What does Ephesians 3:2 mean?
ESV: assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,
NIV: Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you,
NASB: if indeed you have heard of the administration of God’s grace which was given to me for you;
CSB: assuming you have heard about the administration of God's grace that he gave me for you.
NLT: assuming, by the way, that you know God gave me the special responsibility of extending his grace to you Gentiles.
KJV: If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
In this verse Paul chooses not to retell his account of coming to faith in Christ and his call to ministry. Instead, he assumes that the Ephesian Christians are already aware of his testimony. He had ministered among this congregation for three years. They knew his story well. When Paul talks about stewardship, he is conveying the idea that he was entrusted with a responsibility to share the gospel.
After Paul was called by Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), God told Ananias in a vision, "Go, for [Paul] is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name" (Acts 9:15–16). Paul would minister to Gentiles, Jews, common men, and political leaders. He would also endure severe trials on behalf of Christ. While under house arrest at Rome, writing to his friends at Ephesus, all of these predictions had already been fulfilled, and were continuing to be fulfilled.
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 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.
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