Ephesians 3:1-5  "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 Spirit;"

"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 called"

    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 fellowlabourer"

    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 as follows:

    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 earth."

    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 brought."

    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 Jacob."

    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 yourselves."

    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 blessed."

    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 profit."

    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." 

Ephesians 3:7-11  "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 own blood. 

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 done. 

"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.