“Mystery Revealed! Non-Jews to be Joint Heirs!”

[This article and the following one are based on material from Nazarene Commentary 2000©, Commentary on Ephesians by Mark Heber Miller (MM©) soon to be published on the Friends of the Nazarene web site.]

Since 1948 BC the Hebrews [later called the Israelites and then the Jews] thought only fleshly descendents of Abraham would share an inheritance with the future Messiah. This assumed exclusivity caused the first Christians, who were only Jews, to harbor certain feelings of superiority over those non-Jews [Gentiles] who later became Christians. Paul has already addressed this subject in chapter two of Ephesians. Consider, please, Paul’s inspired writing regarding a revealed spiritual mystery that also non-Jews would be joint heirs with the Christ.

Mystery Revealed -- non-Jews Joint Heirs [Ephesians 3:1-7]

Paul now brings the focus on his own part in the revealing of a divine mystery hidden from past generations of Jews. This mystery or sacred secret - a completely new revelation from the God - was that not just Jews would inherit the Messianic promises, but so also would the non-Jews.

1 Because of this I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ, for you non-Jews 2 (if in fact you heard of the household management given me by the unmerited favor of The God for you) 3 to whom I wrote previously in a short letter about the mystery made known to me by a revelation, 4 by reading this you will understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was unknown in past generations of humankind as it has now been revealed by inspiration to his holy apostles and prophets, 6 that the non-Jews are to be joint heirs and a joint body and joint partakers of the promise in Jesus Christ through the good news, 7 of which I became a deacon according to the charitable free gift of The God given to me through His power working within. [NCMM Literal]

1-3 For these foregoing reasons I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ, for you Gentiles to whom I wrote previously in a brief letter about the sacred mystery revealed to me -- for surely you heard about the stewardship given me by the grace of God with you in mind. 4 When you read this letter you will realize my comprehension of the Christine mystery. 5 All past generations of humankind were ignorant of this sacred mystery as it has been revealed to the sanctified apostles and prophets by Pneuma. 6 The mystery is this: non-Jews are to be fellow heirs in a consolidated Body! Collective partakers of the promise incorporated in Jesus Christ according to the Gospel! 7 Of this Gospel I became a minister by an unmerited free gift of God, given to me by means of His inner dynamics. [NCMM Paraphrase]

This is a profound, complicated compound sentence running from verse 1 to verse 12. It is among the longest in the Christian Bible. See Ephesians 1:1. As a result there are various versions. Paul mentions his imprisonment again. See also Ephesians 4:1 and Ephesians 6:20. Either written in prison or someone imprisoned by Christ. He states that this stewardship of “household management” has been given him. He has in mind that “household” mentioned Ephesians 1:10 and Ephesians 2:19. [Or, KJV: dispensation; most use “stewardship.”] He mentions a previous letter about which we know nothing. [Or, CON: I have already shortly written to you; NEB: I have already written a brief account of this.]

This stewardship involve that “mystery made known to me by a revelation.” [Or, TCN: it was by direct revelation that the hidden purpose of God was made known to me; KNX: a revelation taught me the secret; PME: allowed me to understand his secret by giving me a direct revelation.] He hopes the Ephesians will realize his “insight into the mystery.” [Or, KJV: my knowledge in the mystery of Christ; TCN: how far I understand this hidden purpose; WEY: you can judge my insight into the truth; KNX: how well I have mastered this secret.] Some who do not understand Paul’s humility and self-sacrifice may read into these words a degree of arrogance. He admits to the Corinthians that he at times speaks in a certain unreasonableness or boastfulness not after the manner of Christ. This may what prompted verse 8.

This mystery was “unknown in past generations of humankind.” [Or, KJV: in other ages was not made known; TCN: former generations; WEY: earlier ages ... to mankind; PME: in former generations this was not disclosed to the human race.] Though the promise was mentioned to Abraham at Genesis 22:18 the meaning was not understood until the Pneuma revealed it to Paul. Compare Galatians 3:16. Thus former Jewish generations were not aware of how God’s promise to Abraham would work itself out.

This unknown mystery was that non-Jews would be included in the outworking of God’s eternal purpose. In this regard, Paul uses three expressions to describe these spiritual blessings upon the non-Jewish members of the Church of Christ. First, he says they are “joint heirs.” The Greek is syn-kleronoma (lot named together), Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #4789 = one who obtains something assigned to himself with others, a joint participant. KLERO is the root of “clergy.” Compare Romans 8:17 and notes on Ephesians 1:11. Regarding “heirs” see Romans 4:4; 8:17; Galatians 3:29; Titus 3:7; Hebrews 6:17; James 2:5; 1 Peter 3:7. Or, KJV: fellow-heirs; CON: heirs of the same inheritance; GDS: fellow-heirs; MON: coheirs. Second, he calls them a “joint body.” The Greek is syn-soma, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 4954, belonging to the same body; (together + body). Or, KJV: of the same body; ASV: fellow-members of; WEY: they form one body with us. See notes on Ephesians 2:16. And, finally “joint partakers.” The Greek is syn-metokha. [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 4830, partaking together with one, a joint partaker] Or, ASV: fellow-partakers; WEY: same interest; PME: equal partners. Paul has joined something in threes which is a tool he uses.

Paul identifies himself as a minister or deacon of this mystery. The Greek is diakonos and usually rendered minister or servant. Paul is but a servant of this “charitable free gift.” [Or, KJV: the gift of the grace of God TCN: in virtue of the charge with which God entrusted me.] This was the result f “His power working within.” The Greek is energeian tes dynameos autou. [Or, KJV: the effectual working of his power; CON: full measure of His mighty working; MON: energy of his power; WMS: the exercise of his power; TCN: the exercise of his power.] Thus, all of this stewardship and the dispensation of God’s sacred revelation is not the result of one human like Paul, but by the inner-energy that flows from God.

Study Questions:

  1. From where does Paul write?
  2. What may have the Ephesians heard of Paul?
  3. What was revealed to Paul?
  4. Did other generations understand this?
  5. What is this mystery?
  6. What did Paul become?

Eternal Purpose Known Through Church [Ephesians 3:8-13]

As if to make sure no one thinks he boasts in this revelation, Paul makes it clear he considers himself the least of all the Saints. Also, it is not he, but the Church itself who is the agency for dispensing God’s wisdom regarding the secret mystery of His eternal purpose.

8 … to me! -- one who is the lesser of the least of all the Saints -- was given undeserved charity to declare the good news to the non-Jews, the untraceable riches of Christ, 9 and to enlighten everyone regarding the household dispensations of the mystery hidden in The God throughout the Aeons -- the One who created everything, 10 so that it might now be made known through the Ecclesia to the arch-rulers and authorities in the heavenlies the immensely diversified wisdom of The God, 11 according to the purpose of the Aeons which He made in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we are free to speak with a confident approach by our faith in him. 13 Because of this I request you not to despair over my oppressions for you, which is glory for you. [NCMM Literal]

8 This grace was shown me! One who is the absolute least of all the Saints. The privilege of proclaiming the Gospel to the non-Jews, the unsearchable wealth of the Christ. 9 Also, to illuminate everybody regarding the administration of the household sacred mysteries concealed within The God -- The One who created everything -- during the past periods of time. 10 So that now at the present time there might be revealed to the heavenly governments and authorities -- by means of the Church the innumerable aspects and many-sided wisdom of The God. 11 And this in complete harmony with the ageless purpose which He formed incorporate in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 It is because of Christ we are completely free to express ourselves without embarrassment as we approach God completely confident because of our faith in Jesus. 13 For this reason I beg you not to be depressed because of my persecutions in your behalf, because it will bring glory to you. [NCMM Paraphrase]

Paul is not bragging about his privileges and blessings for he considers himself “the lesser of the least of all” the Christians. [Or, GDS: the very least of all his people.] Compare this humble attitude at 1 Corinthians 15:9 and 1 Timothy 1:15, 16. Despite Paul’s transcendent expressions of God’s use of him, he remains a humble missionary whose lifestyle and manner provide a role model for modern evangelists. Paul is but a deacon of “the untraceable riches” of God. [Or, KJV: unsearchable riches; TCNT: boundless wealth; WEY: exhaustless wealth; MOF: fathomless riches; TAY: endless treasures.] As such it is his duty and honor to “enlighten everyone about God’s revelation. [Or, KJV: to make men see; RHM: to bring to light; TCN: make clear; WMS: make clear; TAY: explain.] This is his stewardship, or “household administration” of this sacred secret. [KJV: fellowship of the mystery; RHM: administration; TCN: working out; WEY: my stewardship.] The idea behind these words is that of a “faithful steward” providing “food at the proper time.” (Matthew 24:45; Luke 12:42; 1 Corinthians 4:1)

Paul writes that this was “mystery hidden in The God throughout the Aeons.” [Or, KJV: from the beginning of the world; ASV: for ages hath been hid in God; TCN: from the first had been concealed in the mind. This phrase does not mean from eternity. See notes on Ephesians 1:4. It was during the Edenic Age the need arose for a Seed to crush the Devil. (Genesis 3:15; Romans 16:20) We note this was “hidden in God” which infers the Son did not know. (Matthew 24:36; Revelation 1:1)

It is “the God” [HO THEOS] “who created everything.” The God created EVERYTHING which would include His own Son whom he procreated or created. (Proverbs 8:22-30) Compare Colossians 1:15 where Paul calls Jesus, “the firstborn of every creature.” (KJV) When the Logos or the Son is involved in creation he is always the agency (DI, DIA) by means of which creation occurred. (Colossians 1:15-18; Hebrews 1:2, 3) It will be noted by serious students that the KJV adds, “created all things by Jesus Christ.” Other Greek texts omit this. Both Nestle-Aland and Wescott-Hort use for “create” ktisanti.

It is not Paul alone who is the revealer of these sacred and divine mysteries, for the whole Church is this channel or agency. Paul says this mystery of God’s eternal purpose is not to be made “known through the Ecclesia.” [Or, KJV: made known by the church; RHM: through means of the assembly.] The Church (Household) becomes the vehicle for dispensing divine wisdom regarding God’s purpose and the future. Even the celestial creatures learn from the Church. In this regard Paul makes no use of such texts as Matthew 24:45.

Even heavenly, angelic or celestial beings must learn these truths by means of the Church. Paul alludes to such angelic “arch-rulers and authorities in the heavenlies.” [Or, TCN: the Archangels and to all the Powers on high; PME: angelic powers. See notes on Ephesians 1:21 and Ephesians 6:12. With this 1 Peter 1:12 agrees when it says, “Into these very things angels are desiring to peer.” Thus the whole Church is the channel or agency for making known “the immensely diversified wisdom.” [Or, TCN: all-embracing; WEY: innumerable aspects; GSPD: many-sided; WMS: many phrases; KNX: subtlety of; NOR: supreme.] This includes God’s “eternal purpose” or His “purpose of the Aeons.” [Or, KJV: eternal purpose; RHM: plan of the ages; PME: conformity to that timeless purpose.]

As members of this Church of revelation, “we are free to speak” about these celestial matters. [Or, KJV: we have boldness; RSV: freedom of speech; CON: approach without fear; TAY: come fearlessly.] This includes “a confident approach” to God. [Or, KJV: access with confidence; RSV: introduction with assurance; MOF: enjoy our confidence of free access.] Rejoicing in these privileges Paul exhorts them “not to despair over my oppressions for you.” [Or, KJV: faint not at my tribulations; TCN: not to be disheartened at the sufferings that I am undergoing for your sakes.] The Greek for “oppressions” is thlipsesin [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 2347, a pressing, pressing together, pressure].

Study Questions:

  1. How does Paul describe himself?
  2. What does he say about God’s mystery?
  3. How is the Church used by God?
  4. What does our faith allow?
  5. What does Paul say about their afflictions?

Prayer for Indwelling Christ [Ephesians 3:14-19]

Paul now offers a prayer through verse 21, asking God for His strength so that Christ may take up residence in the hearts of the Ephesians. He asks that they may all come to comprehend the universal dimensions of Christ’s love within the fulness of God’s purpose.

14 Because of this I bend my knees facing toward the Father, 15 from whom every fatherhood in heaven and upon earth is named, 16 so that He might give to you (Ephesians) the glorious riches of His dynamism to be made mighty through His Pneuma within the inner person, 17 the Christ taking up residence in your hearts because of your faith in love; you (Ephesians) having been rooted and founded, 18 so that you might have the strength together with all the Saints to grasp what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 to know surpassing knowledge of the love of Christ, so that you might be filled with all the fullness of The God. [NCMM Literal]

14 For these reasons I fall to the ground on bended knees facing upward to the Father. 15 From Him every father’s family is named, whether in the celestialum or upon the earth. 16 I so pray that the Father may make you Ephesians strong within the inner person in spiritual mightiness through the wealth of His glorious power. 17 I pray the Christ will reside within your hearts because of your faith and love. 18 You Ephesians have strong roots and are well founded, so that you will have the combined strength with all the Saints; and with all the Saints seize from above the cosmic dimensions -- breadth, length, height, depth -- of Christ’s love. 19 And to comprehend the transcendental ‘knowing’ of Christ so you may be completely filled with all the wholeness of God. [NCMM Paraphrase]

Here begins Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians and all future members of the Church. We see Paul in his prison, fingers stained black by ink, parchment scattered around him, eyes gazing out his cell bars to the heavens -- thinking only of the Ephesians and the triumphant glory of the Church in Christ. The KJV text adds, “... of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But this portion is lacking in Nestle-Aland and Westcott-Hort Greek texts. Paul prays only to the Father, the God of the Lord Jesus. [Ephesians 1:3, 17]

Paul describes the Father as the One “from whom every fatherhood in heaven and upon earth is named.” The Greek is ex ou pasa patria ... onomazetai. The thought is that all those who are the progeny of the Father in heaven, and all those produced by fathers on earth, owe their “name” or lineage to the one absolute God. [Or, KJV: from whom the whole family in heaven and earth; TCN: from whom all ‘fatherhood’ in heaven and on earth; KNX: takes it title; TCN: derives its name.] There is one universal family of angelic sons and spiritual children on earth who name a single Father.

Paul prays that God grant the Ephesians, and, indeed, all members of the Church, to comprehend “the glorious riches of His dynamism.” [Or, KJV: riches of his glory; WEY: in accordance with the wealth of His glorious perfections; PME: out of the glorious riches of his resources.] This will result in being “made mighty through His Pneuma within the inner person.” [Or, KJV: to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; WEY: with the power permeating your inmost being; PME: to know the strength of the Spirit’s inner reinforcement.]

In addition that “the Christ take up residence in your hearts.” [Or, KJV: that Christ may dwell in your hearts; TCN: so that Christ, through your faith, may make his home within your heart sin love; PME: that Christ may actually live; TAY: I pray that Christ will be more at home in your hearts.] Such indwelling Christ will result in all members of the Church being “rooted and founded.” [Or, KJV: rooted and grounded in love; WEY: having your roots deep and your foundations strong in love; TCN: firmly rooted and established; PME: now firmly fixed in love; TAY: may your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. Thus, all together “might have the strength together.” [Or, RHM: mighty enough to grasp.]

To do what? Comprehend “the breadth and length and height and depth.” [Or, NOR: the dimensions.] Possibly a phrase from the Stoics describing ‘the totality of the cosmos.’ The dimensions are cubic. The dimensions of what? The “surpassing knowledge of the love” of Christ Jesus. [Or, KJV: the love of Christ which passeth knowledge; MON: may know the love of Christ which transcends all knowing; NOR: really beyond human understand; PME: that love so far beyond our comprehension.] It is this love that helps all to be “filled with all the fullness.” [Or, TCN: filled to the full with God himself; KNX: with all the completion God has to give.] Note the same language is used of Christ at Colossians 2:9. The joyous goal of every disciple of Christ is to be completely filled with God so that “God may be everything to everyone.” (1 Corinthians 15:28 MOF) This is that ultimate state of future New Age.

Review Questions:

  1. What does Paul pray?

Prayer for God’s Glory by Christ’s Church [Ephesians 3:20, 21]

Paul concludes his inspired prayer with confident expressions as well as praise to the One who has the power to carry out His own eternal purpose by means of the Church and Christ Jesus.

20 To the One who is able to do immeasurably beyond whatever we request or mentally perceive according to the dynamic inner-energy within us - 21 to Him the glory in the Ecclesia and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations of the eons of Eons. Amen. [NCMM Literal]

20 Now I pray: To the One who answers every request infinitely beyond every superabundance and beyond anything we can mentally conceive according to that dynamic energizing with us: 21 Glory to Him by means of the Church and by means of Christ Jesus, throughout all eternal generations. Amen. [NCMM Paraphrase]

In his prayer Paul affirms that the God is “able to do immeasurably beyond” whatever we can possible conceive. [Or, KJV: exceedingly abundantly above; GDS: unutterably more than; NEB: immeasurably more than.] “Mentally perceive,” Paul says. The Greek is a philosophical technical term, NOOUMEN and means to “mentally see” something. [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 3539, or perceive with the mind, to understand, to have understanding] Paul has used a related term in Ephesians 3:4, NOESAI, to see mentally. Our worship and service to God must not only be rooted in the heart, but also the mind. [Compare notes on Romans 12:1, 2.]

God can do more working within us that we can possibly conceive or comprehend. For His “dynamic inner-energy within us” works according to His purpose. The Greek is dynamin ten energoumenen. [Or, KJV: the power that worketh in us; RHM: the power which doth energise itself within us; RSV: by the power which is at work within us.]

Paul sings God’s praise and asks that His glory continue “throughout all generations of the eons of Eons.” [Or, KJV: throughout all ages, world without end; ASV: all generations for ever and ever; TCN: for all generations age after age. There is a strong inference that Ecclesiastes 1:4 is an eternal principle: humankind will continue to generate new human beings throughout the endless ages. Since the planet earth could never accommodate such population increases, homes must be found elsewhere in the Universe. Throughout all the eternal ages and throughout all the expanses of the Universe, including celestial beings, God the Father will receive honor. This is to take place by the agency of the Church and Christ Jesus.

[NOTE: one could create a triune formula here - God the Father, the Church, and Christ. It is interesting that this everlasting honor is directed primarily to the Father by means of - according to Paul’s prayer -- the Church and also Jesus Christ.]

Study Questions:

  1. How does Paul end his prayer?

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