The Expository Files.

 

Exposition of Ephesians 3:8-21  

Ephesians 3:8-21

 

The first chapter of Ephesians announces the good news that every spiritual blessing needed by man is located IN JESUS CHRIST. And Paul cannot write about that great truth without praising God for His power, that raised Christ from the dead. In the second chapter, the same power that raised Christ is pictured again, raising sinners from spiritual death (this resurrection happens when one obeys the gospel, see Acts 19:5 & Rom. 6:1-11). The rest of chapter two affirms that the same gospel preached to the Jews was preached to the Gentiles, that they might be "made near" by the blood of Christ.

By the time all these things are said in chapters one and two, someone might be asking Paul: How do you know all this? Where did you get your information? The answer is given in the first part of chapter three: Paul got his information from the source! By revelation, the truth of the gospel was made known to Paul (See also, 1 Cor. 2 & Gal. 1:6-12). That which had been hidden in former ages was made known to the sons of men through the apostles and Paul was an apostle. Referring to the message he preached, Paul said - in verse 7 of Ephesians 3 - "of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power." That brings us to the verse that begins our exposition in Ephesians three.

VERSE 8 -- "To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ."

Paul did not boast about his position as an apostle, in the sense of something he achieved by his own merit or effort. That wasn't his attitude about it. Someone today - by their own ability; their own merit and effort - might reach some high place ... and, from a human standpoint, have reason to boast about what they have attained or achieved. In science and medicine; in government, business and communications there are people who have done great things, and have some reason to be proud of their accomplishments. There is the nobel prize - and in sports and music - various halls of fame. We often recognize and honor people for their attainments.

This wasn't Paul's attitude about his work as an apostle. He had such humility about it, he said: I am "less than the least of all the saints." Paul never left the impression that he had earned the right to be appointed as an apostle, nor that he had earned the right to become a Christian. He was always aware that he was a sinner, forgiven by the grace of God when he washed away his sins in baptism.

So he said, I AM "LESS THAN THE LEAST OF ALL THE SAINTS." He had not - by his behavior or performance - earned the right to have this work, but "this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles, the unsearchable riches of Christ." (See similar confessions of humility and grace, in 1 Tim. 1:12-14 & 1 Cor. 15:9).

Consider this marvelous phrase, "the unsearchable riches of Christ." The word "unsearchable" suggests the fruitlessness of human attempts to trace out, follow and comprehend the full extent of what God is willing to give us in Christ. It is "...an adjective (anexichniaston) that speaks of something that cannot be traced out by human footprints. It is used of the works of God in Job 5:9 and 9:10. If Paul had tried to measure and define that grace once, he had found himself like a man 'tracking out the confines of a lake,' and discovering that it was no lake at all 'but an arm of the ocean, and that he was confronted by the immeasurable sea'." {p.#96,97, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, Francis Foulkes}.

VERSE 9 -- "and to make all people see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ."

Paul's task was "to make all people see" something. That which he would endeavor to make people see was, the fellowship of the mystery.

What is this "fellowship of the mystery?" I believe it is best explained by the statement back in 2:16 as the reconciling of both Jews and Gentiles to God in one body! Paul was appointed the work of proclaiming this; making people see or telling people about "what is the fellowship of the mystery."

This is something that had been hidden, "from the beginning of the ages." But this good news previously hidden was publicly disclosed and permanently written through inspired men like Paul. He considered this honor as a gift received, not a prize awarded for good behavior.

Now verse 10 shows -- all of this had a purpose; there was divine Intent behind this. Paul wasn't called to be an apostle, just for his own benefit. And he didn't make people see what is the fellowship of the mystery, just for that time period .... all of this had an eternal purpose; a divine intent behind it.

Verse 10 says: "to the intend that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places."

That which was hidden from the beginning of the ages was now being revealed or made known through inspired men like Paul; men to whom this grace was given. The intent? "...that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church!"

Look at that phrase: "the manifold wisdom of God." The word "manifold" means many-sided, greatly diversified. In other words, there are many sides to the wisdom of God! The wealth or depth of wisdom there is in God is many sided; greatly diversified. God enjoys creative wisdom, and He applied that wisdom in setting up the physical universe. God has foreknowledge. He has a perfect understanding of what is good and right for man. He knows all the dealings, thoughts and plans of nations, as well as individuals. His wisdom is varied or "manifold."

The point is: this is made known by the church! When you consider the eternal purpose and plan of God carried out through the ages under His providence. When you stop and think about the events that led to the establishment of the church; the gospel; the worship commanded; the foundation upon which the church stands and the promises of future glory ... When all things are considered -- the church makes known or reflects the wisdom of God. In the very existence of the church and in the message proclaimed by her faithful members, men and angels can see the manifold wisdom of God. And all of this is ...

"...according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Verse 11)

Paul proclaimed these truths without shame or fear, and told people that in Christ "...we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him." (Verse 12).

Knowing that we have access to the Father through the Son; aware that all spiritual blessings are in Him, and that these things announced by the apostles are according to God's eternal plan --- WE HAVE BOLDNESS, ACCESS AND CONFIDENCE. The mystery and its disclosure has divine intent and purpose behind it. So as a result, those involved in proclaiming this message have boldness, access and confidence.

"Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory." (Verse 13).

There is no reason for despair or discouragement! If the very existence of the Lord's church is according to God's eternal purpose, and reflects His manifold wisdom, there is no reason for the least disheartenment. And the temporary tribulations experienced by Paul were grounds for glory not gloom.

Instead of despair, there should be prayerful praise to God. These things (in verses 8-13) constitute reasons to bow before the Father. So ...

"For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height; to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Verses 14-21).

"The whole family" is the redeemed, the church. They are all God's children; they bear the same name! No matter where they are; no matter which nation they belong to on earth, or who they were born to, all of God's children bear His name. Pulpit Commentary is right I believe: "The apostle recognizes all saints, whether in heaven or on earth, as forming one family, and as the whole family derives its name from God, so God may be expected and appealed to make full and corresponding provision for the wants of its various members..." The fellowship of the mystery means one body; one church; one family! "For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named." (Col. 1:20).

From verse 16-19, Paul expresses his prayer for his brethren in Ephesus. And the text can be studied as follows:

1. NEED: Inner strength.

2. SOURCE: God.

3. HOW: "Through His Spirit."

4. METHOD OF RECEIVING: "Through faith."

5. IMMEDIATE RESULT: Christ dwelling in your hearts.

6. END RESULT (V.19): knowing the love of Christ, and filled with all the fullness of God.


This is what Paul wanted for them. I hope this is what we want for ourselves. And it is available through faith.

Finally:

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

I don't care how experienced we may be, or how much Bible we know - we just can't imagine all God is able to do for us; it says He is able to do "exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think..." This is the power that works in us -- when we partake of that which the apostles revealed!

This is simply talking about WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GIVE HEED TO AND RESPOND TO THE REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY. God has all sorts of blessings and power for us, even beyond our comprehension. We partake of those spiritual benefits when we do what the Ephesians did ... ACTS 19 SHOWS ---> They heard, believed and obeyed the gospel. They were baptized for the remission of sins, and Paul wanted them to understand and fully appreciate what they had, in the church of the Lord. "To Him," that is, to God the Father ... "to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." Consider this marvelous phrase, "the unsearchable riches of Christ." The word "unsearchable" suggests the fruitlessness of human attempts to trace out, follow and comprehend the full extent of what God is willing to give us in Christ. It is "...an adjective (anexichniaston) that speaks of something that cannot be traced out by human footprints. It is used of the works of God in Job 5:9 and 9:10. If Paul had tried to measure and define that grace once, he had found himself like a man 'tracking out the confines of a lake,' and discovering that it was no lake at all 'but an arm of the ocean, and that he was confronted by the immeasurable sea'." {p.#96,97, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, Francis Foulkes}.

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 5.5; May 1998

 

 

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