Pray: That God may open his Word to us by the power of His Spirit. That he we may gain in knowledge, that we grow in the love of Jesus and share this joy with those around us.
Read: Ephesians 3:11-13
All through the beginning of this letter the apostle Paul has been revealing a truth. He has been explaining in detail what the Gospel is. We were dead in our trespasses but are made alive in Jesus. We are saved, not by our works, but by grace through faith. Following this, Paul shares his own story. He has been tasked with proclaiming this Gospel to the Gentiles, thereby unifying the body of Christ across all peoples. In verse 11 he ends his story and challenges his readers, essentially saying, “Now it’s your turn!”
Before he gives the details of their orders (see Chapter 4), he addresses a situation that appears to be troubling them. You see Paul is writing this letter from prison (see 3:1). The fact that their leader and friend is locked away is something that is discouraging to them. Think of the last time you had a friend close to you that was suffering. What was your initial reaction?
One reaction I sometimes have is to give the afflicted friend a side hug and say something like, “I’m so sorry” perhaps adding “I’ll be praying for you” without even stopping to pray with them. This response is defensive, it's a way of not getting too close. The second type of reaction usually happens when the person afflicted isn’t present. We might say to the friend telling us about it something like, “Wow, that sure is hard” while secretly thinking “Glad it isn’t me” or even worse, “he sure had it coming.” Proverbs 24:17 says not to “gloat when your enemy falls.” What do you think Paul’s critics are thinking when they heard this letter? “Told you he needed to be more cautious.” Either response is discouraging to our hearts for they deny both the power of the gospel and create barriers between ourselves and the afflicted.
Paul, however, is seeing beyond his circumstances and theirs. He states it isn’t just for God’s glory that he suffers, but for the glory of God’s people. Extolling them, he warns his friends not to be timid and unsure but confident in what they are as “members of the same body”, and “partners of the promise in Christ Jesus”. He has reminded them that both he and they are carrying the mystery that is being made known to the “rulers and authorities in the heavens.” God is in control, but he also hasn’t left us to passively watch and be discouraged, he has equipped us to act and speak. We have the best news in the universe. We have the Gospel.
1) What is the source of boldness and confidence that Paul speaks of? What is that boldness meant for?
2) In what ways has the suffering of others affected your life? How does the gospel offer healing for you and others?
3) When we are the ones suffering, in what ways can we encourage others for their own glory in Christ?
Memorize: Ephesians 3:12-13
12 “In Him we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. 13 So then I ask you not to be discouraged over my afflictions on your behalf, for they are your glory.”