2-3a. If yet (or, for as much as) you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me towards you: how that according to revelation, the mystery has been made known to me.
The words translated if yet should not be understood to express doubt. Teh Greek words express none, but are equivalent to “for as much as” you have heard and understood that the grace of being the Apostle of the Gentiles has been given to me. To each one, as the Apostle says later, grace is given according to the measure of the gift of Christ, and to me has been given that I should reap a spiritual harvest among you.
How that according to revelation. St Paul here speaks of the exalted dignity he had received from God, and of the office of an Apostle, which implied the revelation of the mystery of the redemption, and he indicates how clear was the knowledge thus bestowed on his mind. Afterwards, in verse 13 he mentions the counter-balancing trials and tribulations by which his humility was preserved and his constancy tested. To show his apostolic dignity he states two things: first, the clear knowledge vouchsafed to him of various mysteries of God’s Wisdom; secondly, the office of practically dispensing to others the fruit of these mysteries, as we see in verse 7 by the words, of which I am made a minister.
First, then, he declares the fact that when he was called to be an Apostle, God bestowed upon him a superhuman knowledge. This knowledge, coming from God, he implies to have been certain, full, and excellent.
(a) Certain, because it was not derived from any human source, nor dependent on any human mind, but it proceeded from divine revelation, and not from man; not through the teaching of the other Apostles (cf. Gal 1:12).
(b) His knowledge was ful and complete, because the Christian mysteries were fully revealed to him.
(c) This revealed knowledge is excellent, because peculiar to the Apostles.
5. And in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to His holy Apostles and Prophets in the Spirit.
The word Prophets here refers to those of the New Testament (Eph 4:11). Although the prophets of the old law knew a part of the high mysteries of the redemption, and of the calling of the Gentiles to the true faith, still their knowledge was not clear and detailed like that of the Apostles. So the Emphasis should be on the word “as,” for St Paul does not deny that the prophets of old had much light concerning these mysteries; but declares that it was small compared to the knowledge given to the Apostles. Our Lord implies the excellence of the revelation vouchsafed to the Apostles when he said, “To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:10; cf. Luke 10:23-24).
This excellence consisted in three things:-
(a) The Apostles had the revelation immediately from the only Begotten Son of God Himself, the Light of the world; for, as St John the Baptist said, “the only Begotten Son Who is in the Bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him” (John 1:18).
(b) The Apostles saw the glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ, not by mere images as the ancient prophets did, and so our Lord exclaimed, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things which you see” (Luke 10:23).
(c) The Apostles were appointed as the dispensers of this mysterious grace to the whole world; and so needed a cleared knowledge themselves, and God always gives men what is necessary to carry out the work and office to which they are appointed.
6. That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body and co-partners of His promise in Christ Jesus by the gospel.
In this verse the Apostle declares what that gracious mystery is of which he has been speaking namely, the calling of the Gentiles into the one Church, and therefore to an equal participation with the Jews in all the divine promises. The three privileges of the Jews which distinguished them from other nations were:-
1. The promise of the inheritance (Rom 4:13; Ps 16:6).
2. Special election as the chosen people (Deut 7:6).
3. The promise of Christ, the Messiah (Gen 12:3).
These three privileges the Gentiles in no way formerly shared, as they were peculiar to the Jews; but now, as members of the one Christian Church, they possess all the graces of Christ and the promise of the eternal inheritance. This St Paul expresses in verse 6, for-
1. As to the first privilege, that of the promised inheritance, they are fellow-heirs with the Jews in the heavenly inheritance (Matt 8:11; Gal 3:28-29).
2. As to the special election as the people of God, the Gentiles are now of the same body, that is, of Christ (John 10:16).
3. As to the promise made to the Israelites as the seed of Abraham, the Gentiles now have been made co-partners of that promise (Rom 15:8-12).
All these benefits have come to the Gentiles, not through Moses, but in Christ Jesus; and again not by the fulfillment of the law and by bearing that yoke which St Peter declared “neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear” (Acts 15:10), but in Christ Jesus by the gospel, through which all can be saved (cf. John 1:17; 2 Pet 1:4; Rom 1:16; 1 Tim 2:4).
In verse 7-9 which follow, St Paul sets forth the ministry with which he had been invested, and shows the help given to him for its duties.