The Book of EPHESIANS
James J. Barker
THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH
- During most of the period of
history recorded in the O.T., God was dealing primarily with the nation
- All the way from Gen. 12,
when God called Abraham out from Ur of the Chaldees, all the way to the book of
Malachi, the Bible centers almost exclusively on Abraham and his descendants
through his son Isaac, and grandson Jacob.
- This is one of the reasons
why some Jews are somewhat proud and haughty (cf. 2:11-13). And because Paul preached the Gospel to
the Gentiles, the Jews were offended (cf. Acts
- When the Lord Jesus Christ
came, He was rejected by Israel (cf. John 1:11). As a result of this rejection, God set
aside the nation Israel temporarily as His chosen
- We are now living in what is
called “the church age” or “the age of grace” or the “dispensation of grace”
(Eph. 3:2), whereby God is gathering together a people for His name among both
the Jews and Gentiles.
- After the rapture, God will
resume His program with Israel nationally.
In the meantime, God’s program is the local church (Eph.
- This is all a “mystery”
(Eph. 3:3, 4, 9), i.e. something unknown and unheard of in O.T. times (cf. Rom.
- THE REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY
- THE DEFINITION OF THE MYSTERY
- THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE MYSTERY
THE REVELATION OF THE
- Paul had not learned the
mystery from anyone else, nor had he discovered it through study or research
(cf. Gal. 1:15-17). It was
“made known” to him by direct revelation from God (Eph.
- Paul “wrote afore in few
words” (3:3), perhaps referring to Eph. 1:9-13 or other writings (cf. Rom.
16:25, 26; I Cor. 2:7).
- This “mystery” involves a
new dispensation (3:2). This refers
to a stewardship. The grace of God had now reached out beyond the limit of the
Jew to the Gentiles, and this stewardship, or trusteeship, had been given to
Paul in order that he might dispense it to the Gentiles.
- The household of God must be
managed according to God’s perfect plan.
Therefore, it was a great privilege given to Paul when God entrusted His
plan to him.
- Paul was God’s steward,
charged with setting forth the great truth regarding the N.T. church. Today we are living in an age (or a
dispensation) of grace, during which God is dealing with people on the basis of
His grace (cf. John 1:17).
- When we speak of the
dispensation of grace, we do not mean to suggest that God did not demonstrate
His grace in other dispensations.
But this age stands in sharp contrast to the age preceding it
- The primary requisite of a
steward is “that a man be found faithful” (I Cor. 4:1, 2; cf. I Peter
THE DEFINITION OF THE
MYSTERY (3:5, 6).
- Eph. 3:5 gives us the
revelation of the mystery. Verse 6
give us the definition (cf. Scofield’s
- This mystery was not
revealed to Paul only. Our Lord
revealed it to His disciples (John 10:16; cf. Acts
- A mystery:
- “was not made known unto the
sons of men…” (3:5). In other
words, you will not find it in the O.T.
- It “is now revealed unto His
holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (3:5b). This is what we call inspiration
(cf. II Tim. 3:16).
- Remember that these are N.T.
“apostles and prophets” (3:5; cf. 2:20; 4:11), not OT
- Gentiles are now
“fellow-heirs” (3:6). As far as the
benefits and inheritance are concerned, we all share
- The OT prophets predicted
that Gentiles would be converted (cf. Isa. 49:6). But the prophets did not explain how the
Gentiles would be in the “same body” as the Jews
- Most of the O.T. prophecies
deal with the millennial kingdom, not the church (cf. Isa. 60:3; 61:6; Zech.
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE
- The apostle Paul was given
by God a ministry to “make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery”
- God’s plan is to give out
the Gospel light to “all men” (3:9) through worldwide evangelism. This Scripture teaches that the
evangelization of the world was a part of God’s plan when He created the
universe (“from the beginning of the world…” –
- Since Paul had this
ministry, he was a “minister.” In the Bible “minister” (3:7) means
- Paul was a humble servant
(minister) of God (3:8; cf. I Cor. 15:9; I Tim.
- Paul’s ministry was
primarily to the Gentiles, as Peter’s was primarily to the Jews (3:8; cf. Gal.
- “The unsearchable riches of
Christ” (3:8) are very precious and cannot be found through science or
psychology or politics or education or any way other than through
- This mystery is now being
taught to the “principalities and powers in heavenly places” (3:10). The angels (fallen and elect) are
actually learning something of the wisdom of God through the
- “The church is to be God’s
instrument in declaring to these rebellious and now usurping powers the divine
purpose, and in administering their principalities after they have been useated
and cast down” – John MacMillan (The Authority of the
- Those of us who have trusted
Christ now have great privileges – “boldness and access with confidence by the
faith of Him” (3:12).
- Let us exercise these
privileges and boldly approach the throne of grace, confident that God will hear
and answer our prayers.