Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Made a Minister: Thoughts on Ephesians 3

We left off in Ephesians 2, where Paul appeals to the body of Christ to live as a unified temple for the Lord Jesus. In Ephesians 3, he elaborates on the beauty of the gospel that knits us together.

Paul views the gospel as a gift from God to be passed on. By employing the word "stewardship," he makes it clear that our knowledge of God is not to be horded. Rather, we are to share it! He writes that God's grace was given to him for others (v. 2); in other words, God has given Paul a testimony. The apostle boldly writes that God has revealed things to him and to others that previous generations have not understood.

This idea of revelation is one we've been discussing at length in Systematic Theology I. In a book called The Revelation of God, biblical scholar Peter Jensen describes the gospel as the primary revelation of God throughout history. Although God reveals Himself in creation, in His word, and through His Spirit to individuals, Jesus' lordship is the pinnacle of revelation. All else that God reveals points to Christ alone. And according to Jensen, the gospel revelation Paul writes of "is the very means by which God prosecutes His work in the world...the means He uses to to inform the world of its central truth...the way he applies the atoning death of Jesus to men and women."

Because the gospel is the primary means by which God is at work in the world, Paul's claim in verse 7 is audacious. How can he claim to be a part of something so holy and so grand?! The paradox, of course, is that Paul's words also reveal humility. He understands that it is only by the goodness of God's grace that he is a part of this ministry. Like Paul, we need the chutzpah to remember that we are invited to join in the work of gospel-sharing, and the humility to recognize that of our own accord, we are utterly unable to do so. Paul writes that the call of the church to speak forth the wisdom of God is only enabled by Jesus, "in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him" (v. 12). When we boldly preach Christ as the world's central truth, we are joining God in the purpose of His coming kingdom. It is not our efforts that procure the work, yet He works in us "to bring a light for everyone" (v. 8)!

The chapter closes with Paul's sweet prayer on behalf of the Ephesians: that they who are "rooted and established in love" (v. 17) might be strengthened in their understanding of the gospel. (Surely this is what the Spirit continues to intercede for us today, for as Martin Luther observed, "We leak the gospel!") And the necessity of this prayer is attributed to the glory of God: "Now to him who is able to do far more than all that we ask or imagine, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen" (vv. 20-21).

Living to expound the mystery!

"The only way that we will come into that high place of anointing and power to seize the moment, to advance the kingdom, to swim against the tide, to go against the odds, to sail against the wind that's the world is if you and I are resting in the consistent nature of God. You and I have a testimony of what God is really like living in our hearts in such a powerful way that it drives everything...the testimony of what Jesus is really, really like."
--Australian preacher, Graham Cook

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