Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Ephesians 3:7-9

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.

And, from The Message Bible . . .

This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God's way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities. And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along.

What do you think of when you hear the word "servant?"  You might think of the people you find in mansion environments who do all the work, like maids and grounds keepers -- those who do the bidding of the wealthiest sorts.  Or, maybe you take it all the way back to slavery -- those who were forced into the service of another, no choice, no voice in his or her lot or fate.  The most typical picture and definition of a servant, however, is a table waiter.  A table waiter is always at the bidding of his customers.  The Apostle Paul lives and works as a servant (whatever image you have) doing the bidding of Christ and His church.

Apostle Paul by Rembrandt

Paul considers his services to Christ and the church a gift -- a grace given to him by Christ.  He did nothing to deserve such an important role as "servant of the gospel."  God did it.  God gave it to him.  God took care of every detail in Paul receiving this grace.  All Paul did was breathe.

We talked a little about Paul's deep humility my last post.  If you still weren't sure about Paul as a humble sort, maybe this statement will help: "although I am less than the least of all God's people . . ."  Paul was always aware of his past as a hater of The Way, a hater and murderer of Christ followers.  Do you struggle with a sin in your life that is difficult to live down, one that is always haunting you, always reminding you of how wretched you were and therefore making you feel as if you do not deserve anything good from God, least of all His forgiveness and grace?  I am convinced that Paul, being ever so human like the rest of us, allowed himself to be kicked around between two worlds: the "worst of sinners" and "beloved by God."  We all find ourselves there sometimes. Yes?  But, here's the good news:
  Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:15, NIV)
and . . . 
Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18, NIV)
This past summer I had the privilege of teaching several 5th and 6th graders about God's Word at a little 3 day retreat.  One of the many crafts designed to emphasize and highlight God's truth was soap making.  Isaiah 1:18 was the verse used for this particular craft.  They learned that crimson was the color of a deep, red permanent dye and its deep stain was impossible to remove from clothing.  They also learned that God doesn't just cover up our sin, He lifts it out and completely removes it from our lives.  In the case of the crimson dye, no amount of bleaching or scrubbing or re-dying to another color would hide the stain.  It was always there for you and me and the entire world to see.
Sometimes the stain of sin seems equally permanent.  With God, that crimson red stain, impossible to remove in any other way, is lifted out.  Not covered up -- lifted out and removed!  What once was stained, is now white as snow, like the white wool of a an unblemished lamb.

And so. . . here is Paul, over his head in writing about things that go against everything he was taught as a young Jewish boy and student of the Law.  He learned from his own life that it's all about grace and mercy and God's love for all of humankind and . . . servanthood.  He lives and works in the service of Christ and His church bringing out into the open everything that our mysterious God had planned for His people from the beginning of creation: the mystery about His love and generosity through Jesus Christ, my Lord and yours!

A servant,

1 comment:

sarahbri said...

I like this one. You paint a good picture of what it must have been like for Paul to struggle between those two worlds.