Life-Study of Ephesiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Verses 2 through 21 of chapter three are a parenthesis, and 4:1 is a continuation of 3:1. In this parenthetical, beseeching word, the Apostle Paul described to the Gentile believers his ministry for them, a ministry which he received in the stewardship of grace through the revelation of the mystery of Christ. He also prayed in this parenthesis that the church might experience Christ to the fullest extent.
In this message we shall consider the stewardship of the grace of God. Paul says in 3:2, “If indeed you have heard of the stewardship of the grace of God which was given to me for you.” In Greek, the word rendered “stewardship” in this verse is the same word rendered “dispensation” in 1:10 and 3:9. The stewardship of the grace is the dispensing of the grace of God into God’s chosen people for the producing and building up of the church. Out of this stewardship comes the ministry of the apostle, who is a steward in God’s house, ministering Christ as God’s grace to God’s household.
The Greek word translated “stewardship” in verse 2 is oikonomia. According to ancient usage, oikonomia denoted a stewardship, a dispensation, or an administration. At the time of Paul, many rich families had stewards whose responsibility was to distribute food and other necessities to members of the household. Our Father has a great family, a divine household. Because our Father has such vast riches, there is the need in His household for many stewards to dispense these riches to His children. This dispensing is the stewardship. Hence, a stewardship is a dispensation. The word “dispensation” here does not denote an age or means by which God deals with people; it refers to God’s dispensing of His riches into His chosen ones. This dispensation is the stewardship with the dispensing ministry of the ministers of God. This ministry of dispensing is also God’s administration. Today God administrates by dispensing Himself into us. This stewardship, this dispensation, this administration, is God’s economy. In the New Testament economy of God there is the desperate need for the stewardship of grace.
In order to have such a stewardship, there is the need of stewards. Every apostle is a steward of God. As an apostle, Paul was a steward who dispensed the riches of God to His children.
Although Paul was a steward, in 3:1 he referred to himself as “the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you, the nations.” The Apostle Paul considered himself the prisoner of Christ. Apparently he was confined in a physical prison; actually he was imprisoned in Christ. On the basis of such a status, the status of his actual living as a prisoner in Christ, he besought the saints. In releasing the revelation of God’s mystery concerning the church in chapters one and two, Paul spoke on the basis of his status as the apostle of Christ through the will of God. That status was the authority of his revelation concerning the church. In beseeching the saints to walk worthily of God’s calling, he spoke from his status as the prisoner of the Lord. His status as the apostle of Christ qualified him to release God’s revelation, whereas his status as the prisoner of the Lord demonstrated his walk in the Lord, by which he could inspire and beseech the saints to walk in the Lord as he did.
Paul considered himself the prisoner of Christ because he had been imprisoned by Christ. Later, in 4:1 he refers to himself as “the prisoner in the Lord.” Christ was Paul’s prison. One day, the very Christ whom you love will become your prison. Sooner or later, every steward of God, every minister of God’s riches, every faithful lover of Christ, will be imprisoned not only by Christ but also in Christ. The more you love Him, the more you will be in Him. Eventually, you will be in Him to such an extent that He will become your prison. Once you are placed in this prison, you will not want to get out, because you will love this prison very much. Here you enjoy Christ to the uttermost.
Everyone who loves the Bible has a high regard for the Epistle to the Ephesians. It would be a great loss for us not to have this book in the New Testament, for Ephesians contains the highest revelation in the Bible. This revelation was given to a man imprisoned in Christ, a man who enjoyed Christ as his prison. This indicates that in order to see something so heavenly and divine, we need to be a prisoner in the Lord. The more freedom we have, the more blind we are. But if Christ is our prison, our eyes will be opened to see the heavenly vision, and we shall receive the highest revelation.
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