Letter to the Ephesians: Commentary, Part 5 :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

Ephesians, Chapter 3:1-21, NKJV
The Mystery of Redemption

The Mystery of Redemption (vv.1-7)

“For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles – 2 if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel, 7 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.”

Paul is a prisoner in Rome for the “crime” of causing unrest in the Empire by preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has made a declaration of being “an apostle to the Gentiles” (Acts 9:15-16, 18:6), being given His commission directly from the Lord Jesus, of which the Ephesians church is a product (vv.1-2). The LORD had revealed to Paul that salvation is for both Jew and Gentile, obtainable only through Jesus. Many others have desired to know the plans and wonders of God, but He has revealed them to only a select few, entrusting them with the proclamation of His message (Deuteronomy 29:29) (vv.3-4).

The apostles were ordinary men who had known only hard labor and menial tasks. They were not scholars or people of high social stature, but regular down-to-earth men who were chosen by the Lord Jesus to spread the message of salvation (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16, 9:1-6), not just for His fellow Israelites but to all peoples (Matthew 11:28-30; John 3:16). Paul, who at one time was a hateful fanatic who despised Christ and His followers (1 Timothy 1:12-17), had encountered the risen Christ on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-6) and made him a “chosen vessel for service.” This he did by giving the gospel message to the Roman world (vv.5-7).

Perhaps your own testimony is not dramatic as you might believe, but you were given the opportunity to come to Jesus just as much as the vilest, most hideous reprobate that fell on his knees one day and cried unto the LORD for salvation. We are all now redeemed from our sins and have escaped the just punishment in hell we all deserve because of Jesus, and for this, we are to give Him all glory and honor.

Redeemed to Proclaim the Message of Christ (vv.8-13)

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, 9 and to make all 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; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.”

In almost all his letters, Paul reflects on his encounter with Christ and always reflects an attitude of thanksgiving, wonder, and humility in that Jesus allowed Him the honor of preaching the Gospel. It is that state of humility, where Paul had been blinded and taken to a house in Damascus where he was to be welcomed as a brother in Christ by Ananias (Acts 9:10-19), whom Jesus had called to go and minister to this humbled and rebuked Pharisee. After a short time, Paul became a “man on fire” for the cause of Christ and never stopped even amid severe troubles (2 Corinthians 11:24-33) until he was martyred for his faith decades later (2 Timothy 4:6-8). It was not until Paul was made to bow before the LORD and be knocked off his pedestal of self-righteousness and sin that he could be used for the glory of God.

That should be a lesson to all of us when we think that we are too important or not expendable (James 4:6). When we see ourselves as the sinners we are and that we are nothing without the mercy of God, that is when He can use us. It is because of the work of Christ and not us that we have access to God and are able to talk with Him as a friend as well as our King. We come to Him, not as proud adults, but as a little child full of trust and dependence on Him (Mark 10:15). Paul tells the church that they need not be worried or lose heart over his situation as a prisoner. Knowing that many people had come to faith in Christ through his preaching and pastoral concern, he believed that it was worth the hassle.

The Message of a Grateful Heart (vv.14-21)

14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 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, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Paul’s marvel at Christ’s saving grace upon him never dampened or wavered throughout his life. There are times when he could not grasp it yet was thankful for this act of mercy, not just upon himself but on everyone who has come to faith in Christ.

When did we lose that wonder? When did we place this act of love upon a shelf and carry on as if nothing happened?

Because of Pau’s obedience to the call and the preaching of the Good News of Christ, lives were transformed, and churches like the one in Ephesus were planted to continue spreading the Word of God and to assure everyone that Christ’s act of grace was for everyone. Paul prays that the Lord Jesus would grant his readers spiritual strength and riches in the Holy Spirit, that Christ would dwell in their hearts, enabling them to understand His love, knowledge, and glory, and to be continually filled with the traits of the LORD.

This prayer is totally selfless. He was not requesting prayers to get him out of prison or anything on his own behalf. His prayer was for the spiritual growth and maturity of the churches, and he wanted Jesus Christ to have all the glory no matter the situation.

Would that we all have that same attitude that is sorely lacking in the Christian world of today.

Paul’s prayer concludes with the benediction of declaring the gracious, immeasurable desire of God being able to do that which we are unable to conceive or ask, giving all glory and praise to God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Oh, that would we pray like that.