Monday Meat – Wrapping Up Ephesians 3

And now we have a wonderful prayer by Paul for these believers. Again the phrase “for this reason” is used. Looking back at the previous verses, Paul is talking about how the mystery of the gospel also being for the Gentiles has been revealed and that God is displaying His wisdom through the church. And that his suffering is for their glory. Because of all this, he is able to bow before God and ask that God strengthen them. “According to the riches of his glory” – God has the power and riches necessary to strengthen them and He does so through the Holy Spirit inside them. Paul again talks about them having strength to comprehend and then goes on to talk about the incredible vastness that is Christ’s love. Paul asks that these believers be rooted and grounded in love, and comprehend Christ’s love, so that they would be filled with the fullness of God. These are some incredible phrases! Christ’s love surpasses knowledge! Perhaps we can grasp a tiny inkling of what His love is. It’s almost an oxymoron that Paul has here: “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge”. To know something that is beyond knowledge is paradoxical. This gives us a tiny picture of how incredible is Christ’s love for us.

Paul closes his prayer with a reminder that God is much more powerful than we could even imagine, that He can do beyond our ability to even ask. And that power is at work within us! The Holy Spirit is within us as believers and He is God, with the power beyond our imagination. So Paul gives glory to God throughout all generations, forever to be praised. What an incredible passage to show how amazing is God!

vs. 14-17a – Prayer to Father that they’d be strengthened through the Spirit so Christ would dwell in their hearts
vs. 17b-19 – That they’d have strength to comprehend and to know Christ’s love so they’d be filled with fullness of God
vs. 20-21 – God is able to do far more than we could ask or think – to Him be glory (doxology)

Summary of sections in chapter 3:
vs. 1-13: The mystery of the gospel being also for the Gentiles was made known to Paul that he might preach to all this mystery, so through the church God’s wisdom would be made known.
vs. 14-21: Prayer for them to know Christ’s love and be strengthened through the Spirit so they would be filled with God’s fullness – He who does far more than we could ask.

We could summarize Ephesians 3 something like this – The mystery of Christ is that the gospel is for everyone. This truth ‘The gospel is for all’ – this displays God’s wisdom. Also Ephesians 3 reminds us that we are strengthened through the Spirit to understand Christ’s love. So how do we apply this?

How does knowing the gospel is for everyone make a difference in how we treat others?
How can knowing the vastness of Christ’s love change how you go about your day-to-day activities?
Knowing God’s power is beyond what we could even ask or think – how does that change our prayer life? The trials we go through? Who should we pray this prayer for?

Monday Meat – More Ephesians 3

Ephesians 3:7-13 (ESV)
Of this gospel, I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

Paul has been made a minister of this gospel. The word he uses here that is translated minister is the Greek word diakonos, which can also be translated as servant or deacon. Paul views this ministry as him being a servant, one who was given the responsibility to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Now that God has revealed the mystery that the Gentiles also have access to the gospel, Paul has been assigned the task to preach this to them. He refers to it as “the unsearchable riches of Christ”, which is really what the gospel entails. In Christ we have been given every spiritual blessing – an inheritance for us in heaven – these are riches beyond our ability to comprehend! This task was given to Paul by God’s power. Not only is he to preach to the Gentiles the good news that they also can be saved through Christ, but he is to tell everyone this good news. Now that God has revealed His plan for all peoples, not just the Jews, this then will unite all peoples who come to Christ so that as Christ’s church they reveal the wisdom of God. This is made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places – referring to angels and demons. We know from chapter 1 that Christ has been raised above all these rulers and authorities, but we also know from chapter 2 that for now Satan is still at work in the world. Yet God’s plan for the church reveals His wisdom to these spiritual powers.

Paul then tells his readers because of this ministry he’s been given, not to be discouraged that he is going through suffering. For ultimately this suffering will result in glory.
v. 7 – Paul was made a minister of this gospel by God’s grace and power
vs. 8-10 – Grace was given to Paul to preach to Gentiles and reveal the mystery to everyone so God’s wisdom could be made known through the church
vs. 11-12 – This was eternal purpose in Christ – in whom we have access through faith
v. 13 – Paul’s suffering is for their glory

Monday Meat – Beginning Ephesians 3

Ephesians chapter 3 starts off with the phrase “for this reason”. Whenever this kind of transitional phrase is used (“because”, “therefore”, “for this reason” etc.), we need to look at the preceding verses to see what it is referring to. The end of chapter 2 is telling us how the Gentiles and Jews who are both now believers in Christ have become one and are being joined together as a dwelling place for God. In lieu of this, “for this reason” Paul writes, and then he seems to take a side trip to talk about his stewardship that he’s been given.

Ephesians 3:1-6
For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles-assuming that you have heard about the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

This stewardship or responsibility that has been given to Paul is that the mystery of the gospel has now been revealed to him – that the Gentiles are also able to receive Christ, and can partake of His promises, just like the Jews. This was not known in previous generations but has now been revealed by the Holy Spirit to the apostles. Paul uses three different phrases to describe what the Gentiles now are: “fellow heirs”, “members of the same body”, and “partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus”. These are synonymous yet they draw out the full meaning of all that this blessing entails. This expounds on the previous chapter’s description of the Jewish and Gentile believers being joined together and becoming one. We all are now together in Christ and can partake of the promises that come with the gospel. Going back to chapter 1, these promises include an inheritance waiting for us, every spiritual blessing in Christ, adoption as God’s children, and so on. This had all been a mystery before and now has been made known. Paul has been given the task of revealing this and telling the Gentiles about the gospel that they can now be a part of with the Jews.

Content summary:

  • vs. 1-3 – Paul was given stewardship of God’s grace for Gentiles and mystery was revealed to him
  • vs. 4-6 – The mystery of Christ wasn’t made known before but now is revealed: the Gentiles are fellow heirs of the gospel.

Two key words in this section are mystery and revealed/revelation. It can be fun to look at the original language for key words to get a better idea of their meaning and how these words were used at the time of writing. Blue Letter Bible is a great online resource to do word studies in the original language. When you look up a passage on Blue Letter Bible (such as Ephesians 3), to the left of the verses are buttons that say ‘tools’. Clicking on these will bring up the original language for the verse and links to the Strong’s concordance that will give you definitions of the word from the original language.

Screenshot from Blue Letter Bible

This is a great way to dig deeper into the passage.

Monday Meat – Continuing Ephesians 2

Verse 11 starts off with “Therefore”, as Paul continues to talk about the contrast between what we were before salvation and what we are now in Christ. At this time he is directly addressing the non-Jews and how they were completely cut off and had no part in the covenant that God had made with the Jews. He uses terms like separated and alienated to describe this, as well as the contrast of “far off” and “brought near”. What has changed their standing is the blood of Christ. Later in this chapter he goes on to say that Christ abolished the dividing wall. The book of Ephesians sings with the immensity of what Christ has accomplished for us as believers! Over and over is the phrase “in Christ”. How this must cause us to rejoice, seeing the contrast between what we once were and what we now are because of what Christ did. Paul uses the word “remember” to help them recall the huge change that God has brought about in their lives.

vs. 11-12 – At one time we were separated from Christ and strangers to the covenant of promise, no hope and without God
vs. 13 – But now in Christ we’ve been brought near
vs. 14-16 – Jesus is our peace – made us one by abolishing law, breaking down the wall, reconciling us to God through the cross
vs. 17-18 – He preached peace to near and far, through Him we have access to the Father in one Spirit
vs. 19-21 – We are not strangers but fellow citizens with God’s household which is built on foundation of apostles and prophets, with Christ being the cornerstone – whole structure joined in Christ – grows into a holy temple
vs. 22 – We are being built into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit

Imagery of house, temple, dwelling place, structure

We could look at Ephesians 2 broken down this way:
vs. 1-10: We were dead in sin but by grace God made us alive in Christ that we might do good works.
vs. 11-22: We were far off and alienated from God, but now Christ is our peace and has made us into one body that is a dwelling place for God.

The chapter starts off with our deadness and ends with us being a dwelling place for God! All through His grace! In Sinclair Ferguson’s Let’s Study Ephesians commentary, this quote is a great summary of the content of Ephesians chapter 2: “We are no longer what we once were. But Christian living involves more. We are now citizens in God’s kingdom and members of his family. Formerly we were spiritually dead and in bondage to Satan, the world, and the flesh, by nature children of wrath, separated, strangers, aliens. Now our new identity both secures us (we belong) and transforms us (we live as citizens and sons, no longer as aliens and orphans). In a world where people, young and old, have lost a sense of belonging and a direction in living, the gospel of Christ is good news indeed.”

So how do we take these truths and apply them to our own lives? Here are some questions we can ask:

-How does knowing God’s grace is what saved us (not our works) help us to do good works? What does that do for our motivation in living rightly?

-What does it mean to be a dwelling place for God? How does that make my life look? Does that affect my actions and attitudes? How does that affect my relationships with other believers?

Monday Meat – Ephesians 2:4-10

Ephesians 2:4 starts off with a contrast “But God”. Unlike us, wallowing in our passions and filth, God is rich in mercy and love. He made us alive when we were dead (another contrast). And not only did He make us alive, but He raised us up along with Christ and seated us with Christ in the heavens. This was so that His grace which is immeasurable could be displayed throughout the ages. Now obviously we are not literally seated with Christ now in the heavenly places. This passage is talking about spiritually and figuratively being raised and seated with Christ. Positionally we are in Christ so that our relationship to God is as though we were Christ. We have the benefits that Christ has. As chapter 1 told us, we are adopted as sons. When contrasted with how dead and passion-consumed we were at the beginning of this chapter, it is mind-blowing to realize what God has done for us. This is not something we could accomplish on our own, nor would we have had the desire for this without God intervening.

In verse 8 of chapter 2 we come to some of the most familiar verses in the Bible – “For by grace you have been saved through faith…” We are not saved by our works or our own doing, but rather by God’s grace through faith. Chapter 1 has just shown us the immeasurable riches of God’s grace towards us in Christ, and chapter 2 continues to sound the praises of God’s glory. Yet we are not just saved to be trophies on God’s shelf, but for “good works” which “God prepared beforehand”. Just as chapter 1 tells us that God chose us to be holy and blameless, chapter 2 tells us that we are saved not by works but for good works. This echoes what we are taught elsewhere in Scripture, such as James, that while salvation is not by the works we do, our salvation becomes evident through the works that we do as a result of our salvation.

Verse 11 starts off with “Therefore”, which we’ll tackle next time as Paul continues to talk about the contrast between what we were before salvation and what we are now in Christ.

Monday Meat – Ephesians 2: Before and After

After all the rich, spiritual blessings talked about in chapter 1, Paul reminds his readers that before all this lavish grace was heaped on them, they were spiritually dead. They were part of the world that followed Satan (see also 2 Corinthians 4:4, “the god of this age”). Satan is described here as the prince of the power of the air and the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. We were once among them. All we knew was our sin; it was how we knew to live. We were dead and saw nothing wrong with the world or our lifestyle. Paul switches from ‘you’ to ‘we’, indicating that he also was once dead, just like they were. All we knew were the passions of our flesh, our earthly desires, what made us feel good. We lived for our desires – both physical and mental (“the body and the mind”). Our very nature was children of wrath. God’s wrath was against us in our sins for His holiness cannot tolerate sin. “like the rest of mankind” tells us that the whole world is in this state, passionate about their own desires and eager to live for self. We don’t have to look very far around us to see this played out in our world. Man is self-centered and is his own god.

This chapter brings out the whole “death to life” idea. “Before this, now this” compares the past with the present. Paul is reminding his readers of what they once were and what they now are. We appreciate the grace of God so much more when we understand how totally depraved and dead we were in our sins. This chapter contains some of the most well-known verses explaining the gospel, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (verses 8-9). The early verses in the chapter explain why we could not attain this on our own for we “were dead in our trespasses and sins”. A dead person has no life, no ability on their own to accept God. Once again in this chapter we see the phrase “in Christ”, a reminder that all this is because of Jesus Christ and not ourselves.

The “before and after” concept is seen in the “were dead” and “made alive” along with the “far off” and “brought near” found in verse 13. Comparing and contrasting is one of the things we look for when studying a passage. The idea of being separated and alienated is talked about, followed up with peace and being made one. Read through chapter 2 and write down all the contrasts that are given.

Next week we’ll continue our look at chapter 2 of Ephesians.

Monday Meat – Ephesians 2 Intro

We continue our study of Ephesians by moving on to chapter 2 and doing our observations of the passage. What are the repeated words or phrases? How does this tie in with chapter 1? Who is Paul talking about in this passage? Are there any time-related words? What about places?

Sometimes it helps with asking these questions to read through the passage several times over a period of days, asking different questions each time. In Bible study we don’t always have to move through observation, interpretation, and application in just one day of study. It’s actually beneficial to spend several days on observation as the more we observe, the more accurate our interpretation will be. One of the reasons that people often fail at Bible study is they think it is too much work or takes too much time. They want to come away with an application every time they study. But that’s not a realistic way to study the Bible. In our fast-paced world, it’s better to not rush through the process of Bible study every time we do, but rather spend what time we can in careful observations even if it means not taking away an application each time we sit down to study. Rushed study can lead to rushed conclusions that lead to faulty interpretation and application. It’s better to take several days and get it right than to try to always have an application each time.

One aspect of Bible study that we didn’t go over in detail while looking at chapter 1 is the need for cross-referencing. Scripture helps to interpret Scripture. The beginning of Ephesians 2 tells us that we were dead in our sins. Where else in the Bible does it tell us this? Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned”. Ephesians 2:2 tells us that we were following “the prince of the power of the air”. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says “the god of this age”. Seeing where else in Scripture these ideas and phrases are used help to bring clarity to a passage and shed more light on its meaning.

Sinclair Ferguson’s Let’s Study Ephesians commentary gives this summary of Ephesians chapter 2: “We are no longer what we once were. But Christian living involves more. We are now citizens in God’s kingdom and members of his family. Formerly we were spiritually dead and in bondage to Satan, the world, and the flesh, by nature children of wrath, separated, strangers, aliens. Now our new identity both secures us (we belong) and transforms us (we live as citizens and sons, no longer as aliens and orphans). In a world where people, young and old, have lost a sense of belonging and a direction in living, the gospel of Christ is good news indeed.”

Next week we’ll look further at Ephesians chapter 2.