If you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:…
The apostle recurs to a subject already treated in few words" in the first chapter - words which he requests them to read, that they may fully understand his meaning - respecting the new position of the Gentiles in the kingdom of God. Their position was determined by a dispensation, that is, by an arrangement organized in all its parts in relation to space and time; for God works by order in grace as well as in nature. Consider -
I. THE ORIGIN OF THIS DISPENSATION. "The grace of God given to me to you-ward." It was an act of Divine favor to select the apostle as the person through whom "the mystery" of the dispensation was to be, not only revealed, but applied in its redeeming effects to the Ephesian heathens. It was not the honor or the authority involved in it that made it precious in his eyes; it was the privilege of making known the unsearchable riches of Christ. Thus, as a good steward of the mysteries of God, it was the delight of his life to dispense them in all their gracious manifoldness to the family of God.
II. THE MYSTERY THAT SHROUDED THE DISPENSATION' FOR AGES.
1. It is called "the mystery of Christ," not because he is its Author, but because he is the Center or Subject of it; for it included far more than the truth that the Gentiles were fellow-citizens of the saints. Christ is the Mystery of godliness, as he is God manifest in the flesh, but he is emphatically so as "Christ the Hope of glory" for the Gentiles (Colossians 1:27).
2. It was hidden for ages from the sons of men, both Jew and Gentile. A mystery is either something which has been concealed, perhaps for ages, and which probably would never have been discovered unless the voice of revelation had proclaimed it; or something which, even when revealed, transcends the power of the human faculties to comprehend it. Now, the Incarnation is a mystery in this double sense; but the call of the Gentiles, as part of "the mystery of Christ," is a mystery only in the first-named sense. It was known to the Jews for ages that the Gentiles would share in the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom - and the Apostle Paul quotes Old Testament predictions to prove the fact (Romans 9:25-33); but it was not known that the Gentiles would be included within the circle of religious privilege by the complete sacrifice of the Hebrew theocracy and the reconstitution of religion on a perfectly new basis, designed equally for all mankind, under which the old distinctions of Jew and. Gentile would be done away. There was to be no further room for Jewish particularism. The dispensation which was to carry the world to its last destinies was to be as universal as that embodied in the first promise made to our first parents.
3. The revelation of the mystery. So far as it involved a mission to the Gentiles, it was revealed first to the Apostle Paul at his conversion; for when Christ appeared to him on his journey to Damascus, he said, "I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness... delivering thee from the people, and. from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God" (Acts 26:16-18). But the fuller exhibition of Gentile privilege is made in this glorious Epistle as well as elsewhere. It was a revelation made by the Lord himself (Galatians 1:12). But it was made especially to "apostles and prophets," both of them belonging to the new dispensation the only class of inspired men connected with it who received special information from the Holy Spirit, who searches the deep things of God, respecting the new development of the kingdom. The revelation was, indeed, one of facts as well as of truths. The calling of the Gentiles was made manifest in the Spirit's falling upon Cornelius, and in the widespread success of the gospel among the Gentiles, so that the logic of facts beautifully reinforced the more formal revelations of "apostles and prophets."
4. The substance of the revelation. "That the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel." These are the three points of Gentile privilege. They were not to receive the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom by being merged as proselytes into the old theocracy, which was to abide in all its narrow ritualism.
(1) The Gentiles are fellow-heirs. Possession by inheritance involves the ideas of right, certainty, and inalienableness. All that is involved in the benefits of the covenant of grace is our inheritance. Now, the Gentiles are "heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ" as well as the Jews, just because they are "children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." They cannot be heirs unless they are children; they cannot be children unless they have faith. And because they have faith, they are Abraham's seed. "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:29). The Gentile interest in the inheritance may be recent, but it is entire and beyond cavil. Jews and Gentiles have an equal share in all the blessings of the inheritance.
(2) The Gentiles are of the same body. This marks a more intimate relationship. They were all Jews and Gentiles alike, baptized into one body by one Spirit, and thus coalesced into one Church-state, with Christ as the Head of both. But while they were thus, as members of one body, partakers of a common life, the Gentile was not there by the permission of the Jew, or the Jew by the permission of the Gentile. They were both equally baptized into it by the Spirit. The union in one body obliterates all previous distinctions of character or culture, and all varieties in dispensational privilege; for there is no schism in the body. The Judaistic section of the Church in the apostle's day fought strenuously against the doctrine of the one body.
(3) The Gentiles are fellow-partakers of the promise. This refers, not so much to the promise of redemption made first to Adam, repeated to Abraham, and embodied in many Old Testament predictions, as to the promise of the Spirit, who enables us to realize all the blessings involved in this first promise. This was, indeed, the blessing of Abraham which came upon the Gentiles (Galatians 3:14). It was conspicuously realized when, in the words of the Apostle Peter, "the Holy Ghost fell upon them as on us." There is no promise of the new covenant that is not equally sure to Gentile and to Jew. All the three points of Gentile privilege, setting forth apparently the relation to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and represented in a sort of spiritual climax, are realized by union with Christ, made known to us in the gospel. Salvation centers, as its objective ground, in Christ Jesus, and the gospel is the medium by which it is subjectively applied to sinners el mankind. - T.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: