Written by Paul J. Bucknell on October, 29, 2018
A Study on the Church (Ephesians 3:1-13)
3:1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; 3 that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. 4 And by referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 3:6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, 7 of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. 8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; 3:10 in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory. (NASB)
The Mystery and Ministry of the Church
A) God’s Mystery Affirmed (3:1-7)
B) God’s Truth Believed (3:8-9)
C) God’s Wisdom Manifested (3:10-13)
Paul insightfully defends the inclusion of believing Gentiles and explains the newly revealed concept of the church composed of both Jews and Gentile believers from the belief in the one Messiah, Jesus Christ. The apostle subtly reminds the church of her responsibility to manifest God’s glory—the very purpose of Christ coming to the earth to save.
A strong purpose flows through this passage: first, God reveals the mystery of the Gospel to Paul (1-7), second, Paul preaches this same truth to the Gentiles leading many to faith and observing their incorporation into the one body of believers with the Jews building up the one spiritual temple (8-9), and third noted by the purpose clause,“in order that” God’s glorious wisdom might be manifested (10-13). The inclusion of the Gentiles was not due to a mistake or sidestep but part of the hidden and greater design of God for the church, His people.
Small Group “COMA” Starter Questions:
- While the end of chapter 2 exalts the glory of the church,
- Paul here in chapter 3:1-13 defends this glorious presentation of the church so that the one church composed of Jew and Gentile will be well established and beyond question so to give further praise to God for such wonderful work.
- Circle the ways Paul refers to himself in 3:1-13. (Paul goes from speaking about the glorious church at the end of the chapter to a clear transition upon speaking about himself in 3:1-13.)
- How does Paul use his revelation to defend the inclusion of the Gentiles and his suffering (13)?
- Note what is hidden, how it is hidden, and why it’s now revealed (3:8-11).
- Paul was again taking their eyes off the Jerusalem temple and onto the spiritual temple composed of His people. What would happen to the Jerusalem temple in another 15 years (70 AD)?
- The foundation of the church is again referred to in these verses as in the later section of chapter 2. What more does he state here about this foundation?
- Observe the five different ways “Christ” is used and referred to in these verses?
- The word “fellow” is importantly used three times to emphasize the joint privileges of the Gentiles with the Jews.
- “Faith in Him” gives us boldness and confidence to come before God (12). What might otherwise hold us back?
- Why does Paul call himself a prisoner (1)?
- Who does “Gentiles” refer to (1) and why does Paul repeatedly refer to them (2:11; 3:1,6,8;4:17)?
- Why does Paul include himself in this group of “His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit” (5)? Why is it important that this revelation does not only depend upon Paul?
- Why does Paul refer to himself so much starting in 3:1?
- What further insight do we gain about the mystery from these verses?
- Restate what happened at that time when Christ revealed himself to Paul, formerly Saul (from Acts). What is the point of referring to this revelation?
- What word is repeated three times in 3:6? Why?
- Name the three descriptions of the Gentiles here and compare these with those at the last half of chapter 2.
- What is emphasized in 3:7? Why do you think Paul emphasized this?
- What do you think of upon hearing, “the unfathomable riches of Christ” (8)?
- How would you again describe this mystery (9)?
- What are the implications that this mystery has been “hidden in God” (9)?
- What is it that the church is to make known (3:10)? How might the church do this?
- Who is Paul alluding to when he mentions the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (10)?
- Why do you think God kept this eternal plan hidden (10-11)? What is the point of Paul so carefully stating that here?
- Who is the “we” in verse 12 refer to? What is it that they have?
- The mystery is revealed today, but what relevance does the Gospel truth have in our present generation?
- How does Paul’s preaching to the Gentiles relate to the Christian’s duty to make God’s Word known today?
- Do you think of your Christian life associated with God’s purpose of manifesting God’s wisdom? Explain.
- Would you be willing to suffer for this Gospel if God deemed it important?
- Would you say that you feebly or in “boldness and confident” come before God in prayer (12)?
- How much do you think your prayers are related to the growth of God’s kingdom?
The joy of proclaiming and living out the Gospel is dependent on how convinced we are of the glorious effects that the Gospel brings.
There is no higher calling than the privilege of living and proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.