All Scripture references are taken from the NASB unless otherwise noted.
“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; 3 that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. 4 By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Ephesians 3:1-6 NASB
Ephesians is one of Paul’s prison letters while in Rome, a prisoner of Caesar and waiting to be tried before Nero. In reading Paul’s letters never does he write that he is a prisoner of Caesar; but he is “a prisoner of Christ Jesus.” Paul clearly understood that Caesar did not have control of his situation; Jesus did. The duration of his confinement was not to be determined by Caesar, but by the Lord. The Apostle understood that the Lord Jesus had already decided the moment he would be set free and when the Lord Jesus spoke Caesar would release him. For this reason, he never saw himself as being a prisoner of Rome.
We Are Stewards of the Message of God’s Grace
The second statement from Paul is an important thought for each of us. He writes that God made him a steward of God’s grace which was to be shared with the folks in Ephesus. Fast forward to our day and time. Every Follower of the Christ has been given the responsibility of sharing/teaching others about the marvelous riches extended to them by the grace of God. “For by grace you have been saved…..”
The mystery which has been revealed to us in the Word of God are aspects of life that God reveals and about which men desperately need to understand concerning the concept of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul writes that this truth was from God, not of himself, that it was given to him by Christ.. Think about this for a moment, we Believers are servants of Christ and are given the responsibility of sharing the mysteries of God. Our heavy responsibility is to help folks understand the important messages from God’s Word. We, like Paul, are made stewards of the mystery of God.
The Heart of Paul’s Gospel
In v. 3 Paul places an interesting phrase, “as I wrote before in brief” which has caused some discussion among us which can be noted in commentaries. However, the Greek commentaries seem to agree that Paul is speaking of either the first 2 chapters in Ephesians or in chapter 3 verses 7 and 8 that follow which describe his view of responsibility assigned to him by God.
I think it important to note here that Paul’s apostleship is different than the experiences of the eleven who actually walked with, spoke with, ate with and were taught by the living Christ.. The Apostle writes this to the Galatians, “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Galatians 1:11-12. He did not speak with the apostles for it was three years before he returned to Jerusalem after the Damascus Road. It was fourteen years later when Paul sat down with them. And, he says, they gave him nothing new. He understood everything they did and knew everything Jesus had taught them in the days of His flesh. “But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me.”Galatians 2:6. Paul is speaking of John, Cephas and the other Apostles living in Jerusalem. Why would he say something like this about these Godly men? Because the message of the Gospel is more important than the reputation of men.
Please, please do not miss the message of Jesus Christ who is the heartbeat of all things and the heart of Paul’s Gospel. None of us can help but be aware that we live in an extremely troubled time, for we do not know what to do about the problems of our day. Many are attempting to figure out where we have gone awry, and why we do not understand what to do.
The Key to the Mystery is Christ
“By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Ephesians 3:4-6.
This mystery Paul addresses was completely unknown until God entered our environment as a man in the Person of Jesus Christ. However, it was not until He ascended into the heavens after His resurrection that His message began to be understood. Jesus said this, “He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.” All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “I WILL OPEN MY MOUTH IN PARABLES; I WILL UTTER THINGS HIDDEN SINCE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.” Matthew 13:33-35. Amazing things this God-man did.
Now this mystery is revealed to us as Paul writes, “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.” Romans 16:25-27.
In Ephesians 3:4-6 we find that the Gentiles “are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Here Paul invents new words to explain what God is giving to him. In one statement the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to write three words that are found nowhere else in the Greek New Testament. These words are; fellow-heirs, fellow-members, and fellow-partakers. When we believe in Jesus Christ, we become fellow-heirs, fellow-members of one body, and fellow-partakers of the promise. With these expressions, we find the answers to the difficulties in which we are presently engaged. This is the unfolding mystery found in the Body of Christ.
God gives every new Believer in Jesus Christ a new creation by His gift of grace and faith and He calls it salvation. What was not given in the Old Testament is the resurrection of Jesus, and the eternal effects of it in the life of every Believer and Follower of Jesus Christ. The idea of eternal life is completely foreign to the OT. Israel died in a hope that was not explained. What the apostles were teaching was their reality of having touched, heard and walked with the Risen Christ. Today, God is creating new men and women by grace through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Jesus is Lord.