READ: EPHESIANS 3:1-6
It doesn’t take a very long reading in the Old Testament to recognize that God had a chosen people: The Israelites. Throughout the Law and the Prophets God congratulates, corrects, calls, and reconciles this people specifically. Even Jesus, when the Canaanite woman asked for a miracle for her daughter, alludes to the people of Israel as God’s children, excluding those outside as dogs (Matthew 15:26).
However, we would be remiss if we failed to admit that God had a plan for the Gentiles (all those outside of Israel), one besides overtaking their lands. The Old Testament is full of references to “the nations,” another term for the Gentile peoples. Even to Abraham, the father of the Jacob (Israel), God promised, “and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” Isaiah proclaims that Jesus’ ministry would benefit not only Israel, but all of the nations: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations” (Isaiah 42:1). And Jesus truly did so as he answered the prayer of the Canaanite woman: “Then Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment” (Matthew 15:28).
Even though the “earlier revelation” spoke of the nations being blessed, the people of Israel concentrated on the passages that spoke of overthrow and subjugation, of destroying their gods, as opposed to building their faith in the one true God. Sharing their God with the Gentiles? Never! They were the heathen. The people did not understand or recognize God’s plan (verse 5). While all of that is true, nevertheless, God had a plan and still does. We are the proof of that God’s plans do come to fruition. Those of us who are not of the line of Israel have, nevertheless, been brought into the family of God through Christ’s sacrifice.
READ EPHESIANS 3:7-13
Even though the Paul was extremely qualified to preach the gospel to the Jewish people, God had other plans for his ministry. Perhaps it was because of his Roman citizenship and education, as well; only God knows.
As a short side note, I would like you to notice two comments that I believe are basic and necessary to ministry of in the Church. These two verses, 8a and 13, highlight the perspective that should belong to each of us, whether lay person or clergy, when we are in ministry.
Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people—Paul was by no means the least of God’s people. He came from a wealthy family. He was very well known in the synagogues and the Temple administration. He was very well educated, and he had a zeal for serving God. And he became the apostle Paul, a leader in the fledgling Church, spreading the Gospel throughout the known world. Yet, at this point in his life and ministry, he refers to himself as the “less than the least.” This isn’t an example of self-deprecation, or putting one’s self down for attention or lack of self-esteem. Rather, Paul’s words point to true humility. Elsewhere, Paul instructs the people to follow Christ’s example of humility (Philippians 2:1-11).
Our ministry, our calling as Christians, is to be humble as we preach the gospel, as we live the gospel. Haughty arguments between denominations about who has the right approach to the gospel or the best soul-winning activities are so far outside of Christ’s example that I’m sure it saddens him to hear them. Paul calls himself a “servant” of the gospel. The servant follows the Master’s plan, not his own, and represents the mast in a way that will bring honor to his master. The child who receives the gift is just the bearer; the one gave the gift is the gracious one. Likewise, God is the giver of salvation, not we who proclaim it. It is God who receives honor and praise, not we who are merely following his plan. Enough said.
Paul identifies his ministry, to “preach to the Gentiles the boundless the boundless riches of Christ.” We, who are outside the bloodline of the Jewish people, are no less God’s creation and a part of God’s plan. At the first coming of Christ, his death and resurrection, the lines of distinction were torn down. No longer were we to be outside the realm of God’s family, but through this death, through Christ’s sacrifice, we were offered the opportunity to be a part of an eternal family.
My older brother was actually my cousin. Although my parents raised Frank as their own son, adopting him emotionally and physically, they were never afforded the opportunity of adopting him legally. Fran was always my brother, in every way. In fact, once he was of legal age, he changed his last name to ours. He was legally a “Caristo.” However, there was that one part that was not complete: the legality of things. When he was 48 years old, my parents went to court to officially adopt Frank as their son. No, not just by changing his name, but by the court’s administration, Frank was legally my parents’ son.
Was it necessary? Probably not, because where it mattered, in our hearts and in our minds, we were already a family, but the act of legally adopting him was made to tell the world that he was and would always remain ours.
We were outside of the family of God, without a right to call on God’s name, without the option to be in God’s presence. Our sins separated us from God, giving us no recourse to call on him. Yet, in the plan of God, through the ages, we were always destined for adoption into the family, to be welcomed in as children, rather than servants.
So Christ was not merely sent as Israel’s Messiah, but also as a gift to the entire world. Through Christ, and through Paul’s ministry and sufferings, we who have heard the gospel, who have believed in Christ, “may approach God with freedom and confidence” (v. 12) because we have been adopted into the family of God.
You don’t have to go to court to be adopted into the family of God. If you have not found this place in the family of God, I urge you today to pray with me, “Heavenly Father, I am a sinner, and I don’t deserve your mercy and grace, but I call upon you today, because of Jesus’ sacrifice for me, to please forgive me and make me your own. Take me into your family and may me your child. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
P.O. Box 393, Greenfield, MO 65661