Having mentioned his imprisonment resulting from his Gentile outreach (Eph. 3:1), Paul speaks of “the stewardship of God’s grace” the Lord entrusted to him for ministering to the nations in Ephesians 3:2. As we saw last month, many liberal scholars do not believe Paul actually wrote Ephesians, and today’s passage is one text cited to prove their argument. Verse 2, they contend, indicates a lack of familiarity with his audience, which would be strange for an apostle who had a personal relationship with the congregation (Acts 19:1–10). This argument fails, however, as it had been years since Paul was at Ephesus when he wrote this letter, and many in that city would have joined the church in his absence, never having met him. Since Ephesians was probably a circular letter for many churches, it also makes sense that Paul refers to himself a bit impersonally, for the readers outside of Ephesus would not have enjoyed personal familiarity with the apostle. Moreover, we should not think that Paul’s understanding of his ministry was static; it may be that in his absence from Ephesus, the apostle came to a fuller understanding of his role in God’s redemptive plan, which he explains in Ephesians 3:1–13.
“The stewardship of God’s grace” — the ministry the Lord entrusted to Paul — was not solely for his benefit but for the good of the Gentile nations (v. 2). Our Father did not grant the apostle an important role in the proclamation of the gospel for his own sake but that he might bless others. Similarly, the Lord does not entrust us with gifts and ministries simply for our own good but that we might serve others and contribute to their growth in grace (Matt. 25:14–30; 1 Cor. 12:12–31).
That Paul’s stewardship was one of grace highlights his desperate need for grace to sustain him in Christian service. The same holds true for us. In ourselves we can do nothing, but in Christ Jesus we can accomplish any task He gives us (Phil. 4:13). This includes the difficult task of loving our enemies, which all Christians must do, even in the most testing circumstances (Matt. 5:43–44). We may never endure jail time for loving our enemies enough to share the gospel with them as Paul did, but it can still be hard to serve those who mock us or hate us for loving Christ Jesus. Relying on the Lord’s grace, however, we can fulfill this high calling.