Ephesians 3:8: Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things; to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul asserts with certainty an eternal fact. The church which Jesus built (Mat. 16:18) was according to the eternal purpose of the Father. By inspiration, he proclaims this fact while knowing the mind of the Jew who had a mistaken concept that the physical kingdom of David was eternal. He proclaims this fact while knowing the mindset of future generations who ignorantly exclaim, “Give me the man and not the plan” or “Jesus, yes, but the church, no.” Unbelievable! Take a closer look at what Paul teaches.
The unsearchable riches of Christ. Earlier, Paul explained what the riches were, saying, “to wit, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). Obviously, he is talking about the salvation of souls. Jesus did not come to save us from tyrannical governments or foreign invasions. He did not come to delivery men from poverty, nor to make them rich in this present world. His mission was not to give us better jobs, cars, houses, or clothes. He died on the cross so sinners could be forgiven of the cause of separation from the Father, sin. Paul’s statement “fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body” shows that the church, which is His body, was a major part of God’s eternal purpose. Within its spiritual walls is salvation.
Which he purposed in Christ. Half of the first chapter is devoted to presenting that “all spiritual blessings” are only in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3). Here is a challenge: Read the first half of chapter one and note the number of times inspiration uses the concept “in Christ.” Follow that up by writing down what Paul says the blessings in Christ are. Your study should take you to the conclusion that God designed His work “to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth; in him, I say, in whom also we were made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:10-11). God wants all men to understand the outcome of the stewardship given to Paul and the apostles.
God accomplished His design when He established the church. Within this spiritual body, Jews and Gentiles are reconciled to God. Even more so, and in like manner, they are made one with each other through the death of Jesus (Eph. 2:11-16).
Make all men see. God is not hiding anything. He wants men to be knowledgeable concerning His plan (John 8:32). Paul informed his readers of the purpose of the apostles’ stewardship. They have revealed God’s plan of salvation which in other ages could not have been made known. It took time and ages and events and actions of a host of people to work out His plan. Now, through Holy Writ, it is laid open. When we read, we can indeed understand (Eph. 3:2-5). The Son could not be born and live and die and be resurrected until “the fulness of time” (Gal. 4:4). The very phrase “fulness of time” is pregnant with pre-planning.
The dispensation of the mystery. How did God plan on revealing? What could He possibly do that would demonstrate such a magnificent inner working of deity? Paul proclaims it was according to the dispensation of the mystery given to him. This simply means he is inspired (Eph. 3:1-5; 1 Cor. 14:37). With Spirit-given knowledge and abilities, he revealed the will of the Father.
Made known through the church. The church demonstrates the counsel of God which hath been systematically revealed from ancient time. As Isaiah taught in another context, there is none else but Jehovah who declares in the present the future. Jehovah does not speak in secret nor in the dark places. He wants His counsel established concerning the salvation of men (Isa. 45:21). In Christ, He brings forth His counsel. We now see His manifold wisdom in the spiritual sphere which is the church of Christ (Rom. 16:16; Acts 20:28). This is the body in which all men are reconciled. It is the same spiritual realm as the kingdom of His dear Son (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:12-13).
According to the eternal purpose. The establishment of the church was no hastily thrown together, spur-of-the-moment idea. This mystery or plan or strategy was not made known unto the sons of men during the days before Christ (Eph. 3:4-5). But it has “now,” said Paul, “been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit” (Eph. 3:5). And Paul was one of those chosen of the Father to make the mystery known. But so is the church. Paul made the mystery known through speaking and writing according to supernatural endowments of power. The church is the public manifestation of what was revealed. Thus, God’s plan is seen in the finished sphere, the church. The word which is translated “mystery” comes from the Greek word which indicates a military plan of operations and movements. Though our fight is not against flesh and blood, it, nevertheless, is a fight, a fight for the souls of men, a fight in which God has engaged since the beginning of the devil’s thought of sin.
Promised afore through his prophets in the holy scriptures. The things that Paul has presented ought not be a surprise to any Bible student. God’s eternal purpose of men being reconciled in the church may be clearly seen in the writings of the prophets of old. Such predictions from them demonstrate the eternal purpose of God. Moses wrote of God’s good pleasure being set into motion in the Garden at the fall of man (Gen. 3:15). Two millennia later, the Great Planner informed Abraham that his seed would bring forth the redeemer (Gen. 12:1-4; 22:18). Paul connects the seed prediction to Christ (Gal. 3:16). These verses reveal a time frame of action that span from the Garden to the resurrection. Magnificent! However, there is more.
In 740 BC, Isaiah foresaw the coming “house” of salvation (Isa. 2:2-3). As we noted in Ephesians, all flesh, Jew and Gentile, could find peace with God and peace with all nations in the “house of God.” The promises of this house of redemption presented by Isaiah were being fulfilled in Jerusalem shortly after Jesus died on the cross (Acts 2). However, there is more.
One hundred to hundred fifty years after Isaiah, Daniel adds his prophecy to the multiple predictions. At the end of Daniel’s interpretation of the king’s dream in Daniel 2:44, Daniel declares the coming of God’s kingdom, and that the nations would flow into it. Therein, they would glorify God and their new king (Dan. 7:13-14).
During the days of Jesus in the first century, the Lord gives a number of utterances concerning God’s great plan. He takes special notice that He would build His church (Mat. 16:16-18). He speaks of it coming in the days of the lives of those who were living on the earth when He Himself walked it (Mark 9:1). He also predicted that the kingdom would come at the time men saw the coming of the power of the Holy Spirit (Mark 9:1). The Lord addressed a closer time frame at His ascension, saying, “not many days hence” (Acts 1:5-6). These things were fulfilled in Acts 2, almost two thousand years ago, just as purposed and predicted.
God’s plan was purposed, and perfected, and Bible readers may read, study and understand His eternal purpose in Christ in the church.