Ephesians iii.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. For this cause I, Paul, the prisoner, &c. The sense seems to be, I, Paul, am a prisoner; otherwise the sense will be suspended, and interrupted by a long parenthesis till the 14th verse, where it is again repeated, “for this cause I bow my knees.” (Witham)

Ver. 2. If yet [1] you have heard. If yet doth not imply a doubt, but is the same as, for you have heard the dispensation.[2] This word, dispensation, is divers times taken by St. Paul to signify the manner by which a thing is done, or put in execution; the sense therefore here is, for you have heard how by the grace of God I have been made your apostle. (Witham)

Ver. 3. The mystery, &c. By this mystery, he means what he has already mentioned in the last chapter and what he continues to speak of, to wit, that by the coming of Christ, and the preaching of his gospel, all both Jews and Gentiles, all nations should be united into one Church, by one and the same faith. (Witham) — Mystery, &c. Revelation, the same as he mentions Galatians i. 12.; where speaking of his gospel, he says, For neither did I receive it of man, nor did I learn it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. This revelation seems to have regarded principally three things: 1. The redemption and justification of man by Jesus; 2. the vocation of the Gentiles; and thirdly, a positive command to announce the gospel to them. He speaks particularly of the second and third. (Estius) — Made known to me by revelation, and to the other apostles and prophets. (Witham)

Ver. 5. As it is now revealed.[3] St. Paul, as both St. Jerome and St. Chrysostom take notice, does not absolutely say that this mystery was not known, but only not known as it was afterwards to the apostles. For whether by this mystery we understand the incarnation of Christ, or the uniting of the Jews and Gentiles into one Church, we cannot doubt but both were revealed to Abraham, to David, to many prophets and just men in the time of the law; but now it was revealed and made known to all. (Witham)

Ver. 6. That the Gentiles should be coheirs, &c. This is the mystery which was heretofore unknown, and now revealed. This is what the greatest part of the Jews could never be brought to believe, that the Gentiles should be equally sharers with them of God’s promises and blessings. They were strangely scandalized that St. Peter should receive Cornelius, an uncircumcised man, into the same communion. On the like account they persecuted St. Paul. (Witham)

Ver. 7. I am made a minister, &c. i.e. an apostle, to preach this same doctrine of the gospel of Christ. (Witham)

Ver. 8. To me, the least of all the saints, (i.e. of the faithful) is given this mission by the grace of God, and power from the Almighty of working miracles, and other miraculous gifts from him, who created all things in order to enlighten [4] or bring light to all men, that they may know and be convinced of the dispensation and manner in which God will have this mystery now made known and preached to all the world. (Witham)

Ver. 9. The Lord has commanded me to teach and declare his wisdom, displayed at this time in the mystery of our redemption; a mystery, which for so many ages, nay even from all eternity, has been locked up in the breast of the Almighty, but which he has at length vouchsafed to reveal. (Menochius)

Ver. 10. That the manifold wisdom of God, and his other divine perfections of mercy, of justice, &c. may be more known, and seen executed by the coming of his Son, according to his eternal decrees of sending a Redeemer, in whom they are to believe, and have a hope and confidence of their eternal salvation. (Witham)

Ver. 13. Wherefore, I beseech you, be not discouraged nor disheartened at my tribulations and persecutions on the account of the gospel, nor at your own, which ought to be a subject both for you and me to glory in. (Witham)

Ver. 14-15. For this cause I pray and bow my knees to the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom all paternity (or fatherhood[5]) in heaven and earth is named. The Greek word oftentimes signifies a family, and therefore may signify, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named; and thus the sense will be, that God is not only the Father of his eternal Son, but (as not only the Latin text, but even the Greek may signify) of all angelical spirits in heaven, and of all men, especially Christians, made his adoptive sons in baptism. But here may be signified not only a family, but those in particular who are honoured with the name and dignity of fathers; so that the name which they have of fathers, or patriarchs, is derived from God the Father of all, and communicated to them in an inferior degree. This exposition is found in St. Jerome, in Theodoret, Theophylactus, St. John Damascene, &c. (Witham) — All paternity, or the whole family; patria. God is the Father both of angels and men: whosoever besides is named father, is so named with subordination to him. (Challoner)

Ver. 17. Christ dwelleth in us by his gifts, and we are just by those his gifts remaining in us; and not by Christ’s proper justice only, as some modern innovators will have it. (Bristow) — And this not by faith only, but by faith rooted and founded in charity, which accomplishes all virtues. (Bristow)

Ver. 18. What is the breadth, &c. It is not expressed to what must be referred these metaphorical words of breadth, length, &c. Some expound them of the charity which in our hearts we ought to have for one another; others, of the love which Christ shewed towards mankind, in coming to redeem all. (Witham) — What, &c. This thought seems borrowed from Job xi: “Peradventure thou wilt comprehend the steps of God, and wilt find out the Almighty perfectly.” The inspired writer then shews us how the Almighty is incomprehensible; for, says he, “God is higher than the heavens; and what wilt thou do? he is deeper than hell; and how wilt thou know? The measure of him is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.” The apostle, alluding to these words, prays that the Ephesians may have faith and charity sufficient to enable them to comprehend all that is comprehensible of God; as St. Dionysius explains it. But we are not hence to conclude, that there exists such a thing as dimension or size with regard to God, for he is a pure Spirit: but these expressions are merely metaphorical. For by breadth we are to understand his virtue and wisdom, which extend over all his creatures: (Ecclesiasticus i.) “he poured out wisdom upon all his works.” By length is meant his eternal duration: (Psalm ci.) “but thou, O Lord, remainest for ever.” By height we are taught the infinite superiority of his nature over ours: (Psalm cxii.) “The Lord is high above all nations.” And by depth we are shewn the incomprehensibility of his wisdom: (Ecclesiastes) “Wisdom is a great depth; who shall find it out?” Hence it appears that the end of faith and charity is, that we may arrive at a perfect faith; which may know, as far as it is intelligible, the greatness of his wisdom, his eternal duration, &c. (St. Thomas Aquinas, in Eph.)

Ver. 19. That you may be filled unto all the fulness of God; i.e. that as God is full of love and charity for all, so may you in an inferior degree, according as you are capable, be filled with charity. (Witham)


[1] Ver. 2. Si tamen audistis, eige, &c. Si tamen and eige do not here express a doubt, but an affirmation, the same as in Latin, si quidem. See St. Chrysostom on the next chapter, ver. 21. log. igp. 829. eige ouk amphiballantos esti, alla kai sphodra diabebaioumenou.

[2] Ver. 2. Dispensationem, oikonomian, rei gestę administrationem.

[3] Ver. 5. Sicuti nunc, os nun.

[4] Ver. 8. Illuminare omnes, photisai pantas; not as God doth by interior illuminations, but by preaching.

[5] Ver. 14-15. Omnis paternitas, patria. See St. Jerome on this verse: Deus….paternitatis nomen ex seipso largitus est omnibus….pręstat cęteris ut patres esse dicantur. Theodoret, tom. 3. p. 305. Ed. Par. an. 1642. Alii patres, sive corporales, sive spirituales, desuper traxerunt appellationem: oi de alloi pateres….anothen ten prosegorian []ilkusan. See St. John Damascene, lib. 1. Ortho. fid. chap. ix. Ed. Bas. p. 32. touto de istion, &c. See Theophylactus, &c.

Bible Text & Cross-references:

The mystery hidden from former ages was discovered to the apostle, to be imparted to the Gentiles. He prays that they may be strengthened in God.

1 For this cause, I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ, for you Gentiles,

2 If yet you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me towards you:

3 How that, according to revelation, the mystery hath been made known to me, as I have written above in brief:

4 As you reading, may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ:

5 Which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to his holy apostles, and prophets, in the Spirit.

6 That the Gentiles should be coheirs, and of the same body, and joint partakers of his promise in Christ Jesus, by the gospel:

7 Of which I am made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God, which is given to me *according to the operation of his power.

8 *To me, the least of all the saints, is given this grace, to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

9 And to enlighten all men, what is the dispensation of the mystery which hath been hidden from eternity in God, who created all things.

10 That the manifold wisdom of God may be made known to the principalities, and powers, in heavenly places, through the church,

11 According to the eternal purpose, which he made in Christ Jesus, our Lord:

12 In whom we have courage and access with confidence, by the faith of him.

13 Wherefore, I beseech that you faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

14 For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

15 Of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named,

16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power by his Spirit unto the inward man.

17 That Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts: that being rooted and founded in charity,

18 You may be able to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth:

19 To know also the charity of Christ, which surpasseth knowledge, that you may be filled unto all the fulness of God.

20 Now to him, who is able to do all things more abundantly than we ask or understand, according to the power which worketh in us:

21 To him be glory in the church, and in Christ Jesus, for all generations, world without end. Amen.



7: Ephesians i. 19.

8: 1 Corinthians xv. 9.