Psalm 98; Ephesians 3:2-12; Luke 12: 39-48
How many of us compare ourselves to others? How many of us think we aren’t as godly or as “Christian” as someone else? We see in our reading from Ephesians we are not the only ones who want to rank or compare ourselves to others. Paul writes to the church at Ephesus he is the ‘very least of all the saints’. This is a bold claim Paul is making and many would have wanted to dispute it. After all, he did live and serve alongside some of the apostles who travelled around with Jesus.
Does whether we are the least of the saints really matter? Is this what we should aspire to or should we pursue something else?
I would hope, as individuals and as a church, we would pursue what comes after this claim of Paul’s. Pursuit of God’s grace is a greater aspiration and something to be desired. Paul became a servant because of God’s grace (verse 7), likewise we have also become God’s servants because of the grace of God.
To be a servant, you have to serve someone or something. Paul sought to serve God. If we were to answer with complete honesty, who would we say we serve? Anyone who is a Christian is likely to give the answer that they serve God. Do we really serve God or when we say we are just giving what we think is the right answer?
In his serving God, Paul was going out sharing the good news of the ‘boundless riches of Christ’ (verse 8). Paul was sharing the Gospel message to the gentiles. The man who had been persecuting the Christians was now a man in devoted service to God. The desire being to ‘make everyone see what is the plan’ (verse 9) of God that has been hidden. Paul was making God known and he does this because of the grace of God who has equipped Paul to be a servant (or based upon the Greek diakonos, a minister) of the Gospel.
Do we really serve God? Or do we claim we serve God but live out our lives with God in the background? Do we really make the message of the Gospel known?
We might not like it, some of us might even try to deny it, but we are increasingly living in a world where the Christian voice is not as highly regarded as it has been historically. You may, or may not, have seen in the news or on social media, as a regular thing, the questioning or desire for the removal of Bishops from the House of Lords because, as it is sometimes put, ‘it is an affront to democracy’. The nation’s desire to hear from a Christian voice is diminishing. If we look back, however, we will find this may look familiar.
How might this look familiar? Look at St Paul, he persecuted Christians before his conversion and then became one of the persecuted. He expressed the message of the Gospel in a world, and at a time, where the Christian voice was not wanted. Why did Paul do this? The answer is quite simple and put explicitly in our reading from Ephesians today, Paul has done this ‘so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places’ (verse 10).
We continue to be the church today. That has not changed. We can look back at history and see the times where the Christian voice has had prevalence and held in high regard and, perhaps, begin to think we are losing the ability to have our voice. However, as much as society has progressed and the respect of the Christian voice, perhaps, diminished, we are still the church today; that has not changed. We, therefore, need to continue to proclaim the message of the Gospel in the world today to continue to follow the example of St Paul making the plan of God known in a time where it is being drowned out. When the voice of the Gospel is being silenced or drowned out, this is when as a church, globally, we need to be expressing the message with more clarity and determination.
But why did Paul do this? Why did Paul serve God in this way and seek to make this message known. ‘This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.’ (Verses 11-12) This is not a limited temporal purpose for Paul and not for us. We see in the passage from Ephesians it is God’s ‘eternal purpose’. This is why this remains as important for us today as it would have been for Paul. It is an eternal purpose that Christ is seeking to be known by all because ‘In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel’ (verses 5-6).
Through Christ we are co-heirs to the mystery that has now been revealed to us by the Spirit. It is our joy and our duty to fulfil this eternal purpose of God and make this mystery revealed to those who do not know Christ.
Are we really serving God? Or do we say we serve God and live out our lives with God in the background? Do we really make the message of the Gospel known? Do we do this with boldness and confidence because of the faith we have in Christ?
My prayer for us all in this week ahead is we commit to serving God, making the message of the gospel known with boldness. Let us show to ourselves that we truly desire to serve God and have God as our focus and purpose.