12/11/17 Ephesians 3:1-7 “Gentiles are equals of Jews in the Church”
Ephesians 3:1 – For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
gentiles – ethnos (a multitude of individuals of the same nature or genus; ethnic group; tribe; nation; pagans; Gentiles)
“For this cause (the building up of the saints into a holy temple in the Lord, a dwelling place of God) I, Paul, the prisoner (in bondage) for the service of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles ….”
We know that when Paul left Ephesus on his 3rd missionary journey (in about 58AD), he was not to see them again. Later that year, in Jerusalem, he entered the temple with 4 Jewish converts (probably Jewish Christians). However, even though these men were apparently entitled to enter the temple, the non-Christian Jews were highly critical of Paul because he had encouraged Gentiles (and even Jews who lived in Gentile nations) to forsake traditional laws such as circumcision.
Acts 21:21 – And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise [their] children, neither to walk after the customs.
This caused a riot which resulted in Paul appealing to Caesar and being transported to Rome as a prisoner. Thus, Paul may now say that he is a prisoner for the Gentiles to whom he is writing. For their sake he is in bonds.
Romans 11:13 – For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:
Ephesians 3:2 – If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
if – if; indeed; inasmuch; as; since. Has the sense of “if, as I suppose”.
heard – not deaf; understand; perceive the sense of what is said; comprehend.
dispensation – oikonomia (the management of a household and/or its affairs; stewardship; administration; dispensation)
“If (as I suppose; since) you have heard (understood the meaning) of the dispensing (administering; administration) of the grace of God which (that is, grace) is given to me to you-ward (for your sakes).”
This grace (the unmerited divine favour of God) relates to Paul being called to be the apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11:13).
This appears to be a gentle (probably ironic) reminder of that position to which Paul had been called on their behalf (as Gentiles).
Ephesians 3:3 – How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
How that – because; since
revelation – apokalypsis (revelation; laying bare; disclosure of truth; manifestation; appearance)
Galatians 1:11-12 – 11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught [it], but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
mystery – mysterion (mystery; hidden thing; secret; not obvious to the understanding; hidden purpose or counsel; of God: the secret counsels which govern God in dealing with the righteous, which are hidden from ungodly and wicked men but plain to the godly)
1 Corinthians 2:7 – But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, [even] the hidden [wisdom], which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
Romans 16:25-26a – 25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, 26 But now is made manifest,
as I wrote afore in few words – see Ephesians 1:9 – Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
And what was that mystery? Ephesians 1:10-14 – 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also [trusted], after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
Paul is clearly discussing a mystery which he clearly understood. Thus, it is not really a mystery in the way that the calvinists use it, for they use the word “mystery” to define that which is not meant to be clearly understood. (At times they will refer to this mystery as the secret or hidden counsel of their God, or hidden within the secret counsels of their God. Interestingly, the word “occult” means “secret” or “hidden”!)
In Romans 16:25-26 (see above), Paul states that the mystery, that has been kept secret since the world began, has now been revealed, made manifest (clear or obvious to the eye or mind). Paul is writing primarily to the Gentiles, so therefore his explanation of the mystery in Ephesians 1:10-14 will largely apply to the Gentiles.
Thus, the mystery here appears to be that the gospel of salvation, which had been a mystery to both Jew and non-Jew since the beginning, had now been revealed to them (the Gentiles). Paul goes on to say more about this mystery in the next 4 verses of today’s passage, especially Ephesians 3:6 – That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
That is, firstly Paul was made aware of this mystery: that the Gentiles would share (be partakers with) the Jews in the gospel of reconciliation, and that now he was sharing this mystery with them (in this case, the Gentiles, especially of Ephesus).
Note the significance of sympolites (fellow citizens with equal rights and privileges) in Ephesians 2:19. Also note where Paul is the one called to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.
Acts 9:15 – But the Lord said unto him (Ananias), Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
While some Gentiles had been saved before the following occurred, here we read of the putting aside of the Jews in favour of the Gentiles. That is, here the Gentiles actually take the place of the Jews for eternal life!
Acts 13:45-48 – 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life (eternal life), lo, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, [saying], I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
Notice that the same word for “eternal life” in Vs 48 is translated as “everlasting life” in Vs 46. However, if the two words are correctly read as meaning the same thing, then the Jews have given to the Gentiles the right to hear and respond to the gospel.
Ephesians 3:4 – Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
Whereby – With regard to; In accordance with which.
understand – have understanding; think upon; ponder; consider
knowledge – synesis (from syniemi – syn - two who are intimately connected with each other + hiemi – to send) The prefix syn denotes a synthesis but I am not certain what of. This word seems to be related to both intelligence and truth, thus an understanding of the truth.
“In accordance with which (that which I wrote before), when you read it you may understand (or ponder; consider) my knowledge (understanding of the truth) of the mystery (hidden counsel) of Christ.”
This appears to be emphasising the fact that Paul has obtained the understanding of this mystery from God and thus it must be considered to be an absolute truth. Probably it means that the truth of this mystery is not just the thinking of Paul alone, but in conjunction (synthesis) with the revelation of God.
2 Peter 1:16 – For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
Paul desires that they take what he is saying seriously; he wants them to understand that this revealed mystery is of great importance.
Ephesians 3:5 – 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;
other ages – another generation; other generations.
sons – offspring of man. Also: children of Israel; sons of Abraham; son of man; Son of God; sons or children of God.
men – anthropos (human being; all of mankind; people [when plural])
sons of men – generally refers to those belonging to mankind; could refer here to sons of Israel, or Abraham, David, etc.
revealed – apokalypto (uncover; lay open what has been covered up; disclose; make bare; make known; make manifest; disclose what was before unknown)
“For this mystery (that the Gentiles would be partakers of the gospel of reconciliation) was not made known to the people of Israel (nor to the rest of mankind) as (like) it is now revealed (uncovered; manifested)to his holy apostles and prophets by (in) the Spirit.” (This same phrase is translated as “in the Spirit” in Revelation 1:10)
holy apostles and prophets – 2 Peter 3:1-2 – 1 This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in [both] which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: 2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:
Ephesians 2:20 – And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner [stone];
Ephesians 3:6 – That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
This verse has 3 more of those syn words signifying a synthesis of parts into a homogenous (or homogeneous) whole. There is a lot of emphasis on many parts becoming one whole throughout Ephesians.
fellowheirs – sygkleronomos (fellow heir; joint heir; one who obtains something assigned to himself with others; joint participant) From syn + kleronomos – one who receives by lot; heir; one who receives his allotted possession by right of sonship.
Note that the same word is used to denote joint-heirship with Christ.
Romans 8:17 – And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with [him], that we may be also glorified together.
This word is only used 4 times in the New Testament.
the same body – syssomos (belonging to the same body (metaphorically the body of the Church) From syn + soma – body of man or animals; corpse; stars and planets; small or large groups of people in one society or family; the Church, the body of Christ. This word is only used here.
partakers – symmetochos (partaking together with each other; a joint partaker) From syn + metochos – sharing in; partaking in; a partner (in work, office, dignity).
The Gentiles are to be fellow-heirs of the promise in Christ, of the same body of the promise in Christ, and partakers of the promise in Christ, all though the gospel. This word is only used twice in the New Testament; the other time is in Ephesians 5:7.
Once again we get a strong emphasis on the unity of the Gentiles with the Jews. There just aren’t separate peoples within the Church, but all are one in Christ, regardless of ethnicity (a word that derives from ethnos = translated as Gentiles in the above verse).
In this verse the Gentiles are received into the fellowship of the Church as equals in every way of those who had been given the promise from long ago.
promise – announcement; promise; a promised good or blessing.
of his promise – of the promise, or of their (Jews) promise?
“That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs (joint heirs) and of the same body (the one body of the Church of Christ) and partakers (partaking together with each other) of the promise (originally given to the Jews alone) in Christ by (through) the gospel.”
Ephesians 3:7 – 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.
effectual working – energeia (effectual working or power; in the New Testament used only of superhuman power)
power – dynamis (strength; power; ability)
according to – kata, which is also translated “by” in this verse.
“Whereof (Of which, that is, the gospel) I was made a minister (diakonos – one who carries out the commands of another) according to the gift of grace of God given to me by (according to) the effectual working (energeia – effectual working or power) of His (God’s) power (dynamis).”
Note that the grace of God is not given by the effectual working of God’s power, but instead is given according to the effectual working of God’s power. That is, it is not given by means of God’s power, but according to the extent of God’s power. There is a definite difference in the meaning when “by” is given its correct translation “according to”.
While it is impossible to find faith being taught as a gift of God anywhere in the Bible, grace is definitely taught as a gift of God, in the verse above. Those (especially calvinists) who consider one of their life’s goals to try by all means to make faith a gift of God will find no joy in the plain clear reading of the Bible to support their false doctrine. If faith is to be a gift of God, then surely God would have told us so in His word! After all, other things are defined very clearly as gifts: eternal life (Romans 6:23); justification (Romans 5:16); righteousness (Romans 5:17).
We even have the gift of Christ (Ephesians 4:7), the gift of God 2 Timothy 1:6) and the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 2:4).
But nowhere does it say the gift of faith. It appears to say this in Ephesians 2:8 but the grammar cannot permit this. But the calvinists do not give up that easily!
MacArthur then says: Some have objected to this interpretation, saying that faith (pistis) is feminine, while that (touto) is neuter. That poses no problem, however, as long as it is understood that that does not refer precisely to the noun faith but to the act of believing.
Well, well, well! MacArthur does implicitly acknowledge that “that” cannot refer precisely to “faith. But, if “that” cannot refer to the noun “faith” because of the grammar, then why not re-translate “faith” as “the act of believing”? Now MacArthur is free to teach that “that” actually refers to “the act of believing”, which really means “faith”, thus “proving” that “that” really does refer to the word “faith”!?! The accuracy of the Bible is not important in the greater scheme of calvinist interpretations. So, if the Bible cannot say what you want it to say straight out, then just change a few words, add a little, take away a little, until you have the Bible saying exactly what you want it to say! What hypocrisy! Or should I say, what an oxymoron!
Another calvinist source takes a different twist to this. If grace is a gift (that’s true!) and if “faith” can be linked to “grace”, then while “that” cannot actually refer to “faith” on its own (because “faith” is a feminine noun), it can refer to both together! But we still have a problem, in that “grace” is also a feminine noun! Both are feminine nouns, so how can a neuter “that” refer to two feminine nouns? You’d think that if God meant both, He’d have made “that” a feminine pronoun!
Faith is a gift of the Lord to undeserving people, the outworking of God’s electing grace and the atonement of Jesus for His own. Ephesians 2:8 confirms the truth that faith is ultimately a gift of God. “The gift of God” in the original Greek appears in the neuter grammatical form, which means that it refers back to both grace and faith earlier in the verse. Grace and faith are divine gifts, and our Father does not give them to all people.
Note also that this person has made a basic assumption as a foundation to his argument: that faith is ultimately a gift of God. Then, with this assumption established as a “truth”, he then says that “that” actually refers to neuter “gift” which has been established as the same as “faith” anyway! But, that would be saying that “that” (“the gift”) is “the gift”! What an oxymoron!
Of course, MacArthur is not to be outdone in twisting the truth to match his false doctrines. Despite the Bible teaching that we are elect according to the foreknowledge (prognosis) of God, MacArthur then re-defines foreknowledge as the placing of God’s special relationship upon His people, the elect. But, then such foreknowledge may only apply to the elect; this forces the calvinist God to foreordain everything especially for the non-elect or else He has totally lost control of them. That forces the calvinist God to foreordain the lost to hell, as they cannot be able to do anything without God knowing, and without foreknowledge, God cannot know anything about the lost unless he first writes the complete script! And MacArthur refuses to teach that his God foreordains the lost to hell! Another oxymoron!
MacArthur even goes further by teaching that the Hebrew word yada, like prognosis, defines a loving relationship God has with his people. But then, how do the Sodomites want to yada (to know) the angels (Genesis 19:5). I’m sure it didn’t mean a loving relationship there! Another oxymoron!
Why can’t people just teach the Bible for what it is, rather than try to squeeze it into shape to match whatever doctrine they want the Bible to teach? No preconceived assumptions which must then place controls upon how you interpret the Bible. Grace is defined as a gift; faith is not defined as a gift! The Bible teaches this clearly. Test all things! Accept the truth!