Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Study in Ephesians: Part 14, Ephesians 3:1-13

Ephesians 3:1 For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—

More transitions words from Paul here, indicating some significant dependence on his preceding statements. He is about to share something in light of what he previously shared. What he specifically has in mind here as the reason for what he is about to share can be seen in the latter half of the verse,  "the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles". At the end of chapter 2, Paul is focusing in on how the mystery of God's plan to bring glory to Himself includes bring Gentiles to salvation as well as Jews, creating for Himself a single body of believers from two disparate groups. So, as a culmination of that idea, "For this reason", he continues...

Ephesians 3:2-4 you have heard, haven’t you, about the administration of God’s grace that He gave to me for you? 3 The mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have briefly written above. 4 By reading this you are able to understand my insight about the mystery of the Messiah.

... except that he doesn't. Seeing the chapter as a whole, we see that the "for this reason" continuation is not picked up until verse 14. Here, Paul takes a moment for a parenthetical digression. You can almost hear the wonder in his voice. It's like he was writing "on behalf of you Gentiles" and just stopped for a moment. It's hard for us to fathom how incredible it was to the Jews that their Jewish Messiah was a Messiah for the Gentiles as well. If he was having a conversation about this with someone, he might have said, "Do you realize what I just said there? This is incredible! Jesus is the Messiah not just for the Jews, but for the Gentiles as well!"

In fact, that's essentially the tone that I see here in verse 2. "You have heard, haven't you, ..." This is a big deal, and despite the lack of the instant press of our Internet days, Paul expects this news to have gotten around and seems like he would have been surprised if they hadn't heard. This is similar to Isaiah 40:28 that I wrote about yesterday. "Do you not know? Have you not heard?" There's an incredulity in both writers' words, even more so in Isaiah, as if to say that the writer finds it hard to believe that anyone could not know what he is sharing. I don't think that Paul meant to belittle those who may in fact not have heard. The mystery has been revealed! Jesus is the Messiah for both the Jews and the Gentiles! Like a child on his birthday who receives an amazing gift, Paul is excited about sharing this revelation with all who will listen.

I want to finish out here focused on "the administration of God's grace that He gave to me for you". I was really struck by this phrase, especially the parallel we find in spiritual gifts. Paul had a special mission and a special message for a specific group of people. He was not content to simply glory in his own experience of the gift or mystery. It was one that demanded to be shared, and Paul eagerly complied.

I see spiritual gifts in the same light. God gives each of us a measure of Himself, whether mercy, wisdom, teaching, or shepherding, for the express purpose of building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12, 1 Corinthians 12:7-11). As a disciple of Jesus, the Holy Spirit has given you specific gifts to be used to build up your local church body. That is part of your mission in life, and this mission cannot be accomplished on your own. You must be actively involved in a local church body to use your gifts. You yourself have a special "insight about the mystery of the Messiah" through how He has revealed Himself in your gift mix. 

Part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus is to be actively involved in a local church body. Just like a physical body with a non-functioning organ, if you don't play your part and do the work God has given you, then that local body is not as healthy as it could be. 

For we are His creation,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared ahead of time
so that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10