The Meaning of Ephesians 3

Who doesn’t love a good mystery? The best part is when the mystery is revealed, right? In this summary of Ephesians 3 we will learn the meaning behind the greatest mystery of all!

What is the Meaning of Ephesians 3?

The overlying theme of Ephesians chapter 3 is to reveal the mystery that has been revealed through Christ. Paul discussed this mystery briefly in chapter 2. 

He then begins chapter 3 with the intention of praying for these believers. However, he takes a brief pause to expound on the details and purpose of the mystery in Christ. It was for this mystery that Paul had been made a prisoner.

Summary of Ephesians Chapter 3

There is a lot of good stuff to unpack in this chapter, so let’s walk through Ephesians 3 verse by verse. 

The Mystery Revealed to Paul

Ephesians 3:1-3 NASB For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 if indeed you have heard of the administration 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 briefly.

In verse 1, we see Paul begin a thought by saying “For this reason…”. We don’t see him pick up this original thought again until verse 14. Verses 2-14 are kinda like a parenthetical thought that he suddenly felt the need to address before going on about his circumstances as a prisoner for Christ.

So, Paul turns away, briefly, from his original thought to discuss his calling to preach the mystery.

Before getting into the specifics about the mystery itself, these verses tell us Paul’s relation to it:

  • Paul was a steward of God’s grace
  • Paul understood the mystery by revelation

Word Studies:

  • Administration: plan, set of arrangements
  • Mystery: hidden thing, secret

Ephesians 3:4-5 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 mankind, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit.

Here we get some more insight into how the mystery was revealed. It was revealed to the holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit.

Remember what we learned about the apostles and prophets in Ephesians chapter 2?

So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets – Ephesians 2:19-20

The apostles and prophets built the foundation of the church (the body of Christ) because they were the ones to whom this mystery was revealed. This foundation is what we must also build on!

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The Mystery in Ephesians 3 Described

Ephesians 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.

This verse tells us what the mystery is specifically. The Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise through the gospel.

Paul’s Grace to Preach the Mystery of Christ

Ephesians 3:7-9 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 enlighten all people as to what the plan of the mystery is which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things.

I love these verses. They give us a glimpse into Paul’s heart. Here he is sitting in a Roman prison for preaching Christ. 

But still, we see his pleasure and affection for this ministry he has been given to preach to the Gentiles.

Are we like Paul? Do we devote ourselves to the things God calls us to even when it’s hard? Do we find joy in serving God even when it gets difficult and messy? Do we back away or give up when faced with trials and sufferings? 

Paul teaches us to persevere, keeping our gaze fixed on our hope.

The Purpose of the Mystery

Let’s review what we have learned about the body of Christ in Ephesians chapters 1-3:

  • 1:22-23 – Christ’s body is the church and He is the head. God gave Him to the church as the head over all things. The body is to be the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
  • 2:16 – The Jews and Gentiles have been reconciled in one body through the cross
  • 2:19-22 – We are, the church, God’s household. A holy temple. A dwelling of God in the Spirit.

Now, let’s see what we learn about the body (the church) and it’s relation to the mystery in Ephesians 3.

Ephesians 3:10-12 so that the multifaceted 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.

This is SO awesome! 

If we go read 1 Peter, we learn that God’s unfolding story of redemption, this mystery, has been watched by the principalities and powers in heavenly places. 

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look. – 1 Peter 1:10-12

Generations of God’s people, including angelic beings, have waited and watched for the unveiling of God’s eternal plan. 

We also learned back in Ephesians 2 that God seated us in Christ in the heavenly places.

I love this quote from David Guzik in his commentary of Ephesians 3: “God doesn’t use the angels to reveal His wisdom to the saints, but He does use the saints to reveal His wisdom to angelic beings, both faithful and fallen angels. This reminds us that we are called for something far greater than our own individual salvation and sanctification. We are called to be the means by which God teaches the universe a lesson and a beautiful lesson.”

Now, God has used the church as the conduit for revealing this mystery of salvation for all through Christ! 

What an amazing role we as the body of Christ have been given!

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Paul’s Suffering for the Sake of the Mystery

Ephesians 3:13 Therefore I ask you not to become discouraged about my tribulations in your behalf, since they are your glory.

Paul now begins to pick up his original thoughts in verse 1 by encouraging them to not be discouraged about his tribulations. He is in prison because of his calling to preach the mystery of Christ. His trials are their glory. Without them, they would not have heard the mystery of the gospel message and believed.

How then are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? How are they to believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? – Romans 10:19

Throughout Paul’s epistles, we see his heart for sharing the gospel. This calling brought him much tribulation and suffering. 

But He continued. He pressed on, knowing that his sufferings were only temporary. He kept his gaze fixed on the eternal rewards that would be given to him when he received the outcome of his faith, the salvation of His soul and eternity in heaven with the Lord Jesus.

You and I have this same hope. We can press through the trials of this life and keep our hands to the plow of our calling when we keep our eyes focused on eternity.

Paul’s Prayer 

Ephesians 3:14 For this reason I bend my knees before the Father, 

He continues his original thought by repeating “for this reason…”. This last section of this chapter shows Paul’s prayer. His reason for praying the way he does is because the Gentiles have been invited to partake of the mystery that has been revealed in Christ.

This is what Paul had discussed at the end of chapter 2, then what he elaborated on in the first section of chapter 3.

So let’s take a look at how he prays.

Ephesians 3:15-19 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner self, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to all the fullness of God.

First, let’s look at a couple of these words in their original language.

  • Power – dunamis – inherent power through His spirit (it’s part of one’s own nature, the new nature because of the Spirit within)
  • Dwell – katoikeo – to settle down in a dwelling, to dwell fixedly in a place

Paul prayed for inner strength, which is the result of God dwelling in their hearts through the Holy Spirit. 

Even though these believers had the Spirit dwelling within them, Paul knew of the battle that rages between our old and new natures.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the desire of the flesh is against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, in order to keep you from doing whatever you want. – Galatians 5:16-17

Paul encourages them, again, to walk according to the power of the Spirit and not according to their old nature; to be filled with the fullness of God rather than their old sinful desires and lusts.

I love how he follows up this exhortation by reminding them of the greatness of God’s love. He tells them that God’s love surpasses knowledge. It’s not something we can fully understand. Yet, he still tells them to search it out. 

We may never fully know the extent of God’s love, but we need to search it out anyway.

Ephesians 3

Abundantly Beyond All We Could Imagine

Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Again, we see Paul marveling at the wonder of the works of God. Who could have imagined that God would have done such amazing things by bringing all things together in Christ. By reconciling both Jews and Gentiles to Himself through the cross! 

Who could have thought that He would have seated us in Christ, giving us an authoritative role in the heavenly places!

What a wonderful mystery!

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