Yesterday, I preached from Ephesians 3:1-6. Often times when statues are unveiled, it brings about a great deal of excitement among the people who are there for the ceremony. In cases of military leaders or royal figures, family members or perhaps close intimate people are there to see it unveiled and witness the standing memory of their father, husband, or friend. In the case of the church and the mystery of the Gentiles being included in the salvific plan of God, it was met with the opposite of enthusiasm. It was met with fierce opposition.
Paul had been saved on the Damascus road and commissioned as the apostle to the Gentiles. Now, while in prison, he was writing a letter that would be used to clear up some massive problems between Jews and Gentiles that was creating division among the church. In this section of verses, Paul pointed out his ministry and the mystery of the Christ and His church.
The Ministry of Paul to the Gentiles
Paul had been commissioned as the apostle to the Gentiles and as a result, the Jews hated him. Paul had been arrested as a result of two false accusations made against him which is recorded in Acts 21-22. Paul was accused of violating the Gentile boundaries in the temple and he was falsely accused of preaching against the Jewish law. Both were not true. He had not taken any Gentile into the temple area reserved for Jews and he had merely told the truth about Jesus tearing down the wall of division between Jew and Gentile. For that, he was the prisoner of Jesus Christ on behalf of the Gentiles as the first verse of chapter three records.
It should be pointed out that Paul believed that Jesus was sovereign over all things – including imprisonment. Not only is He sovereign over disease, weather, and eternal life – but he’s also sovereign over the imprisonment of His children. Paul was not the prisoner of Nero, but he was the prisoner of Christ. This not only brought Paul comfort, but it likewise clears up some issues pertaining to the present day false teaching of Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen known as the prosperity gospel. How much more dedicated and strong in the faith could anyone be in comparison to the apostle Paul?
The Mystery of the Church
The word used by Paul here is translated – mystery (μυστήριον). It literally means, “The unmanifested or private counsel of God (God’s secret). The word used here doesn’t always translate into English well. When we think of a secret or a mystery, we think of it is unsolved. The word used here that’s translated mystery actually refers to the information about God’s saving grace that was made known – only to a select group of people. In Colossians 1:26, we read the following: “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.”
Paul had learned of this truth regarding the Gentiles not by his own investigative skills, but according to divine revelation given to he and the other apostles. According to Ephesians 3:6, the Gentiles are “fellow heirs,” “members of the same body,” and “partakers of the promise of Christ” with the Jews. This was what Paul had been arrested for preaching, but here he writes it again – even risking his life – in order to make this critical truth known.
What lessons can we learn today?
Here we are at the end of eight years of our first African-American president in the history of the United States of America, and yet, we as a people are more racially divided than we were before Barak Obama took office. The divide is not much better in the evangelical church. The most segregated hour in our entire week is 11:00am on Sunday morning.
We need to stop trying to make the gospel a “white” gospel or a “black” gospel for the “white church” and the “black church.” Why do we have so many different types of churches in our cities? Some are devoted to different nationalities and others to certain socioeconomic demographics. And now, a popular thing in rural areas is the “cowboy church.” We would do well to stop trying to make the gospel a “country” gospel or a “city” gospel, because it’s the gospel of God and it’s not reserved for a certain color of skin — it’s the Revelation 5 gospel — and it’s for the whole world.