20 October 2010

Ephesians 3:2-12

"The mystery was made known to me by revelation ... that is, the gentiles have become fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promises in Christ Jesus through the gospel." (v.3, 6)


In his letters to the new Christian communities in Greece and Asia Minor, Paul had to account for the seeming newness of his conviction that Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) alike are equal members of the Body of Christ. His answer was that he has not invented a new doctrine - it has been God's plan all along.

It is only now however, through revelation to Paul, that this mystery has been revealed. Until Christ, the mystery was hidden. But now in Christ the mystery is revealed and has been made known to Paul so that he might exercise his ministry to the Gentiles. Paul is careful not to claim any credit for himself. He is able to achieve this only by saying, first, that it is God's plan, not his; and secondly, that he didn't discover this plan but was simply the recipient of revelation. It is extraordinarily important to Paul that he is not seen as the inventor of a new doctrine but that he is simply the one called to be the apostle who exercises a ministry to the Gentiles. Paul remains a Jew and is anxious not to alienate fellow Jews.

Paul's aim in today's passage is to show that God has extended the privileges previously enjoyed only by Jews to all people. This is not an easy task, as self-evidently privileges which are extended to everyone cease to be privileges enjoyed by the few. Paul's only secure argument is that it is God who has done this now in Christ and that God intended all along to follow this course.

Of course, in part, this argument is a justification for Paul's own ministry; but it is much more than that, for it touches on the very character of God who shows no partiality.

To Ponder

In what ways might you feel comforted by the notion that God shows no partiality?

In what ways might you feel threatened by the notion that God shows no partiality?

Can you imagine what other mysteries God might have yet to unfold for us? What do you think they might be?

Is God calling you to some particular ministry or piece of work, as an outworking of God's purposes?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr David Calvert

David is a retired Methodist minister whose active ministry included a mixture of circuit ministry and theological education..