Sermon Titled “The Unsearchable Riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:7-13) Sunday, January 23rd, 2014
We learned in the last couple of sermons on Ephesians that Paul claimed to have found his purpose in life; he believed that he had been called by God to be the apostle for the Gentiles, and that it was his duty to tell them that God had a plan and purpose for their lives. Let’s go through each of the verses listed above (7 through 13), one at a time, and see what else Paul had to say.
Verse 7: I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power.
This statement by Paul is really quite incredible. Paul went from literally pursuing and persecuting Christians, to not only being baptized as a Christian himself, but also living out the rest of his life preaching to others why they too should become Christians. How does a man go from hating, even killing, Christian believers, to becoming one himself and then urging others to do the same? By the power of Christ, that’s how.
Acts 9:1-19 tells about Paul’s conversion, and how while he was on his way to Damascus to find and persecute more Christians, God struck him down and said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Remember, before Paul repented of his sins and was baptized as a new believer, his name was actually Saul. Now while Saul was still down on the ground, having been struck by God in the form of a bright light, he could not see a thing. The men traveling with him were quite perplexed, as they had not seen or heard anything, yet it became very clear when Saul stood up that he had been blinded. The men had to help lead him into Damascus, where he did not see, eat, or drink anything for three days.
While all this took place, God spoke through a vision, to a man named Ananias. He said,“Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (verses 15 and 16). Ananias went to Saul, placed his hands on him, and relayed the message that God had given him. Verse 18 says that something like scales immediately fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see. He was immediately baptized, and essentially reborn – a new man, with a new heart.
It’s unlikely that our conversion experiences were as dramatic as Paul’s, but they were similar in the sense that we also were traveling along a path that we had chosen, yet because God had a plan for us, he stopped us in our tracks and redirected us. Don’t ever think that your decision to become a Christian was fully orchestrated by yourself; God placed people and circumstances in your life to draw you near to Him and by His grace, you responded to His call.
Verse 8: Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ……
Paul acknowledged, in great humility, that he did not do anything to earn the privilege of serving God. In fact, in 1 Timothy 1:15, Paul says this about himself, “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” – and I am the worst of them all.” I think, if we are to be honest with ourselves, we too will recognize just how sinful we are and in daily need of God’s grace and mercy. However, in understanding our weaknesses, we will be less inclined to exude an attitude of entitlement and self-righteousness as we share the word of God.
Verses 9 and 10: “…and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms….”
As Paul began his new life in the ministry, preaching to the Gentiles, God revealed to him something very specific, something which had previously been “kept hidden.” Paul’s eyes were opened to the truth that God had a redemption plan for all mankind, and that this plan was not something new; it was what God had intended from the very beginning. And for whatever reason, God gave Paul the incredible task of sharing and teaching about this extraordinary plan. That knowledge has since been passed on through the generations to those who now make up the church, and it is now our duty, and privilege, to also pass on the good news. As the message is spread and made known, God says that it will reach not only to the far corners of the earth, but also as far away as the heavenly realms, where the angels see and hear all that we are doing.
Verse 11-13: “……according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.”
God’s redemption plan opens up a way for anyone who accepts, to freely enter into His presence. Paul makes it very clear however, that God’s favor is not granted to us on a “do good” basis, but strictly by our choice to trust and believe in His son, Jesus Christ.
Finally, Paul attempted to reassure the Ephesian Christians to keep their faith and not lose hope, despite the fact that their prayers for him had not been answered. Paul was their founding pastor, the one who had led them to believe in Christ, and yet he was writing to them from behind bars in a prison cell. Why didn’t Christ do something miraculous to rescue Paul? This was a question on the minds of those who had started to have doubts.
In our own lifetimes we too will inevitably face situations which might cause us to waver in our faith, but Paul’s words should encourage us to keep witnessing and sharing God’s word, remembering that there is a divine purpose at work, and that purpose is to draw as many people to Christ as possible.