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AN EXPLANATORY PARENTHESIS
At the beginning of this chapter, Paul is about to exhort the church in a practical application of the doctrine he had expounded. Indeed, he has gotten as far as, “For this cause I, Paul, the prisoner of .Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,” when the divine impulse leads him to digress. This digression, covering the remainder of the chapter, is an explanation of the special ministry given him for the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:2-4 ). This ministry was a “mystery” unrevealed in the Old Testament, for the reference to the “prophets” in Ephesians 3:5 means the New Testament prophets particularly Paul himself. That the apostle is not referring merely to the gospel of salvation is clear because that was no “mystery” (Romans 9:24-33 ; Romans 10:19-21 ).
What he is referring to is (Ephesians 3:6 ), “that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body,” i.e., the body of Christ, the church, of which he has been speaking. This unique “body” was a mystery “hid in God” from the beginning of the world (Ephesians 3:9 ), whose revelation at this time was for the purpose stated in Ephesians 3:10 . That verse shows the church to be
“the lesson-book for the angels.” They had seen God’s ways in creation, and at the deluge, and in Israel, but here is something that not even the Scriptures had hinted at, that was never promised in the Old Testament, something kept entirely secret between the Father and the Son.
PRAYER FOR STRENGTH
Some conception of the nature and greatness of this truth thus revealed, may be gathered from the prayer that follows. As that in chapter 1 was for spiritual enlightenment, this is for spiritual strength. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels,” the apostle says in another place, and earthen vessels break easily, and are unable to stand too great a strain. To contain such a truth, we need the aid of the Holy Spirit, hence the language of verses 16-19. The prayer in chapter 1 was for a deep and real apprehension of their standing before God; here, it is rather for practical, inward power, by the Holy Ghost. In a word, it is here a question of actual state, of the affections having Christ within, of being rooted and grounded in love, that they might be thoroughly able (for so it means), to lay hold of that which is indeed measureless. The apostle does not say what it is of which they are to lay hold, for Ephesians 3:18 has no ending. It brings you into infinity. It can be nothing else, indeed, than the grandeur of that “mystery” of the believer’s oneness with Jesus Christ. All things are for the glory of the Son, and the saints in Him are to have the very highest place with him over all.
Hence the ascription (Ephesians 3:20-21 ). In this, He does not say above all that we can ask or think, but all that we do ask or think. We can ask more than we do ask, because of “the power that worketh in us,” i.e., power of God. In chapter 1, we saw the power of God working for us; here, we see it working in us. In chapter 1, it raised us from the dead; here, it gives us entrance into his love and fulness. No wonder the grateful apostle exclaims, “Unto Him be glory!”
1. What is the literary character of chapter 3?
2. What is the nature of this digression?
3. What is meant by the “mystery”?
4. What is the subject of this prayer in comparison with that in chapter 1?
5. What added thought have we here concerning the Divine power in relation to the believer?
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Gray, James. "Commentary on Ephesians 3". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13