During Fall 2017, I taught Calvary Monterey the book of Ephesians. During the series, I also wrote about Ephesians in sixty-plus short, devotionally styled posts. Each Thursday, through 2018, I will release a post. I hope you enjoy. For the entire series, please visit nateholdridge.com/united-for-unity-posts.
“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.” (Ephesians 3:11–13).
So Paul has ruminated over the glory of the gospel of grace. He has stood amazed at God’s willingness to reveal the mystery to Paul. He has rejoiced to have been part of God’s plan to create the church, a new humanity, by the blood of Jesus Christ. Before closing the chapter by praying for all these realities to permeate the hearts in Ephesus, Paul exhorts them and, by extension, us.
First, Paul exhorts us to enjoy the access we have been given to God.
He uses words like “boldness” and “confidence” to describe this access to Him. This speaks of a freedom and liberty of speech before our Father in heaven.
The gospel of Jesus Christ ought to create a freedom before the Father. When His love is embedded in our hearts we will run to Him with everything. There is a sense in which the believer can say, “I am most free when I am with God. I am most myself before Him.” This is only possible through the riches found in Christ. No other religion offers this freedom. Paul certainly had not experienced it as a Pharisee, for that existence was a constant facade of righteousness. But in Christ, the believer has guaranteed access to a loving Father.
Second, Paul exhorts us to celebrate the mission of God, which ought to cause us to enter into the personal enjoyment of that mission.
Paul said this by telling the Ephesians not to lose heart over the fact of his imprisonment. He had, after all, told them he was in prison on behalf of the Gentiles. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, they may have felt unduly culpable in Paul’s current predicament. But Paul told them to pay no mind to his suffering for them. It was for their glory.
The gospel of Jesus Christ gives us a glorious mission. It is this mission which Paul was part of. He knew the Ephesians should not feel sorry for him, for he was truly living. He was alive! His life had been imbued with vision and meaning and significance because of the great mission God had sent him on. Every believer is part of this mission. For some, this mission includes leaving homes and hometowns to go out proclaiming the glorious gospel. For most, this mission electrifies the doldrums of everyday life by giving us people to love and serve and care for with the gospel of grace. Some will go far away, while many will make disciples as they go along through life. This glorious mission is one which every believer is called to enjoy, but to which a scarce few enter.
Thus Paul concludes his song of celebration concerning the mystery of the gospel, the plan of God.
He rejoiced that Jew and Gentile alike could now partake in the full and robust riches of Christ. He could see the work of God in unfolding His wisdom through the gospel and the church. The world had previously looked seemed a chaotic concert of competing instruments and songs, but now Paul saw the truth. He saw God as the orchestral conductor, piecing together human history as His own story of redemption. Paul rejoiced to be part of this great and mysterious plan of God.