Summary: The perspective that kept Paul from discouragement - a remarkable revelation of the gospel and a stunning picture of the church...
A company Director tells the story about a day when he and his wife stopped off at a petrol station. It was a run down station, with only one pump. It was an old fashioned petrol station and he asked the attendant to fill the tank and check the oil. Meanwhile he went for a little walk around the station to stretch his legs. As he was returning to the car, he noticed that the attendant and his wife were engaged in an animated conversation. The conversation stopped as he paid the attendant. But as they drove off he saw the attendant wave and heard him say, “It was great talking to you.” The company Director asked his wife if she knew the man. She admitted she did. They had gone to school together and had gone out together for about a year. “Boy, were you lucky that I came along,” said the Director. “If you had married him, you’d be the wife of a petrol attendant instead of the wife of a company director!” “My dear,” replied his wife, “if I had married him, he’d be the Director and you’d be the petrol attendant.”
You see, it’s all about perspective!
And we saw a few weeks ago that Paul had this bigger perspective. And again tonight, we are challenged to learn from Paul’s perspective, which in fact is a God-given perspective of what God is doing in this world and in his life.
Bearing in mind all he has been saying, Paul is about to burst into prayer for the Ephesians (we can see that from where he regains his train of thought in verse 14). For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles – And then he stops. What stopped him? Look at his words: prisoner of Christ Jesus. Remember Paul is under house arrest in Rome. He is the prisoner of the Caesar Nero, really. But he knows that his life is not held by Nero, but Jesus Christ. for the sake of you Gentiles – he continues. And as he says those words, he suddenly realizes he’s going to need to explain something. And he explains that something until v12. Then in verse 13 says, (read).
If someone as famous as a young Billy Graham were arrested, many would be discouraged. Many would wonder why it had happened. In the same way many were shocked at all Paul was going through.
So vv2-12 are Paul’s digression. They are an explanation of why the believers must not be discouraged about his arrest.
And as Paul writes, it all becomes clear. As he writes, we realize Paul can see the bigger picture of what God is doing in his life. Paul writes of a God-revealed mystery and a God-given ministry.
1. They must not be discouraged because Paul has received a God-revealed Mystery, 2-6
Paul wants them to recall the revelation of a mystery that he has received. Surely you have heard about this responsibility God has given me? He asks. That’s a very funny thing to say to a group of people you spent 3 solid years with (Acts 20:31). And it shows us again that this letter is not just to the Ephesians, but is a circular letter to all in that area.
The Damascus Road experience in Acts 9 was when Paul first heard this revelation from God. It was a call to be God’s chosen instrument to the Gentiles.
He calls this revelation, the mystery of Christ. In Greek language mystery doesn’t just mean a secret that we can’t understand. It means a secret that has been revealed. He says, v5, that the mystery of Christ wasn’t made known before as it is now. You see, Moses spoke of the blessing of all nations through Abraham. David spoke of the Messiah owning the nations as his inheritance. Isaiah spoke of Israel being a light to the nations, and of all nations flowing up like a river to Jerusalem. The nations were always part of God’s plan. The Gentiles were always going to be blessed. But what was NOT known to Moses, David and Isaiah was the extent of that blessing.
Paul goes on in verse 5 to say that it’s not only him that’s heard this from God, it’s, “been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.” Perhaps Paul is talking about what happened in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem Council. The whole Church met to decide what to do about all the Gentiles that were getting saved. They concluded, Acts 15:28, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us...” that the Gentiles should be freely incorporated into the Church without becoming Jewish.
So God revealed this mystery to Paul, and then to all the Church. But what exactly is this great revelation? V6 spells it out clearly for us (read)...