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Study Notes on Ephesians 3

Ephesians 3

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,

Paul wrote this epistle from prison in Rome for the cause of preaching the gospel, specifically to the Gentiles (see Ephesians 6:20 also). See Acts 21-22 and specifically Acts 22:21-24 for the hatred of the jews at hearing that Paul planned to preach to the Gentiles at the direction of Jesus.

This is one of the 4 "prison epistles": Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.

"The cause of his imprisonment and of all his difficulties was, that he maintained that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles; that when the Jews rejected it God rejected them; and that he was specially called to carry the message of salvation to the pagan world." - Albert Barnes

2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

By "dispensation of grace" Paul refers to his apostolic office (his "swewardship") of preaching to the Gentiles. God "dispensed" to Paul the grace required for this assignment which Paul fully embraced.

3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,

God revealed a mystery to Paul, which he wrote about before (probably referring to the previous 2 chapters and not a separate letter).

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;

This is what he got done briefly explaining in the previous chapters. When you all read. The bible was meant to be read by everyone, not a select few as in the Catholic Cult which has always been dedicated to keeping the bible away from the "common man."

So the mystery that Paul writes about is summarized in the next verse. A mystery in biblical terms doesn't mean some spooky unknowable thing, but refers to something previously concealed, and now revealed. "Mystery" in the NT doesn't always refer to the same thing; the context should be considered.

6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

This is the mystery that is revealed in this letter which was revealed to Paul (and others) by Jesus Himself. Gentiles and Jews are equal in the church of Christ, every church body, and stand as equals regarding the gospel.

This was certainly hinted at in the OT but never revealed in the clear and precise manner as it is in the NT. See Malachi 1:11; Hosea 1:10, 2:23; Psalm 22:27; Jeremiah 16:19-21 etc.

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.

For this cause Paul became a servant, empowered by God's grace to do this work (see verse 2). God's power is always necessary. We don't do the work of God by relying on our own abilities.

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;

Paul is extremely consistent in his letters in pointing out that he is just a servant, and gives 100% credit to God, as we all should.

The unsearchable riches of Christ is an amazing phrase. At least on this side of heaven we will never grasp it all.

1 Corinthians 3:5, Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

1 Corinthians 15:9, For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

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:

Paul was to declare this mystery which he just defined in verse 6. The gospel, and salvation, the Jew and Gentile having equal access to God by faith is something God had always planned.

Similar to Colossians 1:16, we see that Jesus eternally existed.

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,

What is refered to by the "principalities and powers in heavenly places"? Most likely this refers to good angels, although because of its usage in chapter 6 one could argue this refers to demons seeing the work of God through the church.

It the job of the church institution (every local church) to share the truth of God. A shame that there are Christians who don't prioritize church. The church is His chosen instrument to do that. As the OT Israel was to be a light to the Gentiles (Deuteronomy 4:6; Isaiah 42:6, 49:6; Luke 2:32), the church composed of Jew and Gentile is to be a light to the world.

1 Peter 1:12, Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

"The church, institutionally, never refers to the sum or total of all believers, but to that agency-body, one kind of body, that He left to do His work on earth until He returns." - Garner-Howes

11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

None of this was an afterthought by God but He reveals things in His perfect timing.

12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

We can have boldness and confidence in our prayers toward God. That's amazing. What a blessing. See Hebrews 4:14-16.

13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

Faint not, meaning don't lose heart, don't despair, because of Paul's present condition. In these days of early Christianity there was tremendous hardship and persecution (see verse 1) which would have caused believers to want to abandon the faith.

14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

For what cause does he bow in prayer? It seems to me that he refers to the cause of the Ephesians maintaining their faith and work regardless of tribulations. He prays that God would strengthen them (verse 16).

Yes, it is proper to pray on one's knees.

15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

Does "of whom" refer to the Father or Jesus Christ? People are divided on this but it seems to me that it refers to Christ. We are named after Christ in being called Christians. Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc were all saved by Christ though they didn't yet know His name.

"The whole 'family of God,' means all his children; and the idea is, that they all bear the same name, derived from the Redeemer; all are Christians. No matter where they are, in heaven or in earth; no matter from what nation they are converted, whether Jews or Gentiles, they all have one name, and one Redeemer, and all belong to one family." - Albert Barnes

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;

We should pray for one another in the same way, that God strengthens us to continue in the faith and to grow in the Lord. Our flesh will still sin, still wear out. But the inner man is our spiritual nature, our soul.

17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

I believe the "dwelling" here is different from the sealing of the Holy Spirit. This is about abiding in Christ and remaining connected with Him. However it is not incorrect or improper (as some assert) to pray to ask Christ into your heart for salvation.

John 14:23, Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

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.

May we begin to comprehend the wonders of redemption, and the incredible love of Christ.

It reads "to know" and then says the love of Christ "passeth knowledge". I believe Paul is asking them (and us) to grasp the reality that the love of Christ is beyond grasping. It is beyond our comprehension, and we should know that.

May we pursue the Lord with such zeal that it can be said of us that we are 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,

What a phrase: "exceeding abundantly above". There's many verses about God's loving generosity but this is an especially powerful one (see Matthew 7:7-11).

James 1:5, If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Ephesians 1:19, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power

21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Glory to God where? In the church, in every church. A biblical church is a church that glorifies God where Christ is the head (Ephesians 5:23).

There is no "church age" as we read here that the church will exist throughout all ages. There is even a heavenly church which we look forward to (Hebrews 12:22-23).

A church is a congregation which is how Tyndale (1534) rendered the word εκκλησια. It is a local, visible, assembly of believers.


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