Introduction: How do you like solving a mystery? How do you feel when
you can solve a mystery and others cannot? This week we learn about a
mystery of God. A mystery that the universe is looking to you to
reveal to it. Let’s plunge right into our mystery!

  1. Prisoner Paul

    1. Read Ephesians 3:1. What is Paul’s status as he writes
      this counsel to the Ephesians? (He is in prison.)

      1. Why is he in prison? (He says it is because of the
        Gentiles. Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New
        Testament directs our attention to Acts 22 for the
        answer. So, let’s explore what happened in Acts.)

    2. Read Acts 21:27-29. What is the charge against Paul?

      1. What is the basis for the charge?
    1. Read Acts 21:30-32. How would you characterize the views
      of the Jews towards Paul?

      1. Why did they have such hostility towards him? (His
        association with Gentiles.)

    2. In Acts 21:33-40 Paul is saved by the soldiers, arrested,
      and interviewed by the commander of the soldiers. He
      decides to let Paul speak to the mob in the hope that will
      clear up any confusion and get them settled down. Read
      quickly Acts 22:1-22, focusing on Acts 22:21-22. What
      specific mission did God give Paul? (To minister to the

      1. What do you find odd about that? (Paul started out
        with the same attitude ( Acts 22:3-4) as the people in
        the mob.)

        1. Has this happened to you? Has your attitude
          towards another race or class or people changed
          because of the gospel?

      2. Read again Acts 22:21-22. Considering this entire
        sequence of events, why are the Jews so angry about
        Paul’s announcement that God has sent Paul to
        minister to the Gentiles? (It seems this is a
        repudiation of what we discussed last week – the Jews
        were the “clean” insiders. The Gentiles were the
        unclean outsiders. The idea that Gentiles could have
        access to God upset their entire world-view. It also
        took away their exclusive status. None of this was
        pleasing news.)

      3. If you were Paul, the ultimate “insider,” how would
        you like to be given the mission to bring the gospel
        to the Gentiles?

        1. If you were God, why would you give this mission
          to Paul? (Because it took away much of the
          argument against Paul. Paul was the “ultimate
          Jew.” Jews could not suggest that his current
          views came from some defect in his background.
          No one could argue, “He has never been a proper
          Jew. We should not be surprised by him now.”)

  1. The Mystery

    1. Read Ephesians 3:2-3. What is this mystery revealed to
      Paul? (Read Ephesians 3:6 – that the Gentiles are heirs
      together with the Jews. They share the promise of eternal
      life through Jesus.)

      1. What does it mean for Paul to “administer” God’s
        grace? (What a glorious thought. When you share God’s
        gift of grace with others, you help to direct God’s
        work on earth.)

    2. Read Ephesians 3:4-5 and Ephesians 3:9. Why would God keep
      truth hidden?

      1. What is Paul’s point in Ephesians 3:9 when he notes
        that God “created all things?” (Paul’s point is that
        the Creator can decide to reveal things whenever He
        wants. His creation is in no position to say, “Why
        didn’t you tell me that before?”)

      2. Look again at Ephesians 3:5. Has this mystery never
        before been revealed? (Paul says it has not before
        been so clearly revealed. The idea that I get is that
        this was known in the past to a limited degree, but
        now God wants it to be widely revealed.)

        1. Read Isaiah 56:6-7 and Isaiah 49:6. We have
          already discussed the “God is all powerful and
          He can do anything He wants” answer to this
          mystery of sharing the gospel with the Gentiles.
          What logical reason can you see for God more
          fully revealing the mystery during Paul’s day?
          (The Isaiah 49:6 text is a Messianic prophecy.
          Since Israel largely rejected Jesus as the
          Messiah, it made sense to go beyond the Jews
          with the message of Jesus. God had always
          allowed Gentiles to come to Him ( Isaiah 56:6-7),
          but now there was a very practical reason to
          abandon Israel as God’s primary point of contact
          with humanity.)

    3. Read Ephesians 3:6. How does the gospel bring the Jews and
      Gentiles together? (Since Jesus died for the sins of all,
      and since salvation is by grace and not works, all are now
      eligible to enter into the Kingdom of God.)

  2. Paul the Lesser

    1. Read Ephesians 3:7-8. How does Paul describe himself? (As
      less than the least of all God’s people.)

      1. Read 1 Corinthians 15:9. How does Paul describe
        himself here? (As the least of the apostles.)

      2. Read 1 Timothy 1:15. How does Paul describe himself
        here? (As the worst of all sinners.)

      3. Consider this series of statements: Paul is the least
        of the apostles, the least of the believers and
        (going further down)the worst of all sinners. What is
        Paul’s point? That we should junk all of our “self-worth” seminars?

        1. Read 2 Corinthians 11:30. (Paul “boasts” in his
          weakness because it shows the power of God. Paul
          has this huge task – to administer the “mystery”
          that the gospel of grace now should be widely
          shared with Gentiles. Paul is not claiming that
          he was given this task because he is so wise,
          important and powerful. Rather, it is God who is
          wise, important and powerful.)

          1. How does your attitude compare to that of

  3. Tutors of the Universe

    1. Read Ephesians 3:10-11. Who are these “rulers and
      authorities in the heavenly realms?” (Angels?)

      1. Read 1 Peter 1:10-12 and Luke 15:10. What kind of
        picture do we get of God’s angels? (That they are
        cheerleaders and helpers who are not completely aware
        of how the details of salvation on earth will work
        out. They study the issue of salvation.)

      2. What does Ephesians 3:10 suggest that the church
        (that is you) is teaching angels? (Friend, God is
        using you to unravel for the angels the details of
        how the plan of salvation works out here on earth.
        Paul suggests to us that the angels did not
        understand the mystery that Gentiles and Jews would
        now come together to promote God’s kingdom on earth.
        Angels are studying us.)

      3. Would “ruler” be a proper term to describe an angel?
        (I think we have more than angels described here. It
        is reasonable to read this to mean that other worlds
        are studying how the conflict between good and evil
        and the plan of salvation are working out here on
        planet earth.)

    2. Read Ephesians 3:12-13. Why can we have confidence in
      approaching God? (What Jesus has done boosts our status
      before God. If angels and other worlds are looking to us
      to help understand God’s work on earth, consider what that
      does for your confidence. You are the center of the

  4. Strength for the Task

    1. Read Ephesians 3:14-16. Given the enormous importance of
      what we are doing, given the universal stage on which we
      work, what do we need to allow us to do our work? (Power
      from the Holy Spirit.)

    2. Read Ephesians 3:17-19. What does love have to do with
      this? (Not only does the knowledge that Jesus loves us
      give us strength for the task ahead, but understanding and
      sharing a sense of that love is a large part of our

    3. Read Ephesians 3:20-21. Friend, what kind of dream do you
      have for accomplishing God’s work on earth? Paul tells us
      that God can use you to do much more than you can even
      imagine! Will you imagine great things for God today?

  5. Next week: Unity Amid Diversity.