In chapter one we discovered some of our spiritual blessings as members of the Body of Christ. In chapter two we learned how we were made members of His Body. In the first part of the third chapter Paul shows that the Body was a mystery that was first revealed through him.
This passage is a key in understanding Paul’s distinct message and ministry as the apostle to Gentiles in this age of grace. If words have any meaning, there is a dispensational difference between the ministry of the twelve apostles and the ministry of Paul.
Consider these basic distinctions:
1. The twelve were chosen by Christ on earth (Lk. 6:13-16), but Paul was chosen by Christ from heaven (Acts 9:3-6).
2. The twelve were appointed to lead Israel (Matt. 19:28), but Paul was appointed to lead the Body of Christ (Col. 1:24-26).
3. The twelve represent the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28), but Paul represents the one Body (he was both a Hebrew and a Roman citizen, Phil. 3:5, Acts 22:28).
4. The twelve knew Christ on earth (Acts 1:9), but Paul knew Christ from heaven (2 Cor. 12:1-3, 1 Cor. 15:8).
5. The twelve were sent to proclaim and offer the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 10:7, Acts 3:19-21), but Paul was sent to preach the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).
6. In the kingdom commission water baptism was required and signs were the evidence of salvation (Mk. 16:15-18), but Paul was not sent to baptize (1 Cor. 1:17) and he knew the signs would cease (1 Cor. 13:8-13).
7. The ministry of the twelve was based on covenants and prophecy (Acts 3:19-26). After Israel is blessed, the Gentiles receive blessings through them. The ministry of Paul was based on a mystery (Rom. 16:25-26, Eph. 3:8). The Gentiles blessed through fall of Israel (Rom. 11:11-12, 15) and there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body (Gal. 3:28)
8. The twelve restricted their ministry to the circumcision after God raised up Paul. Their leadership decreased as Paul’s increased (Gal. 2:1-9). Paul overshadowed the twelve after Acts 7 when Israel officially rejected the kingdom. From Acts 13 on, Paul is the focus and his ministry is magnified.
 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
It was Paul’s ministry among the Gentiles that led to him becoming a prisoner (Acts 22:17-24). He considered himself a prisoner of Christ instead of a prisoner of Rome (Eph. 4:1; 2 Tim. 1:8; Phile. 1, 9). In v.14 Paul will resume what he started to say in v.1 (“For this cause”) before he went on a divine digression in vs.2-13.
 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
Here we are nearly 2,000 years later and the majority of professing Christians still haven’t heard of the dispensation of the grace of God that was given through Paul to the Gentiles! Satan has been working hard to keep people blinded to this vital truth. God dispensed the message of grace through Paul’s ministry (1 Cor. 9:17; Col. 1:25) and the grace that he needed to make it known (vs.7-8). He needed much grace because he suffered much to fulfill his ministry.
 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
 Whereby, when ye read, ye 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;
The glorified Christ from heaven literally appeared to Paul in order to directly reveal the mystery to him. His knowledge in the mystery of Christ may be understood when we read the scriptures that he wrote by inspiration of God (2 Tim. 2:7). The mystery of the Body of Christ was kept secret in other ages, but it is now revealed to our understanding by the Spirit as we read what Paul wrote. The “apostles and prophets” (v.5) he referred to were those who ministered to the Body of Christ. The mystery was revealed to them “by the Spirit” when they heard Paul; which is a different thing than Christ revealing the mystery to Paul first.
 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
That Gentiles would be saved was not a mystery. There examples of it in the Old Testament (e.g. Ruth) and the the prophets spoke of it (e.g. Isa. 60:1-5). The mystery that Christ revealed through Paul is that believing Gentiles would be fellowheirs (Eph. 1:11) in the SAME BODY. In time past the Gentiles were only blessed through Israel, but now we are blessed without Israel. Israel does not have a position above the Gentiles in this age. All believers are made members of the same spiritual Body (Eph. 2:13-16). The Body of Christ is one new spiritual man in which there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Gal. 3:27-28). We become members of this Body “by the gospel.” This is obviously referring to the gospel that Paul received by revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11-12). We are made partakers of the Holy Spirit of promise when we believe Paul’s gospel (Eph. 1:13). Most Christians believe the Body of Christ began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). How could the Body of Christ begin before the gospel, that we must believe in order to be in the Body, was revealed?
 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
The apostle Paul was given a twofold ministry (Col. 1:23-29): to every creature with the gospel (Col. 1:23) and to the Body of Christ with the mystery (Col. 1:24-26). He was able to finish his course (2 Tim. 4:7) by the grace and power of God.
 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
That Paul had much to say about himself and his ministry did not make him an egomaniac because he wrote by inspiration of God. Paul magnified his office as the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13), but he knew that as a man he was nothing. He knew that he did not deserve to be an apostle (1 Cor. 15:10) and he considered himself to be “less than the least of all saints.” His ministry was totally by the grace of God.
The unsearchable riches of Christ concerns spiritual truth that cannot be found by searching the Old Testament or fully grasped by the human mind.
 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
The “fellowship of the mystery” is our unity as the Body of Christ. It was the goal of Paul’s ministry to make all men see this blessed truth, but sadly most believers today seem to be blinded to it. The mystery was not hid in the Old Testament, it was hid in God. No one knew it until God revealed it through Paul. Yet, many preachers claim to find this truth in the Old Testament. If words have any meaning, the mystery cannot be found in the scriptures written before Paul. Therefore, we know that the Body of Christ is not the subject of what transpires in Acts 1-8 because those events were in accordance with what the prophets spoke about since the beginning of the world (Acts 3:21).
That the Godhead created all things, both visible and invisible, by Jesus Christ proves the deity of Christ.
 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
The mystery of the Body of Christ is a great demonstration of the wisdom of God. In this age angels are not teaching us, but we are teaching them. The mystery was not some kind of emergency plan that God came up with after Israel fell. We are His eternal purpose that He planned before the world began but kept secret until after Israel fell.
 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
What an amazing statement! As members of the Body of Christ we have boldness and access with confidence in the presence of God (Eph. 2:18). What a contrast with how God dealt with Gentiles in time past! We do not have this privilege because of our faith. We are justified by the faith of Christ (Gal. 2:16). We are to live by the faith of Christ (Gal. 2:20). We have access by the faith of Christ. Yes, we must place our faith in Christ. However, our spiritual blessings are based upon what Christ accomplished by HIS faith for us.
 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
Christ suffered to purchase our salvation and Paul suffered to proclaim it (Col. 1:24). It was Paul, not Peter, who filled up the afflictions of Christ for the Body’s sake. Peter suffered, but for a different ministry. By the grace of God, he never fainted in all his tribulations (2 Cor. 4:15-18). He encourages the Body of Christ not to faint at his tribulations. Some were ashamed of his chains (2 Tim. 1:8). It was for our eternal glory that Paul endured all the things he faced (2 Tim. 2:10).