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Ephesians 3:8

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Less than the least of all saints - Ελαχιστοτερῳ παντων ἁγιων . As the design of the apostle was to magnify the grace of Christ in the salvation of the world, he uses every precaution to prevent the eyes of the people from being turned to any thing but Christ crucified; and although he was obliged to speak of himself as the particular instrument which God had chosen to bring the Gentile world to the knowledge of the truth, yet he does it in such a manner as to show that the excellency of the power was of God, and not of him; and that, highly as he and his follow apostles were honored; they had the heavenly treasure in earthen vessels. To lay himself as low as possible, consistently with his being in the number of Divinely commissioned men, he calls himself less than the least; and is obliged to make a new word, by strangely forming a comparative degree, not from the positive, which would have been a regular grammatical procedure, but from the superlative. The adjective ελαχυς signifies little, ελασσων or ελαττων, less, and ελαχιστος, least. On this latter, which is the superlative of ελαχυς, little, St. Paul forms his comparative, ελαχιστοτερος, less than the least, a word of which it would be vain to attempt a better translation than that given in our own version. It most strongly marks the unparalleled humility of the apostle; and the amazing condescension of God, in favoring him, who had been before a persecutor and blasphemer, with the knowledge of this glorious scheme of human redemption, and the power to preach it so successfully among the Gentiles.

The unsearchable riches of Christ - The word ανεξιχνιαστος, from α, privative, and εξιχνιαζω, to trace out, from ιχνος, a step, is exceedingly well chosen here: it refers to the footsteps of God, the plans he had formed, the dispensations which he had published, and the innumerable providences which he had combined, to prepare, mature, and bring to full effect and view his gracious designs in the salvation of a ruined world, by the incarnation, passion, death, and resurrection of his Son. There were in these schemes and providences such riches - such an abundance, such a variety, as could not be comprehended even by the naturally vast, and, through the Divine inspiration, unparalleledly capacious mind of the apostle.

Yet he was to proclaim among the Gentiles these astonishing wonders and mysteries of grace; and as he proceeds in this great and glorious work, the Holy Spirit that dwelt in him opens to his mind more and more of those riches - leads him into those footsteps of the Almighty which could not be investigated by man nor angel, so that his preaching and epistles, taken all in their chronological order, will prove that his views brighten, and his discoveries become more numerous and more distinct in proportion as he advances. And had he lived, preached, and written to the present day, he had not exhausted the subject, nor fully declared to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ - the endless depths of wisdom and knowledge treasured up in him, and the infinity of saving acts and saving power displayed by him.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints - This is one of the class of expressions unique to Paul. The ordinary terms of language do not express the idea which he wishes to convey, and a word is therefore coined to convey an idea more emphatically; compare the notes at 2 Corinthians 4:17. The word used here - ἐλαχιστότερος elachistoteros- does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It is a comparative made from the superlative. Similar expressions are found, however, in later Greek writers; see Bloomfield and Rosenmuller for examples. The word means here, “who am incomparably the least of all the saints; or who am not worthy to be reckoned among the saints.” It is expressive of the deep sense which he had of the sinfulness of his past life; of his guilt in persecuting the church and the Saviour; and perhaps of his sense of his low attainments in piety; see the notes at 1 Corinthians 15:9. Paul never could forget the guilt of his former life; never forget the time when he was engaged in persecuting the church of God.

The unsearchable riches of Christ - On the word “riches,” as used by Paul, see the notes at Ephesians 1:7. The word rendered “unsearchable,” ἀνεξιχνίαστον anexichniastonoccurs but once elsewhere in the New Testament Romans 11:33, where it is rendered “past finding out;” see the notes at that verse. It means that which cannot be “traced out,” or explored; which is inscrutable, or incomprehensible. The meaning here is, that there was a “sufficiency” in Christ which could not be traced out or explored. It was wholly incomprehensible. The fullness of the riches in him could not be appreciated. There is no more emphatic expression in the New Testament than this. It shows that the heart of the apostle was full of admiration of the sufficiency and glory that was in the Saviour; that he wanted words to express it; and that he considered it the highest honor to be permitted to tell the world that there were such riches in the Redeemer.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Those whom God advances to honourable employments, he makes low in their own eyes; and where God gives grace to be humble, there he gives all other needful grace. How highly he speaks of Jesus Christ; the unsearchable riches of Christ! Though many are not enriched with these riches; yet how great a favour to have them preached among us, and to have an offer of them! And if we are not enriched with them it is our own fault. The first creation, when God made all things out of nothing, and the new creation, whereby sinners are made new creatures by converting grace, are of God by Jesus Christ. His riches are as unsearchable and as sure as ever, yet while angels adore the wisdom of God in the redemption of his church, the ignorance of self-wise and carnal men deems the whole to be foolishness.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 730-1

“God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, ... and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” 5T 730.1

Such are the words in which “Paul the aged,” “a prisoner of Jesus Christ,” writing from his prison house at Rome, endeavored to set before his brethren that which he found language inadequate to express in its fullness—“the unsearchable riches of Christ,” the treasure of grace freely offered to the fallen sons of men. The plan of redemption was laid by a sacrifice, a gift. Says the apostle: “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.” “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son.” Christ “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity.” And as the crowning blessing of redemption, “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” 5T 730.2

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” Surely there are none that, beholding the riches of His grace, can forbear to exclaim with the apostle. “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.” 5T 730.3

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Ellen G. White
Christ's Object Lessons, 419

In the great and measureless gift of the Holy Spirit are contained all of heaven's resources. It is not because of any restriction on the part of God that the riches of His grace do not flow earthward to men. If all were willing to receive, all would become filled with His Spirit. COL 419.1

It is the privilege of every soul to be a living channel through which God can communicate to the world the treasures of His grace, the unsearchable riches of Christ. There is nothing that Christ desires so much as agents who will represent to the world His Spirit and character. There is nothing that the world needs so much as the manifestation through humanity of the Saviour's love. All heaven is waiting for channels through which can be poured the holy oil to be a joy and blessing to human hearts. COL 419.2

Christ has made every provision that His church shall be a transformed body, illumined with the Light of the world, possessing the glory of Emmanuel. It is His purpose that every Christian shall be surrounded with a spiritual atmosphere of light and peace. He desires that we shall reveal His own joy in our lives. COL 419.3

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Ellen G. White
The Sanctified Life, 17

The prophet Daniel was an illustrious character. He was a bright example of what men may become when united with the God of wisdom. A brief account of the life of this holy man of God is left on record for the encouragement of those who should afterward be called to endure trial and temptation. SL 18.1

When the people of Israel, their king, nobles, and priests were carried into captivity, four of their number were selected to serve in the court of the king of Babylon. One of these was Daniel, who early gave promise of the remarkable ability developed in later years. These youth were all of princely birth, and are described as “children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them” (Daniel 1:4). Perceiving the superior talents of these youthful captives, King Nebuchadnezzar determined to prepare them to fill important positions in his kingdom. That they might be fully qualified for their life at court, according to Oriental custom, they were to be taught the language of the Chaldeans, and to be subjected for three years to a thorough course of physical and intellectual discipline. SL 18.2

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Ellen G. White
The Sanctified Life, 84

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul sets before them the “mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19), the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8), and then assures them of his earnest prayers for their spiritual prosperity: SL 84.1

“I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ...that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19). SL 84.2

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