"For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus
Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the
grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he
made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4
Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of
Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men,
as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the
"For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you
Gentiles." There was a cause for which Paul was preaching the gospel
and writing the things that he was inspired of the Spirit to write. The
cause was that the Gentiles would hear and believe the gospel of the
grace of Christ and press into the Kingdom of God and worship and serve
Him in Spirit and in truth.
Four times Paul refers to himself as being the prisoner of
the Lord in addition to the one above:
1. Eph 4:1 "I therefore, the prisoner of the
Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are
2. 2 Tim 1:8 "Be not thou therefore ashamed of
the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker
of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God"
3. Phil 1:1 "Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ,
and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and
4. Phil 1:9 "Yet for love's sake I rather
beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a
prisoner of Jesus Christ."
Men imprisoned Paul several times because he preached the
gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, in the above, he does not speak of being
the prisoner of men, but the prisoner of the Lord. A prisoner is not
free, but his movements are restricted and his actions are according to
that which the warden allows him or commands him. He is required to do
what the warden tells him to do. Paul considered himself to be the
prisoner of Jesus Christ and thus Christ was his warden. A prisoner is
by nature a servant. Paul considered his actions to be under the
direction of Jesus Christ. He did not feel himself to be free to serve
the flesh. He considered himself to be the love prisoner of Jesus.
Likewise, we should consider ourselves to be the love prisoners of Jesus
Christ. We are not our own, we have been bought with a price. We are no
longer the slaves of that awful slave master of sin. Christ paid the
price to redeem us from sin. Thus, we are the lawful servants of Jesus
Christ. We are not free. We should not consider ourselves to be free
to serve the flesh, but rather we should consider ourselves to be under
the direction of our Lord and Master and to do his bidding.
In most cases, a servant has a master who he obeys by
serving others. So it is with our Warden or Master. We serve Him by
being the servant of his people. Paul said that he was the prisoner of
the Lord for the Gentiles. His service to the Lord was performed by
serving the Gentiles. Today, our service to the Lord is performed by
serving his people.
Jesus spoke of this in the 25th chapter of
Matthew: Matt. 25:34
"Then shall the King say unto them on his right
hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for
you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungered, and ye
gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and
ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited
me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous
answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or
thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took
thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in
prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto
them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the
least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Therefore, when we serve the Lord's brethren this is the
same as doing it unto the Lord. Our service, however, must be under the
direction of the Lord.
"If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God
which is given me to you-ward:" The Lord told Ananias, after he had
struck Paul down on the road to Damascus, what Paul's general service
would be: Acts 9:15 "But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a
chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings,
and the children of Israel: 16 For I will show him how great things he
must suffer for my name's sake."
The Lord first used Peter to carry the gospel to the
household of the Gentile Cornelius. Then he used Paul to be the apostle
to the Gentiles: Rom. 11:13 "For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I
am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:" The word,
"dispensation," comes from a Greek word meaning "stewardship." Paul had
been given a stewardship of his Master to make known the grace of God
unto the Gentiles. In writing the book of Ephesians as well as most of
his other writings he was carrying out this stewardship. He, of course,
carried out this stewardship under the direction of the Lord by the
leadership of the Holy Spirit.
"How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery;
(as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may
understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)" Paul received the
gospel of the grace of Christ by direct revelation from the Lord. We do
not do this today. We have an understanding of the grace of Christ
because we have heard someone preach it or teach it or we have read the
writings of others to understand it. Paul did not even go up to the
apostles who were before him:
Gal. 1:11 "But I certify you, brethren,
that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12 For I
neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the
revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For ye have heard of my conversation in
time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted
the church of God, and wasted it: 14 And profited in the Jews' religion
above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous
of the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my
mother's womb, and called me by his grace, 16 To reveal his Son in me,
that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not
with flesh and blood: 17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which
were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto
Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter,
and abode with him fifteen days. 19 But other of the apostles saw I
none, save James the Lord's brother."
Paul thought it needful that the brethren at Ephesus as well
as us today know that he received the gospel of the grace of Christ by
direct revelation from Jesus Christ. This is not something he made up
or that he heard from someone else. It came directly from the mouth of
Jesus Christ to the ears of the Apostle Paul.
"Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of
men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the
Spirit;" The grace of Christ is taught in the Old Testament, yet the
sons of men never grasped the teaching of it until it pleased God to
open their hearts to understand it. This he did when he sent forth the
apostles and prophets after his resurrection. We are indeed blessed to
live today where we can have an understanding of God's amazing grace.
Thanks be to our God for giving us the gospel of the grace of Christ.
Ephesians 3:6 "That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of
the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:"
There are several prophecies of the bringing in of the
Gentiles in the Old Testament and yet it was hidden from the
understanding of men until it pleased God to reveal it unto them. Some
of the Old Testament prophecies of the bringing in of the Gentiles are
1. Isa 11:10 "And in that day there shall be a
root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it
shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious."
2. Isa 42:1 "Behold my servant, whom I uphold;
mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him:
he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles."
3. Isa 42:6 "I the LORD have called thee in
righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give
thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;"
4. Isa 49:6 "And he said, It is a light thing
that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and
to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to
the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the
5. Isa 49:22 'Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold,
I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the
people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters
shall be carried upon their shoulders."
6. Isa 54:3 "For thou shalt break forth on the
right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and
make the desolate cities to be inhabited."
7. Isa 60:3 "And the Gentiles shall come to thy
light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising."
8. Isa 60:5 "Then thou shalt see, and flow
together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the
abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the
Gentiles shall come unto thee."
9. Isa 60:11 "Therefore thy gates shall be open
continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring
unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be
10. Isa 60:16 "Thou shalt also suck the milk of
the Gentiles, and shalt suck the breast of kings: and thou shalt know
that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of
11. Isa 61:6 "But ye shall be named the Priests
of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat
the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast
12. Isa 61:9 "And their seed shall be known
among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see
them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath
13. Isa 62:2 "And the Gentiles shall see thy
righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a
new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name."
14. Isa 66:12 "For thus saith the LORD, Behold,
I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles
like a flowing stream: then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her
sides, and be dandled upon her knees."
15. Isa 66:19 "And I will set a sign among them,
and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish,
Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar
off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they
shall declare my glory among the Gentiles."
16. Jer 16:19 "O LORD, my strength, and my
fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall
come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our
fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no
17. Mal 1:11 "For from the rising of the sun
even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the
Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and
a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the
LORD of hosts."
"Whereof I was made a minister, according to the
gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his
power. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this
grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable
riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of
the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God,
who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10 To the intent that now unto
the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the
church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose
which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:"
"Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the
grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power." It
is God that makes someone a gospel minister. God calls them to that
work. God gives them the gifts necessary for them to perform that
work. True ministers of the gospel do not apply to become ministers of
the gospel. Most of them did not desire to become ministers of the
gospel before God called them to that work. Paul was on the road to
Damascus desiring to destroy the very mention of the name of Jesus
Christ. He had no desire to become a minister of the gospel of Jesus
Christ. Yet the Lord struck him down and told him what he should do.
Immediately after being baptized, Paul began to preach that Jesus is the
Christ. It took the working of the Holy Spirit to call Paul to preach
the gospel and it took the working of the Holy Spirit to give Paul the
gifts and talents to preach the gospel. It also takes the working of
the Holy Spirit to enable someone to preach the gospel.
Paul spoke of his ability to preach in 1 Cor. 2:4 "And my
speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but
in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." Thus, it was the Spirit
and the power of the Spirit that enabled Paul to preach the gospel. The
Holy Spirit worked within Paul to enable him to preach the gospel, to
direct his labors, and to show him what he was to preach.
"Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this
grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable
riches of Christ." Humility is a necessary ingredient for anyone who is
to preach the gospel. When we are lifted up in pride we are unable to
preach the gospel. Paul truly felt himself to be less that the least of
all saints. It was by his humility that he became such an effective
preacher. God resists the proud but gives grace unto the humble. At
one time the disciples were arguing who would be the greatest among the
apostles and the Lord rebuked them: Matt. 18:1 "At the same time came
the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of
heaven? 2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the
midst of them, 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be
converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the
kingdom of heaven. 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this
little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
Paul also recognized that his preaching was by the grace of
God and that without God's grace he could not preach. Thus, we see that
God gave grace to Paul who felt himself to be less than the least of all
saints that Paul might preach the unsearchable riches of Christ."
Those who have been born of the Spirit of God and have seen
that by God's grace they have been redeemed from their sins, and that it
was by God's grace that they are quickened into Spirit life, and that by
God's grace they will live in the glory world, know somewhat of the
riches of Christ. Yet we only know in part. The riches of Christ
cannot be searched out to their fullness. They are unsearchable.
The Holy Spirit directed Paul to preach to His people among
the Gentiles, that they might come to know somewhat of the riches of
Christ. The gospel gives us knowledge of the riches of Christ.
"And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the
mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who
created all things by Jesus Christ." The "all men" refers to God's
people both among the Jews and among the Gentiles. Paul was sent that
God's people both among the Jews and among the Gentiles might see what
is the fellowship of the mystery. A mystery is something that is hid
from some, but revealed to others. At one time, the grace of Christ was
hidden from all, but when it pleased God and at his appointed time, he
began to reveal the grace of Christ during this New Testament age. He
also began to reveal that he also had a people among the Gentiles.
In the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is a
fellowship of the mystery of the grace of Christ. The church consists
of people who understand the grace of Christ. In many orders of people,
they do not understand the grace of Christ in eternal salvation from
sin. They think that they have to do something to be saved from their
sins, and to be born again, and get eternal life. They are not a part
of the fellowship of the mystery. Only those who are a part of the
Lord's true church and understand that salvation is by grace alone are a
part of this fellowship. This mystery of the grace of Christ is
revealed to some and hidden from others.
Christ, not only created all things in nature, but he also
is the Creator of spiritual life. It is because of that spiritual
creation when we are born of the Spirit that we are enabled to
understand the mystery of the grace of Christ.
"To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers
in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of
God." Earlier in the book of Ephesians we were told that "all spiritual
blessings are in heavenly places in Christ." Since the heavenly places
as well as all spiritual blessings are in Christ we conclude that the
principalities and powers in heavenly places are speaking of things that
pertain to the church and its members. The principalities and powers in
heavenly places are in the church. A principality is a place where a
King reigns. The plural principalities denote plural places where a
King or kings reign. Rev. 1:5, 6 is very revealing about who the kings
are: "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first
begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him
that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath
made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and
dominion for ever and ever. Amen." The ones who are kings and priests
are the some ones that Christ loved and washed from their sins in his
As kings, we are to reign over our own lives. Further, our
reign is to be according to the rule of our King. Jesus Christ is King
of kings and Lord of lords. We are to follow his rule in reigning over
our own lives.
One of the purposes of Paul's preaching the gospel was that
the church might know the manifold wisdom of God. This manifold wisdom
of God is made known through the eternal covenant of redemption.
Salvation from sin, quickening into spiritual life, and glorification of
the elect could have come by no other means than the covenant of
redemption. Man could not have come up with any way to redeem himself
from sin or to cause himself to be born of the Spirit or to resurrect
his own body. Only by the manifold wisdom of God are these things
"According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in
Christ Jesus our Lord:" In the covenant of redemption God had an
eternal purpose in Christ Jesus our Lord. The covenant of redemption is
set forth for us in Rom. 8:29, 30: "For whom he did foreknow, he also
did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might
be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate,
them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and
whom he justified, them he also glorified." It is Christ who does the
calling, justifying, and glorifying. This is according to what we read
in Is. 46:9 "Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there
is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end
from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet
done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: 11
Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel
from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass;
I have purposed it, I will also do it." Christ is the man who executes
the counsel of God.
This eternal purpose was made before the world began and it
will stand throughout eternity. It is just as sure to come to pass as
Jesus is the Son of God.