Study Notes

Ephesians 3:1-13


As we finished up chapter two of the book of Ephesians, we were reminded that those who are Jews and those who are not (who are called Gentiles) were made one in Christ. By becoming Christians, unity was brought to these two groups that formerly hated one another. Paul is now going to spend most of chapter three pointing out that his ministry is to the Gentiles. But like all of his writings, there is a lot of information packed in - there are so many things to learn.

3:1-3 The Prisoner Of Christ Jesus

Paul was a prisoner. He was in the custody of the Roman government. However, he did not consider himself a prisoner of Rome. He was a prisoner of Christ Jesus. But it is interesting that he wasn't just a prisoner in jail for the sake of Jesus. He was also a prisoner to the will of Jesus. Paul described the Christian life as...

Rom. 6:22 ...having been freed from sin and enslaved to God...

A slave of God's. Subject to God's will, to His plan, not our own. Paul lived in submissive slavery, to God's will rather than his own. Even when it came to the ministry. For you see, Paul's real passion and earnest desire was not to be "the apostle to the Gentiles." He wanted to be a messenger of the gospel for the Jews. As you read through the book of Acts, you'll see that this was Paul's heart. He even wrote to the Romans, saying,

Rom. 9:2-4 ...I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, {separated} from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites...

Rom. 10:1 Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for {their} salvation.

Paul wanted to be a minister to the Jews. But God gave him no success there, and sent Paul to the Gentiles instead. He had very little ministry to the Jews.

God's plans were different than Paul's. It was just like He declared through Isaiah:

Isa. 55:8-9 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For {as} the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."

God has a plan, and very often, it is different than ours. And that is one of the most difficult tests that will demonstrate whether we've given our lives to Christ, or whether we're just trying to use God as the source of power and blessing to accomplish our desires. When our will and God's will collides, it is always a test to see if we will be among those who pray,

Luke 22:42 "...yet not My will, but Thine be done."

3:4-7 The Mystery Revealed

Paul uses the word "mystery" in Ephesians more than in any other book of the Bible. "Moos-TAY-ree-on" in Greek means something that was hidden or secret.

Jesus told His disciples that there were mysteries in the kingdom of God, but that it has been granted to us to know them (Mt 13:11; Mk 4:11; Lk 8:10). Paul told the Corinthians that we are "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1Co 4:1). Some of the mysteries that have been revealed to us are the rapture (1Co 15:51), the typological picture of Christ and the church that marriage represents (Eph. 5:32), and God's will (Eph. 1:9).

In this case, the mystery Paul is talking about is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs to the inheritance, fellow members of the body, fellow partakers of the promise. They are qualified to be saved in Jesus Christ the same as the Jews are. This might not sound like an earth-shattering revelation to us, but that is only because we're used to the idea. To the Jews and Gentiles of Paul's day, this was an amazing new teaching.

3:8-10 The Least Of The Saints

Paul recognized that his preaching ministry was completely undeserved - it was only by God's grace. When writing to the Corinthians, he spoke of himself saying,

1Cor. 15:9 ...I am the least of the apostles...

Now we see him saying that he is the least of the saints - of every Christian in the church. This kind of humility among leaders and preachers is rare to see, but absolutely necessary. Whenever I'm tempted to be full of myself thinking, "I'm PASTOR Ron, I'm a big shot," God just brings the whole ministry into perspective by saying,

1Cor. 1:26-29 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God.

If I think I'm somebody, I'm shamed and nullified. And if I'm one of those He's called, it is only because I was foolish, weak, and despised.

Paul knew that his ministry (and everyone else's!) was only by God's grace.

The Church Educates The Heavenlies

Another thing he points out in these verses is incredible: for ages, the gospel was largely hidden from angels and demons in the spiritual realm. But now it is being made known to them by the church! Peter said,

1Pet. 1:12 ...these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven - things into which angels long to look.

Angels longed to look into these things, and now they watch the church on earth to learn them. That is so profoundly amazing! Even beyond that, it is really interesting to think that they're watching us all the time. Jesus said,

Luke 15:10 "...I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

Paul said to Timothy,

1Tim. 5:21 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of {His} chosen angels, to maintain these principles...

And to the Corinthians, he said,

1Cor. 4:9 For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.

They're watching when we sin and when we repent. They're watching when we live and when we die. Kind of makes you think you ought to straighten up your act a bit, doesn't it?

3:11-13 Boldness And Confident Access

We have learned several things:

1) God will test us to see if we are willing to be enslaved to Him. His will versus our will; 2) Although it has been a mystery to most, we have been chosen by Him for salvation; 3) He desires to use us in ministry, not because of our greatness, but because we are nothing; 4) The angels and demons are watching us all the time, to see whether we decide to sin or be holy.

These things we've learned in the midst of Paul's reminder that he is the apostle to the Gentiles all follow a linear thought to this conclusion: "In Jesus we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him."

Have you been staying away from the throne of God because you've gone your own way? Don't you know that you've been given salvation in spite of your wretchedness? That God knew you were nothing when He called you? Don't you realize that your actions are educating the angels to learn of God's grace?

It is all about grace. You didn't earn it, and so to feel defeated and afraid to approach God is silly. It is through your simple faith in Jesus that you can come to the throne.

Hebr. 4:16 Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.

Go to next study

Go to previous study