“I was made a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power.This grace was given to me—the least of all the saints—to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of Christ,and to shed light for all about the administration of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things. This is so that God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens. This is according to his eternal purpose accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him we have boldness and confident access through faith in him.So, then, I ask you not to be discouraged over my afflictions on your behalf, for they are your glory.”
This is a pretty big chunk to bite off today but here we go! I am going to briefly cover each verse. I am going to take some of the more difficult phrases, and some of the phrases that he hasn’t used before and go over those more in depth. Let’s dig in!
In verses 7 and 8, Paul says that he is a servant of the gospel by God’s grace. We covered how Paul was made in apostle in chapter one. Here in verse 8, he calls himself the least of the saints. He regards the commission of proclaiming the gospel a huge privilege. It had been given to him despite the fact that he was the least of the saints. He uses a comparison version of least that doesn’t exist and says he is less than the least. John Stott writes, “Perhaps he was deliberately playing on the meaning of his name. For his Roman surname ‘Paulus’ is Latin for ‘little’ or ‘small’, and tradition says he was a little man.” Paul truly believes he is unworthy to carry out the message and is very thankful for the mercy that Christ has shown him. Because of this mercy and grace, he knows he must carry the message of the gospel to the Gentile world.
How often do we feel that we are unworthy to carry the message? Or to receive God’s grace? I was listening to the Mike Winger Bible Thinker podcast where he answers 20 questions. He does this weekly, and I highly recommend it. One of the answers this week caught my ear because he was talking about Paul. He said God chose Paul because he was a bad guy. God chose him as an example so that people could look at Paul and see that if God could use someone who had been murdering and persecuting the church to then spread the gospel message-then we would know that God could love and use us.
The next part of the verse says that his job was to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches in Christ. He covers these riches in chapter two. He then goes on to say that he is to shed light for all on the mystery. We already know what the mystery is from the previous verses. Here Paul is telling us that his job is to reveal it to both the Gentile and the Jew. David Guzik writes in his commentary, “Paul tried to figure out the greatness of God’s grace, and started tracking it out as one might track out the shore of a lake. He soon discovered it wasn’t a lake at all, but an ocean, and in measurable sea. God’s riches are unsearchable; we will never know them completely.”
Verse 10 says, “This is so that God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be known through the church to the rulers and authorities in heaven.” There are two things I want to cover here. The first is the word ‘multi-faceted.’ The second is the phrase ‘rulers and authorities in heaven.’
First, let’s look at the word multi-faceted. This word can be used in describing a gem, having many sides, showing many colors. This word has also been translated as manifold, which literally translates as many- colored. It can be used to describe flowers, crowns, embroidered cloth, and woven carpet. The church is now made up of all the nations. this is the mystery now revealed. John Stott writes, “The church as a multi-racial, multi-cultural community is like a beautiful tapestry. Its members come from a wide range of colorful backgrounds.”
The next phrase we are going to look at is “rulers and authorities in the heavens.’ This is the fourth time the spiritual realm is mentioned in Ephesians. The rulers and authorities in the heavenly realm are watching us. They do not know everything. Peter writes about this in 1 Peter 1: 10-12.
“Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who prophesied about the grace that would come to you, searched and carefully investigated. They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when he testified in advance to the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you. These things have now been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—angels long to catch a glimpse of these things.”
God did not reveal his plan for the church to the angels. Stott writes, “It is through the old creation (the universe) that God reveals his glory to humans. It is through the new creation (the church) that he reveals his wisdom to the angels.” Pastor Terry Morrow, in his book on Ephesians writes, “All of creation is constantly watching the church in order to better understand this mystery of God, which is the church, consisting of both the Jews and the Gentiles, united in Christ. The church is central to history, central to the gospel and central to living out Christian life.” Later in Ephesians 6:12 Paul uses the phrases ‘rulers’, ‘authorities’, ‘cosmic powers of this darkness’, and ‘spiritual forces in the heavens’ so we know that the rulers and authorities and heavens who are watching us as the church are both angels and fallen angels. We will see in chapter 6 how to use the armor of God to fight these powers of darkness who are fighting against the church.
Verse 12 says that we can now boldly access God. This was very different than what the Jews had been taught. They could only access God through the high priest. The Gentiles had been part of a Pagan society without a personal God. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.” Because Christ was the sacrifice that covered our sins, we can now go right to the Father without anyone interceding for us.
In the last verse, Paul says something about suffering. He says, “I ask you not to be discouraged over my afflictions on your behalf…” I think Paul is saying two things here. He genuinely does not want the church in Ephesus to worry or be discouraged for him. But more importantly he is teaching this new body of believers that suffering is part of the Christian walk. I think we have done a huge disservice to the church today to teach that, when you accept Christ, everything is going to be great. You will be healed! You will become prosperous! Everything in your life is going to become perfect! This is not what the Bible teaches, yet we have so many prominent churches and pastors who are preaching this. And then, when it doesn’t happen, the believer falls away because they don’t know what the Bible teaches on this. Let’s look at some verses.
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33
“So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me his prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.” 2 Timothy 1:8
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:3
“The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” Romans 8:17
“ For it has been granted to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are engaged in the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I have.” Philippians 1:29-30
“You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7
“Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.” Hebrews 11:36-40
I put a lot of verses for suffering because I want to show that this is a Biblical principal. It is something we can expect in our lives. And it is something God uses to grow us. Of course God can heal. He can bless us with wealth. But we know he grows us through our trials. The greatest growth comes through our greatest trials both individually and as a church. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials,because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” We know that our greatest reward still waits for us. It is not here. Jesus said in John 14, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also. You know the way to where I am going”(vs 2-4). And Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”
That was a big section to cover! Our next section will be Paul’s prayer for the church at Ephesus. Chapter 3 will end the first half of Ephesians. I have seen some outlines of the book where it shows chapters 1-3 as where we are seated in Christ, and 4-6 as to what we need to do or where we need to stand in Him. Other ways I have seen it defined are 1-3 is the position of Christians and 4-6 is the practice of Christians. The last one I will use is 1-3 is the Good News of what God has done, and 4-6 is instructions on how to live in light of those blessings. So basically, the first half was passive, and the second half is active!
Grace be with you!