Wednesday, 10 August 2016
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—Ephesians 3:1
The words, “For this reason” take us back to the previous chapter which highlighted, in particular, the bringing in of the Gentiles to the commonwealth of Israel. It being a spiritual entity means that we now share in the same benefits of that of Israel, without having replaced Israel. God is working on building a household out of both Jew and Gentile in which He will dwell. It is “For this reason” that Paul begins his next line of thought.
In the coming chapter, but especially in verses 1-13, Paul is going to meticulously weave two thoughts into one. These thoughts will be built upon the preeminent thought of the previous chapter, that of Gentiles being grafted into the commonwealth of Israel. The first thought is an explanation of this new concept of the bringing in of the Gentiles. The second thought is the result of the first, which is Paul’s selection as the “Apostle to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13) to both reveal this mystery and to provide instructions concerning it.
The reason why verse 13 is selected as the end of the insert of this two-pronged discourse is that it says, “For this reason, I Paul…” in verse 1, and then it says, “For this reason I bow my knees…” in verse 14. Because of this, it seems that the insert thought runs especially from verse 2 to verse 13.
After stating His name, thus designating the identity of the one whose task will now be explained, he further identifies himself as “the prisoner of Christ Jesus.” This is a phrase he will repeat of himself in several other epistles. It shows the length that Paul was willing to go through for the sake of the gospel, even unto imprisonment. It further shows that the gospel is not chained, even if he is. In essence, the chains of Paul reveal the will of Christ for Paul. As a prisoner, Christ is able to use him to show that His gospel can overcome any such obstacle. This truth has been borne out countless times in history since then, and it continues to be borne out in the world today.
It is to be noted that there is an article in front of “Christ Jesus” in the Greek. It says “the Christ Jesus.” Paul is showing that there is one Christ, or Messiah, and that He is found in the Person of Jesus, and in Him alone. He is the Christ who was promised at the beginning and it is He who is revealed in the message which Paul now proclaims to the Gentiles.
Finally, Paul notes that he is Christ’s prisoner “for you Gentiles.” The very purpose of his imprisonment, as well as all of Paul’s sufferings, was to make the gospel known outside of the Jewish people. It was the Jews that pursued Paul from place to place. As they did, the message spread. It was often the Jews who brought Paul before the leaders of whatever area he was in. When they did, the gospel message spread. And at times, Paul was imprisoned because of the words and accusations of his own countrymen. And when this occurred, the gospel spread. The wisdom of how God transmitted the gospel, both then and now, is especially evident in such cases. Where there was a supposed triumph over the message, it turned out to be a victory for its continued spread.
The chains of Paul are a way of showing empathy for his audience as they struggled with their own conversions. They may have lost friends, jobs, or even family over their receiving of Christ, but Paul was with them in spirit. He was also subjected to such difficulties, and yet he was able to spiritually overcome them. Thus, his words were intended to show them that they could too.
Life application: If you want proper church-age doctrine, stick to the words of Paul. Everything else is written for our learning and edification as well, but Paul’s letters are especially directed to the Gentile-led church age. They are our “marching orders” during this dispensation of time.
Lord God, thank You for the marvelous words which You have revealed in the pages of the Bible – that Gentiles have been brought near to God through the shed blood of Christ. Whereas we were once far off from You, we are now close. Whereas there was once enmity between us, there is now a propitious relationship. Thank You that we can call on You and know that our words are heard. Thank You for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.