Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Ephesians | Session 29 | 6:11-24

In our final study in the series today, we find Paul giving his concluding words and greetings to the Ephesians. His final words include encouragement for them to be strong in the Lord put putting on the whole armor of God, and his final greetings are regarding Tychicus who delivered the letter and someone he considered to be a faithful minister in the Lord.

 

Verse 11: Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. To be strong, the Ephesians are told that they are to put on the armor of God. Paul uses the analogy of the clothing that was worn by the Roman Centurion. His warning was that it was the only way that they were going to be able to stand against the wiles of the devil

Verse 12: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. The point was that our struggle is not against our fellow man. Yes, we are all the race of man. We are all men. (I say that for those who struggle with that concept today by politicizing this fact.) Instead, our struggle is against principalities, rulers of darkness, and spiritual wickedness in high places. All of these entities are not in the physical, but in the spiritual realm. That does not mean that our fellow man can not be our enemy, but that what drives them is ultimately in the spiritual realm. 

Verse 13: Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. With that in mind, we must take up our spiritual armor if we are to withstand them as that a spiritual enemy can not be defeated by physical means. Of course, armor implies defense and to withstand means to set or stand against. 

So, when is they evil day? Albert Barnes says that it is any day that we are assaulted. 

Verse 14-17: Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: No doubt Paul by now was intimately familiar with the attire of a Roman soldier since he found himself chained to one on a few occasions. His point was that without truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, and the word of God, it would be impossible for them to walk worthily, circumspectfully, or to redeem the time. 

Verse 18: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And of course, prayer is needful always. Just as a side note, I have yet to meet a Marine or a soldier who did not acknowledge a supreme power, e.g., supreme commandant, especially in times of uncertainty. Nothing like staring the possibility of death in the face to make one reach out to something bigger than himself. This is often referred to as foxhole religion. Trust me, the chapel service is always full before things are about to get interesting! 

Verse 19: And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, Now Paul asks for prayer for his own ministry in proclaiming the mystery of the gospel. What is the mystery of the gospel? It is the grace gospel which is an individual salvation compared to the kingdom gospel which was a national salvation. It will be taught until the rapture of the Body of Christ, and then the kingdom gospel will once again be taught. 

Verse 20: For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. He says that it is because of the mystery of the gospel that he is in chains. His prayer request was that in spite of his chains, he would continue to speak boldly as he should. 

It is interesting that he didn't ask to be released. He was more focused on his eternal calling than his temporary condition. He also might have been thinking of his upcoming appearance before Caesar. 

Verses 21-22: But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things: Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts. Tychicus was the one that carried Paul's letters to the Ephesians (2 Timothy 4:12), and the Colossians (Colossians 4:7). 

Verses 23-24: Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen. Paul's final words to the Ephesians. 

Friday, July 14, 2023

Ephesians | Session 28 | 6:1-10

In our study today from Ephesians 6:1-10 we see Paul still addressing the issue of submission, but now focuses on the relationships between children and parents, fathers and children, servants and masters, and masters and God.

Chapter 6

Verse 1: Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Okay, wives need to be submissive to the leadership of their husbands, husbands need to love their wives unconditionally, and now children need to obey their parents. Why? - Because it is right. 

The phrase in the Lord is interpreted differently. 1. Some say that it means as long as their commandments are with those of the Lord (Albert Barnes). 2. Others will say that the phrase simply means that it is necessary on the part of the child as an act of obedience toward the Lord (David Guzik). The next verse will seem to confirm the latter. 

Verses 2-3: Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. Now Paul refers back to Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16 where the commandments were given.  

Interestingly, Christians usually divide the Ten Commandments as the first four are toward God and the last six are toward man while the Jews divide the first five are toward God and the last five are toward man. 

Verse 4: And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Now he turns his attention back to fathers regarding their children in relationship to their roles as leaders in their homes. His warning is about harsh leadership. This type of leadership can lead to anger which can cause bitterness and rebellion in their children. Provoke means to exasperate or frustrate. 

Fathers should be cultivating a loving relationship by example that can be emulated (Colossians 3:21), because they are the earthly reflection of their Heavenly Father. Broken homes have made this concept increasingly misunderstood. 

Verse 5: Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Now he turns his attention to servants. The word is better translated as slaves. Despite what the liberals say, Paul was not condoning slavery, but merely speaking to it as an established institution. It was a fact of life and his encouragement to them was for them to be obedient as with the children earlier, but adds with fear and trembling. Why? - Because masters had the ability to exact retribution.

Instead, they were encouraged to obey with singleness of heart as unto the Lord. Barnes said, "Fidelity in whatever situation we find ourselves is acceptable service to the Lord." He also pointed out that it is easier to serve God than man. 

Verse 6: Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; They are encouraged to serve faithfully at all times, not just when the master if watching. Fidelity dictates obedience at all times. It was to be their testimony. Those who failed to do so were only menpleasers while God wants God pleasers. 

Albert Barnes said of this, "we render acceptable service to God when we perform the services which are demanded of us in the situation in life we find ourselves, however humble that may be." 

Verse 7: With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: The understanding here is that God is in charge and no matter where we are in life, we must trust that, and be faithful in it. Anything else, is not fully trusting Him. 

Verse 8: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. Here is the promise for those who take heed to Paul's counsel. Of course, none of us are guaranteed reward in this life, but we are in the next (2 Corinthians 5:10). 

Verse 9: And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him. Here is the warning to masters, that while they are watching their servants, God is watching them. Colossians 4:1 says practically the same thing, Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven

Neither is there respect of persons with him means that God does not show favor regarding position or rank. The foot of the cross is absolutely level with no VIP seating (Romans 2:11). 

Verse 10: Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Final thoughts. They all need to be strong in the power of his might. I believe his point is that it would be difficult for wives, husbands, children, slaves, and masters to do without the Lord's help. Reminds me of Zechariah 4:6 which says, Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Ephesians | Session 27 | 5:28-33

Our study today comes from Ephesians 5:28-33 where we conclude Paul's discussion about the relationship between Christ and his body by way of comparison with the marital relationship.

Verse 28: So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. Remember as we are reading through this that Paul is going to say in verse 32 that he is talking about Christ and the church and is merely using the marriage relationship as the example. So, we must pay attention to the interpretation before worrying about the application. 

I believe this verse is a reference to the one flesh mentioned in Genesis 2:24 which says, Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Albert Barnes says of it, "If a man wishes to promote his own happiness, he had better begin by showing kindness to his wife". He also said, "A man's kindness to his wife will be more than repaid by the happiness that she imparts". He that loveth his wife loveth himself means that when you love your wife, you benefit yourself. 

Verse 29: For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: We all do what is in our own best interest. Therefore, it is in our own best interest that our wives are cared for! It's like the old adage, "Happy Wife, Happy Life"! 

Verse 30: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. The Lord loves the members of his body. The application is that the man should love his wife in the same way. 

Verse 31: For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. The verse seems to be an earthly illustration of the relationship that God has with his church. 

Verse 32: This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. This verse explains the previous ones (verses 22-31). Context seems to dictate that. Keep in mind that the issue is still unity and he is just using marriage as an example. That being said, some commentaries seem to ignore this verse. 

One said, "It would be easy to think that the Genesis 2:24 passage (also quoted by Jesus in Matthew 19:5) only speaks about marriage. Paul wants us to know that it also speaks about the relationship between Christ and the church.

Another said, "This is true in regard to the pattern of the first man and the first woman. Woman was made at the beginning as the result of an operation which God performed upon man. How does the church come into being? As the result of an operation which God performed on the Second Man, His only begotten, beloved Son on Calvary’s hill. A deep sleep fell upon Adam. A deep sleep fell upon the Son of God, He gave up the ghost, He expired, and there in that operation the church was taken out. As the woman was taken out of Adam, so the church is taken out of Christ. The woman was taken out of the side of Adam; and it is from the Lord’s bleeding, wounded side that the church comes.”

Albert Barnes comes the closest when he said, "This, it seems to me, is an explicit disclaimer of any intention to be understood as affirming that the marriage contract was designed to be a “type” of the union of the Redeemer and his people. The apostle says expressly, that his remarks do not refer to “marriage at all” when he speaks of the mystery. They refer “solely” to the union of the Redeemer and his people. How strange and unwarranted, therefore, are all the comments of expositors on this passage designed to explain marriage as “a mysterious type” of the union of Christ and the church! If people would allow the apostle to speak for himself, and not force on him sentiments which he expressly disclaims, the world would be saved from such insipid allegories as Macknight and others have derived from this passage. The Bible is a book of sense; and the time will come, it is hoped, when, freed from all such allegorizing expositions, it will commend itself to the good sense of mankind. Marriage is an important, a holy, a noble, a pure institution, altogether worthy of God; but it does not thence follow that marriage was designed to be a type of the union between Christ and the church, and it is certain that the apostle Paul meant; to teach no such thing."

Verse 33: Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. It all comes back to love and submission.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Ephesians | Session 26 | 5:26-27

In our study today from Ephesians 5:26-27 we address the issue of who is speaking, the difference between interpretation and application, and that these verses are not talking about water baptism or that the church is the Bride of Christ.

 

Verse 26: That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, According to the previous verses, the he here is a reference to Christ. This brings a bit of a different interpretation to everything that he has said since verse 22. As we will see in verse 32, the entire context is Christ's relationship to his church with marriage as an example.

The point is that Christ was willing to lay down his life so that the church could be sanctified and cleansed. Of course, application can certainly be made regarding the husbands responsibility toward his wife also. It is his spiritual duty as the leader of his home to see to the spiritual well being of his bride.

How this to be done? - with the washing of water by the word. In order words, it must be done as we are saturated with the Word of God. There is no other way.

I want to make two points regarding the latter part of this verse: with the washing of water by the word. 1. It has nothing to do with water baptism. 2. These verses cannot be used to make a doctrine for the Body of Christ being also the Bride of Christ. The words Bride of Christ are nowhere to be found in the Bible. The Bible makes it perfectly clear that the New Jerusalem which will be inhabited by Israel is the bride.

God’s Marriage to Israel

Let's take a closer look since I know that many are shocked by this bit of information.

a. God made a covenant and a promise to Israel (Genesis 22:16-18, Exodus 19:5-6; 16:8, 15, 32, 60).

b. God married himself to Israel with the covenants (Jeremiah 2:2-5, 31:31-32). 

c. Israel was unfaithful to the covenant and God divorced (Jeremiah 3:8-14, 20-22).

d. A promise of restoration after the divorce (Hosea 1:9; 2:2, 5-8; 2:11-12, 18-23). 

e. No rest until Jerusalem is established over all the earth (Isaiah 62:4-5). 

f. God is faithful to keep his covenant with Israel (Isaiah 54:4-8, 12-14).

g. The re-marriage is complete in the kingdom come: the bride is the city (Revelation 21:2; 9-21).

h. Jesus came preaching the coming kingdom: be ready, prepare (Matthew 9:15; 25:1-10).

Without Blemish

Verse 27: That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. As Christ desires to present a church without blemish to the Father, so to the man should seek the same for his wife.

Trust me, a man loving his wife in this way will not have a problem with her submitting to his leadership. I have found that when I wife begins to pull away from her husband's leadership, it is because she is doubting his love for her.

 



Friday, June 16, 2023

Ephesians | Session 25 | 5:22-25

In our study today from Ephesians 5:22-25 we take a look at that controversial concept of submission, what it really means, why it is needed, and how God made us to fulfill different roles.

Verses 22-24: Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.  Now he begins to show what true submission looks like practically. This submission, as with any other, is to be done as unto the Lord. I find it interesting that so many decry the plight of the woman in the West in yet they live and walk in the most free societies in history. This is because Christianity has made them equals and not property. 

Women's Liberation has gone too far in my opinion in that they are now destroying themselves. God's plan for men and women are simply different and the more we pull away from that plan, the worse it will become for all of us. 

Obviously, Paul would not have mentioned this if he had not deemed it to be an issue. Actually, it started in the Garden of Eden with Eve when she decided that God and Adam were not acting in her best interest. 

Interestingly, men are never told exclusively in Scripture to submit, but to love. Why? - I can only assume that men have problems loving and women have problems submitting. In actuality, it only works when both play their parts. Of course, that notion is not popular today and the divorce rates, broken families, and single motherhood bare this out. God has established natural order whether we like it or not, and there are consequences when it is not followed (1 Corinthians 11:3-9; Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:5). Any culture that rejects this will be to their own peril whether they believe it or not. 

Verse 25: Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  Now Paul turns his attention to husbands where he tells them to love their wives just as Christ does the church by giving himself for it. In like manner, the husband should be willing to lay his life down for his wife.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Ephesians | Session 24 | 5:14-21

In our study today from Ephesians 5:14-21 we see Paul encouraging believers to wake up, walk carefully, and realize that the time is short and the days are evil.

Awake and Arise 
Verse 14: Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.  Who said it? - Apparently, the Lord did from the context. This must be something that Paul received by revelation because nothing is said in the Old Testament that I can find. It seems to be an encouragement to the one who is spiritually asleep. 

Verse 15: See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,  He then gives an encouragement for them to walk carefully in wisdom and not foolishness. The idea is to take special pains to guard against sins he mentioned above. 

Verse 16: Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Literally to rescue our time and not waste it. Why? - Because the days are evil and their are too many temptations around us everyday to do the opposite. In other words, we are to make the most of the time that we have and not squander it. 

Verse 17: Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.  Wherefore means "on account of this." In other words, he is still adding on form the previous verses about time and evil, i.e., wise up and see what the Lord is doing around us and not become distracted. 

Verse 18: And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;  Drunkeness should be avoided, but instead we should be filled with the Holy Spirit. To be drunk goes against verse 15 regarding walking circumspectly and not as fools. Drumkeness is also addressed in Galatians 5:21; Proverbs 20:1; Proverbs 23:29-33. 

Verses 19-21: Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. These verses list the things that should be the result of being filled with the Holy Spirit. They include: 1. Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. The point is that being filled with the Spirit results in a desire to worship God. 2. Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. The resulting worship will come from the heart. 3. Giving thanks always. It will result in an attitude of thanks. It has been said that God has not stopped being gracious, we have just stopped being thankful. 

Lastly, Paul says something that is very controversial in our society today that balks at the idea of submission. 4. Submitting yourselves to one another in the fear of GodThe word submit means to accept or yield to a superior force or authority. It is really what I call deference. Deference refers to a certain amount of respect or esteem that we give to others. Our culture is quite honestly not very good at it today and I believe it is one of the reasons our society is failing. He will continue to build on this principal in chapter 6. 

Notice that he concludes the verse with all of these things need to be done  in the fear of the Lord. One commentator puts it this way, "a believer's continual reverence for God is the basis for his submission to other believers." Proverbs 9:10 says that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Ephesians | Session 23 | 5:5-13

In Ephesians 5:5-13 Paul continues to address how followers of Christ should walk, the vices and sins that they should stay away from, and how to respond to those who are not doing so.

No Inheritance 
Verse 5: For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Paul seems to be making a reference to verse 3. He is not questioning their salvation, but their behavior.

The verse gets a little confusing at nor covetous man, who is an idolater for me. Barnes says of this, "the covetous man bestows on money the affections due to God" and uses Colossians 3:15 where Paul said almost the same thing, Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatryThe point is that the worship of material wealth is just as idolatrous as the worship of a piece of wood or block of stone. And of course, idolaters have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of GodThe reasoning is that you either worship God or the god of this world. Jesus said that no man can serve two masters in Matthew 6:24. 

Be Not Partakers 
Verse 6-7: Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them.  This verse seems to be targeted at someone specifically that was spreading this stuff. Paul has dealt with the issue before in  when he said to the Romans Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them (Romans 16:17). He wrote to Titus A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself (Titus 3:10). And finally to the Thessalonians And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15). We in the Body of Christ need to stay away from confront, rebuke, and stay away from these people. 

Sometimes in Darkness 
Verses 8-9: For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)  He now reminds them that at one time they, Gentiles, were in darkness, but no longer as they have now come to the light and need to walk as such. Notice that verse 9 is parenthetical. He seems to be referring to the fruits of the Spirit that he is going to list in Galatians 5:22-23. 

What is Acceptable 
Verse 10: Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.  When we walk in the light we are proving or showing what is acceptable which are the things that are good, righteous, and true. The verse is similar to Romans 12:2 when he wrote And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Verse 11: And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.  Albert Barnes said, "Instead of fellowshipping with the darkness, we need to reprove it." This verse does not mean necessarily verbally, but with our lives and influence. That only happens as we are walking in the light. Our lives should be a standing rebuke to the sinful world around us. Paul wrote of this to the Corinthians Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). 

Done in Secret 
Verse 12: For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.  It is a shame to even talk about the things that are done in the dark. I have heard far too many testimonies that did just this. The miracle is not what He saved us from, but that he even saved us at all. 

Verse 13: But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. The things that are reproved are the works of darkness mentioned in verses 8-12. The light is whatever is used to manifest it.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Ephesians | Session 22 | 4:31-5:4

Our study today is taken from Ephesians 4:31-5:4 where Paul continues to speak of practical matters for the believer regarding how not to grieve the Holy Spirit in our relationships with others and ourselves.

Put it Away From You 
Verse 31: Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: This verse presents a bit of challenge because of the last three words, with all malace. Is he saying that the ones before it should not be done with malice or simply listing malice as another vice? Malice by definition is to do something with ill-will or with the intent to hurt the other party. Well, how can any of the afore be done without malice? (Clamour speaks of brawling). Or is it saying that the last vice of evil speaking (slander) should not be done with ill intent? Can you speak evil or slander someone without ill-intent? I don't think so. 

Even as God Hath Forgiven You 
Verse 32: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. Instead, Paul says that it is better to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, and forgiving just as Christ has forgiven us. Which leads right into the next chapter.

Chapter 5 
As Dear Children 
Verse 1: Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; Paul continues to be practical. The word followers means imitators. In other words, we are to be imitators of God as dear children. Just as a child would imitate their earthly fathers, so they should imitate their heavenly Father. 

Walk in Love 
Verse 2: And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.  Notice that the believer is to walk in the love that Christ had for us. Christ is to be our standard (2 Corinthians 10:12). 

The rest of the verse demonstrates how much Christ loved us in that he and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God. We are to walk in that same love. That is a tall order for sure. 

As Becometh Saints 
Verse 3: But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;  Now he lists sins that should not be named among believers. Fornication includes all sexual sins. Other translations translate it as immorality. Uncleanness speaks of impurity. Covetousness means holding or desiring more or greed. These things should not be named among them as becometh saints. Becometh can be translated as fitting or proper. Believers should not be involved in these things, period, full stop. 

Giving of Thanks 
Verse 4: Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.  Filthiness is obscene and speaks of the portrayal of sexual matters. Foolish talking  is just silly talk or buffoonery. Jesting is turning words in a negative sense or twisting in a vulgar sense. We would call it today innuendo which is very prevalent. Not convenient simply means appropriate. In other words, we should not be doing the afore mentioned things because they are inappropriate for one who professes to believe in Christ. Instead, of doing those things, we should be giving thanks. Barnes says of this, "Instead of filthiness, foolish talk, and jesting, we should be using that time in the service of God.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Ephesians | Session 21 | 4:22-30

In our study today we find Paul continuing with practical application for the Body of Christ. This includes how we are to put off the old man that walked in his former lusts, put on the new man that walks in the Spirit, and the results that should follow.

Put Off the Old Man 
Verses 22-23: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;  His point is that the believer who has learned Christ, heard him, taught by him, and come to the understanding that the truth is in him, should live differently and not according to their own deceitful lusts (1 John 2:15-17). Notice that the lusts are deceitful because they cause us to do things that we would not otherwise do. His point is that we we should not live like we used to armed with this newfound knowledge Instead, we are to be renewed in the spirit of our minds. Why? - Because the former was corrupt. The word renewed is to be renovated or reformed (2 Corinthians 4:16; Colossians 3:10). 

Put On the New Man 
Verse 24: And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.  I can't help but notice that the renewing and the putting on of the new man requires action on our part. I have found that nothing in this walk merely happens by osmosis. Osmosis is the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas, knowledge, etc. Our walks with the Lord does not happen like that at all. It must be acted upon or predetermined. 

Members of One Another 
Verse 25: Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.  Wherefore means in lieu of the afore mentioned. Having put on the new man, we must put away lying, speak the truth, because we are members of one another now. To be honest, I do not see a lot of the latter today; i.e., speak the truth. 

Let Not the Sun Go Down 
Verses 26-27: Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.  This verse is not saying that we are not to be angry, but to not let it lead us into sin by letting the sun go down on it, thereby giving place to the devil in our lives. The verse follows verse 25 which spoke of speak truth to every man because we are members of one another. The point is that we are not to let our anger boil over and get worse. Instead, we are to put away lying and speak every man truth with his neighbor. 

Do That Things Which is Good 
Verse 28: Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.  Paul uses the example of thievery to make his point about the change that should have taken place in the believer. This is encouraged so that help can be extended to others instead of theft. Again, the context is the body that is fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth (verse 16). 

No Corrupt Communication 
Verse 29: Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.  Another example of how we as believers should act. Again, these actions do not save us, but they should be the biproduct of our salvation and our putting on the new man (verse 4:24). 

Also, our words to others should be edifying and not destructive, and I know that this can be done if we are walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) and putting on the new man. 

Grieve Not the Spirit
Verse 30: And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.  In 1:13, it speaks of a sealing as well. There is also a sealing mentioned in Revelation 7 that protects against physical harm. This sealing is obviously not necessarily from physical harm because it is a spiritual one and speaks of eternal security. Anyone who tells you that you can lose your salvation is not rightly dividing. You can't justify that teaching reading the Paulene epistles.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Ephesians | Session 20 | 4:12-21

Our study today is from Ephesians 4:12-21 where we see the Apostle Paul talking about the reason for the temporary ministry gifts were to bring unity into the Body of Christ until the revelation of the mystery was completed and how that it should bring not only unification, but also maturity to the Body.

Perfecting of the Saints 
Verse 12: For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: The stated goal of these gifts was for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Those who hold that these were given to the Kingdom church only will use the word saints as proof. Again, the view would be that God gave these gifts to the kingdom church to lay the groundwork for the Body of Christ. I do not agree with that view. It means exactly what it says in my opinion. 

Unity of the Faith 
Verse 13: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:  Again, the point of the gifts was unification of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man which would have been accomplished at the completion of the Paulene epistles which describes exactly what the new man/creature is (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:15; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10) It was only after Paul had written the last of his letters to Timothy that the Body of Christ had the completed word of God. I believe that this is what unto a perfect man is referring to. The perfect man or complete man is a mature believer who correctly understands the teaching of Scriptures, especially those written by Paul for the Body of Christ as that he was the only one who addressed the Body of Christ. 

No More Children 
Verses 14: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;  As such, we be no more children, tossed to and fro and confused by every wind of false teaching that comes our way. And of course, these false teachings are brought by men who use sleight of hand and craftiness, for the purpose of deceiving the untaught. I believe in context, the men were and still are mixing Law and Grace, i.e., confusing the Body of Christ with spiritual Israel, etc. In 1 Timothy 4:1, Paul says that these men are giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. 

Truth in Love 
Verse 15: But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:  Instead, as mature believers, we should speak truth to the lies in love and continue grow in our walks and relationship with Christ who is the head of the body. Christ is the head and we are his body (Colossians 1:24). That's right, we are the Body of Christ. Many say that the Body of Christ is also the Bride of Christ. Unfortunately, those words are not even found in the Bible. 

Fitly Joined Together 
Verse 16: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. As his Body, we are fitly joined together and supported by every joint as we effectively work together, which leads to edification for everyone in love. 

Walk Not As Others 
From verses 17-32, Paul gives practical instructions regarding how believers should walk in this knowledge. 

Verse 17: This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,  Now he focuses on the believing Gentiles and warns them, in lieu of all that he has previously stated, they should not walk as other Gentiles, in the vanity of their mind. Vanity means inutility or of no use. 

Alienated From the Life of God 
And he goes on to say of the unbelieving Gentiles...
Verses 18-19: Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.  He goes on to describe these Gentiles as doing so because their understanding has been darkened, and consequently, they have been alienated from the the life of God because of their ignorance and blindness to the truth. The latter part about giving themselves over to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness is a reference to sexual sins and other vices and reminds me of what Paul spoke of in Romans 1:18-25 when he said For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.  

No So Learned 
Verses 20-21: But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: He is now comparing those who are vain in their thinking (verse 17) with those who have learned Christ. The NIV translates it come to know Christ that way. In other words he is speaking to those who heard him, and have been taught by him. Of course, this today happens through the Word. As such, we know that truth is in Jesus. He said as much in John 14:6.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Ephesians | Session 19 | 4:11

Today we find ourselves in Ephesians 4:11 where Paul is talking about the ministry gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.

Five-Fold Ministry Gifts
Verse 11: And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;  These are some of the gifts that were given unto men. Some are quick to point out that these are not gifts, but positions that were given to administer the gifts. By definition, apostles laid the foundation, prophets foretold and forthtold, evangelists had the gift of evangelism, pastors oversaw a flock, and teachers taught the Word. 

The question is, "Who were these people?" Is he referring to the apostles and prophets of the Old Testament? To answer this, we need to remember what we studied in Ephesians 2:19-20 where it says, Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;  Like I said earlier, this is either saying that the church was built upon the foundation that was laid by the Old Testament prophets and the teachings of the Twelve like most in the church believe or it means that the church was built upon the foundation of some other prophets and apostles.

Well Ephesians 3:1-5 says clearly that the Old Testament prophets and apostles did not know what Paul knew regarding the mystery. So, how could the church, the Body of Christ, be built on them? Paul also mentioned these guys in 1 Corinthians 12:28 when he said, And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. If they are truly indeed not the same, who were these prophets and apostles that Paul was talking about? Whoever they were, it would seem they were the same ones he was speaking of here in Ephesians 4:11. 

Apostles just means sent ones and they are mentioned in Ephesians 2:20 and Ephesians 3:5. Prophets are seen throughout the early church (Acts 13:1; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1Corinthians 14:29-32). Again, it would seem that he could not be speaking about Old Testament prophets and apostles. If indeed not, these were some new type of grace apostles and prophets, who according to the verse 13 were appointed until we all come to the unity of faith

So, the next question is are they still around today? I am of the mind at the moment that these offices were discontinued after the completion of the Paulene epistles which is what Paul was referring to when he said until we all come to the unity of the faith in verse 13. One writer says regarding this, "Jesus gave gifts for a while unto the Body of Christ during its infancy to take it to full maturity. When the word of God was completed then that which was in part were done away with just like he said in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13." 

He is referring to what Paul wrote when he said to the Corinthians that Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 

His point about that which is perfect, which has always been controversial, is that when it does come, the gifts would be done away with because they will no longer be needed. I've heard that it is a reference to the Second Coming. Of course, when Jesus comes those positions or offices will no longer by needed. I have heard that it is a reference to the eternal state and, of course, at that time they will not be needed either. And I have heard that it is a reference to the completion of the Scriptures. Of course, while the first two are still yet future. we already have the Scriptures. The word perfect actually means having reached its end or complete. It is the Greek word teleios

With that said, that can't be referring to the actual canonization of Scripture which happened between AD 393 and AD 397at the Councils of Hippo and Carthage. That was merely when the twenty-seven books of our New Testament were deemed authoritative by the church. Instead, the completion of Scripture occurred when the last Paulene letter was penned by the apostle in AD 66-67. That would have been 2 Timothy. Of course, most say that the Epistles of John and Revelation were the last to be written. I disagree with a late date for those books due to their purpose and content. They had to have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. That is another study for another day.   

Back to these ministry gifts, there is disagreement all around. Some contend that all of them ceased because Paul says that the only positions in the church are elders and deacons in Timothy and Titus. They also point to the word gave as past tense and therefore transitory. 2. Some contend that only the first two ceased because once the entire revelation was completed, there was no longer any need for the apostles and prophets.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Ephesians | Session 18 | 4:8-10

In our study today from Ephesians 4:8-10, we take a closer look at a passage that is oftentimes misunderstood. We are reminded that context is key to the true interpretation of any passage of Scripture.
Captivity Captive
Verse 8: Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.  Paul now quotes from Psalms 68:18. Remember that the context is the gifts that he just spoke of in the previous verses. As such, whatever he is quoting is to make his point about said gifts. 

The context of the psalm is in the future when when Christ will reign after taking back what belongs to him. The phrase led captivity captive in these verses speak of him triumphing over his enemies by the resurrection from the dead (Ephesians 1:18-22). Paul is drawing from the Roman Triumph which was a celebration of the success of a military commander. On the day of his triumph, the successful general would wear a crown of laurel and an all-purple, gold-embroidered triumphal toga picta ("painted" toga), regalia that identified him as near-divine or near-kingly. In some accounts, his face was painted red, perhaps in imitation of Rome's highest and most powerful god, Jupiter. The general rode in a four-horse chariot through the streets of Rome in unarmed procession with his army, captives, and the spoils of his war and at Jupiter's temple on the Capitoline Hill, he offered sacrifice and the tokens of his victory to the god Jupiter. The order of the procession would be the captive leaders, their allies, and soldiers (and sometimes their families) usually walking in chains; some were destined for execution or slavery. All this was done to the accompaniment of music, clouds of incense, and the strewing of flowers. This is most likely what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16. 

Others have pointed out that Paul did not quote the passage precisely. The Psalmist actually said thou hast received gifts for men while Paul said and gave gifts unto men. So one says received while the other gave. He could be saying that what Christ received, he was now giving, i.e., grace gifts (verse 7, 11). Again, the point and the context is gifts. 

Now, for years, I have taught that those captives being referred to were those who were in paradise who had died before the resurrection. Not so sure about that view now. He seems to be referring to his enemies instead. 

Lower Parts of the Earth
Verses 9-10: (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)  It must be noted that these verses are parenthetical. That means that verse 8 runs directly into verse 11. This verse simply speaks of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. Unlike what the apostles creed says, Jesus did not descend into Hell, but Sheol; the place of the dead (Luke 16:19-31). Hell is where men go after the judgment, the Lake of Fire, and that has not happened yet, therefore, it was empty then and it is empty now. The first to be thrown into hell will be the Antichrist and the False Prophet (Revelation 19:20) and then the devil himself (Revelation 20:10).

Friday, May 19, 2023

Ephesians | Session 17 | 3:20-4:7

In our study today from Ephesians 3:20-4:7 we see Paul giving a doxology at the end of chapter 2, inviting us to walk deserving of our calling, describing how and why, and assuring us that God has given us everything we need to do it.

Exceeding Abundantly 
Verses 20-21: Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. This is a doxology which is defined as a spontaneous exclamation of praise. Apparently, Paul got a little beside himself as some would say. It is interesting that the words exceeding abundantly is one word in the original and only used by Paul. It literally means to an extent which cannot be expressed. 

Chapter 4 
Prisoner of the Lord 
Verse 1: I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, Just as in Paul's other epistles, he transitions from the doctrinal to the practical with the word therefore (Romans 12:1; Colossians 3:5). In other words, now that you know the mystery, the manifold wisdom of God, this is how you should live. 

The word beseech means to call or invite. The word worthy is axios which means to deserving or due reward. The word vocation speaks more of a calling than a career as it is commonly used today. Paul also uses the word therefore a lot to express in lieu of all that I have previously stated. 

Unity of the Spirit 
Verses 2-3: With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  In these verses he goes on to tell them five things regarding walking worthy. It is to be done in: 1. lowliness (humility); 2. meekness (gentleness);  3. longsuffering (patience); 4. forbearing (self-control or refraining); and 4. endeavoring (concerted effort). And he concludes that it is possible because of the common love and the bond of peace that we share. The word bond speaks of a uniting principle. 

One Body and One Spirit 
Verses 4-6: There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.  In these verses he goes on to tell them seven reasons why they should walk worthy. These include because there is only one body, and one Spirit (2:18, 22); one hope of your calling (rapture/return, Titus 2:13, the point is that it should be unifying); one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Galatians 2:16); one God and Father who is above, through, and in you all. In other words, we are in this thing together. There is no second body, Spirit, calling, Lord, faith, baptism, God and Father. Any faults in the church today is man's fault and not God's. 

Given Grace 
Verse 7: But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.  The point is that God has given every believer his favor for each of us to live as we ought to and to walk worthy (verse 1). Does this mean that he has given more to some than to others? I believe that he is simply saying that every one of us have been given enough grace to fulfill God's purposes and callings in our lives (Romans 12:3; John 1:16). 

Saturday, May 13, 2023

The Dual Natured Kingdom

There is a teaching in the church today that is called the Dual Natured Kingdom. It is the Kingdom that Jesus spoke of is here spiritually, but not yet physically. In other words, the church has the spiritual realities of the promises Kingdom that was given at Pentecost, but not yet the physical. Some refer to it as "almost, not yet". 

The results of this faulty teaching are pretty obvious according to Dr. Randy White. They include:

1. The Bible speaks only of an earthly, physical, and fraternal Kingdom.   

2. This teaching fails to distinguish the Body of Christ from the Kingdom leaving the two to be conflated.  

3. This teaching requires that the realities of the "spiritual" Kingdom be experienced today, i.e., authority, dominion, miracles, etc. 

4. The biproduct of this teaching is the ecumenical social justice movement that is now prevalent in most mainstream denominational churches.

5. The Roman Catholic Church was the first to embrace this teaching and must stand on it or they would cease to exist. 

Friday, May 12, 2023

Ephesians | Session 16 | 3:14-19

In our study today from Ephesians 3:14-19, Paul offers a prayer for strength in the inner man, that Christ would dwell in their hearts by faith, that they might be rooted and grounded in love, understanding, and the love of Christ.
Verses 14-15: For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, For this cause implies that since Paul now knows the manifold wisdom of God (verse 10) and his eternal purpose (verse 11) now, he bows his knees in prayer to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named and asks the following in verses 16-19. Guzik points out that our prayers are much more effective when we know what we are praying for according to the purpose and will of God. 

On a side note, the Bible has enough prayer not on the knees to show us that it isn’t required, but it also has enough prayer on the knees to show us that it is a good thing as well. 

The Inner Man 
Verse 16: That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;  His prayer is that they might be strengthened with might, but according to the riches of his glory in the inner man by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 16:13). So, his desire is that they are continually strengthened abundantly according the working of the Holy Spirit in the inner man (Romans 7:22; 2Corinthians 4:16). 

The inner man is said to be the heart, mind, and soul, as compared to the outer man. Just as the outer man needs to be cared for, so does the inner. Albert Barnes said, "the inner man needs a constant supply of grace. Every Christian needs grace given each day to enable him to bear trials, to resist temptation, to discharge his duty, to live a life of faith." I believe this requires action on our part as that it does not come naturally, i.e., Galatians 5:16. 

Illustration: An old Indian Chief, of an American Indian tribe, had just come to a new faith in Jesus, because of the regular visits to his tribe by an early American preacher. As the preacher continued to make his visits to the tribe, he continued to instruct the Chief in the workings of his new faith. One day, as the preacher came to visit, he asked the new Believer, "Well, Chief, how's it going?" The Chief replied,.. "... Two Dogs inside, a Small Dog & a Big Dog, always fighting." So, the preacher asked, "Well, which dog is winning?" To which the Chief replied,.. "The one that I feed." Again, we choose which dog we feed every day. 

Dwell in Their Hearts by Faith 
Verse 17: That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,  This is a continuous thought from verse 16 implying that if you they did verse 16, Christ would dwell in their hearts by faith and they would be rooted and grounded in love, and be able to... 

Verse 18-19: May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;  And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.  In other words, it is only then that they would be able to understand (comprehend) with all the saints the breadth, length, depth, and height of the love of Christ. Of course, none of us can attain to that in this life, but it is no reason not to try. After all, it is necessary if we would ever desire to be filled with the fulness of God. That means to be filled to capacity with Jesus. Who wouldn't want that? Well, it doesn't come by osmosis!

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Ephesians | Session 15 | 3:9-13

In our study today from Ephesians 3:9-13, we see Paul stating that his purpose in life was to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery to the extent that even the principalities and powers in heavenly places would know, the phrase faith of him, and his desire that they should not not feel sorry for him, but realize that everything that he was going through was actually for them.
Verse 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:  Interestingly, translations differ regarding the translation of the fellowship of the mystery. The English Standard Version translates it plan of the mystery. The New American Standard translates it administration of the mystery. The Revised Version translates it dispensation of the mystery

Paul's ministry statement here is twofold. To share the gospel of grace with was committed to his trust. And, to make all men see the fellowship of the mystery concerning Jew and Gentile in one new man (the Body of Christ), which had been hid in God from the beginning. One commentator said that the mystery was hidden from Satan so that he would go through with the crucifixion. In other words, if he had known the mystery that lay on the other side, the salvation of the Gentiles, he would not have pushed for it (1 Corinthians 2:6-8). 

Verse 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,  Now everyone knows the manifold wisdom of God regarding Jew and Gentile. Now even the principalities and powers in heavenly places know. Some commentators infer that this is speaking about earthly rulers and powers, however, it clearly says that these are in heavenly places. He will talk about these again in Ephesians 6:12. He is saying that now, even the heavenly realm knows. Again, I reference 1 Corinthians 2:6-8. I am reminded of what Peter said in 1 Peter 1:10-12. 

F.F. Bruce said, "The accomplishment of this eternal purpose of God’s has not in view only those who enter into the good of it on this earth. The triumph of his grace in overcoming an otherwise insurmountable barrier and uniting the two sections of mankind in Christ holds instruction for the inhabitants of the celestial realms." He also mentioned 1 Corinthians 11:10 as a proof text. 

The manifold wisdom of God has the idea of intricacy, complexity, or great beauty. 

Verse 11: According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:  The dispensation of grace has always been in God's eternal purpose. That doesn't mean that God overruled man's will, but that he knew. Again, the message of the Twelve was always known, but the message of Paul was unique, but in God's eternal purpose. 

Verse 12: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. Notice the boldness and access that we now have is the result of the faith of him. It is our faith in his faith that brings about salvation (Philippians 3:9; Romans 3:22; Galatians 2:16; Galatians 2:20) If it were not for his faith, ours would not matter. Sadly, other translations totally miss this. ESV our faith in him (cf. above verses) NIV through faith in him NAS through faith in him Believe or not the NET gets it right when it accurately translates because of Christ's faithfulness. 

Verse 13: Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.  This is a reference back to verse 1. In other words, he is saying, "Do not feel sorry for me." The verse literally means, don't faint, or be discouraged by my trials for you, because they are to your glory. In other words, all that he went through was for them. He said something similar to the Colossians in Colossians 1:24.

Ephesians | Session 14 | 3:6-8

In our study today in Ephesians 3:6-8, Paul continues his explanation that believing Gentiles and Jews are now in the same body and partakers of the same promise, and he expresses his gratitude that God still chose to use him who was formerly a blasphemer to preach it.


Verse 6: That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: This is the mystery! Jew and Gentile in one body. No where in the Bible was this event foretold, i.e., Hebrew Scriptures. This But Now (Ephesians 2:13) period in which we live was never spoken of until Paul. 

Verses 7-8: 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. 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; Paul's point is that his ministry to the Gentiles with the mystery was the result of the gift of the grace of God that was given to him by the effectual working of his power

I believe that gift of the grace of God was his salvation while some would say that it was the actual grace gospel that he is referring to. I do know that Paul was a blasphemer and that according to Matthew 12:31 his only way of salvation would have had to have been grace. 
I also believe that he was indeed the first (1Timothy 1:11-16). 

What does he mean that he is the least of all saints? I believe that he makes this statement because of the persecution that he inflicted on the kingdom church (1 Timothy 1:11-16) and the fact that God would still choose to use him to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. Again, I believe that he is referring to the mystery, that until revealed only to him, and thus, unsearchable (Colossians 1:26-27).