Read: Ephesians 3:1-13
Consider: When reading Ephesians 3 you might think it is a bit disjointed. Paul starts off introducing his train of thought in verse 1 and then seems to go off at a tangent, before returning to what he wanted to say in verse 14. This might give you the impression that what Paul says in Ephesians 3:2-13 is merely an aside and of little importance. However, this is not the case.
You can almost sense Paul’s excitement as he writes this part of his letter to the Ephesians. The letter is most likely a circular letter that was expected to be read out in the churches in the region near Ephesus. Having started to speak, Paul digresses to speak of the mystery of the gospel and what it has been designed to achieve.
While Paul says: In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ (Ephesians 3:4), he is not giving his personal opinion of what the mystery is. Rather he is speaking only of what has been revealed to him; ‘… the mystery made known to me by revelation …’ (3:3). Paul mentions twice (3:5; 3:9) that the mystery was hidden from previous generations, but has now been declared openly through the preaching of Paul and the other apostles. So what is this mystery Paul speaks of?
First we need to understand that while Paul speaks of the mystery and it being hidden, this does not mean that it was impossible for others to learn of it. In fact, it remained a mystery, although it was hidden in plain sight in the Old Testament scriptures (e..g. Isaiah 42:6; 49:6). The issue was that God did not allow the previous generations to understand the significance of what had been foretold. God foretold that the Messiah would be a light to the Gentiles and that his salvation would reach to the ends of the earth.
In Ephesians 3:6 Paul tells us that the mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are:
- joint heirs with Israel;
- members together of one body;
- sharers together in the promise of Christ Jesus.
This should affect how we see the church, the bride of Christ. Clearly from these scriptures we are told that the church is and will be made up of those who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, whether Jew or Gentile. In his letter to the Galatians Paul says: For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Cephas and John, those esteemed pillars … agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised (Galatians 2:8-9). This should also influence how we pray for the Jews and their salvation.
Today’s reading gives us a renewed perspective of what the church really is and how God’s plan was always to extend his salvation to all nations of the earth. As Christians we should be praying for the Jews, that they might come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. We might also consider praying for and financially supporting those organisations that seek to proclaim the gospel to the Jews.
Pray: Father, your true church is made up of believers from many different nations. We pray specifically for Jews who have been blinded to the knowledge of Jesus as their promised Messiah. May they come to know and understand the offer of salvation open to them in Christ, accepting him as their Saviour. Amen