1For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles--
2if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace which was given to me for you;
3that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.
Paul had been imprisoned for the sake of the gospel which he was called by God to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15-16). Christ revealed Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus at which point Paul’s heart was changed, and he was commissioned to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. This was the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to him for their sake. Evidently, Paul had written the Ephesians before, though the letter is not part of the canon of Scripture.
4By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,
5which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;
6to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,
7of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.
Probably in the first letter Paul had explained about his apostleship and call to be a missionary to the Gentiles. Thus, referencing this letter, the Ephesians would understand more about Paul’s calling and the mystery of God bringing the gospel to the Gentiles. This was something which those before Paul and the time of the apostles did not fully understand (c.f. 1 Peter 1:10-11). But through Paul and the other apostles and prophets in the early church, this mystery was revealed and explained. This mystery Paul is referencing here specifically was that the gospel extended to the Gentiles (c.f. Acts 11:1-18). They, too, could be the chosen people of God, being joint heirs with Christ and part of the promised eternal life in Christ. People from every, tribe, tongue, and nation can be part of the body of Christ, and indeed they will be (Revelation 5:9).
Paul makes an important point about his calling and ministry. His describes himself as a minister, which means that he understands his role as a servant of the King. He is not arrogant as if he is caught up in the honor of being an apostle, but he recognizes that what he has received he has received as a gift of grace from God. He didn’t deserve it or earn it, but God chose to bestow it upon Him freely. Thus, with this understanding, there is no sensible reason for him to boast because he rightly recognizes that God worked according to His power to call Paul and to use Paul. It was not by Paul’s power or might or because of any inherent goodness in Paul.
8To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,
9and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things;
10so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.
Paul views himself as the least of all the saints, being mindful that he was least deserving of the grace of God, given all that he had done against Christ and His followers. He doesn’t view himself as superior to other saints because of his calling in Christ, but he views himself as a servant of all. Paul wants to “win” in terms of spiritual faithfulness (1 Corinthians 9:24), and part of doing so is to reckon oneself as the servant of all others. Then, and only then, can one become first or of high rank in the coming kingdom (Mark 9:35). Paul rightly viewed himself as last now, and he looked forward to his coming crown and honor for Christ’s sake (2 Timothy 4:8). Paul’s calling was by the grace of God and for the purpose of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. His calling was to tell them of the wonder, glory, and unfathomable riches of Christ. He would have to show them that they needed forgiveness, but he also emphasized the glory of the life to come. There is great spiritual privilege and honor in being a child of God, and being adopted by God in Christ is good news indeed. Paul’s calling was to explain to the body of Christ that the gospel was to go to the Gentiles, a purpose of God from the beginning which had not been fully understood by man up to this time. God is the creator of all things, and all men ultimately are His creation. Thus, it makes sense that He would want to reach out in love to the entire world. Even the angels were kept in the dark as to this mystery (1 Peter 1:12), and it was now the church’s privilege as ministers of the gospel to be used by God to reveal this mystery to even the rulers and authorities in the heavenlies. This, as all things, was to bring glory to God by revealing His infinite wisdom, love, and perfect plan from the beginning.
11This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,
12in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.
13Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.
God had purposed from the beginning to send His Son into the world to redeem it, and He did just that. By trusting in Christ for our forgiveness and salvation, we can be confident and assured that God the Father has accepted us and that we are indeed His children. Through Christ we have the right and privilege to approach God directly in prayer with confidence that we are accepted and heard (Hebrews 4:16). Paul doesn’t want the Ephesians to be discouraged because of his imprisonment and many sufferings for the sake of the gospel. His calling was to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, them included. Thus, Paul’s suffering was for their sake which demonstrated just how much God loved them and how much Paul loved God and them.
14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
15from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,
God loved the Gentiles so much that He gave Christ for them and commissioned a former persecutor of the church to preach it to them and suffer in the process. This moved Paul to bow in prayer to the Father, Who is Father of both Jew and Gentile at least in the sense that God created mankind (Luke 3:38) and more perfectly in the sense that those who receive Christ as Savior are adopted as children of God (Romans 8:15).
16that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,
Paul prays that God would grant the Ephesians to be strengthened with the power of God through the Spirit of God in their inner persons. This would be according to His riches in glory. God is able and willing to give His children all that we need for life and godliness, and we can be strong in Him even as we are weak if we trust Him (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). It is by the Spirit’s power that we can accomplish things that bear true spiritual fruit (Zechariah 4:6). Spiritual accomplishments are by the grace of God according to His work, power, and strength in and through us. Never are true spiritual gains a result of ourselves, lest we should boast in ourselves. Our boast must always be in God (Psalm 34:2), which it will be when we realize our weakness and need for His strength. We can praise God that He is there to supply us with the strength we need to do His will (Philippians 4:13).
17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
18may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
19and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
Paul prays that the indwelling Holy Spirit Who indeed lives in the hearts of those who have received Christ by faith would empower, influence, prompt, pervade, and govern the desires, affections, thoughts, and impulses of the believer. This request is very similar to the idea of being filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18 in which the believer is totally yielded to the work and desires of the Spirit, being a fully useable tool in His grasp. Paul wants the faith of these believers to be rooted and grounded in love because foundational to a fruitbearing walk with Christ is a faith in His goodness and love. We must believe that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), and it is His kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). As we continue to recognize and bask in His goodness and promises to us, we will continue to be motivated by grace to place our faith in Him to do great things, even impossible things. But all of these spiritually empowering experiences which move us away from complacency and faithlessness begin with a trusting in the goodness and love of God toward His children. Trusting in His love is that which establishes, strengthens, and upholds as a foundation. When we begin to doubt the love of God and His good heart toward us, we wrongly decide God’s will and God’s desires because we confine Him to the meager expectations of our own faithless hearts.
Paul wants the believers to mentally understand just how vast God’s love is. He wants them to recognize, believe, and accept that God’s love is so immeasurable and boundless in every direction and to every extent and in every way that it even surpasses knowledge. In other words, he wants the Ephesians to understand and know that God’s love is so great that it is not even fully comprehensible. It is so great, and they must believe this fact and live in light of it. God’s love is limitless and perfect, and we can never exhaust it as His children. Like Jonah, never can we escape God or His love, whether we go left, right, up, down (c.f. Psalm 139:5-7). Just as a ship would be said to be full if it had all its sailors, rowers, and soldiers, so too is the body of Christ in Christ because of the love of God. We can be filled up to His fullness, lacking nothing (James 1:4) and being equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We have everything that we need for life and godliness at all times and in all circumstances (2 Peter 1:3). God has promised to give us life to the full (John 10:10), and in Christ and His love such is indeed the case. We have boundless hope and joy because we have a God Whose love is boundless.
20Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,
21to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
At this point, Paul praises God because He is able to do even vastly beyond anything which we could ask Him to do or conceive of Him doing. His love is limitless, His glory boundless, and His power endless. There is nothing He can’t do, and we can’t even begin to understand all that He has done, is doing, and will do. His wisdom is so great, and He is so wonderful and glorious, indeed deserving of our praise. The wonder is that this power and abundance which God possesses in Himself is something which He delights to showcase in and through His children. The same power of God which we cannot fathom or understand because it is so great is the same power God delights to work in and through us. There is no sensible reason to rely upon ourselves and our own strength when we have the power of God in Christ working in us by His Holy Spirit. We need to rest in the boundless love of God, trust in His abundant power, and glory in His perfect nature. He alone deserves the glory today, tomorrow, and forever in His church and in His Son, Who indwells His church.
A church that displaces Christ with empty manmade doctrinal systems or grace with law will lose its first love. If church becomes only about going through the right motions, they will have lost their first love, which is what happened to the Ephesians a generation or two after this letter was written (Revelation 2:4). They lost their first love, and they needed to repent. It is no accident that Paul, being himself empowered by the Holy Spirit, was trying to keep the first things first. He wanted the Ephesians to never grow tired or unaware of the glorious love of God which surpasses our understanding. He knew that if they could remember this, then their joy would be full and they could live a life of abundance, faith, and fruit bearing. When the Christian life becomes about simply form and function rather than relationship and praise for God, we will have lost our first love. The antidote is to pray that God will teach us just how great and boundless His love is and how He demonstrates that fact to us daily. Right doctrine is foundational as is right living, but without love, God is greatly dishonored (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). He must be adored, our hearts must be influenced by His Spirit in surrender to Him and His working, and we must delight in praising the God Whom we don’t fully understand. We must be in awe of our God and His unfathomable love. If the church loses its first love, it might also lose its empowering of the Spirit and blessing of God (Revelation 2:5).