Sunday, July 17, 2022



Prayer Resumed


Here Paul begins to resume the prayer for the Ephesians he started in chapter 1, verses 15-10. He refers to himself as “I Paul”. This emphasizes the personal nature of his prayer. He called himself “a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles”. He emphasizes his work and sacrifice is for Christ, but it is also for them. He was arrested  in Jerusalem because of his ministry to the Gentiles, as he had brought Gentiles with him to Jerusalem, including Trophimus of Ephesus. The Jews assumed Paul had taken him into the Temple and had him arrested. It was likely a pretext, since they resented Paul’s conversion and ministry for Christ in general, and especially to the Gentiles.

The Mystery


At the end of verse 1, most Bible versions have a dash. This indicates the coming of a parenthetical statement, one that may be somewhat off topic but explanatory. It could also be called a digression.I do not know why the translators used a dash rather than a parenthesis. The original statement does not resume until verse 14.

In this parenthetical statement, Paul explains more fully what he meant by writing he was a prisoner for the sake of the Gentiles. He discusses his ministry in relation to the mystery God revealed to him. In the New Testament, a mystery is a truth hidden until the time God chooses to reveal it. 

Paul said that God gave him the stewardship of God’s grace for their benefit. (2) A steward is one who takes care of someone else’s property. Paul’s job was to take care of the message of grace and present it to the Gentiles. He had a divine appointment to do so. 

He also received from the ascended Christ a revelation of a mystery. This was evidently part of the Damascus Road experience where he was blinded and did not eat or drink for three days. (Acts 9:1-9) The Lord told Ananias that Paul was his chosen instrument to carry his name before the Gentiles. 

That mystery had remained unknown for generations, but God had now revealed it to the apostles and prophets through the Holy Spirit. That mystery was that the Gentiles would become fellow heirs of eternal life with the Jewish believers. They would be equal members of the same body. They would partake of the promise of eternal life in Christ by believing the gospel. (6) The promise of God to Abraham to bless all nations through him was fulfilled in Christ. (Genesis 22:18) This mystery was revealed to the apostles and prophets, with Paul as the primary. (6) 

God made him a minister of this gospel as a matter of grace and worked in him by his power to evangelize the world. (7) He brought the message of salvation to the Gentiles and taught their unity with the Jews in Christ. 

                                                                                                                         The Purpose


Paul realized this grace and accepted it humbly, calling himself the least of the saints. (8) That seems an unlikely truth given all the work Paul did. But he was always mindful of the fact that he persecuted the church and yet was called to expand it by preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ to the Gentiles. By unsearchable, he means that we will never know all of the riches of Christ. 


In addition to a stewardship of God’s grace, Paul was given a stewardship of a long time mystery. This mystery was hidden for ages in God the Creator. (9) But, through Paul, God revealed his manifold wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. Angels and other heavenly beings, rulers and authorities, would know know God’s wisdom, that he had eternally purposed to unite Jews and Gentiles equally in Christ to create the church. 

This is the same truth of unity Paul taught in Romans 11 when he wrote using the metaphor of the people of God as an olive tree. Believing Gentiles were grafted into the tree. And, as the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul played the major role in bringing this about. 

The heavenly beings were not privy to the mind of God in this matter all through the ages. But, before earth was formed and man was made, God had eternally purposed to do it. Not only were we chosen before the foundation of the world, but God also purposed a unification of humanity in Christ before the foundation of the world. (11) 

And in this unity, all the members of this new humanity, those who are in Christ, have boldness and access to the Father with confidence through our faith in Jesus. (12)  He is seated at the right hand of God and we are seated with him in the heavenly places. (2:6) So, we know that we have access to the Father because we are in the Son.

So, Paul, as a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of the Gentiles tells them the eternal purpose of God, their place in it as Gentiles, and his place also. Yes, he is in jail. Yes, he is suffering. But he sees it as an honor to suffer for Christ. Since he met Christ on the Damascus Road and was transformed, he has been willing to do whatever Christ wants him to do and to do it with no holding back. If prison was where Christ wanted him, he was content to be there. 

But Paul knew that the Ephesians, and others, with whom he had affectionate relationships, might not see his imprisonment the way he did. They might be sad. Or they might “lose heart”, be discouraged as the New International Version says. Rather, they should see that Paul is honored to suffer on their behalf, it was also an honor for them.(13)

Resumption and Conclusion of the Prayer for the Ephesians


Finally, in verse 14, Paul returns to his prayer for the Ephesians. He prayed to the Father. Most translations say “from whom every family in heaven and on earth in named”. We do not know of any way in which every family is named for the Father. The Greek word here is “patria” which means fatherhood. So, it seems more reasonable to say that God the Father is the prototype for every other father in existence. 

So Paul asks the Father to give his children strength to comprehend and know the love of Christ. (19) That love surpasses human knowledge.  Humans only obtain it through the power of the Holy Spirit as Christ dwells in them. The same applies to us, as Paul says “with all the saints”. (18) Paul has prayed for us as well as the Ephesians.

When we know the love of Christ and are rooted and grounded in it, we will be filled with all the fullness of God. (19) This is the work of the Trinity. Paul prayed for the Father to give strength to us through the Holy Spirit to allow us to fully know the Son and his love. That results in our being filled up with God. We will know we are saved and loved, that we always have access to the presence of God and commune with him. What a privilege this is!



Having revealed these truths, Paul breaks into praise. He says God is able to do far more than we ask or even think of through his power working in us. So, to God be the glory in the church and in Christ forever. Amen.   

Sunday, July 10, 2022


 The Gentiles Before Faith In Christ


Paul wanted the Gentiles to understand their privileges in Christ by reminding them of their state, or status, before coming to Christ. 

Israel (the Jews), as God’s people, had a special relationship with God and special privileges. Paul wrote about these privileges in Romans. He said they received the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Mosaic law, the worship, and the promises.” (Romans 9:4) 

The law separated Israel from all other nations who did not have it. The law was the distinguishing factor between Jews and Gentiles.

They knew this. Psalm 147 recounts the blessings given to Jerusalem and ends with saying God has not dealt this way with any other nation. (Ps. 147:20) Jewish men’s liturgical prayers included thanks to God for not making them Gentiles.

The sign of the special relationship God had with the Jews was circumcision. God commanded it to Abraham when he made a covenant with him and his offspring. (Genesis 17:9-14) By the time of Paul, Jews referred to themselves collectively as “the circumcision” and to Gentiles as the “uncircumcision”. So, Paul used these terms in verse 11. 

The Gentiles did not have the special blessings of the Jews. They were not members of the chosen people. Paul said they were alienated from the commonwealth of Israel. (12)  A commonwealth is a group of people organized into a single government. Israel was organized according to the law of God and bound to him by covenant. The Gentiles were strangers to the covenant, meaning they were not part of it. 

Uncircumcision was a sign of the Gentiles estrangement from God. Paul writes that they had no hope and were without God in the world. 

Gentiles After Faith In Christ


The words “but now” show us that Paul will now contrast the Gentiles in Christ to his description of Gentiles before Christ. As long as they were separated from Christ (12), they were separated from God and his people. But, that changed when they became believers. First, they, who were far from God, have been brought near. (13) They were brought near by the blood of Christ, meaning his sacrificial death. Through his death, Christ reconciled us, both Jew and Gentile, to God. He is our peace. (14)

But he also reconciled us to each other. He broke down the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles. (14) 

Josephus tells us there was a wall in the temple precincts separating the outer courts from the inner courts. The wall had signs attached at intervals telling Gentiles they could not enter and would be killed if they attempted to enter. Paul was actually arrested by the Jews and charged with taking a Gentile Christian into the inner courts (Acts 21:27-36) Maybe Paul had this wall in mind when he wrote of the “dividing wall of hostility” in verse 14. 

The wall of hostility was broken down by Christ in his death. (14) That is because he abolished the requirements of the law which only the Jews had. Christ did this by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances. Circumcision is no longer a requirement. Dietary rules are abolished. Special days and feasts were no longer observed. 

He made us, both Jew and Gentile, one people. He has “made us both one”. (14) We are no longer two types of people, Jew and Gentile. He created “one new man in place of two”. (15) He created a new human being, a new humanity. He made us one body.

In effect, God created a new entity with the sacrifice of Christ. Jews and Gentiles became former Jews and Gentiles and new members of the Church. Some early Christian writers referred to Christians as a third race, no longer Jew or Gentile, but simply Christian.

Members of the House of God


So Gentiles in Christ are no longer strangers and aliens. They are fellow citizens. Citizens have rights and privileges that aliens do not. This was the case in the Roman Empire. We see this when Paul exerted his rights as a citizen when he was arrested in Jerusalem and bound without a trial. (Acts 22)

Paul also used the metaphor of a house to describe this situation. First, he said Gentiles are members of the household of God. (19) A household is a house and those who live in it as family, so the Gentiles are part of God’s family with equal rights and privileges as the original members. 

Paul then modifies the metaphor to focus on the house as a building. This house is being built by God. (1 Corinthians 3:9) The foundation of the house is the” apostles and prophets”. (20) The apostles are the Twelve plus Paul. The term here may include those who, like Paul, received a special commission from the risen Lord. James might be an example. (1 Corinthians 15:7) The prophets were the New Testament prophets, who further taught and applied the word of God. 

The corner stone of this house is Jesus. (20) A cornerstone was the principal stone, usually placed at the corner of the building. It was usually large and solid. It determined the directionality of the building.

Each believer, Jew and Gentile, is a stone which is joined with the other stones. It grows as more believers are added. It is a holy temple in the Lord. (21) The Jews may have been the first stones laid, but the Gentiles are also being built together with them to make this temple. 

This house, or temple, which is the universal church, is the dwelling place for God by the Spirit. As the temple in Jerusalem was the place of God’s dwelling in the old covenant, the body of believers is the place of God’s dwelling in the new covenant. 

There is no distinction among members of the household because of race,  gender, or economic status. In Galatians 3:28, Paul said “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” 

That is God’s design for his new humanity. Therefore, creating divisions among God’s people is going against his design and will and is a sin. Rather, we are to work to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3)

Sunday, July 03, 2022



Who We Were Before Christ


After the prayer, Paul reminded the Ephesians of what they were before they came to Christ. This applies to us today also. The “you” of verse 1 may mean the Gentile believers in the church at Ephesus. 

First, Paul says, before Christ, they were dead in their trespasses and sins in which they once walked. (2:1-2) “Once walked” means how they lived before they came to Christ. These were the things that characterized them. 

They were spiritually dead. That means they were alienated from God and separated from the life he gives. 

An illustration of this truth is the story of Adam and Eve. Originally, they were without sin and lived in perfect fellowship with God. But, when they rebelled against God, they lost that fellowship. All sin is rebellion against God. 

Having rebelled against God, Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden and out of that perfect fellowship with God. (Genesis 3:23-24) God had told them that eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would cause them to die. (Genesis 2:17) Adam and Eve were spiritually dead, separated from God by their sin.

This sinful life followed the “course of this world”. (2) The Greek word for “world” (Kosmos or Cosmos) can have several different meanings, but here means the way of humanity that lives in opposition to God. That is why Paul could write that we have not received the spirit of the world; we have received the Spirit that comes from God. (1 Corinthians 2:12) 

That also means they were following the way of Satan, who is described as the prince of the power of the air that now works in the sons of disobedience (the world). “Air” here mens the spiritual realm. Over in chapter 6, verse 12, Paul wrote of rulers, authorities and cosmic powers who are the spiritual forces of evil in the “heavenly places”, which seems to mean the same place or realm referred to her in chapter 2, here 2. He has also referred to it as the dominion of darkness. (Colossians 1:13) 

Having spoken to the Gentiles of their former life, Paul, in verse 3, includes the Jews in this same condition when he wrote “among whom we all once lived”. That life was dominated by the passions of the flesh, the desires of the body,  and the desires of an unregenerate mind. Paul used the word “flesh” to mean our corrupted human nature. He has described the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21. It is a long list of sinful activity that can result from letting the flesh have its way.

Lastly, Paul says all of those who have not come to Christ are “children of wrath”. That is a way of saying they deserve God’s wrath. What could be more scary than experiencing God’s wrath? The book of Revelation certainly gives us vivid and scary pictures of God pouring out his wrath. There were 7 bowls of wrath in Revelation 16, as God gave mankind the opportunity to repent before the end. Then there was the final judgment of Revelation 20 where those whose name were not found in the Lamb’s book of life were thrown into the lake of fire. 

Reading the depictions of God’s wrath shows us how much he hates sin. It also helps us see how great God’s grace is toward believers. 

Who We Are In Christ


The words “but God” are two of the sweetest words in the New Testament.  After showing us the depth of our sin and our spiritual death before we knew Christ, Paul shows us that God made us alive in Christ, together with him. 

As God raised Christ from the dead physically, with that same power he raises us spiritually. (6) He seats us in the heavenly places in Christ. Jesus himself declared this to the church in Laodicea, saying “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne”. (Revelation 3:21) Since we are in Christ, we are seated with him as he sits on the throne at the right hand of God in the heavenly places. That is where, and why, we receive the spiritual blessings in the heavenly places as set out in chapter 1. 

God did this out of his mercy because of his great love for us. He is rich in mercy. (4) Way back in the book of Exodus, God revealed himself to Moses and declared himself as “a God merciful and gracious”. (Exodus 34:6) Mercy means not getting what you deserve. What we deserved was wrath and death. What we received was life in Christ. 

God also saved us from wrath and death as a matter of grace. Grace is getting what you do not deserve. We did not earn salvation, we received it because God gave us grace. Verses 8 and 9 are often memorized by believers. It says we are saved by grace. We receive that grace by faith in Christ. But even this saving faith is not generated by us. It is given to us by God. No works done by us merit salvation and so there is no room for boasting. 

God had a purpose in all of this beyond our salvation. It was that we, as his workmanship, his new creation, would do good works. God prepared those good works beforehand with the intention that we would do them, or walk in them as Paul said. (10)

And God had an even further purpose in this. It is that he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus in the coming ages. (7) God will glorify himself through the display of his grace for eternity as all creation marvels that he granted salvation to us in grace and grace alone. In Philippians 2, Paul wrote that Jesus was exalted so that all would acknowledge his lordship to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11) The church will for all time be the masterpiece of God’s goodness. 

Knowing the depths of God’s grace brings us to thankfulness and worship. Knowing God’s great love for us should sustain us when things in this life are difficult. Knowing we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places gives us a hope for the future and the strength to face physical death. Understanding God’s plan of salvation from before the foundation of the earth brings us to glorify him. 

Spend some time this week meditating on these things.