The mystery made plain: the Good News unites
Ephesians 3:1–12 Thursday, Jan 4
God’s eternal purpose has always been to reconcile all people to Himself — a mystery gradually unfolded by Word and Spirit
1–2 When I think of all this, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the benefit of you Gentiles… assuming, by the way, that you know God gave me the special responsibility of extending his grace to you Gentiles.
- 2 In another version: “assuming that you have heard”. Paul had spent three years in Ephesus, so many knew this. But we forget that the N.T. church continually drew in new people and was extending its reach to villages around; there would be many new hearers for Paul’s letter.
3–5 As I briefly wrote earlier, God Himself revealed His mysterious plan to me. As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ. God did not reveal it to previous generations, but now by his Spirit He has revealed it to His holy apostles and prophets.
- 3 “Mysterious plan” — a plan that becomes more clear. Paul wrote much about mystery and revelation. The Bible represents God’s progressive revelation of His purposes. We can see this unfolding through the precepts of the Law at first and the more developed, interpretative understanding of the prophets e.g. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”, Hosea 6:6 God’s people being a light to people who were not like them was something they had heard, but was a mystery to people drilled in being holy and racially separate. The Spirit-directed mind of the Spirit-filled person begins to see things of God that the carnal, self-directed mind cannot comprehend, 1 Cor. 2:1–16 And God raises up people with a recognised gift as those sent to be groundbreakers, or commissioned as preachers and exhorters — to help others see and share in God’s purposes.
6–7 And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus. By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News.
- Paul was a ‘sent’ person, or envoy of the kingdom of God, the basic meanings of the ‘apostolos’ word. Now he explains that to understand God’s purpose in uniting Jews and Gentiles, men and women, bond-servants and free as being of equal value, equally loved in God’s sight, was formerly a mystery beyond grasping. Before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, to Jesus’ contemporaries and hearers, much would only fall into place following Pentecost.
8–9 Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, He graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.
- This is not false humility. Paul is being forthright about his earlier track record which hardly qualified him for his present privilege and responsibility.
10–11 God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display His wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was His eternal plan, which He carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.
- Every time believers come together as church a statement is made to the heavenlies. That is why unity is so vital. The real prayer warfare is our worship and our relationships. On top of that, declarations and prayers are mightily powerful to push back those fallen angels who seek exercise evil authority — and in ways we do not understand, enable the response and overcoming of righteous angels submitted to heaven. What plays out on earth and what is happening unseen in the heavenlies are more closely connected than we realise.
12 Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.
In the Old Testament, they knew that anyone who saw God would die from such a holy confrontation. So to come into the presence of God was hardly different — but on the basis of what Jesus has done for us in dealing with our guilt and rebellion, and who we are in Him, with an unearned righteousness imputed to us, we have confidence to both talk to God and are exhorted to draw near to him, mindful of what Jesus has done for us. “Come close to God, and God will come close to you” in James 4:6–10 is inextricably linked with “humble yourselves before God”. Application This is about the mystery of God’s eternal plan. What God has always purposed, from the beginning of time, has always been ahead of where people were, in their understanding. As the salvation history unfolded over the centuries, the plan became more clear. Abraham saw it at one level. David, writing prophetic psalms, saw something in the Spirit. The prophets over the centures had glimpses of God’s purpose. Jesus came to demonstrate and to explain the kingdom of God. When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church and the experience of the Spirit-led, Spirit-empowered life became the norm for the early church, everyone could grow in revelation of God plan and purpose. There will always be temptation to substitute our own plan and purpose; as we begin to see God at work it’s dangerously easy to think we’re something we are not. That’s why it is important to stay humble before God as we grow as seekers of His revelation.
For reflection and discussion
- God’s plan and God’s purpose are mentioned half a dozen times in this short passage. How are you beginning to see God’s plan in your life, your church, your community?
- What are good ways of focusing our attention on God’s plan and purpose and encouraging one another in it?
Originally published at The Living Word.