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The Grace Given Me – Ephesians 3:1-13


For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles – Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. – Ephesians 3:1-2

For This Reason

In the preceding verses, Paul wrote of how God in Christ is joining the Jew and the Gentile into one body, so that there are no longer strangers and aliens. Rather, all are members of God’s one family together.

This is the background to what he will say about the grace given to him.

Usually, when we think of grace being given to us, it is to lift us out of the depths of deep sin. Specifically, we usually think of grace being the forgiveness of sins. The very beginning of this section lets us know Paul is not thinking about forgiveness of sins – although that will be involved in what God does.

God’s Grace Was Given to Me for You

The Gentiles are the “you” in this context. Paul is a prisoner for the Gentile world in general and for the Gentile Christians in particular. What is the grace God gave Paul for the sake of the Gentiles?

The first grace he speaks of is the gift of revelation.  God revealed the mystery of His purpose for the Gentiles in Christ to Paul. This revelation came because God had called Paul to be an apostle of Christ. He spoke of himself as “the apostle to the Gentiles.” Indeed, most of his work was among the Gentiles, which was an evidence of grace in itself!

Can you imagine Saul of Tarsus, the Pharisee of Pharisees, becoming an evangelist to the Gentiles? If he were to become a Christian at all, you (and he) would have thought that he would spend his preaching life among his own people. When he returned to Jerusalem after becoming a Christian, in a trance he saw the Lord. He spoke of this in a speech to the Jerusalem mob of Jews that were trying to kill him. Paul said about his conversation with Jesus:

“Quick,” He said to me. “Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.”

“Lord,” I replied, “these men know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.”

Then the Lord said to me, “Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.”

At this, the mob, which had quietened to hear him speak, became rowdy again and were threatening to kill Paul, even as he was in the custody of the Roman guard.

Paul left Jerusalem to go back to his home in Tarsus (Acts 9:29-30). It was there Barnabas found him and brought him to work with him in Antioch, the first great Gentile/Jewish church (Acts 11:25-26). It was from there that Paul began his missionary career with three distinct “journeys” that all set out from Antioch.

God’s grace worked mightily in Saul of Tarsus to form him into Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.

The Grace of Servanthood

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 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, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God’s grace in Paul reached beyond the Gentile world to the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” He, by preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, made things plain to those in the heavenly realms.

Who are these? In Ephesians 6:12, Paul declared,

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 6:12

There, the rulers and authorities are clearly the forces of evil arrayed against the preaching of the gospel. It is likely that in 3:10 it is these minions of Satan as well.

Paul’s preaching made things plain to the Devil and his angels. By grace, God used Paul as a warrior in a plan far greater than any one of us. Yet, in “the church” we also are participants in this great scheme of God.

Peter said that angels desire to look into these things given to the apostles and prophets (1 Peter 1:10-12). These apostles and prophets, Peter said, “spoke of the grace that was to come to you.” We are participants with Paul in this grace as we serve the gospel and show its truths plainly. What about the gospel is Paul speaking of here? Is it not God’s manifold wisdom (i.e., many-faceted wisdom) in bringing Jew and Gentile together into one family?

The Grace of Freedom of Approach

In him [Christ] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged bcause of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. – Ephesians 3:12-13

When Esther wanted to approach Ahasuerus, the Persian Emperor, she feared for her life. If he did not raise the scepter to her, she would be killed instantly by the guard around him (Esther 4:11). Paul says we have freedom and confidence in approaching God.

The grace God gave Paul (and gives us as well) changes our relationship to God. Because we are “in Christ,” we have confidence in this freedom. This is the freedom to pray and know God has a listening, sympathetic ear.

That sympathetic ear also can keep us from becoming discouraged or fearful when persecution raises its ugly head. We can be sure persecution is there because the devil is on the run. All we need to do when our enemy is “skeered” and is in retreat, is to follow the advice of one of Lee’s generals (I forget which one) and “Keep up the skeer.”

Summary

The Grace God gave Paul was the grace of becoming an instrument in God’s hand to help further God’s eternal purpose in Christ. He became a c0-worker with God. We are called into that same grace.

Grace is much more than mere forgiveness of our sins, as great as that gift is. By Grace, God lifts us out of our sins – indeed, out of ourselves – to play a role in His cosmic purposes. While we may understand His great plan only imperfectly, when we are faithful to Him and are servants of the gospel, as was Paul, He will accomplish His purposes in us.

We may think that the little things we are called to do are unimportant. God’s grace gives grandeur to all good works God has prepared for His people. His grace forms and molds us into what we need to be to do His works. His grace, then, uses those things we may do for purposes beyond what we can imagine.

NEXT: A Prayer for Spiritual Depth – Ephesians 3:15-21

PREVIOUS: Two Become One – Ephesians 2:11-22

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