Ephesians 3:1-13

Everyone loves a mystery. There is something compelling about a search for the unknown, the bringing to light of that which has been previously hidden. I love the little boy in the movie, "A Christmas Story" where he digs through the box of Cracker Jacks to find the "Secret Decoder Ring." There is a little of that little boy in all of us who itch to hear that which has been secret.

Throughout most of history and throughout most of the world, God has been a mystery. In the days before the coming of Jesus (and most of history took place before the coming of Jesus), the only way to come to know God was to ask a Jew. And there were not a lot of Jews to ask. They were a little tiny country on the outskirts of the Roman Empire. They were not the chosen people because there were so many of them. They were a minority in a world full of majorities.

But they had a special knowledge. To them had God revealed Himself. It was to them that God spoke through the prophets. And when Jesus came, it was to preach and teach and minister primarily among the Jews.

As Paul opens this section of his epistle to the Ephesians, we will be reminded that the receivers of this epistle are mostly Gentiles, non-Jews.



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. (Ephesians 3:1-3).

Paul begins by talking about "for this reason" - a phrase that expects a corresponding action on his part. But that action will not be given until verse 14. It is as though Paul interrupts himself.

Before introducing the mystery, Paul introduces himself - the steward of the mystery. The manner in which he introduces himself is striking. He introduces himself as Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus. What is so striking about this introduction is that, for the past two to four years Paul has been a prisoner of Rome. He was arrested in Jerusalem. And he was transported under guard to Caesarea. And then he was placed onto a prison ship and transported to Rome. He has now been in Rome for some time. He is a prisoner. He is under house arrest. But he describes himself as a prisoner, not of Rome or of the Empire, but of Jesus Christ.

Paul understands that all which has befallen him came first through a nail-scarred hand. He has been imprisoned in accordance with the plan and purpose of Jesus. This plan is for the sake of you Gentiles. It has been accomplished so that the gospel of Christ might be taken to the Gentiles throughout the Roman empire.

Indeed, it is in a very literal sense that Paul was a prisoner for the sake of you Gentiles. It had been over the very issue of allowing Gentiles into the church which had led to the riot in which Paul was originally arrested.

Paul had been preaching the gospel. The gospel which he proclaimed stated that a man could be accepted by God apart from the works of the Law - even a Gentile man.

Paul was a steward of that gospel. It was not a message which he had invented. He had not reasoned it out. Rather, it had been entrusted to him - made known to him by revelation.

This is important. It means that Paul did not invent his gospel. It is not a gospel which is different from the gospel preached by Jesus. They preached the same gospel.

Every once in a while, I come across someone who teaches that Paul was just a crusty old woman-hater who spouted his own opinion on issues and that we ought to stick with the words of Jesus. This is not true. Paul's message and his teachings were given to him by revelation of the risen Jesus Himself.



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 (Ephesians 3:4-5).

Paul first mentioned this mystery in chapter 1. He mentioned it in 1:9 - "He made known to us the mystery of His will." It is a mystery which was given to him (3:3). That is significant because it had been previously hidden. That is what made it a mystery.

Other Generations

This Generation

Was not made known to the sons of men

Has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit.

Paul is going to share a mystery which was totally unknown in the Older Testament. What he gives to us was hidden from the fathers and the prophets. As great a prophet as was Moses or Elijah, neither of them knew of this truth. This means that, whatever this mystery is, it cannot have been something which was taught in the Old Testament.

Here is an amazing thing. While God was a mystery to most of the world and while the Jews had been entrusted with the oracles of God, there was something which was hidden even from the Jews.



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 (Ephesians 3:6).

In order to explain what is the mystery, Paul does something unusual. He has not the words to express himself, so he coins his own words. He invents three words.

Greek Word




Fellow heirs

Has to do with possessions


Fellow members of the body

Reflects on our position


Fellow partakers of the promise

Has to do with power

What is the mystery? Before I tell you what it is, let me say what it is not. It is not the truth that the Gentiles would turn to God. That had been promised in the Old Testament. The prophet Isaiah said that the Messiah would be a light to the Gentiles.

The mystery is something greater. What can be greater than all the nations coming to know God? Here it is. Not only would the nations come to know Him, but both Gentiles and Jews would be joined in the closest possible bond.

1. Fellow Heirs.

An heir is someone who inherits. The inheritance is the kingdom, promised from the Old Testament. It was an inheritance first promised to Abraham and then passed to his son and his son's son and to all Israel. Notice that there is not one kingdom for Jews and one kingdom for Gentiles. We have become fellow heirs.

2. Fellow members of the body.

What is this body of which Paul speaks? I believe it to be the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul says that "by one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Greeks, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit."

There is nothing more unified than a body. Have you ever witnessed your hand having an argument with your foot? "Why do I have to be walked on all day? All I ever do is stand around in this smelly old sock while you get to write letters and play a guitar and shake other hands. No one ever wants to shake a foot. It's not fair!" Silly, isn't it? And the church is no less silly when we argue amongst ourselves. We are fellow members of the body.

3. Fellow partakers of the promise.

All of the promises of the New Covenant are yours to claim. What are the promises of the New Covenant?

"Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the Lord.

"But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the Lord, "I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

"And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the Lord, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Notice the promises given by God to those who enter into the New Covenant.



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. (Ephesians 3:6-7).

God really has a sense of humor. Here was a Pharisee of the Pharisees who hated Gentiles and their culture. God appeared to him and said, "Go to the Gentiles." I imagine that Paul may have wanted to ask, "Can't I go to the Jews?" God would have answered, "No, Peter is already doing that."

The love of God overcame Paul's racism. He had come face to face with the grace of God. That confrontation changed his life. A confrontation with the Living God always has that effect.

Paul's appointment to ministry was "according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His power." Paul didn't become a minister because he was so faithful. Or because he was a good speaker. Or because he had a seminary education. Or because he was especially spiritual. It was because of GRACE.

Don't miss this! The same gracious principle that was involved in bringing you to salvation was involved in calling Paul into ministry. And that same principle is involved in calling you into ministry, too.

What? Called into ministry? Yes. If you are a Christian, then you have been called into ministry. That doesn't mean you have to quit your job or go to seminary. But you are nonetheless a minister. The only question is what kind. Will you be faithful to the ministry to which you have been called? Will you hear the words of the Lord ultimately say, "Well done, good and faithful servant"?



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; 10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:8-10).

The mystery is being revealed through the church. God is doing something special in His church. He is doing it for all the world to see. But that is not all. He is doing it, not only for the world to see, but also for the benefit of "the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places."

This is amazing. It has been said that "all the world's a stage." There is some truth to that. The church is a stage. I don't mean the building. I mean the people inside the building. You are the stage. The world is watching you to see what Christ does in the life of a person.

And the world is not the only one watching. Angels and rulers and heavenly beings are also watching. Beings so powerful and so majestic that, were one to appear, we would be sorely tempted to fall down and worship. But they are entranced with us. Not with us in ourselves, but in what Christ is doing in us.



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.

Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory. (Ephesians 3:11-13).

Here is the point. These Ephesian Christians are in danger of becoming downhearted. Their founding pastor has been arrested and is in prison awaiting trial. And the wheels of justice have ground to a halt. He is not only in prison, but he has been in prison for a long time. They hear what he is going through and they know that they might be next. They feel for him. They have prayed for him and it seems their prayers have not been answered.

They are beginning to wonder about it all. It appears that God's plan has failed. His apostle has been imprisoned. And this time there has been no earthquake to open the cell doors and no angel to lead the prisoner to freedom. Years have passed and Paul is still chained. But Paul wants them to know that there is a divine purpose at work. Knowing that purpose results in boldness - even from a Roman prison. And Paul's hardships have resulted in glorious growth.

It is easy to be faithful in the midst of obvious success. When the church is bursting at the seams. When your bank account is good. When Sunday school classes are full. When everything is going well.

But will you be faithful when you cannot see the immediate results? Will you be faithful to share the gospel when you do it and no one believes? Sunday school teachers, will you be faithful when there is just a small handful of students - when you can count their number on one hand and still have fingers to spare? Will you be faithful when you are the only one being faithful?

You will if you remember that there is an eternal purpose at work. Your faithfulness bears fruit - not necessarily today or tomorrow, but in eternity.

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