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Ephesians Chapter 3

Memory verses for this week: 1 John 1:6  If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 1 John 1:7  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.


Introduction:     Chapter 2 of Ephesians has some of the best teachings in the Word of God to prove that salvation is wholly from God and by His grace are we saved.   We work for the Lord out of debt for what Christ did for us, not in order to obtain or maintain salvation.  This week, in Chapter 3, we study about the mystery of Christ and the mystery of the church.   The bible contains many simple doctrines, and then some that we have to really study to understand.


I.  The Church is a Mystery Hidden from Past Ages


Ephesians 3:1  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:

In verse 1, Paul begins a prayer which he resumes in verse 13 after he explains why he was so earnestly praying for them.  His interest grew out of a special revelation, such as no other man has sustained.  His expression was “The dispensation of the grace of God which was given me to you-ward.”  By the grace of our good Lord, Paul received this special revelation.  This dispensation for the Gentiles was given and committed specifically to him.

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:

Paul’s special revelation did not come by man but from the Lord Jesus Christ.  This wasn’t something that was relayed to him second hand by Peter, but God himself spoke to Paul.   He mentions how that he had written of this prior to this letter.

Colossians 1:25  Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; 

Paul mentions the word mystery in regards to Christ in verse 4.  John speaks of the mystery of Babylon in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 17:5  And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. 

Paul speaks of the mystery of godliness over in I Timothy 3:16

1 Timothy 3:16  And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

The word “Mystery” used here in verse 4 is used in a different meaning.   The things he speaks of are not a mystery to him, nor will they be to those when he explains these verses.  They mystery he speaks of is how the Gentiles had become fellow heirs and fellow members in the church with the Jews.  Only those who turn to Christ for salvation have this special honor bestowed upon them, whether they be Jew or Gentile.  It was a mystery that the gentiles were to be saved and be in the church as equal members with the Jews.

Matthew 24:14  And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

Genesis 12:3  And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

Deuteronomy 32:8  When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.

Not only were the gentiles to be saved like the Jews, but they were to be fellow-heirs with the Jews.  This was a great mystery concerning them being together in the new testament church.

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;

The Old Testament saints did not have this mystery concerning the church revealed unto them.   But we are blessed to have this made known unto us.  Paul talks of how by God’s grace he was called into the ministry, and how that he was granted the opportunity to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to the Gentiles.   All of God’s ways are unsearchable.

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!


1 Chronicles 28:9  And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.

God is the one who searches the heart, but no human heart can search out God.  Even when it comes to salvation, it is God who is seeking us.  Our ways are all against God.


J. Vernon McGee has some good insights concerning this mystery of the church.

Now he clarifies what he means by the mystery. There is a sharp contrast between the sons of men in past generations and the apostles and prophets of the church. No one in the Old Testament had a glimmer of light relative to the church. It is now revealed to His Holy apostles. They are “holy” because they have been set aside for this office by God. The “prophets” are definitely New Testament prophets.

The “Spirit,” the Holy Spirit, is the teacher of this mystery. This is what the Lord Jesus promised when He told His disciples of the coming of the Holy Spirit. “All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:15).

What precisely is the mystery? It is not the fact that Gentiles would be saved. The Old Testament clearly taught that Gentiles would be saved. Let me cite several passages: “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious” (Isa. 11:10). Another: “And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising” (Isa. 60:3). Isaiah also wrote: “I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles” (Isa. 42:6). Zechariah also mentions it: “And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee” (Zech. 2:11). And Malachi: “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 1:11).

If the mystery is not that the Gentiles would be saved, what is the mystery? Mark it carefully. The mystery was that the Gentiles and Israel were placed on the same basis. By faith in Christ they were both brought into a new body which is the church. Christ is the Head of that new body.

Therefore, now there is a threefold division in the human race:

All people were Gentiles from Adam to Abraham—2000 years (plus)

All people were either Jews or Gentiles from Abraham to Christ—2000 years

The threefold division is Jews, Gentiles, and the church from the Day of Pentecost to the Rapture—2000 years (plus)

Paul referred to this threefold division when he said, “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God” (1 Cor. 10:32). Paul included the whole human family when he said that.

The church is not in the Old Testament de facto, although there are types of it in the Old Testament. Christ said, “… upon this rock I will build my church …” (Matt. 16:18, italics mine), and when He spoke that, it was still future.  It is true that the church was all Jewish when it began, but there was a period of transition when Gentiles were brought into it. The church is one body, made up of both Jew and Gentile, and Christ is the Head of that body.  [1]


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.

God chose Paul as the vessel to preach and make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery.  This had been hid from the beginning of the world until this time.  God had a reason, and eternal purpose, for the church which was purposed in Christ.  The church is clearly God’s authoritative house of witness today.  We should be known as a beacon of light in a dark and dismal world tainted with sin.  If we don’t shine forth, the lost will not be saved.


II.  Paul’s Second Prayer for the Ephesians

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,

Paul bowed his knees unto the Father in prayer for the Ephesians, the exact same God that Abraham, Isaac, Elijah, and Joshua prayed unto in the Old Testament.

 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,

We note some of the things Paul prayed for in these verses.

In verse 16, he prayed that they might grow spiritually.   If we do not grow, we will be dwarfs in the knowledge of God.

Heb 5:12  For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

Heb 5:13  For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

Heb 5:14  But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

In verse 17, Paul prays that Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith, and that they might be rooted and grounded in love.   We will not accomplish anything in life until we find Christ as Savior and get our feet on the solid rock.  But when we do that, and we seriously seek to serve the Lord, we will be known for our love.

John 13:35  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

1 Cor 13:3  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

1 Cor 13:4  Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

1 Cor 13:5  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

1 Cor 13:6  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

1 Cor 13:7  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

1 Cor 13:8  Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

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 fulness of God.

Paul prays that they might come to understand the great love that God has for His children… the breadth, the length, the depth, and the height.   I don’t think we know how wide or how deep God’s love is for us, but it is the greatest love of the universe.  It is not the love like man has for one another, but it is the perfect

Agape love, love of God.  Full of mercy and totally pure.

In verse 18, he asks that they might understand and know the love of Christ which passes knowledge.   As Brother Hair once preached, the love of God is probably the deepest of all doctrines, and truly is beyond our understanding and comprehension.

Philippians 3:10  That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

Paul desired to know not only the power of Christ’s resurrection, but wanted to have fellowship with his sufferings.  Not many want to know about the suffering, but we must understand this to truly begin to grasp the great love Jesus has towards us.

III.  The Place Where God Receives His Glory

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.  [2]

Above all the other things mentioned, God is able to do abundantly above those things.  He knows our needs and meets them with His riches.

Mat 7:9  Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

Mat 7:10  Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

Mat 7:11  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

We don’t give God the credit he so richly deserves for all that He does for us.  Paul in Philippians says that he could do all things through Christ.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

The King James Version Commentary had this to say about verse 20.

Now unto him. This ascription of praise to God’s ability expresses our assurance of answered prayer. Why should we hesitate to offer our deepest petitions? Note the expressive and exhaustive language. Is able. The strength of our confidence is the fact that He is vastly able above and beyond all that we might ask. To do exceeding abundantly. Superabundantly, overwhelming, over and above, more than enough. David said, “my cup runneth over” (Ps 23:5), and we can say, “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love” (Song 2:4). That we ask or think. Our highest aspirations are not beyond God’s power to grant. According to the power that worketh in us. This is that omnipotence that raised Christ from the dead and quickened us when we were dead in sins.  [3]

Verse 21 teaches that it is through the local new testament church that God receives glory and this will glory will continue throughout all ages, world without end.   Christ loved the church so much that he died for it.  Do you love it the way you should?  I doubt if we put the love into it that we should.



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Prov 4:18  But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.


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