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PAUL THE PREACHER
Intro: So far, Ephesians 3 has given us some insight into the man we know as Paul. In verse 1, Paul tells us that he is “the prisoner of Jesus Christ.” Paul was imprisoned by the Roman beaded on charges made by the Jews. Yet, Paul did not see himself as the prisoner of either Rome or of Judaism; Paul understood that he was where he was by the will of God. Paul was the prisoner of Christ. He was in prison by the will of God, for the glory of God, for the good of the church, the body of Christ.
In verses 2-6, Paul tells us that he is a pioneer. That is, he was given the revelation of truth that was hidden from all the great prophets, preachers, teachers and leaders of the past. Paul was allowed to understand some thing that Moses never understood. He was given truth that was never made clear to Abraham, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah or Daniel. He understood things that John the Baptist had no knowledge of. Paul was a pioneer preacher, blazing the trail for the church, the body of Christ.
In the first six verses of this chapter, Paul reveals the “mystery” he has been given. He writes about the amazing truth that the church of Jesus Christ, or His body, is made up of both saved Jews and saved Gentiles. The “mystery” is that in Jesus Christ; those who were on opposite sides of religion are made one in the Lord. The “mystery” is that, in Jesus Christ, all people, regardless of their race, their heritage, or any other considerations, are made one.
Having revealed the “mystery”, Paul now exults in that “mystery.” He wants us to know why He is preaching what he preaches. Let’s take a few minutes to walk through these verses together today. There are some wonderful truths in these verses that we need to notice. Let these verses encourage you as we look at another facet of the life of Paul. These verses speak to us about Paul The Preacher.
A. His Call - Paul did not choose this path through life. In fact, he was a man of position and power before he met the Lord Jesus. When salvation came to Paul, along with it came the call of God to carry the Gospel to the Gentiles. Ill. Acts 9:1-16. Paul described it this way, “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee,” Act 26:16.
It was not Paul’s education, his power, his esteem among men, or any other thing that made him a preacher of the Gospel. It was the sovereign will of God! Paul says that he “was made a minister.” God took Paul, intervened in his life, and made him something he had never been. God made a preacher out him and sent him out with the mystery of the Gospel!
Again, that’s how the Lord still works in the lives of His children. He saves us for a purpose, and he fashions us to fulfill that purpose for His glory. We need to remember that God has a will for our lives, and that everything we face in life is merely preparing us to fulfill the will and plan of God, Rom. 8:28-29; 1 Cor. 12:7-11.
Let me mention a couple of thoughts right here.
· First, any man who is preaching, but who has not been called of God is a pretender. He has taken on him a mantle that God has not laid upon him. He is involved in something that God has not called him to do. That individual needs to determine the will of God for his life and get about doing what the Lord has planned for him to do.
· Second, we should never be jealous of the call and ministry of others. The Lord does in our lives that which pleases Him. He gifts us, and gives us opportunities to serve according to His will. We should praise Him for what He is doing in the lives of others, and we should do our best to fulfill the ministry He has given to us. Ill. John the Baptist - John 3:25-30.
B. His Credentials - Paul says that he is a “minister.” This is the same word that is translated “Deacon” throughout the New Testament. It always refers to “a servant.” It was literally used of “a table waiter.” It comes from a word that has to idea of “kicking up dust.” It is the image of an individual running from one activity to another at such speed that they leave a cloud of dust in their wake.
That is how Paul saw himself. He did not see himself as a man who was worthy of honor and esteem. He saw himself as a servant of the church. He saw himself a man who was under that authority of his master, the Lord Jesus Christ. He understood the truth that were it not for the grace of God, he would still be a lost, religious Jew. He understood that the blood of Jesus, through the grace of God, had redeemed him. He was not doing what he was doing of his own initiative, but he saw his ministry as “a gift of the grace of God.”
None of us are prophets. None of us are apostles. Some of us are Deacons. A few of us are preachers. But, all of us are servants. First and foremost, we are the servants of the Lord Jesus, Who redeemed us, and owns us, 1 Cor. 6:19-20. Then, we are the servants of our brothers and sisters in Christ, Gal. 5:13. We each have a ministry and we are to fulfill that ministry to the glory of God. There is no greater love than to serve a brother or sister in Christ.
C. His Companion - Paul wants his readers to know that he does not know what he knows because he is smart. He does not write like he does because he is intelligent. He does not serve like he does because of any trait or power within himself. Paul wants them to know that he is the man he is because of “the effectual working of His power.”
Paul was a “made man.” God took Paul, saved him by His grace, and transformed him into the mighty apostle to the Gentiles. God’s work in Paul was supernatural. It was sovereign. It was personal. It was powerful.
Paul took no personal credit for fruit of his ministry. He gave all glory to God. Ill. “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase,” 1 Cor. 3:5-6. Ill. “Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily,” Col. 1:29. It was God Who made Paul the man he was and he never forgot it.
When Paul preached, it was a display of the power of God. When Paul wrote, it was display of the power of God. In his preaching, his witnessing, and in his writing, Paul had a companion. He had the power and presence of the Holy Spirit to enable him to do the work he had been called to do.
So do we! When the Lord saved us, He moved in. When He moved in, He came into us to give us the ability to serve the Lord and to carry out His will in our lives. The Lord is the power behind the saint. When we are yielded to Him as Paul was, we can expect His help to work for Him, to live for Him and to serve Him in this world, Ill. Acts 1:8; Rom. 15:19. The same Spirit that empowered Paul is the same Spirit that empowers us. Thus, He gets all the glory for what He accomplishes through us.
What are you doing in your life that only be described as “God in action?” Is there any area of your life that can only be described as Him? We have a heavenly Companion as we move through this world. The Spirit of God dwells in us and on us to equip us for the ministry God has selected for us. We can trust Him to enable us to carry out the will of God in this world.
I. Paul’s Appointment As A Preacher
As Paul considers the call that has been placed upon his life, he is amazed by the grace of God that has been given to him. After all, before he was saved, he was an enemy of the church. He did everything in his power to destroy the fledgling church, Acts 8:3, “As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.” Paul was determined to destroy the church by whatever means was necessary. Acts 9:1-2 says, “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.”
It was this Paul that God reached down in mercy to save. It was this man who, by his own admission was a blasphemer, a murderer and the sworn enemy of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was saved by the grace of God and called to preach the very Gospel he had before hated. Consider the words of 1 Tim. 1:11-17. This is Paul’s testimony the amazing grace of God that transformed a lost, religious man into the mighty Apostle to the Gentiles. When Paul considered where he came from and what the Lord had done in his life, he bowed in humble amazement before such a great and gracious Lord.
By the way, I know how he fills. When I stop to think of how wicked I was before the Lord saved me, and when I consider how evil my heart can still be at times, I am amazed that He would even save someone like me. Then, when I stop to consider the fact that He not only saved me, He also called me to preach His Word. It boggles the mind!
If you are saved and serving the Lord, you know exactly how Paul must have felt. We don’t even deserve the air we breathe, much less the saving grace of God. Then, on top of that, the Lord allows us to worship Him, to serve Him, to be a part of His work in the world today. Like Paul said, we are what we are by the grace of God, 1 Cor. 15:10. What a glorious God we serve. We should praise Him, worship Him and glorify Him for His grace, His mercy and love.
I. Paul’s Appointment As A Preacher
II. Paul’s Amazement As A Preacher
A. V. 8b The Direction Of His Preaching - Paul was a preacher sent to preach to the “Gentiles.” We have already discussed all this, but for a Jewish Pharisee to become a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, then for that same former Pharisee to go the hated Gentiles to preach was an astonishing thing. Yet, that is the very way God designed the ministry of Paul. God sent him to preach salvation to a people he would never have even greeted had he passed them on a street. He was sent to preach the love of God to a people he formerly hated. He was sent to a despised race to declare a despised message about a despised man. God truly works in mysterious ways, doesn’t He?
B. V. 8c The Depth Of His Preaching - Paul speaks of his preaching as “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” The word “unsearchable” means “unfathomable.” That is, the depths cannot be reached. Paul is declaring a message to the church that no human being can fully comprehend. Yet, he wants to do his best to tell the church about all they possess because they are in a faith relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, what are “the unsearchable riches of Christ?” Since they are “unsearchable” or “bottomless,” no one can fully know or comprehend all that we have in Him. However, a few of the priceless possessions of the redeemed are made very clear in the Word of God. That is why we must preach the Gospel in its fullness, so that the church may come to understand their exalted position in the Lord Jesus Christ. Some of the “riches of Christ” are these:
· We are loved by God - Jer. 31:3; John 3:16.
· We are His chosen people - Eph. 1:4.
· We are saved by the blood of His Son - 1 Pet. 1:18-19; Eph. 1:7; Rev. 1:5.
· We are eternally saved - John 10:28.
· We are part of His body - 1 Cor. 12:13.
· We are seated with Jesus in Heavenly places right now - Eph. 2:6.
· Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life - Luke 10:20; Rev. 17:8.
· We are the temple of the Holy Spirit - 1 Cor. 6:19.
This is just a small sampling of “unsearchable riches of Christ” that are ours. This small sampling is enough to cause us to praise Him for eternity! Would to God that we could grasp who we are, and Whose we are, in Jesus Christ.
C. V. 9-11 The Design Of His Preaching - Paul tells us that his message has been designed to “make all men see the fellowship of the mystery.” Paul wants the world to understand some truths that have been hidden with God from eternity past. Paul’s message was so new that even “the principalities and powers in heaven” wanted to hear what Paul had to say. He tells us that the “manifold wisdom of God” is “made known by the church.” God is using the church to teach the world His wisdom. God is using the church to reveal to the angels and rulers of Heaven the things that He never told them. God’s plan to save a people out of this world of sinners was so hidden within the secret counsels of God, that even the angelic beings in Heaven did not know the details. As R. Kent Hughes writes, “The history of the Christian Church is ‘the graduate school for angels.’ As John Stott says, ‘It is through the old creation (the universe) that God reveals his glory to humans; it is through the new creation (the church) that he reveals his wisdom to angels.’”[i]
So, the world is a stage and the church is the star attraction. The angels watch us to learn about the love and grace of God. They observe us because we are a mystery to them. They are amazed that God would take such vile sinners and save them by His amazing grace. They “stoop” to look in on the mystery of the church, 1 Pet. 1:10-12. Isn’t that amazing? The angels are watching you! We have a much larger audience than we could ever imagine. That is another reason why we should submit to the authority of God in our lives. The angels learn from watching us serve the Lord, 1 Cor. 11:10.
According to verse 11, it is through the church that God reveals His eternal purposes. The church teaches us why the world was created. The church teaches us why sin entered into the world. The church teaches us about the love, grace, mercy and salvation of the Lord. The church lifts the lid off the mystery God and makes it clear why the Lord has been working in our world. He has been working in this world to save a bride for His Son. He has been working in this world to redeem a people for His glory. He has been working in this world to build a body for His Son. He is forming a body that will bring Him glory as it lives for the Lord and declares the mystery to those who are still trapped in death and darkness.
Paul’s message was a powerful message, and it is message that still needs to be preached. May the Lord help us to live out His will and declare His Word, even as we continue to unearth “the unsearchable riches of Christ” day by day.
I. Paul’s Appointment As A Preacher
II. Paul’s Amazement As A Preacher
III. Paul’s Announcement As A Preacher
IV. V. 12-13 PAUL’S ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AS A PREACHER
Paul’s words in these two verses serve to remind us, once again, that God is in control. Our relationship with Christ gives us “boldness” to serve the Lord, and “boldness” to come into His presence with our requests. Our faith in Christ gives us “access” to the throne of grace where we can find power and help, Heb. 4:16; Phil. 4:6-7. Our faith in Jesus serves to give us “confidence” as we live day by day. We have the confidence that we are His; that we are saved; that we are headed to glory when this life is over, Phil. 1:6. All this serves to remind us that God is in charge of our lives and of all the affairs of our lives.
In verse 13, Paul returns to his own imprisonment, v. 1. He reminds his readers that his trials were for their benefit. As I said before, the Lord allowed Paul to remain in prison for five years so that we could have many of his writings. In the books Paul penned during that time, there is a wealth of heavenly information to help the church learn about who she is in the Lord, and about how to share that truth with the world.
We must never forget, as we journey toward Heaven, that we are the Lord’s. We must never forget the terrible price He paid to redeem us to Himself, Isa. 53:4-6. We must never forget that He has made us a part of the “mystery” of the church. We must never forget that angelic beings and lost sinners are both watching, and they are both learning about the mystery of God in Jesus Christ. Our calling is a high calling. Our position is an exalted position. Our challenge is a glorious challenge. Our God is able to help us.
Conc: Praise the Lord for preachers like Paul. Thank God for men, who seek the face of the Lord in the Word of God, then go out and share what God has shown them with others. I am thankful the Lord gives His people insight and wisdom into His Word. I am thankful that He gives us “ears to hear,” and a will to respond!
I also praise Him for the “mystery” of the church. Isn’t it great to be a part of the body of Christ? Isn’t it a blessing to know that you have been redeemed by grace, washed in the blood, baptized into His body, and that you are headed to Heaven? Isn’t it amazing that He has made us a part of something that even the angels can’t understand or be a part of? Yet, they look at who we are and what we have with wonder and amazement.
R. Kent Hughes writes the following:
“All of this demands a view of the Church so high that it challenges belief. The Church, a product of God’s reconciling work, will in fact be an agent in the ultimate cosmic reconciliation! This mystery keeps the angels watching.
Our text calls us to recognize and revere the immense centrality of the Church. John Stott has suggested that this includes three grand facts.
First, the Church is central to history. The open secret is that the Church, the new humanity, a multiracial, multinational third race, will rule in the universe along with Christ and the angels, and that amidst the swirling tides of Marxism, revived militant Islam, and virulent materialism only the Church will survive history.
Second, the Church is central to the gospel. Ephesians teaches that the complete gospel involves both the preaching of Christ and the mystery of the Church. Christ died and rose from the dead not only to save us, but to create a single new humanity. That means that the local manifestation of the Church, the church we attend, is very important. It is the third race watched by the world and by angels. When it preaches Christ and lives as the Church, souls are ineluctably drawn to Christ the Head.
Third, the Church is central to Christian living. The text ends with Paul alluding to his suffering: “Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory,” (v. 13) (Changed to KJV by this author). Paul was willing to pay any price to see the Church go forward. As an apostle, he saw his sufferings as the Church’s glory.
The bottom line is, the Church is not an option for believers, nor is supporting it an option. I am not saying you have to go to church to be a Christian, but you also do not have to go home to be married. However, if you do not frequent your home, your relationship will be in jeopardy. Attendance and participation in your local church is not an option. Paul’s gospel was Christ and the Church.
As we all know, the Church on earth is imperfect. Nevertheless, we must be committed to the local manifestation of the universal Church. We must be committed to regular worship and should worship with all we have. As the third race, we must be committed to our church’s fellowship as well. If we only attend worship, we are robbing the church and ourselves and Christ. We must be involved in a small group or a Bible school class where we interact and minister to others. Also, since Christ and his Church has the only answer for the world, we must be involved in sharing both. Evangelism is not an option. We must reach out to those who are not like us. When we do, we will be living out one of the supreme glories of the Church.”[ii]
The redeemed ought to praise Him for that. The lost should turn to Him for salvation and become a part of what the Lord is doing. Of course, when the lost turn to Him, they will find out that they were already a part of it even though theft didn’t know it! Now, that is a mystery!