Ephesians 3:3
How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
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(3) How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery.—The words “by revelation” are doubly emphatic. By revelation, not by the wisdom of man (as in 1Corinthians 2:7-16): for “God hath revealed them to us by His Spirit.” By direct revelation to St. Paul himself, as in Galatians 1:12, “not of man or by man, but by revelation of Jesus Christ,” and in Romans 16:25, “according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery.” (See also 2Corinthians 12:17.) This revelation we may refer especially to the time when, after his conversion, he was “in a trance while praying in the Temple,” and “saw Christ Himself,” saying unto him, “Depart, for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles” (Acts 22:17-21).

As I wrote afore in few words.—The reference is to the brief notice in Ephesians 1:10-14, and to the further explanation in Ephesians 2:11-22. Hence, in English, the idea would be more clearly expressed by “I have written above.” St. Paul refers them back to these passages as embodying his “understanding,” or conception, of the mystery thus revealed especially to him. The reference is one of those parenthetical remarks, which, to those remembering how St. Paul’s Epistles were dictated, almost irresistibly suggest insertion on the reading over of the Epistle.

-3Ephesians 3:20-21 sum up the whole in a doxology to God the Father through Christ Jesus. It may be compared with the other more solemn doxologies in the New Testament: as Romans 16:25; 1Timothy 5:15-16; Jude 1:24-25; Revelation 1:6. Each has its distinctive character. Here the prevailing idea of the preceding chapters is the wonder and the mystery of God’s fore-ordaining love, overflowing in the riches of His grace to those who are made one with Him and with each other in Christ Jesus. Hence, God is here described as He “who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” and to do all “by His power dwelling” and working in us.

3:1-7 For having preached the doctrine of truth, the apostle was a prisoner, but a prisoner of Jesus Christ; the object of special protection and care, while thus suffering for him. All the gracious offers of the gospel, and the joyful tidings it contains, come from the rich grace of God; it is the great means by which the Spirit works grace in the souls of men. The mystery, is that secret, hidden purpose of salvation through Christ. This was not so fully and clearly shown in the ages before Christ, as unto the prophets of the New Testament. This was the great truth made known to the apostle, that God would call the Gentiles to salvation by faith in Christ. An effectual working of Divine power attends the gifts of Divine grace. As God appointed Paul to the office, so he qualified him for it.How that by revelation - see the notes at Galatians 1:12. He refers to the revelation which was made to him when he was called to the apostolic office, that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles, and that he was converted for the special purpose of carrying it to them; see Acts 9:15; Acts 22:21.

Unto me the mystery - The hitherto concealed truth that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles; see the notes, Ephesians 1:9, on the meaning of the word "mystery."

As I wrote afore in few words - Margin, "a little before." To what this refers commentators are not agreed. Bloomfield, Doddridge, Rosenmuller, Erasmus, Grotius, Locke, and others, suppose that he refers to what he had written in the two previous chapters respecting the plan of God to call the Gentiles to his kingdom. Calvin supposes that he refers to some former epistle which he had written to them, but which is now lost. Hc remarks in regard to this, "If the solicitude of Paul be rightly considered; if his vigilance and assiduity; if his zeal and studious habits; if his kindness and promptitude in assisting his brethren, it is easy to suppose that he wrote many epistles publicly and privately to this place and to that place. But those only which the Lord saw necessary to the welfare of his church has he taken care to have preserved." In this opinion there is nothing in itself improbable (compare introduction to Isaiah, section 5 (1)), but it may be doubted whether Paul here refers to any such epistle. The addition which he makes, "whereby, when ye read," etc., seems rather to imply that he refers to what he had just written.

3. he made known—The oldest manuscripts read, "That by revelation was the mystery (namely, of the admission of the Gentiles, Eph 3:6; 1:9) made known unto me (Ga 1:12)."

as I wrote afore—namely, in this Epistle (Eph 1:9, 10), the words of which he partly repeats.

By revelation; not by man, but immediately, Acts 9:15 Galatians 1:12.

He made known unto me the mystery; viz. of calling the Gentiles to salvation by faith in Christ, without the works of the law, Ephesians 3:6.

As I wrote afore; in the two former chapters of this Epistle.

How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery,.... Or "is made known unto me": so the Alexandrian copy, and some others, and the Vulgate Latin version. The Gospel, which is sometimes called a mystery, the mystery of the Gospel, the mystery of godliness, and the mystery of faith: the several doctrines of the Gospel are the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; such as a trinity of persons in the Godhead, the union of the two natures in Christ, the saints' union to Christ, and communion with him, the resurrection of the dead, and the change of living saints, and the whole doctrine of salvation by Christ, of justification by his righteousness, pardon by his blood, and atonement by his sacrifice; and this was made known to the apostle, not in a mere notional and speculative way, but in a spiritual and saving manner; not by men, for he was not taught by men, nor did he receive it from them, but had it by the revelation of Jesus Christ, and by the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:

as I wrote afore in few words: in the two first chapters of this epistle, which are a compendium of the mystery of the Gospel, in its several parts; as predestination, election, redemption, regeneration, and salvation by free grace.

How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
Ephesians 3:3. In this more detailed specification of the οἰκονομία meant in Ephesians 3:2, κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν has the emphasis: by way of revelation, expressing the mode of the making known, in accordance with a well-known adverbial usage (Bernhardy, p. 241). In substance the διʼ ἀποκαλύψεως of Galatians 1:12 is not different. According to the history of the conversion in Acts 26 (not according to Acts 9, 22), we have here to think not merely of the disclosures that followed the event near Damascus (as Galatians 1:12), but also of the revelation connected with this event itself; for the contents of what is revealed is here the blessing of the Gentiles, and with this comp. Acts 26:17-18, as also Galatians 1:16; hence from κατὰ ἀποκάλ. we may not infer a post-apostolic time of composition (Schwegler).

ἐγνωρίσθη] namely, on the part of God; comp. Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 3:5.

τὸ μυστήριον] see on Ephesians 1:9; it applies here, however, not to the counsel of redemption in general, but to the inclusion of the Gentiles in it. It is not until Ephesians 3:6 that the apostle comes to express this special contents which is here meant.

καθώς down to the end of Ephesians 3:4, is not to be treated as a parenthesis, inasmuch as , Ephesians 3:5, attaches itself to the ἐν τῷ μυστ. τ. Χ. immediately preceding.

καθὼς προέγραψα ἐν ὀλίγῳ] as I before wrote in brief, refers not to κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν, but to ἐγνωρ. μοι τὸ μυστήρ., as is shown by Ephesians 3:4, where Paul characterizes that which was before written as evidence of his knowledge of the mystery, but not as evidence of the revelation by which he has attained to this knowledge. Groundlessly, and at variance with the subsequent present ἀναγινώσκοντες, Calvin, Hunnius, and others have (although it was already rejected by Theodoret) referred προέγρ. to an epistle which has now been lost, in support of which view the passage in Ignatius ἐν πάσῃ ἐπιστολῇ (see Introd. § 1) has been made use of. See Fabric. Cod. Apoc. I. p. 916. It applies (not to Ephesians 1:9-10, as many would have it, but), as is proved by the here meant special contents of the μυστήριον (Ephesians 3:6), to the section last treated of, concerning the Gentiles attaining unto the Messianic economy of salvation, Ephesians 2:11-22. Comp. already Oecumenius.

ἐν ὀλίγῳ] διὰ βραχέων, Chrysostom: ἐν is instrumental.[167] See Acts 26:28. Comp. the classical διʼ ὀλίγων, Plat. Phil. p. 31 D, Legg. vi. p. 778 C, ἐν βραχεῖ and ἐν βραχέσι (Dem. 592, 8). The same is expressed by συντόμως, Acts 24:4, summarily. Wetstein well puts it: “pauca tantum attigi, cum multa dici possent.” Following Theodoret, Beza (with hesitation), Calvin, Grotius, Estius, Erasmus, Schmid, Koppe, and others have taken it as a more precise definition of the πρό: paulo ante. But in a temporal sense ἐν ὀλίγῳ means nothing else than in a short time (see on Acts 26:28; comp. Plat. Apol. p. 22 B; Dem, xxxiii. 18; Pind. Pyth. viii. 131: ἐν δʼ ὀλίγῳ βροτῶν τὸ τερπνὸν αὔξεται), which is not suitable here; πρὸ ὀλίγου must have been used (Acts 5:36; Acts 21:38; 2 Corinthians 12:2, al.; Plat. Symp. p. 147 E, al.). Comp. ὀλίγον τι πρότερον, Herod, iv. 81.

[167] Yet it may also be conceived of locally, as Thuc. iv. 26. 2; 96. 2 (see Krüger); in small space, in a concise passage.

Ephesians 3:3. ὅτι κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν ἐγνώρισέ μοι τὸ μυστήριον: how that by way of revelation he made known (was made known) to me the mystery. The ὅτι is omitted by [207] [208]-lat., Ambros., etc., and is bracketed by [209] and WH, but is retained by most. The ἐγνώρισε of the TR (supported by [210] [211] [212], etc.) must give place to ἐγνωρίσθη, which is the reading of [213] [214] [215] [216] [217] [218] 17, Lat., Syr., Copt., etc., and is adopted by LTTrWHRV. On μυστήριον see under Ephesians 1:9. Here it is the particular μυστήριον or “secret” of the admission of the Gentiles on equal terms with the chosen people—a disclosure of the Divine purpose which so often calls forth Paul’s adoring wonder. The sentence explains and develops the preceding statement, giving what they heard (ἠκούσατε) of the peculiar dispensation made by God with Paul; and the prominent thing here, as indicated by the emphatic position of κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν, is the way in which the “mystery” was made known to him, viz., the way of revelation.—καθὼς προέγραψα ἐν ὀλίγῳ: as I wrote afore in few words. The ἐν ὀλίγῳ is wrongly taken by some as = πρὸ ὀλίγου, “a short time before”. It is equivalent to the διʼ ὀλίγων or the ἐν βραχεῖ, ἐν βραχέσι, of classical Greek and means briefly (cf. Acts 26:28 and the συντόμως in Acts 24:4). But what is the writing referred to? It might be a previous letter now lost (Chrys., Calv., etc.). The aor. might so far favour this, and the ἀναγινώσκοντες of Ephesians 3:4, which Meyer thinks excludes it, is not necessarily inconsistent with it. The δύνασθε ἀναγινώσκοντες νοῆσαι need not be limited to the reading of the present Epistle, but might equally well apply to the act of reading any other letter, and the terms might suggest indeed a fuller statement of the “mystery” in question than is given anywhere in the first part of this Epistle. The reference, however, might also be to something already said in the present letter, in which case the προέγραψο would have the force of “I have written already above”. This is the generally accepted interpretation, the particular statement in view being that in chap. Ephesians 1:9-10, or rather (so Mey., etc.) that in chap. Ephesians 2:11-22, in which the inclusion of the Gentiles is the special topic.

[207] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[208] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[209] Codex Angelicus (sæc. ix.), at Rome, collated by Tischendorf and others.

[210] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[211] Codex Mosquensis (sæc. ix.), edited by Matthæi in 1782.

[212] Codex Angelicus (sæc. ix.), at Rome, collated by Tischendorf and others.

[213] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[214] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[215] Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).

[216] Codex Ephraemi (sæc. v.), the Paris palimpsest, edited by Tischendorf in 1843.

[217] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[218] Codex Augiensis (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Trinity College, Cambridge, edited by Scrivener in 1859. Its Greek text is almost identical with that of G, and it is therefore not cited save where it differs from that MS. Its Latin version, f, presents the Vulgate text with some modifications.

3. by revelation] Probably at or about the time of his conversion. Acts 26:17-18, indicates that the Lord then and there gave him the special commission, and it is likely that a period of special and direct Divine instruction followed, perhaps in “Arabia” (Galatians 1:17). See Galatians 1:11, &c. for the positive assertion that “his gospel” was a direct revelation, and the connexion of this with events at and just after the conversion. Perhaps visions such as St Peter’s (Acts 10) entered into the process. It is a wonderful paradox, yet deeply truth-like, that the great champion of Pharisaism should have been chosen to be the Apostle of the heathen.—For the phrase, “by revelation,” cp. Romans 16:25 (Greek); Galatians 2:2; and for St Paul’s claim to be a recipient of revelations, 2 Corinthians 12:1; 2 Corinthians 12:7; Galatians 1:16.

he made known] Better, was made known.

the mystery] Explained below, Ephesians 3:5-6, as being the long-kept secret of the absolutely equal welcome to Christ of the Gentile with the Jew.—On the word “mystery,” see note on Ephesians 1:9.

as I wrote afore] The reference is to previous passages in this Epistle; Ephesians 1:9, &c., Ephesians 2:11, &c. English idiom would say, as I have written afore.

Ephesians 3:3. Κατὰ ἀποκαλύψιν, by revelation) Galatians 1:12; Acts 9:3-4.—ἐγνώρισέ μοι, made known to me) God, by His grace.—τὸ μυστήριον, the mystery) of Christ; see the following verses.—προέγραψα ἐν ὀλίγῳ) I wrote before in a few words. He refers to Ephesians 1:9-10, and he repeats the words from that passage here.

Verse 3. - How that, by revelation, was made known unto me the mystery. The mystery, as is explained afterwards (ver. 6), was not the gospel itself, but its destination to the Gentiles as much as to the Jews; although, as appears afterwards, this fullness of blessing is really the great glory of the gospel. Mystery, that which is known only to the initiated, does not denote here a thing obscure in its own nature, but only something that had been concealed from view. It was only the initiated that now knew that God designed the gospel for Gentile and Jew alike. Paul had been initiated "by revelation" - not by his own reflecting power, not by his study of Scripture, not by communication from ether men, but by a special communication from God (Galatians 1:12). As I wrote before in few words. Where? In another Epistle? No; but in the earlier part of this Epistle (see Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 2:18, etc.). If it be said the allusions in these places to the topic in question are rather vague and general, the apostle virtually admits it - he wrote of it "in few words;" but, as it is a great and glorious truth, he returns to it to amplify it and place it in a brighter light. Ephesians 3:3
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