Brought to Light


“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things” (Ephesians 3:8-9).

Paul was able to identify with the Christians in Ephesus because he realized his own coming to Christ was a matter of grace. It was also by God’s grace that he was given the stewardship of preaching to the Gentiles. He was a prisoner in Rome when he wrote this epistle, but Paul also understood he was a prisoner or bondservant of Christ on their behalf.

He expresses his profound gratitude in this, because he saw himself as the least of all the saints. In other places he describes himself as least of the apostles and as the foremost among sinners (1 Cor. 15:9; 2 Cor. 12:11; 1 Tim. 1:15). So, for him to be entrusted with delivering God’s message of redemption in Christ was truly humbling.

In Ephesians 3:1-13 Paul develops more fully the idea of making known the mystery of Christ, a theme he briefly introduced earlier in the letter (1:9). Mystery is a term he uses frequently to refer to the gospel (see Rom. 16:25-27; 1 Cor. 2:6-10; Eph. 5:19; Col. 1:25-27; 2:1-3; 1 Tim. 3:16).

The mystery was not made known to mankind in previous generations, having been hidden in God throughout the ages (vv. 5, 9). Although many details and aspects of God’s plan had been revealed in the past, God had not entirely disclosed his purposes. He had kept them hidden. Peter described how the Old Testament prophets diligently searched to comprehend God’s plans, but even from them complete understanding was withheld (1 Pet. 1:10). God did not fully reveal the mystery until Christ came in the fullness of time (v. 9; Gal. 4:4). His purpose remained hidden until he chose to make it known. It remained a secret until it was brought to light.

That was accomplished, Paul explains, by revelation, which refers to the process of uncovering and declaring that which had been hidden. God, through the Holy Spirit, revealed the mystery to Paul and other inspired messengers, his holy apostles and prophets (vv. 3-5). So, to the apostle Paul, God granted the stewardship of preaching, to bring to light for everyone what had been shrouded in mystery.

This text brings to our minds three important principles.

First, it reminds us of the eternal sovereignty of God, “who created all things” (v. 9). This truth takes center stage in Ephesians. At the outset of the epistle, Paul affirms that God’s purpose was known by him “before the foundation of the world,” that is, before creation itself. His plan of redemption was according his will, by his grace, and to the praise of his glory (1:3-14).

Second, it reminds us of God’s eternal wisdom. Paul calls the message the “unsearchable riches of Christ,” the “manifold wisdom of God,” and his “eternal purpose” (vv. 8-11). God’s wisdom is greater than human wisdom. The message of Christ crucified appears foolish by worldly standards, but it demonstrates the wisdom and power of God (1 Cor. 1:18f; 2:1f).

Third, it reminds us of the beauty and authority of Scripture. God wanted all men to know about his gracious plan, so he revealed it so that it could be preserved in written form. This means the Holy Scripture is inspired of God. It means that when we read it, we can know and understand what God willed for us to know (v. 4). What was a mystery has been made known. It has been brought to light for everyone.

Dan Petty