Ephesiansby Robert M. Solomon
Paul marvels at the profound mystery revealed to him, as well as at his appointment as a “servant of this gospel” (Ephesians 3:7). He was a strict Pharisee, “a Hebrew of Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5) who took pride in his Jewishness. He was the least likely candidate to be the apostle to the Gentiles. But God’s choices often defy human wisdom, logic, and strategy (1 Corinthians 1:27).
Moreover, Paul considers himself as “less than the least of all God’s people” (Ephesians 3:8). When writing the letter to the Galatians—which came some years before his epistle to the Ephesians—Paul showed that he was an apostle equal to the others, even Peter (Galatians 1:1, 2:11). But now, he uses humble words. The longer he lives and serves Christ, the more he is amazed and humbled by God’s grace. In the words of preacher Charles Spurgeon, “The fuller a vessel becomes the deeper it sinks in the water”. The more fruit a branch bears, the lower it hangs.
Paul’s ministry was totally dependent on God for its success. It was given to him by God’s grace and performed through God’s power (Ephesians 3:7). He knew what he had to do. He was to “make plain to everyone” what God was doing (“administration” is “plan”, ESV) now that God had revealed it to him (v. 9). Though the gospel carried the “boundless riches of Christ” (v. 8), the preacher’s task was to use plain speech so that people could understand. That is something we need to remember on the pulpit and in the classroom.
God’s plan is larger than we can imagine. He wants to use the church (where Jew and Gentile are brothers and sisters) to teach the “rulers and authorities” (angelic beings in the heavenly realms) a lesson (vv. 10–11). They will marvel at God’s manifold wisdom—that He brought together fallen, warring, and hate-filled human beings into a beautiful body of Christ. As Bible scholar John Alexander Mackay put it, “the history of the Christian church becomes a graduate school for angels”.
Paul wraps up his thoughts by encouraging his readers not to worry or be discouraged by his imprisonment (v. 13). God had the upper hand and would fulfil His eternal purpose. (Paul wrote four great epistles from the prison, Ephesians being one of them). He reminds them to pray, noting that in Christ, we have access to God and can speak freely and confidently in prayer (v. 12).
Do you think the church has failed to be “a graduate school for angels”? Has there been a point in history when the church may have succeeded in impressing the angels?
Why is it important that the more successful you are in God’s work, the more humble you must be?