The Content of the Mystery Revealed to Paul: Part 1 of 3 (series: Lessons on Ephesians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Commentary on the Book of Ephesians

By: Tom Lowe Date: 5/16/17


Lesson 12: The Content of the Mystery Revealed to Paul (3:1-7)


Ephesians 3:1-7 (KJV)

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
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;
6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
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.


Commentary

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,

For this cause
What was “this cause?” It could have been one or more of the following:
• The apostle believed that his mission was to preach this doctrine; that is, the doctrine that the Gospel was to be proclaimed to the Gentiles.
• Paul was convinced that the Gentiles were given access to all the privileges of the Jews, and all the blessings of the new covenant, without being obliged to submit to circumcision. Once he revealed this conviction,⸺probably placed in his mind and heart by the Holy Spirit⸺the Jews persecuted him, and caused him to be imprisoned, first at Caesarea, where he was obliged to appeal to the Roman emperor, which resulted in him being sent as a prisoner to Rome (Acts 21:21-28).
• That you, Jews and Gentiles, may be a habitation of God, through the Spirit.

I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ
“Paul,” calls himself “the prisoner of Jesus Christ;” that is, a prisoner in the service of the Lord Jesus; or made a prisoner for His cause. Not a prisoner for crime or debt, or as a captive in war, but a captive in the service of the Redeemer. He was apprehended by Him on the Damascus Road, where He was immediately made Christ's prisoner, the Jews' prisoner, the Romans' prisoner, the Gentiles' prisoner; Christ's prisoner, because he suffered for His Gospel; the Jews' prisoner, since he suffered from their accusations; the Romans' prisoner, for he would suffer as a result of their sentence; the Gentiles’ prisoner, because he suffered as the result of his struggle in order to bring them the Gospel of salvation. He was in prison for preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles and showing that they were not bound by the Law of Moses, and yet were called to be fellow citizens with the saints; for this very cause the Jews persecuted him, saw to it that he was imprisoned and conspired to take his life. This proves that at the time of writing this, Paul was in bonds, and there can be no question that he was in Rome.

For you Gentiles
This Epistle is supposed to have been written when Paul was at Rome, confined and in chains (Acts 28:16, 30.). When Paul wrote this, he was awaiting trial under Nero and in all probability fully aware of the ultimate martyrdom that awaited him; but there is no word of complaint here. In fact, he is not Nero's prisoner at all, but the prisoner of Christ! When Paul suffered, from whatever cause, it was all for Christ. To all outward appearances Paul was a prisoner of the Roman government, but that is not the way Paul looked at it, at all. He thought of himself as suffering and being imprisoned for the sake of Christ.

The cause of his imprisonment and of all his difficulties was that he maintained that the Gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles; that when the Jews rejected it God rejected them; and that he was especially called to carry the message of salvation to the pagan world. In addition to Paul's defense of the right of "the Gentiles" to be received "into Christ," he labored to bring the Jewish and Gentile Christians together; to remove their suspicion of each other and to build their trust, for he knew that if the Gentile Christians were declared to be non-Jewish, then they came under Roman laws regarding illegal religions; but so long as they were regarded as a Jewish sect, they were immune from such laws with their death penalty.

2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God
By “the dispensation rendered “stewardship” in Luke 16:2-4 of the grace of God” is meant either the apostolic office and gifts

granted to Paul, for the purpose of preaching the Gospel among the Gentiles, (Romans 1:5); or the knowledge which God gave him of that gracious and Divine plan which he had formed for the conversion of the Gentiles.

What is NOT meant here by “grace” is the free love and favor of God in His heart towards His people; nor internal grace formed in the heart of the apostle; but either the gift of grace, which is the subject of Ephesians 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.”; qualifying him for the work of the ministry; or rather the doctrine of grace, the Gospel, the subject matter of which is the grace of God; it is a declaration of the free grace of God in the salvation of men; and it is the means of conveying the grace of God into their hearts. The title given to the Gospel is the grace of God; partly because the glad tidings which the Gospel brings are the effect and product of God's grace and favor, and partly because the Gospel is the instrument and means of working peace in the souls of persons.

Now the apostle had the authority and freedom to preach this Gospel committed to him; he acted with authority, and as a steward of the mysteries of God, which he faithfully dispensed to the family of Christ, who appointed him to this service. The Ephesians had heard of this, from the associates and friends of the apostle, and others, and so, they knew it themselves, having often heard him preach, for he was with them for the space of three years. Therefore, this is not said as if he questioned whether they had heard or not, but as if he took it for granted that they had.

which is given me to you-ward
“The Gospel” was not given to him for his own private use, nor was the gifts of the Spirit given him solely to qualify him for dispensing it, but for the sake of others, especially the Gentiles, and particularly the Ephesians.

There is reason to believe that while Paul was at Ephesus, he had said nothing on these subjects, since no necessity for doing so had arisen; for no controversy had taken place among them about the calling of the Gentiles. If he had made any mention of them in his discourses, he would have reminded the Ephesians of his former statements, instead of referring generally, as he now does, to common knowledge and to his own Epistle. He did not, of his own accord, provoke unnecessary disputes. It was only when the wickedness of his adversaries made it necessary, that he reluctantly undertook the defense of his ministry.

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

How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery
Modern theologians have argued over whether Paul derived his thinking from Greek philosophers or Jewish rabbis, but Paul clearly states that it came from God. Various truths about the Bible are learned from “revelation”:
• It is understandable. It was designed (by divine wisdom) to be understood by all. It infers that unaided human wisdom is bankrupt. Or after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (1 Corinthian 1:21)
• It means that God’s truth cannot be learned by “feelings” or “intuition” (Proverbs 16:25).
• “Paul had not discovered God’s mystery by natural means. He had not figured it out through reasoning.
• Man had not whispered it into his ear. Listen to what Paul said in his letter to the Galatians “But I certify you, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12).

Therefore, Paul’s letters are not “Paul’s Theology.” It is God’s point of view and in God’s own selected words Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:13).

Again, Paul had not reasoned it out or stumbled upon it. Everyone on the face of this planet would be completely ignorant of the Gospel message and God’s will for mankind, if God had not spoken But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9) The Gospel is not a product of the elite or super-smart. It had to be “made known” to Paul. This phrase contradicts the idea that Paul “invented” the Gospel he preached or parts of it.

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