The apostle Paul never got over the grace that God had shown to Him. He had been Saul, an enemy of the church, a persecutor of Christians, and a legalistic man blind to his own self-righteous pride. But in His amazing grace, the Lord had confronted Paul on the road to Damascus, broken his angry heart and stubborn will, and given him a new life and second chance through a personal faith in Jesus Christ. He went from being Saul, a destroyer of God’s people, to Paul, a missionary and church planter. Overnight he went from being super passionate about his Jewish heritage to being Christ’s first great ambassador to the nations, suffering all manner of hardships, prison sentences, and even death for the sake of the Gentiles he once condemned. Paul considered His divine calling to preach the gospel to all the known world to be the greatest possible privilege. That he could help swing open the door of salvation for peoples to whom the One True God had been a stranger for many centuries constantly brought Paul to his knees in thanksgiving and praise.
In today’s passage, Paul is about to tell the Ephesians once again about his unceasing prayers for their spiritual growth and well-being. That’s what’s happening in verse 1 of chapter 3, a thought which he starts and then will continue in verse 14. But he interrupts himself in verses 2-13 to reflect on his call and ministry. He wants the Ephesians to understand the great mystery that was predicted in the Old Testament but was then being fulfilled in his lifetime, namely that Gentiles who had been without God could now join God’s family of believing Israelites through their shared faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Most of Paul’s audience, like most of us today, were Gentiles, people from nations and tribes who had been outside of the covenants of promise that God had made with Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David. They had been lost, alone, and without God. But through Jesus, they now had a hope of salvation, too. And Paul was blessed to be able to bring that message of Good News all over the eastern Mediterranean world, just as we, too, are blessed to be able to carry the gospel of peace to everyone we meet.
The Text (Ephesians 3:1-13)
1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— 2 if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, 7 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.
8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
Questions to Think About
1. Have you ever taken your access to the gospel and the Word of God for granted? Are you grateful today for the many opportunities you have had over the years to hear about Jesus and respond to the gospel in repentance and faith?
2. Do you consider it a great privilege to be able to share Jesus with the unbelievers in your life? Do you consider witnessing about Christ to the lost to be one of the great responsibilities of being a Christian? Why or why not?
3. Do you ever marvel at God’s works of grace in your life? Explain.
• The word translated as “mystery” in this passage does not mean a deep riddle or puzzle that no one can ever figure out. Instead, Paul uses the term “mystery” to describe something that was a hidden secret in the past that has now been fully revealed. The expansion of salvation to the Gentiles (non-Jews) was hinted at throughout the Old Testament, but it was not fully understood, demonstrated, and explained until the beginning of the church era as we see in the book of Acts and Paul’s letters to the churches.
• Notice in verses 11 and 12 that understanding our new position in Christ should give us confidence and assurance as we approach the Lord in prayer and live out our new Christian lives in humility before Him who saved us from our sins. The epistles constantly use doctrinal teachings about who we are in Christ to urge us on to living in ways that honor Him.