The greatest mystery ever revealed was not a man-made plot for treasures or trinkets of this earth, but the glorious and eternal plan of God to send His Son Jesus Christ to save both Jews and Gentiles, as Paul said, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Paul’s gospel was the gospel of grace which he received and which he proclaimed. Have you received this grace? it only comes through repentance and receiving Christ as Savior and Lord.
Paul goes through a lot of theology in Ephesians 3, verses 1–12 to get to his conclusion in verse 13. His concern is that the Ephesians not be overly concerned for him. During his Roman imprisonment Paul was under house arrest. In the day he was free to move around the house with the supervision of soldiers, but every night he was chained to a soldier to make sure he did not escape before his trial before Caesar.
He may be incarcerated and suffering for the sake of the gospel, but the believers in Ephesus should not think that unusual nor lose heart. Paul has not lost heart—because the glory of Christ and the need to proclaim the gospel was far weightier than his suffering.
The mystery of the gospel (vv. 2–6), the ministry of the gospel (vv. 7–9), and the manifold wisdom of the gospel (vv. 10–12) and above all, the personal sacrifice and suffering of the glorious Lord of the gospel for my sin debt makes any “counting the cost” an easy calculation.
This was the same concern and perspective that Paul shared with the Philippians.
- Phil 1.12,13 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places.
The last thing Paul wanted was people to feel sorry for him because he was imprisoned. He wanted his readers to see the big picture and realize that it was a benefit for the sake of the gospel that he was a prisoner.
Keep in mind beloved that this Roman imprisonment produced the letters of Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Philemon. They all certainly have a place in God’s eternal plan to reach sinners like myself with the gospel!
In verse 1, Paul recognizes the sovereignty of God in his life. Paul is sitting in a Roman prison cell, arrested under Roman law, but he calls himself the prisoner of Jesus Christ (cp 4.1) He didn’t say the devil put him in prison. Paul is not a victim of circumstances or coincidences; he is an ambassador for Jesus Christ, even while in a prison cell. Cp. Phil 1.12. Paul is an example of a Spirit filled man that is in complete submission to the will of God for his life when in the line of duty. He would write that The Lord was standing right there by him strengthening him (2 Tim 4.17). In the service and surrender to Jesus Christ, we must always be aware of His sovereign control and glorious presence even in the midst of the most inglorious circumstances.
Vs.2 Dispensation of the grace of God- “Stewardship” means an administration, or management. The express meaning of this word stewardship is that it is something entrusted to us by the grace of God for the glory of God and the benefit of others.
We see here in verses 2,7,8, that the origin of the call upon Paul’s life, the ability to minister and the very revelation itself was given to him were both attributed to the grace of God. Any men called into ministry are called to be servants of the grace of God.
Paul did not choose the stewardship of his apostleship or ministry. God had sovereignly commissioned him with the calling, spiritual gifts, opportunities, knowledge, and authority to minister as the apostle to the Gentiles.
Ministry in any capacity is due to the manifold grace of God (1 Pet 4.10). Chrstians are people who are saved and then shaped by the grace of God. A life that has been turned upside down by the gospel of Jesus Christ is a life that has been apprehended by the grace of God.
Vs.3-6 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel
By revelation He made known unto me the mystery- John Stott writes that a biblical mystery is a truth hitherto hidden from human knowledge or understanding but now disclosed by the revelation of God.
The Holy Spirit revealed to Paul a mysterious truth that not even the greatest prophets understoodGal 1.10 But I certify you brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 11. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelationof Jesus Christ.
- Romans 16.25 Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began.
- Col 1.26,27 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
Isaiah 49:6 predicted salvation to all races, but it was Paul who wrote of the fulfillment of that pledge (Acts 13:46–47). It was the truth that in Christ Jesus, the church, which is composed of all the saved since Pentecost, would be united in one body with no racial or social distinctions.
But it was not given to only Paul by revelation. It was also given specifically to Peter by revelation (Acts 11:1-18) Peter wrote:
- 1 Peter 1.10-12 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
I find it encouraging in my prayers for people who have yet to come to Christ and seem to be the hardest hearts in the world when I realize that God would choose an Orthodox Hebrew of the Hebrews, a Pharisee, and a persecutor of the church to be the main minister of the mystery of the work of the gospel in bringing Jew and Gentile together into one new body.
- Vs.7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
I was made a minister- No man can make himself a minister (lit., “servant”) of God, because the calling and empowering of God to be a genuine minister comes from God are it is His prerogative alone to give.
Paul’s testimony to King Agrippa regarding his call into the ministry after meeting Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road was Acts 26.16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee.
- Vs. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ
Paul was a man that was truly decreasing in order that Jesus would increase.
Compare the progressive chronological revelation in Paul’s life from his earliest to latest dated epistles, and observe the pattern of his understanding of God’s grace in his life. 1 Cor 15.9 least of the apostles. Eph 3.8 least of the saints. 1 Tim 1.15 chiefest of sinners.
Paul is not diminishing his calling to be an apostle. Nor is he taking for granted that because of Christ’s perfect sacrifice, he is now set apart or a saint for the glory of God. As he is growing in Christ, he realizes that he is the chiefest of sinners upon whom, God has chosen to bestow grace and mercy.
One last thing, here is Paul in prison preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ. The unsearchable riches of Jesus are more vast than the universe…unreachable means beyond human comprehension….His forgiveness, love, grace, mercy, rest.
The grace of God in Christ is not just something to be received, it is a message that is to be shared with others.
- Vs.9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, Who created all things by Jesus Christ:
Jesus Christ was the instrument through Whom all things were created.
- Vs.10,11 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
It is through the church that the manifold wisdom of God is manfested to the angelic proncipalities and powers in heaven.
The history of the church and the unfolding drama of redemption is watched with avid interest by the rulers and authorities in heavens, an apparent reference to which things the angels desire to look into spoken of by Peter in 1 Peter 1.12. HCSB
Eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus before the world began.
- 1 Timothy 1.9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
- Vs.12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
Every person who comes to Christ in faith can come before God at any time, not in self- confidence but in the Person and finished work of The Lord Jesus Christ.
- Vs.13Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
- 1 Thess 3.3 That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.