The Mistery of the Gospel

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(Epehesians 3)
Lesson Number: 


Lesson 6

The Mystery of the Gospel

(Ephesians 3)

Copr. 2023, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: Imagine that you received a letter from a lawyer reporting that you have a relative, previously unknown, who died and left you a fortune. You could say that a mystery has been revealed, you have a relationship about which you were previously unaware. Paul says something similar to the Gentiles in Ephesus. He tells them that they are now part of a family which results in great gain to them. Imagine further that the members of the new family are not very welcoming to you. That is another parallel to what is happening in Ephesus. Let’s dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. The Prisoner
    1. Read Ephesians 3:1. Paul starts out “For this reason.” What reason is he talking about? (He is referring back to Ephesians 2, which we studied last week. In last week’s study we learned about righteousness by faith alone. As remarkably great news as that is, Ephesians 2 also explains that Gentiles are part of those covered by this great good news!)
      1. Can you think of a reason why Paul would be in prison for sharing good news with Gentiles?
      2. Paul seems to have an odd imprisonment. He says that he is “a prisoner of Christ Jesus.” How can he be Jesus’ prisoner?
        1. We know that Paul was being restrained by the Romans. How can you reconcile this fact with what Paul is writing? (We need to continue reading.)
    2. Read Acts 21:27-29. How does this clear up the confusion? (Paul is a prisoner of Jesus because he was arrested in connection with doing the work of Jesus - sharing the good news to the Gentiles.)
      1. How is this related to the church in Ephesus? (Did you notice the claim was that Paul brought a Gentile from Ephesus into the temple.)
    3. Read Ephesians 3:2. Paul assumes the reader knows something about the stewardship (the job) God has given him with regard to the Ephesians. What is that job? (The assumption is that the reader knows Paul has a special mission, given to him by God, to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. Now the confusion becomes clear - Paul is writing that he is restrained because he has been doing exactly what God called him to do: preach the gospel to the Gentiles. In this case it is to those in Ephesus.)
      1. Why would Paul get into any of this? Is Paul like those people you know who can’t get directly to the point? They have to tell you a story?
      2. Why would Paul’s story be relevant? (Put yourself in the place of a Gentile in Ephesus. Paul, who is a prisoner, presents an argument that a person who was crucified as a law-breaker is really the Messiah! It sounds like an “all-criminal” campaign.)
  2. The Excuse
    1. Re-read Ephesians 3:2 and add Ephesians 3:3. Paul writes that he has been given a special mission to the Gentiles to explain a mystery. Why refer to his message as a “mystery?” (People love mysteries. People love to learn secrets. This mystery starts out with a prisoner explaining why an executed criminal chose him for this job. Would that catch your attention if you lived in Ephesus?
      1. Commentators note that from this point until verse 14 Paul spends his time explaining how all of this unfortunate conflict with the law is not just okay, but very important. This is not a bunch of prison people attempting to lure you in, unraveling this mystery is a life and death matter!
    2. Let’s skip ahead and read Ephesians 3:6. Paul now reveals the mystery. What is it? (It is not the gospel. Rather it is that Gentiles are now “fellow heirs” with the Jews in “the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Gentiles are now part of the family of God.)
    3. Now that we have read the back of the book to learn how the plot turns out, let’s read Ephesians 3:4-5. When was this mystery revealed? (Paul says in the current, and not the past, generations.)
      1. Is Paul the only one explaining this mystery? (He calls his writings “my insight” into the “mystery of Christ.”)
      2. How did this current generation discover this mystery? (By the Holy Spirit.)
      3. How are the current members of the family reacting to the new addition to the family? (What did we previously read in Acts 21:27-29? At least some of the family is not in favor of this.)
    4. Read Ephesians 3:7. What do you think Paul means when he says that he was “made a minister.” (Instead of a title, this seems to describe his work, his mission. One commentator said the Hebrew word used here for minister is like a waiter in a restaurant. Paul’s mission is a gift of grace.)
    5. Read Ephesians 3:8. Doesn’t this seem to be nonsense? Paul was an educated man, taught by Gamaliel, one of the foremost Hebrew teachers. See Acts 22:3 He was not an uneducated fisherman. How do you explain Paul’s statement? (First, Paul did not spend three years being taught by Jesus. Second, Acts 22:4 reveals that he was previously a persecutor of Christians. Third, Paul might never have gotten on the right course if not for Jesus’ intervention at Damascus. See Acts 22:6-8.)
    6. Read Ephesians 3:9. How long has the plan to bring the Gentiles into the family of God been in place? (It was always in God’s heart.)
      1. Notice what might be considered a “random” reference to our Creator God. Is it random? (Evolution involves chance and natural selection. A Creator God represents order and plans. Just as Jesus created and planned the creation, so He planned our salvation.)
    7. Read Ephesians 3:10. Who are “the rulers and authorities in heavenly places?” (Read Ephesians 6:12. Paul uses that same language to refer to fallen angels.)
      1. Does it make any sense to you that the church shares “the manifold wisdom of God” to demons? (This news had to be unsettling to Satan and his fallen angels. They are now battling for the hearts and minds of everyone, not just the Hebrews.)
    8. Read Ephesians 3:11-13. These verses end in a request that the Ephesians “not lose heart” over Paul being a prisoner. How would you summarize Paul’s “excuse” for being in prison? (Paul is restrained not because he is a bad guy, but rather because he is sharing the gospel with the Gentiles. Censoring the message that Gentiles are part of the family of God is very important to Satan.)
  3. The Prayer
    1. After that long justification for his situation, Paul prays for the Ephesians. Read Ephesians 3:14-15. How are we named after our Father in heaven? (That is the point - God is our Father. Jesus has made us (Jews and Gentiles) part of the family of God.)
    2. Read Ephesians 3:16. Recently, much of my life has turned to batteries. All sorts of tools are battery powered and not gas powered. Who is our power? (The Holy Spirit. I cannot overemphasize the importance of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Without Him you are like a tool with a dead battery.)
    3. Read Ephesians 3:17-19. We talk about a three dimensional picture, Paul suggests four dimensions of God’s love. To whom is this four dimensional love available? (To us, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.)
      1. I’m always using logic and your experience to help explore the meaning of the Bible. What important point does Paul make about knowledge and love? (God’s love goes beyond logic and reason. Knowledge cannot explain it.)
    1. Read Ephesians 3:20-21. What does this “love surpassing knowledge” do for our ministry? (It gives more than we ask or imagine.)
      1. What does “according to the power at work within us” mean?
    2. Review the prayer of Paul that we just discussed: Ephesians 3:14-21. What is the difference between Paul’s prayer and your normal prayer? (My prayers are focused on me. Paul’s prayer is focused on others. Since your prayers are likely similar to mine, take comfort in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) which is more about the person praying.)
    3. Look again at Ephesians 3:21. What is the goal of our work? (To bring glory to God.)
    4. Friend, welcome to the family of God! Considering the experience and the inheritance, will you decide right now to join?
  1. Next week: The Unified Body of Christ.