World English Bible translation
3:1For this cause I, Paul, am the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles, 3:2 if it is so that you have heard of the administration of that grace of God which was given me toward you; 3:3 how that by revelation the mystery was made known to me, as I wrote before in few words, 3:4 whereby, when you read, you can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ; 3:5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 3:6 that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, 3:7 whereof I was made a servant, according to the gift of that grace of God which was given me according to the working of his power.
Yesterday we wrote about Paul being the "Apostle to the Gentiles." Paul elaborates on this theme in this passage of scripture. Paul writes that he is "the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles…" He may mean here that he is a prisoner in a Roman jail at this time and he is a prisoner "for" Christ Jesus. He may well have been a prisoner when this was written, but I think that he is using the image in a different sense. He is a prisoner "of" Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus has conquered his rebellion and holds him prisoner. He is not held against his will. In fact, he sees his imprisonment as being the grace of God given to him.
And in this passage we have the term mystery, again. The mystery was revealed to Paul that through the death of Christ, God was making the promises of Israel available to the Gentiles. He writes that they will know that the mystery was revealed to him because he has already written to them "in few words" concerning his revelation. It is not certain at all what writing Paul is speaking of here. It is likely that it is some lost epistle that was not collected. Regardless, Paul writes that in this age the mystery has been revealed.
The "holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit" have received this revelation along with Paul. In this sense, Paul is speaking of New Testament prophets who were active in the early Christian church. The office of the prophet was highly respected in the first century. Those with the gift of prophecy would preside over the sacramental Lord's Supper. The prophet was one who spoke the words of God to His people.
The mystery is that the Gentiles were "fellow heirs", "fellow members", and "fellow partakers of the promise" with those believers who were Jewish. Paul has already written about the inheritance of believers and that Christians are members of the body of Christ. The promise that he refers to is the great promise given to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-4. God had promised to make of Abraham a great nation. God was claiming a people for Himself.
Throughout centuries the Jews had understood themselves to be a chosen people. They were distinct. God had chosen them to keep His ways and His laws. Many times they had failed to do these things, but there was still a pride and a privilege associated with being of the chosen people.
Now, God was opening a new way. The heritage of the Jewish people is still a beautiful one that honors God. Jesus of Nazareth and all the apostles that He appointed were all Jews who actively confessed and followed their traditions and participated in the cultural life of the Jewish nation. But now, through the sacrifice of Jesus, God was reaching out to all people. The time had come for the gospel to reach out to all people.
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