Revealing the Wisdom of God

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

"For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles -- if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace which was given to me for you; that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister,  according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory" (Ephesians 3:1-13).

The section begins with "for this reason," referring to Paul's discussion in Ephesians 2:11-22. Jesus came to bring an end to the Old Law to bring the Jews and Gentiles into one group. This was the reason Paul preached that Gentiles have been offered salvation.

Ephesians is one of several letters Paul wrote while in prison in Rome. Jesus chose Paul to carry the Gospel to the Gentiles, but it wasn't an easy commission. "But the Lord said to him, 'Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake'" (Acts 9:15-16). Paul reminded the Ephesians that they had heard of Paul's duties as a steward on their behalf. "If indeed you have heard" is a supposition taken for granted. Paul isn't expressing doubt that they heard but is satirically reminding them that they had heard that he was commissioned to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul ended up in prison because he taught that Gentiles could be saved, and the Jews did not like it. To avoid being killed by the Jews, Paul had to appeal to Caesar, which brought him to Rome.

Paul learned the Gospel message directly from Jesus (Galatians 1:12-13). A part of what he learned was something God had kept hidden in the past but is now revealing. The Ephesians will also gain insight into this mystery when reading this letter. Paul had already mentioned this a short time earlier in Ephesians 1:9 and Ephesians 2:11-22. Through the apostles and prophets, God has revealed that the Gentiles are a part of God's plan for saving mankind. They become partakers through the Gospel that Paul taught.

Paul saw his service as a gift from God that he did not deserve. This also implies that Paul had not appointed himself to the task. God worked at getting Paul converted. Paul did not think he deserved God's gift to be a minister. However, he appreciated the privilege of preaching to the Gentiles the untrackable riches found in Christ. He also shed light on how God planned to save the Gentiles.

The saved are in the church, and Jews and Greeks work together in harmony there. Thus, through the church's existence and growth (Ephesians 1:23), God's multifaceted wisdom is made known to the rulers on earth and seen by those in the spiritual realm. Even spiritual beings are interested in seeing how God's plans unfold (I Peter 1:12).

It wasn't a last-minute plan. The saving of all mankind through Jesus was planned before the world was made (Ephesians 1:4). It has always been God's intention.

Thus, Paul doesn't want the Ephesians to despair because he is in prison. Instead, they should be bold and confident because Paul is suffering for a message the world doesn't want to hear. They have access to the King of kings (Ephesians 2:18), who hears their petitions. Paul's suffering is to their glory. He shows that they are a people worth fighting for.

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