Ephesians 3:1-13 Paul's Ministry

The 6 chapters of Ephesians divide neatly into two Sections of 3 chapters each. The first describes the riches of God’s Grace (chapters 1-3), and how God provided them for us in Christ. It focuses on the work of the Trinity in salvation, and our posture before God is to SIT (trust) in what God has done, receiving the life that God gives. The second Section (chapters 4-6) sets forth how we should live in the light of this grace. This is our WALK before the world. Christianity first of all reveals the WAY TO LIFE, then it reveals the WAY TO LIVE. God’s life must first be received and then expressed in life. Religion says ‘get your lifestyle right then you will gain life’, but Christianity says ‘life is a free-gift, and a changed lifestyle is the result’. 

Ephesians 1-3 is designed as a Church Service
2. PRAISE (1:3-14) to God for the riches of His grace.
3. PRAYER (1:15-23) for deeper revelation of this grace (our hope in Christ.
4. PREACHING (2:1-23) of the Mystery.
5. TESTIMONY (3:1-13) of God’s work through Paul.
6. PRAYER (3:14-19) for the manifestation of God’s glory in us.
7. DOXOLOGY (3:20,21) - Final Praise.

Then Ephesians 4-6 describes us living out in the world what we have received. One benefit of faithfulness in Church attendance is our own spiritual health. We get filled up with His Spirit and the knowledge of God’s Word, so that we can go out bringing the love of Christ to the world.

Ephesians 3 concludes the first Section which contains one of the great prayers of the Bible. Having described in ch 2 how Christ demolished both the Jew-Gentile and God-man barriers to create a new Temple for God to dwell in and fill with His glory, Paul now wants to pray for us that we (this Temple) would be filled with His love, grace and Spirit, so that we would show Him forth in our lives (ch 4-6 directs us how to do this). Paul sets out to pray in 3:1: “For this reason (that we are God’s Temple - Eph 2:20-22) I, Paul....”, but then he takes a side-journey to talk more personally about his special ministry from God (v1-13). Then in v14 he gets back to his prayer: “For this reason (that we are God’s Temple) I bow my knees to the Father...”

 (telling us about Paul’s unique ministry as the apostle to the Gentiles): 

(1) “For this reason I, Paul’... (his mission led him to use his Greek name, ‘Paul’, rather than the Hebrew, ‘Saul’....‘the prisoner of Christ Jesus” (see Eph 4:1,6:20; 2Tim 1:8; Phil 1:9). Originally God arrested Paul when he was arresting Christians. Now he was in a Roman prison but he was still ‘the prisoner of the Lord’ - he was there by God’s will. Some say that it was his stubborness in going to Jerusalem that got him in trouble and out of God’s will. But Paul never acknowledged this. Instead he consistently implies his imprisonment was part of God’s plan. In following God’s will, there is always suffering and opposition which God will ultimately work for good, but many will interpret these things as signs of you not being in God’s will.

(2) ‘for you Gentiles
’ (v1). To reach the Gentiles God chose the most fanatical Jew! As the apostle to the Gentiles he received and preached the ‘mystery-revelation’ of equality of Jew and Gentile in the body of Christ, the new Temple of God (Ephesians 2). He was arrested because of fanatical Jewish opposition to his preaching stand for Gentile equality in Christ. What he teaches in Ephesians carries extra weight because he is laying his life down for it. 

Later he says: “Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you (Gentiles), which is your(Gentile) glory” (v13). As in Phil 1:12-14, he was telling Christians not to be discouraged by his imprisonment, because through it, he had brought the Gospel into the centre of the Roman Empire, even into the Emperor’s household and military at Rome (think of the soldiers chained to Paul!) as well as giving him opportunity to write the Prison Epistles (Ephesians and Colossians) where his revelation was recorded for the whole Church.

(3) The Grace of God upon Paul
: Twice in the next verses Paul refers to: “the grace of God which was given to me” (v2,7) to speak of two privileges. First, he received a Revelation. Second, he received a Commission to make it known to others. Both a Mystery and a Ministry was entrusted to him: “if indeed you have heard of the dispensation(stewardship) of the grace of God which was given to me for you (Gentiles)” (v2). A Steward is a Manager of the Owner’s resources. Paul 
stewarded God’s grace: ‘He put me in charge of distributing God’s wealth’.

1. He received a revelation from God (the mystery)- good-news for Gentiles: 
“how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already (the Mystery of the Body of Christ 
- Eph 2:11-23), by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)”(v3,4).  

A Mystery is something that had been secret (in the Old Testament), but is now revealed: “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”(v5, c.f. v9). In the Official Secrets Act, secrets are revealed after a set time. Likewise in due time, God shared this secret with the apostles for them to share it with us. Paul now tells the secret that changed the world: “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers with them of His promise in Christ through thegospel” (v6). 

In Christ, God deals with Gentiles as ‘fellow heirs’ on equal terms as Jews.  The Mystery concerns Christ (Col 4:3) and the union of both Jew and Gentile in ‘the same body’ through their union with Him. Thus Gentiles can come directly to God through Jesus without having to become part of Israel and submit to their ordinances such as circumcision. In the Old Testament the promises were mostly for the Jews, but now we are equal ‘partakers with them’ of Christ. To partake together is to share the same thing, as in eating bread together in fellowship. Before Jews would not even eat with Gentiles. 

2. He received a commission (appointed and anointed) to minister this gospel revelation: “of which (gospel) I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power” (v7). 
With the revelation he was given a ministry by the working of God’s power. He was given both the message and the power to communicate it. If God calls He will also empower us. We can’t choose our ministry - only God can by His anointing. 

“To me! - who am less than the least of all the saints (‘Paul’ means ‘small’) this grace was given” (v8a). He was overwhelmed by the privilege of this ministry. Serving the Lord may involve hardship but rather than brag as to how much we are doing or suffering - we should see it as an immense honour. His humilty comes from knowing what he is in the flesh (see 1Tim 1:12-15 - he had been the main persecutor of the Church. When Jesus said: ‘why do you persecute Me?’, Paul got a revelation of the Church being Christ’s body and was horrified at being satan’s chief tool in attacking Christ. He had qualified for major curse but God made him a trophy of grace as if to say: ‘if I can change the chief of sinners, I can do it for you.’ Paul’s humilty allowed God’s power to work freely. 

He now elaborates three purposes of this ministry: 

1. Christ’s Riches: “that I should preach among the Gentiles the (infinite) unsearchable riches of Christ”(v8b). This speaks of all God’s blessings that are available to all through faith in Christ. The Gospel is both revelation from God and riches to men, which is why we must steward it well.

2. The Mystery: “and to make all men see (to turn the light on in their minds, so they are no more in darkness - Acts 26:17,18) 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” (v9). This speaks of the union of Jew and Gentile in one Body - the Church. The One who created the universe has begun a New Creation of humanity (Paul’s claim that Jesus Christ is the Creator of all proves His Deity (Isa 44:24).

3. A Glorious Church: “to the intent that now the manifold
 wisdom of God might be made known by the Church to the principalities and powers in the heavenlies" (v10). 

The preaching of (1) Christ and (2) the Church actually brings forth the Church, causing its growth in unity. His 3rd Purpose was for this Church to be a demonstration to the world, even to the angels and demons. His desire was for 
the Church together to show forth the many-coloured (as in a rainbow) grace and wisdom of God (diversity in harmony). God’s will must be modelled by the Church for all to see. The process of revelation: God-Paul-Church-Cosmos is only complete when the Church expresses through its life together the multi-faceted grace of God. 

His life’s vision was the glorious Church - a secret hidden in God, even from angels, now brought forth as the Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy-Spirit, the Dwelling Place of God. This was the most important thing for him. The Church is vital to God’s dealings and purpose for our lives (there is no solitary Christian-life). To Paul, being saved was to be in God’s family, Christ’s Body, the Spirit’s Temple. By the Church working together in love and unity (showing all barriers are broken down) God’s glory is manifested in the earth. 

This is God’s vision and eternal purpose: “according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access (to the grace and wisdom we are to show forth) with confidence through faith in Him”(v11,12) for which Paul was prepared to suffer (v13).



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