John T. Willis

Saturday, May 15, 2010

God's Mystery Revealed--Ephesians 3:1-13

Having emphasized the importance of true unity between Jews and Gentiles [all human beings] in Ephesians 2:11-22 [discussed briefly in a previous blog], Paul now further underlines this by describing God's "mystery" [some scholars prefer the term 'secret'] in Ephesians 3:1-13. Two themes interweave in verses 1-12 [Paul's function in God's plan and purposes--verses 1-2,7-8; the content of the "mystery of God now revealed"--verses 3-6, 9-12], and verse 13 concludes with a personal prayer for the people of God at Ephesus applied to this message.

I. Theme One: Paul's function in God's plan and purposes. Ephesians 3:1-2, 7-8. Here Paul is very careful to emphasize "who he really is" before God. Here Paul makes four very important statements about himself in these verses.
a. Paul is a "prisoner" for Christ Jesus. At this time, Paul was a prisoner at Rome when he wrote Philemon, Colossians, and Ephesians--see Philemon 1, 9; Colossians 4:18; Ephesians 4:1; 6:20. Paul was glad he could be a prisoner for Christ. It does not matter whether one is in prisoner or not, as long as Christ is master of our lives. 3:1.
b. Paul declares that "God's grace was given to Paul for all people." Paul did nothing himself to carry out God's plan or purposes. God has "given" Paul God's grace so that Paul could proclaim God's saving message to the Gentiles, and all people. 3:2.
c. Paul is a "servant," NOT a "leader." Paul often emphasizes the fact that he is a "servant" of God, nothing more--see 1 Corinthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 4:5. While many people, even religious people, desire to be "leaders" of God's people and try to teach others accordingly, Jesus and Paul and all other genuine Christian individuals are not concerned about "leadership," but about "service." Jesus made this quite clear in Mark 10:42-45; Matthew 20:25-28. We have ONLY ONE LEADER: God our Father through Jesus Christ our Lord. God wants all human beings to be God's followers or disciples or servants, not leaders. 3:7.
d. Paul declares that he "is the very least of all the saints." This is not morbid self-humiliation. Paul is not expressing hidden pride and its concomitant fishing for compliments. Here, Paul is sincere. Paul is who he is ONLY BECAUSE God changed Paul's heart and life. See 1 Timothy 1:15-16; 1 Corinthians 15:9. All of us are "in the same boat." We are right where Paul is here. What a terrible travesty when an individual parades himself or herself as a "great leader" in the church. By its very nature, this contradicts the whole idea of Christian living. Humility is the first letter of Christian life--Matthew 5:3; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5-6. 3:8.

II. The Content of the Mystery Now Revealed. Ephesians 3:3-6, 9-12.
a. In Colossians 2:2, Paul says God's mystery now revealed is "Christ himself."
b. In Colossians 1:27, Paul says God's mystery is "Christ is you [plural=the people of God, the church]."
c. Now, in Ephesians 3:3-6, Paul explains that God's mystery which God had not made known to previous generations has now been revealed by grace through Paul. This mystery now revealed is "the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel." This is another way of saying the same thing as Ephesians 2:11-22. The wall between Jews and Gentiles no longer exists because of the blood which Jesus Christ shed on the cross.
d. Finally, in Ephesians 3:9-12, Paul explains that God's previous mystery now revealed is "the church," all human beings who come to God through Jesus Christ, whether they be Jews or Gentiles--verse 10. God's "eternal purpose" from the beginning was to save all humanity. God has attempted to do this throughout history, and finally God is attempting to do this through Jesus Christ.

III. Paul's Concluding Prayer. Ephesians 3:13.
Paul now prays that God's people will not lose heart over Paul's sufferings while he is in Rome. This very situation is their "glory," because God is saving them daily.

What are YOUR thoughts about this marvelous text? Share YOUR ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

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