For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
7 Of this gospel, I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. – Ephesians 3:1-13
Today in Islamic nations like Iran and others along with Communist nations like China and North Korea, brothers and sisters in Christ are imprisoned for sharing the gospel with fellow citizens of these nations. It is no different than Paul’s experience. The gospel was, and is, a threat to the dominance of idolatry in whatever form it takes. It was during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome in A.D. 62 that he penned this glorious epistle to the Ephesian church.
Paul took a different perspective on his circumstance than would most, he considered himself a prisoner, not of the Roman government, but of Christ for the benefit of the Gentiles, these new believers at Ephesus. Paul’s suffering was evidence of God’s grace in Paul toward the Ephesian believers.
It seems odd, but in this passage, Paul delineates his mission in what we today would refer to as a corporate mission statement. He begins with the statement of humility that his mission is a result of a power-work of God’s grace in him. He has no place for boasting about his mission.
The unsearchable riches of Christ
Paul’s first statement in his mission was to preach to the Gentiles as his primary target market, and his message is the unsearchable riches of Christ. The shortness of this phrase, the unsearchable riches of Christ, belies the immenseness of this message. To flesh out what Paul refers to here would include most of what he wrote in all of his epistles. I am impressed with Paul’s language in describing the gospel in the epistle. He has referred to the immeasurable greatness of his power to us, the immeasurable riches of his grace to us and now the unsearchable riches of Christ. Some might think this hyperbolic language. I think it is factual.
The riches of Christ are so great that they are beyond our ability to search them out completely. This is why, I believe, we have some of the theological debates we have. We are wading in water too deep for us.
The plan of the mystery hidden in God who created all things
The second point of Paul’s mission is to bring to light the mystery that has been hidden in God who created all things. It is essential that Paul refers to God as the creator. Those of us who grew up in a “Christian” America take this for granted. Today’s youth do not. Paul’s audience did not. We should not either.
This mystery is the eternal plan that was hashed out among the Trinity before time and space that would result in a redeemed people living with God in their midst.
God’s many-sided wisdom revealed to demon spirits
There is a cosmic storyline being fleshed out in the universe in which the truth and power of the gospel are being made known to the demonic forces who are discovering their fate through the church.This wisdom is many-sided or manifold. The wisdom of God is likened to a cut diamond, it is manifold or has many sides, all the facets that individually reflect light each in its unique way making the diamond more beautiful. Each facet of the wisdom of God reflects the beauty of God in some unique way.
God’s eternal purpose
All of this mystery is according to an eternal purpose that was established in the Triune God. Since the purpose is eternal, it could only come from God who is eternal, the same one who created all things. This is a beautiful message of hope in this world that fails to acknowledge the creator or purpose. There is an amazing hypocrisy all around us of persons denying any eternal purpose or creator and yet spilling gallons of ink on books that are intended to help people discover their purpose in life. Without an eternal purpose, there can be no temporal purpose with any real meaning.
We have boldness and access with confidence
It is only with this foundation of Paul’s mission statement that we can reasonably say that we have boldness and confidence in this life. Christians ought to be the most solid, confident and bold folks on the earth. Why aren’t we? Either we have never come to appreciate the full message of the gospel or we are forgetful. I suppose it is some of each. But, the greater our experience of the gospel, the greater our boldness and confidence in this life through faith in Jesus Christ.
Don’t lose heart over my sufferings
Paul’s final statement in this section is anti-climactic. Don’t lose heart over my sufferings. Paul is aware that in spite of the glorious territory over which he has just taken his readers, they are human beings who have tasted of the goodness of the gospel that Paul taught. They have a deep affection for this man who has been such a passionate messenger to them and for their benefit in Christ. He is in prison, suffering, they cannot help feeling the pain of it. Paul wants them to understand that his suffering is their glory and not an occasion for despondency.
Can Paul’s mission be our mission on some level? Can we also be committed to sharing the gospel to those around us in the power of the Holy Spirit? I say yes. It is, as Paul says, according to God’s eternal purpose. Let us participate in his purpose until the day we die.