New Defender's Study Bible Notes
3:3 revelation. Paul frequently asserted that his preaching and writing concerning the person and work of Christ, while often quoting Old Testament Scriptures in support thereof, nevertheless had also come to him by specific divine revelation. Note, for example, such passages as I Corinthians 2:13 and Galatians 1:11-12.
3:3 wrote afore. Paul may have written an earlier letter to the Ephesians, of which we have no record. This assertion may also suggest, on the other hand, that his previous epistles to other churches were already being circulated among the different churches and recognized as inspired and authoritative messages from God.
3:4 mystery. The term “mystery” in New Testament times was familiarly associated with the “mystery religions” of the Graeco/Roman world. The initiates in these cults were given access to the pantheistic and occultistic secrets of the spirit world, which were hidden from ordinary adherents of those cults. These secrets were popularly practiced in the polytheistic idolatry devoted to various gods and goddesses representing the different forces and systems of nature. Christ and the apostles adapted the term to refer to God’s plans which previously had been kept secret from His people in earlier dispensations, except in types and shadows, but were now being revealed in all their fullness and grandeur. In Ephesians the term “mystery” is used several times (e.g., Ephesians 1:9; 3:3,4,9; 5:32; 6:19). In this particular passage, it refers to the uniting of both Jewish and Gentile believers in one great body in Christ. This theme is especially developed in Ephesians 2:11-22 and Ephesians 3:6-11. But note also that the “fellowship” of this mystery includes all of those contemplated by God from the creation itself (Ephesians 3:9).
3:5 revealed. Note Ephesians 2:20. The foundation of the great house of God was laid by the apostles and prophets by means of divinely inspired revelation culminating in the New Testament Scriptures. Once that Scriptural foundation was laid, of course, it did not have to continue to be laid. Consequently, the gifts of apostleship and prophecy were ended with the completion of the New Testament, and John, the last apostle, warns against any such future claims (Revelation 22:18-19). The superstructure of the house is now being erected, with each new believer being added to the building by the Holy Spirit when he or she receives Christ by faith (Ephesians 2:19-22; I Peter 2:2-5).