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Ephesians 3:1-13
Series:  A Letter of Grace and Life - Part Five

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
March 15, 2020

We are continuing in our study of Paul’s letter to the church of... Ephesus.  Which is “a letter of… grace and life.”


Chapters 1 to 3 focusing on grace coming from God - which we desperately need.  And chapters 4 to 6 focusing on what it means for us to live out what God has so graciously done for us.


So if you are able, please stand with me before God and His word and join with me as we read together beginning at Ephesians 3 - starting at verse 1:


For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.


When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.  This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.


Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given to me by the working of His power.  To me, through I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ 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.


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 for your glory.


This is Asif - who lives in Pakistan.  Asif is a Christian brother in Christ who was a supervisor in a garment factory.  Before work - every morning - Asif lead 10 coworkers in prayer.  One day the owner of the factory approached Asif and told him to stop the prayers.  Instead, Asif gave the factory owner a Bible to read so he could learn about Christianity.


Several  months later, the owner brought in an Islamic cleric to persuade Asif to accept Islam.  But Asif refused.


Then the owner tried to force Asif to offer Muslim prayers with him.  Again Asif refused.


Finally, the owner gave Asif an ultimatum: Accept Islam or lose your job.


Asif’s reply:  “My God will provide me with everything.”


So the owner of the factory fired him.


Since then Asif and his family have had to leave their home and are in hiding because of death threats. (1)


We’re studying through Ephesians - seeing how God has unimaginably been gracious to us.


So, question - thinking carefully about how we might answer:  Is God any more or less gracious or loving or merciful to Asif than He is to us?  Or to our Christian siblings in places like China or North Korea of Venezuela or Eritrea or any number of places around the world were our Christian siblings are suffering as they follow Jesus? 


God Who is over the top in the ways He graciously - undeservedly - blesses us?  With our roofs over head and clothing and 3 squares a day and potable hot and cold water coming out of the tap and this amazing sanctuary to freely gather in for worship and on and on?


Is God more gracious and loving and merciful to us?  Or not?


The answer is... you need to come to Life Group and find out.


But - bottom line reality:  God is gracious to all of us - always - even if we may question the degree of that based on what we see and experience.

Here’s the big picture we need to hang on to as we move through these verses in Ephesians:  God graciously blesses His people with what He desires to use in their lives for His purposes and His glory.  Experiences.  Stuff.  By God’s grace for His purposes and His glory.


Stewardship is what we do with what God graciously blesses us with.  Experiences.  Stuff.  For His glory.


Verses 1 to 3 Paul begins with a description of himself as someone on the receiving end of God’s grace.


Paul begins:  For this reason I, Paul,


Which is Paul reaching back to where he’s been so far in Ephesians - describing God’s grace.


God has been so over the top in His grace towards us - blessing us - saving us - putting us into a relationship with Him - giving our lives purpose and meaning and hope.  Making us together to be the Church - Jews and Gentiles - being one as the Body of Christ - built up together by the working of the Holy Spirit - to testify of His grace and mercy and love  - of what it means to have a relationship with God.  None of which we deserve or could earn or achieve on our own.  But God does by His grace and for His glory alone.


For this reason - for all of what God - by His grace - has done for us - you - me - and I, Paul - am a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles.


Let’s explore that.  What Paul means by being a prisoner of Jesus Christ.


At the end of Paul’s third missionary journey Paul is returning back to Jerusalem with an offering for the church there.  And Paul is in a hurry - rushing to Jerusalem to get there for the Feast of Pentecost - to get the offering to the church and to celebrate the Feast. 


So on his way back Paul is bypassing towns where he knows people - where he’s done ministry - stopping briefly in other towns along the way.  But always rushing to arrive in Jerusalem by Pentecost.


Ephesus was one of the towns he bypassed.  Maybe after years of ministry there and knowing tons of people - stopping would have taken way longer than a meet and greet.  He could get trapped there for months.


So when Paul stops in Miletus - which is a town just down the road from Ephesus - Paul sends for the elders of the Church in Ephesus.  Who come to where Paul is at.


In Acts 20 - Paul tells these Ephesian church elders:  “I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem.


I’m going to Jerusalem.  It’s God’s plan. 


I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead.” (Acts 20:22,23 NLT)


When Paul finally gets to Caesarea - on the coast northwest of Jerusalem - there’s a prophet there named Agabus - who - exclamation mark on what God said will happen - Agabus prophecies that when Paul reaches Jerusalem he’s going to be imprisoned.


So as Paul travels to Jerusalem believers pray and weep for Paul.  They know - this side of heaven - they’re probably not going to see him again.


They know it.  Paul knows it.  God’s plan.


Sure enough, when Paul gets to Jerusalem - when Paul went to the temple - a rumor went around that Paul had taken Trophimus - this Gentile from Ephesus past the dividing wall - beyond the barrier to where only Jews could go.  Remember this from last Sunday? 


Just that rumor caused a riot and almost got Paul killed. Accusations are made against Paul and Paul is arrested.  Jail time in Jerusalem according to God’s plan.  (Acts 21:27-36)


Then in jail in Jerusalem Jesus comes and tells Paul that Paul is going to Rome to testify of Jesus.  God’s plan. 


A plot by the Jews against Paul’s life gets discovered - so in order to keep Paul from getting dead Paul is taken to Caesarea - still a prisoner - and he’s put on trial - for two years plus.


After two years of show trials Paul - as a Roman citizen - Paul exercises his right as a Roman citizen - appeals to Caesar for justice.  And ultimately Paul is sent to Rome where Jesus said Paul would go.  Where Paul - as a prisoner - in 62 AD writes this letter to the Church in Ephesus.


Pulling that together.  It’s God’s plan that Paul is being faithful to follow.  It’s God’s plan - some of the details of which - God hadn’t clued Paul in on.


Pausing for a moment to think about where Paul could be in all that - what his mindset could have been. 


Until Jesus got a hold of Paul - on the Damascus Road - Paul was a rising young star with a promising career - trained as a Pharisee - in tight with the religious elite.  Paul was a guy to watch.


Jesus confronting Paul on the road to Damascus is a total change of life direction - experience.  Paul is called by Jesus to testify of Jesus before Gentiles and Jews and kings.


Which Paul has faithfully done.  Traveling the Empire at great hardship to himself - sharing the gospel with Jews and Gentiles.  Even imprisoned in Caesarea - Paul is testifying before the leaders of the Roman occupation and the royalty of Israel.


Paul has done everything God has asked of Him regardless of the personal cost.  A riot.  A jail in Jerusalem.  Go to Rome.  All what God said would happen. 


But - being bounced around the legal system for 2 plus seemingly wasted years - a major storm at sea - one shipwreck - a venomous snake bite - and months of hardship later - what Paul went through just to get to Rome - and now Paul is under guard in Rome - a prisoner of the Roman Empire.  Waiting….


Some of us just might start to wonder if we’d missed something in God’s instructions along the way.  Was this really what God had in mind? 


But, Paul says that he’s a prisoner for Christ Jesus - and note this - on behalf of you Gentiles - you Ephesian Gentiles - that on his way to Jerusalem Paul told you this would happen. 


All this is part of the unfolding of God’s plan for Paul’s life.  God Who graciously - on the road to Damascus - changed the direction of Paul’s life forever.


Hold onto this - Paul’s mindset: Paul is a prisoner not in spite of God’s grace but because of God’s grace. 


It seems like most of the time we’d like God to use a mega lumen searchlight - showing us way down the road where we’re going and how were going to get there.  All the details of His plan for our lives.


But God usually gives us a little laser pointer - showing us just what’s right in front of our feet.  God telling us to take the next step and trust Him for what comes after that. 


And sometimes those steps lead through some pretty hard stuff.  Jerusalem.  Rome.  Shipwrecks.  Jail.  Pandemics.  Persecution.  Whatever.  One step at a time as God reveals it.  God’s plan.


And none of that changes the reality of God’s being gracious to us.


Is God being more or less gracious to our persecuted siblings?  Or a guy like Paul who’s following God’s will in hardship and prison.


In the U.S. - with all of our stuff - we can come to expect that all this is for us and we deserve it.  This is the way its suppose to be.  Christians are God’s people.  As long as things are going right we think that we’re doing what God wants and God - by His grace - God is blessing us.


And yet adversity and our walking step by step through that also is following after God and God’s plan for our lives - God Who is gracious to us.


So Paul - declares that He is a prisoner for Christ Jesus - being used for God’s purposes - and that is God’s grace.


Paul goes on in verse 2 - describing himself as a steward of God’s grace.  you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,


To steward comes from a Greek word that’s two words put together - “house” and “manage.”  Meaning stewardship is managing someone else’s household - someone else’s stuff - their affairs - according to what they want done with all that.

Paul being given responsibility to steward - to manage God’s grace as it applies to the Ephesians - and beyond to the Jews and Gentiles and us. 


Which is more than dollars and cents.


Stewardship - is what God has called Paul to be.  What God calls every believer to be.


That is that stewardship is Paul’s life - everything that Paul is and has - His salvation and relationship with God and his God given purpose and ministry - that’s all graciously entrusted to Him by God for God’s purposes in entrusting Paul with all that.


Meaning that stewardship is about Paul - and us - being 100% all in living out God’s purposes for our lives.  Giving dollars and cents is just one part of that.  Stewardship is what we do with what God graciously blesses us with.


In verse 3 Paul opens up the scope of that stewardship:  the mystery that was made known to him by revelation.


How many of you like a good mystery?


How many of you read Charles Dickens?  Dickens is great for having all these plots and sub plots and personalities all moving seemingly random - but somehow related - and at the end of the book it all comes together in one “ah ha!” moment.  It all seems so clear.  Makes perfect sense.  Looking backwards.


In Scripture - a mystery is something that only God knows and only God understands.  We can take all the theology classes - earn umpteen degrees - and yet we’ll never figure out what God knows unless God reveals to us what He knows.


As history unfolds God reveals more of what He’s doing in history.  We begin to understand more of God’s purposes for history - His plan - and how we fit within God’s purposes and plan for history.


Once a while God graciously gives us an “ah ha” moment - usually as we look back on things - and we see how God has woven all of what we saw as totally random - into one amazing reality for His glory.  And He’s even chosen to use us in that.


God’s calling Paul on the Damascus Road - evangelizing Gentiles - riots and jail time in Jerusalem - show trials and being shipwrecked - how and when Paul gets to Rome - may have been a mystery to Paul.


Along the way God is revealing more of how Paul fits into God’s plan.  Paul being a steward according to God’s great purposes for Paul - this declaration of God’s grace - the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Even jail time in Rome.  Because of Paul’s imprisonment many of the guards and some in Caesar's own household came to believe in Jesus.


In verse 4 Paul describes the mystery as something that “was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.”


God revealed - way back as far as Abraham - that the Gentiles were going to be blessed through God’s people - the Jews.  All the nations of the earth being blessed because of Abraham’s descendants.


Men like Abraham and Moses and David and Isaiah and Jeremiah and Daniel and others - they understood so much about God - and God’s work in history.  God gave them great insight into what was coming.


But all those Old Testament giants didn’t understand the “how” part - the looking down the road with a mega lumens searchlight part - wasn’t something God revealed.  It was a mystery to them as they faithfully followed God step by step using a little laser pointer.


Not until Jesus Himself brings God’s kingdom to the Gentiles - not until Jesus’ death and resurrection - not until Pentecost - not until Philip and the Ethiopian official - not until Jesus confronts Paul on the Damascus road and choses him to testify of Jesus before the Gentiles.


Not until we get to the New Testament do we get a “ah ha” moment glimpse into the purposes and plan of God.  A glimpse into the magnitude and scope of God’s grace. 


Verse 6:  The mystery revealed is that the Gentiles - you and I - the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  


In Ephesians 2 - Paul writes that God takes Jews and Gentiles - and through Christ’s work on the cross - as we come to repentance and faith in Jesus - God takes Jews and Gentiles - puts them together in Christ - and creates something totally radically different.  A new international community of Jews and Gentiles - the Body of Christ - spiritually without distinction - the Church.


What that means - is that you and I share the promises made to Israel.  We’re not a parenthetical afterthought - a footnote on the text of history - something less than what God has for His people - runner’s up in a spiritual contest.


You and I are God’s people - with all the rights and privileges and promises and hope and purpose and inheritance and relationship and future that that oneness of God and His people has meant from Adam until today and forever into the future.  In Jesus all that is ours.


What was a mystery to the Old Testament saints is made real - revealed - in us.  Awesome.  Yes?


Hang on to that.  That can be hugely encouraging for us in the midst of circumstances that understandably could be very discouraging - when we trend toward being anxious and fearful.  Even if we don’t see it or understand it - God is still 100% all in with us.  God - by His grace - is still using us for His purposes and His plan.


Starting in verse 7 - Paul describes his ministry.  What it means for him to be made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace.


“Minister” translates the Greek word “diakonos” - which gets translated “deacon” or “servant.” 


Paul - the Jewish Pharisee - serving the Gentiles - ministering to the Gentiles according to the will of God. 


Paul writes that to be a minister is a gift of God’s grace.  God’s undeserved favor.


Exploring that.


Paul writes that he is the least of all the saints.  Not just the other apostles.  But the least of all of us.


Our best understanding of what Paul means by that is he’s referring back to his being a persecutor of the saints.  Of all of us he is the least likely to be given a role as a minister.


But Paul writes that it was by the working of God’s power that that ministry was given to Him.  God did it.  Because only God could and would.


So Paul writes that it was a gift.  Which God’s grace is.  The undeserved - unexpected - impossible to earn - total gift of God’s favor.


Why would God choose us?  Grace.


So Paul - even in Rome - Paul understands that being a prisoner is a gracious gift - a great undeserved privilege.  He’s the minister of an amazing truth - a mystery revealed.


A minister hand picked by God to serve the Gentiles - to preach to them the unsearchable riches of Christ and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God Who created all things...


Where people had never heard the gospel Paul went.  In the darkness of this world Paul opened up to people what God offers us in Jesus.  Brought to light what God was doing in history.  God’s work of redeeming us.


Everywhere Paul preached and explained about Jesus lives were changed - people were healed - families were restored - people were set free.  Hope - joy - peace - love came into people’s lives.  Congregations of liberated healed people were formed.  The unsearchable riches of Christ - the mystery of the gospel - made real in people’s lives.


Paul - coming to verse 10 - describing his ministry - by God’s grace - is all for God’s glory.


Verse 10 -  so that - meaning that as we come to Christ and live out God’s purposes for us - through the church the manifold wisdom of God - in all of the multi-faceted infinite ways that God is wisely working His plan in us and through us - through us the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.


That is taking Paul’s ministry and our life together as the church - taking all that way up a lot of notches.

In heaven - as God’s grace and mercy and love is lived out in our lives - angels - watching what we do learn about God and His plans.  Demons shudder and revile.  Angels rejoice and praise God.


We may not see it in our circumstances.  But it’s happening.  As God is at work in us and through us reaching others with the gospel - changing lives for today and forever - lavishing His love - acting with grace and mercy - all of that brings glory to God.  God uses us to testify of His greatness and all of heaven takes notice.


Verse 11 - What God is making known through us is according to the eternal purpose that He [God]  has realized [accomplished] in Christ Jesus our Lord, in Whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him. 


God’s gospel - is unfolding according to God’s eternal purposes.  Same God who gives us bold and confident access to Him - Who has called us into an intimate and tight relationship with Him.  That intimacy - God’s purposes - none of that changes because of circumstances.


So - verse 13 - So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is for your glory.


Glory here meaning what the Ephesians are suppose to take away from all that.


Whatever Paul is following God through - whatever the mystery or difficulty level - suffering in Rome - Paul hasn’t lost heart because he knows that his circumstances are according to God’s plan - even his imprisonment benefits the Ephesians.


All of that testifies to them - and us - and all of heaven - of who God is and what God is doing for the Ephesians through God’s prisoner and minister of God’s grace.


Paul hasn’t lost heart and neither should they.  To God alone be the glory. 


Processing all that…


First:  Big Picture:  God graciously blesses His people [us] with what He desires to use in our lives for His purposes and His glory.  Experiences.  Stuff.  For His glory.


We live in troubling times that weigh on our hearts.  Many people are understandably fearful.  1 month ago who would have imagined that toilet paper would be a hugely valuable commodity?  People are scared.  Panicked.


And not just because of some virus.


These days it would be easier to follow the up and down of a Yoyo than the stock market.  The economics of tomorrow are unknown - uncertain.  Strangely, job certainty is a question mark even in a booming economy.  Retirement nest eggs no longer exist.

The whole world seems to be self-isolating and shutting down.  There are seemingly more questions and more uncertainty today that just a few days ago. 


And if it wasn’t this it would be something else.  Life is full of what can drive us to lose heart and to fear.


But God is still God and God is still gracious and God still has a purpose and plan for each of us and for Creekside.  Maybe not prison.  Maybe prison.  Whether we see it or understand how - we are still stewards of God’s grace.


Second:  Stewardship is what we do with what God graciously blesses us with.  Experiences.  Stuff.  For His glory.


There are times - such as this time - times when God gives us “ah ha” glimpses into what He has graciously entrusted to us. 


Our need for relationship with God and the power of the gospel to save and restore.  The hope we have in Jesus.  The value of being the church.  The privilege of gathering together as the Body of Christ.  The need of those around us for us to steward well what God has entrusted to us.


Which means that in these days and in all our days - but especially in circumstances like we are in today - we have a great - God by His grace given - opportunity.


Life isn’t about us.  It’s about... God.  God and His purposes.  What brings glory to Him.


We can choose to live - not by fear - but by faith in God.  To choose to stop giving so much weight and mental and emotional energy to what the world is caught up in and to allow ourselves to be caught up in God’s great plan for our lives.  To testify of the certain hope that is ours in Jesus Christ.


By God’s grace that was Paul’s ministry.  By God’s grace that opportunity is ours as well.  God using us so that even heaven will sit up and pay attention.  To God alone be the glory. 





1. persecution.com


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®  (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.