We continue this morning in our study of the book of Ephesians and come to chapter 3 –
Ephesians 3:1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 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; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 7 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. 8 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; 9 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: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: 12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. 13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
Like many of the Jews in the early church, Paul was stunned at God’s plan of salvation. He and others were stunned that God’s Son, the Messiah, would have to die for our sins. They were also stunned that God’s plan to save the world included both Jew and Gentile and from our joint salvation, God would form one new body – the Church. Paul was stunned even more that God would give him (the chief of sinners, 1 Tim 1:15) the opportunity to be a part of this great work.
Ephesians 3:7 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. 8 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.
Paul was humbled that God would choose someone such as himself to be a minister of the grace of God. ‘Unto me, who am less than least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.’ Paul was humbled that God would use him and he didn’t take this great opportunity lightly. In vs. 2 he refers to it as – ‘the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward.’ The word ‘dispensation’ as it is used here means – “Stewardship.” A steward is someone who has the responsibility of managing the property of another. Paul saw himself as a steward of God’s grace and Paul was willing to do whatever it would take to faithfully fulfill his stewardship.
Ephesians 3:1 For this cause (God’s grace extended to the Gentiles and Paul a steward of that grace) I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles. Paul was not shallow in his commitment to Christ.
- He was a minister for Jesus Christ. The word ‘minister’ means servant. Paul often referred to himself as a slave of Jesus Christ.
- He was a steward of Jesus Christ. Christ had given to him the responsibility of taking His gospel of grace to the ends of the world.
- He was a prisoner of Jesus Christ. ‘I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles.’ At the time Paul is writing this letter to the Ephesians, he has already spent nearly five years in prison and as far as he knew, he might not ever walk out a free man. Yet Paul was not pleading for deliverance. He was willing to die for the cause of Christ.
Christians, may I ask you some sobering questions this morning? What are we willing to give up for the cause of Christ? What are we willing to suffer and endure for His glory? Are we willing to lay down our lives in order to be His servants, His stewards, His prisoners? Are we willing to give up our will so that Christ might use us to accomplish His?
The Lord has led me this week to go back into the book of Acts and retrace the steps of Paul’s life in order to see how this man became a prisoner of Jesus Christ for the Gentiles.
- The Salvation of Paul
- The Suffering of Paul
- The Stewardship of Paul
I. The Salvation of Grace
A. Saul the Roman
As many of you know, before his conversion, Paul was known as Saul. Saul was his Hebrew name and Paul was his Greek name. Although Paul was a Jew, he was raised outside of Judea in a Roman city called Tarsus. Being born in Tarsus made him a Roman citizen.
B. Saul the Religious
Saul was a very religious man. He was a Pharisee and as some believe, the son of a Pharisee. He was extremely committed to the Jewish faith and traditions. Concerning this he wrote –
Philippians 3:4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 6 … touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Like many of the Jews of his day, Paul believed that a man must earn his way to heaven by the way he lived. Therefore, when he resisted the preaching of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. He, like so many others, viewed Christianity as something evil and therefore he made it his number one priority to destroy the church. Explaining this to the Galatians he wrote –
Galatians 1:13 … beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it… In other words, I went to the extreme in trying to destroy Christianity. This is seen in the book of Acts when a young Christian by the name of Stephen was being stoned to death by the Jewish religious leaders.
Acts 7:58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.
Saul had received permission from the Jewish leaders to search out Christians and to bring them back to Jerusalem for trial and death.
Acts 8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
C. Saul the Redeemed
But then something happened to Saul. He met the Lord Jesus Christ and Saul himself became a Christian.
Acts 9:1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. 3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
After his salvation, Paul was sent to the home of a Christian named Ananias. Ananias was afraid of Paul for he knew him only as Saul, the man who was trying to kill all Christians. Yet the Lord said to Ananias –
Acts 9:15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.
II. The Sufficiency of Grace
‘For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.’ Paul suffered a great deal for his faith. The man who persecuted others himself became the persecuted. Yet he did not resist his suffering, but instead embraced it as a part of God’s plan for using him. In his letter to the Philippians he wrote –
Philippians 1:29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.
Paul suffered from prison, from beatings, from shipwreck, from rejection and from hunger. Like many of us, at first Paul couldn’t see any benefit from his suffering. Surely this was a mistake and if only he asked God to deliver him, He would. Yet during one of his times of prayer Paul learned this valuable lesson –
2 Corinthians 12:8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
Here is a great spiritual truth that Paul had to learn and every Christian has to learn if the Lord is going to use them – God uses weak and broken vessels to display His power and glory. One of my favorite stories is about a time when Charles Spurgeon was preaching in a friend’s church. The pastor friend wanted to impress Charles Spurgeon and so he had a young lady with a beautiful voice to sing just before Spurgeon spoke. During her son the pastor leaned over to Charles Spurgeon and asked, ‘So what do you think Mr. Spurgeon?’ Spurgeon replied, ‘I think that she will be greatly used by God, once her heart is broken.’
2 Corinthians 12:9 …Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
The sufficiency of God’s grace is seen in how Paul learned to react to his difficulties. Consider this portion of scripture and ask yourself – ‘How would I have reacted if I was Paul?’
Acts 21:8 And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. 9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. 10 And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. 11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. 12 And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.
What would cause a man to be willing to die for the name of Christ? What will enable a believer to be willing to suffer for the cause of Christ? It can only happen when that person reaches the point to where they are completely dependent upon the grace of God.
III. The Stewardship of Grace
We rejoice in the saving power of grace and the sustaining power of grace; but
Ephesians 3:1 For this cause
- God would be so gracious to save Jew / Gentile
- God would bless us with all spiritual blessings
- God would grant us an inheritance IN Christ
- God would make us an inheritance FOR Christ
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God
which is given me to you-ward:
A. ‘Dispensation’ – stewardship
1. Responsibility of managing the property of another
2. Of what property was Paul a steward? God’s grace
7 Whereof I was made a minister, (diakonis / servant)
according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me
by the effectual working of his power.
8 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;
B. Grace of God
1. Have you been saved – grace of God?
2. Are you being sustained – grace of God?
3. Are you a faithful steward – grace of God?