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.
“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...” (Ephesians 3:7–8).
Paul rejoiced to have received the mystery that Gentiles were to be major recipients of God's redemptive plan, so he spent his life obediently serving the mystery. He was glad to have been brought into the plan of God, so he would expend his energy furthering God’s marvelous plan by reaching out to Gentile and Jew alike. He was a unique man with a unique ministry — none of us will write Scripture — but his work serves as an example for the church today.
Paul served as a minister of God’s grace.
The word “minister” might conjure up a lofty role, but it shouldn’t, for it is the word for a table-waiter, which was Paul’s self-image when it came to dispensing the gospel. He thought himself a waiter, looking to the tables of humanity, trying to see who was hungry, who was thirsty, who was in need of service. An excellent waiter is tuned in to the people he serves, and Paul was no exception. Jesus looked for all who hungered and all who thirsted, and so did Paul. A good minister of the gospel does the same today. We are to look to humanity to find those who are hurting, broken, and disenfranchised so we can lovingly offer the all-healing word of the gospel. We are to remember Joseph’s inquiry to the baker and butler — how he saw and then asked about their sadness — and allow the same spirit to invade our hearts.
Paul served by the working of God’s power.
He realized it was God’s grace which gave him the ministry, but also God’s energy and power which enabled him to do the work. In Colossians he wrote, “For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29). Modern believers, like Paul before them, serve God with God’s power. Christ told the apostles to wait in Jerusalem after His ascension. Why did they wait? For the promise of the Spirit who, when He came upon them, would give them the power to be His witnesses in Jerusalem and beyond. The Spirit of grace must empower our efforts in dispensing the gospel of grace. We have not outgrown our need for Him with our buildings and strategies and budgets. In every culture, generation, and century, the work of the Spirit has been vital.
Paul served with humility.
He referred to himself as the least of all the saints, yet we often see to him as the most significant Christian who ever lived. His humility made him impactful, but how did he remain humble in light of such effectiveness? His words and life had reshaped human history. How was his heart so preserved from pride? How could he see himself as the least, they “very least?” The impossibility of his assignment might have had something to do with it, for any person given a task from God knows it is impossible without God’s help. But Paul’s humility likely flowed from the truth which occupied his mind and heart — the truth of the gospel. By studying, teaching, and writing of God’s marvelous grace Paul was in constant contact with the fact of his previous lostness and God’s incredible love. He felt deep gratitude for what God had done for him. Only humility could flow from a consciousness of the gospel.