Thursday, June 2, 2011


Ephesians 3:1

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 

Paul's great desire was for the Church to rise up and continue to grow and build.  Paul has made certain that the Ephesians know and understand ALL THAT GOD HAS DONE to bring it about!  And, we have spent weeks learning this as well!  So, it's for THAT reason . . . so for this reason . . . what?  What is the apostle trying to say here? He doesn't finish his thought.  At least not yet.  "I, Paul," the apostle who can write in "asides" and "digressions" without us ever even realizing it, who so fluently and fluidly writes under the influence of his mad passions and mad skills and mad knowledge of truth . . . doesn't finish this thought until verse 14 where he softly and humbly says, "For this reason . . . I kneel . . ."  We'll have to wait a few weeks to finish his thought. Whatever he is trying to say, it if for this reason: the Church, this mystery wrapped in flesh.  In the meantime, we will sort out all that's in between verses 1 and 14.  (It's kind of like he put a really long thought in parenthesis between 1 and 14.)

St. Paul in Prison by Rembrandt

Paul is a prisoner in Rome.  Paul, however, refuses to regard himself as a victim either of the Jews or of the Roman emperor, rather, he is the prisoner of Christ Jesus.  This statement alone marks him as a true apostle.  It is because of his calling to the Gentiles that the Jews had him thrown in prison.  In Acts 21 we read this account.  Paul arrived in Jerusalem and was immediately warned by fellow Jewish believers that Jews from the province of Asia were in hot pursuit of him, watching for any reason to accuse him of breaking Jewish law.  When they sited Paul in the city with Trophimus, an Ephesian convert, they assumed that Paul had paraded him inside the temple area.  This would be a stretch of an accusation since a) it was forbidden in Jewish law for Gentiles to enter the temple, an act requiring the punishment of death for the gentile who entered; b) Paul was extremely educated in Jewish law and would not have been so careless as to risk the life of Trophimus in such a way; and, c) the law required that Trophimus be punished for entering the temple, not Paul.  They were looking for a reason to imprison Paul -- to stop him from including Gentiles in the promises of God and in the process converting Jews to believers in Jesus Christ as Messiah.

His calling was to the Gentiles but he also loved his fellow Jews.  Paul, a Jew of Jews, zealous for the law, once a Pharisee and persecutor of those who belonged to the Way . . . it is for the sake of the Gentiles that he is imprisoned.  Refusing victim status, no whining or complaining about his circumstances, is a prisoner of Jesus Christ whether he is in chains or walking free -- his status and calling is sure.
. . .circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.  But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  Philippians 3:5-7, NIV


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