Ephesians 3:3
The apostle recurs to a subject already treated in few words" in the first chapter - words which he requests them to read, that they may fully understand his meaning - respecting the new position of the Gentiles in the kingdom of God. Their position was determined by a dispensation, that is, by an arrangement organized in all its parts in relation to space and time; for God works by order in grace as well as in nature. Consider -

I. THE ORIGIN OF THIS DISPENSATION. "The grace of God given to me to you-ward." It was an act of Divine favor to select the apostle as the person through whom "the mystery" of the dispensation was to be, not only revealed, but applied in its redeeming effects to the Ephesian heathens. It was not the honor or the authority involved in it that made it precious in his eyes; it was the privilege of making known the unsearchable riches of Christ. Thus, as a good steward of the mysteries of God, it was the delight of his life to dispense them in all their gracious manifoldness to the family of God.


1. It is called "the mystery of Christ," not because he is its Author, but because he is the Center or Subject of it; for it included far more than the truth that the Gentiles were fellow-citizens of the saints. Christ is the Mystery of godliness, as he is God manifest in the flesh, but he is emphatically so as "Christ the Hope of glory" for the Gentiles (Colossians 1:27).

2. It was hidden for ages from the sons of men, both Jew and Gentile. A mystery is either something which has been concealed, perhaps for ages, and which probably would never have been discovered unless the voice of revelation had proclaimed it; or something which, even when revealed, transcends the power of the human faculties to comprehend it. Now, the Incarnation is a mystery in this double sense; but the call of the Gentiles, as part of "the mystery of Christ," is a mystery only in the first-named sense. It was known to the Jews for ages that the Gentiles would share in the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom - and the Apostle Paul quotes Old Testament predictions to prove the fact (Romans 9:25-33); but it was not known that the Gentiles would be included within the circle of religious privilege by the complete sacrifice of the Hebrew theocracy and the reconstitution of religion on a perfectly new basis, designed equally for all mankind, under which the old distinctions of Jew and. Gentile would be done away. There was to be no further room for Jewish particularism. The dispensation which was to carry the world to its last destinies was to be as universal as that embodied in the first promise made to our first parents.

3. The revelation of the mystery. So far as it involved a mission to the Gentiles, it was revealed first to the Apostle Paul at his conversion; for when Christ appeared to him on his journey to Damascus, he said, "I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness... delivering thee from the people, and. from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God" (Acts 26:16-18). But the fuller exhibition of Gentile privilege is made in this glorious Epistle as well as elsewhere. It was a revelation made by the Lord himself (Galatians 1:12). But it was made especially to "apostles and prophets," both of them belonging to the new dispensation the only class of inspired men connected with it who received special information from the Holy Spirit, who searches the deep things of God, respecting the new development of the kingdom. The revelation was, indeed, one of facts as well as of truths. The calling of the Gentiles was made manifest in the Spirit's falling upon Cornelius, and in the widespread success of the gospel among the Gentiles, so that the logic of facts beautifully reinforced the more formal revelations of "apostles and prophets."

4. The substance of the revelation. "That the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel." These are the three points of Gentile privilege. They were not to receive the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom by being merged as proselytes into the old theocracy, which was to abide in all its narrow ritualism.

(1) The Gentiles are fellow-heirs. Possession by inheritance involves the ideas of right, certainty, and inalienableness. All that is involved in the benefits of the covenant of grace is our inheritance. Now, the Gentiles are "heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ" as well as the Jews, just because they are "children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." They cannot be heirs unless they are children; they cannot be children unless they have faith. And because they have faith, they are Abraham's seed. "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:29). The Gentile interest in the inheritance may be recent, but it is entire and beyond cavil. Jews and Gentiles have an equal share in all the blessings of the inheritance.

(2) The Gentiles are of the same body. This marks a more intimate relationship. They were all Jews and Gentiles alike, baptized into one body by one Spirit, and thus coalesced into one Church-state, with Christ as the Head of both. But while they were thus, as members of one body, partakers of a common life, the Gentile was not there by the permission of the Jew, or the Jew by the permission of the Gentile. They were both equally baptized into it by the Spirit. The union in one body obliterates all previous distinctions of character or culture, and all varieties in dispensational privilege; for there is no schism in the body. The Judaistic section of the Church in the apostle's day fought strenuously against the doctrine of the one body.

(3) The Gentiles are fellow-partakers of the promise. This refers, not so much to the promise of redemption made first to Adam, repeated to Abraham, and embodied in many Old Testament predictions, as to the promise of the Spirit, who enables us to realize all the blessings involved in this first promise. This was, indeed, the blessing of Abraham which came upon the Gentiles (Galatians 3:14). It was conspicuously realized when, in the words of the Apostle Peter, "the Holy Ghost fell upon them as on us." There is no promise of the new covenant that is not equally sure to Gentile and to Jew. All the three points of Gentile privilege, setting forth apparently the relation to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and represented in a sort of spiritual climax, are realized by union with Christ, made known to us in the gospel. Salvation centers, as its objective ground, in Christ Jesus, and the gospel is the medium by which it is subjectively applied to sinners el mankind. - T.C.

How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery.
1. Those whom God sends, He also teaches.

2. We have by nature a veil before our eyes, that we cannot see spiritual matters till they be revealed.(1) Wherefore we must all pray that the veil may be removed from these points of the gospel, that the spirit of liberty may be given us, which brings light and understanding wherever it comes.(2) See what we must impute our not profiting to, viz., this, that we have not got that eyesight of the Spirit, wherewith our eyes should be cleared. Many of us are like the woman who, going to bed seeing and in the night taken blind, waking in the morning, complained of the curtain; for, not discerning our spiritual blindness, we complain of the curtain — strange manner of teaching, obscure speaking, perplexed sentences, I know not what in the teacher — when the fault is nearer home; we are too much in our own light, not knowing ourselves.

3. The doctrine of salvation is a hidden thing to the world. Things are lightsome or obscure in themselves, or to us. To be made lightsome in themselves, there needs but the light of the sun to shine upon them; but to make them lightsome to us, we must have inward light in the eye whereby to discern them: thus the counsel of God is for the nature of it light itself.

4. It is made sensible or visible, the light of revelation shining on it.

5. It is so discerned where there is the supernatural eye of the Spirit, by benefit of this external light to discern it. We need to pray with David, "Lord, open our eyes, that we may see the wonders or hidden things of Thy law." You see, we are all of us men of clay, and living here as it were in the bottom of the ship, walking upon clay; and therefore, if we would know the will of God, concerning us men here below, either God must be revealed from heaven extraordinarily, whereof we have no warrant, or ordinarily, and that is by these books written and indited by the Spirit of God, to be seen, read, and understood. Now this must stand by great reason, for if a man were in a mineral or coal pit, infinite fathoms toward the centre of the earth, it were impossible he should know the will of us men here above, unless we either descend ourselves, or send, or at least throw in a letter of our mind, which notwithstanding will be never the nearer unless we convey light to read the same: so I say, either God must call to us in an audible voice, or send His angels, or raise up afresh some extraordinary means of revealing His will, or else send His letter of His mind to us His loving friends, redeemed by the blood of Christ, yea, and reach us light also for the perusing of the same, or surely we shall never as long as we live attain to the knowledge of His will. Now I grant that the books of Scripture contain the Divine will of God, but such is the darkness of our understanding, that we cannot conceive thereof unless the outward means of the preaching of the Word be joined with the inward working of the Spirit, as fire to enlighten the whole house. Not that the Word in itself is obscure and dark, but that it lighteth into those hands of such blind expositors, in whom is nothing but darkness, as the bright silver lying in a dark chest.

(Paul Bayne.)

No revelation can be adequately given by the address of man to man, whether by writing or orally, even if he be put in possession of the truth itself. For all such revelation must be made through words: and words are but counters — the coins of intellectual exchange. There is as little resemblance between the silver coin and the bread it purchases, as between the word and the thing it stands for. Looking at the coin the form of the loaf does not suggest itself. Listening to the word, you do not perceive the idea for which it stands, unless you are already in possession of it. Speak of ice to an inhabitant of the torrid zone, the word does not give him any idea, or if it does, it must be a false one. Talk of redness to one who cannot distinguish colours, what can your most eloquent description present to him resembling the truth of your sensation? Similarly in matters spiritual, no verbal revelation can give a single simple idea: for instance, what means justice to the unjust — or purity to the man whose heart is steeped in licentiousness? What does infinitude mean to a being who has never stirred from infancy beyond a cell, never seen the sky or the sea, or any of those occasions of thought, which, leaving vagueness on the mind, suggest the idea of the illimitable? It means, explain it as you will, nothing to him but a room: vastly larger than his own, but still a room terminated by four walls. Talk of God to a thousand ears, each has his own different conception of the Almighty Being who rules all. The sensual man hears of God, and conceives one idea; the pure man hears, and pictures another. Whether you speak in metaphysical or metaphorical language; in the purest words of inspiration, or the grossest images of materialism; the conceptions conveyed by the same word are essentially different, according to the soul which receives them.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

The decree of God is a sealed book, and the names in it are secret; therefore thy part is to look to God's revealed will — namely, to "make thy calling and election sure" by making thy regeneration sure. Dost thou not know that secret things belong to God, but revealed things, to us and to our children? Oh 'tis dangerous to meddle with the secrets of princes!

(G. Swinnock.)

It is an historical fact which has not been sufficiently noticed, that human nature is always below revelation. This fact indicates the Divine origin of revelation. Great discoveries are usually the product of preceding ages of thought. One mind develops the idea; but it is the fruit of the age ripened in that mind. A pearl is found, but the location had been indicated by previous researches. But revealed religion is something different from this. It is separate from and superior to the thought of the age. It calls the wisdom of the world foolishness, and introduces a new standpoint, and starting point, around which it gathers what was valuable in the old, and destroys the remainder.

(J. B. Walker.)

Very wisely does an American writer say, "There is a mighty difference between preaching the everlasting gospel and preaching the gospel everlastingly." There is no end to the truth, but there should be an end to the sermon, or else it will answer no end but that of wearying the hearer. A friend who occasionally visits the continent always prefers the passage from Dover to Calais, for a reason which we commend to the notice of certain prosy speakers — it is short. If you speak well, you will not be long; if you speak ill, you ought not to be so. We commend to the verbose brother the counsel of a costermonger to an open-air preacher — it was rather rude, but peculiarly sensible — "I say, old fellow, CUT IT SHORT."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

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