Ephesians 3:1-21 - Outline of Ephesians (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 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 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 offers righteousness, apart from any merit of our own, or any thing we can do, to all who place their faith in Christ, 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. That all believers should be one in Christ, is a new concept, 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. 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.

But now, to Paul and other NT apostles and prophets, 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.4,5; 1Pet 1:10-12). 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. (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., 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 our 'togetherness') and Eph 1:6-11...
  • 'partakers of one promise (or, announced purpose)' {GK=summetouchos} - Eph 1:6-9
  • 'of the same body' {GK=sussomos} - Eph 1:10
  • 'fellowheirs' {GK=sugkleronomos} - Eph 1:11
Each of these phrases is translated from a single word.
Each word bears a prefix which denotes 'union.'
This 'union' of believers is an important aspect of the Gospel of Christ...
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 3:1-6, we saw: The mystery was made known by revelation, to Paul.
In 3:7-13 we see: The mystery made known by messengers, to others (even to those who are not partakers).
The first messenger was Paul (v.7-9) -
  • Paul was placed in ministry as a gift of grace. There was nothing of worth in the messenger. He 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 all who will believe..." (Rom 1:16).
  • 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 communion which God has made possible, in Christ (v.6 and v.9).
    2. to make known His manifold {GK poluspoikilos, multifaceted, much variegated, richly marked with multiple colors} wisdom... not only to men, but also to angelic beings: principalities {GK=arche} and powers {GK=exousia, authorities} in heavenly places (ie., the angels of God). v.10-12
      The richness of God's wisdom is:
      1. according to His rich purposes in Christ (Eph 1:7,18-20; 2:6-7).
      2. made known by the church. The church {GK=ekklesia, assembly of called out ones}, consisting of Jewish & Gentile believers in one body, is a messenger of the mystery, for by its very existence, it makes God's wisdom known to watching 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,' symbolic of the acceptance of the 12 tribes before the presence of God, though they were imperfect.
        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. Therefore, "we have boldness and access with confidence" into the presence of God... and we have become one body in Christ.
  • 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).
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...-
Paul prays that the Holy Spirit would enable the church to fulfill its purpose, to the glory of God.
  1. His appeal is "to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v.14,15). Our access to the Father is only through Christ. There is no other god who can meet this request. There are no regional gods or religions. Wherever it is found, the 'whole family' of God is identified by this Name. The only approach to God is in the Name of His Beloved Son.
  2. His request (v.16-19) -
    • that He would grant you to be strengthened {increased in strength} with might {GK=dunamis, power (ie., the power of God, v.7), in the inner man...
    • that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith
    It is necessary for these conditions to be true, in order that...
    • that you would be rooted and grounded in love.
    • that you may be able...
      • to comprehend {GK=katalambano, to take hold of, to thoroughly receive}...
      • and to know... the love of Christ, which is...
        • immeasurably great - It is too big to grasp. Yet, we are to take hold of it.
        • beyond human knowledge - Yet, we are to know it by experience.
        The mystery, of one body in Christ, which was made known to seeing eyes (1:18; 3:9), 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 God's doing in us, that which we cannot do for ourselves.
    • 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' or 'emptiness.' The church cannot show forth God's glory, unless He provides what we lack from His riches, and by His power, to enable us to love one another, with the love of Christ. cp. Joh 13:34,35
  3. Paul's benediction (v.20-21) -
    • unto Him be glory in the church...-
      This is humanly impossible (Gal 5:17). With the reality of our fleshly condition, it is beyond what we dare to ask {request, require} or think {consider}. But the One to whom Paul prayed (v.14f)...
      • ...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).}
      • ...exceeding abundantly above our expectations, 'according to the power {GK=dunamis} that works {GK=energeo} in us.'
      What is the purpose upon which this great power is to be focused? To enable us to love one another.
    • "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?
      It is not more attractive or contemporary programs.
      If the power of God is flowing within His people, He will do His work in the succeeding generations of the church. "...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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