Have you noticed how the more you want something the more likely you are to pray for it? And to pray for it consistently. That means if you want to know what someone is really passionate about, see what they pray for regularly.
Well Paul is about to let us in on the great desire of his heart. He’s about to tell us what it is he prays for the church. He begins, “For this reason ...” Then he stops. He’ll continue his prayer in v14, but first he wants to reinforce what he’s been saying. He wants to make sure that they understand the significance of ‘this reason’. Remember last week we read “you were [once] without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” Once there were two nations: Jews and Gentiles, separated by a dividing wall of hostility. But now an amazing thing has happened. Christ has broken down that wall. Christ “has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace.” (Eph 2:12-13 NRSV) And Paul has been given the ministry of the gospel to bring this change to fruition.
So he begins to pray for them. But then he stops because he’s so excited by the thought of this new humanity that he wants to make sure that they understand how much God has done for them. He wants them to see just how important this new sense of unity is to the proclamation of the gospel. He wants them to fully appreciate the privilege of being given the revelation of the mystery of the gospel.
The revelation of the mystery of the gospel
He says “surely you have already heard of the commission of God's grace that was given me for you, 3and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation.” Do you remember Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus? How Jesus spoke to him and told him he was to take the gospel to the Gentiles? And now here he is explaining the mystery of that gospel, the mystery of Christ, to these people in Ephesus.
So what’s so mysterious about it? Well, to our minds a mystery is something that needs to be unravelled by a detective, to solve a crime. But in Paul’s day the term was used of the inner workings, the inner truths, of a religion, that were revealed only to the initiated. So they were truths that some people knew about and so could reveal to others. Here, though, the mystery was known only to God. Not even the angels in heaven knew about it until it was revealed through the apostles and the prophets. But now, at last, the mystery has been revealed. In fact Paul himself has been instrumental in revealing it to all peoples. It’s a bit like Poirot or the Mentalist gathering all the suspects in a room and finally revealing whodunit.
But what’s the content of this mystery? (v6): That the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel of the same promise, (the promise to Abraham); that they’re fellow members of the same body (the body of Christ); and that they’re fellow sharers in the promise. What promise? The promise of eternal life, of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, of a place in God’s kingdom, etc. And this shared privilege is at the same time “in Christ” and “through the gospel.” In other words, it comes about as the Gentiles are incorporated into Christ and that’s brought about by the preaching of the gospel (v6).