Most of the time when we read the Bible we seek to make direct application to ourselves. Because the Bible is for our instruction and sanctification, this is absolutely right. Sometimes in Scripture, however, we find that the first application is not to ourselves. Ephesians 3:1–13 is one of those instances, and yet it is also a passage bubbling over with grace for the believer.
As I preached on Ephesians 3:1–13, I sought to show the grace of God in Paul’s ministry, the grace of God’s in Paul’s gospel, and the grace that culminates in Christ’s Church. In short, even though this passage Paul reflects about God’s grace to him, it can strengthen our confidence in God’s grace as we understand how God has worked in church history and in what God intends for the church today.
Because my sermon deviated so much from my original notes, I am not including those this week. But you can find the sermon online. Discussion questions and additional resources can be found below.
1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
- Background Question: Read Philippians 1:29; 2 Corinthians 1:1–9; Colossians 1:24; 2 Timothy 2:10. What do these verses and others say about suffering? How do they inform (or reform) our thinking about suffering?
- What kind of suffering is Paul facing as he writes Ephesians? See Ephesians 3:1, 13; 4:1. Cf. 2 Corinthians 6:4–10 and 11:16–33.
- How does this suffering relate to the apparent victory of the cross in Ephesians 2? What does it teach us about suffering, grace, and discipleship?
- What does Ephesians 3 say about the mystery? See vv. 3, 4, 6, 9. In these statements about the mystery, what do we learn from Ephesians 3 about God’s revelation?
- What does Ephesians 3 (with Ephesians 2) teach us about the church? What is the relationship between Jew and Gentile in verse 6? Could Paul have unified Jew and Gentile any closer?
- What does Ephesians 3 teach us about the church? Does this passage change your view of the church in any appreciable way?
- What is the most challenging or encouraging aspect of Ephesians 3 for you? How does Paul’s ministry spur you on to follow Christ?
Here are a few reflections related to Ephesians 2–3 and . . .
Suffering — i.e., how Paul thinks about suffering
- Charles Spurgeon: Preaching Through Adversity by John Piper — this is a biography on Spurgeon aimed at preachers, but it can minister to anyone
- Colossians 1:24: Suffering for the Sake of the Body (pt. 1)
- Colossians 1:24: Suffering for the Sake of the Body (pt. 2)
Biblical Theology — i.e., how Paul’s understanding of redemptive history relates to the church
- More Than Could Be Asked or Imagined: Four Surprising Ways Christ and His Church Fulfilled the Promises to Israel
- “But Now”—Learning to Live in the Newness of Christ
- The Church as Christ’s New Creation: How a Multi-Ethnic Church Fulfills God’s Promises to Israel
Soli Deo Gloria, ds