Why Paul Went to Prison (Ephesians 3:1-5)

For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles – If you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me for you: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote before in few words, whereby, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

Overwhelmed by God’s actions, Paul switches gears and starts to pray. He explains his motivation by using the phrase “for this cause,” which refers to the previous verses. In other words, Paul is about to break out into prayer because both Jews and Gentiles are united into the church to form a place where God lives.

But Paul doesn’t get very far. He goes off on a tangent as soon as he refers to his present condition – he’s a prisoner. Let’s look at this more closely.

First, a little background. Most scholars agree that Paul wrote this letter while under house arrest in Rome, somewhere around 61 or 62 AD. Before arriving in the “Eternal City,” Paul languished for over two years in a prison in Caesarea. So it had been a while since he had last tasted freedom.

Paul digresses from his prayer to show his readers why his imprisonment is worth it. He doesn’t want them to worry about him. After all, he knows they love him dearly since he had lived in Ephesus for almost three years.

First, he reminds them of his calling. The Greek word “dispensation” refers to management or administration. In other words, the Lord gave Paul the task of telling the Gentiles about the grace of God. He emphasizes that his message isn’t something he made up or imagined – he got it straight from the horse’s mouth. God himself revealed it to him.

Twice, Paul uses the word “mystery” to refer to the message he preaches. This term doesn’t refer to what typically comes to mind when we use it. Verse 5 gives us a good definition: a truth of God hidden in the past but presently revealed by the Holy Spirit. It’s something that we could never grasp without divine assistance and illumination. Our eyes can see the physical, but we need God’s help to discern the spiritual. 

In the subsequent verses, Paul goes on to summarize this “mystery,” but we’ll pause here before this post gets too long and you start looking at your watch (or phone these days). I would like us to focus on Paul’s attitude towards his imprisonment. No doubt it was the cause of much suffering and discomfort, yet he refuses to dwell on this fact. Instead, the only thing that matters to him is preaching the message of God’s grace, and if prison is the result, then so be it. The Gospel is worth it because it’s the only way for mankind to reconcile with our Creator.

Do you agree with Paul? Would you be willing to go to prison for the Gospel?

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Kathie Ida

    This is an excellent commentary, Carol. And by Apostle Paul’s standards, it is quite concise! Yes, I do agree with Paul. And I would be willing to go to prison for the gospel of Christ Jesus. We must be willing to live for Him and to die for him.

    1. Carol

      Amen! 🙂

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