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Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 3

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

Eph 3:1. For this cause means as if Paul said, "in view of what I have told you concerning what God has done for us through Christ," etc. What the apostle intends to say for this cause, he does not mention until he gets to verse 14 which begins with the same three words, where he goes on and completes the thought he has in mind. All the other verses from these first three words at the beginning of the chapter through verse 13, are put in as explanatory information. As Paul was writing this epistle he was actually a prisoner in Rome, and it was brought about by his preaching the Gospel to these and other Gentiles. (See Act 21:33 Act 28:17 Act 28:20; Eph 6:20.) Christ hal taken possession of Paul or "apprehended" him for the very purpose of doing such work and receiving such treatment (Act 9:16 Act 26:16-18; Php 3:12).

Verse 2

Eph 3:2. If ye have heard has the sense of saying, "I take it for granted ye have heard," etc., yet Paul considers it well to give them further information on the important subject. Dispensation is defined in Thayer's lexicon, "the management, oversight, administration, of others' property; the office of a manager or overseer, stewardship." The phrase means that the apostle had been given charge of administrating the grace or favor of God unto the Gentiles.

Verse 3

Eph 3:3. According to the lexicon, the word revelation means "a disclosure of truth, instruction, concerning divine things before unknown--especially relating to the Christian salvation--given to the soul by God himself, or by the ascended Christ." An outstanding thought in the meaning of the word is that the communication was done by addressing the intelligence of the apostle, and not by some impression made upon his emotions. By this intellectual method, God made known to Paul the truths of the Gospel, that he might be able to tell them to the Ephe-sians and others. It is called a mystery because that word merely means anything not known, whether that be something that is complicated or simple in its nature. (See the definition of the word at chapter 1:9.) Wrote afore refers to chapter 1:9 and 2:11-13, where the apostle wrote about the call of the Gentiles to share in the benefits of the Gospel.

Verse 4

Eph 3:4. Whereby denotes that when the brethren would read what Paul had written, they also might understand his knowledge of the subject. All that Paul or any other inspired writer knew of the Gospel was what had been revealed to them through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when an uninspired man reads what has been thus written, he may have the same knowledge of the subject as does the inspired writer. This completely disproves the notion that people today cannot understand the Bible when they read it unless they have some miraculous assistance of the Spirit.

Verse 5

Eph 3:5. The promise made to Abraham in Gen 12:3 Gen 22:18 really meant that both Jews and Gentiles were to 6e blessed by the Gospel of Christ. That same truth was repeated in various forms by many writers in the Old Testament. But the system as a whole was never revealed by them, hence Paul here declares that it was not made known to men in those years as it is now revealed by the Spirit. That revelation was made through the services of the apostles and prophets. (See the comments on chapter 2:20.)

Verse 6

Eph 3:6. This verse states the specific feature of the Gospel that was not realized by the people in Old Testament times, namely, that the Gentiles were to be placed on an equal footing with the Jews in the Gospel.

Verse 7

Eph 3:7. Whereof refers to the Gospel of which Paul was made a minister. This word is from DIAKONOS, and it is elsewhere translated "deacon." Thay-er's general definition is, "one who executes the commands of another, especially of a master; a servant, attendant, minister." The word does not necessarily denote an official, and when it is so used, the connection in which it is found will determine it so. In the present verse it has a special apppli-cation because it refers to Paul who was an inspired apostle, and possessed with that measure of the Holy Spirit that enabled him to execute his official position. Such is the meaning of effectual working of his [God's] power.

Verse 8

Eph 3:8. Less than the least is described by both Thayer and Robinson as a double comparison that is permitted on the principle of what today is called "poetic license." Paul uses it for the sake of emphasis, to describe his feeling of unworthiness in being entrusted with the Gospel. He regards it a great honor to be selected by the Lord to be the one to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, who had for generations past been "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel." Unsearchable is defined in Thayer's lexicon, "that cannot be traced out, that cannot be comprehended." It is the riches of Christ that is unsearchable, not the terms on which a man may obtain them. A person could completely understand all of the conditions on which he would obtain possession of a fine automobile, without fully realizing all the wonderful perfection of its mechanism.

Verse 9

Eph 3:9. The mystery again is the truth that the Gospel was to be given to the world for the benefit of both Jews and Gentiles. Fellowship means the mutual enjoyment of all nations in their equal relationship to Christ as their Saviour. Been hid in God/is the same thought that is expressed by verse 5. Created all things by Jesus Christ. This was true of the creation of the material world (Joh 1:1-3), but it is true also that all spiritual blessing are provided through Him. (Col 1:16.)

Verse 10

Eph 3:10. To the intent denotes that God's intention in keeping the "mystery" hid through the past ages, was to let it be made known by the church. Heavenly places is from EPOURANIOS, which Thayer defines at this place, "the heavenly regions," and then explains his definition to mean, "heaven itself, the abode of God and angels." It is true that men in various ranks on earth were kept uninformed as to the complete system of righteousness to be brought into the world through Christ (Luk 10:24), who would be benefitted by the fuller revelation. But even the angels in Heaven also were not given the information notwithstanding their desire to know about it. (See 1Pe 1:12.) Might be known is a verb and comes from the Greek word GNORIZO, which Thayer defines, "to make known." Manifold wisdom of God denotes that the many items of wisdom that God had in store for the world, were to be made known by the church. This wisdom includes all the religious instruction that mankind needs for proper service to God. He kept the full plan for such instruction from men and angels for four thousand years, in order that it might fully be made known by the church. It is the height of folly, therefore, for men to think they can establish educational and other organizations that can give this information "better than the church." Any human organization that pretends to give spiritual or moral benefits to man, is an infringement upon the exclusive rights of the church, for which God was making preparations through the centuries, and which He finally established through the blood of his Son.

Verse 11

Eph 3:11. Eternal is from AION, which means age or ages. Throughout the ages since the beginning of the world, God was planning for the complete plan of redemption for man, and that planning is here called the eternal purpose. It was to be perfected through Christ Jesus, who was promised to Abraham (Gen 12:3 Gen 22:18).

Verse 12

Eph 3:12. In whom refers to Christ, who was foreordained of God to be the one through whom this eternal purpose was to be accomplished. Boldness does not mean a spirit of self-importance, but a feeling of abiding faith because of one's confidence in Christ. This confidence is produced by our faith in Him, and it bids us enjoy access to the Father through the Son.

Verse 13

Eph 3:13. To faint means to falter or become downhearted. Paul bids the brethren not to become thus affected over his tribulations caused by being a prisoner at Rome. Which is your glory. It should be regarded as an honor to be the brethren of a man whose faith causes him to keep cheerful under such conditions. The disciples in Act 5:41 rejoiced in the honor of suffering such treatment because of their service to Christ.

Verse 14

Eph 3:14. For this cause. This phrase is commented upon at length in the first verse of the chapter; please read that again. The apostle now proceeds to tell what he will do on the basis of the wonderful story of Jesus as just described in the foregoing verses. Bow my knees is mentioned incidentally as far as the posture of the body is concerned. We know it is not intended as a binding example for general practice, thus disfavoring other positions of the body while in prayer. Such a theory would contradict too many instances where prayer was offered while in some other position, and where the prayer is recorded in a favorable connection. In Mat 26:39 Jesus "fell on his face" and prayed; the publican's prayer was acceptable though he prayed "standing" in Luk 18:13; Jesus gave thanks while sitting (Luk 22:14-17). The validity of prayer depends upon the condition of the heart and not the position of the body; a hypocrite could pray as well in one position as another. God is again called the Father of Christ, which disproves the foolish notion that God and Christ are the same person.

Verse 15

Eph 3:15. Of is from EK, which means the source or authority by which the naming is done; that source is mentioned in the preceding verse, namely, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Family in heaven and earth includes saints on earth and angels in Heaven. (See comments on chapter 1:10.) As to what name or names are meant is not the question. The point in this verse Is that a father of a family has the right to name the members of it. That truth rules out all of the multitude of names that have been applied by men to the professed children of God.

Verse 16

Eph 3:16. This verse begins the prayer that Paul proposed to offer to the Father. According to the riches of his glory. It would not be reasonable to ask a favor of anyone that is greater than the possessions of that person. The glory of God is so rich that Paul is encouraged to ask for enough of it to strengthen his brethren. God does his favors for the members of the divine family by the agency of the Spirit that fills the church. This is for the benefit of the inner man, which means the spiritual being, which can be affected only by spiritual help.

Verse 17

Eph 3:17. With two or three exceptions, the word heart in the King James Version comes from the Greek word KARDIA, and it is not translated by any other word, which occurs 158 times in the New Testament. I shall quote Thayer's various definitions of the original, which will give the reader a fair view of the range that it covers: "The heart; the vigor and sense of physical life; the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors; of the understanding, the faculty and seat of intelligence; of the soul so far forth as it is affected and stirred in a bad way or good, or of the soul as the seat of the sensibilities, affections, emotions, desires, appetites, passions; the middle or central or inmost part of any thing, even though inanimate." In this quotation I have copied only the words in italics, which means they are the direct definitions of the author of the lexicon. In this vast list of definitions, the reader can see just two real general meanings of the heart as used in the New Testament, namely, the literal or fleshly as one, and the mental or spiritual as the other. The one to be taken in each given case must be determined by the connection in which it is used. Since Christ does not dwell literally or personally in any place on earth today, we know this verse does not use the heart in the fleshly or literal sense. This is also shown to be correct by the phrase by faith which Paul uses. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom 10:17), and when a man receives that word into his heart, he has the teaching of Jesus constantly with him, which is the meaning of the apostle's thought that He is to dwell in your hearts by faith. Rooted and grounded. There is virtually not much difference between these words, and they could well be used interchangeably. In a techincal sense, the first means for a plant to take deep root, and that will give it a solid groundwork as a basis from which to make its growth. The soil in which this rooting is to take place is love--the love of God and Christ for this "plant" that was predicted in Eze 34:29. With such ever-fertile soil from which to grow, this divine plant is prepared to bring forth much fruit for the Keeper of the vineyard.

Verse 18

Eph 3:18. Comprehend is from a word that has different shades of meaning. In the present instance the first two definitions of Thayer are the most appropriate. "1. to lay hold of so as to make one's own, to obtain, attain to. 2. to seize upon, take possession of." Our word, therefore, does not mean that the human mind may fully know all about the greatness o$ God's loving system, but that it can take full possession of it under the terms that are offered by the Lord. The reader should see the comments on the word "un-searchable" in verse 8. With all saints (or Christians) means that no parti ality is shown by Christ for any portion of His followers, but each has the same privileges to enjoy the great love exhibited in the Gospel. All solids have only three dimensions literally, so that depth and height would be the same. However, in the illustration Paul is thinking of a building which is the divine structure. Its length and breadth are important because it takes in the entire territory of human existence, both Jews and Gentiles. And its height signifies that it towers above all other institutions in dignity and efficiency. Also its depth means that its foundation is laid deep, even down to the rock of truth.

Verse 19

Eph 3:19. To know . . . which passeth knowledge may seem to be a contradiction, but it will be clear in the light of the comments on the preceding verse and those on verse 8. The love of Christ is indeed so great that it surpasses all human knowledge. However, that need not prevent man from having some knowledge of it. Filled with all the fulness is a phrase so formed for the purpose of emphasis. When a man complies with the terms of salvation, he becomes the possessor of all that God has provided for him in this life. There is nothing lacking in his spiritual needs (Col 2:10), even though he does not fully understand all its divine greatness.

Verse 20

Eph 3:20. This verse should be regarded as an inspired comment on Rom 8:26, as they mean virtually the same thing. It does not say that God will do for us all that we ask, for He knows better than we what is good for us. The thought is that God is able to do whatever He deems best; also, God will even do us such favors in a better form than we are able to express it. Power is from DUNAMIS, one of the strongest words in the Greek language for the thought of might or ability. That power is used by the Lord as he answers our prayers, and it is in us or on our behalf.

Verse 21

Eph 3:21. The pronoun him stands for God, whose name is mentioned in verse 19. Glory is from DOXA, which occurs about 163 times in the Greek New Testament, and is rendered by "glory" 144 times. The outstanding definition in Thayer's lexicon as it applies to God, is expressed by the three words, "praise, honor, glory." Men are expected to honor God, but they are not left to follow their own devices in offering honor to Him. Unless they proceed in the way that God has directed, their pretensions of honor will not be recognized by Him. It is stated by the apostle that the glory (or honor and praise) that is offered to God is to be done in the church. This decree rules out all other attempts, devised by man. Even admitting that the show rf honor performed by men outside the church are as expressive as any that are done in the church, yet it will not be accepted because He has ruled that it must be done through the divine organization. This is in agreement with the divine purpose that all religious instruction must be done by the church (verse 10). The further stipulation that the glorying must be done by Christ Jesus is not done arbitrarily, but is logically necessary if it is to be done in the church, for chapter 1:22 declares that Christ was given to be head over all things to the church. Therefore, anything that is done in the church is done by Christ Jesus, and vice versa. Throughout all ages. There are men who teach that the church was sufficient for the Lord's purposes in the beginning of the era, but that modern conditions make it necessary for new methods to be 'med. This italicized phrase disproves that heresy, for it declares the honor given to God in the church must be so done throughout all ages. As a matter of further emphasis Paul adds world without end which is the same as saying "to the end of the world." Amen is explained at Mat 5:18 in volume 1 of the New Testament Commentary.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Ephesians 3". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/ephesians-3.html. 1952.
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