The Grace of God Calls Us to Go: Ephesians 3:1-13

It’s good to be back writing again after a brief hiatus. To catch up those of you who don’t know: I don’t live in Alabama anymore, and I’m no longer selling shoes at Dick’s Sporting Goods. God has called me to be a reporter with The Jonesboro Sun in Jonesboro, Arkansas. So far, I am loving it. Because of how hectic the move was, I haven’t been able to write much. So I’m glad to be back to share truth from God’s Word.

In chapter two, Paul dealt with how the grace of God saves the sinner and calls those who were previously separated and hostile (Jews and Gentiles) together in Christ.

Now, in chapter three, the apostle turns his attention to how and why God revealed this “mystery,” that is, the truth that God has come to save Gentile as well as Jew, to him, despite his unworthiness.

“For this reason, I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles–assuming 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.”

Paul is writing to a Gentile audience (v. 1). He wants them to understand that the grace of God is for them, as well as the Jew. This is a continuation from the end of chapter two, where Paul highlights that the gospel of Christ Jesus is the gospel for ALL people who will trust in Christ and repent to follow Him.

Paul speaks of how this “mystery” was made known, not “in other generations,” most likely in reference to Old Testament Israel, but to Christ’s apostles and prophets now.

Do we grasp how big that is? We take the gospel for granted, because so many of us grew up with the gospel. We grew up hearing that Jesus died for all who will believe, and so when we hear “Jesus died for you,” we sort of shrug as if it’s like hearing the weather report.

This great mystery changes everything. You are saved, not because of your ethnicity, race, family background, social status….but because of the grace of God. This is a reinforcement of all Paul has talked about in Ephesians so far.

“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, 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 your glory.”

Paul understands that everything in the Christian life goes back to grace. Paul knows he is a minister of the gospel not because he’s the best minister ever, or because he went to a special seminary, but because God in His grace called Paul not only to receive Christ, but to preach Christ.

Notice what Paul says in verse 10: The reason Paul brings to light this mystery of the gospel, this truth that it is for all, regardless of background, is so that the church can make much of God’s wisdom, in such a way that the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” notice. Heaven is watching what the church does with this beautiful gospel. Those who have gone before us will see if we are faithful to, like Paul, “preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

We are called to go out with the gospel. The church is called to declare God’s wisdom, not just to people on Earth, but to the universe. What an amazing call! We declare God’s glory to the universe around us!

We do that, not by preaching to trees, of course, but by preaching the gospel to people in need of redemption. When we declare God’s glory in Christ, His creation rejoices!

Paul reminds them that in Christ, we have “boldness and access with confidence.” So when we are fearful of sharing our faith, we remember Christ. We remember that we have boldness with confidence in Him, and that He is worthy!

So let’s preach the gospel more, to all peoples. We have a global gospel for a global people for a global God!

Lord, may we share the gospel more. May we not forget that the gospel is for all people. May we trust in your grace not only to save us, but to sanctify and use us for your glory.

God bless,

Neal E.

Love Well

If there’s one word that is more overused, yet less understood than any other, it’s “love.”  What does “love” mean?  Is it the butterflies in your stomach when you fall in love (whatever that means)?  Is it a feeling of joy about someone else?  Is it a noun, a verb, or both?  Does it mean to be courageous and tell someone they’re wrong, or does it mean holding our tongue and not “judging” someone?

The Bible uses three words for love: agape, the love that God has for us, an unconditional love; phileo, a brotherly love/affection; and eros, the love between a man and his wife.

For the purpose of this post, I’ll focus on the first word: agape.  Because this is the love God has for us as Christians, this is the love we ought to have for each other in Christ (John 13:34-35).

The world has many different ideas about love, but the Bible portrays a singular notion of love: Meeting the needs of others, with no regard for the cost to self.  Isn’t this what Jesus does?

He had no obligation to come down to Earth, to take on human flesh, but He does, because we needed Him to take on human flesh and be our Savior.  It is at great cost to Him, for instead of being embraced and accepted, He was “despised and rejected (Isaiah 53:3).”  The God of the universe was hated, scorned, persecuted, and ultimately murdered by the very people He came to love and to save.  He lives the perfect life, overcomes temptation, securing righteousness for all those who trust in Him.  He has no need to prove His love for the Father, or to prove His perfection, but He willingly endures the hardships of human life and perfectly obeys God in our place so that we might be saved.  And on the cross, He meets our needs by taking all of our sin, on Himself, so that when we trust Him to be our Lord and Savior, we can be forgiven of our sin and made right with God (Col. 1:20).

As believers in Christ, we have the privilege and responsibility of loving others as God loves us.  We have “come to believe in the love God has for us” (1 John. 4:16) and now want to show that love to our fellow believers and to the world around us.

But we must be willing to get our hands dirty, and to become humble and selfless like Jesus if we will show this love.  This we cannot do on our own, we need the Spirit to sanctify us and an attitude of humility.  Left to ourselves, none of us would show this love.  Therefore, we must remember how God saved us, how God brought us out of a life of sin, gave us faith in Christ and called us to follow Him, and be reminded that our job now is to live for His glory.

So with the gospel in view, with a firm grasp of God’s love for us, how do we actually meet the needs of those around us?  I’m usually not one for numbered lists, but, it’s a new year, and we’re gonna try some new things here 😉  Here’s three practical steps we can take to meet the needs of others both in the church and outside the church:

1) Build relationships with people.  This requires more than a handshake and small talk.  At some point, our small talk has to become “big talk.”  If we are to meet the needs of others, we have to be intentional (If you didn’t know I was Baptist before, you sure do now) about building meaningful, deep relationships with people.  We cannot just settle for knowing their name.  We need to know what’s going on in their life, how to pray for them, and to see how we could possibly benefit them for the glory of God and the spread of the gospel.

2) Listen to people.  We need to shut up more.  Honestly.  I know, at least for me, I talk way too much.  Going back to the first step, a key factor in building relationships is listening to one another, whether it’s a friend relationship, parent relationship, romantic relationship, etc.  If we expect to meet their needs, we have to listen in order to hear them.  If we want them to hear us share the gospel, we need to hear them share their story and their heart, at whatever cost to our time or comfort.

3) Rethink your schedule.  I’m a busy person.  I’m in graduate school, working part-time, while also doing freelance reporting and attempting to help lead a college ministry at church.  But if my schedule isn’t flexible and doesn’t allow time to talk to someone in need, or get lunch with a friend, or take extra time to maybe share the gospel with someone, I’m not doing it right.  At that point, “busy” becomes “disobedient.”  If you are following Jesus, God controls your schedule.

These are simple tasks, but they are not easily done.

Lord, may we trust in your love for us.  May we rest in your grace, in the shadow of the cross.  May we follow you with joy as we strive to be like you, showing your love to the world.  May we be selfless, taking the time to get to know people and to listen to them.  May we surrender our schedules to you so that we can be as effective for the kingdom as possible.  May we love as you love.

God bless,

Neal E.

Tomorrow, I’ll publish a post about God’s grace from the beginning of our salvation all the way to its completion.  Friday, I’ll publish a post about idolatry.  Sunday, we’ll wrap up this series with “Mourn Well.”  As always, if you have any questions/comments/concerns/prayer requests, feel free to contact me on here, on Twitter @NealEmbry, or email me at nembry@charter.net.