To the Ephesians 3:1-21
he remained there for an entire two years: During this two-year period, Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians (Eph 4:1; 6:20), to the Philippians (Php 1:7, 12-14), to the Colossians (Col 4:18), to Philemon (Phm 9), and apparently also to the Hebrews. His house arrest seems to have ended in about the year 61 C.E. when he apparently was tried—perhaps before Emperor Nero or one of his representatives—and pronounced innocent. After his release, Paul characteristically remained active. It could have been during this period that he made his planned trip to Spain. (Ro 15:28) According to Clement of Rome, who wrote in about the year 95 C.E., Paul traveled “to the extreme limit of the W[est],” that is, of the Roman Empire. Paul’s three letters dated to the years after his release (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) reveal that he probably visited Crete, Ephesus, Macedonia, Miletus, Nicopolis, and Troas. (1Ti 1:3; 2Ti 4:13; Tit 1:5; 3:12) Some suggest that it was in Nicopolis, Greece, that Paul was again arrested and that he was back in prison in Rome in about the year 65 C.E. This time, it seems that Nero showed no mercy. A fire had devastated Rome the year before, and according to Roman historian Tacitus, Nero falsely blamed the Christians. Nero then initiated a brutal campaign of persecution against them. When Paul wrote his second and final letter to Timothy, he expected to be executed soon, so he asked Timothy and Mark to come quickly. During this time, Luke and Onesiphorus showed great courage and risked their lives to visit Paul and comfort him. (2Ti 1:16, 17; 4:6-9, 11) It was likely in about the year 65 C.E. that Paul was executed. In both life and death, Paul was an outstanding witness to “all the things Jesus started to do and to teach.”—Ac 1:1.
I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus: The apostle Paul made his countrymen furious because he labored among the non-Jews as a disciple of Jesus Christ. This led to his being imprisoned, first in Judea and eventually in Rome. (Ac 21:33-36; 28:16, 17, 30, 31) Therefore, he could say that he was the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of . . . the people of the nations. During the two years of his first imprisonment in Rome (c. 59-61 C.E.), Paul wrote several letters. (See study note on Ac 28:30.) In his letter to the Ephesians, he refers to himself two more times as being imprisoned or in chains.—Eph 4:1; 6:20.
the stewardship of God’s undeserved kindness: As “an apostle to the nations,” Paul had a special stewardship entrusted to him. (Ro 11:13) He was, in effect, saying to people of the nations: “I have received the responsibility of helping you to benefit from the undeserved kindness of God.” The Greek term for “stewardship” (oi·ko·no·miʹa) can also be rendered “administration.”—Eph 1:10; 3:9.
just as I wrote previously in brief: Paul is apparently referring, not to a separate letter, but to what he briefly discussed earlier in this letter, such as at Eph 1:9, 10 and 2:11-22.
sacred secrets: The Greek word my·steʹri·on is rendered “sacred secret” 25 times in the New World Translation. Here used in the plural, this expression refers to aspects of God’s purpose that are withheld until God chooses to make them known. Then they are fully revealed but only to those to whom he chooses to give understanding. (Col 1:25, 26) Once revealed, the sacred secrets of God are given the widest possible proclamation. This is evident by the Bible’s use of such terms as “declaring,” “making known,” “preach,” “revealed,” and “revelation” in connection with the expression “the sacred secret.” (1Co 2:1; Eph 1:9; 3:3; Col 1:25, 26; 4:3) The primary “sacred secret of God” centers on the identification of Jesus Christ as the promised “offspring,” or Messiah. (Col 2:2; Ge 3:15) However, this sacred secret has many facets, including the role Jesus is assigned to play in God’s purpose. (Col 4:3) As Jesus showed on this occasion, “the sacred secrets” are connected with the Kingdom of the heavens, or “the Kingdom of God,” the heavenly government in which Jesus rules as King. (Mr 4:11; Lu 8:10; see study note on Mt 3:2.) The Christian Greek Scriptures use the term my·steʹri·on in a way different from that of the ancient mystery religions. Those religions, often based on fertility cults that flourished in the first century C.E., promised that devotees would receive immortality, direct revelation, and approach to the gods through mystic rites. The content of those secrets was obviously not based on truth. Those initiated into mystery religions vowed to keep the secrets to themselves and therefore shrouded in mystery, which was unlike the open proclamation of the sacred secrets of Christianity. When the Scriptures use this term in connection with false worship, it is rendered “mystery” in the New World Translation.—For the three occurrences where my·steʹri·on is rendered “mystery,” see study notes on 2Th 2:7; Re 17:5, 7.
the sacred secret of his will: The term “sacred secret” is mentioned several times in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Generally speaking, Jehovah’s “sacred secret” centers on Jesus Christ. (Col 2:2; 4:3) However, God’s sacred secret has many facets. These include: Jesus’ identity as the promised offspring, or Messiah, and his role in God’s purpose (Ge 3:15); a heavenly government, God’s Messianic Kingdom (Mt 13:11; Mr 4:11); the congregation of spirit-anointed Christians, of which Christ is head (Eph 5:32; Col 1:18; Re 1:20); the role of those anointed ones who share the Kingdom with Jesus (Lu 22:29, 30); and the selection of the anointed from among both Jews and Gentiles (Ro 11:25; Eph 3:3-6; Col 1:26, 27).—See study notes on Mt 13:11; 1Co 2:7.
people of the nations: That is, non-Jews. In this verse, Paul highlights one aspect of the sacred secret that was revealed to him, as mentioned at Eph 3:3. (See study notes on Mt 13:11; Eph 1:9.) Here it is made clear that along with believing Jews like Paul, non-Jews were being called to be fellow members of the body of Christ, that is, the Christian congregation, of which Jesus is the head.—Eph 1:22, 23; Col 1:18.
Ministers: Or “Servants.” The Bible often uses the Greek word di·aʹko·nos to refer to one who does not let up in humbly rendering service in behalf of others. (See study note on Mt 20:26.) At Ro 15:8, the term is used to describe Jesus. (See study note.) In this verse (1Co 3:5), Paul describes himself and Apollos as ministers, or servants, who helped the Corinthians to become believers. Their ministry, like the ministry of all baptized Christians, involved filling the spiritual needs of other humans.—Lu 4:16-21.
we recommend ourselves as God’s ministers: In his letters to the Christians in Corinth, Paul has already referred to himself and his fellow workers as “ministers.” (See study notes on 1Co 3:5; 2Co 3:6.) In this context, the Greek verb rendered “we recommend ourselves” conveys the idea “we prove (show) ourselves to be.” Some men associated with the congregation in Corinth were not proving worthy of God’s undeserved kindness. (2Co 6:1, 3) So Paul and his associates recommended, or defended, themselves as God’s ministers “in every way.”
a minister of this: Apparently a minister of “the sacred secret,” mentioned in verses 3 and 4, though the expression may also refer to a minister of “the good news” (Eph 3:6), which is closely connected with this sacred secret (Eph 6:19). In his letters, Paul often describes himself and his coworkers as ministers.—See study notes on 1Co 3:5; 2Co 6:4.
the free gift of God’s undeserved kindness: See Glossary, “Undeserved kindness.”
for an administration: Or “to administer things.” The Greek word used here (oi·ko·no·miʹa) literally means “a house administration” or “a household management.” It refers to, not a specific government, but a way of administering or managing things. This understanding is consistent with the way the term is used at Eph 3:9. (Compare Lu 16:2; Eph 3:2; and Col 1:25, where the term is rendered “stewardship.”) This “administration” is not the same as God’s Messianic Kingdom. Rather, it is the way he chooses to manage the affairs of his universal family, or household. The administration will bring together the rulers of this heavenly Kingdom and accomplish his purpose of unifying all intelligent creatures, resulting in peace and unity with God through Jesus Christ.
the administration of the sacred secret: Or “how the sacred secret is administered.”—For a discussion of the Greek word for “administration” (oi·ko·no·miʹa) used here, see study note on Eph 1:10.
through the congregation: The Christian congregation formed part of God’s sacred secret because God purposed to take from among mankind humans who would become joint heirs with Christ in heavenly glory. (Eph 3:5-9) God makes his wisdom known, or revealed, “to the governments and the authorities in the heavenly places” by what he does through, for, and with that congregation. The angels view with amazement and admiration the progressive revealing of this sacred secret. So it can be said that “through the congregation,” the angels get to see “the greatly diversified wisdom of God” in a way that they had not seen it before.—Compare 1Pe 1:10-12.
called according to his purpose: The Greek word proʹthe·sis, translated “purpose,” literally means “a placing before.” The term also appears at Ro 9:11; Eph 1:11; 3:11. Since God’s purposes are certain of accomplishment, he can foreknow and predict what will happen. (Isa 46:10) For example, Jehovah foreknew that there would be a class of “called” ones, but he does not predestine the specific individuals forming this class. He also takes steps to make sure that his purposes are realized.—Isa 14:24-27.
the eternal purpose: In this context, the term “purpose” refers to a specific goal, or aim, that can be achieved in more than one way. It relates to Jehovah’s determination to accomplish what he originally intended for mankind and the earth, despite the rebellion in Eden. (Ge 1:28) Immediately after that rebellion, Jehovah formed this purpose in connection with the Christ, Jesus our Lord. He foretold the appearance of an “offspring” who would undo the damage done by the rebels. (Ge 3:15; Heb 2:14-17; 1Jo 3:8) It is an “eternal purpose” (lit., “purpose of the ages”) for at least two reasons: (1) Jehovah, “the King of eternity [lit., “the King of the ages”]” (1Ti 1:17), has allowed ages of time to pass before that purpose is fully realized, and (2) the results of the outworking of this purpose will endure into all eternity.—See study note on Ro 8:28.
outspokenness: Or “boldness; fearlessness.” The Greek word par·re·siʹa has also been rendered “freeness of speech; confidence.” (Ac 28:31; 1Jo 5:14) This noun and the related verb par·re·si·aʹzo·mai, often rendered “speak boldly (with boldness),” occur several times in the book of Acts and convey an identifying mark of the preaching done by the early Christians.—Ac 4:29, 31; 9:27, 28; 13:46; 14:3; 18:26; 19:8; 26:26.
with the greatest freeness of speech: Or “with all boldness (fearlessness).” The Greek word par·re·siʹa has also been rendered “outspokenness.” (Ac 4:13) This noun and the related verb par·re·si·aʹzo·mai, often rendered “speak boldly [with boldness],” occur several times in the book of Acts. Boldness was, from the beginning of Luke’s account to the end, an identifying mark of the preaching done by the early Christians.—Ac 4:29, 31; 9:27, 28; 13:46; 14:3; 18:26; 19:8; 26:26.
freeness of speech: Or “outspokenness; boldness.” The Greek word par·re·siʹa has the basic meaning “boldness in speech.” In effect, Paul is here telling the Corinthians: “I am able to speak to you with great openness (frankness).”—See study note on Ac 28:31.
this freeness of speech: A Christian has “freeness of speech” (or, “boldness; fearlessness”) because he has a good relationship with Jehovah God. He can speak to God in prayer freely and with confidence because he exercises faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the ransom sacrifice. (Heb 4:16; 1Jo 5:14) In some contexts, the Greek term that is here rendered “freeness of speech” may also refer to speaking openly and freely about the Christian faith.—See study notes on Ac 4:13; 28:31; 2Co 7:4.
on account of my tribulations in your behalf: Paul endured tribulations as a result of his ministering to the Ephesians. He showed that their spiritual blessings were worth suffering for. His example encouraged them not to give up, so Paul could say that his tribulations were in their behalf. (Compare Col 1:24.) On the other hand, had Paul given in to his persecutors, some Christians in Ephesus might have been inclined to give up, concluding that Christianity was not worth the hardships involved.
to whom every family . . . owes its name: The Greek word for “family” (pa·tri·aʹ), derived from the word for “father” (pa·terʹ), occurs only three times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. (Lu 2:4; Ac 3:25) It is broad in meaning and is not limited to a person’s immediate family. It is used several times in the Septuagint to translate a Hebrew term that in addition to referring to a household also means, by extension, a tribe, people, or nation. (Nu 1:4; 1Ch 16:28; Ps 22:27 [21:28 (27), LXX]) By saying that every family “owes its name” to God, Paul shows that all people, Jews and non-Jews alike, have their origin with Jehovah God, the Father.
every family in heaven: Jehovah God, the Father of his heavenly family, views the angels as sons. (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7) Just as he calls the countless stars by name (Ps 147:4), he undoubtedly assigned names to the angels.—Jg 13:18.
every family . . . on earth: Every earthly family or line of descent “owes its name” to God because he established the first human family and permitted Adam and Eve to have children. (Ge 1:28; Mt 19:4, 5) However, Paul is not saying that Jehovah is responsible for naming every individual family group.
a skilled master builder: Or “a wise director of works.” Generally speaking, “a . . . master builder” (Greek, ar·khi·teʹkton, which could literally be rendered “a chief craftsman”) was in charge of the construction and worked at the building site. He recruited the craftsmen and had oversight of their work. In this verse, Paul likens himself to a builder, working together with God in a spiritual construction work to produce Christian disciples who have durable qualities. (1Co 3:9-16) In the Christian Greek Scriptures, this term is used only here; the related Greek term teʹkton is rendered “carpenter” and is used of Jesus and his adoptive father, Joseph.—See study notes on Mt 13:55; Mr 6:3.
have the Christ dwell in your hearts with love: Paul here encourages the Ephesian Christians to know and love Jesus thoroughly by adopting his ways and his feelings on matters. (1Co 2:16; 1Pe 2:21) Christians who allowed Jesus’ example and teachings to affect their thoughts, feelings, and actions would, in a sense, have him permanently dwell in their figurative hearts, that is, their inner selves. By growing in love for Jesus, they would at the same time be building strong love for Jehovah (Col 1:15) and acquiring inner strength (Eph 3:16) to withstand tests of faith.
be rooted and established on the foundation: As in other places in Ephesians, Paul here uses two word pictures to emphasize a point. (Eph 2:20-22; 4:16) He shows that Christians should be as firm as a tree that is rooted in the soil and as solid as a building that rests on a good foundation. At Col 2:7, Paul uses a similar word picture of “being rooted and built up in him,” that is, Christ Jesus. (Col 2:6) Also, Paul uses an illustration at 1Co 3:11 to describe a spiritual construction work, likening Jesus to a “foundation.” (See study note on 1Co 3:10.) To become rooted and established, the Ephesians would need to study God’s Word diligently, especially the life and teachings of Jesus. (Eph 3:18; Heb 5:12) This, in turn, would help them develop a strong relationship with Jehovah.—Joh 14:9.
their coming to know you: Or “their taking in knowledge of you; their continuing to know you.” The Greek verb gi·noʹsko basically means “to know,” and here the verb is used in the present tense to express continuous action. It may denote a process of “taking in knowledge about someone; getting to know someone; becoming better acquainted with someone.” It may also include the thought of making an ongoing effort to get better acquainted with someone who is already known. In this context, it refers to a deepening personal relationship with God brought about by ever-increasing knowledge of God and Christ and a growing trust in them. Clearly, this necessitates more than knowing who a person is or knowing his name. It would also involve knowing what that person likes and dislikes and knowing his values and standards.—1Jo 2:3; 4:8.
you have come to know God: Many of the Galatian Christians had “come to know God” through Paul’s preaching. The verb rendered “come to know” and “be known” in this verse may denote a favorable relationship between the person and the one he knows. (1Co 8:3; 2Ti 2:19) So “to know God” is not just a matter of knowing basic facts about God. It involves cultivating a personal relationship with him.—See study note on Joh 17:3.
to know the love of the Christ: As used in the Bible, the expression “to know” often involves more than learning facts about something or someone. (See study notes on Joh 17:3; Ga 4:9.) In this context, “to know” means to grasp the significance or meaning of “the love of the Christ” and to know this love through experience and practice. Just having knowledge of facts, or having a purely intellectual understanding, does not give a person a true understanding of the personality of Christ. A person who has a vast store of such knowledge may even begin to feel superior. (1Co 8:1) However, a Christian who comes “to know the love of the Christ, which surpasses knowledge,” strives to imitate Jesus’ loving way of thinking and acting. This helps him to use such knowledge in a balanced, loving, and upbuilding way.
the one who can . . . do more than superabundantly beyond: At Eph 3:14, Paul starts a prayer. At the conclusion of that prayer, in verses 20 and 21, he praises Jehovah. He expresses the idea that God, in responding to prayer, is not limited to what the person praying might think of as a possible answer. A Christian may see no way to solve a problem, but God is able to do infinitely more than “all the things we ask or conceive.” He can answer prayers and fulfill his promises in ways far beyond anything humans can imagine or anticipate.
Amen: Or “So be it.” The Greek word a·menʹ is a transliteration of a Hebrew term derived from the root word ’a·manʹ, meaning “to be faithful, to be trustworthy.” (See Glossary.) “Amen” was said in agreement to an oath, a prayer, or a statement. Writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures often used it to express agreement with some form of praise to God, as Paul does here. (Ro 16:27; Eph 3:21; 1Pe 4:11) In other cases, it is used to emphasize the writer’s wish that God extend favor toward the recipients of the letter. (Ro 15:33; Heb 13:20, 21) It is also used to indicate that the writer earnestly agrees with what is expressed.—Re 1:7; 22:20.
Amen: See study note on Ro 1:25.