It was important that the Ephesians (and us along with them) understand exactly what Paul’s ministry was about. He was entrusted along with others (3:5) with declaring God’s revealed mystery. This secret (Gk. musterion) is that in Christ all become one people redeemed by God’s grace in Christ. According to Ephesians 3:10, God’s “intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known,” not just to all mankind, but even to all those in the heavenly realms (spiritual world).
“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” – Ephesians 3:6-8
- Paul’s 13 letters (or 14, if you count Hebrews) are divided into two classes – “pastoral epistles” and “theological treatises.”
- Ephesians, chapters 1-3 especially is a carefully crafted, detailed and comprehensive presentation of God’s Eternal Plan and the “riches beyond measure” for those who are included by grace and faith in His plan.
- Paul begins this section with, “For this reason…” 3:2-13 is then a parenthesis before he will return to his thought in verse 3:14. I think we might paraphrase, “For this reason” with, “Because of this…” Because of our salvation by grace through faith. Because God has made both Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ one and broken down any partition previously separating them. Because we all are becoming in Christ the true Temple of God and He dwells within us through His Spirit.
A PRISONER OF CHRIST FOR YOU GENTILES:
- Ephesians is one of Paul’s prison epistles, composed sometime during this 4+ years in incarceration in Jerusalem, Caesarea, and then Rome. This imprisonment is recorded is Acts chapters 21-28.
- His imprisonment was not for criminal activity, but for charges against him by the Jewish authorities involving his belief and practices contrary to their orthodox views. See Acts 21:27-31; 22:19-22; 25:13-19; 26:30-32.
- “…on behalf of you Gentiles” – The combination of preaching the resurrection of Christ and preaching to the Gentiles salvation in Christ was the true reason for the charges against Paul.
BY GOD’S GRACE:
- “The stewardship (administration – NASB) of God’s grace that was given to me” (ESV) – First, Paul calls his ministry a stewardship from God. (3:2; Colossians 1:25)
- “I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace” – Second, Paul said his ministry was a gift of God’s grace. This is after he was a persecutor, blasphemer and murderer! And then was redeemed by that grace! (I Corinthians 15:10; I Timothy 1:12-16)
- “To me… this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” – Third, it was also by God’s grace he is permitted to reveal the mystery of God and share with them the riches in Christ which are beyond ever fully exploring (Gk. anexichniastos).
THE MYSTERY REVEALED:
- The Greek’s concept of “mystery” (musterion) was usually that of a “divine secret or knowledge” which could not be known unless it was revealed by the deity. Thus, there were those “mystery religions” which claimed to have special secret knowledge which could only be known by those initiated into their groups.
- While in the Greek and Roman mystery religions, only those initiated could know the secrets of the cult, Paul wants believers to know that everyone is can be included in the secret plan of God!
- Before the coming of Christ, the prophets had spoken numerous times of God’s Great Plan, but neither they (I Peter 1:10-12), their hearers, or even the angels of heaven (I Peter 1:12) fully understood.
- It was only once Jesus came and fulfilled what God had predetermined to happen (Acts 2:22-23) that it was then made plain to His apostles and others that this was God’s Great Plan (Luke 24:25-27)
- And this mystery was also shown to Paul by revelation as he said – Ephesians 3:3; Galatians 1:11-17
- “So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” – Ephesians 3:10
- Again, “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” – Ephesians 3:8
- And this mystery is to be seen in the Church, where Jews and Gentiles both together are one body… and in fact extends even further. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28
- This is the “manifold wisdom” of God. “Manifold” (Gk. polupoikilos) meant many colored, variegated, much variation. This seems to fit well with Paul’s other descriptions of God’s plan like unsearchable, unspeakable and immeasurable.
- Who are “the rulers and authorities in heavenly places”? John MacArthur in his commentary on Ephesians says it is the angels, both the holy and the fallen ones. Wilbur Fields in his College Press commentary on Ephesians points to Ephesians 6:12 and believes they are specifically Satan and his army of evil spirits and demons.
- While there were many prophecies in the Old Testament of a coming Savior, many aspects of His coming work and then reign were kept obscure. Only after He fulfilled those prophecies would the apostles and those who believed the Gospel they preached see what God was doing.
- The Old Testament never mentioned in plain words His crucifixion, resurrection, or ascension. Nor did it use the word “church” or “body” to describe the combining of Israelite and Gentiles together as the new Kingdom of God.
- It has been for us, and those who have come before us stretching all the way to Pentecost in Acts 2, to be able to see and understand these things, thanks to God’s revelation of them through Paul and the other Apostles and prophets of the New Testament.
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