The mystery of the Gentiles

Jeremy Sarber

As Paul moves into Ephesians 3, he thinks that he’s finished discussing God’s unity of the Jews and Gentiles in the church. He thinks that he has said all that needs to be said in Ephesians 2. But then he interrupts himself with a few more thoughts.

Notice the incomplete sentence in the first verse: For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— em dash (Eph 3:1). What does the em dash tell us? It represents an interruption. The sentence isn’t complete because Paul stops short to tell us something else.

What was he going to say? For this reason—what? Glance down at verse 14: For this reason I bow my knees before the Father (Eph 3:14). He was starting to pray for the Gentiles. In Ephesian 3:14-21, he prays for their strength, faith, maturity, and knowledge. He wants everything they’ve learned about their salvation and God’s inclusion of them in the church to lead to spiritual strength and maturity.

It occurs to him, however, that he has more to say about the salvation of the Gentiles. Before launching into his prayer, he stops himself to address further what he calls the mystery of Christ (Eph 3:4). We could place the entire passage, verses 2-13, within parenthesis.

Of course, that’s not to say that this passage is anything less than important. The early days of the church represent a pivotal moment in redemptive history. There is no longer any distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Look at verse 6: This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (Eph 3:6).

Perhaps we should pay even closer attention to this passage since Paul knew that it was important enough to interrupt his prayer to say it. Repetition never hurts.