Tuesday August 13, 2019
When writing Ephesians, Paul does not mention much about himself. He is writing to many who may have never met him as the letter would be passed from place to place. He is writing not a personal word of encouragement, but an exposition of the Divine Purpose as he had come to know it - a word of large import for multitudes who needed what he knew it was his to give them.
The gospel has spread more than Paul could have imagined, and not only through his ministry, but through many others, and he gives thanks for it. For the churches at large, Paul sets out to accomplish an almost impossible task - to set down in writing what was the Divine Purposes for the ages. The problem is not Paul’s understanding of it. The problem is the limits of human language. He begins the next section:
EPH 3:1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles —
It as if Paul reaches a resting place and sets forth to record one of his many prayers when he hears as it were the clink of his chain, and remembers where he is and why he is there.
EPH 3:2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace which was given to me for you;
EPH 3:3 that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.
Why is Paul there? The simple answer - the mystery that is Christ.
And then quickly Paul’s writing returns to the style of EPH 1:3-14. One prepositional phrase heaped upon another, almost seeming to attempt to grasp that which is too far away, first heading one way and then another, and all in one, long, parenthetical sentence.
The section is full of echoes of the earlier part of the epistle. Almost every great phrase has its counterpart in the first two chapters: the mystery made known by revelation; revealed by the Spirit to the apostles and prophets; the inheritance, the body, the promise, in which the Gentiles have their share in Christ; the grace of God, and the working of His power; the dispensation of the grace and of the mystery; the heavenly region; the purpose of eternity; the free access to God.
In chapter three Paul attempts nothing less than giving us a complete philosophy for human history (with the evidential fact that angels are intensely watching the church) and this had never been attempted before. But Paul has the secret, the mystery is known to him and he set out to make it known to us.
COL 1:25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God,
COL 1:26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints,
COL 1:27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
COL 1:28 And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ.
COL 1:29 And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.
Paul suggests through the ages one increasing Purpose has run through one Man and all into the culmination of one kingdom, and he even suggests that human history is intended to read a lesson to the universe. Would we like to be the part of that lesson in the way that God has desired for us?
The Purpose which is now made clear to him was included in the design of Creation itself. But it was a hidden purpose, a Divine secret, a mystery of which only an outline and shadow could be seen, but now revealed to God’s saints. It was shown to the great persecutor of the church and the torch was given to him so that he could light it up for the world, and in so doing, he would suffer much at the hands of the lovers of darkness.
Paul looks at his chains and thinks of the mystery of the ages.
When history is finished and all the saved are in heaven, the history of mankind from the fall to the last judgment will be well known, and each of us can be the part in that history that God willed and who brought glory to goodness, to truth, to love, to grace, to light - to God.
The mystery is Christ, Christ in you, and the body of Christ in this age of which we are fellow-heirs and fellow-partners, and concorporate in the same body.
EPH 3:6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,
“fellow heirs” - sunkleronomos; “fellow members of the body” - sussomos; “fellow partakers” - summetochos.
(EPH 2:5-6) “alive together” - suzoopoieo; “raised us up” - sunegeiro; “seated us” - sunkathemai
These truths belong to us as Christ belongs to us. He is in you and will never leave or forsake you. Your sins and iniquities He no longer remembers. He pronounces you clean, justified, and sanctified.
The Christian life should be smooth sailing, heaven on earth, but it is often a fight, for there is great opposition that can overpower us if we are forgetful and foolish.
It should be smooth sailing. Life of heaven flowing through my veins and my conscious mind all the time, full of peace and joy without fear - heaven on earth. This is not the reality of any Christian, not until he has spent years maturing, and even then, he has to continue to fight the good fight.
1TI 1:18 This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may fight the good fight,
1TI 1:19 keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.
What they rejected, says Paul in the second letter to Timothy, was the truth.
1TI 6:11 But flee from these things, you man of God [ungodliness, disputes over untruths, and greed]; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.
1TI 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold [aorist middle = for yourself] of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
1TI 6:13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate,
1TI 6:14 that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
1TI 6:15 which He will bring about at the proper time
Timothy had all the spiritual blessings (EPH 1:3) that Paul had, and both of them struggled in battle. Fight the good fight and “take hold fully” (epilambano) betray a struggle due to opposition against all the good spiritual gifts that have been given to us.
We might pause and ask, certainly as the disciples must have done at the beginning, “Why isn’t Christ here with us, helping us in this fight?” Someone might rightly reply that He is in us, but that is not what I’m getting at. Why isn’t He here fighting my battles and taming my desires with His presence and encouraging words? Why isn’t His presence here for me to look upon and be reminded and feel comforted?
This is a part of the battle. We must go by faith and not by sight. And, although Jesus isn’t here physically, He is seated at the right hand of God, above all conceivable rivals and He tells us that we have been made alive, risen up, and seated with Him in the heavenlies. This faith tells us that we can’t lose the war.
Christ’s suffering and our own