Verse one is rather like a false start in a sprint race: the runners seem to stop as soon as they have begun. Or, more literally, Paul interrupts himself before he has completed half of one sentence! “For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles…”
What was he going to say next? Perhaps we will never know! What follows is a lengthy theological digression where Paul teaches about the ‘mystery’ – or secret plan – of God to bring together all kinds of people in a unity in Christ, with Christ as the head of this great body. This ‘improbable’ unity is something that will bring enormous glory to God and will be a particular demonstration to all the mighty forces of evil in the spiritual realms that God is so wise and so gracious. Every mouth will be shut, and no-one will be able to argue!
The reason that the great Redemption Story had originally to be a ‘mystery’, is explained in 1 Corinthians 2:6-10: 6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him— 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The prophetic predictions about the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ were ‘encrypted’ by God as ‘mysteries’ in his scriptures, and can only be revealed by the Spirit of God and with the benefit of hindsight. Otherwise the forces of darkness, with this prior knowledge, would not have allowed themselves to fall into the redemption ‘trap’ that God had prepared in Christ.
Paul is totally honoured to be given the job of making this unity happen – through the preaching of the gospel. The gospel is such an amazing source of God’s power to create unity: between God and mankind, and between one human and another. It is a ‘glue’ that needs to be applied to all creation! It was once a mystery, but now the secret needs to be exposed.
Paul ends the chapter with one of the great prayers in scripture. He prays for you and for me. This is the second prayer in Ephesians (see also Chapter One). In that first prayer, he prays for us to know Christ better and to understand the amazing richness of our inheritance in Christ, and his huge power that is ready for us to tap in to.
Here in chapter 3, Paul prays for the power of the Holy Spirit in us to make Christ completely at home in our bodies and souls (giving us all the faith we need to make this happen). He also prays that we have power to comprehend the vast love of Christ and to know, enjoy and project this amazing love into the lives of others. (See 1 John 4:12) We will be saturated and flooded with the love of God!
Does God have any limits? No: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (v20). God can do anything! If we have failures in our praying, then it is not because God is unable. More likely, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 5) or we fail to find out what God is willing to do. (1 John 5:14)
I wonder if this prayer was the ‘reason’ that Paul began to talk about in verse one of this chapter? Or else…