September 4, 2022
The Great Mystery – Part 1
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Time:
Ephesians 3: 1 - 13
Scripture: 
Topic: 

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This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.

More From This Series

Transcript

Let’s take our Bibles and turn to Ephesians 3:1–13. We’re in a series on Ephesians. It’s one of the models of ministry here at Kindred that we just work through a book in the Bible, verse by verse, line by line. And we’re going to begin a two-part sermon this week and next Sunday on Ephesians 3:1–13, “The Great Mystery.” Ephesians is a wonderful book. You’ve been telling me that. It’s 155 verses; that’s all, 6 chapters. But it’s had a profound effect on the life and theology and history of the church.

One commentator said, “Only the Psalms, the Gospel of John, and Romans have been as significant as Ephesians in shaping the life and thought of Christians.” I think that’s right. You’ve got the sovereignty of God and election. You’ve got the nature of salvation. You’ve got relationships, race relationships between Jew and Gentile. You’ve got rules within marriage, family life, the unity of the church, spiritual warfare—a lot of stuff that’s headlining the headlines of today. So, we’re going to look at the great mystery of the doctrine of the church.

It’s my conviction that the church didn’t exist in the Old Testament. The church is a New Testament entity. It began at Pentecost. It’s unique; it’s distinct. It’s Jew and Gentile in one body, baptized into that body by the Holy Spirit, united in the Lord Jesus Christ, on an equal footing in terms of access before God and standing before God. That’s the mystery. We’re going to learn about it here in Ephesians chapter 3. Why don’t you stand as we honor God’s Word? Open your Bible at Ephesians 3:1–13 or follow along on your phone. I’m reading from the New King James.

“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—” It kind of stops mid-sentence. We’ll come back to that. Verse 2: “if indeed you have heard of 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, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.

“To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ, to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.”

Pause. We’ll deal with this next week. That verse is stunning. It’s saying that the church as it exists today on earth catches the imagination of both demon and angel, principalities and powers. That’s code for spiritual forces in Ephesians 6. As the angelic world looks on you and me, they marvel at what God is doing through redemption and bringing people together and making them one, making them a loving community, an example of true society.

It’s stunning to them. Question: Is the church stunning to you? I think we all need to beef up our doctrine of the church, just generally speaking and given the downturn in commitment to the church during COVID. Church isn’t something to miss. The church is unmistakable. It’s a wonder. It’s what God is doing—something He planned in eternity and now is constructing in history.

Verse 11: “according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.”

So reads God’s Word. You may be seated. I want to speak on the great mystery.

George Washington Carver was an African American scientist, a very interesting and inspiring man. Read about him. He’s the man who developed a hundred uses for the humble peanut. He tells us, “When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘That knowledge is for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well George, that’s more nearly your size.’” And He did. George Washington Carver is an American hero. You need to read about him, one of the greats of the African American community. And God showed him the mysteries of the humble peanut. He found multiple manifold uses for that plant.

It’s a wonderful thing when God unlocks the mysteries of the world around us, above us, beneath us, and beyond us. You realize that nothing has ever occurred to God? I remember hearing a pastor say that: Has it ever occurred to you that nothing has occurred to God? This is what theologians call the omniscience of God, the all-knowing aspect of God’s character.

The Bible tells us God knows the end from the beginning and the things not yet done. God never wakes up and says, you know what? I didn’t know that. Never saw that coming. God knows when you sit down and when you stand up to go to the fridge (Psalm 139). God knows the way that you tick (Job). God knows your body type (Psalm 139). God knows when the sparrow falls. God knows the many hairs on the top of your head.

Has it ever occurred to you that nothing has occurred to God? But things occur to us all the time. That’s the beauty of life. It’s discovery. It’s an adventure. It’s an amazing thing when God lets us in on some of His trade secrets. It’s a beautiful thing when God opens our mind through common grace or special grace to help us understand something about Him; when God allows us to learn something about Him for the first time, about His ways and His plans; when God opens our minds to understand our place within history; when God helps us make sense of the nonsense that is life.

In fact, as we come to Ephesians 3:1–13, God will disclose to us, God will declassify to us—which is the “M” word at the moment—a mystery. It’s the mystery of the church: Jew and Gentile in one body, fellow heirs. It’s only one of several mysteries that the New Testament solves for us. Now, the word “mystery” in a biblical sense, in a New Testament sense—it’s not an Agatha Christie novel. It’s not that kind of mystery. A mystery is something that cannot be discerned by human speculation alone. It requires special revelation from God, and most commentators would also add to that this thought. When you read about a mystery in the New Testament, you’re reading about something that was hidden or unknown to saints in the Old Testament but now has been revealed in the dispensation of the church in the New Testament covenant era.

That’s why in Colossians 1:26–27, Paul describes the mystery of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and the believer. If you go back to the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was at work, and He often anointed kings for reigning within their kingdom. He often clothed with power the prophets of God, but He was never said to indwell anyone permanently. That’s why David will pray, “Take not Your Holy Spirit from me.” But, when you come into the New Covenant, the church age, when you come into this present dispensation, Colossians 1:26–27 tells us, here’s the mystery: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The Holy Spirit has now made your life His home permanently. You are sealed, as we saw in chapter 1, with the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption.

If you go to 1 Timothy 3:16, there’s another mystery that’s disclosed and declassified. It’s the mystery of the incarnation, that the God who made all things was made flesh. That’s the great mystery of God in human flesh, Christ among us as us.

If you go to 1 Corinthians 15:51–58, you’ve got the mystery of the rapture.

So, if you go back to the Old Testament, it was clear that the Messiah would return a second time to earth. You read that in Zechariah 12–14. You’ve got the prophecies in Daniel 12 about Jesus’ second coming. But the idea of a snatching away, a catching away, a rapture of the church prior to the tribulation, that was a mystery—now revealed. First Corinthians 15:51—what does Paul say? I show you a mystery. We won’t all sleep. We won’t all die. But we’ll all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, when the trump sounds.

You know what? A lot of Christians worry about dying. Have you ever thought about the fact you may not have to die if Jesus comes back in your lifetime, which is always possible.

You’ve got the mystery of Israel’s present abandonment and future restoration. In Romans 11:25–26, we’re told about a mystery. What is being revealed is something hitherto unknown—that God has set aside His people, Israel, to whom He gave particular promises, and now He is creating the church. He’s forming this unique, distinct, historic body called the body of Christ, made up of Jew and Gentile who have equal standing before God, equal access to the Father. They’re in wonderful harmony, with the middle wall of partition broken down. It’s what Romans 11 calls the times of the Gentiles. But God’s not done with Israel as a nation.

Should you join us on a trip to Israel in the future, you’ll see that the miracle of modern Israel, still in unbelief, is set up for the fact that we’re going to see a rapture. And then, we’re going to see a tribulation period, which is Jacob’s trouble. Then, we’re going to see the return of Jesus. Then, we’re going to see the restoration of Israel, when all Israel will be saved. That’s a mystery that’s just being disclosed and declassified.

Finally, we’ve got in the passage we’re coming to look at. That was all kind of an introduction just to help you to realize that God is letting us in on some trade secrets regarding His kingdom: the secret of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the incarnate Christ, the rapture of the church, the future restoration of Israel. And here we have the doctrine of the church.

Look at what Paul says in Ephesians 3:3: “By revelation He [God] made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which”—notice—“in other ages was not made known.” What you know now, others didn’t know then. So, put your ears on, to use some trucker language, and listen. You’re about to understand better the church, the glory of the church, the uniqueness of the church, the distinction of the church from Israel and her future.

So, let’s come and look at this text, the mystery of the church, the great mystery. Let’s put the text in context quickly. Having taught about the harmony of Jew and Gentile—the unity that the Jew and Gentile enjoys in Christ, the oneness of the church, the equal access and standing the Jew and Gentile has before God . . . . Having taught that in verses 11–22 of chapter 2, Paul is about to pray. You say, “Pastor, how do you know that?” Well, we deduce it. Look at verse 1: “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—” And then he stops mid-sentence. And, if you go down to verse 14, did you notice: “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.”

Paul was about to pray about the church he had just explained, but he’s not done. He’s going to take another run at it. He couldn’t get chapter 2 out of his mind because, you see, he understands the unique nature of the church, the glory of what he has just talked to them about: the reconciling redeeming work of Christ that has brought about a double reconciliation to deal with a double alienation. The Gentile apart from Christ was alienated both from Israel and from God. They were without the promises of Israel, and they were without God and without hope. But, through Jesus Christ, they have now been reconciled to God and reconciled to each other. Those barriers are down. Paul says, you know what? I want to come back and talk about that because it’s so wonderful. We’ll get to prayer in a minute. So, he goes on this inspired rabbit trail. He has this tangent.

Now, most homiletical classes at seminary tell pastors to stay away from rabbit trails and tangents, but here’s an inspired one. Here’s one marked by genius. Paul wants to double down on this reality of the church made up of Jew and Gentile, marked by harmony and equality.

I like the story of the preacher in the South of the United States who was always preaching on baptism, water baptism—so much so that his people got tired of it. And the deacon suggested he preach on something else, and so he said, “Well, suggest the text.” Thinking about getting him as far away from a text on baptism, he said, “Why don’t you start in Genesis 1:1 and just work your way forward.” So, the following Sunday, he got up, and he said, “By request, the text today is Genesis 1:1. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And when the Lord created the earth, he made it one fourth land and three-fourths water, which brings me to the subject of water baptism.”

Paul wants to move on, but he can’t. So, there’s three things: the misery, the ministry, the mystery. We’re just going to cover the first one: the misery. We’re going to spend a lot of time getting miserable. No, we’re not. We’re going to look at Paul’s miserable situation and encourage ourselves. The misery.

Well, the misery is Paul’s imprisonment. The misery is Paul’s suffering. He tells us, verse 1, “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—” So, he’s writing from prison, which was no walk in the park. In verse 13: “Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.”

So, the misery: Paul’s suffering, Paul’s imprisonment. He repeats the fact that he’s a prisoner in Ephesians 4:1, and he calls himself an “ambassador in chains” in 6:20.

Now, this is Paul’s first imprisonment. Little bit of history here. This houses at the end of the book of Acts, where he wrote his prison epistles: Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon. He’s under house arrest in Rome because of an accusation by Jews of heresy and sedition. The persecution both he and the church were facing at the time was sporadic. It’s around AD 60 to 63. If you read Acts 28:30–31, his living conditions are reasonable. In fact, he’s allowed friends to come and visit him. He tells us, hey, you know what? I’m preaching and teaching the kingdom of God, and no one’s hindering me. We know from Philippians 1:24–26, he was pretty optimistic about dodging the bullet and getting out, which he actually did.

He was released from his first imprisonment, and then, later on, he was arrested again. This is where he’ll write his pastoral epistles. We’re at about 64 to 68 AD. This is the Roman Empire persecuting him this time. He’s been arrested as a criminal against the empire. He says he’s been called an evildoer, in a second letter to Timothy. He’s not as optimistic about his chances of survival. He says at the end of that letter, “The time of my departure seems to be near.” Paul’s head will be severed from his body in martyrdom shortly. His living conditions were cold and dark.

But we’re dealing with the first imprisonment, which is really from about Acts 21 forward, where certain Jews accused Paul—himself a Jew but an apostle to the Gentiles—of bringing a Gentile into certain parts of the temple that were forbidden. A whole hullabaloo started, and Paul was kind of hounded and pillared from one place to another. Eventually, he stands before Felix and Festus and Agrippa, and at some point, having been kicked around like a political football, he says, “Enough’s enough. I’m a Roman citizen. I’m appealing to Caesar.” We’re going to go to the Supreme Court on this one, so to speak. And he’s on a boat, gets shipwrecked in the Mediterranean, but he ends up in Rome a prisoner.

That’s where we’re at. It just hopefully fills in. When you read “I’m a prisoner,” all that stuff has led up to that little statement. When he says, “I’m in tribulations for you,” all of that stuff is part of that.

I was rereading the story of the Irish evangelist W. P. Nicholson this week, and he said this some years ago about his own mission and evangelism. “Nicholson used to say that when a mission was begun it was not long before they had either a riot or revival. Sometimes we had more riot than revival, but never a revival without a riot.” Well, Paul has kind of experienced something like that, and now he’s in prison.

Three things quickly. I want you to notice his perspective, his posture, and his purpose. Just in this first verse, it’s all there: “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Nero . . .” Did he say that? No. Read it again: “I, Paul, the prisoner of Nero because of the animosity of the Jews or an element of the Jewish community . . .” No. There he is under house arrest. He’s about four years into this experience: two years of imprisonment in Caesarea and then two years of imprisonment in Rome under house arrest. But he doesn’t say, “I’m a prisoner of Nero because of a rabblerousing crowd of Jewish leaders.” No. “I’m a prisoner of Jesus Christ.” Now, that’s perspective. Did you notice his perspective? The practical perspective is: I’m a prisoner of Nero because of the Jews. From a providential perspective: No, I’m here under the lordship of Jesus Christ. That’s a perspective. I love it.

See, Paul believed in the sovereignty of God. Paul was big on the sovereignty of God because he believed in a God who was big and sovereign, which led him to be big on the sovereignty of God. And he found such comfort in it. It made him strong and brave because, according to chapter 1, verse 11, the God he believes in “works all things according to the counsel of His will.” Paul imagines, in Ephesians 3:1, that includes his imprisonment. In the chapter we’re looking at, he again alludes to the sovereign purposes and plans of God. They’re eternal, and they’re being carried out and being accomplished in Jesus Christ (v. 11).

Yet, you’ve got all of our favorite verse, Romans 8:28: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God.” Now, the Bible there didn’t say, “We know that all things are good.” No, it says that God works, works His magic. In His sovereignty, in His omniscience, in His omnipotence, He outsmarts the devil and evil men and wicked men. He’s in charge of life. Therefore, whatever happens to you and me, God is in the mix of that, and He’s working it providentially for our good. It was that theology that allowed Paul to get his eyes off Nero and get his eyes off his miserable circumstances and say, you know what? I’m a prisoner of Jesus Christ and happy to be.

Now, that’s a challenge. This is Paul, isn’t it? This is Paul in Philippians 4:11: “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things.” That is, I can do all those things when I’m up and down, sick, healthy, rich, poor, good times, bad times, wind in my face, sun to my back. Give me any of it at any time, in any measure. I’m good because I’m content.

The word “content” means “sufficient.” It’s not stoicism. It’s not some British upper lip. That’s not Paul pulling his socks up. That’s Paul saying Christ within is putting His strength within, and I can deal with what’s without. I can be content. I think that’s what’s going on here in Ephesians 3:1. Perspective is everything, isn’t it?

Now, let me just apply quickly. I don’t know what your circumstance is: ill health, fractured family, challenges financially. Whatever that circumstance is, what’s your perspective on it? Because perspective is everything. Where you start in your conversation about where you are is everything. See, did you notice Paul doesn’t speak in merely human terms? If he wanted to speak in merely human terms: “I’m a prisoner of Nero.” But he didn’t. He can’t allow himself to speak in merely human terms, because his life is not merely secular. It is sacred.

God is in his life, and a sovereign God is over his life. Therefore, Paul cannot speak in merely human terms. So, where you start in your conversation is everything regarding where you are. Paul was a prisoner, but he had a conversation with himself. You know what? God is sovereign, and my days have been written down. In fact, I know that God can use this. In fact, when we go to Philippians 1:12–18, we see God is using it because he tells the Philippians (that’s one of the letters from this first imprisonment along with Ephesians), you guys need to know these things are falling out “for the furtherance of the gospel.” Newsflash: greetings from some within Caesar’s house. Wow, the gospel was penetrating the very upper levels of the empire that imprisoned him. God purposed it. So, Paul begins his conversation with where he is, with where God is—which is on a throne—and that colors his ability to handle his situation.

You get that? You’ve got to bring a theological perspective to your sickness. You’ve got to bring a theological perspective to your situation. You can’t speak in merely human terms. Listen to what my friend Mark Hitchcock says: “Imagine how our lives would change if we viewed life the way Paul did, if we had this kind of Christ-centered perspective, not viewing ourselves as a prisoner of circumstances, bad breaks, other people, difficult childhoods, politics, world events, but a prisoner of Jesus Christ, controlled by Him and His sovereign hand.” Whose prisoner are you? Are you a prisoner to your sickness? Are you a prisoner to your circumstances, to your background? Or are you a prisoner to Jesus Christ, captured by who He is and what He does? You need that perspective. Perspective is everything.

I’m not a great one for art. I’ve never fully understood its attraction, but that probably says more about me than it does about art. But I know this much. Sometimes when I’ve been in some of the great museums of the world—as I’ve visited some of the great cities of the world—sometimes you have to kind of step back to get the perspective that the artist had. Sometimes you can be up too close to the picture and not appreciate it. You can imagine as that man or that woman painted on that canvas at times, they put their paintbrush down and stood back to get a perspective on what they wanted to communicate. And, at times in life, our noses are pressed against the canvas of life, and we’ve got to step back and get a perspective.

His perspective. Number two, his posture. Quickly, his posture. We’re still on this idea: Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus. John Stott talks about his external captivity, which was his imprisonment, but his internal captivity to Jesus Christ. He wasn’t just a prisoner to Nero. That was true, but he truly was a prisoner to Christ, because elsewhere Paul describes himself as a doulos, a slave to the Lord Jesus. I think that’s what’s also being communicated.

He’s literally a prisoner of Jesus. He’s his slave. He’s captive to the Master and the mastery of the Master in his life. Christ was not only Lord over his circumstances; He was Lord over him. What’s that mean? Paul was completely at Christ’s disposal. That’s why, by the way, he’s at ease in his circumstances. Why isn’t he bristling? Why isn’t he complaining? Because he’s a slave. If that’s what the Master wants him to do, and if that’s where the Master sends him, then so be it. The circumstances were rough, but that was the assignment. That was the job. And you’ll accept it if you’re a slave of the Lord Jesus. Slaves have no will of their own. They just want to embrace the will of the master. The place was not too low, and the price was not too high, because He was a slave. Paul had, as he encourages us to do, presented his body as a living sacrifice, that he might prove what is that good and acceptable will of God (Rom. 12:1–2).

Listen to what one commentator says: “Paul sees himself as a prisoner of Jesus because Paul had placed himself at Jesus’ disposal, for Jesus to use him in any way Jesus wanted to use him. Long before he became Caesar’s prisoner, he became Jesus’ prisoner. Long before he was taken captive to Nero, he had been taken captive by Jesus. Grace broke through and grabbed hold of Paul. And for the rest of his life . . . he speaks of himself as the prisoner of Christ Jesus. Can you say that of yourself? Can I? That He has us wholly—hook, line, and sinker?” Head to toe and all in between.

Are you and I a captive of Jesus Christ? Has He got our money to use? Has He got our time to use? Has He got our heart and mind to use? Has He got all of us? And, by the way, given His love and the beauty of His person and the grandeur of His plans, I’m happy to be a captive to Jesus Christ.

Remember, at the time that sadly, Bob Dylan professed the faith in Jesus Christ, but in one of his early albums, he had a song “Gotta Serve Somebody.” You will. You’ll serve yourself, or you’ll serve some political cause, or you’ll serve the peers around you who pressure you to conform to their will and behavior, or you’ll serve the Lord Jesus. Which one is better? Gotta serve someone. It’s a good thing to be a captive to Jesus Christ, even when it’s hard, because we’re on the winning side. He’s the Lord.

Let’s reread the submission and the surrender of Adrian Rogers. I’ve always appreciated him. He’s now with the Lord. When he surrendered his life to ministry, to preaching, he was living in West Palm Beach, Florida, and he was a football player. So, the Lord was wrestling with him, and he had surrendered his life to become a preacher of the gospel. He wanted to demonstrate that and make that memorable and monumental in his life. So later, one night when no one was about, he went out onto the football field. As he walked its length and breadth, he prayed, “Lord, thank You for calling me to preach. And, oh God, I want you to use me.” Somewhere in that walk and talk, he decided, you know what? I need to get on my knees in the center of the pitch and say that.

So, he kneeled down in the center of the pitch, and he said, “God, I want you to use me.” Still not being satisfied, there were these desires that were bubbling up within and grabbing him. He prostrated himself flat out on the pitch. “Lord, I want you to use me.” Describing that, he says, “That did not seem humble enough. So, I took my finger, and I made a hole in the dirt. And I put my nose in that hole, and I called out, ‘Lord, I’m as low as I know how to get. Will you use me?’” It’s great, isn’t it? I don’t know if it needs to be that dramatic, but I love the intent behind the action.

How often, sincerely, with everything put at God’s disposal, do we pray? Lord, use me on the mission field. Use me in ministry. Use me in business. Use my children to be servants of yours for your glory. Whatever that is, help me always to submit my passions for them to your passion for them. Lord, use me. I’m a prisoner of your Son.

Okay. Time’s gone. His purpose. We’ll pick this up next week, but we’ll touch on it. “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles . . .” Don’t miss that. “For you.” It’s for your sake I’m here. See, according to 2 Timothy 1:1–11 and Acts 9:15, Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. Now, of course, he shared the gospel with everybody and anybody, anywhere, anytime. But, fundamentally, God had laid it on the heart of the apostle Paul to reach the Gentile nations. And then he laid it on the heart of Peter to mold the nation of Israel through the gospel. Peter was the apostle to the Jew. Paul was the apostle to the Gentile, generally speaking. And it came at a cost. Paul was willing to serve and suffer for the cause of spreading the gospel.

You see, Paul’s outreach to the Gentiles had become fruitful. Many within the Jewish establishment had noticed that, and they brought fierce and swift opposition. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:26 that he dealt with the perils of his own countrymen. They’re behind his first imprisonment. If you want to read about it, read Acts 21:27 and following.

But that’s okay. Paul’s not discouraged—because remember, in Acts 9:15, God said He was going to call him to the Gentiles and call him to the Calvary road. He’s going to suffer a lot. Paul was not backing down, nor was he discouraged. In verse 13, he says to them, look, I don’t want you to be discouraged. And you’re probably more discouraged about me than I am about myself. Because, you see, I’m a prisoner of Christ. The lordship of Christ is over my circumstance. And remember, I’m an ambassador to the Gentiles, and I’m an ambassador in chains. Frankly, this time in prison has allowed me to reach some in Caesar’s household. What about that? This is for you Gentiles.

Then, during this time—this forced sabbatical, so to speak—he writes four letters that are rich in theology, in the doctrine of Christ and the doctrine of the church. The Gentile churches are blessed by his writing ministry. This is for you. Don’t you be discouraged about me. I’m not discouraged about me. God’s advancing the gospel among the Gentiles.

Here’s the thing, as we close. Paul was on mission in the middle of his misery. Did you notice that? Paul’s still on mission in his misery. I’m here for you. This is for your sake. I’m happy to absorb it. I’m happy to deal with it because it’s about the glory of Christ among the nations. It’s about others. It’s about the suffering church spreading the gospel of the suffering Savior.

It’s not about my comfort, not about my health, not about my desire for a long and happy life. Good as all those things are, I must never let them get in the way of kingdom priorities. And the priority is not my safety, not my security. It’s taking the gospel to the Gentiles. And you know what? Even my imprisonment is allowing that to happen.

We’ll stop there. The mission to the Gentiles and the growth of the church in pagan lands was his first purpose, regardless of the price. And he pursued it for Christ’s sake, for the gospel’s sake, for others’ sakes, and for your own sake at the judgment seat of Christ. Make sure that today and tomorrow and this week that you do something that’s not for your own sake—that you reach others around you in a kind act, a comforting word, a sharing of the gospel.

Remember how William Booth couldn’t get to the Salvation Army Convention one year? Funds were low, and so since he couldn’t get there, he sent the telegram. And, since funds were low, he sent one word in the telegram. You know what it was? “Others.” That’s what his message was to the Sally Army. “Others.” It always is. That was the ministry of Jesus. Other sheep have I who are not of this fold. That’s what Paul was all about. I’m a prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles. Others, my friend. That’s what it’s all about.

Father, we thank You for our time in the Word. As we put our spade in the soil of Ephesians 3 and turn the soil, we discovered some wonderful nuggets of truth that we can take home with us and add value to our living. Help us not to see our circumstances simply in human terms. Help us to see the lordship of Jesus Christ. Lord, help us to pray and really mean it in a way that we’ve never meant it before. Lord, use me. Make us captive to Your will. And, Lord, we thank You. We live in a place surrounded by others. It’s not hard to bump into people in Orange County. Sometimes we want to run from them. There’s so many. But it’s all about others: in the grocery line, in the coffee shop, on the sports field, in the school room, on the factory floor, in the office cubicle. Others. Lord, help us to live for others, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.