Before eternal ages. He employs this phrase in the same sense in which he elsewhere speaks of the uninterrupted succession of years from the foundation of the world. (<560102>Titus 1:2.) For that ingenious reasoning which Augustine conducts in many passages is totally different from Paul’s design. The meaning therefore is, — “Before times began to take their course from all past ages.” Besides, it is worthy of notice, that he places the foundation of salvation in Christ; for, apart from him, there is neither adoption nor salvation; as was indeed said in expounding the first chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians.
10. But hath now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ. Observe how appropriately he connects the faith which we have from the gospel within God’s secret election, and assigns to each of them its own place. God has now called us by the gospel, not because he has suddenly taken counsel about our salvation, but because he had so determined from all eternity. Christ hath now “appeared” fb11 for our salvation, not because the power of saving has been recently bestowed on him, but because this grace was laid up in him for us before the creation of the world. The knowledge of those things is revealed to us by faith; and so the Apostle judiciously connects the gospel with the most ancient promises of God, that novelty may not render it contemptible.
But it is asked; “Were the fathers under the Law ignorant of this grace?” for if it was not revealed but by the coming of Christ, it follows that, before that time, it was concealed. I reply, Paul speaks of the full exhibition of the thing itself on which depended also the faith of the fathers, so that this takes nothing from them. The reason why Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and all believers, obtained the same faith with us, was, that they placed their confidence in this “appearance.” Thus, when he says that “grace hath been revealed to us by the appearing of Christ,” he does not exclude from communion with that grace the fathers who are made partakers with us of this appearing by the same faith. Christ (<581308>Hebrews 13:8) was yesterday as he is today; but he did not manifest himself to us, by his death and resurrection, before the time appointed by the Father. To this, as the only pledge and accomplishment of our salvation, both our faith and that of the fathers look with one accord.
Who hath indeed destroyed death. When he ascribes to the gospel the manifestation of life, he does not mean that we must begin with the word, leaving out of view the death and resurrection of Christ, (for the word, on the contrary, rests on the subject — matter,) but he only means that the fruit of this grace comes to men in no other way than by the gospel, in accordance with what is said,
“God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, and hath committed to us the ministry of reconciliation.”
(<470519>2 Corinthians 5:19.)
And hath brought to light life and immortality by the gospel. It is a high and remarkable commendation of the gospel, that it “bringeth life to light.” To life he adds immortality; as if he had said, “a true and immortal life.” But, perhaps, it may be thought better, that by life we understand regeneration, that is followed by a blessed immortality which is also the object of hope. And, indeed, this is our “life,” not that which we have in common with brute beasts, but that which consists in partaking of the image of God. But because in this world
“it doth not appear” (<620302>1 John 3:2)
what is the nature, or what is the value of that “life,” for the sake of more full expression he has most properly added, “immortality,” which is the revelation of that life which is now concealed.
11. To which I have been appointed. Not without good reason does he so highly commend the gospel along with his apostleship. Satan labors, beyond all things else, to banish from our hearts, by every possible method, the faith of sound doctrine; and as it is not always easy for him to do this if he attack us in open war, he steals upon us by secret and indirect methods; for, in order to destroy the credibility of doctrine, he holds up to suspicion the calling of godly teachers. fb12 Paul, therefore, having death before his eyes, and knowing well the ancient and ordinary snares of Satan, determined to assert not only the doctrine ofthe gospel in general, but his own calling. Both were necessary; for, although there be uttered long discourses concerning the: dignity of the gospel, they will not be of much avail to us, unless we understand what is the gospel. Many will agree as to the general principle of the undoubted authority of the gospel, who afterwards will have nothing certain that they can follow. This is the reason why Paul expressly wishes to be acknowledged to be a faithful and lawful minister of that life — giving doctrine which he had mentioned.