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, (Ephesians 3:8, NKJV)
What does Paul say about himself
- Paul employs an emphatic comparative and superlative. He says, “I am less than the least of all saints.” What a poor creature is the least saint! Yet St. Paul says, “I am less than that man.”
- To the Philippians he says, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12, NKJV)
- To the Corinthians he wrote, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:9, NKJV)
- The plain truth is that St. Paul saw in his own heart of hearts far more defects and infirmities than he saw in anyone else. The eyes of his understanding were so fully opened by the Holy Spirit of God that he detected a hundred things wrong in himself which the dull eyes of other men never observed at all.
- Paul understood what Peter wrote about: “All of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5–6, NKJV)
- The more real grace men have in their hearts, the deeper is their sense of sin. The more light the Holy Ghost pours into their souls, the more do they discern their own infirmities, defilements, and darkness.
- He who desires to be saved, let him know that the first steps towards heaven are a deep sense of sin and a lowly estimate of ourselves. Let him rather grasp that grand Scriptural principle, that we must begin by feeling “bad”; and that until we really feel “bad” we know nothing of true goodness or saving Christianity. “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’” (Luke 18:13, NKJV)
- The more we have of it [humility], the more Christlike we shall be. “[Christ] who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6–8, NIV)
- In heaven we will cast our crowns before the throne
What St. Paul says about his ministerial office
that I should preach
- He says with simplicity “…this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles…”
- His ministry was not a sacerdotal ministry: a sacrificing priesthood in the Church of Christ. Paul writes, “And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:28, NIV) And also, “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers…” (Ephesians 4:11, NIV) There is no mention of a continued priesthood like in the Old Testament.
- Preaching the Word is important. “…God promised before time began, but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Saviour…” (Titus 1:2–3, NKJV)
- Paul exhorts Timothy, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2, NKJV)
- The office of minister of the Word is Scriptural.
- The office of minister of the Word is a most wise and useful provision of God. For the uninterrupted preaching of the Word and administration of the sacraments, no better plan can be devised than the appointment of a regular order of men who shall give themselves wholly to Christ’s business.
- The office of minister of the Word is an honourable privilege. To serve the Master directly, to carry the message, to know that the results of our work, if God shall bless it, are eternal, this is indeed a privilege. Never forget to make supplications and prayers and intercession for the ministers of Christ – that there never may be wanting a due supply of them at home and in the mission field – that they may be kept sound in the faith and holy in their lives, and that they make take heed to themselves as well as to the doctrine.
- The office of minister of the Word is a painful responsibility. “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.” (Hebrews 13:17, NKJV) If we tell our congregations less than the truth or more than the truth, we may ruin for ever immortal souls. Life and death are in the power of the preacher’s tongue. “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16, NKJV)
- The very man who said “Grace is given me to preach,” is the same man who said, in another place, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.” (2 Thessalonians 3:1–2, NKJV)
What Paul says about the subject of his preaching
that I should preach … the unsearchable riches of Christ…
- He never wasted precious time in exalting a mere rootless morality, in descanting on vague abstractions and empty platitudes – such as “the true,” and “the noble,” and “the earnest,” and “the beautiful,” and “the germs of goodness in human nature,” and the like.
- Jesus and His vicarious death, Jesus and His resurrection, was the keynote of his sermons.
- He never forgot the road to Damascus, the house of Judas in the street called Strait, the visit of good Ananias, the scales falling from his eyes, and his own marvellous passage from death to life.
- From whatever standpoint he beheld Jesus, he saw in Him far more than mind could conceive, or tongue could tell.
- There are unsearchable riches in Christ’s Person: The miraculous union of perfect Man and perfect God in our Lord Jesus Christ is a great mystery: it is a mine of comfort and consolation to all who can rightly regard it. Infinite power and infinite sympathy are met together and combined m our Saviour. As God, He is mighty to save; and as Man, He is exactly suited to be our Head, Representative, and Friend.
- There are unsearchable riches in the work which Christ accomplished for us, when He lived on earth, died, and rose again: the work of atonement for sin, the work of reconciliation, the work of redemption, the work of satisfaction, the work of substitution as “the just for the unjust.”
- There are unsearchable riches in the names and titles which are applied to Christ in the Scriptures: the Lamb of God, the bread of life, the fountain of living waters, the light of the world, the door, the way, the vine, the rock, the corner stone, the Christian’s robe, the Christian’s altar.
- There are unsearchable riches in the characteristic qualities, attributes, dispositions, and intentions of Christ’s mind towards man: In Him there are riches of mercy, love, and compassion; riches of power to cleanse, pardon, forgive, and to save; riches of willingness to receive all who come to Him repenting and believing; riches of ability to change by His Spirit the hardest hearts and worst characters; riches of tender patience to bear with the weakest believer; riches of strength to help His people to the end, notwithstanding every foe without and within; riches of sympathy for all who are cast down and bring their troubles to Him; and last, but not least, riches of glory to reward.
- These riches are unsearchable and will never be exhausted. He is still the Sun of righteousness to all mankind.
- What do you think of yourself? Have you found out that grand foundation-truth that you are a sinner, a guilty sinner in the sight of God? To know God’s unspeakable perfection, and our own immense imperfection – to see our own unspeakable defectiveness and corruption, is the A B C in saving faith. Well would it be for many if they would pray, night and day, this simple prayer – “Lord, show me myself.”
- What do you think of the ministers of Christ? I ask what you think of the faithful minister of Christ, who honestly exposes sin, and pricks your conscience. Ahab hated such a prophet: “… but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.” (1 Kings 22:8, NKJV) The is the best friend who tells you the most truth! It is an evil sign in the Church when Christ’s witnesses are silenced, or persecuted, and men hate him who rebukes.
- What do you think of Christ Himself? Is He great or little in your eyes? Does He come first or second in your estimation? Is He before or behind His Church, His ministers, His sacraments, His ordinances? Where is He in your heart and your mind’s eye? “I have all and abound: I want nothing more. Christ dying for me on the cross – Christ ever interceding for me at God’s right hand – Christ dwelling in my heart by faith – Christ soon coming again to gather me and all His people together to part no more, Christ is enough for me. Having Christ, I have ‘unsearchable riches.’” (Leigh richmond, 1772-1827)