Ephesians 3 (NRSV)
Paul’s Ministry to the Gentiles
This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
During his Roman imprisonment Paul was under house arrest. In the day he was free to move around the house with the supervision of soldiers, but every night he was chained to a soldier to make sure he did not escape before his trial before Caesar. Yet he saw himself as the prisoner of Jesus Christ. He knew that Jesus was the Lord of his life, not the Roman government, so if he was a prisoner, he was Jesus’ prisoner.
2for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, 3and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Isaiah 49:6 (NIV)
And now the LORD says—
“I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
7Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. 8Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
“It is as if a great drama is being enacted. History is the theatre, the world is the stage, and the church members in every land are the actors. God himself has written the play, and he directs and produces it. Act by act, scene by scene, the story continues to unfold. But who are the audience? They are the cosmic intelligences, the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.”
11This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. 13I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory.
My sufferings for you: Paul wrote the Letter to the Ephesians from prison, and it is useful to remember why Paul was in prison. He lived his whole life with the passion to bring salvation to his own people, the Jews (Romans 9:1-3). On a strategic visit to Jerusalem he had the opportunity to preach to a vast crowd on or near the temple mount (Acts 21:39-22:22), but the opportunity ended in disaster because the Jewish crowd could not stand the idea of the good news of the Messiah being extended to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21-22). The ensuing riot put Paul in a legal dilemma, from which he used his right as a Roman citizen and appealed to Caesar. Now Paul was imprisoned in Rome, waiting for his trial before Caesar – and there because he knew God wanted Gentiles to share in the good news of the Messiah, and he wasn’t afraid to preach that truth.
They are your glory: Paul was being used, and probably in a greater way than he ever imagined. This Roman imprisonment produced the letters of Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon. They all certainly have a place in God’s eternal plan.
In the same manner, each of us has a place in the service of God’s eternal plan. Knowing this and working towards it is a great guard against losing heart in the midst of tribulation.
Prayer for the Readers
14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
from Let’s Get Moving by D. Stuart Briscoe:
“I bow my knees unto the Father” may appear to be a singularly unimportant expression to us, particularly if we habitually kneel to pray by our beds or in specially padded pews in church. But Jewish men usually didn’t kneel to pray. They stood up! Anyone who has been to Jerusalem will have been strangely moved by the crowds of men standing at the Wall swaying and rocking on the balls of their feet, all the time reading their prayers. That was how Paul would traditionally pray, but for some reason he had changed his posture.
On the relatively few occasions that Scripture records people kneeling to pray, it is noticeable that deep emotion of an extraordinary nature was related to the incident. For instance when Solomon’s Temple was dedicated the king knelt (see 2 Chronicles 6:13); when the Lord was in the Garden of Gethsemane he “kneeled down and prayed” (Luke 22:41); and when Paul said his farewells to the Ephesian elders on the seashore he “kneeled down, and prayed with them all” (Acts 20:36). So we are probably right in assuming that Paul was deeply moved at this point of his dictation and slipped to his knees to respond to the things he had been sharing.
This I find to be very challenging. How rare it is for people to be driven to their knees by nothing other than a consideration of what God has said!
15from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit,
17and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
Can we really comprehend the width and length and depth and height of God’s love? To come to any understanding of the dimensions of God’s love, we must come to the cross. The cross pointed in four ways, essentially in every direction, because…
· God’s love is wide enough to include every person.
· God’s love is long enough to last through all eternity.
· God’s love is deep enough to reach the worst sinner.
· God’s love is high enough to take us to heaven.
19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,
“Therefore he is able to do all things, and able to do superabundantly above the greatest abundance.”
21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
HERE is “The Love of God” sung by Mercy Me. Frederich M. Lehman wrote the words in 1917 in Pasadena, California.
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.
Could we with ink the oceans fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the oceans dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure–
The saints’ and angels’ song.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.