3 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which 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. 6 This mystery is 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.
(Ephesians 3:1-6 NIV)
The Apostle Paul continues to address the Gentile followers of Christ. Today, Paul addresses the mystery of of the Gentiles coming to faith in Christ.
Old Testament followers of God believed that it was possible for Gentiles to come to faith in God. In fact, God Himself made a way for them to do so. So that was not part of the mystery – that was a “known”. Gentile followers of God came under the same Old Testament laws that the Jews lived under, observed the same holy days, worshiped the same way, etc. The path to following Israel’s God was well defined for the Gentile believer.
Both the Jewish believer and Gentile believer looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. They knew Messiah would save both Jews and Gentiles, they did not, however, know the details.
So what was the mystery? There were several parts to the unveiling of the mystery:
- That Jew and gentile would one day be the same – no difference between them before God
- That Messiah would come in bodily form, as Jesus did
- The Messiah would indwell each believer (as Christ promised the Holy Spirit would do)
So going back to today’s text, we see Paul launching into a prayer in verse 1, only to interrupt himself in verse 2. This divine interruption happens from verse 2 down through verse 13. In verse 14, he restarts his prayer.
Paul starts in verses 2 and 3 by reminding the Gentiles that this revelation was made known to him, and is “new news” – it’s something that God has told Paul that was not known to prior generations.
In verses 4 and 5, Paul is careful to tell us that he is not claiming “special revelation”, that is, that only he was given this insight from God. Paul says that the other apostles and prophets were given that same insight.
Why is that important? There were many “teachers” and “evangelists” in those days, some preaching the truth of the Gospel, many of them not. Many of these false teachers and false prophets were mis-using the Gospel for selfish gain, either for monetary increase, or for control of others. Paul steers clear of those false teachers and prophets.
Verse 6 summarizes Paul’s revelation:
- In Christ, the Gentiles are now heirs together with the Jews
- In Christ, there is one body of followers, not two
- In Christ, both Jews and Gentiles are fellow partakers of the promise of blessings
Paul’s writings were welcome news to the Gentile believers – they understood that they now had an equal seat at the table of God’s salvation, fellowship, and blessings as the Jews enjoyed. They were no longer second-class citizens.
What great news we have, knowing that we are invited equally to Christ. No more Jew/Gentile, slave/free, man/woman, Greek/barbarian, social, economic, or political designations before Christ. He is Lord of all, and all other human labels fade away in His presence. To God be the glory!