Paul the Prisoner (v1-2)
Paul the Prophet (v3-6) – forthtelling the mind of God
Paul the Preacher (v7-13) – what he has received he now speaks
Paul the Priest (v14-21) – undertakes a priestly activity
Not just about Paul, applicable to us:
A Suffering Saint (v1-2) Lessons for us in our suffering
A Privileged Saint (v3-6) Privileges believer brought into
A Serving Saint (v7-13) The service of Christian life.
A Praying saint (v14-21) The apostle’s burden for evangelism & for others has as a consequence v14, “For this cause.”
The sanctuary is the preparation place for service
Prayer is the prerequisite for preaching
Paul the Prisoner: A Suffering Saint (v1-2)
Situation – imprisoned, unjustly accuse, restricted movements.
Had been given the task of evangelising the Gentile world, but now immobilised & incarcerated imprisoned.
Depressed? Disheartened? Discouraged? Defeated?
Through his suffering we can see a remarkable prisoner who can see:
The Purpose in a Prison Cell
If there’s purpose in a prison cell, there’s purpose in a believers suffering
Seen it at Philippi (Acts16) – Philippian Jailor & household saved.
v13 continues the thought.
Paul thought of his role as apostle to the Gentiles (v1). He could see his sufferings for their greater glory (v13) & for the building of the church, “For you Gentiles.” (v1)
Thought developed in Phil Chapter 1, tells us exactly how this happened:
His sufferings brought him into a whole new mission field (1:13).
By the end of the Philippian epistle he is able to send greetings from, “They that are of Caesar’s household,” (Philippians 4:22).
Was this experience in prison described in the Philippian epistle, one of the occasions when Satan overstepped himself?
Apostle Paul was then brought in chains to Rome.
By this means he was placed at the very centre of the Empire and thus able to exert an influence in perhaps even in Caesar’s household.
God moves, and a fledgling Church is established.
Right in the very midst is the apostle himself.
Proverbs 16:7, “When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
Paul can see the hand of God in it all.
His sufferings encouraged others to go out to a whole new mission field (Phil1:14).
His sufferings brought Glory to Christ by the way he conducted himself during those sufferings (Phil1:20).
A purpose in Paul’s sufferings, a purpose in ours. (Rom8:28)
Don’t always know the purpose in them - Job
Paul the Prophet: A Privileged Saint (v3-6)
“Wrote afore in few words,” (v3) – refer back to chp2, when he wrote of Jew & Gentile in 1 body.
v5 – A Brief Definition of Mysteries in General.
Not esoteric knowledge. Truth previously hidden & now revealed.
Not something only for the select few.
Not like the Masons.
v6 – A Brief Definition of this Mystery in Particular.
Dealt with in Eph2:11-22.
Note 3 words with the Greek prefix of “sun,” (v6), cf 2:5,6. Three great ‘Together’ words
“Fellow heirs,” &
“Same body,” &
“Partakers of His promise.”
“Same body,”- only here in the New Testament. This is the earliest occurrence of this word in Greek literature. This word is not known in secular Gk. Could this be a new word for a new revelation?
Almost as though Paul is saying the Greek language is inadequate to describe this new revelation.
Perhaps we could best translate the word as “concorporate” – Jew & Gentile on equal terms. Not so much the idea of the Gentile being brought into Israel.
“The Gentiles have not been added to an already existing entity; they are fully equal, joint members, totally necessary for the life of the body.” (Lincoln p181)
v6 – The Content of the Mystery
v4 – The Communication of the Mystery
The mystery is ‘revealed unto’ the apostle (v3) but it is to be ‘understood’ by the believer (v4).
The Privilege of the NT believer to understand & enjoy these truths previously hidden. (1Pet1:12)
Paul expects us to enjoy them: “when ye read,” (v4) not, “if ye read”
Paul the Preacher : A Serving Saint (v7-13)
Principle of scripture: what God pours in is to be poured out (Jo7:38).
Note the humility with which the service of Paul is marked.
“minister,” or “servant” this is not a clergyman of course, no such division between laity and clerisy was known in the days of the New Testament church. 1 Timothy 3 envisages many teachers or overseers and many deacons in 1 assembly. No 1man ministry ministry, not one man over 1 church or even one man over many churches! This would deny the truth of 1Corinthians 12.
According to the “Gift” (v7)
“the Grace of God.” (v7)
What his service is all about (v8):
The Missionary: “Unto me who am less than the least…” – A correct view of self. Paul takes a SUPERLATIVE & turns it into a COMPARATIVE – “leaster,” – another new word (cf. v6)
The Mission: “I should preach” – A fervour for our mission, single minded, undistracted & focused.
The Mission Field: “among the gentiles” – Clearly identified. If the unsaved are the mission field, why preach the gospel to converted we may wonder?
The Message: “Unsearchable riches of Christ.” – An appreciation of what we have.
“Unsearchable,” (v8) – Unfathomable, inexhaustible
“A wealth the limit of which no man can ever find,” (Wm Barclay).
“Suggests the picture of a reservoir so deep that soundings cannot reach the bottom of it. No limit can therefore be put to its resources.” (Lincoln)
Perhaps true to say the “unsearched riches of Christ,” for many.
Have a little glimpse into the “Unsearchable riches,” in Ephesians:
Christ as Prophet (2:17)
Christ as Priest (2:11)
Christ as King (5:5)
Christ & His Relationship to the Church:
Christ as Head of the Body (1:22)
Christ as Chief Corner Stone of the Temple (2:20)
Christ as Bridegroom to the Church (Chp5)
Christ Presented As:
Lord of Life: 2:5
Lord of Love: 3:17ff
Lord of Light: 5:14ff
Christ Is The:
Sphere of our Blessings (1:3) – All due to our relationship with Christ.
Purpose of our Sanctification (1:4)
Origin of our Salvation (1:7; 5:23)
Focus & End of the Dispensation (1:10; 3:9) – “Whatever’s the world coming to?”
Object of our Adoration (1:12) – Now & forever.
Means of Reconciliation (Chp2:11-22)
Route of Communication (2:18; 3:12)
Means of Creation (3:9)
Bestower of our Gifts (4:7ff)
Example of Dedication (5:2)
Source of Illumination (5:14)
Standard of Affection (5:25)
This is what we have to offer men & women. Christ & nothing else. Especially not entertainment/Social Club
As Jew & Gentiles are saved by the preaching of the gospel, & incorporated into, “one body,” (v6), so the “administration” (not “fellowship,”) of the mystery is ‘seen’ (v9).
Are these the longest verses in Bible??? (v9-11). They span in time from ‘creation’ onto ‘now’ and ultimately to ‘eternity’!
“the principalities and powers,” look on, (v10). From their appreciation of spiritual truth, perhaps not just evil angelic forces as per 6:12. (cf. Matt16:23)
When world was created, angelic powers present.
In garden of Eden Satan interested (Gen3:1ff)
Cherubim observed the fall & implemented the judgment (Gen3:24)
Perhaps in days of Noah angelic forces were interested in man (Gen6:4)
Angels involved with Abraham, Lot & destruction of Sodom (Gen18&19)
Michael in days of Daniel (Dan12:1)
Angels observe the birth (Lk1:11,19, 26; 2:9), temptation (Matt4:11) & sufferings (Lk22:43), & death (Jo20) of Christ.
Angelic forces saw man fall, creation crumble, world corrupted, Christ crucified. Was God’s work to come to nought?
But now “by the church” they see the, “manifold wisdom of God,”
“Manifold” – “much-variegated,” or “multi-coloured”
They see the working out of God’s “eternal purpose,” in Christ (v11), cf. 1:10. Thought of God’s purposes for believers in chp1 – at a practical level, but here is God’s one, “Eternal Purpose.”
Paul the Priest : A Praying saint (v14-21)
Notes from a message preached on Ephesians chapter 3 in our systematic series of bible studies in Paul's letter to the Ephesians, audio recordings free to download as mp3 files or listen online to the bible teaching preached in the Bridgend Gospel Hall New Cumnock.
Yours by Grace in Christ
Dr J Stewart Gillespie