The Mystery of God
1For this cause I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given to me for you-ward: 3How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ),
“For this reason” introduces the cause of Paul’s prayer and refers back to “truths” Paul had just discussed in Chapter 2 that the person in Christ becomes new, that all believers are in one body, that the Gentiles, who were once far away, now become near when they believe, that all believers are equally citizens of God’s Kingdom and members of His family, and that all believers are being “built into God’s Temple.”
14For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; 17That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18May be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length and depth, and height;
19And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge; that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 20Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout ages, world without end. Amen.
In these verses Paul prays for the hearts of the believers. He wanted them to know the tender love of Christ. Verse 15 embraces the whole family throughout all time. It embraces the individual member at the present time. Verse 16 tells of the Nature of God’s love and Verse 19, which passes knowledge. The sufficiency of God’s love is expressed in Verses 20 and 21: “Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.”
Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets: by the Spirit;
This is the “when” of this mystery.
That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel:
Verse 6 is the “what” of this mystery.
7Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effectual working of His power. 8Unto me, who am less than the least of all the saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
These verses are the “who” of this mystery.
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
Verse 10 is the “why” of the mystery.
Before beginning his prayer, Paul decided to go over again some of those truths which prompted it, emphasizing their Divine Source. The apostle Paul knew the value of repetition in teaching and the importance of establishing authority when teaching new converts.
None of us understand everything about a truth when we first hear it. God’s truths are so marvelous and vast that we will never comprehend them fully in this life, no matter how many times we hear and study them. Even things we come to understand to some extent we often forget and need to be reminded of and some truths would be unacceptable to our human minds if we did not know they came from God.
Many, therefore of His disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
2 Peter 3:16
As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
The apostle Paul looked on this appointment to ministry in two ways. First, it was a great favor. Paul realized that he was not made a minister in consideration of any worthiness or merit within himself, but rather according to the gift of the grace of God.
The sense of privilege and gratitude expressed by these words is all the more remarkable when we recall that Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles had cost him dearly.
The bitter hatred of his countrymen, the contempt of many of those he sought to win, the privations and perils of his journey are the indignity and pain of stoning, whippings, imprisonment. These things were part of the price Paul paid for preaching.
Even while he wrote these words, he was bound with a chain to a Roman soldier, and for all he knew, would never be a free man again, but Paul would feel that the service of Christ is an unspeakable privilege.
Paul saw his introduction into the ministry as involving the exercise of Divine Power. The primary reference is Paul’s induction into the office of apostle. His apostleship was to him nothing less than the result of the working of the omnipotence of God.
His words recall the scene on the Damascus Road, with its blazing light, outshining the noonday sun. Here, to be sure, was grace unspeakable, but here also was limitless power.
Paul not only saw his work as a stewardship of grace and as a service in the gospel by which the Gentiles were being brought into God’s redemptive purpose, he also interpreted it in terms of suffering. He knew from experience that the way of service is not always an easy way. For him the calling of God meant “blood, sweat and tears.”
If you read the catalog of his trials in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 you’ll see that even as he wrote this letter, there dangles from his body a chain that bound him 24 hours a day to a Roman soldier.
Paul magnified the dignity of his office, because he knew it was God appointed, but he was always possessed with a sense of his own personal unworthiness, as stated in Ephesians 3:8, Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.
There can be no doubt that preaching to the Gentiles would have been regarded by some of Paul’s contemporaries in the Christian church as the greatest humiliation of their lives but to Paul it was the highest honor, a grace and a gift that he welcomed with grateful and an adoring heart.
In Ephesians 3:14, above, Paul states For this cause, I bow my knees. This was no mere formal prayer. Paul deeply realized the immense importance of the petitions he was about to offer. He knew that as Christians, these experiences were needed.
He prayed that they may have spiritual power. Verse 16 above states “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.”
The “might” of the Holy Spirit in the inner man is the supreme need of every Christian in our own day. Herein lies the secret of our real influence for God: the power He is ready to give to the faint, the weak.
29He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength. 30Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 31But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.
See Ephesians 3:17-20, above, regarding the indwelling Presence and being “rooted and grounded in love.” The downward growth of the roots of our being are to be in the rich, fruitful soil of God’s love and the upward growth of the building of character is to be based also in love.
Rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
It is a great discovery to find out the immeasurable magnitude of that love wherewith Christ has loved us, and that no one can separate us from that Love!
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Paul knew that these were great requests, but the apostle knew that he was coming to a great and gracious God. “Ask and ye shall receive. He giveth liberally and upbraideth not.”
Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
If any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
Awesome, our God!