A Question I Was Asked:

Please Can You Please Explain Ephesians 3:10?

A Bible study I attended said Ephesians 3:10 was all to do with demons? But is it?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay let us look at this, but we will take in some extra verses to ensure that we are getting the right context:

7. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power. 8. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9. and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11. according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 3:7-11).

Okay, obviously these are the words of Paul the Apostle. The questions are:

1. What is the administration of this mystery (verse 9).

2. Who/What are the 'rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms' (verse 10)?

Verse 9:

Major Bible Commentator Albert Barnes (surely correctly) wrote of this:

The meaning then would be, "to enlighten all in respect to. ..(the) 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. ... 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.

So this is talking about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how it is to be freely available, or administered to all. It was once 'hidden in God' simply because God's time had not yet come to reveal it. As Paul wrote in the preceding verse:

.... this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ (verse 8b).

Verse 10

So who are these "rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms"? Some Bible commentators favour the opinion that this is a reference to demons, or 'fallen angels.' For sure, the Greek can be read in more than one way here.
For instance, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown wrote,

God's wisdom in redemption is made known to evil angels, who dwell "in heavenly places" in a lower sense, namely, the air (compare Eph_2:2 with Eph_6:12); "known" to their dismay (1Co_15:24; Col_2:15).

I don't state that that is wrong (the Greek is less than clear here), however, I tend to favour the view that 'the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms' can simply refer to the rulers of this present age who, let us not forget, were given their temporary power and authority by God, in this sense they could therefore be described as having a certain authority in "the heavenly realms." Let us not forget that Satan himself is described as the 'god of this world' (or, 'age' depending upon your translation), by Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:4. Whilst God's kingdom is already established and Christians are even now citizens of it, the kingdoms of this world are not taken over by Christ until the Second Coming.

One is also reminded of the Great Temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4, where it seems pretty plain that demons currently control the kingdoms of this world. This is all correct yet it does seem that in verse 10 most probably Paul was referring to the human rulers of this world, granted their temporary power and dominion by God alone, being exposed to the Gospel. However, the demons explanation is not to be wholly dismissed.

Robin A. Brace. February 6th, 2018.