Summary: A hitherto hidden reality is now revealed.
THE UNVEILING OF THE MYSTERY
The “For this cause” of Ephesians 3:1 follows Paul’s contemplation of the reconciliation accomplished by our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:11-22). Jesus, by His own blood, had resolved the estrangement between God and man, and had broken down the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile. Paul was about to explain how the very thought of this drove him to his knees in prayer (Ephesians 3:14): but one of his characteristic parentheses (Ephesians 3:1-13) put the thought on hold while he allowed himself the luxury of sharing his personal testimony.
Paul was a prisoner (Ephesians 3:1), awaiting the opportunity to give an account of his Christian faith to the Roman Emperor (Acts 25:11-12). We must always be ready to give an account of the hope that is within us, to every man, and in every circumstance (1 Peter 3:15). Paul was a prisoner “for the Gentiles” - because it was for the promotion of his ministry as the Apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13) that he had been apprehended in Jerusalem (Acts 22:21-22).
“The grace of God” had been given to Paul (Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 3:7; Ephesians 3:8). This took the form of a personal revelation (Ephesians 3:3; Galatians 1:12). There are words for “revelation” and “making known” throughout this passage (Ephesians 3:3; Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 3:9; Ephesians 3:10).
1. This grace of God was given to Paul in order to unveil a “mystery” (Ephesians 3:3). “Mystery” is the key word in this passage, occurring in Ephesians 3:3; Ephesians 3:4; and Ephesians 3:9, and is the implied subject of Ephesians 3:5. Something new was being revealed, a part of the divine plan hitherto not known in all its fullness (Matthew 13:35).
The “mystery” centres around the grafting into Israel (Romans 11:17-18; Romans 11:24) of the Gentile believers (Ephesians 3:6). Ephesians 3:6 is the key verse in this passage, demonstrating that we are co-heirs of the same inheritance; fellow members of the same body; and joint beneficiaries of the same promise. All this is accomplished as both Jewish and Gentile believers are reconciled to God and to one another “in Christ” (Ephesians 3:6), and is proclaimed “through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6).
2. This grace of God was also given to Paul in order to commission him as a minister of the gospel (Ephesians 3:7): more specifically as the Apostle to the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:8). This came about by “the effectual working of His power” (Ephesians 3:7). The church early recognised Paul’s special ministry to the Gentiles, just as Peter’s remit was to minister to the “circumcision” (Galatians 2:8).
Paul was awed by this God-given privilege. What a wonder of grace, that the “less than the least” should be given this responsibility (Ephesians 3:8)! It humbled him, especially when he considered how undeserving he was (1 Corinthians 15:9).
Preaching is a privilege, and a responsibility never to be taken lightly. It is to proclaim the “unsearchable” riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8). Paul uses the same word in Romans 11:33, as he considers the unfathomable nature of God’s plan for mankind.
These “riches” include redemption from sin through the blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:7); being seated with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6); the double reconciliation of people with God, and Gentiles with Jews, making of the two “one new man” (Ephesians 2:14-16). These are riches indeed!
3. The “mystery” (Ephesians 3:9) is not a riddle to be solved, but the declaration of something which has been hidden hitherto in God, but which is now made known to all men. The “ministry” (Ephesians 3:10) is carried forward by the church, as the “manifold wisdom of God” is revealed to angels (1 Peter 1:10-12). God’s “eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:11) is at last made known in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we have confidence of access to God by faith in Him (Ephesians 3:12).
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).