Ephesians 3:6-13 – Paul clearly reveals God’s plan

Paul starts chapter 3 to pray for the Gentile believer, but doesn’t get very far before he interrupts himself for a number of verses (v.2-13) before he continues again with his prayer in v.14. The second part of his “interruption” is Paul clearly reveals God’s plan to all believers. He hinted about it earlier in 2:11-22 but never called it God’s plan. He also reveals his mission to make God’s plan known.

v.6,“And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.” God’s plan is finally revealed in detail! Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News are “joint heirs…and members of the same body, and joint partakers [sharing] in the [same divine] promise in Christ Jesus through [their faith]” AMP. Notice in the AMP, Paul uses three terms to describe God’s plan which includes Gentiles with Jews together as:

  1. “Joint heirs” of the same blessing – Gentiles that believe are joint heirs with believing Jews. Gentiles do not become Jews in order to be heirs, no they are fellow heirs with the Jews because of Christ. Jews and Gentiles are adopted into the same family, becoming brothers and sisters. Gentile are fellow heirs of salvation and share equally with the Jews (Rom 8:17, Gal 3:29, 4:7)
  2. “Members” of the same body – they are united into one body (the church) as Christ is the head. They have all the privileges and promises because they belong to Christ.
  3. “Joint partakers” of the same promise – they both partake in the same promises in Christ Jesus. In the past Gentiles could only come under this promise by becoming Jews, now Paul is telling the Gentiles believers they are fully accepted and are fellow participants of the promise with the believing Jews.

So God’s plan is the complete union of Jews and Gentiles believers together as one group—the church. And they are united in Christ Jesus because they belong to him through the Good News. It is a double union, with Christ and with each other.

v.7,“By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News.” God chose Paul to spread the Good News. Paul did not seek out this job or earn this responsibility because of any merit on his own. As a matter a fact, Paul was an enemy of Christ and persecuting Christians when God chose him. And to Paul it was a great “privilege” to have this responsibility chosen to be “spreading this Good News.” But he knew the only way to fulfill this mission was by “God’s grace and mighty power.”

v.8,“Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ.” Paul knew he was “least deserving of all God’s people” (see note above in v.7 and 1 Cor 15:9-10, 1 Tim 1:15) to have this responsibility to spread the Good News to the Gentiles. But God chose him for this tasks, to tell the Gentiles about what is available to them: “inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ” MSG. These riches could include resurrection from the death of sin, eternity with Christ in heaven someday, reconciliation with God, same privilege of being joint heirs with Jewish believers in this new people—the church, end of hostility and the beginning of peace, access to the Father through Christ and by the Holy Spirit, etc… This is the reason Paul uses the word  “endless” or “inexhaustible.” These riches are impossible for us to fathom as human beings. We can’t grasp the greatness of these riches and the generosity of Christ in giving them.

v.9,“I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.” God, the “Creator of all things,” chose Paul to explain His “mysterious plan” that up until now was “kept secret” to everyone. Of course, God knew the plan all along (before the creation of the world or “from the beginning”) but had kept it a secret until the appropriate time. Now Paul can tell both Gentiles and Jews of God’s plan because it has been revealed to him as his mission.

v.10-11,“God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This is his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.” We can see here that God chose not to reveal his master plan to anyone including the “unseen rulers and authorities” which is another way of saying both good and evil angels (1:21, 6:12). God wanted to “use the church” to“display his wisdom” to the angels, whether good or evil (good angels throughout history have desired to decipher God’s plan (1 Pet 1:12). And evil angels would really like to know God’s plan so they can attempt to frustrate it) “in the heavenly places.” The angels in this verse are more like spectators at a sporting event. They are not involved in the church but are watching it and being witnesses to it.God’s master plan was “carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.” The union between believing Jews and believing Gentiles into one body was accomplished by Christ’s death on the cross—which is salvation.

v.12,“Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.” The AMP says “our faith gives us sufficient courage to freely and openly approach God through Christ.” Because of Christ’s faithfulness (and our faith in him) all barriers are removed so believers are given boldness (speak freely and freely approach) and confidence to come into the presence of God. The word “approach” implies a formal introduction into the presence of a king. Thanks to Christ and his sacrifice, Christians (both believing Jews and believing Gentiles) can come confidently into God’s presence through prayer (Heb 4:16). Especially Gentiles, this was very astounding news, because in the past they were far from God. But now they were able to come into God’s presence without fear and speak openly and frankly to him, just as the Jews have in the past and can today.

v.13,“So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here. I am suffering for you, so you should feel honoured.” Paul tells the Gentile believers to not allow his trials to make them lose heart but remember his suffering is for their sake. They should be honoured he is doing this for their benefit. In other words, if Paul had not been bringing the message of the Gospel to Gentiles there would not be any Gentiles included in the church, Christ’s body of believers. And he would not be in prison. He was in prison because he knew it was part of God’s plan.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? I am thankful that God chose all those who would believe in him (Gentiles and Jews) which includes me. I am also thankful that God chose Paul to be his missionary to the Gentiles so myself and my family would be included in the church, Christ’s body of believers. And lastly I am thankful that Paul chose to be obedient to God to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles even though it resulted in his imprisonment because the result is I heard the Gospel and believed. Thank you God and thank you Paul.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  Be thankful that God chose to include me in his church, Christ’s body of believers.

July 15, 2020 at 8:38 AM Leave a comment

Ephesians 3:1-5 – Paul’s insight into God’s plan

Paul starts chapter 3 to pray for the Gentile believer, but doesn’t get very far before he interrupts himself for a number of verses (v.2-13) before he continues again with his prayer in v.14. The first part of his “interruption” Paul reminds the believers that he understands God’s plan or mystery because God has given him insight into it.

v.1,“When I think of all this, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the benefit of you Gentiles.” “When I think of all this” or in other translations “for this reason” is referring back to 2:11-22 Paul has just written—Jews and Gentiles are made into a new people in Christ—the church. “I, Paul, a prisoner…” Paul begins to pray and remind the readers who he is and where he is as he prays. The religious leaders in Jerusalem, who didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah, pressured the Romans to arrest Paul and charge him with treason. According to the Jews (which was a rumour), Paul was distorting God’s message by telling the Jews to disobey the law of Moses, and by bringing a Gentile to the temple which defiles it (Acts 21:20-36). Tophimus, the Ephesian Gentile convert, was the man who they assumed Paul had brought with him to the temple (Acts 2:29). So Paul was put in prison while he was awaiting his trial. Paul knew his imprisonment was God’s will so he called himself “a prisoner of Christ Jesus.” Even though Paul is in a Roman prison, he still identifies himself as a prisoner of Christ Jesus, NOT a prisoner of Rome. Paul reminds the Gentile believers that he is in prison for Christ (he is in jail “because he serves Christ Jesus for you who are not Jews” ERV). Paul is in jail so that he can spread the Gospel to the Gentiles.

In v.1 it appears Paul is about to pray for the Gentile believers again (1:3-23) but he interrupts himself in v.2-13 to remind his readers about the mystery of Christ, giving an explanation and speaking of his understanding of it and his mission to make it known. Paul continues his prayer in v.14 with the same phrase “when I think of all this…”

v.2, “Assuming, by the way, that you know God gave me the special responsibility of extending his grace to you Gentiles.” God gave Paul this responsibility to help the Gentiles understand God’s grace is extended to them as much as it is to the Jews (Acts 26:17). Simply means that God gave Paul the mission to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles as much as he was to bring it to the unbelieving Jews. But Paul assumed they already knew this.

v.3,“As I briefly wrote earlier, God himself revealed his mysterious plan to me.” “Revealed” means unveiling something that was previously hidden. What was hidden? God’s “mysterious plan” (“mystery” AMP). This is a secret plan hidden in God (3:6,9), which can’t be understood by human ingenuity or study. It can only be revealed by “God himself.” And God chose to reveal his secret plan to Paul. Which Paul wrote briefly about earlier in this very same letter (2:11-22).

v.4,“As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ.” As the Gentile believers read what Paul has written about God’s plan (earlier), they will be able “to understand what [Paul] know[s] about the mystery of Christ” NIRV. Paul is reminding the readers (and hearers) of this letter that he has special “insight into this plan regarding Christ” because God revealed it to him.

v.5,“God did not reveal it to previous generations, but now by his Spirit he has revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets.” God didn’t reveal his plan to previous generations but now through the Holy Spirit God has revealed it his holy apostles and prophets, which Paul is one of them (an apostle).

In the next section Paul is going to once again remind the believers of God’s plan and his mission to make it known.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? God chose Paul (an unlikely candidate because of all of his persecuting of Christians, etc) to give the insight into his plan or mystery. He not only revealed it to him but gave him the mission to spread the plan.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  God has also chosen me (a believer but a sinner) to be in his ministry. Back in in mid-80’s I received this call and it wasn’t until 1991 that I finally listened and chose to serve. I am so thankful each day that God chose me and has been my support, stronghold, refuge and strength as I serve believers and unbelievers in his service. Thank you Father!

July 5, 2020 at 9:46 AM Leave a comment

Ephesians 2:19-22 – God’s people, his family & his house

In order to indicate the richness of the Gentiles’ changed position (from outsider to insider) and their new privileges in Christ, Paul shares three familiar models of the church: God’s people, God’s family and God’s house.

v.19,“So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.” Paul reminds us that Gentiles are no longer aliens but actually part of God’s people. Yes, in the past without Christ’s sacrifice Gentiles were lost and separated from God, “strangers and foreigners” or outsiders but this was their old position. Because of Christ’s sacrifice Gentiles are now “citizens” with all of “God’s holy people.” Not second-class citizens (or aliens), but full fledge citizens just like the Jews. Anyone who puts their faith in Jesus Christ are “members of God’s family” including the Gentiles!

v.20,“Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.” The third model Paul shares is the church is a building: “his house” or his temple. The temple in Jerusalem had for nearly a 1000 years been the focal point of Israel’s identity as the people of God. Now there is a new people. Not a new nation but a new humanity, international and worldwide—the church. This new house or temple didn’t have to be in Jerusalem anymore, according to Paul it was the believers across the world. He states “together, we are his house” speaking of all believers. Then he goes into detail on each item that makes up his house.

“The foundation” of this house was the “apostles and the prophets.” The “apostles” were a special group of individuals that Jesus chose and authorized to teach in his name and who were eyewitnesses of his resurrection (twelve disciples and Paul and James, possibly others). What they taught was expected to be believed by the church and what they commanded they expected the church to obey. The “prophets” also indicated teachers as well. They were given the Word of God by God himself and they conveyed that word to others faithfully. This simply means that the church is built on a strong and solid foundation—the teaching of The Word of God.

“The cornerstone” of this house “is Christ Jesus himself.” The cornerstone is a crucial part of the building, it anchors the building  (bears the weight of the building) and gives unity to the entire structure. The cornerstone is the most important stone in the whole building. The chief cornerstone of this new building (or temple) is “Christ Jesus.” This is not the typical cornerstone where you stamp a date on it, no this is better referred to as the foundation stone in Isaiah 28:16. It promises security in a time of destruction. Even if a flood came and washed everything away, the cornerstone stood and provided a place of refuge. Christ is not just another stone in this building but he is the most important stone which makes the whole building possible, including the foundation. He is the promised place of security on which the community of God is built. 

v.21, “We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.” Not only is the building built on Christ Jesus the cornerstone but it is “carefully joined together in him” as well. Christ is the one who unites all believers (Jews and Gentiles) together with each other and with God.“Becoming a holy temple for the Lord” is better translated “growing into a holy temple in the Lord.” This emphasizes the growth of the building process. This happens by joining or fitting together each of the various pieces to make up “a holy temple” which is the church universal (all believers). The word “temple” refers to the dwelling place of the God, the inner sanctuary, the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem temple. God no longer dwells in a temple made of stones but now dwells in a new temple made up of believers. This temple is “holy” because God dwells in these believers that are set apart for God’s use.

v.22,“Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.” Here Paul says that “Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling” which means they are joined together with the Jews to make up this house or “holy temple” (v.21). As the temple in Jerusalem was the physical dwelling place of God in the Old Testament, now the body of believers (made up of both believing Jews and believing Gentiles), is the dwelling place “where God lives by his Spirit” which is the Holy Spirit. In other words God lives in all believers as the person of the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:17, Rom 8:9). No privilege is given to God’s people in which the Gentile believers are excluded.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? It is only because of Christ sacrifice on the cross that God has made all of us his people, his family and a part of his holy house. No matter if I am a Gentile (or a Jew) he has accepted me as his own. He no longer sees me as an alien or stranger. I am both a member of his holy people and holy family. He has built a holy temple which is us (all believers). We have the best foundation (teaching of the Word of God) and the strongest secure cornerstone (Christ Jesus) so no matter what comes our way we are safe and secure. God indwells us through his Holy Spirit so we (all believers—the church) know we are set apart by God for God use to serve him no matter where we go. 

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? Thank God for his acceptance of me as his very own—his holy people and his family. Thank Jesus Christ for his sacrifice. And thank the Holy Spirit for his support and care for me as he resides in me, as I am his holy house or temple.

July 2, 2020 at 9:51 AM Leave a comment

Ephesians 2:13-18 – A new people–the church

God in his mercy and grace did not leave the Gentiles in their hopeless condition described in v.11-12. No, he explains in this section how he has brought all Gentiles near through the blood sacrifice of his Son, Christ Jesus. But Paul explains further this sacrifice is for all human beings to have a relationship with the Father and be saved and become a new people—the church.

v.13,“But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him though the blood of Christ.” Paul starts with “but now” to contrast all that he just explained in detail the Gentiles were before their conversion in Christ (v.11-12). Paul again reminds the Gentiles “once you were far away from God.” This described who the Gentiles were in relationship to God before their conversion. “But now you have been brought hear to him” is a description of the Gentiles presently in relationship to God after their conversion. The means by which the Gentile believers are “brought near to” God is “through the blood of Christ.” His sacrificial death on the cross where his blood was shed is what brought all who believe near to God (salvation). Without the shedding blood there is no forgiveness (Heb 9:22). However, in this verse Paul is specifically speaking of Gentiles.

Gentile believers: it is not an afterthought that Gentiles are now included in God’s family. This theme may seem to be secondary in the Old Testament, but it is there. God’s covenant with Abraham had in view the Gentiles as well (Gen 12:2-3). Here Paul makes what seemed secondary (Gentiles being included in God’s family—the church), now primary.

v.14,“For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.” Christ through his death on the cross destroyed the barriers that separated Jews and Gentiles, bringing “peace to us” and “united Jews and Gentiles into one people.” This made way for peace between the two groups. But more importantly Christ reconciled them both to God. Those who believed in God would be made “into one people”—believers! Paul describes the peace that Christ had made between these two groups as a “wall of hostility” that he “broke down.” It was no secret that there was a great hostility between the Jews and Gentiles, a cultural and religious hostility that only God could break. The dividing wall Paul is referring to is the wall in the Jewish temple that separated the court of the Gentiles from the rest of the temple, which only Jews could enter. When Christ died on the cross this wall was broken down (not literally but spiritually). The actual wall wasn’t broken down until the Romans entered Jerusalem in AD 70. It also symbolizing Gentile alienation from God being removed, as well.

In the next two verse Paul answers the questions we all have, how did Christ do this? How did he get rid of the hostility between Jews and Gentiles? Between man and God?

v.15-16,“He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility  toward each other was put to death.” Paul gives us four ways Christ through his death and resurrection, destroyed the hostility between Jews and Gentiles and between God and man.

  1. “Ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations.” This statement sounds contradictory to what Christ says about the law in Matt 5:17 in his Sermon on the Mount where he said he has come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Paul is not talking about “ending” the law as the Word of God or as a moral guide. What is ended or abolished is the law as a set of “commandments and regulations” (for sacrifices, circumcision, dietary regulations, ritual cleansing and regulations regarding the sabbath, etc) that exclude the Gentiles. The moral instructions of the law will continue but it will no longer exclude Gentiles or require them to become Jews (Deut 31:11-13). In Christ’s death and resurrection, he made the law ineffective to make people right before God. Christ abolished the law’s way of salvation. We can’t obey the whole law no matter how hard we try. So it separates us from God and from each other. But Jesus perfectly obeyed the law in his life and in his death took on the consequences of our disobedience. Acceptance with God is now only through faith in Christ alone for both the Jews or Gentiles. Christ will accept the Gentiles on equal footing as he does the Jews. The law was a barrier between all of us (Jews and Gentiles) and God, but faith unites us, since all have come to God through Christ in the same way.
  2. “By creating in himself one new people from the two groups.” Paul of course is talking about the church. This “one new people” was created by Christ when he abolished the divisive law (mentioned in point 1) on the cross. In this new people group there is no discrimination because they are all one in Christ (Col 3:11, Gal 3:28). Believers are no longer Jews or Gentiles but now Christians. A whole new group is formed and the result is peace between the Jews and Gentiles (v.14).
  3. “Reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross” Here the hostility is between God and man (both Jews and Gentiles). It is not just our attitude and sins towards him has been an issues, but also his wrath and anger toward us because of our sin. It is only through Christ death on the cross that both of these hostilities has been reconciled. 
  4. “Hostility toward each other was put to death” The hostility was also between the Jews and Gentiles (mentioned earlier in v.14). And again, by Christ death on the cross that hostility was also put to death and no matter who we are if we believe, we are part of the family of God, united as one in Christ.

v.17-18,“He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.” The “Good News of peace” which is another way of saying the “Gospel” was “brought” or preached equally both to the “Gentiles” and the “Jews.” In the NIV the word “preached” instead of “brought” (NLT) is used which could refer to Jesus’ earthly ministry (before his crucifixion and resurrection) where he preached the Gospel to those he came in contact with. It also could simply mean Christ act of his death-burial-resurrection-exaltation. Peace was achieved and access to God the Father was made possible because of Christ’s sacrifice. The Gentiles “were far away” from God because they knew little or nothing about him. And the Jews “were near” to God because they already knew of him through the Scriptures and worshipped him in their religious ceremonies. Because both groups could not be saved by good deeds, knowledge, or sincerity, both needed to hear the Gospel was available to them only through Jesus Christ. “All of us” (Jews and Gentiles) are free to “come the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done.” Rather than “can come” is better translated “have access.” Christ provides the access to the Father by the “Holy Spirit” who helps us when we pray and who baptizes and unifies us into the body of Christ. Notice the emphasis on the Trinity in these verses. All three persons of the Trinity are involved in redeeming humanity (salvation). God the Father developed a plan of grace for salvation through faith. Christ’s carried out the plan through his sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection. The Holy Spirit became the means of immediate access to God the Father.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? The hopeless plight of the Gentiles is redeemed by God stepping in through Christ. The Gentiles who didn’t know God can now have a relationship with God and only because of Christ’s shed blood that access is available. Then Paul switches gears to talk about all of humanity. Christ brought the Gospel of peace to everyone (Jews and Gentiles) through his sacrifice and resurrection. He broke down all barriers that were in the way of allowing the Gentiles to have a relationship with God. He did this by ending the rules and regulations of the law to exclude Gentiles. Christ brought peace and access to salvation to both Jews and Gentiles through his sacrifice. He also broke down the hostility between the Jews and Gentiles. And by his sacrifice he also created a new people (one body)—the church or Christians or believers.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  The only thing I can do is praise God for stepping in and not leaving me to die spiritually. Because of his grace and Jesus’ sacrifice I can be saved and have a relationship with the Father. I now have access to the Father and I can be part of the family of God—his new people, the church!

June 29, 2020 at 11:48 AM Leave a comment

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