“That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
The Gracious Revelation Of His Mystery: Ephesians 3:1-13
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
In this section of Scripture we will be looking at God’s grace being shown to us in the form of a “mystery”. What does the word mystery mean in the context of this study? The Greek word translated “mystery” literally means “to shut the mouth”, in other words “to remain unrevealed”. We will see this mystery will be revealed to God’s people while yet remaining unrevealed to the lost world.
What is this mystery being talked about? It is the inclusion of the Gentiles as recipients of the gracious salvation of the Lord. It is the Gentiles being put on the same spiritual footing as the Jew, receiving God’s gift of repentance and faith, His forgiveness, His indwelling Spirit, His worship and His eternal inheritance, among many other gifts of grace. It involves the Gentiles being included into the institutions of the Lord (His family, His nation, and His local church).
Our study of the “mystery of Christ” will teach us two different aspects of God’s gracious intervention on our behalf:
1. We will see that, the Gentiles inclusion in the Lord’s work of salvation is an act of God’s grace,
2. but also revealing this mystery to God’s people is another aspect of this display of divine grace.
A very basic outline of this section of Scripture:
I. The revelation of this mystery to Paul – 1-3a
II. The revelation of this mystery to the Ephesians (and us) – 3b-6
III. The calling of Paul to minister this mystery to others – 7-11
IV. The enabling of Paul to minister this mystery in the midst of persecutions – 12-13
In our text today, Paul relates his personal responsibilities given to him concerning this “mystery of Christ!” …
(Ephesians 3:7-8a) Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given…
Whereof I was made a minister,
Paul was made by God, a servant of this wonderful mystery.
The term “minister” comes from a Greek word that describes a person who seeks to supply the needs and desires of others (like a waiter or waitress in a restaurant). Paul’s role was to concentrate on “handing out” the much needed gospel message to the Gentiles (and to a lesser degree Jews). As he did so, he explained to them the wonderful access to God’s family, nation and church that the gospel message supplied.
according to the gift of the grace of God
Paul looked at his calling and minister as an undeserved gift given to him by God.
He did not look at it as a drudgery, insignificant nor as if it were of no value. He saw it as a wonderful opportunity to glorify the Lord and an occasion to reap very valuable rewards in service of the Most High.
given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
How did Paul receive this calling? It was given to him in conjunction with God’s power working within him.
He was not expected to minster the gospel to the Gentiles of his own ability, power and authority. Not only was he called of God but through His power, he was enabled to fulfill his calling through the power of the Most High God.
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given…
Paul was in amazement that the Lord would call him to be a servant of the gospel message to the Gentiles. He considered himself “the least” or “far less than” all the other men who were saved.
Why does Paul consider himself least of all saints? Probably for two reasons at least:
1. Paul’s current sinful condition…Paul, as a spiritually mature and honest Christian, recognized the sin that was in his life. In Romans 7: he made it plain that he was constantly burdened by the sins that he saw within his own life.
Please keep in mind, those who claim to be sinlessly perfect are, in actuality, either deceptive or immature Christians who cannot see the indwelling sin that inhabits them. It is the mature Christian who is able to discern sin in their lives, willing to admit it, and are constantly burdened by it.
2. Paul’s past acts of sin…. Remember, Paul (prior to his salvation) was known for his persecution/murder of Christians (Acts 8:1-5, Acts 9:1-2, 1 Cor 15:9-10). This past life certainly caused some other Christians to pause and question Paul’s new found salvation and his commitment to the service of Christ.
For, at least these two reasons, and perhaps others, Paul looked upon himself as the lowest of his spiritual brethren.
(Please note that Paul describes those who are saved as “saints”. The Biblical idea of a saint is simply “a separated one”. A “saint” is simply describing a person who has been separated from sin to God. Another way to look at the idea of a saint is a person who has been made holy through the application of the blood of Christ. In the Bible, the term “saint” NEVER is used to describe only the most faithful of believers.)
Any God-given area of service is of equally important with that of Paul’s. One example of this is found in 1 Corinthians 12:12-21 the Lord makes it plain that any ministry to which a Christian is called is valuable and necessary for the cause of Christ.
Let us never think that if the Lord has called us to a specific area of service that it is a “lesser” area than that of others. ANYTHING to which the Lord has called us is a privilege, an opportunity for eternal rewards, of great value to His cause, and is worthy of giving it our all.
The greatest service is FAITHFUL service in the area to which we have been called. There is no service greater that that in God’s eyes.
“So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present [us] with you. For all things [are] for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward [man] is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen [are] temporal; but the things which are not seen [are] eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:12-18)
May we all get a clearer picture of our Lord and Savior, and the great grace He has shown to us. Let us be always watchful to keep His great acts of grace on our behalf in the center of our attention… In doing so, may we be motivated to LOVE Him more, APPRECIATE Him more and SERVE Him more!
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