|Ephesians, Queen of the Epistles
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
The book we are studying is Pauls epistle to the Ephesians, what many commentators refer to as the Queen of the Epistles. Many scholars feel that in this epistle is to be found the most comprehensive statement of the Christian religion. That is one of the reasons why we are studying this wonderful epistle of Paul.
We have already seen, in the last four studies (the first two chapters of this epistle in which Paul expounds with clarity the fundamental truth of the gospel), the essential message of salvation as it is revealed in the history of our Lord Jesus Christ. And, of course, the key phrase or statement in these first two chapters is to deal with that central theme of Pauls theology, which is the in Christ motif.
In chapter 1, verses 3-14, he has told us that, in Christ, we have already been blessed with every spiritual blessing pertaining to heaven, that we have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we have been accepted by God in Him, that we have been adopted as sons and daughters of God through Jesus Christ. We have received redemption through His blood.
Then, in chapter 2, he goes on to explain how this took place by a wonderful miracle: God took the corporate life of the human race that He came to redeem and took the divine life of His Son and united these two natures the divine and the human in the womb of Mary. Thus, this qualified Christ to be our Substitute, our Representative. By doing this, Christ did not save us but He qualified to be the second Adam. We are told that in Christ we were made alive together with Him; we were raised together with Him and we are actually sitting in heavenly places together with Christ.
Now we will turn to chapter 3 and the first twelve verses. I have entitled our study, The Divine Mystery. This section of Ephesians may be divided into two parts. Verses 1 to 7 of chapter 3 of Ephesians may be described as the mystery revealed and verses 8 to 12 is the purpose of that mystery. What is this divine mystery?
The divine mystery, which was somewhat suppressed by the Jews in the Old Testament, is that God included the Gentiles in the plan of salvation. This was somewhat kept a secret in the Old Testament times. In fact, there was a barrier that was built by the Jews in the Sanctuary, in their temple, which disallowed any Gentile to go beyond that barrier. We saw this in our previous study.
Paul here is showing the Gentile world that the salvation of the Gentiles was not an afterthought. There are many statements in the Old Testament that clearly reveal that God had the Gentiles in mind when He sent His Son to save the world. In other words, in Jesus Christ, God has given all mankind, Jews and Gentiles, a new history, a new status, in which we stand justified. That is Gods gift to mankind. Thats the unconditional good news of salvation that we find in this wonderful gospel that Jesus asked His disciples to proclaim to all mankind.
Let me give you a couple of statements from the book of Romans where Paul quotes the Old Testament, clearly indicating that the Old Testament did include the Gentiles in the plan of salvation. In fact, one of the key promises that God made in the Old Testament was to Abraham. Genesis 12:3:
...All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
God told Abraham that in him, in his seed, which is to be Christ, all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
But let me give you a couple of quotations from Romans, chapter 10, verses 19 and 20. Listen to what Paul quotes from the Old Testament concerning the salvation of the Gentiles. Now, he is addressing this chapter 10 to the Jews, but listen to what he says in verse 19:
Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says [he is quoting from Deuteronomy 32:21], I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.
In other words, the acceptance of the gospel God predicted through Moses would cause the Jews to be jealous. Then in verse 20 of Romans 10, he quotes from Isaiah 65, verse 1:
And Isaiah boldly says, I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.
That, of course, is the Gentiles.
But now, lets go to Ephesians, chapter 3 and look at this passage and see what Paul is trying to get across here. The first section of this passage, Ephesians 3, verses 1 to 7 is dealing with the divine mystery. Read the passage first and then we will look at it in more detail:
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles
Surely you have heard about the administration of Gods grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to Gods holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of Gods grace given me through the working of his power.
The problem that the Jews created regarding this mystery was that the word Gentile in the Old Testament had two meanings. The word Gentile could mean a non-Jew and the word Gentile was also sometimes used to refer to the unbeliever. What the Jews did was take the Old Testament text where God said to the Jews, Dont be unequally yoked and so on and applied that word Gentile, which really referred to the unbeliever, to the Gentile nations. So the Jews came up with the idea that the promise of the Messiah was only for their fellow Jews. This was the traditional teaching of Judaism at the time of Christ. In fact, the disciples were victims to this teaching so that after Jesus gave the commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel, the disciples understood the world to mean the Jewish world and not the Gentile world. God had to open the eyes of the apostles, especially Peter, that the gospel was not to be limited to the Jewish world only but also must include the Gentile world.
Let me give you an example of this. In Acts, chapter 10, we have Peter sitting up in the terrace of a house, waiting for the ladies downstairs to prepare lunch. He was hungry and he fell asleep. And in verse 10, we are told that he was given a vision while he was asleep. The vision was some unclean animals in a sheet that came down from heaven and a voice said to Peter, Kill these animals, you are hungry; kill these animals and eat. And Peter responded, How can I do this? I am a Jew and these animals are unclean. I have never eaten anything unclean. And then comes the voice again in verse 28 of Acts 10: What I have declared clean, let no man call unclean.
Of course, the voice was not referring to the animals literally. These animals were used as a metaphor, as a symbol of the Gentiles because the Gentiles were considered as unclean, as dogs, by the Jews at the time of Christ. God was telling Peter that the gospel has redeemed not only the Jews but also the Gentiles. Paul expounds this wonderfully as we saw when we studied the book of Romans.
In chapter 3 of Romans, Paul says there is no difference between Jew and Gentile; all are under sin; all have come short of the glory of God and that the gospel saves both Jews and Gentiles. Now, he is expounding this mystery to his readers in this epistle to the Ephesians.
Having said this, let us now look at what these verses are saying. First of all, in verse 1, there are two things that you must keep in mind. Ephesians 3:1:
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles....
What reason? Well, he has verse 22 of chapter 2, the preceding verse, in mind when he uses the words for this reason. What is the reason? Here is verse 22 of Ephesians 2:
And in him [that is, in Christ] you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
The you too is you Gentiles also. In other words, the gospel is including you Gentiles. Paul was in that dungeon, in that Roman prison, because of his proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles. Remember, as I mentioned in our introduction to this epistle, this letter is a prison letter. But what I want you to notice is that Paul does not refer to himself as the prisoner of Rome, which he is, but as the prisoner of Jesus Christ. In other words, what Paul is saying here is, I am in prison because Christ wants me there. This is something that we need to keep in mind. Nobody can touch you if God says, No. And if there is any reader who is going through some difficulties and some problems, please remember, God is sovereign; He is in charge. If He allows you to go through these problems let us say you have lost a job or you have lost a loved one or whatever your problem may be please remember, nothing happens apart from the permission of God. As Paul brought out in Romans 8, verse 28, all things work together for good to those who love God.
Paul is saying, I am in prison, but dont get discouraged. I am there because Christ wants me there. I am not a prisoner of Rome; I am a prisoner of Jesus Christ. Then he reminds his readers in verses two and three how God had revealed to him:
Surely you have heard about the administration of Gods grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.
In other words, he is reminding his readers that God set him aside to proclaim the gospel to the Gentile world. That is what he brings out in verse three also, how that by revelation he made known to me the mystery as I wrote before in a few words, by which you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ. In other words, Paul is saying, Look, God has made it very clear to me through revelation, that the Gentiles are included in the plan of salvation.
In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to Gods holy apostles and prophets.
In verse 5, he tells us that this truth was kept hidden in the ages gone by, that is, during the Old Testament times. Please notice, the salvation of the Gentiles was not an afterthought. The salvation of the Gentiles was there right from the beginning when God gave the promise to Adam after the Fall. When He said that the seed of Adam would crush the serpents head, He was referring to salvation to all mankind. Genesis 3:14-15:
So the Lord God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.
That is why if you look at the genealogy of Christ as recorded in the gospel of Luke, Luke takes the genealogy of Christ right up to Adam. Now, remember, Luke was a Gentile himself and he is saying that Jesus came to save the whole human race that was ruined by Adam. And so, in verse 5 of Ephesians 3, Paul is saying this truth, unfortunately, was kept a secret but this divine mystery which was kept a secret by the misunderstanding of the plan of salvation by the Jews is now revealed. First, it was revealed through Peter and now it was especially (Paul says) revealed to him because he was chosen to be an apostle for the Gentiles. And that is what he says in verse six of Ephesians three, that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ through the gospel:
This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
In chapter three of Galatians, Paul makes a wonderful statement. Galatians 3:26-29:
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abrahams seed, and heirs according to the promise.
He says that anyone who has been baptized into Christ has put on Christ, has become one with Christ and such a person has become part of the body of Christ in which there is no Jew, there is no Gentile, there is no male, there is no female, there is no rich, there is no poor, there is no educated, or there is no uneducated. We are all one in Christ and, therefore, we are joint heirs with Abraham of the promise. When God sent Jesus Christ, He sent Him to save the whole human race. John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
The gift of God is for all men and women. Paul is saying in verse seven of Ephesians three that he was chosen to be a minister according to the gift of the grace of God:
I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of Gods grace given me through the working of his power.
God had called Paul out, given him a special power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the gospel, the good news of salvation, the unconditional good news of salvation, to the Gentile world, just like He had called Peter to preach the gospel to the Jews. And so he goes on in the second phase of this chapter three, verses eight to 12, where Paul discusses the purpose of the mystery. First read this passage and then we will go to it again as we did the first section and see what Paul is saying. Ephesians 3:8-12:
Although I am less than the least of all Gods people, this grace [this privilege] was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone [not just the Jews, all people, all mankind] the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rules and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to this eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
Oh, what a tremendous passage this is.
What is Paul saying here? First of all, he calls himself the least of the apostles because he persecuted the Christian church. You will find this in 1 Corinthians 15:9:
For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
But he is saying, To me, the one who deserves the very opposite, but to me, Paul, I have been given this wonderful privilege to preach to the Gentile world the unsearchable riches of Christ. You know, in Corinthians, Paul tells us eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has it entered into our gray matter, the wonderful things that God has prepared for us in Jesus Christ but He has now revealed this to the unbelievers. In Christ, we are, we become, sons and daughters of God. We shall reign with Him; we are joint heirs with Christ, Paul says in Romans 8:17. Oh, what a wonderful privilege God has given us sinners in Jesus Christ. And it is Pauls great privilege to expound this wonderful truth and that is why we are studying this book so that we, who are Gentiles, may understand this great divine mystery that we were included in the plan of salvation. Thats what verse nine is saying, to make known to all people what is the fellowship of the mystery which has been from the beginning of the ages hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ. Ephesians 3:9:
...And to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.
Now, what is Paul saying here? Paul is saying here that Gods plan from the very beginning was to save all mankind. But unfortunately this was hidden only in God. Does it mean that He did not reveal it before? Yes, as we saw earlier, He revealed the plan of salvation to include the Gentiles in the Old Testament. There are too many texts there. But, unfortunately, the word Gentiles was interpreted by the Jews to mean not the unbeliever but the non-Jew and, therefore, the Jews, in the time of Christ and all through the Old Testament, looked at the Gentile world as being outside of the Covenant of God. But now, the secret that was kept hidden, is brought into the open through the proclamation of the gospel to the Gentile world. And this is the message in verse 10 of Ephesians 3: the intent that now the manifold wisdom the word wisdom in the Greek means special knowledge the special knowledge might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. Ephesians 3:10:
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms....
Now who are these rulers and authorities in heavenly places? This phrase in the New Testament applies to Satan and his angels. Let me quickly explain what this is all about.
When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them dominion over all this earth, over the beasts, over the fowls, over the fishes, over the vegetation. God gave mankind dominion over this whole earth. But, unfortunately, when Adam sinned, he passed on this dominion to Satan so that Satan became the prince of this world. In fact, if you look at the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, especially Luke, chapter 4, verses 5 and 6, where the devil took Him to a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of this world, the devil said to Christ, All this I will give You because it was delivered to me. All you have to do is simply bow down to me. Luke 4:5-7:
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.
Now, Jesus did not contradict or disagree with Satans statement. He did not fall for the temptation, but He did not disagree with Satan when he said, All authority has been given to me. In fact, in John 12, verse 31, Jesus refers to Satan as the prince of this world. But, on the cross, Jesus paid the price for our sins. He bought us back as John 12:31-33 says:
Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.
At the cross, as Peter tells us, we were bought and, therefore, we no longer belong to Satan but belong to God. And if we look at 1 John, chapter 5, verse 19, we read this wonderful truth that all believers no longer belong to Satan, they belong to God:
We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.
Yes, the unbelieving world still is under the evil one but we belong to God. And Paul is saying that, at the cross, Satan no longer became the legal, rightful owner of this world. Isnt it wonderful that God has bought us back? This is the good news that we are to proclaim as a church to the rulers and authorities, Satan, you have no longer authority over us. We are Gods children. We have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. And this is the eternal purpose which God has accomplished in Christ Jesus, our Lord. And that is verse 11 of Ephesians 3:
[10: His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,] according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You and I have a wonderful hope. In Jesus Christ, we no longer are under the evil one. We no longer are under the curse. Since Christ came and obtained salvation full and complete for mankind, salvation is no longer a promise, it is a reality. It is a truth that Satan has been defeated and we have been bought back.
There is a wonderful statement in Hebrews, chapter 2, verses 14 and 15 where it talks about Jesus taking on humanity and by His death destroying the one that is the cause of death the devil and his angels and liberating us who out of fear or slavery to the fear of death, have been in bondage all our lifetimes:
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death that is, the devil and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abrahams descendants.
Every human being is born a slave to the fear of death but, in Jesus Christ, we have victory over the grave. The grave has been conquered by our Savior, Jesus Christ. And this victory has been offered not only to the Jews but to the Gentiles. Oh, what a wonderful truth this is. I am excited about it and I hope you are, dear reader.
Listen to verse 12, the last verse we will read and study in this section of todays study:
In him [that is, in Christ] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
It is my prayer that you shall know this truth and this truth will make you free. Amen.