Sometimes, in the smallest of words, the Lord can show a picture of His love in ways we may have overlooked or taken for granted in the past. I see one of these in the verse we are using to focus our prayers today. It is Ephesians 3:1 which reads:
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles – Ephesians 3:1.
As we discovered yesterday, Paul considered himself a prisoner of the Lord and not of Rome or the Jews or even Caesar himself. He was totally committed to his Lord and gladly accepted his imprisonment. Why? Because Paul’s God is absolutely supreme and sovereign. Therefore, it follows that God could change Paul’s situation at any time, if He so desired. But since He hasn’t, then this imprisonment must be His will for Paul at this point in his life. And for us, who have the advantage of hindsight 20/20 wisdom, it was the perfect will of God to take Paul off the streets and put him in a cell where he could write many of his epistles for the glory of God.
Not For Me, But For You…
But today, we want to look at a picture of what true Christianity is all about. It is found in three small words, “for you Gentiles.” Paul is saying he is a prisoner of Christ Jesus and freely accepts that fate. But he continues to state the reason for his suffering and imprisonment. And that is “for you Gentiles”, for someone else, for the sake of the Gospel. Paul is saying he is suffering, not for what he did or to pay for his alleged crimes, but for the sake or benefit of people he has never met— “for you” Gentiles. Or, “for you” church in America. Or, “for you”… and put your name there.
“I am a prisoner for your sake,” he is saying. And he learned to live like this from Jesus.
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15). Did you catch that? Jesus lays down His own life for the sheep. His sheep. The church, the elect, the called-out ones, for you and me. He could also say it this way, “I lay down My life for you Gentiles.” Or for you Jews, you males, females, sinners, Democrats and Republicans, and Independents, for you who are rich or poor, young or old, blue-collar, white-collar, or no collar, it doesn’t matter. Jesus lays His life down for everyone who is called by His name.
Again, Jesus said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Jesus came to die, the just for the unjust, in order to reconcile sinful, fallen man with a Holy, Righteous, Perfect God (1 Pet. 3:18). He gave His life as a ransom… for you.
Finally, Jesus described the kind of love He has for us when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13) and then has the audacity to call each of us His friends (John 15:14). He was one who loved so great He would gladly lay down His life… for you. And that is exactly what Paul is saying in Ephesians 3:1.
Time to Pray
Who do you love that much? Who would you be willing to suffer like Jesus for? Or, who would you be willing to be imprisoned unjustly for? Your family? Maybe. Your friends? Probably not. Somebody you have never met? Never.
But Jesus did. And so did Paul and countless other saints over the centuries who have counted all things, even this life, as “rubbish, that they may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).
When you pray today, thank our Lord for what He has done in order to bring you to Himself. And then, if you dare, surrender all to Him by placing yourself on His altar as a “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). And watch what He is willing to do with the life you have placed in His hands.