His Apostolic Office to Make Known the Mystery
of Christ Revealed by the Spirit: Prayer
that by the Same Spirit They May Comprehend the Vast Love of
Christ: Doxology Ending This Division of
As the first chapter treated of THE Father's office; and the second, THE Son's, so this, that of THE Spirit.
1. of Jesus Christ—Greek, "Christ
Jesus." The office is the prominent thought in the latter
arrangement; the person, in the former. He here marks the
Messiahship of "Christ," maintained by him as the origin of his
being a "prisoner," owing to the jealousy of the Jews being roused at
his preaching it to the Gentiles. His very bonds were profitable
to ("for" or "in behalf of you") Gentiles (Eph 3:13; 2Ti
2:10). He digresses at "For
this cause," and does not complete the sentence which he had intended,
3:14, where he resumes the
words, "For this cause," namely, because I know this your call of God
as Gentiles (Eph 2:11-22), to be "fellow-heirs" with the Jews
3:6), "I bow my knees to" the
Father of our common Saviour (Eph 3:14, 15) to confirm you in the faith by His
Spirit. "I Paul," expresses the agent employed by the Spirit to
enlighten them, after he had been first enlightened himself by the same
Spirit (Eph 3:3-5, 9).
2. If—The Greek does not imply
doubt: "Assuming (what I know to be the fact, namely) that ye have
heard," &c. "If, as I presume," The indicative in the Greek
shows that no doubt is implied: "Seeing that doubtless," &c. He by
this phrase delicately reminds them of their having heard from himself,
and probably from others subsequently, the fact. See Introduction, showing that these words do
not disprove the address of this Epistle to the Ephesians.
Compare Ac 20:17-24.
the dispensation—"The office of
dispensing, as a steward, the grace of God which was (not 'is') given
me to you-ward," namely, to dispense to you.
3. he made known—The oldest manuscripts
read, "That by revelation was the mystery (namely, of the
admission of the Gentiles, Eph 3:6; 1:9) made known unto me (Ga 1:12)."
as I wrote afore—namely, in this
Epistle (Eph 1:9, 10), the words of which he partly
4. understand my knowledge—"perceive my
understanding" [Alford], or
"intelligence." "When ye read," implies that, deep as are the mysteries
of this Epistle, the way for all to understand them is to read
3:15, 16). By perceiving
his understanding of the mysteries, they, too, will be enabled to
the mystery of Christ—The "mystery" is
Christ Himself, once hidden, but now revealed (Col 1:27).
5. in other ages—Greek,
not made known—He does not say, "has
not been revealed." Making known by revelation is the
source of making known by preaching [Bengel]. The former was vouchsafed only to the
prophets, in order that they might make known the truth so revealed to
men in general.
unto the sons of men—men in their
state by birth, as contrasted with those illuminated "by the Spirit"
(Greek, "IN the Spirit," compare
Re 1:10), Mt 16:17.
as—The mystery of the call of the
Gentiles (of which Paul speaks here) was not unknown to the Old
Testament prophets (Isa 56:6, 7; 49:6). But they did not know it with the same
explicit distinctness "As" it has been now known (Ac 10:19,
20; 11:18-21). They probably
did not know that the Gentiles were to be admitted without circumcision
or that they were to be on a level with the Jews in partaking of the
grace of God. The gift of "the Spirit" in its fulness was reserved for
the New Testament that Christ might thereby be glorified. The epithet,
"holy," marks the special consecration of the New Testament "prophets"
(who are here meant) by the Spirit, compared with which even the Old
Testament prophets were but "sons of men" (Eze 2:3, and elsewhere).
6. Translate, "That the Gentiles are,"
&c. "and fellow members of the same body, and fellow
partakers of the (so the oldest manuscripts read, not 'His') promise, in Christ Jesus (added
in the oldest manuscripts), through the Gospel." It is "in
Christ Jesus" that they are made "fellow heirs" in the inheritance of
God: "of the same body" under the Head,
Christ Jesus; and "fellow partakers of
the promise" in the communion of THE Holy
Spirit (Eph 1:13; Heb 6:4). The Trinity is thus alluded to, as
often elsewhere in this Epistle (Eph 2:19, 20, 22).
7. Whereof—"of which" Gospel.
according to—in consequence of, and in
accordance with, "the gift of the grace of God."
given—"which (gift of grace) was given
to me by (Greek, 'according to,' as in Eph 3:20;
1:19: as the result of, and
in proportion to) the effectual working (Greek, 'energy,' or
'in-working') of His power."
8. am—Not merely was I in times
past, but I still am the least worthy of so high an office (compare
least of all saints—not merely "of all
apostles" (1Co 15:9, 10).
is—Greek, "has been given."
among—omitted in the oldest
manuscripts Translate, "to announce to the Gentiles the glad
tidings of the unsearchable (Job 5:9) riches," namely, of Christ's
grace (Eph 1:7; 2:7). Ro 11:33, "unsearchable" as a mine inexhaustible,
whose treasures can never be fully explored (Eph 3:18, 19).
9. to make all men see—Greek, "to
enlighten all" (Eph 1:18; Ps 18:28; Heb 6:4). "All" (compare Col 1:28).
fellowship—The oldest manuscripts
read, "economy," or "dispensation" (compare Col 1:25, 26; and see on Eph
1:10, above). "To make all see how it hath seemed good to God at
this time to dispense (through me and others, His
stewards) what heretofore was a mystery." Ellicott explains it, "the arrangement," or
"regulation" of the mystery (the union of Jews and Gentiles in Christ)
which was now to be humbly traced and acknowledged in the fact of its
having secretly existed in the counsel of God, and now having been
revealed to the heavenly powers by means of the Church.
from the beginning of the
world—Greek, "from (the beginning of) the ages."
Compare Eph 1:4; Ro 16:25; 1Co 2:7. The "ages" are the vast successive
periods of time, marked by successive stages of creation and orders of
in God—"hidden in" His counsels (Eph 1:9).
created all things by Jesus
Christ—God's creation of the world and all things therein is
the foundation of the rest of the "economy," which is freely dispensed
according to the universal power of God [Bengel]. AS God created "the whole range of things"
(so the Greek), physical and spiritual alike, He must have an
absolute right to adjust all things as He will. Hence, we may see His
right to keep the mystery of world-wide salvation in Christ "hidden in
Himself," till his own good time for revealing it. The oldest
manuscripts omit "by Jesus Christ."
10. The design of God in giving Paul grace to
proclaim to the Gentiles the mystery of salvation heretofore
now—first: opposed to "hidden from the
beginning of the world" (Eph 3:5).
unto the principalities
and—Greek adds "the"
powers—unto the various orders of
good angels primarily, as these dwell "in the heavenly places"
in the highest sense; "known" to their adoring joy (1Ti 3:16; 1Pe
1:12). Secondarily, God's
wisdom in redemption is made known to evil angels, who dwell "in
heavenly places" in a lower sense, namely, the air (compare Eph 2:2 with
Eph 6:12); "known" to their
dismay (1Co 15:24; Col 2:15).
might be known—Translate, "may be
by the church—"by means of," or
"through the Church," which is the "theater" for the display of God's
manifold wisdom (Lu 15:10; 1Co 4:9): "a spectacle (Greek, 'theater')
to angels." Hence, angels are but our "fellow servants" (Re 19:10).
manifold wisdom—though essentially
one, as Christ is one, yet varying the economy in respect to places,
times, and persons (Isa 55:8, 9; Heb 1:1). Compare 1Pe 4:10, "stewards of the manifold grace of
God." Man cannot understand aright its single acts till he can survey
them as a connected whole (1Co 13:12).
The call of the Church is no haphazard remedy, or afterthought, but
part of the eternal scheme, which, amidst manifold varieties of
dispensation, is one in its end.
11. which he purposed—Greek,
"made." Ellicott translates,
12. Translate, "our boldness and
our access (Eph 2:18)
in confidence through our faith in Him." Alford quotes as an instance, Ro 8:38, &c. "THE access" (Greek) implies the formal
introduction into the presence of a monarch.
13. "I entreat you not to be dispirited."
for you—in your behalf.
which is—rather, "which are
your glory," namely, inasmuch as showing that God loved you so much, as
both to give His Son for you, and to permit His apostles to suffer
"tribulations" for you [Chrysostom] in
preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. See on Eph
3:1, "prisoner for you Gentiles." My tribulations are your
spiritual "glory," as your faith is furthered thereby (1Co 4:10).
14. For this cause—Resuming the thread
3:1, "For this cause."
Because ye have such a standing in God's Church [Alford].
bow my knees—the proper attitude in
humble prayer. Posture affects the mind, and is not therefore
unimportant. See Paul's practice (Ac 20:36); and that of the Lord Himself on earth
unto the Father—The oldest manuscripts
omit "of our Lord Jesus Christ." But Vulgate and some very old
authorities retain them: Eph 3:15,
"From whom," in either case, refers to "the Father" (Patera), as
"family" (patria, akin in sound and etymology) plainly refers to
Him. Still the foundation of all sonship is in Jesus Christ.
15. the whole family—Alford, Middleton,
and others translate, "every family": alluding to the several
families in heaven and in earth supposed to exist [Theophylact, Æcumenius, in Suicer, 2.633], the apostle thus being supposed to
imply that God, in His relation of Father to us His adopted children,
is the great prototype of the paternal relation wherever found. But the
idea that "the holy angels are bound up in spiritual families or
compaternities," is nowhere else in Scripture referred to. And
Ac 2:36, where the article is similarly
omitted, and yet the translation is, "All the house of Israel,"
shows that in New Testament Greek the translation is
justifiable, "all the family," or "the whole family":
which accords with Scripture views, that angels and men, the saints
militant and those with God, are one holy family joined under the one
Father in Christ, the mediator between heaven and earth (Eph 1:10; Php
2:10). Hence angels are
termed our "brethren" (Re 19:10),
and "sons of God" by creation, as we are by adoption (Job 38:7). The Church is part of the grand
family, or kingdom, which comprehends, besides men, the higher
spiritual world, where the archetype, to the realization of which
redeemed man is now tending, is already realized. This universal idea
of the "kingdom" of God as one divine community, is presented to us in
the Lord's Prayer. By sin men were estranged, not only from God, but
from that higher spiritual world in which the kingdom of God is already
realized. As Christ when He reconciled men to God, united them to one
another in a divine community (joined to Himself, the one Head),
breaking down the partition wall between Jew and Gentile (Eph 2:14), so also He joins them in communion
with all those who have already attained that perfection in the kingdom
of God, to which the Church on earth is aspiring (Col 1:20) [Neander].
is named—derives its origin and
its name as sons of God. To be named, and to be, are one with
God. To bear God's name is to belong to God as His own
peculiar people (Nu 6:27; Isa 43:7; 44:5; Ro 9:25,
16. according to—that is in abundance
consonant to the riches of His glory; not "according to" the narrowness
of our hearts. Col 1:11,
"Strengthened with all might according to His glorious
"by means of His Spirit."
in—The Greek implies, "infused
the inner man—(Eph 4:22,
24; 1Pe 3:4); "the hidden man
of the heart." Not predicated of unbelievers, whose inward and outward
man alike are carnal. But in believers, the "inner (new) man," their
true self, stands in contrast to their old man, which is attached to
them as a body of death daily being mortified, but not their true
17. That—So that.
dwell—abidingly make His abode (Joh 14:23). Where the Spirit is there Christ
by faith—Greek, "through
faith," which opens the door of the heart to Jesus (Joh 3:20). It is not enough that He be on the
tongue, or flit through the brain: the heart is His proper seat [Calvin]. "You being rooted and grounded in
love" (compare Eph 3:19), is
in the Greek connected with this clause, not with the clause,
"that ye may be able to comprehend." "Rooted" is an image from a
tree; "grounded" (Greek, "founder," "having your
foundations resting on"), from a building (compare
Notes,, see on Eph 2:20,21; Col 1:23; 2:7). Contrast Mt 13:6, 21. "Love," the first-fruit of the
Spirit, flowing from Christ's love realized in the soul, was to be the
basis on which should rest their further comprehension of all the
vastness of Christ's love.
18. May be able—even still further.
Greek, "May be fully able."
breadth … length … depth …
height—namely, the full dimensions of the spiritual temple,
answering to "the fulness of God" (Eph 3:19), to which the Church, according to its
capacity, ought to correspond (compare Eph 4:10, 13) as to "the fulness of Christ."
The "breadth" implies Christ's world-wide love, embracing all men: the
"length," its being extended through all ages (Eph 3:21); the "depth," its profound wisdom which
no creature can fathom (Ro 11:33);
the "height," its being beyond the reach of any foe to deprive us of
4:8) [Bengel]. I prefer to understand "the breadth,"
&c., to refer to the whole of the vast mystery of free salvation
in Christ for all, Gentile and Jew alike, of which Paul had been
speaking (Eph 3:3-9),
and of which he now prays they may have a fuller comprehension. As
subsidiary to this, and the most essential part of it, he adds, "and to
know the love of Christ" (Eph 3:19). Grotius
understands depth and height of God's goodness raising us
from the lowest depression to the greatest height.
19. passeth—surpasseth, exceeds. The
paradox "to know … which passeth knowledge," implies that when he
says "know," he does not mean that we can adequately know; all
we know is, that His love exceeds far our knowledge of it, and with
even our fresh accessions of knowledge hereafter, will still exceed
them. Even as God's power exceeds our thoughts (Eph 3:20).
filled with—rather, as Greek,
"filled even unto all the fulness of God" (this is the grand
goal), that is, filled, each according to your capacity, with the
divine wisdom, knowledge, and love; "even as God is full," and
as Christ who dwells in your hearts, hath "all the fulness of the
Godhead dwelling in Him bodily" (Col 2:9).
20. unto him—contrasted with
ourselves and our needs. Translate, "that is able above
all things (what is above all things) to do exceeding abundantly above
what we ask or (even) think": thought takes a wider range than
prayers. The word, above, occurs thrice as often in
Paul's writings, as in all the rest of the New Testament, showing the
warm exuberance of Paul's spirit.
according to the power—the indwelling
8:26). He appeals to their
and his experience.
21. Translate, "Unto Him be the glory
(that is, the whole glory of the gracious dispensation of salvation
just spoken of) in the Church (as the theater for the manifestation of
the glory, Eph 3:10) in
Christ Jesus (as in Him all the glory centers, Zec 6:13) to all the generations of eternal
ages," literally, "of the age of the ages." Eternity is conceived as
consisting of "ages" (these again consisting of "generations")
endlessly succeeding one another.