By Will Hall, Baptist Message executive editor
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM) – In the first chapter of the Book of Ephesians, Paul set the tone for his explanation about redemption by emphasizing that “the means” for salvation is “in Christ.”
In Chapter 2 Paul described this “blessing” as the “grace” of God — again “in Christ” — and he contrasted “grace” with “works” to help readers understand the enormity of the gift.
In Chapter 3, Paul expanded his message, adding depth to the concept of the “mystery” mentioned earlier — “that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in Heaven and which are on earth—in Him” (Ephesians 1:1).
Importantly, his instruction throughout this letter was framed, in large part, in the context of addressing the Judaizers who had plagued his ministry and the expansion of the church by demanding that new Christians be circumcised and held to the standards of Mosaic Law.
Within this perspective, Paul explained that “the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ” (Ephesians 3:6), a direct reference to Isaiah 49:6, which prophesied that Jesus would come not just for the benefit of Israel but also “as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.” Moreover, in addressing the “mystery,” Paul clarified that “the Gen – tiles should be fellow heirs … through the Gospel” or “in Christ” (v. 6) — and thus not through circumcision or the Mosaic Law as demanded by the Judaizers.
Paul then noted that he was specifically called to “preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (v. 8).
He added that the purpose of “the church” includes making known this “manifold wisdom of God … to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,” indicating that the church’s mission on earth extends also to heaven.
A number of biblical scholars explain that this means the purpose of the church is to share the Gospel in such a way as to ultimately glorify God to the universe.
Paul also underscored this point to the Corinthians (“apostles … made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men,” 1 Cor. 4:9) and to a Jewish-Christian congregation (emphasizing that their witness was also to “an innumerable company of angels,” Hebrews 12:22).
Likewise, Peter touched upon this point, stating that angels “desire to look into” the Gospel mystery (1 Peter 1:12).
Finally, Paul closed this part of his letter to the church of Ephesus by offering to pray – “I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” — that this congregation would “be strengthened … rooted and grounded in love … and … know the love of Christ” (vv. 14-19).
Importantly, Paul’s message to the Ephesians should encourage us, knowing that the Gentiles to whom the “mystery” applies includes you and me, and that our Gospel witness includes a heavenly audience.
This is the third installment of a six-part series for the January Bible study on the book of Ephesians.