Ephesians 3:1-21 - Outline of Ephesians (Book Notes menu page)
In our study of Ephesians, thus far, we have seen that God, in His amazing grace, extended to us in Christ, has blessed us beyond measure. These blessings are heavenly, far surpassing our ability to know and appreciate, apart from the Holy Spirit's enabling. They belong to those who have been accepted in God's beloved Son, through whom God worked in our behalf, with the power that raised Jesus from the dead, and exalted Him to the highest position of power and glory. By this same power, we, who were dead in trespasses and sins, have also been made alive. He found us in the filth of our sinful condition. Yet, by His grace, apart from any merit of our own, He raised us up to be joined to His Beloved Son, as His Body and Bride, to share in His glory.

Our salvation, is entirely His work. It is by grace, through faith, for every one who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. There is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Jew and Gentile alike are condemned in their sin. But God freely imputes Christ's righteousness (for we have no merit of our own), to all who place their faith in Him, who died for our sins and rose again.

In Christ, we have peace with God, for He has removed the wall of sin that separated us from God. In Christ, the barriers that separated us from one another are also torn away. There is one body, one Bride of Christ, one Spirit, one citizenship, one household, one building.

However, this concept (that all believers {Jews and Gentiles, together} should be one in Christ) is something new, because it was not revealed in the Old Testament. Therefore, Paul devotes chapter 3, to:

The Mystery Made Known...
  1. By revelation, to Paul, 3:1-6
  2. By messengers, to all, 3:7-13
  3. By God's power within believers, to His glory, 3:14-21
1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery;
(as I wrote afore in few words,
4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men,
as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body,
and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
The mystery made known...
A mystery, in Scripture, is something that could not have been known, unless or until God chose to make it known. The specific mystery, upon which Paul is focusing here, is summarized in v.6. God's purpose, from eternity past was that Jew and Gentile would become one body through the Messiah. But, until Christ came, this purpose was hidden, since God had not revealed it in the OT. As God's chosen people, the children of Israel had many advantages (eg., Rom 3:1,2). They were not as far from God, as other men. Yet, most did not realize that they too, had fallen woefully short of His standard of righteousness. Although they did not understand, Jesus told the Jews, that through His one sacrifice, for the sins of the whole world, He would bring Jews and Gentiles into the fold of God (Joh 10:15,16).

But now, to Paul and other NT apostles and prophets (v.3-5), God had made known His purpose that there should be 'one body in Christ.' He made it known "by revelation" {GK=apokalupsis, uncovering}. This same word is used of the future revelation of Jesus Christ (1Pet 1:13; Rev 1:1). Today, His glories are hidden from the unbelieving world, and veiled even to believers. But "when He shall appear... we shall see Him as He is" (1Joh 3:2).

Although the OT spoke prophetically of Christ's coming, much remained hidden, until His first coming, when "the mystery of Christ" was made known by the Holy Spirit (v.5; cp. 1Pet 1:10-12 about the OT prophets, who struggled to understand). Since Christ has now fulfilled His work as the suffering servant of God, we understand that "the glory that should follow" belongs to His second coming.

The Spirit revealed to Paul, that Christ's first coming established a new "dispensation of the grace of God" (v.2). The word "dispensation" {GK=oikonomia, stewardship, administration, economy} speaks of God's method of governing His people. In the OT, Israel was governed by the Law of God. In the NT, the Church lives under the Grace of God (eg., Rom 6:14; Gal 5:18).

Paul says (v.3) that he wrote about this new economy "afore {ie., previously}, in few words." He may be thinking of an earlier epistle, which the Ephesians may have read (eg., Rom 16:25,26; 1Cor 2:10,11; Gal 1:12), or, of a preview of the subject earlier in this epistle (Eph 1:6-11). (Paul also touches this subject, in Col 1:26,27, which was written at the same time as Ephesians.)

Note the parallels between Eph 3:6 (where 3 compound words emphasize the 'togetherness' of believers) and Eph 1:6-11 (where similar concepts are expressed in other words)...
  1. 'partakers' {GK=summetouchos} of one promise (or, one announced purpose) - cp. Eph 1:6-9
  2. 'of the same body' {GK=sussomos} - cp. Eph 1:10
  3. 'fellowheirs' {GK=sugkleronomos} - cp. Eph 1:11
Each of these GK words bears a prefix which denotes 'union.'
This union, of all participants, is a necessary feature of the Gospel, because all, who trust in Christ and His finished work of redemption, are 'in Christ.'
The 'mystery' is not that Gentiles would be saved,
for the OT foretold that Gentiles would be saved (eg., Isa 11:10; 60:3; 42:6; Zech 2:11; Mal 1:11).
The 'mystery' in not that Gentiles would be joined to Israel,
for historically many Gentiles became proselytes to Judaism and were integrated into that nation (Ex 12:48; Isa 14:1; eg., Ruth 1:16; 2:10-12).
The 'mystery' is that believing Jews and Gentiles would be joined to Christ,
in "one new man" (Eph 2:13-15), the body of Christ, which is the true Church.
     The Church of Christ is a new thing. It did not exist during the OT, or even during the Lord's earthly ministry, for, at that time, Jesus spoke of it as yet future (Mat 16:16-18).
     The Church began, following the Lord's ascension, when He sent His Spirit to indwell believers, at Pentecost (cp. Joh 16:5-7; Acts 2:1-4; 1Cor 12:12,13). There is only one true Church, consisting of believing Jews and Gentiles. The first believers were Jews, but Gentiles were quickly added to the body. The birth of the Church brought about a new, third division of mankind (1Cor 10:32).
     Some say that the Church was not established at Pentecost, because 'the mystery' had not yet been revealed to Paul. But it is obvious that the original Jewish believers were members of Christ's Body, from the first words which He spoke to Paul (Acts 9:1-5). The salvation of Gentiles did not start another body of Christ. The things revealed to Paul explained God's purpose, but the Lord was building His Church, before Paul knew anything about it.
7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift
of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given,
that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
9 And to make all [men] see what [is] the fellowship of the mystery,
which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God,
who created all things by Jesus Christ:
10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly [places]
might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
In v.1-6, we saw: The mystery was made known by revelation, to Paul.
In v.7-13 we see: The mystery is being made known by messengers (first by Paul and the other apostles, then by the church), to all men and to all angelic beings (even to those men and angels who will not receive God's grace).
  • Paul's placement in ministry was a gift of God's grace. (v.7-9)
    There was nothing of worth in the messenger.
    He had not appointed himself, but rather, was "made a minister {GK=diakonos, servant}." (cp. 1Tim 1:12-15).
  • Paul's ministry was made effectual {GK=energeia, energized} by God's power {GK=dunamis}.
    The Gospel of Christ, which Paul proclaimed is "the power of God unto salvation, unto every one that believes..." (Rom 1:16).
    Paul proclaimed the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 2:3-5).
  • Paul preached {GK=euaggellizo, proclaimed the good news} to the Gentiles, and to all men (ie., both Jew and Gentile).
  • God's purpose, in revealing this mystery and in sending Paul as His messenger, was...
    1. to make all men see {ie., to enlighten everyone concerning}
      the fellowship {GK=koinonia, communion, partnership}
      which God has opened, through Christ, to all who are in Christ (v.6 and v.9; cp. 1Joh 1:3,4).
    2. to make known...- to all angelic beings (v.10):
      1. to the angels of God: principalities {GK=arche} and powers {GK=exousia, authorities} (differing ranks of angels) "in heavenly places." cp. Eph 1:3; 1Pet 1:12
      2. to the fallen angels: "principalities and powers... in high places" is applied to demonic entities in Eph 6:12.
        Note: These similar phrases (in 3:10 and 6:12) are identical in the GK ('high places' is the same word as 'heavenly places').
    3. to make known His manifold wisdom...- v.10-12
      The richness of God's wisdom is reflected in the word 'manifold' {GK=poluspoikilos, multifaceted, much variegated, richly marked with multiple colors}.

      The richness of God's wisdom is:
      1. according to His rich purposes in Christ (Eph 1:7-8,18-23; 2:6-7).
      2. made known by the church.-
        The Church {GK=ekklesia, assembly of called out ones} consists of Jewish and Gentile believers, who have been 'called out' of the world, into one body in vital union with Christ.
           The Church is a messenger of the mystery, for by its very existence, it makes God's wisdom known to watching men and angels. How much more so, when the church lives according to the purpose for which God placed it on display.
        In v.11, two different words are used for 'purpose.'
        1. The eternal 'purpose' {GK=prothesis, setting forth}.
          This word is used elsewhere of the 'showbread' in the Tabernacle (eg., Mat 12:4; Heb 9:2), where 12 loaves made with leaven were 'set forth,' as symbols of the 12 tribes, which, though imperfect, were accepted before the presence of God.
        2. This setting forth of the church was 'purposed' in Christ Jesus our Lord.
          Here, the word is: GK=poieo, accomplished, performed. It was not our doing, for we are imperfect, but we have been accepted in the Beloved. Having been joined to Him, we not not only have redemption and the forgiveness of sins, but also "we have boldness {ie., freedom of speech} and access with confidence" into the presence of God... as members of the body in Christ. (v.6,9,12; Eph 1:6,7)
  • The cost (to Paul) of serving as God's messenger (v.13) was his privilege,
    and for the benefit of those who received the message. Therefore, they should be encouraged, rather than weighed down by the troubles which he suffered (eg., his persecutions and imprisonment, v.1). cp. 2Cor 1:6; Php 1:12,13; Col 1:24
14. For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory,
to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith;
that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 May be able to comprehend with all saints
what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge,
that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly
above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
21 Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus
throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
For this cause, I bow my knees...- v.14 picks up the thought initiated in v.1.
Verses 2-13 form an explanatory parenthesis concerning the newly revealed dispensation, by which believing Jews and Gentiles have become one "new man" (the body of Christ), in which every member is in vital union with God, for we are in Christ, and He is in us.
     Our natural minds cannot begin to fathom the wealth of our position in Christ. Therefore, Paul prays that the Holy Spirit would enable us (the church) to understand and fulfill our purpose, to the glory of God.
Paul's prayer:
  1. His appeal is "to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v.14,15).
    • Wherever it is found, the 'whole family' of God is identified by the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 1:10).
    • The only approach to God, the Father, is in the Name of His Beloved Son. Joh 14:6; 16:23
  2. His request (v.16-19) -
    1. that He would grant you to be strengthened {increased in strength}
      with might {GK=dunamis, power; ie., the power of God, cp. v.7}, in the inner man...
      The "new man" requires spiritual strength (cp. 2Cor 4:16).
    2. that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.
      He is the Life and strength of His body. Joh 14:20; 15:4; Gal 2:20
    3. that you may... comprehend... and know... the greatness of the love of Christ...
      1. that ye being rooted and grounded in love may be able...
           Before we can begin to understand Christ's love, we must be...
      2. that you may be able to comprehend {GK=katalambano, to take hold of, to thoroughly receive} the love of Christ...
           Its dimensions are immeasurable. Yet, Scripture describes its measure:
      3. and to know {GK=ginosko, to know with absolute certainty}... the love of Christ,
        which passeth {surpasses} knowledge {GK=gnosis, knowing, our ability to know}.
        The human mind cannot embrace the wonders of Christ's love, for it is beyond human comprehension. - Yet, the Spirit of God can make it real to His children (1Cor 2:9-12).
           Also, the Holy Spirit's working makes Christ's love real within God's children. The mystery, of one body in Christ, which was made known externally, to watching eyes (v.9; Eph 1:18), is to permeate the inner man. That which was understood in theory is to become experiential reality. But we do not have the capacity to love one another sufficiently. Therefore, this cannot be realized apart from the Spirit of God producing in us, what we cannot produce in ourselves. Gal 5:22
      4. that you may be filled with all the fulness of God (Col 2:9,10; Joh 1:16).
        Solomon observed that the state of man is nothing but 'vanity' {ie., emptiness}. There is nothing within us, whereby the church can show forth God's glory.
           We need to be filled with "the riches of His glory... all the fulness of God" (v.16,19). But what does that mean?
           In the immediate context, His glory is expressed primarily in the greatness of "His love wherewith He loved us" (v.17-19; Eph 2:4,5). Only as Christ lives within us, will we love one another with His great love, and thereby display His glory before the unbelieving world. cp. Joh 13:34,35; 17:26
    4. Paul's benediction (v.20-21) -
      • unto Him be glory in the church...-
        This is humanly impossible (Gal 5:17). Knowing the corruption of our fleshly condition, this is beyond what we dare to ask {request, require} or think {consider}.
        But the One to whom Paul prayed (v.14-f)...
        • ...is able {GK=dunamai} - He has all power and every needed resource.
        • ...to do {GK=poieo, to perform, accomplish, bring forth} -
          This word is used of God's 'purpose' in Christ, in v.11.
          Whatever the Lord purposes, He is able to perform.
        • ...exceeding abundantly above our expectations, 'according to the power {GK=dunamis} that works {GK=energeo} in us.'
          What is the purpose upon which His great power is to be focused?
               To enable us to love one another, with the love of Christ.
      • "Now unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages {GK=genea, generations}..."
        We fret that the church is losing young people. What is the answer?
           Should churches adjust message and methods to make them 'seeker friendly', 'contemporary', and 'relevant'? Can God bless programs which appeal to the flesh, and which are rooted in the emptiness of our human condition?
           If the power of God is flowing within His people, He will do His work in the succeeding generations of the church, far "above all that we ask or think... world without end {lit., age upon age, or, unto endless ages}."
      • "Amen." - We are utterly dependent upon Him.
        May He enable us to take hold of that for which He has taken hold of us, that He may be glorified.

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