By Stan Brown
Ephesians 3:1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles
Paul now turns to pray for those who have been united together in one body, both Jews and Gentiles into one holy temple in Christ. It was Jesus who truly made this union possible. Paul begins his prayer for this union with the word for this reason. Paul then digresses as for twelve verses he discusses the mystery of Christ and his responsibility to make it known. (A mystery in the New Testament is something that had not been previously revealed and although the Old Testament is replete with references to Christ, the specific fulfillment of them is only revealed in the New Testament.) Paul will pick up on this prayer in verse fourteen with the words for this reason. These words are especially significant in both places. This union is magnificent and because of cultural distinctions between Jew and Gentile, it was especially difficult to put in place. Yet, through the death of Jesus, we all have the opportunity of being built into the dwelling place of God. We merely have to accept God’s gift through faith. This union (for this reason) was worthy of prayer then and remains worthy of prayer now as we are God’s message to the world.
Before entering into his lengthy digression about the mystery of Christ, Paul starts with a minor digression as he personalizes it a little with the words, prisoner of Christ Jesus. These words are applicable in two ways. (1) Paul was actually a physical prisoner of Rome when he penned these words. Paul uses the word prisoner to describe himself five times in his epistles and each time it occurs in books written when he was an actual prisoner (Eph. 3:1; 4:1; Phil. 1,9; 2Tim. 1:8). Here he adds the words for the sake of you Gentiles as he expresses his willingness to spend time in prison for the sake of this unifying Gospel message. Indeed, in verse thirteen he will write, Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory. (2) Paul describes himself as the prisoner of Christ Jesus. Because he had voluntarily made himself Christ’s prisoner, he had been made a prisoner of the human government but Rome really had no power over him apart from what Christ allowed. He was first and foremost a prisoner of Christ because of his choice and as a result of that choice he had become a prisoner of Rome.
The applications of this verse are obvious. Paul uses the words prisoner of Christ to emphasize the fact that as he sat in a Roman prison it was Christ who was still in control. As we live through the events in this world that sometimes make us think that Satan has us imprisoned, we must remember that it is the One to whom we have committed our lives who remains in control. Through it all, as was Paul, we are prisoners of Christ.