Jeremy Sarber

The riches of God’s grace

Can we take just a moment to appreciate what Paul doesn’t say in his letter to the Ephesians? Not once does he even hint that things were not going very well for him, at least not regarding his natural circumstances. By the time he wrote Ephesians, he was a prisoner in Rome.

You may remember that when he left the Ephesian elders in Asia Minor, he was on his way to Jerusalem. While he was in Jerusalem, he was arrested, then transported by Roman soldiers to the city of Rome where he remained in custody for two years. The authorities gave him a form of house arrest as he awaited trial.

But we don’t see a trace of that in his letter. Not once does Paul say, Woe is me. My life is over.” He didn’t experience any of the doubts of John the Baptist who sat in a prison cell wondering whether Jesus was really the Christ. The closest Paul comes to even mentioning his circumstances is found in the last chapter when he says, So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything (Eph 6:21). Tychicus was the man whom Paul designated to deliver his letter to the Ephesian church.

Given his current circumstances, Paul’s tone and demeanor throughout the book are impressive. Not only does he not complain, but he also maintains a remarkably positive, thankful attitude. In fact, the letter begins with what we call a doxology. The first passage is an expression of praise and thanksgiving. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he says (Eph 1:3). In other words, let us praise God. He certainly doesn’t sound like a man who’s waiting for Roman judgment.

If nothing else, Paul’s attitude reveals the extraordinary value of our spiritual blessings in Christ, and that seems to be the prominent theme of his letter. In chapter 1, Paul mentions the riches of God’s grace, which he lavished upon us (Eph 1:7-8). In chapter 3, he describes the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph 3:8).

No matter what you’re going through, no matter what trials you might face, God’s grace is greater than all of life’s obstacles. When the mind comprehends and the heart embraces all that God has done for us and is doing for us, our desire to rejoice outweighs any potential feelings of self-pity. The persecutors of this world can throw us into prison as they did Paul, but they can never take our joy and peace. Even if they put us to death, they cannot rob us of our spiritual blessings in the heavenly places (Eph 1:3).