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Paul’s Relationship to the Divine Mystery

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus[a] for the sake of you Gentiles if indeed[b] you have heard of the stewardship[c] of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that[d] by revelation the mystery[e] was made known to me, as I wrote before briefly.[f] When reading this,[g] you will be able to[h] understand my insight into the mystery[i] of Christ (which[j] was not disclosed to people[k] in former[l] generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by[m] the Spirit), namely, that through the gospel[n] the Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members[o] of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel[p] according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by[q] the exercise of his power.[r] To me—less than the least of all the saints[s]—this grace was given,[t] to proclaim to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ and to enlighten[u] everyone about God’s secret plan[v]—the mystery that has been hidden for ages[w] in God[x] who has created all things. 10 The purpose of this enlightenment is that[y] through the church the multifaceted wisdom[z] of God should now be disclosed to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly realms. 11 This was according to[aa] the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confident access[ab] to God[ac] by way of Christ’s[ad] faithfulness.[ae] 13 For this reason I ask you[af] not to lose heart because of what I am suffering for you,[ag] which[ah] is your glory.[ai]

Prayer for Strengthened Love

14 For this reason[aj] I kneel[ak] before the Father,[al] 15 from[am] whom every family[an] in heaven and on earth is named. 16 I pray that[ao] according to the wealth of his glory he will grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, 17 that Christ will dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, because you have been rooted and grounded in love, 18 you will be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,[ap] 19 and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you will be filled up to[aq] all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who by the power that is working within us[ar] is able to do far beyond[as] all that we ask or think, 21 to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.


  1. Ephesians 3:1 tc Several early and significant witnesses, chiefly of the Western group (א* D* F G 365), lack ᾿Ιησοῦ (Iēsou, “Jesus”) here, while most Alexandrian and Byzantine mss (P46 א1 A B C D1 Ψ 33 1175 1505 1739 [1881] 2464 M lat sy bo) have the word. However, because of the Western text’s proclivities to add or delete to the text, seemingly at whim, serious doubts should be attached to the shorter reading. It is strengthened, however, by א’s support. Nevertheless, since both א and D were corrected with the addition of ᾿Ιησοῦ, their testimony might be questioned. Further, in majuscule script the nomina sacra here could have led to missing a word by way of homoioteleuton (cMuiMu). At the same time, in light of the rarity of scribal omissions of nomina sacra (see TCGNT 582, n. 1), a decision for inclusion of the word here must be tentative. NA28 rightly places ᾿Ιησοῦ in brackets.
  2. Ephesians 3:2 sn If indeed. The author is not doubting whether his audience has heard, but is rather using provocative language (if indeed) to engage his audience in thinking about the magnificence of God’s grace. However, in English translation, the apodosis (“then”-clause) does not come until v. 13, leaving the protasis (“if”-clause) dangling. Eph 3:2-7 constitute one sentence in Greek.
  3. Ephesians 3:2 tn Or “administration,” “dispensation,” “commission.”
  4. Ephesians 3:3 tn Or “namely, that is.”
  5. Ephesians 3:3 tn Or “divine secret” (see Eph 1:9).
  6. Ephesians 3:3 tn Or “as I wrote above briefly.”sn As I wrote briefly may refer to the author’s brief discussion of the divine secret in 1:9.
  7. Ephesians 3:4 tn Grk “which, when reading.”
  8. Ephesians 3:4 tn Grk “you are able to.”
  9. Ephesians 3:4 tn Or “secret.”
  10. Ephesians 3:5 tn Verse 5 is a relative clause, subordinate to the thought of v. 4, but it is also parenthetical, interrupting the thought of vv. 4-6. This has been indicated by the parentheses in the translation.
  11. Ephesians 3:5 tn Grk “the sons of men” (a Semitic idiom referring to human beings, hence, “people”).
  12. Ephesians 3:5 tn Grk “other.”
  13. Ephesians 3:5 tn Or “in.”
  14. Ephesians 3:6 sn The phrase through the gospel is placed last in the sentence in Greek for emphasis. It has been moved forward for clarity.
  15. Ephesians 3:6 tn Grk “and fellow members.”
  16. Ephesians 3:7 tn Grk “of which I was made a minister,” “of which I became a servant.”
  17. Ephesians 3:7 tn Grk “according to.”
  18. Ephesians 3:7 sn On the exercise of his power see 1:19-20.
  19. Ephesians 3:8 sn In Pauline writings saints means any true believer. Thus for Paul to view himself as less than the least of all the saints is to view himself as the most unworthy object of Christ’s redemption.
  20. Ephesians 3:8 sn The parallel phrases to proclaim and to enlighten which follow indicate why God’s grace was manifested to Paul. Grace was not something just to be received, but to be shared with others (cf. Acts 13:47).
  21. Ephesians 3:9 tn There is a possible causative nuance in the Greek verb, but this is difficult to convey in the translation.
  22. Ephesians 3:9 tn Grk “what is the plan of the mystery.” Earlier the author had used οἰκονομία (oikonomia; here “plan”) to refer to his own “stewardship” (v. 2). But now he is speaking about the content of this mystery, not his own activity in relation to it.
  23. Ephesians 3:9 tn Or “for eternity,” or perhaps “from the Aeons.” Cf. 2:2, 7.
  24. Ephesians 3:9 tn Or perhaps “by God.” It is possible that ἐν (en) plus the dative here indicates agency, that is, that God has performed the action of hiding the mystery. However, this usage of the preposition ἐν is quite rare in the NT, and even though here it does follow a perfect passive verb as in the Classical idiom, it is more likely that a different nuance is intended.
  25. Ephesians 3:10 tn Grk “that.” Verse 10 is a subordinate clause to the verb “enlighten” in v. 9.
  26. Ephesians 3:10 tn Or “manifold wisdom,” “wisdom in its rich variety.”
  27. Ephesians 3:11 tn Grk “according to.” The verse is a prepositional phrase subordinate to v. 10.
  28. Ephesians 3:12 tn Grk “access in confidence.”
  29. Ephesians 3:12 tn The phrase “to God” is not in the text, but is clearly implied by the preceding, “access.”
  30. Ephesians 3:12 tn Grk “his.”
  31. Ephesians 3:12 tn Or “to God through faith in him.” A decision is difficult here. Though traditionally translated “faith in Jesus Christ,” an increasing number of NT scholars are arguing that πίστις Χριστοῦ (pistis Christou) and similar phrases in Paul (here and in Rom 3:22, 26; Gal 2:16, 20; 3:22; Phil 3:9) involve a subjective genitive and mean “Christ’s faith” or “Christ’s faithfulness” (cf., e.g., G. Howard, “The ‘Faith of Christ’,” ExpTim 85 [1974]: 212-15; R. B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ [SBLDS]; Morna D. Hooker, “Πίστις Χριστοῦ,” NTS 35 [1989]: 321-42). Noteworthy among the arguments for the subjective genitive view is that when πίστις takes a personal genitive it is almost never an objective genitive (cf. Matt 9:2, 22, 29; Mark 2:5; 5:34; 10:52; Luke 5:20; 7:50; 8:25, 48; 17:19; 18:42; 22:32; Rom 1:8; 12; 3:3; 4:5, 12, 16; 1 Cor 2:5; 15:14, 17; 2 Cor 10:15; Phil 2:17; Col 1:4; 2:5; 1 Thess 1:8; 3:2, 5, 10; 2 Thess 1:3; Titus 1:1; Phlm 6; 1 Pet 1:9, 21; 2 Pet 1:5). On the other hand, the objective genitive view has its adherents: A. Hultgren, “The Pistis Christou Formulations in Paul,” NovT 22 (1980): 248-63; J. D. G. Dunn, “Once More, ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ,” SBL Seminar Papers, 1991, 730-44. Most commentaries on Romans and Galatians usually side with the objective By way of Christ’s faithfulness. Though Paul elsewhere teaches justification by faith, this presupposes that the object of our faith (Christ) is reliable and worthy of such faith.
  32. Ephesians 3:13 tn Grk “I ask.” No direct object is given in Greek, leaving room for the possibility that either “God” (since the verb is often associated with prayer) or “you” is in view.
  33. Ephesians 3:13 tn Grk “my trials on your behalf.”
  34. Ephesians 3:13 sn Which. The antecedent (i.e., the word or concept to which this clause refers back) may be either “what I am suffering for you” or the larger concept of the recipients not losing heart over Paul’s suffering for them. The relative pronoun “which” is attracted to the predicate nominative “glory” in its gender and number (feminine singular), making the antecedent ambiguous. Paul’s suffering for them could be viewed as their glory (cf. Col 1:24 for a parallel) in that his suffering has brought about their salvation, but if so his suffering must be viewed as more than his present imprisonment in Rome; it would be a general description of his ministry overall (cf. 2 Cor 11:23-27). The other option is that the author is implicitly arguing that the believers have continued to have courage in the midst of his trials (as not to lose heart suggests) and that this is their glory. Philippians 1:27-28 offers an interesting parallel: The believers’ courage in the face of adversity is a sign of their salvation.
  35. Ephesians 3:13 tn Or “Or who is your glory?” The relative pronoun ἥτις (hētis), if divided differently, would become ἤ τίς (ē tis). Since there were no word breaks in the earliest mss, either word division is possible. The force of the question would be that for the readers to become discouraged over Paul’s imprisonment would mean that they were no longer trusting in God’s sovereignty.
  36. Ephesians 3:14 sn For this reason resumes the point begun in v. 1, after a long parenthesis.
  37. Ephesians 3:14 tn Grk “I bend my knees.”
  38. Ephesians 3:14 tc Most Western and Byzantine witnesses, along with a few others (א2 D F G Ψ 0278 1505 1881 2464 M lat sy), have “of our Lord Jesus Christ” after “Father,” but such an edifying phrase cannot explain the rise of the reading that lacks it, especially when the shorter reading is attested by early and significant witnesses such as P46 א* A B C P 6 33 81 365 1175 1739 co Or Hier.
  39. Ephesians 3:15 tn Or “by.”
  40. Ephesians 3:15 tn Or “the whole family.”
  41. Ephesians 3:16 tn Grk “that.” In Greek v. 16 is a subordinate clause to vv. 14-15.
  42. Ephesians 3:18 sn The object of these dimensions is not stated in the text. Interpreters have suggested a variety of referents for this unstated object, including the cross of Christ, the heavenly Jerusalem (which is then sometimes linked to the Church), God’s power, the fullness of salvation given in Christ, the Wisdom of God, and the love of Christ. Of these interpretations, the last two are the most plausible. Associations from Wisdom literature favor the Wisdom of God, but the immediate context favors the love of Christ. For detailed discussion of these interpretive options, see A. T. Lincoln, Ephesians (WBC), 207-13, who ultimately favors the love of Christ.
  43. Ephesians 3:19 tn Or “with.”
  44. Ephesians 3:20 sn On the power that is working within us see 1:19-20.
  45. Ephesians 3:20 tn Or “infinitely beyond,” “far more abundantly than.”

God’s Marvelous Plan for the Gentiles

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner(A) of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me(B) for you, that is, the mystery(C) made known to me by revelation,(D) as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight(E) into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.(F) This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs(G) together with Israel, members together of one body,(H) and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.(I)

I became a servant of this gospel(J) by the gift of God’s grace given me(K) through the working of his power.(L) Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people,(M) this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles(N) the boundless riches of Christ,(O) and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery,(P) which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God(Q) should be made known(R) to the rulers and authorities(S) in the heavenly realms,(T) 11 according to his eternal purpose(U) that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God(V) with freedom and confidence.(W) 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

A Prayer for the Ephesians

14 For this reason I kneel(X) before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches(Y) he may strengthen you with power(Z) through his Spirit in your inner being,(AA) 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts(AB) through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted(AC) and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people,(AD) to grasp how wide and long and high and deep(AE) is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge(AF)—that you may be filled(AG) to the measure of all the fullness of God.(AH)

20 Now to him who is able(AI) to do immeasurably more than all we ask(AJ) or imagine, according to his power(AK) that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.(AL)


  1. Ephesians 3:15 The Greek for family (patria) is derived from the Greek for father (pater).