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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 3

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary

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A.M. 4068. A.D. 64.

In this chapter, further to recommend the gospel to the regard of these Gentile converts, the apostle,

(1,) Strongly expresses the sense he had of the divine goodness, in committing it to his trust, though he was called to sacrifice his liberty in its defence, Ephesians 3:1-12 .

(2,) He represents the earnestness with which he prayed for their establishment in Christianity, as the most important blessing which he could possibly desire for them, Ephesians 3:13-21 .

Verses 1-7

Ephesians 3:1-7. For this cause That you may be so built up together, and made the temple of God, and his habitation through the Spirit; I bow my knees, &c., see Ephesians 3:14, with which the words are evidently closely connected, (as they are also with the close of the preceding chapters) the subsequent paragraph to the end of Eph 3:13 manifestly coming in by way of parenthesis. I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles For your advantage, for asserting your right to these blessings. This it was which so much enraged the Jews against him. If ye have heard Or, seeing ye have heard, as ειγε ηκουσατε may be properly rendered; and being so rendered will be very applicable to the Ephesians, who, no doubt, were well acquainted with Paul’s apostolical commission. Here, by way of digression, the apostle sets forth the nature and dignity of his apostolical office toward the Gentiles, as in Romans 11:13. Of the dispensation of the grace of God For the meaning of the word οικονομια , here rendered dispensation, see note on Ephesians 1:10. It here means the authority and commission given him to declare the doctrine of the grace of God to the Gentiles, as displayed in the gospel; which is given me to you- ward Which office is committed to me chiefly with relation to you Gentiles, to be employed for your edification; how that by revelation, see (Acts 26:16-17,) and not by the instrumentality of any human testimony; he made known to me the mystery Which had so long been concealed, namely, that salvation by Christ alone was free for both the Jews and Gentiles; as I wrote afore Namely, chap. Ephesians 1:9-10; in few words The very words of which passage he here repeats. The apostle does not appear to mean that he had written of the mystery in a few words, for the greatest part of the preceding chapters is taken up in explaining that mystery; but his meaning seems to be, that he had written before in a few words concerning the discovery of the mystery to him by revelation. The mystery which in other ages was not made known So clearly and fully; unto the sons of men No, not to the Jews themselves; (see on Matthew 13:17;) as it is now revealed In consequence of the death and resurrection of Christ; unto his holy apostles and prophets Namely, of the New Testament: see on 1 Corinthians 12:28. That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs With the believing Jews, (Galatians 3:29,) and Christ himself, (Romans 8:17,) of the heavenly inheritance; and of the same body Under Christ the head, or incorporated in the true church; and partakers of his promise Of pardon, adoption, the renewing of the Holy Ghost and eternal life; in Christ Purchased by him, and enjoyed by virtue of your union with him; in the gospel Preached to you. Whereof I was made a minister When first called by Christ himself appearing to me for that purpose; according to the gift of the grace of God To which office he raised me, not through any worthiness of mine, but of his free grace; given unto me In a most extraordinary and remarkable manner; by the effectual working of his power Which conquered my prejudices, enlightened my understanding, changed my heart, and prepared and qualified me for that high and holy office, averse as I once was to all the purposes of it.

Verses 8-9

Ephesians 3:8-9. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, &c. Here are the noblest strains of eloquence, to paint the exceeding low opinion which the apostle had of himself, and the fulness of unfathomable blessings which are treasured up in Christ. The word ελαχιστοτερω is a comparative, formed from the superlative ελαχιστος , the force of which it is difficult to express in the English language. Doubtless he speaks of himself in this humble manner, on account of his having been formerly a blasphemer of Christ, a persecutor of his disciples, and exceedingly injurious in so acting. Is this grace given This unmerited favour bestowed; that I should preach among the Gentiles Ignorant of divine things as they had been from generation to generation, and apparently abandoned of God to vice and wretchedness; the unsearchable riches of Christ Those unsearchable perfections, (Colossians 2:9,) whereby he is qualified to be the Saviour of the world, and to bestow on all who believe the greatest spiritual blessings, which are the only true riches, because they render the possessors perfectly happy. In other words, In the riches of Christ, here justly said to be unsearchable, are included, 1st, His redeeming acts; such as his incarnation, his enduring temptation, his obedience unto death, his resurrection, ascension, intercession. 2d, His saving benefits; as illumination, justification, adoption, the spirit of adoption and regeneration, the restoration of God’s image to the soul, communion with God, and eternal life. 3d, The ways and means of the application of these acts and benefits; as (1,) The properties and powers exerted by Christ, such as his wisdom, power, love, patience: (2,) The means and ordinances, as affliction, the word of God, prayer, the fellowship of saints: (3,) The graces and virtues to be exercised by us; as faith, hope, love, obedience; in all which particulars unsearchable riches are comprehended, and by which we may be unspeakably and eternally enriched. And to make men see To enlighten and instruct, as well the Gentiles as the Jews, and show them what is the fellowship of the mystery What those mysterious blessings are whereof all believers are called jointly to partake; which from the beginning of the world Greek, απο των αιωνων , from ages, and from generations, (Colossians 1:26,) hath been hid in God Concealed in his secret counsels; who created all things by Jesus Christ His eternal Word and Son, John 1:3; Hebrews 1:2; where see the notes. This is the foundation of all his dispensations.

Verses 10-12

Ephesians 3:10-12. To the intent that now Under the gospel dispensation, the last and best dispensation of divine grace and mercy to fallen man; unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places To all the various orders of angelic beings; might be made known by the church Namely, by what is done in and for it; the manifold wisdom of God Discovering itself gradually in such a beautiful and well-ordered variety of dispensations. By this the apostle seems to intimate that the Church of Christ is the grand theatre in which the divine wisdom is most signally displayed, including, doubtless, the manifestation made therein of the whole process of Christ for the accomplishment of man’s redemption and salvation. According to the eternal purpose The original plan adjusted in the Divine Mind, and to be executed in due time in and by Jesus Christ our Lord; in, or through whom we have boldness and access with confidence Such as those petitioners have who are introduced to the royal presence by some distinguished favourite; the word παρρησια , rendered boldness, implies unrestrained liberty of speech, such as children use in addressing an indulgent father, when, without fear of offending, they disclose all their wants, and make known all their requests.

Verses 13-16

Ephesians 3:13-16. Wherefore Since by my ministry you have been called to the fellowship of the gospel; I desire that ye faint not Be not discouraged or disheartened; at my tribulations for preaching the gospel to you, which is your glory A cause of glorying and rejoicing to you, inasmuch as hereby it appears how much God regards you, in that he not only sends his apostles to preach the gospel to you, but to do this notwithstanding the great variety of extreme sufferings to which they are hereby exposed. For this cause That ye may not faint, either on account of my sufferings or your own, and that the great work in which I am engaged may more successfully be carried on, and the purposes of these my sufferings maybe answered in your consolation and the divine glory; I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ I present my sincere and ardent supplications before him. Or rather, the apostle here returns to the subject which he began in Ephesians 3:1, (where see the note,) the intervening verses coming in by way of parenthesis. Of whom The Father; the whole family of angels in heaven Saints in paradise, and believers on earth, is named Are acknowledged by him as his children, a more honourable title than children of Abraham; and acknowledge their dependance upon, and relation to him. Or, in the family here spoken of, all rational beings in heaven and earth may be considered as included, because they derive their being from him, and are supported by him. That he would grant you according to the riches of his glory The immense fulness of his glorious wisdom, power, mercy, and love; to be strengthened with might Or mightily strengthened, that is, endowed with courage, fortitude, and power, to withstand all your spiritual enemies, to do with cheerfulness, and suffer with patience, his whole will; by his Spirit the great source of all power and might, grace and goodness; in the inner man The soul.

Verses 17-19

Ephesians 3:17-19. That Christ may dwell in your hearts May be always present with you, and may reside continually in you, by his purifying and comforting influences, so as to direct your judgment, engross your affections, and govern all your passions and tempers. See on John 17:23; Galatians 2:21. By faith By means of a continual exercise of faith in him, and in the truths and promises of his gospel. “The apostle had called the church the temple of God, Ephesians 2:21; here he represents every individual believer as the habitation of Christ, who came from heaven that he might rule in the hearts of men. And surely the indwelling of Christ in our hearts by faith in his doctrines and promises, is a much greater honour than that which the temple of Ephesus was said to possess, through the residence of an image of Diana, falsely reported to have fallen down from Jupiter, Acts 19:35: also a better preservative from evil than the votaries of that idol pretended to possess, by carrying about her shrine, mentioned Acts 19:24.” That being rooted and grounded Deeply fixed and firmly established; in love Both in an experimental knowledge of God’s love to you, and in the exercise of a fervent love to him in return, and to each other, which will be a never-failing source of piety and virtue in your hearts and lives. The word τεθεμελιωμενοι , here rendered grounded, is used in allusion to a building, agreeably to the apostle’s representation of the Christian Church as the temple of God, built not of stones, but of men who believe and obey the gospel. And, (as the pious Professor Frank observes,) in the following clause, “he expresses his wish that the foundation might be so extensively and deeply laid, and that a superstructure might be raised, extending itself to such a magnificent length, and breadth, and height, as to be fitted to receive the sacred guest, that he might dwell, as it were, uncrowded in their hearts.” May be able to comprehend So far as a human mind is capable; with all saints That which all, who are worthy of the name of saints, do in some measure attain unto here, and shall fully understand hereafter; what is the breadth Of the love of Christ, embracing all mankind; and length From everlasting to everlasting; and depth Descending into the abyss of our sin and misery to rescue us thence; and height Exalting us to the summit of heavenly glory and felicity, to the dignity of God’s sons and daughters here, and to the vision and enjoyment of him hereafter. And to know the love of Christ Continually aspiring after more enlarged and affecting views thereof, even of the love which he hath displayed in purchasing his church with his own blood, and redeeming it out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, Revelation 5:9; which, however, after all we can say or think of it, as to its nature, extent, and excellence, does and ever will infinitely surpass our knowledge and comprehension. “This prayer of the apostle does not imply any contradiction, for though the love of Christ be so great that it cannot be comprehended by the understanding of men, the apostle with great propriety prayed that they might know as much of it as the limited nature of their faculties permitted them to know, in order to their being sensible of the wisdom and power of God in gathering the Christian Church, not only from among the Jews, but from among the idolatrous Gentiles also;” and in bestowing on the members of that church such unspeakable blessings of grace here, and in preparing for them such blessings of glory hereafter. That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God Macknight, who applies this clause to the church at Ephesus, collectively considered, rather than to the individuals of which it was composed, observes, “Having told the Ephesians, (Ephesians 2:21-22,) that the Jews and Gentiles were formed into a holy temple, for a habitation of God by the Spirit, he prays that this great temple might be filled with all the fulness of the presence of the true God, inhabiting every part of it by the gifts and graces of the Spirit, chap. Ephesians 4:6. For in that respect the Christian Church far exceeded the temple at Ephesus, which had nothing in it pretending to divinity, but the lifeless image of an idol placed in a corner of it.” The apostle, however, rather intended this, as he evidently did all the preceding clauses of his prayer, to be applied, not so much to that or any other church in general, as to each individual believer therein in particular. He therefore prayed that the mind and heart of each might be enlarged more abundantly, so as to admit larger communications than ever of divine light, love, wisdom, holiness, power, and glory, till at length they should arrive in the heavenly state, to full perfection in the knowledge, image, and enjoyment of God, where that which is perfect being come, they should know even as they also were known, and possess love in proportion to their knowledge.

Verses 20-21

Ephesians 3:20-21. Now unto him, &c. This doxology is admirably adapted to strengthen our faith, that we may not stagger at the great things the apostle has been praying for, as if they were too much for God to give, or for us to expect to receive from him. Unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly, &c. Here is a most beautiful gradation. When God has given us abundant, yea, exceeding abundant blessings, still we may ask for more, and he is able to give, or do for us, what we ask. But we may think of more even than we have asked, and he is able to do this also; yea, and above all this; above all we ask, above all we can think, nay, exceeding abundantly above all that we can either ask or think: according to the power that worketh in us Which is already so illustriously displayed, and worketh so efficaciously in us. The change which the Ephesians had already experienced, not only in their views of things, but in their hearts and lives, their dispositions, words, and actions, yea, in all the powers and faculties of their souls, through the mighty working of the power of God in them, was a sufficient foundation on which to build their hope of receiving all the blessings promised to them in the gospel; and particularly the blessings of a complete restoration to a conformity to the image of God’s Son ( Rom 8:28 ; 1Jn 4:17 ) in this life, and happiness greater than can be now conceived in the life to come. To him be glory in the church On earth and in heaven; by Christ Jesus Its glorious Head, through whom all his blessings descend to us, and our praises ascend to him; throughout all ages Through the most distant ages and periods, as long as the earth with its successive generations shall continue; and world without end Or, as the original, εις πασας τας γενεας του αιωνος των αιωνων , literally signifies, through all the successive generations of the age of ages. “The variety,” says Blackwall, in his Sacred Classics, “and emphasis of the elegant and sublime repetitions in these two last verses of this chapter, are such as cannot be reached in any translation.” And with this sublime doxology the apostle ends the doctrinal part of the epistle.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ephesians 3". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/ephesians-3.html. 1857.
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