Ephesians 6:19–20 A Mystery For The Sake Of Which The Apostle Is An Ambassador In Chains -- By: Gene R. Smillie

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 18:2 (Fall 1997)
Article: Ephesians 6:19–20 A Mystery For The Sake Of Which The Apostle Is An Ambassador In Chains
Author: Gene R. Smillie


Ephesians 6:19–20
A Mystery For The Sake Of Which
The Apostle Is An Ambassador In Chains

Gene R. Smillie*

I. Introduction

Most people in ministry feel from time to time that their effectiveness is inhibited by circumstances. Sometimes the situation is so binding and constrictive that we almost feel as though we are wrapped up in chains. What God is doing often remains mysterious and hidden from our eyes and understanding. For those in such conditions, the short prayer request in Eph 6:19–20 written by the apostle Paul—who actually was, at the time, literally bound in chains—may provide insight into the mysteries of God’s providence.

What is certain is that the apostle would wish his readers fully to grasp what is the mystery of the gospel that he preaches. Yet the very term mystery (μυστήριον) implies that such understanding is not easily attained. Paul’s use of the word μυστήριον can itself be “mysterious.” But his unveiling of the mystery of the gospel seems to reach a kind of climax in Ephesians. There he employs the term six times, clearly explaining the socio-cultural implications of the gospel which he preaches along the way.

Then he culminates the argument of Ephesians in 6:19–20 with a significant final usage of μυστήριον which, when understood, should be an encouragement to those who feel their ministries restricted by “chains” of circumstances.

II. Preliminary Overview

In Eph 6:19–20 Paul alludes to his desire to make the mystery of the gospel known in the public arena and enlists the recipients of the letter to pray that he may do so boldly, freely, and clearly1 when the occasion comes.

*Gene R. Smillie is a candidate for the Ph.D. in Theological Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

The strongest indications of what he means in this, Paul’s concluding reference to μυστήριον in the epistle, are provided in his references to μυστήριον earlier in Ephesians, particularly in chap. 3. Examining parallels outside Ephesians, particularly the nearly identical terms and constructs in Colossians (whose syntactical overlap with Ephesians approaches fifty percent), profiles what is common between the two letters and what is peculiar to Ephesians 6.

In addi...

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