Ephesiansby Robert M. Solomon
After explaining the wonderful work of God in reconciling us to himself and to one another, Paul moves on to pray for the Ephesians. “For this reason” in 3:1 refers to the gospel truths set out in Ephesians 2. But Paul interrupts himself, continuing his prayer only in verse 14. In between he plunges again into a discussion of the great “mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4); he was so enthralled by it all.
Paul uses the word “mystery” several times (3:3, 4, 6, 9; 5:32). This refers not to an unsolvable conundrum or a secret, but to a hidden truth (v. 5) that is now revealed. This mystery was made known to Paul “by revelation” (v. 3). It was not a philosophy or social strategy that Paul developed on his own, but something God had told him about.
“This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (v. 6). For many centuries, the Jews—to whom God had revealed Himself and His law—saw God as the exclusive deity of Israel. They failed to recognise that He was the God of all nations and that He intended to extend His salvation to them all. Their narrow and restrictive thinking reduced God to a tribal god in their minds.
It is not that Scripture did not disclose God’s global intentions (Psalm 67:1–2; Isaiah 19:23–25); rather, this truth was hidden from previous generations (Ephesians 3:5) in that the Jews never understood it. The prophet Jonah, who was sent to Nineveh, failed to understand God’s global mission. Even more radically, the mystery is about the coming together of Jews and Gentiles into one church. This aspect was unknown before. But now, this mystery “has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets” (v. 5; Ephesians 4:11–12; 1 Peter 1:10–12; 2 Peter 1:19–21).
For this reason, Paul was appointed by God to be an apostle to the Gentiles. He was now in a Roman prison but he considered himself not a prisoner of Caesar or of unfortunate circumstances, but of Christ (Ephesians 3:1). He knew he was ultimately in the hands of Jesus. He was a prisoner of his Lord and for the Gentiles. He was totally committed to Christ and the gospel mission.
Imagine how it must have been for Paul to learn about the mystery of Christ. How would it have changed his worldview and life direction? Do you see something similar in your life?
How willing are you to be a prisoner of Christ (Ephesians 3:1; Philemon 1:9; 2 Timothy 1:8)? What factors may prevent you from becoming one?