Paul tells God’s secret
Good News for non-Jews1All of this is why I, Paul, was taken prisoner by Jesus the Messiah so I could help you non-Jews. 2I’m assuming you’ve heard about that, about how God showed his kindness to me, for your benefit. 3He revealed to me his mysterious plan, as I’ve briefly written about earlier.
4As you read this letter, I think you’ll begin to understand the insights I’ve been given into the mystery of the Messiah. 5These mysteries remained secret to people in earlier generations. It’s only now being revealed by the Spirit to the Messiah’s devoted apostles and prophets. 6Here’s God’s plan that I’ve been entrusted to pass along to you. Non-Jews are equal partners with Jews when it comes to the inheritance God promised. Because of Jesus the Messiah, everyone shares equally in the blessings God promised to his people. 7Through God’s kindness and power, I became a minister—a servant delivering this message. 8Of all the souls devoted to God, I’m the least deserving of this kindness. For some reason, I of all people have been given the honor of telling even those who aren’t Jews about the treasures beyond imagination that they have in Christ.
9I’m here to say it plain and simple so everyone can understand it. God created everything, and he’s the one who decided to hide his mysterious plan throughout the ages. 10But now, God in his great wisdom has decided it’s time to let everyone know, including rulers and other power brokers in the spiritual dimension. 11God carried out his plan. He did it through Jesus the Messiah, our leader. 12Because of our faith in Jesus, we can go straight to God himself—boldly and full of confidence. 13So people, let me ask a favor. Don’t get discouraged when you hear about how I’m suffering for your sake. Instead, feel honored.
Paul prays for strength14All of this that I’m going through makes me drop to my knees before the Father, 15who knows the name of every family in heaven and on earth.
16I’m asking that God would draw from the storehouse of his treasure to find strength and power that he can pass along to you, from his Spirit to your spirit. 17I’m praying, too that the Messiah will live on in you through your faith, which grows its roots deep into love. 18I want you and all believers everywhere to receive the spiritual power that it takes to understand just how wide and long and sky-high and ocean-deep is the love of Christ. 19You can’t know it intellectually by filling up on facts. You have to fill up on God. Fill up all the way to the top.
Paul’s energetic benediction20To God, who can do more than we could ever think to ask, 21I say glory, praise, and hallelujah. Praise him in the church and in the name of Jesus Christ from generation to generation to forever and ever. Amen.
The Greek word, charis, is often translated “grace.” It also means “loving-kindness,” “good will.” And it often refers to the merciful kindness of God.
Apostle means “official messenger,” such as a delegate or an ambassador sent to deliver a message. The title “apostle” came to mean disciples hand-picked by Jesus to tell his story and spread his teachings. The title usually referred to the 12 original disciples of Jesus and to Paul, who met Jesus in a miraculous encounter while Paul was traveling to Damascus to arrest Christians (Acts 9:5).
More literally, “grace.”
Why do you think Paul described his role as a minister in prison terms: “I, Paul, was taken prisoner by Jesus” (3:1)?
Paul was preaching about a radical shift in the ancient Jewish religion. Essentially, the Chosen People weren’t as elite as they used to be. Now, everyone was chosen: “Here’s God’s plan that I’ve been entrusted to pass along to you. Non-Jews are equal partners with Jews….Because of Jesus the Messiah, everyone shares equally in the blessings God promised to his people” (3:6). What do you think it would have taken for a Jew in Paul’s day to swallow that sermon?
Paul says some remarkable things in Ephesians 3. What one point do you think would have astonished his readers most of all? A few contenders:
- “Non-Jews are equal partners with Jews when it comes to the inheritance God promised” (3:6).
- “Because of our faith in Jesus, we can go straight to God himself” (3:12).
- “I want you and all believers everywhere to receive the spiritual power that it takes to understand just how wide and long and sky-high and ocean-deep is the love of Christ. You can’t know it intellectually by filling up on facts. You have to fill up on God” (3:18-19).
Exactly how “wide and long and sky-high and ocean-deep is the love of Christ” (3:18)? How do you think Paul would have answered that question with examples from his life and ministry? How could you answer that question with examples from your life?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul felt compelled to take the story of Jesus on the road, in spite of the suffering he experienced: beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, and probably nasty comments about his mother. Have you ever felt compelled to do something that took you out of your comfort zone? If so, talk.
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul actually seemed to appreciate his suffering for the sake of others. He seemed to feel honored, because he wanted the people for whom he was suffering to feel honored: “Don’t get discouraged when you hear about how I’m suffering for your sake. Instead, feel honored” (3:13). Do you know of anyone today who has a right to feel honored because of what they have suffered?