Ephesians 3



                              Digression on the Admission of the Gentiles


                                         the Kingdom of God  (vs. 1-13)



1 “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,”

For this cause.  The reference is not merely to the last statement or illustration, but to

the whole view of the purpose of God toward the Gentiles unfolded in ch. 2. The

apodosis (main clause) does not come in till v.14, at the beginning of which this

conjunctive clause is repeated.  I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles,

He introduces himself in order to make known the feelings which were roused in his

soul towards them by the consideration of the privileges just enlarged on — especially

to acquaint them with the  prayers he offered for them (see vs. 14-19), and apparently

with the indirect object of  getting them to offer similar prayers for themselves. To

justify this introduction of himself, he delicately introduces the fact of his being a

prisoner on their behalf. What had brought him to Rome, what had made him appeal

to Caesar, was his preaching the gospel to the Gentiles; (fulfilling his call – Acts

26:13-18 – CY – 2010) indeed, the immediate occasion of his arrest at Jerusalem

was the suspicion that he had taken Trophimus, an Ephesian, one of themselves,

into the temple (Ibid. ch. 21:29). By this allusion to the condition into which his

regard for them had brought him, he conciliates sympathetic consideration of what

is to follow.




                                    The Prisoner of Jesus Christ (v. 1)


The apostle often refers to his prison-life, and here presents himself to the

Churches as “an ambassador in bonds” (ch. 6:20).


·         HE WAS A MOST CELEBRATED PRISONER. Perhaps he was

regarded as of no great account by his Roman jailors, who could have

known nothing of the secret of his greatness; but viewed in the light of

Christian history, Paul is the most distinguished of men. He did more than

any other apostle to shape the theology of Western Christendom, which, in

its turn, has left the deepest imprint on THE CIVIILIZATION OF THE

WORLD! The world would not be today what it is if Paul of Tarsus had not

lived. His influence has long survived the empire of Rome, which held him

captive. We sympathize with the prison-sorrows of the great. Alas! that the

best of men, “of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38), have

spent so many weary days and years in prison!




UNSLEEPING HATRED OF THE JEWS. It was his ministry to the

Gentiles which brought down upon him the vindictive anger of his

countrymen, and led them to accuse him before the Roman magistrates.

The suspicion that he had taken Trophimus, an Ephesian, into the temple at

Jerusalem had, indeed, an immediate connection with his first arrest.

(Acts 21:27-29)  “He was at once Christ’s prisoner, the Jews’ prisoner,

the Romans’ prisoner, the Gentiles’ prisoner: Christ’s prisoner, as suffering

for His gospel; the Jews’ prisoner, as suffering by their accusation;

the Romans’ prisoner, as suffering by their sentence; the Gentiles’ prisoner,

as suffering for his labor’s unto their salvation.” His imprisonment was thus

a higher honor than his rapture into the third Heavens.  (II Corinthians




      Just as John Huss had leisure during his imprisonment in

the fortress on the Rhine to write words that fired the hearts of his

countrymen ages after his martyrdom at Constance, and as Martin Luther’s

one year’s imprisonment in the Wartburg enabled him to give the

Scriptures to Germany in the tongue of the people, so the Apostle Paul

was enabled in the leisure of his Roman imprisonment to pen those

beautiful Epistles of the captivity — to the Philippians, to the Ephesians, to

the Colossians, to Philemon — which have so largely contributed to the

edification and comfort of the Church. He still held the threads of a

hundred interests in his hands, and felt in his prison at Rome the throbbing

of thousands of Christian hearts in all parts of Asia and Europe.





USUALLY HARD CONDITIONS. It must have been a sore trial to the

apostle to submit to an enforced inactivity, while the world was

everywhere, in so sad a sense, “ripe for the harvest.” It would seem as if, at

a certain point, the sympathy of Asiatic Christians failed him (II Timothy 1:15);

and there was an unaccountable indifference to his wants marking the relations

of the Roman Christians themselves, which argued that much was not to be

expected from their affection. So his prison experience must have had its

dark moments.



THROUGH THIS PRISON-EXPERIENCE. The solitude of such a life

often breeds a morbid spirit, which throws a darker coloring into the

thoughts of the prisoner. Yet the Epistles of the captivity breathe a

beautiful spirit of Christian courage and resignation, not to speak of

absolute rejoicing. Compare the letters of the apostle with those of Cicero,

Seneca, and Ovid in their exile, and we see at a glance the different effects

of Christianity and paganism upon the happiness of man. As the prisoner of

Jesus Christ, he abounded in the consolations of his Divine Master, while

he must have been greatly encouraged by the visits of disciples like

Epaphroditus, Epaphras, and others, who carried to him the prayers and

benefactions of the Churches.



AS “BOUND WITH THEM.” Most prisoners in our day are in jail for

crime, but we ought to remember that they are men, that they are our

brothers, that they must feel their separation from wife and children and

home as keenly as we should. Perhaps, but for restraining grace, we should

have been in their position. But we are bound specially to remember in

our prayers those suffering for the cause of Christ, and especially those

occupied with great service for the Lord.



                                    The Prisoner of Christ Jesus (v. 1)


Paul writes from his Roman dungeon, with the galling constraints of his

confinement constantly about him. There is a pathos in the situation that

must move the sympathy of the reader; and yet there is a dignity and even a

glory in it that make us feel the apostle’s occasional reference to his bonds

chiefly a motive for giving the greater weight and solemnity to his

persuasive exhortations.



PRISONER IN HIS CAUSE. Paul was called into the apostleship from

a worldly position of great influence and brilliant prospects. He was the

most gifted and the most devoted man in the Christian Church. No one

labored more assiduously, and no one met with more marked success. Yet

it has all come to this, that the great, honored apostle lies chained in a

Roman prison, his life at the mercy of the “mad boy” Nero. The end might

have been expected in this form. “A disciple is not above his master, nor a

servant above his lord.”  (Matthew 10:24)  If the Lord was crucified, shall

we be surprised that the servant is imprisoned? Still some are perplexed and

disappointed, not at suffering these great hardships, but at having to bear

any cross for Christ. Christianity is the religion of the cross for the Christian

as truly as for Christ.



ITS ADVOCATE. Paul was a prisoner “in behalf of you Gentiles.” We

know, from the history in the Acts, that it was through the enmity of Jews

that the apostle was accused before the Roman government, and that this

enmity was roused by the jealousy they felt at his preaching the gospel to

the Gentiles, and advocating the Gentile right to an equality with the Jew.

Paul was the preacher of the more liberal Christianity of his day and

therefore he was most grievously misunderstood and most bitterly

opposed. They who feel called to preach more liberal views than are

sanctioned by the prevailing opinions of the age may expect opposition, but

may learn the duty of courage and fidelity to truth, and may be cheered by

thinking of the lonely sufferers in the same cause in bygone days, when the

larger views and the freer doctrines were more vigorously opposed than

they can be now. The noble champions of liberal Christianity, from Paul

to Maurice, have won substantial victories from which we profit.




AND IN UNCHARITABLE NARROWNESS, After all, the prisoner at

Rome is more to be envied than pitied. He was the prisoner of Christ, and

Christ was with him in his bondage. His was the real blessedness of those

who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Paul was the champion of

freedom as opposed to the restraints of Judaism, and this real, spiritual

freedom could not be destroyed by bolts and bars.


“Stone walls do not a prison make,

Nor iron bars a cage.”


The immortal dreamer had large liberty in Bedford jail when he traveled to

the Beulah heights and almost as far as the gates of the celestial city.




Paul quietly appeals to his imprisonment as a ground for prayer (v. 14)

and exhortation (ch. 4:1). The sufferings of the great martyrs of liberty

in the past urge us, who have entered into the heritage won by their

toil and death, to be faithful to so great a trust, to walk worthy of it by

using our liberty as an opportunity for the highest service of love, and to

preserve it from all encroachments and hand it down to our children

unfettered by new restraints of theological dogma or of official domination.



2   “If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me

to you-ward:’   If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God.  Here begins

the  digression. The words, if ye have heard,” do not denote an uncertainty, but are a

delicate reminder. Doubtless they had heard of the matter when he was at Ephesus,

and, as he remarks in v. 3, he had already written briefly on it. Grace is here used in a

more restricted sense than in ch. 1:2 — in the sense of Divine favor, honor, privilege -

the same as in v. 8, “To me... is this favor given.”  Which is given me to you-ward.

The grace or favor meant is that whereby Paul was constituted the apostle of the

Gentiles.   Deeply though he felt his being sent away from preaching to his

countrymen (Acts 22:18), he took kindly to the new sphere allotted to him, and

magnified his office (Romans 11:13)


3  “How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote

afore in few words,”  How that by revelation He made known unto me the

mystery.  The mystery, as is explained afterwards (v. 6), was not the gospel itself,

but its destination to the Gentiles as much as to the Jews; although, as appears

afterwards, this fullness of blessing is really the great glory of the gospel.

Mystery, that which is known only to the initiated, does not denote here a thing

obscure in its own nature, but only something that had been concealed from view.

It was only the initiated that now knew that God designed the gospel for Gentile

and Jew alike. Paul had been initiated “by revelation” — not by his own

reflecting power, not by his study of Scripture, not by communication from ether

men, but by a special communication from God (Galatians 1:12)  As I wrote

before in few words.  Where? In another Epistle? No; but in the earlier part of

this Epistle (see chps. 1:9; 2:18). If it be said the allusions in these places to the

topic in question are rather vague and general, the apostle virtually admits it —

he wrote of it “in few words;” but, as it is a great and glorious truth, he returns to

it to amplify it and place it in a brighter light.


4  “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of

Christ).  - πρὸς - pros ho – toward which -  with reference to which, i.e. to what I

wrote afore: to make that more intelligible I write on the subject more fully now,

so that you shall see that your instructor is thoroughly informed in this matter of

the mystery in Christ — this once concealed but now revealed purpose of His grace!


5  “Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now

revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;”  Which in other ages

was not made known unto the sons of men.  Though not a new purpose, the knowledge

of it is new.  Abraham, David, and the prophets, however much they knew of Christ

and the fullness of blessing in Him for all the families of the earth,  did not know

THE FULL EXTENT OF GOD’S GRACE to the Gentries — did not know that the

middle wall (v. 14) was to be wholly broken down, and all inequality removed.  This

might seem to throw some doubt on the reality of this doctrine; but it was on purpose

that God kept it secret, and those by whom He has now revealed it are worthy of all

regard.  As it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

It is not  revealed to Paul only, although he has got the privilege of announcing it to

the Gentiles, but to the whole body of “holy apostles and prophets.” The designation,

“holy apostles,” is rare; it is used here to magnify the office, to show that those whom

the Head of the Church had set apart for Himself were fit instruments to receive so

important a revelation. “Prophets” here are undoubtedly New Testament prophets

(see ch. 2:20), the contrast being with “sons of men in other generations.”  Reference

may be made to the experience and decree of the Council of Jerusalem, guided by the

Holy Spirit  (see Acts 15:28).


6  “That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers

of His promise in Christ by the gospel:” That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs.

Heirs with the Jews of the same inheritance (see ch. 1:11).  And of the same body

(this figure is repeated and applied in ch. 4:4, 16, 25) and partakers of His promise

in Christ by the gospel - the promise to Abraham, “In thee and in thy seed shall all

the families of the earth be blessed.”  (Genesis 12:3)  They do not get this blessing

indirectly through the Jews, or by becoming Jews, but directly, as Gentiles; and

they become fellow-heirs, fellow-members, and fellow-partakers “in Christ Jesus,”

enjoying all privileges in Him, in a state of union and fellowship with Him.  To this

state they are invited and admitted through the gospel; by receiving the glad tidings

they enter on these blessings (compare Romans 10:15,18). This statement of religious

equality between Jews and Gentiles is strong, clear, complete; the more remarkable

that Paul himself had had so strong Jewish prejudices; only one of dearest insight and

highest courage could proclaim the truth so emphatically; it is little wonder if many

believing Jews, less enlightened and less courageous, shrank from his statements

as too strong.  (How this would play along racial lines today would give us an

accurate assessment of our spiritual condition BEFORE GOD!  CY – 2019)




                        Dispensational Privileges of the Gentiles (vs. 2-5)


The apostle recurs to a subject already treated in few words in the first

chapter — words which he requests them to read, that they may fully

understand his meaning — respecting the new position of the Gentiles in

the kingdom of God. Their position was determined by a dispensation, that

is, by an arrangement organized in all its parts in relation to space and time;

for God works by order in grace as well as in nature. Consider:


·         THE ORIGIN OF THIS DISPENSATION. “The grace of God given to

me to you-ward.” It was an act of Divine favor to select the apostle as the

person through whom “the mystery” of the dispensation was to be, not

only revealed, but applied in its redeeming effects to the Ephesian

heathens. It was not the honor or the authority involved in it that made it

precious in his eyes; it was the privilege of making known the unsearchable

riches of Christ. Thus, as a good steward of the mysteries of God, it was

the delight of his life to dispense them in all their gracious manifoldness to

the family of God.




ü      It is called the mystery of Christ,” not because He is its Author, but

because He is the Center or Subject of it; for it included far more than the

truth that the Gentiles were fellow-citizens of the saints. Christ is the

Mystery of godliness, as He is God manifest in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16),

but He is emphatically so as “Christ the Hope of glory” for the Gentiles

(Colossians 1:27).


ü      It was hidden for ages from the sons of men, both Jew and Gentile. A

mystery is either something which has been concealed, perhaps for ages,

and which probably would never have been discovered unless the voice of

revelation had proclaimed it; or something which, even when revealed,

transcends the power of the human faculties to comprehend it. Now, the

Incarnation is a mystery in this double sense; but the call of the Gentiles, as

part of “the mystery of Christ,” is a mystery only in the first-named sense.

It was known to the Jews for ages that the Gentiles would share in the

blessings of the Messiah’s kingdom — and the Apostle Paul quotes Old

Testament predictions to prove the fact (Romans 9:25-33); but it was

not known that the Gentiles would be included within the circle of religious

privilege by the complete sacrifice of the Hebrew theocracy and the

reconstitution of religion on a perfectly new basis, DESIGNED

EQUALLY FOR ALL MANKIND, under which the old distinctions of

Jew and. Gentile would be done away. There was to be no further room for

Jewish particularism. The dispensation which was to carry the world to its

last destinies was to be as universal as that embodied in the first promise

made to our first parents.


ü      The revelation of the mystery. So far as it involved a mission to the

Gentiles, it was revealed first to the Apostle Paul at his conversion; for

when Christ appeared to him on his journey to Damascus, he said, “I have

appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a

witness... delivering thee from the people, and. from the Gentiles, unto

whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness

to light, and from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:16-18). But

the fuller exhibition of Gentile privilege is made in this glorious Epistle as

well as elsewhere. It was a revelation made by the Lord Himself

(Galatians 1:12). But it was made especially to “apostles and

prophets,” both of them belonging to the new dispensation the only class of

inspired men connected with it who received special information from the

Holy Spirit, who searches the deep things of God, respecting the new

development of the kingdom. The revelation was, indeed, one of facts as

well as of truths. The calling of the Gentiles was made manifest in the

Spirit’s falling upon Cornelius, and in the widespread success of the gospel

among the Gentiles, so that the logic of facts beautifully reinforced the

more formal revelations of “apostles and prophets.”


ü      The substance of the revelation. “That the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and

of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel.”

These are the three points of Gentile privilege. They were not to receive

the blessings of the Messiah’s kingdom by being merged as proselytes into

the old theocracy, which was to abide in all its narrow ritualism.


Ø      The Gentiles are fellow-heirs. Possession by inheritance involves the

ideas of right, certainty, and inalienableness. All that is involved in the

benefits of the covenant of grace is our inheritance. Now, the Gentiles

are “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ” as well as the Jews,

just because they are “children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” They

cannot be heirs unless they are children; they cannot be children unless

they have faith. And because they have faith, they are Abraham’s seed.

And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs

according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). The Gentile interest

in the inheritance may be recent, but it is entire and beyond cavil.

Jews and Gentiles have an equal share in all the blessings of the



Ø      The Gentiles are of the same body. This marks a more intimate

relationship. They were all Jews and Gentiles alike, baptized into

one body by one Spirit, and thus coalesced into one Church-state,

with Christ as the Head of both. But while they were thus, as members

of one body, partakers of a common life, the Gentile was not there by

the permission of the Jew, or the Jew by the permission of the Gentile.

They were both equally baptized into it BY THE SPIRIT!  The union

in one body obliterates all previous distinctions of character or culture,

and all varieties in dispensational privilege; for there is no schism in

the body. The Judaistic section of the Church in the apostle’s day

fought strenuously against the doctrine of the one body.


Ø      The Gentiles are fellow-partakers of the promise. This refers, not so

much to the promise of redemption made first to Adam, repeated to

Abraham, and embodied in many Old Testament predictions, as to the

promise of the Spirit, who enables us to realize all the blessings

involved in this first promise. This was, indeed, the blessing of

Abraham which came upon the Gentiles (Galatians 3:14). It was

conspicuously realized when, in the words of the Apostle Peter,

“the Holy Ghost fell upon them as on us.” (Acts 11:15)  There is

no promise of the new covenant that is not equally sure to Gentile

and to Jew. All the three points of Gentile privilege, setting forth

apparently the relation to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and

represented in a sort of spiritual climax, are realized by union

with Christ, made known to us in the gospel. Salvation centers,

as its objective ground, IN CHRIST JESUS and the gospel is the

medium by which it is subjectively applied to sinners of mankind.


7  “ Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God

given unto me by the effectual working of His power.” Whereof I was made a

minister.   I did not gradually grow up to the office, but became, at a given time and

place, a minister, διάκονος - dee-ak’-on-osdeacon; ministe;, a servant.  According

to the gift of the grace of God.  The office of serving Christ was a gift, most undeserved

on Paul’s part, who had been a persecutor and injurious, (I Timothy 1:13) but flowing

from the free grace of God, His sovereign, unmerited mercy.

“given unto me by the effectual working of His power.”  This denotes the manner of

the gift; the gift itself, apostleship to the Gentiles, would have been little had it not

been accompanied with Divine power. Spiritual office without spiritual power

is miserable; but in Paul’s case there was the power as well as the office;

not merely the power of working miracles, as some have held, but besides this,

the power of spiritual insight into the meaning of Scripture:


·         power of exposition,

·         power of demonstration,

·         power of persuasion (compare I Thessalonians 1:5; Acts 14:1; I Corinthians 4:7).


Paul gratefully acknowledged that all the power of his ministry was God’s, not his own

(I Corinthians 3:6-7).


8 “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should

preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;” Unto me, who am

less than the least of all saints,”  Not only of apostles and prophets, but even of all

believers — a profound expression of humility, founded not only on his persecuting

career, but on his consciousness of sin, of inborn rebellion against God’s Law, of

fountains of unlawful desire in his flesh (Romans 7:18; I Timothy 1:13-15), making

him feel himself to be, in heart and essence, the chief of sinners.  The sense of sin is

not usually in proportion to the acts of outward transgression, but to the insight into

the springs of evil in one’s heart, and the true nature of sin as direct antagonism to

the Holy God!  Is this grace given.  The third time in this chapter that he speaks of his

office as a fruit of grace, showing that, notwithstanding his being a prisoner on account

of it, and all the perils it involved (II Corinthians 11:24-27), he was overwhelmed with

God’s unmerited goodness in conferring it on him. It was substantially the post of a

foreign missionary, with hardly one human comfort!  That I should preach among the

Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; εὐγγελίσασθαι -  euggelisasthai

to evangelize, to proclaim good tidings; to bring the well-message. The force of the

εὐ is not given in “preach,” but the idea is amply conveyed by the words that follow.

The balance of authority for τοῖς ἔθνεσιtois ethnesi - to the Gentiles, and ἐν τοῖς

ἔθνεσιen tois ethnesi - among the Gentiles, is about equal; the meaning really the

same. Ἔθνος - ethnos - heathen, was almost an offensive name; yet with that name

the apostle associates the highest blessings of God. The unsearchable

riches of Christ; two attractive words, riches and unsearchable, conveying the idea of

the things that are most precious being infinitely abundant. Usually precious things are

rare; their very rarity increases their price; but here that which is most precious is also

boundless — riches of compassion and love, of merit, of sanctifying, comforting, and

transforming power, all without limit, and capable of satisfying every want, craving,

and yearning of the heart, NOW and EVERMORE!   (And to think, besides that,

GOD IS ABUNDANT IN TRUTH!  Exodus 34:6 – CY – 2019)  The thought of His

having such riches to offer to all made him regard his office as most glorious, raised

him far above the point of view from which the world would despise it, and filled

him with adoring gratitude to God for having conferred it on him.  Concerning riches,

worldly riches, there has historically been CEASELESS DISAPPOINTMENTS

of most who follow after them.  The riches of God are those that “moth and rust

doth not corrupt and thieves do not break through and steal”  (Matthew 6:20)  

God’s unsearchable riches” make provision for the full satisfaction and infinite

enjoyment of every soul FOR EVER AND EVER!  “They shall hunger

no more, neither thirst any more; ... for the Lamb in the midst of the throne shall

feed them;”  (Revelation 7:16-17) - “He that hath the Son hath life;” (I John 5:12).

“He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be His God, and he shall be

my son.”  - (Revelation 21:7)



                        The Unsearchable Riches of Christ (v. 8)


“Riches” an attractive word. Human heart leaps towards them. Ceaseless

disappointments of most who follow after them. Here the riches that moth

and rust do not corrupt, nor thieves break through to steal.


1. There are in Christ unsearchable riches of compassion.


  1. Case of the lost, proper object of pity.
  2. Christ’s pity boundless. Human pity often quenched

            by great wickedness, troublesomeness, loathsomeness.

            Not so Christ’s!

      c. Pity for thief on cross, Saul, Corinthians, and other gross sinners.


2. Unsearchable riches of merit.


  1. His blood cleanseth us from all sin. (I John 1:7) 
  2. He is “able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by Him”

      (Hebrews 7:25)

(1)   Augustine,

(2)   Bunyan,

(3)   Lord Rochester,

(4)   John Newton, and such like.


3. Unsearchable riches of sanctifying grace. Great change needed to make

men meet for kingdom of heaven. This includes grace to:


a.      enlighten,

b.      guide,

c.       strengthen, and

d.      to restore from declension.


4. Unsearchable riches of comforting grace. There is no sorrow to which we

are liable for which the gospel has not a comfort; no wound for which there is

no balm. The Third Person, “the Comforter,” is sent by Christ.


5. Unsearchable riches of glorifying grace. Can make provision for the full

satisfaction and infinite enjoyment of every soul forever and ever.


a.      “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; ... for the Lamb

       in the midst of the throne shall feed them;” (Revelation 7:16-17)

b.      “He that hath the Son hath life;” (I John 5:12)

c.       “He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God,

               and he shall be my son.”  (Revelation 21:7)





                        The Unsearchable Riches of Christ (v. 8)



Some riches are unsearchable because they are inaccessible, like jewels

guarded by jealous sentinels, and pearls in sea-caves, and the gold-mines of

remote stars.


Some riches are unsearchable because they are secret, like

treasure hid in a field, and ancient records in undeciphered hieroglyphics; in

this sense an illiterate man finds the wealth of a library, and an unscientific

man the stores of a museum, unsearchable.


No doubt there are wonderful graces in Christ that are as yet above and beyond our

grasp, and deep mysteries that we cannot fathom, and a spiritual worth in all His

blessings that cannot be discovered by the unspiritual. But it is not in these senses

that the riches of Christ are called unsearchable. The doors of His treasure-chamber

are flung wide that the poorest may enter. There is no veil of mystery to prevent

a  little child from seeing the beauty within. THE RICHES OF CHRIST ARE

UNSEARCHABFLE simply because they are so abundant and so

various that no man can ever measure the extent, or count the number, or

distinguish all the forms of them. For near upon twenty centuries this

great treasury has been ransacked by friends and foes, by hungering

inquirers and by keen-eyed critics, with the result that, like the infinite

wealth of nature — which is felt to be more immeasurable in our own day,

after the fruitful labors of the most indefatigable naturalists, than ever it

was when not one-tenth of what we now know was discovered — these

riches of Christ amaze and fascinate and overwhelm us with an evergrowing






ü      They have been searched into by uncompromising foes, at first by bitter

Pharisees and scoffing Sadducees, later by clever philosophical

opponents, such as Celsus and Porphyry, down to the times of Voltaire’s

sparkling sarcasm and Strauss’s dry criticism. And the verdict of mankind

is distinctly against the fault-finders, confessing with Pilate, “I find no

fault in Him.”  (John 19:4)


ü      These riches have also been searched into by adoring disciples, some

with the profundity of St. Augustine, others with the simplicity of St.

Frances; and all types of Christians in every succeeding age

unhesitatingly declare that they never weary of worshipping fresh

wonders in that life of unearthly loveliness. The more our eyes are

opened to discern spiritual worth, and the more the character of Christ

is studied, (I recommend a repeated numerous readings over time of:

Ephesians ch. 2 v. 20 – He Jesus Christ Himself – Spurgeon Sermon –

#155a this website – CY – 2019), the more are we astonished and

delighted by the vision of infinite perfection.



      Christ is the Truth and the Light of the world. The ideas of Plato may be

measured — the truth of Christ never. Yet two classes of people deny the

unsearchable nature of the riches of this truth.


ü      Those who say the world has outgrown Christianity. Perhaps they

mistake the dogmas of the creeds for the truth as it is in Jesus. The

former are necessarily limited, and some of them may have to break

up and give place to larger ideas. But the latter is:


Ø      living,

Ø      infinite, and

Ø      eternal.


ü      Those who are satisfied that they know everything. They are usually the

people who know least. A smooth and rounded scheme of doctrine

comprehends their universe. Because they have shaped it into logical

consistency, they assume that no truth can lie outside it. They have yet to

learn that the Word made flesh, like the Word in nature, IS INFINITE!



      Human love commonly diminishes in intensity in proportion to the extent of

the area over which it is spread; family affection being warmer than our

interest in the wider circle of friends, and this than general philanthropy,

just as the river is deep where it is narrow, but becomes shallow as its banks

open out in width. But the grace of Christ, in depth and breadth like the sea,

has a vast comprehensiveness for all, together with a strong intensity for each.

So that in the last great assembly, when some come from distant isles and some

from hidden valleys, some from populous cities and some from lonesome deserts,

to confess that the grace of Christ has reached them in the fullness of its power,

none will be found so remote as to have been beyond reach, so undeserving as

to have been past mercy, or so needy as not to have been able to find the supply

of every real want in His great riches of love.



UNSEARCHABLE. There is still an unhappy habit among some of

listening only to the evil report of the spies who tell of the giants, and

turning a deaf ear to the spies who bring the grapes and pomegranates,

(Numbers chps 13-14)  No wonder that this habit leads to the painting of

the blessings of Christianity with very dull shades. Rightly understood,

the gospel:


ü      offers a pearl of great price,

ü      reveals hidden treasures, and

ü      strips off the rags and brings forth the best robe and the ring.


From the first grace of forgiveness to the last grace of peace in death,

Christ is breathing benedictions on the Christian’s life, so

that when he reflects, He is astonished at what he has already received, and

yet learns to accept all this as only the earnest of the blessings of light, and

strength, and purity, and peace, that are reserved for his future inheritance.




                                    Less than the Least of All Saints (v. 8)




apostle, is most deeply conscious of his own unworthiness. We must

distinguish between the endowment of grace and the acquisition of merit.

To have much grace is only to be much favored. As a man grows in grace

he grows in power of spiritual insight; and the result is twofold — he has

more knowledge of his own true state and a better understanding of the

claims of righteousness. Thus the standard is ever rising above his head in

greater heights of holiness, while he is constantly seeing more clearly, freed

from all hypocrisy and self-deception, the miserable weakness and

sinfulness of his own character.



FITTED FOR THE SERVICE OF CHRIST. It is not that unworthiness is

itself a fitness for service. Both to be unworthy and to think one’s self

worthy are to be doubly unfit. But as Socrates thought he might be

accounted wise only because he knew he was ignorant while all other

Athenians were unconscious of their ignorance, the true servant of Christ is

aware of the sinfulness which is common to him and to all others, but

others are not so deeply conscious of it. This humble consciousness of

unworthiness is helpful for service,


ü      because it makes us look for THE INDISPENSIBLE GRACE OF GOD!

ü      because it saves us from preaching ourselves when WE SHOULD BE


ü      because it compels us to give God all the glory of success.


9 “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from

the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by

Jesus Christ:”  And to make all men see what is the fellowship (dispensation)

of the mystery.  Another branch of his office, and another fruit of God’s grace in

conferring it. He was not only to benefit man, but also to vindicate God. For

“fellowship of the mystery,” the Revised Version has “dispensation of the mystery,”

founded on the preference of the reading οἰκονομια - oy-kon-om-ee’-ahdispensation;  

for which there is a great preponderance of authority over κοινωνία - koy-nohn-ee’-ah

fellowship.  It was the apostle’s function to show how this mystery had been dispensed

concealed for a long time and at last revealed.  Which from the beginning of the world

(ages) hath been hid in God.  The counsel itself was πρὸ τῶν αἰώνωνpro ton aionon

before the foundation of the world; the concealment of it ἀπό τῶν αἰώνωνapo ton

aionon - from the beginning of the ages, when there were intelligent beings capable

of understanding it — whether angels or men. Whatever the angels may have known

of the Divine plans, this feature of them was not known till revealed to the New

Testament Church -  “which things the angels desire to look into.”  (I Peter 1:12)

Who created all things.  The reason for adding this particular designation of God

is not obvious; probably it is to indicate the relation of the matter in hand to

the mightiest works of God. This is no trifling matter; it connects itself with GOD’S

GRANDEST OPERATIONS;  it has supremely glorious bearings. It might be

supposed to have relations only to one race and to one period of time; but it has

relations to “all things;” it is an integral element in God’s plan. The words,

“by Jesus Christ”, are not found in a great preponderance of textual authorities –

(and not in the Greek New Testament which I have – CY – 2010)





                                    The Apostle’s High Privilege (vs. 8-9)


Very often does he refer, with a sort of grateful humility, to the Divine favor in

attaching him to the service of the gospel.



OF PERSONAL NOTHINGNESS. “Less than the least of all saints.” The

expression is exceedingly emphatic, being a comparative formed upon a

superlative. He could never forget his share in the death of Stephen, and

his fierce persecutions of the Church of God. This was the sin which,

though forgiven by God, could never be forgiven by himself. But he was

likewise conscious of his own weakness and sinfulness, as we know by the

very forcible phrase, “of sinners I am chief”  (I Timothy 1:15), which he uses

as a presently believing man. Such language of self abasement is a mark of a

true saint. The highest saints are usually the most distinguished by their

humility. The term by which he describes himself implies that there are

saints in Christ’s kingdom — little, less, least; not that there is any difference

in their title, but a difference at once in their realization of their own

unworthiness and in the degree of their conformity to Him who was at once

meek and lowly.” (Matthew 11:29).  Now, while the consciousness of his

own unworthiness stood out in marked contrast to the high function to which

he was called in God’s grace, he does not shrink from asserting his authority

as an ambassador of Christ in the strongest terms, but always with the

conviction of one who ascribes all his success, not to his own merits, but to

“the gift of the grace of God.” His call to the apostleship involved his

conversion, and his conversion was “by the effectual working of God’s power.”

(v. 8)



unsearchable riches of Christ.” We read of riches of grace and riches of

glory, but the plenitude of all Divine blessings is in him.


ü      The apostle does not specify what is included in the riches of Christ.

He who was rich for our sakes became poor that “ye through his poverty

might be made rich” (II Corinthians 8:9). We see the source of all the

riches — it is in Himself. But Scripture shows that, while in Him there was

all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, with the real design of His filling us

eventually with all the fullness of God, the riches of Christ” are scattered

over the whole path of a believer, from its starting-point in conversion till it

is lost in the glories of the eternal inheritance. HE IS:


Ø      rich in love,

Ø      rich in compassion,

Ø      rich in mercy,

Ø      rich in grace,

Ø      rich in peace,

Ø      rich in promise,

Ø      rich in reward,

Ø      rich in all the blessings of the new and better covenant,


as he must be because He is “made unto us wisdom, righteousness,

sanctification, redemption.”  (I Corinthians 1:30)


ü      The riches of Christ are unsearchable.” The word suggests the idea of

the difficulty of tracing footsteps. Who can trace the footsteps of God?

Whatever of power is infinite power; whatever of wisdom is infinite

wisdom; whatever of love is infinite love.


Ø      We cannot trace the extent of the “riches of Christ.” We may apply a

double standard of measurement, taking account of the infinite altitude

of the sources whence His salvation has flowed, and of the depths of

sin and misery to which salvation had to descend in order to reach its

objects. Yet we have not searched out the riches of Christ. He put

forth upon our salvation all:


o        the invention of His omniscient wisdom,

o        applied to it the utmost energies of His omnipotent power, and

o        lavished upon it the exceeding riches of his infinite goodness


— neither mercy conflicting with justice, nor love with righteousness,

nor compassion for the sinner with hatred of his sins.


Ø      The riches of Christ are unsearchable so far they are undiminished with

use or time. Who can trace the limits of their application? Millions have

drunk of the “water of the wells of salvation?” but these wells are still

unexhausted and inexhaustible. (Who has ever drunk of the water of

life and ever thirsted?  Jesus said, “But whosoever drinketh of the

water that I shall give him shall never thirst.”  John 4:14 – CY – 2019)

The rivers of the earth may fail; there may be dry wastes where now

there are running streams; but the riches of Christ can never fail,

though thousands of needy souls have drawn from them and twice

ten thousand more will yet come to draw. The fountain of supply

is full as it is free, and free as it is full.


ü      Consider his larger message to the whole world of man. “And to make

all men see the dispensation of the mystery, which from the beginning of

the world hath been hid in God.” The apostle’s object was to enlighten the

Jew as well as the Gentile upon the true nature of the dispensation which

displaced so much that was dear to the Jewish heart in order that the true

glory of the Lord might shine forth, not as a mere minister of the

circumcision, but as the uniter of Jew and Gentile, bond and free, male and

female, in his own body. The mystery was hid for ages, but was now made

known by apostles and prophets. We see how revelation was an historical

movement, subject to the usual laws of historical development; for the

redemptive purpose, “hid for ages,” was revealed by a gradual process of

growth, till in Christianity it became a full-grown fact. It was part of the

discipline of man to go through all these stages of imperfect knowledge till

“the perfect day” dawned upon the world. But it was through all the ages

“the mystery of redemption,” going back to the ages that date from

creation — “creation building the platform on which the strange mystery

of redemption was disclosed.”


10  “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places

might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.”  To the intent

indicative of the purpose of the remarkable arrangement or dispensation according

to which the eternal Divine purpose, which had been concealed from the beginning

of the ages, was now made known.  That now unto the principalities and powers

in the heavenly places - that a lesson might be given to the unfallen angels. Their

interest in the scheme of man’s redemption is referred to (I Peter 1:12). Even the

highest powers of heaven have yet much to learn respecting God. The dispensation

of God’s grace to man is one of their lesson-books. The angels by their great age,

for they are thousands of years old, have advantages that short-lived man does not

possess for comparing the wisdom of God as manifested in widely distant ages. 

Angels have from the first moment of their being, lived  in the presence of God! 

They have been contemporaries of man during all the history of mankind,

for when the earth was framed “the morning stars sang together, and all the

sons of God shouted for joy.”  (Job 38:7) –  (Dr. Chalmers shows (‘Astronomical

Discourses’) how this meets the objection that so dread a sacrifice as the life of

God’s Son  could not have been made for one poor planet; in its indirect bearings

we do not know what other orders of beings have derived most vital lessons from

this manifestation of the attributes of God. (“For without controversy great is the

mystery of godliness:  God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit,  seen

of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into

glory.”  I Timothy 3:16 -   I recommend Spurgeon Sermon this website - #547a –

I Timothy ch. 3 v. 16 – The Hexapla of Mystery – Charles Haddon Spurgeon Sermon

CY – 2019) However men may scorn the salvation of Christ and all that belongs to it,

the highest intelligences regard it with PROFOUND INTEREST!  Might be known

by the  Church the manifold wisdom of God. Through the Church, now constituted,

according to the revealed mystery, of Jew and Gentile, all redeemed by Christ’s

blood and renewed by His Spirit, there is exhibited to the angels the manifold

wisdom of God. The precise line of thought is this:  God from eternity, had a

purpose to put Jew and Gentile on precisely the same footing, but concealed

it for many ages, until He revealed it in the apostolic age, when He appointed

Paul His minister to announce it. The purpose of this whole arrangement was to

enlighten the principalities and powers of heaven in the manifold wisdom of God.

How in His manifold wisdom? In this way. During these preparatory ages, when God’s

gracious dealings were with the Jews only, all kinds of false religions were developing

among the heathen, and their diversified influence and effects were becoming apparent

in many ways — the divergent tendencies of men, especially in religious matters, were

being developed; but in the new turn given to things by the breaking down of the

middle wall in Christ, the manifold wisdom of God was shown in transforming many

of these most diverse elements, unifying them, building them up into a great spiritual

body, into a holy, most beautiful, most symmetrical temple. When all things seem

to be flying asunder into the most diverse and antagonistic elements, God gives a

new turn, as it were, to providence, and lo! A GLORIOUS SYMMETRICAL AND



God is called “the Lord of hosts,” as marshalling the innumerable army of angels?

They have a manifoldness far beyond our conception, and yet He can dispose of them

as easily as an officer can do with a small section of an army. He calls them, as He

calls the stars, by their names; (Isaiah 40:26) - not one is overlooked, not one out

of place. The manifold wisdom of  God is also to be seen in the way in which the

billions of men on the earth are DEALT WITH IN ONE MOMENT!  The problem

here has been complicated by the entrance of sin.


·         Manifold are the phases of sin, and

·         manifold are the methods by which God seeks to dislodge men out of their sin.


But this manifold problem of the world of mankind is mastered by Him more

easily than the problem of a single household is mastered by us. But it is in the

Church that there is to be seen conspicuously the manifold wisdom of God.  (May we

“open our eyes and behold” – CY – 2010)  As Christ is called the Wisdom of God,

(I Corinthians 1:24) so we may expect to see in His Church a wisdom manifold as

Himself!  What an element in the scheme of redemption, that the Redeemer was a

Divine Being in human nature!


·         How justice and mercy are reconciled in His cross!

·         How sin is forgiven while God at the same time manifests His detestation of it!

      (I recommend The Wrath of God by Arthur Pink – # 3 - this web site – CY – 2010)

·         How manifold are the ways by which men are brought into the Church!


What the final adjustment of things is to be is very much a mystery to us, as it is

doubtless to the angels. But we stand in this position that, in what has been

exhibited to us already of the manifold wisdom of God, we can look hopefully

forward to the final reconciliation.


What wisdom was requisite for the creation of the world and the ordering of all things,

from the movements of a star down to the life of a cell! (I highly recommend

“Fantastic Trip” on the internet – just type in those words in your browser –

it will give you great exposure of the wisdom of God in creating the worlds and

the things that are in it – whether through the telescope or the microscope – CY –

2010)  What wisdom is involved in the government of the world, maintaining life

and gladness, developing the latent resources of the universe, making all things

work together for good, ruling great kingdoms and individual lives in justice

and mercy! But a higher wisdom is required for REDEMPTION!   It is more

difficult to regenerate than to create, to regain Paradise than to form it at the first. 

Not only are the POWER and GOODNESS of God needed for this work, but

also HIS WISDOM!  Preaching may be foolish, but the gospel preached is the


in working out THE WORLD’S REDEMPTION!


We are called to minister instruction to other worlds. The service is mutual; angels are

ministering spirits to men, (Hebrews 1:14) men are instructive witnesses of redemptive

wisdom to angels. Thus the lowest can help the highest. An angel can learn lessons from

a man, as a man can find instruction in an insect. (Proverbs 6:6) - Our lives, then, are

linked to other worlds. What happens to us has bearings elsewhere. This thought may

help us to face some mystery of life.  As in the case of Job, what is humanly

unintelligible may be explained when it is seen that the beings of another sphere

are being instructed through our experience.  If the highest intelligences

desire to look into” these things, and see the manifold wisdom of God in them,

(I Peter 1:12) surely we men should treat the works of redemption with profound

reverence, and regard the study of them as worthy of our HIGHEST THOUGHT!




                                    The Manifold Wisdom of God (v. 10)



REDEMPTION OF THE WORLD. God is the great Thinker. All our

philosophy is the attempt of man to spell out some of the ideas of God.


ü      What wisdom was requisite for the creation of the world and the

      ordering of all things, from the movements of a star down to the

life of a cell!


ü      What wisdom is involved in the government of the world, maintaining

      life and gladness, developing the latent resources of the universe,

making all things work together for good, ruling great kingdoms

and individual lives in justice and mercy! BUT A HIGHER WISDOM

IS REQUIRED FOR REDEMPTION!   It is more difficult to regenerate

than to create, to regain Paradise than to form it at the first.


ü      Not only are the power and goodness of God needed for this work,

BUT ALSO HIS WIISDOM!  Preaching may be foolish, but the gospel

preached is the wisdom of God. The highest intellectuality has been

exercised in working out THE WORLD’S REDEMPTION.  (Compare

God’s work, planning, and results with the work of the Congress of

the United States, the House of Representatives and the United States

Senate!  What a joke!  What a mismatch in comparison, yet vain man

is as wild as an ass’s colt and takes no heed or warning!  CY – 2019)


ü      Paul sees this especially in the breadth of the results — in the

inclusion of Gentile with Jew. High wisdom is broad, and liberal charity

requires much intelligence. Comprehensiveness should not be a matter of

vague sentiment. To be effective it must be fortified by ripe wisdom.


ü      This wisdom is manifold. God has many interests to consider, many

conflicting forces to deal with, and many issues to provide for. Therefore


Ø      different men may have different views, and yet all be in the right.

Ø      Many purposes may be aimed at in redemption beyond what we

      can see, and thus many processes which to us look meaningless

find their end.  The water is not taken over the mill-wheel simply

that it may find its nearest course to the river; nor is the Christian

led over a broken path because that is the nearest way to heaven.




Church is the manifestation of a wisdom that was hidden before

Christianity appeared. Truth is explained by illustration, and the Church is a

concrete illustration of Divine wisdom. It is not in the thinking and

teaching of Divine wisdom by Christians, but in their very existence as

such, that the wisdom of God is revealed. To be a redeemed soul is to be a

proof of that wisdom, just as for one who had been incurably sick to be a

healthy man was to be a living proof of the healing power of Christ. This

revelation was made to other worlds and higher intelligences.


ü      God cares for other worlds than our own; elsewhere processes of

education are being carried on with creatures in whom God takes



ü      We are called to minister instruction to other worlds. The service is

mutual; angels are ministering spirits to men, men are instructive

witnesses of redemptive wisdom to angels. Thus the lowest can help

the highest. An angel can learn lessons from a man, as a man can find

instruction in an insect. Our lives, then, are linked to other worlds.

What happens to us has bearings elsewhere. This thought may help us

to face some mystery of life.  As in the case of Job, what is humanly

unintelligible may be explained when it is seen that the beings of

another sphere are being instructed through our experience.


ü      If the highest intelligences desire to look intothese things, and

see the manifold wisdom of God in them, surely we men should

treat the works of redemption with profound reverence, and

regard the study of them as worthy of our highest thought.


11 “According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:”

The apostle is ever anxious that we should connect these operations, of God with the

profundity, deliberation, and awfulness of an eternal decree, and that we should thus

contrast them in our minds with many even of the most important works of man

which are often determined, on his part, by a passing event or other trivial cause.

The verb in this clause is ἐποίησενepoiaesen - which He made; He makes, and

it has been debated whether it denotes the original formation of the purpose, or the

execution of it under Christ. We prefer the former. The object of the apostle is to

indicate that the purpose existed from eternity; but, besides, the meaning of

closing formula, “in Christ Jesus,” is perfectly applicable to the eternal formation of

the purpose; it is the constantly returning indication of the element in which the

whole scheme of grace had:


·         its beginning,

·         its progress, and

·         its end.



            The Church the Means of Angelic Enlightenment (vs. 10-11)


The Divine purpose in the dispensation already described was to make

known to the angels the manifold wisdom of God.



This implies:


ü      That the angels are not omniscient, for they have something still to learn.


ü       That the angels are in communication with the Church on earth as well

as in heaven. They rejoice over the conversion of sinners; they minister to

those who shall be heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:14); they stand in

immediate relation to the individual man (Matthew 18:10; Luke

15:10; 16:22). The apostles regard themselves as spectacles to angels”

as well as men, in the insults heaped upon them by an ungrateful world

(I Corinthians 4:9). The Apostle Peter was liberated from prison by an

angel.  Angels are present in the assembly of the saints (ibid.  ch. 11:10).

They are associated with the redeemed in heaven (Hebrews 12:22), so

as to derive much information concerning the kingdom of God.


ü      The angels desire increased knowledge of the ways of God with man.

This might be inferred from the fact that they come specially into the

foreground at great turning-points in the history of the kingdom of God,

such as the founding of the old and new covenants, and the humiliation

and exaltation of Christ. But they are expressly represented as desiring

“to look into” the great realities of redemption (I Peter 1:12), and here

they are instructed in the manifold wisdom of God by means of the




GREATLY DIVERSIFIED WISDOM OF GOD. It is a curious fact that

the interest of the angels is not in the power or the goodness of God, but in

His wisdom, as if to imply that the work of redemption REPRESENTS

THE HIGHEST ORDER OF INTELLIGENCE!   It is also a high honor

to man that he should first receive the knowledge which the angels are to

receive through man. But the angels, by their great age — for they may be

thousands of years old — have advantages that short-lived man does not

possess for comparing the wisdom of God as manifest in widely distant ages.

But the wisdom here referred to centers in the Church — the spiritual body

constituted in Christ, and its variety is manifest in:


ü      the original plan of salvation,

ü      the selection of a Redeemer,

ü      the incarnation,

ü      the atonement,

ü      the application of salvation to Gentile and Jew,

ü      the spread of the Greek language,

ü      the triumph of the Roman law, and

ü      in all the dispensations by which the Church has been led

      onward to her final destiny.


Thus our earth, though a mere speck in space, becomes, in the

eyes of angels, the brightest of stars; for it is the platform of that Church

which mirrors forth “the manifold wisdom of God.”  (Check out

Fantastic Trip-  the power of Ten   on You Tube  or your browser

– CY – 2019)



INSTRUCTION. Not specifically the preaching of apostles, nor human

preaching, but the Church as the exhibition in its long and checkered

history of the wisdom of God.




to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The

scheme was fixed in the counsel of peace; it was executed in all its parts in

and through Jesus Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and

knowledge; and it found historical realization in the progress and kingdom

of God, apart from all dispensational limitations.


12  “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him.”

In whom we have boldness and access. Παῥῤησία - par-rhay-see’-ah; - literally

means “boldness” or “freedom of speech,” but is used here in a more ample

sense for want of restraint, ease of feeling, comfortable self-possession, in our access

to God. Contrast with Adam hiding himself among the trees of the garden, and the lost

calling on the mountains to fall on them, and the rocks to cover them.  (Genesis 3:8;

Revelation 6:12-17) The “we” in this verse includes both Jews and Gentiles.

The “access,” or introduction (see ch. 2:18), is like that of the high priest into

the holy of holies — we have boldness to enter into the holiest of all (Hebrews 10:19).

With confidence by the faith of Him.  The confidence of being welcomed and accepted

when we go into God’s presence springs from our faith in Him. We believe in Him:


·       as the Propitiation,

·       as our Peace,

·       as the Reconciler, and


we go before God with confidence. The clause, “through faith in Him,” influences

the whole verse. And, as before, we have at the beginning of the verse,

“in whom” — an expression denoting generally our union with Christ, and at the end,

“through the faith of Him” — a specification of the instrument by which that union is

formed and by which it operates.




                        The New Spirit of Approach to God (v. 12)


As the effect of the work of redemption, we stand in a new relation to

God, which entitles us to a continuous access to Him, free, unrestricted,

and confiding.


·         WE HAVE BOLDNESS AND ACCESS TO GOD. There is an open,

intrepid speaking which springs from a mind confident in itself and strong

in the justice of the cause it espouses; but the freedom of speech here

referred to is based upon a true appreciation of our relation to Christ and

the security enjoyed by the believer in the midst of all his tremors and

dubieties. Our God is indeed a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:19), yet the

believer can approach Him without servile fear, simply because Christ

is the way of access, and the heart has been sprinkled from an evil

conscience through His blood.  (ibid. ch. 10:22)



PRAYER. He died that we might have “boldness to enter into the holiest.”

We see in His atonement, not a means of deliverance out of the hands of

God, but the strongest of all reasons for casting ourselves into the hands of

God as the very best Friend we have in all the universe. Our security from

the wrath of God is in the bosom of God. It is Jesus who gives us audience

with God, dispelling at the same time from the mind of the worshipper

those suggestions which would restrict or narrow the riches of God’s love.



OF BOLDNESS. It is by the faith of which Christ is both the Object and

the Author, discovering to us:


ü      the dignity of His person,

ü      the efficacy of His work,

ü      the security of His love,


that we are enabled joyfully to approach God. It is thus we have confidence

in our approaches to God. Christ’s sacrifice, as it has given infinite satisfaction

to God, is fitted to inspire the soul of the believer with perfect confidence.

He sees that nothing more is needed to, ensure his everlasting acceptance,

and is thus led to tread with boldness the entrance into the sanctuary of

God’s presence. He has peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

He has confidence in regard to his interest in God’s love, in regard to the

power and faithfulness of God to fulfill His promises, and in regard to the

continuousness of the supply of grace necessary to his final salvation.

(What God promises, He is able to perform.  “Faithful is He that calleth

you who also will do it.”  Romans 4:21; I Thessalonians 5:24 – CY – 2019)




LIFE. The apostle beseeches the Ephesians, on this ground, not to lose

heart on account of the afflictions that had come to himself on their

account. The cynical philosopher represents most as easily reconciled to

the misfortunes of their friends, but Christianity not only enjoins but

sustains a nobler temper. So close was the relationship that existed

between the apostle and the saints at Ephesus, that his afflictions had fallen

upon them like almost the reality of a personal experience. They were not

to be discouraged by his tribulations, which were, after all, the price paid

            for his uncompromising assertion of their rights as Gentiles.




                                                Christian Boldness (v. 12)


·         BOLDNESS IS A CHRISTIAN GRACE. The gospel destroys the

gloomy old religions of terror. It dispels even the natural fear of guilty

souls in the presence of the holy God. It brings liberty and courage. It is

essentially the manly faith of the world’s adult age.



TO GOD. The Christian is not to approach God under the circumstances

which made the courageous entrance of Queen Esther into the presence of

King Ahasuerus so nobly patriotic. We see God as our Father WAITING

TO BE GRACIOUS!   It is unworthy to fear. Our prayer should not be the

cry of the captive for mercy, but the glad request of the child. Note:


ü      Christian boldness is wasted unless we use it in coming nearer to God.

ü      This boldness is no excuse for irreverence.





ü      Christ dispels our ignorant terrors by revealing the fatherhood of God.

We have but to acquaint ourselves with Him to he at peace (“Acquaint

now thyself with Him, and be at peace:  thereby good shall come to

thee.” Job 22:21).

ü      Christ gives to us the perfect love that casts out fear.   (I John 4:18)

ü      Christ reconciles us with God, and so removes all ground of reasonable

alarm. For while we are unreconciled and unforgiven, courage is madness,

and the wildest terror the reasonable condition of those whose conscience

is roused and who realize their frightful peril. But THROUGH CHRIST

we are forgiven and RECONCILED TO GOD!   It is ungrateful, after

being thus blessed, to cherish the old fears.




ü      Faith is necessary in order to bring us into those relations with Christ

which make our boldness right and justifiable. Without faith we are not

redeemed, and while unredeemed we have no ground for being bold in



ü      Faith is necessary in order to enable us to realize our FREE and SAFE

condition through Christ. Until we trust Christ we shall not dare to

approach God with a confidence that is grounded on our relations with

Christ. Thus spiritual cowardice is A MARK OF UNBELIEF!   He

                        who trusts most strongly will enjoy most freedom of access to God.


13  “Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is

your glory.”  Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you. 

A very  delicate and touching request, that they would not be too much distressed

by what he was suffering for them (compare Epaphroditus, Philippians 2:26). Paul

knew that the sympathy was so strong that what was suffered by him was endured

sympathetically by them. Two expressions denote that the sufferings were great:

“My tribulations for you” — a word expressing intense and protracted suffering;

“that ye faint not,” or that ye do not lose heart, as if the power of evil had got the

upper hand.  Which is your glory.  That is, the character or capacity of the apostle

of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, in which I suffer tribulation, is one of such exalted

dignity as to reflect glory on you. Take that view of my sufferings; I suffer because

I hold so glorious an office, and the glory of that office is reflected on you.




                                    God’s Purpose as to the Gentiles (vs. 1-13)


This passage a parenthesis after v. 1 — a reference to Paul’s personal history. It contains

the explanation of his whole career, the secret of his wonderful zeal. Why was he a

prisoner?  Generally, for the Gentiles. Why for them? Because the Divine purpose

regarding them had been revealed to him, and through him to the world, and the

enmity of the Jews to that purpose had brought Paul into captivity. Looking at the

passage as a whole, it may show us how Paul found compensation for his captivity

in the privileges connected with his office as apostle of the Gentiles. This compensation

lay chiefly in three things:


·         The precious insight he obtained into the glory of the Divine purpose in

            reference to the Gentiles, giving him a high conception of the far-reaching

            generosity of God.


ü      There is a high intellectual pleasure in the discovery of any great truth.


ü      There is a profound emotional pleasure in discovering a truth of vast

      benefit to mankind.


ü      A still higher pleasure in receiving such a truth direct from God. This

                        truth did not involve a case of leveling down, but of leveling up.

                        Though the Jews, as a nation, were no longer to occupy a higher

                        platform than the Gentiles, yet all were to be invited to equal nearness

                        to God, and if any should reject the invitation, the blame and the loss

                        would be all their own.


·         The remarkably high qualifications given to him for his office (see v. 7) —

      great love, faith, courage, perseverance, hope; great intellectual insight; great

      spiritual power. Others got frightened (Mark, Demas, etc.); Paul went on. The

      human spirit was often depressed, but God comforted him. The thorn in the side

      was annoying, but “my grace is sufficient for thee.”  (II Corinthians 12:9)


·         The great honor and privilege of being called to so blessed a work.

            The work had a glory on earth and a glory in heaven.


ü      On earth. He preached to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.

                        Paul proclaimed God’s riches of grace, and showed them to be

                        unsearchable. He not only proclaimed them, but in a sense imparted

                        them — brought them into contact with the Ephesians, so that they

                        got the good of them, through the blessing of the Holy Spirit.


ü      In Heaven. The gospel has aspects of blessing beyond this world. It

                        carries important lessons to the principalities and powers. It shows the

                        manifold wisdom of God, shows how all classes and varieties of

                        mankind are brought to God by the cross of Christ:


Ø      assimilating all characters,

Ø      overcoming all alienations,

Ø      demolishing all walls of separation, and

Ø      building up all together in Christ Jesus.


·         One Great Conclusion. In every sense the success of the gospel is very

      glorifying to God:


ü      it illustrates His perfections;

ü      it glorifies His Son;

ü      it educates the very angels;


and thus it carries forward the grand purpose of God in the creation of the

            worlds. “To Him be glory forever. Amen.”  (Romans 11:36)




                         The Death of the Tribal Spirit (vs. 1-13)


The apostle, having stated the unity between Jews and Gentiles in the one

spiritual temple, proceeds in this parenthesis to state the aspect of the

gospel which is thus presented. It amounts, in fact, to the death of the tribal

feeling, and to the encouragement of that broad cosmopolitanism which

has been fostered by the Christian system. Paul, of course, rejoiced in his

Jewish origin and in all the privileges which he had thus inherited. But since

his conversion unto Christ, the narrowness had disappeared, and he took

his stand before the world as the apostle and apologist of the Gentiles,

hoping for the same elevation of character for them as for himself.



CHAMPIONSHIP OF THE GENTILES. (v. 8.) He had come to

entertain a deep humility of spirit. He deemed himself “less than the least of

all saints.” In Paul’s experience it has been observed there is a progress.


ü      First he speaks of himself as “the least of the apostles, that am not

      meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God

(I Corinthians 15:9).


ü      Secondly, as in this passage before us, he regards himself hardly

      worthy of the name of an apostle, but as less than the least of all

saints. Having ranked all apostles above himself in the first instance,

he now ranks all the saints above him.


ü      Then, thirdly, he puts himself below all other sinners, and declares,

      “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I

am chief” (I Timothy 1:15).


Now, this expresses a complete revolution in Pharisaic thought. Unquestionably

Paul had learned to judge himself severely when he comes to conclusions such

as these.  Now, Christianity secures this apparent moral paradox of esteeming

each the other better than himself (Philippians 2:3). “By humility,” as A.

Monod has said in his ‘Explication,’ “the Christian is led to judge himself

severely, while charity comes to his aid in making him judge favorably of

another. Each one, besides, reading in his own heart and not that of others,

perceives only in himself that depth of sin which is the worst aspect of it,

although least visible, and he can always hope that with others, whatever

the appearances may be, this depth, hidden from his eyes, is better than

with him.” This personal humiliation, then, is the preparation Paul receives

for his great role as elevator of the Gentiles. It is when personally abased

that we are exalted in heart and hope, and become the willing servants of



·         PAUL’S ESTIMATE OF HIS OFFICE. (v. 8.) It was a “grace”

given to him to be allowed by God to preach among the Gentiles the

unsearchable riches of Christ. His notion was that it was the crown and

summit of human privilege to be thus placed in charge of such a

commission. He magnified his office. He saw nothing to be compared with

it in the privileges of men. He would have endorsed the words of a great

modern preacher when he declared to students for the ministerial office,

“There is no career that can compare with it for a moment in the rich and

satisfying relations into which it brings a man with his fellow-men, in the

deep and interesting insight which it gives him into human nature, and in

the chance of the best culture for his own character.... Let us rejoice with

one another that in a world where there are a great many good and happy

things for men to do, God has given us the best and happiest, and made us

preachers of His truth.”



TO BESTOW UPON THE GENTILES. (v. 6.) Up to out Lord’s time

the tribal idea prevailed. The Jews were a tribe, and their policy was, as

their policy would still be, the supremacy of the tribe. But Christ proposed

not to carry the Jewish tribe up to proud supremacy, but, on the contrary,

to bring all other tribes up to their level of privilege,  AND TO WELD


touched the key of cosmopolitan comprehensiveness and bade the narrow

tribal spirit to cease. He talked of many coining from east and west to sit

down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:11).

He talked of drawing “all men” unto Himself once He was lifted on the cross

(John 12:32). He spoke of Jerusalem ceasing to be the single center of true

worship, and of true worshippers worshipping the Father anywhere

(John 4:21-24). All nations were to be discipled by His servants

(Matthew 28:20). Into these broad and noble views for mankind the

eleven did not very rapidly or fully enter. Doubtless Peter had inaugurated

the Gentile Pentecost in the house of Cornelius; but he relapsed into

narrowness a few years later at Antioch. It was reserved, therefore, for

Paul, the most powerful mind of the apostolic band, to catch the

cosmopolitan spirit of his Master, and to champion the Gentile against all

the prejudice of the Jewish world. It has been suggested that he would not

have chosen the appointment had it been left to himself. But, as far as we

can judge, he showed no narrowness once he had humbled himself at

Christ’s feet on the way to Damascus. He there ceased to be the patriot of

a tribe, and became, in the widest and worthiest sense, a citizen of the

world and a champion of the rights of universal man. There is surely

something grand in this idea of lifting outcast communities into the highest

and holiest associations. There is no casting of contempt on any tribe, but

extending pity and. compassion unto all. The golden gate of privilege is

opened wide for every one. The missionary enterprise is the best and

noblest policy which men have set themselves in earnest to carry through!



(vs. 10-12.) The idea of Paul is that the angels on high look down with

rapt interest and profit upon what is taking place in the Church. The

movements of men outside the Church have, of course, their interest; but it

is the bringing of the different peoples of the earth into the glorious unity

of the Church of God which so strikes the attention of the heavenly world.

The Divine society which is gathering round Jesus is the most instructive

exhibition of God’s purposes which the heavenly world can contemplate.

As Jonathan Edwards put it in his sermon upon v. 10, the angels are

benefited by the salvation of men,


ü      by seeing therein a great and wonderful manifestation of the glory of



ü      by Jesus Christ, as God-Man, becoming their Head. We may be sure

that the history of the world looks very differently to the immortals from

what it does in the pages of mortal history. We see the tramp of armies

and of battles upon the graphic page, and an account more or less

intelligent of the different and concurrent causes; but with what fuller

insight and appreciation must the heavenly world look down upon the

vicissitudes of time! Amid the conflicting policies of different states

and nations, the missionary enterprise appears as the one consistent

and uniting policy. The elevation of the world’s peoples:


Ø      into one consecrated whole,

Ø      into one mighty family,

Ø      into one organic whole,


IS SURELY WORTHY OF A GOD!   And this is what the

Church exhibits; it was for this Paul suffered, it is for this we in

our respective spheres must struggle too.



            Paul’s Apostleship to the Gentiles: An Introduction (vs. 1-13)


The apostle has it in his mind to pray for the Ephesian Christians. There is

a twofold ground upon which he proceeds.


1. What has been said about them. “For this cause.” He has described them

in three ways as incorporated in the Church. His last statement pointed to

their being built in. They were, therefore, objects for intercession, such as

their heathen ancestors had not been.


2. His relation to them. He did not stand at an outside, but in the closest

relation to them, such as brought with it the obligation on his part to pray

for them.


  1. He had a relation, to them through the common Master, being the

prisoner of Christ Jesus. “I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus.” He was not

the only one of whom that could be said, but “Paul the prisoner” was well

known to them. Indeed, it was an Ephesian named Trophimus who

innocently brought him into trouble. He was the prisoner of Caesar; but

who was Caesar but the hand of Christ in the matter? He recognized the

fact that it was by Christs will primarily that he was a prisoner. Christ

being above Caesar in power, and therefore able to order it otherwise, it

was to human appearance strange that a worker like Paul should at this

time have been so restricted in his energies. But he who has eyes like unto

a flame of fire saw deeper into it than any other could. One good result

which flowed from his imprisonment was that he was able to give himself

more to composition. See here how there rose before the mind of the

prisoner of Christ a glorious conception of His Church, by which there will

be greatest benefit to the end of time.


  1. He was the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of them, the Gentiles.

“In behalf of you Gentiles.” His unbelieving countrymen (who in their

spiritual pride were for the exclusion of the Gentiles) had been his bitterest

foes, and were, indeed, chargeable (more than the Roman authorities) with

his imprisonment. He was suffering for his liberality in seeking to include

them, as was the will of Christ, within the pale of the Church. He might

well, then, claim to write to them, as well as be expected to offer prayers

on their behalf. But, having mentioned this ground of his praying for them,

he goes aside from his prayer, and does not proceed with the sentence

which he has commenced until the fourteenth verse, giving us a parenthesis

which, for length and weight together, is not surpassed. Transition to the

subject of his apostleship. “If so be that ye have heard.” Gentiles, for

whom he was suffering, could scarcely have been ignorant, whether they

had enjoyed his ministrations or not, of the fact of his being apostle of the

Gentiles. And if the Ephesian Christians had heard more particularly of the

matter of the revelation, as probably they had done, for Paul labored two

years among them, yet it would not be inconsistent with usage to say, “If

so be that ye have heard,” as referring to a well-known fact, and as

referring to it in the way of calling them to self-scrutiny as to the time

when they heard it and the person from whom they heard it.



dispensation.” It was not of his own ordering, but was the dispensation of

God. It was arranged that he should be a minister to preach unto the

Gentiles (vs. 7-8). This is in accordance with his manner of viewing

things in the first chapter. He who has the administration of the eons has

also the appointment of all who serve in His house, whether ordinary or




KNOWLEDGE OF A MYSTERY. “Of that grace of God which was given

me to you-ward.” He had no reason to look for such a thing, but with a

view to his acting as their apostle he was so favored.


ü      It was a mystery which was communicated to him by revelation. “How

that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery.”  He did not

receive it secondhand, nor was it a discovery of his own; but it was

immediately and supernaturally communicated to him. That was

guarantee for the knowledge being certain and thorough. The fact

revealed to him at his conversion, that he was to bear Christ’s Name

before the Gentiles, may only have given rise to perplexities as to the

mode. We can think of the revelation referred to here as coming to him,

not without preparation or reflection on his part, during his retirement

in Arabia. (Galatians 1:15-18)  And it must have been a great help to

him in his perplexities to know confidently and timeously the principles

on which God was to proceed with the Gentiles.


ü      It was a mystery of his knowledge of which he had already given them

evidence. “As I wrote afore in few words.” The reference is evidently to

this same Epistle, especially to the first chapter, in which it is part of the

“mystery” of summing up all things in Christ, that Gentiles are put

on an equality with Jews in being made “heirs” on trusting in Christ.

It was the mystery of Christ, viz. as the great Reconciler. He had written

in brief; but their interest would make up for his brevity, and he claims

that, in what he had said, he had given them the opportunity, when they

should “read,” of perceiving his understanding of the mystery. And

thus, through his communication to them of what he had got immediately

from God, they would have the satisfaction of seeing for themselves

what the truth was.


ü      It was a time when others were favored with revelation of the

      mystery as well as he. “Which in other generations was not made

known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed unto His

holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit.” “Sons of men” has a certain

association of incapacity. Being only sons of men, they could not be

expected to know the mystery of themselves. And the former generations

of them had stood at a disadvantage. They had not been absolutely

excluded from the benefit of revelation. But still, in all that they had

been favored with, in promises connected with the admission of the

Gentiles, it had remained very much of a mystery, until the then

Christian period. And the Apostle Paul, with an evident enthusiasm,

thinks of himself as in the company of apostles and prophets, upon

whom in that ago the inflatus of the Spirit had come, and who were

privileged to make communications of blessed import to the Gentiles.


ü      What the contents of the mystery were. “To wit, that the Gentiles are

fellow-heirs, and fallow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of

the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” There is a catching up

of a previous thread here, for which we were prepared by his reference to

what he had written before. “They were made a heritage.” They had the

“earnest” of an “inheritance.” They were “God’s own possession.”

There was something new (or matter for revelation) in their thus being

fellowheirs.  For this was something beyond the extension of grace to

them. It indicated their relation to ancient Israel The Jews (or believers

among them) were not the only successors of Israel. But the Gentile

believers were served heirs as well. They were in the true theocratic line.

The prestige of that people, the great things the Lord had done for them,

were theirs. And theirs, too, were even the lessons of their apostasies.

Theirs were their Scriptures. “Fellow-members of the body” is also

a catching up of a previous thread. For he has before written of the

“one body” (ch. 2:16). This had not been clear to the former generations.

They had not contemplated such a close commingling of Gentile and

Jewish elements. Was there to be no partition wall whatever? Was their

identity as Jews completely to be lost? Yes, that was the form that mercy

to the Gentiles was to take. And there were they in the Ephesian Church,

some of them Jews and some of them Gentiles, but all members of the

body of Christ.And fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus

through the gospel.” “Fellow-partakers of the promise” is properly the

parallel phrase. But there is a reason for connecting the remaining words

specially, if not exclusively, with this. For the promise (that is, to former

generations) refers to the same blessings offered (since the coming of

Christ) in the gospel. There is thus a catching up of a previous thread

from the second chapter, where it is said that Christ came and preached

the gospel (of peace) to Gentiles as well as to Jews (ibid. v. 17). And

there was much for apostles and prophets to reveal of the mystery here.

For it was by so completely “filling up” the types, and presenting the

real all-sufficient sacrifice for sin, that all former restrictions could

be done away. Men no longer needed to be circumcised or to go up to

Jerusalem, but could freely participate in the blessings of salvation

simply as believing on Christ.




Whereof I was made a minister according to the gift of that grace of God

which was given me according to the working of His power. Unto me, who

am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the

Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Paul takes the lowly title of

“minister” (literally, “one who runs at the call of another,” but used generally

of a servant). He was a servant in a particular order. Grace was given him to

preach unto the Gentiles. That was where he found his work, where he was

appointed to follow the Master. And the gift of this grace (thus defined) was

given him in a particular way — “according to the working of His power.”

“The mention of the power of God is founded on the circumstance that Paul

sees in his change of heart, from a foe to a friend of Christ, an act of

omnipotence.” It is an exercise of power that calls for our adoration. Grander

than the flash of the lightning, the roll of the thunder, was the power which

turned Saul into Paul, the persecutor into the preacher. It is power which

has been exercised after the same example, notably in the case of John Bunyan.

It is power to which the Church can constantly look for the raising up of men to

do His work. It is power to which the greatest sinners may be pointed for

their conversion to God. In magnifying the Divine power, Paul humbles

himself. But not thus does his feeling of humility (which none need to

cultivate more than ministers) find adequate expression. But in view of the

greatness of his calling he humbles himself still further. Unto me, who am

less than the least of all saints.” There is employed, to express his

meaning, what is both a comparative and a superlative. There was no

exaggeration in this to the apostle who, though he could warmly vindicate

his apostolic position when there was occasion, yet had a feeling of his

own nothingness (II Corinthians 12:11). It belongs to a shallower

Christian experience than his was, to make such comparisons. To one who

has felt his own utter vileness before God, to think of instituting a

comparison in personal worth, in spiritual standing between himself and his

fellow-Christians, is utterly abhorrent to him. He repudiates the thought; he

is less than the least of all saints. There can be no doubt that those who

have (without feigning) the deepest feeling of humility are really the best

saints and the best champions of the faith. It is not the case that a career of

wandering such as the apostle had (in his case it was wandering in self-

righteousness for thirty years) is necessary to the deepest feeling of

humility. For we have all enough of evil in our hearts to lead to

humiliation. But it may be said that those who have had such wanderings

and subsequent struggles are the most likely (in respect of their

opportunity) to excel in a knowledge of the corruption of their hearts. The

apostle supplies us with a rich expression here, all saints.” Who are they

that form this order? Certainly none of mankind who have not the blood of

Christ sprinkled upon them. Certainly more than those who have been

specially “sainted” of men. They include many “hidden ones” on earth.


            But sure from many a hidden dell,

            From many a rural nook unthought of, there

Rises for that proud world the saints’ prevailing prayer.”


They include the “elder saints” in heaven, both angels and men. They have

all their circle of influence in the universe of God. We are to look unto

“Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2); but we are

also to get strengthening, incitement, universally, from “the communion

of saints.”



THE UNSEARCHABLE RICHES OF CHRIST. The blessings of the gospel

are compared by our Lord to gold: “I counsel thee to buy of me gold.”

(Revelation 3:18)  And, in agreement with that, is this description of those

blessings as “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” There are none higher (as

there is nothing higher in metals than gold), and, if we count them as men

count gold, they are inestimably precious. What are the blessings of the gospel?

There is first of all:


ü      peace, not the peace of unfallen beings, but the peace of

            those who have been sinners and are now reconciled — the sweet

            sense of sin forgiven, the blessed feeling that the guilt which was

resting on us is removed, and that there is now nothing between us

and a holy God. And who can tell the preciousness of this blessing?

The man who has this peace can feel richer than Croesus. It is a peace

which makes us INDEPENDENT OF THE WORLD - which the world

cannot give and which the world cannot take away. It is a peace which

passeth all understanding (Philippians 4:7), which has a mysterious,

unspeakable sweetness about it, so that he who has once felt

            what it is would never like to lose it.


ü      Another blessing is spiritual understanding. The man who knows is

      on a different footing from the man who does not know. Think of

one who has all the light of modern science, compared with the

Chinaman who is only where his ancestors were two or three thousand

years ago. Think of one who has all the light which Christianity has

shed on the highest matters, compared with the fetishist whose dim

object of reverence is some unconscious stone. How dark the

            world would have been at this day but for THE DAYSPRING

FROM ON HIGH which hath visited us! But, along with that

outward light which shines widely, there is to all who seek and

embrace it an inward light of the Holy Ghost. Blind Bartimaeuses,

we believe in Christ, and we receive our sight.  And what riches it is

to have spiritual insight, to have the veil taken off!  GOD and TRUTH

to be under no delusion, to be delivered from every error, and to see

things clearly IN THE LIGHT of God!


ü      A third blessing, but a very comprehensive one, is holy feeling.

      What a cage of unclean birds does sin make of our hearts! But

the gospel introduces a radical change of feeling. “For the law of

the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the

law of sin and death.”  (Romans 8:2)  And is it not golden to have

fine feeling — feeling in which there is no sinful element, but only

the fine grain of holiness; to have devoutest reverence and tenderest

love towards GOD,  and to have due respect and tender love toward

our fellow-men? The man who feels aright all round has his wealth

in his soul, there a perpetual feast. These blessings we may regard

as summed up in Christ. For as Christ is said not only to have the bread

of life, but to be Himself the Bread of life, so we may say He has

not only unsearchable riches to bestow, but HE IS HIMSELF THE

UNSEARCHABLE RICHES!   He is the true Gold, He is precious

in every quality of His being as gold, and, in having Him as the

Portion of our souls, we must needs have unsearchable riches.



TO THE GENTILES. “And to make all men see what is the dispensation

of the mystery.” He himself understood the mystery, having got it by

revelation. And he had given them the means of perceiving his

understanding of it, and therefore of understanding it for themselves. But

so precious a truth was not to be confined within so narrow an area. He

had a certain unbounded ambition in preaching the gospel. It was to make

all men see the gracious arrangement which had been newly introduced,

and see it so as to be induced to take advantage of it. On another occasion

his language was, “That all the Gentiles might hear.” (II Timothy 4:17)

In both cases it is the language of enthusiasm. It was the burning desire of

his heart, to make all men see, that made him go (not without hardships)

from land to land. He was not free to settle down in any one place. When he

had established a center of gospel light in Ephesus, he must go elsewhere.

The world was a dark place, and he must establish as many centers of light

at suitable points in it as God would enable him to establish during his

appointed course.





ü      More immediately men having demonstrated to them the Divine

sovereignty. “Which from all ages hath been hid in God who created all

things.” It is because He has created all things that He has the disposal of

all things. There is nothing whatever which He cannot bend to His will. It

was in the exercise of His sovereignty that, at the beginning of the ages,

He did not reveal the whole breadth of His purpose. It lay hid in Himself.

And for ages His ways were dark, in the great majority of men being left

to their own natural ignorance and inability. During these ages He rested

in His own thoughts regarding men, in His own reasons of procedure, in

His own ways of working. But there was mystery. The largeness of His

purpose was sovereignly hid under a cloud until, with the coming of

Christ and the preaching of the gospel to all men, it clearly burst forth.


ü      Angels seeing by the Church the manifold wisdom of God. “To the

intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly

places might be made known through the Church the manifold wisdom

of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in

Christ Jesus our Lord.” The Church is the community of which, as is

said in the first chapter, Christ is the Head. The interest in this

community is here represented as extending to the angels. They are here

designated on the side of their power and rank as the principalities and 

the powers. In Psalm 103 it is said, “Ye His angels, that excel in

strength.”  In what relation rank or dominion is ascribed to them, we

have not the means of knowing, as we have not the survey of the

heavenly world which they, it is here implied, have of the earthly world.

But we are to understand the apostle, in the loftiness of his thought,

seizing upon this as being to the honor of the Church, that it attracts the

attention of the inhabitants of “the heavenly places”those who have

never known any other habitation, who, from the first moment of their

being, have lived in the presence of God. They have been contemporaries

of man during all his history. For when the earth was framed “the

morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy.”

(Job 38:7)  We are to think of them as witnessing man’s innocence

and fall, and as being made acquainted with the introduction of

grace in the promise. And the Law (which had a separating side) was by

the disposition of angels.” (Acts 7:53)  And angels very signally

heralded the Savior’s birth. But it was not for our sakes alone that they

were thus connected with our history. It would seem that, though in the

heavenly places, they had but a limited knowledge of redemption. They

had not foreknowledge; they had to wait like us for the development of

events. What was mystery to us (as to the including of the Gentiles)

was mystery to them also, being hidden to both in God. They were at

a loss to understand what the development of things under the gospel

was to be. But they were taught by the events. Now through the Church

was made known the manifold wisdom of God. The Church was not to

be instructress, but rather material for instruction by God in the subject

of His manifold wisdom. There was material to be found elsewhere,

in which the angels delighted to study the manifold wisdom of

God. It was when the worlds were brought forth into space that they

shouted for joy. What a field was that opened up for their contemplation!

“O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them

all.” (Psalm 104:24)  The simple idea of a house is that which has walls,

and door, and windows, and roof; but into what manifoldness, what

richness of structure, may that be drawn out by the creative mind of the

architect! An architect’s work is manifold in proportion to the

multiplicity of the parts, and to the variety he can introduce into these;

and his skill is seen in his combining these parts, in all their multiplicity

and variety, into a unity. What multiplicity of parts has God to deal with

in the material structure of things! and what variety He introduces, so

that no leaf is exactly like another! (nor any two snowflakes, nor any

fingerprints of humans, etc.  - CY - 2019) and how there are not only

adaptations which can be made a study of by themselves (as a column,

or bit of tracery on it, may be made a study of), but these are

comprehended in wider adaptations, and so all-comprehensive

is the Divine thought that there is in the result no confusion

but the highest simplicity! That is one sphere for the display of

MANIFOLD WISDOM!   We may expect greater manifoldness as we

rise higher. What a manifoldness in the life of rational beings!

“And God,” says Leibnitz, “has the qualities of a good Governor as

well as of a great Architect.” It may be supposed that the angels will

first contemplate the manifold wisdom of God in themselves, in their

high and varied endowments, in the way in which their eternal well-

being has been secured to them without their having to pass through

the experience of sin, and in the part assigned to each and to all in the

great plan. Is he not called the Lord of hosts, as marshaling the

innumerable army of angels? They have a manifoldness far

beyond our conception, and yet He can dispose of them as easily as an

officer can do with a small section of an army. He calls them, as He calls

the stars, by their names (Psalm 147:4); not one is overlooked, not one

out of place. (We hear of people that are so neat that "not one hair is out

of place!  God knows the number of our hairs on our head."  Matthew

10:30; Luke 12:7; CY - 2019)  The manifold wisdom of God is also to be

seen in the way in which the billions of men on the earth are dealt with

at one moment. The problem here has been complicated by the

entrance of sin. Manifold are the phases of sin, and manifold are the

methods by which He seeks to dislodge men out of their sin. But this

manifold problem of the world of mankind is mastered by Him more

easily than the problems of a single household is mastered by us. But

it is in the Church that there is to be seen conspicuously the manifold

wisdom of God. And, in the first place, it is to be seen in that general

point regarding the Church which the apostle has been considering, viz.

the including of the Gentiles after they had been so long excluded. It

may seem that the exclusion of any from the privileges of the Church

was a reflection on the Divine wisdom. Was it not sacrificing

their interests that an effort was not made for their salvation along with

that of others? But the problem was far more manifold than that. If there

had been a comprehension of all nations all along, the result would

probably have been the extinction of religion. We are not to think that

Christ could have come, and His gospel be promulgated, at any time.

If the gospel dispensation had been introduced at the time of the

election of Abraham, we may suppose it would have been thrown away.

He with whom a thousand years are as one day had to look to, not the

greatest good of men then, but to the greatest good of men to all time.

And so He ordained a long period of preparation, both negative in

bringing out what men could not do, and positive in the way of teaching

by type and providential dealing. And He did not bring Christ into the

world until He saw how His truth could get a firm hold, and be proclaimed

wide to the nations. And though the gospel has yet much to do, it is in

such a position that it cannot now be lost. But this was only part of a

wider purpose. “According to the eternal purpose which He purposed

in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We have to bring in the whole purpose of

God regarding the Church. This purpose He purposed in eternity.

It was a purpose running through the ages. In Christ He saw the Church

in the completeness of its idea, in the whole of its development. And,

with this clear before His mind, He could patiently wait through the

ages for the fuller unfolding of His purpose. As Christ is called the

Wisdom of God, so we may expect to see in His Church a wisdom

manifold as Himself. What an element in the scheme of redemption,

that the Redeemer was a Divine Being in human nature! How justice

and mercy are reconciled in His cross! How sin is forgiven while God

at the same time manifests Hhis detestation of it! How manifold are the

ways by which men are brought into the Church! What THE FINAL
is to be is very much a mystery to us,

as it is doubtless to the angels. But we stand in this position that, in

what has been exhibited to us already of the manifold wisdom of God,

we can look hopefully forward to THE FINAL RECONCILIATION!



we have boldness and access in confidence through our faith in Him.”

Christ was the Object of their faith. Realizing by faith what He was, the

provision made by Him, the great love He bore to them, they had the spirit

of sons. In Galatians 3:26 it is said, “Ye are the children of God by faith

in Christ Jesus.” That is, we have the position of children. Here the thought

is, we have the disposition of children.


ü      The spirit of boldness. They had a free, joyous mood, as having an

interest in Christ. They were delivered from the fear of wrath. They were

not of the number of those who, through fear of death, were all their

lifetime subject to bondage.  (Hebrews 2:15)


ü      In nearness to God (in the God-Man) they had the spirit of confidence.

They had that confidence restored to them which Adam lost. They had

the confidence to which Paul elsewhere gives lofty expression: “For I

am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities,

nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor

depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the

love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 8:38-39)



“Wherefore I ask that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which are

your glory.” He supposes that they would be concerned for his tribulations,

as endured for them. How was the cause of Christ to be carried forward,

when so principal an instrument was lying a prisoner in Rome? But he

would have them not to faint, bringing forward the consideration that these

tribulations of his were their glory. If he had proved unfaithful to their

interests, and withdrawn from persecutions, that would have been a

discrediting of him as a discrediting of the Founder of the Church, and they

might in that case have been tempted to despair of Christianity. But, as he

had stood true to them in the face of persecutions, that brought them

honor, and was fitted to have a confirming, elevating effect on them as a





                        Aspects of the True Gospel Ministry (vs. 1-13)


“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye

have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to

you-ward: how that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (as

I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my

knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made

known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles

and. prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of

the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel:

whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God

given unto me by the effectual working of His power. Unto me, who am

less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach

among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men

see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the

world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the

intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might

be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the

eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we

have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. Wherefore I

desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.”

Homiletically, this whole passage, in which there are many digressions and

involved utterances, may be regarded as exhibiting a true gospel minister

in three aspects:


  1. as the subject of vicarious suffering,
  2. the recipient of Divine ideas, and
  3. as the messenger of redemptive mercy.


·         THE SUBJECT OF VICARIOUS SUFFERING. Paul speaks of himself

as a prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,” and in the thirteenth verse

he says, my tribulations for you.” As an apostle, Paul’s sufferings were

great; elsewhere he gives a brief catalogue of them (II Corinthians 11:21-33);

but all his great sufferings as an apostle were vicarious they were for the

men he endeavored to help. “All for you Gentiles.” We offer three remarks

concerning his vicarious sufferings, as a true gospel minister.


ü      They were intense. What agony of mind is involved in the expression,

“For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren,

my kinsmen according to the flesh”!  (Romans 9:3)  This means

such an agonizing desire for the salvation of men as would prompt the

most terrible sacrifices to accomplish it. (The great thing about this is that

it was unnecessary since Christ did the suffering for all mankind!  CY –

2019)  In another place he represents his state of mind as a parturition



Ø      “I travail in birth again.” (Galatians 4:19)

Ø      Again, “I suffer trouble, as an evil-doer, even unto bonds.”

      (II Timothy 2:9)

Ø      And again he says, “I endure all things for the elect’s sake,

      that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus”

(ibid. v. 10).


Every true gospel minister knows something of this intense spiritual

suffering for others. What solicitudes, disappointments, wrestlings of

soul has he! So intense was the desire even of Moses for the good of

others, that he said, If thou wilt forgive their sins — and if not,

blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written”

(Exodus 32:32).


ü      They were voluntary. Human society is so organized that a certain

amount of vicarious suffering comes on all men, irrespective of their

choice, and even contrary to their choice. The innocent suffer for the

guilty, children suffer on account of the sins of their parents. The present

generation groans under the burdens of the past. But the vicarious

sufferings of Paul, as a minister, were voluntary, he entered into them

freely. The love of Christ “constrained” him to put himself in the place of

suffering men, and to feel with them and for them. (II Corinthians 5:14)

Hence he says, Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended,

and I burn not?”  (ibid. ch.11:29).


ü      They were Christ-like. Whilst there are points which mark the vicarious

sufferings of Christ, both in their nature and amount, from the vicarious

sufferings of those of His ministers, yet there are points of agreement which

are worthy of our notice. That such correspondence exists is suggested by

the similarity of Scripture-language by which both are set forth. Both are

represented as endured for sinners and in order to effect their salvation.

Indeed, Paul speaks of his whole life as a sacrifice (Philippians 2:17).

Two points of analogy are especially worthy of remark.


Ø      Both partook of intense grief on account of human sins. Christ’s grief

on account of sin was intense, agonizing, and fathomless in amount.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, ......how often would I have gathered

thy children together....and ye would not.” (Matthew 23:37)  Paul

participated to some extent in this feeling. “Of whom I tell you even

weeping, they are enemies of the cross of Christ.” (Philippians 3:18)

In truth, the vicarious sufferings of all genuine ministers partake of

this. Even those of the Old Testament felt it. Jeremiah says, “Oh that

my eyes were fountains of waters” (Jeremiah 9:1) and the psalmist,

“I beheld the way of transgressors, and was grieved.”  (Psalm 119:158)


Ø      Both partook of an intense anxiety for man’s salvation. To restore man

to the knowledge, image, and fellowship of God was the one great

object of Christ. For this He labored, for this he agonized, bled,

and died. This was Paul’s great aim. For though I be free from all

men, yet have I made myself a servant unto all, that I might gain

the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain

the Jews; to them that are under the Law, as under the Law, that

I might gain them that are under the Law; to them that are without

Law, as without Law (being not without Law to God, but under the

Law to Christ), that I might gain them that are without Law.

To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am

made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some”

(I Corinthians 9:19-22). And in another place he says, “I please all

men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of

many, that they may be saved” (ibid. ch. 10:33). Now, my position

is that this intense, voluntary, Christ-like, vicarious suffering, not

only ever characterizes the history of every genuine minister of Christ,

but is an essential qualification for the office. Paul felt that his great

efficiency in the work depended upon his proximation to Christ in

the amount of His vicarious sufferings. What else did he mean when

he said, I Paul rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that

which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his

body’s sake, which is the Church” (Colossians 1:24).


·         THE RECIPIENT OF DIVINE IDEAS. “By revelation he hath made

known to me the mystery,” etc. The gospel truths which Paul had to

proclaim to the Gentiles were not derived from any human source. They

were not the deductions of his own reason or the intuitions of his own soul,

but they were revealed to him by God. “I never received it of man,” said

he, “neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ”

(Galatians 1:12; see Acts 16.). We have an account of this revelation

given by Paul himself. It is the glory of man that he can receive ideas

from the great God Himself. He has what no other creature under

heaven has the capacity to take in the thoughts of THE INFINITE! 

It is essential to a true minister that he does this. He cannot offer any

spiritual help to humanity unless he does so. His own ideas have no

power to help his race. The ideas to enlighten, elevate, and bless souls

MUST COME FROM GOD!   Hence what Paul gave to the Gentiles, he

tells us, came by revelation. Three remarks are suggested by the passage in

relation to the idea.


ü      It had been long hidden. He calls it the mystery: “The mystery which in

other ages was not made known.” It was a mystery not in the sense of

incomprehensibility, but in the sense of undiscoveredness. It had been

unrevealed, and therefore unknown to past generations. The whole

gospel was once a mystery; it was in the mind of God as an idea

unrevealed to the universe.


ü      It was very grand. The particular idea to which the apostle here refers is

this, that the Gentiles were to partake of the salvation of the gospel, and

to be united in one body with the Jews. “That the Gentiles should be

fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in

Christ by the gospel.” (v. 6)  Grand idea this! That the poor Gentiles

should become:


Ø      “heirs” of the same inheritance as the Jews —

Ø       members of the same great spiritual “body” as the Jews —

Ø      partakers of the same great promise as the Jews.


The idea that Paul had from God was the uniting of all the races in the

world in one great spiritual confederation.


ü      It was exceedingly ancient. “From the beginning of the world it hath

been hidden in God.” Such was the idea that Paul tells us had been

revealed to him and to the holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

Every true gospel minister is the recipient of Divine ideas.



himself here as the “minister” of the things that have been revealed to him.

“Whereof I was made a minister,” etc. What he received he had to

communicate. The passage indicates several things concerning a true

messenger of redemptive mercy.


ü      The Divine designation to the office.I was made a minister, according

to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of

His power.” The office of a true minister is a gift of grace — a gift of

grace, which comes to the soul by the effectual working of God’s power.

Paul felt that he became a messenger of these truths, not by his own ]

seeking or merit, but by the grace of God. Nor by his own native

inclination, but by the effectual working of God’s power, referring,

undoubtedly, to the Divine energy in his conversion. Every man must

experience this Divine energy before he can become a true messenger

of redemptive mercy. God must work in him before He can work by him.


ü      The humble spirit of the office. “Unto me, who am less than the least of

all saints, is this grace given.” The expression means, who am

incomparably the least of all the saints, who am not worthy to be

reckoned amongst them. The memory of his past conduct and the solemn

grandeur of the work to which he was called deeply impressed him with

the sense of his own unworthiness. Humility is essential to this great

work; it is when a man feels his weakness that he is truly strong in the

ministry of truth. A deep sense of our own insufficiency is essential to

make us sufficient for this of all offices the most grand and momentous.

He who feels himself the “least of all saints” will become the greatest

of all preachers.


ü      The grand subject of the office. What is the great theme of the gospel

preacher? Scientific facts, philosophic speculations, theological theories?

No; “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” The word unsearchable

occurs in only one other place in the New Testament (Romans 11:33),

where it is rendered “past finding out.” Past finding out, not so much

in the sense of mystery, as in the sense of inexhaustibleness. It is an

ocean whose depths are unfathomable, and whose breadth and length

stretch into the infinite. These unsearchable riches” of Christ, unlike

material riches, are:


Ø      soul-satisfying,

Ø      man-ennobling,

Ø      ever-enduring.


ü      The enlightening character of the office. “To make all men see what is

the fellowship of the mystery.” The idea is to enlighten all in respect to

God’s redemptive mercy, the Gentiles as well as the Jews. The work of

a true gospel minister is to make men see Divine things, to bring them

before their eyes, and to induce them to look earnestly and steadily

upon them.


ü      The angelic bearing of the office.To the intent that now unto the

principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the

Church the manifold wisdom of God.” Several thoughts are implied

in this passage.


Ø      That there are in the universe a gradation of angelic intelligences.

“Principalities and powers in heavenly places.”


Ø      That it is of great importance that they should study the manifold

wisdom of God.


Ø      That the Christian Church affords them a grand opportunity for

studying this glorious subject. The Church is the effect, the

manifestation, and the organ of God’s manifold or diversified wisdom.


Ø      That the use of the Church for this object was according to the eternal

plan of God. According to the eternal purpose which He purposed

in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


ü      The high privileges of the office. “In whom we have boldness and access

with confidence by the faith of Him.”The accumulation of substantives

in this sentence,” says Hedge, “boldness, access, confidence, shows that

there was no word which could express what Paul felt in view of the

complete reconciliation of men to God through the mediation of

Jesus Christ.” The privileges of a true gospel minister, as indicated

in vs. 12, 13, are:


Ø      Free and fearless access to the great God.

Ø      Divine support under the various trials of life. “Wherefore I desire

      that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory”


 Paul was now a prisoner at Rome, and. yet he felt that inward

support which enabled him to exhort the saints at Ephesus not to faint or

be disheartened on his account. Such in brief is the view which this passage

presents of a true gospel minister. He is:


Ø      a man of vicarious suffering,

Ø      a recipient of Divine ideas,

Ø      a messenger of redemptive mercy.


Where are the preachers that answer to this sketch? Let such men fill our

pulpits, and the conversion of England/the United States will not be far

distant; and when all England/the United States becomes a true Church,

the whole world will speedily be won to Christ.




                        Prayer for the Ephesians Spiritual Enrichment (vs. 14-21)


14  “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,”

For this cause. Seeing that the Gentiles have now equal privileges with the Jews;

seeing that by faith in Christ Gentile Christians have been brought as near to God,

and have as good a right to the good things of the covenant; — I take the

steps now to be specified for enabling them actually to possess these good

things. On the one hand, the apostle saw the believing Ephesians still

comparatively poor and needy; on the other hand, he saw all spiritual

stores provided for them: the question was how to get the one into contact

with the other. For this cause, he says, I bow my knees unto the Father.

An emphatic way of denoting prayer; but not incidental, occasional prayer,

inspired by some passing feeling; the attitude “bow my knees” denotes

deliberate prayer (compare Daniel 6:10), making a business of it,

approaching God with reverence and holy fear, with all the solemnities

suitable to the occasion of making a specific and important request. In the

Authorized Version. it is “unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The

Revised Version, some of the oldest manuscripts, and most recent commentators

omit the latter words, which are supposed to have been taken from ch.1:3. On

internal grounds, the omission of the words seems to yield the best sense,

for in ch. 2:18 our having access to “the Father” is spoken of,

and when the apostle proceeded to show how he availed himself of that

privilege, he is not likely to have used more than that expression. Further,

there is such a close connection between πατέραpatera - Father and πατριὰ -

and  patria - family  - that they are not likely to have been far separated as

the apostle used them.



                                    The Universal Fatherhood of God (v. 14)




ü      God is the Source of our being. He has not only created us as He has

created the rocks. We are not manufactured, but begotten by God. He