Ephesians 3:1-9 Preacher to the Gentiles

Although Paul was a Jew, his main ministry as a Christian evangelist was to the Gentiles.  After his conversion on the Damascus road he was visited by Ananias, who baptised him.  In preparing Ananias, the Lord told him regarding Paul, ‘he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel’ (Acts 9:15).  In writing to the Ephesians Paul now turns to describe that ministry to the Gentiles that the Lord had committed to him.  Consider now Ephesians 3:1-9 Preacher to the Gentiles.

1. The position Paul occupied

Paul was one of the apostles whose ministry was foundational to the New Testament church (1:1).  He describes his ministry not in terms of grandeur or the respect due to him.  He is:

            servant (v7): he is not a master of the gospel – he occupies the position of a servant.  He is a servant to do the will of his Master.  The stress is on God’s action – the work is a gift of his grace.  Paul is aware of his unworthiness.  Christians are called to work in a different spirit from the world (Matthew 20:25-26).  God does not use arrogant workers.

            less than the least (v8): Paul is conscious of the sin from which he has been saved.  He depends totally on God.  This also emphasises the privilege he has received.  He is amazed by the contrast between the glorious task and the unworthy instrument God uses.

            prisoner (v1): This is what doing his work faithfully has brought him.  Paul knows, however, that this is God’s will for him – he is a ‘prisoner’ too in the sense of obedience to Christ.  Suffering indeed authenticates the message – 2 Corinthians 11:16ff.

2. The commission Paul received

From conversion, Paul has had a specific task – ‘to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ’ (v8).  Paul in his early work Paul began with the Jews, but turned to the Gentiles when the gospel was rejected (Acts 13:46).  He proclaims a ‘mystery’ (v4,6,9) – this refers to the plan of God which man could never have discovered but which God has now revealed.  The work Christ would do ‘for ages past was kept hidden in God’ (v9), but when the right time came it has been revealed (v5).  The message originates with God (Galatians 1:12).  The gospel we preach is God’s message, filled with his truthfulness, commanding obedience, requiring proclamation.  This is an ‘administration’ (v2 or ‘stewardship’) – a task for which we will have to give account to the Lord.

3. The message Paul preached

The message is ‘the mystery of Christ’ (v4) – the presence of God’s reign and salvation in him.  It centres on the person and work of Christ.  The ‘mystery’ is ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Colossians 1:27).  One vital element of this gospel – the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel’ (v6).  Together they make up one Body – the Church.  Their unity is stressed – ‘together’ is used 3 times.  The death and resurrection of Christ establish a new humanity, transcending human divisions.  This is the only message we have for the world.  We must ‘make [it] plain to everyone’ (v9).  Apart from the gospel people are in darkness.  We have a wonderful gospel – ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ’ – a privilege to hear and proclaim.

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