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Theme: The church is a mystery; the explanation of the mystery; the definition of the mystery; prayer for power and knowledge
This is the final chapter in the doctrinal section of this Letter. We have learned that the church is a body and the church is a Temple. Now we learn that the church is a mystery.
There has been big misunderstanding concerning the church as a mystery. The word for mystery is not the modern reference of "whodunit?" Here, a mystery is something that had not been revealed before, but is at this time made known. Here, it is the church which was not revealed in the Old Testament but is specifically revealed in the New Testament. Some translate the word mystery as a "divine secret," and others use the word "truth." I like "divine secret." A divine secret was something that God had not revealed up to a certain point, but now He is ready to reveal it. It has nothing to do with a mystery, such as those written by Agatha Christie. See more on mystery (Eph.1:9).
The church was NOT revealed in the Old Testament. When it was revealed, the revelation was NOT confined just to the apostle Paul (Acts 2). The church is NOT in the Old Testament, but on the Day of Pentecost, something wonderful happened. The Holy Spirit began forming the body of believers, which shall continue until He takes the church out of the world. TRUE believers are sealed by the Holy Spirit of God (2 Cor.1:22; Eph.1:13) until the day of redemption (Ep.4:30), the day when we are taken out of the world and presented to Christ (2 Cor.11:2). I believe that the Day of Pentecost was the birthday of the church.
Carefully and prayerfully consider the false doctrines (damnable heresies, 2 Pet.2:1) of cults, such as covenant theology and hyperdispensationalism.
The Explanation of the Mystery (Ephesians 3:1-4)
Ephesians 3:1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, (KJV)
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles . . . Paul writes so that they may be further confirmed in the faith of Christ, and more and more built up in him as an habitation of God (Eph.2:22). Paul was the prisoner of Jesus Christ, for Christ's sake, for declaring His cause and honor (2 Tim.1:8; Philemon 1:1,9). For you Gentiles for your cause and salvation; having preached and declared the grace of God to be free, and to belong to you Gentiles as well as to the Jews, the middle wall of partition being taken away (Eph.2:14).
Ephesians 3:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: (KJV)
If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward . . . this does not suggest doubting, but rather the apostle takes the thing for granted . . . seeing ye have heard, as some render it (1 Pet.2:3). Of the dispensation of the grace of God . . . by grace he means his apostleship (Rom.1:5; Gal.2:9), or the free grace of God for salvation revealed in the gospel which he was to preach. Which is given me to you-ward . . . to you Ephesians and other Gentiles, for whom Paul was appointed an apostle (Acts 9:15; 26:17-18; Gal.2:7).
Ephesians 3:3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, (KJV)
How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words . . . not by man, but directly from Jesus (Acts 9:15; Gal.1:12). How made known unto me the mystery . . . of calling the Gentiles to salvation by faith in Christ, without the works of the law (verse 6). As I wrote afore in the two former chapters of this Letter. "By revelation" . . . there are some cults that say that because Paul said the mystery had been made known to him, he was the only one who knew it . . . but that is false, because in verse 5, Paul makes it clear that the apostles knew it. That "revelation" to Paul began with his conversion when Christ informed him that when he persecuted the church he was actually persecuting Christ (Acts 9:4). The other apostles knew it before Paul did. The church is the body of Christ. Paul learned that God was doing something different from the Old Testament. The church had come into existence on the Day of Pentecost. Again I say, that "the mystery," the divine secret, was something NOT revealed in the Old Testament and was unknown to man, but now it is revealed in the New Testament. The word mystery is used 27 times in the New Testament, and it refers to about eleven different mysteries. See: (Eph.1:9).
Ephesians 3:4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) (KJV)
Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) . . . by
reading Paul’s words, they may understand the plan of salvation, and the knowledge which Paul had of God's way of saving men, and above all, words in regard to the salvation of the Gentiles. In the mystery of Christ . . . this does not mean that there is anything mysterious in the Person of Christ; or the union of the Divine and human nature in Him; or to any difficulty apprehending the work of atonement. It simply means the previously concealed doctrine, that through the Messiah the Gentiles were to be received to the same privileges as the Jews, and that the plan of salvation was to be made equally free for all. This great Truth had been before concealed, or at best, just partly understood, and Paul says that he was appointed to make it known to the world.
The Definition of the Mystery (Ephesians 3:5-13)
Ephesians 3:5 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; (KJV)
Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men . . . the great purposes of God in regard to the salvation of mankind was not revealed in the Old Testament (Rom.16:25).
As it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit . . . prophets are those who exercised the office of a prophet or were inspired teachers in the Christian church (1 Cor.12:1). By the Spirit . . . this proves that those who exercised the office of prophet in the early Christian church were inspired. They were persons endowed in this manner for the purpose of imparting to the newly-formed churches the doctrines of the Christian system. There is absolutely NO evidence that this office was designed to be a permanent order of men in the church. Prophets were necessary for settling the church on a permanent basis, in the absence of a fully written revelation, and when the apostles were away. When the volume of revelation was finished, and the doctrines of the Gospel were fully understood, the functions of the office ceased.
Ephesians 3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: (KJV)
That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel . . . the Gentiles were fellow-heirs with the ancient people of God (the Jews), and entitled to the same privileges and Promises (Rom.8:17; Eph.2:13-18).
Ephesians 3:7 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. (KJV)
Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God . . . (verse 2), according to the free gift of God, and which was given merely by His grace. It was not by Paul’s own seeking or merit; it was a free gift. It was a matter of grace that Paul was called into the ministry, and that such an important office was entrusted to him as that of bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles.
Given unto me by the effectual working of his power . . . God made Paul a preacher of the Gospel, who had been a persecutor of believers, and worked effectually by the Spirit with his preaching for the conversion of thousands, and spreading the Gospel in many countries; and he also worked miracles to confirm the truth, and convict hearers (Acts 19:12; 26:8).
Ephesians 3:8 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; (KJV)
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints . . . this is one of the expressions common to Paul. He means he is not worthy to be counted among the saints. It expresses the deep sense which he had of the sinfulness of his past life; of his guilt in persecuting the church and the Saviour; and maybe his sense of his low attainments in piety (1 Cor.15:9). Paul never could forget the guilt of his former life; never forget the time when he was engaged in persecuting the church of God.
Is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ . . . (Eph.1:7).
The unsearchable riches of Christ. On the word riches, as used by Paul, see (Eph.1:7) The word rendered unsearchable means past finding out (Rom.11:33). It means that which cannot be traced out, that which is incomprehensible. I think that Paul means that there was a sufficiency in Christ which was impossible to be traced or explored. It was completely beyond our understanding. The fullness of the riches in Christ could not be fully appreciated. I think it shows that Paul’s heart was full of admiration and awe of the sufficiency and glory that was in the Saviour. He simply lacked words to express it, and he considered it the highest honor to be allowed to tell the world that there were these awesome riches in the Redeemer. The unsearchable riches of Christ . . . all that grace of Christ which Paul was to make known to the Gentiles in his preaching: wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption (1 Cor.1:30).
Ephesians 3:9 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: (KJV)
To make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery . . . all those to whom the apostle was sent, to enlighten them (Acts 16:18). The mystery . . . concerning the salvation of the Gentiles without circumcision, or the works of the law which God now made known by Paul's ministry, opposing what the Jews believed.
Which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God . . . not revealed to men as to the circumstances and manner of it, but hidden in the mind and purpose of God (Eph.1:9). Hath been hid in God. It had been concealed in His Bosom (Jn.1:18). The plan was formed, but it had not before been made known.
Who created all things by Jesus Christ . . . there is a striking resemblance between this Passage and that in: Col. 1:15-16 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: (KJV) (Jn.1:3; Heb.1:2).
Ephesians 3:10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, (KJV)
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God . . . the mystery had been hidden during all the previous ages, but was now revealed so that the manifold wisdom of God might be made known. It was made known: #1. To the Gentiles by preaching the Gospel. #2. To Jews. This is understood by the “all” of verse 9. #3. “To principalities and powers in heavenly places,” meaning to angelic beings (1 Pet.1:12). #4. By the church, as the fruit of God's wisdom revealed in the Gospel, and especially by the union of Jews and Gentiles in one body.
Who are the principalities and powers? Some think evil angels are meant, because they are thus stated (Eph.6:12). Others think good angels are meant; for as these heavenly beings are curious to investigate the wondrous family of the Gospel. This would be consistent with the goodness of God to give the good angels the satisfaction they require. In discovery of the Gospel plan of salvation, which reconciles things in Heaven and things on Earth, both men and angels, these pure spirits are greatly interested, and their praises to God much more abundant.
Principalities and powers in heavenly places; good angels: (Rom.8:38; Eph.1:21; Col.1:16; 2:10,15; 1 Pet.3:22).
Ephesians 3:11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: (KJV)
According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord . . . the unwavering plan which God had in all the ages, was planned to be fulfilled through Christ Jesus. All that God does in the work of our redemption, He sets forth by His manifold wisdom, and He does in agreement to what He had from eternity past decided to do.
Ephesians 3:12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. (KJV)
In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him . . . the word used here rightly means boldness of speaking, freedom of utterance (Jn.7;26; Acts 4:13,29,31; 2 Cor.7:4). The idea is, we may come to God now in prayer with confidence through the Lord Jesus (Rom.5:1-2; Heb. 4:16). And access (Eph.2:18). By the faith of him . . . we may now come confidently and boldly to the throne of grace for mercy in the name of the Redeemer. Boldness is NOT being rash or reckless, it is being confident. Faith is not guessing, it is our assurance that our prayers will be heard.
Ephesians 3:13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. (KJV)
Wherefore I desire that ye faint not . . . the word faint literally means to be a coward, to lose one's courage; to be faint-hearted, to be weary (Lk.18:1; 2 Cor4:1,16; Gal.6:9; 2 Thes.3:13). I think what Paul means here is that the Ephesians should not think that Christianity was vain and false because he was in prison and was suffering so much from his countrymen on account of it. Paul does not want them to be in danger of being discouraged by the fact that he was enduring so much, that they might become disheartened in their profession of faith in Jesus. Paul wants them to profit by all his sufferings, and hold fast to a religion which had so many benefits to them . . . even though he should suffer.
Prayer for Power and Knowledge (Ephesians 3:14-21)
Ephesians 3:14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (KJV)
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . this may refer to verses 1 and 13. Paul was praying for strength and wisdom for them, and us. Let us not grow weary or faint when tribulations come our way . . . for they shall come! Trust Jesus! (Heb.13:5).
Unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . to whom prayer should usually be addressed, but it is not improper to address the Lord Jesus Himself in prayer.
Ephesians 3:15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, (KJV)
Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named . . . of Christ (Christians), for the church of God is Christ’s household (Eph.2:19). In heaven and earth . . . all the saints, both which are already in glory, and those which are yet upon the Earth, be they Jews or Gentiles.
The Jews boasted of Abraham as their father; but now all believers, even Gentiles, are one family of God's people, and upon them the Name of Christ is called.
Ephesians 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; (KJV)
That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory . . . according to the wonderful abundance of His mercy (Phil.4:19); out of the stores of His rich grace which can never be exhausted. The word riches, is so often used by Paul, and means abundance; here it means that His grace was endless and ample for all their wants, and ours.
To be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man . . . to be powerfully provided with strength from the Holy Spirit, who gives us abundant strength to bear our trials; to perform our duties; and to glorify His Name. The inner man is the heart, mind and the soul (Rom.7:22; 2 Cor.4:16). Just as the body needs to be fed and strengthened every day, so too does the soul need a constant supplies of grace. Godliness needs to be constantly refreshed, or it withers and decays. Every Christian needs grace given each day to enable him to bear trials, to resist temptation, to discharge his duty, to live a life of faith. Each of us needs to be filled daily with the Spirit (Eph.5:18), to be strengthened for what may come our way.
Ephesians 3:17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, (KJV)
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith . . . (Eph.2:22). Expressions like this often occur in the Scriptures, where God is said to dwell in us, and we are said to be the temples of the Holy Ghost (Jn.14:23; 1 Cor.3:16; 6:15,16,19; 2 Cor.6:16).
That ye being rooted . . . firmly established, as a tree whose roots go down deep, extending far below. This means that the love in our hearts should be as firm as a tree is firmly planted in the soil, whose roots go deep into the Earth.
And grounded in love . . . just as a building is on a stable foundation. In love . . . to the Redeemer, to each other and to all.
Ephesians 3:18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; (KJV)
May be able to comprehend with all saints . . . that all others with you may be able to understand this more fully and perfectly. It was Paul’s desire that others, as well as the Ephesians, might appreciate the wonders of redemption, including us.
What is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height . . . (Rom.8:39), the immense vastness and perfection of the redemption by Christ, which extends both to Jew and Gentile, and so too the mystery before mentioned . . . and the love of Christ, as follows.
Ephesians 3:19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. (KJV)
And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge . . . the love of Christ can NEVER be totally known and understood and comprehended (verse 8 and Phil.4:7).
That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God . . . all that abundant richness of knowledge, faith, love, holiness and whatever else it is with that God partly fills believers with here on Earth, and perfectly hereafter, when God shall be all in all (1 Cor.15:28).
The love of Christ is often referred to in the New Testament, and is stated to surpass all other love which has ever been shown (Rom.5:7-8; Jn.15:13). To know this love; to feel this love; to have a deep sense of it, is one of the utmost privileges of the Christian. Nothing will rouse gratitude in our hearts; nothing will prompt us to a life of self-denial; and nothing will make us more dead to the world (2 Cor.5:14).
Ephesians 3:20 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, (KJV)
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think . . . God the Father. Here Paul’s mind is full of the fact that God communicates to His people such blessings, that they may become filled with all His grace, and he desires that praise should be given to Him.
According to the power that worketh in us . . . that the exceeding greatness of his power (Eph.1:19), whereby God works faith, and preserves to salvation (1 Pet.1:5), and enables us to bear our afflictions (2 Tim.1:8).
Ephesians 3:21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. (KJV)
Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages . . . the church was to be the instrument by which the glory of God would be shown; and it was by the church that His honor and praise would be celebrated. Romans 16:27 To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen. (KJV)
World without end . . . the complete church of Jews and Gentiles. The church alone knows the mystery and partakes of the benefits before mentioned, and therefore the church alone can rightly glorify God for them. It is always proper to end prayers with praises and thankfulness. Let us be 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.
Book of Ephesians
Eph. ch.1 . . Eph. ch.2 . . Eph. ch.3 . . Eph. ch.4 . . Eph. ch.5 . . Eph. ch.6 . . Ephesians Special Comments