Summary: Paul reminds his converts that the mystery of God, that we’re to show God’s glory through our unity under Christ has been revealed in the gospel, then prays that the power of God might be given to the church so they can achieve that end.
Have you noticed how the more you want something the more likely you are to pray for it? And to pray for it consistently. That means if you want to know what someone is really passionate about see what they pray for regularly.
Well Paul is about to let us in on the great desire of his heart. He’s about to tell us what it is he prays for the church. He begins, "For this reason ..." Then he stops. He’ll continue his prayer in v14, but first he wants to reinforce what he’s been saying. He wants to make sure that they understand the significance of ’this reason’. Remember last week we read "you were [once] without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." Once there were two nations: Jews and Gentiles, separated by a dividing wall of hostility. But now an amazing thing has happened. Christ has broken down that wall. Christ "has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace." (Eph 2:12-13 NRSV) And Paul has been given the ministry of the gospel to bring this change to fruition.
So he begins to pray for them. But then he stops because he’s so excited by the thought of this new humanity that he wants to make sure that they understand how much God has done for them. He wants them to see just how important this new sense of unity is to the proclamation of the gospel. He wants them to fully appreciate the privilege of being given the revelation of the mystery of the gospel.
The revelation of the mystery of the gospel
He says "surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, 3and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words." Do you remember how Paul was converted on the road to Damascus? And how Jesus spoke to him and told him he was to take the gospel to the Gentiles? And now here he is explaining the mystery of the gospel, the mystery of Christ, to these people in Ephesus.
So what’s so mysterious about it? Well, to our minds a mystery is something that needs to be unravelled by a detective, to solve a crime. But in Paul’s day the term was used of the inner workings, the inner truths, of a religion, that were revealed only to the initiated. So they were truths that some people knew about and so could reveal to others. Here, though, the mystery was known only to God. Not even the angels in heaven knew about it until it was revealed through the apostles and the prophets. But now, at last, the mystery has been revealed. In fact Paul himself has been instrumental in revealing it to all peoples. You could liken this to the way scientists have been working to unravel the secret of DNA, so they can understand more of the mystery of life. The more they unravel, the more the mystery is revealed.
So what’s the content of this mystery? (v6): That the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel of the same promise, (the promise to Abraham); that they’re fellow members of the same body (the body of Christ); and that they’re fellow sharers in the promise. What promise? The promise of eternal life, of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, of a place in God’s kingdom, etc. And this shared privilege is at the same time "in Christ" and "through the gospel." In other words, it comes about as the Gentiles are incorporated into Christ and it’s brought about by the preaching of the gospel (v6).
So he goes on to talk about the grace of God given to him:
To reveal that mystery to the nations
In fact Paul hints at it in v2. The word translated commission there is the term stewardship. That is, he’s been made a steward, a caretaker, of the gospel, of the grace of God. The result of the revelation of God’s grace is that he’s given the responsibility of telling others about it. He says in v7: "Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. 8Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ." This is a great privilege he’s been given! He says "I was the least of all God’s people. But look what’s happened to me. In God’s grace I’ve been allowed to share the gospel with the Gentiles." "I’ve become the instrument by which this mystery has now been revealed to all peoples." Again, he points us to this mystery: (v10) "that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places." Here we come to one of the most amazing statements about the Church that you’ll find.