Ephesians 3:1-6

“For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—assuming you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that he gave me for you. The mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have briefly written above. By reading this you are able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ. This was not made known to people in other generations as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

Paul starts this section with “For this reason.” Let’s review what the reason is that he is referring to here. He spent the last section writing about the alienation of the Gentiles from God and Israel. He then wrote about the reconciliation of the Gentiles with God and the Jews through Christ. He now turns their attention to him. He says, “For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles-…” Notice here, before we go on, that he stops his thought, and goes on for 13 verses on another idea before he finishes this one. Verse 14 starts, “For this reason I kneel before the Father.” I love this about Paul. So often I start one thought and then am off on another! I’m glad I have Biblical precedent!

Let’s get back to this first verse. Notice that Paul says he is a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of the Gentiles. During the time he wrote this letter, he was under house arrest in Rome. He was originally arrested at the temple in Jerusalem. He had appealed to his Roman citizenship and Caesar and was returned to Rome, so technically he was a prisoner of Caesar and Nero, but he does not write this. He calls himself a prisoner of Christ. He does this elsewhere in his letters. In Philemon, he says, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus…” (v 1) and “I appeal to you, instead, on the basis of love. I, Paul, as an elderly man and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus” (v 9).  In 2 Timothy 1 he writes, “So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me his prisoner” (v 8). And later on, in this letter to Ephesus he writes, “Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received…” (Ephesians 4:1). Paul is reassuring his readers that he knows who is in control. He knows who has the final say in his life.

The second part of this verse is “on behalf of you Gentiles.” This is because he was preaching to them and because it benefited them. The reason Paul was in prison was because of them. The Jews were so angry that Paul was preaching the message of salvation to the Gentiles that they had him arrested. The Jews had been listening to his message about his conversion and how he had been called by God, but when he stated he had been sent out to the Gentiles to give them the message, the crowd went crazy. They tried to mob him and would have succeeded in killing him if a commander had not interceded. “They listened to him up to this point. Then they raised their voices, shouting, ‘Wipe this man off the face of the earth! He should not be allowed to live!’ As they were yelling and flinging aside their garments and throwing dust into the air, the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, directing that he be interrogated with the scourge to discover the reason they were shouting against him like this” (Acts 22:22-24). Ray Stedman, in his commentary on Ephesians, states, “Jewish scruples and prejudices were terribly offended by the fact that Paul had the nerve, the effrontery, to say to the Jews that the Gentiles were received by God equally as they, that the Gentiles could have equal standing before him.”

The second way that he is a prisoner on behalf of the Gentiles is that he now had the time to write these letters. If he had not been imprisoned, he would have been able to go personally to the churches and preach directly to them. His imprisonment caused him to have to correspond in writing with these young churches and we now have these letters as a permanent record.

In the next verses, Paul goes on to talk about the administration of grace, and the mystery that was made known to him by revelation. Paul is reassuring his readers that he did, indeed, get this message from God. David Guzik, on his Enduring Word website, writes, “It is indeed amazing that God would take a Hebrew of the Hebrews, a Pharisee, and a persecutor of the church to be the main minister of the mystery, the mystery of the work of the gospel in bringing the Jew and the Gentile together into one new body.”

Paul uses the word mystery three times in this first part of chapter 3, twice in the first six verses. He also used it in chapter one. It’s important to note that mystery here doesn’t have the same connotation in Greek as it does in English. In English we think of something dark, puzzling, or incomprehensible. The word in Greek is different. It is referred to as a truth into which someone has been initiated, such as the secret mystery religions. John Stott writes, “But in Christianity, there are no esoteric mysteries reserved for a spiritual elite. On the contrary, the Christian mysteries are truths which, although beyond human discovery, have been revealed by God and so now belong openly to the whole church.”

What is the mystery? We’ve already been talking about it in chapters one and two, but he says it again here. “The Gentiles are co-heirs, members of the same body, and partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” But according to verse 5, “This was not made known to people in other generations as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” There were hints of it throughout the Old Testament. And Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations before he ascended to heaven. Stott expresses it well when he writes, “But what neither the Old Testament nor Jesus revealed was the radical nature of God’s plan, which was that the theocracy (the Jewish nation under God’s rule) would be terminated, and replaced by a new international community, the church; that this church would be the body of Christ, organically united to him; and that Jews and Gentiles would be incorporated into Christ and his church on equal terms without any distinction.”

The last part of these verse mentions three things that the Jews and Gentiles will be: Co-heirs, members of one body, and partners in the promise of Christ Jesus through the gospel. It is unfortunate that in the two thousand years since this letter was written, we continue to find ways to differentiate between each other, even as believers. We are members of the same body. Co-heirs with Christ! In the last chapter, we read that Christ is our peace. Verse 14 reads, “For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility.” It feels like we are building those walls back up again. This is what happens when we walk in the ways of the world. But we have to remember what 2:6 says. “He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus…” When we walk in the Spirit, we can love, forgive and be at peace with each other.

We are partners in the promise of Christ Jesus through the gospel. We have the Holy Spirit which enables us to partner with Christ. The last verse of chapter 2 says, “In him you are also being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.” He has given us the Holy Spirit to empower us to carry out the gospel. I know that I cannot do it on my own. I cannot love the way I am supposed to. I am inherently selfish, stubborn, and prideful. It is only with the help of the Holy Spirit that I can set those feelings aside and love the way I am supposed to.

I think I covered more verses in this post than I have in any other! My next one will be verses 7-13, so Ephesians 3 will move a little (okay a lot!) faster than chapter 2 did. I am learning so much as I dig deep. I hope you are learning something new along with me!

Grace be with you!


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