“When you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ”, wrote the apostle Paul (Ephesians 3:4).
“When you read” implies an expectation on the part of the apostle that believers would be in this habit. He did not say, “If you read”, nor did he consider it necessary on this occasion to command reading. Reading was and should continue to be a regular practice among Christians. To the evangelist Timothy, Paul instructed, “Give attention to reading” (1st Timothy 4:13). Paul himself did not want to be without his reading materials (2nd Timothy 4:13). Public reading was required in the churches (Colossians 4:16; 1st Thessalonians 5:27).
“You may understand” indicates that comprehension of God’s word is possible. True, it is written, “How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out” (Romans 11:33) because His ways and thoughts are higher than man’s ways and thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). This means that God retains His decision making process as a personal prerogative, sensing no need to disclose His every thought to man. He has, however, revealed to man what He intends man to know. “The secret things belong to Jehovah our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). While God may keep certain information to Himself, what He has presented to man He insists that man be aware of. “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). Not only can the Lord’s will be understood; it must be understood. Where there is a lack of understanding, it is appropriate to obtain guidance from another who is more knowledgeable (Acts 8:20-21).
“My knowledge” is what Paul told readers they could gain an understanding of. Considering that he was in no wise a lesser apostle than any other (2nd Corinthians 12:11), this is actually quite remarkable because it was the original apostles to whom Jesus promised, “When He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). The apostles had “all truth” from the Holy Spirit, Paul was equal to his fellow apostles, and his knowledge can be ascertained through reading; therefore, every reader has access to “all truth”! Of his preaching, Paul declared, “I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you” (Acts 20:20), concluding “I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). What Paul knew, Paul made known to others. Simply by reading, the modern student may gain that same insight.
By Bryan Matthew Dockens
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