For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.
(Ephesians 3:1-3 ESV)
When Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians he was in a Roman prison awaiting a trial that would determine whether he would continue to live or would be put to death. Just like today, justice moved slowly back then and Paul waited two years for that trial.
But during this time Paul did not see himself to be a prisoner of the Romans (who would try him) or the Jews (who had him arrested). He saw himself as “a prisoner for Christ Jesus”. In other words, he was in prison because that is where God wanted him at this particular time.
Paul was certainly busy for God after being converted from a Christian-killer to a devoted Jesus follower on the Damascus Road [Acts 9:1-31]. He travelled all around the eastern Mediterranean teaching people the good news of how they could have their sins forgiven through Jesus and thus spend eternity in heaven after they die. Along the way he started several churches that became the roots of Christianity in Asia Minor and Europe.
One of Paul’s personal dreams was to do the same in Rome, the center of the powerful, and often evil, Roman Empire. Paul eventually did make it to Rome, but not in the way he had envisioned. Rather than go there freely he was arrested and sent there in chains.
Yet Paul did not perceive this to be the doing of the Jews or the Romans. He understood that he was going to Rome as a captive because that is how God needed him to go. It was from prison that Paul wrote this letter as well as the letters to the Philippians, the Colossians, and Philemon that now appear in our Bibles. If Paul had not been a prisoner for two years it is possible these letters never get written. His incarceration was “on behalf of” (for the benefit of) those to whom he wrote.
Often in the midst of our circumstances we do not see the bigger picture. But God does. God needed these letters written to that they would teach people for generations as part of the Bible. He had a purpose for Paul being in prison.
If anyone is a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ [John 1:12] then they are right where God wants them to be in life. Maybe you are in prison right now. God can use you to teach the people you come in contact with about Him. Maybe you are in a job that you don’t like. God can use you to spread His message to your coworkers. Maybe you’re disabled and don’t get out much. God can use you to reach people on the Internet. No matter where a believer is in life, he/she is there for Christ and on behalf of other people.
Sometimes our situation, from a human perspective, is not pleasant. But when we consider that we can serve God by sharing His message of forgiveness to those around us, we understand why we are there.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.