World English Bible translation
3:8 To me, the very least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 3:9 and to make all men see what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things through Jesus Christ; 3:10 to the intent that now through the assembly the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places, 3:11 according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus, our Lord; 3:12 in whom we have boldness and access in confidence through our faith in him. 3:13 Therefore I ask that you may not lose heart at my troubles for you, which are your glory.
This passage continues to discuss Paul's understanding of the mystery of the church. He has written that the Gentiles were now "fellow heirs, and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus" (v.36). These revelations had been revealed to the holy apostles and prophets in the church. But, Paul's belief was that he had been given a special charge to preach the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile through Christ.
This position and duty did not puff Paul up with pride. As a true Christian leader, his duties led him to deeper humility before God. When Paul writes that he is "the very least of all saints" we have a tendency to dismiss this as false modesty. Surely the Apostle Paul did not really believe that he was "the very least of all saints"?
We meet this sincere attitude throughout scripture from men that are confronted with a mission from God. Before the burning bush, Moses pleaded with the Lord that he was no great speaker. Before the throne of God, Isaiah pleaded with God that he was a man of unclean lips. Confronted with the miraculous power of Jesus to fill his nets, Peter pleaded with Jesus, "Depart from me Lord; I am a sinful man."
These men, and Paul in today's scripture, were not putting on a show of modesty. Confronted with an awesome task of God, we would all realize our inadequacies and the prospect of failure. God wants men who have counted the cost and realize how far short they fall. Only then will such a man turn to the Lord for His strength. God knows that we are inadequate for His task. That is why He never wants us to accomplish them with our will or our understanding. Rather, we are to turn in every moment and rely on the grace and power that God gives us through the Holy Spirit to accomplish His work.
To Paul this work, "this grace," was given. He was to preach Christ to the Gentiles. To the zealot who had sought to keep Judaism pure was given the task to open the church to the foreigner. He was to preach the "unsearchable riches" of Christ. Christ was the secret plan of God, if you will. He had withheld a mystery about Himself that now, through Christ, He was revealing. He was revealing it to the "principalities and the powers in the heavenly places." These include spiritual beings opposed to the rule of God (demons) and those aligned and serving God (angels). God's grace and His purpose in Christ are being revealed to all for the first time in the church.
This eternal purpose began to be put into action when God "created all things through Jesus Christ." He is the eternal word of God through whom God spoke the world into existence. It was created through Him and for Him. And, if God has done all through Christ, then we can have confidence that God will not desert the members of His body. As members of the body of Christ, we can approach the Father with boldness. Through Christ, I am His beloved son. Through Christ we have gained all things.
There are many times when we will not feel bold. Like Paul, we will see ourselves as the least of all saints. But, our boldness and confidence should not be in ourselves. Let our boldness and confidence be in the Son of God. We may approach God because we know that God will never reject His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Our faith is in the relationship of the Son to His Father. It is never on us.
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