3:1 For this reason [God’s purpose to include Gentiles in His redemptive plan — refer to 2:1-22] I, Paul, the prisoner [see also 4:1 and 6:20 — Paul was in prison because of his ministry to the Gentiles as recorded in Acts 21:27-29; 22:21-22] of Christ Jesus [not of the Roman government] for the sake of you Gentiles— [Paul interrupted his prayer for the Ephesians and parenthetically elaborated on how he came to be a minister to the Gentiles in verses 2-13. He resumed his prayer in verse 14.]
Note: Paul endured hardships and imprisonment for the sake of sharing the gospel with the Gentiles (see 2 Cor. 11:16-33). What have we endured for the sake of sharing the gospel with others?
3:2 Surely you have heard about the administration [stewardship: from the Greek oikonomia or “law of the house” — refers to a commission or appointment — see 1 Cor. 4:2 regarding what is expected of stewards] of God’s grace [the means by which God chose and equipped an unworthy vessel like Paul for ministry] that was given to me [God entrusted Paul with the responsibility of sharing the gospel — see also 1 Tim. 1:12-14] for you [Paul saw himself as a man obligated to share the good news with all people — see Rom. 1:14],
Note: Do you feel obligated to share the good news with all people? Do we indeed owe Christ to all people? Do we have a right to withhold the gospel from any person?
3:3 that is, the mystery [a truth mostly concealed in the OT but now an open secret to those in God’s family — namely to unite Jewish and Gentile believers into one family, the body of Christ] made known to me by revelation [disclosed by the Holy Spirit — see also Acts 22:17-21], as I have already written briefly [see 1:9-12; 2:11-12].
Note: What convinced Paul of God’s plan to combine believing Gentiles with believing Jews to constitute His new covenant people?
3:4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight [comprehension and understanding] into the mystery [namely, that in Christ, Jew and Gentile become one in God’s sight — see also 3:6] of Christ [Christ was the source of the revelation and the Gentiles were the subject of the revealed mystery],
Note: Does our insight into the gospel motivate us to share the good news with others? Are we motivated to impart our understanding of the gospel with others?
3:5 which was not made known [with fullness and clarity] to men [see 1 Pet. 1:10-12] in other generations [OT taught that Gentiles would be included in God’s plan: Gen. 12:3 and Ps. 46:10 — but no one knew the full meaning of God’s promise to Abraham in Gen. 12:3 — see Paul’s explanation in Gal. 3:8] as it has now been revealed [the mystery is now revealed more clearly than ever before] by the Spirit [who made possible the newer and clearer revelation — see 2 Pet. 1:20-21] to God’s holy [refers to those “set apart” for the task of proclaiming the gospel to others] apostles and prophets [the instruments God used to write Scripture].
Note: The Holy Spirit played an important role in helping Paul understand God’s inclusive purpose. What role does the Holy Spirit play today in helping believers tell others what Jesus can do for them?
3:6 This mystery [the content of this mystery…] is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs [see 2:12] together [the word “together” is used three times in this verse — there are indeed no second-class citizens in God’s kingdom — see Gal. 3:28 and 1 Cor. 12:13 — Gentiles have the exact same legal status before God as His chosen people] with Israel [of the wonderful riches of God — see Gal. 3:29], members together [indistinguishable in God’s eyes from any other member of His family] of one body [by virtue of our spiritual birth we are all members of the body of Christ, the church — see Eph. 4:4], and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus [contrast with 2:1-22].
Note: Are we more likely to be concerned about the salvation of those similar to us or those different from us? Why? Are we willing to accept into our fellowship those who are different from us? What is Paul’s instruction about this?
3:7 I became [by the grace and power of God] a servant [from the Greek diakonos — Paul served God by sharing the gospel with Gentiles everywhere he went] of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace [and not by Paul’s merit or worth] given me through the working [from the Greek energia] of His power [from the Greek dunamis — like Paul we too must rely on God’s power to share the gospel].
Note: Telling others about Jesus is divine work. Divine work can only be done in dependence upon divine power. God’s grace and power helped Paul become an effective communicator of the gospel.
3:8 Although I [the name Paul means “little” in Latin] am less [perhaps Paul was making an allusion to his own name] than the least [see 1 Cor. 15:9 and 1 Tim. 1:15 — only the grace and power of God can make “the least” into a minister] of all God’s people [Paul always marveled that God had chosen him for such a noble task], this grace [the special endowment from God to carry out his ministry] was given me: to preach [from the Greek euaggelizo — to announce good news — see Acts 26:16] to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches [a message so rich that no person can ever calculate its wealth] of Christ,
Note: What was Paul’s attitude about his responsibility to share the gospel? What is your attitude about sharing the gospel?
3:9 and to make plain [to shed light upon something so that no person will be in the dark] to everyone [Jews and Gentiles alike] the administration of this mystery [the outworking of God’s revealed plan to unite Jews and Gentiles into one body], which for ages past was kept hidden in God [see Gal. 4:4-5], who created all things.
Note: How can we make plain the good news to those who do not understand it? See Acts 8:26-40.
3:10 His intent [see 3:8-9] was that now [in order that], through the church [the instrument responsible for making the message of salvation known to the world], the manifold [variegated — suggests the beauty of] wisdom of God should be made known [to all humanity and…] to the rulers and authorities [the unfolding drama of redemption displays God’s wisdom to “the rulers and authorities”…] in the heavenly realms,
3:11 according to His eternal purpose [The unfolding of this great mystery is not a divine afterthought. Like Paul, those who share the gospel participate in the “eternal purpose” of God.] which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Note: What is the church’s responsibility in sharing the gospel with others? The Baptist Standard (9/2/98) reported: “More than 10,000 churches in the denomination failed to baptize even one person last year.” Is a church that is not growing fulfilling God’s purpose? Why, or why not? How can a church help its members overcome their reluctance to tell others about Jesus?
3:12 In Him [see 1 John 5:14 and Matt. 7:7-11] and through faith in Him we may approach [have personal access to] God [see Heb. 4:16] with freedom [boldness] and confidence [assurance of acceptance].
3:13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings [imprisonment] for you [because Paul stood for the equality of Gentiles with Jews in the body of Christ], which are your glory.
Note: How can these two verses help you remain confident that God will be with you as you speak for Him?
3:14 For this reason [these words point back to Eph. 2:14-22] I kneel [reflected both Paul’s posture and attitude; to earnestly pray for the Ephesian believers] before the Father,
3:15 from whom his [God’s] whole family [Gr. “patria” from “pater” (father)] in heaven and on earth derives its name.
3:16 I pray [this is Paul’s second prayer for the church at Ephesus in this letter (see also Eph. 1:15-19a)] that out of his glorious riches [God’s riches are beyond measure] he may strengthen [opposite of discouraged in 3:13] you with power [spiritual energy] through his Spirit in your inner being,
3:17 so that Christ may dwell [to reside continuously or permanently] in your hearts [refers to the center of one’s emotions and will] through faith [refers to the ongoing faith of the continuing Christian life]. And I pray that you, being [note present result of a past action] rooted [agricultural metaphor that expresses stability] and established [metaphor from building trades that expresses stability] in love,
3:18 may have power, together with [reminder that we are part of a body of believers] all the saints [term for believers], to grasp [to reach out and hold; to apprehend (and to comprehend)] how [four dimensions express the all-inclusive and all-encompassing love of God in Christ] wide [His love is wide enough to encompass the world and narrow enough to embrace me] and long [His love will never run short but will extend into eternity; His love is inexhaustible] and high [only His love can lift us high] and deep [cf. Ps. 86:13; “There is no pit so deep but that God’s love is not deeper still.” (Corrie ten Boom)] is the love of Christ,
Note: Depth and height are two ways of expressing the same dimension. Height is measured from bottom to top. Depth is measured from top to bottom.
3:19 and to know [experiential knowledge] this love that surpasses [is unfathomable; beyond anyone’s capacity to understand] knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure [with nothing lacking] of all the fullness of God [expressed in Christ (cf. Col. 2:9-10); cf. Matt. 5:48].
Note: Consider the following things about God’s love.
• Reaching: came to us as baby in a manger
• Unconditional: modeled by Jesus
• Self-sacrificing: humiliating death on a cross
• Victorious: could not be kept in a tomb
• Unending: will continue after heaven and earth pass away
3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more [“exceedingly abundantly above” NKJV] than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
3:21 to him [God and God alone] be glory in the church [exists to glorify God] and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.