Eph 3: 9-12 the Grace of a Mystery

Oct 31, 2021 // By:Dave // No Comment

slight recap from last week:

last week, we talked about the intersection of our unworthiness to serve 

with the sovereign authority of God to call whom He chooses and to equip that person for the service intended.

We talked about the equipping having nothing to do with the person’s natural strengths but having more to do with their natural weaknesses (their disqualifies) as the more likely qualifier

that God’s strength would be revealed in our weakness.

2Cor. 12:9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

1Cor. 1:27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,

Let us look at the context of God choosing the foolish things of the world

1Cor. 1:24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1Cor. 1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1Cor. 1:26 ¶ For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;

1Cor. 1:27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,

1Cor. 1:28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,

1Cor. 1:29 so that no man may boast before God.

1Cor. 1:30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,

1Cor. 1:31 so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”

scripture tells us that God does this to “shame” the wise and strong.

shame (110x)  G2617b (16x)

[NIV Greek]  

2875   [2617]   καταισχύνω, kataischynō, v.  [2848 + 156]. to dishonor, humiliate, shame, disappoint

[Bible Words]  


In our psychologically oriented age we are likely to think of shame, like guilt, as a feeling. Certainly feelings are involved in shame. But in the Bible shame has greater substance than mere feeling.

but this usage means to lower something or someone

to devalue someone in their own estimation or another’s

(in the OT, shame often meant that a people or nation would be defeated by another)

so this is not an subjective emotion of embarrassment, but more of an objective devaluation of someone’s skills or abilities, or wisdom.

God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble James 4:6

is this not the heart of Eph 2:7-9 ?

the devaluation of human works in context of satisfying the law

Eph. 2:7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Eph. 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

Eph. 2:9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

what are we saved from ?

blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

cleansed from sin

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! Romans 5:9

justified in His sight and saved from His wrath

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! Hebrews 9:1

cleanse our conscience from acts of sin and free us to serve the living God

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, Hebrews 10:19

made acceptable to enter the holiest of places, the presence of God

Remember our quoting Isaiah 61:1-2a ?


The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

Because the Lord anointed me

To bring good news to the humble;

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

To proclaim [b]release to captives

And [c]freedom to prisoners;

To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord

And the day of vengeance of our God;

To comfort all who mourn,

To grant those who mourn in Zion,

Giving them a garland instead of ashes,

The oil of gladness instead of mourning,

The cloak of praise instead of a disheartened spirit.

So they will be called [d]oaks of righteousness,

The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins,

They will raise up the former devastations;

And they will repair the ruined cities,

The desolations of many generations.

Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks,

And [e]foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.

But you will be called the priests of the Lord;

You will be spoken of as ministers of our God.

You will eat the wealth of nations,

And you will boast in their [f]riches.

Instead of your shame you will have a double portion,

And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion.

Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land,

Everlasting joy will be theirs.

freed from spiritual slavery, for spiritual freedom.

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! Hebrews 9:1

back to 

Eph. 2:7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Eph. 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

Eph. 2:9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

let me highlight how we are not saved:

  • not of ourselves
  • not of our works
  • no one may boast

let me highlight how we are saved:

  • through faith in His work and power
  • by grace
  • gift of God

that’s not all

  • our natural abilities, wisdom, works, strength didn’t have any merit in our salvation
  • and they are not how we are “perfected in the faith”

Gal. 1:6 ¶ I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;

(he then goes long winded)

Gal. 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

Eph. 3:8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,

so Paul says he received this grace, and it was given to him to share it to the gentiles.

the Nazarene is a false prophet and blasphemer who needs to be killed

the Son of God, who paid for our sins is the Messiah, Jesus the Christ

Strict adherence to the law is the way of salvation

faith alone in Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation

Jewish followers of the way need to be arrested and put to death to stop the spreading of this false religion

Jewish followers of the law need to be corrected and told about the only way.

Circumcision is a rite and ceremony that earns the approval of God and secures our position as sons of Abraham

circumcision is a mere mutilation of the flesh that counts for nothing if the heart is not changed, and it was only meant as a sign of an OT covenant that has no significant in light of the gospel

Jews are the chosen people and gentiles are rejected by God

Jews are stepped over for now, and God sends His message of forgiveness to the gentiles instead

Slightest contact with a gentile (even the corner of one’s clothing meant you were unclean

sleeping and eating with gentiles as equal heirs of the throne as he plants churches all over asia minor

Eph. 3:9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things;

Eph. 3:10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.

Eph. 3:11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,

Eph. 3:12 in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.

Paul says “this grace was given”

in Christian circles, we have a saying

“grace is getting something you don’t deserve, mercy is not getting what we do deserve”

We have become all to familiar with grace because it has been in front of us through our whole lives 

We forget what it was like in the Old Testament with only law 

Law and judgement 

Examples of Gods judgement for breaking law

golden calf worshipers in Exodus 32

Achan, Joshua 7

The story of Uzzah and the Ark of the Covenant is found in 2 Samuel 6:1-7 and 1 Chronicles 13:9-12

God s law is perfect and the only one who can satisfy perfect law is God Himself 

And by rhe time Jesus comes along to explain this mystery, the Jews have taken the law beyond where even God meant it to be taken 

Jesus said two things that messed with the?Judaic system of law

  1. Mere men could not be justified through the law by their own works
  2. Believe in Me ! (As if this man was better than the Pharisees 
  3.   Child of adultery, law breaker, blasphemer could do better and actually claimed “let me satisfy the law for you , on your behalf”

Why would the Father do this for you ?

grace (131x)  G5485 (159x)

[NIV Greek]  

5921   [5485]   χάρις, charis, n.

  • the state of kindness and favor toward someone
  • a benefit given to the object
  • a gift, benefit; or credit given

[Bible Words]  


“Grace” is a dominant NT theme. 

  • Salvation is by grace, not works (Ro 11:6; Eph 2:5). 
  • Grace releases us from the dominion of sin, for believers are “not under law, but under grace (Ro 6:14). 
  • NT letters begin and conclude with the wish that grace will be with the readers, and the NT closes with these words: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen” (Rev 22:21).

It is clear that if we are to appreciate the message of the NT, we need to have some understanding of the concept of grace.

OT 1. OT roots of grace

NT 2. The developed concept

3. Transformed perspective

4. Transformed experience

5. Conclusions

OT — 1. OT roots of grace. The word “grace” seldom appears in the English OT versions. There is no full parallel to this NT concept in the OT. The closest parallel seems to be drawn by the Hebrew hanan, “to be gracious,” “to be merciful” (hen, “grace,” “favor”).

The verb portrays the compassionate response of one who is able to help another person in need. In human society it is often used in statements concerning helping the poor.

The Book of Psalms best illustrates the theological use of this Hebrew term. Ps 51:1 expresses David’s appeal to God for forgiveness: “Have mercy on me [hanan], O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.” This appeal is uttered out of a sense of helplessness. It turns away from self and looks to God as a loving and compassionate person. God’s own nature is the basis on which help is expected. As David says, “Turn to me and have mercy [hanan] on me, as you always do to those who love your name” (Ps 119:132).

Our appreciation for God’s name leads us to turn to him, but it is his love itself that moves him to respond to us.

When we look through the psalms we gain insight into the weakness that causes those who love God to cry out to him. The psalmists speak of their distress (Ps 4:1; 31:9), of agony (6:2), persecution by enemies (9:13; 56:1), loneliness and affliction (25:16), disaster (57:1), the contempt of others (123:3), weakness and trouble (41:1; 86:16), and sin (51:1) as aspects of the human condition that hold us in bondage. Only God can act to release us and enable us to overcome the foes within us and around us.

But God is who he is. He is compassionate and loving. We are confident that when we call on God, he will respond. He will act, not because we merit help, but because he recognizes our desperate need and love moves him to exercise his power to meet our need. This indeed is grace!

NT — 2. The developed concept. In the Greek language, “grace” is charis. It means a gracious favor or benefit bestowed, and at the same time it means the gratitude appropriate to the grace received. The verb charizomai means “to show kindness or favor.” The concept came to include both the gracious action and agreeable human qualities.

In the NT, Paul fastens on this word and develops it as a technical theological term. It is clear that Jesus’ teachings provide a solid basis for Paul’s affirmation of the grace of God. Jesus shows that God stoops to help the undeserving and pardons the helpless sinner (e.g., Mt 11:28-12:13; 18:21-34; 20:1-16; Lk 7:36-50; 15). But in the Gospels, these actions are not termed grace. Even in Acts, “grace” is used in a different way, namely, to indicate the visible expression of God’s power in action, an expression that marked his presence in the early church.

Yet as the church expanded beyond Palestine and penetrated the Roman world, Paul fastened on charis to communicate the truth that lies at the heart of God’s saving work in Jesus. To Paul, “grace” is a transforming reality. It transforms the way we think about a person’s relationship with God. It transforms our present and eternal destiny.

3. Transformed perspective. By Jesus’ time, OT faith had been seriously distorted by centuries of misinterpretation. The religious Jew relied on his physical descent from Abraham and on his knowledge of the law. Relationship with God was considered an issue of ritual piety and obedience to the letter of the law. The religious man had a claim on God, established by membership in the covenant community and based on his own merits. The sense of helplessness that moved the psalmist to call out to God, pleading only that the Lord show mercy and stoop to meet his needs, was replaced in the religious life of the Pharisees by a smug sense of self-righteousness.

The apostle Paul was thoroughly trained in this way of thinking and in rabbinical interpretation. But he was dramatically converted to Christ on the Damascus road and was driven to reexamine the beliefs of a lifetime. His perspective on a person’s relationship with God was transformed, and as Paul was committed to missionary work, he was driven to the word “grace” for a way to express the vital difference between human attempts to win God’s favor and the way in which personal relationship with God is actually established and developed.

Paul’s letters to Romans and Ephesians most clearly show the dramatic perspective that grace provides on God’s past and present actions. Let us look at some of the teachings of these books, referring also to Paul’s epistle to the Galatians.

In Ro 3, Paul quotes the OT to show that all people are sinners. Law offered no way of salvation, for law stands as humanity’s silent accuser, making us conscious of our sin (3:19-20). So in Jesus, God acted to reveal a righteousness that has no relationship to law. This is a righteousness that comes from God and through faith in Jesus is given to all who believe (3:21-22). Because all have sinned, only God’s spontaneous and decisive act in Christ—an act of grace—could win our redemption (3:23-26). (See REDEEM/RANSOM)

Then Paul, in Ro 4, reviews sacred history. He shows that Abraham’s relationship with God was not based on his works but on his faith. Law and all human achievements are ruled out as avenues to a felicitous relationship with God. That can come only through faith in God, who has promised to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. This whole process—the promise and the faith—are rooted in grace (4:16).

Ro 5:15-21 again portrays salvation as a gift that comes to us through Jesus and is an expression of God’s grace.

Ro 11:1-6 argues that the concept of grace in no way contradicts OT revelation, which was so badly misunderstood by Israel. God has always acted freely, and those who have found a personal relationship with God have not found it by works but in grace.

Eph 2:1-11 sums up the human condition and holds up the essential elements expressed by “grace.” Mankind lies “dead in … transgressions and sins” and follows “the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (2:1-2). But “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (2:4-5). This comes to us “through faith—and this not from [ourselves], it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (2:8-9).

The affirmations grace makes about God and human beings stand in bold contrast to the normal human approach to relationship with the Lord. Grace holds that human beings are helpless, so locked in sin that their state can only be represented as death. Grace declares that God is merciful and loving and that he is able to act to meet our deepest need. Grace teaches that God has acted in Jesus to bring us forgiveness and new life through his atoning sacrifice on Calvary. (See ATONEMENT) Because of motives rooted deeply within his own character, God has reached out in Jesus to save sinners.

For the religious people of Paul’s day and for all people of every time, the message of grace is a powerful warning of our absolute need, and it is an affirmation of the overwhelming love of God that acts in Jesus to meet our need and provide forgiveness and life. (see accompanying chart)

4. Transformed experience. The grace affirmed in the NT is always mediated by Jesus. This grace is a dynamic force that does more than affect our standing with God by crediting us with righteousness. (See RIGHTEOUS/RIGHTEOUSNESS) Grace affects our experience as well.

In Ro 6, Paul traces something of the transforming impact of grace. He shows that when we are united with Jesus, we are removed from the realm of law, with its emphasis on works, and are established in the realm of grace. Grace is marked always by God’s enabling work within us to overcome our helplessness. We yield ourselves to God and trust him to do what we are unable to do. This walk of faith releases us from the domination of sin, and we become slaves to God, doing his will and reaping the benefit of holiness (6:22).

Ro 6 shows us that grace is not simply a basic orientation to relationship with God. It is also a practical approach to living the Christian life. This aspect of grace helps us to understand the warning found in Gal 5:4, that those “who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; [they] have fallen away from grace.” Any attempt by believers to struggle toward a life of goodness by works of the law means a return to the futile way of religion. It involves reliance on ourselves and an abandonment of reliance on Christ, who alone can enable us to live righteous lives. We cannot approach Christian experience from the old perspective, for grace and religion are contradictory. We can only live by full commitment to the way of grace and all that grace involves.

5. Conclusions. The biblical concept of grace is much greater than is suggested in the common definition of “unmerited favor.” “Grace” is a word that expresses a radical view of life and of relationship with God.

Grace teaches that God’s attitude toward us is one of acceptance and love; knowing God’s heart, we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Heb 4:16) with every sin and need.

Grace is a dramatic statement about the human condition. Each person is helpless, trapped in sin and incapable of pleasing God or winning his favor.

Grace is a proclamation. It is the triumphant announcement that God in Christ has acted and has come to the aid of all who will trust him for their eternal salvation. (See BELIEF/FAITH)

Grace is a way of life. Relying totally on Jesus to work within us, we experience God’s own unlimited power, vitalizing us and enabling us to live truly good lives.

The message of grace found in the NT calls us to a completely different outlook on relationship with God and on spiritual achievement than is found in any religion of human invention. Understanding the nature of grace, we decisively reject any confidence in ourselves, and we trust ourselves totally to Jesus, who alone is able not only to declare us truly righteous men and women of God but also to make us so.

Eph. 3:8 When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God’s way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities. ¶ And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ.

Eph. 3:9 My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along.

Eph. 3:10 Through Christians like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!

Eph. 3:11 ¶ All this is proceeding along lines planned all along by God and then executed in Christ Jesus.

Eph. 3:12 When we trust in him, we’re free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go.


About Dave

Browse Archived Articles by Dave

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.