Exposition of Ephesians (03) - The Cosmic Purpose (Eph. 3)

Date: 7/29/2018
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Paul the Prisoner (1-3) - Paul became a prisoner on the very occasion of bringing an Ephesian, Trophimus, into Jerusalem. Paul was falsely accused of bringing him into the inner court of the temple (Acts 21:29). By the time of this letter, he had been imprisoned for about five years (likely, in Rome, Acts 28). Strikingly, he did not consider himself a prisoner of the Romans, but of King Jesus, since Paul was serving Him for the sake of reaching the Gentiles. “He trusted completely in the sovereignty of God. He considered his circumstances to be in the will of God so that the gospel could be spread to the Gentiles “ (Anders, Holman). Paul had been called as a “steward” (oikonima) of grace, entrusted with reaching the Gentiles. This is an office of administrating is “‘Oikonomia’ = ‘Covenant’” (Lincoln, WBC). The apostles were a demonstration of God’s covenant faithfulness to send light to the nations, as ambassadors of Yahweh’s covenant fidelity through King Jesus (cf. 2Cor. 5:20-21; Acts 13:47). “I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations.” (Is. 42:6). To Paul was (now) revealed the mystery of the One Body of Christ, Jews and Gentiles, to fulfill Abraham’s promised blessing to “all the families of the earth” (Gen. 12; Eph. 2:11ff). Here Paul begins a digression, as indicated by the fact that there is no verb after for the main clause, “I Paul . . . for the sake of you Gentiles —“ . . . the verb comes in 3:14, “I bow my knees” (to pray). Paul saw his vocation as including imprisonment, what aspects of your calling require your perseverance in tribulations?

Paul the Praiser (4-13) - Thus from 2:2-13, Paul is extolling God because of His now revealed mystery (mysterion) of Christ’s Body. It was not understood in previous generations (3:5), though various hints were in the covenants and prophets of the OT (Gen. 12; Is. 11, 40-65; Dan. 7:14; Zech. 2:11). Given the rigid division between Jews and Gentiles, Jews did not expect Gentiles qua (as) Gentiles to be saved without proselyte conversion/circumcision. Christian Jews were teaching, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1). This “Judaizer Controversy” occupies much space in the NT. God’s mystery plan has been revealed now to apostles and prophets of the new covenant in the Spirit. This began with Peter and Cornelius, as well as the church in Antioch (Acts 10, 11:20). This merging of the two “in one Body” (2:16) consists in three blessings: Gentiles are fellow-heirs, fellow-members, and fellow-partakers with Israel (as also explained in ch. 2). They will receive with believing Jews, the inheritance of the Abrahamic covenant; they are equal in membership in the Body/Church; they are equal in communion at the Table and table-fellowship (Gal. 2:12) through promises fulfilled in Jesus. He also defines the goal of this revealed mystery of a united Multi-Ethnic Church: that God’s multi-colored (polupoikilos) wisdom may be made known to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places, probably both good angel ranks, as well malevolent ones, the “cosmic powers” (MacDonald, Sacra), whom “Christ has defeated. . . through his death on the cross. Consequently, they no longer have any control or authority over humankind; believers share in that victory by virtue of their faith in Christ and by virtue of their union with his death and resurrection in baptism (Col. 2:20) “(Patzia, NIBC). This all came through King Jesus and His redemptive work. The import of Gentile participation in the originally Abrahamic promises is the inclusion of children (infant baptism and communion), eschatological [postmillennial/new creation] inheritance (“heir of the world” Rom. 4:13, Eph. 6:1-4), as well as no future estate (premillennial) in which this “fellow-heir” status reverts back to old covenant separations. Do you rejoice in God’s grand design to unite heaven and all earthly nations in King Jesus?

Paul the Prayer Warrior (14-21) - Finally in 3:14, Paul resumes his report of prayer for the Ephesians. It is notable that his metaphor for prayer is kneeling, rather than standing (cf. Mk. 11:25; Lk. 18:11, 13). “Kneeling in the ancient world could signify subordination, servility, or worship, as well as being the posture of a suppliant before the gods” (Lincoln, WBC). Paul’s prayer, both in posture and content is filled with worship of the living God. He describes God as Father of every family (patria) in earth and heaven. He literally “named the name of them” or named and determined each of them to exist (Gen. 1:20; Acts 17:26). “By the patria on earth are doubtless meant the nations, with the<

Gregg Strawbridge Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as receive a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more