Ephesians 3:1-3 1For this reason, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles— 

Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter. There are not enough clues in the letter itself to know which prison. Since the letter to the Colossians is similar to this letter, and since the letter to Philemon seems linked to Colossians, we can use all these clues to narrow down the possibilities. The most likely options are Rome or Ephesians, with a stronger case for Paul’s final imprisonment in Rome. Whatever the case, Paul identifies two interlinked reasons why he is a prisoner.

First is his key identity as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. The reason he is in prison is because of his ministry of proclaimer the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even though he was humanly incarcerated and unable to get out, he was spiritually free and could still pray for the Ephesians and offer this letter for their growth and perseverance.

Second, his mission from Christ was to the Gentiles, and this was part of the reason for his imprisonment. This was not a political statement about who captured Paul or kept him in prison but a spiritual testimony of purpose. The reason he was in prison was to help the Gentiles grow in their faith and trust in Jesus. Paul was a model of endurance under persecution. In a similar passage in Colossians 1:24, he writes, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings in your behalf and in my flesh I am filling up the things that are lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, which is the church.” Through his own suffering, Paul was helping others understand the gospel better. He provided a model of faith under trial. His mission for Christ was linked to his suffering for others.

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