Stewards of God’s Grace
“…assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you…” (Ephesians 3:2)
Bible Reading: Ephesians 3:1-5
Often in his letters, Paul begins a train of thought only to break it off to explain something he has just mentioned. This is what he does in the opening verse of chapter 3.
He begins, “For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles…” (Ephesians 3:1). What he was going to go on and say appears in verses 14-19, but the intervening verses are taken up explain his mission to the Gentiles.
It is the mention of being a prisoner for Jesus Christ “on behalf of you Gentiles” that triggers this digression – or explanation (v. 1). Paul is, first of all, a prisoner for Jesus Christ, suffering for Christ’s sake. But he is doing so in connection with his commission to be an apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; Romans 15:18, 18; Galatians 2:2, 8, 9).
In saying this, Paul assumes that his readers are well acquainted with the “stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you” (Ephesians 3:2). He explains further that this stewardship came to him by way of “revelation” as he had written briefly, perhaps in an earlier letter (v. 3). He will explain later what that mystery is (v. 6), but for the moment, he is reminding them of the special charge he had received to take the gospel to them.
When Paul speaks of being given stewardship of “God’s grace” (v. 2), he is referring to being entrusted with a task, much in the way a household servant might be given something to do. In Paul’s case, this stewardship was the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles so that they might be included in Christ and enjoy all the benefits of that. Bound up in the idea of being a steward is the thought of having to give an account of one’s faithfulness and diligence in performing the task. This sense of obligation rested heavily upon Paul, making him feel, as he puts it in his letter to Christians in Rome, a “debtor” to the Greeks and Barbarians (Romans 1:14).
Knowing these things, his readers will better be able to “perceive” his “insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has been to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (v. 5). Other generations might have had glimpses of the things revealed to Paul, but the Spirit made them known more fully after Pentecost (see John 16:13).
Paul’s “stewardship” was, of course, unique to him as an apostle chosen to take the gospel to the Gentiles. Yet the apostle Peter can also speak of a stewardship that all Christians have as a result of “God’s varied grace” given to them through the gifts of the Spirit (1 Peter 4:10).
Like Paul, we should be burdened to steward well whatever gift has been given to us.
- What gift(s) has the Holy Spirit given to you that you are responsible to use well for Christ?
- How are you meant to do that (see 1 Peter 4:10)?
– Andrew Young