Amplified: FOR THIS reason [because I preached that you are thus built up together], I, Paul, [am] the prisoner of Jesus the Christ for the sake and on behalf of you Gentiles— (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
Barclay: It is for this cause that I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for the sake of you Gentiles (Westminster Press)
NET: For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles-- (NET Bible)
NLT: Paul, am a prisoner of Christ Jesus because of my preaching to you Gentiles (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: - It is in this great cause that I, Paul, have become Christ's prisoner for you Gentiles. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: On this account I, Paul, the prisoner of the Messiah, Jesus, on behalf of you, the Gentiles (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: For this cause, I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you the nations,
FOR THIS REASON I, PAUL, THE PRISONER OF CHRIST JESUS: Toutou charin ego Paulos o desmios tou Christou [Iesou]: (2Co 10:1; Galatians 5:2) (Ep 4:1; 6:20; Luke 21:12; Acts 21:33; 26:29; 28:17, 18, 19, 20; 2Co 11:23; Philippians 1:7; Philippians 1:13, 14, 15, 16; Colossians 1:24; 4:3,18; 2Ti 1:8,16; 2:9; Philemon 1:1,9; Revelation 2:10)
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Why is Paul spending so much time explaining to the Gentiles their "before/after" picture and emphasizing their place of equality with the Jews in one body, the body of Christ? It is because he wants to be sure that the Gentile believers don't take their new found salvation for granted (which has to a large extent occurred in the church in America, some of whom don't even know that Jesus was a Jew, much less that the early church was virtually all Jewish) so that they have a proper appreciation and sense of gratitude for their salvation. Paul knows that when the Gentiles grasp these truths, this truth has the potential to radically impact their conduct, so that they are motivated to walk worth of their new calling in Christ and not according to their former corrupt way as pagans. For many Gentile believers, there is a tendency to "skim over" the doctrinal truths in the first three chapters (except our favorite verses like Eph 2:8, 9) so that we can get into the "practical" section of Ephesians 4-6. The problem is that the character of our walk in the last 3 chapters is intimately related to a proper understanding of the doctrinal truth in the first 3 chapters. We love to talk about being filled with the Spirit, but don't spend much time appreciating the mystery of Christ which makes it possible to even be filled with the Spirit!
For this reason - refers back to the building together of the saints - "seeing that you (Jew and Gentile) are being built together". Because you Gentiles are fellow citizens with God’s people, and especially because you Ephesians are included in the temple of God, a dwelling of God.
John Eadie has an picturesque introduction to this chapter…
Ray Stedman explains "for this reason" writing that…
William Barclay writes that…
Wayne Barber comments on "for this reason" writing that…
In regard to Ephesians 3:2-13 being a parenthesis note that verse 1 begins with his status as prisoner ("the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles") and that this same thought is picked up again in verse 13 ("my tribulations on your behalf"). This suggests that Paul is continuing the same thought that broke off from verse 1 to verse 2 as he began to elaborate on the mystery in verses 2-12. A number of commentators feel that Paul was on the verge of praying in verse 1 but was inspired to first explain the mystery after which he then returned to his desire to pray. Note that he had just taught about their being built into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. Then he prays that they be strengthened so that Christ might dwell (verb form of the noun "dwelling") in their heart.
The following alliterative outline of Ephesians 3 is modified from John Phillips (Exploring Ephesians)
1. Paul as a Prisoner for the Truth (Eph 3:1)
2. Paul as a Pioneer of the Truth (Eph 3:2-4)
a. The Truth Entrusted to Him (Eph 3:2)
b. The Truth Enlightening to Him (Eph 3:3-4)
i. Communicated To Him (Eph 3:3a)
ii. Communicated By Him (Eph 3:3b-4)
3. Paul as a Partner in the Truth (Eph 3:5-6)
a. How the Truth Was Concealed (Eph 3:5a)
b. How the Truth Was Revealed (Eph 3:5b-6)
4. Paul as a Propagator of the Truth (Eph 3:7-9)
a. The Working of It (Eph 3:7)
b. The Wonder of It (Eph 3:8a)
c. The Wealth of It (Eph 3:8b-9)
i. Its Hidden Resources (Eph 3:8b)
ii. Its Heavenly Resources (Eph 3:9)
Warren Wiersbe nicely alliterates Ephesians 3 as…
MacDonald adds that "for this reason"…
Prisoner (1198) (desmios from desméo = bind from desmos = bind, chain) is a captive or one who is bound or who is in bonds. Prisoners in Paul's day often had time to think, read, write, etc. (see comments below)
Here are the 16 uses of desmios - Matt. 27:15, 16; Mk. 15:6; Acts 16:25, 27; 23:18; 25:14, 27; 28:17; Eph. 3:1; 4:1; 2 Tim. 1:8; Philemon. 1:1, 9; Heb. 10:34; 13:3
Most agree that Paul wrote this epistle during his first Roman imprisonment during which he was under house arrest, and yet he describes himself not as a prisoner of Rome but of Christ Jesus. Paul understood his imprisonment as God's will for him.
Paul evidently wrote this epistle while he was imprisoned in Rome "for the hope of Israel" as Luke records in Acts quoting Paul's defense of his imprisonment before the leading men of Jerusalem writing…
Paul had been a prisoner ever since he was taken captive in Jerusalem at the command of the Jewish leaders, Luke records that…
For at least two years, however, he was given a certain amount of freedom Luke recording that Paul…
As previously discussed it was most likely during this time of "house arrest" that he wrote the letter to the Ephesians.
Rich Cathers observes that…
Ray Stedman writes that Paul was apparently…
Ruth Paxson puts it well writing that…
William Barclay in noting that Paul never thought of himself as the prisoner of Rome but of Christ adds this note…
John Phillips writes that…
FOR THE SAKE OF YOU GENTILES: huper humon ton ethnon: (Galatians 5:11; Colossians 1:24; 1 Thessalonians 2:15,16; 2Ti 2:10)
For the sake of (5228) (huper) means on behalf of or in place of. He explains the reason for his imprisonment - for the sake of you Gentiles. In fact, the event that triggered Paul's arrest and shipment to Rome for trial before Caesar was a false charge that he had taken Trophimus, an Ephesian, into area of the temple area that was out of bounds for Gentiles (Acts 21:29). (See notes on Ephesians 2:18)
Paul was a prisoner because he believed in God’s previously undisclosed and unknown program of uniting believing Jews and Gentiles into one new body, the church. The non-believing Jews in Paul’s day considered the Gentiles ("the Uncircumcision") dogs,” but some of the believing Jews did not have a much better attitude toward their Gentiles brothers in the faith.
At the time of Paul's salvation Christ commissioned him to go to the Gentiles, declaring…
Paul was a man on mission. He has left an example of single minded determination to fulfill the call of God on his life. We do well to imitate his zeal. Live as you will wish to have lived after you are dead or as Adoniram Judson the great missionary to Burma said
We too can end the Christian race well, even if we began late, started slow, or faltered along the way. The secret is to stay true to Christ to the last moment.
Gentiles (1484) (ethnos) refers to non-Jews or the heathen. When ethnos is preceded by the definite article ("the") in the Greek, it means "the nations" which is synonymous with the Gentiles marking them out as a distinct class. The Gentiles implies those who practice idolatry and are ignorant of the true God.
There are only 16 uses of ethnos in the NT - Matt. 27:15, 16; Mk. 15:6; Acts 16:25, 27; 23:18; 25:14, 27; 28:17; Eph. 3:1; 4:1; 2Tim. 1:8; Philemon 1:1, 9; Heb. 10:34; 13:3
All of mankind can be divided into Jew and Gentile and thus "Gentile" is a synonym for anyone who is non-Jew, who is not a member of the "chosen people". The Hebrew word corresponding to Gentile is goyim. From Genesis 12 through Malachi 4 the majority of the Scriptures were about God's dealings with the Jews, while Gentiles were mentioned only as they interacted with the Jews. The NT does have more mention of the Gentiles after the formation of the Church but after the church, Christ's Bride has been raptured to heaven, God will resume His program with Israel nationally. We find this described in the book of the Revelation (where there is no mention of the church after Revelation 3). Many people are surprised to discover that the Revelation of Jesus Christ has a heavy emphasis on Israel, which explains why there are over 200 OT quotes or allusions to OT passages.
As Wayne Barber reminds us…
Ray Stedman reminds of the background from Paul's imprisonment writing that…
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Whose Prisoner?- A story is told of Scottish minister Alexander Whyte, who was able to look at the bleakest situation and yet find something to be thankful for. On a dark Sunday morning when the weather was freezing, wet, and stormy, one of his deacons whispered,
The pastor began the service by praying,
The apostle Paul also saw the best in every situation. Consider his circumstances as he wrote to the church in Ephesus while he awaited trial before the Roman emperor Nero. Most people would have concluded that he was a prisoner of Rome. But Paul saw himself as a prisoner of Christ. He thought of his hardship as an opportunity to bring the gospel to the Gentiles.
These words of Paul should challenge us:
Paul, a prisoner of Christ, saw himself as being given the privilege to serve God and present the “riches of Christ” to many.
Whose prisoner are we? —Albert Lee (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Afflictions may test me,
The trials that imprison you need not limit God’s work in you.
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Pastor Steven Cole has the following excellent sermon on Ephesians 3:1-7
Grateful for the Gospel
The Thanksgiving holiday reminds us that we often take God’s gifts for granted, rather than giving thanks. God gives us many common blessings, such as the gift of sight to enjoy a beautiful sunrise or sunset. He gives us the gift of sound, so that we can enjoy the laughter of children or conversation with friends or a favorite song. He gives us the gift of taste, so that we can enjoy good food. We enjoy many material blessings in this country—our homes, cars, and many gadgets that make life more comfortable. Traveling to some of the poorer areas of the world helps you to see how life could be, had you not been blessed to be born in America! So we should be thankful!
But the greatest gift that God gives us is the gospel—the good news that Jesus Christ came into this world to save us from our sins. If He has opened the eyes of your heart to trust in Jesus Christ as the One who bore your eternal punishment on the cross, then even if you are going through terrible suffering, you have reason to rejoice and be thankful! And if God has saved you, He also has given you some way that He wants you to serve Him. The fact that former selfish, rebellious sinners could be redeemed and now put into service for the King of kings should fill our hearts with joyful gratitude to Him. This is what the apostle Paul both says and exemplifies in our text:
We can be joyfully grateful even in our trials, if we remember God’s gift of salvation and the gracious privilege of serving Him.
These verses are a bit difficult, so track with me as I try to explain them. In Ep 2:11-22, Paul has outlined the unprecedented blessings that God has now poured out on the Gentiles. For 2,000 years from Abraham to the time of Christ, God’s blessings were mostly restricted to the Jews. The Gentiles were excluded from the nation of Israel, were strangers to God’s covenants of the promise, and thus they had no hope and were without God in the world (Ep 2:12).
Then comes that glorious contrast (Ep 2:13), “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Paul shows how through the gospel, Christ now has reconciled the Jews and Gentiles to one another and He has reconciled both groups in one body to God through the cross. As a result, the Gentiles are no longer strangers and aliens, but they are fellow citizens of God’s new people, they are members of His household, and together with the Jews, they are being built into a holy temple where God now dwells (Ep 2:19, 20, 21, 22).
In light of these wonderful truths, Paul is about to pray for the Ephesians, that God would make these truths a reality in their experience. He will pray (Ep 3:17) that Christ will dwell in their hearts by faith, in line with what he has said about them being built into the dwelling of God (Ep 2:22). In line with the unity of Jews and Gen-tiles in Christ, he will pray (Ep 3:17) that they may be rooted and grounded in love.
But, before he gets to his prayer, something diverts Paul’s attention. Perhaps he heard his chains clank and it brought him back to his present situation, of being a prisoner. Paul’s persistent enemies, the Judaizers, were no doubt plaguing the Ephesian church, arguing that the Gentiles needed to be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses to be saved. One of their arguments was to discredit Paul. If he really is God’s apostle, then why is he in prison?
So Paul begins (Ep 3:1), “For this reason [because of the reconciliation of the Jews and Gentiles to one another and to God], I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—” but then, instead of launching into his prayer, he interrupts himself. He will come back to the prayer in Ep 3:14, but he goes into a digression to show the Ephesians that his imprisonment in Rome should not cause them to doubt God or to question Paul’s apostleship. Rather than losing heart because of his sufferings, they should see that his tribulations on their behalf were actually for their glory (Ep 3:13). So in this digression, he reminds them again of God’s great gift of the gospel and of the gracious privilege of being able to serve and to suffer for Christ’s sake. Rather than grumbling about his imprisonment, Paul overflows with joyful gratitude to God. He not only tells us, but also shows us, how to have this same joyful gratitude in the midst of our trials.
The teaching that God promises health and wealth to all of His children is heresy. But, although most of us don’t buy into that error, we often think that if we walk obediently with the Lord, He will reward us with protection from trials. Or, when trials come, some teach that it is okay to get angry with God. The assumption behind this is, “I don’t deserve this kind of treatment!” I once saw a booklet from the ministry that publishes “Our Daily Bread” titled, “Forgiving God”! That’s a blasphemous title, because it implies that God did something wrong! It was about a woman who had lost her four-year-old, and how she had to learn to forgive God for this tragedy! But, if Job (the most righteous man on earth) did not need to forgive God for taking al ten of his children in one accident, then neither do we need to forgive God, no matter how difficult our trials. He never treats us unjustly or sends trials into our lives without a loving purpose on His part.
Paul was suffering unjustly from a human perspective. He had not done anything wrong. He was suffering because he had gone to a lot of personal bother to do something good. He had raised a gift from the Gentile churches and had personally taken it to Jerusalem to help alleviate the suffering of the Jewish people. Behind his actions, no doubt, was his strong desire to see the Jewish and Gentile wings of the church united in love. But when he got there, some Jews saw him in the temple and started a riot by falsely accusing him of bringing some Gentiles beyond the barrier in the temple. The riot led to Paul’s imprisonment, which had been going on now for about five years. During those years, Paul easily could have grown bitter towards the Jews who had falsely accused him, and even toward God, who had allowed this to happen.
Also, Paul was not suffering because he denied the truth, but rather because he boldly proclaimed the truth. You can dodge a lot of hassles as a preacher if you tiptoe around difficult doctrines and just preach “nice” messages that make everyone feel good. But God had revealed certain truths to Paul, and he lived to please God, who examines the heart, not to please people (1Th 2:4). It would have been much easier for Paul just to make peace with the Judaizers, saying, “We don’t agree, but unity is more important than truth.” But, instead, he always stood firmly for the truth of the gospel of grace, even if it meant hardship and persecution.
When Paul says (Ep 3:2), “if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you,” he is not implying that some of the Ephesians had not heard. Probably Paul was using irony (H. C. G. Moule, Ephesians Studies [Christian Literature Crusade], p. 110). His ministry to the Gentiles had been well known for many years and was at the heart of why he was in prison. So here, he is using understatement to say, “If perhaps you have heard a few things about my ministry to the Gentiles…”! They were Christians because of his ministry to the Gentiles!
Note one further thing about Paul’s perspective on his sufferings: Although he did not deserve to be in prison, he was joy-fully grateful because he understood and submitted to God's sovereignty over his sufferings. He calls himself (Ep 3:1), “the prisoner of Christ Jesus.” If Paul had seen himself as the prisoner of the Jews, he would have been bitter at the Jews. If he had seen himself as the prisoner of the Roman government, he would have been angry about the miscarriage of justice. But, he saw himself as the prisoner of Christ Jesus. Paul knew that the Lord only acted toward him with grace and kindness. And so, he could rejoice even in his sufferings.
There is an error today called “open theism” that teaches that God is not sovereign over the tragic things that happen. He is just as upset as you are, but He can’t do anything about it. They are trying to get God off the hook for all of the evil and suffering in the world. But, it is fundamentally unbiblical. In the Bible, God makes it clear that He is sovereign over everything, including our trials (Ex 4:11; Isa. 45:7; Amos 3:6). Also, by denying God’s sovereignty over our trials, the open theists take away the only source of comfort in our trials, namely, that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Ro 8:28).
So here is Paul, suffering for no wrong that he had done. But there is not a hint of self-pity or complaint on his part, because his focus was on Christ Jesus as his sovereign Lord, and also on helping the Ephesians understand God’s purpose in Paul’s imprisonment. But, there is more:
2. We can be joyfully grateful in our trials if we remember that we are beneficiaries of God’s gracious salvation.
Paul never ceased to be thankful for God’s grace that had been shown to him in the gospel. Though he was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent aggressor, yet he was shown mercy, and God’s grace was more than abundant for the chief of sinners (1Ti 1:13, 14, 15). If you think about where you used to be as a sinner, and where you would be today if God had not broken into your life with His grace, it will cause you to overflow with gratitude. Note four things about God’s grace in the gospel:
A. God’s grace in the gospel is a precious, undeserved gift.
Paul was so moved by God’s grace in saving him that he just can’t stop repeating himself. In Ep 3:2 he writes, “if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace which was given to me for you…” Then, again in 3:7, he says, “of which I was made a minister [servant], according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.” He continues (Ep 3:8), “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.” He just couldn’t get over it! Neither should we!
No one has ever come to Christ by his own intelligence, will power, or good works. If you are a Christian, it is not because you thought through all of the options and due to your superior intelligence and high moral standards, you decided to follow Jesus. Rather, the Bible indicts us all (Ro 3:10-18):
As it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one. Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
If you’re thinking, “Well, that may describe others, but it doesn’t describe me,” then you do not understand God’s grace in the gospel. Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to
repentance (Luke 5:32). You have to feel how lost and helpless you are before you will cry out to Jesus, “Save me, Lord, or I perish!” Salvation is totally a precious, undeserved gift of God’s grace.
B. God’s grace in the gospel cannot be grasped by human reason, but God must reveal it to us.
Paul writes (Ep 3:3, 4, 5, 6), “that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel….”
To understand Paul’s flow of thought we need to understand what he means by mystery. He uses this word 21 out of the 27 times in the New Testament, and with different shades of meaning in different contexts. But the basic meaning is that it refers to God’s revelation or disclosure of something that formerly was hidden. Such information cannot be attained by human reason or wisdom, but only when God reveals it by His Spirit (1Co 2:7, 8, 9, 10).
In Ephesians, Paul first refers to the mystery in Ep 1:9, where it refers to God’s revealing His eternal purpose to sum up all things in Christ. So the key idea in the mystery centers on God’s eternal plan of bringing all things together in the person of Jesus Christ. When Paul says (3:3) that he wrote before about this in brief, he is referring back to Ep 1:9 (see, also, Col. 1:25, 26, 27).
But, this one supreme mystery has a number of applications (Peter O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians [Eerdmans/Apollos], p. 110). Thus in our text, Paul refers to the general sense of the mystery of Christ (Ep 3:4), but then specifies the application of that mystery to the now revealed truth that “the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Ep 3:6). Paul had written about that aspect of the mystery in Ep 2:11-22. So, to sum up (O’Brien, p. 236, citing John Stott), “The mystery or open secret of Christ is ‘the complete union of Jews and Gentiles with each other through the union of both with Christ.’”
When Paul says that this aspect of the mystery had not been made known in other generations as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets, he means that God has revealed new truth with regard to the church. The Old Testament often spoke of God’s blessing on the Gentiles, but it was always through the Jews. But now, (Gal. 3:14) “in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” In other words, the newly revealed truth that Paul and the New Testament (“holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit”) proclaim is that the Gentiles are equal with the Jews in the church. They are (Ep 3:6) “fellow heirs and fellow members of the body and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
The point to apply is that the truth about the centrality of Jesus Christ and the gospel is not something that anyone can arrive at by human logic, intuition, or study. It’s not like math, where if you work at it, eventually you can get it. Rather, to understand God’s truth, especially the truth of the gospel, He must open your eyes (see, Matt. 13:11, 12, 13). So, if you do not understand the good news about Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross, cry out to God for understanding and search the New Testament as if you were looking for buried treasure until you find Him!
C. God’s grace in the gospel comes to us by the working of His power.
Paul mentions (Ep 3:7) that the gift of God’s grace “was given to me by the working of His power.” God’s mighty power transformed a violent racist like Paul into the apostle who now loved the very people he had hated, the Gentiles! Maybe, like the Ephesians, you were into the occult and all manner of evil. But, God’s mighty power transformed these people who engaged in sexual immorality at the pagan Temple of Diana into a holy temple in the Lord (Ep 2:21).
Not all conversions are as dramatic as Paul’s or the Ephesians were, but all conversions require the same working of God’s mighty power. Maybe, like me, you were raised in a Christian home and were at church every time the door was open. You still need to be saved from your self-righteousness, pride, hypocrisy, lust, greed, and other sins by God’s mighty power. Beware of cultural Christianity, where you assume that you’re a Christian because you live in a Christian country and attend a Christian church! You are not a Christian unless you know the life-transforming power of God in your heart!
D. God’s grace in the gospel is a special privilege that we now enjoy.
To overflow with joyful gratitude, even in your trials, keep in mind that you enjoy God’s revealed grace in a way that millions in history never have. Paul says that the mystery of Christ was not made known in other generations as it now is made known! But even now, there are hundreds of millions of people around the globe who live in spiritual darkness in countries where the gospel is hardly known.
But, we have these transforming truths revealed to us in the New Testament as a precious treasure! If it was revealed to you that somewhere in your back yard, a strongbox with a million dollars was buried, you’d be out there this afternoon with pick and shovel, and you wouldn’t stop digging until you found it! Well, you’ve got something far greater than money—you’ve got “the unfathomable riches of Christ” (Ep 3:8), hidden in your Bible! Start digging!
So, we can be joyfully grateful even in our trials if we remember God’s gift of salvation, revealed in Jesus Christ. Finally,
3. We can be joyfully grateful in our trials if we remember that we have graciously been given the privilege of serving God.
Being an apostle was not Paul’s career choice! Rather, it was given to him as a sacred stewardship of God’s grace. When he says that he “was made a minister” (Ep 3:7), it is a passive verb, meaning that he didn’t choose it. Rather, God acted on Paul. On the day of Paul’s conversion, the Lord told Paul (Acts 22:10), “Get up and go on into Damascus, and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.” He was drafted!
“Minister” (Eph. 3:7) is not a stained glass word, referring to a member of the clergy. That concept is foreign to the New Testament. Rather, it is the Greek word, diakonos, meaning, servant. It referred to one who waited tables. As such, a servant obeyed his master. He was not free to do his own thing, but he did what his master commanded.
Although none of us are apostles and although you may not be in so-called “full time ministry,” if you know Christ, you are His servant. Even if He calls you to suffer for His name’s sake, from your prison cell you can joyfully serve Him if you remember what a great privilege it is to be a steward of His amazing grace.
Before his conversion, John Wesley, who was very religious outwardly, but lacked the inward reality of God’s grace, had a conversation with a poor porter at his college that deeply impressed him. Wesley discovered that the man had only one coat and that he had not had any food that day, but only water. And yet his heart was full of gratitude to God. Wesley said, “You thank God when you have nothing to wear, nothing to eat, and no bed to lie upon. What else do you thank him for?”
“I thank him,” answered the porter, “that He has given me my life and being, and a heart to love Him, and a desire to serve Him.” (In The Inextinguishable Blaze, by A. Skevington Wood [Eerdmans, 1968], p. 100.) That porter knew the reality of God’s saving grace. Like him, we can be joyfully thankful even in our trials if we re-member God’s gift of salvation and the gracious privilege of serving Him.
Some teach that it is okay to be angry at God when we suffer and that we should be honest in expressing our feelings. Why is this at odds with Scripture?
How can a person who grew up in a Christian home get a deeper appreciation of God’s abundant grace in salvation?
Who is more difficult to reach with the gospel: a thorough pagan or a self-righteous churchgoer? Why?
Why is it important for every believer to see himself as a steward or servant of Christ? How does this attitude help us? (Pastor Cole's entire series on Ephesians is highly recommended - It functions much like a verse by verse commentary - see Ephesians Series)
Amplified: Assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace (His unmerited favor) that was entrusted to me [to dispense to you] for your benefit, (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
Barclay: you must have heard of the share that God gave me in dispensing his grace to you, (Westminster Press)
KJV: If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
NET: If indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, (NET Bible)
NKJV: if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you,
NLT: As you already know, God has given me this special ministry of announcing his favor to you Gentiles. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: For you must have heard how God gave me grace to become your minister (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: assuming that you heard of the administration of the grace of God which was given to me for you, (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: if, indeed, ye did hear of the dispensation of the grace of God that was given to me in regard to you,
IF INDEED YOU HAVE HEARD OF THE STEWARDSHIP OF GOD'S GRACE WHICH WAS GIVEN TO ME FOR YOU: ei ge ekousate (2PAAI) ten oikonomian tes charitos tou theou tes dotheises (APPFSG) moi eis humas: (Eph 4:21; Galatians 1:13; Colossians 1:4,6; 2Ti 1:11) (Eph 3:8; 4:7; Acts 9:15; 13:2,46; 22:21; 26:17,18; Ro 1:5; 11:13; 12:3; Ro 15:15,16; 1Co 4:1; 9:17,18,19,20,21,22; Galatians 1:15,16; 2:8,9; Colossians 1:25, 26, 27; 1Ti 1:11; 2:7; 2Ti 1:11)
Beginning in Ephesians 3:2 Paul begins a new sentence which does not end until verse 7. The thought continues to verse 13 and thus this section (verses 2-13) seems to serve as a "parenthesis" or digression. As an aside Paul had 8 very long Greek sentences in this letter.
Vincent agrees writing that "Here begins a long digression extending to Eph 3:14".
If (1487) (ei) is a particle of conditionality (in this case referred to as a "first class conditional" statement) which when used with the indicative mood (as in this verse) indicates no doubt in the mind of his readers about the truth that Paul goes on to explain - that he was on special mission to the Gentiles. The idea is one of assurance. One could render it… "Surely you have heard" or "Since you have heard". They really had heard about Paul's stewardship of God's grace for them.
Regarding "if indeed" the Net Bible Notes comments that…
Heard (191) (akouo) means to hear with attention or with the ear of the mind. The Phillips paraphrase accurately conveys Paul's thought…
Stewardship (3622) (“administration,” “dispensation,” “commission”) (oikonomia from oíkos = house + némo = manage, distribute) in referred to the office of a steward or administrator in God's house. It is an administration, a management or an oversight one was given over a household. The steward was responsible and accountable to the owner for how he managed the property.
Here are the 9 uses of oikonomia - Lk. 16:2, 3, 4; 1 Co. 9:17; Eph. 1:10; 3:2, 9; Col. 1:25; 1Ti 1:4. Translated in NASB - administration(3), stewardship(6).
God had entrusted Paul with great truths. Paul was their custodian, their steward. He was under obligation to communicate them to others. He discharged this trust nobly through his preaching and writing.
Regarding the meaning of oikonomia in Ephesians Vincent writes that…
Ray Stedman explains the KJV translation as "dispensation" writing that…
Wayne Barber explains that regarding "stewardship"…
Wuest explains that…
Paul was a steward of God's grace which parallels his statement in 1Corinthians where he writes…
Grace (5485) (charis) in simple terms is God's unmerited favor and supernatural enablement and empowerment for salvation and for daily sanctification. Grace is everything for nothing to those who don't deserve anything. Jowett defined grace as "holy love on the move".
Trench wrote that
In its use among the Gentiles charis referred to a favor done by one Greek to another out of the pure generosity of his heart, and with no hope of reward. When it is used in the NT, it refers to that favor which God did at Calvary when He stepped down from His judgment throne to take upon Himself the guilt and penalty of human sin. In the case of the Greek, the favor was done to a friend, never an enemy. In the case of God it was an enemy (see note Romans 5:10), the sinner, bitter in his hatred of God, for whom the favor was done. God has no strings tied to the salvation He procured for man at the Cross.
For you - i.e., for your benefit or literally unto you. You Gentiles.
God had specifically called Paul to preach to the Gentiles and subsequent developments recorded by Dr Luke in Acts demonstrate the fulfillment of Paul's calling…
In Romans Paul writes…
In the epistle to the Galatians Paul explained his calling to the Gentiles writing that…
In Jerusalem Paul met with those Jewish leaders "who were of high reputation" who concluded that Paul…
Amplified: [And] that the mystery (secret) was made known to me and I was allowed to comprehend it by direct revelation, as I already briefly wrote you. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
Barclay: because God’s secret was made known to me by direct revelation, as I have just been writing to you, (Westminster Press)
NET: that by revelation the divine secret was made known to me, as I wrote before briefly. (NET Bible)
NLT: As I briefly mentioned earlier in this letter, God himself revealed his secret plan to me. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: and how he allowed me to understand his secret by giving me a direct Revelation. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: in accordance with which you are able when you read to understand my insight into the mystery of the Christ (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: that by revelation He made known to me the secret, according as I wrote before in few words --
THAT BY REVELATION THERE WAS MADE KNOWN TO ME THE MYSTERY: [hoti] kata apokalupsin egnoristhe (3SAPI) moi to musterion: (Eph 1:17; Acts 22:17,21; 23:9; 26:15, 16, 17, 18, 19; 1Corinthians 2:9,10; Galatians 1:12,16, 17, 18, 19) (Ep 3:9; Romans 11:25; 16:25; Colossians 1:26,27) (Ep 1:9, 10, 11; Ep 2:11, 12, 13,14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22)
By revelation - expresses the mode of the making known of the mystery. Paul's point is that he had not learned the mystery from anyone else, nor had he discovered it through his own intelligence, but by a revelation from God. The mystery spoken of here is that Jews and Gentiles would be equal heirs in the one body of Christ. This was unknown in OT prophecy but was revealed by the NT apostles and prophets.
Wayne Barber has a practical application of the fact that the mystery was revealed to Paul writing…
In his letter to the Galatians Paul wrote about a revelation of Jesus Christ…
Revelation (602) (apokalupsis from apó = from + kalúpto = cover, conceal <> English = apocalypse) (Click word study on apokalupsis) conveys the idea of "taking the lid off" and means to remove the cover and expose to open view that which was heretofore not visible, known or disclosed. It means to make manifest or reveal a thing previously secret or unknown. In all its uses, “revelation” refers to something or someone, once hidden, becoming visible and now made fully known.
Here are the 18 uses of apokalupsis - Lk. 2:32; Rom. 2:5; 8:19; 16:25; 1 Co. 1:7; 14:6, 26; 2 Co. 12:1, 7; Gal. 1:12; 2:2; Eph. 1:17; 3:3; 2Thess. 1:7; 1Pet. 1:7, 13; 4:13; Rev. 1:1
Originally in secular Greek apokalupsis was not an especially religious word (other words were used in secular Greek to designate divine revelations) but meant simply the disclosure of any fact. It was used to mean "uncovering" as of one's head. It was used to describe the "disclosing" of hidden springs. In contrast apokalupsis as used in the NT always has theological meaning.
It was not that Paul was so good, but that God was so kind and so gracious as to reveal this glorious truth to him. It reminds us once again of the truth James so eloquently stated, a truth which should make us arise each morning with a song of praise and thanksgiving on our lips for…
Made known (1107) (gnorizo from ginosko = acquire information by whatever means but often with the implication of personal involvement or experience) mans to cause information to be known by someone. It involves communicating things which before were unknown or reasserting things already known.
Here are the 25 uses of gnorizo - Lk. 2:15, 17; Jn. 15:15; 17:26; Acts 2:28; Rom. 9:22, 23; 16:26; 1 Co. 12:3; 15:1; 2 Co. 8:1; Gal. 1:11; Eph. 1:9; 3:3, 5, 10; 6:19, 21; Phil. 1:22; 4:6; Col. 1:27; 4:7, 9; 2 Pet. 1:16. Translated in NASB - bring information(1), have you know(1), inform(1), know(1), made known(13), make known(9).
Mystery - the "divine secret" which was revealed to Paul ("made known") and thus which is no longer secret! Dr Charles Ryrie explains the mystery this way…
Mystery (3466) (musterion from mustes = one initiated [as into the Greco-Roman religious "mystery" cults] from mueo = to close or shut) (Click word study on musterion) is a sacred secret hitherto unknown, humanly unknowable, and now divinely revealed. As discussed more below the mystery was not unintelligible nor mysterious (like a Sherlock Holmes "mystery"), but was merely God’s secret until He chose to reveal it to Paul and through Paul to all who read the epistle to the Ephesians.
The mysteries which are revealed in the NT are described in Mt. 13:11; Ro 11:25; 1Co 15:51, 52; Ep 5:32; 6:19; Col 1:27; 2:2; 4:3; 2Th. 2:7; 1Ti 3:16; Re 1:20; 17:5, 7.
In Colossians Paul gives us a definition of the Greek word musterion writing…
The "mysteries" are the sacred secrets that God knows about life, which men desperately need to know and which by His Spirit, He revealed to the "initiated", those who by grace through faith were now saints and now had ears to hear the "family secrets".
Paul first introduced the idea of "mystery" in chapter 1 writing that the Father…
In chapter 2:11-22 Paul describes a new relationship between Jew and Gentile and between both groups to God, the substance of this section in fact dealing with the "mystery" even though he does not use the term.
Wiersbe writes that…
As mystery was used in classical Greek conveyed the idea of silence in the rites of the "mystery" religions so common in the Greco-Roman Empire. Musterion referred to religious secrets which were confided only to the initiated. Thus in Paul's day, musterion embrace ideas such as "a secret rite," "secret teaching," and "a divine mystery which is beyond human comprehension." The "mystery-religions" had their secrets and signs as modern secret societies have today. Those initiated into these pagan cults, knew these secret signs.
Musterion in Scripture takes on a completely different meaning and does not refer to truths know only to a select, initiated few but in contrast was is a previously hidden purpose of God which when uncovered is understood by the Spirit-taught believer. In other words musterion signifies those truths which are part of God's plan and can only be understood as He reveals them by His Spirit through His Word. Musterion is a truth which without special revelation would have been unknown and thus is commonly used with words denoting revelation or knowledge (e.g., "to know the mysteries", (Mt 13:11), "revelation of the mystery", (Ro 16:25) or "made known… the mystery", Eph 3:3)
The secret counsels of God remain hidden from the ungodly (to them they are a true "mystery" as the word is commonly used in English) but when these truths are revealed to the godly, they are understood by them. The mystery is not in the fact that the truths are difficult to interpret, but that they are impossible to interpret until their meaning is revealed at which time the truth becomes plain.
Mysteries in the Scripture fall into two categories. Some have already been revealed, and among these are the incarnation of Christ and the salvation of sinners. Others are yet to be seen, such as the general resurrection, the coming Antichrist, and the evil of the last day. It is comforting to realize that all the mysteries which bear on our salvation are already revealed to readers of Scripture.
Vincent defines musterion as that
MacArthur adds that
Unger says that
AS I WROTE BEFORE IN BRIEF: kathoo proegrapsa (1SAAI) en oligo:
Wrote before (4270) (prographo from pró = before, openly, plainly + grapho = write) means to write previously or before. Prographo was used of posting important official notices on a placard in the marketplace or other public location for citizens to read. The word is found in early secular documents where a father posted a proclamation that he would no longer be responsible for his son’s debts. It is also used for putting up the announcement of an auction sale.
Although not everyone agrees, most commentators feel that Paul is not necessarily referring to a previous letter now lost to us, but to the truths he had explained in the first two chapters. It is probably best not to be dogmatic.
Brief (3641) (oligos) means puny in extent, degree, number, duration or value. When reference is to time, it means little, short, or brief
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