For the past few weeks we have been studying Ephesians, and in many ways hearing some great theological and doctrinal truth. We have heard about the doctrines of: alienation, reconciliation, total depravity, new life in Christ, union with Christ, predestined for adoption, forgiven of trespasses. All core doctrines of our faith. All this propelled Paul to live differently.
There can often be a delay in us receiving something and then actually putting it to use. You may think of a newborn animal that comes out with wobbly legs and can barely stand. As a family we watch Spider Man homecoming recently. It is about Spider Man as a teenager. He has these powers but not quite fully in control of them. Maturity and growth brings stability and confidence.
Today we see how theological truths come to bear on a person. We see how it strengthens wobbly knees and bring confidence in the apostle Paul’s life.
For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles-- 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 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. 8 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, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. (Ephesians 3:1-13 ESV)
The work of Christ makes us confident stewards of God’s eternal purposes. Here Paul is talking about his identity wrapped up in Christ, and as he is an example for us we should have this identity too. I want to look at five aspects of his identity in Christ.
- Prisoner of the Lord
Paul is literally a prison for the Lord. He is held in captivity. Now one thing he qualifies is that he is not just any prisoner, but for the Lord. People go to prison for things they deserve to be in prison for. Paul is in prison for his testimony of Jesus.
“On behalf of you gentiles.” He wanted to tell those who did not know God. The gentiles were those outside the Jewish nation. Paul is going to a people different from him who do not know God. This is uncomfortable to say the least.
Prison highlights the cost of following Jesus, and the cost Paul was willing to pay in order to be obedient to Christ.
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Mat 10:39 ESV).
Paul knew there was a risk of opposition, imprisonment, and more, and yet he chose to teach the Word of God. He knew the culture would not open its arms wide for him. OUr country is coming closer to this. Dont be surprised by it. Just realize that you have an opportunity to suffer for Jesus, a way to express your love to him.
What are we willing to sacrifice so that others might know Christ? Will we give our lives, how about a cut in commission, how about some embarrasment, how about a
JOhn Maxwell said we live in four different zone.
- Coasting Zone-I do as little as possible
- Comfort Zone- I do what I have always done
- Challenge Zone- I attempt to do what I haven’t done before
- Creative Zone-I attempt to think what I have never thought before
If we are going to serve God it is going to mean doing hard things. We are going to find ourselves in difficult situations because of what God requires of us. Ambition to go toward others with the gospel.
Ambition to take a stand. Not lying, not cheating, not sleeping with others, not cursing or talking dirty, not seeing certain movies. Paul embraced his calling to serve Christ sacrificially.
Need an attitude of looking for opportunities in life and willing to pay a cost to engage in them. Dont just do something because it is easy. Do hard things.
- Steward of the Good News/Gospel
A steward is someone who is put in charge of something that doesn’t belong to him. You may work as a manager. In that case you are managing an office that does not belong to you. You want to steward it well for others.
Steward. "the management of a household or of household affairs; specifically, the management, oversight, administration, of others' property; the office of a manager or overseer, stewardship".
When you are a steward, the thing you manage doesnt belong to you, but you feel a responsibility to care for that thing. For many of you this describes your work.
Steward of God’s grace and revelation.
Minister v7. Diakanos. This word is used as a servant. It is also used to denote a follower of Christ and an office in the church.
Paul found life in serving others and not his own personal needs. We need to remember that truth. Our flesh always puts itself first. If you are not constantly training yourself to think differently then you will end up with everything centered on you and your comfort. We need to say, “It is not about me.” That should be a saying of our church. It’s not about me. God first; others second. Everything is viewed as a way to serve others. Whether going to work, studying for exams, washing dishes, or serving in church as an usher, childrens ministry.
Paul is a steward of the Grace of God. Grace can be an abstract idea. How do you possess grace, much less share it with others. For Paul the grace of God is tangible, it is felt and experienced, encountered, and all that comes through the message of Jesus Chrsit. It has been made known.
Mystery of Christ is now made known. Paul tells them you can read about it right here. Mystery made known by revelation (v3). In the NT mystery is used for something once hidden but now made know in Christ. God has revealed himself in history, and specifically in Jesus Christ.
Made known by revelation. We can share the gospel with others because God has revealed it, and he has revealed it in writing. When we want something preserved we write it down. It commits us to a course. God did the same thing throughout history. Ten Commandments were written on stone. He reveals his intent to Paul. Actually there is a pattern than only appears in Christianity. God says he is going to do something, he does it, and then tells why he did it. We ought to have confidence in the Bible being God’s word.
We believe in a living God who is active in the world, who knows his people, come comes of a woman, born as man, lives and dies, and atones for the sins of his people. It is a God who accommodates himself to us so that we can know, understand, and love him. We have that accommodation in the writings of Paul. his revelation is made available so we can all know and abide by.
They mystery is that the gentiles are fellowheirs, members of the same body, partakers of the promise of God. sugkleronoma, sussoma, summetoxa
Paul is a steward of the message of salvation. He sees himself as this because of the revelation he had received. If you are a Christian, if you have a Bible in your hand, then you are a steward of the gospel. Will you be faithful with it?
2 Kings 7:9. Samaria is sieged. Four lepers wait outside. “Then they said to one another, "We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king's household." (2Ki 7:9 ESV)”.
Are you a steward of the gospel. Can you share it with others? Not my job!?
It is all of our jobs. If you cannot share it with them then you are not a steward of it. Can you share it in meaningful ways with people. You don’t have to be perfect but you do have to talk. Don’t feel like you have to know everything. We live in the soundbite age. You watch debaters who completely silence their opponents, and you think I could never do that. The thing is you don’t see the times those presenters shared and the person had a great comeback. You don’t see them when they heard an argument the first time. Sharing the gospel is dialogical. It means you listen to the other, consider what they are searching for, tell them you don’t know how to answer something but will look into it and get back to you. Call me if you don’t know what to say. Its the young girl crying on the playground, the mom exasperated by her children, the person in the office who is stressed out, the couple have marital struggles.
“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” (2Ti 4:13 ESV). Probably the scriptures and commentary on them.
A couple ways you can equip yourself to be a steward of the gospel. Read the Bible. Memorize it. Listen eagerly to sermons. Read books.
We need people reading good books. Being sharpened to reach others. Are you struggling with reaching the lost: read a book on it. Are you struggling in knowing how to answer questions people are asking. Read a book on it. Talk to others about it.
If your work asked you to do something and you didn’t know how to do it or didn’t feel very good about your ability, what would you do? I bet your would go online do some searches for resources, find a good book and talk to others to figure out what you ought to do. Why don’t we do that with spiritual things. God has revealed himself in his word so that we can know and understand him. We ought to be people of the book. We ought to bleed bible. We ought to be hungry to learn God’s word.
If we view ourselves as Stewards of God’s grace we ought to feel the responsibility of that.
- Least of All
Least. comparative of an ancient word evlacu,j (short, small, little) used as the comparative of mikro,j (small); smaller; of age younger; substantivally younger person (RO 9.12); of quality inferior
Paul was one of the most learned people of his time. He was brilliant. He was humble too. His attitude of a servant came out.
The gospel brings humility and empowerment. Does it bring you low. One way we see that humility is by acknowledging our emptiness apart from Christ. Confessing our sin and weakness. Paul confesses his weakness here. Confession is an active part of the Christian life. Is confession a part of your life. Do you confess your sins to your spouse. Do you confess your sins to others (small group)? People don’t know how to take criticism or advice today. That is pride welling up. Learn from others. If you are least then you know you can learn something from anyone.
Grace is mentioned several times. Grace is unmerited favor. Paul did not deserve to be reconciled to God. He did not deserve to experience new life. He was dead in his sin. He could not work his way back to God, because all his works only led him further from God.
Paul did not demand. He did not assume he had it all together and deserved people to bow down to him. He came as a servant.
Humility is so important because pride is so dangerous. When you are proud and think more of yourself than others it leads you to ignore others, you don’t hear them, and really it means you care more for yourself than you do others. Pride is a lack of love. Humility considers others, hears them, loves them as they want and need to be loved.
Ministry is about serving the needs of others. Jesus came not to be served but to serve and lay down his life.
One of the most deadly attitudes in the church today is the attitude of entitlement. We think we deserve things in the church: “That’s my chair. Do it my way. The problem today is all these people out there.” It is a cold arrogant attitude to those who need the warmth of God’s love. We ought to say if “I can be accepted by Christ and the church then anyone could.”
- Confidence in Christ
If we only have humility we will be beaten down in all that we do. Humility is most powerful when it can also be bold. Bold to share and challenge but still respectful and caring.
Paul is in a prison and yet he is not sulking, he is not depressed, he is not in denial, he is not hiding, he is not inflicting pain on himself or others, he is not wallowing in worthlessness. He has been hurt and oppressed but his identity in Christ greater than his struggles. Despite this he is telling others they need to trust in Christ.
His calling is a gift. Wonderful privilege to be the apostle to the gentiles the one who receives the revelation of God. But that calling came with a price. He was in jail. And yet he still calls it a gift. God calls all of us to serve him and sometimes we can resent that calling because of the difficulties. You were called to be a teacher and the cost is lower income than what you could be making. You were called to lead a business and the cost is the stress it puts on you. You were called to be a dr and the cost is you find yourself called into the office at inconvenient times. REsent these and regret it. Paul had many imprisonments for preaching the gospel, and he still said his calling was a gift and a grace.
Confident in Christ. We want to form healthy people who are igniting change in others.
Paul’s faith had a clear object. People use the word faith today and it means little more than wishful thinking. You have faith you will win the lottery, great, but what are you basing that faith on. For Paul faith has an object of Jesus Christ and the revelation through him. “An empty and confused knowledge of Christ must not be mistaken for faith.” Calvin.
Growth in knowing. There are three stages in our progress. First, we believe the promises of God; next by relying on them we obtain confidence, which is accompanied 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.
You can see that part of Paul’s overriding goal was for the church.
Manifold wisdom of God is on display in the church. It is witness by all those in power.
An exhaust manifold or header collects the exhaust gases from multiple cylinders into one pipe. Usually constructed of cast iron, it conducts the exhaust gases from the combustion chambers to the exhaust pipe. It has smooth curves in it for improving the flow of exhaust. The exhaust manifold is bolted to the cylinder head, and has entrances for the air that is injected into it.
The many sided wisdom of God is made known through the church. A group of different individuals of different backgrounds and races and united as a household and fellow heirs through Christ, and working together to make him known. God is bringing all people to him in Christ.
We typically think God is only interested in people like us. But God is reconciling Jew and Gentile, black and white, educated and uneducated, upperclass, lowerclass, no class. You name it. All are finding a place at his table through the gospel.
rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Eph 3:10 ESV)
Paul talks about the eternal purposes and it is the church that pronounces eternal realities to the world. We have the revelation of God and we want to make that know. The sharing of God’s word is the duty of the church. This is what we are to be about. It is what we should be most passionate about. Paul is in chains for no other reason that sharing the word. It is not about light shows, giving away ipads, smoke machines, crazy antics from the stage. We want to be about the simple sharing and explaining of the word of God.
The church is about stewarding the grace of God to other people. Sharing with them how unworthy sinners can be made right with God, how they can experience real community, and find confidence in Christ.
Paul heard the truths of Christ and it changed the way he viewed himself. He was willing to be a prisoner, servant, steward, churchman, and confident.
Attitudes to go after. What do these look like in your life? Do you look like a full grown stallion or like a new born calf. More importantly, what does your pursuit of them look like. Here are some things for you to pursue. Will you work on them, will you confess your sins and shortcomings, will you ask you friends for help and ask them to pray for you to grow in developing an attitude of a prisoner of Christ or a steward of the gospel.