More Thoughts about Ephesians 3:1
Paul begins the third chapter of his letter to the Ephesians with these words: “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— Paul was going to introduce his prayer when he said, “For this reason.” He repeats this phrase in verse 14 and writes his prayer. In verses 2-13 Paul presents his thoughts leading up to the prayer.
Paul’s comments in chapter three are all about his ministry to the Gentiles and their place in the body of Christ. Paul identifies himself as a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of the Gentiles. F. F. Bruce makes these comments:
“The situation which led to Paul’s arrest and subsequent detention in Jerusalem, Caesarea, and Rome arose directly out of his Gentile ministry. It was while he was in Jerusalem with representatives of his Gentile churches who were taking their churches’ respective gifts to the mother church that he was charged with violating the sanctity of the temple by taking one of those representatives within forbidden bounds. This charge, and others associated with it, still hung over him as he waited in time for his appeal to come up for hearing in the supreme court.”
The significant point is that Paul suffered as a result of his ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 28:20), but he considered himself to be a prisoner of Christ Jesus. Many people have suffered because of their ministry. The stories of these heroes of the faith abound. No doubt those who suffer believe that they are doing this on behalf of Christ Jesus and the kingdom of God.
As we minister for the Lord, we must keep in mind the reason why we are doing this. The Lord gives us a sense of being in His will. When we are acting in accordance with His will, we can be assured that He will bring about His desired result.
More Thoughts about Ephesians 3:2-6
No doubt most of the people in the church at Ephesus, if not all, had heard of Paul’s ministry. The phrase “if indeed” can mean “if, as I presume.” Paul proclaims that the stewardship, or administration, of God’s grace toward them, was given to him for their sake. Paul wanted the Ephesians to know that God had called him to preach to the Gentiles and include them in the body of Christ.
It was by revelation that God made known the mystery to Paul. The mystery was the fact God was including the Gentiles in the plan of salvation. He calls this “the mystery of Christ.” Paul says that this mystery was not known by the sons of men in other generations. However, he says that this mystery was not made known to the “holy apostles and prophets.” To some extent, this was made known to the Old Testament prophets, but the revelation is clearer now.
God revealed this great mystery to Paul, and he became a minister of the gospel to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. He did not cease to speak to the Jews, but his ministry to the Gentiles stood out through the years.
What does this mean for us? Many times, a great truth captures the heart of a minister who then devotes his or her life to that truth. In other cases, ministers devote their energy to a given method of proclaiming the gospel. God uses His ministers in a variety of ways. Very often ministers become aware that the Holy Spirit will use them through gifts that He gives. We can all be candidates to be used by God in His chosen way for us.
More Thoughts about Ephesians 3:8-13
In these verses, Paul calls himself “the very least of all the saints.” Even though he considered himself to be the “least,” he states with confidence that God gave him the grace to preach to the Gentiles. Moreover, he was chosen to “bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; 10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.”
We might ask, “Why did God wait until now to make known the mystery?” The answer has to do with the purpose of God. Paul states, “This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God would achieve His purpose in His time and in His way. His purpose included the appointment of Paul to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Although Paul considered himself the least of all the saints, God saw in Him the vessel that He could use to establish His purpose.
God will fulfill His purpose in His time. In Galatians 4:4-6 Paul says,”4 But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Jesus came to earth in the “fullness of time.” The apostle Paul was God’s instrument, in His time, to reveal the mystery of the inclusion of the Gentiles. The lesson for us is that our lives are in God’s hands. In His time, he will use us according to His plan. We have often sung the chorus “In His Time.” Now, would be a good time to sing it again.
More Thoughts about Ephesians 3:8-13
The apostle Paul is the person whom God commissioned to preach to the Gentiles. He was not the only minister to reach out to the Gentiles. The apostle Peter, for example, preached to the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius. However, Paul had the most extensive ministry among the Gentiles, and he developed the theology that would include them in the body of Christ. Paul writes:
“8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; 10 in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.”
According to F. F. Bruce, “Paul’s commission also involved the public demonstration of his stewardship–not only the stewardship of God’s grace (v. 2) but the stewardship of the long-hidden mystery. Not that these two are distinct stewardships, for the mystery of God is the revelation of his grace.”
God chose Paul “in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.” The church was very important to Paul. Through the church, the wisdom of God would be made known. Moreover, Paul’s apostleship was in accordance with the will of God.
The gospel that Paul preached included an invitation to all people everywhere to be a part of the body of Christ. The gospel was for both Jews and Gentiles. He proclaimed that we have boldness and confident access to God through faith in Christ. Many of the rules and regulations developed by the Jews were not necessary for salvation. Faith in Christ was, and still is, the acceptable doorway.
More Thoughts about Ephesians
In 3:14-19 Paul tells us what he prays to the Father. He states:
“14 For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God.”
Verses 14-15 raise the issue of the Fatherhood of God. All believers in Christ refer to God as Father. The issue has to do with whether or not unbelievers God is the Father to unbelievers.
The NAS translates 3:15 as follows: “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” The NIV has: “from whom the whole family of believers in heaven and on earth derives its name.” The NIV adds this footnote: “Or from whom all fatherhood’’ In this verse the Greek words for Father (patera) and family (patria) sound very much alike. Patria is derived from pater. Even the very word family is derived from the word father.
Paul uses the expression pasa patria. This phrase can mean every family, the whole family, or fatherhood. Much discussion centers around whether this phrase means every family, the whole family, or fatherhood.
Many theologians do not think that unbelievers can call God Father. They do affirm that God is the creator of all people (Acts 17:28), but He is Father only to those who believe in Christ. Others will use the term Father regarding unbelievers but still point to the difference like the relationship. The important point for us as believers is that we belong to the redeemed family of God and God is our Father.
Going beyond the letter to the Ephesians, we can even further specify our family name. We are “disciples of Christ.” About AD 43 or 44 the disciples were first called Christians. The name was given to them by others (Acts 11:26). God’s family is still known by the name “Christian.” Since we become members of the family by accepting Christ, the name is very appropriate.
Although our Father cares for all people, He especially cares for His family. The rain (Matthew 5:45) falls on the just and the unjust. But our Father has a special relationship with the redeemed. Because we are members of the Family, Jesus taught us to pray to the Father. How powerful is that prayer? We call it the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), but it is a model prayer for us to pray to the Father.
More Thoughts about Ephesians
The apostle Paul tells us that He prays to the Father “16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:16-17).
Here, Paul is addressing Ephesian believers. These are people who have already put their faith In Jesus and have received the Spirit. As a result, they enter into an Indwelling and Empowering Spirit–Indwelling Christ spiral. Paul prays that they will be strengthened in the inner man with the power of God’s Spirit. This, then, will lead through faith to a stronger indwelling presence of Christ. The presence of Christ allows for the added activity of the Spirit. The spiral is repeated as the believers become more like Christ. The path to spiritual maturity is ever onward and upward.
Next, Paul says, “17 and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-18).
The upward spiral of the indwelling presence of Christ and the Spirit has a dramatic impact on our understanding and expression of the love of Christ. Paul prays that we will know the breadth, length, height, and depth of love. In other words, we would know love in all its dimensions. Love is the greatest of characteristics, and it will always endure (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Concerning what Paul says about the love of Christ, Max Anders states: “Paul’s request then is that the church and each of its members know in a personal, emotional way, as well as an intellectual one, this love of Christ. We measure this love only with cosmic dimensions and understand it only by seeing it expressed at its deepest, most intimate level in the cross. Praying that we can know it, we ultimately confess that it is beyond our full comprehension.” As the writer of the song says:
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song
More Thoughts about Ephesians 3:20-21
The apostle Paul tells the Ephesians about his prayers for them. Next, as Bruce states: “The contemplation [in his prayer] of God’s eternal purpose and its fulfillment in the gospel calls forth a doxology. A doxology takes the basic form, ‘To God be the glory,’ but it may be variously expanded as the immediate occasion for ascribing glory to God is elaborated.”
Paul writes: “20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21 NAS).
The doxology begins with Paul’s acknowledgment of the ability of God to do vastly greater things than we could ask or think. We serve God whose power is infinite and pervasive. God does this work by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in and upon us. As Paul said about his prayer, he prays for us “to be strengthened by his power through the Spirit in the inner person.” Certainly, this applies to the dimension of spiritual maturity, but it also relates to the empowerment of believers for service. There is no reason to limit the term.
Paul adds “Amen” to his doxology. According to Bruce, “The ‘Amen’ which follows the doxology would be the congregation’s response as it was read in their hearing. It is through Christ, as Paul says in another letter, that his people ‘utter the Amen . . . to the glory of God (2 Cor. 1:20). With this loud ‘Amen’ the first half of the present letter is concluded.”
Many times, we all have gone to the Lord in sincere prayer for our spiritual maturity and for the ministries in which we are engaged. Sometimes, it seems that we have not made much progress. It will help us to meditate on Paul’s doxology in this text. God will enable us to climb the mountain that we see ahead. To God be the glory!
Fee, p. 697. “That this doxology not only follows the preceding prayer but includes some of the language of that prayer (‘according to the power at work in us’), not to mention the language of prayer itself (‘what we ask’), indicates that it is not a general doxology but belongs to this prayer in particular. ‘The power that is at work in us’ is precisely what was said above in Vv. 16-17: ‘to be strengthened by his power through the Spirit in the inner person,’ which takes the form of ‘Christ [and thereby his love] dwelling in our hearts by faith.’ It is this combination, the collocation of ‘with power through the Spirit in v. 16 and the present combination ‘power at work in us’ that makes one think that the Spirit is in view in 1:19 as well (q.v.).”
George M. Flattery, Ed.D., is the founder of Global University and Network211.