Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Have you tried to share the good news (gospel) of God's grace with friends, family, and other believers, but have been met with fierce rejection? If you have, know that you are not alone.
Fierce rejection by many in the religious community was the common response to Paul when he shared the good news of God's grace, which he called the mystery of the gospel. That is why he asked the Ephesian church to pray for him. He asked them that words be given to him so that he would fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel of grace of which he was an ambassador.
He made similar prayer requests in other letters to the churches. He asked the Colossian church to pray for opportunities for him to share the gospel and that he communicate the mystery of Christ clearly (Colossians 4:3-4).
He mentioned in 2 Corinthians 4:2 and Ephesians 3:9 about plainly sharing the gospel of grace to people.
It was Paul's heart to fearlessly, clearly, and plainly share the gospel. Yet when he did, he was often angrily opposed, rejected, and slandered by many in the religious community. That is why he requested prayer as an ambassador of the good news of grace.
What is the mystery of the gospel, which was rejected so widely and angrily by the religious people in Paul's day, that Paul desired to share fearlessly, clearly, and plainly? Paul states exactly what the mystery is in Ephesians 3:2-6.
Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
According to Paul, who received the revelation of the mystery directly from the ascended Jesus (Ephesians 3:2; see also Acts 20:24, Galatians 1:12), the "mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus."
This is the mystery given directly from the ascended Jesus to Paul. This mystery is Jesus' message to the human race which Paul desired to share fearlessly, clearly, and plainly.
Let's take a closer look at the mystery given to Paul through revelation by the ascended Jesus.
A mystery is when something happens and people are in the dark as to why it happened. They are confused and have no understanding of what happened. They are perplexed. They scratch their heads searching for answers to and reasons for what happened, but find none.
When Jesus died on the cross, rose from the grave, and ascended into heaven, it was a mystery to people. No one understood, including his closest disciples, exactly what happened at the cross. They had no insight, as we do today, into the riches of God's grace contained in the books of Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Hebrews. They understood the prophecies about the coming Messiah as the King, but what he did for them as their Savior on the cross, they were confused...in the dark. They thought Savior meant the Messiah was going to save them from Roman rule. So they were puzzled by the cross.
That is until the ascended Jesus appeared to Paul and gave him the revelation of the mystery of the gospel (good news) of grace. Jesus gave Paul the insight into the riches of God's grace that freely, fully, and forever came to us through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:6-8).
Surely you have heard about the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by REVELATION, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my INSIGHT into the mystery of Christ...
Paul mentions in the above verse that he had briefly written about the mystery in the preceding chapters of Ephesians, which the Ephesians had read about in his letter to them. We will look at that portion of the mystery of grace a little later.
For us to fully understand the mystery, we must have an understanding of the prophecies in the Old Testament. God's heart was to reveal his love to all the nations of the world. So he chose one man, Abram (Abraham) to start a nation (Israel) that would be a light to all the other nations (Gentiles) (Isaiah 49:6, 60:3, Luke 2:32).
God told Abram (Abraham) that he (Abram) would be the father of a great nation, which we now know is Israel. Through Israel, God would reveal his love to all the other nations (Gentiles) in the world. All the people, all over the world, would see God's salvation (Isaiah 40:3-5; Luke 3:4-6). The salvation they would see would be Jesus as their Savior-King (Luke 2:25-32).
As the nation developed, God, through prophets, foretold of a Messiah or Christ who would be born as Israel's Savior-King. As Savior, he would die for the sins of the nation, be buried, yet also, would be raised from the dead (Isaiah 53; Psalm 16:8-11, Acts 2:22-35).
As King, he would rule from David's throne, bringing peace and prosperity to every nation in the world (Isaiah 9:1-7; Jeremiah 23:5, 33:14; Zechariah 9:9-10; Micah 5:2-5). By ruling as King, he would bring the Kingdom of God (Heaven) to earth. By dying as Savior, he would enable people to be a part of his Kingdom by dying for their sins(Isaiah 53).
The coming Kingdom is a part of the the Lord's Prayer when he says in Matthew 6:10, "Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
The Gentile nations, in their search for God, had created many handcrafted idols as their god. They worshiped these idols as god. Israel was formed by the true God to shine the light and love of God into the darkness of the Gentile nations.
For Israel to fulfill their God given destiny, he gave them the law through Moses. One of the purposes of the law was to keep Israel separated from the Gentile nations so they would not blend into to their social and religious cultures, resulting in Israel no longer shining as a light to the Gentiles, but actually becoming like the Gentiles in the worship of false gods.
The law became a wall God used to divide the people of Israel from the Gentiles. It would keep the Gentile people out of the nation of Israel and Israeli people out of the Gentile nations. However, if Gentiles desired, they could convert to Judaism ( by following the law of the Jews) and know the true God.
Remember, God's heart was to bring salvation to all the nations, resulting in peace and prosperity for all. He would do this through Israel...through the Messiah...through Jesus who would come as Savior-King. Therefore, God gave the law to separate Jew from Gentile so he could ultimately bring salvation to both the Jews and the Gentiles.
When Jesus, the Messiah (Christ), was born, he presented himself to Israel as their King. This is seen in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Yet they rejected him, calling for his crucifixion (John 19). Again, this was because they believed the Messiah would save them from Roman rule as their Savior.
But then, just as the prophets foretold, he rose from the dead! (Luke 24). He appeared to over 500 people (1 Corinthians 15). He spent time with his disciples, explaining to them about the Kingdom of God on earth which would flow through Israel, again as the prophets foretold (Acts 1:3-6).
Following the ascension of Jesus, Peter, in Acts 2:14-39, empowered by the Holy Spirit, spoke to thousands of Jews in Jerusalem, seeking to convince them that Jesus was the Messiah (Savior-King) and that he had risen from the dead and ascended into heaven just as the prophets foretold. In Acts 3:17-21, he told them that Jesus would return and times of refreshing would come to the world.
In Acts 7, Stephen recounts the history of Israel to its leaders to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. But, violently, the leaders of Israel rushed him and stoned him to death. One of these leaders was Saul, who gave approval of Stephen's execution (Acts 8:1).
Saul, who we know as Paul, set out to eradicate the movement among some of the Jewish people who believed Jesus was the Messiah. As he made his way to Damascus, breathing out murderous threats against them (Acts 9:1; Acts 22, 26), Jesus appeared to Paul (Acts 9). Through this appearance, and other future appearances to Paul, the ascended Jesus gave Paul the revelation of the mystery of grace. Paul's insight into the mystery of grace came directly from Jesus.
Paul writes about the content of revelation of the mystery in Ephesians 1-4. It is this revelation he wanted to share fearlessly, clearly, and plainly.
Let's take a look at chapters 1-4 in Ephesians so we can have a better understanding of the mystery of grace our ascended Jesus revealed to Paul by revelation.
The ascended Jesus revealed to Paul the following:
- We have been blessed by the Father with every spiritual blessing in Christ (1:3). Paul lists these blessings starting in verse 4.
- We were chosen, before the world was ever created, to be holy and blameless in Jesus (1:4).
- God sees us as holy and blameless (1:4).
- Before time began, God predetermined to adopt us into his family as his sons and daughters. Having us in his family as his sons and daughters gave him great pleasure (1:5).
- All of these spiritual blessings came freely to us through God's wonderful grace which was in Jesus, whom God loved (1:6).
- We have redemption (the full, final, and forever payment for our sins) through Jesus' blood (1:7).
- Because of redemption, all of our sins have been fully and forever forgiven by God (1:7).
- Redemption and forgiveness came through the grace God lavished upon us (1:8).
- It has given God great pleasure to make known to us the mystery of his will...the spiritual blessing he has freely given us in Jesus (1:9).
- God, in his perfect time, will bring all things together in heaven and earth into perfect unity under Jesus (1:10).
- God chose us to be a part of his perfect plan of grace which he is working out (1:11-12).
- The first people to put their hope in Jesus, who brought grace to the human race, were the Jews (1:13).
- Gentiles were also included in Christ when they heard the truth about Jesus, the good news of salvation by grace (1:14).
- Upon believing, God sent the Holy Spirit to live in both Jews and Gentiles as a deposit guaranteeing their eternal inheritance in God's kingdom (1:15).
- God is going to redeem (set us free from this present age of world problems and pain when Jesus brings all things together in heaven and earth into perfect unity) all believers because we are his valued possessions (1:15).
- Because of God's great love, rich mercy, and abundant grace, he made us alive with Jesus when were dead in our sins (2:4-5).
- God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Christ in heaven (2:6).
- Not only do we now experience the kindness of God's grace, which he expressed to us in Jesus, but we will experience the kindness of God's grace in the age to come, eternal life in his Kingdom (2:7).
- By God's grace and through faith (not works), we have been saved from the wrath our sins deserved. Salvation has been given to us by God through grace in Jesus and we receive his gift of grace through faith (2:8-9).
- We don't boast in ourselves...we do not boast in our religious activity or morality to save us. We boast in what God has freely and fully done for us in Jesus to save us (2:9).
- Those who have received God's free gift of grace by faith in Jesus become God's masterpiece of grace...his handiwork of grace (2:10).
- God has prepared good works for those to walk in who have received his grace by faith (2:10).
- The Gentiles, who were at one time separate from Christ, excluded from Israel, having no understanding of the covenant and promises God made to Israel concerning the Christ who was to come into the world to shine the light of God's love and grace, and having no hope, no meaning, and no purpose because they did not know the real God, have now been brought near to God by the blood of Jesus (2:11-13).
- Through the cross of Jesus, God brought peace between Jews and Gentiles. He made the two groups (Jew and Gentile) one family of grace...one body...one new race through the cross of Jesus. In doing this, through the cross of Jesus, God abolished the law and commandments which had previously separated and created hostility between Jews and Gentiles. The law and commandments were no longer necessary because they were given to keep Israel separated from the Gentile nations until the Christ came (2:14-17).
- Both Jews and Gentiles, as members of the same family of grace, have equal access to the Father through the Spirit who lived in them (2:18-21).
At the beginning of Ephesians 3, Paul explains he had been given the administration of God's grace for Gentiles. He was given this administration by revelation from the ascended Jesus (Ephesians 3:8; Acts 9:15, Acts 13:47, Acts 22:21, Acts 26:16-18; 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 2:17)). Jesus had given Paul the task...the assignment...of sharing with the Gentiles the mystery of God's grace...the good news of the cross...the good news of the spiritual blessing freely given to them by grace and received by faith...the good news of being a part of the family of grace...the good news that they did not have to convert to Judaism to know God, but simply could know him personally through faith in Jesus.
In fact, Paul had been given the assignment by Jesus to announce that God, through the cross, had brought an end to Judaism, canceling its rules, regulations, laws, and commandments (Ephesians 2:14-15; Colossians 2:13-14) which they had been under for 1500 years. He announced that no longer would a Gentile need to convert to Judaism to to know God, but simply by faith in Jesus could know God...both Jew and Gentile. He announced that Jews and Gentiles were equal and no longer separated, and that they now formed one new group of people...God's family of grace.
They now equally shared in God's grace together. The had one body (the family of grace)...one Spirit (the Spirit of Jesus in them), one hope (all that Christ had done for them)...one Lord (Jesus)...and one God and Father of both the Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 4:1-6).
Paul encouraged them to relate together in unity in this new family of grace...where they shared in Jesus together. He encouraged them, as the Spirit of Jesus desired, to have peaceful relationships with one another through humbleness, patience, gentleness, and love toward each other (Ephesians 4:1-2).
He taught them to no longer say things to one another that would tear each other down but that would build each other up with words of grace (Ephesians 4:29). He taught them to lay aside years of anger and bitterness by giving grace to each other as God had given grace to them in Christ (Ephesians 4:30-31).
Jesus had given Paul quite a task. Breaking the news to the Jews that the law had been abolished and replaced by grace, and that they now were one with the Gentiles through faith in Jesus, was not a message the Jews welcomed. As a matter a fact, most Jews rejected the message, angrily and violently attacking Paul because of the message. Just as the religious people in Jesus’ days put a target on Jesus...they now had now made Paul a target.
What is ironic, is that Paul was one who had made the early followers of Jesus his own personal target, as he breathed out murderous threats against him...now those same threats were being made toward Paul.
In making Paul their target, they slandered him greatly because of his message of grace, accusing him of being light on sin, not caring about sin, and actually giving people a license to sin (Romans 3:8). In Paul's message of grace, he said that all people, both Jews and Gentiles are sinful and in need of grace. He said that none are righteous before God and that the law condemns all men, both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 1-3).
Paul taught that the law, the Ten Commandments, actually increased sin, making us aware of our need for grace (Romans 5:20). He gave an example of the law increasing sin and making us aware of our need for grace in Romans 7:7-25. He taught that God's grace came freely, fully, and abundantly to all people as a gift and could be received through faith in Jesus, resulting in eternal life to the one who received God's gift of grace (Romans 5:12-21).
God gave the person who placed his or her faith in Jesus the gift of righteousness and eternal life (Romans 5:17, 21).
As instructed by Jesus, Paul shared all had sinned and fallen short of God's righteousness and the only way to be righteous before God was by grace through faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-25).
Paul then went on to teach, in has administration of the mystery of grace, that we are no longer under law, but under grace (Romans 6:14), and we now relate to God, not through the written code of the law, but by the Spirit of Jesus (Romans 7:6) who lives in us, enabling us to call God "Abba Father" (Romans 8; Galatians 4:4-6).
Paul used the word charis, which is the Greek word for grace, or its derivatives, over one hundred and forty times. His use of the word grace is more than all of the other writers of the Bible combined. This is because the ascended Jesus gave Paul the revelation of grace as it related to the cross.
This emphasis on grace brought Paul into great conflict and into many debates with the religious Jews (Pharisees and teachers of the law) who emphasized the law for righteousness (Acts 15). Paul taught that a person is justified by grace through faith in Jesus, not by the works of the law (Acts 13:39; Romans 3:21-28). The Pharisees and teachers of the law taught that people are justified by following the law, or by the combination of faith and following the law (see Acts 15 and Galatians). They despised Paul because of the message of grace the ascended Jesus had given him to share.
The mystery of grace that Paul was making known, as stated previously, made many religious Jews angry. Their anger caused many to desert grace and return to the law out of fear (Galatians 1:6). One of these who returned to the law out of fear of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, was Peter. Yes Peter, the disciple of Jesus. He was so afraid of the Pharisees and teachers of the law that he abandoned grace and returned to the law. But Paul boldly confronted him in front of all the Pharisees and teachers of the law for setting aside grace and returning to the law (Galatians 2:11-21).
God made Paul competent as a teacher of the new covenant of grace (2 Corinthians 3-6:2). As an ambassador of the ascended Christ, speaking for Christ himself, Paul shared that God loved people and demonstrated his love for people through the death of Jesus (Romans 5:8). On behalf of Jesus, he taught that God reconciled all men to himself through Jesus, not counting our sins against us, and that through faith in Jesus we could be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
On behalf of Jesus, as Jesus’ ambassador on earth, Paul taught that if anyone was in Christ, then that person is a new creation, and the old covenant of law is gone and the new covenant of grace has come (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).
Yet this was impossible for many to see. Their hearts remained hard to the new covenant of grace (Hebrews 3:12). There was a veil that covered their hearts. Only when someone turned to the Lord in faith could they see the truths of grace, one of these truths being they were no longer under the old covenant of law, but under the new covenant of grace. In seeing the truths of grace in the face of Jesus, the Spirit, which lived inside them, set them free from the old covenant law and transformed them into the very image of Jesus as they beheld the grace of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:13-18).
As you can imagine, this message of grace the ascended Jesus gave Paul to teach was not welcomed by the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Paul daily encountered much abuse by them as a result. They even sent people secretly into the meetings, appearing as true grace believers, where he was teaching on grace to spy on him (Galatians 4:6). They slandered him terribly and turned many, who had previously embraced grace, away from Paul. This greatly perplexed Paul (Galatians 1:6, 4:12-19).
Even though he was rejected continuously and widely by many, and endured many hardships, Paul did not lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:1) in reaching people with the good news of grace (2 Corinthians 4:11-18). He remained very confident and bold in teaching grace (2 Corinthians 3:4, 12). He did not give into those who rejected his message of grace no matter who they were or what positions they held (Galatians 1:10-12; 2:4-6).
However, he knew he needed the prayers of those who participated with him in the good news of God’s grace if he was to continue to proclaim the mystery of grace fearlessly, clearly, and plainly. That is why he asked in his letters to the churches that had been established in grace for the believers to pray for him...to pray that he would fearlessly, clearly, and plainly communicate the mystery of grace.
Grace was not a welcomed message in Paul’s day by the religious community made up of Pharisees, teachers of the law, and the many people they influenced. They preferred their traditions rather than truth (Mark 7:13; Galatians 1:14 - as Paul as one time did). As a result, they opposed him greatly, causing him to ask for the prayers of his fellow grace believers.
In the same way grace was not welcomed by most during Paul's time, grace is not welcomed by most of the church leaders and people of our day. They prefer their traditional and denominational beliefs over truth, and, sadly, are not open to hearing the good news of grace, even though it is clearly presented to us in Scripture. Rather, as in Paul’s day, they oppose the message strongly (2 Timothy 4:14), debate against it fervently (Acts 15:1-2), and slander those who teach grace viciously (Romans 3:8).
However, in standing with Paul as an ambassador for Jesus of the good news of grace, we must be fearless in our presentation of grace. As Paul told the Philippian church, who enjoyed the grace of God with him and whom he had a great affection for (1:3-8), we must fearlessly fight for the gospel together against those who strongly oppose us (1:27-28). But we must fight gently, kindly, and lovingly, speaking the truth of grace in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Paul told Timothy, concerning how to relate to those who opposed the truth of grace and who confidently taught the law (1 Timothy 1:7), the following in 2 Timothy 2:23-26:
Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
Paul told Titus in Titus 3:9-11:
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.
As communicators of the grace of God, let’s follow Paul’s advice to Timothy and Titus. Let’s avoid arguing about the law with those who oppose the message of grace. These arguments are unprofitable because Satan has taken their minds captive to spread his graceless message or mingled message of law and grace. Instead, let’s be kind to those who oppose us. Let’s talk with them in an attitude of gentleness, hoping God will bring them to the awareness of the Satanic lies they believe and humbly admit the error in their thinking, enabling them to understand the truth of grace (repentance).
If they only want to oppose, argue, and debate law and grace, rather than learn, then it is time to move on, because they demonstrate an unwillingness to learn. Their thinking is warped regarding the truths of grace. They demonstrate this through their own attitude and words. According to Paul, after attempting to talk with them about grace two times, it is time to stop seeking to help them come to an understanding of grace.
Tragically, the message of grace remains a mystery to many Christians today. Most have never been taught about grace in their churches. I think this breaks the heart of Jesus as it did when he looked at the crowds of people who were like sheep without a shepherd. He yearns for people to come to a revelation of his grace. Yet the shepherds of our day do not feed their sheep the truths of the new covenant of grace because they remain hard-hearted to grace...they continue to have veiled hearts.
The mystery of grace that Paul fearlessly, clearly, and plainly shared with people everywhere continues to be rejected by pastors and many people in churches all over the world when they are presented with the truths of grace. The few churches that do teach and embrace grace are routinely slandered by the churches in their communities which reject grace, even though, in their own minds, the do not believe they reject grace. Grace pastors are accused, as Jesus and Paul were, of being light on sin and giving people a license to sin.
Because the good news of God’s grace remains a mystery to many believers in churches all over the world, and even though some, if not many, when presented with the message of grace, will strongly oppose it, seeking to argue with us and then slander us, we must continue to fearlessly, clearly, plainly, kindly, gently, and lovingly share the message of grace. Even though friends and family may reject us, we must continue to share the message of grace in an attitude of grace.
There are some who will hear the message of grace, understand it, and be changed by it, such as in those in Colossians 1:3-8:
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospelthat has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf,and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.
The Colossian people heard about grace from Epaphras. The day they heard about grace from him and understood it in all its truth, their lives totally changed! You will be someone’s Epaphras. You may be a whole group of people’s Epaphras!
Even though you may be rejected, opposed, argued with, and slandered, continue to fearlessly, clearly, plainly, kindly, gently, and lovingly share the mystery of the good news of God’s grace with people, knowing, as you do, you will be someone’s Epaphras.
As together we share the mystery of God’s grace all around the world, let’s keep each other in our prayers, praying that we proclaim the mystery of grace fearlessly, clearly, plainly, kindly, gently, and lovingly, just as Paul did.
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