Don’t lose heart, suffering brings glory!

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Suffering glory

Sunday 03/17/24

Title: Don’t lose heart, suffering brings glory!

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Don’t lose heart, suffering brings glory!

Well today is Saint Patrick’s day and while there isn’t much connection between that and where we are going in Ephesians there are a few take aways.

Maewyn Succat was born in 385 AD in Roman Britannia which is the modern day town of Dumbarton, Scotland.

He is said to have been a Christian, but that is questionable since by his own admission his Christian roots meant little to him until he was captured by Irish pirates at the age of 16 and forced to tend sheep 200 miles inland from the Irish coast.

6 years later he escaped returning to Scotland. He had become committed to his faith during his slavery and upon returning to his homeland found his heart burdened for the salvation of his former Irish captors. As a result, he returned to Ireland to convert them to Christ.

Even in the face of initial hostilities the ruler of Ireland eventually confessed Christ and the nation began to follow. He traveled the length and breadth of Ireland preaching the gospel and planting churches. As a result Maewyn was eventually termed the “apostle to Ireland”. 

He He said to have died on March 17, 461.

The name he went by in his personal writings was Patrick. Though due to his faith in Christ he is in fact a saint, in his autobiography he refers to himself as a sinner. 

In the 17 century it was noted by an English traveler that the Irish would wear ribbons on their persons in Patrick’s honor on his celebrated day. Though they were admittedly of many colors, the shamrock being associated with Saint Patrick by legend as his means of illustrating the Trinity, and so green became associated with both the man and the day.  

Later still in 1798, the Roman Catholic church came to be associated with the color green while the orange was associated with Protestantism – after William of Orange, the Protestant king. 

So if a Christian wants to celebrate Saint Patrick’s day, it might be advisable to wear orange with a neon green shamrock so as to provoke questions which could open the door for the gospel of Jesus Christ in honor of our Lord and the actual Saint Patrick.

Perhaps the best way to remember Patrick is “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” which has been attributed to him. 

Interestingly enough the word breastplate is a translation of the Latin word lorica, which is a prayer mostly offered to God for protection. These prayers would be written out and at times placed on shields of soldiers and knights as they went out to battle.

The lorica attributed to St. Patrick is referred to as Saint Patrick’s Breastplate and points to Jesus Himself Who he preached to his former captor.

It reads like this…

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Of course the one we are especially connected with in our study of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian saint’s in “IN CHRIST”, which is the uncontested theme of his communication to this church.

So let’s turn to chapter 3 of this letter, remembering that the last thing Paul emphasized at the end of chapter 2 was that the Jews and Gentiles were now part of ONE BODY and ONE TEMPLE and that they were BEING BUILT TOGETHER into a dwelling place for God in the Spirit.

Ephesians 3:1-21,

“(1) FOR THIS REASON I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles  (2)  if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,  (3)  that by revelation the mystery was made known to me, as I wrote before briefly.  

(4)  When reading this, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ  (5)  (which was not disclosed to people in former generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit),  

(6)  NAMELY, THAT through the gospel the Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus.

(7)  I became a servant of this gospel according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the exercise of His power.  

(8)  To me – less than the least of all the saints – this grace was given, to proclaim to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ  (9)  AND to enlighten everyone about God’s secret plan – the mystery that has been hidden for ages in God who has created all things.  

(10)  THE PURPOSE OF THIS ENLIGHTENMENT is that through the church the multifaceted wisdom of God should now be disclosed to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly realms.  

(11)  This was according to the eternal purpose that He accomplished IN CHRIST Jesus our Lord,  (12)  IN WHOM we have boldness and confident access to God by way of Christ’s faithfulness.”

Now this is an important point. Many translations say, “by faith IN CHRIST” and while that is both A solid gospel truth and is another nice way to use our key phrase, it is possibly not what Paul meant here.

A summary of the NOTES on this verse from the New English translation says this:

A decision is difficult here. Though traditionally translated “faith in Jesus Christ,” an increasing number of NT scholars are arguing that the phraseπίστις Χριστοῦ(pistis Christou) and similar phrases in Paul’s writingsinvolve a subjective genitive and mean “Christ’s faith” or “Christ’s faithfulness”.

Though Paul elsewhere teaches justification by faith, this presupposes that the object of our faith (Christ Himself) is reliable and worthy of such faith. 

So while we KNOW ABSOLUTELY that Paul champions the truth that salvation is by GRACE THROUGH FAITH IN HIM, here Paul at least seems to be placing the emphasis on Jesus’ faithfulNESS! Meaning that the basis for our boldness and confident access to the Father has its origin in the faithfulness of Christ Jesus Himself – both in His sinless life of perfect obedience to the Father and His fidelity to the Father’s plan of reconciling the world to Himself through Jesus

“(13)  For this reason I ask you not to lose heart because of what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.”

I believe that this is a concept which is difficult for the modern church to understand. That the Ephesian Gentiles and in fact the Gentiles at large were glorified by means of Paul’s suffering on their behalf.

There is MUCH to this which is sooo deeply rooted in relationship and finds its truth in our true union in Christ. (Also see Col. 1:24)

Paul was writing this letter as well as that to the Colossians, Philippians and the one to Philemon from a Roman prison. Such might have inspired fear in these believers. If Paul, God’s apostle to the Gentiles could be imprisoned facing who knows what – then what did that indicate regarding their own futures due to their affiliation with the Gospel of Christ and Paul himself?

The early church was no stranger to persecution and many departed from the faith due to the threats of life and limb which accompanied a bold faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. So Paul first did not want them to lose heart in that regard. Paul however goes even further with this truth directly associating Glory to the Gentiles due to Paul’s imprisonment as a preacher of this Gospel to the Gentiles.

A few years prior Paul had gone to Jerusalem despite the warnings given him by the Holy Spirit in every city he visited. When he arrived James and the elders of the church in Jerusalem greeted him and warned him that many believing Jews in the city were of the persuasion that Paul was teaching those Jews who were now living among the Gentiles to abandon Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to their Jewish customs. 

So they encouraged him to participate in a ritualistic purification rite along with four other believing Jews to which he consented. 

This was NOT a ritual connected with cleansing one of sin, but merely an external right of purification by water. 

Upon its completion Paul went to the temple to give notice of the completion of the ritual. Upon which a group of pagan Jews incited a riot falsely claiming that Paul had taken Gentiles into the temple complex. 

This event precipitated years of imprisonment for Paul, the later portion of which was a house arrest in Rome during which he wrote this letter.

So in a very real way, it was due to Paul’s call to preach Messiah to the Gentiles that he was eventually imprisoned. 

Now I will explain how this is connected with their glory in a moment.

Before that however I felt it necessary to give you a little history lesson which has direct implication to this glory for the Gentiles.

We need to understand that Paul was a human being who did not know everything the moment he turned to Jesus, but his understanding and maturity was accomplished in him over time as it is with us all.

While many believe Paul’s letter to the Galatians was not long following his ministry there around 47AD I personally believe it was written alongside this letter to the Ephesians or even later.

The reason it is at least a little important to tack down a general time period for the writing of a letter is to clarify the development and clarification of New Covenant doctrine.

You remember that it wasn’t until Paul visited Antioch that the Council in Jerusalem took place where they established that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised or participate in any Jewish rituals for salvation. To get these events reversed could cause all kinds of confusion.

Many believe Galatians to be written earlier because it does not mention the council meeting in Jerusalem I just referred to. I however, believe it to be written later because his words regarding the non-necessity of circumcision for ANYONE – Jew or Greek is so strongly stated in Galatians that it had to have developed AFTER this initial trial which didn’t take place until 59AD

To think Paul had already spoken so strongly against the necessity of circumcision and yet, still took actions in Jerusalem which were intended to indicate he supported such rites would be such a strong a contradiction as to be blasphemous against Christ Himself!

So it is that I believe that at the time of his initial imprisonment, Paul was clearly not committed to the idea that Jews did not need to be circumcised or he would have ardently defended that position when this objection among Jewish believers was mentioned. 

Of note also, is that such was not yet the understanding of James or the elders of Jerusalem either. 

These leaders had concluded that the Gentiles need not be circumcised back in about 49AD, but no doctrine had yet been established regarding the non-necessity of circumcision among the Jewish believers. 

This is probably one of many reasons why God did not want Paul going to Jerusalem

Nevertheless God used this misstep to further the gospel and wove it into His overall plan for Paul and his ministry. This should provide considerable comfort to us all in that missteps do not have to graduate into failure in ministry. God can and will still use us!

All of this being said, by the time of the writing of these letters, Paul’s understanding regarding circumcision and the New Covenant grew and this is witnessed in the progressively hostile terms he uses when referring to this Old Covenant practice. 

By the time of the writing of his letter to the Philippians and Galatians it seems to have reached its peak. Consider if you will the way Paul addressed the issue of circumcision in his letter to the Colossians.

Colossians 2:11 & 4:11, “(11) In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,”

“(11) and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me.” 

So here in Colossians Paul still seems to still support a difference between Jews and Gentiles regarding circumcision.

Then in our letter to the Ephesians he says this…

Ephesians 2:11, “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—”

Not mentioning the Jews at all, but only that their circumcision as Gentiles was a spiritual one.

By the time he wrote Galatians he says,

Galatians 5:1-11

“(1) Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.  

(2)  Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.  (3)  And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.  (4)  You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.  

(5)  For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness BY FAITH.”

This time it was not by Jesus’ faithfulness, but by our faith in Him.

“(6)  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.  

(7)  You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?  

(8)  This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you.  

(9)  A little leaven leavens the whole lump.  

(10)  I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.  

(11)  And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased.”

Finally by the time we get to Philippians 3:2-8 he speaks so strongly as to accuse those who advocate and participate in circumcision as breaking the Law of Moses by mutilating their bodies [see Lev. 19:28]!

“(2) Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!  

(3)  For we ARE the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,  

(4)  though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:  

(5)  circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, 

of the tribe of Benjamin, 

a Hebrew of the Hebrews;

 concerning the law, a Pharisee;  (6)  

concerning zeal, persecuting the church; 

concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.  

(7)  But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  

(8)  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”

These are exceedingly strong words especially because Galatian was a region encompassing many churches in which it is quite unreasonable to assume there were no Jews. Yet Paul does not single this claim out as applying to Gentiles only. In fact Paul includes himself in the statement saying, “For WE ARE the circumcision” and that they “have NO confidence in the flesh” then goes on to all but call circumcision rubbish to be forsaken in order to gain Christ!

So this was a progressively realized truth!

Now circling back to his imprisonment due to the hostility of the non-believing Jews against his ministry – Paul claims it to be to their glory!

Peter tells us why in 1Peter 4 when he says,

“(12) Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;  (13)  but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.  

(14)  If you are reproached for the name of Christ, BLESSED ARE YOU, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 

On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.  

(15)  But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.  (16)  Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.  (17)  For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” – 1Peter 4:12-17  

So Christ their Lord and Saviour is glorified in Paul and these Gentiles for the accomplished work of God in Him – that is IN CHRIST and our affiliation WITH HIM. because we are in fact – IN CHRIST!

We are glorified in that the persecution comes due to the enemies of Christ recognizing Christ in us. Christ is Glorified because our devotion to Him and our evaluation of His eternal value causes us to cling to Him all the tighter during persecution. FAR from being ashamed, we are honored due to our affiliation with Him and count it a privilege to suffer for bearing His name and proclaiming the good news of His Kingdom!

So Paul is encouraging these believers to not lose heart, to not grow discouraged from his imprisonment for the Gentiles and his proclaiming their inclusion with the Jews in ONE BODY and TEMPLE to God. And above all – not to forsake Christ in the light of these first blows of persecution against His church.

So far from forsaking Christ due to persecution or growing faint-hearted at the threats of the enemy against God’s kingdom Paul says…

“(14)  FOR THIS REASON I kneel before the Father,  (15)  from Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.  

(16)  I pray that according to the wealth of His glory He will grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner person,  (17)  that Christ will dwell in your hearts THROUGH FAITH, so that, because you have been rooted and grounded in love,  (18)  you will be able to comprehend WITH ALL THE SAINTS what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  (19)  and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you will be filled up to all the fullness of God.  

(20)  Now to Him Who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think,  (21)  to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Now that is a GLORIOUS truth and blessing!

Next week we will crack open chapter 4 which may not seem like much of a Palm Sunday chapter but I assure you it is! And I want you to prepare yourselves.


Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!