His initial persecution of the Christian church demonstrates that Paul had no idea how a group of people who worshiped a crucified Jewish man could be part of God’s plan to exalt Israel and save the world. Yet once he met Christ on the Damascus Road, everything changed (Acts 9:1–31). From that moment forth, he was a commissioned apostle of this crucified Messiah, the One who is a man and yet more than a man — the very incarnation of God Himself (Col. 1:19–20). This revelation and commission gave Paul new insight into the Hebrew Scriptures, enabling him to see that the triune Creator had purposed in eternity past to save His people through the humiliation and death of Israel’s representative King (2 Sam. 7:1–17; Isa. 53). The work of Christ that saves His people from God’s wrath and provides a way for the Gentiles to be accepted on the same basis as Jewish Christians before the Father is “according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:11).
Even Paul’s calling formed part of this eternal plan, so Ephesians 3:1–10 must be considered when we look at today’s passage. The prophets of old understood that God’s definitive act of redemption and the conversion of the nations to faith in Yahweh, the covenant Lord of Israel, would accompany Israel’s return from the Babylonian exile (Isa. 19:16–25; 60). Paul hardly could have conceived that he would be one of the chief agents through whom the Lord would save the nations. But the transformation of Saul, the zealous persecutor of Christians, into Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, had always been part of God’s plan to extend the gospel to all people.
This gospel presents to us Christ Jesus, “in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him” (Eph. 3:12). Jews and Gentiles alike need not fear the wrath of God any longer when they come to Him through the Son, for in Christ we are reckoned as righteous and acceptable to the Father. John Calvin comments, explaining how faith gives us confident access to God: “Faith produces confidence, which again, in its turn, produces boldness. . . . First, we believe the promises of God; next, by relying on them, we obtain that confidence, which is accomplished by holiness and peace of mind; and, last of all, comes boldness, which enables us to banish fear, and to come with firmness and steadiness into the presence of God.”