Remember the context for Chapter 3 follows chapters 2 and 1. Paul has just finished a rich set of blessing-filled thoughts that talk about our salvation in terms of justification, and how that comes by grace through faith, and neither of those come from us as a source, they are a gift of God. More than that, though we have been saved by the grace of Christ in that we died with Him to sin, we were literally made alive in our spirits as per Figure 1, below.
When we were dead in trespasses and sins (from 2:1), God made us alive together in Christ. The red area of the diagram representing our spirit, that part that has been dead since our birth, was made alive to God through Jesus’s death and subsequent resurrection. This work does not stop there, but Paul also tells us that in being made alive, we were raised with Him, and then seated with Him in the Heavenly places. Remember when we get to sit down? When the work is finished. He sat down. He finished the work. Since there was nothing else for us to do with respect to our justification, we were seated with Him.
More, we are being fitted and joined together into a spiritual dwelling for God that has not been made with hands, called the Church, which is also called the Body of Christ. It is not a building. No earthly man can claim any part in its construction. We rather are the building materials. And with this in mind, we begin chapter three.
1: Paul tells us that it is for this reason that he was a prisoner for the sake of we Gentiles, that he was given this stewardship of God’s grace for us (v.2):
3: …is the mystery that God revealed directly to Paul. “…as I wrote before in brief…” is a reference to the first two chapters, possibly or an earlier letter that was not preserved for us, though that seems less possible to me, because the infant church took the words written down by the apostles as scripture themselves (cf. 2 Pet. 3:15-16, where Peter refers to Paul’s writings as scriptures). So, all that wonderful stuff about being predestined with a purpose and calling, having been chosen from before the foundations of the world, from outside of time, how we who were dead were made alive and joined in essence and nature to Christ, to share in God’s own nature with Him (cf. John 17) – these were the reason that Paul was made an apostle to the Gentiles.
4: so by referring to this revelation, the one that Paul has written down for us, when we READ it…then we can understand Paul’s insight. So – Paul meant this letter to be read. To communicate truth and life to us. And look, here it is! And what are we doing? READING IT!
5: This was not made known to the sons of men from before Christ. Search the Old Testament for anything that truly represents Christ. The best thing that one can come up with is when the people of Israel were assembled as one at an earthly temple. Chapter 2 has us as bricks in a building made without hands. I don’t think this has a physical meaning, but spiritual.
6: Paul has already stated this, but Gentiles are now one body with Jews and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel. This flies in the face of those who would say that the Church has replaced Israel. How can we be partakers in the same body if we have replaced one of the bodies? Not to mention the writing that Paul did in Romans 9 through 11.
7: And Paul is made a minister [Lat. “ministere,” Gk. “diakonos,” servant] of this Gospel and purpose! God, in His grace and power, made Paul His own servant for His own purposes – and that purpose was to make known the mystery Paul was talking about in v.3!
8: “…the very least of all saints…” Paul was referencing his past here. Remember, he was a dread persecutor. Acts 9:1-31 is his story if you want to read it, but it tells us that he was on his way to Damascus with letters from the High Priest in hand to try to root out this “way” that followed this “Essene Rabbi Jesus.” Paul would have at the time viewed Christianity as heresy to be rooted out by any means possible to preserve Judaism. “…this [specific] grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles, the unfathomable riches of Christ…” To this persecutor, torturer, and legalized murderer of God’s people – this specific grace was given: To evangelize [euagellizo, to announce good news] the Gentiles with the “unfathomable” [anexichniastos, cannot be traced out] riches [the sense of flowing wealth, not necessarily monetary] of Christ.
9: “…and to make all know…” [two ancient manuscripts give this reading] “…the administration of the mystery…” or if you like, “how it really works,” in terms of your salvation. As previously discussed (v.3, 5), this mystery was previously hidden by God, the one who created everything. Now, through Paul and his fellow apostles, it was revealed (the purpose of Paul’s writing). Why?
10: “…so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.” That’s right, although it involves us intimately and gloriously, it isn’t about us. We are meant to be an object lesson of the skill (“wisdom”) of God through the church to those celestial beings that are at present in charge and have the power to act [arche (plural of archon), and exsousia, those authorities with the power to act]. In other words, He is using us to make a point to somebody through the regenerate church.
11: This was all part of that eternal plan that Paul referred to in the first chapter, where we were predestined with the purpose of adopting us as His own mature offspring…those he could put into any business He has and have us represent Him perfectly. Who – me? Apparently! We are meant to be administrators of the universe! Paul says (1 Cor. 6:3) that at some future point, we will judge angels! All of the rough stuff we go through? That’s training, friends. And those of you who know me and have heard part of my own story know I’ve seen some pretty severe struggles. Maybe not like Paul, but those struggles are training me to help people who are going through the same thing (2 Cor. 1:6). Friends, this is what life is about!
12: That eternal purpose, that mystery which Paul is now revealing to us, through faith, gives us a few things that are necessary to live this way. The first of these is boldness [parrhesis, a compound word that means all confidence]. No, we are not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of salvation to all those who believe, to the Jew first, and also for the Greek. We are not ashamed to live it, and we are not ashamed to say it. To those that want us to knuckle under and shut up about it, we say no, respectfully. And because we love you, we also want to say it to you – that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life, and no one can get to the Father except through Him. I know that makes people angry. Their anger is not directed toward me. In reality, it is this God that they are angry with, and He very much wants to deal with their anger before it is too late for them. Boldness. The second thing is “confident access” [lit. “access in confidence”] to God. Why? Well, for a lot of things. For empowering (that guaranteed down-payment of the Holy Spirit for example) to read the Word of God, for fellowship with God and with his servants, for worshipping, and for prayer. We don’t have to stand around shivering in the shadows. We can walk with confidence into the light, because it was His love that predestined us (1:4) in the first place for this very purpose.
13: So don’t lose heart because you are going through a hard time, or because someone you know is going through tough circumstances. Those tough circumstances are the very things that will bring the glory of God into your life and mine.
14: Now all the amazing feast of spirituality and reality from before have a purpose: to drive Paul to prayer, and it should for us also.
15: Although this isn’t the specific context, sometimes we can gain information about things from its mentioning, and we can get some of that in the statements here. For the record, Paul is referring to the Father, God Himself, to whom he is praying, in the context of the prayer that is going to follow in verses 16 and on. What does Paul then say about this Father God? First, that every family that has ever existed derives its name from Him. That’s a lot of names! And it tells us that there are families in Heaven and on Earth. What does that mean? No idea, but families are important. They seem to be an organizing concept. Back to context. What is Paul praying for?
16: That God would give to you, according to the riches [flowing wealth, remember, and not necessarily with money] of His glory, that we would be strengthened [krataioo, made strong] with power [dunamis, explosive and miraculous ability] that comes through His Spirit, the Holy Spirit inside us, in the inner man [eso anthropos, within humans]. This is another place that it tells us that the Holy Spirit, that down payment of our heavenly award, comes to live inside us. This is important, because of the argument that it never says anywhere in the Bible to “invite Jesus into your heart.” It’s true it does not. But Jesus still comes to dwell in our hearts by faith (v.17, more in a minute), and here is another place that explains how. So how?
17: “…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith…” You really can’t get clearer than that. Modern evangelists that want to tell people to “invite Jesus into your heart” are not wrong on that point. That is where He comes to live once we are saved. What’s wrong with making the invitation? It happens to be how I was saved, and I know I was saved, I have that same inner witness that they say I should have. Where they go wrong is not giving a good explanation of why we need to be saved, and from what. (That’s sin, and we cannot do it ourselves, but that is not the context of this passage, so we can discuss this another time.) This is important – that Christ comes to live in our hearts though our firm persuasion or opinion held, our “faith.” Why? Well, to save us from our sins and their power over us.
17b-18: “…and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth…” we should have deep roots that solidify our foundation on this topic – so that we can comprehend [katalambano, to lay hold of, to seize] with all the saints (that is all of us together), what is the breadth [platos, width, suggests a great extent], length [mekos, length], height [hupsos, height], and depth [bathos, deep water, often used to symbolize the deep things of God, and is more of an internal measurement]. The thing of note here is that this is more than just three dimensions. And the first of these, breadth means more than simple width – it is an all-encompassing word. A great extent. It is meant, I believe, to envelope the entirety of the matter. I believe that this language contains metaphor that can help us understand at least the concept presented by Paul. It is all-encompassing. It has been long (length) in development, and it has grown very large (height) over that time. And it is so very deep. There are many things in our belief that are difficult to understand, and some can go deeper than others to see the mysteries contained in Christ. It is like the shore of the sea. We get our feet wet with salvation, and then we begin to play in the shallows. Then we go out further from shore for a longer swim, but we can still “touch bottom.” Then we go diving into the depths, the deep things of God. What we find there will forever change us for the better, and is worth the experience – and the very sad thing about this is that very few will leave their play in the shallows to experience the freedom in Christ. Of those that do, fewer still will leave their ability to touch bottom and their manufactured feelings of safety based on external things, instead of trusting the Creator to protect them and keep them safe while they discover those things in His great deep He has prepared just for them to look for. The really sad fact is that some won’t even get their feet wet. Oh, trust God.
19: “…and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge…” Know [ginosko, to know, be aware of, be sure]. Love [agapeo, divine, self-giving, self-sacrificing]. Christ, the anointed One. Surpasses [hyperballo, to run past or throw beyond] knowledge [gnosis, to know, as in science or literature, absolutely, objectively know]. Why? “…that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” That you may be filled, that is completed with everything that is in God. Think about that! Wow!
20: Now to Him. The One we have been referring to. To the one that has bestowed all this rich and flowing reality on us. To HIM, “…who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think…” What? Wow! As if this wasn’t all more than we could possibly imagine, He does far beyond all we could ever ask or apparently even think! “…according to the power that works within US…” Um…okay – this is a BIG deal. All that creating, working, saving, redeeming, making holy, incredibly immense, and all-encompassing raw POWER is at work. In. US. Okay, I’m blown away. Why in us?
21: It inspires us to WORSHIP HIM. “…to Him be glory in the church [ekklesia, a called-out gathering of people] and in Christ Jesus [remember, the Title is first, it is the divinity we worship]. To all generations! As long as there are humans, we need to worship Him! [Aionos ton aionon. Hameen.] To the ages of the ages, Amen! We’ll leave it here until next time.
There will be no study next week, we are at the Promisekeepers 2018 Conference to learn from the Lord.