In the fourth verse he combines with himself, the saints and faithful, which constitute the us, in the plural: “Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us [who? Paul an apostle, the saints at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus] in him, before the foundation of the world, that we [the plural, who? Paul an apostle, the saints at Ephesus .and the faithful in Christ Jesus] should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us [who? Paul, the saints at Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus] unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” Whose will? The answer is, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that in the dispensation of the fullness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ. Who are we to understand the he, in the singular number, alludes to, but the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?
If this be a correct criticism, it will follow necessarily that the text you have asked me to explain will read thus, “That we [Paul the apostle, the saints at Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus] should be to the praise of his [the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ] glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye [the saints at Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus] also trusted;” &c., ” in whom also, after that ye believed ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our [who? Paul the apostle, the saints at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus] inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his [the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ] glory.” All which I submit with a hope that you may find something to confirm or set aside your present opinion on the text.
With kindest regards to your mother and all friends, I subscribe myself most truly, your friend and brother,
THOMAS. P. DUDLEY.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 72., No. 20.
OCTOBER 15, 1904.