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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Ephesians 3:13

Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.
New American Standard Version
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  1. Adam Clarke Commentary
  2. Abbott's Illustrated New Testament
  3. Bridgeway Bible Commentary
  4. Coffman Commentaries on the Bible
  5. Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible
  6. E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes
  7. Calvin's Commentary on the Bible
  8. Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible
  9. Chuck Smith Bible Commentary
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Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Glory;   Love;   Minister, Christian;   Thompson Chain Reference - Afflictions;   Blessings-Afflictions;   Faint Not;   Trials;   The Topic Concordance - Fainting;  
Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Faith;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Church;   Ephesians, Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ephesians, Epistle to;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Ephesians Epistle to the;   Evil;   Fellowship;   Glory;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Ephesians, Epistle to the;   Faint;   Glory;   Paul, the Apostle;  
Every Day Light - Devotion for May 23;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

I desire that ye faint not - In those primitive times, when there was much persecution, people were in continual danger of falling away from the faith who were not well grounded in it. This the apostle deprecates, and advances a strong reason why they should be firm: "I suffer my present imprisonment on account of demonstrating your privileges, of which the Jews are envious: I bear my afflictions patiently, knowing that what I have advanced is of God, and thus I give ample proof of the sincerity of my own conviction. The sufferings, therefore, of your apostles are honorable to you and to your cause; and far from being any cause why you should faint, or draw back like cowards, in the day of distress, they should be an additional argument to induce you to persevere."

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Ye faint not; be not distressed and disheartened.--For you; for you Gentiles; not particularly for the Ephesians.--Which is your glory, which is for your glory; that is, his trials and sufferings were designed to be the means of promoting their eternal good.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". 1878.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

God's wisdom and love displayed (3:1-21)

It was because Paul had taken the gospel to the Gentiles that he was imprisoned in the first place (Acts 21:27-36). Yet he feels humbled to think that God should graciously choose him for such a noble work (3:1-2). As a Jew he was once proud of his belief that only Jews were God's people. Even if some of the 'far off' Gentiles believed in God, they were still not God's covenant people in the sense that Jews were. Now God's special revelation shows Paul clearly that no longer is this so. Jewish and Gentile believers are united in one body, the church, and as God's people they share equally in all God's blessings (3-6).

Paul believes that only by God's grace could one as unworthy as he be given the work of taking the gospel to the Gentiles. He believes also that only by God's power will he be fruitful in that work (7-8). God's plan of uniting all believers in one church in and through Christ displays to people and to angels his great wisdom (9-11). This encourages Christians in their everyday lives, for if God is so wise and powerful, they know that they can enter into his presence at all times without fear or doubt. They therefore should not be discouraged, as some in Ephesus were when they heard that their apostle was in prison (12-13).

The one to whom Paul prays is the Father of all who believe, whether Jews or Gentiles. This one is the true Father. Everything in the universe has its origin in him. Even earthly fathers and their families exist only because there is a heavenly Father and his family (14-15).

Paul asks this heavenly Father that those who are his children might be strengthened inwardly through allowing the Spirit of Christ within them to control them. As they understand more of Christ's love, they will grow to be more like him in their lives (16-19). They should not think that this goal is too high to reach, for God is able to do far more than they think possible (20-21).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

Wherefore I ask that ye may not faint at my tribulations for you, which are your glory.

What a beautiful and selfless thought is this! The rigors of a Roman prison, though somewhat tempered in Paul's case, were nevertheless extremely galling, the very fact of being chained twenty-four hours a day to a Roman sentry was itself a terrible punishment. Paul at this time seems to have been kept, either within the vicinity of the Praetorian barracks, or within the compound that housed the royal bodyguard of the Caesars. In the final imprisonment which came some years later, Paul is thought to have been kept in a dungeon. However, the grand apostle's thoughts were not of his own trials and sufferings, but of the intimidation that such sufferings might cause among his converts. He was not concerned about Paul, but about them! Surely, there is a love here that approaches that of the dear Saviour himself.

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Wherefore I desire that ye faint not - The connection here is this. Paul was then a prisoner at Rome. He had been made such in consequence of his efforts to diffuse the Christian religion among the Gentiles; see the notes at Ephesians 3:1. His zeal in this cause, and the opinions which he held on this subject, had roused the wrath of the Jews, and led to all the calamities which he was now suffering. Of that the Ephesians. he supposes, were aware. It was natural that they should be distressed at his sufferings, for all his privations were endured on their account. But here he tells them not to be troubled and disheartened. He was indeed suffering; but he was reconciled to it, and they should be also, since it was promoting their welfare. The word rendered “faint” - ἐκκακέω egkakeō- means literally, to turn out “a coward,” or to lose one‘s courage; then to be fainthearted, etc.; notes, 2 Corinthians 4:1. It is rendered “faint” in Luke 18:1; 2 Corinthians 4:1, 2 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 3:13, and “weary” in Galatians 6:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:13. It does not elsewhere occur. It is rendered here by Locke “dismayed.” Koppe supposes it means that they should not suppose that the Christian religion was vain and false because he was suffering so much from his countrymen on account of it. But it rather means that they might be in danger of being discouraged by the fact that “he” was enduring so much. They might become disheartened in their attachment to a system of religion which exposed its friends to such calamities. Paul tells them that this ought not to follow. They were to be profited by all his sufferings, and they should, therefore, hold fast to a religion which was attended with so many benefits to them - though he should suffer.

Which is your glory - Which tends to your honor and welfare. You have occasion to rejoice that you have a friend who is willing thus to suffer for you; you have occasion to rejoice in all the benefits which will result to you from, his trials in your behalf.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

desire = beg. App-134.

faint not = not (Greek. me) to be cast down.

at. Greek. en App-104. The parenthesis ending with Ephesians 3:13, the teaching is continued from Ephesians 3:1, "For this cause", &c.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

13.Wherefore I desire. His reason for alluding formerly to his imprisonment is now manifest. It was to prevent them from being discouraged when they heard of his persecution. (134) O heroic breast, which drew from a prison, and from death itself, comfort to those who were not in danger! He says that, he endured tribulations for the Ephesians, because they tended to promote the edification of all the godly. How powerfully is the faith of the people confirmed, when a pastor does not hesitate to seal his doctrine by the surrender of his life! And accordingly he adds, which is your glory. Such lustre was thrown around his instructions, that all the churches among whom he had labored, had good reason to glory, when they beheld their faith ratified by the best of all pledges.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible

  1. Intro: God’s Splash Ball
    1. Remember there are 2 prayers in Ephesians (here and in 1:15-23) complement each other.
      1. The 1st, a prayer for enlightenment; the 2nd is for enablement.
      2. Paul wants the Ephesians to learn all they have in Christ and then live what they have learned.
    2. Last week: Paul unveiled the mystery of old...the new society, the combo of Jew & Gentile into one, a.k.a. the Church.
      1. The believing Jews & Gentiles are one & share the same spiritual riches.
      2. Jesus said, I will build My church (Mt.16:18). Paul reminds us, and God uses people to help get the job done.
        1. This week: Paul will explain his unique role in building up the church. Thus, the building of the church should be our motivation to pray & serve also.
  2. IT’S A MYSTERY (1-13)
    2. (1) Ever get interrupted in your prayers…Paul does here (see vs.1&14)
      1. He deviates on the subject of the divine mystery.
    3. Mystery - the ordinary English sense of this word implies knowledge withheld. The biblical sense is truth revealed. [mystery = formerly kept secret but now revealed]
      1. The mystery was made known only by divine revelation, to those illuminated by the Spirit.
    4. (6) Mystery summed up. No one could have foreseen the inclusion of the Gentiles, but here it is plainly revealed via Paul.
    5. The content of the mystery is Christ: Christ for us in giving His life on our behalf. Christ in us accomplishing His purpose by working in each member of His body.
    6. MYSTERY’S PURPOSE (8-13)
    7. (8) Unsearchable riches – they far surpass our human ability to understand.
      1. Paul used same word in Rom.11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out.
      2. God’s riches are so vast no one can plumb their depths.
    8. (9) From the beginning of the ages – Paul traced this mystery all the way back to creation
      1. Paul’s purpose: To preach (8) & make plain/make all see (9).
    9. (10) Manifold wisdom – compound word (many + many sided).
      1. Or, very many-sided, or very many-faceted, or very many-colored.
      2. (William Barclay) The idea in this word is that the grace of God will match any situation which life may bring us. There is nothing of light or of dark, of sunshine or of shadow, for which it is not triumphantly adequate.
    10. (12) God’s plan was more than a successful operation. It became a personal experience. [in Christ we have a free approach to God - access]
      1. Trifecta: Boldness, access, & confidence to come to God in faith.
      2. C.H. Spurgeon once said, Prayer pulls the rope down below and the great bell rings above in the ears of God. Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so languidly; others give only an occasional jerk at the rope.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ But he who communicates with heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continuously with all his might.
  3. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​IV. Slide16a POWER PRAYER (14-21)
    1. ​​​​​​​(14) Paul moves towards a powerful prayer. I think he’s placing this prayer in the greater Roman context. He does it by subtly kind of rewriting what the Romans called...genius.
    2. Genius - How we define it today: an action so unbelievably creative, brilliantly, impressive. Or a person, he/she is genius.
      1. Defined: In Roman religion, the genius is the individual instance of a general divine nature that is present in every individual person, place, or thing. [picture a guardian angel, your protection spirit]
        1. The genius would follow each man from the hour of his birth until the day he died.
      2. Each individual place had a genius and so did powerful objects, such as volcanoes. It was thus extremely important in the Roman mind to propitiate the appropriate genii for the major undertakings and events of their lives.
      3. The Christian theologian Augustine equated the Christian soul with the Roman genius, citing the ancient Roman Scholar Varro as attributing the rational powers and abilities of every human being to their genius.
      4. So, in every person, house, wherever you went, there was some kind of genius in it.
      5. In the Roman Cults, the only genius that mattered, was the one that belonged to the father of the household.
        1. Genius manifested itself as the general life principle that governed the way families lived and how that life principle was passed on for generations. [where we get genes]
      6. The only genius that mattered was the father.
      7. The king of all geniuses belonged to [Slide17a no not Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius] but to the Emperor. The title for the father was pater familias (father of the family)
        1. eg. this is the Bronze genius depicted as pater familias (1st century CE).
        2. This is the Genius of Domitian. [Thus began the tradition of the Imperial cult, in which Romans worshipped the genius of the emperor rather than the person]
        3. Thus the Emperor was pater familias over all the Roman family. His genius was the most revered.
    3. Now I’ll read vs.14,15. [note: the Father...whole named.]
      1. Paul communicates...there is a higher, new (to them), bigger than Caesar, One who is The Pater Familias in whom everyone derives their name.
        1. Every identity given...comes from The Father (heavenly). And in Him is in whose name I am praying.
        2. Dads give people their identity & meaning. And thats who I am kneeling before...the Father.
    4. PRAYER FOR 5 THINGS (14-19)
    5. Finally back to the prayer – let me start over…For this reason…
      1. ​​​​​​​This prayer is for spiritual vision, to see & lay hold of the greatness of God’s love & power.
    6. Now he lists 5 resources which His people may draw upon in prayer.
      1. 1st we need Inner Strength/Power/might (16) which comes via His Spirit in the inner man. [inner man = the center of a person’s life]
        1. This is where we get our real strength. It comes from God, who is present & active in the believer’s life. His power works in & through us.
        2. A story is told of a woman who lived in a remote valley. She went to a great deal of trouble to have electrical power installed in her home. They noticed she didn't use very much electricity at all. In fact, her usage was minuscule. They sent a meter reader out to check on the matter. The man came to the door and said, "We've looked at the amount. Don't you use electricity?" "Oh yes" she said. "We turn it on every night to see how to light our lamps and then we switch it off again."
        3. This sounds like the way many Christians apply the power of God in their lives. [turn it on, switch it off again]
      2. Next we need Faith (17a) that Christ may dwell in your hearts thru faith.
        1. ​​​​​​​may dwell - the Greek word used here, carries the sense of residing permanently.
      3. Next we need Love (17b) rooted & grounded in love.
        1. ​​​​​​​Rooted and grounded - Paul uses these 2 metaphors: 1 agricultural (rooted) the other architectural (grounded/a foundation) reminder of the stability that Christ provides
        2. Too many Christians want the fruits of the Spirit without being rooted in spiritual things. wiersbe A new orientation toward others.
          1. Love is the foundation of the believer’s life.
      4. Next we need comprehension/spiritual understanding (18,19a) of Christ’s love.
        1. ​​​​​​​Comprehend the dimensions of Christ’s love [wide/long/high/deep]
        2. Passes knowledge – compound word, beyond & to throw.
          1. To throw over & beyond. Not hitting the baseball over the fence, but knocking it deep into the stands.
      5. Slide20f Next we need the Fullness of God (19b) of God. Here is God’s ultimate purpose for the lives of His people. [Oh to experience the fullness of God]
        1. This could refer to the blessings of God, or to His perfection and completeness.
    7. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​PAUL’S DOXOLOGY OF PRAISE (20,21) a stirring benediction
    8. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​(20) Exceedingly abundantly – compound word made up of 3 words to show the highest form of comparison imaginable.
      1. Paul connected: above, out of, form this word.
      2. It means exceedingly abundantly, superabundantly, quite beyond all measure. It goes beyond the expression of language. Shepherd’s Notes, Ephesians, pg.41
      3. God’s power at work within us is able to carry out His work more abundantly, than we can even imagine.
        1. Behind right field of San Francisco’s AT&T Park is McCovey Cove, where fans sit in their boats & kayaks, waiting for a splash ball.
        2. So, this phrase exceedingly abundantly isn’t hitting the baseball over the fence, nor deep into the stands, but knocking it out of the park...this here is God’s splash ball!
    9. God gives us more than we ask:
      1. Abraham – said, I can’t expect Sarah to bear a child in her old age. God promised a seed. It must be in this child of Hagar. Oh that Ishmael might live before You.
        1. ​​​​​​​God granted him that, but He gave him Isaac as well, & all the blessings of the covenant.
      2. David – in Ps.21:4 David asked life from God. And God gave him more than length of days for himself, but a throne for his sons throughout all generations.
      3. Man w/palsy friends brought him to Jesus & asked for a physical healing. Jesus said, 1st healed him spiritually, son…your sins are forgiven. Then healed him physically.
        1. God gives greater things than we ask for.
      4. Dying thief – asked, Lord, remember me. Jesus’ reply, today you will be with me in paradise.
      5. The Prodigal – I’m not worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired servants. His father answered: Bring forth the best robe & put it on him; put a ring on his hand, & sandals on his feet.
        1. ​​​​​​​Once you get into the position of an asker, you shall have what you never asked for & never thought to receive. Spurgeon
    10. He says to ask all that we ask above all that we ask or think abundantly above all that we ask or think exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Brian Bell Commentary". 2017.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Let"s turn to the third chapter of Ephesians.

For this cause [Paul said] I, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles ( Ephesians 3:1 ),

It is interesting that Paul was actually a prisoner of Rome, but as far as he was concerned, he was a prisoner of Jesus Christ, that is the one he was really bound to. "A prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles." The reason why Paul was persecuted and the reason why Paul was in prison is because he was insisting that the Gentiles could be saved by their believing in Jesus Christ, and this upset the Jews, who felt that the Gentiles could only be saved by becoming Jews.

Thus, a Gentile could not be saved, only Jews could be saved and a Gentile had to become a Jew in order to be saved. So Paul"s insistence that God is now offering salvation to the Gentiles so incurred the wrath of the Jews that they persecuted him or stirred up persecution everywhere he went. So that the imprisonments were the result of this basic teaching of Paul that you Gentiles can have salvation. So, "a prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles."

Paul said, "If I didn"t preach this then the persecution would cease. They wouldn"t have anything against me anymore." But Paul stood by that message of God"s grace that had been given to him.

If you have heard [he said] of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given to me for you ( Ephesians 3:2 ):

Now, there are those who see seven dispensations. They see the dispensation of innocence, when God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden and God relating to man there in the garden in man"s innocence. Then they see the second dispensation, (I forget what they call it), but it is from the time of Adam"s sin unto the time of Noah, in which they see the third dispensation of the government of God which lasted until the time of the law, which they see the fourth dispensation of the law. And the fifth dispensation of Jesus here; the sixth dispensation, the dispensation of grace; the seventh dispensation, the millennial reign.

Paul is talking about the dispensation of grace, man has divided it up into those categories. I don"t know that God has. I think that man does a lot of things that God doesn"t necessarily endorse, even theologians.

We are living in an age in which God relates to we Gentiles by His grace. It is a dispensation of grace given to us.

How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I already had written about in few words ( Ephesians 3:3 );

Now, in chapter1Paul speaks of this mystery of His will, that in the dispensation of the fullness of time He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on the earth, even in Him. This mystery that God has chosen that all things should be bound up in Jesus Christ; things which are in heaven, things which are on the earth. God has brought all things in subjection unto Him, will put all things in subjection.

Paul said, I wrote a little bit about this mystery already,

Whereby, when you read, you may have an understanding of my knowledge in the mystery of Christ,) 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 ( Ephesians 3:4-5 );

That is, this open door for the Gentiles to receive salvation is something that the Old Testament prophets did not foresee. This age of the church is something that was not seen by the Old Testament prophets. They felt that the coming of Christ would bring the immediate kingdom of God. They figured that the Messiah would usher in the kingdom age immediately and the Old Testament prophets did not really see this age of grace, when God would be drawing from among the Gentiles the body of Christ.

They really didn"t understand all that they saw or all that God revealed to them. They really wrote of things that they did not completely understand. But they wrote as the Holy Spirit inspired them. And thus, they themselves did not know the things that they were writing about or what their full significance was.

Isaiah speaks of the coming Messiah, how that He will sit upon the throne of David and order it and establish it in righteousness and in judgment from henceforth even forever, the zeal of the Lord of Host shall perform this. And yet, Isaiah said that God"s righteous servant would be despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, and we hid as it were our faces from Him. But He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to our own way, and God laid on Him the iniquity of us all. And how He would be numbered with the transgressors in His death. And so he wrote of these things not really understanding the apparent inconsistency of the things that he wrote.

Daniel, in prophesying the day that the Messiah would come, declared, and the Messiah will be cut off, and receive nothing for Himself, and the Jews will be dispersed.

Yet, there did remain that mental attitude that the Messiah is going to set up His kingdom, and it was very prevalent even among the disciples. They were constantly looking for the immediacy of the kingdom of God. When Jesus, after His resurrection, gave the promise of the Holy Spirit to come upon them in a few days, they said, "Lord, will this be the time when You restore the kingdom to Israel? Is this it, Lord?" They were constantly looking for the kingdom to be established immediately. They did not know that there was going to be this period of the dispensation of grace, where God would be reaching out to the Gentiles to draw out from the Gentiles the body of Christ, the church of Jesus Christ. Draw out, actually, from the world, because it was to include both Jews and Gentiles and make them one. The wall that had existed between them is going to be broken down and they are all going to become one body in Christ.

When Paul speaks of it as a mystery, he means not something that is like we think of mysteries today, difficult to solve. It is something that had not been revealed in the past, but God is now revealing and making known. So it is a new revelation from God. This place of the Gentiles in the body of Christ and how that God was going to offer freely unto the Gentiles the glorious promises of eternal life and of salvation and of a place in the kingdom of God.

Paul said, "I want to write this to you so that you will understand my understanding of the mystery which in other ages was not made known, but it is know revealed by the Holy Spirit to the apostles and to the prophets. This is the mystery:"

That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ by the gospel ( Ephesians 3:6 ):

The glorious mystery of God now revealed. You Gentiles can have salvation, can have the promise of eternal life, can have the hope of the kingdom of God. You become a partaker in the grace and in the goodness of God. "Whereof [Paul said] I was made a minister, according the gift of the grace of God that was given to me by the effectual working of his power."

So God laid upon me the ministry of sharing this glorious mystery--God"s grace to the Gentiles.

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 ( Ephesians 3:7-8 );

"What a privilege," Paul said, "is given unto me the less of the least of all saints." Paul"s opinion of himself, this is the opinion of a man who has truly been called of God and really had a confirmation with Jesus Christ.

When I see the way some people strut as they preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, my conclusion is that they really haven"t had a personal confrontation with Him. If I have the attitude, "Lord, You are so lucky that You have me proclaiming Your truths. You don"t know how fortunate You are, God. I could have been famous and I could have been great. I gave up fame and fortune. I am worth a lot to You, Lord." Those testimonies of what people have given up for Jesus Christ really don"t move me. What I could have been doesn"t really touch me.

Paul"s attitude toward himself, "Wow, God has given me this glorious ministry, the lessor than the least of all of the saints. The privilege given that I should be able to share the unsearchable riches of Christ, impart them unto the Gentiles."

Paul felt that because of his previous persecution of the church, his endeavor to waste it, that anything that God did for him was through grace and he was really always, I think, sort of haunted by the fact that he was so blind at one time that he was trying to destroy the church. He makes mention of this, "for I wasted the church of God." Here his attitude, less than the least of all of the saints. But God has chosen

that all men may see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world has been hidden in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ ( Ephesians 3:9 ):

Now, you notice that all that God has done for us is by Jesus Christ as we have been going through these first two chapters on into the third chapter. Anything and everything that God has done for you He has done in and through and by Jesus Christ. These glorious mysteries hid from the Old Testament prophets now revealed through the prophets and the apostles in the New Testament, these marvelous riches of Christ that are available to all men.

To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God ( Ephesians 3:10 ),

You remember Peter writing of these things said, "Which things the angels even desire to look into." ( 1 Peter 1:12 ). You see, angels are not omniscient as is God. They do not know the full purposes or the plan of God. I am sure that they have interesting sessions and discussions as they see the purposes of God being unfolded. Now, the angels did have a better grasp of prophecy than did man. When God would reveal the things through the prophets, they did have a grasp of these things. But not a full understanding. It took the working out of the plan for them to come into a full understanding.

Peter in writing of these things said, "We have the more sure word of prophecy" ( 2 Peter 1:19 ). "He showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs" ( Acts 1:3 ), but we have the more sure word of prophecy and so forth, which things the angels desired to look into. Paul said, "That the principalities and powers, which are the angels, that they might know by what is happening in the church, the manifold wisdom of God."

I would imagine that it is a very shocking and awesome thing to the angels that God decided to come and indwell man. That God would actually come and dwell within man. This is that glorious mystery that God actually will indwell you by His Spirit through Jesus Christ.

My body can become the temple of the Holy Spirit, that Christ dwelling in me is my hope of glory. This marvelous mystery. The angels said, "Wow, can you believe that?" It is revealed, God didn"t reveal it to them, except, as it took place within the church.

According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord ( Ephesians 3:11 ):

That was God"s plan from the beginning.

In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him ( Ephesians 3:12 ).

In chapter1it says we have been accepted in the beloved. God accepts me. Now it says we have access unto God. That was, of course, something that was withheld even from the Jew. They did not have access to God. They came to God through the priest. He would enter into the presence of God for them. When God gave the law to Moses, He said, "Cordon off the mount. Don"t let man come close, lest he be destroyed." Moses went up and communed with God. When the people saw the awesome phenomena of the presence of God, they fled, and they said to Moses, "You go up and talk to Him and you come down and tell us what He said, but we don"t want to get near. That is awesome the fire rolling around the ground, the thunder and all of these things. And you go up and we will listen to you, and we will take what you tell us that God says, but we don"t want to approach that."

And as God established the law, then it was the high priest who went into the Holy of Holies before God for the people and that was only once in a year, one day in a year. But now we have access to God. There is no veil any longer to hold you out.

It was extremely significant that at the crucifixion of Jesus the veil was rent or torn from top to the bottom and God was just now saying through Jesus Christ you can all come. You have access to God. In Hebrews it says, "that we may come boldly before the throne of grace to make our petitions known." Through Jesus Christ we were once alienated from God and could not approach Him, and now have been brought close, been brought nigh, access to God. And then here again, boldness and access, as in Hebrews, "come boldly to the throne of grace."

That timidity that some people display, "Oh, I really don"t think that I am worthy to come to God. I will just go to one of the saints and ask him to go to God for me," is unscriptural and it"s wrong. When God opens the door and says, "Come on in," it is wrong for you to hold back. We come boldly. We have access, boldness and access, confidence by the faith of Him.

Wherefore [Paul said] I desire that you faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory ( Ephesians 3:13 ).

Paul had gone through so much to bring them this message. The prisoner, beaten, scourged, buffeted, stoned. "Don"t faint at my tribulations, because it is all for your glory."

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ( Ephesians 3:14 ),

So Paul"s prayer for them, the attitude in prayer, physical, of bowing his knee, but there are many attitudes for prayer physically. It isn"t really the physical position that counts when I come to God; it is the position of my heart. "He that comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him" ( Hebrews 11:6 ).

So the people who have a hang up, "you"re not really praying unless you are on your knees," is not really a scriptural hang up, it is just their own hang up. The scripture talks about standing, lifting holy hands in prayer. David lying with his face in the dirt crying unto God. Many places they are lying prostrate before the Lord. So sitting, lying, kneeling, standing, that is not what counts, but what is the position of your heart as you come to God.

"I bow my knees unto the Father." Prayer is unto the Father, our Father, which art in heaven. Whatsoever things you ask the Father, that will I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you [Paul"s prayer for them], according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man ( Ephesians 3:15-16 );

How we need strength in our inner man. Satan is constantly setting before us temptations. He is a powerful foe. I do not have the strength within myself to stand against him, I need God"s strength by His Spirit in my inner man if I am to stand before the power of the enemy. Paul prays that you might be strengthened in the inner man by His Spirit.


That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith ( Ephesians 3:17 );

The word dwell in the Greek is to settle down and to make himself at home, that Christ might really be at home, be comfortable, be at ease. There are places where you go and you feel out of place the moment you are there. You feel uncomfortable, you wish you had not come, you are not in harmony with what is going on. Then there are other places where you go and you feel so comfortable, so at ease, so relaxed.

Now, "that Christ might be at home in your hearts" means that your heart might be so in tune and all with Him that as He dwells within your heart there is no strain, there is no embarrassment for Him.

You remember how that Ezekiel, that interesting prophet, how God dealt with him in many strange ways, was taken by the Spirit to Jerusalem. There was this wall there and God said, "Dig a hole through the wall," and he dug a hole through the wall and crawled in. And he looked and here was all kinds of pornography all over the walls. Ezekiel said, "That is horrible, filthy pornography. What"s that all about?" God said, "I have allowed you to go within the minds of the leaders of Israel. These are the things that they are thinking, these are the things they are seeing."

When Christ dwells within your heart and looks on the walls, is He at home, is He comfortable with what He sees? Or when He knocks on the door, do we say, "Wait a minute," and we go around and try to cover everything, or turn things around backwards?

"That Christ may be at home in your hearts by faith;"

that you might be rooted and grounded in love ( Ephesians 3:17 ),

Oh that we would experience more of that love of God and the love of Jesus Christ and that it might really flow forth from our lives. Rooted and grounded in love.

That you may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and the length, and the depth, and the height; and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge ( Ephesians 3:18-19 ),

Here is an interesting request, because how can you know something that passes knowledge? The word know is ginosko, which is know by experience.

Now his prayer: "God loves you so much, I pray that you might know the depths of Gods love for you, the length of God"s love, the height of God"s love. If you could only fathom the depths, if you could only explore the heights, if you could only see the length, to the length to which God was willing to go to save you. The depths to which Jesus was willing to come in order to redeem you. The heights to which God intends to bring you. That He might seat you together with Christ in heavenly places and make you a joint heir with Christ of His eternal kingdom. Oh the heights of the glory that God has for you. If you could only know," Paul said, "comprehend that which is beyond knowledge. Hey, you cannot know it, it is beyond knowledge."

The next request,

that you might be filled with the fullness of God ( Ephesians 3:19 ).

Now, again, that is something that in the physical is impossible. That I could be filled with the fullness of God. The heavens of heavens cannot contain God. How much less me? That I might be filled with the fullness of God. Now, realizing that he has asked some pretty tough things, he says,

Now unto him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think ( Ephesians 3:20 ),

How many times I think that we limit God by our own limitations. We carry our own limitations over into the spiritual realm. We are prone to place things in categories: that is very easy, that is simple, no problem, oh that is pretty tough, that one is difficult. Hey, that is impossible. We are prone to carry these over to God, and it reflects even many times in our attitude of prayer, "Lord, this is a simple thing. You can handle this one. Lord, this is pretty tough. I really don"t know. Forget it, Lord. It is impossible." We are prone to carry over unto God those human feelings that we have concerning situations. How many times God has done things that I thought were totally impossible, things that I had given up on. People that I had said, "Hey, no way." Then what does God do? Turns around and saves them. I can"t believe it.

Jonathan, waking up early in the morning, his mind playing with an interesting thought. "I wonder if God wants to deliver the Philistines to Israel today. If God wants to deliver the Philistines to Israel today, He doesn"t need a whole army. If God wants to do it, He could deliver them into the hands of one man just as easy as He could the whole army. I wonder if He wants to deliver them today?" This crazy thought running through his brain, he can"t get it out of his head. And so he wakes up his armor bearer and he says, "I"m having a crazy thought. You know, I was thinking, if God wants to deliver the Philistines to Israel He doesn"t need the whole army, after all He is God. He could deliver the Philistines to Israel to just one man, just as easily as a whole army. Let"s go over and see if God wants to deliver the Philistines this morning." I love it, let"s see what God might want to do, let"s venture out in faith. Who knows what God might want to do? He doesn"t need a whole army. We measure things by our abilities. "Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think."

We oftentimes are intimidated by certain diseases, by certain illnesses, because they have been diagnosed by man as incurable. Thus, we have a different prayer for Leukemia than we do earaches, or headaches. "Lord, he has got a headache, relieve him, Lord, help him to really be able to function today. Thank you, Lord." No problem. If God doesn"t come through, take an aspirin.

"Leukemia, No! Oh, God, help! God, oh Lord God of heaven." Man leukemia, you have got to really pray for that. You have . . . it takes really getting worked up into that one. That"s tough. Hey, it is no more difficult for God to heal leukemia than it is a common cold. God doesn"t have these categories of difficult or easy or impossible. They don"t exist with God. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly, and we need to remember this when we pray. We need in prayer to be freed from our human limitations and this idea of difficulty.

"Now unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." God can provide a million dollars for you just as easy as He can provide five cents. He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that you ask or think. Why do we limit Him? "Lord, I need a nickel." So I start looking around the ground. It shouldn"t be too hard to find a nickel. Flip the coin boxes in the telephones.

Paul as he prays, prays with that awareness, that confidence that God is able. We need to have that confidence when we pray.

Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end ( Ephesians 3:21 ).

This beautiful little benediction that he tacks onto his prayer. Glory in the church, by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end, and so shall it be. So shall it be.

World without end, we will bring glory and praise unto God because of His grace towards us through Jesus Christ. In heaven we will be much the same things we are doing on the earth, as we are just giving thanks unto God for His mercy and grace to us, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So many people are looking for heaven to bring so many radical changes in their lives. But you see, God wants to make those radical changes right now so that heaven will not be a shocking kind of a transition for you. God is working in us now. Those eternal things as He is preparing us for the eternal kingdom. They are not going to be as radical a change as you think. God wants it to be a smooth transition. It would be glorious to be in heaven for an hour or two before you realized you were there. To walk so close to the Lord, to live in such communion with Him, to walk so in His presence and in His love and all. Hey, wait a minute. Something is different here. Where am I? Wow!

Oh, God help us to so walk with Jesus in close communion. "

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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Reasons for renewing the Prayer for Wisdom

1-13. A digression, which, however, could not be spared. As in Ephesians 1:15, he begins to speak of himself, and this time he explains his unique interest in the conversion of the Gentiles. 'Many of his readers had not seen him, but they must have heard of the special work assigned to him by God, of making known to all the mystery of the ages, so that even angelic powers learn through the Church the manysidedness of the Divine counsels.'

1. 'It was worth while becoming a prisoner in such a cause' (Philemon 1:9, 2 Timothy 1:8).

2. Again the sentence is broken: cp. Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:4, Ephesians 4:5. His being a prisoner on their behalf suggests a fresh train of thought. If he had been writing to Ephesians only, he could not have said 'if.' Ephesians had heard himself; cp. Colossians 1:25.

3. Afore in few words] in the first two chapters

5. 'The revelation is quite new; it has been hidden for many generations.' The Apostles and prophets are holy, as the readers are saints (Ephesians 1:1), as being set apart for God's service; they had accepted St. Paul's doctrine of salvation for the Gentiles. The prophets are the NT. prophets, as in Ephesians 2:20; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12:28-31.

6. This is the mystery that has been revealed.

7. The Apostle of the Gentiles enlarges on the greatness of his special mission. Thrice here he calls it a grace given to him: cp. Galatians 2:7-9; Colossians 1:24.

8. Unsearchable] inexplorable; that cannot be traced out. Riches] the comprehensiveness and power of the gospel.

9. 'That which for ages has been kept secret from the wisest and holiest is now brought to light for all to see.'

10. It is an amazing thought that, by means of the Church, God's varied wisdom in the scheme of redemption is made known to heavenly beings. 'Angels desire to look into' 'the manifold grace of God' (1 Peter 1:12; 1 Peter 4:10). 11, 12. God's eternal purpose accomplished in Christ, through faith in whom we have courage to draw near to God. 12. A repetition of Ephesians 2:18 : cp. Romans 8:38, Romans 8:39.

13. That ye faint not] It might mean 'that I may not faint.' But St. Paul is not afraid of losing heart; he rejoiced in tribulations (Romans 5:8), and took pleasure in weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:10). He is afraid that the Gentiles may lose heart, when they see him persecuted for helping them: they ought rather to glory in this.

Now he returns to Ephesians 3:1 after his magnificent digression, and at last gives in fulness the prayer for their enlightenment which he began Ephesians 1:17, It is a very bold intercession.

14-21. Prayer and doxology. 'May they have great spiritual power, may Christ dwell in their hearts, may they know His incomprehensible love, and be filled up to the measure of God's fulness. To Him, who can give in abundance blessings which we cannot even imagine, be glory for ever.'

14. For this cause] because of their union with the Jews in Christ (Ephesians 2:13-22). The Jews stood to pray (Matthew 6:5; Luke 18:11-13), prostration being exceptional; but Christians are said to kneel (Acts 7:60; Acts 9:40; Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5), perhaps after Luke 22:41.

15. 'All fatherhood, whether earthly or celestial, derives its name from the Fatherhood of God.'

16. The inner man] is the immaterial part of man's nature, the soul and spirit; 'the outward man' (2 Corinthians 4:16) being the flesh.

18. May be able] 'may have full strength to comprehend what is really incomprehensible.' The four dimensions represent the vastneas of the love of Christ towards us.

19. An audacious paradox: 'that ye may be filled up to all the fulness of God,' i.e. to the perfection of the Divine attributes (Matthew 5:48).

20. The doxology explains the audacity of the prayer. God can give superabundantly quite inconceivable boons.

21. In the Church by Christ Jesus] RV 'in the Church and in Christ Jesus,' in the Body and in the Head. The Church in this Epistle is always the Church universal, never a local Church. This Church completes the Christ (Ephesians 1:23), reveals God's wisdom to the angels (Ephesians 3:10), is, with Christ, the sphere in which God is glorified. It is indeed a glorious Church (Ephesians 5:27).

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

2. Past ignorance3:1-13

Paul began to pray for his readers again (cf. Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 3:14), but he interrupted himself to tell them more about the church. What he said in this section gives background information concerning the church as a mystery.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

In this verse the apostle returned to the thought with which he began this section ( Ephesians 3:1). God had entrusted Paul with the mystery of the church and had given him a ministry of evangelizing the Gentiles. Therefore his Ephesian readers should not view his present imprisonment as a tragedy but simply as part of his ministry. His ministry was for them and for their glory, so they should view his tribulations as part of God"s good will for him and for them (cf. Philippians 1:7).

"The mystery of Ephesians 3is the equality of Jews and Gentiles in the body of Christ. This equality and this body were not revealed in the Old Testament. They were made known only after the coming of Christ by the Spirit to the apostles and prophets including Paul but not excluding others." [Note: Ryrie, "The Mystery . . .," p31. This article contains an excellent explanation of the mystery from the dispensational viewpoint as well as refutation of the amillennial, covenant premillennial, and ultradispensational views.]

Saucy, a "progressive dispensationalist," interpreted the mystery in a slightly different way.

"Our examination of the mystery in Ephesians 3leads us to a mediating position between traditional dispensational and nondispensational views [i.e, the progressive dispensational view]. The unity of Jews and Gentiles in Christ is taking place in the church in partial fulfillment of Old Testament promises. Messianic days have dawned, albeit in a way not clearly anticipated in the prophecies. Rather than one grand age of fulfillment under the messianic reign, the prophetic fulfillment has been divided into two ages related to the two comings of Christ. In this first age of fulfillment, the spiritual messianic salvation is already present in the gospel. This gospel is broadly spoken of as the mystery, or the mystery of Christ, or the mystery of the gospel. The specific spiritual unity of all peoples entailed in this gospel is the content of the mystery of Ephesians 3." [Note: Saucy, "The Church . . .," p151.]

Whereas the Old Testament predicted the unity of Jewish and Gentile believers, it did not reveal their complete equality in Christ. On this point all dispensationalists and covenant theologians agree.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Darby's Synopsis of the New Testament

Ephesians Chapter 3

The whole of chapter 3 is a parenthesis unfolding the mystery; and presenting at the same time, in the prayer that concludes it, the second character of God set before us at the beginning of the epistle, namely, that of Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; and this is the way in which it is here introduced. Chapter 1 gives the counsels of God as they are in themselves, adding His raising Christ and setting Him above all on high at the end. Chapter 2, His work in quickening others with Him and forming the whole assembly of those who are risen in Christ, taken by grace from among Jews and Gentiles; these are God’s thoughts and work. Chapter 3 is Paul’s administration of it; it speaks especially of the bringing in of the Gentiles on the same footing as the Jews. This was the entirely new part of the ways of God.

Paul was a prisoner for having preached the gospel to the Gentiles-a circumstance that brought out his particular ministry very clearly. Thus ministry in the main is presented as in Colossians 1:1-29. Only in the latter epistle the whole subject is treated more briefly, and the essential principle and character of the mystery according to its place in the counsels of God is less explained, is viewed only on a special side of it, suited to the purpose of the epistle, that is, Christ and the Gentiles. Here the apostle assures us that he had received it by a special revelation, as he had already taught them in words which, though few, were suited to give a clear understanding of his knowledge of the mystery of Christ-a mystery never made known in the past ages, but now revealed by the Spirit to the apostles and prophets. Here it will be observed that the prophets are most evidently those of the New Testament, since the communications made to them are put in contrast with the degree of light granted in the previous ages. Now the mystery had been hidden in all former times; and in fact it needed so to be; for to have put the Gentiles on the same footing as the Jews would have been to demolish Judaism, such as God had Himself established it. In it He had carefully raised a middle wall of partition. The duty of the Jew was to respect this separation; he sinned, if he did not strictly observe it. The mystery set it aside. The Old Testament prophets, and Moses himself, had indeed shewn that the Gentiles should one day rejoice with the people: but the people remained a separate people. That they should be co-heirs, and of the same body, all distinction being lost, had indeed been entirely hid in God (part of His eternal purpose before the world was), but formed no part of the history of the world, nor of the ways of God respecting it, nor of the revealed promises of God.

It is a marvellous purpose of God which, uniting redeemed ones to Christ in heaven as a body to its head, gave them a place in heaven. For, although we are journeying on the earth, and although we are the habitation of God by the Spirit on the earth, yet in the mind of God our place is in heaven.

In the age to come the Gentiles will be blessed; but Israel will be a special and separate people.

In the assembly all earthly distinction is lost; we are all one in Christ, as risen with Him.

He made known to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, which gave them a portion in the counsels of God in grace. He enlightened all with regard, not precisely, to the mystery, but to the administration (14) of the mystery; that is to say, not only the counsel of God, but the accomplishment in time of that counsel by bringing the assembly together under Christ its head. He who had created all things, as the sphere of the development of His glory, had kept this secret in His own possession, in order that the administration of the mystery, now revealed by the establishment of the assembly on earth, should be in its time the means of making known to the most exalted of created beings the manifold and various wisdom of God. They had seen creation arise and expand before their eyes; they had seen the government of God, His providence, His judgment; His intervention in lovingkindness on the earth in Christ. Here was a kind of wisdom altogether new; a thing outside the world, hitherto shut up in the mind of God, hid in Himself so that there was no promise or prophecy of it, but the special object of His eternal purpose; connected in a peculiar way with the One who is the centre and the fulness of the mystery of godliness; which had its own place in union with Him; which, although it was manifested on earth and set with Christ at the head of creation, formed properly no part of it. It was a new part of it. It was a new creation, a distinct manifestation of the wisdom of God; a part of His thoughts which until then had been reserved in the secret of His counsels; the actual administration of which, on the earth in time by the apostle’s work, made known the wisdom of God according to His settled purpose, according to His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus. “In whom,” the apostle adds, “we draw nigh with all boldness by faith in him”: and it is according to this relationship that we do so.

Therefore these Gentile believers were not to be discouraged on account of the imprisonment of him who had proclaimed to them this mystery; for it was the proof and the fruit of the glorious position which God had granted them, and of which the Jews were jealous.

This revelation of the ways of God does not, as the first chapter, present Christ to us as man raised up by God from the dead, in order that we should be raised up also to have part with Him, and that the administration of the counsels of God should thus be accomplished. It presents Him as the centre of all the ways of God, the Son of the Father, the Heir of all things as the Creator Son, and the centre of the counsels of God. It is to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ that the apostle now addresses himself; as in chapter 1 it was to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every family (not “the whole family”) ranges itself under this name of Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Under the name of Jehovah there were only the Jews. “You only have I known of all the families of the earth,” had Jehovah said to the Jews in Amos, “therefore will I punish you for your iniquities”; but under the name of Father of Jesus Christ all families-the assembly, angels, Jews, Gentiles, all-range themselves. All the ways of God in that which He had arranged for His glory were co-ordained under this name, and were in relation with it; and that which the apostle asked for the saints to whom he addressed himself was, that they should be enabled to apprehend the whole import of those counsels, and the love of Christ which formed the assured centre for their hearts.

For this purpose he desires that they should be strengthened with all might by the Spirit of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that the Christ, who is the centre of all these things in the counsels of God the Father, should dwell also in their hearts, and thus be the intelligent centre of affection to all their knowledge-a centre which found no circle to limit the view that lost itself in infinitude which God alone filled-length, breadth, height, depth.(15) But this centre gave them at the same time a sure place, a support immovable and well known, in a love which was as infinite as the unknown extent of the glory of God in its display around Himself. “That Christ,” says the apostle, “may dwell in your hearts.” Thus He, who fills all things with His glory, fills the heart Himself, with a love more powerful than all the glory of which He is the centre. He is to us the strength which enables us in peace and love to contemplate all that He has done, the wisdom of His ways, and the universal glory of which He is the centre.

I repeat it-He who fills all things fills above all our hearts. God strengthens us according to the riches of that glory which He displays before our wondering eyes as rightly belonging to Christ. He does it, in that Christ dwells in us, with tenderest affection, and He is the strength of our heart. It is as rooted and grounded in love; and thus embracing as the first circle of our affections and thoughts, those who are so to Christ-all the saints the objects of His love: it is as being filled with Him, and ourselves as the centre of all His affections, and thinking His thoughts, that we throw ourselves into the whole extent of God’s glory; for it is the glory of Him whom we love. And what is its limit? It has none; it is the fulness of God. We find it in this revelation of Himself. In Christ He reveals Himself in all His glory. He is God over all things, blessed for ever.

But dwelling in love we dwell in God and God in us: and that in connection with the display of His glory, as He develops it in all that He has formed around Himself, to exhibit Himself in it, in order that Christ, and Christ in the assembly, His body, should be the centre of it, and the whole the manifestation of Himself in His entire glory. We are filled unto all the fulness of God; and it is in the assembly that He dwells for this purpose. He works in us by His Spirit with this object. Therefore Paul’s desire and prayer is that glory may be unto God in the assembly throughout all ages by Jesus Christ: Amen. And note, it is here realisation of what is spoken of that is desired. It is not, as chapter 1, objective, that they may know what is certainly true, but that it may be true for them, they being strengthened with might by His Spirit. It is very beautiful to see how, after launching us into the infinitude of God’s glory, he brings us back to a known centre in Christ-to know the love of Christ, but not to narrow us. It is more properly divine, though familiar to us, than theglory. It passes knowledge.

Observe too here, that the apostle does not now ask that God should act by a power, as it is often expressed, which works for us, but by a power that works in us.(16) He is able to do above all that we can ask or think according to His power that works in us. What a portion for us! What a place is this which is given us in Christ! But he returns thus to the thesis proposed at the end of chapter 2, God dwelling in the assembly by the Spirit, and Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, united in one. He desires that the Ephesian Christians (and all of us) should walk worthy of this vocation. Their vocation was to be one, the body of Christ; but this body in fact manifested on earth in its true unity by the presence of the Holy Ghost. We have seen (chap. 1) the Christian brought into the presence of God Himself; but the fact that these Christians formed the body of Christ, and that they were the dwelling-place of God here below, the house of God on the earth-in a word, their whole position-is comprised in the expression, “their vocation.” Chapter 1, note, gives the saints before God; the prayer of chapter 3, Christ in them.

Chapter 4. Now the apostle was in prison for the testimony which he had borne to this truth, for having maintained and preached the privileges that God had granted to the Gentiles, and in particular that of forming by faith, together with the believing Jews, one body united to Christ. In his exhortation he makes use of this fact as a touching motive. Now the first thing that he looked for on the part of his beloved children in the faith, as befitting this unity and as a means of maintaining it in practice, was the spirit of humility and meekness, forbearance with one another in love. This is the individual state which he desired to be realised among the Ephesians. It is the true fruit of nearness to God, and of the possession of privileges; if they are enjoyed in His presence.

At the end of chapter 2 the apostle had unfolded the result of the work of Christ in uniting the Jew and the Gentile, in making peace, and in thus forming the dwelling-place of God on the earth; Jew and Gentile having access to God by one Spirit through the mediation of Christ, both being reconciled to God in one body. To have access to God; to be the dwelling-place of God through His presence by the Holy Ghost; to be one body reconciled to God-such is the vocation of Christians. Chapter 3 had developed this in its whole extent. The apostle applies it in chapter 4.

Footnotes for Ephesians Chapter 3

14: This appears to me to be the true word, and not “the fellowship.”

15: Christ is the centre of all the display of divine glory, but He thus dwells in our hearts so as to set them, so to speak, in this centre, and make them look out thence on all the glory displayed. Here we might lose ourselves; but he brings them back to the well-known love of Christ, yet not as anything narrower, for He is God, and it passes knowledge, so that we are filled up to all the fulness of God.

16: This fully distinguishes the prayer of chapter I and this. There the calling and inheritance were in the sure purpose of God, and his prayer is that they may know them, and the power that brought them there. Here it is what is in us, and he prays that it may exist, and that as present power in the church.

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Darby, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "John Darby's Synopsis of the New Testament". 1857-67.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

Ephesians 3:13 “Wherefore I ask that ye may not faint at my tribulations for you, which are your glory”

“Wherefore”: In view of all the blessings available to Christians, including the Christians in Ephesus. “I ask”: Paul could not keep Christians from fainting or giving up, rather all he can do is exhort them with great objective truths. “May not faint”: To become weary or give up (Galatians 6:9; 2 Corinthians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 4:16). “At my tribulations”: “I beg you not to be disheartened at the sufferings” (TCNT). “So please do not lose heart at what they are doing to me here” (Tay).

“Paul also had to encourage the Philippians ( and 2:17-18) and the Colossians (1:24) in regard to his imprisonment. Paul wants the Ephesian believers to see that imprisonment does not mean defeat” (Boles p. 253). “Paul"s readers might have lost heart. They might have supposed that the cause of Christ was failing. His work seemed to have ended. The Gentile believers might well have been discouraged. The apostle reasoned otherwise. However, painful imprisonment and distress must argue a great cause; they must signify an enterprise worthy of such a price. Unless some great purpose was being accomplished the Master would not allow his servant to suffer such pain. It indicated the dignity of their position, the exalted character of their destiny, which was being secured at so great a cost” (Erdman p. 71).

“For you, which are your glory”: “For it does you honor” (Gspd). “They could feel honored that one who was accomplishing so divine a mission was suffering for them” (Erdman p. 71).

“Indeed, Paul was defending their full and unhindered access to blessings in Christ for which every Gentile should be grateful!” (Spiritual Sword Lectureship p. 69). “If Paul is willing to endure everything for his work"s sake, that work must be great and valuable indeed; if God permitted Paul to endure so much as the consequence of his work, this showed God"s own estimate of his work” (Lenski p. 488). As a result Paul informs these Gentile Christians that the very existence of his suffering should greatly encourage them, because God knew that every effort should be made in affirming the right of Gentiles to be saved. We are reminded here that the souls of Gentiles have great worth (Matthew 16:26). If we are to spread the message, we must be prepared to endure some suffering (2 Timothy 3:12; Acts 14:22). Erdman reminds us, “Suffering is ever involved in the enterprise of evangelizing the world. So it is in all great causes. The most priceless possessions of mankind have ever been secured by peril, toil, and pain. Opposition, difficulty, even apparent failure, are not reasons for abandoning a divinely appointed task” (pp. 71-72).

“If the church is central to God"s purpose it must surely also be central to our lives. How dare we take lightly what God takes so seriously? How dare we push to the circumference what God has placed at the center? No, we shall seek to become responsible church members, active in some local manifestation of the universal church. We shall not be able to acquiesce in low standards which fall far short of the New Testament ideals for God"s new society, whether mechanical, meaningless worship services, or fellowship which is icy cold and even spoiled by rivalries which make the Lord"s Supper a farce, or such inward-looking isolationism as to turn the church into a ghetto which is indifferent to the outside world. If instead (like Paul) we keep before us the vision of God"s new society as His family, His dwelling place, and His instrument in the world, then we shall constantly be seeking to make our church"s worship more authentic, its fellowship more caring and its outreach more compassionate. In other words (like Paul again), we shall be ready to pray, to work and if necessary to suffer in order to turn the vision into a reality” (Stott pp. 129-130).

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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". 1999-2014.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(1) contain two subjects closely blended together. The first (carrying on what is implied in the contrast drawn out in Ephesians 2) is the absolute newness of this dispensation to the Gentiles—a mystery hidden from the beginning in God, but now at last revealed. The second, an emphatic claim for St. Paul himself, “less than the least” although he is, of a special apostleship to the Gentiles, proclaiming this mystery by word and deed.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(13) Wherefore I desire . . .—The verse is parenthetical—a reflection suggested by the greatness of the trust and the littleness of the minister dwelt upon in , and inserted as a warning to the Ephesians not to be disheartened at the present “tribulation” of his imprisonment, as if it were a failure of his mission. (See this idea more fully worked out in Philippians 1:12-29.) “To faint” (as in 2 Corinthians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Galatians 6:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:13) is “to play the coward,” as “thinking it (see 1 Peter 4:12-13) a strange thing” that trouble should fall on him or them. It might well seem strange, when for four years at least, at Cæsarea and Rome, the marvellous activity of St. Paul’s Apostolic career was apparently cut short.

At my tribulations for you, which is your glory.—There is a peculiar beauty in the thought suggested by the words “which is your glory.” The suffering, triumphantly borne and actually turned to the furtherance of the gospel, is certainly a “glory,” in the proof which it gives of the power of the truth and the grace of Christ. But the more obvious idea would have been to comfort the Ephesians by the declaration that St. Paul’s tribulations were to himself a cause, not of pain, but of joy and glory—as is, in fact, done in Colossians 1:24, and in the celebrated passage, 2 Corinthians 11:23-31. Here, however, instead of so doing, St. Paul pursues the same line of thought as in 1 Corinthians 4:10—there half ironically, here seriously—that, while the suffering falls on himself, the glory passes to the Church, for which he suffers, and in which he is content to sink himself. Hence he bids the Ephesians find encouragement and glory for themselves, instead of a cause for “fainting,” in the afflictions endured on their behalf and overcome in Christ. As he identifies himself with them, so he would have them take what might be his glory to be their own.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Christianity a Revelation

Ephesians 3:4-5

I. First of all, let us notice what is implied in this, when we say that Christianity is a revelation.

For one thing, there is implied a contrast. When we say that Christianity is a Revelation, we mean that it is not an induction or an invention.

Every religion purports to be a revelation. Ay and more, every religion in so far as it is true—and there is an element of truth in every religion—is what it purports to be, a revelation. We need not be surprised at the statement that there is an element of true self-revelation by God Himself to the hearts of men in even the crudest religions. Not only are the ideas of religion and Revelation, as Sabatier says, "correlative and religiously inseparable," but it is in line with Scripture. "God left not Himself without a witness." The Old and New Testaments are both full of this thought. The sun in the heavens is His herald. The recurring seasons, the gifts of harvest-tide, are His messengers. Conscience and the sense of right and wrong are His witness within. And when the Parsee worships the sun he has caught one ray, and reflected it, from the light Divine. The Greek worshipping Demeter, the great Earth-Mother, has caught and reflected another. Confucius heard a voice Divine in the call of duty. And the Furies with their lash for the transgressor were held in holy reverence because to their worshippers they seemed the vindicators of a law which, men discerned, had come into their hearts from God. It is where and when God shows Himself that men fall down and worship. Till then they are seekers with a void in their hearts which nothing earth-born can satisfy. But God appears; God reveals Himself; and they recognise Him and reverence and adore. A revelation alone can satisfy the religious instinct which is an essential element in our human nature.

II. Being satisfied that our religion is and must be a revelation if it is a religion at all, the second point for us to consider is the way in which the revelation has been made. How has God shown Himself?

(a) For one thing, God has revealed Himself progressively. He has come like the "sun shining more and more unto the perfect day". The history of Christianity is the history of a steadily enlarging understanding of the wealth of the revelation which there is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

(b) For a second thing, God"s revelation of Himself is not intellectual only, but personal.

(c) A third point to be noted about God"s method of revealing Himself is that He has revealed Himself first to individuals, and then through them to their fellows.

—R. J. Drummond, Faith"s Certainties, p3.

References.—III:6.—F. St. John Corbett, The Preacher"s Year, p19. III:7.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. ix. p375.

Wealth That Never Pails

Ephesians 3:8

"The unsearchable riches." The inexorable wealth, ranging vein beyond vein, mine beyond mine, in land beyond land, in continent beyond continent! And, then, side by side with this immeasurable glory, the Apostle puts himself. "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given!" What an arresting and daring conjunction! Let us turn our contemplation to one or two aspects of this "unsearchable" wealth.

I. The Lord Jesus Christ has created so exacting a conception of Himself in the minds of men that no ministry of man can satisfy it. No human ministry can express it. In all our best representations of the Lord there is always a missing something, an "unsearchable" something, which the most masterly figures cannot span.

II. But it is not only that our Saviour has created an exacting conception of Himself, He has also, by His "unsearchable riches," created an exacting ideal of human possibility. Every summit brings a new Revelation, the reward of every attainment is a vision of further glory.

III. We cannot exhaust their powers of application to the ever-changing conditions in human life and destiny. In the Christian life new conditions never find us resourceless. Our wealth is inexhaustible, and always manifests itself as current coin.

IV. But it is not only that "the unsearchable riches of Christ adapt themselves, and reveal the wealth, to the changing condition of our years, it Isaiah, that in our personal crises, when life suddenly leaps into fierce emergency, their resources are all available, and never leave us in the lurch. There are three great crises in human life—the crisis of sin, the crisis of sorrow, and the crisis of death—and by its ability to cope with these crises every philosophy and every ministry must be finally determined and tried. We can never get to the end of "the unsearchable riches of Christ. They are our glory in time, they will be our endless surprise in eternity.

—J. H. Jowett, The British Congregationalist, 24th January1907, p84.

Ephesians 3:8

Christ gives us to possess not God only, but men also as our riches, the unsearchable riches which we have in Him.

—McLeod Campbell.

References.—III:8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii. No745, and vol. xx. No1209. Bishop Westcott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. p360. F. E. Paget, Helps and Hindrances to the Christian Life, vol. i. p60. J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxi. p398. III:8-11.—J. Clifford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. p209. III:9.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p32. III:10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii. No448, and vol. xvi. No933. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. pp138, 153; ibid. vol. vi. p77. III:11.—Ibid. vol. i. p32. III:11, 20.—Llewelyn Davies, The Purpose of God, p28. III:12.—W. P. Du Bose, The Gospel According to St. Paul, p143.

Patriotism and Intercession

Ephesians 3:14-19

All great missionary pioneers, founders, and leaders seem to come to a time in their lives when God"s purposes and plans become unveiled to their vision, and, as in a moment, the future unfolds itself to their spiritual gaze. So it was with Noah after that great crisis in the world"s history at the Flood. By faith, in the spirit of simple obedience and holy, farseeing awe, he had prepared the Ark and entered it with his family. He had passed reverently through the discipline of his strange retreat, and was ready, after his sacrifice of thanksgiving, for the vision of God"s providential government and the future expansion of the race of man. So with Abraham, strong in the faith that boldly faces the unknown and "waits on the Lord to renew its strength". Step by step he approaches the crucial and unexpected trial of his belief. But the discipline of faith had prepared him. He offers his son in sacrifice, but stays his hand immediately at the Divine call. Then it is that the whole vision of the purpose of God in the family and tribal and national life of Israel opens before his mind. Think, too, of Moses and his training, all preparatory to that magnificent vision of God on Mount Sinai as a Moral Being having personal moral relations with mankind.

I. And St. Paul, the greatest of missionary pioneers, steeped in all the visions and hopes of Judaism, burning with zeal for its glorious Revelation, its secure privileges, and its inspired claims—when the eyes of his soul were opened on the Damascus road to see the glimmerings of a world-wide significance in the religion and history of his people, and see it all focussed in the incarnate personality of Jesus, immediately he "confers not with flesh and blood," but bursts through all conventional bonds and cautions and expediencies. He takes the yoke of Christ, becomes the Lord"s slave, submits his whole being, is led by the hand of Ananias, is healed, taught, and baptised. Then he goes into his retreat in the wilderness, hears unspeakable words, sees the meaning of the call to "go far hence unto the Gentiles," and simply goes. He founds Church after Church, leaving with each the Divine gifts of the Faith, the Ministry, and the Sacraments, with powers of self-government, self-support, and self-expansion. And he does this work, too, if in all simple joy of soul, yet in "much trembling," in much depression, in bodily infirmity, amidst the scorn of philosophers, the hatred of his own people, "fightings within and fears without," in "prisons frequent and deaths oft". He sees the incarnate life of Jesus becoming incarnate in all humanity. For God"s purposes there is one race, the human race; but one Saviour, His Son; one family, the Church; "one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism," as there is and can be but "one God and father of us all". And within sound and sight of Caesar"s Palace, where was focussed, in the person of the Emperor, Rome"s Imperial and imperious world-wide sway, St. Paul sees and feels in it all a parable of the universal Kingship of Jesus, the universal brotherhood of mankind, in the one universal family of His Holy Catholic Church; and as the glorious vision lays hold of and enthrals his soul he "bows his knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of Whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant unto the world to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that it might be filled with all the fulness of God."

II. In the second chapter of this Epistle to the Ephesian and other Churches of Asia St. Paul passes quite naturally from the fact and idea of the Fatherhood of all humanity to the idea of the family and then to the home, the house itself, the temple of the Triune God. "Through Christ we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father, and are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Corner-stone, in Whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord." Then suddenly his prison-chamber expands and becomes to his soul like some vast cathedral temple, and, as though ministering at its high altar, he lifts his hands and bows his knees unto the Father in heaven and raises the great intercession as the Imperial vision of Christ"s universal sovereignty holds him and claims and proclaims the Real Presence of God in, to, and for humanity in the Sacramental efficacy of the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of the Son of God and Son of Prayer of Manasseh, "in Whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit". No wonder that it has been said of this Epistle that "in it St. Paul has given to his teaching a new centre, that of the Church of God". It is eucharistic in its visions and ideals and practical exhortations. It begins with thanksgiving and ends in a benediction, and its core and centre in the text is like a consecration prayer. There is the unity of all Creation, and the restored unity of humanity in Christ the Head of the Body—the Church. Christ, the Great High Priest of humanity, ministers the great salvation in and through His own Body, prepared from all eternity in and within the mystical Body which He was forming out of universal humanity, and wherein, as far as salvation or "saving health" was concerned, there was to be no individual privilege or preference, neither Jew nor Gentile, and yet wherein all differences of race, language, or circumstance, all varieties of genius, talent, or experience would find themselves unified, strengthened, perfected, and glorified in the manifold (many-coloured) "unity of the Spirit, which is the bond of peace".

Am I wrong in thinking of this Epistle to the Asian Churches as the account of a great Sacramental vision which had germinated and grown in the soul of the Apostle, and became incarnated in his life as the years went on? Again and again you can feel the heart of the great missionary pulsating to bursting-point as the thrill and throb of the infinite movement and purpose of the Blessed Trinity in Creation, Providence, and Grace, like some great drama set to music, possesses him, lightens and brightens his spiritual vision, enthrals and compels his will, inspires and inflames his soul, so that he could even "wish himself accursed from God" if only the Israel of Abraham could but see the vision and accept its destiny as the Israel of God, and if only Rome and the nations in their worship of force, and Greece in its worship of beauty and Wisdom of Solomon, could and would but see revealed as in a Sacrament, in the Incarnate Word, "Christ the Power of God and the Wisdom of God". "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye might be filled with the fulness of God."

He sees in Jesus Christ, the God- Prayer of Manasseh, the one and only principle of a universal brotherhood, a universal citizenship, and a universal Empire, demanding faith in the eternal justice of God, hope in His eternal mercy, and an all-embracing love shown in mutual service—

Each for his brethren, all for God.

Bishop W. T. Gaul, The Guardian, 16th September, 1910.

References.—III:14.—Bishop Westcott, The Incarnation and Common Life, p161. III:14, 15.—J. Martineau, Endeavours After the Christian Life (2Series), p95. III:14-16.—J. Bowstead, Practical Sermons, vol. ii. p148.

The Love of God

Ephesians 3:14-19

I. The fact that God feels a deep love for men is one hard to contemplate, still harder to realise. Yet it is the starting-point of Christianity. It is the very core of the revelation of Jesus. The inspired declaration that "God is Love" ( 1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16) has changed the temper and life of every man and every community which has come to believe that the statement is true. It has been a thousand times more potent to produce right living than had been the previous belief that God is power. Therefore love is more potent than law, and love is the essence of the Gospel. It is true that in the case of an earthly ruler affection may be thrown away upon unworthy subjects, and that legal compulsion alone will produce results. Nevertheless, Jesus insists that God Himself is so constituted that He can never rest content until He has won for Himself the love of all His creatures. Jesus uncovers the love of God for men, and allows it to work. It may work by sharp methods, for love can be "cruel to be kind". But, we are taught, the object which God sets before Himself is not to break a recalcitrant will, or compel a sullen obedience to His laws, but to draw all men to Himself. But the fact that God loves men, though it may gain a certain amount of assent in the abstract, becomes difficult to realise, and raises grave doubts in the human mind, when men reflect on what the statement involves.

(1) The sense of one"s own individual insignificance in the universe of Existence—this thought presents one difficulty. That God should entertain affection towards humanity as a whole does not seem unreasonable, but we cannot realise the fact that God has a distinct and separate love for each single human soul which has ever lived. Yet, if this be not the truth, then His love for men becomes a mere phrase not worth contending about.

(2) Another difficulty is the fact of human unloveliness. Men, taking them as a whole, are not very lovable. Comparatively few inspire real affection. Alas! it is but too true that those who come personally into contact with multitudes, and have to deal with them officially or commercially, come to have a sort of contempt for humanity; they see too much of the foibles and petty faults of character to feel any general sentiment of affection; they have discovered the unloveliness of men.

(3) There is one other difficulty, and that the most formidable—the fact of human suffering.

If it be true that God loves His children, why does He leave them to suffer so? This has been the dark mystery of the ages; it is the difficulty with many still. It has led men to atheism. It has led them to attribute to God the qualities of the devil. It has driven them, in frantic despair, to curse God and die. It has led others to grovel before God as abject slaves before an Oriental despot. It has led others, again, to throw their children into the flames and the waters as propitiatory sacrifices to angry deities. It has led many among us to think of a Law, instead of a Person, as the Centre of things—has this apparent Divine indifference to the cries of human agony.

II. Now St. Paul looks these facts squarely in the face, and yet bursts out in praise of the goodness and lovingkindness of God. Why does he do so? What new light has he upon the "painful riddle of life"? He is not hazarding a mere opinion; it is not a conclusion thought out or discovered by any method common among men. Jesus had said not long before that any one who saw Him would see the Father. Now many beheld Him, but comparatively few recognised Him for what He was. In this minority was St Paul. (The Apostle Paul claimed for Himself an equal authority with the other Apostles, because he had seen the Lord, not in a mere vision, but "objectively"—after His Ascension—in glory). This sight of God in the Person of Jesus Christ changed his estimate of his fellowmen by changing his notion about God. It set all the facts of life with which he was familiar in a new light. They remained the same, but they no longer meant the same. As he learned from the Master what is the real disposition of God towards men—that all men are the sons of God, and that God has a personal interest in each individual soul, because of this relationship—this kindled in him that "enthusiasm of humanity" which is the great mark of Christianity. Real love for men is only possible in the Presence of God. So absolute is the Christian conviction of God"s lovingkindness that from it he educes an explanation of human pain, and he does it clearly: "My Song of Solomon, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord; for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth... (et seq.)" ( ). The Apostle"s assertion amounts to this—that the ills which assault men, and sometimes take the zest out of living, are no meaningless accidents, nor purposeless agonies caused by the crampings of a soulless "law," but that they are the smartings from the stripes of a rod laid on reluctantly, but intentionally by a Father. It is true that we see many an ill which we find it hard to account for on this theory; that we see sufferings which teach no lesson to the victim, because they do not leave the victim alive to learn, so terrible and swift are they. Nevertheless, while the theory of suffering must remain in some cases partly shrouded in mystery, as a trial of our faith, no other theories of life bring the same intellectual relief and moral uplifting as does the great Christian doctrine that God is love, and that He is slowly bringing His children by this mysterious discipline, among other things, into a recognition of their relationship to Him.

—S. D. M"Connell.

References.—III:14-19. H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. p216. A. M. Fairbairn, ibid. vol. lviii. p19.

God"s Family

Ephesians 3:15

There are many illustrations used in Holy Scripture to set forth the relationship in which the people of God stand to each other and to Him, but the most expressive of these is taken from domestic life. It is the one presented in our text, and under its familiar imagery the Church of God is described as one great family, the members of which are bound to each other by the possession of one common life, the distinction of one common name, and the union with the same parental head. It is a family, the members of which, though sundered by time and space, and divided into two great sections, the one in heaven and the other here on earth, are all bound together in one blessed bond, and linked to each other by special sympathies, and are looking forward to dwell together in one happy and eternal home.

I. Relationship with God.—It is only through that relationship that they can have communion with each other. To be united to each other they must first be united to Him. Just as in a family it is the possession of a common life, derived from the same parental source, which constitutes the bond of union, so in the family of God it is the spiritual life, derived from Him, which forms the basis of communion. St. John puts this beyond question when he says, "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1St. John 1:3). In another place he testifies that this fellowship of Christians with God as their common Father is through faith in His dear Son; for "as many as received Him to them gave He power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe in His name" (St. John 1:12). Elsewhere we are clearly taught that the impartation of this Divine life is wrought through the Holy Spirit, "for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God," and the contrast is very solemn—"If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His" ( Romans 8:9; Romans 8:14). All true believers, then, are members of this family, and in that respect are designated "saints"—not only on account of their separation from the rest of the world, and the holy service to which they are called, but on account of the Divine life of which they are partakers.

II. The Ideal of the Christian Church.—To us who are not gifted with omniscience or discerning of spirits, the visible Church is the body of those who profess His truth, are baptised into His name, and observe His ordinances; but all who belong to it do not necessarily belong to that spiritual communion to which properly the name of Saints belongs. A visible Church with its external ordinances and terms of communion Isaiah, from the very nature of the case, indispensable in our present state; and the commands concerning our union with the visible Church and our observance of its appointed ordinances are clearly laid down in Scripture; but still we must not forget that this is not enough for our salvation. In order to that there must be vital union with Christ Himself; there must be forgiveness of sin through faith in His precious blood; there must be renewal of heart by His Holy Spirit; there must be willing and faithful service, which springs from love to Him. The judicious Hooker, who is so distinct and copious in speaking of the Church as a visible body, is equally clear in speaking of the Church as the mystical body of Christ. He says: "That Church of Christ, which we properly term His Body Mystical, can be but one; neither can that one be sensibly discerned by any Prayer of Manasseh, inasmuch as parts thereof are some in heaven already with Christ, and the rest that are on earth (albeit their natural persons are visible) we do not discern under this property, whether they are truly and infallibly of that body.... They who are of this society have such marks and notes of distinction from all others, as are not objects of our sense: only unto God, who seeth their hearts, and understandeth all their secret cogitations, unto Him they are clear and manifest.... If we profess, as Peter did, that we love the Lord, and profess it in the hearing of men, charity is prone to believe all things, and therefore charitable men are likely to think we do Song of Solomon, as long as they see no proof to the contrary. But that our love is sound and sincere, that it cometh from "a pure heart, and a good conscience, and a faith unfeigned," who can pronounce saving alone the Searcher of all men"s hearts, who alone intuitively knows in this kind who are His?" So that while there Isaiah, and must be, a visible Church on earth, and in it a visible communion of saints, there is within that Church a still more sacred shrine, and a still more holy fellowship. There is a Church as seen of men; there is a Church as seen of God. We cannot ignore the one without a breach of duty and of charity. We cannot overlook the other without a forgetfulness of truth, and of our own salvation. We must beware, on the one hand, of that easy and fashionable but deceptive religion which contents itself with the profession of orthodox doctrines, or the observance of appointed ordinances; we must beware, on the other, of that arrogant and selfish spirit which, relying on its own strength or spirituality, considers itself independent of those visible means of grace which have been appointed by God for the personal and mutual benefit of ail His children.

III. This twofold view of the Church of God, if it seem on the one hand to narrow our view as to its extent, will help to widen and deepen our ideas as to "the communion of saints," for it will show us how manifold and how real that communion is. But does it really narrow our views as to the extent of the Church of God? Does it not rather expand them? Are we not too prone to ask, with the querulous disciples, "Lord, are there few that shall be saved?" Are we not too apt to exclude from our ideal of the Church those who do not belong to our own communion, or to include in it only those who agree with us in certain views concerning the doctrines or ordinances of religion? And do not our ideas enlarge when we come to think of all the saints of God who lived in all the ages before Christ"s birth, and of all who have lived in all the centuries ever since? Do they not take a wider range when we remember the great multitude which "no man can number, of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues," who shall stand at the last before the throne of God, having "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb"? It is when we dwell on thoughts like these that we begin to realise that outside our own communions there are and have been saints of God, with whom perhaps we cannot sympathise in respect of all their views, but with whom we can and ought to sympathise in the best of bonds as members of the one great family of God. We come to recognise the family likeness even where we cannot trace the ecclesiastical genealogy, and gladly admit the spiritual relationship even where we cannot verify the mode of admission to it. And we can do all this without prejudice to our convictions or surrender of our principles.

The Church a Family

Ephesians 3:15

The name of the Church in the text I have selected is "the family". There are many names for the Church in the Bible; the family represents perhaps the sweetest.

I. What is the Church?—When the Church began, it was a family, with the love of a family, the cohesion of a family, the economy of a family, and very soon there came the quarrels that so often happen in a family. Yet a family that sometimes has moments of discord still is full of love. St. Paul calls the Church a brotherhood; it is the development of the idea of the family, for the Church, increasing in ever-widening circles, has names corresponding to that increase. The brotherhood is a wider term than family, it is a uniting of certain people from many families. And, as the Church grows, you find another name for the family in the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is now more than a family, more than a brotherhood; it has become a city, with all the complications of a city, all the varied interest of a city, with its business, its pleasure, and sometimes its vices. But the Church is more than a family, more than a brotherhood, more than a city; it is a commonwealth, and that is the name I like the best The commonwealth. Every member of it is bound to kill selfishness, to work for the good of the community. "What is best for the people?" is the question of the Church, and the individual must always make his own interest subservient to the good of the whole community. But the Church is more than a family, more than a brotherhood, more than a city, more than a commonwealth; it becomes in the Bible a nation, a collection of nations, until the idea of the Catholic Church is the world converted.

II. The Foundation of the Church.—What is the Church founded on? What have we got? Now notice. We have a Person—Jesus Christ; we have a Book—this Bible; we have an Institution—the Church of God. A Person, a Book, an Institution—the world killed the Person, Jesus Christ, yet today He is alive and more at work than ever; the world tries to kill the Book, yet here it is in your pulpit today as strong as ever; the world has tried to kill the Church, yet, after two thousand years, it is getting larger than ever. Why do they not kill the Book, Why do they not kill the Church? Because they cannot Institutions that are not wanted, die. The Church lives because it is wanted. You want it, you know that Your home wants it That boy of yours in business wants it; that girl of yours, who is just getting married, she wants it The poor children in the slums, they want it The institution is wanted. The Church lives because it is wanted. The immortal part of man wants the Church, and so the Divine foundation fits the Divine need in Prayer of Manasseh, lays hold of your soul, and that is the reason that it lives. You cannot kill it. Churches have died, or in the language of the Book of the Revelation, their candlestick has been removed out of its place—churches, but not the Church. The Church lives.

References.—III:15.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No1249. F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. vi. p75. C. H. Grundy, Luncheon Lectures at St. Paul"s Cathedral, p45. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ix. p100. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— Ephesians, p128.

The Inner Life of a Nation

Ephesians 3:16

Who would not desire to possess a strength as invincible as that which was the secret of St. Paul"s faith and hope and life? There is an inner and there is an outer man in every one of us. There is an inner and there is an outer life in the nation, in the family, and in the individual. In the nation the inner life is not always recognised, even by its own people, until some grave necessity sets the heart of the nation beating and throbbing, and the people are roused by a common feeling hitherto unsuspected.

I wish to point out four of the great characteristics that ought to mark the inner life of our nation.

I. No One ought to Forget that in whatever Position he has to Live he ought to be dominated by such a sense of responsibility that he never forgets that the people around him will judge not only his religion but will judge his nationality by the example and evidence which they have in him.

II. The Love of Duty must ever characterise every individual among us. It is well known that when Napoleon wrote his despatches he never forgot to mention the glory that he said attached to the achievements of his troops; it is equally well known that when the Duke of Wellington wrote his despatches he never mentioned the word glory, but he never failed to call attention to the duty which his men performed.

III. There must be Sympathy with those over whom we have any Authority and those among whom our lot is cast. If India is maintained for long as our great trust and the sphere of our beneficent rule, it will be due not only to the excellence of the rule but to the exhibition of the spirit of sympathy. And that which is true of that nation you may depend upon it is characteristic and true of all those over whom England has any rule.

IV. There must be Self-sacrifice.—We may thank God for the noble examples given of self-sacrifice by our troops, by our blue-jackets, by men who have done signal and noble service to the Empire. Whether standing, like Lord Cromer, almost alone in Egypt; whether standing like those great Viceroys of India who have maintained our rule and been loyal for our crown; whether it be the lonely hearts or whether it be in the most active spheres of operation; it has been by self-sacrifice, by not seeking their own but by seeking the good of others, that the name and the fame have been obtained.

It is the inner life of the family which begets the inner life of the nation.

References.—III:16.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— Ephesians, p132. III:16-19. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii. No707.

The Indwelling Christ

Ephesians 3:17

There is no religion in the whole world, except the religion of the Gospel, that hints even at such an idea as this—God, Christ, in my own self. It is the most wonderful and unexpected thought in the whole inspiration of God. The question that starts in our minds is this—"is this promise to be accepted, to be fulfilled, in anything like its literal meaning"? The answer is this—It is a personal and real fact. Jesus Christ dwells in our hearts and rules them, if we are children of God by faith. In proportion as simple faith takes hold of the living Christ, He becomes a real Person and a real Life. If we approach Jesus Christ critically, He will look another way; if we approach Jesus Christ doubtfully, He will look the other way, too; if we approach Jesus Christ sympathetically, the Holy Spirit will help us to know, and to see, and to feel that He is the Friend of our life.

I. The thought of Christ dwelling in our heart ought not to be a very difficult one for people like ourselves to grasp its conception. Let us think of an analogy. A widowed mother, with no child but one single boy. This boy, as he grows up, becomes increasingly dear to her heart. As he grows up, to her great sorrow he is overwhelmed with a passionate love of the sea. For years and years that poor lonely widowed soul never hears of him, and wonders whether he is living or dead. She never will leave his name out of her prayers. Is it very difficult for you to understand what is meant when it is said of such a person, "Her boy dwells in her heart?" Is it more difficult to think of Jesus Christ as the object of religious love dwelling in our hearts also?

II. But then Jesus dwells in our hearts in a much more real way than this. Jesus Christ in the believer"s heart not only as the object of his affection, but as the very life of his soul. You know, perhaps, the process of grafting, by which a little twig, with no root, is grafted into a tree till it becomes part of the tree, and the life of the tree flows into the twig, and the life of the tree becomes that of the twig. Is it difficult for you, with that analogy, to realise the conception of one person dwelling in another person"s heart as the power of that person"s soul and life? So the believer appropriates the life of Jesus, and the conception of Christ dwelling in your heart as the life of your soul is not a very difficult one for you to understand.

III. Another question arises to one to ask and to answer, which is this, How does Jesus Christ get admission into our hearts in such a way that He may be said to dwell in them? Is that a very difficult question to answer? Is it necessary even to ask the question? How does anybody get admission into our houses so as to dwell in them or to stay in them? By our consent, not otherwise, by no other way. How does Jesus Christ get admission into men"s hearts so as to rule and dwell in them? The answer is the same, by men"s consent, not otherwise, and in no other way possible or conceivable.

Jesus Christ gains admission to our hearts by our own consent, but how does He enter? What is the opening through which, when you have invited your friends to your house, or given them permission to come, they enter? It is the door, and there must be some similar opening through which Jesus Christ enters the heart. What is the opening? What is the means? The opening, the means is this: it is our faith, our simple acceptance of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as the sinner"s substitute and the believer"s Light.

It is the beginning of everything that is good to let Jesus into the heart. You cannot go far wrong when you do that. It only requires a little faith just to open the door. He will bring the Light with Him, pardon, strength for service, and hope, and glory.

The way to keep Christ is the way in which we get Him to come. He keeps in our hearts by continual acts of faith on the part of believers. That is the sum and substance of Christianity, of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Christ in the soul of the child of God.

References.—III:17.—C. Brown, God and Prayer of Manasseh, p54. H. S. Holland, God"s City, p86. Bishop Bethell, Sermons, vol. i. p138. H. M. Butler, Harrow School Sermons, p120. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— Ephesians, p142.

The Church"s Conception of Christ

Ephesians 3:17-19 (R.V.)

The true man desires to know, to understand, to apprehend. Paul was a man who wanted to know —to know the highest things. He made it his business in life, next to knowing for himself, to make others know, to be their teacher. At the same time, he was willing to know from others. Paul"s desire for these Ephesians was that they might be strong to apprehend with all saints the love of Christ in its breadth, and length, and height, and depth: that Isaiah, in its wholeness and fulness.

I. It has been said that Paul"s thought was something like this. From that old captivity of his in Rome, his mind went away, carried him to the gean Sea, whose blue waters lay in beauty about the yellow sand of the Ephesian shore; and, looking in thought upon the land, he seemed to see a mighty castle, a splendid fortress. There it was, beautiful, strong, capacious, majestic. But would all men look at it alike? Paul thought that every one looking upon it would not give the same judgment about it; not that they would disagree about any part of it, but each would be so struck by one part of it as almost to neglect the rest.

II. To Paul there was in history one Form, one Existence, one Personality, upon whom many men had been lavishing their thought after His appearance. That Form, that Person was Jesus Christ. He was Love. (1) Some saw the breadth of that love; they thought of "the nations lying beside each other on the earth, over all of whom the love of Christ would extend itself. (2) Others saw the length of it; they could not forget "the successive ages during which it will reach". (3) Others thought of the height of it, of "the glory at God"s throne and near His heart to which it could elevate all". (4) But others thought of the depth of it; they thought of "the misery and corruption of sin, into which it will descend".

III. And today in considering Christ, His character and work, men in various ways grasp special aspects of it. Now, it is well for us that we should, therefore, consider the belief of the saints as a whole. As a body, they preserve the symmetry of truth.

IV. What was Paul"s desire for these Ephesians, and for himself also? It was this—that they might be able to apprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth of the love of Christ. He did not desire them to see aspects only of that love, but the whole of it.

V. The conception of Christ by the Church is larger than that of any specific Church. He is in each, but is fuller and finer than any one of them represents Him to be.

—J. Alford Davies, Seven Words of Love, p134.

References.—III:17-19.—R. W. Church, Village Sermons, (2Series), p287. F. de W. Lushington, Sermons to Young Boys, p94. Expositor (5th Series), vol. ix. p95.

The Depth of Love

Ephesians 3:18

The love of Christ is the love of God. What we find in the heart of Christ, in His character, in His words and actions, is to be regarded as a revelation of the Invisible God. That indeed is the whole significance of Christ"s manifestation—"He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father". This manifestation was made, we may believe, because apart from it we were incapable of gazing into the heart of God. The aspect of things speaks with sufficient clearness of Law, of Intelligence, of Power working to an end; but it can hardly be said to bear on it the legend of love. Apart from Christ it is open to any man to maintain that God is an unknown Force, inexorable, indifferent to human suffering, regardless of human life, a concatenation of awful uniformities which move like a car of juggernaut over prostrate human beings to some unknown goal. Remembering, then, this incontestable fact, we shall examine with eager interest the evidences of the Love of Christ, and seek to know it, though it passes knowledge.

I. First of all there is the human life of Jesus, as it is recorded in the Gospels. However fragmentary the reports, however difficult the attempt may be to harmonise them into a consistent record of facts, or a harmonious combination of features, there can be no question that the records give us an unexampled impression of a heart of love. Not only is the love of Christ indisputable, in the Gospel narrative; but it stands out as a passion of a new type. Compare it with the love of which Plato"s Symposium treats, that love, not wholly free from sensual passion, and when free from sensual passion, losing itself in a cold intellectual atmosphere.

II. But the impression of His love, made by the course of His earthly life, is wrought to an extraordinary fulness and intensity by the cross. Whenever the cross is allowed to give its own witness, undisturbed by imperfect theories and dogmas, whenever Christ is evidently crucified before the eyes of men, a great appeal proceeds from the unique spectacle.

III. And yet, when we have made all allowance for the portrait of love, unexampled and affecting in the story of Christ"s life and death, can we say that these historic facts fully explain the language of the text? Surely not. This passion which echoes in the language of Paul and Revelation -echoes with undiminished force in the hymns of Bernard, and again, with even increased fulness and feeling in the letters of Samuel Rutherford; this passion, which is known at the present time, and rises beyond the power of language in millions of Christian hearts, is only to be explained by the interior movements of the Spirit

—R. F. Horton, The Trinity, p133.

References.—III:18, 19.—C. Kingsley, The Good News of God, p146. Archbishop Benson, Living Theology, p3. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— Ephesians, p161.

The Fulness of God

Ephesians 3:19

These words form the conclusion of St. Paul"s prayer on behalf of the Ephesian Church. It is a very wonderful, one might almost say a very awful prayer. And what St. Paul prayed for on behalf of his Ephesian converts, that we too ought to seek for ourselves.

I. St. Paul takes for granted that a Real Christian is a Man who has been Made Over Again, and not merely a man of this world who is a little more moral, or a little more decent, or a little more outwardly attentive to his religious duties than other men of the world. Quite the contrary. According to this mighty prayer, the Christian is one upon whom all the powers of the Godhead have been brought to bear, so as to make him what may be termed a Divine Prayer of Manasseh, not a worldly man. See the orderly progression of the Divine work as thus prayed for by St. Paul. First of all St. Paul prays that God the Holy Ghost will give him strength; then that God the Son may dwell in him, giving him first the grace of love, and then the grace of knowledge of Divine things—that knowledge which passes or exceeds the comprehension of other men. And then, when the man has been thus prepared by the strengthening which the Spirit brings, and by the Divine love and the Divine knowledge which Christ brings—then St. Paul prays for the final grace of all—namely, that he may be filled with all the fulness of God the Father. None of us can fully enter into all that these words convey. Perhaps even those who come nearest to being filled with that fulness would be least able to speak about it or to explain it. But still we may try to set forth a little of what it must mean.

II. For a Person to be filled with anything, it is Plain that, first of all, he must be emptied of all Else.—Hence it is absurd for any of us to think of being filled with God"s fulness so long as he is under the dominion of any purely earthly or temporal wishes, or desires, or ambitions, or passions, or tastes. The words imply a totality of self-surrender to God. In praying to be filled with God the Father"s fulness, we pray that all our powers and faculties and desires and energies and likes and dislikes may be just what they would be if all our merely earthly desires were taken out of us, all that is selfish and mean and bad were emptied out of us, and the vacant space filled up by a pouring in of the character of God our Father. It is the same as praying that we may be just what God would be if we could imagine God to be put in our place.

III. This, then, is what St. Paul Prays for:—

(1) That each Christian man upon earth may be, each in his own way and in his own sphere, an "Image of God"; and (2) that each of us may have God"s approbation and God"s service as his chief end and aim, as an ever-present motive, as a thought never absent from our minds. After all, Christianity consists not so much in what we do as what we are, or rather what we become. Faith in God and Christ; faith in Christ and in the Holy Ghost raises us to a good hope that, if we will but empty ourselves of all that is earthly and selfish, and cling to Him in whatever walk of life He points out to us, God will take care of the growth of our Christian character; He will fill us with His own fulness.

References.—III:19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii. No455, and vol. xxix. No1755. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p256. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— Ephesians, p171.

Ephesians 3:20

Luther said: "No one believes how great is the force and efficacy of prayer, unless he has learned it from experience. It is a great thing when anyone feels a mighty need and then can lay hold on prayer. I know this, that as often as I have prayed with earnestness—with real earnestness—I have without doubt been abundantly answered, and have obtained more than I asked. Our Lord God may sometimes have delayed, but yet He heard me."

—E. Kroker, Luther"s Tischreden (1903), p338, No646.

References.—III:20.—W. F. Shaw, Sermon-Sketches for the Christian Year, p87. III:20, 21.—Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p273. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No1266. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— Ephesians, p180. III:21.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. vii. p278.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Ephesians 3:1-13. These verses make a paragraph by themselves. Their main subject is the call of the Gentiles and Paul’s Apostolic vocation in relation thereto. He reminds his readers of the mystery of that call, its revelation to the Apostles and prophets, his own destination to the ministry of preaching among the Gentiles, and the grace given him to make known the Divine dispensation that opened the Church to those who were not of Israel. This with the view that they should not misunderstand his present position or be discouraged by it.



Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Ephesians 3:13. : wherefore I ask that ye lose not heart in my tribulations in your behalf. The is referred by some (Mey., etc.) to the immediately preceding verse, the possession of these great privileges of “boldness and access” on the part of the Ephesians being Paul’s reason for urging on them the request which follows. It is better, however, to refer the to the great thought of the whole paragraph, to which the statement in Ephesians 3:12 is subordinate, viz., the dignity of the office committed to Paul and its significance for them. Because the great trust of the Apostleship among the Gentiles is what he has declared it to be for himself and for them, he puts this request before them. The , which sometimes expresses a demand (Luke 1:63; 1 Corinthians 1:22), has the simple sense of asking here; and in such connections as the present has the full sense of asking for one’s self. It is followed sometimes by the acc. and inf. (Luke 23:23; Acts 3:14), and sometimes, as here, by the simple inf. (Acts 7:46). The idea in the verb is that of losing courage, becoming faint of heart. The form , which is given in the TR, appears in [309] [310]3[311] [312] [313], etc. It is doubtful, however, whether that form occurs anywhere in ordinary Greek. It may have had a place in popular, oral use. The written form was , and that form appears here in most of the best MSS. ([314] [315] [316] [317]1, etc.). Hence LTrRV adopt ; TWH, . But what is the construction here? Some supply , and make the sense either (1) “I pray God that ye faint not,” or (2) “I pray God that I faint not”. But if the subject of the had been God, the could scarcely have been omitted, as there is nothing in the context clearly to suggest it. And that it is the readers, not Paul himself, whose possible faint-heartedness is referred to appears from the force of the and the . Paul himself rejoiced in his tribulations (2 Corinthians 12:5; 2 Corinthians 12:10: Colossians 1:24, etc.), and a prayer in such circumstances as the present betraying any fear about himself would be utterly unlike him. But he might have cause enough to apprehend that these converts might not all view painful things as he did. Hence is to be understood as the subject of (cf.2 Corinthians 5:20; Hebrews 13:19). The before has the proper sense of in (not “at” as RV puts it), pointing to the circumstances, sphere, or relation in which the faint-heartedness ought not to show itself (cf. Win.-Moult., pp. 482, 483, and Ell., in loc.). These were (the phrase going surely with the , not with as Harless strangely puts it), as sufferings endured in virtue of Paul’s Apostleship among the Gentiles; cf.Philippians 1:17. The defining article again is not required before , as the phrase makes in reality one idea.— : which are your glory. The distinction between the definite or objective rel. and the indefinite, generic, or qualitative rel. (cf. Jelf, Gr. Gram., 816) is not always maintained in the NT, and indeed the use of for is as old as Herod. (ii., 92) and Ionic Greek generally (Kühner, Gr. Gram., ii., 906). In the Pauline Epistles, however, the distinction seems to be fairly maintained (Blass, Gram. of N. T. Greek, p. 173), and appears here to have the force of an explanation—“inasmuch as they are,” “for indeed they are”. The rel. is referred by some (Theod., Olsh., Harl.) to the , or to the whole sentence beginning with that; in which case would stand for . But it is most naturally referred to the . It is a case of attraction, but one in which the noun of the rel. clause gives its number (cf. Dem. c. Aphob., p. 853, 31, and in the NT itself, Acts 24:11; Philippians 3:20) as well as its gender to the rel. (Win.-Moult., p. 206; Buttm., Gram. of NT Greek, p. 281; Donald., Gr. Gram., p. 362; Madvig, Syn., § 98). The clause, therefore, gives the readers a reason or motive for not yielding to faintness of heart. Paul’s tribulations were endured in their behalf, and were of value for them. The greater the office of the sufferer, the more did the afflictions which he was content to endure for them redound to their honour; and the better this was understood by them, the less should they give way to weakness and discouragement.

[309] Codex Ephraemi (sæc. v.), the Paris palimpsest, edited by Tischendorf in 1843.

[310] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[311] Codex Augiensis (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Trinity College, Cambridge, edited by Scrivener in 1859. Its Greek text is almost identical with that of G, and it is therefore not cited save where it differs from that MS. Its Latin version, f, presents the Vulgate text with some modifications.

[312] Codex Mosquensis (sæc. ix.), edited by Matthæi in 1782.

[313] Codex Angelicus (sæc. ix.), at Rome, collated by Tischendorf and others.

[314] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[315] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[316] Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).

[317] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.



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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

My tribulations; on account of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, for which he was then a prisoner at Rome.

Your glory; the means of promoting your glory; that is, promotive of your heavenly glory, with all the earnests of it which ye now receive through the Holy Spirit.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

HAVING PRESENTED US with this great unfolding of truth, Paul commences to exhort us to walk in a way that shall be worthy of such an exalted vocation. This may be seen if the first verses of chapters 3 and 4 are read together. The whole of chapter 3 excepting verse Ephesians 3:1, is a parenthesis, in which he points out how definitely the Lord had entrusted to him the ministry of all this truth—which he calls, “the mystery”—and in which he again puts on record that which he prayed for the Ephesian believers.

He evidently felt that his exhortation to walk worthy would come with greater force if we realised how fully the authority of the Lord was behind it. A “dispensation” or “administration,” of the grace of God towards such as ourselves had been committed to him, inasmuch as “the mystery” had been specially revealed to him, and he had just previously written concerning it in brief fashion. He alludes evidently to what he had written in Ephesians 1:19Ephesians 2:22. An even briefer summary of it is given in Ephesians 3:6 where again the wonderful place given to Gentiles is emphasized. The three words in that verse have been translated, “Joint-heirs, a joint-body and joint-partakers.” This may be clumsy English, but it has the merit of making us see the main thought of the Spirit of God in the verse. Now that was a feature, of God’s purpose in blessing, wholly unknown in earlier ages: necessarily unknown, of course; for once known the order of things established in connection with the law and Israel was destroyed. It was therefore a secret hid in God until Christ was exalted on high and the Holy Spirit given below.

Now however it is revealed, and the apostle Paul was made the minister of it. It was not only revealed to him but to the other apostles and prophets also. Thus the fact of it was placed beyond all doubt or dispute. Yet the ministry of it was given to Paul, as verse Ephesians 3:7 clearly states. In keeping with this we do not find any allusion to the mystery in any of the epistles save Paul’s.

How great a theme it is, we can realize if we have at all taken in the things we have just been superficially surveying. Paul himself was so impressed with its greatness that he alludes to his ministry of it as, evangelizing “the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

If we read this expression, “the unsearchable riches of Christ,” in its context, we perceive that it refers, not to all the wealth that is personally His, but rather to all that which is in Him for His saints. Scanning Ephesians 1:1-23, we find that the term, “in Christ,” (or its equivalents, “in the Beloved,” “in Him,” “in whom”) occurs about twelve times. In Ephesians 2:1-22, it occurs about six times, and in Ephesians 3:1-21, about three. Let us take one item only, “Blessed... with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Can we search or trace those blessings out, so that we are thoroughly masters of the whole subject? We can do no such thing. They are too big for our little grasp. They are unsearchable; and so too is all that which we have in Christ. Yet though unsearchable they may be known by us, and so they were the subject of the Apostle’s ministry.

A second thing was covered by his ministry. He was commissioned to make all see, not only what the mystery is, but what is the “fellowship of the mystery,” or, “the administration of the mystery.” (N. Tr.). The mystery is concerning Christ and the church, and particularly concerning the place that Gentiles occupy in it, as has already been explained by Paul. The administration concerns the practical arrangements for assembly life and order and testimony, which Paul everywhere established. These arrangements were ordered by the Lord that there might be a representation, even today in the church’s time condition, of those things which are true and established concerning it in God’s eternal counsel.

The mystery itself was something entirely new, for from the beginning of the world up to that moment it had been hid in God. Consequently the administration of the mystery was entirely new. Previously God had been dealing with one special nation on the basis of law. Now God was calling out an election from all nations according to grace, and that which was merely national was submerged in this larger and fuller purpose. In the church of God everything has to be ordered or administrated according to these present purposes of God. The Apostle does not stop in this epistle to instruct us in the details of this divinely ordered administration; he does this in writing his first epistle to the Corinthians.

The assembly at Corinth was not walking in an orderly way, as were those at Ephesus and Colosse. There was a good deal of ignorance, error and disorder in their midst, and this furnished the occasion for the Spirit of God to enforce upon them the administration of the mystery, at least in a good many of its details, dealing with matters of a public nature which an ordinary onlooker might observe. That the point of this may not be missed we take up one detail out of the many, to serve as an illustration.

Our epistle lays it down that we, whether Jews or Gentiles, “are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” This is one of the great items included in the mystery. We turn to the Corinthian epistle and we discover that this is not a mere doctrine, an idea divorced from any practical effect in the present ordering of church life and behaviour. The very opposite. Paul declares that consequently the Spirit is supreme in that house where He dwells. He dwells there in order that He may operate to the glory of God— “All these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will” (1 Corinthians 12:11). In 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 of the same epistle we find the Spirit ordering and energizing in the exercise of the various gifts, and we are bidden to acknowledge that the instructions given are “the commandments of the Lord.” The Lord, you see, is the great Administrator in the church of God, and Paul was the chosen servant to make known His administration to us.

The administration of the mystery is, we fear, very lightly brushed aside by many Christians today, even by good and earnest ones, but we are assured that they do so to their own great loss, both now and in the coming age. If we neglect any part of the truth we become undeveloped as to that part and like “a cake not turned,” as Hosea puts it. Also we have to take into consideration verses Ephesians 3:10-11 of our chapter, which tell us that the administration of the mystery, as worked out in the assembly, is a kind of lesson book before the eyes of angels. The lesson book of today on which the eyes of angels look down, is very sadly blotted and obscured. Yet, since angels do not die, those same eyes once looked down and saw the beauty of the manifold wisdom of God, when the excellence of the Divine administration, ministered through Paul, was first seen in the church’s earliest days.

Then for a brief moment things were “according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Now for many a long day they have mainly been according to the disconnected desires and arrangements of men, though many of the men who made the arrangements were doubtless godly and well-meaning people. May we have grace to adhere, as far as in us lies, to the administration as ordered by God, for it is evidently intended that what was “hid in God” should now be made “known by the church.” At the same time let us not expect to do so without opposition and trouble, for Paul was face to face with tribulation enough, as he hints in verse 13.

Moreover we do not very easily or speedily enter into the power and enjoyment of these things. Hence again at this point the Apostle betakes himself to prayer, and is led to record his prayer that we may be stirred up by it. The prayer is addressed to the Father, and it is concerned with the operations of the Spirit with a view to Christ having His due place in our hearts. Father, Son and Holy Ghost are thus involved in it.

The Father is addressed as imparting His own Name and character to every family that will ultimately fill the heavens and the earth. The Lord Jesus is our Head, and He is also in some sense the Head and Leader of every one of these different families. It should be “every family” and not “the whole family.” God will have many families, some for heaven and some for earth. Amongst the heavenly families will be the church and “the spirits of just men made perfect,” i.e. Old Testament saints. For the earth there will be Israel, redeemed Gentiles, and so on. Now amongst men every family takes its name from the one who is father to it, the one from whom it derives its origin. But fatherhood amongst men is only a reflection of the divine Fatherhood.

The main burden of the prayer is that Christ may dwell by faith in our hearts, that He may be abidingly the controlling centre of our deepest affections. This can only be as we are strengthened by the Spirit’s mighty power in the inner man, for naturally that which is selfish controls us, and we are fickle and uncertain. Christ dwelling in our hearts, we become rooted and grounded in love, His love not ours. Only as rooted and grounded in love can we proceed to know the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge.

Verse Ephesians 3:17 speaks of that which lies at the very centre of all, the indwelling Christ and the consequent rooting and grounding in love. Verses Ephesians 3:18-19 pass on to the widest possible circle of blessing, love and glory. A pair of compasses may serve as an illustration. It is not easy to draw a circle except one leg be firmly fixed. With one leg fixed the circle can easily be described. So it is here. Fixed and rooted in love, the mighty sweep of verse Ephesians 3:18 becomes possible.

If verse Ephesians 3:19 tells us we are to know that which passes all knowledge, verse Ephesians 3:18 infers we are to apprehend that which eludes all proper definition.

Four dimensions are enumerated, but we are not told to what they refer. The dimensions of what? Doubtless of all the great truth which Paul had been unfolding, the dimensions of the unsearchable riches of Christ. These things are only to be apprehended with all saints. We need one another as we begin to learn them. All saints should be keen to apprehend them, and they are only to be apprehended as all saints are kept in view. In these days of brokenness and division in the church of God we cannot bring all saints together, nor can we incite all saints to apprehend these things, but we can cling very tenaciously to the divine thought of all saints, and, as far as in us lies, live and act in view of all saints. They who do this are more likely than others to apprehend the mighty scope of the unsearchable riches of

Christ, to know His love which is centred upon all saints, and to be filled with all the fulness of God.

The contemplation, in prayer, of such heights of spiritual light and affections and blessing moved the heart of the Apostle to worship, and the chapter closes with a doxology ascribing glory to the Father. That which he had desired in his prayer would be impossible of accomplishment were it not that there is power that worketh in us, the Holy Spirit of God. By that Power the Father can accomplish that which overwhelmingly surpasses all our thoughts or desires. Many of us, reading the Apostle’s desires for us, may have said to ourselves—Very wonderful, but altogether beyond me. Yet, be it remembered, not beyond the Power that works in us. All this blessing may be really and consciously ours: ours in present possession.

The glory which the last verse ascribes to God will certainly be His. Throughout all ages the church will irradiate His glory. As the bride, the Lamb’s wife, it will be said of her, “Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal” (Revelation 21:11). And all that the church is, and all that she ever will be, is by and in Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is the most glorious Minister of the glory of God. He has wrought out the glory, and covered Himself with glory in doing it. Thus it is that we can so happily sing,

There Christ the Centre of the throng,

Shall in His glory shine,

But not an eye those hosts among,

But sees His glory Thine.

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Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

F.B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary


Ephesians 3:1-13

Dispensation should be rendered, “stewardship.” We are God’s trustees for men. To each of us is given some special phase of truth which we must pass on to others by the force of our character or by the teaching of our lips. It was given to Paul to make known the great truth that Gentiles might enter the Church of God on equal terms with Jews. During the earlier stages of human education this secret had been withheld; but with the advent of the Son of man, the doors into the Church had been thrown open to all. Paul’s insistence on this truth was the main cause of the hatred and opposition which checkered his life. Fellow-heirs, fellow-members, and fellow-partakers! This truth was not the result of logical argument, but had been communicated by direct revelation, as was so much else in Paul’s teaching. See Galatians 1:11, etc.

The history of the Church-its genesis, growth, and development-is the subject of angelic study, Ephesians 3:10. In the story of redemption there are presented and illustrated aspects of the divine nature which are to be learned nowhere else, and therefore heavenly intelligences bend with eager interest over human history from the viewpoint of the Church of Christ.

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Meyer, Frederick Brotherton. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "F. B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary". 1914.

G. Campbell Morgan's Exposition on the Whole Bible

God's dwelling in the Church is not finality. It is equipment for the fulfillment of the divine purpose. The apostle claims a stewardship in the mystery of the Church, and declares the astounding fact that "unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God." In his Corinthian letter the apostle showed that the Word of the Cross is the wisdom of God. Therefore, through the Church is to come the proclamation to the unfallen ones of the infinite Grace of God. Heaven will have much music, but none so full of infinite meaning as the song of the ransomed.

Called forth by the stupendous magnitude of his theme, the apostle again speaks of the fact that he is praying for them. Through a series of consecutive petitions he reaches the statement of his final desire. It is "that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God."

The doctrinal section of the letter ends with the doxology, "Unto Him, the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus." Thus the inherent blessedness referred to in the opening benediction (1:3) finds its expression in the Church and in Christ Jesus. So stupendous are the ideas developed in this letter that in the presence of them faith must stagger, save as it is recognized that God bestows power equal to the accomplishment of the great purpose. He is One "that is able to do," and that, moreover, "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." Finally, he declares that this ability is "according to the power that worketh in us."

This doxology is full of a sublimity which is characterized by simplicity. "Unto Him be the glory," that is, the great purpose; "in the Church and in Christ Jesus," such the wondrous medium; "unto all the generations of the age of the ages," that the immeasurable duration.

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Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "G. Campbell Morgan Exposition on the Bible". 1857-84.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you,.... The apostle was a man attended with many tribulations, and great afflictions, which he did not suffer as an evildoer, either from God or men; wherefore he was not ashamed of them, but gloried in them; yea, he took pleasure in them, having much of the presence of God in them; they did not come to him unawares, he always expected them, and was helped to look to the glory which should follow them, the view of which greatly supported him under them; and these tribulations were endured for the sake of the elect, for Christ's body's sake; the church, and among others, for the Ephesians, for the sake of preaching the Gospel among them, and for the confirmation of their faith in it; and yet they were a stumbling to them, they were ready to faint at them; but he desires they would not, since they were on account of the Gospel, which he had such a distinct knowledge of, and so clear a call to; and since they were for their sakes, and since he and they had such nearness of access to God by the faith of Christ, with so much boldness and confidence; and seeing also they turned to their account: which is your glory; meaning either that it was matter of glorying to them, and what they might boast of, that the apostle's afflictions were not for any crime that was found in him, but for preaching the Gospel to them, and that it was an honour to suffer in such a cause; or that their perseverance and constancy in the doctrines of the Gospel, notwithstanding the scandal of the cross, would be an honour to them.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament



8. This statement of the apostle, involving the widest hyperbole, is to be understood purely experimentally. While Paul was doubtless intellectually, spiritually, educationally, heroically, and experimentally, the greatest saint on the earth, why did he say he was less than the least? He was not speaking exegetically, but experimentally. Humility is the fundamental and most important Christian grace. When John Fletcher was asked, “What is the most important grace?” he responded, “Humility.” Then they asked him what was next in importance. He answered, “Humility;” and likewise to the third question, he still said, “Humility.” Fletcher was so meek and lowly that he seemed more like an angel than a man. When John Wesley preached his funeral, he said: “There lies in that coffin the most saintly man I ever saw, neither expect to meet another such till I go to glory.” While Paul was great in learning, experience, labors, persecutions, and sufferings, he was proportionately great in humility, feeling as every truly humble saint that he was the least of all, and indulging the quaint Oriental hyperbole, “less than the least.”

9-12. Christ himself is the incarnation of the entire plan of salvation. His birth in Bethlehem is regeneration incarnate, and his death on the cross is sanctification.

11. According to the plan of the ages, which he made in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Eden was the first age, followed by the Antediluvian, the Patriarchal, the Mosaic, the Messianic, and, finally, the Apostolic, all consecutively preparing the world for the millennial kingdom and the endless reign of Christ, unanimously illustrating the universally patent fact of man’s redemption under the most encouraging circumstances, and indisputably confirming the sad conclusion of man’s hopeless failure under most auspicious omens, and establishing beyond all possible controversy his absolute dependence on God. While man’s hopeless failure sends a mournful wail around the world, reverberating down the ages from Eden to the millennium, echo takes up the glad refrain, and roars round the world, “God is a success, and has never known failure.”

12. In whom we have boldness and access in confidence through the faith of himself.In the justified experience we have faith in God more or less encumbered by doubt. In the sanctified experience, we have the faith of God perfectly free from doubt; i.e., the faith of Jesus himself, which was never contaminated.

13. Paul here certifies that all of his persecutions and tribulations only added richer luster and glory to the Church of Christ.

14. We here see that Paul was a stickler for genuflection indefatigable in the knee-drill. In Hebrews 12:11, Apollos exhorts the people to bend their “paralyzed knees.” Satan’s knee-paralysis has just about robbed the popular Churches of the last vestige of Christian devotion. The angels in heaven not only bow the knee, but fall prostrate in delectable devotion to the great Jehovah. All whoever shall go up to live with God in heaven must reach the heavenly state in this life, which makes us worship, not like proud Pharisees, but adoring angels.

15. Here we find that the same cognomen designates God’s people in heaven and in earth, one unbroken family temporarily partitioned by the starry firmament. That name is given (Isaiah 62:10): They shall be called the holy people.It is wonderful how this blind, wicked world pertinaciously, though ignorantly, fulfills the prophecies. It is a significant fact that the “second-blessing people” alone are denominated in worldly parlance, the holiness people. Others may claim to be holy, but the world stubbornly refuses to call them “holy.” It is a striking and universal fulfillment of prophecy.

16. In order that he may grant unto you according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with dynamite by his Spirit in the inner man.

This “inner man” is created in the heart by the Holy Ghost in regeneration, the rival of the carnal man born in you by natural regeneration transmitted from Adam. God’s wonderful dynamite not only gives the “inner man” dominion over his old rival, but when utilized by sanctifying faith actually explodes him into smithereens.

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Godbey, William. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament".

Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books

Thoughts On the Apostle"s Bondage

Paul was willing to suffer the hardships of Roman imprisonment if the gospel could be furthered by his chains. (.) He did not want the Ephesian brethren to give up because of his suffering in bonds. This was especially true since more Gentiles were being given an opportunity to learn of God"s great plan. Also, as the last verse would indicate, though he was chained, Paul was still free to approach God"s throne (3:13).

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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". 2014.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

1–13.] (See above.) On this account (in order to explain this, something must be said on the construction. (a) Chrys. says:— εἶπε τοῦ χριστοῦ τὴν κηδεμονίαν τὴν πολλήν· ἐκβαίνει λοιπὸν κ. ἐπὶ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ, μικρὰν μὲν οὖσαν κ. σφόδρα οὐδὲν πρὸς ἐκείνην, ἱκανὴν δὲ καὶ ταύτην ἐπισπάσασθαι. διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἐγὼ δέδεμαι, φησίν. This supplying of εἰμί after ὁ δέσμιος, and making the latter the predicate, is the rendering of Syr., and adopted by very many. It has against it, 1) that thus τούτου χάριν and ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν become tautological: 2) that thus Ephesians 3:2 and the following are unconnected with the preceding, serving for no explanation of it (‘legationis, non vinculorum rationem explicat,’ Castalio in Harl.): 3) that the article with the predicate δέσμιος gives it undue prominence, and exalts the Apostle in a way which would be very unnatural to him,—‘sum captivus ille Christi,’ as Glass.,—and inconsistent with εἴ γε ἠκούσατε, &c. following, (b) Erasm.-Schmidt, Hammond, Michael., Winer (and so E. V.) regard the sentence, broken at ἐθνῶν, as resumed at ch. Ephesians 4:1. Against this is the decisive consideration, that ch. 3. is no parenthesis, but an integral and complete portion of the Epistle, finished moreover with the doxology Ephesians 3:20-21, and altogether distinct in subject and character from ch. 4. (c) Œc. says (and so Estius and Grot.): ἀνταπόδοσίς ἐστι τούτου χάριν, οἷον· τούτου χ. ἐμοι τῷ ἐλ. π. ἁγ. ἐδόθ. κ. τ. λ. (Ephesians 3:8) σκόπει δὲ ὅτι ἀρξάμενος τῆς περιόδου κατὰ τὸ ὀρθὸν σχῆμα ἐν τῇ ἀποδόσει ἐπλαγίωσε, σχηματίσας τ. ἀνταπόδοσιν πρὸς τὸν περιβολῶν τύπον. But as Harl. remarks, this deprives τούτου χάριν of meaning: for it was not because they were built in, &c., that this grace was given to him: and, besides, thus the leading thought of the antapodosis in Ephesians 3:8 is clumsily forestalled in Ephesians 3:6-7. (d) The idea that Ephesians 3:13 resumes the sentence (Camerar., Cramer, al.) is refuted by the insufficiency of such a secondary sentiment as that in Ephesians 3:13 to justify the long parenthesis full of such solemn matter, as that Ephesians 3:2-12; and by the improbability that the Apostle would resume τούτου χάριν by διό, with τούτου χάριν occurring again in the next verse, and not rather have expressed this latter in that case by καί. (e) It remains that with Thdrt. (on Ephesians 3:1, βούλεται μὲν εἰπεῖν· ὅτι ταύτην ὑμῶν τὴν κλῆσιν εἰδὼς κ. τ. λ. δέομαι κ. ἱκετεύω τὸν τῶν ὅλων θεόν, βεβαιῶσαι ὑμᾶς τῇ πίστει κ. τ. λ., then on Ephesians 3:14, ταῦτα πάντα ἐν μέσῳ τεθεικὼς ἀναλαμβάνει τὸν περὶ προσευχῆς λόγον), Luth., Pisc., Corn.-a-lap., Schöttg., Beng., Rück., Harl., De W., Stier, Ellic., al., we consider Ephesians 3:14 as taking up the sense, with its repetition of τούτου χάριν, and the weighty prayer which it introduces, and which forms a worthy justification for so long and solemn a parenthesis, τούτου χάριν will then mean, ‘seeing ye are so built in,’—stand in such a relation to God’s purposes in the church) I Paul (he mentions himself here, as introducing to them the agent in the Spirit’s work who was nearest to themselves, and setting forth that work as the carrying on of his enlightenment on their behalf, and the subject of his earnest prayer for them: see argument to this chapter above), the prisoner (but now without any prominence, or the very slightest: cf. τιμόθεος ὁ ἀδελφός: it is rather generic, or demonstrative, than emphatic) of Christ [Jesus] (see ref.; χρ. first, because it is not so much personal possession, as the fact of the Messiahship of Jesus having been the cause and origin of his imprisonment, which is expressed by the genitive) on behalf of you Gentiles (see Ephesians 3:13, where this ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν is repeated. The matter of fact was so:—his preaching to Gentiles aroused the jealousy of the Jews, and led to his imprisonment. But he rather thinks of it as a result of his great office and himself as a sacrifice for those whom it was his intent to benefit),—if, that is ( εἴ γε, ‘assuming that:’ see note on 2 Corinthians 5:3. The Ephesians had heard all this, and St. Paul was now delicately reminding them of it. So that to derive from εἴ γε ἠκούσατε an argument against the genuineness of the Epistle, as De Wette does, is mere inattention to philology), ye heard of (when I was among you: his whole course there, his converse (Acts 20:18-21) and his preaching, were just the imparting to them his knowledge) the œconomy (see note on ch. Ephesians 1:10. It is not the apostolic office,—but the dispensation—munus dispensandi, in which he was an οἰκονόμος, of that which follows) of the grace of God which was given me (the χάρις δοθεῖσα (beware of joining δοθείσης with οἰκονομίαν by any of the so-called figures) was the material with respect to which the dispensation was to be exercised: so that the genitive is objective as in ch. Ephesians 1:10) towards you (to be dispensed in the direction of, to, you)

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

1–21.] AIM AND END OF THE CHURCH IN THE SPIRIT. And herein, the revelation to it of the mystery of Christ, through those ministers who wrought in the Spirit: primarily, as regarded the Ephesians, through himself. Thus first, of HIS OFFICE AS APOSTLE OF THE GENTILES (1–13): secondly, under the form of a prayer for them, THE AIM AND END OF THAT OFFICE AS RESPECTED THE CHURCH: its becoming strong in the power of the Spirit (14–19). Then (20, 21) doxology, concluding this first division of the Epistle.

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

13.] Wherefore (‘quæ cum ita sint,’ viz. the glorious things spoken of Ephesians 3:1-12 : and especially his own personal part in them, ἐγὼ π., ἐμοὶ ἐδόθη, ἐγενήθην διάκονος:—since I am the appointed minister of so great a matter) I beseech you (not, beseech God,—which would awkwardly necessitate a new subject before ἐγκακεῖν: see below) not to be dispirited (not, ‘that I may not be dispirited,’ as Syr., Thdrt., Beng., Rück., Harl., Olsh. Such a reference is quite refuted by the reason rendered below, ἥτις ἐσ. δὸξα ὑμων, and by the insertion of μου after θλ., which in this case would be wholly superfluous: not to mention its inconsistency with all we know of the Apostle himself) in (of the element or sphere, in which the faint-heartedness would be shewn: ‘in the midst of’) my tribulations for you (the grammatical Commentators justify the absence of the article before ὑπέρ by the construction θλίβομαι ὑπέρ τινος. This surely is not necessary, in the presence of such expressions as τοῖς κυρίοις κατὰ σάρκα, ch. Ephesians 6:5. The strange view of Harl., that ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν is to be joined with αἰτοῦμαι, needs no refutation), seeing that they are (not ‘which is;’ ἥτις is not = , but = ‘quippe qui,’ ‘utpote qui:’ see examples in Palm and Rost’s Lex. ὅς, p. 547) your glory ( πῶς ἐστι δόξα αὐτῶν; ὅτι οὕτως αὐτοὺς ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεός, ὥστε καὶ τ. υἱὸν ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν δοῦναι, κ. τοὺς δούλους κακοῦν. ἵνα γὰρ αὐτοὶ τύχωσι τοσούτων ἀγαθῶν, παῦλος ἐδεσμεῖτο, Chrys. Bengel compares ὑμεῖς ἔνδοξοι, ἡμεῖς δὲ ἄτιμοι, 1 Corinthians 4:10 : and this certainly seems against Stier’s notion that δόξα ὑμῶν means ‘your glorification,’ ‘the glory of God in you’).

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Wherefore, I beseech you, be not discouraged nor disheartened at my tribulations and persecutions on the account of the gospel, nor at your own, which ought to be a subject both for you and me to glory in. (Witham)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians

Wherefore, i.e. because we have this access to God, the sum of all good, we ought to be superior to all the afflictions of this life, and maintain habitually a joyful spirit. Being the subjects of such a redemption and having this liberty of access to God, believers ought not to be discouraged by all the apparently adverse circumstances attending the propagation of the Gospel. As neither the object of the verb αἰτοῦμαι, nor the subject of the verb ἐκκακεῖν is expressed, this verse admits of different explanations. It may mean, ‘I pray you that you faint not;' or, ‘I pray God that I faint not;' or, ‘I pray God that ye faint not.' Whether the object of the verb be "God" or "you," it is hard to decide; as it would be alike appropriate and agreeable to usage to say, ‘I pray God,' or, ‘I pray you,' i.e. I beseech you not to be discouraged. The latter is on the whole to be preferred, as there is nothing in the context to suggest God as the object of address, and as the verb αἰτεῖν, though properly signifying simply to ask, whether of God or man, is often used in a stronger sense, to require, or demand, Luke 23:23; Acts 25:3, Acts 25:15. Paul might well require of the Ephesians, in view of the glories of the redemption of which they had become partakers, not to be discouraged. As to the second point, viz. the subject of the verb ἐκκακεῖν, there is less room to doubt. It is far more in keeping with the whole tone of the passage, that Paul should refer to their fainting than to his own. There was far more danger of the former than of the latter. And what follows ("which is your glory"), is a motive by which his exhortation to them is enforced.

The relative ἥτις in the next clause, admits of a twofold reference. It may relate to θλίψεσίν, afflictions; or to μὴ ἐκκακεῖν, not fainting. In the one case the sense would be: ‘The afflictions which I suffer for you instead of being a ground of discouragement are a glory to you.' In the other: ‘Not fainting is an honor to you.' The latter is flat, it amounts to nothing in such a context. It is perfectly in keeping with the heroic character of the apostle, who himself gloried in his afflictions, and with the elevated tone of feeling pervading the context, that he should represent the afflictions which he endured for the Gentiles as an honor and not as a disgrace and a cause of despondency.

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Hodge, Charles. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Ephesians 3:13. Once more reviewing the whole section concerning the great contents of his office as apostle of the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:2-12), he concludes it, in especial retrospective reference to the introduction thereof (Ephesians 3:1), with the entreaty to the readers not to become discouraged, etc., in order thereupon yet further to attach to Ephesians 3:14 ff. a rich outpouring of intercession for them, which terminates in an enthusiastic doxology (Ephesians 3:20 f.). According to this view, δίο has its reference not merely in Ephesians 3:12, but in the whole of what Paul has said, Ephesians 3:2-12, regarding his office, namely: On that account, because so great and blissful a task has by God’s grace been assigned to me in my calling, I entreat you, etc. The greater the office conferred by God, the less does it become those whom it concerns to take offence or become downcast at the sufferings and persecutions of its holder.

μὴ ἐκκακεῖν] applies to the readers: that ye become not disheartened, fainthearted and cowardly in the confession of the gospel,—not to Paul: that I become not disheartened, as Syriac, Theodoret, Jerome, Bengel, Semler, and others, including Rückert, Harless, Olshausen, Baumgarten-Crusius, take it. In opposition to the latter, it may be urged that the supplying of θεόν after αἰτοῦμαι, demanded in connection therewith, is in no wise indicated by the context, which rather in the bare αἰτοῦμαι, (comp. 2 Corinthians 5:20; 2 Corinthians 10:2) conveys only the idea of a request to the readers (it is otherwise at Colossians 1:9; James 1:6). Further, ἥτις ἐστὶ δόξα ὑμῶν manifestly contains a motive for the readers, to fulfil that which Paul entreats. Only from τούτου χάριν, Ephesians 3:14, begins an intercession for the readers, that God may strengthen them.(180) The μου, finally, after θλίψεσι is wholly superfluous, if Paul is imploring constancy for himself; but not, if he is beseeching the readers not to become fainthearted, while he is suffering for them.

As to the form ἐγκακεῖν in Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Rückert, see on 2 Corinthians 4:1.

ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσί ΄ου ὑπὲρ ὑ΄.] in the tribulations which I endure for your sake (namely, as apostle of the Gentiles). Comp. Paul’s own so touching comment upon this ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, in Philippians 2:17. The ἐν denotes the subsisting relation, in which their courage is not to give way. See Winer, p. 346 [E. T. 483]. To this conception the explanation on account of (Erasmus, Beza, Piscator, Estius, and others) is also to be referred, ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν is rightly attached, without repetition of the article, to ταῖς θλίψ. ΄ου, because one may say θλίβεσθαι ὑπέρ τινος (2 Corinthians 1:6; comp. Colossians 1:24). Comp. on Galatians 4:14. Harless connects ὑπὲρ ὑ΄. with αἰτοῦ΄αι: I pray for your benefit. How violently opposed to the order of the words, and, with the right view of αἰτοῦμαι, impossible!

ἥτις ἐστὶ δόξα ὑ΄ῶν] is designed to animate to the fulfilment of the entreaty, so that ἥτις introduces an explanation serving as a motive thereto (Herm. ad Oed. R. 688; Ellendt, Lex. Soph. II. p. 385), not equivalent to , but referring what is predicated “ad ipsam rei naturam” (Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. p. 190), like qui quidem, quippe qui, utpote qui. ἥτις may be referred either to the ΄ὴ ἐκκακεῖν (Theodoret, Zanchius, Harless, Olshausen, Schenkel) or to ταῖς θλίψεσί ΄ου ὑπὲρ ὑ΄ῶν (so usually). In either case the relative is attracted by the following δόξα, and this not as Hebraizing (Beza, Matthies, and many), but as a Greek usage. Comp. as regards the ordinary exegesis, according to which the number also is attracted, Dem. c. Aphob. p. 853. 31: ἔχειὀγδόηκοντα μὲν μνᾶς, ἢν ἔλαβε προῖκα τῆς μητρός; and see, in general, Winer, p. 150 [E. T. 206]. The usual reference is the right one; the sufferings of the apostle for the readers were a glory of the latter, it redounded to their honour that he suffered for them,(181) and this relation could not but raise them far above the ἐκκακεῖν, else they would not have accorded with the thought brought to their consciousness by the ἥτις ἐστὶ δόξα ὑμῶν. The referring of ἥτις to μὴ ἐκκακεῖν is inconsistent with the correct explanation of the latter (see above); for if Paul had said that it was glorious for the readers not to grow faint, he would either have given expression to a very general and commonplace thought, or else to one of which the specific contents must first be mentally supplied (gloria spiritualis); whereas the proposition: “my tribulations are your glory,” is in a high degree appropriate alike to the ingenious mode of expression, and to the apostolic sense of personal dignity, in which is implied a holy pride. Comp. Philippians 2:17.

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Holy treasure in earthen vessels

Ephesians 3:8-21

The apostle Paul was a very humble man. The choice servants of God are, generally speaking, the most humble. The reasons for their humility are that they are most aware of their own sinfulness, they have greater discoveries of God's love and grace in Christ and, being more sorely tried, they lean more completely on the arm of grace.

Ephesians 3:8. Paul saw great grace in being trusted with the ministry of the gospel and having such treasure put in an earthen vessel. He was appointed to take the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles.

Ephesians 3:9. The mystery mentioned in this verse is the gospel of Christ (Mark 4:11; 1 Corinthians 2:7-8). Natural men do not understand the gospel of substitution, do not see the wisdom of the cross and therefore must be born again, regenerated and taught of God (John 3:3; John 6:44-45). The ministry of the word is the means God uses to enlighten men (Romans 10:13-15). The gospel was there from the beginning in the counsel and covenant of God; for he created all things in, by and for Christ (Colossians 1:14-17); but it was hidden in some measure from the elect angels, from even the Old Testament saints and altogether from natural men.

Ephesians 3:10. The purpose is that through and by the church of the Lord Jesus Christ the complex, many-sided wisdom of God in justifying the ungodly by Christ Jesus might be made known to the angels and powers even in heaven (l Peter l:12). The angels are witnesses of God's mercy to the church in Christ (Hebrews 1:14).

Ephesians 3:11. All of the salvation of sinners in Christ (which displays the wisdom and mercy of God) is according to his own eternal purpose, which he purposed in Christ before the world began. Christ the Redeemer and the time of his incarnation, sufferings and resurrection were all decreed by God (Acts 4:26-28). The persons for whom he became incarnate, suffered and died were chosen in him (Ephesians 1:3-5).

Ephesians 3:12. Therefore, because we are redeemed by Christ, our Representative (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22) and Substitute, and God has enabled us to believe on Christ (who is the object of saving faith), we have boldness to enter into the very presence of God with courage and confidence (Hebrews 10:19-22).

Ephesians 3:13. ‘So I ask you not to be discouraged because of the trials and troubles I have gone through to preach the gospel to you. I am not ashamed to be identified with Christ in reproach (Hebrews 13:13) and hatred (John 15:18-19). It is an honour to be counted worthy to suffer with him (Hebrews 11:24-26; 2 Corinthians 1:6).

Ephesians 3:14. ‘For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father.’ The awesome responsibility of ministering the gospel, the privilege of access to the throne of grace and the perseverance of the believers in Ephesus led Paul to pray for them (2 Corinthians 2:14-16; 2 Corinthians 3:5).

Ephesians 3:15. He is the Father of all believers, all the elect in heaven and earth (John 1:12; John 20:17).

Ephesians 3:16-19. This is the prayer Paul prayed for them:

1. That God would strengthen them so that they would not faint under trial. That the Holy Spirit would strengthen their spirits, their hearts and their inner selves with fresh supplies of grace. Strength to live for God's glory is from within (John 7:37-39).

2. This is the true source of all spiritual life, the key to union with the Father, the fountainhead of all blessings and the hope of eternal life – ‘Christ in you’ (Galatians 4:19; Colossians 1:27). That they might be rooted and grounded deep in love for Christ. This is our security – his love for us and our love for him.

3. That they might be able, with all believers, to have a greater understanding of the great love of God for us – what is the breadth, the length, the height and the depth of his love (Romans 5:8).

4. That they might understand more of the special and peculiar love of Christ for his church, which is beyond perfect knowledge (his engaging to be Surety for them, his assumption of their nature, his payment for their debts, his giving them a perfect righteousness, his intercession, his constant supply of mercy and grace). We have some knowledge of it, but the more of it we know, the more we will be filled and flooded with Christ himself.

Ephesians 3:20-21. The prayer closes with a celebration of the perfection, power and glory of God. God begins, carries on and finishes the work he purposed to do for his people. This work of eternal redemption will be infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams.

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Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 2013.

Hamilton Smith's Writings


God"s Way in Making Known His Purpose

( Ephesians 3)

We have seen that Ephesians 1 presents the counsels of God as to the church, while Ephesians 2 presents the work of God in and with believers to fulfil His counsels. Ephesians 3 presents the administration of the truth of the church, or the way that God has taken to make known the truth to the Gentiles through the instrumentality of the apostle Paul.

Comparing Ephesians 3:1 with Ephesians 4:1, it will be clearly seen that Ephesians 3 is parenthetical. Ephesians 2 presents the doctrine and Ephesians 4 the practice consistent with the doctrine. Between the doctrine and the practice we have this important digression in which the Holy Spirit presents the special administration, or service, committed to the apostle. In the second verse this service is referred to as "the dispensation of the grace of God", and in verse9 as "the fellowship of the mystery". In both verses the word is the same in the original language. The best translation is "administration", an administration being a particular service. This service was to proclaim the Gospel and make known the truth among the saints. In the course of this parenthesis we have the presentation of further great truths in connection with the church.

(1) The effect of ministering the truth of the church

(Vv1, 2). The apostle tells us that the immediate effect of ministering the truth of the church was to bring the one who proclaimed it into reproach with the religious world. This great truth aroused the special hostility of the Jew, inasmuch as it not only viewed Jew and Gentile in the same position before God- dead in trespasses and sins- but it in no wise exalted the Jew to a place of blessing above the Gentile. Moreover, as the truth of the church set aside the whole Jewish system, with its appeal to the natural man by means of an outward worship in temples made with hands, it raised the opposition of those who upheld that system. As then, so now, the maintenance of the truth of the church as revealed to, and ministered by, the apostle Paul will involve reproach and opposition from those who seek to maintain an outward religious profession, or an ecclesiastical system after the Jewish pattern.

It was, then, the carrying out of this special service, which proclaimed the Gospel of the grace of God to the Gentiles, that raised the malice of the prejudiced Jew and brought the apostle into prison. In the estimation of the Jew, a man who could talk of going to the Gentiles was not fit to live ( Acts 22:21; Acts 22:22). Paul, however, did not view himself as a prisoner of men for any wrong-doing, but as a prisoner of Jesus Christ because of his service of love in making known the truth to the Gentiles.

(2) The truth of the church made known by revelation

(Vv3, 4). In order that we may receive the great truth of the church on divine authority, the apostle is careful to explain that he acquired his knowledge of "the mystery" of the church, not through communications from men, but by direct revelation from God, even as he says, "By revelation He made known unto me the mystery." This meets a difficulty that may rise in connection with the truth of the mystery. When Paul preached the Gospel in the Jewish synagogues he invariably appealed to the Scriptures (see Acts 13:27; Acts 13:29; Acts 13:32; Acts 13:35; Acts 13:47; Acts 17:2, etc.), and the Jews of Berœa are expressly commended inasmuch as they searched the Scriptures to see if the word preached by Paul was in accord with them. But directly the apostle ministered the truth of the church, he could no longer appeal to the Old Testament for confirmation. It would be useless for his hearers to search the Scriptures to see if these things were so. The unbelief of the Jews made it difficult for them to accept many truths that were in their Scriptures, even as Nicodemus failed to grasp the truth of the new birth, but to accept something that was not there, and which set aside the whole Jewish system that was there and had existed with the sanction of God for centuries, was to the Jew, as such, an insuperable difficulty.

Many Christians can hardly appreciate this difficulty, inasmuch as the truth of the church is largely obscured in their minds, or even totally lost. Viewing the church as the aggregate of believers through all time, they have no difficulty in finding what they believe to be the church in the Old Testament. That this has been the thought of godly men is amply proved by the headings that have been given to many Old Testament chapters in the Authorised Version. Accept, however, the truth of the church as unfolded in the Epistle to the Ephesians, and at once we are faced with this difficulty which can only be met by the fact that the truth of the church is an entirely fresh revelation.

(V:5). This great truth, which Paul received by Revelation, he speaks of as "the mystery", and again in verse4as "the mystery of the Christ". In using the term "mystery" the apostle does not wish to convey the thought of anything mysterious- a purely human use of the word. In Scripture a mystery is something which has hitherto been kept secret, that could not be otherwise known than by Revelation, and when revealed can only be apprehended by faith. The apostle proceeds to explain that this mystery was not made known to the sons of men in the Old Testament days, but now is made known by revelation unto Christ"s "holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit". The prophets referred to in this verse are clearly not Old Testament prophets, but rather those referred to in Ephesians 2:20. In both cases the order is "apostles and prophets", not "prophets and apostles", as might be expected had the reference been to prophets of the Old Testament. Moreover, the apostle is speaking of what is "now" revealed, in contrast with what was formerly revealed.

(3) The truth of the church thus revealed

(V:6). Having shown that the truth of the church was made known by Revelation, the apostle, in a brief passage, sums up the truth of the church, and explains why it is referred to as "the mystery". Clearly the mystery is not the Gospel, which was not hidden in other ages, for the Old Testament is full of allusions to the coming Saviour, however little these allusions were understood.

What, then, is the mystery? We are plainly told, in verse6, that this new revelation is that the Gentiles "should be joint heirs, and a joint body, and joint partakers of His promise in Christ Jesus by the glad tidings." The Gentiles are made joint heirs with the Jews, not only in Christ"s earthly kingdom, but in the inheritance that includes both things in heaven and things on earth. And more, the Gentile believers are formed with Jewish believers into a joint body of which Christ is the Head in heaven. Moreover, they jointly partake of God"s promises in Christ Jesus. The Gentile is not raised to the Jewish level on earth, nor is the Jew brought down to the Gentile level, both are taken off their old standing and raised to an immeasurably higher plane, united to one another on entirely new ground, even heavenly ground in Christ. All this is brought to pass by the Gospel which addresses both on one common level of guilt and utter ruin. The three great facts referred to in this verse have already come before us in Ephesians 1. The promise in Christ includes all the blessings unfolded in the first seven verses of that chapter, the inheritance is opened out before us in verses8 to21, and the truth of the "one body" in verses22,23.

(4) The truth revealed to and ministered by Paul

(V:7). Not only was the mystery revealed to Paul; he was also made the minister of the truth. The mystery was also revealed to the other apostles (verse5) but to him was committed the special service of ministering this truth to the saints. Hence, only in the Epistles of Paul do we find any unfolding of the mystery. The grace of God had given this ministry to the apostle; the power of God enabled him to exercise the gift of grace. God"s gifts can only be used in God"s power.

(V:8). Moreover, the apostle tells us the effect that this great truth had upon himself. In the presence of the greatness of God"s grace he sees that he is the chief of sinners ( 1 Timothy 1:15): in the presence of the immense vista of blessing unfolded by the mystery he feels that he is less than the least of all saints. The greater the glories that are opened to our vision, the smaller we become in our own eyes. The man who had the largest apprehension of this great mystery, in all its vast extent, was the man who owned that he was less than the least of all saints.

In order to fulfil his ministry, the apostle not only proclaimed the irretrievable ruin of Prayer of Manasseh, but the unsearchable riches of Christ, riches beyond all human computation, carrying blessings that have no limit.

(5) The end in view in the ministry of the truth

(Vv9-11). The preaching of the Gospel was in view of the second part of Paul"s service- to enlighten all with the knowledge of the mystery, to show all men how the counsel of God from eternity to eternity is brought about in time by the formation of the assembly on earth, and thus to bring to light that which has hitherto been hidden in God from the foundation of the world.

Further, not only would God have all men enlightened as to the formation of the assembly on earth, but it is His intent that now all the heavenly beings should learn in the church His manifold wisdom. These heavenly beings had seen the creation come fresh from the hand of God, and, as they beheld His wisdom in creation, they shouted for joy. Now in the formation of the church they see "the all-various wisdom of God". Creation was the most perfect expression of creatorial Wisdom of Solomon, but in the formation of the church God"s wisdom is displayed in every form. Before the church could be formed, God"s glory had to be vindicated, man"s need met, sin put away, death abolished, and the power of Satan annulled. The barrier between Jew and Gentile had to be removed, heaven be opened, Christ be seated as Man in the glory, the Holy Spirit come to earth, and the Gospel be preached. All this and more is involved in the formation of the church. These various ends could only be attained by the all-various wisdom of God, wisdom displayed, not only in one direction, but in every direction. Nor has the failure of the church in its responsibilities altered the fact that in the church the angels learn the wisdom of God. On the contrary, it only makes more manifest the marvellous wisdom that, rising above all man"s failure, overcoming every obstacle, at last brings the church to glory "according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."

(6) The practical effect of ministering the truth

(Vv12, 13). The apostle turns aside from the unfolding of the mystery to give a brief word as to its practical effect. These wonders are not unrolled before our vision simply to be admired, admirable indeed as they are. The mystery is also exceedingly practical when rightly apprehended and acted upon. To act in the light of the truth will make us at home in God"s world, but will put us outside man"s world. As the blind man of John 9, when cast out by the religious world, finds himself in the presence of the Son of God, so the apostle, while in man"s prison on earth, has access to the Father"s presence in heaven.

Christ Jesus, the One through whom all these eternal purposes will be fulfilled, is the One by whom we have access to the Father with confidence. If this great truth gives us boldness and makes us at home in the Father"s presence, in the world it will lead to tribulation. This Paul found, but he says, "Faint not at my tribulations." To accept the truth of the mystery- to walk in the light of it- will at once put us outside the religious world. Act upon this truth, and at once we shall meet with opposition from the Christian profession. It will be, as it was with Paul, a continual conflict, and especially with all that judaizes.

Opposition there must be, for these great truths entirely undermine the worldly constitution of every Prayer of Manasseh -made religious system. Is the truth of the mystery, with the knowledge of which Paul sought to enlighten all men, proclaimed from the pulpits of Christendom, holiness conventions, or even from evangelical platforms? Is the truth of the mystery, involving the total ruin of Prayer of Manasseh, the utter rejection of Christ by the world, the session of Christ in the glory, the presence of the Holy Spirit on earth, the separation of the believer from the world, and the calling of the saints to heaven- is this great truth proclaimed, or acted upon, in the national churches and religious denominations of Christendom? Alas! it has no place in their creeds, their prayers or their teaching. Nay, more, and worse, it is denied by their very constitution, their teaching and their practice.

(7) The prayer that these truths may be made good in the believer

(Vv14-21). The great truths unfolded in these chapters very naturally lead to the second prayer of the apostle. In the second chapter of the Epistle the apostle has unfolded the great truth that believers, from amongst Jews and Gentiles, have been builded together to form the dwelling place of God. In the third chapter the apostle has presented the truth of the mystery, showing that believers, also taken from Jews and Gentiles, are brought on to entirely new ground to form a joint-body in Christ. We then learn that this mystery has been disclosed to the intent that the manifold wisdom of God should now be displayed, according to the eternal purpose which God purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord ( Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 3:11).

Having this great end in view, the apostle turns to the Father in prayer, that the saints may be in a right spiritual condition to enter into the fulness of God. To bring about this spiritual condition in the saints we see, in the course of the prayer, that every divine Person is engaged in connection with the saints. The Father is the source of all blessing, the Spirit strengthens us that the Christ may dwell in us to fill us with the fulness of God, so that God may be glorified by being displayed in the saints now, and throughout all ages.

(V:14). As the prayer has in view the eternal purpose which has been "purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord", it is addressed to "the Father" who is the source of these eternal counsels. For the same reason there is no mention of death or resurrection in the prayer. The eternal counsels were all settled before death came in, and the complete fulfilment of these counsels, to which the prayer looks on, will be in a scene where death can never enter.

(V:15). This new scene of glory being in view, we are told that in this coming world of blessing every family in heaven and earth will be named of the Father. In the first creation all the animals were passed before Adam, who gave them names that set forth the distinguishing characteristics to be displayed in each family. So in connection with the eternal counsels for the new creation, every family in heaven and earth- angelic beings, the church in heaven, and the saints on earth- will be named of the Father, and thus each family has its distinguishing character according to the eternal counsels of the Father.

The prayer is therefore in view of all that will be brought to light in eternal ages, according to the counsels of God before the foundation of the world- a scene of which the Father is the source of all, the Son the centre of all, and every family in heaven and earth displays some special glory of the Father.

(V:16). The first request is that the Father would grant us according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man. The apostle does not say "according to the riches of His grace", as in Ephesians 1:7, but "according to the riches of His glory", because the prayer is not connected with meeting our need, but rather with the fulfilment of the counsels of the Father"s heart.

In the prayer of chapter1the request is that we may know the power of God toward us; here it is that we may have the power in us to strengthen us in the inner man. The outer man is the visible, natural man by which we are in touch with the things of the world. The inner man is the unseen and spiritual Prayer of Manasseh, formed by the work of the Spirit in us, and by which we are in touch with unseen and eternal things. Just as the outer man needs to be strengthened by material things of this life, so the inner man needs to be strengthened by the Spirit to enter into the spiritual blessings of the new world of God"s counsels.

(V:17). The second request is that the Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith. The first request leads to the second, for only as we are strengthened by the Spirit will Christ dwell in our hearts by faith. The effect of the Spirit, who has come from the Father, working in our souls, will be to fill us with the Father"s thoughts of Christ- to think with the Father about the Son.

The request is not that we may be strengthened with might to perform some miracle, or to undertake some arduous work, but that a spiritual condition may be wrought in our souls by Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith. The power of the world around us, of the flesh within us, and the devil against us, is so great, that, if Christ is to have His true place in our hearts it will only be as we are strengthened by the Spirit in the inner man.

Moreover, the prayer is that the Christ may "dwell" in our hearts. We are not to treat Him as a visitor to be entertained on some special occasion, but as One who has an abiding place in our hearts. This can only be by faith, for faith looks out to Christ, and as He is before us as an object He will have a dwelling-place in our hearts. The One who is the centre of all God"s counsels will thus become the centre of our thoughts. As one has said, "The supreme object to God becomes the supreme object to us." What a witness for God we each should be if our lives were governed by one engrossing object, and that object Christ! Too often we are like Martha of old, distracted with "much serving", and "careful and troubled about many things". "One thing" only is "needful", to have Christ as the sole Object of our lives, then service and all else will follow without distraction. May we, like Mary, choose this "good part".

The result of Christ dwelling in the heart is to root and ground us in love. If Christ, the One in whom, and through whom, all the love of the Father has been made known, is dwelling in our hearts, He will surely fill the heart with a knowledge and enjoyment of divine love.

(V:18). Christ dwelling in the heart prepares the way for the third great request, that we may be "fully able to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height." God teaches us through our affections, so that the way to this apprehension is not only by faith, but by "being rooted and grounded in love". Through the work of the Spirit, Christ dwells in our hearts by faith; dwelling there by faith He fills our hearts with love, and love prepares us to apprehend. Further, this love leads us to embrace "all saints", for the more we enjoy the love of Christ, the more our hearts will go out to all who are loved by Christ.

Then the apostle desires that we may apprehend "the breadth, and length, and depth, and height". This would appear to be the whole range of God"s "eternal purpose", already referred to in verse11. This eternal purpose in its breadth embraces "all saints", in its length stretches into the age of ages, in its depth reached down to us in all our need, and in its height brings us into a scene of glory.

(V:19). All this scene of blessedness is secured for us by the love of Christ- the One who "loved the church, and gave Himself for it." Hence the fourth request is that we may "know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge." It is a love that can be known and enjoyed, and yet it passes knowing. If we cannot measure the height of glory from which Christ came, or fathom the depth of sorrow into which He has been, still less can we measure the love that has wrought for us, that takes in the vast host of the redeemed, small and great, that is caring for us in our passage through time, and that is coming for us to bring us into the home of love to be there with Him, and like Him, for the gratification of His heart of love. Such love can be known, and yet will forever remain a love that passes knowing.

The fifth request is that we may be filled with all the fulness of God. The fulness of God is all that God is as revealed and made known in Christ. The Son has fully declared the Father in His love and holiness, in His grace and truth; and the apostle desires that we should receive, in full measure, of the divine fulness that it may be displayed in the saints.

(V:20). The sixth request is that all the apostle has been praying for the saints may be wrought in them by the power of God. God Isaiah, indeed, able to do exceeding abundantly "for us", as is often said. Here, however, where the leading thought throughout the prayer is the spiritual condition of the saints, it is neither what God can do for us or with us that is in view, but rather His ability and willingness to work "in us" in answer to these requests, and to do this "above all that we ask or think".

(V:21). The seventh and last desire is that there may be glory in the church unto God by Christ Jesus throughout all ages. Every request in the prayer leads up to this wonderful thought that through all the ages the saints should set forth the fulness of God, and thus be for His glory. The whole prayer clearly shows that it is God"s desire that what will be true of the saints throughout the eternal ages should mark them in their passage through time- that all that God is should shine forth in His people.

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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". 1832.

The Bible Study New Testament

13. Do not be discouraged. “I have given you good reasons why you should not be discouraged by my suffering for you. I have showed you God’s secret which has been revealed in Jesus Christ, and I have showed you that God accepts you Gentiles directly, without first becoming Jews. My suffering really proves the truth of the Good News I have preached to you!”




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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books

The Revelation of the Mystery (Ephesians 3:1-13)

In Ephesians chapter 3 the apostle unfolded the great secret that had been in the heart of God from eternity. In a very special sense Paul was the chosen one to make known this mystery in all its fullness. On the other hand we need to guard against the idea that no others participated in this knowledge, for in verse Ephesians 3:5 of Ephesians Chapter 3 he declared, “It is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” Others, therefore, shared with him in this blessed knowledge, but preeminently he was the apostle used by God to reveal the mystery.

No one else wrote of the body of Christ, among all the New Testament writers. This teaching came first to Paul that he might communicate it to others. But the truth that Jew and Gentile were to be blessed in the same way on the basis of pure grace was made known to the twelve. Our Lord taught this truth. “His own sheep” from the Jewish fold, and “other sheep” of the Gentiles were to form “one flock” under the fostering care of “one Shepherd” (John 10:4; John 10:16). Peter’s vision of the sheet let down from Heaven revealed the same glorious mystery. But the revelation of the one body was the special truth committed to Paul and given to him in seed form at the very time of his conversion, as the words, “Why persecutest thou me?” imply (Acts 9:4). Christ’s question to Paul indicated that to touch a saint on earth was to touch the Head in Heaven. Thus was Paul taught the unity of the body and its union with the glorified Head.

We might say it was because of this very truth that he was in prison at the time he wrote the Ephesian letter. I think this is indicated by the expression “I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles.” You will remember that in his defense on the temple stairs at Jerusalem, he announced that he had been commanded by the Lord to go to the Gentiles. The anger of his Jewish hearers was stirred to the depths, and they cried, “Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live” (Acts 22:22). We, therefore, who are Gentiles have special reason to be grateful to Paul for his faithfulness in proclaiming God’s purpose for us in His divine program. Because of this he suffered persecution, and spent many weary months in prison rather than surrender in the least degree the truth of God committed to him.

In Ephesians chapter 3, as in Colossians, he indicated that his was a double ministry. First, he spoke “of the dispensation of the grace of God” which was given him (Ephesians 3:2). A dispensation is a stewardship. Paul, like every true New Testament preacher, was a steward of the grace of God. Notice how the apostle Peter also wrote: “As every man has received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10). Grace, we have already observed, is God’s unmerited favor to those who have deserved the very opposite. It is this grace that is proclaimed in the gospel. And this, of course, is the first part of the mystery. The apostle goes on to show that he was not only a minister of the gospel, but in a special sense a minister of this now revealed secret.

He said that by revelation the mystery was made known to him, and he called it the “mystery of Christ.” It is God’s wonderful secret concerning the glory of His blessed Son. How good it is to know that Christ’s glory and our salvation are eternally linked and can never be separated. Speaking of the mystery he said, “As I wrote afore in few words” (Ephesians 3:3). This, I take it, refers to what he had already said in chapter Ephesians 1:9-13. He will now elaborate that more fully. He had also written before to others concerning this mystery (See Romans 16:25-26; 1 Corinthians 2:7, and other Pauline Epistles). I mention this because of the unwarranted position taken by some that the mystery was never revealed until Paul’s imprisonment. On the contrary, he had been proclaiming it from the very beginning, both by voice and pen.

Now what is this mystery that in other ages was hidden from the sons of men? We are told in verse Ephesians 3:6 : “That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” How does this differ from the Old Testament declaration that God would bless the Gentiles through Israel? The great difference is this: According to the Old Testament prophets the day is coming when Israel will be restored to covenant relationship with God and will be brought into a place of special blessing here on the earth. The Gentile nations living at that time will be blessed with and in subjection to them. But the great truth for our age is that God is now calling out a people for Himself to be the body and bride of His Son throughout the ages to come. Through those called-out people He will administer the affairs of a redeemed universe. This group is composed of both Jews and Gentiles who have been born again and united to the Lord Himself by the Spirit, thus becoming one body with Him and each other. It was this great truth that Paul was specially called to minister “according to the gift of the grace of God,” which had been given to him. The Holy Spirit effectively worked in and through him to bring lost sinners of the Gentiles into this wonderful place of privilege and inalienable blessing.

Note how meekly the apostle spoke of himself, even in connection with this great ministry committed to him, which was enough to have turned any ordinary man’s head. He said, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given.” He did not boast of the abundance of the revelation made known to him, but accepted it as a divine trust that he was to minister for the glory of God and the blessing of others. What a different spirit often motivates some today, who, getting a little smattering of truth, are carried away by their fancied superior intelligence. They exhibit the most shocking pride and conceit because of the imagined inferiority of other believers who have not yet attained to their knowledge of the truth! Surely every new divine truth given to us should only humble us the more as we realize that we have nothing that we have not received. Apart from divine grace, we would still be in our natural darkness and ignorance. Paul took a very humble position as he went about preaching among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. To those who were in the greatest spiritual poverty he eloquently proclaimed the availability of inexpressible wealth. Paul wanted all men to enjoy the blessings and reality of the fellowship of this mystery. Men form their secret societies and delight to meet in hidden places to enjoy together mysteries that others cannot share. The Christian is through grace already a member of the society of the redeemed, a fellowship divinely formed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And as a member of that society he can enjoy with fellow believers the marvelous secret that God has now made known.

From the beginning of the world this mystery was hidden in God “who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:9). Observe, it was not simply hidden in the Bible, as though the Old Testament contained this message and we only needed to ferret it out. But it was hidden in God, and could not have been understood by man until it was made known by divine revelation. When the Lord Jesus Christ was rejected by Israel, and the Holy Spirit descended to bear witness to the perfection of Christ’s finished work, it pleased God to make known this mystery. Even angels, whether good or bad, had no knowledge of it until it was given to God’s saints on earth. This, I understand, is the meaning of the remarkable statement of verse Ephesians 3:10, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known [through] the church, the manifold wisdom of God.” That is, the unseen hosts of glorious beings in Heaven, as well as the vast armies of fallen spirits dominated by Satan, are learning the many-sided wisdom of God. As they observe what God is doing here on earth in His church they are learning, “the purpose [of the ages] which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” One of our poets has written: “Through the ages / One unceasing purpose runs.”

The humble student of the Word of God can see unfolded in the New Testament the great purpose that God had in mind. He created the universe and man and counseled with Himself to take out of that world from the children of Adam a vast company who would be united to His blessed Son throughout eternity. All will work out for the glory of Christ Jesus, our Lord.

In Him we now have immediate access with fullest confidence into the presence of God (Ephesians 3:12). We are so intimately linked up with Him, so truly one with Him, that we can approach the throne of grace without dread or fear, knowing that all we ask in His name or by His authority, the Father delights to do.

No wonder the apostle could glory in suffering because of this great truth. He would not have the saints become discouraged because of His trials, but rather he would have them remember that whatever tribulation he was passing through was on their behalf and for their glory (Ephesians 3:13).

The extent to which we accept these precious truths for ourselves, will determine our practical sanctification. The Christian who truly understands his unity with Christ, and therefore with all who are in Christ, cannot be sectarian in heart or practice, but must embrace all believers in his fellowship and interest.

To profess to believe the truth of the one body is one thing. To be governed by this belief is quite another. So intimate is the link that binds all believers to each other and to our glorified Head in Heaven that everything I say or do as a Christian has an effect for good or ill on all my fellow members, just as every part of the human body affects every other part. This amazing truth should make us very careful in our walk and our attitude toward one another.




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Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. 1914.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Ephesians 3:13. αἰτοῦμαι) I desire,(46) ask God: comp. Ephesians 3:20; Ephesians 3:12. So, asking absolutely, Colossians 1:9 [“We do not cease desiring ( αἰτούμενοι) for you:” viz. desiring God].— μὴ ἐκκακεῖν, not to faint) that I may not prove wanting [that there be no defect on my part], but that I may speak boldly and allure many. The infinitive referring to the same person as the finite verb I ask.(47)θλίψεσί μου ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, in my afflictions for you) Ephesians 3:1.— δόξα) [your] glory spiritual; inasmuch as your faith is assisted thereby [1 Corinthians 4:10].

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Joseph Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament


For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you the Gentiles- if, at least, ye have heard the stewardship of the grace of God given to me for you, that by way of revelation was made known to me the mystery, according as I wrote before in short space, whereby ye can, as ye read, perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ; which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as now it has been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit: that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs and fellow-members of the body and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel, of which I was made a minister according to the gift of the grace of God, the grace given to me according to the working of His power. To me, the less than least of all saints, was this grace given, to announce to the Gentiles as good news the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to enlighten all what is the stewardship of the mystery hidden from the ages, in God who created all things, in order that there may be made known now to the principalities and the authorities in the heavenly places through the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to a purpose of the ages which He made in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him. For which cause I ask that ye faint not at my tribulations on your behalf which is your glory.

Ephesians 3:1. For this cause: because, on the foundation laid by the Apostles, Paul’s readers had been built into the rising walls of the temple of God. Same words in Ephesians 3:14; Titus 1:5; not elsewhere in the N.T. As in Ephesians 1:15, so now, a recital of blessings already given moves Paul to pray for more.

I Paul: as in Colossians 1:23.

Prisoner of Christ Jesus: as in Philemon 1:1; Philemon 1:9. The definite article suggests that he looked upon his imprisonment as placing him in a unique position among the servants of Christ. And this is easily explained. He was a prisoner… on behalf of the Gentiles: for his loyalty to their spiritual rights as fellow-heirs of the Kingdom of God had aroused the hostility of the Jews and thus brought about, after many earlier troubles, his arrest at Jerusalem. He had pursued his path in full view of the peril to which it exposed him, knowing that this loyalty was demanded by the highest interests both of Jews and Gentiles. Same thought in Ephesians 3:13, afflictions on your behalf, and in Colossians 1:24, where see note.

At this point the grammatical construction is broken off, as in Ephesians 2:1, by a long parenthesis explaining these last words by an account of the Gospel committed to Paul. The close of the parenthesis is marked by a return in Ephesians 3:13 to the thought now before us; and by a repetition in Ephesians 3:14 of the first words of Ephesians 3:1, for which cause. But, instead of completing the broken-off sentence, Paul begins in Ephesians 3:14 as in Ephesians 2:5 a new sentence.

Ephesians 3:2. In Ephesians 3:2-12 Paul expounds at length the relation implied in Ephesians 3:1, on your behalf.

If at least: not suggesting uncertainty, but asserting that if, as is the fact, the readers have heard about Paul’s commission, they cannot doubt that his imprisonment is on their behalf.

Have-heard: either from Paul’s lips when at Ephesus or by report from others.

The grace given to me: the undeserved favour with which God had smiled on Paul; as in Romans 12:3; Romans 12:6; Romans 15:15; 1 Corinthians 3:10. Cp. 1 Corinthians 15:10. This favour prompted Christ’s appearance to Paul and the commission then given to him. And Paul never forgot the responsibility to God and to the Gentiles thus laid upon him. The spiritual wealth thus entrusted to him for their good was a stewardship of the grace of God… for you. Similar thought in Colossians 1:25. But here stress is laid upon the undeserved favour to Paul involved in his commission to the Gentiles. So are all tasks given by God to man marks of His favour. For they bring great reward. This sense of responsibility finds expression in Galatians 1:16; Acts 26:16-18.

Ephesians 3:3. Further account of the stewardship committed to Paul. The mystery made known (as in Ephesians 1:9) to Paul was spiritual wealth entrusted to him for distribution to others. It was therefore a stewardship.

By way of revelation: mode in which it was made known to Paul, viz. by spiritual enlightenment. See under Romans 1:17. Mystery and revelation are constant correlatives: Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 1 Corinthians 2:10. For the secrets of God are known only by those for whom God lifts the veil which hides them from unaided human vision.

I have before written: apparently in this Epistle. For Ephesians 3:6 which gives the contents of this mystery is a summing up of Ephesians 2:13-22. Moreover, the present tense, reading, in Ephesians 3:4 suggests that Paul refers to something new. To the same teaching refer also the similar words in Ephesians 1:9, having made known the mystery. For the union of Jews and Gentiles is part of God’s larger purpose (Ephesians 3:10) to unite in Christ the whole universe.

In short space: viz. in Ephesians 2:13-22, words very few for the truths so great, and to Jews so astounding, therein set forth.

Ephesians 3:4. Whereby: more accurately, to which referring as a standard of comparison.

Understanding: ability to interpret the significance of things observed: see under Colossians 1:9.

The mystery of Christ: expounded in Colossians 1:27. The presence of Christ in His people, as a pledge of the splendour awaiting them, is a secret known only to those specially taught by God. This secret, which is the matter understood, is here represented as the surrounding element of the spiritual insight which Paul’s readers would recognise in his teaching about the union in Christ of Jews and Gentiles.

Ephesians 3:5. Generations: the successive courses of men living at one time. So Philippians 2:15; Colossians 1:26.

Other: more correctly different. It calls attention to the different and less favoured position of those who lived before the Gospel age. The words are here a note of time.

The sons of men: men looked upon in the light of their human origin: so Genesis 11:5; Psalms 8:4; Psalms 11:4. ‘While the successive generations of the past, so different in their lower privileges from the men of Paul’s day, followed each other from the cradle to the grave, the great secret now revealed was not made known to the offspring of human parents.’

Revealed; takes up made known by way of revelation in Ephesians 3:3, and asserts that others shared with Paul the truth supernaturally communicated to him.

Apostles and prophets: as in Ephesians 2:20. These were holy because in virtue of their office they stood in special relation to God. Cp. Luke 1:70.

In the Spirit: same words and sense as in Ephesians 2:22. Close parallel in Matthew 22:43 : for David was (Acts 2:30) a prophet. Both Apostles and Prophets were specially inspired by the Holy Spirit, who made known to them truths till then not known to men. They held respectively (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12:28) the first and second ranks in the universal Church; differing in the supreme authority exercised by the Apostles.

Ephesians 3:6. Statement of the mystery now revealed.

That the Gentiles are etc.: objectively in Christ, subjectively through each one’s faith.

Fellow-heirs: same word and sense in Romans 8:17; Hebrews 11:9; 1 Peter 3:7. To Gentiles, as to Jews, belongs, in virtue of their filial relation to God, the wealth of heaven.

Fellow-members-of-the-body: a word not found elsewhere and probably coined by Paul. It presents the union of Jews and Gentiles under Paul’s favourite metaphor of the Body of Christ.

Fellow-partakers: same word in Ephesians 5:7. These three words, beginning with the same syllable, proclaim very clearly the equal rights of Jews and Gentiles.

The promise: as in Ephesians 2:12. It was designed for, and will be fulfilled in, Jews and Gentiles alike; and therefore belongs to both.

In Christ Jesus: as in Ephesians 2:13, which is explained in Ephesians 2:14-15. The above was God’s purpose from eternity: Ephesians 1:4. Therefore in His eternal purpose, which is more real than any creature, already Jews and Gentiles are, in virtue of their relation to Christ, sharers of the one inheritance, members of the one body, and sharers of the one promise.

Through the Gospel: means by which this objective right is subjectively and personally appropriated, and this purpose of eternity accomplished in time. As Abraham, in the day when he believed the promise, stood before God as already father of many nations, so before time began the believing Gentiles stood before God, as, by means of the good news announced by Christ and His servants, sharers with the believing Israelites of the blessings promised to Abraham.

The union of Jews and Gentiles in the one Church may seem to some unworthy to be called the mystery of Christ. But this union is a logical result of the central doctrine of the Gospel, viz. that God accepts into His favour all who believe. Consequently, in the extension to the Gentiles of the rights of the New Covenant, was involved the essence of the Gospel. Hence the strong language of Galatians 5:2; Galatians 4:10-11. Moreover, to Paul, a zealous Jew, it was the most conspicuous feature of the Gospel, and at one time the most serious objection to it. And, in all ages, the universality of the Gospel, embracing on the same terms men of all kinds, is one of the clearest proofs that it comes from the common Parent of all. This universal destiny of the Kingdom of God was in great part veiled under the Old Covenant. But to Paul and his colleagues, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, it had been revealed. A remembrance of these long ages of silence, of his superior privilege, and of the special honour put upon him as an Apostle filled him with wonder and gratitude. See further in Ephesians 3:8-11.

This verse is another plain note of genuineness. For it gives to the union of Jews and Gentiles an importance in complete harmony with Paul’s position, history, and mode of thought; but inconceivable in the second century, when the Gentiles had obtained a secure and predominant position in the Church.

Ephesians 3:7. Of which I became a minister: as in Colossians 1:23; stating in each case Paul’s relation to a foregoing general statement.

According to the gift etc.: close parallel to Colossians 1:25. The appointment of Paul as a minister of the Gospel is traced to its source in the favour with which God smiled on him. And this grace was in harmony with the working or activity of His power. Otherwise the grace would have been ineffective. As in Galatians 2:8-9, Paul felt that in his labours the might of God was at work.

Ephesians 3:8-12. A new sentence, reasserting and amplifying the statements in Ephesians 3:2-7.

The less-than-least: a combination, not found elsewhere, of superlative and comparative: close parallels in 1 Corinthians 15:9; 1 Timothy 1:13. These two passages explain Paul’s self-depreciation here and they reveal his profound sense of the awful sin of lifting a hand against the Church of God. Not merely below the Apostles, as in 1 Corinthians 15:9, but far below all saints, i.e. Christians, Paul places himself.

Was given etc.: a remarkable re-echo of Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 3:7, revealing Paul’s deep sense of the undeserved favour of God which committed to him so glorious a commission. This grace is further expounded by the words to announce to the Gentiles as good tidings etc.

Unsearchable: whose footsteps cannot be traced. So in Romans 11:33. The riches of Christ extend, in their abundance, farther than the mind of man can follow. When the Gospel went forth to enrich the Gentiles, it passed the thought of Israel. And, to announce as good news this infinite wealth for all that believe, was the mission given to Paul by the undeserved favour of God.

Ephesians 3:9. And to enlighten etc.: another item of the grace given to Paul, or rather another view of the grace just described.

Enlighten, or shed light upon: as in Ephesians 1:18; 2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 6:4; John 1:9. The light may be conceived as cast, either upon the person seeing, who finds himself surrounded by light, or upon the object seen. A cognate word in 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 4:6.

All: probably not more than our phrase all of them, viz. the Gentiles. For its position is not emphatic; nor have we here the universal phrase found in Romans 5:12; Romans 5:18, etc.

Stewardship of the mystery: as in 1 Corinthians 4:1, stewards of the mysteries of God. It combines the ideas separately expressed in Ephesians 3:2 and Ephesians 3:3. The great secret revealed to Paul was, in reality, spiritual wealth entrusted to him for distribution to others. To make this secret known to the Gentiles, was to give them light. To do this by announcing the unsearchable riches of Christ, was Paul’s joyful task.

Hidden from the ages: from the beginning of time, as in Colossians 1:26.

In God: whose all-knowing mind is the treasury in which this wealth lay hidden. This suggests, as is clearly implied in Ephesians 3:10, that the mystery was not known even to angels.

Who created all things; links together the purpose kept secret for ages with the creation of the universe: so Ephesians 1:4; Colossians 1:16-17. And this suggests that the world was created with a view to the realisation of this purpose.

Ephesians 3:10. Purpose, not of the creation of all things nor of the concealment of the mystery during long ages, but of the chief matter of the sentence, viz. the commission to Paul to proclaim the mystery. For the mention of creation is only passing: and the revelation, which is itself a part of the original purpose, can hardly be said to be the aim of the concealment. Whereas, as expounded above, this ultimate aim increases immensely the grandeur of Paul’s commission. The Gospel he preaches is designed to make-known even to angels something about God not known before. Cp. 1 Peter 1:10.

Now: in contrast to the ages of silence.

The principalities and the authorities: as in Ephesians 1:21. The mention of two ranks of angels throws into bolder relief the greatness of this revelation.

In the heavenly places: as in Ephesians 1:3.

Through the Church: as a visible embodiment of God’s eternal purpose.

Wisdom of God: as in Romans 11:33; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 1 Corinthians 1:24. It is God’s perfect knowledge of whatever is and can be, enabling Him to select the best ends and means.

Manifold or many-coloured; suggests an extreme variety of means used. As the various ranks of angels contemplated the Church on earth, consisting of Jews and Gentiles, of every nationality, rank, degree of culture, and previous character, yet now saved from their sins by the one Gospel of Christ united into one living body with Christ as its Head, and as they observed the combination of various means by which this great consummation has been accomplished, they see, as even angels never saw before, the infinite wisdom with which God selects ends worthy of Himself and the most fitting means. Thus the Church becomes a mirror in which the bright ones of heaven see the glory of God. And, in order to show them this glory, God committed the Gospel to Paul. This teaches that heaven and earth are one great whole; and that good done on earth extends to heaven.

Ephesians 3:11. According to purpose: same words and sense as in Ephesians 1:11; Romans 8:28; 2 Timothy 1:9. A cognate word in Ephesians 1:9.

Of the ages; keeps conspicuously before us the idea of a long-cherished purpose. Paul here asserts that the ultimate aim described in Ephesians 3:10 was in harmony with, i.e. was a part of, the one eternal purpose. Grammatically, the words which follow may mean either that God made, or accomplished, in Christ His great purpose. As matter of fact, both are true. But, inasmuch as the full title Jesus Christ our Lord calls very marked attention to the historic Saviour and as Ephesians 3:12 speaks of actual access to God through Christ, it is perhaps better to understand Paul to refer here to the virtual accomplishment in Jesus of Nazareth of the eternal purpose.

Ephesians 3:12. A new statement proving from spiritual matter of fact the statement in Ephesians 3:11.

In whom we have: as in Ephesians 1:7.

Boldness: or rather the boldness, i.e. the well-known confidence which does not fear to speak the whole truth. Same word and sense in Philippians 1:20.

Access: as in Ephesians 2:18; Romans 5:2.

In confidence: our state of mind in approaching God. Same word in Philippians 3:4.

Through faith: as in Ephesians 2:8; Romans 3:22, etc. A favourite phrase of Paul.

Faith in Him: literally, the faith of Him; i.e. the faith of which He is the personal object. ‘Through our assurance that the words of Christ are true and will come true, and in virtue of our relation to Him, we have a confidence which enables us to speak unreservedly to man and to approach God without fear.’ By giving to us this confidence, God has, in the historic Christ, accomplished a purpose formed before time began.

Ephesians 3:13. In Ephesians 3:12, Paul completed his account, begun in Ephesians 3:2, of the stewardship committed to him. This prompts a request bearing upon Ephesians 3:1, a reference indicated by the words on your behalf which recall the same words in Ephesians 3:1. They mark the close of the long parenthesis, Ephesians 3:2-13. Paul then takes up the thought interrupted by the parenthesis, noting the resumption by the words for this cause carried on from Ephesians 3:1 to Ephesians 3:14.

For which cause: because of this boldness towards men and God which Christians have in Christ and through faith.

I ask: more fully, ask as a favour to myself: so Colossians 1:9. It is a courteous request suggesting the pleasure and profit which the Christian courage of his readers will give to Paul.

My afflictions on your behalf: cp. Colossians 1:24, my sufferings on your behalf; and see note.

Not to faint: same word and sense in 2 Corinthians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Galatians 6:9. Paul begs his readers, as a personal favour to himself, not to lose courage in the great fight through the hardships which he endures in order to preach the Gospel to them. This request, his own confidence in Christ emboldens him to make. For he is sure that Christ is able to make them also brave. Then follows a reason for not losing heart: which are your glory. Paul declares, conscious that his own brave perseverance is a manifestation of the grace of God, that his sufferings are an ornament to his readers. They can point to his unfaltering courage under great hardships as a confirmation of the Gospel which he preaches and they believe. Surely, their hearts need not sink because of afflictions which bring honour to the whole Church.

Glory: as in 1 Corinthians 11:7; 2 Corinthians 8:23.

REVIEW. Paul’s recital in § 2 of blessings conferred, in accomplishment of an eternal purpose, upon Jews and Gentiles, prompts him in § 3 to pray that God may reveal to the Ephesian Christians His own great power already at work in those who believe. As a measure of this power, he points them to Christ raised from the dead and seated at God’s right hand. And, that his readers may apply to themselves this standard of measurement, Paul teaches in § 4 that they once were dead, and in § 5 that Christ has breathed into them new life, thus saving them through faith. This salvation he further describes in § 6 as bringing near those who once were far off not only from God but from the ancient people of God, and as reconciling to God Jews and Gentiles united into one body. The various parts of the Church, however separate they may now seem to be, are destined to become one temple, one dwelling-place of God. All this moves Paul to pray for his readers’ further development. But, while preparing to pray, the prisoner remembers his bonds, and that they were caused by his loyalty to the truth which brought salvation to the Gentiles. He delays for a moment his prayer that he may set forth his relation to the Gospel which has brought this unexpected salvation. And this delay interrupts the grammatical sequence of his letter. In undeserved favour, God has made Paul a steward of good things for the Gentiles, by revealing to him a secret kept in silence while successive generations of men passed to the grave.

But the secret has now been revealed to certain men whom God has made the mouth-piece of His Spirit. The secret is that through the Gospel the Gentiles are to share all the spiritual privileges of the people of God. Of this Gospel, Paul is a servant. With profound gratitude for God’s kindness to one so unworthy, he repeats what he has just said. It is his happy lot to announce as good news the wealth entrusted to him for others, viz. the secret so long hidden in the mind of God. The ultimate aim of the trust reposed in Paul reaches even to the bright ones of heaven, to whom God has purposed to reveal through His united people on earth His own many-sided wisdom. This purpose God has carried into effect in Christ. Its effect is seen in the confidence towards man and God already enjoyed by those who believe. In view of all this, Paul begs his readers, as though half apologizing for mention of his imprisonment, not to be discouraged by his hardships but rather to rejoice in the divinely-given endurance they evoke.

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Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". Joseph Beet's Commentary. 1877-90.

John Brown's Commentary on Selected Book of the Bible

John Brown

Ephesians 3

Equality in Christ


A. Last week, in Chapter2of Ephesians we took a look at the Lord"s "Never Ending Grace."

1. And although the Apostle Paul was speaking specifically to Gentiles, we saw how the cross has united us all into one body and as verse19 puts it, we "are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God".

2. Tonight Paul continues that discussion by explaining the equality that the Gentiles had in Christ.

a) Of course, the Jews didn"t feel that the Gentiles were equal.

(1) You know, bigotry and hatred can make you "blind".

(a) Not necessarily physically, but spiritually blind.

(b) It can keep you from "seeing" things the way the Lord does.

(c) The Jews, because of their bigotry and hatred couldn"t fathom that the Lord would allow "those Gentile dogs" the same grace that he did them!!!

(d) But Paul wants to reassure the Gentile believers in Ephesus that they were every bit equal!

b) Let"s take a look.


A. Ephesians 3:1 (NKJV) For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles--

1. Paul starts with his explanation of equality based upon the previous Chapter of God"s grace.

a) That is why he starts the verse with "For this reason."

(1) In other words, "Based upon the reasons already stated!"

b) As he makes this statement about being in prison, he feels the need to explain to the Ephesian believers why he is a prisoner!

(1) No doubt, he felt that they would be stumbled with "why" the Lord would allow Paul to suffer as a prisoner in Rome, and ultimately die a martyr"s death.

(a) You see, even back then, there were those who believed in the "prosperity doctrine".

(i) "If Paul is a Christian and the Lord is on his side, then what is he doing in prison?"

(ii)"After all, Christians are supposed to live in perfect health, and wealth, aren"t they?"

(2) Song of Solomon, he digresses until verse14, where he picks up his original thought and purpose.

2. Please notice that Paul does not consider himself a prisoner of Rome!

a) He is the prisoner of Christ Jesus!

(1) He is helping them to deal with his trial the way he deals with it.

(a) He want them to see it the way he does!

(b) And Paul sees this as God"s work!

3. Then he tells them that his imprisonment was at least in part for their glory.

a) You see, if he hadn"t preached that the Gentiles were "equal" to the Jews, he probably wouldn"t be in prison.

(1) They would let him get by with just about anything but saying that the Gentiles were equal to the Jew!!!!!

b) Song of Solomon, he starts his digression:

B. if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you,

3how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already,

4by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ),

5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:

6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,

7 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.

1. The word "dispensation" in verse2means = "stewardship."

a) In other words, Paul had been given a "stewardship " to preach grace to the Gentiles!

b) He tells the Ephesians that this "mystery" had been withheld prior to the cross, but had now been revealed to the Apostles and prophets through the Holy Spirit.

c) And that he was called by the Lord to deliver that message.

(1) Also that he had been vested with a certain amount of spiritual power to enforce this message with signs and wonders done among the Gentiles.

C. (NKJV) To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

9 and to make all see what [is] the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;

10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly [places],

11according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,

12in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.

1. Paul is overwhelmed to think that he has been called to be a part of all this!

a) To tell the Gentiles about the Lord"s unsearchable riches.

(1) Which God had kept hidden since the beginning of time, in order to reveal it during Paul"s life.

(2) He got to participate in making it known to the church the amazing grace that came with Jesus!

(a) The cross was and Isaiah, the great "equalizer!"

(b) And now, any believer can have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him!

D. Ephesians 3:13 (NKJV) Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

1. Paul love these believers and doesn"t want them to be stumbled because of his imprisonment!

2. He reminds them that with all this in view, they should glory in his tribulations knowing what it represents and Whom is behind it all!

E. Ephesians 3:14 (NKJV) For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

1. As far as Paul is concerned, he will gladly submit to such a noble calling!

a) Even if it meant imprisonment and death!

F. (NKJV) from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner Prayer of Manasseh,

17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what [is] the width and length and depth and height--

19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

1. Paul prays that they will be strengthened in faith and that the Lord will give them the ability to understand this awesome truth.

2. illustrates that truth even further! But you [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

10 who once [were] not a people but [are] now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

3. And then, Paul closes with a prayer:

G. (NKJV) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,

21to Him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

1. He reminds them that although he is in prison, it doesn"t in any way diminish God"s power.

2. He is still Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think!

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Brown, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". John Brown's Commentary on Selected Books of the Bible.

John Eadie's Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philippians

(Ephesians 3:13.) διὸ αἰτοῦμαι μὴ ἐγκακεῖν—“Wherefore I entreat you that ye faint not.” διό—“wherefore,” since these things are so, referring us back to the sentiments of the five preceding verses. Lachmann and Tischendorf, after A, B, D1, E, prefer ἐγκακεῖν to the common reading ἐκκακεῖν, which has in its favour C, D3, F, G, I, K. It is doubtful, indeed, whether there be such a word. With all its apparent simplicity of style and construction, this verse is open to various interpretations. And, first, as to the accusative, which must be supplied before the infinitive, some prefer ἐμέ and others ὑμᾶς. In the former case the meaning is, “Wherefore I desire God that I faint not,” and in the latter case it is, “Wherefore I entreat you that you lose not heart.” The first is that adopted by the Syriac version, by Theodoret, Jerome, Bengel, Vater, Rückert, Harless, Olshausen, and Baumgarten-Crusius. Our objection to such an exposition is, that there is in the clause no formal or implied reference to God; that it is awkward to interpose a new subject, or make the object of the verb and the subject of the infinitive different-2 Corinthians 5:20; 2 Corinthians 6:1; 2 Corinthians 10:2; Hebrews 13:19; and that the apostle possessed little indeed of that faint-heartedness against which he is supposed to guard himself by prayer. Turner's objection to this last statement is only a misconception of it. Besides, as the last clause of the verse is plainly an argument to sustain the request, the connection is destroyed if the apostle be imagined to make petition for himself; while the meaning is clear and pertinent if the request be for them—“Let not my sufferings for you distress you; they are your glory.” The proposal of Harless to join ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν to αἰτοῦμαι—“I pray on your account,” has little to recommend it. Our view is that of Chrysostom and the majority of interpreters. “That ye faint not”-

ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσίν μου ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν—“in my tribulations for you.” No article is needed before ὑπέρ. 2 Corinthians 1:6. ᾿εν is not properly “on account of,” as many render it, but it rather represents the close and sympathizing relation in which Paul and his readers stood. His afflictions had become theirs; they were in them as really as he was. Their sympathy with him had made his afflictions their own, and he implored them not to be dispirited or cowardly under such a pressure, and for this reason-

ἥτις ἐστὶ δόξα ὑμῶν—“which is your glory.” ῞ητις is used by attraction with the following predicate δόξα, and signifies “inasmuch as they are,” utpote quae. Winer, § 24, 3. But what is its antecedent? Theodoret, Zanchius, Harless, and Olshausen suppose it to be the thought contained in μὴ ἐγκακεῖν, as if the apostle's self-support in such sufferings were their glory. This exegesis proceeds upon an opinion which we have already gainsaid, viz., that Paul offers here a prayer for himself. Rückert exhales the meanings of the clause by finding in it only the vague indistinctness of oratorical declamation. The general opinion appears to be the correct one, that these sufferings of Paul, which came on him simply because he was the apostle of the Gentiles, were the “glory” of the Gentile believers, and not their disgrace, inasmuch as such persecutions not only proved the success of his ministerial labours, but were at the same time collateral evidence of the lofty and unfettered privileges which believing heathendom now possessed and retained, and which, by the apostle's firmness, were at length placed beyond the reach of Jewish fanaticism to annul or even to curtail. As you may measure the pyramid by its shadow, so these afflictions of Paul afforded a similar means of arriving at a relative or anti-thetical estimate of the spiritual liberty and prerogative of the Gentile churches. The apostle began the chapter by an allusion to the fact that he was a prisoner for the Gentiles, and he now concludes the digression by this natural admonition. His tribulations, the evidence of his official dignity and of their unconditioned exemption from ceremonial bondage, were their glory, and therefore they were not to sink into faintness and lassitude, as if by his “chain” they had been affronted and their apostle disgraced.

The apostle now resumes the thought broken off in Ephesians 3:1, and we are carried back at once to the magnificent imagery of a spiritual temple in the concluding section of the second chapter. The prayer must be regarded as immediately following that section, and its architectural terms and allusions will thus be more clearly understood. This connection with the closing paragraph of the former chapter, we take as affording the key to the correct exegesis of the following supplication.

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Eadie, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". John Eadie's Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

“I entreat you not to be dispirited.”

for you — in your behalf.

which is — rather, “which are your glory,” namely, inasmuch as showing that God loved you so much, as both to give His Son for you, and to permit His apostles to suffer “tribulations” for you [Chrysostom] in preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. See on Ephesians 3:1, “prisoner for you Gentiles.” My tribulations are your spiritual “glory,” as your faith is furthered thereby (1 Corinthians 4:10).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary


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.


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 3:13". The James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. 1897-1910.

Mitchell's Commentary on Selected New Testament Books

From verses6 through13, we have the purpose of the mystery. What was the purpose of the Lord's starting a church made up of Jews and Gentiles, individuals, something of which Paul was made a special minister?

Now you'll notice in verse6, that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs.

Ephesians 3:6. That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

Ephesians 3:7. 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.

In verse9,

Ephesians 3:9. 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:

Ephesians 3:10. To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

Ephesians 3:11. According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now, here we are dealing with the eternal purpose of God. God wants us to see that His eternal purpose is in the church. What was the purpose of the mystery? To show forth the manifold wisdom of God.

You and I, for the most part, are concerned about those who live on the earth. We belong to the human family on this little planet called the earth. Now, there's no question that the scriptures teach us that there are millions of holy angels and also teach us that there are myriads of demons following Satan, the arch enemy of our souls. And the scripture speaks of principalities and powers and authorities in the heavenlies. There is no question that there are myriads of created intelligences throughout God's universe.

I question whether the earth is the only place where you have intelligence or that the earth is the only place where we have any created beings. I am not talking about human beings here. But the earth is being used by God to show forth aspects of His character, of His heart, so that the whole universe will know something of the grace of God and the wisdom of God.

For example, go back in chapter2, verse6 and listen to what it says. He has taken Jews and Gentiles who believe in His Son and has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. What for? Now, mark this7th verse, "That in the ages to come (in the eternal ages ahead of us) he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."

Did you ever stop to think that the believer in Christ through eternal ages is going to be the demonstrator of the grace of God? That the only way whereby angels and principalities and powers may know of the grace of God is through you and me? And do you know that even today, as Paul says in1Corinthians, we are made a spectacle on the world stage? God is making known through you and through me, Christian friend, the riches of His grace.

Do you think that just because nobody sees your life down here that you are not seen? I question if we Christians realize, if it could ever get a hold of us, that there's a great multitude of unseen powers that see everything you do and hear everything you say. The revelation of His grace, the manifestation of His love, His mercy, His compassion are to be revealed through every individual Christian. In the ages to come we're going to be demonstrators of the grace of God. God through you is going to show forth the exceeding riches of His grace.

Now you come to chapter.

Ephesians 3:10. Τo the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by (or through) the church the manifold wisdom of God.

Not only are you to display the grace of God, but the very wisdom of God is going to be made known through you and through me. It is beyond our comprehension, isn't it?

"Do you mean to tell me, Sirach, that when I came as a sinner and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour, and that when He gave me life eternal and He forgave me my sins and made me His child and put me into the church, the body of Christ, that I'm to be an instrument in God's hand through eternity for the instruction of all the great multitude of personalities in the universe?"

Through you and me He's going to make known His grace and His wisdom. That's exactly what He is saying.

Oh, listen, friend, you're never alone; you're never alone. Your words, your actions, your attitude, your life are being seen. Are we going to bring disgrace and reproach upon the name of Christ by the way we live? As Paul could say, "We are a sight, we are an object, we are the actors on the stage before angels, before men, before demons to display the grace of God, the love of God, the wisdom of God.

I can't plumb the depths of the wisdom of God—why He should save a man like me and why He should save you. I don't understand this wonderful, divine wisdom. But I do know one thing He's revealed to us in His word. He wants you and me to know His purpose that He saves men and women to show forth His grace and to show forth His wisdom in the countless ages of eternity.

Believe me, my Christian friend, in the purpose of God we're somebody. He's going to make us somebody where the very holy angels will be your servants. I'm not making this up. I'm not becoming fanciful. This is what the Book says—that in the ages to come He will show forth the riches of His grace.

In the ages to come He's going to show forth His wisdom through the church of Christ, through you and through me as individual members of the body of Christ.

Will you walk today, will you live today with this truth gripping your heart? We have a tremendous place in the purpose of God. We belong to Jesus Christ, and through us God has been pleased to display His grace and His wisdom.

This question of the building of a church made up of individual Jews and Gentiles was purposed by God way back in eternity and is now being made manifest to us through the Apostle Paul here in the book of Ephesians. Now as you think of this, of the church, it had a tremendous effect upon Paul. And I wish sometimes it may have the same effect upon you and me. It so transformed this man Paul that he could say in the book of Colossians, I strive according to the working of Him who "worketh in me mightily." I'm quoting from Colossians 1:29.

What is the eternal purpose of God which He purposed in Christ? That through the work of Christ on the cross and the resurrection and exaltation, He might gather together individual Jews and Gentiles and make them a new company called the church of which Christ is the head. And that through this company of people He's going to show forth through eternity the wonders of His grace and the marvels of His wisdom.

Now such a thing had a tremendous effect, I say, upon the Apostle Paul. Let's look at how it affects him in :

Ephesians 3:7. 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.

Ephesians 3:8. 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;

Ephesians 3:9. 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.

And you go down to verse12,

Ephesians 3:12. In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

Ephesians 3:13. Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

The effect upon this man Paul is tremendous. He was transformed, you remember, from a Jew to a Christian. This man was before a blasphemer; now he's a saint. Before, he was a Pharisee; now he's an apostle. Before, he was a persecutor; now he's a missionary. My, what a tremendous transformation in this man.

May I repeat it? When he saw the tremendous wisdom of God manifested in Jesus Christ and the provision for our salvation, and that we were to be the instruments through whom he would display His grace and His wisdom to every created intelligence in the universe throughout all countless ages, I'm not surprised at the tremendous effect upon this man. This is the man who was before a blasphemer and now he's a saint of God. This is the man who was a strict Pharisee, and now he's an apostle of the Lamb of God. This is the man who was a Jew, transformed into a Christian, fellowshiping with Gentiles. This is the man who before persecuted the people of God and now he's a missionary for God, carrying the message of the gospel of the grace of God to everybody. Oh, the effectual working of His power!

When I think of what Paul saw in the church of Christ, I'm sure that he reveled in these verses which he wrote to us, for example in, when he said, "We might know . . . what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places." And may I be allowed to quote again from Colossians 1:29, I strive according to the working of Him who "worketh in me mightily." And then you see the tremendous humility of the man in verse8,

Ephesians 3:8. 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.

Mark the man's humility; he is "less than the least of all saints." In 1 Timothy 1:15, he could say, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief." He called himself

"The chief of sinners," and "less than the least of all saints." And then you remember he speaks of it again when he said, "I am not meet to be called an apostle," in 1 Corinthians 15:9. I'm not even fit to be called an apostle, "because I persecuted the church of God."

I wonder, my friend, when you hear of the riches of the glory of His grace and the marvelous purpose of God in you and in me, what is the effect upon us? Does it make us proud or does it humble us? God grant it will humble us.

And the Apostle Paul could say in that same passage of 1 Corinthians 15:10, "By the grace of God I am what I am."

If it had not been for the grace of God in redeeming me, Mitchell, what in the world would I have been? Nobody knows where I would be. Because of this tremendous fact, God transforms us from blasphemers into missionaries. He transforms us into saints. He transforms us from those who were afar off and makes us nigh. He transforms children of wrath into the children of God.

We who were unrighteous He now declares to be righteous. We who were afar off, without hope, without Christ, without God, are now intimate members of the family of God. We are objects of the wonderful grace of God; and I can say what Paul could say, "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."

Oh, the transforming power of the word of God, the transforming power of Christ. Will you do something for me? Will you take the first chapter, the second chapter, the third chapter, and take the verses where you find the word "riches"; "riches of grace," "riches of glory," "unsearchable riches of Christ," "riches of mercy."

Just read them through. In Ephesians 1:7, we have forgiveness according to the riches of His grace. In Ephesians 2:4, we have this question of the richness of His mercy. In Ephesians 3:7, we have "the exceeding riches of His grace;" in Ephesians 3:8, "the unsearchable riches of Christ;" in Ephesians 3:16, "according to the riches of His glory."

The verse that comes to my mind is Romans 11:33, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!"

I tell you, I can't understand it. I can't even begin to appreciate it. It's so marvelous; it's so wonderful; it's beyond all the capacity of the human person to understand the unsearchable riches of Christ.

My friend, it's going to take all eternity for us to begin to appreciate the riches of His grace, the riches of His mercy, the unsearchable riches of Christ, to enjoy the riches of His glory, the riches of His inheritance in the saints. "Riches!"

Please don't walk like paupers when we can enjoy the riches of God. I want you to revel today in the riches of His grace, the riches of His glory, the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ, the riches of His mercy.

Oh, friends, God grant you and me an enlarged capacity to appreciate the wonderful love, mercy and grace of God. I tell you, it's beyond all human comprehension; and when Paul saw it, when Paul caught a glimpse of this marvelous church of Christ in which he was a member, in which you and I are members, it humbled him. But it transformed him.

Believer, revel in your Saviour. Oh, the depths—let us not live like paupers; let us live as those who are rich in Christ.

Now not only did this cause Paul to be filled with humility, but also it filled him with a boldness. Will you notice in,

Ephesians 3:12. In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

Notice the words he uses. Knowing something of God's eternal purpose, this gave him boldness; this gave him confidence. It gave him boldness to speak; it gave him access without fear; it gave him confidence and trust. I'm sure that angels, holy angels in the presence of God, must have been astounded, must have been amazed at such boldness. When a man could come into the very presence of a holy, mighty, sovereign God and come with a confidence, with a boldness to speak!

As far as I know angelic beings cannot come into God's presence unless bidden. As I've been telling you, my friend, in the church of Christ we've been brought into a relationship superior to holy angels who are our ministers.

Now, I do not want you to get the idea that we come into the presence of God with arrogance. I have heard Christians, and I say this very sadly, I have heard Christians talk about "Jesus" with a flippancy that is not the boldness of faith but the arrogance of the human nature. Can one who is redeemed, cleansed by the blood of Christ, a child of the living God, come into the presence of our holy, sovereign, mighty God with flippancy? With a lightness? With a shallowness that is so evident?

Paul here says, "We have boldness (and that word means boldness to speak) and access with confidence." Why? We're coming into our Father's presence.

As he could say in Romans 8:15, "We cry, Abba, Father."

You remember in 1 John 2:28, where John says, "And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear," we shall be bold to speak. We'll not be full of fear. We have access into the very presence of God. We have access through the blood of Christ. This is the ground upon which we can come, the ground of redemption. We come on the ground of relationship as the children of God. And we come bold to speak, not with the boldness of arrogance but the boldness of faith. We come knowing that we have a distinct place in the purpose of God, knowing that we are the objects of the love of our Father.

I'd like to suggest to you here, "In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him." You remember in Hebrews 4:16, Paul is saying to stumbling, weak believers, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." He says, "Come with boldness." Why? It's the throne of grace. We're not coming to a throne of judgment. If we were, we'd come with terrible fear. We'd be scared to come. But we're coming to the throne of grace. And the One who is seated upon that throne is full of the Spirit of grace.

Furthermore, He's our Father and we are in relationship with Him. So we come with confidence, with boldness to speak. We have our access. I say again, it must be a tremendous amazement for angels to see the boldness of God's people, the boldness of Paul. You remember, in the24th Psalm, and I think I am reverent when I say this in my own words, "Open up, ye everlasting doors and let the King of Glory come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty in battle; the Lord of hosts, He is the King of Glory." And, of course, this speaks of our Saviour in resurrection and exaltation.

But are we not accepted in the Beloved? Does God not see us in His Son? And because of our relationship to the Song of Solomon, because we're trusting in Him, we have access into His presence. Oh, I'd like to bring this before you that you and I might come today into the presence of God. This is why Paul could say in the next verse,

Ephesians 3:13. Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

"Don't worry about me," says Paul. "I can come into the very presence of my Father. My circumstances, though I'm in difficult circumstances and persecuted for the gospel's sake, don't sympathize with me," says Paul. "I've access into the very presence of my Father. I can come where angels fear to tread."

Oh, the confidence! Am I talking to some stumbling, weak, halting believer today? Listen, dear friend, are you down because of your failure? Because of your mistakes? Because of your frailty and weaknesses? May I encourage you to come to the throne of grace. You're coming to the Father; He understands. You are the object of His love, the object of His grace. Why don't you come and let Him meet your present need right now. And come with confidence. And when you come with confidence, you have all the mercy and all the grace that you need.

Open up your heart before Him. Remember, He's your loving Father. Remember, He's rich in mercy; and remember you are the object of His love and devotion. So come. If you've failed Him, tell Him all about it. Be very bold to speak and tell Him about your failures. And as you confess your sins, He will cleanse you. He will forgive you. He'll bring you back into His own fellowship. Oh, walk today in fellowship, in the intimacy of His fellowship.

My friend, I wish in some way by the Spirit of God through His word, I could bring to you just what Paul is talking about—being brought into the purpose of God. I again repeat that verse in Romans 11:33, "Oh, the depths of the riches, both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out, for who hath known the mind of the Lord God or who has been His counselor?" Nobody!

And to think that God should take you and me, creatures of the dust, we who at one time were sinners. To think that He should pick you and me up and not only redeem us, but bring us into this relationship, into this closeness with Himself whereby we're one with Him in His inheritance—children of the living God. We are one with Him in His purpose and can come at any time, having our access in Christ to the very throne of God.

I say again how much we Christians have robbed ourselves of blessing, of power, of usefulness because we get so occupied with ourselves in our own little world, our own little things and our own little programs. We have missed so much of God Himself. I fear that too many of us are more occupied with the service of Christ than we are with the person of Christ and more occupied with our own little program instead of being occupied with the great purposes of God. Let us revel in the fact that we're one with Him in that purpose.

Now, out of this great revelation of God to the Apostle Paul, comes this wonderful prayer for power, for strength, for fellowship.

Bibliographical Information
Mitchell, John G. D.D. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Mitchell's Commentary on Selected New Testament Books".

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

God"s Ability

Ephesians 3:20

The Apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, expresses himself with a redundance of thankfulness and appreciation which shows the wonderful depth and richness of his nature. He does not mete out his words as if by constraint. He lavishes his heart upon his theme, and, with holy impatience, he urges word upon word, description upon description, that he may give some faint hint at least of the sublimity by which he is dazzled, and of the joy which lifts him almost to heaven. In this chapter we find such expressions as these:—"The unsearchable riches of Christ," "the manifold riches of God," "the riches of his glory," "the love of Christ which passeth knowledge," "that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." Never was language so inadequate to express the thought which inspired his mind, and which threw his heart into ecstasies of inconceivable and unutterable delight. The Christian mediation seemed constantly to enlarge upon the vision of the Apostle. It was never to him a diminishing quantity. Every day he saw in the scheme of the Christian redemption some new point of light—felt in it some new pulse of eternal love. Hence it is a most stimulating and instructive study to follow the intellectual and spiritual development of Paul, to find how he grew in grace and knowledge and Wisdom of Solomon,—yet how at the very last he said, "I count not myself to have attained." Beyond the giddy peak on which he stood there were sublimer heights, and he pressed towards the Mark, if haply he might scale those glittering, heavenly steeps. In the text he seemed utterly at a loss to express the fulness of his conception of the grandeur, the riches, the Wisdom of Solomon, the power, and the love of God. We shall miss the force of these words unless we understand the prayer, in connection with which they were uttered.

The Apostle does not give this text as I have given it, namely, as a detached sentence. It is the culmination of a statement; it is something that comes after a serious, anxious effort, which he himself has made; and we must look into the preliminary statement if we would know how Paul was dazzled, overwhelmed, made speechless, by the infinite capacity of God to transcend all mortal prayer and all finite imagination. The Apostle has been uttering a prayer which reads thus:—

"That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man [able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask]. That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith [able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask]. That ye, being rooted and grounded in love [able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask], may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge [able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask], that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God [able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask].

Perhaps this may be difficult of realisation to some minds. I must therefore set it in a lower light. Suppose that a number of petitioners should go to the legislature with a petition worded thus: "We humbly pray your honourable house to do everything for the nation, to take infinite care of it, to let the affairs of the nation tax your attention day and night, and lavish all your resources upon the people." Suppose that a petition like that should be handed into the House of Commons, what would be the fate of it? It would be laughed down, and the only reason, the only good reason, why the petitioners should not be confined to Bedlam would be, lest their insanity should alarm the inmates. That is not a petition. It is void by generality; by referring to all it misses everything. We must specify what we want when we go to the legislature. We must state our case with clearness of definition, and with somewhat of argument. If it be so in our social, political prayers, shall we go to Almighty God with a vagueness which means nothing, with a generality which makes no special demand upon his heart? Read the text in the light of the gospel, and you will see the fulness of its glory, so far as it can be seen by mortal vision. Ask anything of God, and I am prepared to quote these words of the text in reply. What will you ask? Let us in the first instance ask what we all want—whatever may be our condition, age, circumstances. Let us ask for pardon. Is your prayer, God forgive my sins? Now you may apply the Apostle"s words: "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask."

You cannot conceive God"s notion of pardon. You have an idea of what you mean by forgiveness; but when you have exhausted your own notion of the term forgiveness, you have not shown the Divine intent concerning the soul that is to be forgiven. When God forgives, he does not merely pardon, barely pardon,—he does not by some great straining effort of his love, just come within reach of the suppliant, and lay upon his heart the blessing which is besought. He pardons with pardons! When he casts our sins away, it is not into a shallow pool, it is into the depths of the sea; when he throws it away, it is not on one side, it is behind him. Will you arithmeticians measure the distance which is meant by behind the infinite? When God takes a man"s sins away from him, he puts them as far from him as the east is from the west. Can you tell how far the east is from the west? It is an expression that is often upon your lips. Have you ever measured the distance? You cannot; it is an immeasurable line. Song of Solomon, when God comes to pardon us, he pardons with pardons, with pardons again and again, wave upon wave, until we say, "Thou hast done exceeding abundantly above all that we ask." The finite can never grasp the infinite, and our poor mortal capacities cannot hold God"s idea of pardon. We have, thank God, some notion of forgiveness; but not until you yourself have entered personally into the mystery of this forgiveness, can you understand or have any hint of the depth of the sea into which God has cast the sins of which we have repented.

What will you ask for now? Ask for sanctification. Is your prayer, Sanctify me, body, soul, and spirit? Then I once more quote the Apostle"s text: "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." What is your notion of sanctification? You have thought about it: it is soon exhausted. When you leave reason and get into the region of fancy, your imagination soon wearies, and the description which you give of holiness is after all a negative description. When I read of God"s holiness, I read of holiness that is glorious. God is said to be glorious in holiness. Do you understand the emphasis of that redundance? Holiness would have been a great word to have uttered concerning him, but when you add glorious in holiness—

We know the meaning of innocence; we know what is implied by the terms "not guilty"; we can describe negatively a high condition of character. But God"s notion of sanctification! When we have made our notion of sanctification clear and plain he sets his own holiness beside it, and in contrast our purity of development, and our sublimest moral acquisitions become corrupt in the presence of the blazing glory of the divine purity. This is our destiny, if so be we are in Jesus Christ. Holiness is not something we can describe with sufficiency of terms. It is not a quantity we can see in its completeness. We cannot walk round about it and say, This is the limit thereof. There is always another ray of splendour which we have not seen, and a brighter beam of the ineffable effulgence which has not yet struck upon our vision. So when we ask God to sanctify us, we are to remember that "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think."

Now, if this be Song of Solomon, it ought to stimulate us in all saintly progress, to inspire us in the study of divine truth, to recover our jaded energies, and tempt, lure, and draw us by the mighty compulsion of inexhaustible reward. This is the peculiar glory of Christian study, that it does not exhaust the student. His weakness becomes his strength. At sunset he is stronger than at sunrise; because Christian study does not tax any one power of the mind unduly. It trains the whole being, the imagination, the fancy, the will, the emotion; lifts up the whole nature equally, with all the equability of complete power,—not by snatches and spasms of strength, but with the sufficiency, breadth, and compass of power which sustains the balance always. This ought to rebuke those of us who imagine that we have finished our Christian education. I believe there are some persons in the world who are under the impression that they have finished God"s book. They say they have "read it through." There is a poor sense in which it may be read through; but there is a deeper, truer sense in which we can never get through the Book of God. It is an inexhaustible study,—new every day, like morning light. You have seen splendour before, but until this morning you never saw this light. So it is with this great wonderful Book of God in the study of it God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. The hoariest-headed student who has spent his days in study, and his nights in prayer, will be the first and most emphatic to declare, that the more he has dwelt upon the wonderfulness of God"s Revelation, the more and more wonderful it has become to all the highest powers of his nature.

Here then is a stimulus, a spur to progress, a call to deeper study. We think we have attained truth. We have not attained all that is meant by the word truth. No man who knows himself and who knows God will say that he has been led into all the chambers of God"s great palace of truth. This is the sign of progress; this is the charter of the profoundest humility. The more we know the less we know. We see certain points of light here and there, but the great unexplored regions of truth stretch mile on mile, beyond all our power to traverse the wondrous plain. How is it with us to-day then? Are we fagged men, exhausted students? Do we sit down under the impression that there is nothing more to be known? If we have that idea, let us seek to renew our strength and to recover our inspiration by the word,—"He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." There are attainments we have not made, depths we have not sounded, and heights, oh, heights! We can but look up and wonder, expect, adore. If this be Song of Solomon, we ought to look calmly, with a feeling of chastened triumph, upon all hindrances, difficulties, and obstacles in the way of Christ"s kingdom upon the earth. We may look at these in relation to our own puny strength, and quail before them. We are not to depend upon our own resources, but upon God"s, in attempting the removal of everything that would intercept the progress of his kingdom in the world. There is a great mountain: I cannot beat it down, all the instruments I can bring to bear upon it seem utterly powerless. But God touches the mountains and they smoke. The Alps, the Apennines, the Pyrenees, and great Himalayas, shall go up like incense before him, and his kingdom shall have a smooth uninterrupted way. There are combinations which I cannot disentangle: conspiracies of the heathen against God and his Song of Solomon, political conspiracies, social combinations, of which I can make nothing as a poor solitary worker. I can but kneel down before them and pray God to show the greatness of his strength. In a peculiar manner he will touch the reason of such conspirators, and they will become jabbering maniacs in a moment. Sometimes he will touch the speech of such conspirators, and they will not understand what they are saying to one another. Sometimes in passing by, he will touch the earth with his finger: silently it will open and swallow them up.

I say, in my hours of weakness, Yonder is a stone which I cannot remove. If I could get clear of that obstacle all would be right; but the stone is heavy, the stone is sealed, the stone is watched. What can I do? I go up the hill wearily, almost hopelessly, and behold! the stone is rolled away, and on the obstacle there sits the angel of God. "Able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think!" What then is our Christian hope about the world? Look at ministers, at missionaries, at Sunday-school teachers; look at writers, and at all the efforts made for the progress of divine truth upon the earth. Then, on the other hand, look at all the Paganism that remains unsubdued; at the idol temples which debase and corrupt the world; look at all the institutions that live upon the badness of the human heart! You say, the instrumentality is not equal to the work. You are right. The straw cannot beat the mountain into flying dust. The hand of man cannot crumble the great gigantic bulwarks behind which error has entrenched itself. You are quite right. But God hath chosen the weak things to throw down the mighty. It is not the straw that does it; it is the hand that wields it. Shakespeare dips his pen into the ink and writes "Hamlet." I take up the same pen, dip into the same ink, but I cannot write "Hamlet." It is not the pen that does it; it is the writer. It is not the little instrumentality; it is the God who is able to do, and who has done, exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. It is therefore because the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it, that we now expect to triumph over the world, and speak of all nations as if they belonged to the Son of God. If the doctrine of the text be true, then it should fill all bad men with terror. We should regard this text as a two-sided text We are always accustomed to regard it as affording comfort to the Christian heart, strength to the toiling pilgrim who moves heavenward day by day. The text does supply all that is needful for the encouragement and strength of such. But it has a tremendous back-stroke. The word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword—mighty for the gaining of victories, but terrible to those who feel its cutting power.

You have a certain notion of hell. We cannot tell what is meant by that awful word. We speak of the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched. But what do we know about the words which involve so much? We cannot tell what is meant by everlasting punishment. Modify the doctrine of hell as you will,—dilute the term "everlasting punishment" as you like,—avail yourselves of all the resources of etymology to the furthest possible extent, that you may reduce the limit and application of certain words;—when you have done all, it must remain a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God! There are moments that are eternities. It is the nature of all pain to have itself described as an everlasting punishment. Inflict some wound upon yourself now, and the next hour will feel as if it were a day: you feel as if it would never, never pass away. It is of the nature of punishment to force itself upon the sufferer as everlasting penalty. Joy hath wings. Joy filling the hour, the hour flies away, and we say, It cannot be gone already! Yes, already! Yes. It is there we read the meaning of the words "eternal life." Do not let us imagine that because we may have this notion, or that peculiar or heterodox exception, about the punishment that awaits the sinner, that therefore we have diluted the notion to nothing. When we have done our utmost in that direction, God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we think. The oppressor says, "Well, if it has come to this I am prepared to bear it." No, you are not prepared to bear it! When I say it is this, I use human words in a human sense; but when God says it is this, I cannot tell all his meaning. When the poor man who has twelve shillings a week says that a certain person is rich, that is one meaning of the word rich. When the man who has ten thousand pounds a year speaks of the same individual, perhaps he might say he is poor. So words have different meanings as used by different persons. Every man must be his own dictionary. You must look at the speaker before you can understand some speeches. You must look at the etymologist before you can understand the etymology. So when God says he will utterly destroy the wicked, remember that it is God who says Song of Solomon, and do not measure the word by your poor lexicography.

It may be difficult for some minds to follow the argument out spiritually; we must therefore descend to illustration. Here is a very clever artist, who has made a beautiful thing he brings before us, and we gather round it and say, "It is most exquisitely done. What is this, sir?" "That," replies the artist, "is my notion of a flower, and I am going to call that flower a rose." "Well, it is a beautiful thing,—very graceful, and altogether beautifully executed: you are very clever." So he Isaiah, and now that exhausts his notion of the rose. But let God just hand in a full-blown rose from the commonest garden in the world, and where is your waxen beauty? Underneath every leaf is written, "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." Let him just send the sweet spring morning in upon us, with the first violet, and all your artificial florists, if they have one spark of wit left, will pick up their goods and go off as soon as possible. "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." The meanest insect that flutters in the warm sunlight is a grander thing than the finest marble statue ever chiselled by the proudest sculptor.

Now we are going to have a very festive day. We are going to pluck flowers and fashion them into arches, and we shall make our arches very high, very beautiful,—and, so far as the flowers go, they are most gorgeously and exquisitely beautiful. We have put up the wires; we have festooned these wires, and we say, "Now, is not that very beautifully done?" and of course, we who always drink the toast, "Our noble selves," say, Yes. But God has only to take a few rain-drops and strike through them the sunlight, and where are your paste-board arches and your skilful working! "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think." Fellow-students in this holy mystery, believe me, as in nature, so in the higher kingdom of grace. As in matter he surpasses all your sculptors, and is in all schools infinitely superior to men, so in the revelation of truth to the heart, in the way of redeeming man from sin, in the way of sanctifying fallen corrupt human nature,—all your theorists and speculators, all your plaster dealers and social reformers, and philanthropic regenerators, must get out of the way as artificial florists when God comes to us with the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the valley.

Then, let us leave all inferior teachers and go straight to the Master himself. We have to deal with sin, and the only answer to sin, which answer is comprehended in one word, is the Cross. God"s foolishness is better than our wisdom. God"s weakness is infinitely superior to our strength. " Hosea, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters." If you choose to make your own cisterns, broken cisterns, to hold no water, you may do so. Let others of us say, As for us and our house, we will go—poor, guilty, heart-thirsty sinners as we are—to the fountain of living waters, and if we perish, we will pray and perish only there! No dead man was ever found at that fountain. No dead man was ever found with his hand on the Cross,—with his lips at the well of life.


Almighty God, do thou give unto us the spirit of hearing. Give us a wise and understanding heart, that nothing of the good seed of thy Word maybe lost upon us; may we return abundantly for thy goodness. Herein art thou glorified, Father of us all, that we bear much fruit. But how can we bear fruit except we abide in the Vine? Christ is the Vine, we are the branches: as the branch cannot bear fruit except it abide in the vine, neither can we bear fruit except we abide in Christ. May we know this by the teaching of thy Holy Spirit, and may our one desire be for deeper, more vital union with the Son of God. We bless thee it we bear any fruit at all. This is the Lord"s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes. Help us to be fruitful unto all good works. Keep back thy servants from presumptuous sins; say to each of us in the time of conscious power and elevation, Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe; encompass our souls; for one moment do not leave us to ourselves, or in that moment the enemy will overpower us and bring us to ruin. That we may abide in thy Word, do thou minister unto us constantly by the Holy Spirit. May he abide with us, may he love to be in our hearts as in living temples: every day may he take of the things of Christ and show them unto us, in new lights, in new aspects; the same truth, but with a new beauty, by reason of the ministry of the Eternal Spirit. Thou knowest the perilous road of life: O Christ, thou hast gone before us, thou didst go to the Cross. There is not an affliction which we feel thou dost not understand better than we do; every temptation thou hast encountered. We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are. Thou knowest our frame, thou rememberest that we are but dust. Art not thou the Shepherd of the universe? Wilt thou not gather the lambs in thy bosom? Wilt thou not protect the helpless more and more? Say yes to our heart"s burning cry, and we shall attempt the world again with a new energy and a new hope. Amen.

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Bibliographical Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. 1885-95.

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Ephesians 3:1. Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ. He was indeed the prisoner of Caesar, but a greater than Cæsar had said to him in the castle at Jerusalem, “Be of good cheer, Paul, for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” Acts 23, 11. My bonds therefore prove that Jesus is the Christ, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. The kings of the earth, who thought to do me harm, are overruled to be my protectors.

Ephesians 3:2. If ye have heard of the dispensation [economy] of the grace of God which is given to me, to call the gentiles, though uncircumcised, into the fold and family of Christ. He doubted not but they had heard, having long preached in Ephesus, and the provinces of proconsular Asia. But the words imply, if you have fully been informed and believed in this economy of the grace of God; and as multitudes were now crowding into the church, the more recent christians had need to be reminded of it.

Ephesians 3:3-4. How that by revelation he made known to me the mystery, as I wrote afore in few words. He wrote the same to the Galatians: Galatians 1:12. But though many short letters of the apostle may possibly be lost, the holy scriptures give us this mystery without impairs.

Ephesians 3:5. Which in other ages was not made known — as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. He here avows that the Hebrew prophets were inspired by the Spirit to speak of Christ, and preach the doctrines of the gospel to the ancient church; but that God, in conformity to the scheme of gradual revelation, had now made known the truth in more luminous characters; truths of unspeakable value, as regarding the full birthright of the gentiles to the glorious liberty of the children of God. Romans 8:21.

Ephesians 3:8. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints. The apostle speaks of himself with similar sentiments of self-abasement in other passages. 1 Corinthians 15:9, 1 Timothy 1:11-15. Grotius remarks the ελαχστερον is a comparison made of the superlative degree, and he quotes seven examples of the use of the word from the poets. Paul’s heart was ever touched, that he should be selected as the first of apostles, to publish this enlarged revelation, and to preach among the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; the riches of divine wisdom and knowledge, which none of the princes of this world knew, neither the philosophers of Grecian schools. The mysteries and purposes of grace were indeed hidden in the Father’s bosom before the foundation of the world, to give his Son as an atoning sacrifice, to reconcile us to God. These are not the devices of human wisdom, but the doctrines of the gospel of the blessed God, publishing full forgiveness to rebels of every class, adoption for aliens, the glory of sanctifying grace to supersede all the impurity of our nature, the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit conferred according to the riches of his glory, thrones for sinners raised from the dust, eternal life in the enjoyment of the kingdom that cannot be moved.

Ephesians 3:10. Principalities and powers in heavenly places. The Greek, epourania, is translated by Tertullian, supercœlestibus, and followed by Jerome. It occurs also in Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 2:6. It is here understood of angels who fill the thrones of heaven. It is a mistake to apply the text to princes, for their souls are not better than the poor, and they were the last to listen to the gospel. Saints are by the redemption raised to angelic rank, and have the promise of thrones and crowns in the kingdom of their Father.

Ephesians 3:12-13. In whom we have boldness and access. Freedom of speech in prayer, and the privilege to enjoy all the blessings consequent on embracing the Saviour. And I give you, as if the apostle had said, this cup of consolation, while weeping for my bonds, that you faint not.

Ephesians 3:14-15. For this cause, and that you may enjoy the plenitude of sanctifying grace, the best support under afflictions, I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the fountain of deity and the source of love. Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, for he is Lord of all: Ephesians 1:20-23. This form of speech teaches us that God cannot be invoked except through Jesus Christ, as is often noted by the fathers. Christ is here understood, in whom the Godhead is adored. Believers are called by his name, angels are his worshippers, and thrones, dominions, and powers are put under him.

Ephesians 3:16. That he would grant you according to the riches of his glory. Other forms are used of equivalent import, as, according to his mercy, to his abundant mercy, and according to the fulness of the promises, which we are authorized to interpret in the largest sense; for “as is his majesty, so is his mercy.”

Ephesians 3:17. That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith. Dwell in you as his living temple, conformably to the promise in John 14:23, where the Father and Son engage to come and make his abode with those that keep his word. The religion of such shall be constant as a stream, firm as a building, or flourishing as a tree rooted in a genial soil; for “they who are planted in the house of the Lord, shall flourish in the courts of our God.” Christ in all his graces, and in all the habitudes of the christian temper, is formed in the heart, the hope of glory.

Ephesians 3:18. Able to comprehend [apprehend, as the same word is rendered in Philippians 3:12] with all saints. Jehovah comprehends all, but none can comprehend him. The soul of Paul was so expanded here, that he looked on the horizon above, the depths below, the ocean without a shore; but he recovered himself by the admission, that man can only know the love of Christ so as to be filled with the fulness of God. He viewed the Saviour on the throne, uncircumscribed in charity, from whom the emanations of grace incessantly flow.

Ephesians 3:20-21. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think — be glory throughout all ages. The apostle closes this full view of sanctifying grace as he ought to close it, in doxologies, unceasing doxologies of praise, through every age of the church, world without end. Amen. Who now, that calmly reads these words, can doubt that we may attain in this life to the whole christian temper, and a growing perfection in every virtue. Who can scruple to use that prayer, “Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name.”

Such indeed has been the profession of the Greek fathers, and of all the more eminent saints of the Roman catholic communion, through all the dark ages of the church. And is it not infinitely better to preach this doctrine, and set heights and depths of religion before the church, to which they have not as yet attained, than bitterly to detail the quotations on Romans 7:24. That St. Paul, while groveling here on earth, never ceased to be loaded with much of the defilement and ordure of sin.

Ostervald, in his book on the ministry, apologizes for Calvin’s institutes, as the work of his younger years. But those institutes contain dogmas to which every student, in some sort, is obliged to subscribe; and hence arise a thousand sneers and reproaches on holy men, who preach the whole truth as it is in Jesus. Hence also believers are checked and chilled with maxims which freeze the warmer ardours of the heart.

Jeremiah Burroughs, who in 1600 was father to the ministers of London, says, “My soul longs for perfection: it is already washed and perfect, as to its justification, and I look for a time when it shall be perfect in respect of its sanctification. Oh that the time were now come.” — Sermon on Matthew 5:8. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Page 389.


St. Paul having enlarged on the glory of Christ, justly accounts it the highest honour any creature could enjoy to be made a minister of his gospel. Hence fainting not himself at his chain, he prayed that the saints might not faint, it being their glory to have a minister endued with a martyr’s constancy. And especially as one grand branch of his ministry was a manifestation of the mystery hid in ages past, that the gentiles, without circumcision, should be fellow heirs with the jews of the promises in Christ. This was a recent subject of divine revelation to the holy apostles and prophets.

Divine favours conferred on the regenerate do not puff up, but humble the soul in the sight of God. St. Paul magnified his ministry, but abused himself on the other hand, as less than the least of all saints, and classed himself with the chief of sinners, because he had persecuted and wasted the church. A conscious mind prefers a suppliant condition, and makes all filial acknowledgment to God the giver of all good.

St. Paul was not only the first of men in knowledge, but the best of men in piety. He had prayed, in Ephesians 1:15, for the illumination of the Ephesians: and here he prays for their entire sanctification, as the best support against fainting at afflictions. He could not deliver a dry cold discourse, nor talk of grace without breaking out in prayer or praise. What a model of imitation both in our sermons, and in our addresses to the throne of grace.

His prayer has every character of reverential invocation, propriety, and fervour. He bended the knee, for standing is allowable only where it is inconvenient to kneel. His invocation exalts the deity as the Father of glory, and the source of redemption by Jesus Christ. The subject of his prayer is all propriety. It is that God would bless the church, according to the riches of his glory; and if a poor man give a little, and a rich man much, what may we expect from God? Wishing the perfection of the saints, he prays for the might of the Holy Ghost to strengthen them, and for Christ to dwell in the heart by faith, as the source of righteousness, purity, and eternal life.

The grand point of christian perfection is love, enrooted, habitual love, as the source of all obedience, and good fruits. We must dwell in love, and then we shall dwell in God, and the fragrance is paradise shed abroad on earth. The end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart. — Christian perfection especially consists in knowing the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. All men have admired the beauty and sublimity of this passage. Here is the perfection of wisdom attained, not by human teaching, but by divine experience. The breadth of Christ’s love is omnipotence encircling all mankind with mercy. The length is eternity, ever flowing with grace and goodness to man. The height of his love is the sublime majesty, elevating the victorious to thrones in heaven. The depth of it regards the abyss of wisdom stooping to death for man, and his profound ways in turning evils to the advantage of his people.

To know this love so as to be filled with all the fulness of God, is to be filled with all the wisdom, the virtue, and perfection of the divine nature. To him therefore be glory throughout all ages, Amen. How just is this doxology! Eternity can never repay our still encreasing debt. If this therefore be the sum and substance of the christian religion, what God is like unto our God? What religion is so gracious, holy and happy as ours? And who can boast of a Redeemer like the Lord of glory? And if these be his perfections, we will hear no more talk against his being one substance with the Father, and coëval in existence. May we all enter into the apostle’s piety and views of real religion.

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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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

Ver. 13. Wherefore I desire] αιτουμαι, mendico. Or, I beg of God, as one would do an alms, Acts 3:2, humbly, heartily. And here the apostle returns to his former discourse, after a long digression, Ephesians 3:2; to Ephesians 3:13.

At my tribulations for you] For your sakes am I maliced and molested by the Jews; by whose means also I am now a prisoner.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Boldness and Access

Eph 3:11. What Paul presented in the previous verses, what was highlighted by him, was in God's heart from eternity. I mean by that, the time before creation, that you actually cannot call 'time', for in eternity every notion of time is missing. Eternity is timeless. God stands outside and above time. We now know something as time because God has created it. That you can read in Genesis 1.

Before creation, there was already a purpose of God regarding the church. When the time started, God did not make known this "eternal purpose" right away. He hasn't spoken about it in a prophecy anywhere or given a promise about it to people on earth. About this eternal purpose we also read in chapter 1 of this letter (Eph 1:4; 11). There it is about our personal blessings. Here it is about our blessings as the church, that all believers have received together.

But whatever blessing is regarded, it is never apart from the Lord Jesus. God has "carried out" this eternal purpose "in Christ Jesus our Lord". He is the center of it. It speaks of the wonderful pleasure that God has had in His Son from eternity. That pleasure has got an extra reason through the life and death of the Son of God Who became Man (Jn 10:17; Mt 3:17). Everything that God purposes and does, points at His Son.

The Son is mentioned here by His extended name:
1. He is the "Christ", that means 'the Anointed', the Man of God's pleasure, in Whom God finds His joy.
2. He is "Jesus", the humble Man Who perfectly lived on earth to God's glory and Who accomplished His work.
3. He is also "our Lord", the Person to Whom we submit ourselves completely with pleasure, acknowledging His authority over our lives.

He, who knows Him, heartily agrees with God's eternal purpose to make Him the Center of the universe and eternity.

Eph 3:12. The previous verse is not unfolded for 'the enlightened eyes of your heart' (Eph 1:18) just to admire, how superb it all might be. It invites to boldly stand in these blessings. That means that you may feel at home in the presence of the Father. Just think about what the basis is for this boldness.

Until now you could have admired the amazing counsels of God. You were impressed that God has allowed you to glimpse into the mysteries of His heart that were there from eternity, and that He also made this known to you. It is all so great that it would make you become so shy that you would not even dare to put one foot on that holy ground. But what did you indeed also see? That the Center of all those counsels of God is 'Christ Jesus our Lord'. If you would be too timid to put your feet on those counsels, then you may think: the center of all this is our Lord, isn't it?

Before there was time, before the angels fell into sin, before man fell into sin, He was already the Center. When sin came into the world, He came and solved the huge problem of sin. You entrusted yourself to Him. He is the One, Who came on earth for you and Who died for you, not only to redeem you from your sins, but also to give you these wonderful blessings. Of these blessings He is the Center.

Then you don't have to feel timid to stand in those blessings and to enjoy them. You can move and express yourself freely in them. "Boldness" means something like having a free conscience to say everything that is in your heart. Without any burden in your heart you can stay there and fully enjoy.

But even if you have the boldness now, it would not help you if you didn't have access to those blessings. That is what the second part of this verse makes clear. You have the "access" and that even "confident access". God took away all hindrances. The access is free. You have confidence that God loves to see you in His presence. It is not the case that He just tolerates you in His presence, but He really loves to have you with Him, as the basis is "through faith in Him".

You might be thinking here that it is about the faith in the Lord Jesus as your Savior. That surely has to do with it, but I think it goes a step further. It is about the faith in Him, in Whom God has achieved His eternal purpose, that is Christ Jesus our Lord. Surely He is the One Who went to the cross to die there for your sins and in that way give you access to God (Rom 5:1-2). But in the letter to the Ephesians you see Him as the Center of all the counsels of God. If you have learnt to know Him like that and accepted Him through faith like that, then you can enter God's presence in full confidence to admire Him and worship Him for everything He had in mind for the church from eternity.

That you may belong to the church, you owe to the work that Christ has accomplished on the cross. On the cross the perfect dedication and glorification of God have reached their peak and crowning. On this basis God shall achieve His plans. That you, as a member of God's church, are involved in those plans, is a miracle of grace that is worthy of all worship.

Eph 3:13. Since He has paid the price to give you all this, then you should "not lose heart" at tribulations. In the previous verse your relationship with God is presented. In this verse you see how you are related to the world. To God you have boldness, access and confidence. From the world you may face tribulations. Even if you don't understand why you have tribulations, you can accept through your confidence in Him that there is wisdom and love behind them. You trust that everything is just for your own good. To Paul that was the case.

The word "therefore" with which this verse begins, refers to the previous one and gives the reason to the question. God could have liberated him from his imprisonment as He liberated Peter (Acts 12:7-11), but He did not. What did the Lord do? He was with Paul, helped him and gave him insight of everything that we now have in his letters.

The imprisonment, apparently the end of his ministry, became the crown of his work, the entire fulfillment of his stewardship. The reason that Paul was imprisoned and had tribulations there, was because of the truth he brought to the Ephesians. They shouldn't be discouraged by his imprisonment, but rather encouraged. To be related to a heavenly Christ and to live consistently according to that relationship, just creates hostility from religious people who adhere to an earthly or carnal religion.

Paul is not busy with his own situation. He is worried that all the wonderful truths would not have effect in the lives of the believers in Ephesus, because of his imprisonment. They could have been thinking: 'We are not willing to pay that price.' That's why Paul points out to them that he was imprisoned just because of the practice of his stewardship that consisted of the proclamation of the 'unfathomable riches of Christ among the Gentiles', to which the Ephesians also belonged. The tribulations were not an addition, but they go wholly together with the proclamation of the truth. To him, tribulations were the earthly counterpart of the heavenly glory.

The Christian who is aware of that will look at the tribulations that arise, as a privilege and a glory, because of his relation with a heavenly Lord.

Now read Ephesians 3:11-13 again.

Reflection: What are your privileges with regard to your connection with God and what is the consequence of that for your connection with the world?

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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ephesians 3:13". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

The humility of the apostle and the greatness of his mission:

v. 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;

v. 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;

v. 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,

v. 11. according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus, our Lord;

v. 12. in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him.

v. 13. Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

The apostle here takes up once more the thought of v. 2, joining it in a very skillful manner with the preceding verse: To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, was given this grace, to preach to the Gentiles the incomprehensible wealth of Christ. As Paul, 1Co_15:9, calls himself the least of the apostles, and, 1Ti_1:15, chief of sinners, so he here, by the formation of a comparative of a superlative, tries to express his feeling of unworthiness for the glorious office of the ministry. This is by no means false modesty, as liberal critics are carpingly saying, for Paul was well able to defend his office upon occasion, but it was true humility, such as should cause every pastor and every worker in the Church to make this verse his motto. It was the thought of the supreme dignity of the office which he had received at the cost of such boundless grace which could not fail to evoke Paul's sense of his own utter unworthiness. That fact, that he was to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, that he was to proclaim to them the unsearchable riches of Christ, overwhelmed him as an evidence of God's unmerited grace. Unsearchable, incomprehensible riches he calls them, such as are unfathomable, past finding out, to which no footsteps lead that might enable men to find out the fullness of the divine salvation for themselves, to understand the spiritual, heavenly blessings in Christ by their own power of comprehension.

There is also another purpose connected with the ministry: And to enlighten all men as to what is the administration of the mystery which from all ages has been hidden in God, who creates all things. All men by nature are in the dark concerning the Gospel and its wonderful message of free grace. Therefore it is necessary that they be enlightened, that they be shown, that they be turned from darkness to light, 2Co_4:4; 2Pe_1:19; Act_26:18. They must be told that the mystery concerning the salvation of all men, including the Gentiles, is now openly proclaimed and applied to all men. This news was hidden since the world began; no man can conceive of it, can grasp it by nature. But now it has been revealed and realized in God, the Creator of all things. As such the almighty Lord creates and arranges the ages of the world; He puts into execution at His time what He has long kept hidden. Thus the Church of Christ owes her existence to the creative power of God. The Church is a new creation in that very form that it consists of Gentiles as well as Jews. So the greatness of the gift of grace entrusted to Paul, the beauty and power of the Gospel-ministry, is again brought out; for the Christian Church, which is thereby perfected, is, in its ultimate form, the spiritual part of mankind, whose principal thought is to give all honor to Him that created all things.

Since, moreover, the call of Paul made him a minister of the Gospel to the Gentiles, the aim of his work was: in order that there might be made known now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, through the Church, the manifold wisdom of God. The purpose of Paul's preaching was the gathering of the Church, which is synonymous with the revelation or administration of the mystery which had been hidden in God. Through the Church, therefore, according to God's intention, even the principalities and powers of heaven should be acquainted with the many-sided wisdom of God, with the wisdom which has so many different forms, which manifests itself in so many different ways. The angels of God, who have a decided interest in the redemption of mankind, 1Pe_1:22, are eager to learn ever more of the wisdom of the almighty Lord, who makes use of so many different ways and means to build His Church and thus to realize the purpose of creation. Through the Church, in the Church, the interest of the angels is satisfied; they receive an insight into its workings, into the gracious purposes of God, into the splendid results which are bound to attend His efforts; and they raise their voices in songs of praise and adoration to Him whose wisdom and mercy are from everlasting.

The apostle now elaborates his thought, that he has been given this ministry for the purpose of realizing God's merciful aims among men, by adding: According to the purpose of the ages, which was made in Christ Jesus, our Lord. This eternal purpose or intention is no other than that which Paul has discussed in the first part of this letter, the purpose which resulted in the election of grace. Upon this purpose of God is based also the apostleship of Paul, since its object is to collect the chosen children of God out of all nations of the world, to bring them together into one body, under the headship of Christ. God chose His own in Jesus Christ: the knowledge of this election had to be transmitted through the Gospel; the ministry of the Gospel was entrusted to the apostle. Therefore he can say of the time in which he was writing: in whom we have our boldness and access in confidence through our faith in Him. He includes his own person with that of his readers, thus speaking for all believers. Since these facts are known to us, therefore we Christians have freedom of spirit, cheerful boldness, the courageous mood of those that are reconciled to God. For we have access to God, the way to the Throne of Grace is open, chap. 2:18. We approach, then, with confidence, not with any reliance upon our own works and merits, hut through our faith in Him, Christ being the ground of our cheerful confidence. We may now enter into the presence of God without misgivings, with all boldness and confidence, as dear children come to their dear father.

In concluding this section, Paul adds an appeal to the Ephesian Christians: Wherefore I beseech you that you do not grow faint in my tribulations in your behalf, which are your glory. There was some danger that the disciples at Ephesus, hearing of the imprisonment of Paul, might be tempted to grow weak and faint-hearted, to lose courage, to believe the cause of Christianity doomed. But Paul wants them to put thoughts of this nature far from them. Because they, the former Gentiles, had, through the labor of the apostle, received the wealth of Christ and become members of the Church of Christ, therefore they were not to permit their joy over this blessing to be embittered by the remembrance of his sufferings, not to yield to the spirit of discouragement; for these tribulations were a necessary part of his office, they belonged to the cross which the minister of Christ must expect to bear, and before God they redounded, not to their shame, but to their glory. The Ephesians knew that their leader was not despondent in the trials which he must undergo, and therefore they should profit by his example and persevere in their Christian conviction.

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". 1921-23.

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

             C. The office and service of the church

Ephesians 3:1-21

1. The office in and for this church

( Ephesians 3:1-13.)

1For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ [Christ Jesus][FN1] for [in behalf 2 of] you Gentiles, If [indeed] ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God 3 which is given me to you-ward: How that [That] by revelation he made known unto me the mystery [the mystery was made known[FN2] to me]; ([omit parenthesis] as I wrote [have written] afore in few words; 4Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge [In accordance with which, while reading, ye can perceive my understanding][FN3] in the mystery of Christ,) [omit) ] 5Which in other ages [generations][FN4] was not made known unto [to] the sons of men, as it is [has been][FN5] now revealed unto [to] his holy apostles and prophets by [in] the Spirit; 6That the Gentiles should be [are] fellow heirs, and of the same body [fellow members], and partakers [fellow-partakers] of his [the][FN6] promise in Christ [Christ Jesus][FN7] by [through] the gospel: 7Whereof I was made [became][FN8] a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto [which was given[FN9] to] me by the effectual working [ac cording to the working] of his power 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is [was] this grace given, that I should preach among [to preach to][FN10] the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9And to make all men see what is the fellowship [dispensation][FN11] of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world [lit., from the ages] hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ10[omit by Jesus Christ]:[FN12] To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in [the] heavenly places might be [made] known by [through] the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11According to the eternal purpose which he purposed12[wrought] in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have [our] boldness and [our][FN13] access with [in] confidence by the faith of [through our faith on][FN14] him 13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not [I beseech you not to faint][FN15] at my tribulations for you, which is [are] your glory.


Connection and Summary. With τούτου χάριν the Apostle refers to what precedes ( Ephesians 2:19-22), not exclusively to Ephesians 2:22 (Bleek, also Meyer), which is only a conclusion, although a comprehensive one. The reference to Ephesians 3:11-21 (Stier) is preferable to that of Bleek, yet the first part of that section contains merely an antithesis which has been overcome and is past. Without any fear of a relapse he now looks forward and points to the end and aim.—From the fact that the church, “of the family of God,” is built together in Christ “unto an habitation of God in the Spirit,” there proceeds as a result: the Apostle’s intercession and exhortation ( Ephesians 3:14-19)[FN16] the weight and indispensable consideration of which rest upon the office, not the person, although person and office do and must include each other; if the former rightly regards and administers the latter, the latter makes its importance felt chiefly in its bearer. Hence Ephesians 3:1-12 treat of the apostolic office as the appointed subject of the intercession and exhortation. Ephesians 3:1 describes the present efficient bearer of this office in general; Ephesians 3:2 defines the office as a gift of God’s grace, which according to Ephesians 3:3-4 has been imparted in a special manner and according to Ephesians 3:5 now for the first time, having as its task the reception of all nations through the proclamation of the gospel ( Ephesians 3:6). Ephesians 3:7-8 a mark the service and the unworthiness of its recipient, Ephesians 3:8 b, 9, the extent of the task allotted to this gift; Ephesians 3:10 points to the aim; Ephesians 3:11, back to the beginning and foundation; Ephesians 3:12, to the carrying out of the task already begun. So Stier in the main.

Ephesians 3:1. The person holding the office. For this Cause. Τούτου χάριν is an emphatic expression, occurring elsewhere only in Ephesians 3:14; Titus 1:5. It is stronger than διό, διὰ τοῦτο, introducing something special. [It means for this reason and is aptly rendered in the E. V]—To this strong expression corresponds: I Paul, ἐγὼ ΙΙαῦλος.—The phrase is found also in 2 Corinthians 10:1; Galatians 5:2; Colossians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:18; Philemon 1:19 (and Ephesians 3:9). Similarly ἐγὼ Ἰωάννης, Revelation 1:9; Revelation 22:8; Revelation 21:2 (Rec). He mentions his name, not on account of his person ( Ephesians 3:8), but because of his office and-the importance of what he is doing.

The prisoner of Christ Jesus [ὁδέσμιος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ.]—In Ephesians 4:1 alone do we find ἐν κυρίῳ, elsewhere always ( 2 Timothy 1:8; Philemon 1:9) as here, with the genitive. It is undoubtedly the genitive auctoris, causæ.[FN17] Winer, p178. So δεσμοὶ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, “bonds of the gospel” ( Philemon 1:13) are bonds which belong to the service of the gospel, ὀνειδισμὸν Χριστοῦ ( Hebrews 13:13) is reproach which Christ bore, παθήματα τοῦ Χριστοῦ ( 2 Corinthians 1:3). Our phrase is not=for Christ’s sake, propter Christum. A special emphasis rests on the expression. In the Epistle to Philemon written at the same time ( Ephesians 3:1), it even stands in the place where “Apostle” is usually found, and in Ephesians 3:9 (“as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus”) it is similarly used. Here it is not a predicate, but in apposition to the subject already so emphatically named, not an adjective, but a substantive added for the sake of description. Bengel aptly remarks: legatus, isque vinctus. As if he would say: I Paul, the prisoner, not of the emperor, nor of the soldier, but of Christ Jesus, whose Apostle I am. Song of Solomon, following Rieger, Passavant and Stier. Meyer approaches this view (=δοῦλος Χριστοῦ).

[The phrase is taken as a predicate (εἰμί being supplied) by very many from Chrysostom to Beza, Koppe, Meyer. The Syriac version sustains this view, which simplifies the construction very greatly, but is open to great objection: (1) It makes “for this cause” and “on behalf of you” tautological; (2) disconnects Ephesians 3:2 ff. from Ephesians 3:1, since they then do not explain it; (3) the article could only occur in the predicate with special emphasis; this emphasis is unpauline and inconsistent with “if indeed ye have heard” (Alford).—Other verbs are supplied in some codices. Meyer formerly accepted a brachyology: I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus, (am a prisoner) for you Gentiles, but gave it up as untenable in his 2 d ed. See further below.—R.]

In behalf of you Gentiles, ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν τῶν ἐθνῶν.—This added phrase justifies the above interpretation. Paul is imprisoned for the Gentiles, suffers to their benefit, as is said also in Philippians 1:7; Philippians 1:12 ff.; Colossians 4:3. Although Paul had to suffer on account of his proclamation of the gospel among the Gentiles ( Acts 21:21; Acts 21:28 f.; Acts 22:21 ff.), yet ὑπέρ is not=propter (Grotius).[FN18] It refers to ὑμᾶς ( Ephesians 3:2) and is rather ad evangelium gentibus annuntiandum than annuntiatum (Flatt). Bengel: “Pauli studio erga gentes incensi sunt persecutores, ut vincirent illum; et vincula ipsa profuere gentibus, Ephesians 3:13; 2 Timothy 2:10,” Here then everything “odious” is to be rejected from the term, differing thus from the expression: “once Gentiles in the flesh” ( Ephesians 2:10). Olshausen is excellent: “He here makes mention of his bonds, in order to bring into stronger prominence the glory just described in contrast with the present condition of the church.” Harless also remarks: “Paul would have the Gentiles led to none other than Him, whose chains he wore, and would thus give a proof of the glory of such fellowship, exalted above suffering and shame.” Stier: “The bonds should especially show that proof of the office which proceeds from internal efficacy; the bonds themselves also preach to the Gentiles, and themselves reveal to the Apostle something new.”

At this point the sentence breaks off, and is resumed again in Ephesians 3:8, since it is peculiar to the naive style of the Greeks, to place the name in the nominative in a sentence, the end of which is not immediately contemplated, and since ἐμοί ( Ephesians 3:8) is in a strikingly emphatic position, so that it refers back to ἐγώ ( Ephesians 3:1) and thus indicates the resumption of the interrupted construction. So Œcumenius, Grotius.

[Not withstanding Dr. Braune’s preference for this view of the construction, it seems to be untenable. (1) Though examples of such a change of case may be found, Origen affirms that it is a solecism. (2) There is no natural connection of thought afforded by this view, while “for this cause” loses its meaning; the grace was not given for this cause, i.e., because they were built in. (3) Ephesians 3:8 has another obvious connection, viz., with Ephesians 3:6-7, so that according to this view “the leading thought of the antapodosis in Ephesians 3:8 is clumsily forestalled in Ephesians 3:6-7” (Alford).—R.]

Most however (from Luther to Winer, p526 f, Bleek) find in Ephesians 3:13 a return to the thought of our verse, and in Ephesians 3:14 a resumption and continuation. [This view is supported, among others by Theodoret, Bengel, Flatt, Lachmann, Rueckert, Harless, De Wette (who however regards the construction as “scarcely Pauline”), Olshausen, Eadie, Hodge, Alford, Ellicott. It is the simplest view, except that of Meyer, and not open to any grave objection. (1) It makes the τούτου χάριν of Ephesians 3:14 take up the same emphatic phrase from Ephesians 3:1. (2) It gives to that phrase as well as to the whole chapter an appropriate meaning, while a long digression or parenthetical statement is not unpauline. In view of the truth he has just uttered ( Ephesians 2:19-22), he is about to pray for them, but other thoughts come in. He is a prisoner (ver, 1), that too in behalf of the Gentiles: the thought of his office leads him away ( Ephesians 3:2-12), when at length he comes back to the thought of imprisonment ( Ephesians 3:13) with a request that they would not despond on account of his sufferings—then he resumes ( Ephesians 3:14). The whole seems Pauline, and need occasion no difficulty.—R.]

Baumgarten-Crusius accepts an anacoluthon without any subsequent continuation. Calvin [legatione fungor] and others supply πρεσβεύω (from [See above.]

[Among other untenable views there should be mentioned that of Zanchius, Cramer and Holzhausen, who suppose the resumption to take place in Ephesians 3:13. Against this may be urged the simple διό, the want of connection thus given to Ephesians 3:14 with its strong τούτου χάριν, and “the insufficiency of such a secondary sentiment as that in Ephesians 3:13 to justify the long parenthesis full of such solemn matter, as that of Ephesians 3:2-12” (Alford).—To take the whole chapter as parenthetical is still more objectionable. In that case the digression were too long, and the parts of the chapter would not find their proper connection; besides chap4. does not resume the thought begun in our verse.—R.]

Ephesians 3:2. The apostolic office is a gift of grace.

If indeed ye have[FN19] heard, εἴ γε ἠκούσατε.—It is evident, first of all, that εἰ cannot be regarded as purely hypothetical, since it is written by the prisoner “in behalf of you,” and also since the object they have learned: “the dispensation of the grace of God,” will not admit of such a view. It is not necessary, however, to take it as=ἐπεί, since, Acts 4:9; Romans 11:21; 1 John 4:11; see Winer, p417. The same is true of εἴ γε in Ephesians 4:21; for there, immediately after Ephesians 3:20 (“but ye did not so learn Christ”), expressing accurate knowledge of the church, we find: εἴ γε αὐτὸν ἠκούσατε, “if indeed ye have heard him.” The particle occurs elsewhere only in Colossians 1:23; Galatians 3:4 ( 2 Corinthians 5:3, we have in various readings both εἴ γε and εἴπερ). It does not necessarily indicate a doubt, as does εἴπερ (Hermann, ad Viger., p833), and hence is more like ἐπείγε, though it must not be regarded as precisely equivalent. In the form there is expressed an uncertainty, an assumption, which challenges a self-scrutiny in the case of every reader or hearer. [“Assuming that;” Alford, Ellicott, not in itself implying the rectitude of the assumption made, which depends on the context.—R.] The context, however, confirms the truth of the assumption, that they have heard. This turn of expression is therefore a rhetorical,“a more elegant and suggestive reminder” (Meyer) of the preaching of Paul, as if he had written: “for ye have heard,” or “since ye have heard.” Estius: “εἴγε non est dubitantis, sed potius affirmantis.” Or we may say with Stier, that it is pre-supposition, not without a slight touch of irony, in case it were otherwise; or still more correctly: in case they would not consider the Apostle as the Apostle of the Lord for them; not to have recognized Paul, not to have received his teaching would he equivalent to not having heard. Hence it is not correct to conclude from these words, that the Epistle was not written to Ephesus (see Introd. §5, 2). Nor does this phraseology render it necessary to accept a wider, partially unknown, circle of readers (Harless, Stier, Bleek and others). The assumption of Calvin is inadmissible: “It is credible, that when he labored in Ephesus, he was silent on these topics.” Nor is it at all necessary to do violence to the verb, and render it: firmiter retinetis (Pelagius), intellexistis (Anselm, Grotius and others). The reference is simply to preaching, especially that of Paul; hence this is termed ἀκοή ( Romans 10:16 f.). [See Romans, in loco, p349.—R.]

Of the dispensation of the grace of God [τὴνοἰκονομίαν τῆς χάρι τος τοῦ θεοῦ].—Οἰκονομία here follows the close of chap 2 with its οἰκοδομή. There the building of “an habitation” is treated of, here the establishment of a household, a νέμειν (Stier). See on Ephesians 1:10. This is a matter belonging to God, or still more closely to “the grace of God.” Hence it is to be regarded not as an apostolic function (Pelagius, Anselm, Luther: office [Hodge] and others), but as a Divine arrangement. It must also be remembered that we find here, not χάρισμα, but χάρις. This χάρις is then more closely defined:

Which is given me to you-ward.—Τῆς δοθείσης μοι, as in Romans 12:3; Romans 15:15; 1 Corinthians 3:10; Galatians 2:9, with ὑμῖν 1 Corinthians 1:4. Hence it is not to be understood of Apostolic office exclusively; although the context here points to that (εἰς ὑμᾶς, as in Galatians 2:8, εἰς τὰ ἐθνη). Εἰς ὑμᾶς marks the readers as the object about which the Apostle’s position and activity was concerned, and is neither=ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, vestra causa (Morus), nor=ἐν ὑμῖν, in vobis ( Vulgate) or inter vos, but upon, towards you; as εἰς ἡμᾶς, Ephesians 1:19 : hence it is not merely: with respect to you (Rueckert). [“To you-ward,” though now unusual, expresses very well the precise shade of meaning.—R.]

Thus the apostolic office is described as a gift of God’s grace, yet not so imparted and conferred that a “dispensation” is not necessary in addition, but so that the person himself (μοι) is especially prepared for it. Here we must include all that God had done for and in Paul, from childhood on ( Galatians 1:15), near and in Damascus ( Acts 9:1 ff; Acts 22:3 ff; Acts 26:12 ff.); in Jerusalem ( Acts 22:21) and elsewhere ( Galatians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 15:8-10; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10). So Rueckert especially. To regard this as merely munus apostolicum gratiose, immerito beneficio Divino creditum is too superficial. Nor can we in accordance with Colossians 1:25 : “the dispensation of God which was given to me for you,” explain it thus, that the administrative office of the Divine grace was committed to him (Anselm, Grotius and others); here τῆς δοθείσης belongs to χάριτος, here the matter is regarded under a different aspect, and the context is different, since “heard” is the governing verb, and the office is not heard.

[This view of οἰκονομία is defended by Eadie, Alford, Ellicott (Hodge mentions it, though he thinks it differs from his own merely in form). The only remaining question is respecting the genitive. It is obviously not that of the subject, but either that of the object, “the material with respect to which the dispensation was to be exercised” (Alford) or that of “the point of view” (Ellicott). These scarcely differ here, but some such sense is favored by the passive verb ἐγνωρίσθη ( Ephesians 3:3 where the Rec. has ἐγνώρισε).—R.]

The method of communication. Ephesians 3:3-4.

Ephesians 3:3. That, ὅτι, gives prominence to a particular part of what they have heard, the essential part of the dispensation of the grace of God. [Alford: “Epexegesis of the fact implied in ἠκουσατε τὴν οἰκ., viz., of the fact that: as we say ‘how that.’ ” That is the literal rendering, “how that” is a rather inelegant exegesis.—R.]

By revelation was made known to me [κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν ἐγνωρίσθη μοι].—The emphasis here rests on “by Revelation,” since it comes first. As neither τινα nor τήν is added, the reference is not to some particular event, definite in itself, but not more closely indicated ( Acts 9:1 ff, as Olshausen thinks, or Acts 22:21), nor to some occurrence definitely designated, but rather to the mode of making known. It is an adverbial qualification of ἐγνωρίσθη=ἀπεκαλύφθη ( Ephesians 3:5), or like Galatians 1:15-16. Κατά denotes, as in κατʼ ἄνθρωπον ( Romans 3:5 and frequently), κατὰ χάριν ( Romans 4:4), a mode which obtains or prevails (Winer, p375). [So Meyer, Alford, Ellicott, Hodge apparently.—R.] Even διʼ ἀποκαλύψεως ( Galatians 1:12) does not point to a single revelation (Stier). [Comp. in loco. Ellicott says the allusion in the phrase as it occurs Galatians 2:2 “is rather to the norma or rule, here to the manner.”—R.] It might be interpreted (according to Passow, sub voce, Ephesians 2:3, p1598 b) like ἔρχεσθαι κατὰ θήραν, to go hunting, or 2 Timothy 1:1 : ἀπόστολος κατʼ ἐπαγγελίαν, apostle for the proclamation; indeed G. Hermann explains Galatians 2:2 : for the explanation, proclamation, presentation. But ἀποκάλυψις is only what occurs to man from God, not what men have to impart to one another. The word μοι, placed last, indicates that he treats of something which does not distinguish him personally, but which belongs to his office: “Revelation” and “apostles and prophets” are correlatives; γνωρίζειν is the general making known, but ἀποκάλυψις denotes that by means of which the official personages thus endowed are immediately distinguished, by means of which the Apostles become prophets. See Ephesians 3:5 and Doctr. Notes on Ephesians 2:20.

The mystery, τὸ μυστήριον, altogether indefinite, Isaiah, like Ephesians 1:9, the decree of salvation and grace in Christ (Stier), the renewing of humanity through Christ, especially moreover the calling of the Gentiles (Allioli). To refer it to the latter exclusively (most commentators from Chrysostom to Harless, Meyer, Schenkel, Bleek) is not admissible, even though Ephesians 3:6 follows.

[On the precise reference of the word “mystery” in this chapter. The great majority of commentators, including Hodge, Eadie, Alford, Ellicott, accept the more restricted view just mentioned, but admit the wider reference in Ephesians 3:4 (and many in Ephesians 3:9). The reasons for so doing are quite strong: the purport of the mystery is set forth in Ephesians 3:6, the dispensation of grace spoken of is “to you-ward,” a leading thought of the Epistle has been this calling of the Gentiles to fellowship with the Jews. Nor can it be urged against this, that it presents a matter unworthy of this designation and not at all mysterious. Tholuck ( Romans 11:25) thus classifies the meanings of our term: (1) “Such matters of fact, as are inaccessible to reason, and can only be known through revelation: (2) such matters as are patent facts, but the process of which cannot be entirely taken in by the reason.” In the latter sense, the calling of the Gentiles was a “mystery,” is so still in view of the separatism, which to the Gentile mind is in some aspects yet stronger. Evidently the indefinite reference, which leaves this special fact out of view, is inadmissible, while Ephesians 3:4 seems to require the wider meaning. Accordingly the alternating reference has been accepted to meet these requirements. To my mind it is unsatisfactory: (1) It seems unlikely that a word should thus vary so speedily, when there is so little to mark a difference. (2) The difficulty in construction is thus increased: the E. V. accepts a parenthesis so as to connect Ephesians 3:5-6 with “mystery” in our verse, and thus leave the wider reference of Ephesians 3:4, undisturbed; but this is altogether arbitrary, since the relative clause ( Ephesians 3:5) is to be joined directly with “mystery” ( Ephesians 3:4) in accordance with the common structural usages of the Apostle. (3) Since then the grammatical connection is such, the purport of “the mystery of Christ” is set forth in Ephesians 3:6, and the alternating reference has lost its one great object, viz., the extension of the meaning in Ephesians 3:4.

It seems best then to accept Braune’s view, but with somewhat more definiteness in statement. “The mystery” throughout is one mystery, but in view of the universalism of the Epistle and the current of thought in this section, it here appears as complex, precisely as the notions of “enmity” and “peace” in the preceding section: the mystery of redemption, whose centre is the Person of Christ, whose object and purport is Christ, taking that term as including the Body of which He is the Head, which He has redeemed, and in which the Gentiles are “fellow-members” (σύσσωμα, Ephesians 3:6); the latter thought being the special reference throughout, though never to the exclusion of the wider thought, since Ephesians 3:6 itself with its compounds of συν compels us to think of the one inheritance, body and promise which the gospel presents. Van Oesterzee well remarks (Lange’s Comm. 1 Timothy 3:16, p47): “Paul knows one only great mystery,” the chief truth of which as revealed to us is the Person of Christ in its connection with the Body of Christ, as the passage in the Epistle to Timothy itself teaches, and as is not obscurely hinted in. Ephesians 5:32 of our Epistle. With this thought of union as the ruling one, no wonder the special reference to the union of Jews and Gentiles comes in without in the least disturbing or excluding the more general one.—R.]

As I have written afore in few words [καθὼς προέγραψα ἐνὀλίγῳ.—The English perfect brings out the force of the verb best, though it is not a literal rendering. The parenthesis of the E. V. is altogether unnecessary, the linking of clauses by relatives being common in this Epistle.—R.] Καθώς indicates that Paul has written only as “it has been made known to him by Revelation,” of course, from God. This the context demands ( Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 3:4). This writing has therefore great importance. The verb refers to what is written already. The phrase ἐνὀλίγῳ, in brief=διὰ βραχέων (Chrysostom, Hebrews 13:22); in Plato: διʼ ὀλίγων, as in 1 Peter 5:12. The preposition Isaiah, at all events, local: in little space=συντύμως, Acts 24:4; Acts 26:28. (ἐν ὀλίγῳ sc. χρόνῳ). Pauca tantum attigi, cum multa dici possent (Wetstein). Accordingly we must apply it to the whole Epistle up to this point; in comparison with the wealth of the truth revealed, its fulness, its wide-reaching, deep-moving efficiency, what he writes is to him always little and brief. He thus speaks in modesty respecting his writings, not as though the time for a more thorough treatise failed him (Schenkel). The reference is to such passages as Ephesians 1:9 ff.; Ephesians 1:17 ff.; Ephesians 2:4 ff.; Ephesians 2:11 ff, not to one passage especially,[FN20] as those expositors must hold, who limit “mystery.” Since he is speaking of local precedence alone, not of temporal, “written before “cannot be referred to a previous Epistle (Chrysostom, Calvin: ferre omnium consensu) as προειρήκαμεν ( Galatians 1:9), προλέγω, προεῖπον ( Galatians 5:21), point to something spoken at a previous time; so 2 Corinthians 13:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:4; προεγράφη Romans 15:4 must be understood of a prophetic writing with respect to the future. But Romans 3:9 : προῃτιασάμεθα, as in the present instance, relates to what precedes, in the same Epistle. The explanation: paulo ante (Theodoret, Calvin, Estius and others) is incorrect.

Ephesians 3:4. In accordance with which, while reading, ye can perceive.—ΙΙρὸς δύνασθε—νοῆσαι must at all events be joined together. ΙΙρός with the accusative denotes the measure ( Romans 8:18) as well as the norm ( 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 2:14). Comp. Winer, p378. The relative refers to what was written briefly before, as the measure by which to reckon, on which to measure; hoc non refertur præcise ad paucis, sed ad totum noëma et πρός notat analogiam ex ungue leonem (Bengel). Accordingly it is not to be applied merely to what was written before (Meyer: προέγραψα), or to ἐν ὀλίγῳ (Stier); nor is it=prout (Jerome), nor= ἐν ᾡ̄ (Koppe), nor= ἐξ οὑ̄ (Flatt), since what precedes is neither the source or ground, but can only be the measure. [Eadie prefers the sense “in reference to which,” but “in accordance with” is adopted by Alford, Ellicott (whose note in loco on this preposition is a marvel of neatness and exactness) and others, favored by Hodge, who adds: “what he had written might be taken as the standard or evidence of his knowledge.”—R.]

With δύνασθε (Bengel: moderate et liberaliter positum verbum) Paul refers cautiously to the ability which can be affirmed of every one; of the willingness he says nothing, that must come in afterwards. Modestly he points to what they can do, leaving to them the doing, neither commanding nor demanding it. The subject is each and all in the Church. Δύνασθε stands first very properly, since it is the emphatic word. The conditio sine qua non is indeed ἀναγινώσκοντες, reading, while ye read; not attendentes (Calvin). Nor does he say: άκούοντες, hearing; he conceives of each one reading for himself. The present tense suggests repeated reading (Grotius). To the Greek reading [as the word indicates] was a second perception following the first perception of the author; to the Roman and German the immediate thought is of connecting the letters and joining the words (legere, lesen). [The present participle here indicates an act contemporary with that of the perception: while reading.—R.] Νοῆσαι is not exactly equivalent to συνιέναι; they differ as do our “perceive” and “understand.” Comp. Mark 8:17; Tittmann, Syn. I, p191. The readers perceive that which Paul understands. It is not a knowledge possible through reflection (Rueckert), but a kind of immediate perception ( Ephesians 3:20; Romans 1:20; Hebrews 11:3; Matthew 15:17).[FN21]

My understanding in the mystery of Christ.—Τὴν σύνεσίν μου ἐν τῷ μυστηρίῳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ.—These words are to be taken together as the object of νοῆσαι (Meyer). Σύνεσις used with σοφία ( Colossians 1:9), has a πληροφορία ( Colossians 2:2; 2 Timothy 2:7), is vox media ( 1 Corinthians 1:19), and marks an especial knowing, that penetrates and commands its subject, as in the case of a master of the science ( John 3:11). “The mystery of Christ” ( Colossians 4:3) is the mystery, which has Christ for its object and purport; Christ Himself is the concrete Divine mystery. Colossians 1:27 (Meyer, Stier).[FN22] It is evident that μυστηρίον is not an absolute secret, since there is an “understanding” with respect to it. See Ephesians 1:9. Beza: “Optimo vero jure de se ista prædicare apostolum, re ipsa cognoscet, quisquis perspexerit, quam sublimiter et prorsus divine totum illud argumentum ab initio epistolæ pertractarit.” In the connection in which Paul writes, in virtue of his office and by writing labors in and for the Church two things are evident and properly placed together; that he urgently directs the Church to what is written as a standard for their judgment respecting him, as the Apostle, by whom it is said to them, and ascribes to them unconstrained ability and freedom for examination.

Hence the inferences drawn from this passage against the genuineness of the Epistle are inadmissible. It is not necessary that he should refer to his labors among them, since his σύνεσις is under discussion, and both the subject-matter itself and his mode of treating it in this Epistle are well adapted to make them aware of this. 1 Corinthians 14:37; 1 John 4:6. Comp. Introd. § 5, 2. [See Eadie on the reasons for professing such a knowledge of the mystery. Meyer properly intimates that this verse is worthy of the Apostle (against De Wette, Schwegler), and that an imitator would never have written it. In fact an imitator would have probably thought of it as De Wette does!—R.]

Ephesians 3:5. The period and persons concerned in the communication.—Which, , refers to “the mystery of Christ” ( Ephesians 3:4), not to “the mystery” ( Ephesians 3:3); in which case we should have to regard what follows καθώς as a parenthesis (Wetstein, [E. V.], and others). [Dr. Hodge seems disposed to regard Ephesians 3:4 as a parenthesis, but the relative forms a direct connection. The other construction is an attempt to avoid the difficulty which arises in taking Ephesians 3:6 as the purport of the “mystery of Christ.”—R.]

In Other generations.—The dative ἑτέραις γενεαῖς, is a temporal qualification, which is of very common occurrence; see Winer, p205. Song of Solomon 2:12; Matthew 12:1 : τοῖς σάββασι; Luke 13:14 : τῷ σαββάτῳ. The word γενεά designates the lineage, the family, Matthew 1:1; Matthew 1:17; also in a spiritual sense, Matthew 17:17; Mark 9:19. Then a generation, Matthew 24:34; Luke 1:48; Luke 21:32; Philippians 2:15; and also an age, Acts 14:16; Acts 15:21; Luke 1:50; Colossians 1:26 (ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων καὶ τω̆ν γενεῶν); here the temporal idea is the prominent one, only a shorter period of about 33 years is meant. There is no ground for taking it as=time, era (Schenkel); and still greater objection to retaining the meaning: lineage, and taking it as an ordinary dative, so that “the sons of men” is an epexegesis, which sets forth in concreto what is meant by the “generations” (Meyer). The antithesis “now” demands a temporal definition here. Yet it must be noticed, that the word “generations” is chosen on account of the various stages of revelation to the patriarchs, Moses, David and the prophets.

[Meyer, in his 4 th edition, gives up his former opinion, adopting the usual view of our word, mainly on the ground that νῦν requires an antithetical temporal qualification here. Still he correctly insists on the meaning “generations,” over against “times” or “periods.” Hodge apparently inclines to the earlier view of Meyer.—The word is used in the LXX. to translate the Hebrew word דּוֹר, which admits of the temporal signification, now generally attached to γενεαῖς in this passage. Ellicott remarks that in one case ( Isaiah 24:22) even יָמִים is thus rendered.—R.]

Was not made known, οὐκ ἐγνωρίσθη.—This in distinction from ἀποκαλύφθη is something more general and indefinite. Bengel: Notificatio per Revelationem ( Ephesians 3:3) est fons notificationis per præconium. Revelatio est quiddam specialius; Notificatio fit ad reliquos etiam auditores, Revelatio tantum ad prophetas.

To the sons of men, τοῖς υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων.—Only here and in Mark 3:28. Latissima appellatio, causam exprimens ignorantiæ, ortum naturarum (Bengel, who adds with over nicety: de statu vetere loquitur idiotismo linguæ hebraicæ). The antithesis is found in “His holy apostles and prophets,” which moreover compels us to give prominence to the “need of men born of men” (Harless), while ἐν πνεύματι suggests the lack of the regeneration, correlated to revelation (Stier); so that under the term בְּנֵי־אָדָם we must include also the Old Testament men of God, such as Abraham ( Galatians 3:8), and even the prophets ( Romans 9:24-29; Romans 15:9-12), whom Jerome would exclude. Bengel, however, is incorrect, when he says: denotari præcipue Prophetas antiques, v. g. Ezechielem, qui sæpe dicitur בֶּן־אָדָם; thus he is described not as a prophet, but as a man born of men. [Eadie thinks the phrase was suggested by the word γενεά. “Sons succeeded fathers, and their sons succeeded them; so that by ‘sons of men’ is signified the successive band of contemporaries whose lives measured these fleeting γενεαί.”—R.]

As it has been now revealed.—Ὡς contrasts now (νῦν) and formerly. On account of this ὡς, we must take οὐκ ἐγνωρίσθη as = οὐχ οὕτως ἐγνωρίσθη, “not thus made known,” and supply here in thought: “through their words and works” (Chrysostom). Comp. Doctr. Notes. It is only asserted that the knowledge of the mystery in former times is not to be regarded as at all equal to the knowledge which now exists; the latter is immeasurably deeper, richer, clearer than the former. It is incorrect to interpret ὡς as=while, and to infer that the mystery was not all known before (Bleek); that cannot be asserted.

His holy apostles and prophets.—The Apostles are ἅγιοι, because they are Christians; Paul can have no hesitation in affirming of the Apostles, what he had already said of the whole Church ( Ephesians 1:1); of course a higher degree is involved here, especially since they, as well as the Old Testament prophets, who are called “holy,” Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; 2 Peter 1:21 (various reading), are termed “prophets.” The Apostles also were of themselves naturally only “the sons of men,” but like the Christians a holy ἐκλογή. “His,” according to the context ( Ephesians 3:2), must be understood of God, and “apostles and prophets,” especially on account of the word “now,” must be interpreted as in Ephesians 2:20. It is incorrect to regard τοὶς ἁγίοις as qualified by what follows as an appositional phrase. [So Lachmann, Bisping].

In the Spirit, ἐν πνεύματι, is to be joined with the verb, and defines the modality of the revelation and its communication. It cannot be joined either with “prophets” (Chrysostom)[FN23] or with “holy” (Meier), still less with what follows (Erasmus). It Is not however = διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος, 1 Corinthians 2:10 (Luther: durch den Geist), [E. V, Hodge, Ellicott, Meyer], but denotes the life-sphere, within which the revelation is accomplished: one must live in the Spirit to be a partaker in the revelation. Bengel: cujus donum Novo Testamento reservatum ad Christum glorificandum. The glory of the revelation and the importance of the Apostolic office so overpower Paul here, that he forgets himself altogether.

[Olshausen: “It is certainly peculiar, that Paul here calls the Apostles, and consequently himself among them, ‘holy Apostles.’ It is going too far when De Wette finds in this a sign of an unapostolic origin of the Epistle; but still the expression remains an unusual one. I account for it to myself thus—that Paul here conceives of the Apostles and Prophets, as a corporation (comp. Ephesians 4:11), and as such, in their official character, he gives them the predicate ἅγιος, as he names believers, conceived as a whole, ἅγιοι or ἡγιασμένοι, but never an individual.”—R.]

[“A mystery is not a secret design, but a secret fact” (Alford); hence “are,” not “should be.” So most commentators.—R.]

Fellow-heirs.—Συγκληρονόμα, not as in [See Textual Note6]. This denotes participation in the promise ( Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 2:12; Galatians 3:14), the fulfilment of which is already begun, but by no means completed as yet; βασιλεία γὰρ ἔπήγγελται παρὰ τοῦ πατρός (Œcumen.). It refers neither in general to res or bona promissa, nor in particular to the Holy Ghost alone, as Bengel, [Eadie] and Stier think, who find a reference to the Head, Christ, in “fellow-members,” and to the Father in “fellow-heirs,” and thus to the Trinity as in Ephesians 4:4-6; Ephesians 4:18; Ephesians 4:21; Ephesians 4:30; Ephesians 5:1-2; Ephesians 5:18; 2 Corinthians 13:13. There is as little ground for this as there is indication of a climax (Jerome, Pelagius, Schenkel: heir, possessor, partaker). For “fellow-heir” comprises the whole, on the ground of the relation to God as a Father, who has prepared an inheritance for His children; the two added terms respect their relation among each other: the first arising from the relation of the community to which dependence attaches, me other springing directly from the personality regarded as self-inclusive; the first marks the membership in the Church, the relation to it, the second the independence of the individuals, their relation in and of itself. Hence it cannot be said, that what is already sufficiently expressed by the term “fellow-heir,” is repeated twice afterwards, once figuratively and the second time literally (Meyer), or that Paul creatively rummaged in the language (Kalmis), or that the first term contains a personal and substantive reference (Harless), which is further indicated by the other two. [Ellicott’s view resembles that of Braune, but is more clearly expressed: “The general fact of the συνκληρονομία is Revelation -asserted, both in its outward and inward relations. The Gentiles were fellow-heirs with the believing Jews in the most unrestricted sense: they belonged to the same corporate body, the faithful; they shared to the full in the same spiritual blessings: the ἐπαγγελία.”—R.]

In Christ Jesus through the Gospel.—“In Christ Jesus,” defines “are” more closely and, like this, relates to all three of the preceding words. It cannot be joined with “promise” (Koppe, Baumgarten-Crusius). Thus Paul indicates that all is communicated only in Him, the God-man. Hence “through the Gospel” is added, in order to point to the means by which that objectively given in Christ, already proffered and prepared, is brought to the individual, is presented for his subjective appropriation. Because Paul is speaking of his office and calling, he must add this also.

The ministry and unworthiness of the recipient; Ephesians 3:7-8 a.

Ephesians 3:7. Whereof I became a minister [οὑ̄ ἐγενήθην διάκονος].—“Whereof” refers to “Gospel” ( Colossians 1:23; Colossians 1:25).—Διάκονος; ( Colossians 1:7) is a synonym of ὑπηρέτης ( 1 Corinthians 4:1; Matthew 26:58; Mark 14:54; Mark 14:65; John 7:32; John 7:45 f, etc.); and according to its etymology (διὰ—κόνις,[FN24] dust), like the latter (ὑπὸ—ἐρέτης, rower), designates a servant of a lower order, while οἰκόνομος ( 1 Corinthians 4:1; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 4:10) denotes one as related to the property, συνεργός ( 1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Thessalonians 3:2), as related to the works of his Master, δοῦλος ( Ephesians 6:6; Colossians 4:12; Romans 1:1; Romans 6:16; 1 Corinthians 7:21; Galatians 1:10; Philippians 1:1), in his dependence, on his Master, λειτουργός ( Romans 13:6; Romans 15:16) in his devotion. It is incorrect to assert that διάκονος describes the servant in his activity for the service, ὑπερέτης in that for his Master (Harless). [See Meyer and Ellicott against Harless].—Ἐγενήθην marks more strongly than ἐγεςόμην [Rec.] his becoming a servant, refers to a development, even if not as Œcumenius (οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐγὼ ἔργον ἐμὸν συνεισήνεγκα τῇ χάριτι ταύτῃ), Rueckert and others think; that thought is found in the context, not in the word.

According to the gift of the grace of God [κατὰ τὴν δωρεὰν τὴς χάριτος τοῦθεοῦ].—Κατά marks the fact that Paul’s becoming a minister of the Gospel had for its norm the grace of God. Δωρεά ( Ephesians 4:7; Romans 5:17), the single gift, like δῶρον ( Ephesians 2:8), marks the free present. “The grace of God” sets forth the nature, purport of the gift. [The genitive is one of apposition or identity; the grace was the gift.—R.] Luther accordingly is incorrect: according to the gift out of grace, as if this were the source, the dispenser, while the gift itself was something else, such as the gift of tongues (Grotius), the Holy Ghost (A-Lapide, Flatt). It is in accordance with the context to think of the Apostolic office [Hodge, Eadie]; but the grace of God, which Paul had received, prepared him for this; He cannot use for His service persons as they are. He must convert and transform them for this end ( Ephesians 2:10).

Which was given to me.—Tischendorf retains τὴν δοθεῖσαν in spite of the Cod. Sin. [See Textual Note9. The received reading makes “given” agree with “gift;” the other with “grace,” the sense being the same in either case.—R.]

According to the working of his power [κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ].—”According to the working” ( Ephesians 1:19) marks that the gift has been bestowed, not according to the receptivity of the recipient, but according to the efficiency of the Giver. [This prepositional clause depends on τῆς δοθείσης μοι, defining the mode of giving. This justifies the seeming tautology: “the gift given to me.” Meyer, whom Ellicott cites in favor of connecting the phrase with the leading verb, now adopts this simpler view. Dr. Hodge accepts without remark the incorrect rendering of the E. V, which, not content with the instrumental sense it imposes so frequently on ἑν, here gives κατά the same sense: by.—R.] “Of His power” gives prominence to God’s power, and throws Paul’s person into the back-ground; yet recalls the fact, as he himself does in Ephesians 3:8, that it is precisely the persecutor who has become an Apostle, the narrow-minded, proud Pharisee who has been transformed into the most large-hearted and humble servant of the Gospel to the Gentiles (Stier). Calvin: In hoc dono prædicat Dei potentiam, ac si diceret: nolite respicere, quid sim meritus, quia dominus ultro mihi sua liberalitate hoc contulit, ut sim apostolus gentium, non mea, dignitate, sed ejus gratia. Nolite etiam respicere qualis fuerim; nam domini Esther, homines nihili extollere. Hæc est potentiæ ejus efficacia, ex nihilo grande aliquid efficere.

Ephesians 3:8. To me, who am less than the least, ἐμοὶ τῷ ἐλαχιστοτέρῳ.—The pronoun in the dative stands first, somewhat remarkably; we might rather expect: αὕτη χάρις ἐδόθη τῷ ἐλαχιστοτέρῳ πάντων, this very grace is grace to less than the least of all. But the pronoun refers to Ephesians 3:1, and must be joined with it. It is scarcely possible that after the grammatical and logical conclusion of the sentence begun in Ephesians 3:1 ( Ephesians 3:7 : τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοὺ) another entirely new sentence should begin in Ephesians 3:8, only to introduce a parenthetical thought, especially as the sentence closes with Ephesians 3:12, beyond which the supposed parenthesis must be continued. [The objections to this view of the connection will be found in my note at the close of Ephesians 3:1. Dr. Braune’s difficulty suggested above is not so singular in a writer like Paul as the resumption by means of a dative. As regards the logical connection, Ellicott remarks: “No addition was required to the former period; the great Apostle however so truly, so earnestly felt his own weakness and nothingness ( 2 Corinthians 12:11), that the mention of God’s grace towards him awakens within, by the forcible contrast it suggests, not only the remembrance of his former persecutions of the Church ( 1 Corinthians 15:9-10), but of his own sinful nature ( 1 Timothy 1:15) and unworthiness for so high an office.” The transition always seems natural to one who is familiar with Paul’s modes of thought.—R.]

Stier attempts to transfer the double comparative into the German: dem Gerinsteren. Bengel: Notio nominis Paulus cumulata per comparativum superlativo superiorem; quo se sanctis vix accenset; elegantissima modestia. A similar double comparative is found in 3 John 1:4 : μειζοτέραν. Comp. Winer, p67, where he compares the Latin minimissimus, pessimissimus. [To this we may add excelsior, now almost naturalized in English; a word constructed precisely like Paul’s double comparative. The rendering of the E. V. cannot be improved.—R.] Comp. 1 Corinthians 15:9 : ἐλάχιστος τῶς ἀποστόλων. Here he cannot sufficiently express himself; here he speaks of the service of the Gospel in general. Accordingly he adds:

Of all saints, πάντων ἅγίων, i.e. Christians; he does not say of “Apostles,” nor yet “of men,” two interpretations, the latter of which is designed to exclude angels, without any ground. According to Philippians 3:6; 1 Timothy 1:13, Paul’s persecution of the Church of Christ is the strongest expression of sin in him, so that, according to the context, compared with all Christians, he regards himself as the most unworthy, because he is conscious of his sin and guilt, feeling that since God’s grace has helped him, there is no one whom it cannot and may not help.

Was this grace given, ἐδόθη χάρις αὕτη.—This is the grace which lies at the foundation of his vocation as Apostle (Stier), not the Apostolic office itself (Rueckert).—Αὕτη, “this,” points forward to what follows, which sets forth wherein this grace consists. What he has set forth in Ephesians 3:6 as the purport of the mystery, as the mission of the Apostles in general, he now represents as that which is committed to him. There is not therefore here a parenthesis and exclamation of joy: “to me less than the least, is this grace given!” so that what follows is to be joined with “gift,” Ephesians 3:7 (Harless); for Ephesians 3:2-12 do not form an interpolation, but the sentence begun in Ephesians 3:1 is entirely broken off, and αὕτη does not refer to what precedes, nor Isaiah 2:6 to be compared with this construction.

The magnitude of the mission; Ephesians 3:8 b, 9.

[See Textual Note10.] Yet to Paul was committed the task of preaching to the Gentiles ( Galatians 1:16; Galatians 2:8; 1 Timothy 2:7; Acts 9:15; Acts 22:21; Acts 26:17), not merely among the Gentiles; he should do what he could, the completed solution of the problem belongs to God.

The unsearchable riches of Christ, τὸ ἀνεξιχνίαστον πλοῦτος τοῦ Χριστοῦ.—Theodoret is excellent: καὶ πῶς κηρύττεις, εἴπερ πλοῦτος ἀνεξιχνίαστος; Τοῦτο γὰρ αὐτο, φησι, κηρύττω, ὅτι ἀνεξιχνίαστος. [Exhaustless “both in its nature, extent and application” (Ellicott).—R.]

Ephesians 3:9. And to make all see, καὶ φωτίσαι πάντας.—This adds to “preach,” a further task of the Apostle, which is accomplished by means of the preaching of the gospel; what the gospel can do ( 2 Corinthians 4:4 : τὸν φωτισμον τοῦ εὐαγγελίου) this the evangelizing Apostle effects, whose word enlightens as a “word of prophecy,” which is a “light shining in a dark place” ( 2 Peter 1:19). He is bidden “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light” ( Acts 26:18). See Ephesians 1:18; Hebrews 6:4; Hebrews 10:32; Psalm 119:130. The object is “all,” which according to the context, means the Gentiles hearing him; there is no reference to the Jews (Pelagius, Harless, Stier), since πάντας, “all,” following the emphatic τοῖς ἐθνεσιν ( Ephesians 3:8) cannot receive any emphasis. Since, however, no such accusative as “eyes” is added, the verb “enlighten” refers to the whole Prayer of Manasseh, spirit, heart, conscience, not merely to the perceptive faculty (Schenkel), nor is it =docere (Bengel). It is more than “make known,” almost equivalent to ἀποκάλυψις, revelation (Stier).[FN25] As to what he enlightens the Gentiles then follows:

What is the dispensation of the mystery, τίς οἰκονομίατοῦ μυστηρίου.—See on Ephesians 1:9-10. The “mystery” here is not merely the calling of the Gentiles ( Ephesians 3:6), but as in Ephesians 2:3; here “the actual accomplishment of the plan hitherto formed in secret” (Stier) is treated of. [Hodge favors the same view. Ellicott: “The dispensation (arrangement, regulation) of the mystery (the union of Jews and Gentiles in Christ, Ephesians 3:6), which was to be humbly traced and acknowledged in the fact of its having secretly existed in the primal counsels of God, and now having been revealed to the heavenly powers by means of the Church.” So Meyer, Alford and most. See on Ephesians 3:3, however.—R.]

Which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God who created all things [τοῦ ἀποκεκρυμένου ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων ἐν τῷ θεῷ τῷ τά πάντα κτίσαντι].—Τοῦ ἀποκεκρυμένου, is like σεσιγημένου Romans 16:25; comp. 1 Corinthians 2:7; Colossians 1:26. It has been hid ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων ( Colossians 1:26;= ἀπʼ αἰῶνος, Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; in ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος, John 9:32), since the ages, from the beginning of the same; since there were men and angels, it has been revealed to none of them; before that there was no one, from whom it could be hid (Meyer). It was concealed “in God who created all things.” Thus God is marked as the Creator of the universe with all that therein Isaiah, of heaven and earth. Bengel: Antitheton ad creaturas, etiam excellentissimas, Ephesians 3:10. There is no ground for limiting “all things,” and referring it either to the moral creation[FN26] (Calvin, Grotius, Morus, and others), which is forbidden both by the meaning of the word and by the aorist (κτίσας), or to the moral world (Holzhausen). Evidently, however, Redemption and creation are thus placed in relation and connection with each other; Bengel takes the latter as fundamentum omnis reliquiæ œconomiæ, pro protestate Dei universali liberrimæ dispensatæ; Stier regards the former as fundamentum creationis rerum omnium, even of angels. We can and must join together Creation and Redemption, as decrees, dare not separate them, even though the act of creation self-evidently precedes the act of Redemption and the acts of Revelation, and is ordered with a view to these.

[The only question that arises in regard to this passage is this, Why is the creation introduced in this connection? Hodge deems it a mere expression of reverence, but this is unsatisfactory. Alford thinks the fact here expressed “involves His perfect right to adjust all things as He will,” thus the concealment is justified (so Rueckert). To this Meyer properly objects, that there is no logical connection of this kind, and Ellicott says: “A reference to God’s omniscience would more suitably have justified the concealment.” Olshausen’s view, that Redemption is itself a creative act seems equally irrelevant. It is either added to enhance the idea of God’s omnipotence (Ellicott), or better with Meyer, Eadie, and others, to indicate that God in creating the world included in His purpose and arrangement that development which forms the purport of the mystery.—R.]

The end with a glance at the final cause and also at the present; Ephesians 3:10-12.

Ephesians 3:10. To the intent that now, etc.—Upon what ἵνα depends will be best determined after the whole verse has been explained. Τνωρισθῆ νῦν is the order in the Greek, hence the former word is emphatic and corresponds with “hath been hid,” just as “now” does with “from the beginning.” Comp. Winer, p269. [We might render: “In order that there might be made known now,” (the last word having a secondary emphasis).—R.]

Unto the principalities and powers, ταῖς ἀρχαῖς καὶ ταῖς ἐξουσίαις.—Thus the objects, to which it is made known, are marked as of importance. See [The repetition of the article adds solemnity without distinguishing two classes.—R.]

In the heavenly places, ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις, describes them more closely as to locality (comp. Ephesians 1:3); hence they are not earthly and human, either heathen priests, Jewish rulers or Christian church authorities, but angels, and good angels, who desire to look into these things ( 1 Peter 1:12). Calvin: Quid enim egregium de evangelio prædicaret apostolus aut de gentium vocatione, si nunc primum diabolus innotuisse diceret? The context does not permit us to apply the terms to bad angels (Ambrosiaster), nor even to consider them as included (Bengel, Olshausen, Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, I. p361 f, Bleek), since it treats of a designed making known of the wisdom of God to His praise.[FN27] That Paul did not concisely say “angels,” arises from the fact that here, as in Ephesians 1:21, he wishes to give prominence to their power and elevation, here to glorify the Church, as there to glorify Christ, hence the agency of angels in the world of nations is not indicated (Hofmann). In order to mark that a cosmical relation is under discussion here as in Ephesians 1:10, the “powers” are termed ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις. This added phrase is so joined with “principalities and powers” as to form a single conception; hence does not indicate the modality of the verb “made known” (Matthies). This is done by the next phrase.

Through the church, διὰ τῆς ἐκκλησίας.—This is the theatre of the glory of God, of the Divine works (Bengel), see 1 Corinthians 4:9. It is a communion in heaven and on earth, the militant and triumphant church, and as such an object of interest to the good angels ( Matthew 18:10; Luke 15:7; Luke 15:10; 1 Corinthians 11:10; Hebrews 1:14). Luther renders: an die Gemeinde, on the church, which does not accurately present the means employed, as it makes of the church only an object of observation or a place of instruction, while the preposition διά presents it as an instructress, who makes known, not in words indeed, but by Acts, conduct and character.

The manifold wisdom of God, πολυποίκιλος σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ.—ΙΙοίκιλος occurs with νόσοις, Matthew 4:24; Mark 1:34; Luke 4:40, with ἐπιθυμίαις 2 Timothy 3:6, with ἡδοναῖς Titus 3:3, with δυνάμεσι Hebrews 2:4, with διδαχαῖς Hebrews 13:9, with πειρασμοῖς James 1:2 : 1 Peter 1:6, with χάριτος 1 Peter 4:10; 1 Peter 3:7 (various reading) and means “various;” so that the special word πολυποίκιλος, occurring only here means multifarious, strengthening the idea of “manifold.” Accordingly it cannot be =very wise (Koppe), nor mean merely the wisdom which adjusts the antagonism between law and grace (Harless), but it refers “to those wondrous ways operating on the Church” of that God “who imparts reconciliation and actually edifies the church” (So Stier, who incorrectly limits it to the Holy Ghost), to the different treatment of different men, the various means He employs, so that He is “to each eternally another and yet to each eternally the same” (Lavater). Romans 11:33-34. The “wisdom” is indeed one, it is only its manifestation that is so manifold (Anselm); certainly it is not that of Gnosticism (Baur). What is said of the Old Testament in Hebrews 1:1 (“sundry times and divers mannners”) is true in the highest degree of the New Testament economy.

[Alford: “It is all one in sublime unity of truth and purpose: but cannot be apprehended by finite minds in this its unity, and therefore is by Him variously portioned out to each finite race and finite capacity of individuals—so that the Church is a mirror of God’s wisdom—chromatic, so to speak, with the rainbow colors of that light which in itself is one and undivided.” Ellicott: “The variety of the Divine counsels, which nevertheless all mysteriously co-operated toward a single end—the call of the Gentiles, and salvation of mankind by faith in Jesus Christ.” “That the holy angels are capable of a specific increase of knowledge, and of a deepening insight into God’s Wisdom of Solomon, seems from this passage clear and incontrovertible.”—R.]

It is evident then that this clause of design depends with its ἵνα on the clause: “What is the dispensation of the mystery.” The arrangement, management and guidance of this edifice (οἶκον νέμειν) is of precisely that kind (τίς), so planned, that (ἵνα) through the church as a collection of believing saints out of every land and condition the wisdom of God should in continued acts become perceptible and manifest to the participant and active angelic world in the most multifarious manner; that is the purpose of the “dispensation of the mystery, which from the beginning hath been hid in God who created all things.” The mystery has not been hid from the ages, in order that God’s wisdom might be revealed later (Meyer, Schenkel, [Eadie] Bleek), nor has God created all things, that this might be made known through the Church (Harless); this purpose and design does not form a closer definition of “mystery” nor of “God,” but of His “economy.” Nor is the ground of this purpose found in the task set before the Apostle Paul (Stier), his preaching and enlightening, but in that which he has to preach and about which he has to enlighten, which remains after him and his labor, upon which he entered as fellow-laborer; hence in the economy of God itself.

[This view of Braune is certainly plausible, but it is not preferable to that which he mentions last, viz., that this verse is joined with the “preaching” and “enlightening” of Ephesians 3:8-9 (so Olshausen, De Wette, Hofmann, Hodge, Ellicott, Alford, who however thinks the reference is to ἐδόθη, if one word must be singled out). The objection that this ascribes too much to Paul’s own preaching (Meyer) is scarcely valid in view of the current of thought and the fact that the “manifold wisdom” did manifest itself through the preaching of the Apostle to the Gentiles. Olshausen: “Paul contrasts the greatness of his vocation with his personal nothingness, and he therefore traces the design, of his mission through different steps. First, he says, he had to preach to the heathen; then to enlighten all concerning the mystery; and both, in order to manifest even to angels the infinite wisdom of God.”—To take ἵνα as ecbatic is altogether inadmissible. The connection with “created” is accepted by some who adopt the longer reading and refer this then to the moral creation. Harless however adopts the same connection in a supralapsarian sense. As this is the only passage in the New Testament which can be made to assert this view, it may be here remarked: (1) This is singular and involves a theory of creation which, however logical, becomes too terrific to be admitted on the strength of a doubtful exegesis. (2) It joins a marked final clause to a participle which depends on another participle which depends on an infinitive which depends on a leading verb. (3) The present manifestation is the end of a present operation, viz., the preaching and making known. (4) The end of creation is distinctly stated in Colossians 1:16 to be the personal Christ: εἰς αὐτόν, “Unto Him,” as causa finalis, “all things were created.”—R.]

Ephesians 3:11. According to the eternal purpose, κατὰ πρόθεσιν τῶν αἰώνων, evidently defines “might be made known,” not “manifold” (Anselm), nor “wisdom” (Koppe), certainly not Ephesians 3:3; Ephesians 3:5 (Flatt). The making known takes place according to the purpose “before the foundation of the world” ( Ephesians 1:3). The genitive marks the relation to the ages, that this purpose will be retained during these, will remain in force and regulate them. Colossians 1:20 : αἶμα τοῦ σταυροῦ, 2 Corinthians 11:26 : κίνδυνοι ποταμῶν are similar; see Winer, p176. [Alford: “The genitive is apparently one of time, as when we say it has been an opinion of years:” “The duration all that time giving the αἰῶνες a kind of possession. If Song of Solomon, the sense is best given in English by ‘eternal,’ as in E. V.” Ellicott: “The purpose which pertained to, existed in, was determined on in the ages.” Two things we may hold fast to: (1) The general correctness of the rendering “eternal.” (2) The utter groundlessness of any Gnostic reference.—R.]

Which he wrought in Christ Jesus.—Ἡν ἐποίησεν refers of course to πρόθεσιν, not to σοφία (Luther: which He has shown), nor to ἐκκλησία (Erasmus): ΙΙρόθεσιν ποιεῖν means either to form a purpose ( Revelation 17:17; γνώμην ποιεῖν, Mark 15:1 : συμβούλιον ποιεῖν), or to execute one. The context points to the carrying out, which is however just begun: the mystery has already become clear in the gospel, it is no longer as before, and Ephesians 3:12, with its emphatic “we have,” gives prominence to the present time. Hence it is incorrect to render: “which He purposed” (Calvin, Rueckert, Harless, Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, 1 p230); in that case we would find the verb in the middle voice (ἐποιήσατο), which is used in a periphrasis like this (Winer, p240).[FN28] To combine the two (Stier) is altogether improper; we must choose one or the other.—“In” denotes, that outside of Him who existed before all (Χριστῷ) and has now become incarnate (Ἰησοῦ) and without Him God’s purpose is not accomplished.

The added: Our Lord, τῷ κυρίῷ ἡμῶν, pointing to the time of His appearing, is added on account of the ἐκκλησία, the ἡμῶν, whose Head and Lord is Jesus the Christ. [Alford is forced by his view of the verb to apply the whole to Christ in His pre-existence, which is very unusual.—R.] It is now explicable why the angels through such a church obtain wider knowledge of God’s wisdom. At the same time the phrase introduces what follows.

Ephesians 3:12. In whom we have, ἐν ἔχομεν.—[The relative has here a slightly demonstrative and explanatory force (Meyer, Ellicott).—R.] Here “we” evidently means those who are really in Him; our fellowship with Him is the fundamental thought. For the gifts which are afterwards mentioned, do not inhere in Him, as do Truth, Love, Life, but are states of mind resulting from fellowship with Him or ripened relations.

Our boldness and our access in confidence [τὴν παῤῥησίαν καὶ τὴν προσαγωγὴν ἐν πεποιθήσει. —On the first term see my remarks on John 2:28, Lange’s Comm., p82.[FN29] It is used by Paul besides in Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 2:15; Philippians 1:20; 2 Corinthians 3:12; 2 Corinthians 7:4; 1 Timothy 3:13; Philemon 1:8; and is found in Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 10:19; Hebrews 10:35. Here it means the free, joyous spirit of the redeemed, and must not be limited either to libertas dicendi (Vatable), or to prayer (Bengel). Καὶ τὴν προσαγωγὴν ἐν πεποιθήσει, “our access in confidence,” forms a single conception; the last term is not to be joined with “boldness;” for that does not require as a closer definition what it has essentially in itself. “Access” ( Ephesians 2:18) however requires it, since this may be feeble, timid, anxious, uncertain of acceptance.[FN30] The “confidence” (πεποίθησις, only in Philippians 3:4; 2 Corinthians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 3:4; 2 Corinthians 8:22; 2 Corinthians 10:2), which expresses itself after the boldness (comp. Romans 8:38-39 with31–37), is the childlike confidence in which the subject of grace approaches God. The phrase, therefore, is not to be joined, with “we have” (Meyer, Schenkel). [The latter view of the connection is adopted by Ellicott and Alford. While the other is admissible, there seems to be a gain in thought from joining it with the verb; see below—R. ]

Through our faith in Him [διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ].—The preposition marks that by means of which the fellowship we have with Him is brought about, and is a closer definition of ἔχομεν, “we have.” Τὴς πίστεως αὐτοῦ (only in Ephesians 4:13) like Romans 3:22, Galatians 3:22, means faith on Him, viz., on Him, in whom “we have,” etc., on “Christ Jesus our Lord” ( Ephesians 3:11). This faith is the subjective means of the union and the continued fellowship ( Romans 5:1-2). [Ellicott taking “in confidence” as a predication of manner defining the tone and frame of mind in which the “access” is enjoyed and realized, makes the following distinctions between the three qualifying phrases: “in whom” makes the objective ground of the possession, “through our faith in Him” the subjective medium by which, and “in confidence” the subjective state in which it is apprehended. Eadie: “That faith whose object is Jesus is the means to all who are Christ’s, first, of ‘boldness,’ for their belief in the Divine Mediator gives them courage; secondly of ‘access,’ for their realization of His glorified humanity warrants and enables them to approach the throne of grace; and thirdly these blessings are possessed ‘in confidence,’ for they feel that for Christ’s sake their persons and services will be accepted by the Father.”—R.]

Ephesians 3:13. Conclusion. Wherefore I beseech διὸ αἰτοῦμαι:—This refers to Ephesians 3:12 (“we have our boldness and our access”); he proves this in petition, of course, to God. [ See below however.] The middle voice, upon which however too great stress must not be laid ( Colossians 1:9; James 1:6), denotes the praying for himself.

[ The reference seems rather to be to the whole paragraph: “Since I am the appointed minister of so great a matter” (Alford; so Eadie, Ellicott and now Meyer). The other view is perfectly grammatical, but joins this verse to a secondary thought, while the wider reference brings us back, as if the steps were being retraced, to Ephesians 3:1 : “the prisoner of Jesus Christ in behalf of you Gentiles,” the next verse passing further back to “for this cause.”—R.]

Not to faint, μὴ ἐγκακεῖν.—[Dr. Braune’s rendering is: I pray (God) not to become dispirited, i.e., that I become not dispirited; others I pray (God) that you faint not; while most accept the view which supplies ὑμᾶς as the object of the verb and the subject of the infinitive: “I beseech you not to faint.” See below.—R.] The subject according to the context, especially “in my tribulations,” is the Apostle. It is precisely the result of his prayer to God and his intercourse with Him that he is courageous and in high-hearted joy even in tribulations.—In my tribulations for you [ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσιν μου ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν].—The word θλίψις definitely shows that the subject is the Apostle; so does the expression ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, which is to be closely joined with θλἰψεσ́ν μου. Accordingly Paul does not ask the readers not to faint (Vulgate, Luther, Meyer, Bleek, and many others), but prays to God for himself.

[ This view of the verse is supported by such able commentators as Bengel, Rueckert, Harless (who however altogether joins unwarrantably joins ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν with αἰτοῦμαι) Olshausen, Turner, Baumgarten-crusius, and is favored by the Syriac version, Theodoret and Jerome. Still the majority of commentators from Chrysostom to the latest English expositors, reject it. With good reason too, for (1) it seems unpauline to insert such a prayer here; he rejoiced in suffering ( Colossians 1:29) and gloried in infirmity ( 2 Corinthians 11:30), and was speaking of high privilege little likely to suggest faint-heartedness in himself. (2) The next clause presents, a motive (Meyer), which is irrelevant if the prayer is for himself. (3) Notwithstanding Braune’s remark, μου would be superfluous in that case. (4) Grammatically it is far simpler to supply ὑμᾶς as the object of the finite verb and the subject of the infinitive, than to supply θεόν as the object and then ἐμέ as subject—accusative; two words necessary to define the thought would scarcely be omitted, and the view we oppose necessarily requires two different words. If, as is natural, only one is to be supplied, that one must be ὑμᾶς.—Ἐν therefore denotes the sphere in which the faint-heartedness of the Ephesians might possibly be shown (Ellicott); the article is not necessary before ὑπέρ, since the close connection of thought is similar to that in Ephesians 3:1 : “prisoner for you Gentiles.”—R.]

Which are your glory [ἥτις ἐστὶ δόξα ὑμῶν].—Ἥτις put for αἵτινες by the attraction δόξα ὑμῶν (Winer, pp157, 505). The tribulations of the Apostle for the church are the honor, fame and glory of the same; it would be a detriment, distress and disgrace to the church, to have a founder and leader, who in tribulations became discouraged and despondent; but they confess a faith, for the proclamation of which the Apostles must bear heavy sorrow, yet compared with which sorrows are not to be dreaded, and they have a leader, whom they may joyously and confidently follow. This clause is not to be referred to “faint not” (Harless, Schenkel and others), nor is it to be left-indefinite in an oratorical sense (Rueckert). It is thus that he prays first for himself ( Ephesians 3:13) and then ( Ephesians 3:14) for the Ephesians (Rheufeld). Thus he closes the section concerning himself and his office, in order to pass to a supplication for the church.

[The reference of this clause to “tribulations” is to be maintained and is best indicated by restoring the plural form in English: which are (seeing that they are) your glory. The view of Braune stands or falls with that taken of the former part of the verse. It must be apparent that the other explanation is more satisfactory here. Ellicott well remarks too: “Glory accrued to the Ephesians from the official dignity, not the personal dignity of the sufferer.” Both because God so loved them as to give His Son first, and then to send His servants to suffering, (Chrysostom) and because these tribulations were the tokens of the freedom of the gospel (Eadie), are these “your glory.” He has now returned to his starting-point ( Ephesians 3:1), and resumes the thought there broken off in Ephesians 3:14.—R.]


1. The idea of substitution is more ethical than doctrinal, and finds a sphere in the whole human life, in its narrowest and widest circles. The Apostle suffers for his Church; his suffering is for her advantage. So the child lives at the expense of its parents; the child for whom no one suffers is a miserable creature, and the parents who do not suffer for their child, nor take sorrow on themselves to avert them from their offspring, are no true parents. So benefactors suffer for their wards, and suffering for them, remove their pain and need. So the shepherds of the people. The suffering of human life is in its widest range vicarious. Where this really exists, without some subtle selfishness, there it is without vanity, desire to please, ambition or vain-glory, there, just as one does his duty to his neighbor, faithful in the least, does he also bear and with joy dares suffer! And it is just he who has felt the truth of the vicarious sufferings of Jesus Christ, who can thus do. The Romanists acknowledge such vicarious suffering only in the case of the saints, we find it in all departments of our social life. As Paul was a martyr, so is every teacher, every mother. But they are only martyrs, i.e., witnesses of the everlasting mercy and the everlasting redemption, Christ Jesus is the author of redemption, the mediator of mercy.

2. The official service in the Church. On this subject this section contains important suggestions of various kinds.

a. First of all Paul feels that he is “the prisoner of Christ Jesus:” he has orders, powers, duties, rights and authority from the Master; quum verbum Christiporrigunt (ministri), Christi vice et loco porrigunt (Apology Aug. Conf. Art. vii. viii. § 28), non repræsentant suam personam (the same, § 47).

b. The office is a gift of grace ( Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 3:7); beneficium seu gratia, non judicium seu lex (Apology, vi. § 6); it stands and falls with the church, so that “a priority attaches neither to the church before the office, nor to the office before the church; rather the office has never existed without the church, as the church has never existed without the office” (Harnack, Die Kirche, ihr Amt, ihr Regiment, § 41).

c. The office must be distinguished from the general calling of Christians as a special call of the church, but not separated from it (“less than the least of all saints,” Ephesians 3:8); there is no specific difference, and the ministers of the church remain members of the body of Christ, just as the private Christian does; both belong together and are included in the organism of the church. Hence the communicative “we have” ( Ephesians 3:12). Here however is the distinction of the New Testament office, that it is not united with a class, family, or with definite persons, like that of the Old Testament. It is filled from among the “saints.”

d. In its nature the office is a διακονία ( Ephesians 3:7 : οὖ ἐγενόμην διάκονος), ministerium, not a lordship; the free inquiry of the individual member in private must not be abridged ( Ephesians 3:4). “For the Apostles did not receive a mandatum cum libera, i.e., an entirely free and unlimited authority and power, but a certain [i.e., definite] authority (Apology, xiv. § 18).

e. The gift of this office is God’s Word, and its task is the preaching of the same: “Gospel” ( Ephesians 3:6), “to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, to make all see what is the dispensation of the mystery” ( Ephesians 3:8-9); hence we must not preach our own words! So far it is juris Divini, belonging to the economy of salvation as a continuation of the apostolic ministry; not however of the ‘apostolate[FN31] with apostolic dignity and authority, for the Apostles as persons have no successors. For this office too we must distinguish the empirical establishment of church offices, which is a matter of ecclesiastical regulation and juris humani. [These principles are of great importance, but the trouble has been that “ecclesiastical regulation” exalted itself to such a degree as to assert for its creatures the jus Divinum.—R.]

f. The equipment for and in this office is the work of the Holy Ghost, who vouchsafes the “revelation” ( Ephesians 3:3), in whom the mystery is revealed ( Ephesians 3:5), who furnishes the necessary “knowledge” ( Ephesians 3:4).

g. Oral preaching and the Holy Scriptures belong together (“ye have heard,” Ephesians 3:2; “when ye read,” Ephesians 3:4) in the Apostle’s method, just as the congregation should hear and read, both in public and in private.

h. This office lays claim to the person of the minister, not merely to his strength and his time; the office is not conferred upon him just as he is; it does not make demands upon him merely when an official discharge of duty is concerned. Hence the Apostle says: “I became” ( Ephesians 3:7), “the grace to God which was given to me ( Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 3:7-8)” according to the working of his power ( Ephesians 3:7), so that he who is “less than the least” ( Ephesians 3:8) has still “boldness” and “access with confidence” ( Ephesians 3:12). [Comp. here the note of Eadie, p231, from Baxter’s Reformed Pastor.

3. As regards Revelation, Paul only declares, that it was actually the possession of himself and the Apostles ( Ephesians 3:3; Ephesians 3:5). We find moreover at the same time an expression of the necessity of revelation: “the mystery” would never have become “the gospel,” had the Apostles been wanting in that understanding and clearness necessary to preach and explain the mystery. Evidently the personal intercourse of the Apostles with the Lord was not sufficient for this purpose, they needed the revealing Spirit, just as Paul required the appearance of the Lord. Nothing is said respecting the mode of revelation in the Apostles, except that it did not consist in a single Acts, but in a continuous one, which could have its pauses and its ebbings, but never ceased entirely. In the church however, it is plainly stated ( Ephesians 3:6), the revelation respecting the “mystery” is mediated “through the gospel,” and is therefore joined with the words of the preached gospel.

4. Hence there results the duty of the private Christian, neither to absent himself from the common public service, so that he may hear, nor to neglect private closet worship, so as to read. Upon this is based the obligation of the church to circulate the Scriptures through the agency of Bible Societies, and the crime of the Roman pontiff in forbidding and hindering this.[FN32] “The old complaint continues still: sed nos non habemus aures, sicût Deus linguam (Stier).

5. The difference in the Holy Scriptures. Old and New Testament, are defined in Ephesians 3:5, very much according to the saying of Augustine; et in vetere novum latet, et in novo vetus patet. Both treat of the “mystery,” which is the purport of the gospel, as it was the subject of prophecy. The difference is only in clearness respecting this; the former lacks it, the latter possesses it. In the former the full universal idea of the gospel lies hidden, as, in a bud, in enigmatical visions and figures. The hope of the Old Testament prophets had not that clearness of understanding which belongs to the New Testament Apostles and congregations, but the intensity of the consciousness of salvation and of the sense of God’s mercy was not less then than afterwards, hence not less perfect in itself, only less distinct in form and expression; so that we may in the light of the gospel and the adult church understand the prophets of the Old Testament better than they did themselves, and yet be not more perfect than they. Hence we can only say with Jerome: aliud est in spiritu ventura cognoscere, aliud ea cernere opera completa, or with Calovius: distinguendum inter cognitionem generalem et specialem. The contrast of the Old and New Testament is not under discussion, as Harless remarks, but that bestowal of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, which introduced them into the entire already existing truth of redemption, and which was accordingly something actually different from the previous inspiration.

6. Carefully as the Apostle demands the reading of what he has written (ver4; “while reading,” etc.), he yet places it before them as a measure and norm (“in accordance with which”). The preached word, when written, became yet more objective and permanent, as a genuine expression of the truth, accomplished by the clarifying reflection of the collected spirit (comp. Petersen, Idee der Christlichen Kirche, 2, p 181 ff.). The propositions: it is true, because it is in the Scriptures, and it is in the Scriptures because it is true, supplement each other.

7. The Church is to be conceived of as a communion rising above the limits of time and of the history of humanity on the earth; it reaches into eternity. But it is also to be regarded as a sphere of the operations of God and of the revelation of His glory, which has a significance, not merely terrestrial but cosmical: a place of the revelation of the Lord, which is the high school of angels ( Ephesians 3:10); we are not indeed the professors at whose feet the angels must sit as scholars, but it is God who leads them onward in the knowledge of His wisdom; we are but the means of instruction. They attend the work of Redemption from the beginning: Matthew 1:20; Matthew 2:13; Matthew 2:19; Luke 1:11; Luke 1:26 ff.; Luke 2:9 ff. Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43; Matthew 28:2 ff. 1 Timothy 3:16.

8. Creation and Redemption stand in internal connection ( Ephesians 3:9); the former was not willed by God without the latter, and is arranged and ordered with reference to it.

9. The strength of the consciousness of sin ( Ephesians 3:8) is here intensified by means of the contrast with the high office; it is not conditioned by special and peculiar sin, but by his especially clear and profound self-knowledge in the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which it was his duty to preach. Harless: “Into the inmost depths of the soul each one sees only for himself; what he sees in himself, he does not see on others; what he sees there says to him, that sin dwells in him ( Romans 7:17) and that the wrath of God is upon him, and that now when God’s grace has saved him, he has nothing which he has not received ( 1 Corinthians 4:7); the hearts of others are searched not by him, but by God.” It cannot be affirmed, then, to be a constantly recurring phenomenon, that the most powerful witnesses to Christian truth have been led there through previous and great errors and wanderings; it is however true that such must have obtained a deeper knowledge and experience of corruption in their own hearts, passing through hard and humiliating struggles. Conversion in their case is no greater act of God’s grace than in that of others; they feel it as such, however, more vividly and overwhelmingly: Has the Lord helped me, then I know not whom He is unable and unwilling to help!

10. The ground-tone of the Christian is “boldness” ( Ephesians 3:12), which has a two-fold reference: 1) backwards to the accusing guilt and forwards to the exalted goal; 2) downwards to the threatening world and upwards to the Ever-Present One. In the first aspect this “boldness” is fearless and undoubting confidence, that sin is forgiven, its power broken, and its eradication assured, according to the promise; in the other it is the joyful assurance of the favor and nearness of God, which cannot be disturbed by circumstances the most adverse.—Hence with this “boldness” is joined “the access in confidence” to the throne of the Most High, in the prayer, certain of a hearing, to be preserved in grace and mercy, and to obtain help against the evil without us and the sin within us. [Or taking the other view of the passage, such “boldness and access” possessed “in confidence” so exalts, that he who suffers comforts those who sympathize; the sympathy of Christ not only rises above human sympathy in consoling power, but makes the sufferer able to remove in turn the reflected sorrow in the hearts of sympathizing friends.—R.]

11. Concerning faith it is only stated here, that it is the medium of the blessed condition of the child of God ( Ephesians 3:12 : “through our faith in Him”); it alone gives a courageous spirit, constancy and joyous confidence; without it “we have” none of these.


That is an elevating sight—a man who has overcome sorrow and compelled it to grant him joy, strength, comfort, as a star in the night joyously twinkles for the traveller. It is sad enough, when a Prayer of Manasseh, an heir of eternal life, a child of a Heavenly Father, permits himself to be overcome by sorrow and cast forth like a faded leaf from the tree, to be trodden under foot, instead of affording shade.—The cause of sorrow was to Paul a cause of joy: on account of the Gentiles, to whom he preached the gospel, he was persecuted, and this persecution turned out for their advantage.—Paul was like a sword in the contest against error and falsehood and godlessness; life was the workshop, God the Lord was the master, who formed it, but suffering was the anvil and hammer, by means of which it became solid and sharp; and that was good for the church.—That sufferer is right and sets God right before others, who is like a farmer, that knows the bright sky is ever behind the cloud of sorrow, and finds in streaming rain a blessing from above, and thus praises and thankfully accepts what city folks call “bad weather.”—See to it that you know what gifts are given to you and for what. For in this is the task which you have to do; are you uncertain whether others have rightly profited by you, still be certain of this, that you have done your duty.—Joy in the ministerial office must be greater than the sorrow over the injuries which accompany it. Your calling among men is a gift of God to you and you should be a blessing of God to others.—God does not bestow His gifts of grace perfect and complete out of heaven, as one hangs up a picture in his room; but He produces them in our lives, like a harvest, for while the field is prepared, the seed sown and harrowed in, and sunshine and rain, day and night are ordained.

The Scriptures lay claim to be heard on one matter alone. God’s everlasting mercy in Jesus Christ: Is that of importance to you, then the Bible is also: only there is this made clear to you.—About what is spiritual, Divine, eternal, you find no such information anywhere else, whether among the Greeks or the Germans or the English, as in the prophets and Apostles of Jesus Christ; they are greater than all the world’s philosophers and poets.—It is wonderful how the mystery of Christ, the theme of the symphony of the Holy Scriptures gradually passes from the faint twilight through the gray morning of the prophets to the bright day in the birth and death of Jesus Christ, and the church, like a Memnon-statue, give a clear note in the beams of the rising sun.—“In a few lines!” often enough a mere phrase. Not so here: the rich contents, the deep insight, the pleasure in the communication, the love to the Church—all these conspire to make what is written brief, all too brief. Here the preacher may learn: much matter, few words!—Hear in the congregation, read in the closet! Walk in the Spirit and search in the Scriptures! Shun not solitude, but seek God there! These are three exhortations and three rules for the growth of the inner man.—If you do not consider yourself worse than others, you have not yet known yourself or God.—You should not lose joy or power in your calling, when you recognize in humility your own insignificance, the office is ever greater than its incumbent and rather holds him than he it.—He who with the microscope of God’s word, honestly searches and knows his own heart and life, will have in the same word, a telescope to help his gaze toward the furthest heaven, the world of angels and the life eternal, in blissful gratitude.

Starke:—Papal Rome and what belongs thereto is as cruel as heathen Rome was, since it arrests and imprisons so many real Christians.—Let no one run into the important office of the preacher, unless God has sent him there.—Reason knows nothing of the mystery of Christ; it is a revelation from God.—God did not at once make known the secrets of His will in all their extent and present distinctness, but it pleased the Divine Wisdom to proceed therein gradually.—Each book of the Bible is like a jewel in a golden crown; Paul’s Epistles, however, have this excellence, that they lead more richly, powerfully and emphatically to Christ. Hence we must use them like daily bread for the nourishment of our souls. Happy are they who in such a perusal can say: the longer, the dearer!—The calling of the Gentiles remains full of mysteries, for thus God has shown His grace, power and truth.—Why should he who is endowed with office and gifts in Christ’s Church exalt himself? He is what he Isaiah, and has what he has, not of merit, but all of grace.—The gospel has to do with the unsearchable riches of Christ: away with all else from the pulpit, such as mere human science, pleasant stories, fables, etc.—Learn also, O my soul, with the angels the manifold wisdom of God; learn it in the church, and watch how wonderfully God has gathered, called, upheld and protected it; learn it in thyself, and notice how wondrously He has led thee through this world.—Those teachers should be ashamed who attempt to force from the flock with knocks and scoldings, what would be so much better gained by more winning ways, by requests and entreaties.—When faithful shepherds have weak and timid sheep they must strengthen them with the consolations of the word of God and thus instil courage,—The tribulations of its teachers are no disgrace to the Church, but honor and glorious strengthening. For the power of the Spirit and of the truth manifests itself most gloriously, when on this account one is willing to suffer also.

Rieger:—The chain and the soldier, with which and to whom Paul was bound made him the prisoner of the Emperor, but the willingness of spirit with which these bonds were borne was from Jesus Christ; hence he was “the prisoner of Christ Jesus,” who also was near him and had an oversight of all that occurred to him. To know and make known God in His unsearchable love is more than to investigate all the works of His hands.—God will not give up His right as Creator, His purpose, which he had in the foundation of the world, with respect to the Kingdom of His Song of Solomon, but through Redemption will save the Creation, and restore it to its original goodness.—How greatly is the manifold wisdom of God made known through the Church, in the gathering of it from all tribes and tongues, in the adorning of it with so many and varied gifts, in overruling all events for its good, in enduring so many tares, in the unfailing fulfilment of all the declarations of God.

Heubner:—Every one has a criterion of his Christian knowledge, in his proper perception of the purpose of God in Christ and the indispensableness of Christ. In our day this is often willingly changed. Many would make of Christianity, something local, temporal, and thus degrade it.—Christ is inexhaustible for mind and heart; we find all in Him. If we would speak of Him, the theme is never exhausted. Let us never make of this rich Christ a poor one!—What Christ has instituted must truly be something transcendent, and not so common that every intellect can discover it; else the angels would not be able to look into it and be satisfied therewith.

Passavant:—Paul will not speak or teach from his own wisdom or his own inspirations; he will not give or recommend any thing, that is from his own thought or mind or will; at this he trembles, against this his whole conduct and life in the service of his Lord speaks. Nor will he speak a single word of any wise or learned one of this world, any birth or abortion of their little brain and great conceit; as little will he borrow from their idle word.—Divinely great was the light, which appeared, on so many pages of the Psalm and Prophets, respecting the calling of the Gentiles; yet even to the Old Testament seers themselves this, like many other things in the future universal economy of salvation, remained largely in the dark; much both in general and in particular was still concealed. Still less than they, did the people to whom they prophesied, perceive this mystery. Besides this, up to the times of Christ and afterwards, the view of most of them was disturbed by their inborn enmity and profound contempt for the Gentiles.—Among these “holy Apostles and prophets” none seem to have viewed the mystery of Christ with so clear, profound and quick a glance as did the Apostle Paul—The great Apostle knows nothing save grace, will know nothing save grace.—The richer my life, my experience, my knowledge of grace, the richer the gifts, the joys, the richer my eternity, the nearer to the eternal building of God, so much the less can I understand it all, so much more deep and unfathomable are these depths.—“The highest of sciences is Christianity!” says a friend of God; “little as Christians devote their attention and study to it! the highest, most enlightened of the angels have made it their study, and learn from it to perceive God in a manner worthy of Him; and those, for whom such a master-piece is wrought, do not know it nor deem it worth their knowledge.” Others, on the contrary, search therein in an ungodly spirit alone, their wit will guess everything, their intellect explain all, even arrange all; will blame and criticise, will approve and deny, will break up and break off,—and the powers on high in eternal light wait patiently, until light and knowledge comes to them respecting these things.

Stier:—The bonds themselves preach to the Gentiles; they reveal even to the Apostle himself something new.—The reading for one’s self is pre-supposed and recommended in the case of each individual.—Missions are the continued, God-given, gracious and spiritual life of the church, her impulse of growth. They Revelation -act as powerfully, widely and thoroughly as the preaching of the gospel on the church of the baptized, since from them we first learned the idea of the Inner Mission, or as the English say still more beautifully: Home Missions.

Ziel (on Ephesians 3:8-21):—The Apostle Paul was a rich man in his prison: 1. Rich in the unsearchable riches of Christ, to the proclamation of which the grace of God had called him ( Ephesians 3:8-12); 2. Rich in his fervent love to the brethren, which revealed itself in his supplication for them ( Ephesians 3:13-19); 3. Rich in his unswerving confidence in God, who can do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think, and with whose praise he is full ( Ephesians 3:20-21).


Ephesians 3:8. The riches of Christ are the true wealth of men and nations. And those riches are unsearchable. Even the value of the portion already possessed cannot be told by any symbols of numeration, for such riches can have no adequate exponent or representative. The latest periods of time shall find those riches unimpaired, and eternity shall behold the same wealth neither worn by use nor dimmed by age, nor yet diminished by the myriads of its happy participants.

Ephesians 3:9. If we gaze upon a landscape as the rising sun strikes successive points and brings them into view in every variety of tint and shade, both subjective and objective illumination is enjoyed. No wonder that in so many languages light is the emblem of knowledge.—At the fittest time, not prematurely, but with leisurely exactness, were created both the human materials on which redemption was to work that peculiar and varied mechanism by which its designs were to be accomplished.

Ephesians 3:10. In the proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles, with its strange preparations, various agencies and stupendous effects—involving the origination and extinction of Judaism, the incarnation and the atonement, the manger and the cross, the spread of the Greek language and the triumph of the Roman arms—“these principalities and powers in heavenly places” beheld with rapture other and brighter phases of a wisdom which had often dazzled them by its brilliant and profuse versatility, and surprised and entranced them by the infinite fulness of the love which prompts it, and of the power which itself directs and controls.

Ephesians 3:11. In all this procedure, which reveals to princedoms and powers God’s manifold Wisdom of Solomon, the Divine eternal plan is consistently and systematically developed in Christ.—R.]

[Hodge:—“Through faith of him.” How may I come to God with the assurance of acceptance? The answer given by the Apostle, and confirmed by the experience of the saints of all ages, Isaiah, ‘By faith in Jesus Christ.’ It is because men rely on some other means of access, either bringing some worthless bribe in their hands, or trusting to some other mediator, priestly or saintly, that so many fail who seek to enter God’s presence.—R.]

[Schenkel:—It is a grace to be able to suffer for the sake of the kingdom of God and the advantage of our brethren: for thus to suffer is a blessing1) for one’s own heart, 2) for the church.—The glory of the Apostolic office: 1. As to its ground, resting on Revelation 2. As to its end, to effect a knowledge of the mystery of God.—The preaching of the gospel: 1) As to its purport, it is about the unsearchable riches of Christ; 2) As to its end, the enlightening of a darkened world.—The Christian Church, the bond which links heaven with earth.—R.]


FN#1 - Ephesians 3:1.—[ Ἰησοῦ is omitted in א1 D1 F.; it is bracketted by Alford. The order in A. B. C. D23 K. L. is Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, so the corrector in א. For the inverted order of the E. V, there is no authority.—R.]

FN#2 - Ephesians 3:3.—א. A. B. C. D. and others [many cursives, most versions, including the Syriac and Vulgate] read ἐγνωρίσθη; the internal grounds (Stier notices the agreement with Ephesians 1:9, the distinct reference to the Trinity, the great probability of an alteration from Ephesians 3:5) are not stronger than the external. [The reading of the Rec. (ἐγνώρισε) supported by D.³ K. L, and some minor authorities, is considered an explanatory gloss by most modern editors.—R.]

FN#3 - Ephesians 3:4.—[This verse must be thus recast to conform to the exegesis of Dr. Braune, which agrees exactly with that of Ellicott, Alford and others.—R.]

FN#4 - Ephesians 3:5.—[The preposition ἐν is an explanatory interpolation, having no uncial support, rejected by all modern editors.—R.]

FN#5 - Ephesians 3:5.—[The Greek aorist is joined with νῦν, but in English we cannot say: as it was now revealed. Since now is emphatic, we must adopt the English perfect, as indeed is frequently necessary.—R.]

FN#6 - Ephesians 3:6.—[The Rec. inserts αὐτοῦ. It is rejected by most modern editors, since the more important MSS. (א. A. B. C. D.¹) with a number of minor authorities are against it.—On are instead of should be, see Exeg. Notes. The words fellow-heirs, fellow-members, fellow-partakers, are analogous to the unusual Greek compounds, seemingly coined by the Apostle. Tischendorf (on the authority of some of the best MSS, (א. A. B.¹ and others in the various instances) adopts the forms: συ ν κληρ., σύ ν σω., συ ν μέτ., instead of the more euphonic and usual forms. So Ellicott.—R.]

FN#7 - Ephesians 3:6.—[Modern editors generally accept Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ (א. A. B. C, cursives and versions) instead of τῷ Χριστῷ (Rec., D. E. F. G. K. L.; most cursives)—R.]

FN#8 - Ephesians 3:7.—The reading ἐγενήθην is found in א. A. B. D1 F. G. and others; ἐγενόμην [Rec., C. D3 K. L.] being the more usual form, was likely to creep in.

FN#9 - Ephesians 3:7.—[The Rec. has: τὴν δοθεῖσαν, on the authority of D3 K. L, most cursives, many versions and fathers; adopted by Tischendorf, Meyer, Braune. The genitive:τῆς δοθεῖσης is found in א. A. B. C. D1 F. G, 10 cursives and a few versions; adopted by Lachmann, Rückert, Alford, Ellicott and most later critics. The latter is better sustained; the presence of the genitive in Ephesians 3:2 casts a doubt on it, but to my mind not sufficient to warrant adopting the accusative.—The longer form substituted above brings out better the connection between given and what follows.—R.]

FN#10 - Ephesians 3:8.—[Rec. inserts ἐν before τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, on the authority of D. F. K. L, most cursives, versions and fathers; retained by Ellicott and Eadie. The suspicion of an alteration from Galatians 1:16 (a parallel passage) is very great, and as its omission, supported by א. A. B. C, presents a lectio difficilior, it is rejected by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Meyer, Alford, Braune and others.—The Rec. also inserts τῶν after πάντων against all our manuscript authority.—The rendering: to preach is more literal, conforms better with the sense of the aorist: was given, as well as with the infinite construction retained in Ephesians 3:9.—R.]

FN#11 - Ephesians 3:9.—[The reading κοινωνία (Rec.) instead of οἰκονομία (א. A. B. C. D. F. K. L.) is an explanatory gloss, supported by no important authority and rejected by all critical editors.—ΙΙάντας is omitted in A. א.1 (afterwards added). Men need not be supplied, since the personal reference is not marked—א. (with a few minor authorities) omits ἐν after τῷ θεῷ.—R.]

FN#12 - Ephesians 3:9.—[The longer reading of the Rec. is supported by D.³ K. L, a number of cursives, and a few fathers; διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ is omitted in א. A. B. C. D.¹ F. G, a few cursives, the best versions and many fathers. It is therefore rightly rejected by critical editors.—R.]

FN#13 - Ephesians 3:12.—[The second τήν is omitted in א. A. B. (rejected by Lachmann, Rückert, bracketted by Alford); but nearly all cursives and fathers support it, together with א.3 C. D. F. G. K. L. (though with some variations in position); accepted by Tischendorf, Meyer, Ellicott and most.—R.]

FN#14 - Ephesians 3:12.—[This emendation gives the correct sense better than the literal but harsh and equivocal rendering of the E. V.—R.]

FN#15 - Ephesians 3:13.—[Dr. Braune’s exegesis requires the following rendering: Wherefore I pray (God) that (I) faint not,” etc. See Exeg. Notes.—The Rec. has ἐκκακεῖν, with C. D3 F. K. L. Ellicott (with A. B1 D1 E.) ἐνκακεῖν. while most editors accept the form ἐγκακεῖν (א. B2). Comp. my Textual Notes on Galatians 6:9. Meyer does not accept the view that the first named is a doubtful word, but thinks it was in oral use and first introduced into writing by Paul; the other reading being an attempt at improvement. He is almost alone in this opinion.—R.]

FN#16 - According to the usual view, Ephesians 3:14 is a resumption of Ephesians 3:1, all that intervenes being a digression. Dr. Braune takes another view of the construction (see his note at the close of Ephesians 3:1), but is forced to accept a connection of thought which amounts to the same thing.—R.]

FN#17 - Χριστοῦ standing first perhaps implies that it was the Messiahship of Jesus which caused his imprisonment (Alford).—R.]

FN#18 - It was indeed the fact that he was a prisoner on account of the Gentiles, out this is not the prominent thought here. Hence Eadie may or may not he correct in saying: “In writing to the Ephesians he could not forget that the suspicion of his having taken an Ephesian named Trophimus into the temple with him, created the popular disturbance that led to his capture and his final appeal to Cæsar, his journey to Rome, and his imprisonment in the imperial city.”—R.]

FN#19 - This seems to be one of those cases where the Greek aorist is properly rendered by the English perfect.—R.]

FN#20 - Alford refers it to Ephesians 1:9 ff, Eadie to Ephesians 2:13-22; Hodge and Ellicott accept the wider reference. The last author refers καθώς to the fact that the mystery was made known to the Apostle, not to the manner in which it was made known, but Braune’s view seems preferable.—R.]

FN#21 - The aorist infinitive, according to Donaldson (Grammar, § 427, 8) “describes a single act either as the completion or as the commencement of a continuity.” Hence Alford says that here “the act is regarded as one of a series, each of which, when it occurs, is sudden and transitory.” Comp. Ellicott in loco, who does not press the aorist here; and Winer, p313, where the idiomatic use of the aorist infinitive after δύναμαι is mentioned. The view of Braune is in any case allowable.—R.]

FN#22 - So Alford, Ellicott and others. Eadie prefers to take the genitive as one of the object, but Braune does Song of Solomon, and yet reaches Meyer’s explanation. In any case “the mystery” here refers to the whole wonderful scheme or purpose of Redemption in Christ, of which He is Himself the centre. See note on Ephesians 3:3.—R.]

FN#23 - This is a mistake borrowed from De Wette. See Alford in loco. This view of the connection is that of Koppe and Holzhausen. It is admissible enough grammatically, but why define “prophets” by so self-evident a qualification, or distinguish them thus from “apostles;” for the adjective “holy” must then be limited to the latter term.—That the two terms “apostles” and “prophets” refer to the same persons can scarcely be accepted; see on Ephesians 2:20.—R.]

FN#24 - According to Buttmann (Lexic. under the word διάκτορος) this word is derived from διάκω. or διήκω, to hasten. The Ionic form is διήκονος, and the α is long, hence it is not a compound with διά. Ellicott refers to Beufey, Wurzellexicon for remoter difficulties.—R.]

FN#25 - Alford: “Not merely externally to teach, referred to his work—but internally to enlighten the hearers, referred to their apprehension” Hodge takes the verb as equivalent to “teach;” Eadie is much better.—R.]

FN#26 - The correct reading takes away the only support which this view could have from text or context.—R.]

FN#27 - A reference to both classes is excluded “not so much by ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις, as by the general tenor of the passage; evil angels more naturally recognize the power, good angels the wisdom of God” (Ellicott).—R.]

FN#28 - Alford supports the sense: “constituted,” urging that Paul would have used a more definite verb to express the idea of executing the purpose, and further that the aorist seems to point back to a definite act of origination, while the perfect would better express the continued execution. The latter remark has some force, but does not outweigh the arguments supporting the other sense: (1) That the name of “Jesus,” the historical Saviour, follows immediately; (2) that the next verse is an explanatory confirmation of the accomplished, not the purposed design (Meyer). It may be added that this meaning is more common in the New Testament ( Ephesians 2:3; Matthew 21:31; John 6:38; 1 Thessalonians 5:24 and I elsewhere) than the other, which occurs only in Mark 15:1; Revelation 17:17 (not Acts 17:17, as Braune has it in the German, repeating a typographical error, which has been allowed to remain in several editions of Meyer). Notwithstanding Winer’s distinction, in neither case do we find the middle. Ellicott properly renders the verb: wrought, instead of using the too definite “fulfilled.” In support of Braune’s view, the following names may be mentioned: Theodoret, Grotius, Olshausen, De Wette, Meyer, Conybeare, Ellicott, Hodge, Eadie.—R.]

FN#29 - Dr. Braune there refers to the mistaken conception of the term arising from one of those etymological jumbles so common in all languages. The sense is Freimüthigkeit; Luther however rendered it Freydigkeit, Freidigkeit (derived from frei, free). This was soon confounded with Freudigkeit freudig, joyful); a sense which has influenced English commentators as well. The joyous element is present indeed, but not so prominent as this mistake has made it.—R.]

FN#30 - Ellicott clings to the transitive meaning here also, though admitting some uncertainty in regard to it. The union with “boldness” requires the transitive sense. “We may confidently say, that so important an objective truth as our introduction to God by Christ would never have been thus coupled to a mere subjective quality in ourselves” (Alford). Still it is not so purely subjective as “boldness.”—R.]

FN#31 - Hodge: “You could no more appoint a man an Apostle, than you could appoint him a saint. Neither inspiration nor holiness come by appointment. An Apostle without inspiration is as much a solecism as a saint without holiness. Rome, here as everywhere, retains the semblance without the reality, the form without the power. She has Apostles without inspiration, the office without the grace of which the office was but the expression. Thus she feeds herself and her children upon ashes.”—R.]

FN#32 - Bayne (from Eadie) on Ephesians 3:4 : “Here he confuteth the papists, on account of their cursed practice in taking away the key of knowledge—the reading of the Scriptures; in which fact they are like the Philistines, putting out the eyes of Samson, and taking away the smiths, not leaving a weapon in Israel.”—R.]

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible



"For this cause" -- because of the marvelous greatness of the work God had accomplished for and in His saints -- Paul preached "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (v.8). He was the prisoner, not of Rome, but of Jesus Christ. Men sought to confine him and his ministry, but the Lord Jesus used even his imprisonment for good . Thus he was a prisoner "for you Gentiles," for it was Jewish antagonism against his going to the Gentiles that led to his imprisonment.

"The dispensation of the grace of God" (v.2) is God's special way of dealing with mankind at the present time. It is in contrast to the administration of law in the Old Testament. It began with the Lord Jesus manifested among men, He whose blessed death and resurrection gives the purest, fullest character to the abounding grace of God. This dispensation has lasted almost 2000 years, and will continue until the coming of the Lord Jesus for His Church at the Rapture. No other dispensation has lasted this long, and even the Millennium will be only 1000 years. The truth of this dispensation was given to the Apostle Paul particularly for Gentiles (Ephesians 3:1-11), though Jews are not excluded for Paul himself was a Jew.

God made known the mystery of this dispensation by special revelation to Paul. His knowledge then was not from keen human discernment but directly as a result of a revelation from God. Verse 5 shows why the Church dispensation was called a mystery. In earlier ages this truth concerning the Church was not revealed. Therefore it was a mystery, not Mystical but unknown in Old Testament times. In the Old Testament there were various types (or pictures) of the Church as the bride of Christ or as the building of God or as the priestly company, and others too, although not at that time understood as pictures of the Church. However, not one type of the truth of the one body is seen in the Old Testament. Jews and Gentiles are always separated there as distinct groups. Only now is it revealed that "in Christ" the Gentiles are fellowheirs and of the same body as Jewish believers and fellow-partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel. Such unity of Jews and Gentiles is totally new, and when revealed it was strongly resisted by the Jews who had zealously maintained a strong line of demarcation between themselves and Gentile "dogs" as they were considered.

How appropriate it is that the chief messenger of this was himself Jewish, one who had to be laid hold of by God in a compelling way. Paul is emphatically "minister" (not simply a minister) of these great truths (Colossians 1:24-25. JND), not by natural ability, but by the gift of the grace of God. This gift required the effective working of God's power, the same power spoken of in chapter 1:19 in connection with the resurrection of Christ.

Paul insists that God's choice of him was not because of his worth but because of his insignificance, so that attention should not be drawn to the vessel but to the unsearchable riches of Christ (v.8). He never forgot that the pure grace of God had lifted him out of a proud, rebellious state (1 Timothy 1:12-14) to use him to proclaim such -- riches of grace among the Gentiles.

Paul's object in preaching was to enlighten everyone as to these truths which had been in the past "hidden in God" (v.9). It was not even hidden in scripture, but totally unrevealed. Such a matter is worthy of the supreme majesty of Him who created all things by Jesus Christ. God reserved such a revelation until Christ came, suffered and died, was raised and returned to heaven. Only in this way could a Man in glory be Head of His body, the Church, and then use a weak, dependent vessel to declare this mystery, the more effectively to magnify the great glory of the revelation.

Verse 10 shows an even higher object than that of enlightening people, for "principalities and powers in heavenly places" -- angelic beings -- are seen to be vitally interested in this unique dispensation of God. In the Assembly they observe the all-various wisdom of God, wisdom infinitely higher than could have been imagined by any creature. For in the Church they see unity established by God among a redeemed people, comparatively small in number and scattered throughout all nations. National, racial, social and cultural barriers have all been done away between them, though these exist as positively as ever in their respective nations. So the Church (the Assembly) is a unique people gathered out of all nations and made one in Christ Jesus. Marvelous triumph of the wisdom, grace and power of God!

This Assembly was not a thought conceived by God after nations appeared on earth. It was in God's eternal purpose, purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord from eternity past (v.11). Just as individuals in the Assembly where chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (ch.1:4), so the Assembly itself was in the purposes of God from eternity. This to us is totally inconceivable, but faith gladly accepts it and adores Him. Further, it encourages the confidence of bold, unquestioning faith to enter into the blessedness of all this revelation. Though it is marvelously wonderful, yet it is to be understood, valued and enjoyed by every Christian.

In comparison to the wonder and greatness of such a revelation, Paul considered his many tribulations as nothing. The Ephesians were not to be discouraged because he was in prison for their sake, because thus he could declare such riches to the Gentiles. Rather they were to glory in the fact that such suffering was well worthwhile when borne for so glorious a cause.



"For this reason" (v.14) involves both the marvel of the revelation given to Paul and his willing suffering for it. These two things move him to bow his knees in intercessory prayer for the Ephesians and by implication for all the saints of God. In contrast to chapter 1:17, this prayer is addressed to "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" rather than to "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ." Christ is therefore seen here as the Son of the Father, His deity emphasized rather than His humanity. Also, the prayer is not for their knowledge (as in chapter 1), but for the proper spiritual state of their souls.

Verse 15 is rightly "every family" (JND), for in the wise counsels of God the Father, there are various families in which this grace will be displayed in the millennial age. In heaven will be the bride (the Church) as well as Old Testament saints and also the martyrs from the tribulation (Revelation 20:4). On earth will be Israel in a distinct place of glory and believing Gentile nations who have come out of the Great tribulation and are given earthly blessing in the Millennium (Revelation 7:9-17). All these are distinct families of God, with which God has had, or will have, special dealings.

If we have known "the riches of His glory" then this is to have some present real effect, for it is according to these riches that Paul entreats the Father to strengthen His saints with might through His Spirit in the inner man (v.16). Proper objects have wonderful effects on our innermost being. This mighlt is living, spiritual strength, miraculously higher than what appears to be strength in mere human estimation.

In 2 Corinthians 13:5 it is plain that Christ is in all believers, but here in Ephesians 3:17 it is the practical experiencing of this for which the apostle prays - the precious sense of His abiding presence in each believer.

We are not to be rooted and grounded simply in knowledge, but in love, that principle of genuine concern for the blessing of its objects. Love is not to be simply a surface matter, but with roots reaching into the inmost being. "Grounded" would infer that love is solidly based on what does not give way -- the truth of God's Word.

In verse 18, to comprehend or apprehend is not merely to know about something, but to apply it in experience to the heart. Although the apostle speaks of love in verse 17, verse 18 is not confined to love, but embraces all the counsels of God in which His great love is manifested. Therefore, to apprehend the width is to take in, in some measure, the truth of God that is infinite, unlimited in its scope. More than this, the length of God's revelation is eternal, a matter too that staggers our imagination. The depth also is greater than we can imagine, for this is measured only by the depths of the suffering and anguish the Lord Jesus endured on the cross, therefore immeasurable so far as we are concerned. The height of such a revelation is seen in the present exaltation of the Lord Jesus above all heavens and in the blessing with which He has blessed His saints in Himself, so great as to be unsearchable.

Yet in all these things we are privileged to know the love of Christ, not merely intellectually, but in living power and reality. One may breathe deeply of the pure atmosphere of fresh mountain air, yet that breath is immeasurably short of using all the air available. One may drink deeply of a never failing fountain, its supply immeasurably beyond the capacity of the drinker. How precious indeed in such a way to "be filled with all the fullness of God!" (v.19). Whatever our capacity, we have no right- reason not to be filled at all times. Let us make a habit of daily living in this refreshing atmosphere.

In such experiences of the fullness of God we shall learn God's great ability to more than meet every need. He not only gives as we ask or think, but above all of this, and greater still, "abundantly above all, and yet greater, "exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" (v.20). Nor is He speaking only of power that works for us, but power which works in us. This power is certainly to be realized and enjoyed in present experience, though the full blessedness of it will require eternity for its display.

This display of glory will be seen in the Assembly collectively, not only in the millennial age when all things are first gathered under the Headship of Christ, but "to all generations forever and ever" (v.21). For Paul is speaking here of that which is based on the very nature of God and therefore eternal, rather than of God's dispensational, administrative counsels. "Forever and ever" may be translated, "to the age of ages." That eternal age outlasts all passing ages.

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Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. 1897-1910.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Apostle's Sufferings Paul's Appointment as an Apostle Paul's Labours as an Apostle. A. D. 61.

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 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 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 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. 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 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: 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, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: 12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. 13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

Here we have the account which Paul gives the Ephesians concerning himself, as he was appointed by God the apostle of the Gentiles.

I. We may observe that he acquaints them with the tribulations and sufferings which he endured in the discharge of that office, Ephesians 3:1. The first clause refers to the preceding chapter, and may be understood either of these two ways:-- 1. "For this cause,--for having preached the doctrine contained in the foregoing chapter, and for asserting that the great privileges of the gospel belong not only to the Jews, but to believing Gentiles also, though they are not circumcised,--for this I am now a prisoner, but a prisoner of Jesus Christ, as I suffer in his cause and for his sake, and continue his faithful servant and the object of his special protection and care, while I am thus suffering for him." Observe, Christ's servants, if they come to be prisoners, are his prisoners and he despises not his prisoners. He thinks never the worse of them for the bad character which the world gives them or the evil treatment that they met with in it. Paul adhered to Christ, and Christ owned him, when he was in prison.--For you, Gentiles the Jews persecuted and imprisoned him because he was the apostle of the Gentiles, and preached the gospel to them. We may learn hence that the faithful ministers of Christ are to dispense his sacred truths, however disagreeable they may be to some, and whatever they themselves may suffer for doing so. Or, 2. The words may be thus understood:--"For this cause,--since you are no more strangers and foreigners (as Ephesians 2:19), but are united to Christ, and admitted into communion with his church,--I Paul, who am the prisoner of Jesus Christ, pray that you may be enabled to act as becomes persons thus favoured by God, and made partakers of such privileges." To this purport you find him expressing himself in Ephesians 3:14, where, after the digression contained in the several verses intervening, he proceeds with what he began in the Ephesians 3:1. Observe, Those who have received grace and signal favours from God stand in need of prayer, that they may improve and advance, and continue to act as becomes them. And, seeing Paul while he was a prisoner employed himself in such prayers to God in behalf of the Ephesians, we should learn that no particular sufferings of our own should make us so solicitous about ourselves as to neglect the cases of others in our supplications and addresses to God. He speaks again of his sufferings: Wherefore I desire that you faint not at my tribulation for you, which is your glory, Ephesians 3:13. While he was in prison, he suffered much there and, though it was upon their account that he suffered, yet he would not have them discouraged nor dismayed at this, seeing God had done such great things for them by his ministry. What a tender concern was here for these Ephesians! The apostle seems to have been more solicitous lest they should be discouraged and faint upon his tribulations than about what he himself endured and, to prevent this, he tells them that his sufferings were their glory, and would be so far from being a real discouragement, if they duly considered the matter, that they ministered cause to them for glorying and for rejoicing, as this discovered the great esteem and regard which God bore to them, in that he not only sent his apostles to preach the gospel to them, but even to suffer for them, and to confirm the truths they delivered by the persecutions they underwent. Observe, Not only the faithful ministers of Christ themselves, but their people too, have some special cause for joy and glorying, when they suffer for the sake of dispensing the gospel.

II. The apostle informs them of God's appointing him to the office, and eminently fitting and qualifying him for it, by a special revelation that he made unto him. 1. God appointed him to the office: If you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me to you-ward, Ephesians 3:2. They could not have heard of this, and therefore he does not design to speak doubtfully of this matter. Eige is sometimes an affirmative particle, and we may read it, Since you have heard, &c. He styles the gospel the grace of God here (as in other places) because it is the gift of divine grace to sinful men and all the gracious overtures that it makes, and the joyful tidings that it contains, proceed from the rich grace of God and it is also the great instrument in the hands of the Spirit by which God works grace in the souls of men. He speaks of the dispensation of this grace given to him he means as he was authorized and commissioned by God to dispense the doctrine of the gospel, which commission and authority were given to him chiefly for he service of the Gentiles: to you-ward. And again, speaking of the gospel, he says, Whereof I was made a minister, &c., Ephesians 3:7. Here he again asserts his authority. He was MADE a minister--he did not make himself such he took not to himself that honour--and he was made such according to the gift of the grace of God unto him. God supplied and furnished him for his work and in the performance of it suitably assisted him with all needful gifts and graces, both ordinary and extraordinary, and that by the effectual working of his power, in himself more especially, and also in great numbers of those to whom he preached, by which means his labours among them were successful. Observe, What God calls men to he fits them for, and does it with an almighty power. An effectual working of divine power attends the gifts of divine grace. 2. As God appointed him to the office, so he eminently qualified him for it, by a special revelation that he made unto him. He makes mention both of the mystery that was revealed and of the revelation of it. (1.) The mystery revealed is that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ, by the gospel (Ephesians 3:6) that is, that they should be joint-heirs with the believing Jews of the heavenly inheritance and that they should be members of the same mystical body, be received into the church of Christ, and be interested in the gospel-promises, as well as the Jews, and particularly in that great promise of the Spirit. And this in Christ, being united to Christ, in whom all the promises are yea and amen and by the gospel, that is, in the times of the gospel, as some understand it or, by the gospel preached to them, which is the great instrument and means by which God works faith in Christ, as others. This was the great truth revealed to the apostles, namely, that God would call the Gentiles to salvation by faith in Christ, and that without the works of the law. (2.) Of the revelation of this truth he speaks, Ephesians 3:3-5. Here we may observe that the coalition of Jews and Gentiles in the gospel church was a mystery, a great mystery, what was designed in the counsel of God before all worlds, but what could not be fully understood for many ages, till the accomplishment expounded the prophecies of it. It is called a mystery because the several circumstances and peculiarities of it (such as the time and manner and means by which it should be effected) were concealed and kept secret in God's own breast, till be an immediate revelation he made them known to his servant. See Acts 26:16-18. And it is called the mystery of Christ because it was revealed by him (Galatians 1:12), and because it relates so very much to him. Of this the apostle has given some hints afore, or a little before that is, in the preceding chapters. Whereby, when you read or, as those words may be read, unto which attending (and it is not enough for us barely to read the scriptures, unless we attend to them, and seriously consider and lay to heart what we read), you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ so as to perceive how God had fitted and qualified him to be an apostle to the Gentiles, which might be to them an evident token of his divine authority. This mystery, he says, 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 (Ephesians 3:5) that is, "It was not so fully and clearly discovered in the ages before Christ as it is now revealed unto the prophets of this age, the prophets of the New Testament, who are immediately inspired and taught by the Spirit." Let us observe, that the conversion of the Gentile world to the faith of Christ was an adorable mystery, and we ought to bless God for it. Who would have imagined that those who had been so long in the dark, and at so great a distance, would be enlightened with the marvellous light, and be made nigh? Let us learn hence not to despair of the worst, of the worst of persons, and the worst of nations. Nothing is too hard for divine grace to do: none so unworthy but God may please to confer great grace upon them. And how much are we ourselves interested in this affair not only as we live in a time in which the mystery is revealed, but particularly as we are a part of the nations which in times past were foreigners and strangers, and lived in gross idolatry but are now enlightened with the everlasting gospel, and partake of its promises!

III. The apostle informs them how he was employed in this office, and that with respect to the Gentiles, and to all men.

1. With respect to the Gentiles, he preached to them the unsearchable riches of Christ, Ephesians 3:8. Observe, in this verse, how humbly he speaks of himself, and how highly he speaks of Jesus Christ. (1.) How humbly he speaks of himself: I am less than the least of all saints. St. Paul, who was the chief of the apostles, calls himself less than the least of all saints: he means on account of his having been formerly a persecutor of the followers of Christ. He was, in his own esteem, as little as could be. What can be less than the least? To speak himself as little as could be, he speaks himself less than could be. Observe, Those whom God advances to honourable employments he humbles and makes low in their own eyes and, where God gives grace to be humble, there he gives all other grace. You may also observe in what a different manner the apostle speaks of himself and of his office. While he magnifies his office, he debases himself. Observe, A faithful minister of Christ may be very humble, and think very meanly of himself, even when he thinks and speaks very highly and honourably of his sacred function. (2.) How highly he speaks of Jesus Christ: The unsearchable riches of Christ. There is a mighty treasury of mercy, grace, and love, laid up in Christ Jesus, and that both for Jews and Gentiles. Or, the riches of the gospel are here spoken of as the riches of Christ: the riches which Christ purchased for, and bestows upon, all believers. And they are unsearchable riches, which we cannot find the bottom of, which human sagacity could never have discovered, and men could no otherwise attain to the knowledge of them but by revelation. Now it was the apostle's business and employment to preach these unsearchable riches of Christ among the Gentiles: and it was a favour he greatly valued, and looked upon it as an unspeakable honour to him: "Unto me is this grace given this special favour God has granted to such an unworthy creature as I am." And it is an unspeakable favour to the Gentile world that to them the unsearchable riches of Christ are preached. Though many remain poor, and are not enriched with these riches, yet it is a favour to have them preached among us, to have an offer of them made to us and, if we are not enriched with them, it is our own fault.

2. With respect to all men, Ephesians 3:9. His business and employment were to make all men see (to publish and make known to the whole world) what is the fellowship of the mystery (that the Gentiles who have hitherto been strangers to the church, shall be admitted into communion with it) which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God (kept secret in his purpose), who created all things by Jesus Christ: as John 1:3, All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made and therefore no wonder that he saves the Gentiles as well as the Jews for he is the common Creator of them both: and we may conclude that he is able to perform the work of their redemption, seeing he was able to accomplish the great work of creation. It is true that both the first creation, when God made all things out of nothing, and the new creation, whereby sinners are made new creatures by converting grace, are of God by Jesus Christ. The apostle adds, To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known, by the church, the manifold wisdom of God, Ephesians 3:10. This was one things, among others, which God had in his eye in revealing this mystery, that the good angels, who have a pre-eminence in governing the kingdoms and principalities of the world, and who are endued with great power to execute the will of God on this earth (though their ordinary residence is in heaven) may be informed, from what passes in the church and is done in and by it, of the manifold wisdom of God that is, of the great variety with which God wisely dispenses things, or of his wisdom manifested in the many ways and methods he takes in ordering his church in the several ages of it, and especially in receiving the Gentiles into it. The holy angels, who look into the mystery of our redemption by Christ, could not but take notice of this branch of that mystery, that among the Gentiles is preached the unsearchable riches of Christ. And this is according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord, Ephesians 3:11. Some translate the words kata prothesin ton aionon thus According to the fore-disposing of the ages which he made, &c. So Dr. Whitby, &c. "In the first of the ages," says this author, "his wisdom seeing fit to give the promise of a Saviour to a fallen Adam: in the second age to typify and represent him to the Jews in sacred persons, rites, and sacrifices: and in the age of the Messiah, or the last age, to reveal him to the Jews, and preach him to the Gentiles." Others understand it, according to our translation, of the eternal purpose which God purposed to execute in and through Jesus Christ, the whole of what he has done in the great affair of man's redemption being in pursuance of his eternal decree about that matter. The apostle, having mentioned our Lord Jesus Christ, subjoins concerning him, In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him (Ephesians 3:12) that is, "By (or through) whom we have liberty to open our minds freely to God, as to a Father, and a well-grounded persuasion of audience and of acceptance with him and this by means of the faith we have in him, as our great Mediator and Advocate." We may come with humble boldness to hear from God, knowing that the terror of the curse is done away and we may expect to hear from him good words and comfortable. We may have access with confidence to speak to God, knowing that we have such a Mediator between God and us, and such an Advocate with the Father.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

The apostle seems to be more anxious lest the believers should be discouraged and faint upon his tribulations, than for what he himself had to bear. He asks for spiritual blessings, which are the best blessings. Strength from the Spirit of God in the inner man; strength in the soul; the strength of faith, to serve God, and to do our duty. If the law of Christ is written in our hearts, and the love of Christ is shed abroad there, then Christ dwells there. Where his Spirit dwells, there he dwells. We should desire that good affections may be fixed in us. And how desirable to have a fixed sense of the love of God in Christ to our souls! How powerfully the apostle speaks of the love of Christ! The breadth shows its extent to all nations and ranks; the length, that it continues from everlasting to everlasting; the depth, its saving those who are sunk into the depths of sin and misery; the height, its raising them up to heavenly happiness and glory. Those who receive grace for grace from Christ's fulness, may be said to be filled with the fulness of God. Should not this satisfy man? Must he needs fill himself with a thousand trifles, fancying thereby to complete his happiness?

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary

on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Wherefore I desire; I pray you. This is an exhortation to the Ephesians, not a prayer to God, for that follows, Ephesians 3:14.

That ye faint not at my tribulations for you; the truth I have preached to you being the cause of my sufferings, and your salvation (to which they tend as a means to confirm your faith) being the end of them.

Which is your glory; either he means, that their not fainting, or not falling away from Christ, by reason of his sufferings, was their glory; or rather, that his sufferings were their glory, in that he did by them seal the truth of the doctrine he had preached, being still ready to suffer for what he delivered to them.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘Wherefore I ask that you may not faint at my tribulations for you, which are your glory.’

Some of his readers were clearly very constrained at what Paul was enduring. They were dispirited and concerned. Why did God not step in and deliver him so that he could carry on with his powerful ministry. What would happen when he was gone? How could the church survive? Do not worry says Paul, my sufferings are your glory. Either a cause for them to glory, or will result in glory for them, or both. Without his imprisonment there may well have been no letters, and what would we have done then?

‘Tribulations.’ The word means literally ‘squeezings’ or ‘pressings’, being pressed in and afflicted by circumstances.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

. 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).

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary


Eph . To the intent that now … might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.—The Church as it expands from a "little flock" to a "multitude which no man can number" is to declare the multiform wisdom of God, ever fertile in new modes of operation. "Manifold" represents a word used to describe a floral wreath as consisting of "variegated "flowers.

Eph . In whom we have boldness.—Originally meaning as regards speech. In Christ the reconciled child of God has the right of speaking to God without reserve. The same word is translated "confidence" in 1Jn 5:14, A.V: "It is the free, joyful mood of those reconciled to God" (Meyer). And access.—As in Eph 2:13. With confidence.—Hardly as equal to assurance—certainly never self-assurance, but in quiet leaning on the arm of Christ.

Eph . I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations.—Compare 2Co 4:1-16, where the same word is used. As an agonised sufferer, heroically suppressing every sign of pain, begs those who wait on him not to give way to grief; as Socrates, having quaffed the poison, rallies his friends, who have broken out into uncontrollable weeping, with the words, "What are you doing, my friends? What! such fine men as you are! Oh, where is virtue?"; so (with a possible reminiscence of Act 20:36-38) St. Paul begs his readers not to lose heart.


The Manifold Wisdom of God—

I. Seen in the development of a long-cherished plan.—

1. This plan was carried out by Christ. "According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ" (Eph ). The plan is here called the "eternal purpose," and that purpose was the redemption of man, and the personage selected for its accomplishment was the Lord Jesus Christ. This was the unchanging theme of "the gospel of which the apostle was made a minister," this the divinely freighted argosy of "the unsearchable riches of Christ," the veiled and sacred repository of all heavenly mysteries. The plan is significantly called the manifold wisdom of God"—as manifold as mysterious, for there is variety in the mystery and mystery in every part of the variety. The wisdom is seen, not so much in one act as in the masterly combination of a multitude of acts, all marshalled and disposed with consummate skill to the attainment of one grand end; just as the light that fills and irradiates the valley, penetrating every nook and crevice and clothing every object with beauty, is produced, not by a solitary ray, but by manifold rays poured from the central sun, and all uniting in one harmonious illumination. The crowning wisdom of the plan was in God appointing His only Son as the agent in carrying it out. He, the sinless One, must suffer for sin; the Innocent die for the guilty, and by dying conquer sin. Only thus could the righteous claims of the violated law be fully satisfied, the offence of the sinning one condoned, the authority of the divine government maintained, and the character of the Holy One vindicated to the whole universe.

2. That the plan has been accomplished is evident from the attitude assumed towards man and towards God by believers (Eph ).—As regards the attitude of the believer towards man, he has now "boldness" in declaring the whole truth, and towards God he has "access with confidence by the faith of Him"—he has confidential fellowship with God. Both these experiences are the result of the redeeming plan, and would have been impossible without it.

II. Seen in the indifference to suffering its revelations inspire.—"I desire that ye faint not [do not lose heart] at my tribulations for you, which is your glory" (Eph ). Paul had no anxiety for himself. He almost playfully alludes to his imprisoned state: "The prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles" (Eph 3:1). His soul was too full of heavenly visions and of the practical bearing of the gospel on the destiny of the race to be harassed about his personal suffering. When he thought about it at all it was to rejoice in the honour of being allowed to suffer for such a cause, and in the opportunities afforded of spreading the gospel in quarters that might otherwise have been closed to him. But the Church feared for their champion's life, and was troubled about his prolonged sufferings and imprisonment. The apostle assures his friends there was more reason for joyous boasting than for pity and dread. The sufferings and misfortunes of the Church have been overruled in promoting her enlargement. The flames of the martyrs have illumined the truth, and the captivity of its professors has prepared the throne of its universal empire. Personal religion has grown stronger by opposition and suffering, and the Church has multiplied by the very means which were intended to destroy her.

III. Seen in making the Church of the redeemed the means of instructing the heavenly intelligences (Eph ).—These lofty beings, with their vast knowledge and gigantic powers, learn something from the divine treatment of sinful, rebellious men. They gain new light, fresher and more expansive views, regarding the character and perfections of God; and perhaps the chief point on which their angelic knowledge will be increased is in the glorious revelations the gospel unfolds of the infinite love of God. The Church on earth, with all its contradictions and imperfections, presents a magnificent picture of self-denial, devotion, and praise; but this is only a faint representation of the splendour of the Church above in its more completed state. The Church above is society organised; the Church below is society organising. The heavenly intelligences are watching both processes, and their wondering adoration is being continually excited as they observe the building up and ever-advancing completion of the redeemed community. If there is one thing more than another that amazes "the principalities and powers"—amazes them more than the manifold wisdom of God unfolded to them by the Church—it must surely be the apathy and indifference of men on earth to their redemptive blessings!—that so much has been done to make man wise, and he remains willingly and contentedly ignorant; that God has been so prodigal of His wealth, and man is so slow to appreciate and seize the proffered enrichment; that God offers the abundant bread of eternal life, and man prefers to starve in lean and comfortless poverty, and grumbles against heaven that he is so poor; that salvation is pressed on his acceptance, and man persists in perishing; that "heaven lies about him in his infancy," and the celestial gate opens before him in every subsequent stage of life, and yet man resists the alluring glory, and stumbles at last into the bottomless chasm of eternal darkness.


1. The wisdom of God is continually presenting new illustrations of its manifoldness.

2. The most signal display of divine wisdom is seen in the redemption of the race.

3. The future history of the Church will reveal new features in the manifold wisdom of God.


Eph . The Manifold Wisdom of God—

I. Seen in the gradual unfolding of His great purpose to save the human race.—

1. This process suited the revelation to men's nature and condition as finite and sinful beings. Had the revelation been more rapid and brilliant it could not have been so readily appreciated, nor could men have dared to hope they had any share in it. It was adapted to the infantile state of the Church and the world when the mind is most powerfully affected by sensible objects.

2. This method was a training for appreciating the fuller discoveries of the divine will. It has been an education and discipline, has provoked inquiry, and encouraged full submission to the will of God and faith in His wisdom and power.

II. Seen in the means He employed to carry out His saving purpose.—

1. By the gift of His Song of Solomon 2. As a subsidiary means, by the institution of preaching, and by selecting men, and not angels, as instruments in spreading the knowledge of gospel redemption.

III. Seen in using the Church of the redeemed as an object-lesson in teaching the heavenly intelligences.—The Church teaches the angels:

1. By its composition.

2. By its marvellous history.

3. By its glorious completion.


1. The dignity and glory of the Church. 2. Let it be your all important concern to become a member of this spiritual community.

Eph . Access to God.

I. We have access.—The word signifies an approach to some object. Here it intends a near approach to God in worship, or such a state of peace with God as allows a freedom of intercourse. It is a familiar expression suited to convey the idea of great condescension on God's part and high privilege on ours.

II. We have boldness of access.—The word signifies a freedom of speaking in opposition to that restraint which we feel when in the presence of one we dread and in whose goodness we can place no confidence. It expresses the fulness of that liberty which under the gospel all Christians enjoy of drawing near to God, and that freedom of spirit with which we should come to God. The disposition of our hearts should correspond with the liberal and gracious dispensation under which we are placed. We should come to God with a spirit of love, in opposition to servile fear. This boldness imports frequency in our approaches to God. Slaves, under fear, stand at a distance. Children, invited by the goodness of a father, come often into his presence.

III. We have access with confidence.—This confidence is elsewhere called a better hope and the full assurance of faith. It is opposed to doubting and distrust. Confidence in prayer is a full reliance on God; but this may be accompanied with a humble diffidence of ourselves.

IV. All our hope of success in prayer must rest upon the mediation of Christ (Eph ).—In His name we are to come before God; and in the virtue of His atonement and intercession we may hope for acceptance.

V. Access to God a refuge in trouble (Eph ).—Fearing lest his sufferings in the cause of the gospel should dishearten his converts, the apostle sets before them a view of their security under the protection of divine grace. Dangers were before them; but what had they to fear who had boldness of access to God? It was one of the glories of their religion that He who preached it was not ashamed to suffer for it.


1. In the apostle Paul we have a noble example of benevolence.

2. New converts should be assisted and encouraged.

3. Our best support under trouble is boldness of access to God.

4. Let the grace and condescension of God encourage us to come often into His presence.—Lathrop.

Eph . Access to God in Prayer.—Prayer is to be exercised with the greatest caution and exactness, being the most solemn intercourse earth can have with heaven. The distance between God and us, so great by nature and yet greater by sin, makes it fearful to address Him; but Christ has smoothed a way, and we are commanded to come with a good heart, not only in respect of innocence, but also of confidence.

I. There is a certain boldness and confidence very well becoming our humblest addresses to God.—It is the very language of prayer to treat God as our Father. The nature of this confidence is not so easily set forth by positive description as by the opposition it bears to its extremes. It is opposed:

1. To desperation and horror of conscience.

2. To doubtings and groundless scrupulosities.

3. To rashness and precipitation.

4. To impudence.

II. The foundation of this confidence is laid in the mediation of Christ

III. The reason why Christ's mediation ought to minister such confidence to us.—His incomparable fitness for the performance of that work. Considering Him:

1. In respect to God, with whom He has to mediate. God sustains a double capacity of Father and Judge. Christ appears not only as an Advocate, but as a Surety, paying down the utmost justice can exact.

2. In reference to men for whom He mediates. He is a friend, brother, surety, lord or master.

3. In respect to Himself.

(1) He is perfectly acquainted with all our wants and necessities.

(2) He is heartily sensible of and concerned about them.

(3) He is best able to express and set them before the Father.

IV. Whether there is any other ground that may rationally embolden us in our addresses to Him.—If there is, it must be either:

1. Something within us as the merit of our good actions. But this cannot be—

(1) because none can merit but by doing something absolutely by his own power for the advantage of him from whom he merits;

(2) because to merit is to do something over and above what is due.

2. Something without us. This must be the help and intercession either of angels or saints. Angels cannot mediate for us—

(1) because it is impossible for them to know and perfectly discern the thoughts;

(2) because no angel can know at once all the prayers that are even uttered in words throughout the world. These arguments are still more forcible against the intercession of saints. The invocation of saints supposed to arise:

1. From the solemn meetings used by the primitive Christians at the saints' sepulchres, and there celebrating the memory of their martyrdom.

2. From those seeds of the Platonic philosophy that so much leavened many of the primitive Christians.

3. From the people being bred in idolatry. But the primitive fathers held no such thing; and the Council of Trent, that pretended to determine the case, put the world off with an ambiguity. Christ is the only true way.—R. South.

Eph . Courage under Suffering.—

1. Affliction and tribulation for the gospel is a trial not only to those under it, but to others who look on, and are in no less hazard to be thereby brangled (made to disagree) in their confidence, blunted in their zeal, and rendered remiss in their forwardness, than the person himself who suffers.

2. A faithful minister suffering for truth will not be so solicitous for his own outward estate as for the Church and people of God, lest they be turned aside, or made to faint by reason of his sufferings. This may guard from discouragement when we consider the excellent worth of truth, and how those who suffer for it have not cast themselves without necessity upon their sufferings, but were necessitated to meet them in the way of their calling.

3. So honourable is it to suffer for Christ and truth that not only the persons who suffer are honoured, but also all such as have interest in them, who should not faint, but rather glory in them and take encouragement from them.—Fergusson.

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

(13) Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. (14) ¶ For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (15) Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, (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; (17) That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; (19) And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. (20) 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, (21) Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

I include all that remains in this Chapter under one view, because the several parts are woven into one piece, and form a beautiful whole. The Apostle begins the paragraph with desiring that the Church would lose sight of everything which related to his personal state and circumstances. That he was a prisoner, it was true; but, at the same time, he was the Lord's free man. And though, the enemy shut him in, yet no enemy could shut the Lord out. And, as to his afflictions, they were all sanctified. And, as the Lord sweetened them to his soul, they ought to be the subject of real joy to their hearts. Having thus dispatched all consideration as to himself, he now proceeds to show them the affection he had for them in his heart, and how he was continually employed for them. It forms a lovely representation of the faithful pastor and minister of Christ's flock, and serves at least to show what such should be, though, it is to be feared, few are so, in the present awful day of a declining ministry.

He first tells them, that he bowed his knees unto the God and Father of our Lord JESUS CHRIST, as the Father of the whole family of Christ, in heaven and in earth. There is somewhat very blessed in this. God the Father is, indeed, in every sense of the word, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For He is revealed, under this character, in the Scriptures of truth. This is the name, in the essential nature of the Godhead, as One of the Holy Three which bear record in heaven. It is his name also in the economy of the Covenant of grace. And it is his name as the God the Father of the Church, for it is He who hath given the Church to Christ before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4. Jesus sweetly speaks of this as his particular pleasure and delight. John 17:6. Well might Paul, therefore, say that of Him, the whole family in heaven and earth is named. And well might he bow the knee before Him. I also would say, Lord! bow the knee of my heart before Him, who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Oh! that I may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hath sent. John 17:3.

Secondly. What a blessed prayer this is ? Paul having mentioned his adorable name, before whom be bent the knee, next seeks strength and grace from God the Holy Ghost, for forming all his of prayers aright, and for helping him in his infirmities of prayer, that he might make all his supplications according to the will of God. How truly Scriptural this is? Paul well knew, that without the influences of the Spirit, he could neither know how to pray, nor what to pray for. Neither prayers could he present, nor praises offer, until God the Spirit taught him. To God, therefore, he looks for those influences. And he felt full confidence, that the Lord would grant him, according to his riches in glory, grace to be so strengthened, that his inner man would find, the blessed, communications of the Spirit to this end.

And what was the great subject of his prayer. It was short, but comprehensive. It all centered in Christ. All Paul prayed for himself; and all he asked for the Church, was Christ. Christ and his fullness, Christ and his all-sufficiency. That Christ (said he) may dwell in your hearts by faith. Reader! do not overlook the fullness and comprehensiveness of Paul's prayer. Christ cannot dwell in the heart of the unregenerate. Christ cannot dwell in the heart of any whom the Father hath not given to his dear Son. So, that in every heart where Christ dwells, there the Lord hath given testimony, that that precious soul is a child of God, given by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and regenerated by the Holy Ghost. Reader! is it not your prayer, as it is mine, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith?

And where Christ dwells in the heart by faith, there all the other blessings follow. Rooted in Christ, we are one with Christ. Grounded in love, we feel all the sweet influences of love. And, though the love of Christ is unsearchable, and past finding out, yet we can in some measure comprehend, that it reacheth from one eternity to, another; and though its dimensions are infinite, in breadth and length, and depth, and height, and it is a love which passeth knowledge, yet is it a special, peculiar, free, and gracious love, and runs through all time, and to all eternity, to his people. Oh! the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge! Reader! what are your apprehensions of this love ? Hath Paul's prayer been heard for you? Hath God granted you a token of this love ?

The Apostle's prayer in recommendation of the Church to God, and his referring all unto him, that is alone able to answer it, is very striking and beautiful. The ability of God, not only to answer, but to exceed all beyond thought or expression, is most just and true. Oh! who shall say what God can perform ? Who shall limit the Holy One of Israel! Reader! You and I may safely refer all to Him, and leave all with Him. He that hath given the greatest of all possible gifts, what can he, what will he not give ? Well might the same Apostle elsewhere say, For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Romans 11:36.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

People's New Testament

And to make all men see. Jews as well as Gentiles.

What is the dispensation of the mystery. The office or stewardship of this mystery. It was demonstrated in his apostleship to the Gentiles.

Hath been hid. It was from the beginning God's purpose to save the Gentiles by the gospel, but it had been kept hidden.

To the intent. The mystery had been hidden during all the ages, but was now revealed in order that the manifold wisdom of God might be made known. It was made known, (1) To the Gentiles by preaching the gospel. (2) To Jews. This is implied in the "all" of Ephesians 3:9. (3) "To principalities and powers in heavenly places;" that is, to angelic beings. See 1 Peter 1:12.

By the church. As the fruit of God's wisdom revealed in the gospel, and especially by the union of Jews and Gentiles in one body.

According to the eternal purpose. The purpose which God had in all the ages proposed to fulfill through Jesus Christ.

In whom. In Jesus Christ, all, both Jew and Gentile alike, can come boldly to God. Without the revelation of Christ we could hardly know of God of love, who loved to have us come to him.

Wherefore. Seeing that I have revealed this glorious mystery to you.

I desire that ye faint not. Do not become discouraged.

At my tribulations for you. At his sufferings, a prisoner on account of the Gentiles.

Which are your glory. The plural (see Revision) shows that "which" refers to tribulations. These tribulations all came in his work as the apostle of the Gentiles. Hence, they all suffered in a work which made them heirs of eternal glory.

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Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
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Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "People's New Testament". 1891.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

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.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

That ye faint not (μη ενκακεινmē enkakein). Object infinitive with μηmē after αιτουμαιaitoumai The infinitive (present active) ενκακεινenkakein is a late and rare word (see already Luke 18:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 4:1, 2 Corinthians 4:16; Galatians 6:9) and means to behave badly in, to give in to evil (εν κακοςenδοχα υμωνkakos). Paul urges all his apostolic authority to keep the readers from giving in to evil because of his tribulations for them.

Your glory (doxa humōn). As they could see.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Ephesians 3:1-13.

The Grace Given to Paul.

The enthusiasm with which the Apostle speaks of preaching the Gospel to the heathen is contagious. His words burn on the page, and our hearts take fire as we read them. What was the secret of this exultation in the Gospel and in his commission to make the Gospel known to all mankind? The question is a large one, but considerable light is thrown upon it by the contents of this Epistle.

I. Paul had a vivid intellectual interest in the Christian Gospel. To him it was a real revelation of the most wonderful and surprising truths concerning God and the relations of God to the human race. It urged his intellectual powers to the most strenuous activity; it never lost its freshness; it was never exhausted. I believe that in all the great movements of religious reform that have permanently elevated the life of Christendom there has been a renewal of intellectual interest in the Christian revelation. And if at the present time the religious life of the Church is languid, and if in its enterprises there is little of audacity or vehemence, a partial explanation is to be found in the decline of intellectual interest in the contents of the Christian faith which has characterised the last hundred or hundred and fifty years of our history.

II. The heart and imagination of Paul were filled with the infinite and eternal blessings which were the inheritance of the human race in Christ. For human sin there was the Divine forgiveness; for human weakness in its baffled attempts to emancipate itself from the tyranny of evil passions and evil habits there was the Divine redemption. Paul believed in the unsearchable riches of Christ. We shall never recover his enthusiasm as long as we dwell chiefly on the external and incidental benefits which follow the acceptance of the Christian Gospel.

R. W. Dale, Lectures on the Ephesians, p. 220.

References: Ephesians 3:1-13.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 203. Ephesians 3:3, Ephesians 3:4.—H. Wace, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 45. Ephesians 3:3-6.—C. Kingsley, Town and Country Sermons, p. 438.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

1. Paul’s Office as Apostle to the Gentiles.

In view of the great privilege detailed in chap. Ephesians 2:19-22, culminating in Ephesians 2:22, the Apostle begins to speak of his prayer on behalf of the Ephesians. But the mention of himself, as ‘the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles,’ leads to a digression so extended, that it forms a section by itself (Ephesians 3:1-13). In Ephesians 3:14 the petition is introduced with the same phrase (‘for this cause ’). found in Ephesians 3:1. This view of the construction, which accords with the involved character of other parts of the Epistle, is least objectionable. It gives a proper meaning to ‘for this cause,’ and best accounts for the sweep of thought in the chapter. Such a digression is not at all unpauline. Other views: (1.) The Syriac version, followed by commentators from Chrysostom to Meyer, supplies ‘am:’ ‘I Paul am the prisoner of Christ Jesus.’ But this is open to grave objections. It makes ‘ for this cause ’ and ‘in behalf of you’ tautological, disconnects the thoughts of Ephesians 3:1-2 ff., and implies an emphasis on ‘the prisoner,’ etc., which is inconsistent with ‘ if indeed ye have heard.’ (2.) Others find the resumption in Ephesians 3:8 (‘unto me’), but this affords no natural connection of thought, and increases the grammatical difficulty. (3.) A few find the resumption in Ephesians 3:13, which gives undue prominence to a secondary thought.

The train of thought is natural: He speaks of himself as the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of them (Ephesians 3:1), defines this office as a gift of grace (Ephesians 3:2), for which he was specially fitted by direct revelation (Ephesians 3:3), as his previous language testified (Ephesians 3:4), the contents of the revealed mystery being the universal scope of the gospel (Ephesians 3:5-6), of which he was by gift of grace made a minister (Ephesians 3:7). He then humbly states the greatness of the design of this ministry (Ephesians 3:8-9), reaching even to the enlightenment of the angelic host (Ephesians 3:10), fulfilling God’s purpose in Christ (Ephesians 3:11), in whom we now have free access to God (Ephesians 3:12). Hence tribulations in this cause should not result in fainting, but are a ground of glorying (Ephesians 3:13).

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Ephesians 3:13. Wherefore. In view of my position as the minister of such a gospel, thus leading back to Ephesians 3:1, the thought of which is resumed in Ephesians 3:14. This is preferable to referring it merely to the subordinate thought in Ephesians 3:12.

I desire you not to faint, or, ‘I pray God that I faint not’ The literal rendering: ‘I ask not to faint,’ will indicate the difficulty in interpreting the verse, namely, the absence of an object after the verb ‘ask,’ and of a subject with the infinitive, ‘to faint.’ One view supplies ‘you ‘as both object and subject; the other supplies ‘God’ as the object and ‘I’ as the subject. The verb ‘ask’ suits either explanation. Both views have able supporters, but the former has been rightly adopted by the majority of commentators. (1.) It seems unlike Paul to insert such a prayer for himself here; he rejoiced in suffering (Colossians 1:24) and gloried in infirmity (2 Corinthians 11:30), and was speaking of high privilege, little likely to imply faint-heartedness in himself. (2.) The next clause presents a motive (Meyer) which is irrelevant, unless this clause applies to them. (3.) ‘My’ does not imply that ‘faint’ refers to him. (4.) It is grammatically simpler to supply one word (‘you’) which need not be repeated, than to supply two, one of them (‘God’) not directly suggested by the context nor necessary to complete the sense of the verb. Galatians 4:14, where the correct reading is ‘your temptation which was in my flesh,’ shows that the sympathy between Paul and his converts was such as to make this view of the clause perfectly natural. The danger of the weakness was greater for them than for him.

At (‘lit,’ ‘in’) my tribulations in behalf of you, suggesting again the thought of Ephesians 3:1. The preposition ‘in’ points to the sphere in which their faint-heartedness might be shown.

Which are your glory. ‘Are’ shows that’ which’ refers to ‘tribulations,’ seeing they are ‘your glory.’ The thought is, not that it would be a disgrace for them to have a founder who fainted in tribulations, and that his not fainting is their glory, but that the reason they should not faint is the character of his tribulations, as the Apostle of the Gentiles. They were for his readers, were tokens of the love of God in sending his ministers to suffer that the gospel might be universal and the Gentiles sharers in its blessings. It was the sympathy of Christ, in whom the Apostle’s ‘boldness and access’ was possessed ‘in confidence,’ that gave to him such sympathy with them. He was concerned for them rather than for himself. It will be seen how well this view accords with the thought resumed in Ephesians 3:14, and the subsequent prayer.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books

Section Six: 3:13-21

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

"Desire" is a word that has many shades of meaning. There is the desire to see someone, which can be mild to strong desire. The principals desire to see a student in need of discipline lacks somewhat when compared to the desire of a boy to see the girl he is engaged to.

The desire here seems to be a strong desire as in crave, beg or require. This is something that is very important to the apostle. This desire is also something that is partially from without. He is moved with this desire due to some outside force, namely the Spirit of God.

"Faint" has the thought of weary or tired out, someone that has really had it with something. When we were on deputation, I made a number of trips to the Midwest from the west coast. We did not have motel money so I always drove straight through both ways. When I arrived at my destination, I was weary to the point of exhaustion. I would faint at the thought of further driving. One commentary mentions the word "despirited" as an option for "faint" which really gives the thought of the word.

Paul does not want them to be deterred in any way by his tribulations. He wanted none of that.

Instead of fainting or being discouraged by his tribulation on their part, they are to glory in it. "Glory" is the word normally translated glory, and is the Greek word "doxa" from which we gain doxology. The Ephesians were to glory in the tribulation of Paul. Now, that is a statement that is going to need some explaining. Why should they glory or be proud of his tribulation - the tribulation that was caused because of them?

Some possibilities:

1. The text states more specifically that the tribulation is their glory. The tribulation is somehow a glory to them, a good mark for them in some manner.

2. Some suggest that God loved them so much that he gave His Son for them as well as allowed Paul to suffer on their behalf. This may be the thought of it, but if so I think to add the Son into it is to read a lot more into the verse than is there.

3. It would seem that Paul"s tribulation is a glory to them in that Paul was willing to give his all for the propagation of the Gospel, which is a glory to all gentile believers. He was willing to do all for them, thus their worth in Paul"s mind must have been great.

Now, I am going to meddle here and I am warning pastors right now. I have met many (pastors) on internet forums that indicate that their parishioners are rather on the dumb side, often obnoxious, and seldom what the pastor wants of people he has to work with. I have seen a real "US" versus "THEM" mentality between pastors and their congregations.

I see pastors that think they are above apologizing to congregants when they are wrong. I have seen men that feel the people should overlook his flaws while he makes mountains of theirs.

Here, Paul says he has suffered imprisonment for their sakes. Pastors, please catch that vision - honor your people as co-heirs with you in Christ, for that is indeed what they are.

Now, go back and read the last three paragraphs and substitute your name where I mentioned pastor and substitute pastor where I indicated the congregation. We are all equal in the church, we are all co-heirs with Christ and we ought to value one another.

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Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books".

Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books


1. I would like to look at two things here.

a. Verses fourteen and fifteen speak of our relationship to the Father. I would suggest for your thinking and contemplation the fact that the single female parent family that is in our society, lacking a father image, is not. God the Father is our father. Any single female parent needs to understand this and apply it to their lives and their children"s lives. Yes, a man in the house is great and needed but the Father can supply many of those things that the child will need. He is their support, He is their strength, and He is their comfort and all those fatherly items.

What is needed is for the child to be trained properly to understand God"s purpose in their lives. This passage totally speaks to this aspect of God having a plan and Him supplying that which is lacking in each of us to accomplish that plan - that goes for kids as well as seniors and all between.

b. The passage mentions, "the whole family in heaven and earth" and some relate this to not only humans, but also to the angelic host. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown mention that the angels are sons by creation and we by adoption. Whether the angels are included or not I am not entirely convinced. I don"t know that it makes a lot of doctrinal difference either way, it is impressive enough to me that I am a brother same as Paul, same as Abraham, and the same as Moses. If you want to include Michael and the other archangels, I"m even more impressed that such as I can be in the same family as such as we have named.

2. It is of note that this whole section is full of doctrine and it leads to Paul"s grand doxology in the final verses of the section. When is the last time doctrine moved you to praise and worship? Many pastors criticize doctrine as being to "super saintly" and a waste of time, but Paul found it vital and it brought him to great praise for the God that set all these doctrines into existence.

When you study doctrine, always take time to contemplate God and how it relates to Him and His glory. Doctrine is not and should not be treated like a four-letter word. It is the meat that the believer ought to be feeding on daily.

It is no wander the church is full of screaming babies and problems, all they are getting is milk - they need meat so they can grow and be nourished into adulthood.

3. We mentioned that bowing if not prostrating one"s self in prayer was preferable to other positions. This is due to the concentration of the mind on what we are doing. When sitting or standing our minds tend to wander off into oblivion, while kneeling or laying face down tends to remind us of what we are supposed to be doing.

Many there are that have joked about the fact that when fishing and hunting, they can worship God just as easily as when in church, but I have never seen a fisherman fish or hunter hunt kneeling or prone with his face to the ground.

HE IS OUR LIFE, NOT HIS CREATION! Is this not what Romans one is about - worshiping the creation rather than the creator? (Romans 1:19-25)

Of course we can praise God without being in a building with a cross on top, but we seldom do if we are all really honest. Making a conscious effort to be with Him is the key.

4. In verses sixteen through nineteen we see, "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; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God."

This seems to describe super saint in our day and age, that one that walks with God daily, moment by moment and the one that is always in the Lord"s control to do what is right at every turn. It describes the one that is able to answer every question with Scripture and defend against every detractor with the Word.

However - note that he is not speaking to a few, or an individual, but he is speaking to every believer at the church at Ephesus. Today in our churches, we seem to have a few super saints, that are really those average saints that Paul is speaking about, and then we have a lot of superficial saints that are far from living up to this Scriptural standard. This is wrong. We all should be as those Paul is speaking of - filled with the love of Christ, empowered with strength for the spiritual battles before us.

"Strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man" - Does that really sound like the run of the mill Christian today that has every self help book ever published, the run of the mill Christian today that watches the Dr. Phil Show in the hope of finding strength to go on, or the run of the mill Christian today that attempts to live by the quack of the day advice on the television - those that can"t get their life together enough to function in life.

God stands ready to strengthen each and every one to the task at hand if we will only walk with Him and allow Him to do the work He wants to do within us and around us. God desires a powerful church not a church that is poorly balanced on the brink of emotional collapse.

In nineteen eighties I was told by a friend that was part of the leadership in a fairly large church in one of our large cities that his church has a hard time keeping enough families emotionally healthy enough to minister to the unhealthy. He was speaking in the context of the many divorces, drug and drinking problems, and the child rearing problems. The churches entire emotional strength was being drained by those Christians that were unable to operate in the strength of the Lord.

It is wonderful that the church had healthy members to minister, but oh how sad that so few were there that could have the freedom to do the work of the Lord outside the church due to their total immersion in ministering in the church to faltering believers.

Where is the strength in the church today? Where is the power in the church today? These passages of Paul"s are for us today as well as to the Ephesians - we need to be teaching these principles to our believers and getting them on track for use by God in His work inside and outside the church.

5. Verse nineteen states, "And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God." Filled with the "fullness of God." Does that sound like the average believer today? Does the temper ridden believer show forth the fullness of God? Does the cheating believer show forth the fullness of God? Does the lying believer show forth the fullness of God? Does the swearing believer show forth the fullness of God?

I might ask whether the famous believer that commits adultery shows forth the fullness of God. Does the famous believer that swears on the sports field show forth the fullness of God? Does the famous believer that takes acting roles of immorality show forth the fullness of God? Does the famous believer that is in the political arena that uses the tactics of the world show forth the fullness of God?

One further question. Are you showing forth the fullness of God in your life?

Copyright Statement
Copyright 2008. Used by Permission. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author, except as provided by U.S.A. copyright laws. Do feel free to make copies for friends that might be interested as long as you do not make profit from the copies. This is God's work and I don't want anyone to profit from it in a material way.
Bibliographical Information
Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books".

The Biblical Illustrator

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ephesians 3:13". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

The Biblical Illustrator

Ephesians 3:12-13

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

Access to God through Christ

I. We have access. Approach to God in worship. Such a state of peace with God as allows a freedom of intercourse.

II. We have boldness of access. Fulness of liberty to draw near to God. The word also expresses that freedom of spirit with which we should come to God. The disposition of our hearts should correspond with the liberal and gracious dispensation under which we are placed.

III. We have access with confidence (see 1 John 3:21-22; 1 John 5:14-15). To confidence of success in prayer it is necessary that we “ask according to God’s will”--for such things as He allows us, and in such a manner as He requires us to ask. What God has absolutely promised, He will certainly bestow. What He has promised conditionally, will follow our compliance with the conditions.

IV. All our hope of success in prayer must rest upon the mediation of Jesus Christ. In His flame we are to come before God; and in the virtue of His atonement and intercession we may hope for acceptance. Concluding reflections:

1. In the Apostle Paul we have a noble example of benevolence. He was joyful in his tribulation, finding that it conduced to the happiness of others. It is the glory of the religion of Jesus, that, where it comes with power, it enlarges the mind, purifies the affections, subdues the passions, sweetens the temper, softens the heart to sensibility and love, and excites to every good work.

2. We are taught that new converts should be assisted and encouraged in religion.

3. We farther learn, that our best support under the troubles of the world, is that boldness of access to God, which we enjoy in Christ Jesus.

4. How great a thing it is to pray as we ought to pray in such a manner, that we can truly say, “We have had access to God”!

5. Let the grace and condescension of God encourage us, unworthy as we are, to come often into His presence. He is rich in mercy to them who call upon Him. Our wants are great and numerous, and He only can supply them. Let us attend to our wants, and we shall find matter for prayer, and know what to say when we stand before Him. (J. Lathrop, D. D.)

Access by Christ

1. In Christ only is our conscience able to plead its righteousness before God.

2. In Christ we may securely come into God’s presence. Two things which breed confidence.

3. Wicked men are deceived who are persuaded of their security to Godward.

4. To have benefit by Christ we must believe on Him.

the thing assented to.

Filial boldness, through Christ, in approaching the Father

The apostle here tells us of an exalted privilege. Let us consider--

I. The matter of the privilege--“Access.” But access to whom? The apostle does not mention this: it was needless. God was the Being necessarily implied. For, “it is with Him we have to do” mainly and principally in the concerns of the soul and eternity. He is not only the greatest and the best of Beings, but we are most perfectly related to Him. We may view man in three states with regard to God.

1. We may view him before the fall, and in his original condition. Then, he was one altogether with God. He wore His image. He lived in His presence. He enjoyed His smiles, and carried on continual intercourse with Him, and he was no more afraid to meet Him than a child was afraid to meet the tenderest of fathers, or the most endeared of mothers. But, alas! this condition was broken up by sin. We must, therefore, view him--

2. In his fall. Alienated: far from God. Sin separates. Hence results our degradation and wretchedness.

3. We may view man, again, in his renewed state. He now feels his need of God, and returns to Him with weeping and supplication. And he not only seeks, but finds Him, and is in a state of access to God.

Let us observe some of the characters under which we have access to God.

1. We have access to Him as a pardoning God. Everything must begin here.

2. We have access to Him as a supplying God. We need not only forgiveness, but supplies. We are poor. I mean now spiritually poor. We are as poor as poverty itself. We have no righteousness; we have no strength; we have no wisdom of our own.

3. We have access to Him, also, as a communing God. We have access, not only to tits door, but into His house; and not only to His house but to His table, and even to His pavilion--we can come, “even to His seat.” We have access to His ear, and can pour out our hearts before Him. We can speak familiarly with Him and hold converse with Him. We can lean upon His arm. We can rest on His bosom: we can “rejoice in Him with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.” So much for the matter of this privilege.

II. Observe the manner. We have boldness and access with confidence.

1. Consider it as an exclusion of that despair and that despondency which very naturally arises from conviction of sin.

2. We may view it in opposition to the bondage of Judaism.

3. As distinguished from the usual access and modes of approach among men. Now, look at earthly monarchs they cannot give you real access to them at all times, it would lower their dignity. For as they have no real greatness, they must substitute the show of it; and this is very difficult, for real meanness underneath will often break through all external greatness; and if they were easy of access, they would be, unquestionably, invaded and incommoded. They are obliged, therefore, to have modes of distance and reserve. There must be guards and established rules of etiquette, and the sovereign can only be approached at particular times, seen only on particular occasions, and heard only on things of importance. Then, too, the interview is short, and frequently is the subject full of intimidation. Such is the impression of external greatness, that Madame Guion, though accustomed to a court, tells us, she “was always breathless when in the presence of Napoleon.” But you, brethren, are not breathless in approaching the King of kings, and the Lord of lords--“who only hath immortality”--“before whom all nations are nothing, yea, less than nothing, and vanity.” You can approach Him at all times; you can have access to Him on all occasions!

III. The medium of all this. “We have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him.” Here we see that He is the object of faith; and that, as faith can only, as exercised upon Him, bring the relief we need; thus we see your faith is as necessary in one sense, as Christ is in another. Yes, the one is necessarily meritorious; and the other instrumental. But the faith is as necessary as the Saviour Himself. That is, here is the remedy; but the application of that remedy is necessarily to be procured as well as the remedy itself. As, for instance, eating is as necessary to our support, as the food we partake of. Now, faith takes in three views of it, each of which is perfectly encouraging: and the more we exercise faith in Christ, the more freedom shall we find in drawing near to God. First, we have “boldness and access with confidence through the faith of Him,” as the gift of God. Then, secondly, “We have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him,” as a sacrifice for sin. Thirdly, we have “boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him,” as our risen and exalted Saviour. (W. Jay.)

The mediation of Christ a motive to confidence in prayer

I. That there is a certain boldness and confidence very well consisting with and becoming of our humblest addresses to God. This is evident; for it is the very language of prayer to treat God with the appellation of “father”; and surely every son may own a decent confidence before his father, without any entrenchment either upon paternal authority or filial reverence. As for the nature of this confidence, it is not so easily set forth by any positive description, as by the opposition that it bears to its extremes; which are of two sorts:

1. And for those of the first sort, that consist in defect.

2. This confidence is opposed also to doubting and groundless scrupulosities. “I will,” says Paul, “that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8). Why? Suppose they should doubt and waver in presenting their prayers to God. “Let not such an one,” says St. James, “think that he shall receive anything of the Lord” (James 1:7). And the reason is plain, for no man is to pray for anything but what God both allows and commands him to pray for. Is it not clear that his suspicion upbraids either God’s power, that He cannot, or His truth, that He will not make good the effects of His promise? But it will perhaps be pleaded in defence and excuse of such doubting, that it arises not from any unbecoming thoughts of God, but from the sense of the unworthiness of him that prays; which makes him question the success of his petition, notwithstanding all the Divine mercy and liberality. But to this I answer, that by the plea of unworthiness is meant, either an unworthiness in point of merit; and so the argument would keep a man from praying forever, forasmuch as none can ever pretend a claim of merit to the thing he prays for, as shall be more fully observed hereafter. Or, secondly, it is meant of an unworthiness in point of fitness to receive the thing prayed for; which fitness consists in that evangelical sincerity, that makes a man walk with that uprightness, as not to allow himself in any sin.

2. Having thus shown the two extremes to which the confidence spoken of in the text is opposed in point of defect, I come now to treat of those to which it is opposed in point of excess, and to show, that as it excludes despair and doubting on the one hand, so it banishes all rashness and irreverence on the other. It is indeed hard for the weak and unsteady hearts of men to carry themselves in such an equal poise between both, as not to make the shunning of one inconvenience the falling into another; but the greater the danger is, the greater must be our attention to the rule.

II. The foundation of this confidence is laid in the mediation of Christ.

III. The reason why Christ’s mediation ought to minister such confidence to us in our access to God. He that is confident in any action grounds his confidence upon the great probability of the happy issue and success of that action; and that probability of success is grounded upon the fitness of the person entrusted with the management of it. The incomparable, singular fitness of Christ for the performance of that work; which fitness will appear by considering Him under a three-fold relation or respect.

1. And first we shall consider Him in relation to God, with whom He is to mediate; who also in this business may sustain a double capacity in relation to Christ:

2. In the next place we are to consider His fitness for this work in reference to men, for whom He mediates; which will appear from that fourfold relation that He bears to them.

3. I come now in the third and last place, to demonstrate the fitness of Christ to he a mediator for us, by considering Him in respect of Himself, and those qualifications inherent in Him, which so particularly qualify and dispose Him for this work: His acquaintance with our condition: we need not spend much time or labour to inform our advocate of our case: for His omniscience is beforehand with us: He knows all our affairs, and what is more, our hearts, better than we ourselves. And it is our happiness that He does so: for by this means He is able to supply the defects of our prayers, and to beg those things for us that our ignorance was not aware of.

IV. Whether there be another means to give efficacy and success to them. If there is, it must be either--

As for anything within us that may thus prevail with God, it must be presumed to be the merit of our good actions, which by their intrinsic worth and value may lay claim to His acceptance. It cannot, I confess, be the direct business of this discourse to treat of the merit of good works. But for our direction, so far as may concern the present subject and occasion, I affirm, that it is impossible, not only for sinful men, but for any mere creature, though of never so excellent and exalted a nature, properly to merit anything from God, and that briefly for these two reasons.

1. Because none can merit of another but by doing something of himself and absolutely by his own power, for the advantage of him from whom he merits, without that person’s help or assistance. But what can anything that the creature can do advantage God?

2. To merit is to do something over and above what is due, no two things in the world being more directly contrary than debt and merit. But now it is impossible for any created agent to do anything above its duty, forasmuch as its duty obliges it to do the utmost that it can. It remains therefore that if there be any other ground of this confidence, it must be something without us. And if so, it must be the help and intercession either--

I. And first for the angels: that they cannot be presumed to mediate for us and present our prayers before God, I suppose may be made evident by these reasons.

2. I come now to see whether we have any greater ground of confidence from anything that the saints are like to do for us in this particular. Concerning which we must observe, that the foregoing arguments brought against the angels interceding for us, by reason of their unacquaintance with our spiritual affairs, proceed much more forcibly against the intercession of the saints, who are of much more limited and restrained faculties than the angels, and know fewer things, and even those that they do know in a much lesser degree of clearness than angelical knowledge rises to. But yet for the further proof of the saints’ unacquaintedness with what is done here below, these reasons may be added over and above. As first, it is clear that God sometimes takes His saints out of the world for this very cause, that they may not see and know what happens in the world. For so says God to king Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:28), “Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and the inhabitants thereof.” Which discourse would have been hugely absurd and inconsequent, if so be the saints’ separation from the body gave them a fuller and a clearer prospect into all the particular affairs and occurrences that happen here upon earth. But secondly, we have yet further an express declaration of the saints’ ignorance of the state of things here below in those words in Isaiah 63:16, where the Church thus utters itself to God, “Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not.” Abraham and Jacob surely were saints, and those too none of the lowest rank; yet it seems they knew nothing of the condition of their posterity, understood none of their wants and necessities. Now in order to any man’s establishing a rational confidence upon the intercession of the saints for us, these three things are required.

1. That they be able thus to intercede for us.

2. That they accordingly will.

3. And lastly, that a man certainly know so much.

A failure in any of which conditions renders all such hope and reliance upon them most absurd and unreasonable. For what foundation of hope can there be where there is no power to help? And what help can he afford me who knows not whether I need help or no? But suppose that he does fully know my condition, yet knowledge is not the immediate principle of action, but will; and no man goes about the doing of anything because he knows it may be done, but because in his mind he has resolved to do it. And then as for the saints’ will to pray for us, since the measure of their will is the will of God calling and commanding them to undertake such or such a work, where there is no such call or command to the thing we are speaking of, we are to presume also, that neither have they any will to it. But lastly, admitting that there is in them really both a knowledge, and an actual will fitting the saints for this office of interceding, yet unless we are sure of it by certain infallible arguments, we cannot build our practice upon it, which is itself to be built upon faith, that is a firm persuasion of both the reasonableness and the fitness of the thing we are to do. (R. South, D. D.)

Confidence towards God realized in Christ

I. How it displays itself.

1. In boldness before the throne of grace (Comp. Hebrews 4:14-16). “The boldness (of speech),”--it was well known and characteristic, Never had men asked for such great things, or with such conviction that they would be granted.

2. In nearness to God and intimate fellowship with Him. All “veils,” earthly priests, etc., were discarded. Theirs was the “perfect love” that “casteth out fear.”

II. How it is produced.

1. In the person of Christ. He is the Mediator through whom they are reconciled to God, and in whose Divine-human nature the unity of men to God is perfected.

2. Through faith. “The faith of Him,” i.e., faith that is awakened by Him, and that rests upon Him. He transfers the affection and trust of men to the Father. (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

Freedom of access to God

One of the most distinguished privileges enjoyed under the Christian dispensation. God is willing to hold communion with us, and ready to do us all possible good.

I. The important privilege here asserted.

1. This blessing does not belong to

2. It belongs to the experimentalist in religion: the man who has felt the force of Divine truth--who has sincerely repented of his sins--who has exercised faith in Christ as the only Saviour--who is adopted into the family of heaven--who can look up to God as his reconciled Father.

3. The blessing itself consists of--

II. The ground on which this privilege rests. Not on any speculations of philosophy, or exercises of morality; but on ground peculiar to revelation. It is “by the faith of Christ.” This faith has to do with--

1. The dignity of Christ’s Person.

2. The greatness of His work.

3. The prevalency of His intercession.

4. The richness of His promises.

III. The uses to which it may be applied.

1. In a way of caution.

2. In a way of exhortation. Ye who have taken refuge in Christ, cultivate this confidence; it is your privilege. Let it animate your prayers, assist you in obedience, produce sweet resignation, strengthen, invigorate, elevate you. And oh! if you have this confidence, be careful not to cast it away.

3. In a way of instruction. Let the feeble minded not despair because they have not this confidence, but labour in hope. (The Pulpit.)

The Christian longs for fellowship with God

I was struck with what a little girl said lately. She knocked at the door of her father’s study, and he asked, “What do you want, my dear?” “Nothing, papa, but to be with you.” Does not this answer express the longing of a Christian for the presence of God, to feel His power, to know by personal experience that He is beside us? (J. Munro.)

Boldness of access

When a poor trembling Roman approached the Emperor Augustus, he was in some fear: “What,” says the emperor, “take you me for an elephant that will tear you?” So we should come with boldness to Christ. He encourages the worst of sinners. (Ralph Erskine.)

Access with confidence

Even in our own days great men are not readily to be come at. There are so many back stairs to be climbed before you can reach the official who might have helped you, so many subalterns to be parleyed with, and servants to be passed by, that there is no coming at your object. The good men may be affable enough themselves, but they remind us of the old Russian fable of the hospitable householder in a village, who was willing enough to help all the poor who came to his door, but he kept so many big dogs loose in his yard that nobody was able to get up to the threshold, and therefore his personal affability was of no service to the wanderers. It is not so with our Master. Though He is greater than the greatest, and higher than the highest, He has been pleased to put out of the way everything which might keep the sinner from entering into His halls of gracious entertainment. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ephesians 3:13". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

The Biblical Illustrator

Ephesians 3:13

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

Exhortation to steadfastness

1. We are prone, when ministers of the gospel are troubled, to forsake them and their gospel (Zechariah 13:7; Matthew 26:56).

2. We must be ready to suffer in the afflictions of the gospel with the ministers thereof.

Tribulation, the Church’s glory

Leonard Keyser, a friend and disciple of Luther, having been condemned by the bishop, had his head shaved, and being dressed in a smock frock, was placed on horseback. As the executioners were cursing and swearing because they could not disentangle the ropes with which his limbs were to be tied, he said to them mildly, “Dear friends, your bonds are not necessary; my Lord Christ has already bound me.” When he drew near the stake, Keyser looked at the crowd and exclaimed, “Behold the harvest! O Master, send forth Thy labourers!” And then ascending the scaffold, he cried, “O Jesus, save me!” These were his last words. “What am I, a wordy preacher,” said Luther, when he received the news of his death, “in comparison with this great doer of the Word?” (J. H. M. DAubigne, D. D.)

Joy through tribulation

It is related that in Germany there stood two vast towers, far apart, on the extremes of a castle; and that the old baron to whom this castle belonged stretched huge wires across from one to the other, thus constructing an AEolian harp. Ordinary winds produced no effect upon the mighty instrument; but when fierce storms and wild tempests came rushing down the sides of the mountains and through the valleys, and hurled themselves against those wires, then they began to roll out the most majestic strains of music that can be conceived. It is thus with many of the deepest and grandest emotions of the human soul. The soft and balmy zephyrs that fan the brows of ease and cheer the hours of prosperity and repose give no token of the inward strength and blessing which the tempest’s wrath discloses. But when storms and hurricanes assault the soul, the bursting wail of anguish rises with the swells of jubilant grandeur, and sweeps upward to the throne of God as a song of triumph, victory, and praise. (Biblical Treasury.)

Tribulations of the believer

The very word “tribulation” is full of significance in regard to the Christian’s trials. Tribulatio is the Latin for the winnowing or thrashing out of the corn from the husk. The early Christians, seeing that God intended sorrow as a holy discipline, gave to the word a high and spiritual import, which was, to its original meaning, as the soul of man is to his body. When sorrow came to them they called it tribulatio, the separation of the chaff that was in them from the wheat. And the Christian will so look at afflictions. They come to him as they did before he was brought to Christ. Now, however, he has a strength to bear them which he had not before. They sometimes come like a flood; sometimes in the small worries of his daily life. As when the sculptor, working on the marble block, with heavy strokes brings off large pieces of the stone, and again with nice and delicate touches develops the folds of the robe and the beauty of the form, so does God at one time bring upon us great afflictions, at another smaller griefs, but always in him who receives them rightly is He bringing out the character of Christ. He first makes the heart plastic in the fires of tribulation, and then, as with a royal signet, imprints upon it the image of His Son. (J. G. Pilkington.)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ephesians 3:13". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Expositor's Bible Commentary

Chapter 13


Ephesians 3:10-13

"The mystery hidden since the ages began, in God who created all things": so the last paragraph concluded. The added phrase "through Jesus Christ" is a comment of the pious reader, that has been incorporated in the received text; but it is wanting in the oldest copies, and is out of place. The apostle is not concerned with the prerogatives of Christ, but with the scope of the Christian economy. He is displaying the breadth and grandeur of the dispensation of grace, the infinite range of the Divine plans and operations of which it forms the centre. Its secret was cherished in the Eternal Mind. Its foundations are laid in the very basis of the world. And the disclosure of it now being made brings new light and wisdom to the powers of the celestial realms.

"There is nothing covered," said Jesus "which shall not be revealed, and hidden which shall not be known." The mysteries which God sets before His intelligent creatures are promises of knowledge; they are drafts, to be honoured in due time, upon the treasures of wisdom hidden in Christ. So this great secret of the destiny of the Gentile world was "from all ages hidden, in order that now through the Church it might be made known," and by its means God’s wisdom, to these sublime intelligences. This intention was a part of the "plan of the ages" formed in Christ (Ephesians 3:11). God designed by our redemption to bless higher races along with our own. The elder sons of God, those "morning stars" of creation, are schooled and instructed by what is transpiring here upon earth.

To some this will appear to be mere extravagance. They see in such expressions the marks of an unrestrained enthusiasm, of theological speculation pushed beyond its limits and unchecked by any just knowledge of the physical universe. This censure would be plausible and it might seem that the apostle had extended the mission of the gospel beyond its province, were it not for what he says in Ephesians 3:11 : This "purpose of the ages" God "made in the Christ, even Jesus our Lord." Jesus Christ links together angels and men. He draws after Him to earth the eyes of heaven. Christ’s coming to this world and identification with it unite to it enduringly the great worlds above us. The scenes enacted upon this planet and the events of its religious history have sent their shock through the universe. The incarnation of the Son of God gives to human life a boundless interest and significance. It is idle to oppose to this conviction the fact of the littleness of the terrestrial globe. Spiritual and physical magnitudes are incommensurable. You cannot measure a man’s soul by the size of his dwelling-house. Science teaches us that the most powerful forces may exist and operate within the narrowest space. A microscopic cell may contain the potential life of a world. If our earth is but a grain of sand to the astronomer, it has been the home of Godhead. It is the world for which God spared not to give His own Son! Here, then, lies the centre of the apostle’s thoughts in this paragraph: God’s all-comprehending purpose in Christ. The magnitude and completeness of this plan are indicated by the fact that it embraces in its purview the angelic powers and their enlightenment. So understanding it, our human faith gains confidence and courage (Ephesians 3:12-13).

I. The textual critics restore the definite article which later copyists had dropped before the word Christ in Ephesians 3:22. We have already remarked the frequency of "the Christ" in this epistle. Once besides this peculiar combination of the names of our Saviour occurs-in Colossians 2:6, where Lightfoot renders it the Christ, even Jesus the Lord. So it should be rendered in this place. St. Paul sets forth the purpose of "God who created all things." He is looking back through "the ages" during which the Divine plan was kept secret. God was all the time designing His work of mercy, pointing meanwhile the hopes of men by token and promise to the Coming One. The Messiah was the burden of those prophetic ages. That inscrutable Christ of the Old Testament, the veiled mystery of Jewish hope, stands manifested before us and challenges our faith in the glorious person of "Jesus our Lord." This singular turn of expression identifies the ideal and the real, the promise and fulfilment, the dream of Old Testament prophecy and the fact of New Testament history. For Jesus our Lord is the very Christ to whom the generations before His coming looked forward out of their twilight with wistful expectancy.

Not without meaning is He called "Jesus our Lord." The "principalities and powers" of the heavenly places are in our view (Ephesians 3:10). These potentates some of the Asian Christians were fain to worship. "See ye do it not," Paul seems to say. "Jesus, the Christ of God, is alone our Lord; not these. He is our Lord and theirs. [Ephesians 1:21-22] AS our Lord He commands their homage, and gives them lessons through His Church in God’s deep counsels." Everything that the apostle says tends to exalt our Redeemer and to enhance our confidence in Him. His position is central and supreme, in regard alike to the ages of time and the-powers of the universe. In His hand is the key to all mysteries. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning, middle, and end of God’s ways. He is the centre of Israel-Israel of the world and the human ages; while the world of men is bound through Him to the higher spheres of being, over which He too presides. There is a splendid intellectual courage, an incredible boldness and reach of thought in St. Paul’s conception of the sovereignty of Christ. Remember that He of whom these things are said, but thirty years before died a felon’s death in the sight of the Jewish people. It is not our Lord Jesus Christ, whose name is hallowed by the lips of millions and glorified by the triumphs of centuries upon centuries past, but the Nazarene with the obscurity of His life and the cruel shame of Calvary fresh in the recollection of all men. With what immense force had the facts of His glorification wrought upon men’s minds-His resurrection and ascension, the witness of His Spirit and the virtue of His gospel-for it to be possible to speak of Him thus, within a generation of His death! While "the foolishness of preaching" such a Christ and the weakness in which He was crucified were patent to all eyes, unrelieved by the influence of time and the glamour of success, how was it that the first believers raised Jesus to this limitless glory and dominion? It was through the conviction, certified by outward fact and inward experience, that "He liveth by the power of God." Thus Peter on the day of Pentecost: "By the right hand of God exalted, He has shed forth this which ye now see and hear." The resurrection from the dead, the demonstration of the Spirit, proved Jesus Christ to be that which He had claimed to be, the Saviour of men and the eternal Son of God.

The supremacy here assigned to Christ is a consequence of the exaltation described at the close of the first chapter. There we see the height, here the breadth and length of His dominion. If He is raised from the grave so high that all created powers and names are beneath His feet, we cannot wonder that the past ages were employed in preparing His way, that the basis of His throne lies in the foundation of the world.

II. The universe is one. There is a solidarity of rational and moral interests amongst all intelligences. Granting the existence of such beings as the angels of Scripture, we should expect them to be profoundly concerned in the redeeming work of Christ. They are the "watchers" and "holy ones" spoken of by the later Isaiah and Daniel, whom the Lord has "set upon the walls of Jerusalem" and who survey the affairs of nations. Such was "the angel who talked" with Zechariah in his vision, and whom the prophet overheard pleading for Jerusalem. In the Apocalypse, again, we find the angels acting as God’s unseen executive. We decline to believe that these superhuman creatures are nothing more than apocalyptic machinery, that they are creations of fancy employed to give a livelier aspect to spiritual truth. "Cannot I pray to my Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?" So Jesus said, in the most solemn hour of His life. And who can forget His tender words concerning the little children, whose "angels do always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven"?

The apostle Paul, who denounces "worship of the angels" in the fellow epistle to this, earnestly believed in their existence and their interest in human affairs. If he did not write the words of Hebrews 1:14, he certainly held that "they are ministering spirits sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation." Most clearly is their relationship to the Church affirmed by the words of the revealing angel to the apostle John: "I am a fellow-servant with thee and with thy brethren the prophets, and with them that keep the words of this book."

Christ’s service is the high school of wisdom for the universe. These princes of heaven win by their ministry to Christ and His Church a great reward. Their intelligence, however lofty its range, is finite. Their keen and burning intuition could not penetrate the mystery of God’s intentions toward this world. The revelations of the tatter days-the incarnation, the cross, the publication of the gospel, the outpouring of the Spirit-were full of surprises to the heavenly watchers. They sang at Bethlehem; they hid their faces and shrouded heaven in blackness at the sight of Calvary. They bent down with eager observation and searching thought "desiring to look into" the things made known to men, [1 Peter 1:12] -close and sympathetic students of the Church’s history. The apostle felt that there were other eyes bent upon him than those of his fellow-men, and that he was acting in a grander arena than the visible world. "We are a spectacle," he says, "to angels and to men." So he enjoins faithfulness on Timothy, and with Timothy on all who bear the charge of the gospel, "before God and Christ Jesus, and the elect angels." What is public opinion, what the applause or derision of the crowd, to him who lives and acts in the presence of these august spectators?

"Through the Church," we are told the angels of God are now having His "manifold wisdom made known" to them. It is not from the abstract scheme of salvation, from the theory or theology of the Church that they get this education, but through the living Church herself. The Saviour’s mission to earth created a problem for them, the development of which they follow with the most intense and sympathetic interest. With what solicitude they watch the conflict between good and evil and the varying progress of Christ’s kingdom amongst men! Many things, doubtless, that engage our attention and fill a large space in our Church records, are of little account with them; and much that passes in obscurity, names and deeds unchronicled by fame, are written in heaven and pondered in other spheres. No brave and true blow is struck in Christ’s battle but it has the admiration of these high spectators. No advance is made in character and habit, in Christian intelligence and efficiency and the application of the gospel to human need, but they notice and approve. When the cause of the Church and the salvation of mankind go forward, when righteousness and peace triumph, the morning stars sing together and the sons of God shout for joy. The joy that there is in the presence of the angels of God over the repenting sinner, is not the joy of sympathy or pity only; it is the delight of growing wisdom, of deepening insight into the ways of God, into the heart of the Father and the love that passes knowledge.

One would suppose, from what the apostle hints, that our world presents a problem unique in the kingdom of God, one which raises questions more complicated and crucial than have elsewhere arisen. The heavenly princedoms are learning through the Church "the manifold wisdom of God." His love, in its pure essence, those happy and godlike beings know. They have lived for ages in its unclouded light. His power and skill they may see displayed in proportions immensely grander than this puny globe of ours presents. God’s justice, it may be, and the thunders of His law have issued forth in other regions clothed with a splendour of which the scenes of Sinai were but a faint emblem. It is in the combination of the manifold principles of the Divine government that the peculiarity of the human problem appears to lie. The delicate and continuous balancing of forces in God’s plan of dealing with this world, the reconciliation of seeming incompatibilities, the issue found from positions of hopeless contradiction, the accord of goodness with severity, of inflexible rectitude and truth with fatherly compassion, afford to the greatest minds of heaven a spectacle and a study altogether wonderful. So amongst ourselves the child of a noble house, reared in cultured ease and shielded from moral peril, in visiting the homes of poverty in the crowded city, finds a new world opened to him, that can teach him Divine lessons if he has the heart to learn. His mind is awakened, his sympathies enriched. He hears the world’s true voice, "the still, sad music of humanity." He measures the heights and depths of man’s nature. A host of questions are thrust "upon him," whose urgency he had scarcely guessed; and wide ranges of truth are lighted up for him, which before were distant and unreal. The highest have ever to learn from the lowest in Christ’s school, the seeming-wise from the simple; even the pure and good, from contact with the fallen whom they seek to save.

And "the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places" are, it seems, willing to learn from those below them. As they traced the course of human history in those "eternal times" during which the mystery lay wrapped in silence, the angel watchers were too wise to play the sceptic, too cautious to criticise an unfinished plan and arraign a justice they could not yet understand. With a dignified patience they waited the uplifting of the curtain and the unravelling of the entangled plot. They looked for the coming of the Promised One. So in due time they witnessed and, for their reward, assisted in His manifestation. With the same docility these high sharers of our theological inquiries still wait to see the end of the Lord and to take their part in the denouement of the time-drama, in the revelation of the sons of God. Let us copy their long patience. God has not made us to mock us. "What thou knowest not now," said the great Revealer, the Master of all mysteries, to His disciple, "thou shalt know hereafter."

These wise elder brothers of ours, rich in the lore of eternity, foresee the things to come as we cannot do. They are far above the smoke and dust of the earthly conflict. The doubts that shake the strongest souls amongst us, the cries of the hour which confuse and deceive us, do not trouble them. They behold us in our weakness, our fears, and our divisions; but they also look on Him who "sits expecting till His enemies are made His footstool." They see how calmly He sits, how patiently expectant, while the sound of clashing arms and the rage and tumult of the peoples go up from the earth. They mark the steadiness with which through century after century, in spite of refluent waves, the tide of mercy rises, and still rises on the shores of earth. Thrones, systems, civilisations have gone down; one after another of the powers that strove to crush or to corrupt Christ’s Church has disappeared; and still the name of Jesus lives and spreads. It has traversed every continent and sea; it stands at the head of the living and moving forces of the world. Those who come nearest to the angelic point of view, and judge of the progress of things not by the froth upon the surface, but by the trend of the deeper currents, are the most confident for the future of our race. The kingdom of Satan will not fall without a struggle-a last struggle, perhaps more furious than any in the past-but it is doomed, and waning to its end. So far has the kingdom of Christ advanced, so mightily does the word of God grow and prevail in the earth, that faith may well assure itself of the promised triumph. Soon we shall shout "Alleluia! The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!"

III. Suddenly, according to his wont, the apostle drops down from the heights of contemplation to the level of ordinary fact. He descends in Ephesians 3:12 from the thought of the eternal purpose and the education of the angels to the struggling Church. The assurance of its life in the Spirit corresponds to the grandeur of that Divine order to which it belongs. "In whom," he says-in this Christ, the revealed mystery of ages past, the Teacher of angels and archangels" we have our freedom and confident access to God through faith in Him."

If it be "Jesus our Lord" to whom these attributes belong, and He is not ashamed of us, well may we draw near with confidence to the Father, unashamed in the presence of His holy angels. We have no need to be abashed, if we approach the Divine Majesty with a true faith in Christ. His name gives the sinner access to the holiest place. The cherubim sheathe their swords of flame. The heavenly warders at this passport open the golden gates. We "come unto Mount Sion, the city of the living God, and to an innumerable company of angels." Not one of these mightinesses and ancient peers of heaven, not Gabriel or Michael himself, would wish or dare to bar our entrance.

"We have boldness and access," says the apostle, as in Ephesians 1:7 : "We have redemption in His blood." He insists upon the conscious fact. This freedom of approach to God, this sonship of faith, is no hope or dream of what may be; it is a present reality, a filial cry heard in a multitude both of Gentile and Jewish hearts. {comp Ephesians 2:18}

This sentence exhibits the richness of synonyms characteristic of the epistle. There are boldness and access, confidence as well as faith. The three former terms Bengel nicely distinguishes: "libertatem oris in orando," and "admissionem in fiducia in re, et corde"-freedom of speech (in prayer), of status, and of feeling. The second word {as in Ephesians 2:18 and Romans 5:2} appears to be rather active than passive in its force, denoting admittance rather than access. So that while the former of the parallel terms (boldness) describes the liberty with which the newborn Church of the redeemed address themselves to God the Father and the unchecked freedom of their petitions, the latter (admittance) takes us back to the act of Christ by which He introduced us to the Father’s presence and gave us the place of sons in the house. Being thus admitted, we may come with confidence of heart, though we be less than the least of saints. Accepted in the Beloved, we are within our right if we say to the Father:-

"Yet in Thy Son divinely great,

We claim Thy providential care.

Boldly we stand before Thy seat;

Our Advocate hath placed us there!"

"Wherefore," concludes the imprisoned apostle, "I beg you not to lose heart at my afflictions for you." Assuredly Paul did not pray that he should not lose heart, as some interpret his meaning. But he knew how his friends were fretting and wearying over his long captivity. Hence he writes to the Philippians: "I would have you know that the things which have happened to me have turned out rather to the furtherance of the gospel." Hence, too, he assures the Colossians earnestly of his joy in suffering for their sake. [Ephesians 1:1-23]

The Church was fearful for Paul’s life and distressed by his prolonged sufferings. It missed his cheering presence and the inspiration of his voice. But if the Church is so dear to God as the pages of this letter show, and grounded in His eternal purposes, then let all friends of Christ take courage. The ark freighted with such fortunes cannot sink. St. Paul is a martyr for Christ, and for Gentile Christendom! Every stroke that falls upon him, every day added to the months of his imprisonment helps to show the worth of the cause he has espoused and gives to it increased lustre: "my afflictions for you, which are your glory."

Those that love him should boast rather than grieve over his afflictions. "We make our boast in you amongst the Churches of God," he wrote to the distressed Thessalonians, [2 Thessalonians 1:4] "for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and afflictions"; so he would have the Churches think of him. When good men suffer in a good cause, it is not matter for pity and dread, but rather for a holy pride.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:13". "Expositor's Bible Commentary".

The Pulpit Commentaries


Ephesians 3:1-13


Ephesians 3:1

For this cause. The reference is not merely to the last statement or illustration, but to the whole view of the purpose of God toward the Gentiles unfolded in Ephesians it. The apodosis does not come in till verse 14, at the beginning of which this conjunctive clause is repeated. I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles. He introduces himself in order to make known the feelings which were roused in his soul towards them by the consideration of the privileges just enlarged on—especially to acquaint them with the prayers he offered for them (see verses 14-19), and apparently with the indirect object of getting them to offer similar prayers for themselves. To justify this introduction of himself, he delicately introduces the fact of his being a prisoner on their behalf. What had brought him to Rome, what had made him appeal to Caesar, was his preaching the gospel to the Gentiles; indeed, the immediate occasion of his arrest at Jerusalem was the suspicion that he had taken Trophimus, an Ephesian, one of themselves, into the temple (Acts 21:29). By this allusion to the condition into which his regard for them had brought him, be conciliates sympathetic consideration of what is to follow.

Ephesians 3:2

If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God. Here begins the digression. The words, "if ye have heard," etc., do not denote an uncertainty, but are a delicate reminder. Doubtless they had heard of the matter when he was at Ephesus, and, as he remarks in Ephesians 3:3, he had already written briefly on it. Grace is here used in a more restricted sense than in Ephesians 1:2—in the sense of Divine favor, honor, privilege—the same as in Ephesians 1:8, "To me... is this favor given." Which is given me to you-ward. The grace or favor meant is that whereby Paul was constituted the apostle of the Gentiles. Deeply though he felt his being sent away from preaching to his countrymen (Acts 22:18), he took kindly to the new sphere allotted to him, and magnified his office (Romans 11:13).

Ephesians 3:3

How that, by revelation, was made known unto me the mystery. The mystery, as is explained afterwards (Ephesians 3:6), was not the gospel itself, but its destination to the Gentiles as much as to the Jews; although, as appears afterwards, this fullness of blessing is really the great glory of the gospel. Mystery, that which is known only to the initiated, does not denote here a thing obscure in its own nature, but only something that had been concealed from view. It was only the initiated that now knew that God designed the gospel for Gentile and Jew alike. Paul had been initiated "by revelation"—not by his own reflecting power, not by his study of Scripture, not by communication from ether men, but by a special communication from God (Galatians 1:12). As I wrote before in few words. Where? In another Epistle? No; but in the earlier part of this Epistle (see Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 2:18, etc.). If it be said the allusions in these places to the topic in question are rather vague and general, the apostle virtually admits it—he wrote of it "in few words;" but, as it is a great and glorious truth, he returns to it to amplify it and place it in a brighter light.

Ephesians 3:4

In accordance with which, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ. προς ὂ, with reference to which, i.e. to what I wrote afore: to make that more intelligible I write on the subject more fully now, so that you shall see that your instructor is thoroughly informed in this matter of the mystery in Christ—this once concealed but now revealed purpose of his grace.

Ephesians 3:5

Which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations. Though not a new purpose, the knowledge of it is new. Abraham, David, and the prophets, however much they knew of Christ and the fullness of blessing in him for all the families of the earth, did not know the full extent of God's grace to the Gentries—did not know that the middle wall was to be wholly broken down, and all inequality removed. This might seem to throw some doubt on the reality of this doctrine; but it was on purpose that God kept it secret, and those by whom he has now revealed it are worthy of all regard. As it has now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit. It is not revealed to Paul only, although he has got the privilege of announcing it to the Gentiles, but to the whole body of "holy apostles and prophets." The designation, "holy apostles," is rare; it is used here to magnify the office, to show that those whom the Head of the Church had set apart for himself were fit instruments to receive so important a revelation. "Prophets" here are undoubtedly New Testament prophets (see Ephesians 2:20), the contrast being with "sons of men in other generations." Reference may be made to the experience and decree of the Council of Jerusalem, guided by the Holy Spirit (see Acts 15:28).

Ephesians 3:6

That the Gentiles are fellow-heirs—heirs with the Jews of the same inheritance (see Ephesians 1:11)—and fellow-members of the body (this figure is repeated and applied in Ephesians 4:4, Ephesians 4:16, Ephesians 4:25), and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel—the promise to Abraham, "In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." They do not get this blessing indirectly through the Jews, or by becoming Jews, but directly, as Gentiles; and they become fellow-heirs, fellow-members, and fellow-partakers "in Christ Jesus," enjoying all privileges in him, in a state of union and fellowship with him. To this state they are invited and admitted through the gospel; by receiving the glad tidings they enter on these blessings (comp. Romans 10:15, Romans 10:18). This statement of religious equality between Jews and Gentiles is strong, clear, complete; the more remarkable that Paul himself had bad so strong Jewish prejudices; only one of dearest insight and highest courage could proclaim the truth so emphatically; it is little wonder if many believing Jews, less enlightened and less courageous, shrank from his statements as too strong.

Ephesians 3:7

Of which I became a minister; did not gradually grow up to the office, but became, at a given time and place, a minister, a διάκονος, a servant. According to the gift of the grace of God. The office of serving Christ was a gift, most undeserved on Paul's part, who had been a persecutor and injurious, but flowing from the free grace of God, his sovereign, unmerited mercy. Which was given me according to the working of his power. This denotes the manner of the gift; the gift itself, apostleship to the Gentiles, would have been little had it not been accompanied with Divine power. Spiritual office without spiritual power is miserable; but in Paul's case there was the power as well as the office; not merely the power of working miracles, as some have held, but besides this, the power of spiritual insight into the meaning of Scripture—power of exposition, power of demonstration, power of persuasion. Paul gratefully acknowledged that all the power of his ministry was God's, not his own (1 Corinthians 3:6, 1 Corinthians 3:7).

Ephesians 3:8

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints; not only of apostles and prophets, but even of all believers—a profound expression of humility, founded not only on his persecuting career, but on his consciousness of sin, of inborn rebellion against God's Law, of fountains of unlawful desire in his flesh (Romans 7:18; 1 Timothy 1:13-15), making him feel himself to be, in heart and essence, the chief of sinners. The sense of sin is not usually in proportion to the acts of outward transgression, but to the insight into the springs of evil in one's heart, and the true nature of sin as direct antagonism to the holy God. Was this grace given. The third time in this chapter that he speaks of his office as a fruit of grace, showing that, notwithstanding his being a prisoner on account of it, and all the perils it involved (2 Corinthians 11:24-27), he was overwhelmed with God's unmerited goodness in conferring it on him. It was substantially the post of a foreign missionary, with hardly one human comfort! To preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; εὐγγελίσασθαι, to evangelize, to proclaim good tidings. The force of the ευ) is not given in "preach," but the idea is amply conveyed by the words that follow. The balance of authority for τοῖς ἔθνεσι, "to the Gentiles," and ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσι, "among the Gentiles," is about equal; the meaning really the same. ἔθνος, heathen, was almost an offensive name; yet with that name the apostle associates the highest blessings of God. The unsearchable riches of Christ; two attractive words, riches and unsearchable, conveying the idea of the things that are most precious being infinitely abundant. Usually precious things are rare; their very rarity increases their price; but here that which is most precious is also boundless—riches of compassion and love, of merit, of sanctifying, comforting, and transforming power, all without limit, and capable of satisfying every want, craving, and yearning of the heart, now and evermore. The thought of his having such riches to offer to all made him regard his office as most glorious, raised him far above the point of view from which the world would despise it, and filled him with adoring gratitude to God for having conferred it on him.

Ephesians 3:9

And to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery. Another branch of his office, and another fruit of God's grace in conferring it. He was not only to benefit man, but also to vindicate God. For "fellowship of the mystery" (A.V.), the R.V. has "dispensation of the mystery," founded on the preference of the reading οἰκονομια, for which there is a great preponderance of authority over κοινωνία. It was the apostle's function to show how this mystery had been dispensed—concealed for a long time and at last revealed. Which from the beginning of the ages hath been hid in God. The counsel itself was πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων, before the foundation of the world; the concealment of it ἀπό τῶν αἰώνων, from the beginning of the ages, when there were intelligent beings capable of understanding it—whether angels or men. Whatever the angels may have known of the Divine plans, this feature of them was not known till revealed to the New Testament Church. Who created all things. The reason for adding this particular designation of God is not obvious; probably it is to indicate the relation of the matter in hand to the mightiest works of God. This is no trifling matter; it connects itself with God's grandest operations; it has supremely glorious bearings. It might be supposed to have relations only to one race and to one period of time; but it has relations to "all things;" it is an integral element in God's plan. The words, by Jesus Christ (A.V.), are not found in a great preponderance of textual authorities.

Ephesians 3:10

To the intent—indicative of the purpose of the remarkable arrangement or dispensation according to which the eternal Divine purpose, which had been concealed from the beginning of the ages, was now made known—that there might b e made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places; that a lesson might be given to the unfallen angels. Their interest in the scheme of man's redemption is often referred to (1 Peter 1:12). Even the highest powers of heaven have yet much to learn respecting God. The dispensation of God's grace to man is one of their lesson-books. Dr. Chalmers shows ('Astronomical Discourses') how this meets the objection that so dread a sacrifice as the life of God's Son could not have been made for one poor planet; in its indirect bearings we do not know what other orders of beings have derived most vital lessons from this manifestation of the attributes of God. However men may scorn the salvation of Christ and all that belongs to it, the highest intelligences regard it with profound interest. By the Church the manifold wisdom of God. Through the Church, now constituted, according' to the revealed mystery, of Jew and Gentile, all redeemed by Christ's blood and renewed by his Spirit, there is exhibited to the angels the manifold wisdom of God. The precise line of thought is this: God from eternity, had a purpose to put Jew anti Gentile on precisely the same footing, but concealed it for many ages, until he revealed it in the apostolic age, when he appointed Paul his minister to announce it. The purpose of this whole arrangement was to enlighten the principalities and powers of heaven in the manifold wisdom of God. How in his manifold wisdom? In this way. During these preparatory ages, when God's gracious dealings were with the Jews only, all kinds of false religions were developing among the heathen, and their diversified influence and effects were becoming apparent in many ways—the divergent tendencies of men, especially in religious matters, were being developed; but in the new turn given to things by the breaking down of the middle wall in Christ, the manifold wisdom of God was shown in transforming many of these most diverse elements, unifying them, building them up into a great spiritual body, into a holy, most beautiful, most symmetrical temple. When all things seem to be flying asunder into the most diverse and antagonistic elements, God gives a new turn, as it were, to providence, and lo! a glorious symmetrical and harmonious structure begins to rise.

Ephesians 3:11

According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. The apostle is ever anxious that we should connect these operations, of God with the profundity, deliberation, and awfulness of an eternal decree, and that we should thus contrast them in our minds with many even of the most important works of man which are often determined, on his part, by a passing event or other trivial cause. The verb in this clause is ἐποίησε, which he made, and it has been debated whether it denotes the original formation of the purpose, or the execution of it under Christ. With A.V. and R.V., we prefer the former. The object of the apostle is to indicate that the purpose existed from eternity; but, besides, the meaning of "fulfilled" or "executed" can hardly be sustained by &retype. The closing formula, "in Christ Jesus," is perfectly applicable to the eternal formation of the purpose; it is the constantly returning indication of the element in which the whole scheme of grace had its beginning, its progress, and its end.

Ephesians 3:12

In whom we have our boldness and access. παῤῥησία literally means "boldness" or "freedom of speech," but is used here in a more ample sense for want of restraint, ease of feeling, comfortable self-possession, in our access to God. Contrast with Adam hiding himself among the trees of the garden, and the lost calling on the mountains to fall on them, and the rocks to cover them. The "we" in this verse includes both Jews and Gentiles. The "access," or introduction (see Ephesians 2:18), is like that of the high priest into the holy of holies—we have boldness to enter into the holiest of all (Hebrews 10:19). In confidence through the faith of him. The confidence of being welcomed and accepted when we go into God's presence springs from our faith in him. We believe in him as the Propitiation, as our Peace, as the Reconciler, and we go before God with confidence. The clause, "through faith in him," influences the whole verse. And, as before, we have at the beginning of the verse, "in whom"—an express-ion denoting generally our union with Christ, and at the end, "through the faith of him"—a specification of the instrument by which flint union is formed and by which it operates.

Ephesians 3:13

Wherefore I beg that ye faint not at my tribulations for you. A very delicate and touching request, that they would not be too much distressed by what he was suffering for them (comp. Epaphroditus, Philippians 2:26). Paul knew that the sympathy was so strong that what was suffered by him was endured sympathetically by them. Two expressions denote that the sufferings were great: "My tribulations for you"—a word expressing intense and protracted suffering; "that ye faint not," or that ye do not lose heart, as if the power of evil had got the upper hand. Which is your glory. That is, the character or capacity of the apostle of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, in which I suffer tribulation, is one of such exalted dignity as to reflect glory on you. Take that view of my sufferings; I suffer because I hold so glorious an office, and the glory of that office is reflected on you.

Ephesians 3:14-21


Ephesians 3:14

For this cause. The digression being ended, the apostle takes up the thread broken at ver.

1. We must seek the "cause" in Ephesians

2. Seeing that the Gentiles have now equal privileges with the Jews; seeing that by faith in Christ Gentile Christians have been brought as near to God, and have as good a right to the good things of the covenant;—I take the steps now to be specified for enabling them actually to possess these good things. On the one hand, the apostle saw the believing Ephesians still comparatively poor and needy; on the other hand, he saw all spiritual stores provided for them: the question was how to get the one into contact with the other. For this cause, he says, I bow my knees unto the Father. An emphatic way of denoting prayer; but not incidental, occasional prayer, inspired by some passing feeling; the attitude "bow my knees" denotes deliberate prayer (comp. Daniel 6:10), making a business of it, approaching God with reverence and holy fear, with all the solemnities suitable to the occasion of making a specific and important request. In the A.V. it is "unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." The R.V., some of the oldest manuscripts, and most recent commentators omit the latter words, which are supposed to have been taken from Ephesians 1:3. On internal grounds, the omission of the wends seems to yield the best sense, for in Ephesians 2:18 our having access to "the Father" is spoken of, and when the apostle proceeded to show how he availed himself of that privilege, he is not likely to have used more than that expression. Further, there is such a close connection between πατέρα and πατριὰ in Ephesians 2:15, that they are not likely to have been far separated as the apostle used them.

Ephesians 3:15

From whom the whole family in heaven and on earth is named. So A.V., but R.V. has "every family," holding, doubtless, that the want of the article— πᾶσα πατριὰ not πᾶσαἡπατριὰ—requires this sense. But as in Matthew 2:3; Luke 4:13; Acts 2:1-47.36; Acts 7:22, and Ephesians 2:21; so here, πᾶσα without the article may denote the totality of the thing; πᾶσα πατριὰ corresponding to πᾶσα οἰκοδομὴ.;And this seems more in accord with the scope of the passage, for here the apostle is not distributing into groups, but gathering into one. But what is the precise import of the statement, and for what reason is it introduced? The apostle recognizes all saints, whether in heaven or on earth, as forming one family, and as the whole family derives its name from God, so God may ha expected and appealed to to make full and corresponding provision for the wants of its various sections. The implied appeal is not to the fact that the family is God's family, but to the fact, less important in itself but really including the other, that it is named after him. Among men, one would be held emphatically bound to take an interest in those who are not only his relations but bear his very name. Now, that part of the family which is housed in heaven is gloriously provided for; the apostle proceeds to intercede for the portion still on earth. As the whole family is named after the same Father, is conspicuous before the eyes of all as God's, so it may well be expected that the more needy, feeble, exposed, and tempted part of the family will be treated in every way worthy of its Father.

"Let saints on earth unite to sing

With those to glory gone;

For all the servants of our King,

In earth and heaven, are one.

"One family we dwell in him,

One Church above, beneath;

Though now divided by the stream,

The narrow stream, of death."

Ephesians 3:16

That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory. The standard or measure of the Divine giving is brought into view. "Riches of his glory" is a more emphatic expression than "glorious riches," though substantially the same in meaning. God's standard of giving is liberal, bountiful, overflowing. An image of the riches of his glory is seen in the starry heavens, which proclaim at once the vast riches and surpassing glory of God. Or in the beautiful appearance of an autumn sunset, where the whole sky is flecked with clouds brightened into a sea of glory. In prayer, it is both useful for ourselves and glorifying to God to recognize his bountifulness—to remember that he gives us a King (2 Samuel 24:23). To be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man. The inner man is the seat of influence, but with us it is the scat of spiritual feebleness. Most men may contrive to order their outward conduct suitably; but who has control of the inner man? Faith, trust, humility, love, patience, and the like graces which belong to the inner man, are what we are weakest in, and what we have least power to make strong. In this very region it is sought that the Ephesians might be strengthened with might by the Spirit. The gift of the Spirit is available for this very purpose for all that ask him.

Ephesians 3:17

That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith. Reversing the usual order, the prayer begins (Ephesians 3:16) by asking the blessing of the Third Person of the Godhead; now we have a cluster of petitions connected with the Second Person. The first of these is for the indwelling of Christ in their hearts, as opposed to mere occasional visits or influences from Christ; the instrument by which this blessing is attained being their faith. Christ exercising a constant power within them, both in the active and passive movements of the heart, giving the sense of pardon and acceptance, molding the will, sweetening the emotions, enlightening and confirming the conscience, purifying the whole springs and principles of action. This to be secured by their faith, opening the door, receiving Christ in all his fullness, resting and living on him, believing his promises, and longing for his appearing the second time. In order that ye, having been rooted and grounded in love. Two images are combined to make the idea emphatic—that of a tree and that of a building; denoting what is both the starting-point and the support of the Christian's life, viz. love. In what sense? The love of Christ is specified afterwards (Ephesians 3:19), but this may be as a pre-eminent branch of that manifold love which bears on the Christian life—the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; the love of the brethren to one another; and the reciprocal love evoked from the believer by the reception of this love. Evidently it is implied that the Christian life can begin and flourish only in such an atmosphere of love; as warm sunshine is needed to start and advance the life of a plant, so love is needed to start and carry on the life of the soul. Experience of Divine love is a great quickening and propelling power. "One glance of God, a touch of his love, will free and enlarge the heart, so that it can deny all and part with all and make an entire renunciation of all to follow him" (Archbishop Leighton).

Ephesians 3:18

May be made strong to comprehend with all the saints. The subject to be comprehended is not only beyond man's natural capacity, but beyond the ordinary force of his spiritual capacity. The tiring to be grasped needs a special strength of heart and soul; the heart needs to be enlarged, the mental "hands of the arms" need to be made strong (Genesis 49:24). But the attainment is not impossible—it is the experience of "all the saints;" all God's children are enabled to grasp something of this. What is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height. No genitive being given, it has been a difficult point to settle to what these dimensions must be held to be applicable. Some think that the love of Christ in the following clause must be meant; but surely when that is made the subject of a separate part of the prayer, and is not in the genitive but the objective case, governed by a verb of its own, this explanation is not to be enter-rained. Others, with more reason, think that the idea of a temple was in the mind of the writer, as it certainly was in Ephesians 2:21, Ephesians 2:22, and that it is the dimensions of the temple he had here in his eye, the prayer being that the Ephesians might comprehend the vastness and glory of that spiritual temple which is constituted by all believers, and in which God dwells by the Spirit. Even this, however, would not divest the construction of abruptness, and it would fit in but poorly with the context, in which the tenor o f the apostle's prayer is that a profusion of Divine blessing might be enjoyed by the Ephesians. If a genitive must be supplied, may we not conceive the apostle to have had in his view the entire provision God has made in Christ for the good of his people, so that the dimensions would be those of the gospel storehouse, the vast reservoir out of which the Church is filled? "Breadth" might denote the manifoldness of that provision; "length," its eternal duration; its "depth" might be represented by the profundity of Christ's humiliation; and its "height" by the loftiness of the condition to which his people are to be raised. To comprehend this, to understand its existence and its richness, is to get our faith enlarged, our expectations expanded; it is through this comprehension that "all the saints" have got their wants supplied, and their souls filled as with marrow and fatness.

Ephesians 3:19

And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. The love here is evidently the love of Christ to us, and this may well be specified as a special matter of prayer. Knowledge of Christ's love, in the sense of an inward personal experience of it—its freeness, its tenderness, its depth, its patience—is the great dynamic of the gospel. This love is transmuted into spiritual force. As the breeze fills the sails and bears forward the ship, so the love of Christ fills the soul and moves it in the direction of God's will. But in its fullness it passeth knowledge; it is infinite, not to be grasped by mortal man, and therefore always presenting new fields to be explored, new depths to be fathomed. That ye may be filled with all the fullness of God; that is, that ye may be filled with spiritual grace and blessing to an extent corresponding to all the fullness of God. Though the finite cannot compare with the infinite, there may be a correspondence between them according to the capacity of each. There is a fullness of gracious attainment in every advanced believer that corresponds to all the fullness of God; every part of his nature is supplied from the Divine fountain, and, so far as a creature can, he presents the image of the Divine fullness. In the human nature of Christ this correspondence was perfect: "In him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;" in the soul of the believer there may be a progressive movement towards this fullness. No higher view can be conceived of the dignity of man's nature, and the glorious privileges conferred on him by the gospel, than that he is susceptible of such conformity to God. Who can conceive that man should have attained to such a capacity by a mere process of evolution? "So God made man in his own image;" and in Christ man is "renewed in righteousness and holiness after the image of him who created him."

Ephesians 3:20, Ephesians 3:21

DOXOLOGY. The study and exposition of the amazing riches of the grace of God gives birth to an outburst of praise toward the Divine Source of all this mercy, past, present, and to come. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think. In thinking of God it is as if we thought of space—however far our conceptions may travel, there is still infinity beyond. Paul had asked much in this prayer, and thoughts can always travel beyond words, yet the excess of God's power beyond both was infinite. This excess is denoted by a double term of abundance ( ποιῆσαι ὑπὲρ πάντα and ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ), as if the apostle wished to fill our minds with the idea of absolute infinity of gracious power in God. According to the power that worketh in us, which is none other than the power "which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead" (Ephesians 1:20). The power that is actually at work in us has only to be exerted a little more to accomplish wonders of sanctification, and confer on us immense spiritual strength. Unto him be the glory in the Church in Christ Jesus, world without end. Amen. To God the whole credit of the scheme of grace and the work of grace as carried out in his people is due ("Not of works, lest any man should boast"); therefore let the Church acknowledge this, and cordially and openly ascribe to God his due. Let this feeling be universally encouraged and cherished in the Church, and let it find in the Church services suitable occasions of breaking forth in song and prayer. Again the apostle's favorite formula comes in" in Christ Jesus," to denote that this act of adoration is to be done in immediate connection with the work and person of Christ; for it is he who has brought about the whole condition of things from which the act of adoration springs. And this ascription of praise is not transitory; this view of the Divine character and actings will never become obsolete or be superseded by other views; it will claim their cordial ascriptions forever—literally, to all the generations of the age of the ages.


Ephesians 3:1-13

God's purpose as to the Gentiles.

This passage a parenthesis after Ephesians 3:1—a reference to Paul's personal history. It contains the explanation of his whole career, the secret of his wonderful zeal. Why was he a prisoner? Generally, for the Gentiles. Why for them? Because the Divine purpose regarding them had been revealed to him, and through him to the world, and the enmity of the Jews to that purpose had brought Paul into captivity. Looking at the passage as a whole, it may show us how Paul found compensation for his captivity in the privileges connected with his office as apostle of the Gentiles. This compensation lay chiefly in three things.

I. The precious insight he obtained into the glory of the Divine purpose in reference to the Gentiles, giving him a high conception of the far-reaching generosity of God.

1. There is a high intellectual pleasure in the discovery of any great truth.

2. A profound emotional pleasure in discovering a truth of vast benefit to mankind.

3. A still higher pleasure in receiving such a truth direct from God. This truth did not involve a case of leveling down, but of leveling up. Though the Jews, as a nation, were no longer to occupy a higher platform than the Gentiles, yet all were to be invited to equal nearness to God, and if any should reject the invitation, the blame and the loss would be all their own.

II. The remarkably high qualifications given to him for his office (see Ephesians 3:7)—great love, faith, courage, perseverance, hope; great intellectual insight; great spiritual power. Others got frightened (Mark, Demas, etc.); Paul went on. The human spirit was often depressed, but God comforted him. The thorn in the side was annoying, but "my grace is sufficient for thee."

III. The great honor and privilege of being called to so blessed a work. The work had a glory on earth and a glory in heaven.

1. On earth. He preached to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. He proclaimed his riches of grace, and showed them to be unsearchable. He not only proclaimed them, but in a sense imparted them—brought them into contact with the Ephesians, so that they got the good of them, through the blessing of the Holy Spirit.

2. In heaven. The gospel has aspects of blessing beyond this world. It carries important lessons to the principalities and powers. It shows the manifold wisdom of God, shows how all classes and varieties of mankind are brought to God by the cross of Christ, assimilating all characters, overcoming all alienations, demolishing all wails of separation, and building up all together in Christ Jesus. One great conclusion. In every sense the success of the gospel is very glorifying to God; it illustrates his perfections; it glorifies his Son; it educates the very angels; and thus it carries forward the grand purpose of God in the creation of the worlds. "To him be glory forever. Amen."

Ephesians 3:8

The unsearchable riches of Christ.

"Riches" an attractive word. Human heart leaps towards them. Ceaseless disappointments of most who follow after them. Here the riches that moth and rust do not corrupt, nor thieves break through to steal.

1. There are in Christ unsearchable riches of compassion. Case of the lost, proper object of pity. Christ's pity boundless. Human pity often quenched by great wickedness, troublesomeness, loathsomeness. Not so Christ's! Pity for thief on cross, Saul, Corinthians, and other gross sinners.

2. Unsearchable riches of merit. His blood cleanseth us from all sin. He is "able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by him"—Augustine, Bunyan, Lord Rochester, John Newton, and such like.

3. Unsearchable riches of sanctifying grace. Great change needed to make men meet for kingdom of heaven. This includes grace to enlighten, guide, strengthen, and to restore from declension.

4. Unsearchable riches of comforting grace. No sorrow to which we are liable for which the gospel has not a comfort; no wound for which there is no balm. The Third Person, "the Comforter," is sent by Christ.

5. Unsearchable riches of glorifying grace. Can make provision for the full satisfaction and infinite enjoyment of every soul forever and ever. "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; .. for the Lamb in the midst of the throne shall feed them;" "He that hath the Son hath life;" "He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son."

Ephesians 3:14-21

Prayer for spiritual enrichment. qualities already noted as belonging to Paul's prayer.

This prayer remarkable for Three parts in this prayer—


1. The attitude: "I bow my knees;" humility, earnestness.

2. The designation of God: "the Father;" the character in which Christ taught us to approach God in prayer, and which gives us most encouragement.

3. The name of the family is derived from God, constituting an additional plea. That which bears God's Name must be an object of special interest to him.

II. THE PETITIONS. Three centers of petition, according as the grace

I., Ephesians 3:16 : connected with the Spirit.

2., Ephesians 3:17-19 : connected with the Son.

3., Ephesians 3:19 : connected with the Father. "Filled with all the fullness of God." The renewed heart has a capacity to receive the things of God—to be plunged, as it were, into his fullness and filled there from. This can never be fully reached; as our capacities increase there is more to be enjoyed.


1. The Being praised. "Him that is able," etc. View of Divine infinity, for much has been asked and more thought about; yet, like space and time, God's ability to bless extends infinitely beyond. The blessing is in the direction of what has been already conferred: "According to the power that worketh in us."

2. The ascription offered.


Ephesians 3:1

"The prisoner of Jesus Christ."

The apostle often refers to his prison-life, and here presents himself to the Churches as "an ambassador in bonds" (Ephesians 6:20).

I. HE WAS A MOST CELEBRATED PRISONER. Perhaps he was regarded as of no great account by his Roman jailors, who could have known nothing of the secret of his greatness; but viewed in the light of Christian history, Paul is the most distinguished of men. He did more than any other apostle to shape the theology of Western Christendom, which, in its turn, has left the deepest imprint on the civilization of the world. The world would not be today what it is if Paul of Tarsus had not lived. His influence has long survived the empire of Rome, which held him captive. We sympathize with the prison-sorrows of the great. Alas! that the best of men, "of whom the world was not worthy," have spent so many weary days and years in prison!

II. HE WAS NOT A PRISONER FOR CRIME OR FOR THE BREACH OF THE ROMAN LAWS, BUT AS THE EFFECT OF THE UNSLEEPING HATRED OF THE JEWS. It was his ministry to the Gentiles which brought down upon him the vindictive anger of his countrymen, and led them to accuse him before the Roman magistrates. The suspicion that he had taken Trophimus, an Ephesian, into the temple at Jerusalem had, indeed, an immediate connection with his first arrest. "He was at once Christ's prisoner, the Jews' prisoner, the Romans' prisoner, the Gentiles' prisoner: Christ's prisoner, as suffering for his gospel; the Jews' prisoner, as suffering by their accusation; the Romans' prisoner, as suffering by their sentence; the Gentiles' prisoner, as suffering for his labor's unto their salvation." His imprisonment was thus a higher honor than his rapture into the third Heavens.

III. HIS IMPRISONMENT HAD ITS PROVIDENTIAL ADVANTAGES. Just as John Huss had leisure during his imprisonment in the fortress on the Rhine to write words that fired the hearts of his countrymen ages after his martyrdom at Constance, and as Martin Luther's one year's imprisonment in the Wartburg enabled him to give the Scriptures to Germany in the tongue of the people, so the Apostle Paul was enabled in the leisure of his Roman imprisonment to throw off those beautiful Epistles of the captivity—to the Philippians, to the Ephesians, to the Colossians, to Philemon—which have s, largely contributed to the edification and comfort of the Church. He still held the threads of a hundred interests in his hands, and felt in his prison at Rome the throbbing of thousands of Christian hearts in all parts of Asia and Europe.

IV. PRISON-LIFE IS ALMOST NECESSARILY SAD, BECAUSE OF ITS ISOLATION FROM HUMAN RELATIONS, ITS SOLITUDE, ITS SUSPENSION OF ACTIVE AND ACCUSTOMED LABOR, AND ITS USUALLY HARD CONDITIONS. It must have been a sore trial to the apostle to submit to an enforced inactivity, while the world was everywhere, in so sad a sense, "ripe for the harvest." It would seem as if, at a certain point, the sympathy of Asiatic Christians failed him (2 Timothy 1:15); and there was an unaccountable indifference to his wants marking the relations of the Roman Christians themselves, which argued that much was not to be expected from their affection. So his prison-experience must have had its dark moments.

V. MARK THE SPIRIT IN WHICH THE APOSTLE LIVED THROUGH THIS PRISON-EXPERIENCE. The solitude of such a life often breeds a morbid spirit, which throws a darker coloring into the thoughts of the prisoner. Yet the Epistles of the captivity breathe a beautiful spirit of Christian courage and resignation, not to speak of absolute rejoicing. Compare the letters of the apostle with those of Cicero, Seneca, and Ovid in their exile, and we see at a glance the different effects of Christianity and paganism upon the happiness of man. As the prisoner of Jesus Christ, he abounded in the consolations of his Divine Master, while he must have been greatly encouraged by the visits of disciples like Epaphroditus, Epaphras, and others, who carried to him the prayers and benefactions of the Churches.

VI. WE OUGHT TO REMEMBER PRISONERS IN OUR PRAYERS, AS "BOUND WITH THEM." Most prisoners in our day are in jail for crime, but we ought to remember that they are men, that they are our brothers, that they must feel their separation from wife and children and home as keenly as we should. Perhaps, but for restraining grace, we should have been in their position. But we are bound specially to remember in our prayers those suffering for the cause of Christ, and especially those occupied with great service for the Lord.—T.C.

Ephesians 3:2-5

Dispensational privileges of the Gentiles.

The apostle recurs to a subject already treated in few words" in the first chapter—words which he requests them to read, that they may fully understand his meaning—respecting the new position of the Gentiles in the kingdom of God. Their position was determined by a dispensation, that is, by an arrangement organized in all its parts in relation to space and time; for God works by order in grace as well as in nature. Consider—

I. THE ORIGIN OF THIS DISPENSATION. "The grace of God given to me to you-ward." It was an act of Divine favor to select the apostle as the person through whom "the mystery" of the dispensation was to be, not only revealed, but applied in its redeeming effects to the Ephesian heathens. It was not the honor or the authority involved in it that made it precious in his eyes; it was the privilege of making known the unsearchable riches of Christ. Thus, as a good steward of the mysteries of God, it was the delight of his life to dispense them in all their gracious manifoldness to the family of God.


1. It is called "the mystery of Christ," not because he is its Author, but because he is the Center or Subject of it; for it included far more than the truth that the Gentiles were fellow-citizens of the saints. Christ is the Mystery of godliness, as he is God manifest in the flesh, but he is emphatically so as "Christ the Hope of glory" for the Gentiles (Colossians 1:27).

2. It was hidden for ages from the sons of men, both Jew and Gentile. A mystery is either something which has been concealed, perhaps for ages, and which probably would never have been discovered unless the voice of revelation had proclaimed it; or something which, even when revealed, transcends the power of the human faculties to comprehend it. Now, the Incarnation is a mystery in this double sense; but the call of the Gentiles, as part of "the mystery of Christ," is a mystery only in the first-named sense. It was known to the Jews for ages that the Gentiles would share in the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom—and the Apostle Paul quotes Old Testament predictions to prove the fact (Romans 9:25-33); but it was not known that the Gentiles would be included within the circle of religious privilege by the complete sacrifice of the Hebrew theocracy and the reconstitution of religion on a perfectly new basis, designed equally for all mankind, under which the old distinctions of Jew and. Gentile would be done away. There was to be no further room for Jewish particularism. The dispensation which was to carry the world to its last destinies was to be as universal as that embodied in the first promise made to our first parents.

3. The revelation of the mystery. So far as it involved a mission to the Gentiles, it was revealed first to the Apostle Paul at his conversion; for when Christ appeared to him on his journey to Damascus, he said, "I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness... delivering thee from the people, and. from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God" (Acts 26:16-18). But the fuller exhibition of Gentile privilege is made in this glorious Epistle as well as elsewhere. It was a revelation made by the Lord himself (Galatians 1:12). But it was made especially to "apostles and prophets," both of them belonging to the new dispensation the only class of inspired men connected with it who received special information from the Holy Spirit, who searches the deep things of God, respecting the new development of the kingdom. The revelation was, indeed, one of facts as well as of truths. The calling of the Gentiles was made manifest in the Spirit's falling upon Cornelius, and in the widespread success of the gospel among the Gentiles, so that the logic of facts beautifully reinforced the more formal revelations of "apostles and prophets."

4. The substance of the revelation. "That the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel." These are the three points of Gentile privilege. They were not to receive the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom by being merged as proselytes into the old theocracy, which was to abide in all its narrow ritualism.

Ephesians 3:8, Ephesians 3:9

The apostle's high privilege.

Very often does he refer, with a sort of grateful humility, to the Divine favor in attaching him to the service of the gospel.

I. MARK THE CONTRAST BETWEEN HIS CALL AND HIS SENSE OF PERSONAL NOTHINGNESS. "Less than the least of all saints." The expression is exceedingly emphatic, being a comparative formed upon a superlative. He could never forget his share in the death of Stephen, and his fierce persecutions of the Church of God. This was the sin which, though forgiven by God, could never be forgiven by himself. But he was likewise conscious of his own weakness and sinfulness, as we know by the very forcible phrase, "of sinners I am chief," which he uses as a presently believing man. Such language of self abasement is a mark of true saintship. The highest saints are usually the most distinguished by their humility. The term by which he describes himself implies that there are saints in Christ's kingdom—little, less, least; not that there is any difference in their title, but a difference at once in their realization of their own unworthiness and in the degree of their conformity to him who was at once "meek and lowly." Now, while the consciousness of his own unworthiness steed out in marked contrast to the high function to which he was called in God's grace, he does not shrink from asserting his authority as an ambassador of Christ in the strongest terms, but always with the conviction of one who ascribes all his success, not to his own merits, but to "the gift of the grace of God? His call to the apostleship involved his conversion, and his conversion was "by the effectual working of God's power."

II. CONSIDER HIS MESSAGE TO THE GENTILES. "The unsearchable riches of Christ." We read of riches of grace and riches of glory, but the plenitude of all Divine blessings is in him.

1. The apostle does not specify what is included in the riches of Christ." He who was rich for our sakes became poor that "ye through his poverty might be made rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9). We see the source of all the riches—it is in himself. But Scripture shows that, while in him there was all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, with the real design of his filling us eventually with all the fullness of God, "the riches of Christ" are scattered over the whole path of a believer, from its starting-point in conversion till it is lost in the glories of the eternal inheritance. He is rich in love, rich in compassion, rich in mercy, rich in grace, rich in peace, rich in promise, rich in reward, rich in all the blessings of the new and better covenant, as he must be because he is "made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption."

2. The riches of Christ are "unsearchable." The word suggests the idea of the difficulty of tracing footsteps. Who can trace the footsteps of God? Whatever of power is infinite power; whatever of wisdom is infinite wisdom; whatever of love is infinite love.

3. Consider his larger message to the whole world of man. "And to make all men see the dispensation of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God." The apostle's object was to enlighten the Jew as well as the Gentile upon the true nature of the dispensation which displaced so much that was dear to the Jewish heart in order that the true glory of the Lord might shine forth, not as a mere minister of the circumcision, but as the uniter of Jew and Gentile, bond and free, male and female, in his own body. The mystery was hid for ages, but was now made known by apostles and prophets. We see how revelation was an historical movement, subject to the usual laws of historical development; for the redemptive purpose," hid for ages," was evolved by a gradual process of growth, till in Christianity it became a full-grown fact. It was part of the discipline of man to go through all these stages of imperfect knowledge till "the perfect day" dawned upon the world. But it was through all the ages "the mystery of redemption," going back to the ages that date from creation—"creation building the platform on which the strange mystery of redemption was disclosed."—T.C.

Ephesians 3:10, Ephesians 3:11

The Church the means of angelic enlightenment.

The Divine purpose in the dispensation already described was to make known to the angels the manifold wisdom of God.


1. That the angels are not omniscient, for they have something still to learn.

2. That the angels are in communication with the Church on earth as well as in heaven. They rejoice over the conversion of sinners; they minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:14); they stand in immediate relation to the individual man (Matthew 18:10; Luke 15:10; Luke 16:22). The apostles regard themselves as "spectacles to angels" as well as men, in the insults heaped upon them by an ungrateful world (1 Corinthians 4:9). The Apostle Peter was liberated from prison by an angel. Angels are present in the assembly of the saints (1 Corinthians 11:10). They are associated with the redeemed in heaven (Hebrews 12:22), so as to derive much information concerning the kingdom of God.

3. The angels desire increased knowledge of the ways of God with man. This might be inferred from the fact that they come specially into the foreground at great turning-points in the history of the kingdom of God, such as the founding of the old and new covenants, and the humiliation and exaltation of Christ. But they are expressly represented as desiring "to look into" the great realities of redemption (1 Peter 1:12), and here they are instructed in the manifold wisdom of God by means of the Church.

II. THE INSTRUCTION CONVEYED BY THE CHURCH IS "THE GREATLY DIVERSIFIED WISDOM OF GOD." It is a curious fact that the interest of the angels is not in the power or the goodness of God, but in his wisdom, as if to imply that the work of redemption represents the highest order of intelligence. It is also a high honor to man that he should first receive the knowledge which the angels are to receive through man. But the angels, by their great age—for they may be thousands of years old—have advantages that short-lived man does not possess for comparing the wisdom of God as manifest in widely distant ages. But the wisdom here referred to centers in the Church—the spiritual body constituted in Christ, and its variety is manifest in the original plan of salvation, in the selection of a Redeemer, in the incarnation, in the atonement, in the application of salvation to Gentile and Jew, in the spread el the Greek language, in the triumph of the Roman law, and in all the dispensations by which the Church has been led onward to her final destiny. Thus our earth, though a mere speck in space, becomes, in the eyes of angels, the brightest of stars; for it is the platform of that Church which mirrors forth "the manifold wisdom of God."

III. IT IS THE CHURCH WHICH IS THE MEDIUM OF ANGELIC INSTRUCTION. Not specifically the preaching of apostles, nor human preaching, but the Church as the exhibition in its long and checkered history of the wisdom of God.

IV. THIS EXHIBITION OF THE MANIFOLD WISDOM WAS INVOLVED IN THE ORIGINAL PLAN OF SALVATION. "According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." The scheme was fixed in the counsel of peace; it was executed in all its parts in and through Jesus Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; and it found historical realization in the progress and kingdom of God, apart from all dispensational limitations.—T.C.

Ephesians 3:12

The new spirit of a approach to God.

As the effect of the work of redemption, we stand in a new relation to God, which entitles us to a continuous access to him, free, unrestricted, and confiding.

1. WE HAVE BOLDNESS AND ACCESS TO GOD. There is an open, intrepid speaking which springs from a mind confident in itself and strong in the justice of the cause it espouses; but the freedom of speech here referred to is based upon a true appreciation of our relation to Christ and the security enjoyed by the believer in the midst of all his tremors and dubieties. Our God is indeed a consuming fire, yet the believer can approach him without servile fear, simply because Christ is the way of access, and the heart has been sprinkled from an evil conscience through his blood.

II. IT IS IN CHRIST WE HAVE THIS CHANGED DISPOSITION IN PRAYER. He died that we might have "boldness to enter into the holiest." We see in his atonement, not a means of deliverance out of the bands of God, but the strongest of all reasons for casting ourselves into the bands of God as the very best Friend we have in all the universe. Our security from the wrath of God is in the bosom of God. It is Jesus who gives us audience with God, dispelling at the same time from the mind of the worshipper those suggestions which would restrict or narrow the riches of God's love.

III. IT IS BY FAITH IN CHRIST WE REACH THIS NEW TEMPER OF BOLDNESS. It is by the faith of which Christ is both the Object and the Author, discovering to us the dignity of his person, the efficacy of his work, the security of his love, that we are enabled joyfully to approach God. It is thus we have confidence in our approaches to God. Christ's sacrifice, as it has given infinite satisfaction to God, is fitted to inspire the soul of the believer with perfect confidence. He sees that nothing more is needed to, ensure his everlasting acceptance, and is thus led to tread with boldness the entrance into the sanctuary of God's presence. He has peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. He has confidence in regard to his interest in God's love, in regard to the power and faithfulness of God to fulfill his promises, and in regard to the continuousness of the supply of grace necessary to his final salvation.

IV. THE EFFECTS OF THIS BOLDNESS AND ACCESS TO GOD ARE TO MAKE US SUPERIOR TO ALL THE AFFLICTIONS OF LIFE. The apostle beseeches the Ephesians, on this ground, not to lose heart on account of the afflictions that had come to himself on their account. The cynical philosopher represents most as easily reconciled to the misfortunes of their friends, but Christianity not only enjoins but sustains a nobler temper. So close was the relationship that existed between the apostle and the saints at Ephesus, that his afflictions had fallen upon them like almost the reality of a personal experience. They were not to be discouraged by his tribulations, which were, after all, the price paid for his uncompromising assertion of their rights as Gentiles.—T.C.

Ephesians 3:15

"The family in heaven and in earth."

The prayer of the apostle, which includes a reference to the whole family interest of the universe under the blessed Father, is one of the most fervent, comprehensive, and sublime to be found in all Scripture. Let us consider the force and beauty of the expression, "the family in heaven and in earth." The primary reference is to the Church of God, brat it likewise includes the angels, who merge with the saints into one family; for "all they are brethren." The Church is the family of God in many respects.

I. IT IS SO IN THE TIE THAT BINDS ALL THE MEMBERS TOGETHER. A family has its constitution in nature, not in similarity of opinion, or interest, or taste. We cannot choose who shall be our brothers or sisters. There are relationships in human life into which we can enter or not enter at will, such as political associations, literary fellowships, social bonds of various kinds. The family is not of this character. Now, the Church is a family unlike these merely voluntary associations, for it is founded by God himself, in which we have our place by his own adopting grace, and once we are there, our relations to everything internal and external are determined, not by ourselves, but by the laws of family life. We become "children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26). There may be members in this family who may not recognize us as fellow-members at all, but we are members notwithstanding, by ties which they have done nothing to create and which they cannot undo by their exclusiveness or their bigotry. Yet all the members are really bound to each other by the tie of a common life, for they live by faith in Christ Jesus, and of a common love; for faith worketh by love, and never works without it. Jesus says, "Love one another, as I have loved you." That is, we are to love with a love practical, humble, bountiful, patient, gentle, all-embracing, and lasting as Christ's own love.

II. THE CHURCH IS A FAMILY BY ITS UNITY. There is but one Father in the Divine family, who unites in himself the perfection of fatherly and motherly affection. There is but one Church on earth, "one body," as there is but one faith, one baptism, one hope. Wherever there is union with Christ, there is membership in his body the Church. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the bond of unity in the Church. It follows, therefore, that believers must be one in faith, love, and obedience.

III. THE CHURCH AS A FAMILY ADMITS OF GREAT DIVERSITIES. There are great diversities of affection, of temperament, of character, in the same family, contributing, indeed, to the fullness and happiness of its life. The completeness of the family depends, indeed, on the beautiful fusion of its masculine and feminine elements. Now, the Church similarly, though one, exists under great diversities of form and condition. There are, first, the two great divisions of the Church into the heavenly and the earthly membership. It is a mistake to say, as some do, that the Church consists only of living saints, as if the dead ceased to he in its unity. God does not set members in the body that they may die out of it again; he is the God, not of the dead, but of the living; and if such members are not in the body, they are without a Head, that is, without Jesus Christ, who is the only Head of the body. Can "the whole body" grow to the measure of the stature of a perfect man without including the growth of the entire Church of God? Then, again, there are the diversities of dispensations. Believers of every age, no matter under what dispensation they lived, are members of the Divine family. The way of salvation was always the same (Romans 4:1-25.). The one Lamb of God who took away the sin of man was "slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 8:8). The variety of dispensations marks the onward stages of the family life. Then, again, there are the diversities of opinion which have existed within the Church of God without destroying its unity; and endless diversities of character and temperament, all governed more or less by the subduing grace of God; and the diversities of lot, service, and event, illustrated in the career of the members of this family.

IV. THE CHURCH IS A FAMILY WITH A FINAL GATHERING AND A HOME FOR ALL ITS SEPARATED MEMBERS. There is a house of" many mansions," which our Savior has gone before to prepare (John 14:2)—"the holy places made without hands;" the grand metropolis of God's moral rule, "whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord," from every realm of earth, from every age of time. There angels will mingle with saints, and interchange experiences of the love of God. The fatherhood of God is thus seen to connect different orders of beings by a new and loving tie. Happy family, whose names are written in heaven! Happy family, whose ranks are unbroken, whose hearts are one! Gathered home at last, to be forever with the Lord, and forever with one another!—T.C.

Ephesians 3:16

A prayer for spiritual strength.

This beautiful supplication suggests several interesting points.

I. IT IS A PRAYER FOR THE SAINTS. It is not for their conversion, but that they might have life still more abundantly. The apostle's desire was to make men eminent Christians, to quicken them in the heavenly race, to promote in them a growth in grace and knowledge which would contribute to their spiritual robustness.

II. THE BLESSING SOUGHT IS REGARDED AS A FREE GIFT, "That he would grant you... to be strengthened." All true prayer proceeds upon the supposition that we can expect nothing from God but as a free gift through Jesus Christ. There must be a sense of want along with a spirit of entire dependence on the Lord, so that the believer may realize the sweetness of the promise, "My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).

III. THE BLESSING IS SPIRITUAL STRENGTH. "Strengthened with might… in the inner man." It is not a prayer for physical strength, which is a matter of slight moment in God's sight, though it is often made the subject of foolish boasting among men; nor for intellectual strength, which is a much more important factor in human life; but for "strength in the inner man." This is not to be confounded with "the new man." It is rather "the hidden man of the heart" (1 Peter 3:4); the man "created after God" (Ephesians 4:24) in righteousness and holiness; the interior principle of spiritual life; the personification of out' intellectual and spiritual life, with its impulses, its feelings, its struggles. This is the sphere, the direction, the destination, of the strength prayed for. It is a prayer that God would make us eminent in grace and goodness, that our souls may prosper and. be in health like our bodies, that we may be able to grapple with all our spiritual enemies, to resist temptation, to endure afflictions, to perform the duties of our Christian calling. If we have strength, we shall be able to run in the way of God's commandments (Isaiah 40:31). Our physical strength is renewed from day to day by food and rest. So is our spiritual strength daily renewed by the Bread of life; and thus the apostle could say of himself, "I can do all things through Christ; which strengtheneth me."

IV. THE SOURCE OF THIS STRENGTH IS THE SPIRIT OF GOD. "By the Spirit." Here is the Fountain of spiritual energy. The Spirit strengthens the believer by leading him to the fullness of grace that is in Christ, by shedding abroad the love of God in his heart, by applying the promises of the gospel, by making the Scriptures sources of that "joy of the Lord which is our strength," and thus causing us to go from strength to strength till at last we stand before God in Zion. It is easy to see, indeed, that the Fountain of strength is in the Spirit; for all the nine graces of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Galatians 5:22)—are so many factors of this inward power. They promote the freedom and efficiency of life.

V. THE MEASURE OF THIS STRENGTH. "According to the riches of his glory." The apostle asks it in no limited measures; he asks it in the measure of the riches of that glory which is seen in his blended and harmonious attributes. God will act up to the dignity of his infinite perfections. "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it, saith the Lord;" "Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." There is an inexhaustible source of mercy upon which we may draw at pleasure in the supreme exigencies of our life.

VI. CONSIDER THE IMPORTANCE OF THE BLESSING ASKED FOR. There is happiness in strength, there is misery in weakness; there is efficiency in strength, there is futility in weakness.

1. Our usefulness depends on large supplies of spiritual strength. If we are weak, what good can we do in the world? "Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing."

2. We glorify God by this fuller strength. It is not enough to have grace enough to carry us to heaven; we must abound in the fruits of righteousness to the praise and glory of God, Let us, then, pray earnestly that we may become "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might," and that our inward man may be renewed day by day, even though our outward man show signs of weakness and decay.—T.C.

Ephesians 3:17

The indwelling of Christ in believers.

"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." Whether we regard this clause of the prayer as representing the result, or the purpose, or the source of the spiritual strength spoken of in the previous clause, it is in very close relationship with it. Its own meaning is perfectly clear.

I. THE INDWELLERCHRIST. There is a threefold idea suggested by the term.

1. The believer is regarded as a temple or house to be divinely inhabited. It is originally a house in ruins, to be restored as a beautiful temple of the Lord. Judging by the analogy of restoring a ruined house, the first operation is a cleansing out of the rubbish; the second, an opening of the windows to admit the pure air of heaven, and a kindling of a fire on the hearth; the third is a closing up or all the cracks or openings in the walls by which the wind or air finds access; and the fourth is the furnishing of the rooms with such articles of convenience as our taste and our means may enable us to procure. Similarly, when the Lord takes up his abode in the sinner's heart, the process, though not successive in point of time, includes, first, the application of the blood of Christ to "the heart sprinkled from an evil conscience;" second, the opening of the windows of the understanding to displace the tainted atmosphere of man's thoughts, and the kindling of the fire of love Divine in the heart; third, the watchful closing up of those avenues in the soul through which sin so easily finds access; and fourth, the furnishing of the soul with the needed graces of the Spirit.

2. The indwelling is here ascribed to Christ. It is elsewhere ascribed to the Holy Spirit: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16). It is likewise ascribed to the Father: "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16). These varying forms of expression find their solution in the doctrine of the Trinity. He that hath seen the Son hath seen the Father, and be that hath the Son hath the Father; then, again, he that hath the Son hath the Spirit of Christ: "The Spirit of God dwelleth in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you .. the Spirit is life because of righteousness" (Romans 8:9, Romans 8:10). Therefore, when the apostle speaks of Christ dwelling in our hearts, he refers to the Spirit's indwelling, for Christ dwells in his people by his Spirit. But there is a distinction in the modes of this indwelling: the Father dwells in us by love (1 John 4:16); the Son by faith (Ephesians 3:17); the Spirit lies hid in the heart, working the faith in the one case anti the love in the other.

3. It implies an abiding habit of life. Christ does not come as a sojourner or as a wayfaring man, that turneth aside to tarry for the night, but as a constant dweller. Herein lies our security for the continuance, the power, the comfort, of this life.

II. THE SEAT OF INDWELLINGTHE HEART. This is the true shrine. The word signifies the seat of religious knowledge as well as feeling. Thus Christ sits at the very center of spiritual life, himself the very Life of that life (Galatians 2:20), controlling all its impulses and movements. The objects we most desire we treasure in the heart. The heart wearies of many things, but can never weary of this Divine Visitant, who can speak with commanding voice when the soul is disturbed by suggestions of sin. "If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart" (1 John 3:20). The Lord is the supreme Possessor of the heart "now sprinkled from an evil conscience."

III. THE SUBJECTIVE MEANS OF THE INDWELLINGFAITH. This is not to be regarded merely as the means of our justification, or as the root of our spiritual life, but as its continuously sustaining principle, according to the apostle's teaching: "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and. the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). This is the faith that worketh by love, that purifies the heart, that overcometh the world. It is the principle of spiritual communion; it is that by which we realize the presence, the excellence, the power, of Christ in us; it is that which radiates all grace and peace through the believer's heart.—T.C.

Ephesians 3:18

Love, the root and foundation of spiritual knowledge.

"That ye, being rooted and grounded in love," may comprehend and know the love of Christ. The effect of Christ's indwelling in believers is to root them and found them deeply in love—love being the root of the tree of life in the one case, and the foundation of the temple or house in the other; for the soul, ever contemplating Christ within it, is changed into his very likeness. The apostle means that the Ephesian saints would grow in the knowledge of that love by growing into the likeness of that love. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God; the meek will he guide in judgment, the meek will he teach his way." The truths of God are by them spiritually discerned. There is a deep philosophy in this matter. Men cannot understand each other except so far as they have the radical elements of the same experiences in themselves. I understand what you mean when you say you are hot or cold, because I have had sensations of heat and cold in myself. Thus people of dissimilar tempers, or culture, or opportunities are apt to misunderstand each other. A vulgar man cannot understand a man of high refinement. A practical man of the world, who is today what he was yesterday, and will be tomorrow what he is today, can never understand the man of poetic genius, whose spirits come and go like the tides, today in the height of sentimental ecstasy, tomorrow in the depths of despair. There must, therefore, be similarity of temper or experience to promote a real understanding. Thus we can see how only love can understand love. Even in our worldly intimacies, it is not quickness of perception but the force of sympathy or affection that enables us to understand our friends. "Love's quick eye can pierce through disguises impenetrable to a colder scrutiny." Thus it is that the knowledge of God is not to be compassed by a mere exercise of the intellect; it is to be attained through love: "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love" (1 John 4:8). Thus it comes to pass that we can know the love of Christ realizingly just in proportion as we have that which resembles it in our own hearts, and that love is there in virtue of his own indwelling by the Spirit. "The Christ of the Bible manifests himself, and, by the laws of human nature, can manifest himself only to his own image formed in the heart." Thus it is possible to read a new meaning into the beautiful sentence of inspiration, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). Our Lord has suggestively said, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God." There are moral as well as intellectual conditions in the pathway of all extended knowledge.—T.C.

Ephesians 3:18, Ephesians 3:19

The comprehension of the love of Christ.

The true science for saints is "Christ's love."

I. CONSIDER THIS LOVE AS REPRESENTED IN THE PASSAGE as to length, breadth, height, and depth.

1. These dimensions seem to imply infinity. It has been suggested that the apostle speaks as if standing in a center, himself the object of this love, enveloped by an atmosphere of love which stretches away illimitably above, beneath, around. He prays that all saints may stand, as it were, in the focus of the same enveloping love. What is that which has thus its center wherever a saint is to be found? The center of infinite space is wherever we stand; for we carry this center with us, no matter where we go. So it is with the infinite love of Christ, which surrounds the saints with its vast and limitless expanse. Each saint ought to feel that he is in the very center of that love, as if the sole object of its guiding, purifying, comforting care. Human affection has it's limits, for it cannot lavish its richest treasures upon several beings at the same time. Not so the heart of Jesus, which has room for millions upon millions of saints.

2. But the love of Christ way be seen in its pre-eminence from the standpoint of time. Not only does he love millions, but there is a wonderful duration in his affection for us. We think gratefully of the parental affection that shone upon our life before any time that our memory can recall, and long before we were conscious of its existence. We value most the friendships that have lasted longest. But what is all earthly love to the everlasting love of Christ, which had us in his heart ages before our birth, and had a kingdom prepared for us before the foundation of the world? But his love is as lasting as it is ancient. Human affection often fails through misunderstandings, collisions of interests, variations of pursuit, so that there is often a painful sense of uncertainty as to the future; but even that affection can hardly fallow us, as to any real succor or comfort, throughout the unknown life that awaits us beyond the grave. There is One, however, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever; on the continuance of whose love we can securely count in time and throughout eternity. If he love us now, he will love us to the end. What, then, shall separate us from such a love?

3. But this love might be regarded from another standpoint : think of its intensity. We measure its intensity by its sacrifices, its sufferings, its burdens; yet we must remember that there was more than a mere human sensibility beating in the heart of Christ. He plants himself in the very heart of this world's ingratitude and rebellion and unbelief, exposed to all its hatred, revenge, impurity, profanity; and dies for this very world, "the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God."

II. IT IS A LOVE DESIGNED TO BE THE OBJECT ALIKE OF COMPREHENSION AND OF KNOWLEDGE. The apostle prays that the Ephesian saints may comprehend the dimensions of it and "know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge." There is a difference between the two terms. We do not want simply to know about Christ's love, of which the absolute understanding is beyond our reach, but to know it, to realize it as a possession of our own, to have an experimental knowledge of its preciousness. Such love may be darkness to the intellect, but it is sunshine to the heart; too marvelous for us to comprehend, but not too rich for us to enjoy. "In a word, to know the love of Christ—it is might in weakness; it is patience in tribulation; it is strength for living; it is hope in dying; it is heaven brought clown to earth; it is heaven dwelling within the soul."

III. THE GRAND PURPOSE AND RESULT OF THIS REALIZED LOVE. "That ye may be filled with all the fullness of God."

1. The fullness of God is the tidiness which God possesses, and therefore incapable of being contracted to the dimensions of a human heart. Yet that fullness—the plenitude of the Divine perfection, which is said to dwell in Christ bodily—is the very measure unto which we are to he filled. We are to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect; we are to come "to the perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;" we are actually predestinated to be conformed to the image of that Son of God who is the Brightness of the Father's glory, and the express Image of his person.

2. We are to be filled unto that fullness. The apostle does not say that we shall reach it in this life, or that, if we reach it in the life beyond, the distance between God and us will not still be less than infinite. Plunge an empty vessel into the ocean, it is filled out of and filled with the fullness of the waters that surround it on every side. That empty vessel is our soul. It can take in the fullness of God in its own measure of self-containment. The comparison, to be more exact, demands that the vessel in question should be of expansible material, like a sponge, which, lying withered upon the rock, becomes larger and larger as it is sunk in the deep, till it is merged in the very fullness of the sea. Thus our dry and withered souls, filled with the love of Christ, expand gradually into the very fullness of God.

3. Effects of this filling unto God's fullness. One is that, with a well so full and overflowing, our vessels need never be empty. You may ask too little; you cannot ask too much: for the very fullness of God is ever flowing into you. You cannot exhaust it by any frequency of resort to it. Study ever more and more the love of Christ, which, like an arch, stands all the firmer from every additional stone with which it is weighted. Another effect is that, in proportion as you are being filled with God's fullness, there is loss room in the heart for sin, or fear, or doubt, or pain. The fullness, like the perfect love, "casteth out fear." As in an exhausted receiver, the more the air is drawn off the more firmly will the machine clasp the surface upon which it stands, so the more that guilt and fen; are drawn off from the believer's heart, the more will it cleave to the almighty strength on which it rests. Let our hearts rejoice, therefore, in the fullness of God.—T.C.

Ephesians 3:20, Ephesians 3:21

A great doxology.

The apostle had exhausted all the forms of supplication, and now he casts himself upon the very infinitude of God, which was able to supply more than the thoughts or desires of men could suggest in the sphere of prayer.

I. THE THEME OF THE DOXOLOGY. It is no abstract ascription of glory to God; it is one full of hope and cheer to the Church—the ability of God to do great things for his people. There is a sort of climax in the language employed: God is able to do what we ask or think; he is able to do above all we ask or think; nay, abundantly above it; nay, exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think; and our thinking is very much wider than our asking. Two things make us strong in prayer—a deep sense of need and a strong hope of supply. Perhaps we shall hardly venture to ask some blessings, but we ought to consider that we are either to approach God on our own merits or on the merits of Christ. If we pray for blessing on our own merits, we can hardly be too stinted in our asking; but if on the merits of Christ, we ought not to disgrace God by asking little things on such a wide basis of encouragement. We have, in fact, got a carte-blanche put into our hands by Christ, saying, "Ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you." We are to ask up to our power of thinking, and far beyond it; for "God giveth liberally and upbraideth not?" "Prove me now... if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it." But Paul says merely that God is "able" to do so; what about his will to do so? We remember, when speaking of God's ultimate restoration of the Jews, Paul says, "And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again." That is, they shall be, because God is able to do it. Therefore, we shall never have asked too much till we have asked beyond God's ability.

II. THE MEASURE OF THE POWER REFERRED TO. "According to the power that worketh in us." It is not abstract or intrinsic omnipotence, such as merely suggests a possibility that may never pass into a reality. It is a power in actual exercise for the benefit of the Church of God. It is in actual operation even before we have begun to ask or think; it is "the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe;" it is the glorious and surpassing power of God, not only irreversibly pledged, but irrevocably in operation. The principal thing that God does for us is what he does in us. "According to the power that worketh in us." There is a power that worketh for us, in virtue of whose supreme disposal "all things work together for good to them that love God;" but there is a power that worketh in us, to will and to do of his good pleasure, that perfecteth that which concerneth us, keeping us from falling, so that we may be presented blameless before the presence of his glory.

III. THE DEBT OF GLORY DUE TO SUCH A GOD. "Unto him … be the glory." What shall we not render unto him? Is it not a glorious work he has done? We cannot make him glorious, but we can tell how glorious he is in his gracious and mighty administration. "Thine is the glory," said Christ. All glory belongs to him. Many glorious things exist in creation. The sun is glorious, the stars are glorious, even one star differing from another star in glory; but it is God who feeds their wonderful fires. They belong unto Jehovah. "No flesh must glory in his presence;" and the only way not to glory before him is to glory in him. "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."

IV. THE SPHERE OR SCENE OF THIS GLORY. "Unto him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus." "The locality or sphere is the Church, the outward theatre on which this glory is manifested before men;" and "Christ Jesus is" the Minister of this glory to God, the Minister of the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man, by whom the glory in question is presented with acceptance. In fact, it is in him God manifests the glory of his perfections as the God of grace and salvation; it is through him he shines into our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. Thus the blessings descend through Christ to the Church, just as all the Church's service goes up to God through the hands of Jesus Christ.

V. THE PERIOD OF THIS GLORY. "To all the generations of the age of the ages." A cumulative expression of great force. This glory is to be given to God during all the ages of time. "His Name shall endure forever; men shall be blessed in him; all nations shall call him blessed;" "I will make thy Name to be remembered in all generations." The stream of time rolls on world without end, but the glory is to continue through all the ages of eternity. "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be to him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever. Amen."

VI. LESSONS TO BE DRAWN FROM THIS DOXOLOGY. Let us not be poor any more in cur supplications; let us not be stinted in asking to the dishonor of his abounding grace. Let us be encouraged to ask by the recollection of the blessings we have already received. Let us show a more signal gratitude for all our mercies. Are not the extent of our obligations and the perfection of the holiness to which they bind us, far beyond our powers of apprehending or appreciating them? and ought they not to leave us with the similar question of bewildered gratitude, "What manner of persons ought we to be?"—T.C.


Ephesians 3:1-13

The death of the tribal spirit.

The apostle, having stated the unity between Jews and Gentiles in the one spiritual temple, proceeds in this parenthesis to state the aspect of the gospel which is thus presented. It amounts, in fact, to the death of the tribal feeling, and to the encouragement of that broad cosmopolitanism which has been fostered by the Christian system. Paul, of course, rejoiced in his Jewish origin and in all the privileges which he had thus inherited. But since his conversion unto Christ, the narrowness had disappeared, and he took his stand before the world as the apostle and apologist of the Gentiles, hoping for the same elevation of character for them as for himself.

I. LET US NOTICE HOW PAUL WAS PREPARED FOR THIS CHAMPIONSHIP OF THE GENTILES. (Ephesians 3:8.) He had come to entertain a deep humility of spirit. He deemed himself "less than the least of all saints." In Paul's experience it has been observed there is a progress. First he speaks of himself as "the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God" (1 Corinthians 15:9). Secondly, as in this passage before us, he regards himself not only as hardly worthy of the name of an apostle, but as less than the least of all saints. Having ranked all apostles above himself in the first instance, he now ranks all the saints above him. Then, thirdly, he puts himself below all other sinners, and declares, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (1 Timothy 1:15). Now, this expresses a complete revolution in Pharisaic thought. Unquestionably Paul had learned to judge himself severely when he comes to conclusions such as these. Now, Christianity secures this apparent moral paradox of esteeming each the other better than himself (Philippians 2:3). "By humility," as A. Monod has said in his 'Explication,' "the Christian is led to judge himself severely, while charity comes to his aid in making him judge favorably of another. Each one, besides, reading in his own heart and not that of others, perceives only in himself that depth of sin which is the worst aspect of it, although least visible, and he can always hope that with others, whatever the appearances may be, this depth, hidden from his eyes, is better than with him." This personal humiliation, then, is the preparation Paul receives for his great role as elevator of the Gentiles. It is when personally abased that we are exalted in heart and hope, and become the willing servants of mankind.

II. PAUL'S ESTIMATE OF HIS OFFICE. (Ephesians 3:8.) It was a "grace" given to him to be allowed by God to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. His notion was that it was the crown and summit of human privilege to be thus placed in charge of such a commission. He magnified his office. He saw nothing to be compared with it in the privileges of men. He would have endorsed the words of a great modern preacher when he declared to students for the ministerial office, "There is no career that can compare with it for a moment in the rich and satisfying relations into which it brings a man with his fellow-men, in the deep and interesting insight which it gives him into human nature, and in the chance of the best culture for his own character.... Let us rejoice with one another that in a world where there are a great many good and happy things for men to do, God has given us the best and happiest, and made us preachers of his truth."

III. THE MORAL ELEVATION WHICH THE GOSPEL PROPOSES TO BESTOW UPON THE GENTILES. (Ephesians 3:6.) Up to out Lord's time the tribal idea prevailed. The Jews were a tribe, and their policy was, as their policy would still be, the supremacy of the tribe. But Christ proposed not to carry the Jewish tribe up to proud supremacy, but, on the contrary, to bring all other tribes up to their level of privilege, and to weld the world's peoples into one. It was he who first touched the key of cosmopolitan comprehensiveness and bade the narrow tribal spirit to cease. He talked of many coining from east and west to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:11). He talked of drawing "all men" unto himself once he was lifted on the cross (John 12:32). He spoke of Jerusalem ceasing to be the single center of true worship, and of true worshippers worshipping the Father anywhere (John 4:21-24). All nations were to be discipled by his servants (Matthew 28:20). Into these broad and noble views for mankind the eleven did not very rapidly or fully enter. Doubtless Peter had inaugurated the Gentile Pentecost in the house of Cornelius; but he relapsed into narrowness a few years later at Antioch. It was reserved, therefore, for Paul, the most powerful mind of the apostolic band, to catch the cosmopolitan spirit of his Master, and to champion the Gentile against all the prejudice of the Jewish world. It has been suggested that he would not have chosen the appointment had it been left to himself. But, as far as we can judge, he showed no narrowness once he had humbled himself at Christ's feet on the way to Damascus. He there ceased to be the patriot of a tribe, and became, in the widest and worthiest sense, a citizen of the world and a champion of the rights of universal man. There is surely something grand in this idea of lifting outcast communities into the highest and holiest associations. There is no casting of contempt on any tribe, but extending pity and. compassion unto all. The golden gate of privilege is opened wide for every one. The missionary enterprise is the best and noblest policy which men have set themselves in earnest to carry through!

IV. THE LESSON THUS AFFORDED TO THE HEAVENLY WORLD. (Ephesians 3:10-12.) The idea of Paul is that the angels on high look down with rapt interest and profit upon what is taking place in the Church. The movements of men outside the Church have, of course, their interest; but it is the bringing of the different peoples of the earth into the glorious unity of the Church of God which so strikes the attention of the heavenly world. The Divine society which is gathering round Jesus is the most instructive exhibition of God's purposes which the heavenly world can contemplate. As Jonathan Edwards put it in his sermon upon Ephesians 3:10, the angels are benefited by the salvation of men,

Ephesians 3:14-21

The Christian brotherhood—Paul's second prayer.

From the noble idea of the elevation of the heathen to equal privileges with the Jews, the apostle proceeds to a second prayer for the Ephesian converts, in which he rises to still greater elevation of thought. Prostrating himself before the Father of all, he contemplates a family unity embracing both heaven and earth, and he prays that his friends at Ephesus may experience such inward illumination and strength as to be fitting members of the mighty family. The leading thought is, then, Christian brotherhood, which embraces angels as well as men. The following thoughts are suggested by the prayer:—

I. CHRISTIAN BROTHERHOOD IS TO BE REALIZED IN DEVOTION BEFORE A COMMON FATHER. (Ephesians 3:14.) The words "of our Lord Jesus Christ" are not in the most ancient manuscripts, and are rightly omitted in the Revised Version. This clears the ground for the understanding of the family name. The word for "family" ( πατριὰ) is etymologically connected with πατὴρ, so that it is God the Father who supplies the patronymic to "every family in heaven and on earth." All gather round the feet of a common Father, and realize in their devotion the true brotherhood. We do not sufficiently think of how much is accomplished when we get men everywhere on their knees with the Lord's Prayer upon their lips. As we say from the heart, "Our Father, which art in heaven," our hearts have become really one. However much we may squabble before we proceed to prayer, if our prayer to the infinite Father be true, we have entered by it into real brotherhood. Contention cannot stand "the light of the countenance" of the great "Peace-maker."

II. CHRISTIAN BROTHERHOOD IS SECURED THROUGH THE INDWELLING OF A COMMON SAVIOR. (Ephesians 3:16, Ephesians 3:17.) For the Holy Spirit, entering into the hearts of God's children, enables them to entertain the elder Brother as a Guest. Christ dwells within each of us. He comes to sup with us and to enable us to sup with him (John 14:21; Revelation 3:20). Christ within us becomes the unifying element. He is the Guest of each and of all. As a Divine Being, he can pervade all the hearts and ensure the brotherhood. The brotherhood is brought about and sustained by an indwelling Christ. Taking possession of our natures, Jesus moulds them to his own gracious purposes and secures the essential brotherhood all round.

III. CHRISTIAN BROTHERHOOD IS INTENSIFIED THROUGH THE GRADUAL COMPREHENSION OF CHRIST'S WONDROUS LOVE. (Ephesians 3:18, Ephesians 3:19.) Jesus by his indwelling becomes the object as well as instigator of our love. We get "rooted and grounded in love." The selfish, loveless life has ceased, and the loving and devoted life has begun. This is essential to the comprehension of another's love. As Robertson says, "You must love in order to understand love One act of charity will teach us more of the love of God than a thousand sermons." Only loving hearts, then, can appreciate the wondrous love of Christ. It passeth the knowledge of natural and unloving men. Love is a revelation only unto love. But now, supposing that the love of Christ has begun within us, then his wondrous love becomes a subject of endless contemplation. Its breadth and length, its depth and height, present a problem for our holy comprehension, which can never be exhausted. "The believer," says A. Monod, "who has been represented just now as rooted and grounded in the love of the Lord, is here represented as enveloped on all sides by this love, which extends itself in all directions around him beyond the limits of vision. Suspended in the very bosom of the infinite love, like the earth in the bosom of space, be looks before him, behind him, above him, below him, to seize the just measure of this love which has saved him, but all ends in demonstrating the impossibility of measuring it. The breadth? On his right and on his left, immensity. The length? Before him and behind him, immensity. The depth? Under his feet, immensity. The height? Over his head, still immensity." Here, then,