As we prepare to meet with the Most High, we’re going to use Ephesians 3:8 to help focus our prayers today. This verse is one of the most incredible passages in all of Ephesians. In it, we see Paul’s candid assessment of himself, despite how much the Lord used him and how much we honor and respect Paul. It’s a glimpse into his heart of humility and a picture of how each of us should view our lives. But we get a glance at the magnitude of the blessing God gave him by calling him into the ministry. He uses this phrase, “the unsearchable riches of Christ,” to explain what a life hidden in Christ is all about (Col. 3:3). And, as we will see tomorrow, it’s beyond description!
Ephesians 3:8 reads as follows:
To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.
Once again, we come face to face with the word that seems to sum up Paul’s life, given. We see this word in Ephesians 3:2, and again in verse 7, and now once more in verse 8. Paul says, “this grace was given” to him as a gift, an unmerited blessing he did not deserve. And the key to Paul’s life is found in his faithful commitment to properly execute his stewardship and calling according to the gift he received from God.
Paul understood who he was in the sight of God and how undeserving he was for anything other than judgment and condemnation. Grace, if you remember, is getting something you don’t deserve, such as love, forgiveness, redemption, and eternal life. Mercy, on the other hand, is not receiving what you truly deserve, such as guilt, condemnation, judgment, and death. Paul never forgot God’s inexhaustible mercy nor the grace he received. And this grace included not only a ministry, but a divine purpose for his life.
Lower than the Bottom of the Barrel
Paul calls himself “less than the least of all the saints” (Eph. 3:8). In his mind, he is the least likely, the least deserving, the last one on earth God would choose to save, redeem, and call into the ministry. Nevertheless, God did just that. There are many reasons why Paul would feel that way, and most of them center around his life before Christ.
In 1st Corinthians 15:9, he says, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Again, in 1st Timothy 1:15, he says, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”
Paul understood, as much as anyone, how good God is to give him a second, third, and even fourth chance. He probably was never able to erase from his mind the scene where he gave his consent to the death of Stephen (Acts 22:20). There may have been countless others that he dragged from foreign cities and brought back to Jerusalem to face beatings, flogging, imprisonment, and death because of their faith in Jesus Christ. And in spite of all his sin, God chose him anyway.
Peter, who in his arrogance proclaimed, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny you!” (Matt. 26:35), did deny the Lord, and in his shame slid into the shadows from fear while Christ suffered alone. Yet God used Peter. And as low as Peter may have viewed himself because of his public failure, Paul viewed himself even lower. He was “less than the least of all the saints,” including Peter.
But the point is not the unworthiness of Paul, but how full of grace and mercy is God to call someone as undeserving as Paul and to use him as mightily as He did. For me, this gives me great encouragement. Why? Because my sins are also great, as I’m sure yours are. And, like Paul, I have failed the Lord many times, as may also be the case with you. And I have consistently proven myself unworthy to receive His grace and mercy and His special calling in my life, yet nonetheless, God still chooses to use me. Just like He still chooses to use you, no matter the depth of your sin and shame. It’s almost like He takes the throwaways and rejects of the world, the Goodwill and Value Village kind of items, and turns them into something sold at Oscar de la Renta, or Georgio Armani, or Lanvin, in New York City. And God does this for no other reason than it brings Him glory.
Please understand, these words from Paul are not an exercise in faint humility. He doesn’t call himself “less than the least,” so we will say, “No Paul, you’re wonderful!” – like many do when they post a selfie on Facebook, hoping somebody will tell them how pretty they are. No, Paul had a clear and accurate understanding of who he was in contrast to the holiness of Christ. That’s why we find in Scripture when the holiness of God confronts someone; their natural reaction is to fall flat on the ground, facedown, repeatedly uttering how unclean they are and how righteous God is. We see this scene played out before us in the life of Isaiah, Peter, and with the angels in heaven who cry out their unworthiness to open the scroll (Rev. 5:9).
We would do as well, in our age of self-exaltation, serial self-promotion, and “look how important and pretty I am” narcissism, to have a clear understanding of our value as creations and His infinite worth as the exalted Creator. We must always remember God did not choose us because we’re good. Nor did He choose us because we’re better than anyone else. He also did not choose us because we somehow deserved it more than others. He chose us solely because of His grace and mercy, which He chose, to our great wonder, to lavish on us (1 John 3:1).
When we get just a glimpse of the holiness of God compared to who we are, pride, arrogance, and our independent apathy quickly fade away. And we should be filled with nothing but sheer gratitude and heart-felt adoration to the One Who would choose “less than the least of the saints” to proclaim the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).
There is nothing this life can offer to surpass what we already have in Him.
Time to Pray
Pride was the original sin and the downfall of Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-15), and the consequences of pride drove Adam and Eve from the Paradise of God (Gen. 3:24). Pride is nothing more than an exalted view of our own value and worth, and it’s one of the few things the Lord calls an abomination (Prov. 16:5). When you pray, ask the Lord to remove every hint or stain of pride in your life and to bring you to the point of true humility, gratitude, thanksgiving, and obedience for the mercy and grace freely bestowed on you (Eph. 1:6). And as you approach God, remember you are “less than the least” of all the saints, yet God has chosen, redeemed, forgiven, and blessed you with the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).
Father, thank You for choosing me in spite of my unworthiness, sin, and rebellion. Thank You for still choosing me today, even though I have failed You many times because of my pride. You are good and glorious and full of grace and mercy. I can’t thank You enough for taking someone as sinful as I am and allowing me into Your Presence to have a relationship with Your Son. I am overwhelmed by the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, Who chooses to live within my frail, fallen, sinful body. Yet, in spite of all my failures, You have sanctified me by His presence, and I am now a sanctuary, a dwelling place of the Spirit of God.
Lord, would You let me live like what You created me to be? And would You fill my heart with gratitude for the privilege of being able to not only experience but preach and proclaim the “unsearchable riches” found in Christ? In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.