The Power of Revelation
For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles — 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
In chapters 1 through 3 of Ephesians, Paul seeks to make sure the believers grasp the stunning glory of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. In 3:14-21, he will offer the great climax to this proclamation in an act of prayer and worship. Right before he does, Paul once again reiterates the revelation that has been entrusted to him, the call to proclaim that revelation and the cost of that calling.
1. The Revelation Given to Paul
Paul beholds Jesus Christ as Lord and it transforms his life. In verse 3, he mentions how “the mystery was made known to me by revelation.” There are two key words: revelation and mystery (secret).
A. Revelation (apocalypse) – unveiling, appearing, manifestation: a continuous and unceasing flow of information and power. From revelation to revelation (The Bible is apocalyptic in that it moves from revelation to revelation.)
2 Corinthians 3:12-18
12 Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech — 13 unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
B. Mystery – “To close” – something kept hidden but now is revealed in the preaching of the gospel.
This mystery or secret is Jesus Christ. In him, dwells all the fullness of God. In him, is our redemption. “In Christ” all through Ephesians. God’s secret is not some heavenly mystery that only the initiated learn. It is God’s action in human history in Christ. God reveals himself, his power, his redemption, his glory in and through Jesus Christ.
This mystery is now unveiled. While this mystery was not fully unveiled in previous ages, it now is revealed in the act of proclamation (verses 5 and 9). The mystery hidden for ages – aeons. For ages and ages it was hidden in God. The depths of God’s love would only fully be unfolded after he created man. For man has been chosen by God to be the recipient of the revelation of his unending depths of love.
This mystery grafts the Gentiles into the chosen people. When Jesus is proclaimed, eyes of faith open to the mystery. Thus “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word.” As Jesus Christ is proclaimed, the Gentiles realize that they are grafted into the people of God by Jesus (verses 6 and 8). When the message is proclaimed and we believe, we join the covenant community of God’s elect people, formerly limited only to the children of Israel. Now we enter into their history by the culmination of their history in Jesus Christ.
This mystery is unsearchable, unfathomable – beyond searching out (verse 8). God does not open himself to man’s inquiry. God can not be studied in the lab or the classroom. Rather, God reveals himself to man but man will never penetrate the depths of God’s wonder and glory. So every time God reveals a glimpse of his person, we are overwhelmed in worship and wonder. This knowledge does not puff up or make us superior but like Paul is humbles us revealing our low estate and God’s incomparable mercy and grace. So instead of making us spiritual snobs, it makes us people of prayer and worship. In the Eastern Orthodox Church theology is a discipline of prayer. You cannot be a theologian if you are not living a life of prayer.
This mystery reveals the manifold wisdom of God. Manifold is like intricate embroidery or the varying ways that light is reflected through a diamond. In God’s church, the impact of the revelation of Jesus Christ transforms each member to reflect God’s love in a particular way. Then the whole body, joined together in Christ, reflects the manifold wisdom of God.
2. The Call to Proclaim this Revelation
Paul is commissioned to proclaim this revelation to the Gentiles. Paul’s authority is not in himself but in the revelation of the secret – Jesus Christ (“Mystery of Christ”).
A. Stewardship – “stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you” – stewardship – oikonomia – oikos (household) nomia (administration) administration of a household affairs. This is the origin for our word economy: a management of resources. This is translated in the KJV as dispensation (one place where dispensationalists find their argument). In this sense, dispensation would be a method or system of government suited to the needs of a particular nation or time (OED). Paul has been given resources (grace) for the Gentiles. It is his responsibility to manage these resources or pour out these resources on behalf of the people. One theme which repeats itself throughout this passage—grace is not given for one person to enjoy or store up but rather to be poured out on behalf of God’s elect.
B. Grace. Verse 7 like verse 2 emphasizes that the grace has been given to Paul to serve the body. This grace has made Paul a minister. The actual word minister is diakonos (deacon) or servant, a waiter (to serve at table). The revelation of Jesus Christ has called Paul to serve and given him the resources (grace) necessary to wait upon God’s people—the Gentiles.
The Cost of the Call
The revelation of Jesus Christ transforms Paul into an expression of revelation. Conversion and calling are one movement that flows from the salvation realized in the revelation.
Like Paul, we are to become lights in the universe
The calling makes Paul into a prisoner, steward and servant of this revelation.
Prisoner for Jesus Christ on behalf of the Gentiles – Bringing liberty to the Gentiles cost Paul his freedom. Proclaiming life led to his death.
The calling humbles Paul (verse 8). Instead of making Paul feel superior, he realizes his lowly estate. It is only God’s call that animates him.
In Christ, the eternal purposes of God are revealed and this produces boldness and faith in Paul.
Do not lose heart over my suffering. The call of the gospel will cost us. It cost Paul everything: his freedom, his respect, his life. And it was worth it.
Peter gives us an example of the calling.
At first Jesus tells Peter, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
He calls Peter to be one of the twelve apostles.
He calls Peter to come to Him, walking on the water.
He calls Peter (and the others) to follow him by taking up the cross and dying.
He calls him to stay awake in the garden.
Finally, he calls Peter to let go of everything, even his own power of life. “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”
The calling in the end was no different from the calling in the beginning. Bonhoeffer said that “When Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
The call is a call to conversion, to submission, to worship, to confession, to Jesus Christ. It is a call to eternal life that comes through death. It is a call to let go of everything, even our very life, and yield to the love revealed in and through Jesus Christ alone.
In the beginning the call simply comes as an invitation to “Follow Me.” This path, this quest, this journey will reveal more wonder and glory than we thought possible on this earth, but at the same time, it will ultimately make us of prisoners, servants, and stewards of the call. So that eventually our lives will be but a dim reflection of the shining glory emanating ever forth from Jesus Christ.