04 February 2008

Verse by verse through Ephesians (3:7-3:13)

7 …I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. 8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

We see that Paul became a minister (literally, dispenser), not by any good works in which he had previously endeavoured—for he would have told you himself (and will do so in a moment) that he had none. He was, after all, a persecutor of the church (Philippians 3:6), and not a man previously given to being hospitable toward the name of Jesus Christ. Thus, it was the grace of God that reached down and called him to dispense the grace of God to these believers.

To get the truest sense of Paul's delight about this calling, I believe it is necessary to rearrange the grammar in verses 7-8. …I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. To me! The less-than-the-least of all the saints! This grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ… About that phrase less than the least of all the saints. The Greek is elacistotero (elachistotero). It is a Greek word that literally means "less than the least." Lower than low. Beneath the bottom of the barrel. He had to work his way up to the gutter. It is a word used in Greek poetry, and this is the only time the word is used in the NT. And it is a word that we should all consider using when remembering how we learned about salvation. That not only are we each the chief of sinners (1st Timothy 1:15), but we are less than the least of all saints! That we are only found in the good favor of God because of His grace! That we had no reason to brag about our salvation!

Now, why do we receive such grace? Remember chapter 1? Paul brings us back to that place here. We are called to the adoption as sons, to be holy and blameless before Him (1:4) and to spread this gospel to all the world by preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery (3:8-9). Some translations use the word "dispensation" or "administration" instead of "fellowship." And looking at the Greek it is easy to see why. The two Greek words are very similar. "Dispensation" comes from the Greek oikonomia (oikonomia), whereas "fellowship" comes from koinonia (koinonia). I believe this is one place where the King James Only people should concede the point. Even though we do have "fellowship" one with another, the point of Paul's discourse here is not so much to talk about this fellowship. If you skim back up to verse 2 of chapter 3, you will see the reason he gives at the outset—and the theme running through this whole monologue—is to teach us of the dispensation of grace, and how it has been watched over and guided and administered by God Himself.

It has in fact been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ. There are many who believe that God somehow changed in the 400 years between Malachi and Matthew. But Paul puts these rumors to rest by telling us that the plan—or at least the administration thereof—has always been the same. However, in the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4), God revealed it through His Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2). This was not some new religion or philosophy that was invented by a bunch of guys in Nicea. This was not something that Paul developed out of his own imagination. Paul was given the duty to reveal the administration of the hidden truth about how God would reconcile the world to Himself—He would reconcile the creation by means of the Creator.

Speaking of the "hidden mystery", there is an example of this in the Jewish Passover. At the Seder, they take three matzahs, and put them together. Eventually, the middle one is broken and hidden in a napkin. Although the Jews did not know it at the time (and many still do not today), this was to symbolize the breaking of the body of Christ, and the laying of Hid body in the tomb. Do you think it was an accident that He told His disciples, "This is my body, broken for you" (Luke 22:19)? Do you think it was a coincidence that once Jesus broke the bread with those He met on the road to Emmaus, that their eyes were suddenly opened (Luke 24:30-31)? This was all part of the administration of the mystery of Christ, which was hidden until He should come, but now that He is come, it is no longer a mystery, for He has revealed it to us from Heaven, and through the apostles and prophets.

…to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. Angels don’t know about salvation. they either obeyed and remained in the presence of God, or they rebelled and were cast out, and await their eternal fate in the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41). They don’t know what is like to have the yoke of bondage to sin broken, ripped apart and thrown off. The angels of Heaven have only always known obedience to God. Which is why our Lord told us to pray "Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven" (Matthew 6:10). So, for these angels to know how great a salvation we have, God purposed for us to be the example to them. US! If you want a purpose to drive your life, there it is! To be an example of the glory of God's righteous forgiveness to the angels of Heaven!

Of course, we are also an example to those angels who fell. Had they retained their obedience to God, they would still be in fellowship with Him. Is it any wonder Satan hates us so badly? Those who truly know God, and know their dependence on Him and know that they are always subject to Him, and remember that there is no way we could ever be greater than God, are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ—when Lucifer had no chance at such a reconciliation. This is why Satan hates us as badly as he does. He knows that we are now seated in his former position—but we are even higher than he ever was! For we are truly indeed children of the Most High God (1st John 3:1)!

So, what more needs to be done? Nothing! It is finished (John 19:30)! Done, completed. … according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. There is nothing we could add. There is nothing we have to add. Salvation is not about doing this and not doing that. It's not about us doing anything at all! Because Jesus did it all! The only thing we do is repent of our sins, and call upon Him as our Savior and Lord. What a dreadful thing it would be if salvation depended on us! For we humans don’t even think we need to be saved! We think we're good people, that we can make our own moral decisions, that we can get along just fine without God. A certain rich man thought that anyways (Luke 16:19-31). He thought he had done everything he had to do to make himself look good to God. He knew the Law—but he didn’t know God. He counted on himself for his own salvation. He stood before God with an armful of filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), and eventually lifted up his eyes in torment. But we put our trust in Christ. For He is the only way, the only truth, and the only life (John 14:6). It is in Him we have a resurrection from the dead (John 11:25).

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow
.

Jesus…whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. Let me make this perfectly clear: We pray to the Father through the Son. That's it! There is no one else in heaven we can pray to. We are not to pray to dead saints or angels or Mary. We don’t need them anyway. We have boldness and access with confidence in ChristALONE! Tell me, have you ever read a single verse about Jesus not submitting to the will of the Father? Do you really believe that Jesus considers His earthly mother's will to be more important than His Heavenly Father's will? Imagine this if you will: Jesus is interceding for us. The will of the Father is that our petition gets denied. So, we go ask Mary. Jesus, all whipped and worn from having Mary tell Him what time it is, goes back, sheepishly asking the Father to overturn His will. Friend, that is one of the most heretical piles of gobbledy-gook that anybody could ever cook up.

We have access to God's throne through Christ. That's it!! No one else!! Hebrews 4:14-16Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Notice the writer doesn’t say "Let us come to Mary in our time of need?" If Jesus needs Mary to help Him intercede with the Father on our behalf, then we have a woefully inept Savior, and we have a Savior that can't even do the job the Father gave Him without His mother's help. Friend, don’t let Rome fool you. We have boldness and access through Christ—we don’t need anybody else!!

Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. Paul wrote this letter from a Roman prison. The inference here may be that these Ephesian believers were so troubled in their hearts about Paul's imprisonment that they were too weary to carry on their proper worship of God. If this is the case, then Paul is telling them, "Hey, don’t worry about me! What I am doing in this prison, telling these guards and anyone else who will listen, about your faith, they too have come to know Christ." Of course, this is simply speculation, but given the context, and Paul's many other encouragements to believers to not worry about his persecutions and tribulations, this could certainly be the case.

No comments: