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Revelation 22:20

This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is both helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible often doesn't tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Ephesians (3:11-21) (Lesson 10)

Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Established November 2008                                                 Published Weekly on Friday AM

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Ephesians (3:11-21)                                                               (Lesson 10)

Welcome to HBS.

I’m publishing this week’s Bible lesson early because I start vacation tomorrow.  I will be away from our Ephesian study through April 7.  Lesson #11 will be published on April 13.  Even though I am on a break doesn’t mean I take a break from studying Scripture.  I suggest y’all do likewise.  Please note the Light is always on at the HBS website.  Please avail of the 300+ Bible lessons archived there. 


During a conversation with another Believer, I couldn’t help but notice it didn’t take long before we were discussing the things of God and the Bible, rightly divided.  We didn’t plan it; it just happened, naturally.  This reminds me of a grandparent who enthusiastically whips out photos of their new grandchild and begins to describe them to a complete stranger in the checkout line at Publix.  In other words, true Believers are not ashamed of the Lord Jesus Christ.  They place a high value on God’s grace and their salvation, so discussing the things of God’ is second nature to them. 

During one of these encounters, I met a Believer who honestly expressed they didn’t know what God wanted from them.  This unhappy individual wanted to be a missionary, so they prayed and waited for God to answer the prayer.  Because God hasn’t answered this prayer, they stopped praying about it.  They were basically saying, “I want to obey God’s will, but have no idea what that is.”

I said God answers prayer in three different ways.  He may say “Yes,” “No,” or “Not now.”  In other words, you may be called to the mission field one day, but until that time He expects you to “Bloom where you’re planted” (2 Corinthians 5:20).   I pointed out to them our Apostle Paul wanted to preach the gospel in Asia but the Holy Spirit said “Not now; wait on God” (Acts 16:6-10).  From this exchange we discern wherever you are now that’s your “mission field.”  Whether that’s being a godly parent at home, sharing the good news (Gospel) in your workplace, or while sitting on your friends sofa; for the “harvest is ripe.”

2000 years ago Jesus expressed God’s will with these words:  The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Ask the LORD of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest (Luke 10:2 – Berean Study Bible).   

Plainly said, you’ll find God’s will is revealed in the Bible but you have to be “tuned into it, that is, brought into harmony with it (Psalm 119:105; Micah 6:8; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10; Ephesians 2: 17, 5:15-20; 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 5:18; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 1 Peter 2:15).

God revealed His eternal purpose for His Church in Ephesians 3:9-11 and nothing will thwart it:    and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.  This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,

God intends to save all those who respond to the Gospel of Grace; ultimately summing up all things in Christ Jesus:  with a view to an administration (dispensation; economy) suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens (plural) and things on the earth, In Him (Ephesians 3:10). 

so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth (Philippians 2:10).

God’s manifold wisdom was revealed at the cross (Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:12-13).  Therefore Jesus is to be realized, recognized, and then glorified.  Every creature will be subject to Him.  People may choose not to realize Jesus Christ, recognizing Him for all He is and has accomplished, praising Him accordingly in this present, evil age (Ephesians 5:16).  But the day is swiftly approaching when He will receive all the praise and glory due Him of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth.   

The entire Old Testament looked forward to the promised Redeemer.  The New Testament testifies of Him and looks to His return.  All of history will climax when He returns in power and glory to establish His kingdom on earth, where He will reign sovereignly.  God has added His Church to the two existing segments of society, having reconciled both Jew and Gentile to God and uniting them as one body through Jesus Christ (2:11-12, 17-22; 1 Corinthians 10:32).  God the Father appointed Christ Jesus as Head of His body, the Church, so the Church is central to God’s eternal purpose.   

Paul said his ministry, in addition to preaching to the Gentiles “the unfathomable riches of Christ,” is also to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things (3:9).

 God’s one Church made up of peoples from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Revelation 7:9) is the vehicle for making known His manifold wisdom, not only on earth, but also to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  Rulers and authorities speak of the hierarchy of angels.   

Paul wrote:  For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers and authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16).

In addition to sharing the good news of the gospel of peace with others (Ephesians 6:15), Paul is saying the Church will instruct the angels about the manifold wisdom of God.  You see, His manifold wisdom was not revealed to the angels.  They aren’t tuned in to God’s grace and why He chose to save wicked people (Galatians 1:4), so we’re to help them understand these things.

After setting forth God’s eternal purpose, our Apostle Paul applies it in two ways.  Because we are at the very center of God’s eternal purpose, we must pray continually and not lose heart (some Bible translation use the word faint - 3:11-13). 

Please open your Bible at Ephesians 3:11-13.

Ephesians 3

This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access (to God the Father) through faith in Him.  Therefore I ask you not to lose heart (Faint) at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.

Which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord – it was God’s will that Jesus Christ come to His own people and for three years teach to them many things about God the Father and He explained the O.T. scriptures spoke of Him.

Zechariah the prophet spoke of Jesus riding on a donkey (9:9). 

Malachi called Him the Sun of Righteousness (4:2). 

Isaiah wrote:  “Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign:  Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (7:14).  This was 700 years before Jesus’ birth. 

Jesus Christ may be found in every book in the O.T. (Luke 24:25-35).  But we learn on the night of His advent every inn was full; which left Jesus’ earthly family outside.  This too was a sign revealing the hearts of men were not prepared to receive Him, so simply said, their hearts were “far from Him” (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8-9; John 1:11).  

“Carried out” translated Poieo (poy-eh’- o) in Koine Greek is a verb, Strong’s Greek #4160, which means:  to do.  It points to an accomplished action.  In English this means God’s purpose was accomplished through Jesus Christ through His death, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). 

Now, the preaching of Christ crucified was (is) a stumbling block for the Jews and to the Greeks (Gentiles) foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the (what) wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). 

That narrow path (way) to righteousness and justification was opened by the Lord Jesus Christ (the First Fruits of those to follow each in their own order) who chose to die on the cross (Matthew 7:13-14; 1 Corinthians 15:23).

In whom we have boldness and confident access (to God the Father) through faith in Him.  Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory (v12-13).

Here Paul, after explaining God’s eternal purpose, applies it in two ways.  Because His Church is at the epicenter of God’s eternal purpose Believers are required to sustain communication with Head quarters.  Paul put it this way Believers are to pray and not lose heart (their focus while enduring the trials of life) Philippians 3:14. 

For those of you who say it’s impossible to know God’s will our Apostle Paul said He  wants you to pray:  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).

Prayer alone brings you into God’s presence, and keeps you there continually.  Paul wants the Ephesians (and us) to know incessant prayer is essential to the vitality of their relationship with the Lord and their ability to function as His one Church, consisting of Jews and Gentiles, in the world. 

Consider this, if you spoke to your spouse, your family, and friends irregularly and you never confided with them, would those relationships remain healthy?  Prayer is conversation with God the Father.  It’s not a religious sounding documentary about you.  It’s the voluntary response to the awareness of God’s presence and honest (sincere) communication.  

I want to make it known God’s Church is not some building where people go to pray and worship.  The Church is made up of people (both Jew and Gentile) who have trusted in the gospel of Jesus Christ for their salvation through faith (Romans 2:16).  Christians have been taught to think of the Church as a building but this does not line up with God’s Word.  Paul said in Romans 16:5a, “…also greet the church (Believers) that is (where) in their house.
Verse 13:

Therefore I ask you not to lose heart (faint) at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.

The Koine Greek word faint is Ekkakeo, (ek-kak-eh’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #1573, meaning:  to be utterly spiritless; to become weary, exhausted.  The word faint is used 6 times in the KJV Bible (Luke 18:1; 2 Corinthians 4:1, 16; Galatians 6:9; Ephesians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:13). 

Here’s the thing, even though Paul was in prison his focus was not turned inward on himself and his current situation.  Paul’s focus was directed outward toward the Ephesians’ spiritual needs.  He didn’t want them to become disheartened on account of his trials.  He gave the reason for this when he said:  for they (my tribulations) are your (ultimate) glory.  Paul said something similar to the Church at Rome:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with (what) the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).

There was a great amount of persecution in the first century Church.  Even Paul had a hand in it before his conversion having persecuted the Church of God (Acts 9; Galatians 1:13).  Because religious persecution was a constant threat and due to the trials of life, i.e. pressure (anything that makes you feel “cornered” is pressure) some members of the church began to desert the faith.  This is what happens when people are not grounded in the Word of Truth the faith (Mark 8:36).  So, our Apostle Paul desires to end this practice and he advances a strong reason why they should all “stand firm” in the faith (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). 

God has revealed His eternal purpose (His will) to the Ephesians and every true Believer through our Apostle Paul and not one single thing will thwart it.  For example, Paul continued to preach and teach God’s Truths while imprisoned.  His positive statements were meant to encourage these folks to stand firm in the faith no matter what their circumstances were.   

Stand firm is a military term.  It means every soldier of the Lord must present a solid, united front to the enemy.  There’s an old saying that goes “the chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”  We have a lot of weak links in the Church today, which is why the world is experiencing a lack of love (except for oneself) and lawlessness continues to increase around the globe (2 Thessalonians 2:2-4). 

To the church at Colosse Paul wrote:  …if indeed you continue in the faith firm established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel (through fear, persecution, and circumstances) that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which, I, Paul, was made a minister (Colossians 1:23).  So, not only be confident of the gospel but in God’s promises. 

The Lord said to expect “trouble” in this world:  I have spoken these things to you so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation.  But take courage; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Even though the Believers thought the “sky was falling” due to their persecution and daily trials, Paul’s saying “Be not afraid God is always in control:” 

And we know that God works all things (both good and bad) together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28 – Berean Study Bible).

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:23-24).

Paul was suffering persecution from the Judaizers because he preached the gospel of peace specifically to the Gentiles.  So, he presents his imprisonment and his positive response to their hatred saying, “do not lose heart.  In doing so, he presents himself as a living example to both the Ephesians and every true Believer. 

Verses 14-19:

Ephesians 3

14: For this reason (cause) I bow my knees before the Father – first there’s a textual discrepancy worthy of note.  Notice the NASB translation here ends at the word “Father.”  But other Bible translations have recorded this:  For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (KJV).

The NASB omitted the phrase of our Lord Jesus Christ.  You’ll have to ask the translators why they did this when you see them, because I haven’t a clue.  I could guess, but I don’t do that.  Whatever the case, it doesn’t matter all that much because we already know from our Bible study that God is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This goes without saying.

What reason (cause)?  Paul begins to pray his (second prayer) for the Ephesians so they will not faint, but persevere in the faith.  This looks back to Ephesians 2:19-22.  In short Paul’s saying God saved you by His sovereign grace and brought you as Jews and Gentiles into one new man, i.e. God’s one Church.  You are being built together as a dwelling place of God, in the Spirit.  Therefore I bow my knees (pray) God empowers you and gives you strength to stand firm in the faith.

Verses 14-19:

from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

I bow my knees to the Father -   Paul could have said, “I pray,” but he didn’t.  Please don’t assume Paul’s saying this is the posture for all their prayer.  It’s an attitude for their prayer life.  It wasn’t a custom for Jews to kneel and pray.  Most of them stood and prayed (Genesis 18:22; Luke 18:10-11).  While in Israel I visited the “Wailing Wall” and not one single Jew was on his knees praying.  They were all standing before the Wall and praying either silently or aloud to YHWH.   

If you see a Jew on their knees praying, it’s because there is something passionate, something extraordinary the person was praying about.  I refer you to the Lord Jesus Christ’s passionate prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before He died (Matthew 26:36-56).  So, Paul bowing his knees before the Father is not in obedience to a religious rule it reflects the nature of his heart toward God.

In the next chapter Paul will begin explaining his general and specific instructions on how to live as true Believers.  But before he commences this prayer, he describes this two-fold prayer and doxology (v20-21) for the spiritual establishment of every saint in Christ Jesus. 

Paul has made it clear the Church is “from God,” “through God,” and “unto God” (Romans 11:36; Colossians 1).  God has sovereignly purposed His Church and is working in and through it to accomplish His will on earth.  So, Paul is praying for these two things: 

1) The Ephesians be strengthened or encouraged to live their faith (v16-17). 

2) And strengthened to know the infinite and maturing love of Christ Jesus (v18-19).   

It’s worthwhile to understand Paul’s prayer is recorded while he’s in prison but he does not mention his need for freedom.  When he does get around to asking for prayer for himself (6:19-20), he asks that they pray he will be bold in making the gospel known as he should.  I know people who confess to believing in the gospel but they won’t share Jesus Christ or their faith at any time, with anyone.  They lack boldness.  If he could share Jesus Christ with people of every rank while in prison, I don’t believe the fear of rejection or ridicule remotely equals Paul’s situation.  Therefore, let’s be clear Paul’s is keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing.  Paul won’t permit his trials to dominate his decision making or deter him from doing God’s will.  Nothing will thwart his ministry to the Gentiles. 

Paul begins his prayer:  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man (v16).  The Koine Greek word for grant is Didomi (did’-o-mee), Verb, Strong’s Greek #1325, meaning:  to freely give.   You could say anything we receive from God the Father is a gift, we don’t merit (spiritual worthiness achieved by doing good works) anything.  Everything we receive flows from God’s Grace. 

According to the riches of His glory – this phrase appears five times in the N.T. (Romans 9:23; Ephesians 1:18, 3:16; Philippians 4:19; Colossians 1:27).  Paul’s saying the riches of God’s glory are immeasurable.  God was not asked to give out of the riches of His glory, but according to those riches.  Here’s the difference:  if a billionaire gives you $100, he gave out of his riches.  If instead he gives you a million dollars, he gave according to his riches.  Paul’s point here is God does not lack the resources to meet all our needs.  The fountain of God’s grace never runs dry, in other words. 

Now look at Paul’s specific request:  to be strengthened with power through His Spirit.  Paul prays they will be strengthened with power.  The word "power" is Dunamis in Koine Greek.  It means: "power, might, strength, force."  The words dynamite and dynamo are derived from this word.  It speaks of a Believers’ inherent ability that carries the potential to perform or accomplish a task.  Paul's prayers contain a strong emphasis on the Ephesians’ need of the inherent power of God which He has made available to them through the Spirit.  This power exists in them; they simply must take advantage of it.  

In the inner man – this expression is used three times in the N.T. and only by Paul.  But be careful it doesn’t always mean the same thing.   In 2 Corinthians 4:16 Paul speaks of the Old Covenant and the inner man is the New Covenant.  Paul’s message here is covenantal.  The inner man is used in the same way as Romans 7:22.  It’s equal to the heart, i.e. the mind (3:17).  Specifically speaking, Paul’s is referencing the Ephesians’ thinking process.   So, Paul is praying that the Ephesian Church would be strengthened with the power of the Spirit in their thinking.  Paul’s wants their thinking to line up with the Word of God and to what he taught them in chapter 2, that is, the Jews and Gentiles are equal before YHWH.  They’ve become the one new man in Christ Jesus.

Genesis 1:26-27 says men and women are made in God’s image.  God is Spirit; unseen, so the real you and I are made up of our invisible attributes the soul and the spirit.

Genesis 2:7 says man was created a “living soul.”  The soul consists of the mind (Matthew 9:4; Hebrews 4:12), which includes:  emotion (John 16:6, 22); will (Acts 11:23; Hebrews 4:12), and the conscience (Romans 2:15; Hebrews 10:22; 1 Timothy 1:19).

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.  I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul (mind) knows it very well (Psalm 139:13-14).

All these invisible attributes are enclosed in the “outer man” the body.  The body is merely a tent, a temporary shelter housing our soul and spirit.   

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For indeed in this house (our earthly body) we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked.  For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by (eternal) life.  Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge (or down payment on our eternal inheritance) Therefore, being always of good courage (standing firm in the faith because God is Faithful), and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— (2 Corinthians 5:1-6).

People spend billions of dollars annually trying to thwart the aging process, but here’s the thing our bodies are deteriorating just like everything else around us.  Thus, our bodies (soma) are nothing more than temporary shelters housing the inner man that is made up of the soul (psyche), and the spirit (pnuema) (1 Thessalonians 5:23). 

In 3:17a Paul said:  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  Here Paul repeats what he said in verse 16; he just rephrased it:  to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.  

Paul’s not praying for God to allow the Spirit to strengthen the Ephesians, and then subsequently ask that Christ dwell in their heart through faith.  These actions aren’t separate they are one and the same, according to (or out of) the riches of His glory.

I’m sure you’ve heard the familiar expression, “Invite Jesus into your heart.”  This is where that expression comes from, but it is not the gospel.  You can’t be saved by saying, “Jesus, please come into my heart.”  Think this through.  The Ephesians were already true Believers, so Paul’s not asking God to give them “more” of something they already have. 

The Koine Greek word for dwell Katoikeo, (kat-oy-keh’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #2730, comes from two words, kata and oikeo.  Oikeo means:  to be at home, to dwell, settle.  Kata means:  down.  If you spoke of the people who were permanent residents, dwelling in your hometown, you would use the word Katoikeo.  Paul’s praying that Jesus Christ would be a permanent resident in their hearts by faith.    

The mode of the Lord’s dwelling in their hearts (minds) is through faith.  The power and strength we derive in response to Paul’s prayers will come to the Ephesians (and us) and are proportionate to their understanding of Scripture.  After all, faith comes by the Word of God (Romans 10:17); it’s through the study of God’s Word.  The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is available to these folks (and to us).   In chapter one, this power was toward us, but in chapter three, the strengthening is with this power into our inner man (heart).

So, Paul is praying the power of the Spirit will empower them so that they may live out the unity of the faith, so that they in thought, word, and deed would be the one new man the Lord has called them to be (3:15-16). 

Verse 17b-18:

and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend  (reason in your mind) with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  

It was Paul’s prayer that the Ephesians appreciate and understand the wonders of their redemption.  Knowing myself as well as I do in regards to the sinful path I used to walk, I wonder why God would bother saving me.  It was through the diligent study of His Word that I comprehended the answer to my quandary (John 3:16; Romans 5:8-9).

What is the breadth and length and height and depth – opinions vary as to the meaning of this remark.  Paul has been talking about the heart.  I don’t believe he’s changing horses’ midstream here.  Therefore, Paul is expressing the “dimensions of God’s love,” and that the Believer’s heart be filled with the divine subject and in awe of its greatness.  It’s possible to know something of His great love, and this can be labeled knowledge – not just guesswork or speculation.  But in a greater sense we will never know Christ’s love completely on this side of glory because the subject is unfathomable. 

So, when Paul wrote:  what is the breadth and length and height and depth, he was emphasizing the immensity of Jesus Christ’s love.  You may study this book for hours on end, but no one can state with all certainty they know all there is to know about Christ Jesus’ love (Romans 8:39). 

and (that you will really come) to know (in a practical way) the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God (3:19).

According to C.H. Spurgeon that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God is the very top of the ladder.  We’ll never reach that pinnacle while residing in these “earthly tents.”   All the fullness of God refers to the perfection of which God is full.  Paul is praying the Ephesians will arrive at spiritual perfection, having all that God is fill them to overflowing.  The idea of fullness implies complete dominance or control, so the power of God perfectly controls our minds, our emotions, and our will.

 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus
 (Ephesians 4:13). 

Paul ends this section giving God honor, glory, and praise:

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or (what) think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.  Amen. 

(To be continued)

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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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Friday, March 16, 2018

Ephesians (3:1-10) (Lesson 09)

Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Established November 2008                                                 Published Weekly on Friday AM

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Ephesians (3:1-10)                                                               (Lesson 09)

Welcome to HBS

To ensure there’s time to study all the material before us this week I’m going to forego reviewing last week’s lesson.  Please take the time to refresh your memories by reading the previous lesson; spiritual dividends will result.

Please open your Bible at Ephesians 3.

Paul’s Stewardship

The hidden mystery that the Gentles should be saved was made to Paul by revelation (3:1-7); and to him was that grace given, that he should preach it (3:8-12).

Ephesians 3

1: For this reason (cause) I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of (whom) you Gentiles

For this reason (cause - KJV) – reason is translated from the Koine Greek word Charin (khar’-in), Preposition, Strong’s Greek #5484, and it means:  in favor of, for the pleasure of, and for the sake of.  Here Paul means to say on account of this cause (for Christ Jesus).

Paul pauses midway through this letter to speak of this ministry, i.e. the preaching of the mystery of grace to all.  I believe he’s referring to everything he is about to say in this chapter and I base this on his statement in verse 13:  Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.”    

I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of (whom) you Gentiles – our Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians while in prison and he gives us the reason:  for the sake of the Gentiles.  Paul was in chains for two reason:  he maintained the gospel of peace (good news) was to be preached to the Gentiles and for preaching the gospel to them.  Just talking about this angered many people, but actually doing it landed him in jail.  Let’s be clear; Paul was not a criminal.  He didn’t commit a crime and he didn’t renege on paying a debt, meaning he was not in “debtor’s prison.” 
Paul had explained from the time of Abraham to Jesus Christ’s advent, about 2000 years, God’s blessed Israel primarily (there were some Gentile exceptions in the O.T. and the four gospels, which for all intent and purposes is still O.T.).  The Gentiles were on the “outside looking in.”  They were separated from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:11-12).

But now, Paul maintains the Gentiles have equal privileges with the nation of Israel, and all the blessings of the New Covenant.  Jesus’ death literally meant “out with the old and in with the New.  This means not one Gentile had to submit to the circumcision of the flesh.  Bear in mind always, the religious Judaizers routinely disrupted the churches Paul planted by coming in and insisting the Gentile converts be circumcised (Acts 15).  Thus the discord in this church was probably caused by Judaizers.  Paul dealt with these people in the Corinthian and Galatian churches, so we can reason the religious, Jewish Christians had a hand in disrupting the peace in the Ephesian church. 

The Jews persecuted Paul for preaching the gospel of peace to the Gentiles, and for saying they were not bound by the Mosaic Law.  We can also reason the Judaizers planned to discredit and silence Paul.  This activity was ongoing in other churches, with some success, so why not here?  So, this is why he was imprisoned, first at Caesarea, where he appealed to Caesar as a Roman citizen (Acts 22:22:29).  Because of his appeal he was sent as a prisoner to Rome (Acts 21:21-28).  But just because he’s in prison doesn’t mean his message of salvation by God’s grace is devalued or discredited.

 Verse 2:

Ephesians 3

2: if indeed you have heard of the stewardship (dispensation - KJV) of God’s grace which was given to me for you;

This letter was written around 62-64 AD (opinions vary), which means Paul had been diligently preaching the mystery of God’s Grace for about 20 years.  Paul only wrote to Believers.  These letters were then were read aloud in the churches (Colossians 4:16).  Paul has already commented on the Ephesians faithfulness in Christ Jesus (1:1-2).  But even though these people were Believers, there’s a good chance some of the folks attending this church were strangers to the truths of God; meaning they were not saved by grace through faith.  

if indeed you have heard – this phrase has been wrongly translated.  Here and in several other places it means:  since indeed, or seeing that, therefore it should be translated and understood as such here and in several other places in the N.T.  It should read:  Since indeed you have heard…” Compare 2 Corinthians 5:3; Galatians 3:4; Ephesians 4:21; Colossians 1:23 for the proper use of the particle, which is not designed to express doubt, whether they had heard of it or not; Paul assumes this knowledge was not a mystery. 

Reverend Doddridge, professor of philosophy, theology, and biblical languages said:
“Since I well know you have heard.”  Paul wasn’t shy when it came to sharing God’s mystery of grace during his stay at Ephesus, the second largest city in the Roman Empire after Rome itself (Acts 18:19-21, 20:27).  Paul held nothing back; he shared the entire counsel of God (Acts 20:20).  These Ephesians became Believers as a result of his preaching the mystery of God’s Grace.   

Our Apostle Paul took God’s salvation message to places others did not go (Gentile territory) and he didn’t discriminate.  Every individual, whether Jew or Gentile heard about God’s free gift of grace.  Unlike Jonah Paul didn’t pick and choose who would receive God’s message of salvation.  Paul knew every Jew and Gentile was dead to God (outside of Christ).  Therefore he gave voice to God’s invitation of salvation (Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15).  While imprisoned for two years in Rome, Paul preached the gospel of peace to everyone that visited him.  He also ministered to the soldiers guarding him and to Caesars’ household (Acts 28:1-31; Philippians 4:22).  In addition, he wrote four letters which are recognized as “the prison letters” (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon) which are a significant addition to the N.T.  Walls do not make a prison cell as long as the mind and heart are free.  Paul kept on doing what he had been doing as a free man; he served the Lord.

Fast forward to today and we find most Christians are not even aware of the one gospel that saves (Romans 2:16).   These folks are more interested in being “Politically Correct” rather than an ambassador for Christ; too ashamed or embarrassed to mention His name in mixed company or even at home.  Others “pick and choose” who will hear the gospel.   They deem so and so is not worthy of their attention let alone their compassion because his or her sin offends them.  They put themselves above God with this attitude, sitting in judgment of every substance abuser, communist, fornicator, homosexual, etc. they encounter.  Therefore I point out Jesus Christ was a friend to sinners even though He was publicly criticized for it (Matthew 9:19-20).  Rejection and scorn did not deter Him from serving the Father and sinners.

“To what then shall I compare the men of this generation, and what are they like? “They are like children who sit in the market place and call to one another, and they say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’  “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’  “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’  (Luke 7:31-34)

Jesus Christ demonstrated He was a friend of sinners by subjecting Himself to living in a darkened world.  For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Despite mankind’s sin Jesus desired to have a relationship with all (Romans 5:8-9).

Where would we be if God simply judged us as sinners and left it at that?  God’s one Church is a home-away-from-home for sinners.  All are welcome; their sin is not.  Acknowledgement of our sinful ways and repentance is required.  So, putting all prejudice aside, Believers are to share the gospel and knowledge of church doctrine to everyone; holding nothing back: 

By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: (Romans 1:5; Ephesians 1:10, 3:2; Colossians 1:25). 

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1Timothy 2:3-4).

Getting back to verse 2, we find Paul referring to his ministry, that is, the stewardship (dispensation - KJV) of God’s grace which was given to me for you (Gentiles, Jews, and kings – Acts 9:15-16) - the Koine Greek word stewardship is Oikonomia (oy-kon-om-ee’-ah), Noun Feminine, Strong’s Greek #3622, and it means:  the management of a household or of household affairs; specifically, the management, oversight, administration of other’s property. The words stewardship and dispensation are identical in meaning. 

Unfortunately, people in the church have been taught to shun anyone or anything associated with the word dispensation.  To be clear, some folks automatically assume “cult status” to those who speak of it assuming it is heresy.  Even Bible teachers refrain from using the word because of this negative aspect.  I’ve chosen a different route.  I’m going to share all of God’s Word with people who are interested in knowing what this book says and why it’s said!  The word dispensation is used by both the Lord and Paul, so I’m not going to ignore it.  And, unless you come to grips with this Bible truth, you’ll never understand what it means to “rightly divide Scripture” (2 Timothy 2:15). 

The word dispensation used here simply means “Economy” rendered stewardship.  It is the management of God’s affairs on earth.  The Lord used the word in the following passage:

And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee?  give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.  Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do?  for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship:  I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.  I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses (Luke 16:2-4 - KJV).

The stewardship (dispensation) of God’s grace is the apostolic office and gifts Paul received from the risen Lord for the purpose of preaching the gospel of peace not only to the Ephesians but to all nations.  The Dispensation of Law has ended (Colossians 2:14); the Dispensation of Grace is at hand (Acts 9; Romans 16-25).  Paul preached the knowledge of God’s divine plan of salvation and the church doctrines associated with it which had been given to him by revelation.   

Verse 3:

Ephesians 3

3: that by revelation (the revealing of something previously hidden or secret) there was made known to me the mystery (secret) as I wrote before in brief (see 1:9-10).

The mystery (secret) of God’s grace didn’t originate with Paul and he wasn’t taught it by man (1 Corinthians 4:1; Galatians 1:12).  This is plainly spoken here as he answers the assumed questions “How” and What:” by revelation there was made known to me the mystery. 

The twelve were called and taught by Jesus Christ for three years during His earthly ministry on Jewish soil.  They looked forward to the promised kingdom and their role in it (Matthew 19:23-28).  The first few chapters of Acts testify to this truth.  The twelve believed the Lord’s return to earth to set up His kingdom was imminent.  This is why they “pooled” their possessions and shared as each person had a need (Acts 2:45, 4:32-35).  Just as they misunderstood the prophecies related to Jesus’ coming in His first advent, they also misinterpreted the signs and scripture regarding His second coming. 

Because Israel rejected God the Father, His Son, and grieved the Holy Spirit, or the Triune Godhead (1 Samuel 8, John 19:15; Acts 7), God decided to do something brand new.  The ascended Lord called the most unlikely candidate of all, Saul of Tarsus, and taught him one-on-one for three years.  Some people believe Saul/Paul received most of this teaching while he was in the desert of Arabia (Galatians 1:17-18).  It’s a fact Saul spent three consecutive years in Arabia, but the Bible does not say he was taught the doctrine of the mystery of grace.  Thus I’m hesitant to teach it as fact.  What is a fact is the twelve were commissioned and taught within the borders of Israel.  Our Apostle Paul was called to be the Apostle to the Gentiles beyond the borders of Israel.  Paul was on the road to Damascus, Syria (Gentile ground), when he was converted. 

You would think the logical thing for Paul to do would be to rush to Jerusalem and consult with the twelve about meeting with the risen Lord and his salvation, i.e. conversion.  Imagine that meeting.  The zealous persecutor of the Way confessing he’s now a Believer (Acts 22:4)!  I would think the twelve would be expecting a trap.  But that’s not what happened and I’ll tell you why.  God had other plans for Paul, so He insulated him from the twelve and just like he did Paul’s counterpart, Moses, sent him away into the desert to mature spiritually – most likely the same place Moses received his instructions from the LORD, the Sinai.  The implications would not be lost on Saul/Paul, a Jew and a Roman citizen by birth.      

The word mystery is the Koine Greek word Musterion (moos-tay’-ree-on), Noun Neuter, Strong’s Greek #3466, meaning:  a hidden secret.  Unfortunately, most Christians interpret this word to mean, “strange,” “enigma,” “weird,” etc.  There’s nothing weird about this secret.  It simply means, “kept hidden in the mind of God since the foundation of the world,” until God chose to reveal it to Paul by revelation (Deuteronomy 29:29).  Paul served the Lord faithfully for about 30 years.  During that time the Lord revealed more secrets to Paul that were not revealed to the twelve.   The Apostle Peter confirms this in his second letter:

Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things (What things?  The secrets God had kept hidden, even from the twelve and Peter testifies to this with these words), in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:14-16).

This book says the religious Jews (Judaizers) opposed Paul and his gospel going to the Gentiles.  It’s the same church but people held different views of church doctrine. 
It wasn’t until the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15), when James, Jesus’ half brother, not Peter, the head of the Jerusalem Church declared:  “Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood…” (Acts 15:19-20).   

Here’s the thing most people overlook the fact that James was not the Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul was, so he was in no position to dictate church doctrine to the Gentiles.  This is why Paul all but ignored these instructions (Acts 21:21).  Always remember to separate (rightly divide) those things pertaining to the Jew and their religion from what God is doing now with His one Church, by grace.  But also keep in mind the Believer should not enjoy our liberty in Christ at the expense of a weaker brother or sister, who may not understand eating a rare steak is okay with God (1 Corinthians 8:13).   Seek another’s “highest good” always.    

Verse 4:

Ephesians 3

4: By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ -

when you read – when you refer back to the things I’ve written, you may understand the knowledge given to me concerning the mystery.  To be specific the calling of Gentiles unto God and the breaking down of the barrier between Jew and Gentile for the purpose of making one spiritual body, the Church. 

my insight into the mystery of Christ – the Koine Greek word for insight is Sunesis (soon’-es-is), Noun Feminine, Strong’s Greek #4907, meaning:  a running together, a flowing together with; knowledge.  Paul’s referring to the Lord’s work of atonement which had been concealed.  God’s plan of salvation is now free to all who accept it by faith (alone).   Paul was appointed an apostle to proclaim this good news to the whole world.  His knowledge of the subject “Could be understood by what he said.”  From that they could decide whether he was qualified to preach and to defend the doctrines of the gospel and its vital importance to all those who are outside of Christ Jesus. 

Verse 5:

Ephesians 3

5: which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;

Verses 3:4-6 are the mystery; he began by saying, “it had been hidden in the past.  Not even Moses was aware of it even though he was a friend of God (Exodus 33:11).  The Major Prophets and Minor Prophets of the O.T. knew nothing of it.  Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, David, and others were shown the future and what the end of time would look like, but they were not aware of this mystery.  Things changed with the advent of Jesus Christ.  He began to reveal the mystery during His earthly ministry:

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable.  This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:  “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world (Matthew 13:34-35).

Why hold this good news back?  God the Father was aware of mankind’s spiritual track record.  Humanity had to be prepared for the unfolding of this mystery.  The LORD chose to do this first through the rituals and symbols in the O.T., that is, the giving of the Law, the priesthood, and the sacrifices.  This was to show we all have something inherently wrong with us, which cannot be healed on our own.  The only thing that can cure sin is death.  God had to prepare the generations to be able to grasp this concept and then to be ready to believe it. 

But it has now been revealed, Paul says, "to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit", i.e. the writers of the Scriptures, such as Luke, James, and some others who were not apostles, but who were prophets (somebody considered to be an inspired leader or teacher).  In the closing verses of Romans 16 there is a very clear statement on the unveiling of this mystery:

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, (no exclusions; there is none righteous not even one) leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen (Romans 16:25-27).

Paul gets specific as to the significant change in God’s management of man’s affairs here on earth in verse 6.

Verse 6:

Ephesians 3

6: to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,

Paul uses the term the mystery 21 out of 27 times in the N.T. but it doesn’t always mean the same thing.  Basically, it is referring to God’s revelation of something that had been kept hidden.  Man could not obtain this information on their own, by their own wisdom, but only when God reveals it to His saints by His Spirit (Colossians 1:25-27).

Thus in our text, in Ephesians 2:11-22 Paul wrote about the aspect of the mystery.  He then refers to the general sense of the mystery of Christ Jesus (3:4), but then specifies the application of the mystery to the now revealed truth “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (3:6). 

In a nutshell, the mystery of Christ Jesus is “the union of Jews and Gentiles with each other through the union of both groups with the risen Lord.”  This promise can be traced back to the calling of Abram by the LORD God in Genesis 12:1-2.  The promise made to Abram (Abraham) is extended to the Gentiles:

in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (Galatians 3:14).

and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17).

All the blessings of the New Covenant are to be announced in the preaching of the gospel.  They are received, i.e. credited to one’s account, by faith.

Verse 7:

Ephesians 3

7: of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.

Verse 7 takes us back to Ephesians 3:1:  For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles. 

Paul said he was made a minister, a representative of God here on earth, acting under the direction of the risen Lord, from who this special call and revelation was made.   Not because he deserved it or earned it but according to the (free) gift of God’s grace (2:8). 

Again, we’re seeing Paul make multiple repetitious statements and there’s more to come.  Paul shows himself to be an excellent teacher in using this practice and I’ll explain why.  In our texts here and elsewhere in his letters, Paul’s doing a bit more than trying to get our attention.  He feels the need to “kick” some people in the pants so they will realize and remember their hopeless past, and recognize it’s all about God’s grace from start to finish.  We Believers, both Jew and Gentile, need to give thanks frequently and rejoice in the substitionary work of Christ Jesus at the Cross.

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God (Galatians 6:14-16; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

That passage of scripture leads us into verse 8:

Ephesians 3

8: To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,

the very least of all saints – this is another repeated comment from our Apostle Paul.  It can be compared to:  1 Corinthians 15:9-10; 2 Corinthians 11:30, 12:9-11; 1Timothy 1:12-16.  Paul remembers who he was and where he was prior to his conversion; he was a sinner outside of Christ Jesus and without hope.  Paul in saying he’s not worthy to be counted among the saints reveals the deep regret and sorrow of his past life (1 Corinthians 15:9).  Paul’s sins are forgiven, but he’s mindful of how he once persecuted the church of God and the Lord who is now His Savior (Galatians 1:13-14).  

And the unfathomable riches of Christ – Paul made a similar comment in Romans 11:33, saying, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!

Here Paul uses it in a slightly different sense.  He applies this truth to the “riches of Christ” which this takes us back to Ephesians 1:7:  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace…

The Koine Greek word unfathomable (unsearchable – KJV) is Anexichniastos (an-ex-ikh-nee’-as-tos), Adjective, Strong’s Greek #421, meaning:  that cannot be searched out, it cannot be comprehended.  Paul only used this word once before at Romans 11:33.  Paul’s basically saying there is a sufficiency in Jesus Christ which cannot be traced or explored by the human mind.  It is wholly incomprehensible.  In plain English, he’s saying you and I could search the scriptures for the rest of our lives and not exhaust the unsearchable riches of Christ.  One aspect of this expression includes the Cross.  Why the Creator God would come to this darkened world to save all mankind from their sin, past, present, and future, and undergo the agony of the Cross to accomplish that feat is beyond my understanding; it’s incomprehensible!  

Verse 9:

Ephesians 3

9: and to bring to light what is the administration (dispensation) of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things;

I’m going to use the KJV translation of this verse and I think you’ll understand why: And to make all men see what is the fellowship (administration – NASB) of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God,

The NASB omitted the underline phrase from the text.  The translators added the word men; we know this because it’s italicized.  Paul is saying he wants to make all see what is the fellowship (administration – NASB) of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God.  Paul doesn’t discriminate; he wants the whole world to be aware of this good news.    

what is the fellowship (administration – NASB) of the mystery – drop the word fellowship; the word was wrongly translated.  Instead of the word fellowship, many Bible scholars have used the word “dispensation” or “economy” which agrees with some of the best printed editions of the Greek text.  The NASB uses the word administration (dispensation; economy) for example. 

So what is Paul saying?  Paul’s ministry was to Gentiles and Jews alike (Romans 1:16; Acts 13:13-43).  Paul preached the gospel of peace on Jewish soil and Gentile ground.  His preaching included “God’s plan which had been kept hidden in God since the foundation of the earth.”  The mystery was that Gentiles and Jews could receive salvation equally through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:3-6). 

The mystery was received by revelation from the risen Lord.  Here Paul said, “by God who created all things; affirming God’s divine design of all things, seen and unseen.  This book says the Creator God is Jesus Christ: 

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything (Colossians 3:13-18; Hebrews 1:2-3).

Verse 10:

Ephesians 3

10: so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

Straight up, most theologians have no idea what this verse means to say.  The text is saying Paul was called to preach to the Gentiles (the nations) the unfathomable riches of Christ.  And to bring to light (enlighten all) what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God… so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to rulers and authorities (principalities) in the heavenly places. 

For those who do not participate in auto mechanics or did not sign up for auto-shop while in school, a manifold on your car has many ports.  However many cylinders your car has equals the number of ports in the manifold.  So manifold means many. 

Paul explains God’s eternal purpose (3:9-11) and will in the next lesson which give us two practical applications.  What matters to God today is the Church, that is, God’s eternal purpose centers on Christ Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, and His one Church.  Jesus was there at the beginning of all things (Genesis 1:1), and will be present at the end of all things (Revelation 22:12-13).  This is just one aspect of the manifold wisdom of God. 

This verse is saying God’s purpose in all this was to use His Church to display His wisdom, the riches of Christ, and His eternal purpose to authorities, rulers, and principalities (angels) in the heavenly places (Acts 9:15).  Our source of wisdom from God comes to us from both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  It’s all about the promised Redeemer who came as a servant of man and conquered sin and death at the Cross:

And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and firstborn from among the dead, so that in all things He may have preeminence (Colossians 1:18).

(To be continued)

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