These small group studies of Ephesians contain commentary, outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Ephesians 3:1-13 Bible Study Commentary – With Discussion Questions

Outline

I. Paul was given a revelation into what was a mystery (1-4)
II. Other generations did not have this knowledge (5)
III. The exact mystery was that Gentiles are fellow members of the body (6)
IV. Paul was a steward accomplishing this mission (7-10)
V. This was God’s plan for eternity (11)
VI. Therefore we must not lose heart (12-13)

I. Paul was given a revelation into what was a mystery (1-4)

Discussion Questions

• Verse one starts with the phrase, “For this reason I, Paul…” What is the ending of this sentence? (2-13 is a parenthetical statement interrupting his thought in verse one, which he continues in verse 14).
• What does it mean to be a prisoner of Christ Jesus?
• Why was Paul in this situation?
• What did Paul do while a prisoner?
• What does a steward do?
• What does it mean that Paul is a steward of God’s grace?
• How did Paul get a special insight into this mystery?

Cross-References

2 Corinthians 11:23-29 – In these verses Paul lists out his sufferings as a believer serving the Lord.

2 Timothy 1:8 – So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Verses 2-13 are a break from Paul’s thoughts which he began in verse one – The point he started discussing in verse is taken up again starting in verse 14.

2. Although Paul was a prisoner of the Romans for a total of about four years, he didn’t say he was a prisoner of the Romans – He said he was a prisoner of Jesus Christ. He recognizes that Jesus is sovereign. Jesus is in control. When everyone told Paul not to go back to Jerusalem because they feared for his safety, he did anyway, knowing he would end up as a prisoner. Being a prisoner was just the next step of Christ’s plan for him. We can learn several things from this:

a) Christ is sovereign. Although at times it looks like governments or earthly leaders are in control, they are all under the mighty hand of God. They can only do what God allows them to do. This should comfort us in times of trial.

b) Because Christ is in control and our life is in his hands, we don’t need to be upset, complain, or become bitter when seemingly bad things happen to us. Even in prison, Paul made himself useful and fulfilled the purpose for which God put him there.

Everything happens to believers for a reason.

Romans 8:18 Bible Verse

Instead of complaining, we need to look for the reason and make sure we are doing what’s right. A worldly person in Paul’s place may wonder why they are there and think it was a waste of their talents and preaching ability, but Paul knew God had a reason. The result of Paul being in prison is several New Testament books that he wouldn’t have had time to write if he wasn’t in prison.

c) Do not blame or react harshly to people who treat you wrongly.

I am six feet three inches tall and enjoy playing basketball. Most of the time when I play, my teammates ask me to play in the middle since I am the tallest on our team. That often results in being on the receiving end of many hard fouls. When I was younger, I found it harder to practice self-control. Sometimes I reacted with a hot temper when I felt the other team was too rough or unfair. Now I realize that in each of these cases, God allowed these things to happen for my good. Perhaps He wants to build my patience.

In a similar manner, when you face unfair treatment, consider what lesson God may want you to glean from the situation. Maybe there is a character quality that He wants you to work on. If a boss criticizes a project you know you finished well, maybe it is God teaching you some humility.

David gives us a good example of this principle. While David was on the run from Absalom, his enemy cursed him (2 Samuel 16). David’s loyal minions asked him for permission to go over and kill the guy for his insolence.

David replied in 2 Samuel 16:10 – But the king said, “What have I to do with you, O sons of Zeruiah? If he curses, and if the Lord has told him, ‘Curse David,’ then who shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’”

3. Paul was a prisoner not because of anything wrong he had done – Most people are prisoners for stealing, violence, murder, fraud, etc. Paul was in prison because he had made it his life’s work to preach to the Gentiles. As my mother told me many times growing up, life is not fair.

4. Paul, along with the other disciples, were stewards of God’s grace – A steward is someone who manages something for someone else. It doesn’t belong to him, but he has it for a period of time. He is supposed to manage it well and let it increase and prosper (Matthew 25:14-30.) It was Paul’s duty to care for the gospel, making sure it stayed pure and true and went out to the Gentiles. A bad steward would twist it to their own ends or be lazy, but Paul kept it pure and diligently traveled around everywhere to preach it out.

5. As an apostle, Paul received a special revelation – The things he was teaching did not come from himself. They came directly from God, meaning they are binding and trustworthy.

II. Other generations did not have this knowledge (5)

Questions for Discussion

During what time was this mystery hidden? In what way did God choose to reveal it?

Cross-References

Matthew 13:17 – For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

1 Peter 1:10-12 – Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. In Old Testament times, the concept that the Gentiles and Jews would be one was a mystery – There were some hints (Genesis 12, Isaiah 49:6) that all people would have the opportunity to receive salvation, and salvation would be for all people. But even so, Jews did not expect that Gentiles would have exactly the same level or position as they did. The prophets tried to understand these things, but they were hidden even from them at that time. God’s plan cannot be known apart from His special revelation, and at that time, for whatever reason, He had not yet revealed it.

2. Now He has revealed the mystery – He revealed it to Paul and the other apostles, as well as some New Testament prophets. Through them, everyone could know this part of God’s plan.

3. The knowledge of this mystery means that we don’t have to be in the dark – We live in a very privileged age. We have as much or more information about God and His plan than any other generation going all the way back to Adam. We have the entire completed Bible. God has blessed us by telling us what He is doing and how He is working in the world. I suggest that all of us pay attention by devoting ourselves to the study of the Word.

III. The exact mystery was that Gentiles are fellow members of the body (6)

Discussion Questions

• What exactly is the mystery that Paul is referring to?
• What word is mentioned three times in this verse?
• What is the significance of this word?
• How does it depict the relationship between Jews and Gentiles?
• This word describes three nouns: heirs, members, and partakers. Heirs of what? Members of what? Partakers of what?
• What does this description show about the relative spiritual position of the Jews and Gentiles?
• How can this promise be realized? (Through the gospel.)

Cross-References

Romans 8:14-17 – For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Galatians 4:5-7 – To redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 – Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. What is the exact mystery Paul speaks of? It is the fact that Gentiles and Jews can be one, part of the same group. What an amazing truth! It could not be conceived of beforehand.

It would be like saying during the Japanese invasion of China that the Chinese and Japanese would be one. That person would be laughed off or worse. How about telling a Pole during WWII that they would be one with the Germans? But the amazing thing is, this doesn’t only apply to the Gentiles and Jews. As we discussed last time, it means there are no spiritual, ethnic, gender, age, or economic barriers in the church. Blacks and whites are one. Arabs and Westerners are one. Chinese and Japanese are one. All believers have one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.

Corrie Ten Boom was the daughter of a watchmaker in Holland. During WWII, she and her family hid Jews in their house to protect them from Nazis. She and her sister Betsy were taken as prisoners to Ravensbruck. While there, they were seriously mistreated. Betsy passed away.

After the war was over, Corrie was freed. God led her to travel around and talk about forgiveness, trying to bring healing to a broken land. While in one church sharing about forgiveness, to her horror, she saw one of her guards from Raven