By Rev. Lance Filio
Paul explains how God’s grace calls him into ministry and enables him to understand by way of revelation the mystery of Christ. He points to the inclusion of Gentile believers together with Jewish Christian forms part of the people of God. His insight to gospel qualifies him to become their minister. His gospel message about Christ forms the foundation upon the Ephesian church now stand.
In our next sermon point, Paul defends his gospel ministry to them in order to clarify how his suffering is for their glory. First, he informs them about the source of his ministry – the gospel of God’s grace for his people. Second, he admits he was undeserving to receive such grace and God’s grace enables him to preach the gospel and to bring to light the wisdom of God in the forming of his church. Third, Paul teaches his congregation how in God’s wisdom, we can be assured and not lose heart when suffering comes because we know it for God’s glory.
This is our preaching for this morning. Before we begin, let us pray.
The Defense of His Apostolic Ministry
Verses 7-12: Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
Paul become a minister “according to the gift of God’s grace. Ministry comes with the office of Christ where he gifts his church pastors, elders, and deacons and Paul is no exception. He also received his calling from God by his grace and in turn gifted God’s people of the same grace he received from God.
What is true in the special offices is also true in the general office of believers. We are called by the ministry of the gospel when repentance and forgiveness of sin by Christ’s atoning work was preached to us and as forgiven sinners we extend the message of God’s grace to anyone we relate to. It is God’s grace that empowers us through and through. Grace received serves grace to others.
Even Paul acknowledge how undeserving he was to receive such grace. He was the least of the all saints. Paul here used a comparative plus a superlative to express how undeserving he was. In his own words, he admits he was the lesser least of the saints, not even among the apostles but among them! Paul considers himself the worst of them all and yet God was indeed merciful to him. In turn, we serves them the same grace he receives. Paul ministers to them the message of God’s grace to all sinners.
Such mindset runs contrary to our wicked nature. Often we tend to considet ourselves better than who we actually are. We think highly of ourselves and consider others less. We sometimes worry about admitting our faults in front of others, becoming vulnerable about our struggles, or even confessing our own need for help for fear of how others might pity us and look down on us.
The gospel of grace repudiates such thinking. Our depravity and inability to save ourselves or even make ourselves holy brings glory to God’s grace. Rather than denying such reality, by God’s grace, we extend the same grace to ourselves and to others. We admit to our failures, repent, and by the same grace applied when we first believe, we lead a sanctified life by God’s grace.
Paul suffers imprisonment because of his gospel ministry to the congregation in Ephesus. In defense of his apostolic ministry, he proclaims to them the rich grace he receives from God. As a result, he performs two main tasks for them: (1) To preach Christ; (2) To bring to light the glory of God’s work in his church. His gospel ministry results to the building up of God’s church in Ephesus. It demonstrates the untraceable wisdom of God in achieving his purpose of displaying the glory of his grace.
While Paul points to God’s power to save undeserving sinners like himself, he identifies God’s wisdom to bring glory out of suffering. In order to understand how his suffering is for their glory, Paul needs to inform them how God works out everything for our good. He relates to them working out of God’s purposes for the church to encourage them to trust God’s wisdom in the midst of trials and tribulations. Paul explains how God’s wisdom ordains the building up of the church in way unimaginable to anyone including those heavenly beings. The church is the outworking of God’s multi-colored wisdom of bring every elect from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Receiving such understanding that comes from the gospel of ministry out encourage us. We now possess the unsearchable riches of Christ which grants us confidence and assurance of our standing before God. This is the basis of Paul exhortation next.
Encouragement for His Congregation
Verses 13: So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
Paul publishes his second imperative command out his whole grace section (chapters 1-3). In chapter 2, he exhorts his congregation to remember their status prior receiving God’s grace of salvation. Remembering helps them think soberly about themselves. Just like Paul, they were undeserving sinners who received God’s grace. In chapter 3, he commands them to not lose heart. Paul wants them not to lose hope. Yes before grace they were hopeless and without God but after grace, God takes care of them and preserves them until the end. Their faith comes with hope. And hope enables them to persevere.
In the end of this verse, Paul explains the ground of their hope. Glory comes with suffering. The power and wisdom of God ordains how the glory of God shines forth with His grace. Dr. Sinclair Ferguson writes “Suffering and glory go hand in hand for Paul. The relationship is never simply chronological (suffering now, glory then); it is causal – glory because of suffering. Indeed for Paul suffering is the raw material out of which glory is created.”
Because of Christ suffered, God exalted him and now in glory. We who are united to our glorious Savior may may suffer for a little but soon we await the consummation of our glorification in him. Our suffering in him guarantees for us the glory our mediator now posses. Knowing these things causes us to be confident and not lose heart. And like Paul, we “consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).” Take heart Christian. Our Savior now sits in the heavens glorified and soon his glory becomes our glorification.
ZCRC(Imus), we are undeserving sinners saved by God’s grace. We extend the same grace to others and encourage one another with the same grace we receive even in the midst of suffering. Let us continue to trust God in his wisdom. May we put our hope in him and persevere in the end. Amen.