Lesson 13: The Wisdom of the Mystery Revealed: Part 1 of 3 (series: Lessons on Ephesians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Commentary on the Book of Ephesians
By: Tom Lowe Date: 6/8/17

Lesson 13: The Wisdom of the Mystery Revealed to Angelic Beings (3:8-13)

Ephesians 3:8-13 (KJV)

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;
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:
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,
11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.


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;

“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints” is an example of the great humility of the apostle, and I believe that most of you who know the word of God would agree that the greatest saints are, generally speaking, the most humble people; men such as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and others have the lowest opinion of themselves, and the best of others. They rejoice in the grace of God displayed in others; they are willing to receive instruction and advice from ordinary believers; they have the least opinion of their own work and actions, and are the greatest admirers of the grace of God; and do most cheerfully submit to the sovereign will of God. The reasons for their great humility are: (1), because they have received a large amount of the love and grace of God and Christ, which are of a soul humbling nature; (2), they are the most conscious of their own sinfulness, vileness, and unworthiness, which keeps them from being pretentious and conceited; (3), they are generally the most afflicted with Satan's temptations, which are allowed to badly affect them, “lest they should be exalted above measure”; (4), they are the most fruitful souls, and are willing to share the Gospel with the very lowest of humanity; and (5), they are the most conformable to Christ, who is meek and lowly.

“Who am less than the least of all saints” is one of the class of expressions unique to Paul. The phrase means here, “who am incomparably the least of all the saints; or who am not worthy to be reckoned among the saints.” It is expressive of the deep sense which he had of the sinfulness of his past life; of his guilt in persecuting the church and the Savior; and perhaps of his sense of his low attainments in piety. Paul never could put the guilt of his former life behind him; never forget the time when he was engaged in persecuting the church of God.

“Less than the least” is similar to “more than the most” or “higher than the highest,” etc. “No disciple of Paul’s would have thought of giving the apostle so low a place” among the Saints of God; furthermore, it is obvious to any thoughtful person that “no Christian who ever lived” would have given Paul so low a place! That is, none except the holy apostle himself who wrote the epistle.

“Is this grace given” that is, the gift of grace, the ministerial gift:

“That I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”; the riches of Christ, as God, lie in the perfections of His nature, in the works of His hands, in His empire and dominion over all, and in the proceeds of glory, which result from the “riches of Christ”; and these riches are inherent and beyond description, and are too wonderful for words, and inconceivable to our finite minds.

His riches, as Mediator, lie in the persons of the elect, in the grace that is laid up in Him for them, called the “riches of grace,” and in the inheritance He has kept safe in Heaven for them, called the “riches of glory”; and these rich things are transmittable, as well as solid, satisfying, and lasting; and they are unsearchable to the natural man, and cannot be fully investigated by believers themselves; they will last for all eternity: and they will appear unsearchable, when it is considered what they have procured, and what blessings have been dispensed.

What a large family Christ has maintained by them, and how richly and fully he has provided for them, and to what honor and grandeur he raises them all. Now it was great grace to entrust the apostle with such a ministry, to put such treasure into an earthen vessel; it was great grace that qualified him for it; and it was great grace in particular to the Gentiles, that he should be appointed to publish these among them; and so the apostle considered it, and himself unworthy of such honor.
There is no more emphatic expression in the New Testament than this. It shows that the heart of the apostle was full of admiration for the sufficiency and glory that was in the Savior; that he wanted words to express it; and that he considered it the highest honor to be permitted to tell the world that there were such riches in the Redeemer. Paul’s thought in this connection was that such unsearchable riches were to be provided for all mankind through his preaching. There was a sense in which he could give such incredible wealth to everyone on earth! This was why Paul so appreciated and honored the office which God gave him, that of the apostleship.

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:

“And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, in order that the whole human family might see the glory of God in the plan of salvation. Up till now the revelation of His character and plans had been confined to the Jews. Now it was his aim that the entire human race would be made familiar with it. The message of salvation is to be preached to human beings, not angels, spirits or other non-terrestrial beings. It is important to keep this in mind when we come to the next verse.
Someone is sure to ask, “What is the fellowship of the mystery.” Instead of “fellowship,” most versions read “dispensation,” and most interpreters consider it the genuine reading. The mistake might easily have been made by a transcriber. The meaning then would be, “to enlighten all with respect to the right dispensation of this mystery;” that is, to cause all to understand the manner in which this great truth of the plan of salvation is communicated to people. If the word “fellowship” is to be retained, it means that this doctrine, or secret counsel of God, was now “familiar” to all believers. It was not to be confined to any class or rank of people. Other commentators have rendered it, “and to make all people perceive how this mystery comes now to be communicated to the world”; and “the common participation of the mystery;” that is, of truths formerly unknown, and which could not be known by man‘s unaided powers, but which were now laid open by the gracious dispensation of Divine Providence; no longer concealed, or confined to a few, but to be shared by all. Essentially, Christ himself is the mystery; there is a thumbnail biography of Christ in which He is actually called the mystery⸺“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was 1manifest in the flesh, 2justified in the Spirit, 3seen of angels, 4preached unto the Gentiles, 5believed on in the world, 6received up into glory” (1 Timothy 1:13). The six items of that biography are the various elements of the mystery.

The “great mystery” in Christianity was made known to all. It was concealed from none and there was no distinction made among those who were believers. No truths which God had revealed were held back from any part of Christianity, but there was a common participation by all. Christianity has no hidden truths reserved for only a part of its friends; it has no reserved doctrines; it has no truths to be entrusted only to a sacred priesthood. Its doctrines are to be published to the whole wide world, and every follower of Christ is to be a partaker of all the benefits of the truths which Christ has revealed.

The general sense is that Paul felt he was called into the ministry in order that all people might understand now that salvation was free for all, a truth that had been concealed for ages. The impact of this great truth is that he felt that he had a message of incalculable value for mankind, and he desired to go and proclaim it to the entire world.

“Which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God”; God's plan of human redemption has always existed in the purpose of God, the fact that it was hidden indicates that there were people who might have understood it if God had chosen to reveal it. God does not owe it to anyone to explain why the mystery was concealed for a long time; as a matter of fact, He doesn’t owe anyone, anything. It was concealed not only from the Gentiles, but also from the Jews; and according to 1 Peter 1:12{1], it was also concealed from the angels in heaven. It was even concealed from the holy prophets of the Old Testament who were given revelations in words which they did not fully understand concerning this very mystery (1 Peter 1:10-12{2]).

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