Ephesians 3:4
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 -

I. 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.


1. 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, but he is emphatically so as "Christ the Hope of glory" for the Gentiles (Colossians 1:27).

2. 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.

3. 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."

4. 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.

(1) 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 inheritance.

(2) 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.

(3) 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." 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 el mankind. - T.C.

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.

1. That it was a reserve of grace. What belongs to grace can never be demanded by justice.

2. That the proper appreciation of Divine grace required a preliminary education of the race.

3. That the Author of universal salvation could alone judge of the fitting time for declaring it.

4. Although new in manifestation, God's saving purpose was eternal.

II. ITS JUSTIFICATION BY RESULTS. Religious exclusiveness, race hatred, etc., had done their work, and men were weary of the evils they entailed. A distinctly new interest and attraction was given to the gospel by this element in its proclamations. By the very contradiction and dishonour to human nature which had accrued from their rivalries and contempts, men were enabled to appreciate the grandeur and blessing of a universal religion, given, not in word merely, but in a distinctly new experience, to man as man. And to all who heard it it came with a peculiar authority from the very fact that it had not grown out of experience or speculation as a word of man, but had had to be revealed as the word of God.

(A. F. Muir, M. A.)

The reserve which God used for thousand years after thousand years, should suggest to us caution in limiting the purpose of God. God has doubtless unspeakable things still in reserve. The Jewish people were made to feel that there was an awful distance and separation between them and God; but of His nearness to them, under their distance and darkness, they had little suspicion. That the condemning power of sin was the condition of their own nature, that God's whole heart was towards all nations, that He was resolved, by the Sun of His love, to break through the sin cloud between Himself and them, and to establish with them direct relationship, were more than they could imagine. That, before the foundation of the world, the Son of God had made the difficulty of sin His own, that in the fulness of time, He would come in human nature, to be made sin for men, purge away their sin by His death, and by His glorification become wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption unto all who should receive Him, were impossible conceptions to them. But the special conceit of their self-love was, that they, of all men, were the favourites of God. When, therefore, God disclosed the fact that He is "no respecter of persons" — that the Gentile world is as dear to Him as the Jewish — that the gospel of His heart is equally for all nations, the Jew took offence, and refused to enter a kingdom, which gave to him no distinction above other men.

(J. Pulsford.)

Seeing that reading is so beneficial, we must be exhorted to set apart some time to spend this way. We are so affected to the writings of our friends, that if a letter come in when we are about to sit down, we will not taste anything till we have read it. These writings are the letter of God to us. If we have anything bequeathed as in some will, we will have, if not all the will, yet the clause of it perfectly in memory and at our fingers' ends. These things written are God's testament, which we cannot without great indignity neglect. Again, why do you desire gold and silver, but because it is so valuable that it will purchase any earthly commodity? Yet what is that in comparison of the Word, which together with the Spirit worketh unto life everlasting? If any of you should this day, walking by himself, hear the voice of God break out of heaven, he would be astonished at the hearing, and perhaps he would easily be persuaded that he should ponder every syllable. But this Word is as great and as much. In this thou hast God speaking by Himself, by men, by angels, by all means to draw thee unto Him. Wherefore, if thou art desirous to hear God speak (as I think some curious spirits are), thou hast Moses and the prophets, the written will of God, which convey God speaking to thee daily. Again, is there any that hopes to gain lands and possessions, and will not acquaint himself with the evidences which may lead him thereunto? In the written Word lies the great grant of that blessed land promised to Abraham and his seed, and from thence how it is entailed unto us of the Gentiles. Naturally we all desire knowledge, as the blind man deprived of his sight; how from the Word flows all knowledge as the river from the seas, and enriches the mind with a quick and sharp capacity. Lastly, we desire to hear tell of strange things: what more strange than to read of that celestial palace beyond the stars, called Paradise, and of the glory thereof? What more strange than to hear tell of the Father of spirits, and all the host of heaven, angels and saints? to hear tell in like manner of the place of darkness and shadow of death, of the prince thereof and his attendants? If all this will not provoke thee to this duty, humble thyself, suspect thyself of some gross iniquity which fills thy stomach to the full.

(Paul Bayne.)

We know not Christ aright till we are conformed to what we know of Him. The pure in heart see the pure and holy God. When the lady said to Mr. Turner (the painter), "Sir, I have seen that spot many times, but I never saw that which you have pictured." "No, ma'am," he replied, "I dare say you have not; but don't you wish you could?" The artist's eye sees what another eye cannot, and the pure in heart can see in God what no one else can see, because they are like to God.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

My own experience is that the Bible is dull when I am dull. When I am really alive, and set in upon the text with a tidal pressure of living affinities, it opens, it multiplies discoveries, and reveals depths even faster than I can note them. The worldly spirit shuts the Bible; the Spirit of God makes it a fire, flaming out all meanings and glorious truths.

(Horace Bushnell, D. D.)

1. God does not in all ages give the same measure of light to His Church.

2. By degrees He revealed the Messiah to His people.

3. The whole will of God is made known to us.

(1)How foolish are those who will believe no more than their fathers believed.

(2)How thankful should we be, that we have so much greater light than those under the law.

4. Since Christ came to declare to us the will of God, we have the mystery of salvation more fully opened; we must therefore yield the greater obedience.

5. The things of God are revealed to us by the Spirit. Let us then seek His aid —

(1)By prayer.

(2)By attendance on the Word and Sacraments.

(3)By a Christian course of obedience.

(Paul Bayne.)

Biblical Treasury.
Varro, a Roman writer of the first century B.C. states, that, in his day, he had been at the pains to collect the various opinions on the question, "What is the true object of human life?" in other words, "What is the supreme good?" He had reckoned up as many as three hundred and twenty answers. How needful is Divine revelation l And how essential to those who are starting in life, that a heavenly guide should teach them the true end and purpose of earthly existence!

(Biblical Treasury.)

I was visited by a very distinguished young Israelite who had seen me distributing the sacred volume, and I proposed that we should read a portion of Scripture together. He agreed, on the condition that it should be from the Old Testament, and I read the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. "But," said he, "that is in the New Testament." "No, no," I replied. "There, take the book. Read it with that true heart which I perceive in you, and you will find what you seek." He has found his Saviour, has accepted Him, and confesses Him with joy.

(Pasteur Hirsch.)

Charles G. Finney used to discover that sometimes his preaching was mighty in its influence to convict and convert sinners. At other times he seemed to be firing only blank cartridges. The results depended entirely upon his own spiritual condition, upon his nearness to or his absence from God. When he was in close communion with God the currents of power were mighty and irresistible. When his connection with the Lord ceased, either through unbelief or unworthy living, his lifting power was gone. Drawing nigh to God was invariably the most effectual way to draw the impenitent.

(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

1. The condition to which it is God's intention that the Gentiles should be brought.(1) They should be joint heirs with Christ.(2) They should be of the same body with Christ and His Church; for first we must become beloved children in Christ the Beloved, before we can be inheritors.(3) They should be partakers of the promise; for by faith in the word of promise, we come to have fellowship with Christ.

2. The means. "By the gospel." It is the gospel which brings us to faith, and to our heavenly inheritance.(1) We are not to be discouraged from following the Word;

(a)either by the unworthiness of the preachers;

(b)or by the consciousness of our own unworthiness;

(c)or by our not profiting to our mind.(2) Ministers must not give over preaching;

(a)either upon conceit of their ignorance;

(b)or of the small good they see come of it;

(c)or for want of feeling in themselves the power of what they preach;

(d)or upon sense of temptations contrary to it.

(Paul Bayne.)

One incident gives high proof of the native generosity of Turner's nature. He was one of the Hanging Committee, as the phrase goes, of the Royal Academy. The walls were full when Turner's attention was attracted by a picture sent in by an unknown provincial artist by the name of Bird. "A good picture!" he exclaimed; "it must be hung up and exhibited." "Impossible!" responded the committee of academicians. "The arrangement cannot be disturbed. Quite impossible!" "A good picture," iterated Turner; "it must be hung up"; and finding his colleagues to be as obstinate as himself, he hitched down one of his own pictures, and hung up Bird's in its place. Would to God that in far more instances the like spirit ruled among servants of the Lord Jesus. The desire to honour others and to give others a fair opportunity to rise should lead ministers of distinction to give place to less eminent men to whom it may be of essential service to become better known. We are not to look every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The topic of the early portion of the first chapter of this Epistle, is that good men have been the subjects of Divine thought and predestination in Christ from everlasting ages. The topic of the latter portion of the first chapter is, that their future destiny runs parallel throughout eternity with that of the Son of God, raised from the dead and glorified. The subject of the second chapter and the early portion of the third, is the close union of believing Jews and Gentiles in all this grace and glory forever. It is worth while to describe the state of things between Jews and heathen in the days of the apostles, and to show the bearing of those facts on the present and future position of the Israelites in the world.

1. Let us, then, note first, that in former ages God had established a discipline of marvellous complexity for the separation of the Abrahamic people.(1) They were thus separated from the nations, in order that they might be delivered from the contamination of surrounding paganism, and might preserve in ever-increasing strength a zeal for their own religion, which was, so far as it went, the only true one on earth.(2) The object of their separation was to enable them to transmit with intensity the rays of that lighthouse of truth, placed on the heights of Zion, over the dark and troubled sea of surrounding paganism, so that the nations might more effectually learn the verities which Judaism enshrined.(3) Their separation was a necessary preliminary for a future mission as the missionaries and evangelists of the whole world.

2. The next point to notice is that the Hebrew prophets, ages before the coming of Christ, had foretold that when the Messiah appeared this "middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles" would be broken down, so that all who served God would be brought into one church of the true worshippers (see Isaiah 2:2, 3; Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 51:5; Jeremiah 3:17; Zechariah 8:22).

3. But this mystery of the future worship of Jehovah to be rendered by united Jews and Gentiles was hidden from the eyes of the Jewish people until it was proclaimed and asserted by Christ (John 10:16).

4. Although the gospel of Jesus has established the spiritual union of all believing Jews and believing Gentiles in one spiritual Church, so that they form one body in Christ, still so long as the earth lasts, this spiritual union of Jew and Gentile has not abolished the nationality of the Jews, any more than it has annihilated the nationality of the Englishman, the Spaniard, the German, or the Dane.

(E. White.)

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