For an introduction to this series, click here.
I didn't think Ephesians would be this hard for me to write about. Ephesians is a very important book, but at least the first half is hard to follow, just because Paul does all these riffs that seem to stray from the subject.
Paul starts this chapter talking about the mystery of free Gentile salvation:
"For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are members of the same body, and fellow heirs, partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel." (3:1-6)
I just heard a preacher on the radio last night comment on this passage, and I think he missed the point. He was reading from I think the New King James, which follows the old King James and uses "dispensation" instead of "stewardship" in verse 2. He waxed eloquent about the dispensation of grace that we are living in now. Now I am a dispensationalist, but if you read this passage, and it was obvious as I heard him read his translation last night, this passage is talking about Paul's special position as an apostle to the Gentiles, not about the general dispensation (used as a technical theological term). In this case, "stewardship" is a much better translation because it does not confuse the reader. The word "dispensation" was a fine word to use 400 years ago, but now that word comes with a lot of baggage, and it was unwise for the New King James to use it.
Anyway, Paul in this passage claims special revelation from God as to the salvation of Gentiles. Paul continues that discussion here:
"Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him." (3:7-12)
Paul concludes this chapter with a prayer for the church. This is a prayer that we can all pray for ourselves and for each other:
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith— that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (3:14-19, ESV)