Contributor: Leye Olayiwola
Continuing from Paul’s letter to the saints at Ephesus in Chapter 2, we dug deep into the topic of Grace. We considered what our lives was like before the arrival of Grace and Salvation. We also considered the biblical definition of Grace. We were reminded that “Our faith was not the means by which we received grace. Instead, grace was the means by which we received faith”. We will continue in our study today by looking into God’s pre-ordained plan for the salvation of the Gentiles.
Verses 1 – 4: A Mystery Is Revealed
"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),"
Paul is given a revelation which he shares with the Ephesians, so that they may have the same enlightenment that was granted him.
Paul is a Genuine Messenger of Christ
Paul spent a lot of time in prisons because of his activities as a Christian preacher. So he calls himself “the prisoner of Christ”. His willingness to suffer deprivations shows the genuineness of his heart. It is therefore not a sin or strange to face some levels of persecutions as faithful follower of Christ. We should also be proud to share our testimonies in order to encourage others. But his message is also genuine —having been given him as a revelation from God. Paul, several times in his writings, mentions that he had no input into his message: God put it into him! It had been a mystery to Paul, but God graciously gave Paul complete understanding by revelation. For example, Paul says to the Galatians, "Brethren, I make known to you that the gospel I preached is not according to man. I did not receive it from man. I was not taught it by man. I received it by revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:11-12). Incidentally, Paul uses the word “man” here to denote mere humans as opposed to the divine Son of God.
How the World is Able to Understand
God did not give revelation to everyone, only to a few like Paul. The mystery was "revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets" (Ephesians 3:5). Everyone else can understand the mystery by hearing those who were given revelation. Paul says, "By revelation the mystery was made known to me... By reading my letters you will understand the mystery of Christ as I do" (Ephesians 3:3-4). Many people today love to say, “God spoke to me and he told me...” It isn't popular any more to say, "The scriptures tell us..."
Verses 5 – 7: The Three Marvels In The Mystery
"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."
Paul claims that the gospel he preaches makes known the mystery as never before. His gospel embraces the heathen nations and offers them full unity and fellowship with God’s holy people.
The Mystery of Unity
The Gentiles, as Paul has already said, "were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise... Now therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:12,19 NKJV).
In Paul’s understanding this was the great eye-opener. What Christ did favoured Jews and Gentiles equally and "made both one and broke down the barrier between" (Ephesians 2:14). So now Paul mentions three marvels. Gentiles are "heirs jointly with Israel; members together of a united body; and sharers together of God’s promise in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 3:6).
• First, looking to the future hope, Gentile believers are joint heirs with Jewish believers.
• Second looking to the present, Gentiles and Jews are united in one joint body, one “church”.
• Third, looking to the past, Gentiles share equally with Jews in the promise made to Abraham that "In your seed all nations of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 22:18 cf Galatians 3:16).
Verses 8 - 9: Paul Reflects On His Task
"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;"
Paul is conscious of the burden laid on him to get the gospel out among the nations.
Paul was given the task of taking the gospel to the wider world. He was at the forefront of this campaign. Paul is amazed at God’s grace in choosing him, of all people, for this work. When Paul calls himself “less than the least” he isn't referring to his ability or his desire for the work. He is referring to his worthiness to be chosen. He had been a chief activist in the persecution of the Christian Way. Christ stopped Paul dead in his tracks. Christ appointed him to the opposite task, to be a chief activist in spreading Christ’s message to all nations. Paul marvelled at this grace.
Paul could see the terrible darkness in the world. Humanity stumbled in ignorance, spiritually destitute. Paul had been given a great light and “boundless riches” to share. He was totally dedicated to that end.
Paul was granted the power to achieve his commission. It was not himself that accomplished it, but God working in him and giving him the revelation, the answer to the mystery, the answer the whole world needed. It was now in Paul’s power to help everyone share in the mystery of Christ.
Verses 10- 13: God’s Plan Is Being Fulfilled
"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."
Paul was always conscious that he was carrying out God’s Plan. God purposed to make his wisdom known. And of course God’s wisdom would be a mystery unless he made it known.
Wisdom, Purpose, Confidence
God’s “wisdom” was glimpsed by the prophets of old. But now through Jesus Christ the veil of mystery is removed and the good message is revealed. The wisdom of God for salvation is fully known!
God’s “purpose” is achieved through Jesus Christ. Without him, there would not even have been any mystery in which to find hope. However, Jesus tasks all those he calls into his one body of holy people. He gives them all the great commission, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them... teaching them..." (Matthew 28:18-20).
Our “confidence” is in Christ, not in ourselves. We come boldly to God “in Christ” We are confident “in his faith”. It is now an open secret that life is not about believing in yourself. It's about believing in Jesus Christ.
Study culled from https://www.simplybible.com/f74e-eph-the-mystery-of-christ.htm