In chapter 3 of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we continue with a look at doctrinal and theological issues. This chapter will focus specifically on the revelation of the mystery of the gospel and a prayer for spiritual strength.
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
Ephesians 3:1 KJV
“For this cause” or for this reason: what reason?
We need to remember that this is a letter, and that chapter 3 is not separated from chapter 2 though we might tend to study in such fashion. So, looking back at chapter 2 we notice the reason in verses 19-22.
- We are fellow citizens – Jews and Gentiles who believe
- Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ being the cornerstone
- Growing into a holy temple in the Lord
- Into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit
- And in 3:6, the Gentiles are fellow heirs, of the same body, partakers of the promise
“Prisoner of Jesus Christ” or, in another version, “Prisoner for Christ Jesus.”
Paul was a literal prisoner in 62 A.D. when this letter was written. This was due to his faithful commitment to preaching Christ. He was also, so to speak, a prisoner of Christ Himself as he was compelled to continue with the ministry of taking the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul did as he preached concerning dying to self and carrying one’s cross.
* 1 Although arrested on Jewish charges, Paul did not consider himself a prisoner of the Jews. Although imprisoned by Roman authority, he did not consider himself a prisoner of Rome. Although he had appealed to Caesar, he did not consider himself Caesar’s prisoner. He was a minister of Jesus Christ, bought with a price, and given the special mission of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. He was therefore the prisoner of Christ Jesus.
“For you Gentiles” or on behalf of you Gentiles. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, and it was clearly for the sake of the Gentiles that He continued in the ministry to which he had been called.
If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
Ephesians 3:2 KJV
Paul is suggesting that he is assuming the folks reading the letter know of the ministry to which he was called, and that God was the source of both the call and the grace to carry it out. Again, he states that it was for their sake, or on their behalf, that the grace was given him.
How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
Ephesians 3:3-4 KJV
Paul reminds the readers that he had already mentioned the mystery to them (and us) so there can be an understanding that he has knowledge concerning it.
Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather
together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
Ephesians 1:9-10 KJV
The reason in verse 1, here, coupled with the verses 1:9-10, tell the story of the mystery. We need to remember that a mystery in this bible context is a truth that is being revealed that was previously unknown, as he describes in verse 5. Other generations did not have this detailed information.
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;
Ephesian 3:5 KJV
God revealed this mystery, this truth, to His apostles and prophets. It was now their responsibility to make it known to mankind, in fact, taking the gospel to all creation. He says this revelation was made by the Holy Spirit to apostles and prophets. It came from God to multiple people, not Paul alone. One example would be the story of Peter going to Cornelius in Caesarea (Acts 10:1 – 11:18)
When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
Acts 11:18 KJV
And of course, we do not know how many instances took place that were not recorded in scripture.
That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
Ephesians 3:6 KJV
The Mystery is reiterated by Paul.
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.
Ephesians 3:7 KJV
Paul again states that he was made a minister by God to take this gospel to the people. He acknowledges the power of God as the source of the gift of grace that empowers him to do what God is instructing him to do.
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; 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:
Ephesians 3:8-9 KJV
Paul acknowledges several things here as a clarification.
- The grace was given to him
- He is as great a sinner, in need of a savior, as any of us are
- To preach the truths of Christ among the Gentiles; to bring the light
- To help us understand the mystery and our fellowship in Christ
- The mystery was hidden in God since the creation
- God created all things by Christ Jesus
The Son was not a created being as we are, though the body of Jesus was created within the womb of Mary. Christ Jesus, as the Son, was a participant in the creation of all things seen and unseen. And we must understand our position in relationship with Christ Jesus if we are to lead the life which He intends for us to live.
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the [church Ekklesia] the manifold wisdom of God,
Ephesians 3:10 KJV
It is through this mystery being revealed, and through the Ekklesia, that the rulers and authorities in heavenly places, both good and bad, would learn of the plan of God for the one body in Christ and the manifold wisdom of God.
Manifold: marked by diversity and variety; many (Merriam-Webster.com)
According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
Ephesians 3:11 KJV
This eternal purpose was realized in Christ Jesus. We are participating in the fulfillment of the plan of God as we have become living stones, members of the Body of Christ.
In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
Ephesians 3:12 KJV
It is by our faith in Christ that we are given the boldness to approach God and by which we can access with confidence the throne of God.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16 KJV
But as we have studied many times, this needs to be done in faith or it is of little to no value.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Hebrews 11:6 KJV
Paul’s desire is for every believer to be strong in their faith in Christ. He wants them to carry on with the work of the Kingdom of God whether he is present or not. We have access to the higher source, to God, through Christ, not through Paul.
Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
Ephesians 3:13 KJV
Ministry on behalf of the Kingdom of God has a cost attached to it. The tribulations are often different for all who serve God, though they may be the same in substance as the enemy’s schemes are known. He has a few schemes, but he uses them in many ways and to differing intensity.
And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them
to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
Acts 14:21-22 KJV
Jesus warned us to count the cost. We have record that Paul was going to be shown what the cost would be for the sake of proclaiming Christ.
But the Lord said unto him, “Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how great things he
must suffer for my name’s sake.”
Acts 9:15-16 KJV
Here Paul transitions to the thought of prayer for the readers of the letter asking God for a spiritual strength for them as they face such tribulations that they may remain true to their calling as he has demonstrated his faithfulness by the grace of God who empowered him. This is where the access in boldness before the throne of God is so important.
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
Ephesians 3:14-15 KJV
Paul demonstrates a couple of things concerning prayer that we may want to pay attention to.
- Physical position: bending the knees, or a position of kneeling
- A position of reverence and humility
- Heart condition: recognition of the stature or position of the one to whom we are praying
- Submission, or, reverence and humility
- “For this cause”: or for this reason
- Seeking the grace of God for the spiritual strength
- Requesting, not demanding
- Showing reverence and humility
That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
Ephesians 3:16 KJV
Paul’s first request for us from God is that His Spirit would be strengthening our spirit to withstand what we are to face. We cannot fathom the depth of the riches of His glory. Such is the depth of the Spirit strengthening our inner man. We need to take care not to limit the depth of His blessing, presence, and power.
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith;
Ephesians 3:17a KJV
Paul’s second request for us from God is that we would have the saving faith in our hearts to know that Christ dwells within us. This is the reason for our strengthening in our inner man; that Christ may be at home within us, free to dwell in the fullness of love, and free to communicate with us.
that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
Ephesians 3:17b-18 KJV
Paul’s third request for us from God is that in unity with all the saints, and being rooted and grounded in love as followers of Christ, we would comprehend these dimensions of God, His love, and the Kingdom.
And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
Ephesians 3:19 KJV
Paul’s fourth request for us from God is that with such comprehension, we would realize the greatness of the love of Christ for us, of which previously we could not have such knowledge as it certainly goes beyond our limits of understanding in our fleshly nature. Paul wants us to be, like Christ, filled with all the fullness of God.
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, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout
all ages, world without end. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21 KJV
Paul praises God as he once more tells of His great power and creativity that is beyond all that we can conceive of or imagine that He can do for us. He also shares, however, that the power by which it is done dwells within us. It is the power of Holy Spirit who dwells in us, and the will of Christ Jesus, our head, who acts through us, that enables us to do things that may be beyond our capability, understanding, or strength. And so, all the glory for all that is done goes through Christ Jesus to God Almighty. God is glorified through the righteous workings of the body of Christ, at the will of Christ, at the leading of Holy Spirit.
When all is being done properly, we are co-laboring with God for the sake of the Kingdom of God. This is our goal as we enter into Sonship, to become co-laborers with God and being about our Father’s business. In doing so, we enter into His rest. This relationship is far above merely being a believer or doing religious works. This is the relationship that impacts the world around us leading to positive change in our communities and cultures. This relationship takes the gospel to the nations.
*Adapted from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Ephesians
John F. MacArthur
1986 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago
- 1 (page 87)