In Summary: Ephesians, like half of Paul’s writings, is a short book. Short on words, but not short on content. Had Paul lived in the Age of Blogging, he could do in one post what many of us take a series of posts to do. Summarizing Paul takes more words than he used to say it in the first place!
Ephesians 3 addresses Paul’s comprehension of the Gospel as the mystery of Christ. Whole books have been written on this, but I’ll give you the quick view. Paul understood God’s grace, provided to humanity through faith by Christ, was the necessary component to being reconciled with God.
That was only the half of it. The mystery extended to the unity of all mankind before God. First, the unity in need of salvation by grace. Second, the unity of all humanity in the provision of the Gospel. Third, the unity of all the body of Christ in salvation.
Rather than seeing the world as a hodge-podge of component parts, Paul saw the mystery of humanity as a whole in need of God. And he saw that mystery solved at the Cross of Christ, vanquished at the Empty Tomb.
In Focus: Yet in dealing with the mysterious notions of faith, Paul recognized there was a problem. The world had not seen the revelation that God had given him, and this included many who knew much of God’s revelation at that point.
The result was that Paul suffered tribulation for his beliefs. These tribulations were not private, and even in the pre-social media age, the church at Ephesus knew of them. His concern was not that he escape further tribulation. This may be our typical response, but Paul saw something more alarming than his own welfare.
He saw the potential for his fellow laborers, his sharers in the mystery, to lose heart (Ephesians 3:13). If they lost heart, then they would not pass on what they had learned. Even worse, they may have neglected the confident access to God through Christ (Ephesians 3:11-12). Consider the horror! Jesus suffered, died, and rose again that we may have access, confident access through faith.
And seeing Paul suffer was causing some wavering in the hearts of the Ephesians. That could not be left unaddressed.
In Practice: Not being an Ephesians, what do we do with this?
First, we learn the mystery of God. This is not some esoteric knowledge, for it is fully revealed in Christ Jesus. We have all we need in the Word of God, so learn the mystery.
Second, we act in line with the mystery of God. Divisions that we celebrated before the Cross are only to our shame now. The unsearchable riches of Christ are available to all—even us Gentiles!
Third, we pray in accordance with the mystery of God. Prayer is petitioning the Almighty, either on our behalf or for others. It is speaking with God, the King Eternal. And we may do so boldly. Praying for God’s will to be done is not the same as praying wimpy. Christian, you may go boldly to God. Better a “no” to your bold request than no request made at all, as we learn to trust Him.
Fourth, we encourage others in the mystery. Do not lose heart, and do not sit idly by while others lose heart. Build them up, hold them up, and do not let the tribulations that you will experience for being faithful pull you down.
Keep in mind, you share the beliefs of Paul, and the world has only changed methods, not masters. They persecuted him for what he said and did based on his beliefs in Jesus, and will do the same to us.
Keep heart, keep the faith, and share the mystery and wonder of the grace of God, through Christ Jesus our Lord!
In Nerdiness: Anybody notice Ephesians 3:3? “As I wrote before in brief”?
There’s another epistle to the Ephesians. Maybe it’s a postcard. We don’t have it, we don’t know what’s in it.
This does tell us that Paul’s writing exceeds what we regard as canonical. It also exceeds what is referenced, generally, in most of the Patristic writers. I can’t say that exhaustively, but generally speaking the references to Paul’s writings are fairly close to our own list.
What do we do with this?
1. We don’t panic.
2. We recognize that God preserved what we needed.
3. We use this springboard into trying to understand how we came to have what we have.
And then we also craft historical fiction about it, just for fun :)