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!

I. The Prisoner

A. 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?

a. 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.)

B. 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

C. 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

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

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.)

II. The Excuse

A. 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!

B. 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.)

C. 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

D. 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.)

E. 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.)

F. 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.)

G. 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

H. 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

III. The Prayer

A. 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

B. 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.)

C. 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.)

D. 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?

E. 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.)

F. Look again at Ephesians 3:21. What is the goal of
our work? (To bring glory to God.)

G. Friend, welcome to the family of God! Considering
the experience and the inheritance, will you
decide right now to join?

IV. Next week: The Unified Body of Christ.

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
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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.