Ephesians - Part 5: Chapter 3 vv 1-13
We have before us a parenthetic chapter which is in keeping with the age in which we are found. This chapter could easily be removed and the reading from chapter 2 verse 22 would continue in chapter 4 verse 1 and still make sense. We are living in the age that God has inserted into His dealings with the world that, as we shall see, which was not made known in other ages.
The chapter has two main sections, in verses 1-13 we have Paul’s stewardship and in verses 14-21 we find Paul’s supplications.
Writing from prison, he is not there for crime but for Christ. The reading is ‘for Christ Jesus’, v. 1, that is, a man who has been exalted in glory. The church, which is the theme of this chapter, only came into being as a result of being linked to the man in the glory.
In verse 2 he recalls the stewardship that had been given to him. In chapter 1 the stewardship of the future kingdom is put into the hand of the Lord Jesus. The word ‘dispensation’ speaks of administrative responsibilities and Paul recognizes that the grace of God chose him to make the truth of this age known through his writings. No gift, whatever that might be, is ever for personal use, but, as Paul speaks here, it is for you, that is, for your benefit.
In verses 3-9, three thoughts are set forth: in verses 3-6 the truth of the mystery is recorded, then we see the minister in verses 7-8, and, finally, the ministry in verse 9.
The church is not the subject of prophecy but of revelation. This revelation is for all blood-bought saints to enter into and this is the reason for it being recorded for us here in Ephesians. God desires that we become intelligent in His thoughts toward us. The truth of the mystery was given to Paul, unfolded in chapter 2, and expanded upon here in chapter 3. This mystery was given to Paul by revelation, and was the fulfilment of 1 Corinthians chapter 13 verse 10 when the perfect revelation of God was to remove the partial gifts of the Spirit. Believers were now able to read what was not known before, and would become as intelligent as Paul in the truth revealed by him. In our day, all God’s thoughts toward us have been revealed and we need to apply ourselves by reading to come into the good of them.
The fact that the church is something unique in the purpose of God is unfolded now as that which previously he had not made known to men. Unlike the mysteries of the pagan world that are only for the initiated (like freemasonry today) this mystery is for all believers to apprehend. Though kept secret in former days, it is now revealed; every child of God should enter into the truth of it. Though this mystery cannot be grasped by the world, for the things of God are foolishness unto them, nevertheless this is something for every believer to appreciate.
The mystery is seen as that which brings the Gentiles into blessings that were not known before. These blessings are threefold: the prospect, the position, and the promise. The prospect is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs; no Jew would accept such a thought, as they alone had received the promises in the Old Testament, but now are of the same body. With this there is a definite promise; the purpose of God for the church is fully made known. Again, something unique has been formed and the position we now have is that we are of the same body. With that, a promise is made sure to us, that we are partakers of this promise in Christ by the gospel. The word ‘partakers’ only occurs here and in chapter 5 verse 7, where we are instructed not to be partakers of the evil deeds of the wicked. If we are partakers of the promise we should not be linked with the sordidness of ungodly men.
In verse 7 Paul identifies his writing as that of a minister; the word is diakonos from which we get the word ‘deacon’. A deacon is a servant in relation to the work given to him, whereas doulos (slave) has the thought of a servant in relation to his master. Paul sees this as the impartation of gift from God, and that his gift is by the grace of God. There was no particular merit in Paul, but he is a chosen vessel unto the Lord, Acts 9. 15. Such is any gift that is given; it is according to the working of God’s mighty power. Let no man boast in a gift he has received, but recognize that it comes from the power of God and he must use it for the glory of God and the blessing of saints.
The wonder of being given the privilege of making known the mystery impresses itself upon Paul’s mind. ‘Unto me’, v. 8. He knows the promise regarding the land was given to Abraham, and that of the throne was communicated to David. To Moses was given the law and the ordinances, and also the honour of bringing Israel out of Egypt. Great prophesies were given to the prophets of old, but the honour of making known God’s greatest work was not committed to any but to Paul. Paul’s former life, when he persecuted the saints, is a constant cause of pain to him, and, perhaps, causes him to write that he is less than the least of all saints, yet the Lord imparts great truth to him.
If verses 7-8 reveal the minister, when we come to verse 9 we see his ministry. This is by the instruction he gives to make the saints intelligent, to be able to appreciate, and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery. The word ‘see’ is ‘to give light upon or shed rays upon’. In John chapter 1 verse 9 it is used of the Lord Jesus who ‘lighteneth every man that cometh into the world’. This is the object of Paul’s ministry. What Paul revealed was something that was indiscernible to any in the world, as it has been hid in God. In Colossians chapter 1 verse 18, it is ‘hid from ages (time) and from generations (men)’. None before knew of the ways of God with the church, but it is now revealed to His saints.
Not only can the saints come into the wonder of God’s present dealings with the church but also the principalities and powers in heaven are called upon to witness what they have never known before. Even the highest created beings knew nothing of what God was to do in this present dispensation, and one of the purposes of the church is for angelic beings to see the wonder of God’s dealings at this time.
We know that angels who had much to do with Israel in a former day are presently in ‘the school room’ and watching events as they come to pass in our day. In 1 Peter chapter 1 verse 12 they are ardent listeners to the gospel when it is preached and desire to look into it, that is to strain their necks as to take in what is said. It is little wonder that they rejoice when a soul is saved, according to Luke chapter 15 verse 7. According to 1 Corinthians chapter 11 verse 10, they observe the assembly when it is gathered, and delight to see a divine order restored that was lost on creation ground when Eve took the headship and brought the world into transgression, 1 Tim. 3. 14. Presently, in a divinely ordered company of God’s children when the sister has a covered head and the man an uncovered head, a sign that the will of God is now being observed, the angels recognize at last – they see recovered on redemption ground what was lost on creation ground. Here in Ephesians there is a display ‘through’ the church, for that is the strength of the word ‘by’, of the manifold wisdom of God. This wisdom is that which has brought opposing nations together in one body, forming a unity that only God could bring about. So from all walks of life, from every nation under the sun, there are those who compose the church which is His body, and angelic beings can only gaze and learn from us God’s great wisdom.
All is according to the eternal purpose which he hath purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord, v. 11. The church was no mere afterthought. We were all in the mind of God from eternity and all that the Lord desired for the saints of this period of God’s workings with us is from before the worlds began. We were chosen before the worlds began in chapter 1. We were destined to share in the inheritance with Christ before the worlds began, and now the unity that ought to mark us as members of the one body - all was in the eternal councils of God.