Lesson 7: "By revelation He made know unto me (Paul) the mystery
Paul's Prison Epistles. This is lesson # 7. In this lesson, we would like to read all of Eph. ch. 3, and then comment on that material. Do you have your N.T. open? Let's read! Beginning in Eph. 3:1. Please read with me! Are you ready? Beginning in Eph. 3:1.
"For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words; whereby, when ye read, ye may understand 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; that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel. 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. 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; 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: to the intent that now unto the principaities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strength- ened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and the length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 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, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."
Did you ever start to say something and before you got it out another thought occurred to you and caused you to sort of interrupted yourself and injected this sudden thought before proceeding with what you originally started to say? That seems to be about what happened to Paul in the materials we just read. Notice that in v.1, Paul started off: "For this cause I Paul..." Now, I what Paul? Down in v.14, it would seem that Paul got back to this thought. Notice the repeat in v.14 "For this cause I" [Paul implied]. "For this cause" (in v.1) undoubtedly refers back to Paul's illustration at the end of ch. 2, (which we covered in our last lesson), i.e. the Gentiles had been made fellow heirs with the Jews and they together were built up a spiritual house (called the church) in which God dwells in our hearts through the Spirit (v.22, the last verse). "For this cause," it seems Paul began to offer a prayer in their behalf. That prayer actually starts down in v.16 of this chapter (ch. 3).
However, when the apostle said, "I Paul" back up in v.1 of this chapter, he added: "the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles" in reference to himself. V.2 down through v.13 is an expansion and a broadening of that thought which led him into a digression, if you will permit me to call it that. Nevertheless, Paul did not forget (as I sometimes do) his original thought and thus got back to his thought (down in v.14). As if to emphasize the end of his digression; Paul repeated "For this cause" at the beginning of v.14. So, let's cover, what I have called Paul digression, first. O.K.? (i.e. v.2-13). Actually, this digression does add some perspective to what follows, (i.e. v.14-21), if you think about it.
The digression relates to: Paul's office in the church as an apostle to the Gentiles. Why did Paul get into this discussion? Now, I'm guessing! I was not there and I, of course, have no way of reading the apostle's mind; but, I sense a tad bit of Judiazing doctrine some place in the wood pile. If you recall the theme of the book of Second Corinthians and the book of Galatians; you will recall Acts ch. 15 and the Judiazing teachers that said: "Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved." (Acts 15:1). This was an attempt on the part of the Jews, (i.e. the Jewish religion), to pull Christians back under the law of Moses, so-to-speak. The Gentiles were religiously inferior to the Jews in their view. Now, whether Paul, through his conversation with Tychicus (or some body else) had got wind of some Judiazing activity in the Ephesian congregation or not, of course, we do not know AND I cannot prove. Whether Paul was battling that doctrine or just throwing out a little preventative therapy for the spiritual health and welfare of the Ephesian congregation, I do not know. However, I'm inclined to think Paul had a little ulterior motive (here) in his digression. But, be that as it may (make your own judgment); let's analyze v.2-13.. .are you ready?
First off, notice Paul characterization of himself as a "prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles." He was "an ambassador in bonds" he said (6:20). He emphasized THAT prisoner idea again over in ch. 4, v.1. Here in 3:1 he said: "for you Gentiles." Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles (do you remember: Rom. 11:13?, Acts 9:15)! Paul emphasized this during his three year stay at Ephesus, you can be sure. The parenthesis beginning here in v.3 and ending in v.4 verifies that Paul had even touched on this in some earlier writing to the Ephesian Christians. You see if they understood this (Jews and Gentiles alike), then it helped to keep things in perspective. God initiated a dispensational change when Jesus died on the cross. It was all part of God's original plan, i.e. "the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body [or church], and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel" (as Paul said down in v.6). This was alluded to in the O.T., to Abraham and to Moses (in passages like Gen. ch. 12 and Deut. ch. 18). However, it was never made known in other ages as it now is made known, i.e. with the details, commands and conditions now in force. This was a MYSTERY in generations past. Look at v.5, it "was not made known unto the sons of men [in other ages], as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." And of course, I might add, as explained and made known to us by God's holy apostles and prophets through the scriptures. The scriptures are a product of the Holy Spirit, to give us hope (Rom. 15:4) and "that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God" (I John 5:13). At least, it is made known to us to the extent that it thoroughly furnishes us with all we need to know (according to II Tim. 3:16-17). By God's power, Paul was made a minister for revealing this mystery (v.7). Paul did not feel adequate for the job (v.8). God works in mysterious ways. Paul was willing to suffer and serve as a prisoner, if this fell his lot and it helped to accomplished God's plan. Notice in v.10, this plan was/is made know by the church through God's manifold wisdom, i.e. God's many-sided wisdom. It was all part of God's "eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (v.11). So, in v.13, Paul understood the work he was doing. He did not want the Ephesians to pity him in his suffering. Paul wanted them to rejoice and glory in this cause. Paul told the Jews at Rome, "that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain." (Acts 28:20). At a later time, Paul told the Philippians: that some brethren at Rome, there around the prison, observing Paul's bonds, were much more bold to "preach the word without fear." (Phil. 1:14).
Now, it is at this point, after discussing his apostleship, that Paul shifted back to his original thought. It would seem that he repeated "For this cause," (here in v.14) as a connecting link back to Eph. chapter two. Thus, what he says (here) in v.14-21 (the rest of ch. 3) connects back to what Paul said in Eph. ch. two. That is, both Jews and Gentiles have been reconciled in one body by the cross of Jesus. Both have access to God by one Spirit (2:18). Together (Jews and Gentiles) we are fitly framed together as a building or a spiritual temple in which God dwells. "For this cause," Paul says in 3:14, "I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named." (v.14-15). You see, Paul is speaking in figurative terms. He is really talking about the church, that camp of baptized believers in and around Ephesus in which this letter is being written. Now, what did he say? "For this cause I bow my knees..." What does that mean? V.16-21, i.e. the rest of this chapter is a prayer. Do you see the "Amen" at the end of v.21? His prayer was for the welfare and growth of that congregation. Listen to the rest of Paul's prayer! That God "would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and the length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 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, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."
O.K., let's briefly comment on a few of the thoughts and expression Paul used in this prayer and then we'll bring the lesson to an end. Paul directed his prayer to God, the heavenly Father (v.14). However, Paul was praying through Jesus, i.e. in the name of Jesus or by the authority of Jesus. This goes back to what Jesus said to the apostles in John 14:13-14 and John 15:16. In v.15, (here in Eph.) Paul made reference to the church, or family. God's family! Some of those family members were in heaven and some of those family members were in earth (v.15). Jesus the Christ, the head of the church, "the firstfruits of them that slept" (I Cor. 15:20) is now in heaven on the right hand of God. We learned this back in Eph. 1:20; do you remember? AND, perhaps Paul included in this heavenly aspect, also, the Christians that had died, i.e. them that sleep in Jesus, as Paul said (in I Thes. 4:14). I'm not sure on this point. Notice now, in v.15, Paul made reference to the name of the church, the family name, if you will. God is the Father of "our Lord Jesus Christ" (v.14) and God is the father of this family (v.15). Thus, the church would logically be named for God and/or his Son, Jesus Christ, who is the head of the church (1:22). Therefore, it might be called "the church of God" as Paul called it (in I Cor. 1:2). Or it might be called the "church of Christ" as Paul referred to it (Rom. 16:16). However, it cannot be named after any other, Peter said this in Acts 4:12, "none other name under heaven given among men." There is no salvation in any other name or by any other authority. Now, I know, someone is going to say: don't get smart, Bro. Horsley! Don't try to tell me 'what name to wear. My friend, read what the apostle Peter said in Acts 4:12, read it for yourself. Please leave me out of it! I didn't say that! Peter said that! Peter was inspired, I'm not. So, let's face it, when you see those big signs that say the "First blankety- blank church of Saint so-and-so" THAT is the wrong name. There is no salvation there! That's what Peter said (Acts 4:12). Take Peter's word for it! Please do not take my word for it! Now, I hope you understand, that any name that properly expresses that relationship of Christ and God to the church as discussed here in v.15, is an acceptable name. There is only one church! So, any name that properly describes this church/family relationship (as referred to here in v.15) is an acceptable name. Many names are used in the Bible. The kingdom! The kingdom of God. Christ's kingdom. The church of the First born. God's family. Christ's church. It is not a formal name, you see. God's people in the N. T. are referred to by many names; but, all these names properly describe the relationship of God's church/family to himself and to his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus told the apostles, "upon this rock I will build my church." (Matt. 16:18). It is Jesus' church. "My" (in that verse) is a possessive pronoun, check it out. AND don't ever forget that! It is God's family. Down the road about a mile from where I'm sitting right now; there is a denominational organization with a big sign out front that says: "Church of the Redeemed." Spelled: R-E-D-E-E-M-E-D. Is that name scriptural? It has a "D" on the end of the word: "Redeemed." In other words, that church (according to that sign) is composed of and/or belongs to redeemed persons. Now what's wrong with that? If they would change one letter; change that "d" to an "r" it would be a scripturally acceptable name. Now, I know nothing about what goes on inside. I've never been inside and I've never been told. There may or may not be other unscriptural things beside the name. I don't know. However, that sign tells me a lot. Back up in Eph. 1:7, and again in v.14 the word "redemption" is used in such as way as to show Jesus Christ is our Redeemer or the one that purchased us with his own blood. Thus, if the church belongs to Jesus (Matt. 16:18), it is the church of the Redeemer. Right? Job said (O.T.), centuries and centuries ago: "I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself..." Jesus is our Redeemer! Thus, to refer to God's family as the church of the Redeemer would be scriptural. Can you see that? But, it is not the church "OF" (i.e.) of the redeemed or the church of the Christian? It's not the Christian's church, it is not the disciple's church. In my dictionary the very first definition of "OF" (0-F) is: "belonging to" as the children of a family. The second definition is: "made from" as a house made of bricks, etc. Check it out! It's simply a misuse of terms. So, please take the time to get it right! I guess I've over done this. But remember, the name IS important. A preacher was talking with a lady about names once. This lady said: a name means nothing! Names make no difference! A rose by another name smells just as sweet. So, the preacher said, then you are a liar. The lady got red in the face and began to lambaste the preacher and started to throw him out. He said, wait a minute! wait a minute! Why would you mind me calling you any name? You just said: names make no difference! You know! People say that; but, people really don't believe that. Do they? Old father time waits for no one! He's got us! I'll see you in lesson # 8...have a good day.