Ephesians 3:7-9

Don Fortner




In these verses we have one of Paul’s many descriptions of the work of the ministry. The Holy Spirit has given these descriptions to the church, so that the saints of God might have a proper attitude toward those who are called to the work of the gospel. We should have a high and sober attitude toward the ministry of the gospel. It is my desire to magnify my office before men, both in my preaching and my conduct. So I make no apology for publishing such an article as this. I pray that it may be used of God for the benefit of His church.  There is no greater work in the church, or in the world, than that of preaching the gospel. It is an awesome thing to stand before men as God’s spokesman. Each time a man stands in the pulpit, it is his responsibility to proclaim the Eternal Truths of Divine Revelation. He must speak to the immortal souls of men, as one who must give account to God. To me, there is nothing on earth more important or pressing than my preparation for my next sermon. Yet, it is the unspeakable joy of God’s servants to proclaim to men the unsearchable riches of God’s grace, with boldness and power. The work of the ministry is great. It requires all of a man, and more. It is too great for a mere man. Truly, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels.” Daily we are constrained to cry, Who is sufficient for these things?” It is well for both those in the pew and those in the pulpit to be often reminded of the magnitude of this work.  The history of God’s church is written around the men who have occupied her pulpits. When the pulpit has been strong, the church has been powerful. When the pulpit is dry, dead, and weak, the church is cold, lifeless, and powerless. The greatest blessing that God can give to any town, community, or church is a minister who boldly, and plainly, declares the gospel in its purity. And the greatest curse that God can place upon any group of men is to silence His messengers. Mark what I say, the greatest famine that can come to any land is a famine of preaching. The church can prosper and grow without her fine buildings, her beautiful music, her organized Sunday Schools, and her many programs. But if a church does not have a man to proclaim the gospel under the anointing of God, she has nothing.

The doctrine of our text is clear – Every True Gospel Minister Is Made A Minister By The Gifts And Power Of God, For The Glory Of Christ And The Salvation Of Sinners.

  I. The first thing that I want you to see is this. As God’s minister, Paul was under God’s authority.

Brethren, if there is anything that this generation needs to learn about the ministry it is that God alone makes a minister, and God’s ministers are under divine authority. “I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power.” Eph. 3:7 Gospel ministers are made by God alone. No man can make himself a minister. No Bible college or seminary can make a minister. No church or ordination cousel can make a minister. Men are made ministers by the gift of the grace of God.  There was nothing in Paul that qualified him for the work of the ministry by nature. Thought he was a blasphemer and persecutor, there was nothing in his past that could disqualify him for the ministry. And, though no man is qualified for the ministry by nature, there is nothing in a man’s past life that forbids him from the ministry. Paul makes it plain that he was gifted by God for the work of the gospel. So, too, is every true gospel minister.  A very great part of the call to the ministry is the gifts for the ministry.  John Gill said, “He is a true minister of the gospel who is called of God to the work of the ministry, and is qualified by Him with grace and gifts for it; and who faithfully discharges it according to the ability God has given.” God gives His servants a desire for the ministry. He gives them, not only a desire to preach, but a desire to serve the souls of men. All who are called to preach, are given understanding in the Scriptures. But understanding is not enough. God also gives those whom he calls the ability to clearly explain and communicate the truths of the gospel. And if a man is called to the work of the gospel, he is given the ability to lead men, so that he can take the oversight of God’s flock.

The Apostle Paul was not only gifted to preach, but he was qualified to be God’s minister, by the power and will of God.

Paul was, himself, a man converted by the power of God. This is of first importance. Before a man can preach to others, he must be a child of God himself. Carnal security is never so firm as it is in the ministry! J.C. Ryle was right when he said, “Nothing is so dangerous to the soul of man as a barren familiarity with the things of God!” Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit. He was bold and fearless before men. He was a man given to the study of the Scriptures. Paul was a man of untiring labor, fervency in prayer, and fulness in love. He made great personal sacrifices for the glory of Christ. Paul was a man who was in love with Christ; his heart was set upon heaven. Oh that God would give us to be such men!

The true gospel minister is a servant under the authority of God. If a man is God’s servant, he is aware that his commission is from heaven. God’s servants are not sent to be social workers. They are not sent to be counselors. They are not sent to be politicians. The servant of God is sent as the messenger of Christ to men in this world. God alone determines the place of his service. He seeks his message from God. And he declared that message with boldness, because he realizes that he must give account to God. As the servant of God, the gospel minister serves the interest of Christ’s kingdom, for the glory of Christ. And, as the servant of God, a minister is made the ruler of Christ’s church. Heb.  13:7, 17. He is not the lord of God’s heritage. But his place is one of authority. A minister must rule in the church as a man in his house. He must rule with gentleness and patience. II Tim. 2:24-26. He must rule by the Word of God; but he must rule firmly and boldly. I Tim.. 3:4-5.

  II. Secondly, I want to show you the example that Paul gives to all ministers concerning their attitude toward the ministry. As God’s minister, Paul was endowed with a gracious attitude. (Verse 8)

I am fully persuaded that, in great measure, the success or failure of a man’s ministry will depend on his attitude toward the work. This verse shows us several things about Paul’s attitude. When I consider what Paul says here, it is no marvel to me that this man was so greatly used of God for the glory of Christ.

Our text shows us that Paul thought very little of himself. “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given.” Was Paul really less than the least of all saints? I am persuaded that what Paul gives us here is his own truthful estimation of himself. He was not guilty of false modesty. When he looked at himself from certain aspects, Paul felt that he was less than the least of all saints. Paul felt his shortcomings keenly; and he singles them out with a modest eye. Paul was as holy as the holiest upon the earth; but among the humble, he was the humblest. The longer he walked with Christ, the lower were his estimates of himself. Someone has pointed out that Paul’s growth was like this: When he was young in the ministry, he said, “I am less than the least of all the Apostles.” Later he wrote, “I am less than the least of all saints.” And just before he was exalted to glory, he said, “I am the chief of sinners.” Children of God, let us seek greater views of Christ, so that we may have lower estimates of ourselves.

This verse also shows us that Paul thought very much of his brethren. These two things usually go together – a low opinion of self and a high opinion of others.  Paul was not unrealistic. He saw many weaknesses in the saints, and he boldly rebuked them. Yet, he saw that all were God’s saints that were in Christ, and in that he saw perfection. The church of Jesus Christ, with all her spots and wrinkles, is the fairest society upon the earth. She is lovely in the eyes of Christ, and she ought to be in our own as well. Paul was very loving in his attitude toward his congregation. He counted it great grace that he was permitted to preach among the Gentiles. Read the first chapter of Romans and you will see how debached and depraved the Gentiles had become. But Paul was sent to labor among them, and he preferred them to any other congregation. I like to see Christian ministers follow Paul’s example, falling in love with the place of their calling. “I never knew a man,” said Spurgeon, “succeed among a people unless he preferred them to all others as the objects of his care. When ministers despise their congregations, their congregations will very likely despise them, and then usefulness is out of the question. When a man thinks himself above his work the probability is that he is in the clouds altogether, or stands in the way of some practical worker of a more commonplace kind, who would do the work he is despising.” Such is the heart of God’s minister. God weds a man to his congregation, and he weds his congregation to him.  The next thing that is obvious from this verse is that Paul thought very highly of his work. “Unto me who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given, that I should preach.” Paul looked upon his ministry as a great gift from God, and honor bestowed, a favor granted. The greatest title he ever took for himself was, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ.” Here he lifts up his hands in grateful amazement that so great an honor should be bestowed on him. The apostle Paul had a very clear understanding of what his work was – “that I should preach.” He kept to his work, preaching everywhere the gospel of Christ. This, my friends, is the work of the ministry today. Paul calls the ministry a grace.  It was a grace given to enrich his own soul. Paul realized the seriousness, the weight, and the magnitude of his work, and he rejoiced in it.  Here is Paul’s crowning attitude toward his ministry – he had the highest possible thoughts of his subject. “That I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” The unsearchable riches of Christ was his one and only theme. All that he had to say was contained in that one word – Christ.  All that he aimed at was to glorify Christ. And he did not feel restricted by this one subject. Paul realized that in Christ there are riches unsearchable.  Therefore, he declared the riches of Christ’s Person, the riches of His Covenant, the riches of His Incarnation, the riches of His Life, the riches of His Substitutionary Death, the riches of His Glorious Resurrection, the riches o ‘ f His Intercession, the riches of His Sovereign Lordship, the riches of His Second Coming, and the riches of His Purchased Inheritance.

  III. Briefly, I want to show you that – as God’s minister, Paul was motivated by a glorious ambition.

Paul had one glorious, all-absorbing desire. He wanted to make Christ known unto all men. “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things byjesus Christ.” (Verse 9)

Paul wanted to declare to all men the mysteries of the gospel. The gospel is a mystery hidden in types and shadows under the law, but now it is revealed byjesus Christ. Yet, it is still a mystery to the natural man. It is so much beyond reason and understanding of men that it can only be received by faith. It is this mystery which Paul longed to make known unto men the mystery of Eternal Election, Substitutionary Redemption, Complete justification, and Everlasting Union with Christ. And it is this mystery which God continues to use to conquer the hearts of sinners.

Paul wanted to glorify Christ in the eyes of all men. He desired for all men to know that God has made all things by Christ. By the gospel, he testified continually that “salvation is of the Lord.” “It is true that both the first creation, when God made all things out of nothing, and the new creation, whereby sinners are made new creatures, are of God by Christ.” (Matthew Henry) Brethren, let this ambition fire our souls, to make all men know the glory of Christ by the gospel. Let David’s dying prayer be ours while we live. “Blessed by His glorious name forever: and let the whole earth be filled with His glory.” May it please God to revive His ministers with a desire to make Christ known.  May those days soon come when men will once again say, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringcth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation: that saith unto Zion Thy God reigneth.”



Don Fortner, Pastor

Grace Baptist Church

Danville, Ky.