What does Ephesians 3 mean?
Chapter 3 speaks about the mystery of Christ revealed (Ephesians 3:1–13). The second part of this chapter emphasizes Paul's prayer for spiritual strength, and ends the first half of his letter (Ephesians 3:14–21).
The first passage (Ephesians 3:1–13) includes Paul mentioning himself by name as a prisoner on behalf of the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:1). He assumes his readers know of his calling to serve them (Ephesians 3:2). The gospel was revealed to him as he had previously mentioned (Ephesians 3:3). This was information not known in the past (Ephesians 3:4–5). The mystery he spoke of was that Gentiles are now fellow family members of the church in Jesus through the gospel (Ephesians 3:6).
Paul was a minister of this gospel according to God's grace (Ephesians 3:7). Though he was the least likely to be in this role, God gave him this calling to share Christ with the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:8). He sought to bring light, to everyone, regarding the plan and grace of God (Ephesians 3:9). This was part of the eternal plan of God (Ephesians 3:11). Paul said "we" have boldness and access to God, with confidence through our faith in Jesus (Ephesians 3:12). Paul also asked that his readers not be discouraged by his imprisonment (Ephesians 3:13).
The imprisonment Paul described was his first Roman imprisonment, which took place between approximately AD 60 and 62. During this time, Paul was under house arrest while awaiting trial. Despite the confinement, for two full years he was able to freely preach the gospel to all who came to him. As a result, even some among Caesar's household came to faith (Philippians 4:22). In addition, during this time, Paul wrote four letters which are now part of the New Testament: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and this letter to the Ephesians. Presumably, his imprisonment allowed him to write even more letters which did not become part of the Bible.
The second part (Ephesians 3:14–21) of this chapter includes a personal prayer by Paul. He bowed on his knees (Ephesians 3:14), asking God to give the Ephesians strength through His Spirit (Ephesians 3:16). He desired for Christ to dwell in the hearts of the church of Ephesus by faith (Ephesians 3:17). His desire was for them to know the depth of Christ's love that surpassed all knowledge (Ephesians 3:18–19).
Paul concludes the chapter with a doxology to the Lord (Ephesians 3:20–21). Paul describes God as one able to do far more than we can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). God deserves all glory for all things at all times (Ephesians 3:21). This doxology also concludes the first half of Paul's letter, with the remaining chapters transitioning to new themes and more practical matters within the church.
Ephesians 3:1–13 explains Paul's ministry in the context of God's revealed mystery. Paul was called as a minister to the Gentiles, though he preached to anyone who would listen. Prior to this calling, however, he had persecuted the church as an unbeliever. Only God's divine grace saved Paul, and only God's divine grace causes the family of the church to grow. Even angels are learning more about the mysteries of God as they observe Him working through His church.
Ephesians 3:14–21 is a prayer from Paul on behalf of the Christians of Ephesus. This prayer begins a transition from the first half of his letter, focused on doctrinal ideas, to the second half, where those ideas are put into practice. The natural theme for this transition is an appeal for spiritual strength from God. In particular, Paul asks God to help the Ephesians exhibit a faith which goes beyond knowledge (doctrine) into action (application).
Ephesians chapter 3 wraps up Paul's doctrinal teaching and introduces its practical application. Paul refers to both his imprisonment and to his spiritual calling. This calling includes proclaiming the fact that all people, Jew and Gentile, can now be part of the same spiritual family. Paul also prays for the spiritual strength of the Ephesian church, as he prepares to explain how knowledge about Christ should translate into living for Christ.
The first three chapters of Ephesians are doctrinal, the last three are practical. Chapter 3 begins the transition from a Christian understanding of salvation, grace, and the power of Christ into a practical guide for Christian living. To make the transition, in this chapter, Paul refers to his own calling by God and prays for the spiritual strength of the Ephesian church. The early verses of chapter 4 will flow out of Paul's references to his own imprisonment.
Ephesians follows a theme common in Paul's writings: connecting theory with practice. In this book, however, he goes into greater depth before making the transition. As a letter meant to be read by more than just the believers at Ephesus, this is an important look at how Christian belief should translate into Christian action. The first three chapters lay out spiritual ideas, the last three chapters show how these truths should be applied in the life of a mature believer. Paul focuses heavily on love, the unity of the Christian church, and the incredible value of our salvation through Christ.
Accessed 11/30/2023 5:56:45 AM
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