For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
If you are an astute reader of these devotions, you might notice that this is not the Epistle reading for the second Sunday of Christmas. It is the Epistle for the Festival of the Epiphany, which falls on this day. (I am assuming that you are reading these on the day for which they are written – if you are not doing so, please indulge me.)
Paul speaks of a great mystery which God has finally revealed: namely that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, partakers of the promise in Christ. We don’t imagine that this is such big news today. After all, the Christian church is almost wholly gentile today. There are communities of Jewish Christians, but they are not large. One does not convert a Jew to Christianity, a Jewish person completes into Christianity. At least that is how my Jewish Christian contact explained it to me and I will allow for that. My ancestors, on the other hand, were converted. They came from some Germanic tribe, most likely. Was it in the days of Boniface in the 8th century? Or earlier or later? I really do not know. Having studied a little of that history it was likely not a pretty event. The reality is that most of northern Europe was not converted through rational and gentle discourse and loving ministry. Most of our ancestors were forcibly converted. It may be that we were baptized at sword point by Charlemagne’s ever-expanding empire, or it may be that our local warlord was browbeaten into accepting baptism and my ancestors were forced to go along with him. Did they really want to? Did they resist, clinging to some pagan ritual or deity in secret? This doesn’t sound very spiritual, does it? As one who loves Jesus today, I am glad that I am a Christian. I am also glad that we do not forcibly convert people. But I am also glad that despite my mistakes, despite the many times that I have been a terrible evangelist, God still does his work, and His Spirit blows even then. He blew when my ancestors submitted to baptism, whether willing or unwilling, whether fearful or joyful. Praise God.