New Defender's Study Bible Notes
3:1 prisoner. Paul evidently wrote this epistle while he was imprisoned in Rome “for the hope of Israel” (Acts 28:20); he had been a prisoner ever since he was taken captive in Jerusalem (Acts 21:33) at the request of the Jewish leaders. For at least two years, however, he was given a certain amount of freedom (Acts 28:30), and it was probably during this time that he wrote this letter to the Ephesians.
3:2 dispensation. Dispensationalism has had both its advocates and opponents among Bible-believing Christians. The Greek word (oikonomia) translated “dispensation” actually means “stewardship” or “economy.” The number and nature of the various “dispensations” or “economies” through which God has dealt with mankind during the course of history has been the subject of considerable discussion and variation among commentators. There are two such “dispensations,” or divinely given religious systems, specifically mentioned as such in Scripture. The “dispensation of the grace of God” (Ephesians 3:2) seems clearly to refer to the order of this Christian age, especially revealed through Paul and characterized particularly by the preaching of the gospel of God’s saving grace as manifested in the person and work of Jesus Christ (note also I Corinthians 9:17; Colossians 1:25). The “dispensation of the fullness of times” (Ephesians 1:10) refers to the eternal age to come when Christ has been universally accepted as Creator, Redeemer and Lord of the whole universe (Colossians 1:20; Philippians 2:9-11). Other possible dispensations include the Edenic, antediluvian, postdiluvian, Mosaic, tribulational, and millennial dispensations.
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).
3:6 his promise in Christ. Thus Gentile believers of the New Testament can now share in all the gracious promises of God in the Old Testament except those directly concerned with the specific future of Israel as a nation. See also Galatians 3:14. It is therefore perfectly proper for Christians to claim and apply the wonderful blessings promised in the Psalms and Proverbs and other such passages for themselves.
3:7 gift. “Gift” is essentially the same Greek word as “grace” and “given” in Ephesians 3:7-8. Paul stresses not only the free grace of God in salvation but in granting particular gifts of the Spirit and particular calls to service to individuals of His choosing. The word “minister” in this verse (Greek diakonos, from which we get “deacon”) refers to service, not office.
3:9 fellowship. Genuine spiritual fellowship thus should be enjoyed by all to whom has now been revealed the great truth of creation—that God has always had a wonderful creative purpose for all His people, whether Jew or Gentile.
3:9 created all things. Here, as in many other passages (e.g., John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16-7; Hebrews 1:2), it is revealed that God the Creator is identical with Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate (John 1:14). Note that all things were both created by Jesus Christ and made by Jesus Christ (John 1:3)—that is, called into being out of nothing and then organized into complex, complete forms of being, each perfect for its particular purpose.
3:10 powers in heavenly places. This verse yields an amazing brief insight into God’s purposes with respect to His angelic creation, both the holy angels and the fallen angels who have followed Satan in his age-long rebellion against God. They are intently observing and learning about God, His nature and His purposes, through His work of creating and redeeming men and women, whom He had created in His image. Note also Job 1:3-2:10; I Peter 1:12; Hebrews 12:1. Thus “the church”—that is, the vast body of redeemed individuals, past and present—is serving as an instructor of angels, including the very angels who are currently assigned as our individual guardians and ministers. It is wonderful to contemplate being able to meet these angelic friends, person to person, in the age to come, when Christ returns with all His holy angels (II Thessalonians 1:7). We shall actually even judge the angels (I Corinthians 6:3).
3:12 access. Note also Ephesians 2:18, as well as Romans 5:2, Hebrews 4:16. Through the sacrifice of Christ and through receiving His gift of righteousness, we have access to God, in both daily prayer and eternal salvation.
3:15 whole family. The “whole family” can also be translated as “every family.” That is, each human family is authorized and identified in terms of the eternal Father who ordained and established the family as the basic unit of human society. The term may also be understood as embracing the uniting of Jews and Gentiles in Christ (Ephesians 2:18-19).
3:16 he. The prayer offered by Paul in Ephesians 3:16-19 is addressed to the Father (Ephesians 3:14) and concerns the indwelling of Christ by faith (Ephesians 3:17) and inner strengthening by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16). Thus all three Persons of the Godhead dwell in the heart of the believer (see also John 14:16-17,23), so that we can “be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:19).
3:16 strengthened. “Strengthened” in this verse is the same as “able” (or, better, “fully able”) in Ephesians 3:18.
3:18 breadth. The love of Christ is thus four-dimensional, with “depth” and height” considered as separate dimensions. Since the height of the universe is infinite (Isaiah 55:9), this suggests the time dimension too. “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love,” God says, “therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (Jeremiah 31:3).
3:20 able. This is one of several great ascriptions in the New Testament extolling the supreme ability of God on behalf of His people. He also “is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him” (Hebrews 7:25) and “able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). Note also Romans 16:25; Philippians 3:21.
3:20 power. The “power” in us is not that of our own strength, of course, but the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8, II Timothy 1:7).
3:21 in the church. The “church” consisting of all born-again believers in Christ will be an eternal entity, even though also composed of many unique individuals. See, e.g., Hebrews 12:23, where it is called “the general assembly and church of the firstborn;” it is also called “the glorious church,” which is the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:27; Revelation 21:9).
3:21 throughout all ages. There is evidently more than one age to come, but the succession of ages, however they may eventually be defined and revealed, will all be characterized by the “exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).