7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:(Ephesians 3:7–11)
- Why did you become a Christian?
- Was it really that you could go to Heaven and escape Hell?
- What about the life you have to live between the time you received Christ as your Savior and your death?
- What is the purpose of this life we live now?
In this passage, Paul answers that last question in a way that many Christians wouldn’t dream of. Let’s look and see how Paul viewed his purpose for living. We start with the fact that he was:
I. A MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL
Ephesians 3:7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
Ephesians 3:8a Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given…
“Whereof” refers back to verse six, where Paul left off with mentioning the gospel, so he says here that he was “made a minister” of the gospel. The gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ died on the cross as a substitute for our sins.
A. The Minister Is A Servant Of God
The word for “minister” (διάκονος, nom./sg./masc., διάκονος, servant, agent) means servant. It’s a word that refers to someone who waits on tables. It’s the same word that Jesus uses in Mark 9:35 —
35 And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. (Mark 9:35)
Jesus taught his disciples (and us) what a servant does in John 13 when he, the leader and teacher of the disciples, washed the feet of his disciples. He said to them, “…I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).
Vernon Grounds, then president of Denver Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary, challenged the graduating class of 1973…Dr. Grounds told the graduates that he was going to present to them a tangible symbol that could help them in their future ministries.
As the classmates filed quietly to the front, they wondered what it would be—a special Scripture verse, a little book, and inscribed medallion? To their surprise, it was a small square of white terry cloth.
One graduate, who has served as an overseas missionary, says, “We were commissioned to go into the world as servants. That small piece of towel, frayed and grubby from years in my wallet, is a constant reminder of that moving moment and of our basic call to serve.” (Source unknown, qtd in Galaxie Software, 10,000 Sermon Illustrations [Biblical Studies Press, 2002])
So Paul’s idea of a minister was someone who served Jesus Christ; someone who was humble and submissive to their Lord. A servant does what he is told to do.
B. The Minister Is Made By Grace
Paul says that he was “made a minister.” He did not make himself a minister; Christ appointed him to be a servant. Paul’s testimony was that Jesus blinded him with bright light while he was on the road to Damascus. Stunned and dazed, Paul managed to ask a question:
15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. 16 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; (Acts 26:15–16)
Paul also says that this appointment to ministry was “according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.”
Remember that Paul was a well-educated Pharisee. He was moving up the ranks as a leader in his religion. He says about himself that he was…
5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:5–6)
But he was not made a minister of Christ because of any of that. He was made a minister solely because of the “grace of God.” In fact, he considered himself “less that the least of all saints.” In 1 Timothy he declared himself to be the chief of sinners.
12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:12–15)
Every true Christian knows that it’s not our works, our abilities, our talents, our looks or anything else boast-able about ourselves that can save us. It’s simply by the grace of God that we can be saved by faith in Jesus Christ.
The same holds true for our ministry (and I’m not just talking about pastors and missionaries and evangelists). We may have a certain amount of talent and gifting, but God does not appoint us to our ministries because of our talent. He appoints us because of his grace.
Paul was made a minister because of God’s grace; to do what? What was…
II. THE MINISTRY OF THE GOSPEL
Ephesians 3:8b that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
Ephesians 3:9a And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery…
Back in Paul’s testimony, in Acts 26, we also read what Jesus called Paul to do. Jesus said that he would…
17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:17–18)
Paul’s ministry was to “preach among the Gentiles” and what was he to preach? He preached “the unsearchable riches of Christ;” Now, he could have just said that he preached the gospel of Christ, but instead he uses a phrase that causes us to look deeper into what it means to be a Christian.
When we become Christians, it’s an act of submission and surrender on our part. We give up trying to save ourselves; we give up trying to run our own life; we give up our rebellion against God.
But that’s not to say that we become miserable paupers, because we become heirs to “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” (see verse 6). When we think of all that we will experience in Heaven: the mansions, the fellowship of the saints, the glory of the Lord—there can be no doubt that those riches are indeed unsearchable.
But it’s not just that one day we’ll inherit eternal “unsearchable riches,” Christ makes our lives spiritually richer today. The Christian is an odd duck who can “count it joy” when he faces trials (James 1:2) because we have greater riches than what can be affected by disease or drought or debt. One Bible commentator said: “Christ never subtracts from life; he always enriches it…” (R. Kent Hughes, Ephesians: The Mystery of the Body of Christ, Preaching the Word [Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990], 108).
How has Christ enriched your life since becoming a Christian? It might be a good exercise for you to think about that sometime soon, it would be a real encouragement for you.
Paul knew how much Christ had enriched his own life, and when he considered all that he had in his life before Christ, he realized that it all amounted to a pile of manure compared to what he now had in Christ.
8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, (Philippians 3:8)
Paul desired that the Gentiles (and in verse nine, “all men,”) know the “unsearchable riches that were in Christ” and so he was committed to preach the gospel. He was committed to informing those who didn’t know Christ about the riches that they could enjoy here and in the hereafter.
Are we? Our fear in witnessing is often about what will happen to us—embarrassment, ridicule, persecution, losing a friend, etc. But what about them—the lost? What “unsearchable riches” will they miss out on if we don’t preach?
So God is building a Church through ministers like Paul and me and you doing the ministry of preaching (from pulpits and in grocery aisles and at coffee tables), but why? What is…
III. THE MISSION OF THE GOSPEL
Ephesians 3:9b …the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
Ephesians 3:10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
In verse ten, the phrase “To the intent” means that the purpose or intention of the preaching ministry given to Paul by God’s grace in verses eight and nine was not just to make the gospel known to men (which is a big thing), but to make “manifold wisdom of God” known to “the principalities and powers in heavenly places.” (which is the greatest thing).
In fact, making his wisdom and his glory known has always been God’s intention:
Ephesians 3:11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
The mission of the gospel isn’t just about saving human beings. It’s much bigger. Since eternity past, God has wanted the “principalities and powers” to know his wisdom and glory.
A. Who Are The Principalities And Powers?
The “principalities and powers” in the Bible refer to spiritual beings—to angels. The question is whether these are God’s angels or the fallen angels—demons; or are they both angels and demons?
On the one hand, Paul uses the terms to refer to demons in Ephesians 6:
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)
But on the other hand, he uses the term to refer to angels and (probably demons) in Ephesians 1:
21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: (Ephesians 1:21)
My thinking is that in chapter three Paul is probably referring to angels first of all, but he probably isn’t leaving out the demons, the fallen angels, either.
B. What Are These Powers Doing?
It says here “that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,” The phrasing there is kind of stilted, so let me rephrase it: “that…the manifold wisdom of God…might be known…unto the the principalities and powers in heavenly places…by the church.”
These angels are learning, discovering more about the “manifold wisdom of God.” This is the greatest thing that anyone, angel or human, can ever know anything about. To know more about the infinite Creator of the universe who “created all things by Jesus Christ” is the greatest thing that a person can learn.
How are they learning more about the wisdom of God? They are learning it “by the church.” That is, the angels are watching the Church to learn more about God! This is, by the way, why I lean more towards the “principalities and powers” being angels instead of demons—what demon would want to learn more about God?
Contrary to what we sometimes think, the angels don’t know everything about God (and neither will we when we get to Heaven). God has not chosen to reveal to them his complete plan for the Church, and so they watch us, eager to learn more about their Mighty Lord God.
Peter also mentions that the angels are eager to learn. Referring to the gospel and Christ did to save us in 1 Peter 1:12, he writes, “which things the angels desire to look into.”
And then in 1 Corinthians 11:10, in a passage about women submitting to authority in corporate worship are told that they should cover their heads “because of the angels.” The implication is that angels are watching us and we don’t want to offend them.
C. The Drama Of All History
The intention God has in mind for the Church is that his “manifold wisdom” might be made known to angels, and to all people. In a phrase, the mission of the Gospel is that God would be glorified.
It’s been suggested that history itself is a drama, a play that is being acted out. God, of course, is the author and director. The Church are the actors. And the audience? The angels of Heaven. The intention: that they would learn more about the Lord God that they so submissively serve.
One thing that this tells us is that our purpose is far greater than just ourselves. We often just think about “numero uno.” I’m saved. I’m going to Heaven.
But being a Christian means that you’ve stepped onto a stage where there’s an audience watching. There’s the director and author of your salvation: the Lord. There’s also a heavenly host of angels looking with eagerness to see what the Lord is going to do in you and through you.
How’s your acting on the grand stage of history? What are the angels learning about God from you?
Don’t live your life for yourself. That’s such a small thing.
Live your life for a great purpose. Live your life for the glory of God. Grab your towel and be his faithful servant. Display God’s wisdom to everyone, including angels, by living your life based on God’s wisdom instead of man’s wisdom. Let the angels see you and be excited that you are displaying God’s manifold wisdom and his great glory for them to see!