Summary: We must have the Spirit of Christ, to live the Christ life, to do the work of Christ (#7 in The Unfathomable Love of Christ series)
If you will remember back to our coverage of verse one, you know that Paul called himself ‘prisoner of Jesus Christ’, and then he broke from what he seemed about to say, and began a rather lengthy qualification for that terminology.
When we read verses 2-7 we find that he is reiterating information that he gave them earlier and which we have already covered, in reference to the mystery from ages past, that has now been revealed through the gospel; that all things should be summed up in Christ to the Father’s glory, and that Jew and Gentile alike were to be recipients of His grace and co-inheritors of the promise.
Paul has a slightly different emphasis here in chapter 3, for bringing this topic up once more.
See in verse 3 where he says, “...by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief” He is referring, of course, back to chapter 1 verses 9 and following. But see the difference? In 1:9 he says “He made known to us the mystery of His will...” and here in 3:3 he says, “by revelation there was made known to me the mystery...”
The reason for this shift in emphasis is that he wants to give comfort to them, that although he is in Rome’s chains, he is there for Christ’s purpose, and he is there as a minister of the gospel, just as he has been, everywhere.
Some of you may have heard of Brother Lawrence, who in the 15th century penned the work “Practice the Presence of God”. When he was dying, he was asked, “What are you doing, Brother Lawrence?” His reply, “I’m doing what I plan to do through all eternity - worship God. When I die I won’t change my occupation. I have just been worshiping God for forty years on earth, and when I get to heaven I’ll just keep right on doing what I am doing.” (from “The Counselor” by A. W. Tozer, pg 110/111)
Anyone who has given his life to serve Christ should never be pitied or fretted over, whatever his circumstances, as long as he is continuing in what he has been called and empowered to do. Because nothing, including death, can stop him from his service to God, nor separate him from his master.
Brother Lawrence himself spoke the heart of every faithful servant of Christ when he said,
“Good when He gives, supremely good;
Nor less when He denies:
Afflictions, from His sovereign hand,
Are blessings in disguise.”
Paul’s message in this long parenthesis from verses 2 thru 13 of chapter 3, is just that. Don’t fret for me. Don’t be concerned. I have been blessed to receive revelation of the mysteries of God and empowered by His grace to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, and even my tribulations will work out to your benefit and the spreading of the gospel.
No, never pity the faithful servant of Christ, unless he quits. Then he is to be pitied most of all.
But what is suffering, what Paul himself called ‘momentary light affliction’, to one who has had direct revelation from the risen Christ? One who knows he was called according to God’s grace and empowered by the Holy Spirit for the work of ministry, and by that same power has seen healings and deliverances and many souls won for the Kingdom, and many new churches spring up all over as a result of the preaching of the gospel?
People, I submit to you that much of our unrest, much of our dissatisfaction with our circumstances, much of our discontentedness with our lot in life is directly due to the absence of the Holy Spirit’s power in our life. And that is precisely what I want to talk to you about today.
Now I want to read these verses once more, to have the passage fresh in our minds, then I want to narrow our focus very sharply to one phrase in verse 7 and talk about it’s implications and it’s application for us.
“...if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you, that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. And by referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.”