Thursday, 11 August 2016
…if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, Ephesians 3:2
To maintain context, verse 2 should be read with verse 1 –
“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— 2 if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you…”
The word translated as “if” here does not imply uncertainty. Rather it is a statement of affirmation. The NIV translates this as “Surely you have heard” in order to more closely translate the thought. Charles Ellicott says that it is “a half-ironical reference to a thing not doubtful.” Understanding this correctly, Paul’s words of verse 1 fall into their proper place. He noted that he was “the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles.” His position as a prisoner does not affect “the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to” him.
He was selected as the Apostle to the Gentiles and his position was being fulfilled through the circumstances which occurred to him, even being a “prisoner of Christ Jesus.” The words “which was given to me” are not referring to “the dispensation,” but to “the grace of God.” The word “dispensation” will begin to be described in verse 3. As grace is being described here, a question arises as to what this grace is referring to. Is it the grace of being granted his apostleship, or is it the grace of God for salvation which is found in the gospel message?
Although scholars are divided on this, what seems most likely is that he is speaking of the grace bestowed upon him for his apostleship. First, the context of his words are that he is a prisoner for Christ. Secondly, he uses the same idea in Romans 1, and elsewhere, to define his apostleship –
“Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;” Romans 1:5, 6
Paul understood that his calling was solely of grace and it had been given to him for the purpose of bringing the message of the gospel to the Gentile people of the world. It is this message which is found in the “dispensation” which formed the time his apostolic office. The word “dispensation” is the Greek word oikonomia. It gives the idea of the management of the affairs of a household. Paul had just been speaking of the “household of God” in the last verses of the previous chapter. The adding of the Gentiles at this time in history (meaning the period which we consider the “Gentile-led church age”) is the dispensation which Paul is referring to now.
As noted above, this dispensation will be described more fully in the coming verses.
Life application: It is very wise to not be captivated by a single translation of the Bible. If one is, they will inevitably come to erroneous conclusions about what is being said in the original languages. Be wise, study and show yourself approved, and don’t get swayed into a “one version only” belief.
Lord God, thank you for the many different translations of the Bible which are available, including the original languages. When reading several versions, we can often get a fuller understanding of what the intent of the original is. And more, we have the writings of wise scholars, learned in the original tongues, who can provide even more valuable insights into the true reading of Your word. What a blessed time we live in! It is all available at our fingertips if we just take advantage of it. Thank You for such marvelous access into Your very heart and mind. Thank You for Your precious word! Amen.