Part one a series based on a sermon expositing Ephesians 3:7–13.
The next several days will share portions of a sermon I preached at The Orchard EFC in Itasca, IL called God’s Eternal Plan for the Church. You can download the message here or listen below.
I have a love-hate relationship with the news. On one hand, I know it is important for Christians to know what’s going on in the world and to pray for the needs of the world. On the other hand, it can be discouraging hearing about all the political strife, racial tensions, and hatred that exist in every country and every continent of this broken world. Christians know we live in a broken world, but sometimes the constant reminder of it can be exhausting!
This might lead us to ask how can God allow everything that’s happening in the world. But the better question for us all is, “What hope does God provide to a desperately broken world?”
The book of Ephesians provides a powerful answer. Ephesians is a unique letter of the Apostle Paul. While many other letters offer Christian teaching as applied to a specific situation or pastoral issue, Ephesians instead looks at salvation from the vantage point of heaven and shares God’s purposes for the world and the church from before time began. Ephesians provides God’s blueprint for the world and the church.
Because of that, I want you to zoom out your perspective from thinking about today in 2017 to think about all of human history and even God’s purposes before it.
Paul starts Ephesians with an extremely long sentence in chapter 1 praising God for His glorious grace in choosing His children before time began and redeeming them in Christ (Ephesians 1:1–14). He goes on to pray that the Ephesians would know God better and experience more of the hope, love, and power of God in their daily lives (Ephesians 1:15–23). In chapter 2:1–10, Paul explains how without the grace of Jesus Christ in our lives, we are dead and condemned because of our sins, but the grace of God brings us to life and allows us to walk in good works. The second half of chapter two (Ephesians 2:11–22) shares how both Jews and Gentiles can be reconciled to God and each other and be made into one new body through the cross of Jesus Christ. Both part of the family of God.
Now we come to 3:7-13 which sheds light on God’s eternal plan for the Jews and Gentiles who were brought into one body, the church:
7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
4 Aspects of God’s Eternal Plan for the Church
- The church is built as God graciously uses people.
In this passage, Paul bends over backward in verses 7 and 8 to share how his position as minister was by sheer grace:
- Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given
It is interesting that Paul considers himself the ‘very least of all the saints’ because we typically see him as some “Super Christian” or “the greatest missionary in the history of the church.” But that’s not how Paul considered himself. He remembered who he used to be—a persecutor of the church. A Christian-killer. Someone the Bible said was actively fighting against Christ and the gospel by persecuting His church.
That’s why he can say he was made a minister ‘according to the gift of God’s grace,’ because it was only by God’s grace that Paul did not receive the punishment he deserved for being God’s enemy. Like Paul, we are saved by grace and then called to serve Christ in His grace. It really is astounding to think that God can and does use imperfect and unworthy people to make an eternal difference in the lives of others.
If you have ever felt unworthy of being used by God to share his grace with others, you’re the perfect candidate to be used. God doesn’t use people because they’re perfect—the focus would then be on you. God wants the focus on Himself, and so he graciously chooses to use imperfect people.
“The irony of the gospel is that the only way to be worthy of it is to admit that you’re completely unworthy of it.” Tim KellerThis isn’t to say that we can do whatever we want, but rather encourage us to be a part of what God is doing all around the world in building His church.
We don’t all have to have the same gifting as the Apostle Paul to be used—no, God in His amazing wisdom has gifted the body of Christ in diverse ways. Throughout Scripture, we see that God uses a diversity of people to accomplish his eternal purposes:
- God used Moses—a guy who claimed to be slow to speech went on to testify before the world’s greatest power (Egypt).
- God used government workers and administrators like Joseph, Obadiah, and Daniel to accomplish his divine purposes.
- God used Hannah in the book of 1 Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1–2:11). She was a barren woman from the middle of nowhere from the lineage of no one important and she had nothing to offer God except her brokenness and her prayers. And God took her faith and brokenness, answered her prayer, and gave her a child that would become a godly leader that Israel desperately needed.
- God used his imperfect disciples in amazing ways, not because they were so great, but because they proclaimed a glorious message about a glorious Savior.
- God even used someone’s lunch to bring much glory to Jesus by feeding the 5,000.
Friend, God can use you to bring glory to His name and impact people with the gospel.
Wake up every morning knowing that God has called you to take part in His glorious plan to redeem the world through Christ.
Let that truth shape your prayer life and pray daily to walk in the good works God has prepared for you since before time began (Ephesians 2:10).
The church is built as God graciously uses people.
Part 2 comes tomorrow and shares the exceedingly glorious message of the church.