Ephesians 3 Bible Commentary

B. W. Johnson’s Bible Commentary

(Read all of Ephesians 3)
Paul's Office As Apostle to the Gentiles.

SUMMARY.--The Hidden Mystery Revealed to the Apostle. The Gentiles to Be Fellow-Heirs. Paul's Mission to the Gentiles. The Prayer in Behalf of Gentile Christians. That They May Know the Surpassing Love of Christ.

      1. For this cause. This refers to the glorious work of the cross in "making peace and bringing the Gentiles nigh," described in chapter 2. I, Paul. The verb of which "I, Paul," is the subject, is not given until verse 14 is reached. The intervening verses are parenthetic. At verse 14 Paul repeats the first clause of verse 1, and then gives the verb. The prisoner of Jesus Christ. A prisoner at Rome when this was written, on account of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For you Gentiles. It was the hatred of the Jews towards him, on account of his apostleship to the Gentiles, which caused his seizure. See Acts 21:33, and 28:17, 20.

      2-8. If ye have heard. This is not designed to express doubt, but to remind them that they had heard of the dispensation, or office, that had been given him in reference to the Gentiles. See Acts 22:21. 3. How that by revelation he made known unto me. See Gal. 1:12. The mystery. This mystery was revealed by God to him. A mystery is a truth, or fact, or purpose, which is hidden until it is revealed. This mystery is declared in verse 6. As I wrote afore in few words. In 1:9, and 2:11-13. 4. Whereby, when ye read. When they read what he wrote above (afore), and what he writes now, they can perceive his knowledge of this mystery. 5. Which. The mystery. It was in past ages hidden from men, but now revealed by the Spirit to apostles and prophets. Not the old Hebrew prophets, but the prophets in the church. Some of the Hebrew prophets might have had a glimpse of Gentile salvation, but they did not understand their own language as well as we do in the light of the gospel. 6. That. The mystery long hidden, but at last revealed, is now given. The Gentiles should be fellow-heirs. The wall of partition broken down, Jews and Gentiles equally received, heirs alike of the gospel, fellow-members of the church, fellow-partakers of the gospel promises. Compare Acts 10:34; 11:18; 13:46-48. 7. Whereof I was made a minister. A minister to make known this mystery; God's gracious purpose to the Gentiles. According to the gift of the grace of God. The apostolic office with all the accompanying signs of apostleship. 8. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints. A mighty trust granted to one so unworthy as he deems himself. He was ever humbled by remembering that he had been a persecutor. See 1 Cor. 15:9; Phil. 3:6. Compare 1 Tim. 1:13 This grace, so glorious and so full of blessedness to the world, was the apostleship to the Gentiles. See Gal. 2:7, 8.

      9-13. And to make all men see. Jews as well as Gentiles. What is the dispensation of the mystery. The office or stewardship of this mystery. It was demonstrated in his apostleship to the Gentiles. Hath been hid. It was from the beginning God's purpose to save the Gentiles by the gospel, but it had been kept hidden. 10. To the intent. The mystery had been hidden during all the ages, but was now revealed in order that the manifold wisdom of God might be made known. It was made known, (1) To the Gentiles by preaching the gospel. (2) To Jews. This is implied in the "all" of verse 9. (3) "To principalities and powers in heavenly places;" that is, to angelic beings. See 1 Peter 1:12. By the church. As the fruit of God's wisdom revealed in the gospel, and especially by the union of Jews and Gentiles in one body. 11. According to the eternal purpose. The purpose which God had in all the ages proposed to fulfill through Jesus Christ. 12. In whom. In Jesus Christ, all, both Jew and Gentile alike, can come boldly to God. Without the revelation of Christ we could hardly know of God of love, who loved to have us come to him. 13. Wherefore. Seeing that I have revealed this glorious mystery to you. I desire that ye faint not. Do not become discouraged. At my tribulations for you. At his sufferings, a prisoner on account of the Gentiles. Which are your glory. The plural (see Revision) shows that "which" refers to tribulations. These tribulations all came in his work as the apostle of the Gentiles. Hence, they all suffered in a work which made them heirs of eternal glory.

      14, 15. For this cause I. See verse 1. He now resumes the thought of that verse. Bow my knees. In the attitude of prayer. Unto the Father. The Fountain of all mercies. The words, "Of our Lord Jesus Christ," are not found in the best manuscripts and are omitted in the Revision. 15. Of whom. The Father is referred to. The whole family in heaven and earth. In the Revision, "Every family." The idea is that the Father is the Father of all the families of his children, whether Jews or Gentiles on earth, or in heaven. He is "Our Father in heaven" to the believer of every race, in this world or the world to come. All, as far as creation is concerned, derive their being from him, like children from a parent, and all the good are his spiritual children.

      16-19. That he would grant you. Paul now states the things for which he so earnestly prays in behalf of those to whom he writes. According to the riches of his glory. In a degree which would correspond. To be strengthened. That their spirits might be strengthened by God's spirit and endowed with the might of spiritual gifts. 17. That Christ may dwell. This is the second petition. That they may so lay hold of Christ by faith that he will be to them a present Savior, in their hearts. That ye, being rooted and grounded in love. The third petition relates to the love of Christ. 18. May be able to comprehend. Unless they were "rooted and grounded in love" and the "love of God shed abroad" in their hearts, it would be impossible for them to comprehend the exceeding riches of the love of Christ. This is the climax of prayer, the point to which the other petitions tend. Indeed, from the beginning of the Epistle, he has been declaring what love Christ has shown for the Gentile world. 19. And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. This is one of Paul's paradoxes, like 1 Tim. 5:6. They could know something of the love of Christ, but we can never fully comprehended the infinite. Filled with all the fulness of God. Filled with God's grace to the full.

      20, 21. Now unto him. He has offered a prayer, and closes it with a doxology. According to the power that worketh in us. They knew something of the mighty working of the Spirit, and therefore of the Divine power. But God was able to do for them beyond all that they could conceive. 21. Unto him be glory in the church. Let the church in all ages manifest his glory by its light. Throughout all ages. Literally, "Unto all the generations of the age of ages." The idea is, through the endless succession of ages, or through all time.