Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. – Ephesians 3:7-14 ESV
Paul saw his role as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ as a gift of grace. He had no right to be the bearer of the good news to the Gentiles. In fact, Paul saw himself as the very least of all the saints. He was morally unqualified to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, but God had mercifully showered him with His grace, transforming him into a worthy messenger of the glorious gospel. And Paul took his role seriously, willingly enduring rejection, ridicule and even physical abuse in order to fulfill his God-given mission. Even as he wrote this letter, he was under house arrest in Rome. Even imprisonment would not stop Paul from preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ. Until Paul had begun taking the message of salvation through faith in Christ to the Gentiles, it had remained hidden from them. They were incapable of understanding or accessing the incredible grace of God offered to them through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. But Paul spent his life making sure they heard the good news and were given the chance to know the joy of being made right with God through faith in Jesus as their Savior.
One of Paul’s greatest joys was unveiling the mystery of the church, God’s amazing plan to make the Gentiles “fellow heirs, members of the same body and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6 ESV). When we read the New Testament, it is tempting to view the world as divided into two groups: Jews and Gentiles. And it is easy to mistake the word “Gentile” as referring to a particular people group. But that word was an all-encompassing label for anyone outside the people of Israel. It included Greeks, Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Phrygians, Egyptians and Romans. Paul was an equal-opportunity evangelist who shared the gospel with anyone and everyone he met. And as those individuals placed their faith in Christ, they became part of “the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things” (Ephesians 3:9 ESV) – the church. And Paul said that it would be through the church that “the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10 ESV). That word, “manifold” is the Greek word, πολυποίκιλος (polypoikilos), which literally means “much variegated, marked with a great variety of colours” (“G4182 – polypoikilos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). The multi-racial makeup of the church reveals the wisdom of God. The church was not something men would have come up with. It made no sense. The blending together of people from different racial backgrounds and social standings into one homogeneous group was unheard of. The degree of equality and equanimity made possible in this mysterious thing called the church was an anomaly. Even angels and demons are amazed at what they see in the church. The unifying nature of God’s redemptive work through Christ is like nothing else in the world. No other organization, effort, or man-made institution has the capacity to draw people together in love like the church. And that is why Satan spends so much time trying to destroy the unity within the church. He wants to divide and conquer from within. So he brings in false teaching and harmful doctrines that create schisms and divide congregations. He promotes pride, while God calls us to live in humility and selflessness. The enemy wants us to recognize our differences, while God desires for us to celebrate our oneness in Christ. Satan wants us to dwell on our individuality, while God calls us to live in unity.
“The church as a multi-racial, multi-cultural community is like a beautiful tapestry. Its members come from a wide range of colourful backgrounds. No other human community resembles it. Its diversity and harmony are unique” – John R. W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians
“. . . the church is to be an audio-visual display of God’s reconciling work. In this primary way she testifies to God’s grace and wisdom. So Paul encouraged living life in Christ in such a way that reconciliation is the dominant feature of church life.” – Darrell L. Bock, A Theology of Paul’s Prison Epistles
The church is an amazing, God-ordained and Spirit-empowered entity that reveals to the world His incredible wisdom and the life-transforming power of the gospel. King David wrote, “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” (Psalm 133:1 NLT). And that is true of the church. A common faith in Jesus Christ and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit give believers in the body of Christ a bond that is unlike anything the world has ever seen. This was God’s “eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11 NLT). The church should be an unstoppable force in the world today, illustrating the power and wisdom of God. We should model the love of God. We should exude the grace and mercy of God. We should demonstrate the unity of God as we live together in harmony, sacrificing our individual needs for the sake of one another. When Peter told Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16 NLT), Jesus responded, “upon this rock [his confession] I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16:18 NLT). As men and women from all walks of life and every nation on earth confess Jesus as Lord, God builds them into the most powerful force in the universe: His church. And no one or nothing will ever defeat it.