Ephesians 3:8-13

Sunday Morning Bible Study

March 19, 2006


Paul has been talking about the mysterious thing God did in allowing the Gentiles to be saved.  It came as a surprise to the Jews.  They thought that they would be the only ones in heaven.  And yet when Jesus died on the cross, He didn’t just die for the sins of the Jews, He died for the sins of the entire world.

It’s been through Paul’s ministry that the door has opened wide for non-Jewish people to become saved.

:8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given,

less than the leastelachistoteros – less than the least, lower the lowest. literally, “smaller than the smallest”


True humility

I think that when God begins to use a person, a terrible thing can happen.  Sometimes we get to thinking that it’s all happening because of “me”.  I can fall into the trap of thinking that God sure was lucky when He saved me because look at all I’m doing for God.
Paul is writing to the Ephesians towards the end of his ministry.  He’s been a believer almost 30 years.  He’s spread the gospel across the known world.  He’s planted all sorts of churches.  He’s written what will become Scripture.
And yet he writes stuff like,
(1 Cor 15:9 NKJV)  For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
(1 Tim 1:15 NKJV)  This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.
I don’t think this is a false humility.  I think this is the attitude of a person who has truly been spending time with God.
(Isa 6:1-5 NKJV)  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. {2} Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. {3} And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!" {4} And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. {5} So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts."
It’s getting a glimpse of the incredible God that we serve that gives us a true perspective of who we are.
Paul considered himself to be smaller than the smallest.

:8  that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

unsearchableanexichniastos – that cannot be searched out, that cannot be comprehended; that which cannot be traced out; other translations have “inexhaustible”, “endless”, “too great to fully understand”


True wealth

I wonder sometimes if I really have a clue as to the riches I have in Christ.

This was one of those e-mails sent out a couple of years ago. The numbers are a bit dated, and Michael Jordan hasn’t played professional ball in a couple of years, but the idea is still true…

The numbers are mind bending! In answer to the eternal question “Is it better to be a jock or a nerd?” I submit the following: Michael Jordan will make over $300,000 a game: $10,000 a minute, assuming he averages about 30 minutes per game. Assuming $40 million in endorsements next year, he’ll be making $178,100 a day (working or not)! Assuming he sleeps 7 hours a night, he makes $52,000 every night while visions of sugarplums dance in his head. If he goes to see a movie, it’ll cost him $7.00, but he’ll make $18,550 while he’s there. If he decides to have a 5 minute egg, he’ll make $618 while boiling it. He makes $7,415/hr more than minimum wage. If he wanted to save up for a new Acura NSX ($90,000) it would take him a whole 12 hours. If someone were to hand him his salary and endorsement money, they would have to do it at the rate of $2.00 every second. He’ll probably pay around $200 for a nice round of golf, but will be ‘reimbursed’ $33,390 for that round. If you were given a tenth of a penny for every dollar he made, you’d be living comfortably at $65,000 a year. He’ll make about $19.60 while watching the 100 meter dash in the Olympics. He’ll make about $15,600 while the Boston Marathon is being run. While the common person is spending about $20 for a meal in his trendy Chicago restaurant, he’ll pull in about $5600. Next year, he’ll make more than twice as much as all of our past presidents for all of their terms combined.


And yet Bill Gates’ wealth is nothing compared to the riches of Christ.

What are the riches of Christ?
To understand the riches, you have to first understand our poverty.  We were dead in our sins.  Our sins had separated us from Christ.  We had offended the Great God who is a “consuming fire”.  We were destined for an eternity in hell.  And then Jesus came.  He was willing to step up and die in our place.
(Rom 8:32 NKJV)  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
You now have access to the most powerful being in the universe.  You now are a child of God Himself.

(1 John 3:1-2 NKJV)  Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. {2} Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

For Paul, he didn’t see the riches of Christ as something to hoard and protect.  He saw it as something to give away.

:9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;

to make all seephotizo – to give light, to shine; to enlighten, illumine; to bring to light

Paul didn’t just want to tell people about this mystery that God would save Gentiles, He wanted them to see it, he wanted the light shone on it.

the fellowship of the mysterykoinonia – fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation

Paul is talking about what the Jews and Gentiles share together because of this mystery that God would save Gentiles.

:10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,

to the intent – the reason Paul was given the ministry of preaching to the Gentiles …

manifoldpolupoikilos – In classical Greek the word referred to the beauty of an embroidered pattern or the variety of colors in flowers.

manifold wisdom of God

God wasn’t just going to save Israel.  He was going to offer salvation to the whole world.  Many colors.

The church is the manner in which God meant for this wisdom to be demonstrated, by having both Jews and Gentiles be saved and in the church.

principalities and powers – these are technical names for angels.  We think it has to do with their ranking in the armies of heaven, but we don’t know much more than that.

What do we possibly have to teach to the angels?

(1 Pet 1:10-12 NKJV)  Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, {11} searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. {12} To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven; things which angels desire to look into.

The word Peter uses for “look into” means literally “stoop down to look into a thing”. 
The Ark of the Covenant had a lid made out of solid gold.  This lid was called the “Mercy Seat” and was intended as a model of the throne of God.  It was at the Mercy Seat that sins were paid for with the sprinkling of blood.  It was at the Mercy Seat that Moses met with God.  The angels that were formed to be on top of the Mercy Seat are in a position bending over with their faces down.  One suggestion has been made that the angels are stooping down looking at the Mercy Seat, perhaps wondering why God would allow these human creatures the ability to have their sins covered and forgiven.
Could it be that the angels are mystified as to why God would bother with us humans?  Could it be that they wonder why God would be merciful to us?  And apparently part of their wondering is why God would bother with the Gentiles.

:11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,

The eternal purpose – God saving both the Jews and Gentiles by Jesus dying on a cross and paying for their sins.

:12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.

boldnessparrhesia – freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech; free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance

access with confidence

The Temple in Jerusalem had two compartments.  The first compartment that a priest entered into was called the “Holy Place”.  The priests went into this room daily for various things such as burning incense and adding oil to the Menorah.  There was a room beyond the Holy Place, known as the “Holy of Holies”.  In Solomon’s day the Ark of the Covenant was kept there.  It was meant to be a place that represented the throne room of God. The High priest was the only one allowed into this room, and he could only enter it once a year where he would bring blood to atone for the sins of the nation.  The two rooms were separated by a veil, meant to keep people out.

It’s interesting to note that several of the gospels record that when Jesus died, this veil in the Temple was torn on its own, from top to bottom.  God was tearing the veil showing that the way had been opened up to enter into God’s presence.

When a person puts their trust in Jesus, and is counting on Jesus’ death on the cross to pay for his sins, the way into God’s presence opens up.  We now have the ability to come before God with boldness and confidence.



It’s interesting to think about how we handle the subject of prayer.
For some people, prayer is as important to them as it is to the atheist.
There’s no real good reason why they don’t pray.  Maybe it’s just that they forgot.  Maybe it’s that it doesn’t seem that important to them.  They forget that God is there.
For some people, they don’t feel that they should be bothering God.
They see God as some over-busy boss who has more important things on His hands to worry about than their little problems.
(Heb 4:14-16 NKJV)  Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. {15} For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. {16} Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
For others people, they wonder why God would bother listening to them.  They feel lost and condemned.
(Heb 10:19-22 NKJV)  Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, {20} by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, {21} and having a High Priest over the house of God, {22} let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
But for us, we now have access to God.  And Jesus has taken away every reason for us not to pray.
(1 John 5:14-15 NKJV)  Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. {15} And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
If you were a child of Michael Jordan, would you have trouble asking him for something that costs more than you have?  If your dad were Bill Gates, would there be anything you could ask for that he couldn’t affort.
We are God’s children.  We need to ask.

:13 Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

my tribulations for you – Paul was in prison because of his ministry to the Gentiles


Tribulation and glory

They say that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Paul wrote,
(2 Cor 1:3-5 NKJV)  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, {4} who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. {5} For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.

When you go through a lot of difficulty, you have the ability to receive a lot of comfort from God.  And that comfort can be used to give to others.

Paul’s trials were for the good of the church because he was able to do pour out so much more of God’s comfort when he had been comforted by God.

Gideon faced an incredible number of Midianite invaders.  And yet he was to be the one that God was going to use to deliver the Israelites from the Midianites.  God would use an army of 300 men to accomplish the victory.  Each man was given a clay pot, a torch, and a trumpet.  The torches were supposed to be lit and carried inside the clay pots.  They surrounded the Midianites in the middle of the night and at the signal they broke their clay pots, held up their torches, blew the trumpets and gave a shout.  It freaked out the Midianites and they turned on each other.
The principle is simple, for the people to see the light, you have to break the clay pot.
(2 Cor 4:6-12 NKJV)  For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. {7} But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. {8} We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; {9} persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; {10} always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. {11} For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. {12} So then death is working in us, but life in you.
A. W. Tozer said that before God can use a man greatly, He must allow him to be hurt deeply.
When you run low on gas, you pull up to the gas station.  When you are hungry, you go to the kitchen, or you run to McDonald’s. 
When you are a person who wants to be used by God in the lives of others, there are times when you’re running a bit low on comfort.  And guess where the gas station is?  It’s in the trials you go through.  This is where God fills you with comfort.  This is where you get the comfort to help others.  Don’t run from the trials.  Fill up.