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Ephesians 3:1-13, Gospel Mystery Revealed:

  • The first two chapters of Ephesians tell the story God’s saving work in Jesus Christ. But in chapter 3, we see Paul’s participation in the story of God’s salvation, yet God remains the primary actor.
  • This is an important section for us to understand in the light of how God includes us in this wonderful work of eternal life! The first 7 verses of our study describes how God revealed the “mystery of Christ” to Paul (3:4) and gave him stewardship of this mystery (3:2).
  • Verse 8-12 moves from how God involved Paul in his work to the vital role of the church in God’s cosmic plan (3:10–11). And in order to include ourselves, as Paul concludes in verse 13 with an encouragement to the readers as they are related to Paul’s sufferings.

 

  • 1) Paul’s Involvement in the Gospel Mystery, v1-7
  • 2) The Church’s Role in making God’s Wisdom Known, v8-12
  • 3) The solution in Christ, v13

 

  1. Paul’s Involvement in the Gospel Mystery: (v1-7)
  • The opening of chapter 3 points back to what chapter 2 revealed about the inclusion of the Gentiles among God’s people, maybe even to all he has taught in the first 2 chapters.
  • And strangely, Paul finds it fitting to include his actual imprisonment. But yet he refers to himself as a “prisoner of Christ” – meaning he is bound to Christ because Christ called him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, a calling that led to Paul’s physical imprisonment.

 

  • Now, Paul is confident in the task of being a prisoner for Christ preaching the Gospel, that he says – Surely you have heard! It suggests that at least some of the readers of this letter do not know Paul personally. But they are aware of his specific calling to preach the message of grace, he says it is a responsibility that God gave him.
  • And so in verse 3, Paul makes a similar reference as he did in chapter 1:8-9, and that revealed mystery is God’s plan “to unit all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”

 

  • Now equally important, in verse 4 Paul does not say he has a new revelation. In fact, verse 5 clarifies this for us as Paul says this mystery; was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets (3:5).
  • So although God foreshadowed his mystery in the past, “now” he speaks by the Spirit through the apostles. Why highlight the apostles? Among the first Christians, apostles were authorized and sent as messengers of the gospel. This is significant as the apostles are the foundation of the church (Eph 2:20).

 

  • Which is part on the mystery that is being revealed. Again, verse 6 says 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 (3:6).
  • The promise in which Gentiles and Jews share together is the hope of participating in the unity of being God’s people that is only possible through Christ (1:10).

 

  • But this isn’t a mystical event! Paul says he is a servant of the gospel by the gift of God’s grace. Suggesting that this mystery needs to be continually revealed. There needs to be a messenager communicating these truths.
  • Paul says he is one of these servants. “Servant” is a humble term that emphasizes the superiority of the gospel and prepares the way for Paul to say that he is “less than the least of all the Lord’s people” (3:8).
  • Folks aren’t to look at him as the hero, they are to look at the Gospel instead, as it is God’s power being worked out.

 

  1. The Church’s Role in making God’s Wisdom Known: (8-12)
  • The reason Paul describes himself as “the least of the apostles” is to set up the importance of the church, the rest of the Lord’s people, in the God’s plan (3:10). So Paul emphasizes that is by grace.
  • And taking the attention from himself, Paul says it is God’s intent was to make the manifold wisdom of God known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms (3:10). So the whole church is the channel through which God will make known his manifold wisdom “to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (3:10).

 

  • God does this revealing “through the church.” But what is the manifold wisdom of God? The wisdom of God is seen in the mystery of God’s saving work in Christ. In 1 Corinthians 2:7, Paul compares “God’s wisdom” with “a mystery that has been hidden.”
  • In Ephesians, God’s wisdom is seen in his plan to unite all things in Christ. Now, going ahead, the text does not explain how the church will make God’s wisdom known to the supernatural powers. But the Church proclaims the good news of God’s salvation in Christ, and as the church lives out this good news in a unified community, all of heaven and earth will grasp the wonder and truth of God’s plan.

 

  • This is God’s eternal plan, plan A from the beginning! But this purpose was both formed and fulfilled “in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Who in him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence (3:12). Which leads to the encouragement in the final verse.

 

  1. The Solution in Christ: (v13)
  • We’ve seen God’s mystery unfolded in the ministry of Paul and the other apostles, but also in how the church makes this known through the spreading of the Gospel.
  • Verse 13 circles back to a theme introduced in 3:1, Paul’s hardships “for the sake of you Gentiles.” He does not want the recipients of his letter to be distressed by the news of his imprisonment.

 

  • Paul adds an intriguing comment about his sufferings: they “are your glory.” In Romans 8:17, sharing in Christ’s sufferings is an introduction to sharing in his glory. Yet in Romans those who suffer are the ones who are glorified.
  • In Ephesians 3:13 Paul’s suffering is the glory of his readers. A clue to this odd equation may be found in 2 Corinthians 1:6: “If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation.
  • If Paul’s afflictions lead to the Corinthians’ salvation, and if their salvation leads to their glorification, then it might be said that his afflictions are for their ultimate glory.

 

Conclusion:

  • But the focus has changed. God’s intent was “that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (3:10).
  • It is not Paul or the other apostles who announce the mystery of Christ to the heavenly powers. Rather, the crucial task of making known God’s wisdom to the powers now belongs to the church, to the people of God together.
  • Therefore, as the church lives out its identity in Christ, especially as it demonstrates the unity between formerly hostility between Jews and Gentiles, the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places will see that God is indeed uniting all things in Christ.
  • God’s plan is working and will prevail. The powers will be defeated in their efforts to ruin God’s creation for good, and the church proves it.