This article is a Bible study on Ephesians 3:1-13.

Source: The Outlook, 1981. 3 pages.

Ephesians 3:1-13 - Paul Makes Known the Mystery of Redemption

In this epistle Paul deals, of course, with the glori­ous gospel of Jesus Christ and its value for all those who believe. However, he does not just repeat him­self in each epistle. There are certain emphases in the one epistle which are not found in the others. In this letter he deals with the church of Christ, the blessing of being a member of that glorious body of our Lord, and he magnifies the office which has been given him. These are very important considerations for the church of our day. Many no longer realize what is Biblically meant by the term "church" and there is much confusion regarding office.

Christ's Prisoner🔗

Paul begins this chapter in a strange way. The first verse forms an incomplete sentence. This is not completed in the immediately following verses, but one has to go all the way to verse 14 to find the con­clusion of the thought he had begun to express in verse 1. He refers to all that he has written in the previous two chapters when he begins, "For this cause." He is a prisoner at this time and that for a very definite reason. They must not look on him as one who deserves incarceration for crimes commit­ted. He is "a prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles." He is not ashamed of the fact that he is in prison in Rome. One will usually seek to hide the fact that he has been in prison at one time or another, but Paul doesn't. It is amazing how often he brings up this rather touchy subject. He was im­prisoned because he has been faithful! Those who did not proclaim the full gospel of Jesus Christ have their freedom. He has made known the whole coun­sel of God — and that brings trouble! It is because of these gentiles that he is in prison. He has claimed an equal place for them with the believing Jews — and that brought trouble! He has to defend his apostle­ship time and again. Let no man say that his im­prisonment is an indication that he is not a true apostle. He is Christ's prisoner. He is a prisoner because he was faithful to his calling. If anything, the fact that he is a prisoner is an indication that he is truly an apostle!

There are various translations current of the words found in verse 2. As this verse is translated in the ASV, it is difficult to understand what the author has in mind. However, he is not speaking of a dispensation, but of a "stewardship," or of a manner in which Paul has dealt with that grace of God which had been given him as a trust and which he was to use for their benefit. The "if" is not an indication of uncertainty, but ought to be understood as meaning "since." These Ephesians had heard the gospel very clearly from the mouth of Paul. They also knew that he had spent himself for the gospel and for those who were the recipients of the gospel.

The "Mystery"🔗

That whole gospel was the "mystery." It was that which had not been made known before but was now revealed. This he had received by revelation. It was not a philosophy of men. It had not been given to him by others. He had received it directly from his God. He was an apostle! God had spoken to him. What he had made known to the Ephesian church was not some "cunningly devised fable," it was the word of God Himself. They must, therefore, recognize Paul as God's trustee. He had been entrusted with the word of God. He had made known to them things which prophets and even angels did not understand! Let them then see how exalted was the office to which he had been called — who was now a prisoner. Then they would be able to pray for him and they would also gladly hear God's word from him. He told them that he had referred to this matter before very briefly. They must never lose sight of the content of this mystery and they must also remember from whom they had heard it.

Revealed to Paul🔗

As they read this epistle his understanding of the gospel, or of the mystery, will become clear to them. Is this pride? Paul has been accused of pride by many throughout the ages. He speaks of the fact that his labors have been more productive than those of other apostles, etc. So here, he writes, "You will be able to see how well I understand the gospel." However, in verse 8 the humility of this man is clearly shown. No, there is no false pride, but, rather, complete honesty! And, the understanding he has of this mystery is indeed profound. Who has so delved into the depths of the gospel of Jesus Christ as he? Who has shown such riches in the gospel as he? Yet, this is not of his own doing but is the gift of God.

Previously Hidden🔗

In verse five the apostle again emphasizes the fact that the mystery of which he has been speaking has not been made known in previous generations. However, he still has not defined the nature of this mystery. It is indeed that which has now been re­vealed to the apostles and the prophets of the New Testament dispensation. And now, in verse six, he tells us what the content of that mystery is. The fact that it had not been made known to previous genera­tions must not lead us to the conclusion that the prophets of the Old Testament had not spoken at all about the future relation of Jew and gentile. There are many passages which speak of the blessing which is going to come to the gentile through the Jew. How­ever, they did not know how this would come to pass, nor did they know the nature of the blessing which the gentile would receive. This is now revealed.

Entry of the Gentiles🔗

The Old Testament prophets leave the impression that somehow the gentiles must be united to Israel in order to receive Israel's blessing. God had made a covenant with His people — an everlasting cove­nant. Somehow the gentiles must be brought into that relationship; but how? The Spirit had made it clear that a new humanity had come into being with the coming of Jesus Christ. The theocracy falls away and the church of the New Testament comes into being. Now the gentiles can become fellow-heirs (if ye be Christ's, ye are Abraham's seed). They have become fellow-members of the same body — which is the church. They have therefore become fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ — of eternal sal­vation. The whole manner of life has been changed. History has changed. Even the apostles had diffi­culty understanding this change. You can see the understanding this particular apostle has in this mystery of Jesus Christ. He grasped it!

Paul's Privilege🔗

This mystery, then, has been made known in the gospel, and of that gospel, says Paul, I was made a minister! What a privilege! He is honored above the great of the Old Testament times. He is not self-appointed. No, it was a gift of God that he was made a minister. How gracious his God has been. It is also the power of God which has worked through the gospel which he was allowed to proclaim. He isn't worthy of this honor. He is "less than the least of all saints." In other places he speaks in similar lan­guage. In 1 Corinthians 15 he says that he is the least of the apostles. In 1 Timothy 1 he says that he is the chief of sinners. He cannot understand that to him has been given such a blessing that he may make known to the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. This is a gospel which goes far beyond the under­standing of men. It is so beautiful! Gladly will he suf­fer for this Christ and for His gospel. It is the great­est news ever made known.

God's Revelation🔗

The purpose of the ministry of the gospel is to enlighten everyone how this salvation, this mystery, now works. Christ is the content of the gospel and He is the One who will bring the true light to all those who believe that gospel. These things were formerly hidden from the eyes of men, they were hidden in God. If He had not revealed Himself, no one would ever have known Him, for no one can by searching find out God. So also concerning the salva­tion of both Jew and gentile — it had to be revealed! Only He who had created all things could reveal it.

"Many-Colored Wisdom"🔗

The purpose of making known this gospel is also found even beyond the present sphere. It is to make known to the principalities and powers, i.e., to angels, the glorious wisdom of God. The word trans­lated manifold doesn't do justice to the original. Paul really speaks of the multi-splendored, the multi­colored, wisdom of God! This is made known through the church. It is true that all His works praise Him and that all things reveal His wisdom, but the church reflects that wisdom in a manner found nowhere else. These are things angels desire to look into. Therefore, proclaim the true gospel so that the true church may come into being and the glorious wisdom of God will be revealed to them.

God's Eternal Purpose🔗

The eternal purpose of the God who created all things is summed up in Christ Jesus our Lord. All God's works have purpose. Christ stands at the cen­ter of them all. In Him will God's glorious wisdom be revealed. John speaks of the fact that this Word was from eternity; that He became flesh; and that He will come again as judge. God's full purpose has not yet been realized. There is more to come but it will all center in the Christ.

Benefits Realized🔗

This Christ, Who is our Lord, has given Himself for these to whom the Apostle is writing. They must realize what benefits have been bestowed on them in Him. In Him they have a boldness to come to God. They are children who have freedom of speech be­fore their Father. This gives them confidence. All of life has been changed. Faith in Jesus Christ has brought life to light.


Seeing these Ephesians have received so much through the gospel which has come to them and which has been believed by them, nothing must blind them to the glorious grace revealed. They are aware, of course, that Paul is in prison in Rome, and he has spoken of this himself. They must not become downcast as a result of the situation. Regardless what comes in life, we may not become discouraged. He shows that he is confident that the sufferings of the present time are not to be compared to the glory which is ours. The church in Ephesus feels badly about Paul's imprisonment. He could do so much if he were free. He asks them not to look at his suf­fering in that way. He will glory in tribulation — and they must too! He, Whose purposes cannot be thwarted, is in control. He realizes all His purposes in Christ Jesus. The future is in good hands!

Questions for Discussion:🔗

  1. What is Paul's view of his calling? In Galatians 1 he also mentions the fact that he had received his message by revelation. Therefore he is fully aware of the fact that he is proclaiming the word of God. How can a present day minister be certain that he is proclaiming the word of God?
  2. Do you think Paul saw more clearly and earlier than the others that the gentiles were fellow-heirs of salvation? Why? Remember he was a Pharisee.
  3. Did Paul have too high a view of his ministry? Can we have too high a view of it today?
  4. Does the church today reflect the wisdom of God? Does your church?
  5. What is Christ's position in history?
  6. If we understand the gospel and truly believe it, can we ever complain?      

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