As we prepare to meet with the Most High, we’re going to use Ephesians 3:8 to help focus our prayers today. This verse is one of the most incredible passages in all of Ephesians. In it, we see Paul’s candid assessment of himself, despite how much the Lord used him and how much we honor and respect Paul. It’s a glimpse into his heart of humility and a picture of how each of us should view our lives. But we get a glance at the magnitude of the blessing God gave him by calling him into the ministry. He uses this phrase, “the unsearchable riches of Christ,” to explain what a life hidden in Christ is all about (Col. 3:3). And, as we will see tomorrow, it’s beyond description!
Ephesians 3:8 reads as follows:
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.
Once again, we come face to face with the word that seems to sum up Paul’s life, given. We see this word in Ephesians 3:2, and again in verse 7, and now once more in verse 8. Paul says, “this grace was given” to him as a gift, an unmerited blessing he did not deserve. And the key to Paul’s life is found in his faithful commitment to properly execute his stewardship and calling according to the gift he received from God.
Paul understood who he was in the sight of God and how undeserving he was for anything other than judgment and condemnation. Grace, if you remember, is getting something you don’t deserve, such as love, forgiveness, redemption, and eternal life. Mercy, on the other hand, is not receiving what you truly deserve, such as guilt, condemnation, judgment, and death. Paul never forgot God’s inexhaustible mercy nor the grace he received. And this grace included not only a ministry, but a divine purpose for his life.
Lower than the Bottom of the Barrel
Paul calls himself “less than the least of all the saints” (Eph. 3:8). In his mind, he is the least likely, the least deserving, the last one on earth God would choose to save, redeem, and call into the ministry. Nevertheless, God did just that. There are many reasons why Paul would feel that way, and most of them center around his life before Christ.
In 1st Corinthians 15:9, he says, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Again, in 1st Timothy 1:15, he says, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”
Paul understood, as much as anyone, how good God is to give him a second, third, and even fourth chance. He probably was never able to erase from his mind the scene where he gave his consent to the death of Stephen (Acts 22:20). There may have been countless others that he dragged from foreign cities and brought back to Jerusalem to face beatings, flogging, imprisonment, and death because of their faith in Jesus Christ. And in spite of all his sin, God chose him anyway.
Peter, who in his arrogance proclaimed, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny you!” (Matt. 26:35), did deny the Lord, and in his shame slid into the shadows from fear while Christ suffered alone. Yet God used Peter. And as low as Peter may have viewed himself because of his public failure, Paul viewed himself even lower. He was “less than the least of all the saints,” including Peter.
But the point is not the unworthiness of Paul, but how full of grace and mercy is God to call someone as undeserving as Paul and to use him as mightily as He did. For me, this gives me great encouragement. Why? Because my sins are also great, as I’m sure yours are. And, like Paul, I have failed the Lord many times, as may also be the case with you. And I have consistently proven myself unworthy to receive His grace and mercy and His special calling in my life, yet nonetheless, God still chooses to use me. Just like He still chooses to use you, no matter the depth of your sin and shame. It’s almost like He takes the throwaways and rejects of the world, the Goodwill and Value Village kind of items, and turns them into something sold at Oscar de la Renta, or Georgio Armani, or Lanvin, in New York City. And God does this for no other reason than it brings Him glory.
Please understand, these words from Paul are not an exercise in faint humility. He doesn’t call himself “less than the least,” so we will say, “No Paul, you’re wonderful!” – like many do when they post a selfie on Facebook, hoping somebody will tell them how pretty they are. No, Paul had a clear and accurate understanding of who he was in contrast to the holiness of Christ. That’s why we find in Scripture when the holiness of God confronts someone; their natural reaction is to fall flat on the ground, facedown, repeatedly uttering how unclean they are and how righteous God is. We see this scene played out before us in the life of Isaiah, Peter, and with the angels in heaven who cry out their unworthiness to open the scroll (Rev. 5:9).
We would do as well, in our age of self-exaltation, serial self-promotion, and “look how important and pretty I am” narcissism, to have a clear understanding of our value as creations and His infinite worth as the exalted Creator. We must always remember God did not choose us because we’re good. Nor did He choose us because we’re better than anyone else. He also did not choose us because we somehow deserved it more than others. He chose us solely because of His grace and mercy, which He chose, to our great wonder, to lavish on us (1 John 3:1).
When we get just a glimpse of the holiness of God compared to who we are, pride, arrogance, and our independent apathy quickly fade away. And we should be filled with nothing but sheer gratitude and heart-felt adoration to the One Who would choose “less than the least of the saints” to proclaim the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).
There is nothing this life can offer to surpass what we already have in Him.
Time to Pray
Pride was the original sin and the downfall of Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-15), and the consequences of pride drove Adam and Eve from the Paradise of God (Gen. 3:24). Pride is nothing more than an exalted view of our own value and worth, and it’s one of the few things the Lord calls an abomination (Prov. 16:5). When you pray, ask the Lord to remove every hint or stain of pride in your life and to bring you to the point of true humility, gratitude, thanksgiving, and obedience for the mercy and grace freely bestowed on you (Eph. 1:6). And as you approach God, remember you are “less than the least” of all the saints, yet God has chosen, redeemed, forgiven, and blessed you with the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).
Father, thank You for choosing me in spite of my unworthiness, sin, and rebellion. Thank You for still choosing me today, even though I have failed You many times because of my pride. You are good and glorious and full of grace and mercy. I can’t thank You enough for taking someone as sinful as I am and allowing me into Your Presence to have a relationship with Your Son. I am overwhelmed by the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, Who chooses to live within my frail, fallen, sinful body. Yet, in spite of all my failures, You have sanctified me by His presence, and I am now a sanctuary, a dwelling place of the Spirit of God.
Lord, would You let me live like what You created me to be? And would You fill my heart with gratitude for the privilege of being able to not only experience but preach and proclaim the “unsearchable riches” found in Christ? In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
As we prepare to close out this section of Scripture, I want to remind you that the seven verses that begin Ephesians 3 are all one long sentence. Therefore, it is difficult to understand the whole without examining each individual part. And it is equally difficult to understand the various parts, or verses, unless we first have a grasp of the entire meaning of this single sentence. It seems this sentence has at its beginning and end two bookends displaying both the humility of Paul and the grace given him by the Lord. We find these two bookends revealed in the word: given.
Paul begins with the “dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you” (Eph. 3:2) and ends with “I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me” (Eph. 3:7). In both instances, Paul humbly reflects he was nothing more than the blessed recipient of something from God given to him for the sake of someone else. In this case, the Gentiles. But he ends by stating the gift given him, his calling into the ministry, was only accomplished by “the effective working of His power” and for no other reason (Eph. 3:7). So both the gift and the effectiveness of Paul’s ministry, is all according to God, and not of any inherent merit of Paul.
Of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power – Ephesians 3:7.
Paul claims his calling to be a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a gift from God. He never ceased to be amazed that God took someone like him, a murdering, vile, angry, detestable, blaspheming Pharisee, and turned him into not only a believer, but one called to minister to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46).
Paul understood everything that happened in his life was because of grace. God gave him the grace of revelation to be able to tell the Gentiles about the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8). But God also called him into service as a minister of Christ and a servant of others, which gave his life more meaning and purpose than anything else, ever. His old life as a Jew, “born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law” (Acts 22:3) meant nothing now. Compared to the Lord’s gift of ministry and revelation, Paul considered it, like all things, “rubbish” – save for the “excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).
His Power, Not Ours
But the most profound statement Paul makes in this section of Scripture is that he became a minister of Christ for no other reason, and by no other means, than “the effective working of His power” (Eph. 3:7). The word translated “effective” (enérgeia) means “operative, active power or ability.” It’s where we get our word, energy. And the word for “power” (dúnamis) means “mighty deeds, miracles, or achieving, explosive power.” Paul clearly understood it was only because of what Christ had done and the gift he received, that he was anything at all.
As believers in Christ, sometimes we wonder how God can save the most unsavable and disinterested of our family and friends? Is it done by our proper diction, our eloquent use of our best English, or our ability to present the gospel in a way they will understand and be able to relate? Is it by the teaching in our current church culture that strives to make the gospel less offensive and bring seekers into the church to somehow, by osmosis or good works or lattes before the praise band starts, lead them to Christ? I think you know the answer.
The only way someone can come to Christ is through the new birth; through regeneration. It is not by making a decision, nor by joining a small group, nor by reading a book by Beth Moore. It is only by the Holy Spirit, or the “effective working of His power” (Eph. 3:7)
Some sermons are preached by the most learned and eloquent of men, and nothing happens. And other sermons are preached by those who have limited education or a difficult accent to understand, or maybe they have a speech impediment, and yet revival breaks out. What is the difference between these two? It is the power of the Holy Spirit, the “effective working of His power” (Eph. 3:7).
Paul spoke about this in his first letter to the church at Corinth. He said in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5:
And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
And there’s no greater demonstration of the “Spirit and of power” than changed lives.
God also called you to be a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We’re not necessarily talking about a clergy position in a church. But we are talking about each of us having a ministry to serve others as we serve Him– which makes you, and every other member of His body, a minister who is to proclaim the good news. You may not be a pastor or have a seminary degree, but you are just as much a minister for Him as anyone else. And the spiritual fruit we are blessed to bear, the lives we live as light in darkness in front of our family and friends, and all those in our sphere of influence, are affected by the “effective working of His power” in us.
Time to Pray
Please know, nothing is standing between you and all God wants you to be other than your desire to yield to His Spirit. He’s given you the gift of the Holy Spirit, not in part, not miserly doling it out to you like Ebenezer Scrooge, but He’s given you all of Himself in full. So much so that Colossians 2:10 says, “you are complete in Him.” Therefore, as a minister of Christ, let our prayer be for us to move out of the way so the Holy Spirit can do His work through us by the “effective working of His power” (Eph. 3:7).
And that all begins by simply asking Him.
Lord, I thank You for giving me the Holy Spirit who has “sealed” me in You and is the “guarantee of my inheritance” as Your child (Eph. 1:13-14). I confess I have often been afraid of the Holy Spirit and, because of my fear, have relied on my strength and resources more than I have the Spirit You left in me. Please forgive me? And Holy Spirit, I ask You to forgive me for grieving You (Eph. 4:30). I believe You are equally God, the Third Person of the Trinity, and I thank You for choosing to make Your home in me. Please show me how to yield my life to You in a way that brings glory to the Father, honors the Son for His sacrifice for my sin, and allows You to change the lives of others through me. The glorious work You did in my heart in salvation, I pray You will use me to do in the lives of my family and friends. I ask You to fill me to the point of overflowing for the sake of others and for the glory of God. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
One of the most amazing privileges of being a Christian is knowing the answers to the so-called hidden mysteries of life God reveals to us in His Word. Philosophers spend a lifetime trying to determine the meaning of life, and we already know. Artists and musicians try to capture the image of true, faithful, unselfish love in their paintings and music, and we have an unrivaled masterpiece of love on display in the person of Jesus Christ.
The answer to all of life’s mysteries or hidden truths are available to us because we are beloved children of the Most High – which is one of the most glorious blessings of being in Christ.
Today, we are using Ephesians 3:5 to help focus our prayer time with the Lord. This passage reads:
Which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets.
We know, of course, this specific mystery has to do with both Jews and Gentiles making up the church together. But the underlying principle is the fact there is a truth God has chosen to keep hidden from men for thousands of years for His own purpose. And now, by the Spirit living in each of us, He has decided to reveal His heart and plan to those who belong to Him. Not to everyone, just to those He calls His children (Rom. 8:16-17).
We Can Know All Things
The answers to questions like, “How did the world begin?” are found only in the Word of God. “Where did man come from, what is the origin of sin, what happens when we die, is there really a heaven and hell, when will the world end?” and so many others questions are all revealed by the Spirit in the Scriptures.
This ability to know things the world struggles with is often an overlooked blessing to those who know the Lord. Because God is sovereign, He sees the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10). Nothing surprises Him. And since we’re now in Christ who knows all things, nothing should surprise us. God, in His Word, has made unfathomable promises to His children. These promises are for life, safety, acceptance, security, unconditional love, an indescribable future, and His abiding Presence living within us. These are promises not shared with the world. As His children, they are for us, alone.
Pause, take a deep breath and reflect on how blessed you are to have the Omniscient One, the all-knowing, all-powerful, sovereign God, residing in you. Today’s passage says other ages were purposely kept in the dark regarding this mystery, or regarding some truth God withheld from them. But now, in His time, He has chosen to reveal this mystery by the Spirit to the church. And since you are His church, this marvelous blessing is for you. It was not just for those in the New Testament. This same kind of revelation, a rhema, or a personal revelation of truth to you, still exists today. God still speaks to His people, both individually and as His church. It is part of our birthright, our inheritance, as children of God.
When you have a question or need direction or are struggling to make sense of the circumstances you face, you can always ask God. Why? Because He hears. Better than just hearing, He listens. As a loving Father stoops down to hear the voice of his child, so your Father does the same to you. He cares for you and all your troubles. Your concerns are now His concerns.
But as encouraging as this may be, it gets even better. We have something even the angels don’t possess. We have the Holy Spirit living within us, forever. We are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance” in Him (Eph. 1:13-14). But there is more. Jesus said, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I have said to you” (John 14:26). There’s nothing you can’t ask God. And there is nothing He is not able to show you. Why? Because Jesus said the Spirit, who now lives in you, is there to “teach you all things” (John 14:26). Read it again, all things. There’s no confusion nor chaos nor misunderstanding about anything you can’t lovingly ask your Father. He delights in revealing more of Himself to you. After all, how else can you be conformed to the image of His Son? (Rom. 8:29).
So today, as you begin to pray, spend some time thanking Him for revealing His heart to you. He has chosen to place Himself within you and to remain in you, to call your body His home, to reveal “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Why? So we can have an intimate, passionate, loving, trusting relationship with the Son of God forever. What a blessed people we are!
Time to Pray
When you think about what you need from the Lord today, take a moment to reflect on what you have already received. The Lord desires to “conform you to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). It’s an ongoing process, a good work in you He has begun and promises to complete (Phil. 1:6) to make you “complete in Him” (Col. 2:10).
Father, I thank You for being the All-knowing, All-powerful, and Ever-present God. I thank You for Jesus Who gave me the perfect example of how to live in harmony with You. And I thank You for Jesus’ promise not to leave me as an orphan (John 14:18), but to send the Spirit to be with me forever (John 14:17). I can’t thank You enough for that blessing.
Lord, as life gets more troubling and uncertain, I thank You for revealing the future to me through Your Word, not only the future of the world, but my personal future. I rejoice that You are now preparing a place for me to be with You in Your Father’s house and of Your promise to receive me to Yourself, so I will forever be with You (John 14:2-3). Knowing all this, please forgive me for my doubt and fear, for my anxiety and needless stress, and for forgetting Whose I am and to Whom I belong. I confess my vision of You is too small. But I know I am Yours, Lord. Thank you for choosing me to be Your child (Eph. 1:4-5). Thank You for loving and saving and redeeming me and for revealing Your heart to someone like me. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.