“That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
The Gracious Revelation Of His Mystery: Ephesians 3:1-13
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which 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; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
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. 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; 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:
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: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
In this section of Scripture we will be looking at God’s grace being shown to us in the form of a “mystery”. What does the word mystery mean in the context of this study? The Greek word translated “mystery” literally means “to shut the mouth”, in other words “to remain unrevealed”. We will see this mystery will be revealed to God’s people while yet remaining unrevealed to the lost world.
What is this mystery being talked about? It is the inclusion of the Gentiles as recipients of the gracious salvation of the Lord. It is the Gentiles being put on the same spiritual footing as the Jew, receiving God’s gift of repentance and faith, His forgiveness, His indwelling Spirit, His worship and His eternal inheritance, among many other gifts of grace. It involves the Gentiles being included into the institutions of the Lord (His family, His nation, and His local church).
Our study of the “mystery of Christ” will teach us two different aspects of God’s gracious intervention on our behalf:
1. We will see that, the Gentiles inclusion in the Lord’s work of salvation is an act of God’s grace,
2. but also revealing this mystery to God’s people is another aspect of this display of divine grace.
A very basic outline of this section of Scripture:
I. The revelation of this mystery to Paul – 1-3a
II. The revelation of this mystery to the Ephesians (and us) – 3b-6
III. The calling of Paul to minister this mystery to others – 7-11
IV. The enabling of Paul to minister this mystery in the midst of persecutions – 12-13
In our text today, Paul begins to describe how he learned of this mystery and his sacrifices for that mystery…
(Ephesians 3:1-2) For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
What was the dual “cause” that motivated Paul to suffer imprisonment? In 2:21-22 we saw it was the Lord’s desire for members of His nation, family and churches to:
1. increase numerically
2. be spiritually strengthened by the His truths found in His Word.
Paul describes himself as “the prisoner of Jesus Christ”. Remember, during the time he wrote this letter to the church at Ephesus, he was sitting in a Roman prison uncertain of his fate (this was during his first Roman imprisonment). That was why he described himself as “a prisoner of Jesus Christ”, in other words, “A PRISONER because OF my ministry for JESUS CHRIST”.
It was very possible that his personal ministry at Ephesus was the reason for his arrest and imprisonment. Note how he says that it was “for you Gentiles”… Either he was pointing specifically to his Ephesian ministry, or similar ministries to Gentiles (like those at Ephesus) that formed the basis of his arrest and incarceration.
If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
Those in the church at Ephesus will understand that Paul was imprisoned for the sake of Christ, IF they understand that Paul had been given “the dispensation of the grace of God” for their sake (and other Gentiles who would come to faith during Paul’s ministry).
What is meant by “dispensation”? It has the idea of “administration an estate”, “stewardship”, “management”, “oversight” or “distribution”. Paul was appointed as an “administrator” of the message of God’s grace in salvation. In particular, Paul was made “an overseer” or “a distributor” of the gospel message going out to the Gentile world.
If the Ephesian believers understood this great responsibility given to Paul, they would understand why he was sitting in a Roman prison. It was not his own rebellious sinful actions… but as a servant of Christ, he was simply fulfilling his ministry. He was taking the gospel to the Gentile world motivated by the call of God in his life and his love for the Gentile world (including the Ephesian believers). Paul was risking his life for the Gentile world to receive the truths of God, to be saved, and grow in grace and knowledge of Christ.
As Paul, may we all take our calling of the Lord very seriously, and be willing to give our all in the fulfillment of that call. Let us all realize that our calling is a gracious opportunity that is given to us by our Lord to bring glory to His name. No matter what our calling of God may be, let us all “run with patience the race that is set before us” and seek to bring honor to our Lord who has so graciously done so much for us.
May we all get a clearer picture of our Lord and Savior, and the great grace He has shown to us. Let us be always watchful to keep His great acts of grace on our behalf in the center of our attention… In doing so, may we be motivated to LOVE Him more, APPRECIATE Him more and SERVE Him more!
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