Welcome to Delight in Grace, the teaching ministry of Rich Powell, pastor of Grace Bible Church in Winston-Salem. It's important for us to consider the gifts and resources God has given us.
How are we using them to invest in others for God's glory? Today we will look into Ephesians 3, 1-7 in a message titled The Gift of God's Grace, preached on July 23, 2017. Let's consider how Paul stewarded the gift God gave him for the building up of the church. Our text is Ephesians chapter 3. We're in the first seven verses. The title of today's message is The Gift of God's Grace. The Gift of God's Grace. So as Paul launches into what we know as chapter 3, verse 1, he says, For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles.
That's kind of interesting, isn't it? He says, For this reason, what reason is he talking about? Well, in chapter 2, he was talking about reconciliation. Reconciliation between humans happens when those humans are reconciled to God.
That's how it works. So the first priority is for people to be reconciled to God. And we heard that in the testimony of Toni and Placido Mercado down in Bolivia, didn't we? The first order of business in humanity, the first mission of the church is to be ministers of reconciliation. And this is what Paul is. That's why he's writing this letter to the church at Ephesus, to be reconciled to God. So he says, For this reason. Now, it's very interesting here because, you know, Paul is guilty of run-on sentences. Not only is he guilty of run-on sentences, but he's guilty of chopping up sentences. And he adds sidebars in his sentences, you know, long parenthetical statements.
And here's one of them. Look with me at the text, Ephesians 3, 1. For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ, for you Gentiles.
And then there's a dash, right? He doesn't pick up this line of thinking again until verse 14. Down at verse 14.
Look at what it says in verse 14. For this reason, I, he repeats himself, bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For this reason, reconciliation, that God has provided the means of reconciliation.
For this reason, I bow my knees for you. Because he is writing to a Gentile people. Paul, a Jewish apostle of Jesus Christ, is writing to a Gentile people.
But God has provided reconciliation. So, verses 2 to 13 are an autobiographical parenthesis. It's a long statement, but by the way, he's saying, all right?
So, we have to understand the flow of thought in here. So, what is he calling himself? The prisoner. I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus, for you Gentiles.
Now, there's two things going on there. He is a prisoner. We have found out that Paul wrote this letter while he was in prison. Paul had a tremendous prison ministry. He says, a prisoner for you Gentiles.
What's going on there? Well, what's going on there is what got him in prison was the jealousy of the Jews. That he would somehow preach to the Gentiles and all the Gentiles.
He would somehow preach to the Gentiles and all of these people would be coming to faith in Christ. Paul, you're a Jew and you're preaching to the Gentiles. What's going on here? That somehow they now are worshippers of our Jehovah.
How can this be? It's very interesting if you look at Romans chapter 11. Romans 11 verse 11, it says, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous. This is part of God's plan, you know. This is in Romans 11, it says, oh, the mystery of how God thinks.
It's beyond our searching, right? Salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous. Why? Because Israel as a whole pretty much abandoned Jehovah God. But now here he is in jail.
Why? Because of the jealousy of the Jews and Gentiles are coming to faith in Jesus Christ. And so Paul is sitting here in jail and he's saying, look, it's working. So his physical earthly temporal circumstances were he was a prisoner.
He was in jail and a Roman jail is not a comfortable place to be, right? But he was in jail and here he is writing this letter. But what does he call himself?
Yes, he's in prison, he's in jail. He's in jail, but what does he call himself? A prisoner of Jesus Christ. A prisoner of Jesus Christ. He was a prisoner by human will, but he was a captive of Christ. Get that.
Okay, get that. His circumstances were very uncomfortable and very undesirable, but he was a captive of Jesus Christ. And so being in prison, think about this, being in prison did not inhibit his ministry. Uncomfortable circumstances do not inhibit your success as one who is in Christ. You need to think about that because life isn't just about having the comfortable circumstances that I desire. What is the measure of success in life?
It is functioning according to design and you were designed to know God and to walk with him. And if you are that, then you are, by definition, a minister of reconciliation. That is success and circumstances don't dictate that. And Paul's circumstances being in prison did not inhibit his ministry. In fact, he saw it as a continuation of his stewardship as he launches now into this autobiographical parenthetical statement here, verses one to 13, we're going to look at through verse seven today that David read earlier. Verse two, if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given to me for you, that's a stewardship. That word there is stewardship. It's the word oikonomia.
It comes from two words, two words in the Greek law, nomos and household, oikos, and esos. Okay, so it means the administration or the management of a household or household law. And what he's referring to is this new people, these who are of the household of God.
That's what he left chapter two doing. Verse 21, in whom the whole building being fitted together grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the spirit. It's that household. And Paul has been entrusted with the administration of that. This new people, this new creation people that God has created in Christ of Jew, of Gentile, of slave, of free, male, female, adult child, all of these, those human distinctions do not determine in any way who is in this new household.
It is faith in Christ that determines that. And so this stewardship, this dispensation, if you will, and that's the word that is used in the New King James, this dispensation, it is a reference, for example, back to chapter one in verse 10, that in the dispensation of the fullness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, God's economy. And this dispensation to which Paul refers is an office of dispensing, and you know what dispensing means, right? I remember having a dispenser that we called it in, kind of like a pantry.
You go there to get something. You know, today they have like these little dispensers, candies, whatever, you know, but it's the office of dispensing. What is he dispensing? The gospel of grace as a minister of reconciliation. That's what he's dispensing. He says, it's given to me for you, given to me for you. It is the office entrusted to him for the benefit of others. And that's a stewardship.
It wasn't about Paul. It was something that was entrusted to him for the benefit of others. Now, every one of us can say the same thing. God has entrusted something to you for the benefit of others. You need to understand what that is. And it has to do with the grace of God, the grace of God. Look at verse 2, the dispensation of the grace of God, which was given to me for you, how that by revelation he made known to me the mystery, as I have briefly written already. And you need to understand that understanding of this mystery that I have, Paul says, you know what I have, Paul says, so he's writing as an apostle. But the grace of God is this gift of God, what God has given.
And he describes that in verses 3 through 5. And what was his gift? His gift was an apostle.
He is an apostle. That is a particular gift that is mentioned in scripture. And this gift is what God gives his people to accomplish his purpose. Listen, if you are in Christ, you have been gifted by the Holy Spirit. God has given that to you to accomplish his purpose. He says in verse 7, he speaks of it as the working of his power. That's what a gift of the Spirit is, because it is something God has entrusted to you as he did to the apostle Paul. Not the same gift.
We all have different gifts. Some of them, there's overlap in some of them, but it's important to understand what Paul understood himself to be. What does he call himself? Look down in verse 7, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God. Now, today, in today's vernacular vocabulary, I'm a minister, right?
What does that mean? Well, I'm a preacher. I'm a pastor of a church. So if I go somewhere and say I'm a minister, they say, OK, you're a pastor. You're in some kind of clergy ministry or something like that. That's not what Paul means here, because the word here that is translated minister is what?
Diaconia, deacon. He's not talking about a position in a church. A minister is one who serves, and that's this word diaconia, one who serves. And so Paul saw himself as one who serves, not a celebrity, not a grand leader, but a servant, a servant, because this gift of God has been entrusted to him to serve for the benefit of other people in the ministry of reconciliation. And so what Paul has is a foundation, this foundation that he refers to back up in verse 20 of Chapter two, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.
What is this foundation? Two things. Number one, revelation. God makes known what otherwise could not be known. That's what revelation is to reveal something. In verse five, he says it was not made known in times in ages past in the Old Testament. They did have hints of non-Jewish people having faith in Jehovah. And in fact, Israel was called to that ministry. But now it is clearly revealed. You've been listening to Delight in Grace, the teaching ministry of Rich Powell, pastor of Grace Bible Church in Winston-Salem. Visit our church website to see upcoming events or to listen to more messages at www.GBCWinston.com to discover how to live by grace. Tune in on weekdays at 10 a.m.
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