In The Drama of Ephesians, Timothy G. Gombis writes: “Ephesians gives us the compelling and life-giving drama of God’s redemption in Christ. And like any drama, it contains some twists and surprises. It involves subversion. . . . We all love stories of triumph, and we want to be on the winning side, but God does not defeat his enemies in the way we might anticipate. In fact, God subverts human triumphalism in that he wins by losing. He unleashes resurrection life on his world though the dying and rising again of Jesus Christ.”
The gospel was unexpected! Paul called it “the mystery made known to me by revelation” (v. 3). The pagan religions of the day used the term mystery to refer to secret knowledge known only by a few insiders. Paul used it to refer to a part of God’s plan that had previously been known only to God Himself but now was revealed to all the world to be proclaimed to all. No one had anticipated the Son of God becoming a man in the Incarnation. No one had expected Him to suffer and die to redeem people from their sins. No one had predicted His resurrection from the dead. And no one had foreseen the uniting of Jews and Gentiles in His body, the church (vv. 5–6). That the Gentiles would be blessed had been known since the Abrahamic covenant. The surprise was that they would be united with the Jews on an equal footing.
Paul had received this gospel by revelation from Christ Himself (see Gal. 1:11–12). He had been specially called to bring it to the Gentiles; the phrase “administration of God’s grace” indicates stewardship or responsibility (v. 2). He had been put in chains for its sake (v. 1). The purpose behind this very epistle was to give the Ephesians—and us—insight into the gospel (v. 4)!
Paul was under house arrest in Rome when he wrote this letter, yet he says little about his imprisonment—he expected to suffer for the sake of the gospel. So should we (see 1 Peter 4:12–19). It’s an honor to accept Paul’s invitation: “Join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God” (2 Tim. 1:8).