"For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles…" -Ephesians 3:1
It’s difficult to admit, but I’ve been a prisoner to many things. My own sinful tendencies, for one. Obsessive-compulsive behavior, for another. But all these things that keep me in bondage are really rooted in a love hunger for God. Every time I try to fill the void inside me with something other than God, I end up disillusioned, depressed, and dissatisfied. The God who longs to fill me up with His good grace woos me time and time again to His heart. At last, I surrender to His will and His way, and wonder why I ever strayed in the first place. The riches of His grace are indeed vast! As I place my case into His all-wise, all-loving hands, I realize that He is calling me to be joined to Him in such a way that I am willing to be captured by His heart. To be willing to never be the same. To be changed in a way that reaches out to those around me with the love of Christ. To die to self in order to truly live the life God intended for me.
I am captivated by the phrase, "the prisoner of Christ Jesus" in Ephesians 3:1. Paul writes his first prison epistle to the Ephesians from a cold, dark, dank jail cell in Rome. Why doesn't he tell them he is a prisoner of Rome? Seems more appropriate. I would think Paul would more likely lament, "Those dirty Romans seize me and throw me into prison for doing good, for telling others about Jesus? I'm going to tell everyone, shout it from the rooftops, or at least from this stinking little hole in the wall, that I'm a Roman prisoner! I'll get back at them. My friends will appeal this verdict. They may even come and bust me out of this joint. Maybe even with spears and lances. Yeah, I'll show those nasty Romans!"
But does Paul say that? No. He quietly affirms, "I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus." True, he was a prisoner because he refused to stop preaching Christ. That was the reason he was arrested. He had poured out his life for the sake of the Gentiles to whom God had called him to deliver the gospel message. But I detect undertones to this phrase that run deeper than the obvious meaning.
Other places in Scripture, Paul refers to himself as a bondslave of the Lord. Here in Ephesians, chapter three, he says I am the prisoner of Christ Jesus. A common theme runs throughout Paul's life, one I have been challenged by lately. Paul sees himself as a prisoner of Christ Jesus because he has already surrendered to Christ's lordship in his life. He is not bound by the Romans, any more than Jesus was nailed to the cross by the Romans. He is bound by loyalty to and love for the One He faithfully serves. He knows that to be a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ is the safest place He can be, because God will make no mistakes with his life. God will orchestrate every move. And if He has to use the Roman government and a dirty prison cell to accomplish what is best in Paul's life, then He will do that.
Paul has an impeccable trust in God. He knows that to be in His will, whether lying in soft green pastures on top of the mountain or sitting on a cold prison floor chained to the wall, is the best place he can be.
How I want that kind of faith, that kind of surrender that rejoices to be a prisoner of Christ Jesus! That shouts it from the rooftop, and writes it in letters, and proclaims it on the streets. Because to be satisfied as God's prisoner, to be captured by His heart, is to know true joy and contentment. Just like Paul.
Eileen Rife, author of Second Chance, speaks to women’s groups on a variety of topics. Her passion is to help women discover who they are in Christ and the part they play in His amazing story! www.eileenrife.com, www.eileen-rife.blogspot.com, www.christianspeaker.net.