The Revelation of the Mystery - Part I
“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…)” —Ephesians 3:1-3
The third chapter of Ephesians concludes Paul’s teaching on doctrinal issues relating to the church of Ephesus. After presenting the idea that those in the Ephesian church were no longer aliens but children of God, he begins a dissertation on his apostolic role and what the Holy Spirit had given him. He was given a mandate by the Spirit of God to explain the great mystery of joining both Jew and Gentile into one family. This was not exactly a welcoming thought to many, yet this was the will of God—creating a family consisting of both Jew and Gentile being joined together as one. In other words, those who are saved, as Paul presented in Ephesians 2:8-10, are a part of this new family.
A PRISONER OF JESUS CHRIST
At the time of this writing, Paul was confined to house arrest in Rome, not for something he did wrong but for being a Christian. This could have given him time to express his heart toward the church of Ephesus by presenting a letter of unity within the body of Christ, which was not being lived out. As a result, Paul begins this chapter with the express purpose of acknowledging himself, not as a prisoner of Caesar but of Jesus Christ. He chose to do this; he wanted to reiterate that he does not belong to Caesar but to Jesus Christ. Ultimately, Paul understands that this situation was the will of God for his life, and instead of complaining about his circumstance, he chose to believe God for his overall well-being. He believed that the God he served had total and complete care over his life. Therefore, he could call himself a prisoner of Jesus Christ.
Can we say the same about our own lives today? Do we believe that our God has total and complete care over our lives? Do we consider ourselves prisoners of Jesus Christ? Regardless of the circumstances you are in, nothing happens to the believer that takes God by surprise. Everything that happens to us is caused by God or allowed by God. Instead of asking why, what, or how, we should try having a different mindset—that God is trying to teach us something and that we have to be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit to lead us through that specific situation.
A STEWARD OF THE GRACE OF GOD
Paul expresses the notion that he was given the responsibility of being a steward for the grace of God, which speaks of his divine mission to preach the gospel to the Gentiles while at the same time being the one who was given the meaning of the new covenant. It was the responsibility of the apostle to be the caretaker of this message, which would revolutionize the Christian world—the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. God had a plan from before the foundations of the world for His Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem humanity through the means of the cross. God also planned to bring both Jew and Gentile together as one body, forming the mystical body of Christ. Paul was chosen as a vessel to proclaim and explain the message of Christ and the cross to the Gentiles, that they could be saved and walk in victory according to their faith in the finished work of Christ, and that both Jew and Gentile are reconciled unto God through the simple act of faith into one body, one family.
This plan was not conjured up in Paul's mind, nor was it given to him through conversation with other people. This specific revelation was provided to him by the Holy Spirit. Looking back at his life, no one knew the Bible of that day better than Paul. Yet, he did not understand its true implications and what it actually meant. This would change on the Damascus road when Jesus revealed Himself to this Pharisee. After some time in what is known as the “silent years,” it is believed that the Holy Spirit began to unravel the great mystery of grace and God’s redemption plan for the Gentile race.
GOD’S PLAN FOR THE CHURCH
At the heart of this plan is Jesus Christ. God's grand plan was made manifest in Christ through His work on Calvary’s cross. Through His work, He would create a people, the Jews, combining them with outsiders (Gentiles) who had no chance to be reconciled unto God and bring them together to form a new body, which we now know as the church. The purpose of explaining this mystery concisely is to challenge the body of Christ in this way; we are not a body that is exclusive in nature but rather inclusive. Because of this, we are to treat our fellow Christians with kindness, love, respect, and grace. If the world’s Savior has extended His mercy, grace, love, and compassion to us, how much more should we extend to those around us, including our Christian family? There is too much division within the body of Christ, and Paul’s thesis in this short epistle is to explain the unity of the body through Christ.
Until this point, the purpose of the church was concealed from all until the Holy Spirit revealed it to Paul. He planned to include the Gentile race within the family of God and open it up to the world at large. Currently, the church is made up primarily of Gentiles, and we are thankful that this way has opened up to us. The gospel of Jesus Christ was never meant for a particular group of people, but God's plan was always to open it up to the masses. Regarding the church as a whole, most would understand that the church is not a building but a people. Those who are saved and belong to the family of God are, in fact, the church. And seeing that someone, somewhere, shared the gospel with us, then we must, in turn, do the same, for there are hungry souls who need Jesus, and it is our responsibility to bring them the greatest story ever told, the story of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Ultimately, the purpose of the church is to be God’s hand extended, to bring the message of hope, peace, restoration, reconciliation, and salvation to those downtrodden and hurting. All of these are found in what Jesus Christ has done for us. The cross of Christ must ever be the heartbeat of the church. When we leave the cross, we leave our purpose for existing. When we leave the cross, we turn our backs on what brought us into the family of God to begin with. When we leave the cross, we leave salvation. There is no purpose in presenting a Christless cross, for a Christless cross cannot save anyone, and neither can a Christless cross deliver anyone from the very bondage of sin. The cross must be our message, and it must be our way of life. As a whole, the body of Christ must return to the cross of Christ, and once it does, we will have a real story to tell, how Jesus Christ gave all, so that we can experience true salvation and deliverance from sin.
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