Paul's Mission to
1Christ Jesus made me his prisoner, so I could help you Gentiles. 2You have surely heard about God's gift of undeserved grace in choosing me to help you. 3In fact, this letter tells you a little about how God has shown me his mysterious ways. 4 As you read the letter, you will also find out how well I really do understand the mystery about Christ. 5No one knew about this mystery until God's Spirit told it to his holy apostles and prophets. 6And the mystery is this: Because of Christ Jesus, the good news has given the Gentiles a share in the promises God gave to the Jews. God has also let the Gentiles be part of the same body.
7God treated me with kindness. His power worked in me, and it became my job to spread the good news. 8I am the least important of all God's people. But God was kind and chose me to tell the Gentiles that because of Christ there are blessings that cannot be measured. 9 God, who created everything, wanted me to help everyone understand the mysterious plan that had always been hidden in his mind. 10Then God would use the church to show the powers and authorities in the spiritual world that he has many different kinds of wisdom.
11God did this according to his eternal plan. And he was able to do what he had planned because of all Christ Jesus our Lord had done. 12Christ now gives us courage and confidence, so we can come to God by faith. 13This is why you should not be discouraged when I suffer for you. After all, it will bring honor to you.
Paul had been commissioned by Jesus to perform a task he regarded as an immense privilege, despite the suffering it brought – he had been set apart to evangelize the Gentiles!
The problem was that most of the Christian community were converted Jews, and they failed to understand Paul’s calling. In their eyes, uncircumcised Gentiles were unclean and could never be brought into God’s kingdom.
But Paul, who had felt this way before his encounter with Christ (Acts 9), was transformed in his understanding and behavior. He accepted that Christ was the promised Messiah, and he could now see how all the Old Testament promises regarding the Gentiles had been fulfilled in Him – they were now welcomed into God’s kingdom on an equal footing as Jewish believers like himself! (v.6).
This, Paul says, was the “mystery” about the Messiah that had been misunderstood for so long. Through His death and resurrection, God’s plan was to save people out of all nations (vv.4-6). And he came to understand that God’s purpose in saving the Jews was that they would tell the Gentiles of the boundless riches of Christ.
But Paul sees that the outworking of the Gospel is even more than just the conversion of the nations, and he wants to share his understanding. He tells the believers that its power is witnessed by principalities and powers in the heavenlies when they look on the Church and see God’s wisdom! This must have been breathtaking for the believers to hear.
Perhaps they could recall that this cosmic dimension was proclaimed in the Old Testament, particularly in the Psalms and Isaiah, where the eventual renewal of all creation was promised (Isaiah 60:1-3).
Dear Father, You tell us that we can approach you with freedom and confidence because of what Christ has done. Thank you for this invitation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Tom Holland was born in Liverpool during the Blitz. Converted at 15, he studied Theology and was ordained as a Baptist Pastor. Tom received a PhD from the University of Wales and became a lecturer at what is now Union School of Theology, Oxford, England where he taught undergraduates, postgraduates and supervised PhD’s for 25 years. He is now retired and serves as Senior Research Fellow and is involved in writing and itinerant teaching/preaching ministry. He is married to Barbara; a teacher and they have three daughters and six grandchildren. Publications: Contours of Pauline Theology, Fearn, Ross-shire, Christian Focus Publications, 2004; Romans, Hope for the Nations, Apiary Publishing, London, 2018 , Tom Wright and the Search for Truth, Apiary Publishing, London, 2019, Missing Lense, Apiary Publishing, London, 2019, Romans the Divine Marriage, Apiary Publishing, London, 2020.