Hi and welcome to today’s Foundations Podcast. Today’s passage is taken from Ephesians 3:1-7. In both today and tomorrow’s reading, Paul breaks off his previous line of thought in chapter 2 in which he reveals some of the foundational truths of who we are in Christ as both an individual and as a church. In chapter 3, Paul offers us some of his personal reflections on his ministry and what he’s learned as a result of that. His reflections are both a great challenge to us but also a massive encouragement.
What does he say? Well, verse one in particular really spoke to me today.
Paul begins by saying this: ‘For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles’.
Paul is explaining here the reality of sharing this message to the Gentiles – to people like the Ephesians. He writes that he has been ‘a prisoner of Christ Jesus’. Through reading the book of Acts and other letters Paul wrote we discover that he was imprisoned several times. Indeed, many scholars would suggest he was writing this very letter whilst in prison in Rome.
Paul suffered because of what God commissioned him to do- to be God’s mouthpiece to the Gentiles. God was very clear that this would be the case when he revealed this plan for Paul’s life when he met with Jesus on the road to Damascus (See Acts Chapter 9).
In telling his readers about this Paul is explaining the brutal realities he faces in getting across the Gospel message to them. It also adds authenticity to his story- that he is who he says he is.
But what does this say to us today? We may not face imprisonment for sharing our faith. Although we are aware that others around the world are facing that, and even worse, are being tortured and killed because of their faith. And we should reflect on that fact that we are so fortunate to live a country which still allows people freedom to worship. We should give thanks for that every time we come to church.
However, we can still identify with the fact that, like Paul, we do face opposition when we share our faith with others. There may have been times when we have been misunderstood, ignored, insulted or criticised for what we believe. And that’s just with the people around us. Later on in Ephesians, Paul writes about the spiritual battles we can expect to face as we share our faith. There is a battle on for this world. We are in it. It’s important that we recognise that fact.
However, it’s also clear from reading verse one, where Paul writes ‘For this reason’ that he knew why he was in the battle. He knew why he was doing what he was doing.
One of my favourite ever TV series is Band of Brothers. It follows the journey of the members of ‘Easy Company ‘– a Parachute Infantry Regiment within the American Airborne Division from the start of their journey – jump training in the United States, right through to the end of the Second World War. One particular episode stands out. It’s called, ‘Why we fight?’ It marks the point where just as some of the men become most disillusioned with the war and their involvement in it, that they stumble across the real reason as to why they are there. They discover a German concentration camp. As the true horrors of what was happening under the Nazi regime are revealed to these men, they discover in that moment why it is that they fight and who they are fighting for.
Paul is basically saying to the Ephesians this, ‘I know why I fight’. And as he goes on to share in tomorrow’s passage that is something he continues to remind himself of when things get difficult.
What’s the message for us today? We need to accept the fact that we are in a battle. But we also need to remember why we fight and who we fight for.
In verse 7, Paul talks about his work, his ministry, as a gift of God’s grace. He, like us, has understood that he has been forgiven and set free by Jesus. As Mick spoke about last week, that God’s kindness, his incredible love for us has led to our repentance, to us turning to Him and discovering this incredible life he has for us. When we truly consider how much God loves us and what he has done to demonstrate that, we have but one real response. We accept his grace as a gift and we desire that others know that too.
On the cross, the ultimate victory for our souls was won. We know that God’s kingdom will be established here on earth. But we know that this is yet to be fully realised. The fight isn’t over. Like the apostle Paul, we now have our part to play in response to God’s grace. To share our faith. To tell others about Him. And that as we do so we will face challenges because of that but we do so because we know we are fighting battles for a God who has won the ultimate victory for us.
Jesus, we thank you for your grace and mercies which are new each day. Help us to know more of your presence in our lives. Strengthen us today, knowing that it is you Lord who has won the ultimate victory for us on the cross. Help us today to play our part in seeing your kingdom extend around us as we seek to point others to you. Amen.
READING: EPHESIANS 3:1-7
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles –
Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.