Ephesians 3:13-20 Part 1: The Call is Worth the Cost
- July 31, 2017
- Jared Odenbeck
This is part one of a series on Ephesians 3:13-20
Extraordinary miracles marked Paul’s time in Ephesus (Acts 19). The Gospel went out and many received Christ and the Holy Spirit in mighty ways, including healings and experiences with dark arts and the demonic, which brought about repentance, and “the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled” (Acts 19:17) (Genesis 50:20). He taught in the synagogue there, but the Jews met him with such fierce opposition that he departed and began to teach in the hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9). Yet, in all of these things, “the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily” (Acts 19:20).
When he was with the elders of the church, he said, “The Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:23-24).
So, the Ephesians witnessed and experienced the glory and greatness of God firsthand through Paul’s missionary efforts. A few years removed from his last visit there, Paul writes to the Ephesians from prison in Rome. He zealously encourages the Ephesians to press on to full maturity in the faith in the midst of their hesitance that stemmed from the extent of his suffering.
In this context, Paul pleads with the Ephesians “to not lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory” (Ephesians 3:13). Understandably, sorrow overcomes the church when they see his circumstances. Imprisonment. Torture. Hunger. Pain. Many become disheartened when they weigh the cost of following Jesus like Paul (Acts 20:23) and find themselves unable to walk in full obedience as they fear a similar lot.
Yet, Paul claims that his suffering is the Ephesians’ glory. It is easy to see from elsewhere in Scripture (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) that our own suffering is for our own glory, with the prime example being Christ himself, but this is a markedly different means of glory. How then is Paul’s suffering for their glory?
Suffering magnifies both the glory of God and the future glory of his saints, and makes room for the Lord to equip and uphold those who love him with spiritual strength in the inner being. In this sense, suffering and glory usher in the need for strength and the means by which believers experience and receive it.
In Romans 8:18-19, Paul writes, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” Paul suffered and continues to suffer in prison for the sake of the church in Ephesus and the hope of their salvation and completion in the Lord. If they have salvation, Paul knows that they too will be revealed in glory as sons and daughters of God. This is how his suffering equates to their glory. Paul suffers so that they might walk in their rightful inheritance for eternity. This should motivate and change the way we look at evangelizing and ministry. It is worth it at any cost.
Paul continues on, explaining that it is “For this reason…” that he “bow[s]…before the Father” (Ephesians 3:14). He prays for them earnestly because he asks them to not lose heart over what he is suffering for them and the sake of the Gospel. Paul understands their concerns and he recognizes that they cannot do it on their own. His suffering paves the way for their glory and realizations of their utter dependence on the Lord. They need additional strength. We all need this strength. We need strength to stop sinning. We need strength to see people how Jesus does. We need strength to obey the Great Commission. We need strength just to pray and to believe in this Jesus!
In the next installment of this series, we will cover this strengthening and related questions, such as how, where, and why we are strengthened.