United To God's Plan — Personally (Ephesians 3:1-5)

During Fall 2017, I taught Calvary Monterey the book of Ephesians. During the series, I also wrote about Ephesians in sixty-plus short, devotionally styled posts. Each Thursday, through 2018, I will release a post. I hope you enjoy. For the entire series, please visit nateholdridge.com/united-for-unity-posts.

“For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 3:1–5).

Paul found great joy in the message of Ephesians 2, that Christ has made a pathway for humanity to receive reconciliation with God, but also with one another. The thought of Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free coming together under the banner of the blood of Christ as a new humanity thrilled Paul. Responsively, he longed to pray for the Ephesians (and every future generation of believers) to experience this radical love of Christ all the way down into the depths of their hearts. But, before praying, he ruminated over the glorious, mysterious plan of God. The fact that God made it possible for Gentile and Jew to live lovingly as one community of faith impressed Paul. He had to sing of it before he prayed about it. Like Paul, we ought to rejoice over being brought into the mysterious plan of God, responding with service, study, and the personal enjoyment of His plan.

1 Paul thought of himself as a prisoner on behalf of God’s mysterious plan.

It was no longer a mystery to him, so he proclaimed it. As he did, the Gentile portion of the church grew. He saw himself as unified with his Ephesian (and Gentile) brothers and sisters in Christ. On all his journeys Paul used a Jew first then Gentile strategy, but he was always faithful to preach to the Gentiles. In fact, it seems to have come into his mind here; he had been imprisoned precisely because of this unifying message. The Jews on the temple mount had heard out his case until he told them Christ had sent him to proclaim also to the Gentiles. Upon hearing this, they raged, and Paul was brought into Roman custody. Years later, he is still in prison, writing the letter as a prisoner on behalf of the Gentiles. Living out the truth of the gospel had cost this man. He was a prisoner for it.

2 Paul thought of himself as a steward of God’s mysterious plan.

Like a household manager responsible for staffing, accounting, and planning, Paul saw himself in charge of another man’s treasure. God had created this marvelous gospel and had entrusted it to his care. Paul was careful to wisely invest by preaching and writing and teaching, passing down the treasure of this good news to subsequent generations and all people groups. Perhaps the words of Christ rang throughout his mind, for Christ had spoken of good servants who wisely invested what was entrusted to them. Paul wanted to be like them, not like the third servant Christ spoke of, the one who buried his talent or wrapped his mina in a handkerchief (see Luke 19:11-27, Matthew 25:14-30). What that servant had was taken from him. Paul knew he was a recipient of the gospel so others could receive the gospel. He was not a dead end, but a highway for others to hear.

3 Paul thought of himself as having insight into God’s mysterious plan.

He called it “revelation.” Certainly, his insight and revelation are different than ours today, for we read Paul to gain revelation, but he had to receive directly from the Lord Himself. The timeline of his testimony bears out this direct revelation, for he spent three years in Arabia and some years in Tarsus before launching into his apostolic ministry in Antioch and beyond (Galatians 1:17-18, Acts 9:30, 11:25). By the time he climbed a second time to Jerusalem, fourteen years after his first post-conversion visit, he was able to confess that the apostles “added nothing” to him. Directly, Christ had discipled and taught him. His situation was unique but emblematic. The mystery of the plan of God has now been revealed in Christ. For every believer, the veil has been lifted. We can see the beautiful plan of God to create a new humanity by the blood of Jesus Christ. He has given us his revelation. Let us run in it!