The first thing to strike me in this chapter is the realisation that Paul did not see himself as a prisoner of Rome but ‘’of Christ Jesus’’ (1). He was so aware of the sovereign control of the Lord Jesus Christ over all his life that he knew there was no accident about his current circumstances. He also saw that his suffering was not pointless but purposeful: ‘’for the sake of you Gentiles.’’ God would bring good out of bad. (See also 13). His ministry was not about him, but it was for others (2). ‘’This is why I, Paul, am in jail for Christ.’’ The Message.
The thought of what God was doing in the church (2:11-22) gave Paul cause to pray: ‘’For this reason…’’ (1). But then he didn’t get round to the prayer for another several verses (14). We too can know what Paul knew, that through Jesus we have free and confident access to God in prayer. So verses 2-13 are in ‘brackets’. Paul was slightly distracted and began to write about the ministry God had entrusted to him to bring Gentiles into the same church community as Jews. Verse 6 is a summary of chapter 2:11-22. Paul saw his ministry as being totally due to the ‘’grace’’ of God (2 and 7). It was not something he deserved (8). There was a genuine humility about Paul, and he recognised he was completely dependent on God’s ‘’power’’ (7) and that his ministry was a sacred trust. He was ‘’a servant of this gospel’’ (7), and it was a ‘’gift’’ to be able to serve. ‘’ I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities.’’ The Message. The content of his ministry was a ‘’mystery’’ (4, 6 and 9). This does not mean something closed but something wide open – an ‘open secret’, now revealed by the Holy Spirit. It’s about how God is shaping ‘’one body’’ centred in Christ (11) and comprising Jewish and Gentile believers in Him. Paul’s ministry was primarily about preaching the gospel to the Gentiles so that they could come into God’s new society. ‘’I got the inside story on this from God himself…The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I’ve been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.’’ The Message.
The church God is building on Christ is ‘Exhibit A’ of God’s ‘’manifold wisdom’’ (10). I once heard that this can mean God’s ‘many coloured’ wisdom. That seems significant when you think that God is building a multi-ethnic; multi-cultural community in Christ. Whether ‘’the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms’’ (10) are angels or demons or both, is not clear. But certainly in the church spiritual beings see a demonstration of God’s immense wisdom. ‘’Through Christians like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!’’ The Message.
Prayer: Thank you Lord that I am included in your plan, and that I have been brought into your new society. I am amazed at your goodness and grace.