Friday, December 12, 2008

Ephesians 3:20-21

20Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Finally, we come to Paul’s doxology, where he praises God for His power (see Ephesians 1:19-23; 2:5-6), the power of His Holy Spirit, which, or who, is at work in us, the church, for His glory. We are to be the display(s) – both individually and corporately – of His intrinsic glory, and we are to give Him ascribed glory. We don’t add to His glory, but we reflect it and make it known. We are God’s public manifestation of His glory to the world, and we are called upon to glorify Him, to praise Him, to give Him glory for His grace and goodness to us.

Paul has just prayed for God’s power to be manifested by the Holy Spirit’s working in His people, and now he begins this praise with, “Now to Him who is able.” Paul wants us to recognize that nothing can hinder God from answering that prayer in v16-19. In fact, as Paul states, God can “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Paul is teaching us, even in this doxology. He knows that some of us will find his prayer hard to swallow. We may realize that God can do what Paul has requested. But we probably doubt that He will, at least in our lifetimes. But Paul is telling us not to think that way. God can do more, immeasurably more, than you can ask or wouldn’t dare to ask – only placing it in the depths of your imagination. God can do more than all of that! In the Greek, Paul essentially makes up a phrase (huper ek perissos) because there’s no word he can use to explain God’s powerful ability. Paul is connecting this doxology to his prayer, where he spoke of Christ’s love as immeasurable and unknowable. God’s power is the same – immeasurable and unknowable. God has limitless power, and Paul points to that power as the source of His doing more than we can ask or imagine. And what’s more, that very limitless power is at work in us (the Holy Spirit).

We mentioned that Paul’s prayer in v16-19 was clearly Trinitarian. He asks God to work by the Holy Spirit to bring Christ into our hearts. Well, the first three chapters of Ephesians are obviously Trinitarian as well. We saw in chapter 1 the emphasis on God the Father, though the Son and Spirit were mentioned. Chapter 2 emphasized the Son, specifically His work of redemption applied to us who were once dead in sin and trespasses. And if you’ve missed chapter three’s emphasis on the power of the Holy Spirit, I really can’t help you. I’ve always appreciated the Holy Spirit, but after reading and studying Ephesians 3, how can you not join me in awestruck worship toward the Triune Creator, Sustainer, and Finisher God, who creates, sustains, and finishes by His Son through the power of His Spirit. Praise Him!

In v21, Paul calls for glory to God in the church and in Christ throughout all generations. This is an amazing statement. We are told that the heavens declare the glory of God. We look at the sky and see clouds and colors and stars that amaze. It’s new every day, but the construction is finished. And we say, “Glory to God!” We consider the Person of Jesus Christ, and we notice God’s plan to have Him redeem His people from sin. He said, “It is finished,” and we look back and marvel. And we say, “Glory to God!” But when we look at the Church, do we see God’s glory? Paul says, “Absolutely!” God’s glory is displayed in the Church. He built it; He bought it. It’s a major part of His eternal plan for His glory. We’re just caught up in the scaffolding and demolition and construction; it’s not finished yet. It’s His workplace right now, and one day God is going to bring down that scaffolding and say, ‘This is what I have been building from eternity to be the bride of My Son, and she is altogether glorious.’ And we say, “Glory to God!”

Furthermore, not only is God displaying His glory in the Church, but He has been doing throughout all generations, and He will continue doing it forever and ever. We worship here and now, and quite imperfectly. But the saints above, the spiritual beings Paul has mentioned throughout this letter, they’re doing the real worship. They’re seeing the Church from a perspective we lack, and they’re worshipping God and ascribing to Him the glory due His name. We’re participating in that chorus now, but what a day it will be when the last man on earth joins them, along with us, and the “forever and ever” takes on a whole new meaning! “When we’ve been there ten thousand years bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than we’d first begun.”

Notice finally the mutual relationship between Christ and the Church, and Paul describes it in different terms throughout this letter. We have the Body and Head illustration from Ephesians 1:22-23; we have the Reconciled and Reconciler illustration from Ephesians 2:14-18; and we have the Bride and Groom illustration still to come, in Ephesians 5:22,33. Through Paul’s efforts, we ought to clearly see that the Church is, as the Apostles Creed declares, one (united), holy (set apart), catholic (universal), and apostolic (doctrinally sound). And what does a church described this way look like? Paul will head that direction with the second half of this letter to the Ephesians. Chapters 1-3 provide the theological basis for Christian unity, and chapters 4-6 contain the practical instruction for its maintenance in daily living – both privately and publicly, individually and corporately.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ephesians 3:16-19

16I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Paul comes now to his prayer, and a glorious prayer it is! He is asking God to do something that God has already done. Have you ever asked that? Have you ever asked for forgiveness? Have you ever asked for God to be present with you? Have you asked God to fill you with His Spirit? Sure you have! And God, at the time you asked for those things, for those benefits, had already granted them. Well Paul does the same thing here. Paul teaches us that we pray from blessing for blessing, not from poverty, begging for that blessing. God has already blessed us more than we can estimate.

Furthermore, Paul is praying that God would answer “out of His glorious riches.” God is able. We are never to doubt that. We should not pray, “Lord, if You are able, please do this or that.” Our prayer should be like that of Jesus, “Lord, if You are willing, please do this or that.” Coming to God in prayer is not ever a matter of asking Him if He is able to do something; it is always a matter of coming to Him and aligning our desires with the will that He is able to bring to bear on any and every circumstance. It is never a matter of our manipulating God – if we just have enough faith we can make Him do something. His good and perfect will is always at work in prayer, so that He answers our prayers not as we pray them, but as we would pray them if we were wiser. Paul wants that to be crystal clear to these Ephesians, because what he is about to ask God is staggering; and so when he asks God for this for you, he wants you to remember the riches out of which God is able to answer our prayers. Let’s look at that substance of that prayer: Now, what specifically is Paul asking of God? It’s a threefold prayer for: (1) strength unto faith, (2) power to grasp and to know the love of Christ, (3) the fullness of God. Let’s break it down in detail, beginning with the first prayer for strength unto faith:

(1) First, in v16, Paul wants God to “strengthen you with power.” For Paul, the Christian life is a matter of dependence upon divinely supplied strength. This is absolutely essential for us to understand. There is never a moment in our Christian life when we are not dependent upon God. We need His strength.

Second, this must be done “through His Spirit,” the Holy Spirit. There are many supposedly Christian preachers saying that we need to look within to live the good life. If we can harness the power within, we will be successful. Paul says the opposite. We have no power within, unless the Holy Spirit is it. The work of the Holy Spirit isn’t to do a work in us and then to go away and leave us to keep on doing the best we can. He starts our life as believers, and He’s with us to the end.

Third, this takes place “in your inner being.” Humanity today is far more interested in the dying outer man, the body that is decaying daily (2 Corinthians 4:16). We pray most often for good things to happen to our outer man, for health and peace. But the Spirit does His work in the inner man. Even when that outer man decays away, the inner man, the seat of our character, is still there. From the heart issues the spring of life; our thoughts, words, and deeds are a reflection of what is in our heart. Paul wants a heart, an inner man, the seat of the soul, and the core of our thinking, willing, believing, and action, to be strengthened with power. It’s the health and peace of the inner man that we need, and the power, the strength, for that comes from the Holy Spirit.

Finally, from the very beginning of v17, Paul wants this “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” The Holy Spirit is making your heart a suitable place for Christ to take up habitation. If I could walk into your heart, into your inner man, into your mind, would I say, “This place looks like Jesus; the desires here are Jesus’ desires; the loves here are Jesus’ loves; this heart hates the things that Jesus hates”? The Spirit is doing divine, spiritual home renovation, so that your desires and affections are godly. Vincent Cheung says, “Paul prays that God's power would make their minds strong so that ‘Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.’ As we have previously established, the ‘heart’ is not non-intellectual, but it ‘chiefly means the understanding or intellect’…For Christ to ‘dwell’ in a person, with the meaning being to ‘settle down,’ emphasizes the pervasive and lasting influence of Christ in the person, and implies genuine and permanent conformity to the character of Christ.” Jesus actually lives in your heart through faith. Faith is the channel, the connection, between Jesus Christ and us. The Holy Spirit installs, maintains, and strengthens that connection, powerfully and constantly working back and forth to make that connection a shorter wire, until no wire of faith is needed (at which time we will see). And of course, all of fullness of God dwells in Christ (Colossians 1:9); so the Spirit is making us to be Temples, in which God’s fullness dwells (John 14:23). We’ll talk more about that when we come to v19, point 3 in this outline.

We see immediately that this is a Trinitarian prayer: Paul prays to God for the work of the Holy Spirit that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. The Trinity is a practical concept; we come to the Father by the Son through the Spirit. That has already happened for these Christians, but that’s Paul’s deep desire, that it would happen and continue to happen, out of the abundance of God’s glorious riches. Do we pray this kind of prayer for ourselves? How about for one another? Surely for our children! In the midst of this fallen world, where the outer man is wasting away, are we praying for one another that God’s mighty power would be displayed through the Spirit in our hearts and minds to conform us to the image of Christ? Perhaps that’s why we don’t know what Jesus looked like. But no person on this earth has ever been more recognized. We know His inner man; we have His mind (1 Corinthians 2:15).

Second, in v17-19a, Paul wants God to give us power to grasp and know the love of Christ. Paul says we are already rooted and established in this love (like a well-planted tree), but we have no idea how BIG it is. This establishment in Christ’s love is a fruit of having Christ dwell in our hearts through faith; it is the fellowship with Christ that results from faith in Christ. In v18, Paul uses measurement terms reminding us of God’s Temple, but pointing out that Christ’s love is to be found in every direction as the core of salvation. Vincent Cheung says, “The language indicates all the dimensions of the love of Christ, a comprehensive knowledge, a deep and wide, profound and extensive, understanding of the things of God.” He says we need power (the Holy Spirit) to grasp that, to know the unknowable, which is also a fruit of Christ dwelling in our hearts. We can’t know the love Christ, because it is unknowable (Philippians 4:7), unless God grants us power (His Spirit) to know that which surpasses knowledge. Paul wants nothing more here than for his audience to actually and personally experience the love of Christ in its immeasurableness, so that they can grow in grace and knowledge and thereby exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in greater measure. When we grasp and know the love of God through the power of experience (by grace through faith), we are permanently changed.

Paul wants that powerful experience to come to us “together with all the saints.” He’s thinking in corporate terms, wanting the Church as a whole to experience the love of Christ for His bride; and with this language, Paul is exalting Christ’s love as inclusive (it falls on every tribe, tongue, people, and nation), exhaustive (it is completely breathed out in such a way that it forever accepts, cleanses, and transforms its objects), and self-sacrificing (it came at the greatest expense, an immeasurable and unknowable expense, that we, by experience, can somehow comprehend to some degree). Paul is calling on the Holy Spirit to work effectually in the Body of Christ, so that the love of God would be experienced and magnified, ultimately, as we’ll see in the final portion of the prayer, so that the fullness of God would fill His people for His glory. It’s experiencing God’s love for us in Christ, which comes oftentimes in the midst of trials that test faith (the connection between Jesus and us), that makes us mature and complete (James 1:2-4).

Third, in v19b, Paul wants God to fill us will all His fullness. Paul’s first prayer, that God would strengthen us with power through His Spirit in our inner being so that Christ would live in our hearts through faith, was complete. Paul is asking for regeneration, for renewal, for genuine, increasing faith wrought by and maintained by and grown by the power of the Holy Spirit. In chapter 4, Paul will speak of Christians corporately; but here, in this first prayer, he is undoubtedly considering individuals. Notice that the Christian faith is both public and private, both a one-on-One relationship between a person and their Creator God, as well as a corporate relationship between God and His people as a whole. And the second prayer of Paul begins to make that transition. Paul’s second prayer is that God would pour out His power, the Holy Spirit, on us – together with all the saints – so that we would grasp and know the limitless love of God to us in Christ through our experience. Paul wants each member of the body of Christ (personal) to experience the power of God and know more fully the love of Christ (corporate). And that brings the third point.

Why does Paul want this? He wants this so that we will “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Vincent Cheung says, “God’s fullness in us consists in knowledge, not merely the introduction of the Gentiles into the church, but an extensive theology. Ignorant Christians are empty, or nearly empty. It is surprising that so many commentators miss this point.” Paul is asking for maturity and completion, for perfection and glorification, and that comes only through the completed work of the Holy Spirit, building up the Body of Christ (individually and corporately – no Christian left behind) to an experience of the love of God that transforms, ultimately makes faith obsolete, and otherwise, surpasses understanding. He wants us to be able to say, “When I see that person, and when I see that local congregation, and in fact, when I see the whole Body of Christ throughout the world, both on earth and in heaven, I see Christ Himself. I see the moral character of God in this person and in this body. It’s the fullness of God, wrought by His Spirit, right there.” Because Paul knows that is hard for us to imagine, he follows with a doxology, and Lord willing, we'll look at that tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ephesians 3:14-15

14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.

Paul returns to his prayer now. The common way for Jews to pray was standing up (think of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the Temple or leaders from the pulpit); but he kneels before God, showing reverence, humility, and urgency (think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane). And he says, “For this reason.” For what reason does Paul pray? Paul prays, because he is overwhelmed by God’s eternal plan, laid out prayerfully in Ephesians 1, and explained in more detail in Ephesians 2 and 3. Paul has seen the work of God not only in his own life, but also in the lives of both Jews and Gentiles through the Roman Empire. He’s amazed by God, and so he prays. He’s compelled to pray, and he longs to pray. Paul is overflowing with grace and love, and so he prays. God’s wisdom and power and sovereignty motivate Paul to pray. It’s a fervent and urgent prayer that Paul offers to God. Why do you pray? Is it because you are overflowing with grace and love? Is it because you are overwhelmed by the wisdom and power and sovereignty and goodness and love of God? Let it be so!

Another noteworthy remark is made in v15. Paul is saying, “When I pray, I pray to our Father in heaven.” He wasn’t there when Jesus taught the disciples to pray, but you know that he heard about it from them. Paul is saying that all creation, earthly beings and heavenly beings, are equally under the headship of their Father’s sovereignty. God is to be feared, but He is “Daddy” at the same time; and He is Daddy for the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant, for humans on earth and every spiritual being in the heavens. That’s the God of Paul, and He’s our God. This statement, though translated with difficulty, echoes the context Paul set in v10. Though certain dominion is given to certain creatures, all fall back on the sovereign dominion of God the Father, thus the importance of the derivation of a name. Having the authority to name a creature is an ultimate authority (Consider Adam in the garden of Eden prior to the fall). God names His people (especially consider the Old Testament patriarchs, Simon/Peter and Saul/Paul). He has named us Christians, followers of Christ, the Son of God. Thus we are kinsmen, sons of the living God, along with all creatures in heaven and on earth.

Ephesians 3:10-13

10His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

In v10-13, Paul lays out the reasons for keeping this truth a mystery for a time and revealing at this time. It’s a glimpse of God’s eternal plan at which Paul marvels (Romans 11:33-36). Specifically, in v10, Paul says that the union of Jews and Gentiles in Christ is a sign to the spiritual beings, about whom we know little, of God’s sovereignty and power. It is the eternal purpose of God through Christ for the Church to be the display of God’s wisdom to the heavenly powers. Isn’t it amazing to think about a great multitude of spiritual beings longing to know what God is doing and seeing in the revelation of this mystery through Paul a great reason for falling down and worshipping almighty God as sovereign king! In other words, we as human believers in Christ, rescued from bondage to sin and united to Christ and to one another as living stones in the Temple of God, are “exhibit A” to the spiritual beings of God’s wisdom and power. God boasts in us, in what He has made us to be, before all the spiritual beings throughout the heavens. And they bow down and worship Him for His wisdom. Therefore, as Calvin says, “If the calling of the Gentiles draws the attention, and excites the reverence, of angels in heaven, how shameful that it should be slighted or disdained by men upon earth!”

V12 is praise to Christ. Paul mentions the work God accomplished through Christ Jesus, and he pauses to praise Him, for union with Him by grace through faith enables freedom and confidence to approach God. Commenting here, Calvin notes, “There are three stages in our progress. First, we believe the promises of God; next, by relying on them, we obtain that confidence, which is accompanied by holiness and peace of mind; and, last of all, comes boldness, which enables us to banish fear, and to come with firmness and steadiness into the presence of God.”

Finally, in v13, Paul tells his audience not to be discouraged about his imprisonment, because this mystery that Paul is graced and privileged to proclaim is worth suffering for and ultimately worth dying for. In fact, his sufferings were for the glory of his audience. Their glory comes through faith in Christ, which Paul boldly labored for, even to the point of imprisonment and death. Thus Paul will say in Philippians 1:20-24, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” Do you see that Christ will be exalted? Whatever happens, it is for God’s glory!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Ephesians 3:2-6

2Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, 3that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. 6This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

After reintroducing himself to his audience in v1, Paul stops to remind them of his ministry as a steward of God’s grace. Peter grasps a similar understanding of grace when he says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). One way that Paul administered God’s grace was through teaching, especially to the mixed congregations of Jew and Gentile, in order to reveal a mystery of God’s eternal plan.

Paul speaks of a “mystery” as something once concealed by God now revealed by God, and he’s elaborating on his brief mention of the mystery of God’s will (v3-4) from his introductory prayer (Ephesians 1:9-10). Nobody can figure out a mystery of God unless God reveals it. This isn’t a Sherlock Holmes mystery; God reveals it, so that it can be learned and understood and known. This particular mystery was not proclaimed by Moses or Isaiah or Jeremiah or Ezekiel or John the Baptist; Paul has that privilege by the grace of God. But this mystery is nothing more than the union in Christ of Jew and Gentile in the singular kingdom, family, and Temple of God. God has one people, and it’s not physical Israel. Certainly many physical Jews are in God’s kingdom, and according to Romans 11:11-24, many more will enter in; but the idea of two distinct groups of God’s people (Israel and the Church) is not an option in Paul’s understanding. This “mystery” is something that the dispensationalists of our day still don’t understand, though Paul explains it quite clearly here.

In v5, Paul explains that the mystery of Jew and Gentile union into the singular body of Christ was not made clear to the prophets, though they were able to anticipate such a revelation (Isaiah 19:25; Romans 4:16-24; Acts 26:22-23). The Old Testament acknowledges that the Jews would be a light to the Gentiles, but I can assure you that they did not expect that to come to pass the way it did, with the obliteration of Jewish ceremonial law. If anything, the Jews would have expected God to bring the Gentiles into Judaism through following those ceremonial laws; but He did the opposite. He cancelled those laws and made a Jew and Gentile union through Christ apart from the ceremonial law of Israel. Paul delights in that message, from v5 into v6, defining the mystery “that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” The Gentiles, through Jesus Christ, by faith in Him, are joint heirs, joint members, and joint sharers of the promises of God to Abraham. The ceremonial law is no more. Israel, as they knew it, is no more, but now this trans-ethnic, trans-national people – the Church – will go on forever. And believing Jew and Gentile together will worship the one true God, because the One who has fulfilled the ceremonial law has not only reconciled them to God, but reconciled them to one another.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Ephesians 3:1,7-9

1For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles--7I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of His power. 8Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.

Paul begins to explain his prayer here in v1, but he doesn’t actually get to it until v16-19. He takes a moment to elaborate on his ministry, as well as the mystery that God has revealed through Paul, in v2-13, and then he reintroduces the prayer in v14-15, before finally praying in v16-19. The doxology comes in v20-21. But for this passage, v1 and v7-9, notice Paul’s self-description.

In v1, Paul calls himself a prisoner. He is writing from house arrest in Rome as a prisoner of Caesar, but here he calls himself a prisoner of Christ. Caesar had no authority over Paul, except that which came from Christ. The Heidelberg Catechism begins with this question: “What is your only comfort in life and death?” It answers, “My only comfort in life and death is that Jesus Christ my Lord has died for me, and I belong to Him, and I am not my own…and not one hair of my head can fall, apart from my heavenly Father.” In other words, you are under the watchful, careful, providential oversight of a loving, merciful heavenly Father, who will not allow anything to happen to His children apart from His will. So Paul sees himself as being exactly where Jesus wants him to be. Vincent Cheung says, “In accordance with his firm belief in the sovereignty of God and the power of Christ, he refuses to see himself as a victim of religious persecution or political might; rather, he calls himself ‘the prisoner of Christ Jesus,’ who controls every detail of every situation, directing history exactly as He has predetermined it.” He goes on to say, “Many people will not even lose sleep or miss lunch for the sake of the gospel, and still less will they suffer imprisonment or even martyrdom for it. This is first because most professing Christians are false converts; they have never been regenerated. And the rest of us are weak – weak, and feeble, and pathetic! In not making Christ our sole obsession, we have become worldly and ineffective. Soon the apostle will pray for inward power (v14-19), at which point we should pay special attention.”

Notice also that Paul’s imprisonment to Christ was for the sake of the Gentiles. That’s what Paul’s God-given mission was about – see Acts 9. And everybody in these local congregations knew it (v2). Paul was saved unto good works, which God had prepared in advance for him to do (Ephesians 2:10). Paul understood that and cherished the role. He is a prisoner of Christ, for the sake of foreigners, unclean Gentiles no less! And it probably humbled his Gentile audience, which had come to faith through his proclamation of the gospel, which in turn is what caused his imprisonment. Paul would rather suffer imprisonment than keep from preaching the gospel of Christ – for the sake of the Gentiles. And he knew that there were some deeply discouraged Ephesian Christians saddened by his imprisonment, trials, and tribulations; so before Paul, as a Pastor, prays for the Ephesians that they would be built up and assured in Christ, he instructs them in order that they would not lose heart. He wants them to be encouraged by several great truths, which are laid out through v13.

As we see in v7, Paul is a servant of the gospel by the gift of God’s grace, which came to him through the working of God’s power – which is undoubtedly the Holy Spirit’s work in regeneration and transformation. When we get to the prayer in v16-19, we’ll see that Paul wants what happened to him to be the norm for every believer. Isn’t that an amazing attitude to have, to see yourself as a prisoner and servant and cherish it so much that you want others to join you for the sake of the gospel and the grace and the glory of God! Paul is glorying in who he is and what he has in Jesus Christ. That changes his approach to suffering and trial and tribulation in life, and it’s meant to change the way we view suffering and trials and tribulations too. Paul is on fire for God; he is filled to overflowing; he wants us to be too.

Paul humbly describes himself in v8 as “less than the least of all God’s people.” He does similarly elsewhere (1 Corinthians 15:9; 1 Timothy 1:15-16), both early on and later in his ministry. Paul is saying to these Ephesian Christians, “Look, friends; look at your God. Look at the God who showed grace to me, to the most wretched of men, and gave me this message to preach, and look at this glorious mystery that He’s revealing in His church and His people. Be encouraged!” That’s the power of the gospel, an astonishing and boundless treasure of grace” (Calvin), and that’s why all men should embrace it with the greatest of urgency and esteem it as the power of God unto salvation, though it exceeds their capacity to grasp. V9 summarizes Paul’s purpose to clarify our thinking, “to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery.” We'll look at what that mystery is in v2-6.