Ephesians 3:7-13 Common grace satisfies, but extraordinary grace glorifies
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.
Paul is a classic example of God’s “forgetfulness” of one’s past; that God uses repentant vile sinners and ordains their future anew. Paul is entrusted with the extraordinary grace of revelations and power to bring the gospel to all the peoples of the earth. God, being the Master planner of worldwide evangelism display His wisdom by veiling the plan of Gentile’s inclusion into God’s household for a time. This is so that the Jews may first be raised up as a holy people that would in turn become a holy heritage in the church of Christ. Paul’s life inspires us to seek God’s grace not for personal gain but to minister life and healing to the world around us. This extraordinary grace cannot be bought with money or by hard work. However, God gives extraordinary grace to one who loves to do His will and gives his life for His Kingdom’s work. People seek common grace that can satisfy their basic needs, but extraordinary grace satisfies others and glorifies the one possessing it.
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.
It is great privilege to receive the gift of extraordinary grace not for personal and earthly gain, but to minister to others with the gospel. Paul expresses his unworthiness to receive such extraordinary grace for this very important ministry to reconcile the rest of the world to God: 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. This grace differs from the grace given to “common” believers as it is based on the working of Christ’s power, which is the power to heal and to forgive sins. Paul’s life attest to the fact that the extraordinary grace of revelations, gifts of miracles and healing, faith and perseverance bring so much joy, and glory that is much bigger than what this earth can offer.
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.
The salvation plan for the rest of the world was hidden for a time in order to establish a heritage and discipline for holy living first in the Jews, then within the church. The Jews, having lived in the Law for many generations are primed to show the church a holy lifestyle pertaining to worship, marriage, parent/child relationship and relationship with fellow men. As such, Jews play a vital role in world evangelism by being a model of holiness for abundant living. This is God’s wisdom for worldwide evangelism, through which the heritage of the Jews in holy living might be given to the church through the word: so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known. Without first establishing the Law, which contains the model of holy living, the church will remain immature, ill disciplined where many would return to the life of darkness. “The rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” refers to the angels who witness the restoration of the sons of God under God’s manifold wisdom.
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. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
Paul’s resolve and capacity to evangelize the Gentiles amidst Jewish opposition comes from the extraordinary grace that he receives from Christ Himself. Thus, Paul’s suffering is not an unfortunate event that deserves his Gentile readers to lose heart over his predicament. But rather that Paul’s suffering is necessary so that something much greater may come: the conversion of Gentiles resulting in the full restoration of creation.
1. A person’s past glories or failures do not affect God’s inclination to use him in the future. Even though Paul had done much harm to the church in his pre-Christian days, for he had persecuted and murdered many followers of Christ. God, having seen Paul’s heart, his repentance, his propensity for obedience, his love for the people, and his boldness lift him to a position of prominence with an abundance of revelations and power. Your past may lack luster, or strewn with embarrassment and failures, your current situation may be littered with much problems. But God can still use you powerfully if you would seek Him with all your heart and surrender your life for His work.
2. God’s future plans are sometimes hidden so that we may focus on building the foundations of the present. God’s plan for Gentile inclusion into God’s community is hidden so that Jews may focus on establishing the foundation of holiness and the disciplines needed for holy living. The heritage of Jews is paramount to restoring humanity and the church to the image of God and His fullness. At the individual level, we may not fully understand why we are in our present condition, but God in His wisdom has veiled the future from us so that we may focus on the present. Everything that happened to us is predestined for a divine purpose so that we may be fully equipped to accomplish His call in our lives. Having this perspective in mind, we must take heart and focus on personal regeneration at the face of life challenges.
3. A sacrifice is necessary in order to bring life and glory back into humanity. Even after Christ has broken the power of death over humanity through His sacrifice. The believer’s sacrifice is still necessary to deliver the gospel to all the peoples of the earth. Christ’s sacrifice that forms the foundation of the gospel broke the judicial bondage of sin and death. The believer’s sacrifice that is built upon the foundation of Christ’s sacrifice brings life and freedom to every individual through the preaching of the gospel. Every spiritual gain must be acquired by a physical sacrifice of human effort through work and prayer. Paul says,
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. (Colossians 1:24)
The reason Paul rejoices is because of the souls that are being added to the church because of his suffering. Through his suffering, something eternal, something much greater in value is produced: countless souls saved and the fullness of God.
4. The extraordinary kind of grace that brings life to others gives us more joy and glory than the common grace of God’s provision. Hence, believers must seek the extraordinary grace to minister life and healing above the common grace of provision. Many seek the common grace of provision but neglected the extraordinary grace of glory. Common grace enables one to receive, whereas extraordinary grace empowers one to give. Jesus spoke about common grace where God takes care of the birds and the lilies of the field. But when man seeks the extraordinary grace to heal and bless others, the common grace of provision will automatically be given. Extraordinary grace can be gained by making a decision to surrender our life to God and to serve His purposes; it is priceless and can never be bought by any other means. When Peter ministered with extraordinary grace in Samaria imparting the Holy Spirit to the people. A man called Simon tried to offer money in exchange for the extraordinary grace to minister. Peter rebukes him saying the grace to minister can never be bought with any amount of money (see Acts 8:19-20). Paul encourages believers to seek spiritual gifts so that they could minister out of love, “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts.” (1 Corinthians 14:1).
Do you see yourself receiving the extraordinary grace of the Spirit? Your past failings and glories is never a factor in God’s decision to anoint you. Start giving your time to the outreach ministries of your church and spend time to equip yourself for the work of extraordinary grace.
Dear Lord, I surrender my life to Your purposes. Show me as to what I could do to each day to fulfill them. I seek Your extraordinary grace and power to pray for the sick people in my community. Use me to encourage them and fill them with Your love and Your promises. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.