Ephesians 3: The Mystery of Redemption
By Dr. Donald Whitchard
“For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles – if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets, that the Gentiles should be partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.”
– Ephesians 3:1-7 (NKJV)
The Mystery of Redemption (vv.1-7)
(ICB) Paul is a prisoner in Rome for the “crime” of causing unrest in the Empire by preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has made a declaration of being “an apostle to the Gentiles” (Acts 9:15-16, 18:6), being given His commission directly from the Lord Jesus of which the Ephesians church is a product (vv.1, 2). The LORD had revealed to Paul that salvation is for both Jew and Gentile, obtainable only through Jesus. Many others have desired to know the plans and wonders of God but has revealed them to only a select few entrusting them with the proclamation of His message (Deuteronomy 29:29) (vv.3, 4).
The apostles were ordinary men who had known only hard labor and menial tasks. They were not scholars or people of high social stature, but regular down-to-earth men who were chosen by the Lord Jesus to spread the message of salvation (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16, 9:1-6) for not just His fellow Israelites but to all peoples (Matthew 11:28-30; John 3:16). Paul, who at one time was a hateful fanatic who despised Christ and His followers (1 Timothy 1:12-17) had encountered the risen Christ on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-6) and made him a “chosen vessel for service.” This he did by giving the gospel message to the Roman world (vv.5-7). Perhaps your own testimony is not dramatic as you might believe, but you were given the opportunity to come to Jesus just as much as the vilest, most hideous reprobate that fell on his knees one day and cried unto the LORD for salvation. We are all now redeemed from our sins and have escaped the just punishment in hell we all deserve because of Jesus, and for this we are to give Him all glory and honor.
Redeemed to Proclaim the Message of Christ (vv.8-13)
IN almost all his letters, Paul reflects on his encounter with Christ and always reflects an attitude of thanksgiving, wonder, and humility in that Jesus allowed Him the honor of preaching the Gospel. It is that state of humility, where Paul had been blinded and taken to a house in Damascus where he was to be welcomed as a brother in Christ by Ananias (Acts 9:10-19), whom Jesus had called to go and minister to this humbled and rebuked Pharisee. After a short time, Paul became a “man on fire” for the cause of Christ and never stopped even amid severe troubles (2 Corinthians 11:24-33) until he was martyred for his faith decades later (2 Timothy 4:6-8). It was not until Paul was made to bow before the LORD and be knocked off his pedestal of self-righteousness and sin that he could be used for the glory of God. That should be a lesson to all of us when we think that we are too important or not expendable (James 4:6). When we see ourselves as the sinners we are and that we are nothing without the mercy of God, that is when He can use us. It is because of the work of Christ and not us that we have access to God and are able to talk with Him as a friend as well as our King. We come to Him not as proud adults, but as a little child full of trust and dependence on Him (Mark 10:15). Paul tells the church that they need not be worried or lose heart over his situation as a prisoner. Knowing that many people had come to faith in Christ through his preaching and pastoral concern, he believed that it was worth the hassle.
The Message of A Grateful Heart (vv.14-21)
Paul’s marvel at Christ’s saving grace upon him never dampened or wavered throughout his life. There are times when he could not grasp it yet was thankful for this act of mercy not just upon himself but on everyone who has come to faith in Christ. When did we lose that wonder? When did we place this act of love upon a shelf and carry on as if nothing happened? Because of Paul’s obedience to the call and the preaching of the Good News of Christ, lives were transformed and churches like the one in Ephesus were planted to continue spreading the Word of God and to assure everyone that Christ’s act of grace was for everyone. Paul prays that the Lord Jesus would grant his readers spiritual strength and riches in the Holy Spirit, that Christ would dwell in their hearts enabling them to understand HIs love, knowledge, and glory, and to be continually filled with the traits of the LORD. This prayer is totally selfless. He was not requesting prayers to get him out of prison or anything on his own behalf. His prayer was for the spiritual growth and maturity of the churches and wanted Jesus Christ to have all the glory no matter the situation. Would that we all have that same attitude which is sorely lacking in the Christian world of today. Paul’s prayer concludes with the benediction of declaring the gracious, immeasurable desire of God being able to do that which we are unable to conceive or ask, giving all glory and praise to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, would we pray like that.
Donald was born and reared in the authentic Cajun country of south Louisiana. He is a 1978 graduate of LaGrange High School in Lake Charles. He is also a graduate of Louisiana College (B.A. in History Education, 1984), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1994) and Andersonville Theological Seminary (Doctor of Ministry, 2000). He is an ACPE Certified Chaplain with training in Trauma/ER, NICU, and Psychiatric Pastoral Care from the McFarland Institute in New Orleans (2003). He has over thirty years of ministry service, which concluded when he was called to serve as pastor of Meadowbrook Baptist Church in Muskogee, Oklahoma from 2017-2018. Due to health concerns, he retired from public ministry in 2020 and now devotes his time to internet evangelism through the writing of Bible studies, sermons, and articles on current issues for varied Christian webpages and ministries. He is a regular contributor to sites such as Rapture Ready and Sermon Central as well as Inspirational Christian Blogs. He and his wife Cathy are both active members of Eastern Heights Baptist Church in Muskogee. Don will often serve as a panel member of the Gospel Rescue Mission Pastor’s Round Table Broadcast, shown monthly on the mission’s Facebook page as his health allows. He has a personal evangelistic blog as well and can be contacted at his Email address.