In this chapter, human language almost collapses—even though it is inspired human language—under the weight of glory that God has prepared for His children. We see this at the beginning of the chapter, where Paul starts with “I, Paul” in the nominative, and he never gets to a verb that goes with that beginning. This is no mistake in Scripture, but rather what it looks like when you put infinite glory in a finite container. This is what perfection looks like.
“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words . . .” (Eph. 3:1-21).
Summary of the Text
The glories described in the first two chapters now come down to the ministry of Paul, a prisoner for the sake of the Gentiles (v. 1). He was given the administration of God’s grace to the Gentiles (v. 2). An unveiled mystery had been given to Paul by revelation, which he had written about previously (v. 3). This might refer to a previous letter, or it might refer to the first two chapters. He calls what he had written “the mystery of Christ” and if the Ephesians read it, they will understand Paul’s knowledge of it. Previous ages did not know this, but the Spirit has now revealed it to the apostles and prophets (v. 5). That mystery was that the Gentiles were to be fully included in all the promises (v. 6). Paul was given this mystery, and was made a minister of this mystery (v. 7). He was not worthy of the honor, but was given the tremendous privilege of preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ to the Gentiles (v. 8). This would make all men see the nature of this fellowship, which was the whole point from the very first (v. 9). When this happened, then even the principalities and powers in the heavenly places would see the manifold wisdom of God (v. 10). This was His eternal point in Christ (v. 11).
This being the case, we have boldness in our access through faith into His presence (v. 12). This puts tribulation for Christ’s sake into a completely different light—it is glory (v. 13). This is why Paul bows the knee before the Father (v. 14), from whom all fatherhood derives its name (v. 15). Paul asks that God would grant, according to His riches, that we—I include us with the Ephesians here (v. 18)—be strengthened by the Spirit in the inner man (v. 16), in order that Christ might dwell in us by faith, rooting us deeply in His love (v. 17), and that we might be able to comprehend the incomprehensible (v. 18), to know the unknowable (v. 19), and to be filled with all the fullness of God (v. 19). And if that were not enough, Paul asks the benediction in the name of the one who can do a whole lot more than that (v. 20)—and may He have glory in the church, through Christ Jesus, unto a piled- up eternity of ages (v. 21). And then he says amen to that (v. 21).
Jew and Gentile
God is the unfolder of great surprises. What He continually does is invite us to take a step back, and use the zoom out feature. Now, see? We thought the task of the godly was to keep our candle lit in a blustery night. The candle was all the purposes of God, and the overarching night was the inexorable power of worldliness. But zoom out. The sun is rising. The night is done, gone, over. Christ has risen, and He will never set. The time of night is long past, and so Christians ought to quit seeking out dark corners of basements in order be able to play their pessimistic game of “night time.” The first great move was from Jew to Jew and Gentile together. The next was Christian and unbeliever. Just as Gentiles came into Israel through Christ, so also unbelievers will come into Christ . . . through Christ.
This section of Scripture does not just contain big words, but rather immense words. He refers to the “unsearchable riches” of Christ (v. 8). He wants all men to see what God hid from the beginning of the world (v. 9). He wants crushed glory here to be bold before the throne of God (vv. 12-13). Notice the juxtaposition of “boldness” and “bow.” He wants us to be strengthened with might, according to His riches, not according to our capacity (v. 16). He wants us to comprehend, along with all the saints, the length, breadth, depth and height (v. 18). He wants us to know what can’t be known (v. 19). He wants us to be filled with the fullness of God (v. 19), and he wants us to learn how to think of all these things as the first page of the first chapter of the first book in a library filled with an infinite number of volumes. Think of this. Christ is always the infinite wisdom of God, and you, by His grace, are going to live forever.
The Remarkable Inner Man
In verse 16, Paul speaks of the inner man being strengthened with might by the Holy Spirit. The strengthening of this inner man is such that all the staggering gifts in the verses that follow might be possible. This inner man is not referring the soul as opposed to the body, and it is not contrasting the innards with the epidermis. Paul here is speaking of the regenerate man—the man within that has been brought to life. He is speaking of the new heart, the principle of new life which is able to “get” what he is talking about here. He speaks the same way in 2 Cor. 4:16-17. “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”This is the same thing. Being born again is not just becoming a nice person instead of a nasty one (although that is involved). Being born again means being fitted out for glory, and the tribulations you go through now are simply God’s way of stress-testing the rivets.