Paul’s role as a foundational piece of the church was to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery (Eph 3:8-9). He says:
So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 3:10, 11)
Do you want to see the wisdom of God on display? Look at the New Testament church. Look how God has brought together people who otherwise have no reason to be together. He has changed the individuals. He has united them in love and peace. It’s so extraordinary that God turns to the angels, the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places, and says, “Look at the church. See my wisdom. They represent my eternal purpose in Christ.”
What, then, is the primary function of the church? In short, we are here to glorify God. The church is not an end in itself but a means to an end. The real end is God’s glory. Everything God has done from before the foundation of the world until now has been to express his glory.
So what is our takeaway from this passage? “In whom,” Paul says, “we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory” (Eph 3:12, 13).
Through faith, we have direct and personal access to those unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph 3:8). Go back and read Ephesians 1 again. Do you realize who you are? Do you realize what you have in Christ? You’re not a Gentile. You’re not a Jew. You’re a child of God. You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph 2:19). As such, everything that belongs to Christ belongs to you.
In the end, Paul reminds us that we don’t have a good reason to lose heart. I know that’s easier said than done, but think about the man who is saying this to us. This request doesn’t come from a megachurch pastor who lives comfortably off of the royalties of his bestselling books. No, the man who wrote these words was left for dead. He was beaten and imprisoned for his faith.
You and I are probably too comfortable for our own good. I’m not suggesting that we look for trouble or seek martyrdom, but let’s be honest with ourselves. I’m not sure that I can begin to understand what Christians have suffered in the past or in other parts of the world. The worst persecution I’ve ever faced has been a few scathing emails. The worst of my suffering has been an occasional migraine.
Let me give you something to think about. It’s not a matter of whether you suffer in this life; more importantly, it’s how to respond to suffering. Not only can trials refine you and increase your faith, but a godly response to them can be a benefit to others. Paul’s suffering strengthened believers. It caused the conversion of others. His example of boldness in the face of adversity changed them. Your boldness can do the same.