on Ephesians 3 :9
And to make all men see - Και φωτισαι παντας· And to illuminate all; to give information both to Jews and Gentiles; to afford them a sufficiency of light, so that they might be able distinctly to discern the great objects exhibited in this Gospel.
What is the fellowship of the mystery - The word κοινωνια, which we properly translate fellowship, was used among the Greeks to signify their religious communities; here it may intimate the association of Jews and Gentiles in one Church or body, and their agreement in that glorious mystery which was now so fully opened relative to the salvation of both. But instead of κοινωνια, fellowship, οικονομια, dispensation or economy, is the reading of ABCDEFG, and more than fifty others; both the Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Slavonian, Vulgate and Itala, with the chief of the Greek fathers. Some of the best printed editions of the Greek text have the same reading, and that in our common text has very little authority to support it. Dispensation or economy is far more congenial to the scope of the apostle's declaration in this place; he wished to show them the economy of that mystery of bringing Jews and Gentiles to salvation by faith in Christ Jesus, which God from the beginning of the world had kept hidden in his own infinite mind, and did not think proper to reveal even when he projected the creation of the world, which had respect to the economy of human redemption. And although the world was made by Jesus Christ, the great Redeemer, yet at that period this revelation of the power of God, the design of saving men, whose fall infinite wisdom had foreseen, was not then revealed. This reading Griesbach has received into the text.
Who created all things by Jesus Christ - Some very judicious critics are of opinion that this does not refer to the material creation; and that we should understand the whole as referring to the formation of all God's dispensations of grace, mercy, and truth, which have been planned, managed, and executed by Christ, from the foundation of the world to the present time. But the words δια Ιησου Χριστου, by Jesus Christ, are wanting in ABCD*FG, and several others; also in the Syriac, Arabic of Erpen, Coptic, Ethiopic, Vulgate, and Itala; as also in several of the fathers. Griesbach has thrown the words out of the text; and Professor White says, "certissime delenda," they are indisputably spurious. The text, therefore, should be read: which from the beginning of the world had been hidden in God who created all things. No inferiority of Christ can be argued from a clause of whose spuriousness there is the strongest evidence.
on Ephesians 3 :9
And to make all men see - In order that the whole human family might see the glory of God in the plan of salvation. Hitherto the revelation of his character and plans had been confined to the Jews. Now it was his design that all the race should be made acquainted with it.
What is the fellowship of the mystery - Instead of "fellowship" here - κοινωνία koinōnia - most mss. and versions read οἰκονομία oikonomia - "dispensation;" see Mill. This reading is adopted by Griesbach, Tittman, Rosenmuller, Koppe, and is regarded by most critics as being the genuine reading. The mistake might easily have been made by a transcriber. The meaning then would be, "to enlighten all in respect to rite dispensation of this mystery;" that is, to cause all to understand the manner in which this great truth of the plan of salvation is communicated to people. If the word "fellowship" is to be retained, it means that this doctrine, or secret counsel of God, was now "common" to all believers. It was not to be confined to any class or rank of people. Locke renders it," and to make all people perceive how this mystery comes now to be communicated to the world." Dr. Whately (Errors of Romanism, chapter ii. section 1) renders it, the common participation of the mystery;" that is, of truths formerly unknown, and which could not be known by man's unaided powers, but which were now laid open by the gracious dispensation of Divine Providence; no longer concealed, or confined to a few, but to be partaken of by all.
The allusion, according to him, is to the mysteries of the ancient pagan religions; and he supposes that the apostle designs to contrast those "mysteries" with Christianity. In those "mysteries" there was a distinction between the initiated and uninitiated. There was a revelation to some of the worshippers, of certain holy secrets from which others were excluded. There were in some of the mysteries, as the Elensinian, "great and lesser" doctrines in which different persons were initiated. In strong contrast with these, the "great mystery" in Christianity was made known to all. It was concealed from none and there was no distinction made among those who were initiated. No truths which God had revealed were held back from any part, but there was a common participation by all. Christianity has no hidden truths for a part only of its friends; it has no "reserved" doctrines; it has no truths to be entrusted only to a sacred priesthood. Its doctrines are to be published to the wide world, and every follower of Christ is to be a partaker of all the benefits of the truths which Christ has revealed. It is difficult to determine which is the true reading, and it is not very important. The general sense is, that Paul felt himself called into the ministry in order that all people might understand now that salvation was free for all - a truth that had been concealed for ages. Bearing this great truth, he felt that he had a message of incalculable value to mankind, and he was desirous to go and proclaim it to the wide world. On the word "mystery," see the notes on Ephesians 1:9.
Hath been hid in God - With God. It has been concealed in his bosom. The plan was formed, but it had not before been made known.
Who created all things - This is plain enough; but it is not quite so plain why the declaration is introduced in this place. Locke and Rosenmuller suppose that it refers to the new creation, and that the sense is, that God frames and manages this new creation wholly by Jesus Christ. But the expression contains a truth of larger import, and naturally conveys the idea that all things were made by God, and that this was only a part of his great and universal agency. The meaning is, that God formed all things, and that this purpose of extending salvation to the world was a part of his great plan, and was under his control.
By Jesus Christ - As this stands in our common Greek text, as well as in our English version, there is a striking resemblance between the passage and that in Colossians 1:15-16. But the phrase is missing in the Vulgate, the Syriac, the Coptic, and in several of the ancient mss. Mill remarks that it was probably inserted here by some transcriber from the parallel passage in Colossians 1:16; and it is rejected as an interpolation by Griesbach. It is not "very" material whether it be retained in this place or not, as the same sentiment is elsewhere abundantly taught; see John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2. If it is to be retained, the sentiment is that the Son of God - the second person of the Trinity - was the great and immediate agent in the creation of the universe.
on Ephesians 3 :9
3:9 What is the fellowship of the mystery - What those mysterious blessings are whereof all believers jointly partake. Which was, in a great measure, hidden from eternity by God, who, to make way for the free exercise of his love, created all things - This is the foundation of all his dispensations.