Ephesians Chapter Three
The whole of chapter 3 is a parenthesis unfolding the mystery; and presenting at the same time, in the prayer that concludes it, the second character of God set before us at the beginning of the epistle, namely, that of Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; and this is the way in which it is here introduced. Chapter 1 gives the counsels of God as they are in themselves, adding His raising Christ and setting Him above all on high at the end. Chapter 2, His work in quickening others with Him and forming the whole assembly of those who are risen in Christ, taken by grace from among Jews and Gentiles; these are God's thoughts and work. Chapter 3 is Paul's administration of it; it speaks especially of the bringing in of the Gentiles on the same footing as the Jews. This was the entirely new part of the ways of God.
Paul was a prisoner for having preached the gospel to the Gentiles-a circumstance that brought out his particular ministry very clearly. Thus ministry in the main is presented as in Colossians 1. Only in the latter epistle the whole subject is treated more briefly, and the essential principle and character of the mystery according to its place in the counsels of God is less explained, is viewed only on a special side of it, suited to the purpose of the epistle, that is, Christ and the Gentiles. Here the apostle assures us that he had received it by a special revelation, as he had already taught them in words which, though few, were suited to give a clear understanding of his knowledge of the mystery of Christ-a mystery never made known in the past ages, but now revealed by the Spirit to the apostles and prophets. Here it will be observed that the prophets are most evidently those of the New Testament, since the communications made to them are put in contrast with the degree of light granted in the previous ages. Now the mystery had been hidden in all former times; and in fact it needed so to be; for to have put the Gentiles on the same footing as the Jews would have been to demolish Judaism, such as God had Himself established it. In it He had carefully raised a middle wall of partition. The duty of the Jew was to respect this separation; he sinned, if he did not strictly observe it. The mystery set it aside. The Old Testament prophets, and Moses himself, had indeed shewn that the Gentiles should one day rejoice with the people: but the people remained a separate people. That they should be co-heirs, and of the same body, all distinction being lost, had indeed been entirely hid in God (part of His eternal purpose before the world was), but formed no part of the history of the world, nor of the ways of God respecting it, nor of the revealed promises of God.
It is a marvellous purpose of God which, uniting redeemed ones to Christ in heaven as a body to its head, gave them a place in heaven. For, although we are journeying on the earth, and although we are the habitation of God by the Spirit on the earth, yet in the mind of God our place is in heaven.
In the age to come the Gentiles will be blessed; but Israel will be a special and separate people.
In the assembly all earthly distinction is lost; we are all one in Christ, as risen with Him.
Thus the gospel of the apostle was addressed to the Gentiles, to announce thus good news to them according to the gift of God, which had been granted to Paul by the operation of His power, to proclaim to them not merely a Messiah according to the promises made to the fathers, a Jewish Christ, but a Christ whose riches were unsearchable. No one could trace to the end, and in all its development in Him, the accomplishment of the counsels, and the revelation of the nature of God. They are the incomprehensible riches of a Christ in whom God reveals Himself, and in whom all God's thoughts are accomplished and displayed. These purposes of God with regard to a Christ, the Head of His body the assembly, Head over all things in heaven and earth, Christ, God manifest in the flesh, were now made known and being accomplished, so far as gathering the joint-heirs in one body went. Saul, the inveterate enemy of Jesus proclaimed as Messiah, even if by the Holy Ghost from heaven-the worst therefore of all men-becomes by grace Paul, the instrument and witness of that grace to announce these incomprehensible riches to the Gentiles This was his apostolic function with regard to the Gentiles There was another-to enlighten all with regard to this mystery, which, from the beginning of the world, had been hidden in God. This answers to the two parts of the apostle's ministry pointed out in Colossians 1:23-25: as verse 27 in that chapter corresponds with verse 17 here. God, who created all things, had this thought, this purpose before creation, in order that, when He should subject all creation to His Son become a man and glorified, that Son should have companions in His glory, who should be like Himself, members of His body spiritual, living of His life.
He made known to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, which gave them a portion in the counsels of God in grace. He enlightened all with regard, not precisely, to the mystery,  of the mystery; that is to say, not only the counsel of God, but the accomplishment in time of that counsel by bringing the assembly together under Christ its head. He who had created all things, as the sphere of the development of His glory, had kept this secret in His own possession, in order that the administration of the mystery, now revealed by the establishment of the assembly on earth, should be in its time the means of making known to the most exalted of created beings the manifold and various wisdom of God. They had seen creation arise and expand before their eyes; they had seen the government of God, His providence, His judgment; His intervention in lovingkindness on the earth in Christ. Here was a kind of wisdom altogether new; a thing outside the world, hitherto shut up in the mind of God, hid in Himself so that there was no promise or prophecy of it, but the special object of His eternal purpose; connected in a peculiar way with the One who is the centre and the fulness of the mystery of godliness; which had its own place in union with Him; which, although it was manifested on earth and set with Christ at the head of creation, formed properly no part of it. It was a new part of it. It was a new creation, a distinct manifestation of the wisdom of God; a part of His thoughts which until then had been reserved in the secret of His counsels; the actual administration of which, on the earth in time by the apostle's work, made known the wisdom of God according to His settled purpose, according to His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus. "In whom," the apostle adds, "we draw nigh with all boldness by faith in him": and it is according to this relationship that we do so.
Therefore these Gentile believers were not to be discouraged on account of the imprisonment of him who had proclaimed to them this mystery; for it was the proof and the fruit of the glorious position which God had granted them, and of which the Jews were jealous.
This revelation of the ways of God does not, as the first chapter, present Christ to us as man raised up by God from the dead, in order that we should be raised up also to have part with Him, and that the administration of the counsels of God should thus be accomplished. It presents Him as the centre of all the ways of God, the Son of the Father, the Heir of all things as the Creator Son, and the centre of the counsels of God. It is to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ that the apostle now addresses himself; as in chapter 1 it was to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every family (not "the whole family") ranges itself under this name of Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Under the name of Jehovah there were only the Jews. "You only have I known of all the families of the earth," had Jehovah said to the Jews in Amos, "therefore will I punish you for your iniquities"; but under the name of Father of Jesus Christ all families-the assembly, angels, Jews, Gentiles, all-range themselves. All the ways of God in that which He had arranged for His glory were co-ordained under this name, and were in relation with it; and that which the apostle asked for the saints to whom he addressed himself was, that they should be enabled to apprehend the whole import of those counsels, and the love of Christ which formed the assured centre for their hearts.
For this purpose he desires that they should be strengthened with all might by the Spirit of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that the Christ, who is the centre of all these things in the counsels of God the Father, should dwell also in their hearts, and thus be the intelligent centre of affection to all their knowledge-a centre which found no circle to limit the view that lost itself in infinitude which God alone filled-length, breadth, height, depth.  But this centre gave them at the same time a sure place, a support immovable and well known, in a love which was as infinite as the unknown extent of the glory of God in its display around Himself. "That Christ," says the apostle, "may dwell in your hearts." Thus He, who fills all things with His glory, fills the heart Himself, with a love more powerful than all the glory of which He is the centre. He is to us the strength which enables us in peace and love to contemplate all that He has done, the wisdom of His ways, and the universal glory of which He is the centre.
I repeat it-He who fills all things fills above all our hearts. God strengthens us according to the riches of that glory which He displays before our wondering eyes as rightly belonging to Christ. He does it, in that Christ dwells in us, with tenderest affection, and He is the strength of our heart. It is as rooted and grounded in love; and thus embracing as the first circle of our affections and thoughts, those who are so to Christ-all the saints the objects of His love: it is as being filled with Him, and ourselves as the centre of all His affections, and thinking His thoughts, that we throw ourselves into the whole extent of God's glory; for it is the glory of Him whom we love. And what is its limit? It has none; it is the fulness of God. We find it in this revelation of Himself. In Christ He reveals Himself in all His glory. He is God over all things, blessed for ever.
But dwelling in love we dwell in God and God in us: and that in connection with the display of His glory, as He develops it in all that He has formed around Himself, to exhibit Himself in it, in order that Christ, and Christ in the assembly, His body, should be the centre of it, and the whole the manifestation of Himself in His entire glory. We are filled unto all the fulness of God; and it is in the assembly that He dwells for this purpose. He works in us by His Spirit with this object. Therefore Paul's desire and prayer is that glory may be unto God in the assembly throughout all ages by Jesus Christ: Amen. And note, it is here realisation of what is spoken of that is desired. It is not, as chapter 1, objective, that they may know what is certainly true, but that it may be true for them, they being strengthened with might by His Spirit. It is very beautiful to see how, after launching us into the infinitude of God's glory, he brings us back to a known centre in Christ-to know the love of Christ, but not to narrow us. It is more properly divine, though familiar to us, than theglory. It passes knowledge.
Observe too here, that the apostle does not now ask that God should act by a power, as it is often expressed, which works for us, but by a power that works in us.  He is able to do above all that we can ask or think according to His power that works in us. What a portion for us! What a place is this which is given us in Christ! But he returns thus to the thesis proposed at the end of chapter 2, God dwelling in the assembly by the Spirit, and Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, united in one. He desires that the Ephesian Christians (and all of us) should walk worthy of this vocation. Their vocation was to be one, the body of Christ; but this body in fact manifested on earth in its true unity by the presence of the Holy Ghost. We have seen (chap. 1) the Christian brought into the presence of God Himself; but the fact that these Christians formed the body of Christ, and that they were the dwelling-place of God here below, the house of God on the earth-in a word, their whole position-is comprised in the expression, "their vocation." Chapter 1, note, gives the saints before God; the prayer of chapter 3, Christ in them.
Chapter 4. Now the apostle was in prison for the testimony which he had borne to this truth, for having maintained and preached the privileges that God had granted to the Gentiles, and in particular that of forming by faith, together with the believing Jews, one body united to Christ. In his exhortation he makes use of this fact as a touching motive. Now the first thing that he looked for on the part of his beloved children in the faith, as befitting this unity and as a means of maintaining it in practice, was the spirit of humility and meekness, forbearance with one another in love. This is the individual state which he desired to be realised among the Ephesians. It is the true fruit of nearness to God, and of the possession of privileges; if they are enjoyed in His presence.
At the end of chapter 2 the apostle had unfolded the result of the work of Christ in uniting the Jew and the Gentile, in making peace, and in thus forming the dwelling-place of God on the earth; Jew and Gentile having access to God by one Spirit through the mediation of Christ, both being reconciled to God in one body. To have access to God; to be the dwelling-place of God through His presence by the Holy Ghost; to be one body reconciled to God-such is the vocation of Christians. Chapter 3 had developed this in its whole extent. The apostle applies it in chapter 4.
 This appears to me to be the true word, and not "the fellowship."
 Christ is the centre of all the display of divine glory, but He thus dwells in our hearts so as to set them, so to speak, in this centre, and make them look out thence on all the glory displayed. Here we might lose ourselves; but he brings them back to the well-known love of Christ, yet not as anything narrower, for He is God, and it passes knowledge, so that we are filled up to all the fulness of God.
 This fully distinguishes the prayer of chapter I and this. There the calling and inheritance were in the sure purpose of God, and his prayer is that they may know them, and the power that brought them there. Here it is what is in us, and he prays that it may exist, and that as present power in the church.
── John Darby《Synopsis of Ephesians》
The apostle sets forth his office, and his qualifications for it, and his call to it. (1-7) Also the noble purposes answered by it. (8-12) He prays for the Ephesians. (13-19) And adds a thanksgiving. (20,21)
Commentary on Ephesians 3:1-7
(Read Ephesians 3:1-7)
For having preached the doctrine of truth, the apostle was a prisoner, but a prisoner of Jesus Christ; the object of special protection and care, while thus suffering for him. All the gracious offers of the gospel, and the joyful tidings it contains, come from the rich grace of God; it is the great means by which the Spirit works grace in the souls of men. The mystery, is that secret, hidden purpose of salvation through Christ. This was not so fully and clearly shown in the ages before Christ, as unto the prophets of the New Testament. This was the great truth made known to the apostle, that God would call the Gentiles to salvation by faith in Christ. An effectual working of Divine power attends the gifts of Divine grace. As God appointed Paul to the office, so he qualified him for it.
Commentary on Ephesians 3:8-12
(Read Ephesians 3:8-12)
Those whom God advances to honourable employments, he makes low in their own eyes; and where God gives grace to be humble, there he gives all other needful grace. How highly he speaks of Jesus Christ; the unsearchable riches of Christ! Though many are not enriched with these riches; yet how great a favour to have them preached among us, and to have an offer of them! And if we are not enriched with them it is our own fault. The first creation, when God made all things out of nothing, and the new creation, whereby sinners are made new creatures by converting grace, are of God by Jesus Christ. His riches are as unsearchable and as sure as ever, yet while angels adore the wisdom of God in the redemption of his church, the ignorance of self-wise and carnal men deems the whole to be foolishness.
Commentary on Ephesians 3:13-19
(Read Ephesians 3:13-19)
The apostle seems to be more anxious lest the believers should be discouraged and faint upon his tribulations, than for what he himself had to bear. He asks for spiritual blessings, which are the best blessings. Strength from the Spirit of God in the inner man; strength in the soul; the strength of faith, to serve God, and to do our duty. If the law of Christ is written in our hearts, and the love of Christ is shed abroad there, then Christ dwells there. Where his Spirit dwells, there he dwells. We should desire that good affections may be fixed in us. And how desirable to have a fixed sense of the love of God in Christ to our souls! How powerfully the apostle speaks of the love of Christ! The breadth shows its extent to all nations and ranks; the length, that it continues from everlasting to everlasting; the depth, its saving those who are sunk into the depths of sin and misery; the height, its raising them up to heavenly happiness and glory. Those who receive grace for grace from Christ's fulness, may be said to be filled with the fulness of God. Should not this satisfy man? Must he needs fill himself with a thousand trifles, fancying thereby to complete his happiness?
Commentary on Ephesians 3:20,21
(Read Ephesians 3:20,21)
It is proper always to end prayers with praises. Let us expect more, and ask for more, encouraged by what Christ has already done for our souls, being assured that the conversion of sinners, and the comfort of believers, will be to his glory, for ever and ever.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on Ephesians》
 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
For this cause — That ye may be so "built together," I am a prisoner for you gentiles - For your advantage, and for asserting your right to these blessings. This it was which so enraged the Jews against him.
 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
The dispensation of the grace of God given me in your behalf — That is, the commission to dispense the gracious gospel; to you gentiles in particular. This they had heard from his own mouth.
 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
The mystery — Of salvation by Christ alone, and that both to Jews and gentiles.
As I wrote before — Namely, Ephesians 1:9,10; the very words of which passage he here repeats.
 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;
Which in other — In former, ages was not so clearly or fully made known to the sons of men - To any man, no, not to Ezekiel, so often styled, "son of man;" nor to any of the ancient prophets. Those here spoken of are New Testament prophets.
 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
That the gentiles are joint-heirs — Of God.
And of the same body — Under Christ the head.
And joint-partakers of his promise — The communion of the Holy Ghost.
 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.
According to the gift of the grace of God — That is, the apostle - ship which he hath graciously given me, and which he hath qualified me for.
By the effectual working of his power — In me and by me.
 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;
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given — Here are the noblest strains of eloquence to paint the exceeding low opinion the apostle had of himself, and the fulness of unfathomable blessings which are treasured up in Christ.
 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:
What is the fellowship of the mystery — What those mysterious blessings are whereof all believers jointly partake. Which was, in a great measure, hidden from eternity by God, who, to make way for the free exercise of his love, created all things - This is the foundation of all his dispensations.
 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
That the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church — By what is done in the church, which is the theatre of the divine wisdom.
 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
By whom we have free access — Such as those petitioners have, who are introduced to the royal presence by some distinguished favourite.
And boldness — Unrestrained liberty of speech, such as children use in addressing an indulgent father, when, without fear of offending, they disclose all their wants, and make known all their requests.
 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
The not fainting is your glory.
 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
Of whom — The Father. The whole family of angels in heaven, saints in paradise, and believers on earth is named. Being the "children of God," (a more honourable title than "children of Abraham,") and depending on him as the Father of the family.
 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
The riches of his glory — The immense fulness of his glorious wisdom, power, and mercy.
The inner man — The soul.
 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
Dwell — That is, constantly and sensibly abide.
 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
That being rooted and grounded — That is, deeply fixed and firmly established, in love. Ye may comprehend - So far as an human mind is capable.
What is the breadth of the love of Christ — Embracing all mankind.
And length — From everlasting to everlasting.
And depth — Not to be fathomed by any creature.
And height — Not to be reached by any enemy.
 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
And to know — But the apostle corrects himself, and immediately observes, it cannot be fully known. This only we know, that the love of Christ surpasses all knowledge. That ye may be filled - Which is the sum of all.
With all the fulness of God — With all his light, love, wisdom, holiness, power, and glory. A perfection far beyond a bare freedom from sin.
 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,
Now to him — This doxology is admirably adapted to strengthen our faith, that we may not stagger at the great things the apostle has been praying for, as if they were too much for God to give, or for us to expect from him.
That is able — Here is a most beautiful gradation. When he has given us exceeding, yea, abundant blessings, still we may ask for more. And he is able to do it. But we may think of more than we have asked. He is able to do this also. Yea, and above all this.
Above all we ask — Above all we can think. Nay, exceedingly, abundantly above all that we can either ask or think.
 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
In the church — On earth and in heaven.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on Ephesians》
To be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” is like filling a thimble(针) to its brim with water from the ocean. The thimble is filled with the ocean, but the ocean is not fully in the thimble since the thimbleful of water does not diminish the ocean. Yet, the thimble has the “fullness” of the ocean in the sense that it contains every ingredient that makes up the ocean. All the essential characteristics of the ocean are in the thimble.
Chapter 3. Get Christ
All We Ask or Imagine
I. Insight in to the Mystery of Gospel
II. Be a Servant of the Gospel
III. Pray for Strengthening Spirit
── Chih-Hsin Chang《An Outline of The New Testament》
Chapter Three General Review
OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THE CHAPTER
1) To understand the "mystery" so long hidden that is now revealed, and
the role of the church
2) To examine Paul's prayer for the Ephesians' enablement, what it
means for us today
In this chapter Paul reminds his readers of God's grace that has been
shown him regarding the revelation of the "mystery". By reading what
he had written earlier, they would understand how the "mystery"
pertained to Gentiles becoming fellow heirs in Christ, and Paul felt
privileged to preach among the Gentiles what for ages had been hidden.
Knowing that what he did was part of God's eternal purpose in Christ to
make His manifold wisdom known by the church, he asked his brethren not
to be discouraged by any tribulations he experienced on their behalf
The chapter also contains Paul's second prayer for the Ephesians. He
prays for their enablement, that the Father would strengthen them by
His Spirit, that Christ might dwell in their hearts through faith, that
they be able to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, and so
be filled with all the fullness of God. He concludes his prayer and
this chapter by ascribing that glory be given to God in the church by
Jesus Christ for all eternity (14-21).
I. THE REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY (1-13)
A. A MYSTERY ONCE HIDDEN, NOW REVEALED (1-7)
1. Interrupting himself, Paul makes mention of God's grace (1-2)
a. A measure of grace given to him
b. Given for the benefit of his readers
2. That by revelation God made known to Paul the "mystery" (3-4)
a. Concerning which he wrote previously
b. Which as they read, they will understand his knowledge in
the mystery of Christ
3. A "mystery" once hidden, but now revealed (5)
a. In other ages it was not made known to men
b. But has now been revealed
1) By the Spirit
2) To God's holy apostles and prophets
4. The "mystery" involved the Gentiles (6)
a. That they should be fellow heirs, of the same body
b. That they should be partakers of God's promise through the
5. Paul's role as a minister of this "mystery" was a gift from
a. A gift of God's grace
b. A gift given to him by the effective working of God's power
B. PAUL'S TASK AS A MINISTER OF THIS "MYSTERY" (8-13)
1. To preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ
a. Even though he was "less than the least of all the saints"
b. Yet this grace was given to him
2. To make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery (9-13)
a. Which from the beginning was hidden in God who created all
b. But with the intention of now making God's wisdom known
1) Made known by the church
2) Made known to principalities and powers in heavenly
c. According to God's eternal purpose which He fulfilled in
1) In whom we have boldness and confident access through
faith in Him
2) For which Paul does not want them to lose heart over his
tribulations in their behalf, which was for their glory
II. PAUL'S SECOND PRAYER: FOR THEIR ENABLEMENT (14-21)
A. HIS INVOCATION (14-15)
1. In view of God's grace to the Gentiles, Paul bows his knees in
2. He addresses the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom
the whole family in heaven and earth is named (14b-15)
B. HIS PETITION (16-19)
1. That they would be strengthened by the Spirit of God (16-17)
a. According to the riches of His glory
b. With might through His Spirit in the inner man
c. So Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith
2. That they might comprehend the love of Christ (18
a. Being rooted and grounded in love
b. To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge
3. That they might be filled with all the fullness of God (19b)
C. HIS DOXOLOGY (20-21)
1. Glory to God, for what He is able to do! (20)
a. Able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or
b. According to the power that works in us
2. Glory to God, in the church! (21)
a. By Christ Jesus
b. Throughout all ages, world without end
REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER
1) What are the main points of this chapter?
- The revelation of the mystery (1-13)
- Paul's second prayer: for their enablement (14-21)
2) How does Paul identify himself as he begins this chapter? (1)
- As the prisoner of Jesus Christ for the Gentiles
3) What dispensation, or measure, of grace was shown by God toward
- That by revelation God made known to him the "mystery"
4) What did Paul say we can have by reading what he had written? (3-4)
- We can understand his knowledge in the mystery of Christ
5) What does Paul reveal concerning the revelation of this mystery? (5)
- In other ages it was not made known, but has now been revealed by
the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets
6) What is the "mystery" that has now been revealed? (6)
- That Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and
partakers of His promise through the gospel
7) Though viewing himself as "less than the least of all the saints",
what gracious task was given to Paul? (8-9)
- To preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ
- To make all see with is the fellowship of the mystery which was
hidden from the beginning
8) What was the intent for proclaiming the revelation of this mystery?
- That the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church
to principalities and powers in the heavenly places
9) According to what was all this being done? (11)
- The eternal purpose or plan which God accomplished in Christ Jesus
10) What has Christ therefore made possible for us? (12)
- Boldness and access to God with confidence through faith in Him
11) In view of God's grace given to Paul, what does he therefore ask?
- For them not to lose heart over his tribulations on their behalf
12) In Paul's second prayer for the Ephesians, for what does he ask?
- That they would be strengthened by the Spirit of God
- That they might comprehend the love of Christ
- That they might be filled with all the fullness of God
13) What does Paul say God is able to do? How? (20)
- Exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think
- According to the power that works in us
14) In what entity does Paul seek to ascribe glory to God? How? For
how long? (21)
- In the church
- By Christ Jesus
- Throughout all ages, world without end
The Revelation Of The Mystery (3:1-13)
1. In the last half of the second chapter...
a. Paul expounded upon "How The Gentiles Became Fellow Heirs" (Ep
b. In which those who once were "far off" are now "made near" by the
blood of Christ - Ep 2:13
2. As a result of the work of Christ on the cross, Gentiles can now
become "one body" with the Jews in Christ (Ep 2:14-18), and
therefore can be:
a. "Fellow citizens with the saints" - Ep 2:
b. "Members of the household of God" - Ep 2:19b
c. "A holy temple in the Lord...a habitation of God in the Spirit"
- Ep 2:20-22
3. When you compare Ep 3:1 with Ep 3:14, it becomes clear in verse
one that Paul was about to express a prayer in behalf of the
4. But the mention of himself as "the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you
Gentiles" prompts Paul to interrupt himself...
a. From Ep 3:13, where Paul concludes his brief interruption, it
appears Paul is concerned that his reference to his imprisonment
(i.e., his tribulations) should not be taken as a call for pity
b. For Paul considers that all he endured for the sake of the
Gentiles (including his present imprisonment in
) as just part Rome
of the wonderful grace of God that had been shown to him, "who am
less than the least of all the saints" (Ep 3:8)
5. What was this wonderful grace of God that was shown to Paul?
a. It pertains to the revelation of a mystery that for ages had been
b. But was now being revealed through apostles and prophets,
6. In this lesson, we shall examine Paul's "interruption", and answer
the following questions...
a. What is this mystery that had been hidden?
b. How was it being revealed?
[Our second question is actually answered first, for before Paul defines
"the mystery" he speaks of God's grace towards him and...]
I. THE REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY (1-5)
A. A MYSTERY NOW REVEALED... (1-4)
1. By the grace of God, this "mystery" was made known to Paul
- Ep 3:2
2. Paul, in turn, made known the "mystery" through his writings
- Ep 3:3b
3. The Ephesians, by reading Paul's words, could then have his
understanding of this "mystery of Christ" - Ep 3:4
4. This passage tells us several things:
a. How "we" come to know this "mystery"
1) It is not through direct revelation, though Paul may have
received it this way
2) It is through reading his words, i.e., through reading
the Word of God!
b. The Word of God is understandable!
1) Some people say it is not, or that it is too hard to be
2) But clearly Paul intended for people to understand his
"knowledge in the mystery of Christ"!
3) The problem some people have is that they misunderstand
Paul's use of the term "mystery" and think the Bible is
still a mystery; but notice...
B. CALLED A "MYSTERY", BECAUSE IT WAS ONCE "HIDDEN"... (5)
1. It is important to appreciate this fact: this "mystery" is
called such, not because it REMAINS a mystery, but because that
is what it was for so long in times past!
2. Just as certain novels are still called "mysteries"...
a. Even though you may have read them and know the ending, you
still refer tothose novels as "mysteries"
b. So it is with the "mystery of Christ", it is called such
because it had been one for so long, though now we know the
"ending" (or what had been a "secret")
3. That such is the case here, consider these passages:
a. "...according to the revelation of the mystery which was
kept secret since the world began but now has been made
manifest," - Ro 16:25-26
b. "having made known to us the mystery of His will..." - Ep
c. "which in other ages was not made known...as it has been
revealed" - Ep 3:5
d. "the mystery which as been hidden from ages and from
generations, but now has been revealed to His saints." - Co
[So we know that this "mystery" has now been revealed, but WHAT,
exactly, is the "mystery"? Paul explained it earlier in this epistle
(cf. Ep 3:3b
-4a), but now he summarizes...]
II. THE "REVEALED" MYSTERY EXPLAINED (6-12)
A. IT INVOLVES THE "GENTILES"... (6)
1. I.e., those that we saw in chapter two, who at one time were:
a. "aliens from the
" commonwealthof Israel
b. "strangers from the covenants of promise"
c. "having no hope and without God in the world"
2. The mystery now revealed is that these Gentiles can be:
a. "fellow heirs"
b. "of the same body"
c. "partakers of His (God's) promise in Christ"
3. This is what Paul wrote about in Ep 2:11-22, and to which he
refers in Ep 3:b
a. That Gentiles, who for ages were not included in God's
special dealings with the Israelites...
b. ...could now become part of God's spiritual family and heirs
to the wonderful blessings that God makes available through
"APOSTLE TO THE GENTILES", PAUL'S TASK WAS... (7-12) B. AS
1. "to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of
Christ" - Ep 3:7-8
a. This Paul did, even in letters like this one to the
b. As we saw in Ep 1:3-14
2. "to make all people see what is the fellowship of the mystery"
- Ep 3:9
a. Again, Paul used epistles like Ephesians, and also
b. As we saw in Ep 2:11-22
3. "to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be
known" - Ep 3:10-12 - Here Paul expands his thoughts...
a. This wisdom of God is being made known "by the church"
1) Paul, of course, was doing his part as an apostle
2) But the whole church, as "the pillar and ground of the
truth", is involved in proclaiming the wisdom of God -
cf. 1 Ti 3:15
3) The church does this, both by what it "is" and by what it
a) It's very "existence" proclaims the wisdom of God
b) As well as the "message" it proclaims
b. This wisdom of God is being made known to "principalities
and powers in the heavenly places"
1) Not just to "the Gentiles" (Ep 3:8) and to "all people"
2) But as the church carries out its mission, even spiritual
entities are being enlightened - cf. 1 Pe 1:10-12
(where even angels were once "in the dark" about the
salvation now being offered in Christ)
c. Making known the wisdom of God "by the church" was part of
God's "eternal purpose"
1) The church was not an afterthought, but part of God's
plan for eternity!
2) From the beginning, it was to play an important role in
God's scheme of redemption for mankind!
3) This verse has serious ramifications for some
a) For there are those who say the church was an
"afterthought", established only after Christ and His
kingdom were rejected
b) But this verse clearly indicates that the church was
part of God's plan from the beginning!
1. Knowing that his work as an apostle, and the work of the church, was
all part of God's "eternal purpose" being carried out in Christ
Jesus, Paul had great boldness and confidence of continued access to
God - Ep 3:12
2. Therefore, he did not want his mention of imprisonment to be a source
a. For even the tribulations it might have caused him was glory for
the Gentiles! - Ep 3:13
b. How? Because in imprisonment Paul was "an ambassador in chains"
- Ep 6:19-20
1) As such he could "make known the mystery of the gospel"
2) And whenever the "mystery" is made known, the exalted position
God now has for Gentiles is also known!
3. We, too, should have "boldness and access with confidence through
faith in Him", knowing that...
a. We are part of God's "eternal purpose" being carried out!
b. We who are Gentiles are but a demonstration of that wonderful
"mystery of Christ", in which Gentiles can be:
1) "fellow heirs"
2) "of the same body"
3) "partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel"
-- with the faithful of Israel (such as Peter, Paul, and many
others who have accepted Jesus as the Messiah)
Are you in this "body", which we learn in Ep 1:22-23 is the church of
Jesus Christ? The Lord adds the saved to His church (cf. Ac 2:47).
How can one be saved and thus "added" by the Lord to His church?
Consider carefully Ac 2:36-41...
Paul's Second Prayer For The Ephesians (3:14-21)
1. In the previous lesson we saw where Paul was about to start his
second prayer for the Ephesians in Ep 3:1...
a. However, he interrupts himself when describing himself as "the
prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles"
b. Lest they be troubled at whatever tribulations he endured as a
prisoner (Ep 3:13), Paul stresses the fact that:
1) His apostleship to the Gentiles (even with its tribulations)
was a gift to him through the wonderful grace of God - Ep
2) His purpose was to "preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable
riches of Christ" - Ep 3:8-11
3) That in Christ he had "boldness and access with confidence
through faith" in Christ - Ep 3:12
2. Having completed his brief interruption, in Ep 3:14-21 Paul now
continues with his second prayer for the Ephesians (the first having
been in Ep 1:15-23)
3. The phrase "For this reason..." (Ep 3:14; also 3:1) indicates
that Paul expresses his prayer in response to those things mentioned
earlier, such as:
a. The wonderful salvation by grace through faith - Ep 2:1-10
b. The work by Christ on the cross whereby Gentiles can now become
"fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise"
- Ep 2:11-22; 3:6
[With gratitude in his heart for God's grace toward the Gentiles, Paul
now prays in their behalf, starting with...]
I. THE "INVOCATION" (14-15)
A. POSTURE IN PRAYER...
1. In this prayer, Paul "bows the knee", a posture in prayer
commonly found throughout the Scriptures - cf. Lk 22:41; Ac
9:40; 20:36; 21:5
2. However, there does not appear to be an "official posture" when
it comes to prayer...
a. Solomon "stood" when he prayed to dedicate the temple - 1
b. David "sat" before the Lord when he prayed about the future
of his kingdom - 1 Chron 17:16
c. Jesus "fell on His face" when He prayed in Gethsemane - Mt
B. THE ADDRESSEE IN PRAYER...
1. The pattern and example of prayer in the New Testament church
a. "To" the Father - Ep 3:14; 5:20
b. "In the name of" or "through" the Lord Jesus Christ - Ep
5:20; Co 3:17
c. And "in" the Spirit - Ep 6:18; Ju 20; cf. Ro 8:26-27
2. There is little evidence of anyone praying "to" Jesus, and even
less of praying "to" the Holy Spirit; clearly it is the Father
to whom we are to address our prayers - cf. Mt 6:9
[To the Father, then, Paul addresses his prayer. The prayer itself is
divided into three parts (indicated in the Greek by the word "hina"),
and is like a staircase with three steps, each step leading to the
II. THE "PETITION" (16-19)
A. TO BE STRENGTHENED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD... (16-17)
1. Paul had mentioned earlier about God's power "toward us who
believe" - Ep 1:19
2. Now he prays that the Ephesians might be "strengthened with
3. Such strength is "according to the riches of His glory"
4. God's strength is administered "through His Spirit in (lit.,
into) the inner man"
a. A Christian's body is "the temple of the Holy Spirit who is
in you" - cf. 1 Co 6:19
b. One design of the indwelling Spirit is to help one "put to
death the deeds of the body" - cf. Ro 8:11-13
5. But the purpose of such "strengthening" by the Spirit in our
text is for a different purpose, first hinted at in verse
a. First, that "Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith"
1) To the degree God strengthens (by the Spirit) the
believer's "inner man", so it is said that Christ Himself
indwells the heart of the believer
2) Thus the Spirit is the instrumental agent by which Christ
indwells the believer, just as Ep 2:22 suggests the
Spirit is instrumental agent by which God inhabits His
b. Second, that they may be "rooted and grounded in love"
1) One work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer
is to instill the love of God in the heart - cf. Ro 5:5;
2) When strengthened by God through the Spirit in the inner
man, one becomes "rooted and grounded in love"
[Strengthened by God through His Spirit, so that Christ is dwelling
in our hearts and we are well-established "in love", the next step
B. TO COMPREHEND THE LOVE OF CHRIST... (18
1. "may be ABLE..."
a. The word "able" means "to be eminently able; to have full
b. Thus the prayer for strength in the first part of the prayer
- Ep 3:16
2. "...to comprehend"
a. I.e., to understand, to grasp
b. As Paul says later in verse 19, "to know..."
3. It is the "love of Christ" that Paul is praying that we be
strong to grasp...
a. He wants us to know everything about this wonderful love
("width and length...")
b. But this love of Christ is something which "passes
1) How is it possible for us to "know" the love of Christ,
if it "passes knowledge"?
2) Only in the sense that no matter how much we learn about
Christ's love, even with the strength God's Spirit
provides, there is always much more to grasp!
3) "...there is a real knowledge of Christ's love possible
to us, a knowledge that is capable of increase as we are
the more strengthened by power in the inner man, while a
complete or exhaustive knowledge must ever remain beyond
our capacity." (The Expositor's Greek Testament, W.
Robertson Nicoll, editor, vol. 3, p. 316)
[It is only as we begin to know the love of Christ that passes
knowledge that we are beginning to experience the last step for which
Paul is praying...]
C. TO BE FILLED WITH ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD... (19b)
1. This is the objective, the goal, of all that was said
2. One begins to be filled with "all the fullness of God"...
a. As they are strengthened by God (i.e., the Father)
b. Which is through His Spirit (i.e., the Holy Spirit)
c. Whereby in their hearts may dwell the Christ (i.e., the Son)
3. With the help of the all members of the Godhead, then, one is
"filled" the more they begin to comprehend the wonderful "love
of Christ" ("For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead
bodily" - cf. Co 2:9)
[Such is the petition that Paul makes on behalf of the Ephesians...
1. That they be strengthened by the Spirit of God
2. So they can comprehend the love of Christ
3. And thus be filled with all the fullness of God
Is God "able" to fulfill this petition? There is no doubt in Paul's
mind, as we see how he closes the prayer...]
III. THE "DOXOLOGY" (20-21)
A. GLORY TO GOD, FOR WHAT HE IS ABLE TO DO! (20)
1. As Paul ascribes praise to God, he does so for what he
confident God is able to do
2. As expressed by Paul, God's "ability to do" is...
a. "exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" (far
beyond our imagination!)
b. "according to the power that works in us" - cf. Ep 1:19;
B. GLORY TO GOD, IN THE CHURCH BY CHRIST JESUS FOREVER! (21)
1. Paul sees "the church" as the means by which much glory can be
given to God
2. Certainly if Paul's prayer is answered...
a. That "all the saints" may be able to comprehend the love of
Christ - Ep 3:18
b. That they may all be 'filled with all the fullness of God" -
...the church will have the potential to bring much glory to
God! - cf. 2 Th 1:11-12
3. Of course, such potential is to come only "by Christ Jesus";
but if it does, then it will be "throughout all ages, world
1. Do we desire to give God glory throughout all ages, world without
a. We ought to, in view of all things we have considered in Ep 1-3
b. If so, then it must be "by Jesus Christ", and that can be only as
1) Come to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge
2) Allow ourselves to "be filled with all the fullness of God"
2. How can we be sure to be filled with all the fullness of God?
a. For one who is already a Christian, we should follow Paul's
example and start with prayer (such as the one in our text)...
b. For one who is not a Christian, then one needs first to become a
child of God - cf. Ga 3:26-27
In our next lesson, we will begin to consider how we can "walk" so as to
bring glory to God...