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The later history of the resolutions of the conference.

THE rest of the Acts need not occupy us long. After certain days Paul said unto Barnabas “Let us return now and visit the brethren in every city wherein we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they fare.” This journey then proceeded from no act of the Ecclesia of Antioch nor (so far as appears) from a special Divine monition. It was apparently in intention, and certainly as regards the first part of it, merely supplementary to the former journey. As we know, St Paul and Barnabas had a division of opinion, and separated, Paul taking Silas, one of the envoys of the Ecclesia of Jerusalem, and himself a prophet. At Lystra a still more important fellow-labourer was added to his company in the person of Timothy, whom for prudential reasons he circumcised; doubtless because, though hitherto formally 93outside the old covenant, he had been from childhood to all intents and purposes a Jew2222See Judaistic Christianity, pp. 84 ff.. As they went through the cities they delivered to them (masculine: to the disciples there) the resolutions which had been decided on (τὰ δόγματα τὰ κεκριμένα) by the Apostles and Elders that were at Jerusalem. The region through which they were now travelling had nothing to do with the provinces associated with Antioch, viz. Syria and Cilicia, to which the Jerusalem letter had been addressed. But the conversions which had taken place in that very region formed the first link in the chain of circumstances which led to the writing of the letter: and if the Ecclesia of Antioch were to accept loyally the restraints on neophytes imposed by the letter, it was impossible that their missionary, on now at once revisiting the scene of his mission, should fail to press these requirements upon his converts. But (with the exception of an allusion by St James or the Jerusalem Elders in xxi. 25) this is the last that we hear of these requirements in the Acts, and St Paul in his Epistles makes no allusion to them directly or indirectly. It is of course possible that St Luke’s silence on this point for the rest of this journey, and for all the subsequent journeyings, was not intended to be expressive. He may have wished the single instance given at the outset to be understood as carried on through the rest of his narrative. But the manner in which the one statement is made 94does not suggest such an extension; nor is it likely that St Luke would have failed to repeat it for at least one region now first entered on, had he wished it to be carried forward by his readers. But St Paul’s own silence is more significant still. The truth probably is that he accepted the four restraints appended to the main purpose of the letter, but did not really care for them, preferring to seek the same ends by other means; and so that he did not attempt to enforce them with respect to Christian converts for which the Ecclesia of Antioch was in no sense responsible; having perhaps already found reason in Lycaonia to doubt their expediency, though, faithful to his trust, he introduced them there. At all events the great liberative measure to which the Apostles joined with the Elders and Ecclesia of Jerusalem in setting their hands stood fast, and determined the character of by far the greater part of the new Ecclesia, while these petty adjuncts to it, having served their purpose, dropped away, though many in ancient, and even in modern times, have tried to persuade themselves that they are still binding on all Christians.

The next verse to that which we have now been examining tells us simply that “the Ecclesiae (i.e. the congregations of the Lycaonian region) were strengthened (or solidified, ἐστερεοῦντο) by their faith, and multiplied in number daily” (xvi. 5). This is 95the last time that the word ἐκκλησία is used by St Luke, except for that of Jerusalem and in the peculiar case of the Ephesian Elders at Miletus.

How St Paul and his companions came to extend their journey beyond Lycaonia, we are not told. When they had passed through Phrygia and Galatia and reached Alexandria Troas the vision of the Macedonian beckoned them across the Hellespont, and so they entered Europe. As everyone will remember, the chief places of their preaching were Philippi, Thessalonica, Berœa, Athens, Corinth. Not a word here of Ecclesiae, for the Christian communities were only in their earliest stage of existence.

The founding of the Ecclesia of Ephesus.

On his way back to the east St Paul diverged rapidly from his course to snatch a visit to Ephesus, where he dropped Priscilla and Aquila, and there he began to argue with the Jews in the synagogue, but quickly took leave. If, as the following narratives suggest, this was the beginning of Ephesian Christianity, it is much to be remembered as a bona fide instance of a great central capital which could legitimately claim an Apostle as the founder of its Christian community. It will be remembered that shortly after leaving Lycaonia, Paul and his friends are said to have been “hindered by the Holy Spirit from speaking the word in Asia,” i.e. Proconsular Asia; which implies that personally they (or Paul) had been desiring to 96preach there, and doubtless specially in Ephesus. The deferred wish was now to be fulfilled, though still, so to speak, only in a representative manner, for there was no time for effectual preaching. Promising to return if God will, St Paul hurries across the Mediterranean to Cæsarea, goes up to Jerusalem and greets the Ecclesia there (here simply called τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, Jerusalem itself being indicated only by the word ἀναβάς ‘goes up’), and then returns to Antioch for some time; he sets out afresh through Phrygia and Galatia, “stablishing all the disciples” made on his last journey, and so at last reaches Ephesus in good earnest and makes a long stay, in which he becomes the founder of Christian Ephesus in very deed.

One early incident of this stay is mentioned which specially concerns us. After St Paul had been preaching and arguing in the synagogue for the space of three months, when at length some of the Jews become hardened in disbelief and publicly revile ‘the Way,’ he forms a separate congregation of the disciples, probably Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians alike, and carries on his public disputations in what was probably a neutral building, the σχολή or ‘lecture hall’ of Tyrannus.

The period of from two to three years then spent at Ephesus and in the surrounding region was full of dangers and troubles, of which the Epistles alone afford us some glimpses. They mark St Paul’s anxiety to build up carefully and solidly the Ecclesiae 97of the most important region of that great peninsula now called Asia Minor, which he had in a manner made peculiarly his own, and which from childhood must have had a special interest for him from the proximity of Tarsus to the Cilician Gates, the pass by which the greater part of the peninsula was entered from the south. The last incident of that period mentioned by St Luke brings us face to face with another sort of Ecclesia from those whose origin we have been tracing. He employs the word ἐκκλησία not only for the regular assembly of the Ephesian people (xix. 39), but, by a very unusual way of speaking, for the tumultuous gathering on behalf of the Ephesian goddess (xix. 32, 41). Before that last incident St Paul had meditated a fresh journey of great length, first a visit to the European Christian communities founded by him on his former westward journey, then to Jerusalem once more, where he wished to find himself at Pentecost, the great national festival, and lastly to Rome (xix. 21).

St Paul’s discourse to the Ephesian Elders at Miletus.

The incidents of the journey, with one important exception, do not concern our purpose. Anxiety not to spend time in Proconsular Asia made St Paul refrain from going back to Ephesus on his way to Palestine. But, touching at Miletus, he thence, we are told, “sent to Ephesus and called to him the 98Elders of the Ecclesia.” St Luke speaks of them simply thus, as though no further explanation were needed. We have seen already how St Paul instituted an administration by Elders in the smaller Ecclesiae which he founded in Lycaonia, and it is but natural to conclude that he would pursue the same plan elsewhere. Whether the institution took place at an early date in his long stay (so that they would be acting along with and under him), or took place only on his departure, as seems best to suit the former precedent, we have no means of knowing. Superficially it might seem as if the early verses of his address favoured the first mentioned view, but in reality they are neutral, what is there said of the Elders’ knowledge of St Paul’s acts and teaching from the day of his arrival being, to say the least, addressed to them in their character of Christian disciples, not of Christian Elders. More is contained in xx. 28, partly about the Elders of the Ecclesia, partly about the Ecclesia itself. “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit set you as ἐπισκόπους.”

First, how are we to understand this last word? No one, I suppose, doubts now that the persons meant are those first mentioned as “Elders of the Ecclesia.” Have we then here a second title? The only tangible reasons for thinking so (apart from certain passages in Philippians and the Pastoral Epistles, which must presently be considered) are that 99in the Second Century the word was certainly used as a title, though for a different office; and that it was already in various use as a title in the Greek world. But against this we must set the fact that both in the Bible (LXX., Apocrypha, and the New Testament itself, 1 Pet. ii. 25) and in other literature (including Philo) it retains its common etymological or descriptive meaning ‘overseer’, and this meaning alone gives a clear sense here. The best rendering would I think be, “in which the Holy Spirit set you to have oversight”, the force being distinctly predicative. We shall have, as I said just now, to consider the word again in connexion with Philippians and the Pastoral Epistles, but for the present we had better remain at Miletus or rather Ephesus.

Secondly, the Elders are said to have been set in the flock of Ephesus to have oversight of it by the Holy Spirit. Neither here nor anywhere else in the address is there any indication that St Paul himself had had anything to do with their appointment, the contrast in this to the Pastoral Epistles being very remarkable. It is no doubt conceivable that he might describe such an act of his own as coming from the Holy Spirit: but apart from prophetic monitions, of which there is no trace here, it would be hard to find another example23231 Cor. vii. 40 is obviously quite different..

Again, it is conceivable that this language might be used without any reference to the mode of appointment, the Holy Spirit being regarded simply as, so to speak, the author of all order.

But the manner in which the Holy Spirit is elsewhere associated with joint acts, acts involving fellowship, suggests that here the appointment 100came from the Ecclesia itself. Doubtless, as far as we can tell, such was not the case in those Lycaonian communities where (outside of Palestine) we first read of the appointment of Elders. But the case of comparatively small communities, recently formed and rapidly visited, might well induce St Paul in the first instance to start them with Elders of his own choice: while in such a capital as Ephesus, having probably already made a long stay there, he might well think the Ecclesia ripe for the responsibility. In so doing he would be practically following the precedent set at Jerusalem in the case of the Seven (vi. 3-6). In that case the appointment of the Seven was sealed, so to speak, by the Apostles praying and laying hands of blessing on the Seven; and so it may well have been here.

Thirdly, the function of the Elders is described in pastoral language (‘take heed to . . . the flock,’ ‘tend,’ ‘wolves . . . not sparing the flock’). Such language, as we might expect, was probably not unknown as applied to Jewish elders. Apparently2424See the passages in Levy and Fleischer’s Lex. iv. 120 f. The Aramaic verb (used only for men) is פִּרְנֵם, the substantive פַּרְנָם, the sense like that of the biblical רָעָה, including the sense of tending or leading and feeding. (though not 101quite clearly) it is applied in the Talmud to them as well as to other guides and rulers. But it was impossible that this aspect of the office should not assume greater weight, under the circumstances of a Christian Ecclesia. The unique redemption to which the Ecclesia owed its existence involved the deepening and enlarging of every responsibility, and the filling out what might have been mere administration with spiritual aims and forces. But the precise form which the work of the Elders was to take is not clearly expressed. The side of shepherding most expressed by ‘tending’ (ποιμαίνω) is government and guidance rather than feeding2525John xxi. 16 where ‘tending’ (ποίμαινε) is contrasted with ‘feeding’ (βόσκε) both in the preceding and in the following verse.; nor is there any other distinct reference to teaching, the two imperatives being “take heed to yourselves and to the flock,” and “watch ye” or “be wakeful” (γρηγορεῖτε xx. 31), spoken with reference to the double danger of grievous wolves from without, and men speaking perverse things from within. But this ‘watching’ does indirectly seem to involve teaching, public or private, in virtue of the words which follow, “remembering that for a space of three years night and day I ceased not to admonish each one,” the practical form taken by the Apostle’s vigilance being thus recalled to mind as needing to be in some way carried on by themselves. Moreover it is hard to see how the work of tending and protection could be performed 102without teaching, which indeed would itself be a necessary part of the daily life of a Christian, as of a Jewish community; and it does not appear by whom it was to be carried on mainly and regularly if not by the Elders, or at least by some of them. No other office in the Ecclesia of Ephesus is referred to in the address.

Next for the Ecclesia of Ephesus itself.

Early in the term we had occasion to notice the significance of this phrase “the Ecclesia of God which He purchased by the blood of His own,” as joining on the new society of Christ’s disciples to the ancient Ecclesia of Israel, and marking how the idea of the sacrificial redemption wrought by the Crucified Messiah, succeeding to the Paschal redemption of the Exodus, was bound up in the idea of the Christian Ecclesia. Here we evidently are carried into a loftier region than any previous use of the word Ecclesia in the Acts would obviously point to. This language was but natural, since the words then spoken were then supposed to be last words. They are part of St Paul’s solemn farewell to the cherished Ecclesia of his own founding. He begins with the actual circumstances of the moment, the local Ephesian community, which was the flock committed to the Ephesian Elders, and then goes on to say that that little flock had a right to believe itself to be the Ecclesia of God which He had purchased to be His own possession at so unspeakable a price. Of course in strictness 103the words belong only to the one universal Christian Ecclesia: but here they are transferred to the individual Ecclesia of Ephesus, which alone these Elders were charged to shepherd. In the Epistles we shall find similar investment of parts of the universal Ecclesia with the high attributes of the whole. This transference is no mere figure of speech. Each partial society is set forth as having a unity of its own, and being itself a body made up of many members has therefore a corporate life of its own: and yet these attributes could not be ascribed to it as an absolutely independent and as it were insular society: they belong to it only as a representative member of the great whole2626The phrase ‘Ecclesia of God,’ which we find here, adopted and adapted as we have seen from the Old Testament, has a similar local reference at the head of both the Epistles to the Corinthians as also in 1 Tim. iii. 5, not to speak of 1 Cor. x. 32; xi. 22, where, as we shall see [p. 117], the phrase appears to have a double reference..

In xx. 32, which follows the calling to mind of St Paul’s own former admonitions, he commends the Elders “to the Lord and to the word of His grace”, just as he and Barnabas, on leaving the Lycaonian churches with their newly appointed Elders, had commended them to ‘the Lord on whom they had believed’ (xiv. 23). “The word of His grace” here is what is called in v. 24 “the Gospel of the grace of God”, doubtless with special reference to the grace by which Gentiles were admitted into covenant with God. Firm adherence to that Gospel would be the 104most essential principle to guide them, after his departure, in their faith in God.

Then he adds words which define for the future the two provinces of activity for the Ecclesia, its action within and its action without, ‘building up’ and ‘enlargement.’ The word of God’s grace, he says, is indeed able2727τῷ διυναμένῳ assuredly goes, as the Greek suggests, with λόγῳ, not with κυρίῳ (or θεῷ). to build up2828No accusative, that the reference may be perfectly general., to build up the Ecclesia and, each individual member thereof within (cf. ix. 31), and likewise to bestow on those who had it not already the inheritance2929See especially xxvi. 28; Eph. i. 18; Col. i. 12. among all the sanctified, all the saints of the covenant.

His last words are a gentle and disguised warning, again with reference to his own practice, against the coveting of earthly good things, and in favour of earning by personal labour not only the supply of personal needs but the means of helping those who have not themselves the strength to labour. These are words that might well be addressed to the whole Ecclesia: but there is no turn of language to indicate a change from the address to the elders; and various passages in the Epistles confirm the prima facie impression that it is to them in the first instance that the warning is addressed.

He ends with the saying of the Lord Jesus, or (it may be) the summing up of many words of His, “Happy is it rather to give than to receive.”


St Paul’s reception at Jerusalem and at Rome.

We may pass over the journey to Jerusalem with all its warnings of danger. At Jerusalem Paul and his company were joyfully received by “the brethren” however widely or narrowly the term should be limited in this context. Next day they went in to James, and all the Elders were present. Of the other Apostles we hear nothing. In all probability they were in some other part of Palestine. James clearly here has an authoritative position. The presence of all the Elders shews that the visit was a formal one, a visit to the recognised authorities of the Ecclesia of Jerusalem, and the primary recipient is James, the elders being only spoken of as present. On the other hand not a word is distinctly said of any act or saying of James separately. After St Paul has finished his narrative, “they” (we are told, with a vague inclusive plural) “glorified God and said to him . . .  (xxi. 20).” Not improbably James was the spokesman: but if so, he spoke the mind of the rest. Deeply interesting as this address was, the only point which concerns us is the final reference to the letter sent to Antioch. “But as touching the Gentiles which have believed, we ourselves (ἡμεῖς) sent (or wrote, or enjoined) judging that they should beware of what is offered to idols, etc.” This is said in marked contrast to the suggestion that St Paul should manifest by his own example his loyalty to the Law in the case of 106born Jews. It was in effect saying that his different teaching respecting Gentiles was what they of Jerusalem could not condemn, seeing they had themselves sanctioned for the Gentiles only certain definite restraints which did not involve obedience to the Law. This accounts for the general form ‘the Gentiles which have believed’. To refer to Antioch and Syria and Cilicia would have been irrelevant; and moreover the regions actually addressed were the only regions which at the time of the letter contained definitely formed Ecclesiae.

This is practically the end of the evidence deducible from the Acts. After this one scene on the second day at Jerusalem, James and the Elders disappear from view, as the other Apostles had disappeared long before. All that happened at Jerusalem, at Cæsarea, and on the voyage to Rome lies outside our subject. We hear of ‘brethren’ at Puteoli and at Rome, but the word Ecclesia is not used. The breach with the unbelieving Jews at Rome recalls that at the Pisidian Antioch, and ends with a similar setting forth of the Gentile reception of the Gospel, making up for the Jewish hardness of heart. Beginning at Jerusalem, the centre of ancient Israel and the home of the first Christian Ecclesia, the book points forward to a time when the centre of the heathen world will as such be for a time the centre of the Ecclesia of God.

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