Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were in Ephesus. More specifically today’s passage begins with the fourteenth verse of the third chapter and continues through to the sixteenth verse of the fourth chapter. “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and depths, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:14-21).
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father or all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:1-16).
When you come to this particular portion of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which are in Ephesus you will find the apostle Paul beginning this chapter by speaking of his being a prisoner. If you take the time to read the third chapter you will it beginning and opening with the apostle Paul making a tremendous declaration concerning himself. Beginning with the first verse of the third chapter we find the apostle Paul not only declaring that he was a prisoner but also that he was a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. In all reality there is something truly incredible about how the apostle Paul begins and opens this chapter for not only do we learn and understand that he was in prison while writing these words but we also understand that he did not view himself as being a prisoner of man. Although man might have put shackles and chains upon his wrists and ankles and although the apostle Paul might very well have been placed in a physical prison cell the apostle Paul viewed the single greatest authority over and upon his life as not being man but rather the Lord Jesus Christ. Pause for a moment and think about the tremendous amount of strength it would take to be in prison and not merely refer to himself as a prisoner but as prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you take the time to read the words which are found in the third chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Ephesus you will find the apostle Paul speaking of himself as a prisoner—and not only as a prisoner but as a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is that we find the apostle Paul speaking of his being a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ for the Gentiles. There is something truly awesome and powerful about the words which are found in the third chapter of this epistle for the words we find here bring us face to face with the tremendous willingness the apostle Paul was willing to yield himself as an offering for the sake of the Gentiles. As you read the epistles which were written by the apostle Paul you will find a wonderful willingness within his heart to be able to spend and commit his life to and for the sake of the Gentiles. Upon reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul emphatically declaring and speaking that he was willing to endure hardship, affliction, suffering, trials and tribulations for the sake of the Gentiles. What we must needs recognize and understand this is that the apostle Paul viewed his imprisonment as a sacrifice upon which he would offer himself for the sake of the Gentiles. Stop and think about what it would be like for the Gentiles to have encountered the apostle Paul in person as he labored among them for the sake of the gospel and now receive a letter from him while he was sitting in a prison cell. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth for throughout the book of Acts—and not only the book of Acts but also the epistles and writings of the apostle Paul we find his willingness to endure hardship and suffering—both for the sake of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ as well as for the sake of the Gentiles that they might hear the word of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In order to truly recognize and understand the words which are found in the third chapter of this epistle I am convinced you must needs consider the words which the apostle Paul spoke unto the elders of the Ephesian church when he met with them upon the shores of Miletus. If you read the words found in the twentieth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the apostle Paul meeting together with the elders of the Ephesians church knowing that he bound in the spirit to journey unto Jerusalem. What’s more is the apostle Paul not only knew that he was bound in the spirit to go unto Jerusalem but we also know and understand the apostle Paul knew that bonds, chains and afflictions abode him wherever he went. There is something truly remarkable when you think about the words which the apostle Paul spoke for he was a man who lived his life knowing the great things he must suffer for the name of the Lord Jesus—and not only the things he must suffer for the sake of the name of Jesus but also how chains and afflictions abode him in every city. I can’t help but think about the apostle Paul entering cities such as Thessalonica, Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, and the like knowing that the Spirit testified and bore witness that bonds and afflictions abode him. Imagine being the apostle Paul knowing you have been called to minister the name and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ unto the Gentiles but also knowing that suffering, affliction, trials and tribulations abode you in every city you journeyed to.
Having written all of this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the twentieth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts—and not only the words which are found in the twentieth chapter of the book of Acts but also the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the eleventh and twelfth chapters of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. The apostle Paul declared unto the Ephesian elders that chains and afflictions abode him in every city and that he went bound by the Spirit unto the city of Jerusalem while in the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were in Corinth we find the apostle Paul both speaking of the afflictions he experienced for the sake of the gospel as well as his glorying and boasting in them. With this being said I invite you to consider the following words which are found in these three passages of Scripture:
“And we went before to ship, and sailed unto Assos, there intending to take in Paul: for so had he appointed, minding himself to go afoot. And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, came to Mitylene. And we sailed thence, and came the next day over against Chios; and the next day we arrived at Samos, and tarried at Trogyllium; and the next day we came to Miletus. For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Aisa: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost. And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I got bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. I have covered no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:15-36).
“I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little. That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I> Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft, of the Jews five times receive I forty stipes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands” (2 Corinthians 11:16-33).
“It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (Whether in the body or out of the body I cannot tell: God knoweth) how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’ sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).
Having presented you with these passages you will encounter and come face to face with the awesome and incredible truth concerning the tremendous amount of suffering, affliction, trials, troubles and tribulations the apostle Paul was willing to experience. You cannot read the New Testament book of Acts nor the epistles which he wrote and not be confronted directly with the tremendous truth surrounding the willingness within his heart and soul to suffer afflictions, sufferings, oppositions, trials and tribulations for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you turn and direct your attention back to the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the Lord Jesus appearing unto Ananias in the city of Damascus and instructing him to go unto a street called Straight and inquire for one by the name of Saul in the house of one called Judas for he was praying and had seen a vision of one coming and laying hands on him. What is also incredibly unique and powerful about the words which are found in the ninth chapter of this New Testament book is when you consider how the Lord Jesus declared unto Ananias—not only that this man named Saul was His chosen and appointed vessel unto the Gentiles and unto the nations but also that He would show him what great things he must suffer for the sake of His name and for the sake of the gospel. You cannot read the words which are found in the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts and not encounter and come face to face with this for there is something truly awesome and powerful about that which the Lord Jesus spoke unto Ananias. Not only this but I am also convinced that before we can turn our attention back to the third chapter of the epistle written by thee apostle Paul written unto the saints which were in Ephesians we must needs consider the words which he also wrote unto the saints which were at Philippi:
“And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by man of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus the appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that though mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And Immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ” (Acts 9:9-22).
Consider now the words which are found in the third chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Philippi beginning with the first verse of the chapter:
“Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing” (Philippians 3:1-16).
If there is one thing that so amazes me about the apostle Paul it’s that almost as soon as he was converted and began preaching and testifying of the name of the Lord Jesus and that He was indeed the Christ and the Son of the living God he knew what great things he must suffer for the sake of His name. It was revealed unto Ananias how Saul must suffer great things for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ that he might bear and bring witness unto Him among the Gentiles. Imagine being the apostle Paul knowing that you were called as am ambassador for the word and name of the Lord Jesus but how that ministry wherewith you were called was going to be marked with suffering. Consider what it would have been like for the apostle Paul to be a steward and minister for the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ but knowing that as such you were going to suffer great things for the sake of His name and for the sake of His word. You cannot read the New Testament and not encounter the tremendous truth surrounding the apostle Paul and how although there was a great and effectual ministry before him that ministry would indeed be marked with pain and suffering. It is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and understand this for it is one thing to be a faithful minister of the Lord Jesus Christ knowing that your journey is going to be marked with much affliction and pain and suffering. It is something else entirely to commit and devote your life to walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ knowing that your life and your journey might be marred with pain and suffering. There is something about those who believe on the name of the Lord Jesus—and not only believe on the Lord Jesus but also agree to walk with and follow Him knowing that their lives are going to be marked with pain, with much affliction, with suffering, with persecution, with trials and troubles.
Having written this I can’t help but think about the words which are found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. It is in this particular chapter we find the Lord Jesus speaking and revealing unto His twelve disciples whom he was ordaining as apostles concerning the ministry that was before them. With this being said, however, it is important for us to recognize that directly linked and associated with that ministry would be a tremendous amount of suffering and affliction. In fact I would dare say you cannot separate walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ from pain and suffering nor can you separate walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ from affliction, trials and troubles. There would be those who would think that by walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ they can somehow avoid suffering, affliction, pain, trials and troubles and the like. The truth of the matter, however, is that this simply is not the case for those who wish to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus can and will suffer in this life in the flesh. There are far too many men and women who think that walking with and following the Lord Jesus is somehow a get out of suffering free card. In all reality there couldn’t be anything further from the truth for more often than not walking with and following the Lord Jesus includes much pain and suffering. Remember it was the apostle Paul who emphatically declared that we must through many trials and troubles to enter into the kingdom of heaven. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the tenth and sixteenth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth unto the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant be as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:16-33).
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).
“…Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:24-28).
It is absolutely necessary we pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture within the gospel written by the apostle Matthew for Jesus clearly sent forth His disciples as ambassadors for the kingdom preaching the word of the kingdom while healing the sick, raising the dead and casting out devils. With this being said, however, we must needs recognize and understand that although the disciples were sent out as apostles and ambassadors for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ they were not sent out with the wrong idea and wrong expectations. When Jesus sent the disciples out as his ambassadors and apostles he made them very much aware they would be hated of all nations for His name’s sake and that they would be persecuted and even scourged and killed. Stop for a moment and consider the fact that the twelve disciples knew they were called, however, they also knew they would experience suffering, pain, affliction, trials and troubles. There were no qualms nor was there any misinformation given and spoken unto the disciples when Jesus sent them out for they were given the undeniable truth and understanding they would experience suffering in the flesh. Yes it was indeed true they were called to be servants and ambassadors for the kingdom, however, that did not mean they would be exempt and immune from suffering. Jesus sent His twelve disciples out with a calling and ministry whereunto they would move and operate, however, with this being said we must needs recognize that intrinsically linked and connected to this was suffering, affliction, trials, troubles and persecution.
I sit here today thinking about and considering this truth—particularly and especially when reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the third chapter concerning being a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ—and I find myself coming face to face with the tremendous truth that more often than not walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ means that we will walk through pain, affliction, suffering, trials, troubles, and even persecution. Would it shock and surprise you—you who live in the Western world just like I do and enjoy certain freedoms and liberties—to hear and consider that you and I have been spoiled living in this nation? Would it surprise you to hear that we have been spoiled in our walk with the Lord Jesus Christ in that we have been able to worship freely, attend church freely, meet in houses and homes, pray and read the Word of God freely without any threat of persecution or even being put in prison or put to death? Would you find it shocking if I told you that we have been able to walk with and follow Jesus Christ without much by the way and means of suffering and affliction? There are many among us in the Western world who know absolutely nothing of what the apostles and early church faced nor even what our brethren overseas in the Middle East and in certain parts of Asia have faced and continue to face as they walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. We can worship, pray and read the Word of God freely without any fear of being imprisoned, persecuted or even put to death and yet there are brothers and sisters in other countries who face all that simply for being a Christian—let alone praying, worshipping and having a Bible in their possession.
When we read the words which are found in the third chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the Ephesian saints we find the apostle Paul speaking of himself as being a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ for the Gentiles. The apostle Paul would also go on to speak of how they had heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given him toward them that they might understand the mystery of Christ. He would go on to write how in other ages this mystery was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now revealed unto the apostles and prophets by the Spirit—the mystery that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs and of the same body and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel. What makes the words which are found in this passage of Scripture is when you consider how it begins with the apostle Paul speaking of himself as a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ for the Gentiles and eventually transitions to his referring to himself as being made a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. I feel the great and tremendous need to pause here and present a very pointed and powerful question to you who might be reading these words. The question I would like to ask is whether or not you would be willing to be a minister if you knew that being a minister would also in turn mean you would be a prisoner. Would you still continue to worship and serve the Lord if ye knew it would mean that you would be a prisoner in this present world and in the flesh? Would you continue to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus if you knew that it would mean you would completely and utterly lose your freedom and your liberty to walk among men in this culture and society?
The more I think about and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the apostle Paul being called to be a minister unto the word and name of the Lord Jesus but how being a minister would also mean that he would be a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. WHEN MINISTRY LEADS TO IMPRISONMENT! WHEN THE MINISTER BECOMES A PRISONER! THE MINISTER WAS ALSO A PRISONER! I cannot help but think about and consider the tremendous words and language that is found in this passage of Scripture and come face to face with the awesome and powerful truth surrounding the apostle Paul being called to be a minister of the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ, however, directly associated and intrinsically linked to that would be his being a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is that his being a faithful minister of the Lord Jesus Christ would at time mean the forfeiture of the liberties and freedoms he enjoyed in this world and in the flesh. Think about all the freedoms and liberties you have enjoyed throughout the course of your life and whether or not you would be willing to forfeit and do without those liberties for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul was indeed a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ and as such he was not his own nor did he have any control over his life and the trajectory and outcome of it.
I write these words and I am brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the apostle Paul and how although he was a minister for the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ he would indeed be a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. For the apostle Paul being a faithful minister for the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ would indeed mean that he would give up, lay down, forfeit and sacrifice the freedoms and liberties he would enjoy in society. Permit me to ask whether or not you would be willing to lay down and give up the comforts, the freedoms, the liberties and the vast privileges you have enjoyed in this culture, in this society and in this nation—even being one who calls upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. You who desire to be a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ would you be willing to lay aside and forfeit your freedoms and liberties for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh I can’t help but think about how many ministers among us within this nation of ours would grow offended if being a minister of the word and name of the Lord Jesus would also mean being a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. I would dare say there are many ministers in this culture and society who would entirely and altogether grow offended and perhaps even turn their backs on the Lord Jesus if being a minister of the word and name of Jesus meant they would forfeit and give up their freedoms and liberties. Think about how many professing Christians and leaders within our churches lost their minds when the church buildings shut down and men and women could no longer gather together and worship freely as they once had. Think about how many men and women took to the streets of our cities in protest of their freedoms and liberties when church buildings were shut down citing their freedoms and liberties were being violated.
In all reality I would dare say that there are many among us in our culture and society who would and could not survive in the same type of atmosphere as those in the early church did. Those in the early church had to meet from house to house and sometimes even in secret for fear of the Jews and even fear of the Gentiles. Particularly and especially in Rome there were countless Christians who needed to meet underground and in the catacombs for fear of the Romans—and not only fear of the Romans but also imprisonment, torture and even being put to death. I can’t help but think about how many men and women among us throughout the course of last year took to the streets in protest of their liberties and freedoms claiming they were being violated by the government. What we must needs understand is that neither the apostles nor the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ in the days of the early church would have ever taken to the streets of Rome in protest of their liberties and freedoms being forfeited. You would not find a single follower of the Lord Jesus Christ during the days of the early church protesting in the streets of Rome or even in the streets of Roman provinces and territories when churches were being shut down and when they had to meet underground. Not only this but you would not find a single disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ during the days of the early church threatening to take on Rome that their liberties and freedoms might be restored after being violated.
I have to admit that as I watched the events which took place last year I was incredibly shocked—and not merely shocked but also horrified and grieved—when I saw the number of professing Christians, ministers and church leaders who not only took to the streets of the cities but also threatened to take state and local governments to court over church buildings being shut down. If there is one thing the events of last year proved it’s that men and women—particularly in this nation with its freedoms and liberties—could not handle it if they woke up to a world where it was no longer safe to profess the name of Jesus Christ. There is not a doubt in my mind that there are countless men and women in our culture and society who are presently naming the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, however if the protections, the liberties and freedoms they enjoyed were suddenly stripped and removed from them would completely and utterly be offended. Look at how many professing Christians and church leaders were offended over the course of last year and could not handle when church buildings were being shut down. What’s more is consider how many men and women lost their minds and actually thought that church buildings being shut down in the midst of what was being described as a global pandemic were being shut down citing safety and health concerns. Stop and think about the tremendous truth surrounding the events which took place last year and how many professing Christians could not handle church buildings being shut down and viewed it as a violation of their civil liberties.
I am absolutely convinced that what we witnessed and experienced last year was a trial run regarding our civil liberties and freedoms and how easy it would or could be to remove them. You cannot convince. Me that the events which took place last year was not a trial run centering upon how many men and women would willingly give up their liberties and their freedoms simply because the government instructed them to do. Think about how many men and women gave up their liberties and freedoms regarding wearing masks, social distancing, six feet apart, and now the vaccination simply because the government and health officials told them to do so. Think about how many men and women gave up their freedoms and liberties over the past year and a half on account of public safety and health. We would be incredibly native to think even for a moment that what we witnessed last year—and even this year—is not and has not been a trial run for our freedoms and liberties being removed. You thought your liberties and freedoms were potentially violated when you were told to wear masks, when you were told to stand six feet apart and when you were told to shelter in place citing national security. What will you do and how will you respond when your liberties and freedoms and completely and utterly removed and stripped by the government—and not merely citing health reasons but citing the reality of potentially being domestic terrorists. Stop and think about what it would and could be like if you woke up tomorrow and all those who weren’t and haven’t been vaccinated were cited and regarded as domestic terrorists. Right now such a reality is not present in our culture and society, however, we must needs recognize and understand that there might very well come a day when not only those who aren’t vaccinated but also those who profess and name the name of the Lord Jesus Christ are considered to be domestic terrorists. I am absolutely convinced that we are approaching the days when men and women within this nation, culture and society can and will be considered domestic terrorists because they name the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and are His disciples and followers.
In the third chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Ephesus we find the apostle Paul speaking of himself as being a minister and steward for the mystery of the Lord Jesus Christ, however, that ministry would also mean his being a prisoner. If there is one thing I absolutely love about the statement the apostle Paul made in this passage of Scripture it’s that he viewed himself—not as a prisoner of man but as a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is something to be said about those who view themselves as prisoners of the Lord Jesus—not even because they are physical in prison and have chains and shackles upon their wrists and ankles but because they recognize Jesus as sovereign over every area of their lives. In all reality we must needs recognize and understand that being a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ means we are willing to live our lives without any concern for our natural liberties and freedoms. To truly be a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t merely mean we are found in prison behind bars and in a cell but as those who live their lives in complete and utter submission before and unto the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who are truly prisoners of the Lord Jesus Christ recognize that they are not their own and that their lives do not belong to them. For that one who views themselves as a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ they recognize that in this life their freedoms and liberties mean absolutely nothing compared to the freedom they have in Christ. Oh permit me to ask you which matters more to you—the freedoms and liberties you feel you have in this culture and society or the freedom and liberty you have in Christ? Which is of greater worth and value to you—the freedom and liberties the government allegedly gives to you or the freedom that is found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ?
I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth surrounding those who truly recognize and understand that their freedom in Christ is of greater importance than any freedom and liberty they think they possess and have been granted in this world. There are those who would like to think that true freedoms is that which the government provides to you—and not only provides to you but also promises to protect. The truth of the matter, however, is that this simply is not the case for true freedom is not that which is experienced in the natural but that which is experienced in the spiritual and supernatural. With this being said true life is not that which we experience in this life in the physical and natural realm but that which we experience in the spiritual and supernatural realm in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is something worth thinking about and considering regarding this matter for the apostle Paul would go on in this chapter to voice his prayer and intercession for these dearly beloved saints. The apostle Paul declared unto them how he bowed his knees unto the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named that He would grant them according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man. What’s more is the apostle Paul also declared how he prayed for the Ephesian saints that Christ may dwell in their hearts by faith and that they being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge. The apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesian saints that they would be filled with all the fulness of God.
With all of this being said we must needs recognize and understand that the third chapter of this epistle would conclude with the apostle Paul emphatically speaking of Him who was able to do exceeding abundantly above all that they would ask or think according to the power which worked in them. It is absolutely necessary and imperative we pay close attention to the words which are found in the third chapter for within them we find the apostle Paul praying and interceding for the saints which were in Ephesus that they would be strengthened with all might according to the power which is working in them by and through the Lord Jesus. Stop and consider how absolutely tremendous this truly is when you consider how the apostle Paul was in prison at the time of this epistle and how despite the fact he was in prison he would pray and intercede for these dear saints. What we must needs recognize and understand is that there is something about hearing and receiving the gospel of the Lord Jesus in the midst of affliction, in the midst of trials, in the midst of troubles, and in the midst of persecution. There is something about being introduced to Christ—not in comfort or convenience but in pain and affliction. Please note that this isn’t to diminish those who have come to the Lord Jesus Christ in our culture and society within this nation. This is not to diminish those who have made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ in this nation of ours while enjoying the various liberties and freedoms they have been able to enjoy. What I am intending on speaking and declaring unto you is that there is something about coming to the faith of the Lord Jesus in the midst of suffering and affliction and persecution rather than comfort, ease and peace.
One of the great truths surrounding the New Testament book of Acts is that many of the Gentiles in Europe and Asia received and heard the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in much affliction, in much suffering and in much persecution. Whether it was those in Thessalonica, or those in Berea, or those in Corinth, or those in Ephesus, or those in other places they would experience the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in much affliction, suffering and persecution. I have to admit there is something truly wonderful and remarkable about hearing and receiving the word of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in such circumstances for there is something which we can only understand in suffering, in affliction, in persecution, in pain, and in trials and troubles. Many of the Gentiles during the days of the early church heard the word of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in much affliction, in. much suffering, in much opposition and even in persecution of the apostles and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Such a reality would introduce them to a life walking with and following the Lord Jesus as such that would not guarantee or promise their liberties and freedoms in this natural world and life. I am absolutely convinced we must needs recognize and pay attention to this for it calls and draws our attention to how many of us would and could be able to survive if the liberties and freedoms we experience and enjoy in this culture and society were all of a sudden removed and stripped away. I continue to think about and consider how many men and women within our culture and society would be entirely and altogether unable to handle it if their freedoms and liberties were stripped—and not merely regarding their freedom to carry a gun or anything along those lines but rather worshipping and walking with the Lord Jesus Christ freely and openly.
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to draw and call your attention to the words which are found in the fourth chapter of this epistle for the words presented here bring us face to face with the apostle once more speaking of himself as a prisoner of the Lord. Paul who was a prisoner of the Lord besought the Ephesian saints that they walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they were called with all lowliness, with longsuffering as their forbear one another in love. What’s more is the apostle Paul besought them that they would endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace for there was one body, and one Spirit even as they were called in one hope of their calling. The apostle Paul would declare how there was one Lord, on faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is above all, and through all and in them all. We must also recognize the apostle Paul would speak unto the Ephesian saints and declare unto them how every one of us has been given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. The apostle Paul goes on to write and declare how the Lord Jesus Christ gave unto the Church that the saints might be perfected for the work of the ministry and for the edifying of the body of Christ until we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man and unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. This would immediately be followed by the apostle Paul going on to declare that they no longer be children who were tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness but speaking the truth in love may grow up into him in all things which is the head.
THE PERFECTING OF THE SAINTS! THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY! THE EDIFYING OF THE BODY OF CHRIST! COME IN THE UNITY OF THE FAITH! THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SON OF GOD! UNTO A PERFECT MAN! UNTO THE MEASURE OF THE STATURE OF THE FULNESS OF CHRIST! THAT WE BE NO MORE CHILDREN! MAY GROW UP INTO HIM IN ALL THINGS! If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture it’s that the apostle Paul was calling and inviting these saints into a place of maturity in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul was speaking unto these saints that they might grow up and might become mature and that they would no longer be children who were tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine and the sleight of men and cunning craftiness. What we must needs recognize when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture is the apostle Paul inviting the Ephesian saints into a place of deep unity and maturity in the faith in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. If there is one thing we must needs recognize when reading the words found in this epistle it’s that just as the Ephesian saints were being called into maturity and unity in the faith of the Lord Jesus so also have we been called into the unity and maturity of the faith in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. If there are two things we so desperately need in these days it’s unity together with the saints and brethren as well as maturity in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am convinced that the type of church the Lord Jesus is coming back for is indeed a church that is without spot or wrinkle but also a church that is walking in unity and maturity before Him in His presence. The question we must needs recognize and understand is whether or not we are those who are willing to commit ourselves to the unity and maturity that is needed to be the church which the Lord Jesus is not only pleased with but is also coming back for at the appointed time.