PFOA: Ephesians 4:1-16
In Eph 1:1, Paul described himself as an apostle of Christ Jesus, but now in Eph 4:1, and also in Eph 3:1, he called himself a prisoner of the Lord. We can quite understand his title as an apostle. Elsewhere he saw his ministry as one being sent to the Gentiles with the gospel. He was not shy in defending his claim to apostleship (see 2 Cor 11) for he was not appointed apostle by others, or self-appointed, but his appointment came from the Lord himself (1:1).
In Rom 1:1, Paul introduced himself as a “doulos” of Jesus Christ” (ESV). “doulos” in Greek is variously translated as “slave” (NLT), “servant” (ESV) or “bond-servant” (NASB). This was already a humble, perhaps lowest position in society.
So why did he call himself a prisoner of the Lord? Well, his immediate situation was that he was indeed in a Roman prison, chained to two soldiers and guarded by a further two. Yet he did not say he was a prisoner of Caesar. As he had appealed to the emperor, he was awaiting his trial before him. If he was found guilty of treason, as the Jews had charged, he would very well be put to death. In the meantime, however, he could have visitors to tend to his needs. He was free to teach and share the gospel to anyone who would listen, including his relunctant guards.
What Paul is saying is this: “The Lord has called me to be his apostle, to preach and to teach; to be his servant, slave, or ‘doulos’. God has also place me in this prison. So I will fulfill my calling and be his obedient servant here in prison.”
Wherever we are, in whatever situation or circumstance, our sovereign Lord has placed us there. And we are there for the purpose he has called us – which is to be his disciples, to follow him. Paul didn’t wait till he got out of prison before serving God. God had put him in that situation for the very purpose of serving him. Neither should we postpone our obedience – we don’t wait till we’ve finished school, got married, start a family, or wait till the children have grown up. We don’t wait till we are financially stable, have a steady job, or a less hectic lifestyle.
God has placed us in our situation, in perhaps less than ideal circumstances, for us to serve him. Jesus Christ has called us to be his disciples, let us follow him.