Ephesians 3:1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— 2 if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel. (NKJV)
The book of Ephesians is part of what is known as the Prison Epistles. The writings, themselves, affirm that the epistles were written by the Apostle Paul from prison.
There are differing opinions as to during which of Paul’s prison confinements the epistles were written. There are many sources that discuss this subject fully. For our purposes, we will go along with the thought of most scholars that Paul wrote the prison epistles during his house arrest in Rome from AD 60-62.
The epistle was written about AD 61 to the house churches in Ephesus, Asia. The idea was that this authoritative letter would be passed along to the other churches.
The book of Ephesians can be divided into two halves. The first half, the first three chapters, is concerned with the positional; doctrine outlining our position in Christ.
The second half, the last three chapters, is concerned with the practical; how we work out our position in the practical living of our Christian life. This is similar to the breakdown of the book of Romans.
In the previous chapter Paul wrote of the Christian positional state of conversion. He wrote how Gentiles, prior to becoming Christians were considered inferior to the Jews.
But the positional state of conversion brings all Christians together under Christ. No longer are we separated by race or nationality.
We are united as Christians. We are at peace with one another, and at peace with God. He is our peace.
In this chapter, Paul closes the positional section of the letter. The chapter is divided into three passages.
In the first passage, Paul begins a prayer in verse 1, but then he goes on to define what he calls "the mystery" in verses 2-6.
In passage two, Paul discusses his own ministry in connection with "the mystery". And in the third passage Paul continues his prayer and closes with a doxology.
In this commentary we will look at the first passage of this chapter. Paul begins his prayer by writing "For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—" (v. 1).
The "reason"to which Paul is referring is how converted Gentiles and Jews are equal in the eyes of God. Christians are Christians first, regardless of their race or nationality.
In his physical state Paul is a "prisoner" of the Romans. But Paul ignores the physical to focus on his spiritual state, where he is a prisoner of Christ. As Christians we are slaves to Christ, with all of our devotion pledged to Him, regardless of what is going on in our lives.
Next, Paul departs from his prayer to define "the mystery". He writes "if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you." (V. 2).
The theological definition of dispensation is "an appointment, arrangement, or favor, as by God."
Christ conferred His dispensation upon Paul by appointing him to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.
After that brief introduction of his credentials, Paul writes "how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already" ( v. 3). Christ revealed to Paul, directly, this mystery and Paul has "briefly" written of this mystery previously, referring to chapters one and two.
Paul continues "by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ" (V. 4). He is contending that what he has already written in this letter proves that he has direct "knowledge" of the mystery from Christ.
Paul writes "which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men" (5a). In the past, in Old Testament times, the mystery, was not known to men, even the Old Testament prophets. It was a mystery, not known previously in history.
But now, "as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:" (v. 5b). The Holy Spirit has revealed the mystery to the New Testament apostles and prophets.
Paul then closes this passage by revealing the mystery. He writes "that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel." (V. 6).
Gentiles now share equally with the Jews in the inheritance, the "promise" of the Gospel. They are fellow heirs. As Christians, converted Jews and Gentiles are equal in the eyes of God.
We are now in the church age. In the church there are no Jews or Gentiles. There are only Christians.
Online Bible Commentary