“For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—assuming that 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.”
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, n 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.
- What are we (those claiming “a call” to ministry, whether as a lay-person or a vocational church calling) willing to suffer, so those outside the churched can find access to the Father (3:11-12)?
- Whatever we think of the issues facing the church today, we need to fully affirm that “all,” indeed, have access to the Father. This means we cannot and should not determine by design, default, or naïve unintended consequence that bar or hinder some from such access; then, “all” isn't “all.” This, then, is surely not the gospel. We can believe every person or demographic has access to the Father (i.e., brain-theological affirmation), but our attitudes, bias, prejudice, and lifestyle may demonstrates otherwise. So, in the end it is not just what I think, but how I live, where I live, my choices, my habits, and my actions that determine whether I truly believe all human beings have access, now, to the Father through Jesus Christ.
- This passage is the minister’s (or lay-leader’s) fulfillment (that is, our obedience) to Jesus’ words “take up your cross and die” and the application for His words, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.” Reread Paul’s Ephesian text here, vv. 1–13, and say it ain’t so. You will hear Jesus’ words behind Paul’s: “For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles . . .” The apostle to the Gentiles understood the gospel Jesus, and so commissioned the church to engage and bring it to the ends of the earth. Do I take up my cross and die for those outside of the faith? Do I serve and live in such a way that my body and life is a ransom for the many outside the church?
“If you can’t take off those caps now, what makes you think you’ll be able to die for your faith in some god-forsaken land when all indication seems to indicate that God has abandoned you?”
Here's the rub: I have had to eat and stumble over these same words myself. Where is my (our) sacrifice today? Where is my sacrifice, my willingness to suffer—really suffer, not just figuratively suffer, but real suffering—for those outside who are in need of access to the Father?
Who is willing to actually do for others outside the church what Paul did on behalf of the Gentiles? Inner city teens and children facing the odds of continued poverty or, even, death at the end of violence in their neighborhood. Or, as Christians in the Middle East living with an ISIS target on your head? Are the trendy missional Christians preparing to sacrifice their lives in tough urban centers, lonely rural towns, or in the Middle East—planting churches and doing ministry in unsafe streets and neighborhoods or right in the path of ISIS? Where are these “called” Christians?
Within suburban and exurban American church life, our comfort is our god way too much. We confuse our desire to be safe, secure, and well resourced with God’s peace about our callings (as ministers and, as well, as lay-leadership).
This text scares the hell out of me. Paul’s inspired words are calling me way beyond my comfort zone, beyond safety to fulfill Jesus’ call and the gospel’s obligation to die to myself so others can have full and free access to the Father.
Where is my sacrifice, my willingness to suffer—really suffer, not just figuratively suffer, but real suffering—for those outside who are in need of access to the Father?