“For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles – assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.” Ephesians 3:1-3
There have only been a handful of things in this life that have captured my heart so much so that a significant part of me has become characterized and even arrested by them. From the time I was four, I could be found on some type of sports field. Since my Junior High years, it wouldn’t be uncommon to find a cup of coffee in my hands. From the age of fifteen to the present, few things have captured my heart more than filling my passport with stamps while traveling the world and embracing new cultures, foods, and faces. My mid-twenties began the journey that would mark me for a lifetime – meeting, falling in love with, and saying “I do” to my Jeremy.
Even still, there was a capturing of my heart unlike all the rest that began in my early twenties and arrests me still to this day. The love of God is greater far than anything I could grasp or taste on this side of heaven. Nothing touches it, and I believe the apostle Paul understood this down to the very fibers of his being. Having spent much of his days after meeting Jesus in peril, under some form of persecution, or imprisonment, he writes with such authority, confidence, and unwavering commitment to the One he suffers for, and there is no amount of difficulty that could change his mind on this: He is a prisoner for Christ. Whether in chains or free, Paul’s life mission was to boldly and authoritatively make known the mystery of the Gospel.
Although writing these very words to the church in Ephesus while in prison in Rome, notice that his description of himself is not “a prisoner of Rome” or any other government or authority on earth. He defines himself always as “a prisoner for Christ Jesus.” Paul wholeheartedly knew that Christ was in control of His every moment. There was a certainty within Paul that caused his ministry to be marked with such confidence in the face of trial because he knew whose hands his life rested in, down to the very details. While he suffered imprisonment because of his ministry to the Gentiles, the final authority over his life came from Jesus Christ.
It is altogether appropriate and fitting for Paul to then address his calling in verse 2 as a “stewardship of God’s grace.” He doesn’t claim the abilities or work given to him as his own doing; rather, he makes known to all who will read this widely circulated letter that whatever grace or gift that rests on his life is the direct result of stewardship. God had entrusted to Paul the authority and leadership over the church that he had, and therefore, Paul understood his responsibility to steward it well.
Do you see the importance of all of this yet? The significance of Paul understanding that he was a prisoner to none other than Jesus Christ allowed him to steward well the gifts and calling that had been given to him. Had he wandered into doubt in regards to whom held him captive, we may not have the majority of the New Testament within our reach. Paul’s understanding of his identity in Christ determined his activity in life. Don’t miss that! The understanding and embracing of who we are in Christ will determine our activity on this side of heaven. When we face difficulty, if we understand the very same truth that Paul did, we are capable of walking in confidence and using every moment of our hardship to bring God glory and to further His church here on earth. There is no telling what our lives could amount to under the authority of Jesus Christ and with the understanding that all we have been given was intended to be stewarded well.
How would our lives change if we lived according to this? If we really grasped whose we are and the value of what has been entrusted to us, this world would be a drastically different place. Try filling in your name in place of Paul’s:
_____________ , a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of…
If your life were marked by such a claim, what on earth could possibly stand in your way?