Ephesians 3

1 The message of Christ, which brings salvation to the Gentiles as well as the Jews, is very significant. Paul reminded the Gentiles that he was in a Roman prison because he brought this important message to them.
2 Jesus Himself had commissioned Paul to this assignment, and he was willing to suffer anything to complete it. Paul speaks of it as "stewardship." God gave him grace, not so he could keep it for himself, but so that he would share it with others (specifically the Gentiles in this case). In the same sense, Christians have been given grace, and it is our assignment to share this same message and encourage others to attain grace from God through faith in Him.
3 Jesus revealed Himself as the risen Christ to Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-5). The other apostles had the same doctrine, but Paul did not learn it from them. Instead, he learned it directly from Jesus as had the other apostles before him (Gal 1:15-2:10).

Paul is about to go into more detail about the mystery he expressed in Eph 2:14-15.

4 Paul also reminds them of his purpose for writing them. This is not a theological exercise. It is an earnest effort to help them understand the details of their faith. One can have an excellent ministry with the basic principles of the forgiveness of sin through the work on the cross and eternal life evidenced by the resurrection. However, if one is willing to learn the broader applications, a person's ministry can be expanded to minister to as many people as possible. In this case, Paul explains how faith in the message of Christ can unite people, even if they were previously enemies.
5 When Paul speaks of a mystery, he is not indicating that something is unfathomable. Instead, he is speaking of something that has been true from the beginning, but was not fully revealed until later. God has a plan for this universe, and a time line He has established by His will. Throughout history He has worked and called people into action in such a way that His desired outcomes will be accomplished.
6 In the book of Isaiah and in other places, God reveals that the Gentiles will be saved. However, the mystery is that Gentiles would be equal heirs with Israel. God gave Israel a special mission to be His people. The Israelites might have grudgingly accepted the idea that a Gentile could turn to God, but they would not believe that they would share the blessings God had given Israel. After Jesus' ascension, the Holy Spirit began to make it clear that the Jewish Messiah was also the Gentile's Messiah. The Holy Spirit made it clear that Gentiles could have faith and be blessed with spiritual gifts. He also made it clear that Gentiles did not have to be converted to Judaism first. This was difficult for some of the Christian Jews to accept, but it is true nonetheless.
7 The term "minister" here is the same word from which we get "deacon." It indicates a service ministry. Paul was once a proud Pharisee, but he had become a humble servant. Only then did he find that the true power of God was the salvation that came about through His grace.
8 Paul always approached his ministry in humility. He always remembered that he was, at first, fiercely opposed to Christianity and caused many problems for the early church. How humbling it was for him to find out he had been wrong and then become a prominent figure in the faith he once persecuted. Paul's pride was kept in check by remembering the grief he had previously caused.

As Christians, we should also remain humbled by our past. When we become proud our ministry will suffer. If we remember our own wayward past, we will be better able to convey the Gospel to those who are still apart from God.

Paul received grace from God, not so he could have it for himself, but rather that he should preach Jesus to the Gentiles that they, too, might attain God's grace through faith. The same applies to Christians today. Each Christian is part of God's ministering body. We are to reach out to our families, neighbors, coworkers, and even strangers with the message we have ourselves believed.

The riches of Christ are so many that one could never examine them all. Salvation, personal relationship, the fruit of the Spirit and communication through prayer and the Scriptures are only a few of the riches that God makes available to us. Even these we have trouble comprehending. Christians will spend eternity probing the depths of God's vast riches.

9 One objective of Paul's ministry was to explain the unity of believers that God had revealed to the apostles. This might seem to both Jew and Gentile to be a difficult thing to accept. Yet, through Christ it is possible. He made all people, and He can make us one spiritually under His leadership.
10 The Church is evidence of God's wisdom. Even among Christians, we are amazed that God can use us. It seems that there are many hurts and misunderstandings that foster disunity, it is a wonder God's purpose continues to advance through us. The angels themselves are astonished to see how God works out salvation among weak and stubborn people. Still, God's working in the Church is a testimony that God can do the impossible. To the fallen angels (demons), it is evidence that their influence in the world is only temporary. While they do their best to destroy the relationships between people and God, His wisdom overcomes their schemes.
11 God made physical beings to have a spiritual relationship with Him. The forgiveness of sins attained through Jesus' work on the cross makes this possible. The existence of the Church is evidence that His plan worked and will continue to work. The fulfillment of these promises also demonstrates that God has and will establish His kingdom among people, just as He promised.
12 Sin separated us from God, but salvation allows us to be reunited with Him. Just as a child has free access to the welcoming arms of his father or a friend has confidence and trust in his best friend, we can freely come before God. We become awestruck when we think of His greatness as God of the universe, and we are humbled when we recognize how unworthy we are, but our faith that Christ has taken away our sins makes access to Him possible.
13 Paul reminds them of these things so that they would be encouraged. In this world, bad things do happen to good people. Paul was in prison. Did this mean that God was not able to protect him? Did it mean that God was punishing Paul or rejecting him as a minister of the Gospel? No. God's method of working often seems strange to us. Some of God's greatest works through people come at times when they are their weakest. For the person enduring a trial, it is a time when they can learn to rely more fully on God. It also opens opportunities that he may not have had when he was comfortable.

It is also important to note that God does not have all Christians suffer as others. Those who are not persecuted and imprisoned should also seek to help and encourage those who are. We can also recognize that those who are imprisoned can bring public awareness to the Gospel, as even secular people can see the injustice of imprisoning godly people. It may seem strange, but those who suffer for the sake of the Gospel make the work of those who remain free even more beautiful and honorable.

14 Paul's first prayer in Eph 1:17-23 focused on God imparting knowledge and wisdom to the readers. Here he continues the prayer started in Eph 3:1 to ask God to give the readers a full understanding of His power and love.

This prayer gives us another glimpse of the Trinity. God is one God, yet made up of three co-equal persons. The Trinity is hierarchical with the Father having authority over the Son and the Spirit.

Paul and others throughout the Scriptures often prayed on their knees. Bowing to authority is a sign of reverence. While we are the Father's children and Christ's brothers and sisters by faith, we must not forget that they are still God and are worthy of our respect. Posture during prayer can be one way to show this respect, and it should mirror the attitude of the heart.

15 Everything and everyone was created through the Son, Jesus (John 1:1-3), but we are all one family because all life comes from the Father.

Some take this passage to refer only to the family of God in Christ, but it appears to refer to all of creation, not just the obedient portion of it. The next verse is distinctive to Christians because it refers to those who have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them.

16 Jesus had promised His disciples that they would receive power through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49). This power is available to all believers, and it is Paul's wish that the readers also experience this power. It is a gift from God, so we can not "demand" power or dictate how it is to be manifested, but we must be alert to how the Spirit empowers us so we will know how God wants to use us.

God's influence should go to the core of every believer. When we let the Spirit infuse every part of our being, we are strengthened in every area of our lives. With the counsel and help of the Spirit, we can successfully meet any challenge that we face.

We often pray about physical needs, but we must also pray about our spiritual needs. We should remember that the physical body with its many weaknesses will be replaced with a perfect body, but our spirits will continue in those new bodies. God is far more concerned that we be spiritually whole than physically well. For example, an ailing or crippled person who believes in God will enjoy a wonderful existence in heaven, while a physically healthy person who rejects God will suffer miserably apart from Him when he dies.

17 The Spirit helps us to relate to Christ and to each other. Christ puts us in a right relationship with the Father. This whole plan was set in motion because of the Father's love for us. He extends grace to us by allowing Christ to have suffered the punishment for our sins. He also directs the Holy Spirit to reveal these things to our minds since we (as worldly people) have difficulty understanding the underlying spiritual reality of the universe.
18 We are to build our lives on God's love and be nourished by it. Then we will be able to understand this love that reaches out to everyone (width), lasts from the beginning and eternally past Judgement Day (length), reaches down into the grave to bring people to life (depth), and ascends into heaven to reign from God's throne (height).
19 The world can not prove that God exists (or disprove Him for that matter). Yet, the Christian not only knows that God exists, he can experience God's love and power. When the Holy Spirit lives in us, we know something that is unknown to the rest of the world.

Certainly, we can learn much about God's love here, but we probably will not experience the fullness of it until we are with Him in heaven. There, no sin will interfere in our relationship with God. We will see Him as He is, in the fullness of His love and power.

20 The God who made the universe and later restored people to Himself is still capable of working in the world today. Our thoughts and prayers are typically limited to our surroundings. We must remember that God works in every life, and is able to do more than we could think of. We must pray with expectation, and not be afraid of asking anything "too big," as long as it is in His will.
21 The Church recognizes God's awesome ability to work in the universe -- both physical and spiritual. Thus, we should praise and reverence His name openly. The Church began at Pentecost, and will continue until the appointed time. After Judgement Day, the Church will continue forever when Christ establishes His kingdom.