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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Ephesians 3

 

 

Verses 1-13

Ephesians 3:1-13. A Digression. Paul the Prisoner and his Relation to the "Mystery."—A knowledge of Paul's story may be presumed among those who read this letter: they will have heard how he was entrusted with the mission of proclaiming to the Gentiles God's dispensation of grace towards them (Ephesians 3:1 f.); it was by revelation, as aforesaid (cf. Ephesians 1:17), that the glorious secret of God was made known to him—how fully they can judge for themselves by reading the passage (Ephesians 3:13-21) in which he has already summed it up (Ephesians 3:3 f.). This secret, hidden from former generations, was now revealed in the Spirit to the apostles and prophets of Christ (Ephesians 3:5); it included the admission of the Gentiles to joint-heirship, joint-membership of the Body, joint-participation in the promise through the Good News in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:6). Paul, less than the least of all saints, had been made a minister of that gospel through the wondrous working of the Divine grace and power, and entrusted with the task of proclaiming among the Gentiles the inexplorable wealth contained in Christ (Ephesians 3:7 f.). It was his task to enlighten all men by exhibiting the working out of that secret Divine purpose which, from before the beginning of time, had been hidden in God the creator of all things (Ephesians 3:8 f.). The very powers and principalities in heaven had been kept in the dark, and were only now through the Church to learn how many-sided God's wisdom had been (Ephesians 3:10). The whole formed part of God's eternal purpose in Christ Jesus the Church's Lord, who was the source of that bold and fearless access to the Father which believers enjoyed through their confidence in Him (Ephesians 3:11 f.). No need to lose heart when they heard of Paul's sufferings as a prisoner (Ephesians 3:1) on their behalf I Such sufferings were rather a ground of glory (Ephesians 3:13).

Ephesians 3:2. Translate, "for surely ye have heard" or (if there has been a letter to which this is a reply) "since, as ye say, ye have heard." The term "dispensation" (oikonomia) refers, as in Ephesians 1:10, to the Divine "economy" of grace, not to the writer's stewardship of it.

Ephesians 3:3. by revelation: only so can the "secret of God" be made known (cf. Ephesians 1:17).—as I wrote afore: according to some in another Pauline epistle—perhaps Col. Some even see in it "the self-betrayal of an imitator." So again "when ye read" has been taken to mean "when ye read the Scriptures" (cf. 1 Timothy 4:13), i.e. either the Pauline letters (supposed, on this hypothesis, to have already become canonical; in which case a late date is required for Eph.) or the OT (so Hort). All these views are needless; the passage means simply, "Read what I have written above and judge for yourselves as to my insight into the hidden things of God." The mystery is the whole world-plan of God revealed in Christ; it includes the unity of Jew and Gentile but is not to be limited to that.

Ephesians 3:5. Pre-Christian revelation is not denied, but it is as nothing in comparison with the disclosures now made in Christ.—holy apostles: the epithet describes the status of consecration to a particular work, rather than the possession of peculiarly "saintly" character: but the word may be a reverential gloss inserted by a scribe (perhaps from the parallel Colossians 1:26).

Ephesians 3:10. Jewish thought did not regard the angelic hierarchies as being either omniscient or sinless (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6-8*, 1 Corinthians 6:3). The word translated manifold properly means "very varied," as of a many-coloured embroidery.

Ephesians 3:11. eternal purpose: lit. "purpose of the ages," a Hebraism (cf. "Rock of Ages," i.e. everlasting Rock).


Verses 14-21

Ephesians 3:14-21. The Writer's Prayer for his Readers.—Kneeling, in a very ecstasy of prayer, before the Father who is the source and prototype of all fatherly relationship whether on earth or in heaven, the writer prays that, in a degree commensurate with the wealth of the Divine glory, his readers may be granted power and strength through the Spirit unto inner spiritual growth; that the indwelling of Christ in their hearts may through faith be realised; that Christian love may come to be the very root and foundation of their being; and that so they may be given strength to share with all God's holy people the comprehension of the length and breadth and height and depth (of God's glorious purpose) and the knowledge of that love of Christ which is beyond all knowledge, and be made spiritually full unto the measure of the fulness of God Himself (Ephesians 3:14-19). God can do that and more: His power—the power of that Divine energy of His which is at work in us—far exceeds all capacity of human prayer or imagination. Glory to Him in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever! (Ephesians 3:20).

Ephesians 3:14. The writer prostrates himself; the ancients ordinarily prayed standing.

Ephesians 3:15. every family: i.e. angelic or human. The Greek involves a word-play (pater-patria) which suggests the translation "fatherhood." To the writer human fatherhood is a metaphor from Divine, not vice versa.

Ephesians 3:16. the inward man: the spiritual as opposed to the physical side of man's nature (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16).

Ephesians 3:19. All "fulness," i.e. all true reality, dwells in God: unto the complete attainment of reality and truth the working out of the Divine purpose in Christ and Christians is to lead. "In Christ" and "through the Church" the restoration of a disordered universe to its true order is to be achieved. The word "fulness" (pleroma) became later on a catchword of Gnosticism, and the prominence both of the word and the idea in Eph. and Col. may point to its having already played a part in the theosophic speculations attacked in the latter epistle.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/ephesians-3.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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