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Paul’s Ministry to the Gentiles


This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, 3and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

7 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. 8Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.

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Eph 3:1-21. 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 the Epistle.

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 ChristGreek, "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, until Eph 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 (Eph 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 repeats.

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 it (2Ti 3:15, 16). By perceiving his understanding of the mysteries, they, too, will be enabled to understand.

the mystery of Christ—The "mystery" is Christ Himself, once hidden, but now revealed (Col 1:27).

5. in other agesGreek, "generations."

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 1Ti 1:15, end).

least of all saints—not merely "of all apostles" (1Co 15:9, 10).

isGreek, "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 seeGreek, "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 worldGreek, "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 beings.

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 hidden.

now—first: opposed to "hidden from the beginning of the world" (Eph 3:5).

unto the principalities andGreek 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 known."

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 purposedGreek, "made." Ellicott translates, "wrought."

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.