A Broken Steward

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Good morning, welcome to Dishman Baptist Church. Please take your Bibles and open them with me to Ephesians 3, Ephesians 3
Are you tired? Are you care worn?
Self-admission - I am.
Covid - Mask or no mask, vaccine or no vaccine. Should we gather or should we remain apart? I can’t cough in the grocery store.
Am I a racist? Am I not a racist? By whose definition?
The condition of our nation
Who can blame anyone for being rundown and tired.
Who could blame us for asking God why is this all happening?
If this is you - I pray that today is a comfort to you.
We have been looking at the apostle Paul’s magnum opus on the church - Romans is his most comprehensive study of salvation. Ephesians is his most comprehensive study of the church. Together these two books make up the core of Paul’s Gospel. This morning we are going to complete our study of Paul’s explanation not only of the makeup of the church but of his role in exposing the mystery of the church. Let’s look at Ephesians 3, we’ll read verses 1-13 again so that we have the entire context in mind.
Ephesians 3:1–13 CSB
For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that he gave me for you. The mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have briefly written above. By reading this you are able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ. This was not made known to people in other generations as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I was made a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. This grace was given to me—the least of all the saints—to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of Christ, and to shed light for all about the administration of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things. This is so that God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens. This is according to his eternal purpose accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him we have boldness and confident access through faith in him. So, then, I ask you not to be discouraged over my afflictions on your behalf, for they are your glory.

Broken Steward

Paul has been in ministry for nearly 20 years
Three missionary journeys
Opposition at every turn
Thessalonica - run out of town in three weeks
Athens - called a babbler and mocked by the intelligentsia
Philippi - arrested, beaten and put in jail
Corinth - mostly after he had left
Ephesus - caused a riot
He must have had moments of doubt
While in Corinth
Acts 18:9–10 CSB
The Lord said to Paul in a night vision, “Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking and don’t be silent. For I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to hurt you, because I have many people in this city.”
Who would blame Paul for being tired - we’re tired and we’ve only been doing this for 18 months
Paul makes three statements about himself in this passage
Made a servant - a diakonos - a table servant
Paul recognized that he was just a waiter - he didn’t make the main dish he was just tasked with getting it delivered to the Gentiles without messing it up.
Acts 9:15–16 CSB
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to take my name to Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Acts 26:17–18 CSB
I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
Least of all saints
Paul has a hyper-developed sense of his own standing before God
1 Corinthians 15:8–9 CSB
Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
1 Timothy 1:15 CSB
This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them.
And here he calls himself the least of all saints
In reality the word could be taken to mean leastest or leaster - but is probably best translated as least of all
This is not false humility or even an effort at self-deprecation by the apostle
This is the recognition of the height of God’s holiness and the lowliness of Paul - even after years of service for Christ Paul recognizes that even his most righteous acts are filthy rags and are not worthy of mention. For him to claim any status or position based on his apostolic calling would be presumptive.
My afflictions
Paul tells the Ephesians that his afflictions are on their behalf
Much the same as what he said to the Colossian church in his letter to them
Colossians 1:24 CSB
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for his body, that is, the church.
Paul had suffered much during his time as an apostle - certainly fulfilling the statement that God made to Ananias
2 Corinthians 11:23–29 CSB
Are they servants of Christ? I’m talking like a madman—I’m a better one: with far more labors, many more imprisonments, far worse beatings, many times near death. Five times I received the forty lashes minus one from the Jews. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked. I have spent a night and a day in the open sea. On frequent journeys, I faced dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, and dangers among false brothers; toil and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and without clothing. Not to mention other things, there is the daily pressure on me: my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?
It is important to recognize that Paul’s sufferings, his acknowledgement of these things take on an interesting character here
Notice with me what he says in verses 7 and 8
Ephesians 3:7–8 CSB
I was made a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. This grace was given to me—the least of all the saints—to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of Christ,
And of course we would say “yes” Paul received the gift of salvation and it was this gift that made him and apostle and a servant of Christ
The salvation story on the road to Damascus…and we would be partly correct
Notice again - that salvation by grace is already a gift (a statement we acknowledged in our study of verses 8&9 in chapter 2) and so to characterize his conversion and the grace shown to him there as the gift I think is to take an elementary view
No I believe what Paul has in mind here is the grace that sustains him daily as he seeks to serve Christ in the role that he has been given
It is the same grace that sustains each of us as we seek to move and to live in the convoluted world that we find ourselves in
Why do I say this?
Paul was not only timid and worn out in Corinth - but he tells the Corinthians of another time that he was challenged
2 Corinthians 12:6–9 CSB
For if I want to boast, I wouldn’t be a fool, because I would be telling the truth. But I will spare you, so that no one can credit me with something beyond what he sees in me or hears from me, especially because of the extraordinary revelations. Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.
Oh what a beautiful truth that Christ’s power is perfected when we are weak. And notice here that it is through His grace - that is is a gift of grace that sustains us because His grace is sufficient.
What situations are you facing in your life right now that you are trying to face on your own apart from God’s grace?
Notice what else Paul says about this grace in 1 Corinthians 15
1 Corinthians 15:10 CSB
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
It is this same power that Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 12, 1 Corinthians 15 and in this morning’s passage Ephesians 3 that is at work in Paul making his service to Christ possible - and it is this same grace that is at work in you to make your service and, in some cases, your very life possible.
This is a grace that will not only continue but grow in the life of the Christian
It is in the nature of this grace to grow and increase unto the end. As rivers, the nearer they come unto the ocean where they tend, the more they increase their waters, and speed their streams; so will grace flow more freely and fully in its near approaches to the ocean of glory.JOHN OWEN
Now to be sure - each of our calling may not be into the same ministry that Paul was given. To this end Dr. MacArthur writes “No man should enter the ministry unless he is absolutely certain of the Lord’s calling.” Spurgeon is more succinct “I always say to young fellows who consult me about the ministry, “Don’t be a minister if you can help it,” because if the man can help it, God never called him. But if he cannot help it, and he must preach or die, then he is the man.”
But God dispenses this grace upon Paul for a reason - two of them that Paul is going to share with the Ephesians now.

Broad Spectrum

Paul tells us the spectrum of his ministry is to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of Christ and to shed light for all about the administration of the mystery
There is no greater incalculable bounty than that which is given by Christ to the poor, wretched sinner who repents and places his or her faith in Him. And even more so that this incalculable richness has been offered to the Gentiles. We have chronicled and studied as Paul has described the pre-Christ, pre-church condition of the Gentiles as being separate from the chosen people of Israel and, more importantly, separated from God.
But now, through Christ, it is possible for them to be brought near. And not just for the Gentiles of Paul’s day but for all men.
300 Quotations for Preachers from the Reformation (The Gate of Salvation Is Open to All)
Since no man is excluded from calling upon God, the gate of salvation is set open unto all men; neither is there any other thing that keeps us back from entering in, save only our own unbelief.JOHN CALVIN
There is a contrast here that we see as Paul speaks of his own unworthiness (less than the least of all the saints) and then the incalculable, the incomprehensible riches of Christ. Paul, who in his own eyes deserves salvation the least, is freely justified by Christ through the same act that brings justification to the Gentiles.
But salvation is not the only thing Paul has in view here - it is the entire compass of the riches that are made available to us through Christ.
Ephesians 1:3 CSB
Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ.
We have not simply been blessed with salvation and then left to fend for ourselves. We have been made inheritors of the kingdom, the very sons and daughters of God and members of His household with all the rights and privileges that entails. And we have been made members of a new nation - citizens of Heaven.
This is the second part of Paul’s ministry - to shed light for all about the administration of the mystery - the formation of the church - not simply to the Gentiles but to everyone
He is the foremost authority on the formation of the church
He says four things about this mystery
Hid for ages in God - the term for ages here is aion and here it means from ages past - while this was always the plan for salvation and for the inclusion of all people in Christ, this plan was hidden in God until He determined to reveal it to Paul and other apostles and prophets
That this is a creation of the God who created all things. John Stott said “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.” We’ll come back to the second part of that quote in a minute. God’s greatest acts of creation were not encompassed within the physical creation around us but in the spiritual regeneration of dead souls, bringing them back to life and in the institution known as the church.
Multi-faceted wisdom - this is the idea of something being multi-colored or multi-hued. This is the phraseology used in the Septuagint, the Greek OT to refer to Joseph’s coat of many colors. This rare term combines the more common adjective ποικίλος (poikilos), meaning “many-coloured, spotted, pied, dappled, wrought in various colours, changeful, diversified, manifold” (LSJ 1430), with the common adverb πολύς (polys), meaning “many.” When God designed the church He removed all distinctions, all divisions, all barriers.
Isn’t it interesting that what God sought to remove through Christ and is so clearly delineated here in Ephesians we are working so hard to bring back into the church today
Black churches, white churches, hispanic churches, almost any other ethnic group you can think of (and even some social groups) we have a church designed to fit them…this is contrary to the picture we’re given. Paul could have set that model for us by establishing Jewish churches and Gentile churches but he didn’t do that because that is not in God’s plan. Now - hear me - I’m not saying that if language is an issue that churches should only worship in one language…contrary to popular belief English is probably not the language of Heaven (but maybe it is). But if we are all worshipping in the same language why do we feel the need to segregate along ethnic (or any other) boundaries?
Made known to the rulers and authorities - these are not human authorities or rulers. We should certainly speak up against Joe Biden’s abortion policies or Jay Inslee’s intrusion into how and when we can worship. But that is not primarily what Paul has in view here because that is not primarily the church’s function. We are to serve notice to the spiritual forces behind those policies, and sometimes the men enforcing them, that their defeat is complete
The church is intended not only to transform the world but also to transfix heaven.
Ephesians 1:20–21 CSB
He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens— far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
Ephesians 6:12 CSB
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens.
These are the authorities and rulers that we are designed to be a witness to, that we are to make known the great and glorious design of God. Remember what Stott said - “it is through the new creation (the church) that He reveals His wisdom to angels”
Just as Paul’s sin makes the grace of God more apparent, the uniting of sinners in the body of Christ makes the grace of God more brilliant—even to the hosts of heaven.
And this is not a notice solely for the evil rulers and authorities. We are not only to put on notice the evil rulers and authorities, we are to serve as confirmation for the good rulers and authorities in the spiritual realm. We are witnesses to angels.
1 Peter 1:10–12 CSB
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who prophesied about the grace that would come to you, searched and carefully investigated. They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when he testified in advance to the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you. These things have now been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—angels long to catch a glimpse of these things.
This was the plan all along - it was according to the eternal purposes accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord
And because of all of this - because of the Gospel delivered to the Gentiles, because of the revelation of the mystery of the church that we are a part of we can have bold access to the throne of God

Bold Access

Paul says that we can be both bold and confident. We are not like Esther who must wait for Artaxerxes to extend an invitation or to extend his scepter to her and spare her life. We are not like the Israelites who were warned to remain far back from Mount Sinai or else they would die.
Hebrews 12:18–24 CSB
For you have not come to what could be touched, to a blazing fire, to darkness, gloom, and storm, to the blast of a trumpet, and the sound of words. Those who heard it begged that not another word be spoken to them, for they could not bear what was commanded: If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned. The appearance was so terrifying that Moses said, I am trembling with fear. Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels, a festive gathering, to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to a Judge, who is God of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the blood of Abel.
Oh what a promise we have, oh what a privilege we have to confidently approach God’s throne through faith in Christ. We can come to God with our worries because we have a loving Father. We can come to God with our sins because we have a forgiving Father. We can come to God with our families, friends and neighbors because we have a working Father.
We may feel pressed down. Paul did. But listen to the hope that he also felt.
2 Corinthians 4:8–16 CSB
We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be displayed in our body. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’s sake, so that Jesus’s life may also be displayed in our mortal flesh. So then, death is at work in us, but life in you. And since we have the same spirit of faith in keeping with what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke, we also believe, and therefore speak. For we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you. Indeed, everything is for your benefit so that, as grace extends through more and more people, it may cause thanksgiving to increase to the glory of God. Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.
Maybe you are tired today. Maybe you feel afflicted. Maybe you feel broken but don’t be discouraged. We have been given the incalculable riches of Christ through His salvation and we are the church - the witness to the multi-faceted wisdom of God. Yes, we are broken and beat down but we are a bit like the Japanese art form Kintsugi. Kintsugi is the art form of taking something broken and making it new again by joining the broken pieces back together with gold. It is built on the idea that embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art.
We are broken. We are flawed. We are imperfect. But we serve a perfect God who chose us to reveal His kindness and His manifest wisdom to the world. And we are knit together by the precious blood of Christ - more beautiful, pure and powerful than the purest gold. Let us seek to serve Him in and through the grace that He has provided for us.
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