Ephesians Sentence by Sentence: 3:8-12

Ἐμοὶ τῷ ἐλαχιστοτέρῳ πάντων ἀγίων ἐδόθη ἡ χάρις αὕτη τοῖς ἔθνεσιν εὐαγγελίσασθαι τὸ ἀνεξιχνίαστον πλοῦτος τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ φωτίσαι πάντας τίς ἡ οἰκονομία τοῦ μυστηρίου τοῦ ἀποκεκρυμμένου ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων ἐν τῷ θεῷ τῷ τὰ πάντα κτίσαντι ἵνα γνωρισθῇ νῦν ταῖς ἀρχαῖς καὶ ταῖς ἐξουσίαις ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις διὰ τῆς ἐκκλησίας ἡ πολυποίκιλος σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ κατὰ πρόθεσιν τῶν αἰώνων ἣν ἐποίησεν ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν ἐν ᾧ ἔχομεν τὴν παρρησίαν καὶ προσαγωγὴν ἐν πεποιθήσει διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ. To me, the least of all the saints, it was given this grace, to the Gentiles to preach the incomprehensible riches of Christ and to enlighten everyone what the plan of the mystery which was hidden from the ages in God, the One who created all things, in order that it now might be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms through the Church the diverse wisdom of God according to the purpose of the ages, which he made in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access in confidence through the faith of him.

Paul said he was given this grace, meaning, a gift or task. It was a privilege to do what he was doing. This privilege is all the more poignant since Paul considered himself to be the least of all the saints. Paul was privileged to preach to the Gentiles and to enlighten everyone. What was he to preach and enlighten? He was to preach the incomprehensible riches of Christ to the Gentiles, and to enlighten everyone in what the plan of the mystery which was hidden from the ages, that is, for all time. The mysterious plan was hidden in God–the creator of all things.

Paul was given this grace with the purpose that it would now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. What would be made known? The diverse wisdom of God would be made known. By whom? The diverse wisdom of God would be made known through the called out one. The genitive phrase, διὰ τῆς ἐκκλησίας, could be a reference to the church or to Christ. However, since the task was given to Paul for the purpose that the diverse wisdom of God would be made known, the reference is certainly to the church. As Paul preaches and enlightens believers, God used the Church to communicate his wisdom to the rulers and authorities.

The diverse wisdom of God would be made known according to the purpose of the ages. God accomplished or carried out this purpose in Christ Jesus. It is in Jesus Christ that God has designed purpose for all time, that is, an eternal purpose. But it is also in Jesus Christ that we have boldness and access in confidence through his faith. Because the church is in Christ, believers have boldness, and they also have confident access to God. This boldness and access is made possible through Christ’s faith.

Many translations take the last genitive phrase, διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ, as an objective genitive. They translate it, through faith in him. However, we cannot translate it as an objective genitive. Instead, we must see it as a subjective genitive, and we need to translate it, through his faith. There are several pieces pointing to the subjective use rather than the objective use in Ephesians. The use of αὐτοῦ in Ephesians is always subjective or possessive. It is used a total of 33 times as one of these options, but never as an objective genitive. The use of διὰ plus the genitive article plus a genitive noun plus αὐτοῦ occurs in two other places in Ephesians, 1:7 and 3:16, and in both of those cases αὐτοῦ functions subjectively (first, through his blood, and second, through his Spirit). These reasons are enough to indicate at the least that an objective use of αὐτοῦ is not found in Ephesians, so it would be very strange for Paul to shift and use it in 3:12. Given the use of the genitive construction elsewhere and the use of αὐτοῦ throughout Ephesians, we conclude that this phrase is to be taken as a subjective genitive, translating it, through his faith.

What does it mean, then, for Christ to have faith? Some have attempted to say it was not faith, but rather, faithfulness that Christ had. They have said that Christ’s faithfulness is what gives us boldness and access. However, to distinguish faith and faithfulness from πίστεως is impossible. Christ did have faith. It was evident in the Garden of Gethsemane. We have to remember that Christ prayed and was in relationship with the Father. He believed and trusted the plan of the Father, and although he asked for a different way, he carried out that plan. His faith was demonstrated in the cross, believing not only that the thief would be with him in paradise, but also that the Father was carrying out his salvation plan through Christ’s death. Through this faith, believers, being in Christ, have boldness and access to God.

This grace was given to me, the least of all the saints, to preach the incomprehensible riches of Christ to the Gentiles and to enlighten everyone in what is the mysterious plan, which was hidden from eternity in God, the one who created all things, with the purpose that the diverse wisdom of God would now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places through the Church according to the eternal plan, which he carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through his faith.

We need to rest assured in the faith of Christ. His faith paved the way for us to boldly enter into God’s presence. Because of his faith, we can be bold and confident. We can be bold to preach and to enlighten. We can confidently enter into God’s presence. But we must remember that it is through the Church that God’s wisdom is passed on to the heavenly rulers and authorities. Through the Church God reveals his plan and his wisdom to the rulers and authorities of the heavenly realms.

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2 thoughts on “Ephesians Sentence by Sentence: 3:8-12

  1. Pingback: Enter the Debate « The Letter to the Ephesians

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