Title: AN UNFATHOMABLE MYSTERY BROUGHT ABOUT RICHES
Text: Ephesians 3:1-13
From our previous study in chapter 2, we saw how excited Paul was about the reconciliation that came about between the Jews and Gentiles because of the work of Christ. Paul wanted his Gentile readers to grasp their new standing. A passionate prayers wells up in Paul’s heart and spills forth on the page in 3:14-21. But before he shares that prayer, he wanted to tell them about that reconciliation and how he became a minister of it. Read Text.
It’s just like Paul to be humble. Instead of highlighting his position as an apostle, he describes himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ. Then he continues to describe the great mystery of God that he was commissioned to declare. It was through carrying out this commission that put Paul into prison. We need to remember that Paul wrote this letter from Prison in Rome (Acts 28). A quick survey of Acts chapters 20-28 will reveal that every time Paul proclaimed the Gospel, he was met with opposition (Acts 22:21-22; 26:22-24; 28:28-29).
1. Why do you think Paul’s preaching provoked such a hostile response? (The message he preached to the Gentiles struck at the heart of the Jew’s sense of spiritual privilege.)
Insight: When you take a message to another people group that had for centuries been the possession of the Jews, you dilute their sense of “specialness.” These were the ones God gave the Law, the Commandments, and the Covenants…and now you give that message to those who were “unclean”? What was Paul thinking?!! No wonder it struck at their heart of racial superiority.
2. When the poison of bigotry is injected into the heart, what does it produce? (A prideful heart…and it’s ugly.)
3. Was God’s message stopped by Paul’s imprisonments? (No. He converted soldiers, and he wrote letters that spread the message even to the 21st century.) Phil. 1:12-14; 4:22
4. What personal application do you get from the fact that God used Paul greatly even in bad circumstances?
Insight: Nothing touches us that has not first passed through God’s hands. Even that which Satan intends for our buffeting, God is in control to bring good from it. Acts 23:10-11; Rom. 8:28
5. When was the stewardship of God’s grace given to Paul for the Gentiles? (3:2) (At his conversion.) Acts 9:10-16
6. Six times in Ephesians Paul uses the word “mystery,” three of which are in our text. In English we use the word to refer to something dark, obscure, secret, or puzzling. Paul actual defines what the mystery is in our text. What is it? (3:6 – That the Gospel would be also be taken to the Gentiles, and thus they are fellow heirs and members of the body of Christ right along with believing Jews.)
Insight: The Christian mysteries are truths, which, although they are beyond man’s discovery, they have been revealed by God and are now openly known to those who belong to Him. These are far from being dark…but to the unbelieving world, indeed they are puzzling. The Jews knew there would come someday a Messiah, but they were not ready to welcome a Messiah that would embrace Gentiles too.
7. How does verse 6 describe the extent to which the Messiah, Christ, would embrace the Gentiles? (He would make them fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ.)
Insight: Human birth may bring racial distinctions, and with it prejudices…but supernatural birth erases them. What a beautiful mystery! That’s grace at its greatest redeeming factor!
8. Notice Paul stresses in verse 7 that he was made a minister of this Gospel of grace – he did not make himself a minister…he did not choose to become one by his own will – but it was God’s choosing that made him one. In light of that, how did Paul view himself according to verse 8? (The least of all saints.)
9. Why would Paul call himself the very least of all saints? (Because of his past persecution of Christians)
1 Cor. 15:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:12-16
Insight: Even this “foremost” sinner was a recipient of God’s unfathomable grace! Not only did he receive salvation, he was made a minister of this Gospel of grace to the Gentiles, who took it far beyond any borders of any other apostle.
10. There’s something HUGE in verse 10…don’t miss it…look close…Paul states what reason he was made a minister of this gospel of grace. What is it? (That this gospel, the wisdom of God, would be made know through the church to rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.)
Insight: This chief of sinners preached a gospel that not only became known and accepted among rulers, but also made an impact with authorities in the spiritual realm! Be encouraged…though you may think yourself a chief sinner…when God uses you to share the Gospel, you, too, can impact the spiritual realm and make the demons flee! You see, it’s not the vessel, but the contents of the vessel that has the power to demolish strongholds! 1 Cor. 10:3-6
Eph. 3:11-12 What an awesome calling…to testify of God’s great wisdom in redeeming the worst of all sinners and be used reconcile others to God!! To have a part in such a divine calling cannot help but motivate us to spread the Word even more! The results are astounding when you thinking about it. When someone accepts the Lord through our witnessing, Christ has broken the bonds that held them in the kingdom of darkness and transferred them eternally into the kingdom of light! Our words have eternal consequences!
What a wonderful mystery! The Father planned it…the Son made it possible…and the Spirit empowers us to do it!
No wonder Paul could then state, “Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are for your glory.” (3:13) Paul was in effect saying, “My being in prison is your glory.” Thank you God…thank you Paul…for your imprisonment resulted in us receiving the Epistle of Ephesians and all the riches it contains! To the Ephesians, Paul’s arrest may have looked bleak, but Paul reminded them to look beyond the circumstances to the benefits. Paul wanted them to see what he saw…that God had not lost sight of Paul…and He won’t lose sight of us either! A personal relationship with the Author of the Gospel of Mystery can guard your heart from discouragement when the circumstances seem impossible! No suffering, no hardship, no problem can overcome us if we abide in God’s presence and ask Him for the confidence that He will see us through!