A few years ago, I was with a friend who is a firefighter. While at the fire station, another friend attempted to do something that before that moment was only a cliché to me. He actually tried to drink the water coming out of the firehose. It was hysterical, and we all got a good laugh. I have never forgotten that mental image of his mouth opened as wide as possible and the water slamming against his face. The stream was far greater than his mouth could have ever handled, yet with resolute effort, he spread his lips and got a good rinsing.
Coming to Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 3:8-12, we approach a topic that would be aptly compared to drinking from a firehose. There is deeper theology than we could ever fully explore. There is truth so far reaching, and implications so grandiose that I do not believe our minds could ever fully wrap around them even if we endeavored to do so for the remainder of our lives. However, like my friend, I think we would do well to open the mouths of our minds as wide as possible, and seek to catch whatever amount, however limited, we possibly can.
Continuing his explanation of God’s work and God’s power in accomplishing what was little more than a mystery in the Old Testament, Paul rejoices at the opportunity that God has given him personally in the declaration of that message. The Old Testament contained countless allusions to the joining together of the Gentiles and the Jews in the ages to come, but no one could have fathomed that this far-reaching unity would be accomplished in Christ. Now, Paul explained that there was unity between those who were formerly enemies. The thing that brought people into peace with God could also bring them into peace with one another. Who could refuse the one that God had accepted? The gospel required a humble response and meaningful reconciliation.
God had invited the Gentiles into the family, and now Paul was the one who got to deliver the invitation. What a wonderful opportunity that left him feeling completely undeserving. Paul considered himself to be “less than the least of all the saints,” but God in his wisdom had chosen him to be the declarer of such terrific news. We finally arrive at the firehose moment when Paul delivers the theological foundation of the message that he was commissioned to declare in verse 9-12.
God held in himself, secretly, known only to Him, from the beginning of the world a truth that he had only recently revealed through Jesus. The God who never changes, did not learn anew of the ones He would show his grace to, or suddenly decide to execute his grace on them. Rather, as He committed the expansive creative acts of the universe, He began to unfold His master plan and the “eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus.” This was not a plan that had a starting point somewhere in time, rather from the very eternality of God, this amazing work of grace through Christ had already begun.
Finally, Paul says that he was given this message to “make all men see” the truth. Now, we must understand that when we read the word “all,” it is not that Paul actually caused every human being on the planet to see the message. Certainly there were those who did not, and those who still have not. Rather, it was Paul’s privilege as indicated in this text to take the message to people who had not yet heard. Both Jews and Gentiles (all people) had been invited into this. The “all” of this text has everything to do with God’s grace not reserved to one race of people, but again, the mystery of his extending it to Gentiles and Jews alike. What an incredibly gracious, loving, wise, and powerful God. He only deserves praise for this wonderful, eternal, unsearchable truth.
Reflect: What was Paul so excited to talk about in these verses? Why was he personally excited about it?