Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching Ephesians 3:7-13. The text serves as the second half of a lengthy thirteen verse section where Paul is unveiling the mystery of God’s saving plan to save both Jew and Gentile in Christ. In doing so, Paul likewise unveils the purpose of his ministry and the distinct purpose of the church of Jesus Christ. As we read and consider these truths, we must never forget that God has a purpose for us and that purpose is not disconnected from the church.
God’s Purpose for the Apostle Paul
Paul was made a minister by God’s sovereign initiative. He didn’t wake up one day and determine to be an apostle. Just as grace is sovereignly dispensed, so is the calling to serve in the gospel ministry. We are all ministers of the gospel as the children of God, but we all have different callings. Paul’s theology was consistent as he looked at the working of God in salvation in the first two chapters, now he points to the work of God in calling him into the ministry of proclamation.
Paul was not only made a minister by God’s will, he was also called into a ministry of preaching. As verse eight makes clear, Paul understood that he was to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to the Gentiles. Paul was not called to be gospel ventriloquist, juggler, magician, power lifter, soloist, or comedian. Paul was called to be a preacher. What would happen to our churches today if the worship services were more sober minded and full of robust preaching instead of little talks full of half baked jokes and skits?
Paul makes it clear that the grace of God in Christ is indescribable. He calls it the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” As Paul would go down into the deep wells, into the deep mines, he would continue to come back to the surface with the jewels of God’s saving grace. In doing so, he would point to the fact that God was saving a people for His glory from every tongue, people, tribe, and nation. This brought great anger to the Jews and for that reason he was imprisoned. In fact, as Paul wrote this very letter he was in prison.
God’s Purpose for the Church
The church is not something good for our consideration, but it’s the absolute perfect will of God for our lives. The will of God for us individually will never be distinctly disconnected from the church. It is God’s will for us to bloom for Him through the local church. God has a plan and purpose for the church in this world and that includes gospel missions (the Great Commission) and as Paul points out here—to make the wisdom of God known even to the angels who are watching. In his sermon on this text, John MacArthur said:
The angels can see the power of God in creation. The angels can see the wrath of God at Mt. Sinai. The angels can see the love of God at Calvary, but God says they’re going to see my wisdom in the church.
Therefore, as the angels watch us worship, serve, pray, and interact with one another – do they see the manifold wisdom of God on display in our lives? Is God’s wisdom evident in the functionality of our church? A divided church is an oxymoron. A church without joy is hypocrisy on display. A church without love is nonsense. A lazy church is paradoxical. Therefore, we must be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:3-6).
As we live out Christianity for the world to see, we can expect to be mistreated in the same way the world mistreated Jesus. Paul reminds the church at Ephesus of this truth as he encourages them to not lose heart of his ongoing suffering for Christ. The world is quite happy to sing about Jesus at Christmas so long as they’re not forced to bow their knee and submit to Him. The world is not threatened by a harmless baby in a manger, but once the church points to the sovereign ruling King Jesus the world is immediately hostile toward us. Beware and don’t lose heart.