This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
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 … (verses 6-8)
Before he ever met Jesus, Paul (then known as Saul), was a man filled with pride. He was proud of being a Pharisee, proud of his commitment to keeping the law, proud of his legalistic righteousness. Above all he took pride in his own status as an Israelite, being part of a nation which had received God’s revelation, together with the covenants, the law, the temple worship, and the promises. This pride stood firmly rooted in a strong conviction that all who were outside the circle – those who were not part of God’s covenant community – stood soundly condemned.
In other words, Paul exulted in the clear advantage he, as a Jew, had over Gentiles.
How about you? Have you ever taken pride in spiritual advantage, so delighting in what you yourself have received that it causes you to look down with contempt on others?
That’s where Paul (Saul) found himself. Proudly self-content. What a surprise, then, that he now revels in exactly the opposite. His own privilege has been overturned – flattened out. Not that any of the gifts received by the Jews have been diminished, but rather that the Gentiles themselves have now received equal blessing.
What a surprise to find Paul rejoicing. “The Gentiles are heirs together with Israel,” he says, “members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” This mystery was kept long hidden but has now been dramatically revealed. As Paul declares it, you can sense his own joy and excitement. Why? Human nature would have clutched to advantage. But Paul rejoices in letting it go. What’s the explanation?
Paul himself gives it. “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.” Of course – it’s all of grace. Grace caused Jesus to enter our experience. Grace took him to the cross. Grace paid the price for sin. Grace rescued Saul on the Damascus Road. Grace turned his world upside down. And grace made him a joyful servant of the gospel “to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
Not only grace, but also power. It was “through the working of his power” that the Lord released grace in Paul’s life to joyously, with passion and determination, share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the very ones who had previously been outside the circle. What power. What grace.
The Lord did it all in Paul’s life. He can do it for us, also. His power and grace are continually at work. Rescuing us, far beyond our own abilities. Turning us around to view things differently. When our own pride gets in the way of seeing God’s larger purposes, he can set us right. When our perspectives are darkened so that we marginalize “the little, the least, the last, and the lost,” the Lord can give us a heart that rejoices in their rescue and inclusion.
May we yield to his power. May we embrace his grace.
Father, thank you that by grace you made me a sharer together in the promise in Christ Jesus. Give me eyes to see the full extent of your grace, drawing people of all backgrounds and ethnicities, the privileged and the unprivileged, into the circle of your family. As I have received, so let me give. For Jesus’ name’s sake. Amen.
Reflect: To what individuals or groups do you have most difficulty extending the Lord’s grace? Confess. Pray. Ask for his power. Choose to extend his grace.