A Study Of The Book Of Ephesians:
A verse by verse examination of God's eternal purpose in and through Jesus Christ.
by: Allan Turner
The Mystery Revealed—3:1 – 7
1. For this reason. What he now writes is to be connected with what has already been written. I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles—. Before Paul was in Christ, he used to put Christians in prison. Now, because he is an apostle to the Gentiles, he finds himself in prison. In fact, his chains authenticate his apostleship (II Corinthians 11:16-33). In every reference that Paul makes of himself as a prisoner, he stresses that he belongs to Jesus Christ, his Lord (4:1; Philemon 1:9; II Timothy 1:8).
2. If indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you. This is a difficult construction. Is he questioning whether the Ephesians know of his part in proclaiming the gospel? Surely not! He knows some of them personally and knows they know his work as an apostle. The fact that five years have passed since he was with them would indicate that others had obeyed the gospel since then. It is, therefore, perfectly proper for him to say “if indeed you have heard.”
3. How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery. Paul always insists that his apostleship to the Gentiles and his knowledge of the revealed mystery did not come from human origin (Galatians 1:12). (As I wrote before in a few words. Some think he is referring to a letter now lost. He is probably just referring to what he has just written in 2:11-22.
4. By which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ). Paul wrote to be understood. He did not use the loquacious rhetoric or “great swelling words of emptiness” (II Peter 2:18) of the Greek and Roman schools of oratory. When we read what Paul wrote, then we can know what he knew by divine revelation.
5. Which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:. This “mystery of Christ” had never been fully revealed until it was made known to the holy apostles and prophets by the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:26; I Corinthians 12:8).
6. That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel. This is not to say that no one, not even prophets like Moses, Isaiah, etc., knew anything about the future blessing in which the Gentiles would share. In fact, the Old Testament writers did know about it and referred to it over and over (Gen 12:3; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; Psalm 72; 87; Isaiah 11:10; 49:6; 54:1-3; 60:1-3; Hosea 1:10; Amos 9:11ff; Malachi 1:11; etc.). What they did not know was that the old theocracy would be abolished and in its place the church of Christ would be established and in this body the Gentiles and Jews would be on equal footing before God.
7. Of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. The office with which Paul had been invested was a gift of God's grace. Verse 8 makes this even clearer. He became a Christian by obeying the gospel like everyone else; but he became an apostle and minister of the gospel by the power of God. God was working in and through Paul. Paul deserved none of the credit.
Purpose Of The Mystery—3:8 – 13
8. To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles. Paul does not call himself the “least” but “less than the least” of all saints. This is not just false humility on his part. To think that a man with a record like Paul, a violent persecutor of the church, should upon his conversion be made one of the Lord's chosen apostles seems absolutely incredible. Nevertheless, it is true. We certainly would not have done this, but God did. “Gift,” “given,” and “was given” in this verse and in verse 7 glorify the magnificent Giver. Paul's office in the church of Christ was an almost unbelievable gift, and he never grew tired of saying so (cf. I Corinthians 15:9-11; I Timothy 1:15). The unsearchable riches of Christ. Some translate “unsearchable” as “unfathomable.” The idea being something that cannot be tracked or traced. The same word is used in Romans 11:33. Man could have never understood the spiritual riches connected with Christ unless God Himself had revealed it.
9. And to make all people see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;. This was the purpose of Paul's preaching to the Gentiles. Preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ was like setting this mystery that had been hidden in the mind of God into the fullest light of day so that all men could see it clearly. In contrast with the pagan mystery religions which claimed to reveal secrets to the privileged few, Paul states that his mission is to tell all people. Of course, all men would not take advantage of the gospel, but the preaching of it would place the unsearchable riches before them to hear and see. That this was effectively done by Paul can be seen from the eloquent testimony of Demetruis, who rejected the gospel, in Acts 19:26.
10. To the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,. Not in times past but now, the manifold or infinite diversity of God's wisdom is made known to the angelic rulers and powers. This is accomplished through what God has done by means of or through the church. The reconciliation of Jew and Gentile to God and to each other through the cross of Christ—which to the Jew is a stumbling block and to the Gentile foolishness (I Corinthians 1:22-25)—manifests the manifold wisdom of Almighty God. God's wisdom reconciles the irreconcilables! Therefore, it should not surprise us that the angelic hosts have learned a great deal about the God they adore by watching what He has done through or by means of the church. Angels have been curious about the things connected with man's redemption in Christ Jesus (I Peter 1:12), and are themselves “ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14).
11. According to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,. What “has been hidden in God” (v. 9) has “now” been “made known” (v. 10). God's “eternal purpose” to save mankind, which becomes visible in the church, was not some last minute thought on His part. The scheme of redemption in all of history is focused in and through Jesus Christ and His church.
12. In whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. In our connection with Jesus Christ our Lord, we have the boldness (or courage) that lets us draw near to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) and confident access to the Father (John 14:6) and all those spiritual blessings mentioned in 1:3. This courage and confident access stems directly from our faith (i.e., trust and reliance) in Jesus.
13. Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. Paul does not want the Ephesians to be disheartened by the imprisonment, persecutions, and sufferings that he experienced preaching the gospel for their sake. In another letter written to those who were anxious about his imprisonment and tribulations, he had written that the things that happened to him had actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel (Philippians 1:12). Knowing his labor for them and their spiritual blessings they have in connection with Jesus Christ, this great apostle to the Gentiles wants them to be both bold and confident. One might be tempted to ask: How was it to their glory that God permitted Paul to suffer for them? Simply this: If God allowed Paul to endure so much as the consequence of his work with the Gentiles, this was evidence of how important God figured this work to be. One of the prominent fruits of Paul's labors was the three years he spent with the Ephesians (cf. Acts 20:31).
Appreciation Of The Mystery—3:14 – 21
14. For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,. For this reason (i.e., all the things he has mentioned in 2:11 – 3:13), Paul kneels in prayer to God the Father. There are many positions for prayer, but all of them ought to express humiliation and lowly supplication. I am convinced that too many Christians are simply too casual as they engage in worship today. Formalism is certainly wrong, but so is a thoughtless and careless attitude about our worship to God. When is the last time you actually bowed your knees to the Father? Paul, like the rest of us, are, in our connection with Christ, permitted to pray “to the Father.”
15. From whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,. The family or “household of God” (2:19), the “kingdom of God,” i.e., the “whole building” (2:21), is under consideration here. This family consists of God, the “ministering spirits” or angels, the saints who are alive on planet earth, and those who have passed from this earthly existence and now reside in the Hadean realm. Everything else is the kingdom of darkness (cf. I Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 1:13). Every day the praise of the entire church in heaven and on earth is offered to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
16. That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,. Paul was praying that out of the wealth of His glory, God would strengthen them with power through or in connection with the Holy Spirit, who dwells in them individually (I Corinthians 6:19,20) and collectively (I Corinthians 3:16), to be strong in the inner man as they comprehend the promises the Father has made to them in Christ. The “inner man,” which is equal to the heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37), is contrasted with the “outward man” or physical body (II Corinthians 4:16). It is this inner man that has been made alive in Christ Jesus (2:5), and all this in our connection with the Holy Spirit.
17. That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;. This is not another gift. It is a continuation of what is mentioned in verse 16. As we are strengthened with power in connection with the Holy Spirit, Christ dwells in our hearts through or in connection with faith. Faith, of course, comes from hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17), which, in turn, is the “sword of the Spirit” (6:17). It seems Paul is here speaking of that process that has to do with growing in “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:14-18). That you, being rooted and grounded in love,. The Ephesians, like all Christians, had been rooted and grounded in love. These two words are derived from two different conceptions—one borrowed from the process of nature and the other from architectural parlance. For a plant to be healthy, it must have good roots, and for a building to be sound, it must have a good foundation. These roots and this foundation are God's love for us in Christ. As our appreciation for God's love for us increases—as a plant whose roots grow wide, deep, and strong in the soil of that love, and as a foundation upon which a sound structure can be built—our love expands for God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for brothers and sisters in Christ, for neighbors, and even for our enemies (cf. I John 4:7-21).
18. May be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—. The immediate purpose of all that Paul has prayed for on their behalf is now stated. He wanted the Ephesians (and all Christians) to grasp or understand the width, length, depth, and height (i.e., all aspects) of Christ's love.
19. To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge;. Just as our hearts and minds are guarded by a faith in God that produces a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7), there is a knowledge that comes from our experience of Christ's love for us that surpasses the knowledge we have of Him intellectually. That you may be filled with all the fullness of God. We have now reached the climax of Paul's prayer for the Ephesians and, by extension, all saints everywhere. He wants Christians to be filled with all the fullness (blessings, grace, etc.) that is ours “of,” with respect to, God. This all derives from God because He is who He is. This is very similar to the idea conveyed in Colossians 2:9,10, which says: “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” In other words, our completeness is connected to Christ, in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily (cf. John 1:16).
20. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,. In his prayer, Paul has asked much for the Ephesians. Nevertheless, he is firmly persuaded that God can do much more than we ask or ever think or conceive in our minds. This power has no limits in that it is “above all.” In association with this omnipotence, God's grace, which is actually “the power that works in us,” saves us from our past sins (2:8) and makes us spiritually “alive” (2:1) through the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16.).
21. To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. May worshipful praise and adoration be rendered to God, the Father of our Lord (v. 14), because of the splendor of His wonderful and magnificent attributes (i.e., power [1:19; 2:20], wisdom [3:10], mercy [2:4], love [2:4], grace [2:5-8], etc.) made manifest in connection with the church, the glorious body of Christ, and in connection with Christ Jesus, its exalted head. This glory is to be God's now and forever. Amen. When the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write these glorious words of praise to God, he was moved by that same Spirit to express his wholehearted approval by his use of the solemn “Amen.”