Ephesians 3:1-13 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. How does Paul describe his present situation in Ephesians 3:1 (printed below?)

For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles (Ephesians 3:1)

Paul was writing to the Ephesian Christians from the confinement of Roman imprisonment. But rather than identify himself as a prisoner of the Roman government, he looks beyond that earthly power and identifies himself as “a prisoner of Christ Jesus.” He belongs to Christ and is imprisoned for the cause of Christ—his imprisonment is because of his service to Christ and is part of his service to Christ. Furthermore, Paul identifies himself as a prisoner of Christ Jesus “on behalf of you Gentiles.” He has been imprisoned precisely because of his gospel ministry to the Gentiles—and this is an ordeal Paul willingly accepts for the sake of Christ and His church.

2. What is the mystery God has made known to Paul and the other apostles? See Ephesians 3:2-6 (printed below)

…since you indeed have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God that was given to me for you, (3) that is, the mystery that was made known to me by revelation, (as I have already written in brief.) (4) In reading this, then, you will be able to perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ, (a mystery (5) which in previous generations was not made known to mankind as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit), (6) namely, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs with Israel and members of the same body and fellow-recipients of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Ephesians 3:2-6)

The mystery God has made known to Paul and the other apostles is the fact that the Gentiles have been granted the privilege of becoming fellow heirs with God’s Old Testament people. The New Testament believer joins with the original covenant community and with Christ Himself in being an heir of God’s kingdom promises (note Romans 8:17 and 1 Corinthians 3:21-23). Furthermore, the Gentiles are given the privilege of joining God’s Old Testament people in becoming members of the same body, the spiritual body of Christ the Messiah. Finally, the Gentiles have also been granted the privilege of becoming recipients of “the promise.” That is to say, we Gentile believers also have an interest in the awesome promise God made to Abraham: I will be your God, and you shall be My people (note Genesis 17:7).

3. How do the Gentiles receive the benefits enumerated by the apostle in this passage? See Ephesians 3:6c (printed above under question #2)

It is through the gospel that the Gentiles come to share in the benefits and blessings God has bestowed upon His Old Testament people. Both Jew and Gentile receive these blessings “in Christ Jesus.” God’s Old Testament people hoped for the promised Messiah, and when He was revealed to them they placed their faith in Him. Likewise, when He was offered to the Gentiles through the preaching of the gospel, those who received Him by faith entered into God’s covenant community and became the fellow recipients of all God’s blessings.

4. According to verse 10 (printed below), what has God made known through the church? To whom has He especially made this known? How do you think He makes this known?

His intent was that now through the church the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 3:10)

As Christians, we are a living display of God’s wisdom. As we live in fellowship with God and with our fellow believers, we are displaying to the world—and especially to the spirit world (composed of angels and demons)—God’s wonderful ability to bring about true reconciliation and restoration.

5. What affect did the news of Paul’s imprisonment have upon these Ephesian Christians and how does Paul counsel them? See Ephesians 3:13 (printed below)

Therefore, I ask you not to be discouraged because of my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory. (Ephesians 3:13)

The Ephesian Christians were very much aware of what the apostle Paul was going through on their behalf, and they were distraught for him. This indicates that they were very appreciative of all he had done for them and all he was presently enduring for the sake of bringing the gospel to them and their fellow Gentiles. Paul in turn exhorts them not to be upset: because his hardships are a part of his divine calling, and they are the church’s glory (i.e.; it is a great honor that someone would undergo such hardships for us).