In the first part of Ephesians 3, Paul is preparing to (once again) pray for his readers – much like he did in the last half of chapter 1. In the process, however, he seems to get “sidetracked” (obviously, under the perfect guidance of God’s Spirit) on the “stewardship of God’s grace” that has been given to him. This “stewardship” with which he has been entrusted is the “mystery” of the gospel. In 3:1-5, he discusses the nature of the mystery – that it was not made known to other generations but has now been revealed. Then, in 3:6, he lays out the content of the mystery – that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promises of God. Having said all of that, Paul then moves to discuss his calling as a “minister” of that gospel. He reiterates that he has been called to preach it. And in the process, he reminds us that our task – though it may be carried out differently than Paul – is the same. The mystery of the gospel has been entrusted to us, and we are called to proclaim it.
If we are honest, this whole section might seem very impractical to us. Even after reading about the nature and content of the “mystery” of the gospel, we might still be left asking “Why does all of this matter and what is the practical relevance of this point?” The answer to that question seems to lie in 3:7-8 where Paul declares, “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.” Clearly, the revelation Paul has been describing is not merely a matter of head knowledge but had actually captivated his heart. He was not involved merely in speaking facts to people. Rather, Paul is himself a recipient of “God’s grace”. And this grace had been given to him “by the working of [God’s] power”. Paul was not talking about something he knew nothing about. He had experienced grace himself, and he had seen the power of God work in his own heart. Even though he was not a Gentile, he had personally experienced the blessings he was proclaiming. It begs the question: is your heart moved in this way by the truth you proclaim? Do you see yourself as “the least of all the saints”? Do you recognize that you have received “grace” – the favor and blessing of God? And do you realize that this grace was given to you – freely bestowed even though you did not deserve it? Paul knew that, and we must not forget it.
And as we read Paul’s story, we are also reminded that we have not merely received the gospel but been made “ministers” of the gospel. Not only has God’s grace been given to save us but also to enable us to preach the gospel which we have received. Obviously, we are not all called to the same sort of ministry as Paul – traveling around to areas which had not heard the gospel, preaching, and establishing new churches there. That may be the call for some, but for many, it is not. However, we are all called to proclaim the gospel to those who have not heard. This is not simply a missionary task or a pastor’s task – it is the call of every believer. Jesus told His church to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). Then he defined that process as going, baptizing, and teaching obedience. We must go and preach the gospel. Baptism can only happen when faith has come to pass. And faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). We are called to preach so that they might hear and – by God’s grace – believe. We see this also in 2 Cor. 5:18-20 which declares that we are “ambassadors for Christ” who have been given “the ministry of reconciliation”. God is appealing to people to be reconciled to Him through us. We are not called to receive God’s grace and hoard it for ourselves. We are called to be conduits through which that grace flows to others.
Paul understood not only that the mystery of the gospel had been revealed but also that he had been called to proclaim it. We need to understand the same thing. Like Paul, we have received abundant grace from God. Like Paul, we have a clear task and a clear mission. And like Paul, we have been called and equipped to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ to a lost world. So that begs the following questions: Are we gripped by this mission? Does this task control everything about our lives? Are we carrying out this task? What is our motivation and goal and drive and desire? Do we understand that this task is given to all of us and not just a select few? As Christians, we should learn from Paul’s example and seek, like him, to carry out the task as fervently and as diligently as we can. We have been made ministers of the gospel by the working of God’s power. Though we are unworthy, He has given us grace to preach to all people the unsearchable riches of Christ. May we be faithful.