Ephesians 3:1-13

The Mystery of the Ages


Intro: All right let’s turn to Ephesians 2:19, just to get some background as we enter into chapter 3, I want to just read v 19 thru the end of the chapter.

A) Paul, speaking to the Ephesians church, which is predominately a Gentile congregation, is explaining the great things that God has done for them.


B) unfolding God’s redemptive plan, and letting [the Gentiles] in on all that God has done to bring them into His family;

1) he is getting excited as he’s telling them what God has done for them, and that excitement provokes him to want to pray for them. 


C) As he thinks of all that God has done for them, he then is moved to pray that they would really be able to apprehend all that God has done for them. 

1) So in v. 1 of Chapter 3 Paul starts into his Prayer – For this reasonbut before he actually begins to pray – v. 14 -  For this reason- He takes a detour


D) he is going to go off on a different subject for a few minutes before he actually goes into his prayer.


So what we have in verses 2-13 are what you would call parenthetical statements.  It’s a parenthesis. 

A) Paul takes a momentary detour off into another subject, and then he comes back to the subject at hand, which is the prayer for the Ephesians. 


B) It’s interesting, as he goes into this detour, that he tells us a little bit about himself, about his own ministry,

1) and the  calling that was upon his life to minister to the Gentiles, to really be a messenger of the gospel to the Gentile nations. 


C) And so in our study tonight we want to focus on this parenthetical statement that Paul makes for there are some tremendous things stated in here that I think you’ll find greatly encouraging.   RD v.1-13



So the first thing that Paul tells us about Himself is that He was a Prisoner :He was in Prison for them. the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles

A) Paul was literally in Prison because he brought the gospel to the gentiles – every where he went – Jewish resisters – started riots


B) Paul is not drawing their attention to this to make them feel bad – on the contrary he wants them to see that to him it was worth it for their salvation


C) But it is also interesting that Paul referred to himself as the Prisoner of Christ


D) It is striking that nowhere does Paul ever refer to himself as a prisoner of Caesar. /

1) He was Caesar's prisoner. He had been arrested because he was charged by the Jews with sedition, or treason, against the emperor. Jesus is Lord !


So here he was in Rome, a prisoner of Caesar, awaiting trial before Nero. But never once does he say that he is a prisoner of Caesar;

A) It is always "a prisoner of Christ Jesus." The reason is obvious when you read his letters.


B) He saw that Caesar was not the one who had the final say about him; Jesus did.

1) The duration of his confinement was not determined by Caesar, but by the Lord Jesus.


C) As Paul came to understand the One whom he served, he knew that Jesus is in control of history. He is Sovereign

1) He is the One who opens, and no man shuts, who shuts, and no man opens, who orders, and his will is carried out.


D) Paul knew, therefore, that anytime the Lord Jesus decided Paul's imprisonment would be of no further value, he would be set free,

1) that when the Lord Jesus spoke, Caesar acted. - Therefore, he never saw himself as being the prisoner of Caesar.

This is a tremendous lesson to us- reminds us of what the Scriptures declare – that God is the one who appoints & removes Kings

A) Also picture has great personal application to us – You know there are times when we find ourselves sort of in prison.  We’re stuck somewhere. 


B) See some of you are in a Prison – called a loveless marriage – How can this Change


C)  Others are in the Prison of a dead end Job – wondering when the Lord is going to change that situation.

1) Some of you are in a prison of sorts – Physically – It is difficult and you making day by day only by the grace of God .


C) Whatever the situation [ the Prison ] that you find yourself in – Know this sometimes it’s during those times that we end up growing in ways that we couldn’t grow if we were on the move. 


D) Sometimes we end up doing things during those times for the Lord that are more profitable than anything else we ever do. 

1) So you can do what Paul did – make the most of your time / or you can complain – grumble – NOT DO ANYTHING OR LEARN A THING!!!


Now it is interesting that  what Paul did during his imprisonment outlasted everything else he ever did.  You know what he did?  HE WROTE.

A) He wrote the New Testament.  He wrote much of it. 


B) And so Paul saw God’s hand in his imprisonment which is why he referred to Himself as the Prisoner of Christ

1) He believed that Christ had a purpose in him being in Jail and he made the most of it – God blessed many people thru Paul’s suffering –


C) Another Example is John Bunyan - John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim Progress, was a great evangelist and an effective preacher.

1) But Because he belonged to a group known as the non-conformists, he was persecuted, and put in jail for thirteen years. 

D) For thirteen years he was in jail.  He was freed from jail after a thirteen-year period of time,

1) and he went on, and had a ministry for another few years, I think maybe nine or ten years or so.  And then he went to be with the Lord


When he left, he left his wife and his children.  But what he also left were the manuscripts of his books that we have come to know and love. 

A) And an interesting thing here is that his wife found those manuscripts, took them, they were published, and that’s how the family was able to survive because of the work that he did in prison.


B) Now not only was his family able to survive, but of course many Christians have been blessed throughout the succeeding generations since the time of John Bunyan, through his writings. 

1) Pilgrim Progress is the second best selling book of all time, next to the Bible.  Interestingly, it was in his time of imprisonment. 


C) So if you feel like you’re in prison, remember this:  You’re the prisoner of Christ Jesus.

1) He’s got you where He wants you to be, and He’s got you there for some education- do something in you  AND for some purpose. { Something thru


So the first thing that Paul tell us about himself is that he was a Prisoner for Christ –

A) the 2nd thing he tells us is that he was a Steward of the gospel of Grace v.2 -6


2 if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you,3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already,4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ),5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:



B) The word Dispensation in v. 2 is bettered translated – Stewardship

1) Not referring to a period of time – but rather the responsibility that was given to Paul – to take the gospel to the Gentiles


C) A steward was a servant to whom a certain responsibility was committed, certain goods were given, that he might "dispense" them, might give them out to other people.


D) This is exactly in line with what he had written to the Corinthians much earlier. In First Corinthians 4 he says,

This is how one should regard us [apostles], as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. {1 Cor 4:1 RSV}


The word Mystery that Paul uses here and in 1 Cor 4 is different from our idea of Mystery

A) We here the word Mystery and think – Agatha Christie/ Perry Mason

Something that is hidden – that we need to discover !!! Who done it ?


B) The Grk word for Mystery is Musterion – it speaks of something that was once hidden that has now Been revealed –

1) It is the revelation concerning the Work & Ministry of Christ


C) Paul says in v. 5 that it was hidden in other generations – OT saints didn’t understand entirely – what the Messiah was going to do.

1) That there would be two Comings – 1st was for a Ransom – 2nd Reign

1st was to suffer & Serve / 2nd is to Present himself as the Sovereign one

2) They Didn’t understand passages like ISA 53 –


D) Nor did they understand God’s the role that the Gentiles would play in God’s plan of Redemption -


In Reality God needed to prepare human beings for the unfolding of this secret.

A)He had to get them ready for it. This he did with the rituals and symbols in the Old Testament -- the giving of the Law and the sacrifices,

B) All of which helped us to understand that we human beings have something inherently wrong with us, which cannot be cured by our making a few new years  resolutions.


C) The only thing that can cure it is death itself. God had to prepare this race to be able to grasp that fact and to be ready to believe it.

1) And even then he had not fully revealed this mystery.


D) A little was revealed in the past, but the great secret was kept hidden.

1) But what Paul is saying here is that God had commissioned him to Bring the Revelation of the mystery to the Gentiles


E) SO the 2nd thing that Paul tells us is that He was made a steward to reveal the Mystery of the Gospel of Grace to the Gentiles and

6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,7 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.


The work of the gospel affects the Gentiles in 3 ways

A) Heirs together / members together of the same body / sharers together of the same Promise .


B) All the blessings & Promises that God made to Abe – and his seed are available to – us now because of our faith in Christ


C) Remember Gal – Children Abe by faith

1) You see, this was not known. 


Now if you go back to the Old Testament you will find that there were definitely statements made by the prophets, concerning the Gentiles, and implying that there was going to be a blessing upon the Gentiles. 

A)The Messiah was to be a light to lighten the Gentiles and the hope of the people of Israel. 

B) And there are many places in the prophets and in the psalms where you’ll find references to the Gentiles praising the Lord, and so forth. 

1) But no Jew in the first century ever dreamed, ever would have imagined that Gentiles could have a relationship with the God of Israel on the same basis that they would have a relationship with the God of Israel,


C) No Jew in the first century ever dreamed that they could come to God on equal ground.  No Jew would have ever dreamed this. 

1) And Paul is saying, “I didn’t dream it.  I didn’t make this up.  This is what was given to me by revelation.” 

“The Gentiles have become fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,


But Paul wasn’t just blown away by God’s Plan – he was blessed that he was made a Steward of it !!! Proclaim blessings to the Gentiles v.8

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ


A) Paul is just ecstatic – he is blown away that God would call him to such a wonderful ministry.


B) Paul the Persecutor of the Church - least of all the saints Some times people are held back by their past – Paul could have been crippled by his.


C) Instead he was humbled by God’s grace/ God would still elect to use him

   1) Paul might have been confused at first by God’s call – See  Paul was the

         perfect guy for the JEWS


D) God’s ways are not our ways – Paul perfect for the Jews – Learned steeped in Religious tradition – Students of the Word – Paul Pharisee


E) Perfect for the Jews – But I am going to send you to the Gentiles

1) Unlearned in religious things – didn’t know the Law of God – Paul sent to them so that He would be completely dependent on the Lord


D) PETER SENT TO THE JEWS – Unlearned / Untrained Fisherman

1) Never know how God is going to work !!! Pastor Chuck w/ Richard Cimino – my conversation - 31 yrs old 


Now I like the way that Paul describes the gospel in v.8 - as “the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

A) Another translation is the untraceable riches.  Another translation is the unfathomable riches, cannot be fathomed.  They’re so deep. 


B) A fathom is a means of measuring the depth of water, the depth of the sea.  And so you put out, and you go down a fathom six feet. 

1) And then you go a couple of fathoms.  And you continue to take readings.   there are  places where you can’t really even discover the depth- it’s So deep


C) It’s deeper than your capacity to even discover.  And that’s what Paul says about the riches of Christ. 

1) They’re deeper than our capacity to discover. 


Kent Hughes : What are the riches they are saving riches, sanctifying riches, relational riches, practical riches, and eternal riches.


How is it that sometimes we think, “Oh yeah, I read that before.  Ah, been there, done that, heard that” 

A) We can get like that can’t we?  - My biggest struggle as Pastor here – Some of you are so well taught – Brian great Bible teacher


B) I find myself sometimes saying – Lord I know that they know this -  We need to remember these are the unsearchable riches of Christ. 

1) We could spend a million lifetimes meditating upon these truths and never even begin to get close to the bottom of it.  That’s reality.  That’s a fact. 


C) Listen:  If you’re bored with God, if you’re bored with the Word of God, then you need to go before the Lord and say, “God touch my heart.  Change my heart.  Soften me up, because I know that I have not, I’ve not reached the bottom of the treasure chest when it comes to your riches. 

D) They’re the unsearchable riches of Christ, and Paul had the privilege of preaching them. 

1) And we have the privilege of sharing the unsearchable riches of Christ with others. 

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;


E) Having been entrusted with such riches, Paul’s passion is to make this gospel known to all people.

1) He wants everybody to see and share in the fellowship of this mystery


What Paul says in v. 10 is really interesting: Rd v.10-13

A) What Paul is saying there in v.10 is that it is God’s intent that thru the Church the manifold wisdom of God would be made Known to Angels


B) That is who the Principalities and Powers is talking about – Angels

1) They learn about God – by watching us !!!


C) It is as if a great drama is being enacted. History is the theatre, the world is the stage, and the church members in every land are the actors.

1) God himself has written the play, and he directs and produces it. Act by act, scene by scene, the story continues to unfold.


D) But who are the audience? They are the cosmic intelligences, the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.”


John Stott “ It is thru the old Creation( the Universe) that God reveals his glory to humans – but it is thru his New Creation (THE CHURCH) that God reveals his wisdom to the Angels.


See the Angels watch us – because we are a part of the mystery

A) We are who Jesus Died to redeem / We are the ones He has called and Chosen / We are the ones – He has made into a New Body

B) Now this is not the only scripture that teaches this: 1 Peter 1:10-12

10 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.


C) The Phrase – angels desire to look into is literally – they stoop to see

1) Pictures Angels – bent over intently observing the teachings and actions of God’s People. { Angels – are WATCHING


D) Now the inference in our text here in Ephesians as well as what Peter wrote is that God didn’t reveal his whole plan of redemption to the Angels

1) So they are watching the Mystery unfold – as they watch us –


The more they watch the more they learn of the Manifold wisdom of God { Manifold is many colored – Multi faceted wisdom of God

A) Like a Prism of Color – more you learn – more colorful it gets


B) The mystery reveals and furthers God’s eternal purpose in Jesus,

previously described in Ephesians 1:10 - that in the fullness of the

times, God will gather together (essentially, to sum up or resolve)

all things in Jesus.


C) The mystery of the unified Body of Christ is according to that purpose.

1) It is a preview of what Jesus will ultimately do in the fulfillment of summing up all things in Himself.


D) Thru Christ – Jew & Gent. Access to the Father – Boldness

1) Freedom of Speech – Cry out