Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Power in Prison

"For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of the Gentiles …" (Ephesians 3:1).

Paul was not the first servant of God to be imprisoned for declaring God’s truth. Joseph, who carried God’s word to the Egyptians, was for a time imprisoned. Similarly, Daniel and his friends took God’s word to the Babylonians and Persians, and they were occasionally imprisoned for it.

Both Joseph and Daniel wound up speaking before kings, and Paul looked forward to the same experience. Both Joseph and Daniel had much success among the Gentiles, while their hearts always yearned for their own people. Paul shows the same attitude in Romans 9–11. For Paul, prison was not a time of fear and depression. Rather, with the examples of Joseph and Daniel before him, Paul had reason to believe that prison was only the prelude to greater effectiveness. Indeed, we can see that Jesus underwent the same experience: arrest, prison, and then exaltation to God’s right hand.

Paul does not admit that he is Nero’s prisoner. Rather, he is Christ’s prisoner. No matter the earthly power on the throne, God is in control. Earthly powers are but His puppets.

From this context of prison, Paul writes that he has a special secret to tell the Ephesians. This mystery is not really a secret but an aspect of God’s ongoing revelation. God has revealed His purposes gradually, and in Christ they have been fully revealed at last. Thus, the mystery is now being published. It was Paul whose work lay particularly in the area of expounding the mystery, because one of the main aspects of the mystery was that all believers are united in Christ. If all are in Christ, then there can be no degrees of nearness to Christ. Jew and Gentile are on equal footing. The mystery of union with Christ eliminates the Jew/Gentile distinction forever.

God chose to give His revelation to men who were not powerful in the eyes of the world. In prison, Joseph received information that would help Pharaoh. In captivity, Daniel received insight to help Nebuchadnezzar. In prison, Paul preached a message that would turn the world upside down and inside out. On the cross, Jesus worked out the salvation of the cosmos.

Christians today are in prison. We are not allowed to have much say in our nations. Our opinions are deliberately overlooked by the mass media. What attitude should we have about being “in prison” as we consider Joseph, Daniel, Paul, and Jesus? Seek that attitude.