Grace for Ministry

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power” (Eph. 3:7).

- Ephesians 3:7

Following two sections of doctrinal instruction on topics such as divine election, justification by grace through faith alone, the Spirit’s work, and the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles in Christ (Eph. 1:1–14; chap. 2), as well as the apostle’s prayer that we might understand divine revelation (1:15–23), Ephesians continues with Paul interceding again for the church. As he has done previously, however, the apostle pauses briefly at the beginning of this prayer to speak of his ministerial role in proclaiming “the mystery of Christ” (3:1–6). Paul continues this interlude in today’s passage, explaining that he was made a minister of the gospel of God, which unites all believers under the lordship of Jesus, no matter their background.

The source of Paul’s ministry was not his own power, but “the gift of God’s grace” (v. 7). Significantly, this phrase alludes to verse 2, thereby bracketing and defining everything in verses 2 through 7. Biblical scholars call this literary device an inclusio, as it includes everything mentioned under the sphere of the repeated concept, which in this case is divine grace. Essentially, the apostle is telling us that his insight into the mystery of Christ, his call to be a minister of the gospel, his specific work among the Gentiles, and everything else associated with his Christian life and calling is rooted in the grace of God. Without divine grace he would be nothing and would have no place at the table in the kingdom of heaven. This emphasis on the primacy and centrality of divine grace saturates Paul’s writings, and, indeed, it fills the entire Bible (Ex. 34:6; Zech. 12:10; Rom. 1:5–6; 1 Cor. 15:10; 1 Peter 4:10–11).

Ephesians 3:7 also reveals that “the gift of God’s grace” was given to Paul “by the working of his [the Lord’s] power.” Nothing less than the Creator’s supernatural strength could overpower Paul’s fierce, hard-hearted opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:1–31). In the conversion of Saul of Tarsus and his transformation into Paul the apostle, we see perhaps the clearest demonstration of irresistible grace in Scripture. God will get His people no matter how long or hard they try to withstand His call, only because His omnipotence works also through His grace. This gives us ample reason to praise Him, for our Lord’s omnipotent grace has likewise turned us from our own rebellious way to follow Him.

Coram Deo

Saul’s conversion and transformation into the apostle Paul may be a particularly dramatic example of God’s irresistible grace, but we should never think that we were closer to the kingdom than Saul before our own conversions. The irresistible grace of our Lord continues to convert His people even unto this day, and He displays His mighty power every time an impenitent sinner becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Passages for Further Study

Jonah 1–2
Titus 2:11–14

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