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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 3

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,

As the first chapter treated of THE FATHER'S office; the second, THE SON'S; so this, that of THE SPIRIT.

Of Jesus Christ - Greek, 'Christ Jesus' (Philemon 1:13): the office is thus prominent; the person in the English version. He marks Jesus' Messiahship as the origin of his being a "prisoner," owing to the jealousy of the Jews being roused at his preaching it to the Gentiles. My very bonds are profitable "for [ huper (G5228), 'in behalf of'] you Gentiles" (Ephesians 3:13; 2 Timothy 2:10). He digresses at "For this cause," and does not complete the sentence until Ephesians 3:14, where he resumes, "For this cause" - namely, because I know your call of God (Ephesians 2:11-22) to be "fellow-heirs" with the Jews (Ephesians 3:6), "I bow my knees unto" the Father of our common Saviour (Ephesians 3:14-15) to confirm you by His Spirit. "I Paul," am the agent employed by the Spirit to enlighten you, having been first enlightened myself by the same Spirit (Ephesians 3:3-5; Ephesians 3:9).

Verse 2

If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

(If - not doubt [ ei-ge (G1489), 'if indeed']: 'assuming (what I know to be the fact, namely) that ye have heard,' etc. The indicative (Greek) implies: 'seeing that doubtless,' etc. He delicately reminds them of their having heard from himself, and probably from others, the fact (Ephesians 4:21: see 'Introduction.' These words do not disprove Paul's a personal acquaintance with his readers, or the address of this letter to the Ephesians (cf. Acts 20:17-24).

The dispensation - `the office of dispensing, as a steward, the grace of God which was (not "is") given me to you-ward'; namely, to dispense to you. Ellicott, 'the dispensation in respect to the grace of God' (the qualifying grace of God for fulfilling my apostleship, Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:25).

Verse 3

How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,

He made known. 'Aleph (') A B C Delta G f g, Vulgate, read 'that by way of revelation was the mystery (namely, of the admission of the Gentiles, Ephesians 3:6) made known [egnoristhe for egnorise] unto me' (Galatians 1:12; Galatians 2:2). As (the fact, not the manner) I wrote afore - namely, in this letter (Ephesians 1:9-10; Ephesians 2:13), the words of which he partly repeats.

Verse 4

Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

Whereby - `according to which,' writing in brief (Ephesians 3:3).

Understand my knowledge, [ noeesai (G3539) sunesin (G4907), 'observe my insight:' sunienai (G4920), to comprehend; noein, to perceive, observe, notice]. Deep as are the mysteries of this letter, the way to understand them is to read it (2 Timothy 3:15-16). By observing his comprehension of the mysteries, they, too, will be enabled to comprehend.

The mystery of Christ - i:e., Christ Himself, once hidden, but now revealed as reconciling Jew and Gentile to God, and so to one another (Colossians 1:27).

Verse 5

Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

In other ages - Greek, 'generations.'

Not made known. He does not say revealed. Making known by revelation is the source of making known by preaching (Bengel). Revelation was vouchsafed to the prophets alone, that they might make known the truth so revealed to men in general.

Unto the sons of men, [Hebrew, bÂȘneey (H1121) 'aadaam (H120)] - people in their birth-state contrasted with the 'holy apostles and prophets,' holy men of God (2 Peter 1:21), illuminated "by the Spirit" (Greek, 'IN the Spirit:' cf. Revelation 1:10; Matthew 16:17).

As. The call of the Gentiles was known to the Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 56:6-7; Isaiah 49:6), but not with the same explicitness (1 Peter 1:10-12) "AS" it is now known (Acts 10:19-20; Acts 11:18-21; Luke 10:23-24; 1 John 1:1). They probably did not know that the Gentiles were to be admitted without circumcision, and on a level with the Jews in partaking of the grace of God. The full gift of "the Spirit" was reserved for the New Testament, that Christ might thereby be glorified. "Holy" marks the consecration of the New Testament "prophets" (here meant) by the Spirit, compared with which even the Old Testament prophets were but "sons "prophets" (here meant) by the Spirit, compared with which even the Old Testament prophets were but "sons of men" (Ezekiel 2:3).

Verse 6

That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

Translate, 'That the Gentiles are,' etc., 'and fellow-corporate [ sussooma (G4954)] and fellow-partakers of the ('Aleph (') A B C Delta, omit 'His') promise (of salvation) in (by living union with, and in virtue of the work of) Christ Jesus ('Aleph (') A B C, Vulgate) through the Gospel.' 'IN Christ Jesus' they are "fellow-heirs" in the inheritance: "of the same body," under the One Head: in the communion of THE HOLY SPIRIT (Ephesians 1:13; Hebrews 6:4). The Trinity is continually prominent in this letter (Ephesians 2:19-20; Ephesians 2:22).

Verse 7

Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.

Whereof - `of which' Gospel.

According to - in consequence of, and in accordance with, "the gift of the grace of God."

Given - `which (gift of grace) was given to me, according to [ kata (G2596), as Ephesians 3:20; Ephesians 1:19: as the result of, and in proportion to] the effectual working (Greek, 'energy,' or 'in-working') of His power.' Omnipotence alone could convert the persecutor into the 'minister.'

Verse 8

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

Am - not merely was I, but still am the least worthy of so high an office (cf. 1 Timothy 1:15).

Least of all saints - not merely 'of all apostles' (1 Corinthians 15:9-10; 2 Corinthians 12:11). Is - Greek, 'was given.'

Among. Delta G f g, Vulgate. But omitted in 'Aleph (') A B C. Translate, 'To announce to the Gentiles the glad tidings of the unsearchable (Job 5:9) riches,' etc.; namely, of Christ's grace (Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 2:7); Romans 11:33, as a mine whose treasures can never be fully searched out (Ephesians 3:18-19).

Verse 9

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

To make all men see, [ phootisai (G5461)] - not merely to preach, but, by the Spirit in the Word, 'to enlighten all' (Ephesians 1:18; Psalms 18:28; Hebrews 6:4). "All" (cf. Colossians 1:28).

Fellowship. 'Aleph (') A B C Delta G f g, Vulgate, read 'economy,' 'dispensation' (cf. Colossians 1:25-26; and note, Ephesians 1:10, above). 'To make all see God's arrangement; to dispense now (through me and His other stewards) what heretofore was a mystery hidden in His counsels.'

From the beginning of the world - Greek, 'from (the beginning of) the ages' (cf. Ephesians 1:4; Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7). The "ages" are the vast cycles marked by successive stages of creation and orders of beings.

In God - `hidden in His counsels' (Ephesians 1:9).

Created all things by Jesus Christ. God's creation of the world is the foundation of the rest of the "economy," freely dispensed according to His universal power (Bengel). As God created "the whole range of things" [ ta (G3588) panta (G3956)], He has an absolute right to adjust all as He will: and so to keep the mystery of world-wide salvation in Christ 'hidden in Himself,' until His own good time for revealing it. 'Aleph (') A B C Delta G f g, Vulgate, omit "by Jesus Christ."

Verse 10

To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

God's design in giving Paul grace to proclaim to the Gentiles the mystery of salvation heretofore hidden.

Now - first: opposed to 'hidden from the beginning of the world' (Ephesians 3:5).

Unto the principalities and (Greek, 'the') powers - unto the various orders of good angels primarily, who dwell 'in the heavenly places:' "known" to their adoring joy (1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 1:12). Secondarily, unto evil angels, who dwell "in heavenly places" in a lower sense-the air (cf. Ephesians 2:2 with Ephesians 6:12). But God's power, rather than His "wisdom," is what is "known" unto evil angels, to their dismay (1 Corinthians 15:24; Colossians 2:15).

By (through) the church - the 'theater' for displaying God's wisdom (Luke 15:10; 1 Corinthians 4:9, Greek): the mirror in which angels contemplate it. Angels are but our "fellow-servants" (Revelation 19:10).

The manifold wisdom - which varies the economy as to places, times, and persons (Isaiah 55:8-9; Hebrews 1:1), yet makes the various parts to work together to one end (cf. 1 Peter 4:10). Man cannot understand it aright until he can survey it as a connected whole (1 Corinthians 13:12). The call of the Church is no remedial afterthought, but part of the eternal scheme, which, amidst manifold varieties of dispensation, is one in its end.

Verse 11

According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

Which he purposed - Greek, made (to be fulfilled) in Christ Jesus' (2 Timothy 1:9).

Verse 12

In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

Translate, 'Our boldness and our access (Ephesians 2:18) in confidence through our faith in Him.' 'THE access' (Greek); the formal introduction into a monarch's presence. Esther had access, but not access with confidence (Esther 4:16, "So will I go in unto the king: if I perish, I perish"). Three stages: we believe God's promises; then conceive confidence; hence, follows intrepid boldness, so as constantly to draw nigh to God.

Verse 13

Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

Wherefore - since our spiritual privileges are such (Ephesians 3:12), 'I entreat you not to be dispirited' [ engkakein (G1457a)]: so intimate was their Christian union with him that they were in danger of losing heart at his afflictions, as though their own. For you - in your behalf.

Which is your glory - since God loved you so much as both to give His Son for you and to permit His apostles to suffer 'tribulations' (Chrysostom) in preaching the Gospel to you Gentiles (note, Ephesians 3:1). My tribulations are your "glory," as your faith is furthered thereby (1 Corinthians 4:10).

Verse 14

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

For this cause - resuming Ephesians 3:1, "For this cause." Because ye are so loved and favoured by God.

Bow my knees - the proper attitude in prayer. Posture affects the mind, and is therefore not unimportant. See Paul's practice, Acts 20:36; and that of the Lord Himself, Luke 22:41.

Unto the Father. Delta G f g, Vulgate, support, but 'Aleph (') A B C, Origen, omit, "of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 3:15, 'From whom,' in either case, refers to "the Father" ( Patera (G3962)), as "family" ( patria (G3965), akin in etymology) refers to Him. Still, the foundation of sonship is in Jesus Christ.

Verse 15

Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

The whole family. Middleton, Ellicott, etc., translate, 'every family'-alluding to the several families in heaven and in earth supposed to exist (Theophylact) - the apostle thus implying that God, as Father to us His adopted children, is the Prototype of the paternal relation wherever found. But the idea that 'the holy angels are bound up in spiritual families or compaternities,' is found nowhere else in Scripture. Acts 2:36, where the article is in most of the oldest manuscript omitted, yet the translation is, "all the house of Israel;" also Ephesians 2:21, "all the building" [ pasa (G3956) oikodomee (G3619): without the article], show that in New Testament Greek the translation is justifiable, 'all the family,' or "the whole family." Nouns referring to what is well known and defined, like proper names, can omit the article. Scripture views angels and men, the saints militant and those with God, as ONE holy family joined under the one Father in Christ, the Mediator between heaven and earth (Ephesians 1:10; Philippians 2:10). Hence, angels are our "brethren" (Revelation 19:10), and "sons of God" by creation, as we by adoption (Job 38:7). The Church is part of the grand family, which comprehends, besides men, the spiritual world, where the archetype, to the realization of which redeemed man is now tending, is already realized. This universal idea of the 'kingdom' of God as one divine community is presented to us in the Lord's prayer. By sin men were estranged, not only from God, but from that higher world in which the kingdom of God is already realized. As Christ, when He reconciled men to God, united them to one another in a divine community (joined to Himself, the one Head), breaking down the partition wall between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:14), so also He joins them in communion with all who have already attained that perfection in the kingdom of God to which the Church on earth is aspiring (Colossians 1:20) (Neander). Is named - derive their origin and their name as sons of our heavenly Father [ Patria (G3965), from Pater (G3962)]. To bear God's name is to belong to God as His special people (Numbers 6:27; Isaiah 43:7; Isaiah 44:5; Romans 9:25-26).

Verse 16

That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;

According to - i:e., in abundance, consonant to the riches of His glory; not "according to" the narrowness of our hearts (Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 2:7). Colossians 1:11, "strengthened with all might according to His glorious power."

By - Greek, 'through His Spirit.'

In, [ eis (G1519)] - 'infused into.'

The inner man (2 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 4:22; Ephesians 4:24; 1 Peter 3:4). Not predicated of unbelievers, whose inward and outward man alike are carnal. But in believers, the "inner (new) man," their true self, the sphere of regeneration (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10), stands in contrast to their old man, attached to them as a body of death daily being mortified, not their true self. The spirit [ pneuma (G4151)] is our highest part, linking us to God, the great Spirit; the soul [ psuchee (G5590)] is intermediate between the body (with which it is connected by the animal affections) and the spirit (with which it is connected by the [ nous (G3563)] intellect, thought).

Verse 17

That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

That - so that.

Dwell, [ katoikeesai (G2730)] - abidingly (John 14:16; John 14:18; John 14:23). Where the Spirit is, there Christ is.

By faith - Greek, 'through faith,' which opens the door of the heart to Jesus (Rev. 3:26 ). It is not enough that He be on the tongue or flit through the brain: the heart is His proper seat-the seat of the soul [ psuchee (G5590)] in respect to the affections (Calvin). 'You having been rooted and grounded in love' (the state resulting from Christ's dwelling in the heart) (cf. Ephesians 3:19), is in the Greek connected with this clause. "Rooted" is an image from a tree; "grounded" (Greek, 'founded'), from a building (cf. note, Ephesians 2:20-21; Colossians 1:23; Colossians 2:7). Contrast Matthew 13:6; Matthew 13:21. "Love" (Colossians 3:14; 1 John 4:7-8), the first-fruit of the Spirit, flowing from Christ's love realized in the soul, is the basis on which should rest the further comprehension of all the vastness of Christ's love.

Verse 18

May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

May be able - even still further: [ exischuseete (G1840)] 'May be fully able.'

Breadth, and length, and depth, and height - namely, the full dimensions of the spiritual temple, answering to "the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:19), to which the Church, according to its capacity, ought to correspond (cf. Ephesians 4:10; Ephesians 4:13 as to "the fullness of Christ"). The "breadth" implies Christ's worldwide love, embracing all men; the "length," its extension through all ages (Ephesians 3:21); the "depth," its profound wisdom, which no creature can fathom (Romans 11:33); the "height," its being beyond the reach of any foe to deprive us of it (Ephesians 4:8) (Bengel). I prefer "the breadth," etc., to refer to the whole mystery of free salvation in Christ for all, Gentile and Jew alike, just spoken of (Ephesians 3:3-9), which he now prays they may comprehend in all its vastness. As subsidiary to this, he adds, "and to know the love of Christ" (Ephesians 3:19) to us. Grotius understands depth and height of God's goodness raising us from the lowest depression to the greatest height.

Verse 19

And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

Passeth - surpasseth. The paradox, "to know ... which passeth knowledge," implies that by "know" he does not mean that we can adequately know: all we know is, that His love exceeds far our knowledge of it; and, with even our fresh accessions of knowledge hereafter, will still exceed them, even as God's power exceeds our thoughts (Ephesians 3:20). "Know" experimentally what intellectually is beyond our powers of knowing (1 Corinthians 8:2-3).

Filled with - Greek, 'filled even unto all the fullness of God' (the grand goal); i:e., filled, each according to his capacity, with the divine holiness, wisdom, knowledge, and love; even as God is full, and as Christ, who dwells in your hearts, hath 'all the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in Him bodily' (Colossians 2:9).

Verse 20

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

Unto him - contrasted with ourselves and our needs. Translate, 'that is able to do beyond all things exceeding abundantly above what we ask or (even) think.' Thought takes a wider range than prayers. [ Huper (G5228), above, occurs thrice as often in Paul's writings as in all the rest of the New Testament, showing the warm exuberance of Paul's spirit.]

According to the power - the indwelling Spirit (Romans 8:26). He appeals to their and his experience.

Verse 21

Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Translate, 'Unto Him be the glory (i:e., of the gracious dispensation of salvation just spoken of) in the Church (as the theater for its manifestation, Ephesians 3:10) in Christ Jesus (the only element wherein glory is duly given to God, Zechariah 6:13) to all the generations of eternal ages'-literally, 'of the age of the ages.' Eternity, as one grand 'age,' is conceived as consisting of "ages" (these again consisting of 'generations') endlessly succeeding one another.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ephesians 3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/ephesians-3.html. 1871-8.
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