The Eternal Purpose
Ephesians 3:7 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. 8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. (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 look at passage two, Paul’s ministry in connection with “the mystery”. This mystery is the Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the New Testament, which makes God available to all people, not just the Jews as previously thought.
Paul begins this passage by writing “(The Gospel) of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.” (v. 7). Paul’s ministry of the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, was through the grace of God by God’s power, not his own.
He continues “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given (v. 8a). Paul describes himself as “the least of all the saints”. He wants to make sure that we understand that the words he writes are the words from God Himself, and through His power, the power of God. Paul has no power of himself, but he has power of God the Holy Spirit who lives within him.
Next Paul discusses his own ministry in connection with the Gospel. There are two functions of his ministry.
The first function of Paul’s ministry is “that I should preach among the Gentiles” (v. 8b). Paul was primarily a preacher. He circulated throughout the known world preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, primarily to Gentiles.
The Gospel is described here as “the unsearchable riches of Christ’ (v. 8c). The Greek word translated “unsearchable” here means not able to track, or untraceable. The riches of Christ are infinite, and so vast as to be unknowable.
The second function of Paul’s ministry is “to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery” (v. 9a), The Greek word translated “to make all see” means to shed light upon. The Greek word translated “fellowship” is koinonia, the word for “church”.
This is the administration, the stewardship, of the Gospel in the church. Paul was not only a preacher, but also an administrator.
Next, Paul describes the nature of the Gospel. He writes “which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ” (v. 9b).
The Gospel was hidden from the beginning of time by God, the Creator of all things, including the Gospel. It was a mystery that has now been revealed by the coming of Christ to earth, in God’s appointed time in history.
Paul continues by writing “to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” (v. 10). The word “manifold’ means multi-faceted. “Manifold wisdom” refers to the many sides of God’s wisdom.
God is the source of all wisdom. With the revelation of the Gospel, His manifold wisdom has now been made known to the church, as well as the angels in Heaven.
Paul writes “according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 11). God’s “eternal purpose” was accomplished through the coming of Jesus Christ: His life, His ministry, His death, and His resurrection.
This eternal purpose is that every person may have a relationship with the One, True God, both here and in Heaven. God’s purpose for each of us is to be with Him in Heaven someday. The coming of Jesus Christ to earth made that purpose possible.
Our relationship with Him means “we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.” (v. 12). As Christians, we can come boldly to God in prayer and have confidence that He will answer our prayers because of our faith in Him.
Paul concludes this passage by writing “Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.” (v. 13). As he sits in a Roman prison, Paul encourages the believers in Ephesus.
Paul’s trials would bring glory to them as they are drawn closer to God through his ministry. God works all things together for our good, for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Ro. 8:28).
Online Bible Commentary