7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery,which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
(Ephesians 3:7-13 NIV)
As we continue reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we see Paul starting to pray in verse 1 of chapter 3, only to interrupt himself and go on a short diversion before resuming his prayer in verse 14.
And what was Paul’s diversion? The mystery of the church including all followers of Jesus Christ No more divisions of Jew/Gentile, slave/free, male/female, Greek/barbarian, or any other human-devised label. We are all under Christ.
Paul continues that thought in today’s reading, pausing to humbly reflect on how God chose him to share in the revealing of the mystery of the Gospel coming to the Gentiles. Paul identifies himself as “less than the least of all God’s people”, and thanks the Lord for being part of the revelation of this mystery from ages past to his present time.
In verse 9, Paul reminds us that God kept this mystery to Himself, known since the creation of the universe, and now is proclaiming the good news and making the boundless riches in Christ for the Gentiles (as well as the Jews) known to all.
In verse 10, Paul says that even the angels are looking at this mystery of the church and saying, “whoa, impressive – we never saw THAT coming!!”. Although Paul does not specify, the angels likely followed their astonishment with profuse amounts of praise and adoration of God, who had designed the oneness we have under Christ and kept it hidden all these centuries.
In verse 11, Paul reminds us that this is all according to God’s plan for His Son, Jesus Christ – nothing is left to circumstance, “luck”, or any other random event that could put this course of events in jeopardy.
In verse 12, Paul says that through Christ and the path that He made possible for all mankind, we may all, through faith in Christ, approach God with freedom and confidence. What a sacrifice for Christ, and what a privilege for us!
Finally, Paul concludes his divine interruption, his short rabbit trail, by reassuring the Ephesians that everything that is happening to him, the beatings, the imprisonment, all the other sufferings, are for their benefit, and he is glad to serve the Lord in this way. Paul is not saying he enjoys the abuse, mistreatment, and incarceration, but he is saying that if his sufferings for the Gospel and the sake of Christ help spread the Good News of Christ to others, he is willing to pay that price.
May we have such an attitude of humility, service, and love for the Lord that we would willingly trade places with Paul for the sake of others coming to know Christ.