Ephesians Chapter 3: Jews and Gentiles Fellowheirs in Christ, Love of Christ

Dec 7th, 2009 | By | Category: Ephesians, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Ephesians Chapter 3: Jews and Gentiles Fellowheirs in Christ, Love of Christ

Eph. 3:1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,

Verse 1 is a valuable clue as to the circumstances under which the Epistle to the Ephesians was written. Paul was literally a prisoner in Rome under house arrest when he wrote this epistle.

Eph. 3:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to youward:

Eph. 3:3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,

Paul was given a “revelation” (singular) at his initial conversion. He had been an enemy, a virulent opponent of Christianity, when his conversion came. Paul, the persecuting Pharisee, became a faithful Christian from the time that Christ was revealed to him. The incident of Paul’s conversion was quite well known by now, whereas his other revelations were not nearly as well known. Word of his conversion had spread.

Eph. 3:4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

Eph. 3:5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

Eph. 3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

Verses 2-6 show that it was Paul, more than any of the other apostles, who helped, in a practical sense, the understanding of the mystery hid for ages: “That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, … and partakers … in Christ by the gospel.” The mystery was “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” and this calling was open to Jews and Gentiles alike (Col. 1:27).

Although it is true that Peter was involved in the conversion of Cornelius, he lacked the structural depth of scriptural understanding that Paul had, as evidenced by the fact he later dissimulated and had to be reprimanded by Paul. In the incident, recorded in Galatians 2:11-14, Peter was eating with some Gentiles up at Antioch. When Jews came in, he withdrew and separated himself, feeling ashamed and fearing them which were of the circumcision. Paul had to rebuke him. And although Peter was given the dream of a sheet let down from heaven containing both clean and unclean animals, and thus was the first apostle to be informed that the high calling was open to the Gentiles, he did not have the scriptural basis and reasoning for the change (Acts 10:9-16). Again it was Paul who had to help the other apostles understand this matter from the Scriptures. Therefore, Paul could say, “It is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (verse 5).

At the time of Paul’s conversion, Jesus said to him, “Go thy way: for you are a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15 paraphrase). In other words, Paul was told by direct communication that the wall of partition was to be broken down. He was to preach the message of Jesus to Gentiles in order to convert the willing, hearing ears.

Eph. 3:7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.

Eph. 3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

Paul was a minister of the gospel. God’s “power” (the Holy Spirit) working in him enabled him to speak with boldness, strength, influence, and success. He was effectual because God helped him.

In verses 2 and 3, Paul referred to his initial conversion. Then he mentioned his responsibility to deliver the gospel to the Gentiles; that is, this former zealous persecutor of Christians was now a minister of the gospel. To a large extent, news of his conversion went in advance of his ministry. Paul subsequently preached to the Ephesians in person, and now, some years later, he was writing to them: “You know how in the past, such and such happened.” Paul had labored in Ephesus for a total of three years—longer than in any other area—and was successful in bringing many into the truth by God’s grace and help.

Paul said he was “less than the least of all saints,” yet elsewhere he said he was not one whit behind the “chiefest” of the apostles (2 Cor. 11:5). How do we harmonize these two statements? In verse 8, Paul was referring to his former condition, prior to conversion, when he thought he was serving God but was mistakenly persecuting Christians. In the other citation, where Paul said he was not a whit behind the others, he was referring to his subsequent development after conversion.

Eph. 3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

The term “beginning of the world [Greek aionion]” means “from the ages.” In other words, the “fellowship of the mystery,” which is “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” and includes Gentiles as well as Jews, was hidden from before even Jesus’ creation. Gentiles are on a par of equality with Jews in the body of Christ. A mixed class of Jews and Gentiles have the hope of the high calling.

How can the word “all” be explained—”to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which … hath been hid”? In “due time,” that is, in the Kingdom Age, others will be made aware of the mystery (1 Tim. 2:6). Verse 9 had a present fulfillment back there with Paul, but the fulfillment is ongoing. The word “men” is supplied and should be omitted, for angels are included in the statement. Knowledge of the mystery is primarily a lesson now to Christians and to fallen angels who repent and take a stand for righteousness; eventually, in the Kingdom, it will be a lesson to the world.

The phrase “by Jesus Christ” is spurious and, therefore, should be omitted. God created all things including the New Creation.

With regard to the word “mystery,” the Messiah is a multiple seed, composed of 144,000, as well as a mixed seed, comprising Gentiles and Jews. Stated another way, it is one kind of seed, which is taken from all nations and tongues.

Eph. 3:10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

The J. B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English reads, “The purpose is that all the angelic powers should now see the complex wisdom of God’s plan being worked out through the Church, in conformity to that timeless purpose which he centered in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” God’s wisdom and plan are being revealed to the fallen aspect of the “principalities and powers.” Prior to the Flood, the disobedient angels materialized and did as they chose, for it appeared that God was powerless to stop the rebellion, but when the Flood came, they were imprisoned in chains of darkness. Hence the fallen angels did see a judgment take place, but at that time, they did not see a plan for the permission of evil.

In regard to the gospel, mankind does not see the real purpose. The angels, however, have a much better vantage point. Unless they are incorrigible, they can now see that the permission of evil, as well as the development of a Church class, fits into a prepared plan. This revealment gives hope to the imprisoned angels who are not incorrigible. They would see the permission of evil as the much diversified wisdom of God and realize that if they repent and take a stand for God and righteousness, there is the possibility of their reinstatement to favor. They see God’s wisdom for them. Thus the enlightenment of the gospel—of the “mystery”—is not only for the consecrated of this age but also for the possible retrieval of those in the “principalities and powers.”

The angels, from their vantage point, can see the flaws and faults of a Christian, as well as the good points. The incorrigible angels try to exploit the faults, while the repentant and holy ones see the Christian struggle to resist temptations. The angels saw the Crucifixion and Jesus’ resurrection, and they also saw the resurrection of the sleeping saints. Thus the knowledge, which the world does not yet have, can be very helpful and instructive to the angels.

Eph. 3:11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

The Diaglott uses the expression “a plan of the ages” instead of “the eternal purpose.” Thus verse 11 would read, “According to a plan of the ages which he [God] purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The title of Volume 1, The Divine Plan of the Ages, is based on this Scripture, that is, on God’s plan of the ages.

Eph. 3:12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

In Jesus, through his merit, we have boldness and confidence to approach the throne of grace.

Eph. 3:13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

Eph. 3:14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

When Paul was in Ephesus, he certainly was persecuted, and when he taught in the school of Tyrannus, he had disputation (opposition) daily (Acts 19:9). Those who not only heard the disputation but were rightly exercised were added to the church at Ephesus.

Paul was saying, “The sufferings I encountered on your behalf should not discourage you, for we are called to endure sufferings, and the sufferings should result in your development and encouragement. I am not ashamed of the sufferings. For the very cause of sufferings, I bow my knees to the Father. Do not be discouraged because I am not discouraged.” Paul desired that the Ephesians “faint not.”

The “tribulations” in this context were Paul’s sufferings and persecutions at Ephesus, for example, disputations in the school of Tyrannus. Paul said, “I have fought with [figurative] beasts at Ephesus” (1 Cor. 15:32). While there he suffered great bitterness, opposition, and persecution.

The phrase “of our Lord Jesus Christ” is spurious. The Epistle to the Ephesians shows the primacy of the Father.

Eph. 3:15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

“Of whom [God] the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” When created, the holy angels were called the “sons of God.” Those who did not sin under the severe test in the days of Noah are still considered such. The trial on the angels was severe because it appeared that God lacked power to correct, punish, etc. To be faithful, the angels had to have innate confidence in Him. Those who passed that test have everlasting life.

Angels and mankind (that is, Adam) were all from God originally. When created, they were perfect and Godlike—and hence were called “sons of God” (Gen. 6:2; Job 38:7). The willing and obedient of the human race in the Kingdom will again be called “sons of God” when they attain perfection (Rev. 21:7).

Eph. 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;

Eph. 3:17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

Paul wanted the Ephesians to be strengthened to be able to take a stand on their own. They had been nurtured for a while. Now Paul prayed that they had come to that state where they could take a stand as necessary. That is why with mother and child, there comes a time when a separation should occur and the child is considered an adult. A feeling of motherhood and fatherhood throughout life is fine as long as the parents do not override the adult children, for the latter must be considered separate entities. Paul desired that the Ephesians might be strengthened to the point where they would be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.

Christ dwells in our hearts not literally but by faith. It is like our fighting the good fight of faith, which is fought not with literal carnal weapons. The inner man is strengthened, not the outer man. Faith would be the muscles and power of our fight, for we overcome the world by our faith. And we must be “rooted and grounded [developed] in love.”

Eph. 3:18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

Do all saints comprehend the breadth, length, depth, and height? No, for that is the ideal we are trying to grow into. A way to understand verse 18 is to liken it to letting down a cable into the sea. By letting an international cable go out and out, and seeing it go down and down but not resting on the ocean floor, we have a greater appreciation of the awesomeness of depth. To spiritually comprehend the breadth, length, depth, and height of God’s power and love, we should meditate on His power in the heavens and on all His works of nature, His ability to know our innermost thoughts, etc. We cannot fully plumb the heights and depths, but we should strive to understand as much as possible. On this side of the veil, we grasp these to a greater or lesser extent but not fully.

Eph. 3:19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

“The love of Christ … [sur]passeth knowledge.” None of us can have more love than Christ.

Apart from God, he is the best example or manifestation of the operation of love.

“That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” Vessel sizes vary from one individual to another, but we hope to be filled; that is, we hope the vessel grows larger and larger so that the fullness will expand. This portion of verse 19 could also be expressed: “that ye might be filled with Godlikeness.” In other words, we are to be filled as much as possible with Godlikeness.

The combined thought of verses 18 and 19 is that we should try to grow into a comprehension of Christ’s love, for it is awesome! Not all Christians grasp the concept of his love as they should, but we can spiritually try to discern it. We grasp the comprehension in part in the present life, to a greater or lesser extent.

Eph. 3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

Eph. 3:21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

“Unto him [God] be glory in the church by Christ Jesus.” With the sublime level of thinking, especially the secret, or mystery, of what God’s intent has been, Paul got so excited that he summed up as in a prayer: “Thanks be to God for His goodness to us, for doing exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. Amen!” “Throughout all ages, world without end” means into the illimitable future, into the ages of ages, which, we believe, have to do with different universes. God has named all the stars, and with each one, He has a plan and purpose.

Acts 20

“And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia.

“And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece,

“And there abode three months. And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia.

“And there accompanied him into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus.

“These going before tarried for us at Troas.

“And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.” (Acts 20:1-6)

This chapter in the Book of Acts tells of Paul’s later activities with some from Ephesus. When he left Ephesus, he went north to Macedonia by boat. There he visited Philippi and then went on to Greece, where he stayed for three months. He intended to go to Syria by boat, but when he realized an ambush had been prepared, he changed his itinerary and returned to Macedonia.

Paul ended up in Troas in Asia Minor. Incidentally, at that time, northern Israel and all of Lebanon were part of Syria.

“And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

“And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.

“And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.

“And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.

“When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.

“And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.” (Acts 20:7-12)

Paul restored to life a young man who had gone to sleep during a long sermon and fallen down from a third story. Paul’s sermon lasted all night and until daybreak. It was customary for meetings to be held on the first day of the week, Sunday, because after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples on Sundays. “To break bread” meant to have a meeting and fellowship, plus probably to eat together.

“And we went before to ship, and sailed unto Assos, there intending to take in Paul: for so had he appointed, minding himself to go afoot.

“And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene.

“And we sailed thence, and came the next day over against Chios; and the next day we arrived at Samos, and tarried at Trogyllium; and the next day we came to Miletus.

“For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.

“And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church [to meet him].” (Acts 20:13-17)

Paul left at dawn after preaching all night, and walked to another destination while  Luke and seven others sailed. They met him at Assos. Why would Paul have walked? Possible reasons are that he met someone, paid a visit, or had personal fellowship. At Miletus, he summoned the Ephesian elders to meet him to say farewell.

“And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, ”Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:

“And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shown you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house,

“Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

“And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:

“Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.

“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

“And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.

“Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.

“For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.

“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

“Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

“Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

“And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

“I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.

“Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.

“I have shown you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

“And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.

“And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him,

“Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.” (Acts 20:18-38)

Paul’s first visit to Ephesus was short. His second visit lasted three years. On his third visit, which was off the mainland, he met the elders of Ephesus. Verses 18-38 cover his last discharge to those elders. Paul included a brief review of his three years at Ephesus. During that time, he had spoken publicly for three years to Jews and Gentiles and gone house to house to give personal instruction, all the while being in jeopardy of Jews who were trying to harm him. Paul had been fearless in doctrines as well. He had declared the whole counsel, regardless of opposition, if the truths were necessary for the hearers’ growth. And Paul had supported himself and those with him.

In addition, Paul warned the elders that false teachers of error would come in from the outside, and some would arise from within, bringing trouble along doctrinal lines. Paul said he would not see the elders again, and an emotional, tearful farewell followed.

In his epistles, the Apostle John carried on, or continued, this warning. John was a much stronger personality than is generally thought. His epistles are greatly misunderstood.

A footnote in the Diaglott for verse 28 is helpful. For the end of the admonition “Take heed therefore unto yourselves … to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood,” the footnote has “feed the Church of God, which he acquired by the blood of his own [Son].” In other words, God purchased the Church with the blood of Jesus.

Paul wanted to get back to Jerusalem by the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit had mechanically moved brethren in every city to speak prophetically of bonds and afflictions that awaited him in Jerusalem. That did happen, and he ended up being shipped back to Rome, where he was imprisoned under house arrest.

1985

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