A Gospel Minister
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A Gospel Minister

From Series: Grace and Peace, Volume 3

Ephesians 3:7-8  (ID: 3190)

In Ephesians 3, Paul established his identity as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, explaining to his readers that this was not a role he chose for himself, but one to which he had been called by the grace of God. Paul exercised humility in response to God’s grace toward him, but also understood that his responsibility to preach Christ came with authority given by God Himself. Alistair Begg reminds us that God’s calling is directly related to His plan, and God equips His people for ministry with the grace that He provides.


Sermon Transcript:

Ephesians 3:7:

“Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 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, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through … faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.”

Amen.

Father, as we turn to the Bible now, we earnestly seek your help to speak truly and properly, to listen actively and humbly, to welcome your Word to us, in order that we might be brought to living faith and secure trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Well, I heard on the radio that October is Pastor Appreciation Month. So I have been very appreciative of my pastors—my colleagues on the pastoral team, to whom I owe an indebtedness; and indeed, as I’ve been thinking about it, hearing of it, it made me recall the fact that even as a small boy, I think I appreciated my pastors. Now, the first pastor I remember, his name was John. He seemed to me to be very tall, had huge big hands. There again, that might be because I was very small and had tiny little hands. But I loved him, and I liked to shake hands with him every Sunday, if I could. He was replaced by a man called Stanley Collins, and I loved him too. He was English—but that was okay. And I still appreciated him. Then there was George, who used to cry in his own sermons. I used to cry in them too, but not for the same reasons. And then there was Jim, another Scot, who died just a few months ago, and whose memory I revere, and who taught me tons of stuff. And then there was Derek, a small giant who continues to pastor me from a distance.

So we are grateful, aren’t we, for the unique ministry that God gives to individuals? And especially given the fact that the whole notion of pastoral ministry and the idea of being a minister and so on is pretty well disregarded in contemporary America. I mean, one of the questions that one is almost inevitably confronted with in just public discourse is, “What is it, exactly, you do?” And it’s usually asked like that. It not an inquiry as much as it is a challenge. “You must be one of those people that only works one day a week, aren’t you?” “Yeah, that would be me. Yes, I do. That’s what I do.”

And it’s not only outside the church, but it’s inside the church too. A long time ago, I had a member of this particular church take me out to lunch to help me understand what it is I was supposed to be doing. And surely, I needed all the help, and still do. But anyway, in the course of that, he let me know that he was “capable of standing behind a box and talking” just as I do. So I remember saying, “Do you think that that’s what it is to teach the Bible, that you stand behind a box and talk?” He said, “Yeah, I do.” I’m not gonna tell you who it was. He’s not here still, but he has changed his mind. And the reason is, I let him stand behind a box, and he tried talking. And he wasn’t that good at it. And he discovered the difference between being entrusted with the ministry of the gospel and simply standing up and talking.

Now, I begin in this way this morning not for any other reason than Paul is identifying himself very clearly as a minister of the gospel. That’s what he says here. “Of this gospel,” verse 7, “I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.” When I have to fill something out on a form and it says “Job description,” I always write “minister of the gospel,” so that people would say, “Well, what is the gospel?” Rather than, you know, “senior minister of Parkside Church.” That doesn’t do much. No, I am a minister of the gospel, and so are my colleagues. And Paul has been explaining to the Ephesians—as we saw last time, particularly in the evening—that the mystery that has been entrusted to him, in verse 6, “is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body … partakers of the promise.” Equal heirs, equal members, equal partakers of the promise that has come in Jesus. And they have come to this awareness, he says, “through the gospel.” The mystery has been revealed to him, and this ministry has been entrusted to him. So you have this juxtaposition between this great mystery which he has been privileged to understand and convey, and now this ministry that he is exercising.

And he identifies himself very clearly as a minister. The word is diakonos, which means “servant.” He is a servant of the gospel. He is a servant of the Word of God, if you like. He undertakes a task which he has had assigned to him. And in doing so, he helps us understand a number of things. And I want to try and gather the thoughts under just three simple words: first of all, identity, and then humility, and then responsibility.

Paul’s Identity

Identity, first of all, in that he identifies himself so very clearly. He is proclaiming the gospel.

Now, we need to be sure that we understand what we’re saying when we say “the gospel.” The gospel is not a story about what you’re supposed to do to try and make yourself a Christian. We haven’t explained the gospel to anybody when we’ve said to them, “You know, you need to believe the gospel,” or, “You know, it’s a real problem if you don’t believe the gospel.” No, we must explain to them what the gospel is: that it is the message of salvation through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, conveying divine power to save all those who believe. The story of the gospel is that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world [to] himself.”[1] And the appeal of the gospel is to men and women to receive the reconciliation provided for them in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. And this is Paul’s message, and it was as a servant of this message that he was made a minister.

Now, I want you to notice that he says, “I was made a minister.” So he didn’t make himself a minister. No man makes himself a minister. He can give himself a title, he can do a number of things that may be ministerial in their performance, but that doesn’t mean that he has been appointed by God. And Paul is not in this position as a result of his own ingenuity. He is serving in this way by divine initiative.

This is not an unusual statement by Paul. When he begins his letters, he often identifies himself very clearly in this way, nowhere more so than as he opens Romans. I’ll just quote the first verse for you: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” “A servant of … Jesus, called to be an apostle,” and “set apart for the gospel of God.”

Now, the verb that he uses—and it comes three times in the space of these eight verses—is the verb to give. If you notice in verse 2: “assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me.” It was “given to me.” He received it. He didn’t seize it. He didn’t grab it. He didn’t wrest it to himself. In verse 7: “the gift of God’s grace, which was”—here we go again—“given me by the working of his power.” We go down into verse 8: “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given.”

So, having identified himself as a prisoner for Jesus Christ and as a steward of God’s grace, he is now depending upon God’s grace and, in turn, ministering God’s grace. In fact, it is vitally important that we recognize this: that the cycle, if you like, of things is that here is Saul of Tarsus, who knows nothing of God’s grace. He becomes the beneficiary of his grace. Now having received his grace, now that he has understood who Jesus is and why he’s come, he recognizes that God has set him apart to the responsibility of now conveying this same story of grace to those who are still as he was: “without hope and without God in the world.”[2]

Paul was absolutely convinced that he was what he was by the grace of God. In fact, he says that on occasion, doesn’t he? And if you think about it, it makes perfect sense, because left to himself, he would have continued to be a self-satisfied Pharisee. Because that’s what he was. He had a very good background and good training. He was a religious man. But he also tells us that he was a persecutor of the Christians and he was a blasphemer. He actually had heard about Jesus and his preaching; otherwise, I don’t think he would have been so vociferous in trying to shut the story down. If he had heard about Jesus, he had actually heard from Stephen. He had heard Stephen preach. He had heard Stephen preach on the day that the jackets and coats were laid at the feet of Saul for the stoning of Stephen as he becomes the first Christian martyr.[3]

And having heard about Jesus and having heard from Stephen, it didn’t mean a thing to him. In fact, it did mean something to him. It wasn’t simply that he wouldn’t receive the message that was conveyed. He reviled the idea of it, didn’t he? He was opposed to it! It’s not as if somehow or another he had a predisposition to become a follower of Jesus, that he had a kind of… You know, that’s what some of my friends often say: “Well, I suppose if you have that predisposition, you know—if you’ve got a problem or you’re at the end of your broken dreams, you know—then maybe there’s a reason why you would need a Jesus. But not like me,” they say. “I mean, after all, I’m an intelligent individual. I’ve got a good background. I have a good job. I understand how things work. I don’t need any of this stuff.” Uh-huh!

So how does Paul get from that position to “I am a servant of the gospel”? The answer is in his phraseology. “As a result,” he says, “I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.” Now, back in 1:19, he has already mentioned this “immeasurable greatness of his power.” He says, “[You are coming to know] the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead.”[4] In other words, he says, “The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power that was put to work in my life to bring me from my animosity, from my blasphemy, from my persecution, and from my hatred.” And he says, “It is quite incredible that this grace was given to me.”

The minister of the gospel is not self-appointed. The role of pastor and teacher is not something we choose for ourselves; it is something to which we are called by God.

Now, we recognize that he had received this mystery by way of revelation. There’s a uniqueness to his situation, in that he is an apostle. But with that said, he provides for us in this a pattern of gospel ministry, at least in this respect: that the minister of the gospel is not self-appointed. The role of pastor and teacher is not something we choose for ourselves; it is something to which we are called by God—called in such a way that, ultimately, we can’t do anything other than do what it is we’re called to do. You don’t want as your pastor somebody who says, “Well, I thought I might be a doctor, and then I considered law, and then I was going to go into engineering, but I just decided that the church was probably a pretty good option for me.” You probably don’t want to have much to do with him.

No, what you want is somebody who says, “I would have been perfectly happy if I could have continued here, if I’d done that, if I’d gone there, but God laid hold upon me, arrested me, brought me to such a deep-seated conviction, and when I shared it with those who knew me, although they were at first surprised, they recognized, in the context of the local church, the rightness of what was happening, and therefore, that sense of internal call to ministry was ratified by the external affirmation and approbation of those who looked on me.” And that is what we do in ordination. That’s why it is a sobering and a solemn thing.

Funnily enough, interestingly, last Sunday was the fortieth anniversary of my ordination to the Christian ministry. A Sunday morning in Edinburgh. I wore a clerical collar. Because my pastor told me, “If you’re gonna wear a clerical collar ever—which you’re gonna need to, ’cause you look so young no one’ll believe you’re a minister—you better wear it on Sunday morning. ’Cause if you don’t wear it when you’re ordained, you probably never will.” It was very good advice on his part.

Well, I went out and I bought one of these wretched things. And I took it back to my apartment—it was a Saturday afternoon—and I tried it on. And I looked at myself in the mirror. And I didn’t go, “Oh, this is good.” And just while I was wondering what it was, my wife and one of my sisters came back from shopping. And I turned around to greet them in the hallway, and they just fell about laughing. They just could not control themselves. They thought it was like a Saturday Night Live sketch. Which didn’t help me any better, ’cause I was already scared.

And I tell you without word of a lie that when I stood up in that pulpit on that Sunday morning in October of ’76, I would have felt no more vulnerable if I had stood there stark naked than when I stood there. And when those guys laid their hands on me and shut me up to this task, I knew, “This is my deal. This is my life. I don’t know what it means. I don’t know where it goes. I don’t know what happens next.” And I could have dissolved in tears instantly and run for my life quickly.

What is this amazing thing that God does, setting apart to the ministry of the gospel? This is the one thing I did not want to be, all of my life. Sorry to be so personal in my things, but it just comes to mind. I mean, I used to have ministers—I’ve told you before—who would come to my house on Sunday for lunch. And I would have to sit beside them on the couch while my mother was getting the lunch. And these old guys—I mean, younger than I am now—but these old guys would sit beside me and say, “Aye, sonny! Maybe one day you’ll be a minister!” Scared me half to death! Apart from their breath! Just the whole deal. No! Whoo! God forbid!

Now I am one of those guys, sittin’ next to the young guys, going, “Maybe you’ll be a minister.”

Paul’s Humility

Identity. Secondly, humility. Humility. Paul was overwhelmed by the wonder of God’s dealings with him. “To me,” he says, “I’m the very least of all the saints, and this grace was given.” Paul all the way through his writings continues to marvel that the Son of God loved him and gave himself for him.[5] He’s humbled by the fact that God saved him, that God called him, that God had given to him all these gifts and resources that were necessary to fulfill the purposes that God had for him.

He never tires of this. He explains again and again to those who are prepared to read his letters—to Timothy, particularly, who’s under his tutelage and to whom he’s going to pass the baton of faith. He reminds Timothy very, very clearly. He says, “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service. I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, an insolent opponent. I received mercy and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me. The saying is trustworthy, deserves full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—notice what he says next—“of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost sinner, as the worst of the pile, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”[6] You may be here this morning, you say, “I can tell you right now that there is no more unlikely person in this congregation than me”—that’s what you’re saying to yourself—“that will ever come to trust this Jesus stuff.” Well, you’d be right up there with the apostle Paul, perhaps. And he “display[ed] his perfect patience,” so that in and through the ministry of Paul, others would believe for eternal life.

Paul would gladly have joined in singing so many of our songs, not least of all the one that has about twelve verses and begins,

O how the grace of God amazes me!
It loosed me from my [chains] and set me free!
What made it happen so?
His own will, this much I know,
[And] set me, as now I [know], at liberty.[7]

The thing I love about Paul here is that he recognizes he was not an obvious choice. It’s interesting, because previously he was really good at the résumé stuff, wasn’t he? I mean, when he writes in Philippians, he says, “You know, well, thinking back on it, I had a really good upbringing. I was a Hebrew of the Hebrews. I was a student of Gamaliel. I graduated from the right schools and everything else. But now,” he says, “I am actually the least likely, and I am the least of the apostles.” And actually, he’s trying to scramble language in such a way as to say, “I am at the bottom of the pile. I am less than the least.”[8] “I’m unworthy,” he says in 1 Corinthians, “even to be called an apostle.”[9]

Now, this is not Uriah Heep.[10] This is not some kind of formalized self-deprecation. This is not him trying to redress the balance. This is Paul. This is what he actually came to believe, because the grace of God had so showered upon him and flowed through him that he realized that the thing that he had to say to people was not who he was or what his background was but who Jesus was and who Jesus is. In fact, John Stott has a wonderful little section in his commentary where he says he wonders whether Paul is actually deliberately making a play on his name. Because his Roman name, Paulus, is Latin for “little” or for “small,” and historical tradition believes that Paul was a wee man, a little man. And so Stott says maybe he’s saying, “I am little … little by name, little in stature, and … spiritually littler than the littlest of all the Christians.”[11]

So, “to me.” “To me.” You see, it’s not “TO ME!” It’s “to me?” Isn’t it interesting when you can take two words, and the way in which the intonation comes and the way in which they’re expressed, they can mean entirely different things? Surely, he’s saying, “To me? The grace of God was given to me? I hated Jesus. I didn’t believe in Jesus. I didn’t want anything to do with Jesus. To me?” Humility.

Of all the horrible bits of pride, spiritual pride is the worst. Because anything that we have is a gift.

There’s nothing worse than arrogant Christians, supercilious Christians. Of all the horrible bits of pride, spiritual pride is the worst. Because anything that we have is a gift. So whatever it is, it wasn’t us! So then we would act like it was? The very faith that we have is the gift of God.

Paul’s Responsibility

His identity as a minister of the Word, his humility as a servant of the Lord, and then, finally, his responsibility in the proclamation of this truth. What was it that he was to do? Well, he understood his audience was to be the gentiles. He was the chosen instrument of God to bear his name before the gentiles. That in itself, as I said last time, is just quite amazing, that God would choose someone who hated gentiles to be the one to go to the gentiles and to proclaim God’s love for them and to them. You know, you might think that he would choose somebody who was… you know, had a natural affinity with the gentiles, sort of easy to get alongside. No! He says, “I’m gonna take you. You hate gentiles, don’t you?” “Yeah, I do. Absolutely.” “Good. I’m gonna make you the apostle to the gentiles.”

But you see, that’s the way God works. And God comes down into time not on a chariot or in a palace or in a great university of learning but to a stable, to a backwater province in the Middle East, to a no-name place, to an unusual couple—to bear his name before shepherds and disreputables. That’s why those of us who are still on our résumé values find ourselves recoiling from this gospel of Jesus Christ. No, we want a gospel that says, “Now, you’re nice people, and this gospel is for you in your niceness.” That’s not the story of the gospel. The story of the gospel is that God comes to save sinners. And that when his grace shines into our lives, it shows us our need of him.

So, his audience was the gentile, and his message, in a word, was Christ. Christ. He uses the phrase here “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” But he was there to say, “Christianity is Christ.” The real test of somebody’s pastoral ministry—and I suggest you can hold this out wherever you travel and start it here—the big question you want to ask of the person who has the privilege of opening up the Bible is, “Does he proclaim Christ? Does he proclaim Christ? Does he press Christ upon me? Does he seek to convince me of the sufficiency and fullness of the work of Jesus? Does he, as Paul did, seek to know nothing save Jesus Christ and him crucified?[12] Is he concerned, as Paul was concerned for the Corinthians, that my faith might rest not in the wisdom of men but in the power of God?”[13] So he does not try, then, to convince people of how clever he is, or how wise he is, or how much he knows about this and that and the next thing, because he knows that the very wisdom of God is actually “foolishness to those who are perishing.”[14] And the only way that the wise man of the world will ever become the servant of Jesus Christ is when God by the Holy Spirit opens his or her eyes to the reality of who he is and of his need of Christ. Then everything is changed. That’s the question: “Does this man preach Christ?”

And when you do seek to fulfill the role of pastor—I speak personally now to you—you will find that people have all kinds of ideas for you about what you should be preaching, and when you should be preaching it, and why you should be preaching it, and so on. That’s fine. It goes with the territory. People that’re writing to me at the moment—from the radio, particularly; not, I think, out of the congregation—and they want me to pretty well just take on the whole political spectrum of America right now. And they would like me—in fact, I had an impassioned letter the other day, saying, “Pretty well shut down what you’re doing, and spend the next five weeks doing what is absolutely necessary!”

The pastor’s role is to preach Christ. To preach Christ and always Christ. Christ in all of his unsearchable riches.

So, tomorrow morning, if you hear our radio program, you will know that I haven’t paid a bit of attention to that exhortation. Because I do not have a political mandate. My mandate is Christ. My responsibility is to preach Christ. Why would I be so arrogant as to think that I understand the way everything works? I don’t know any better than most of you do—and you don’t know. So why would you want to listen to me talk along those lines? It’s not my job. I have a view. I’m not gonna tell you what it is. I have a view. And I’m not here to tell you about ethics. I’m not here to give you ethical talks. Paul didn’t give ethical talks. He knew there were ethical implications to the gospel of Jesus Christ. But the Jews were full of ethics. They were full of morality. The philosophers were full of ethics: “You must do this, you mustn’t do that, you must do the next thing.” That’s not the role of the pastor. The pastor’s role is to preach Christ. To preach Christ and always Christ. Christ in all of his riches. Christ in all of his unsearchable riches.

You see, part of the challenge in being a teacher of the Bible is that you don’t give people what they want, but you have to give them what they need. You’re like a doctor, and you’ve got a prescription, and it’s written down. And they need this prescription. But they don’t like the idea of the prescription. But they need the prescription; you’re the physician. You know what they need.

“But that’s not what I want. I wanted ice cream.”

“You’re gonna have to have this.”

“Oh, but it would be much nicer… Why couldn’t you be an ice cream salesman? Why couldn’t you be a nice guy? Why couldn’t you smile all the time, like Joel Osteen? He’s so nice. Don’t you realize, you could have twenty-four thousand people if you would just take a leaf out of the guy’s book? And you keep the same stuff—on and on and on again!”

Well, read your Bibles. See, what I need this morning is the great symphony of praise with which Paul begins Ephesians. To be reminded that the Father “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”[15] Well, there’s something to chew on! I haven’t been feeling so good lately, I was disappointed about this and that, but here’s something I do know for sure: that I’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, that I’ve been adopted into the family of God, that I’ve been redeemed through his blood, I have the forgiveness of my trespasses, and he has lavished upon me all his wisdom and all of his insight.[16] Look at all of this stuff! This is all my stuff! This is who I am. This is what I need to know.

See, people come and say, “I need to know how to be a better husband.” We’ll get to that. “I need to know how to be this, how to be that. You didn’t tell me what to do.” What do you want me to do? Give you a list of ten things all the time? You don’t need to know what to do. You need to know the unsearchable riches of Christ. And when that begins to be become the predominating thought in our hearts and our minds, then the other things flow from that. They’re not irrelevant. Ethics matters. Politics matter. All of these things matter. But Paul was concerned to make sure that when the Corinthians reflected upon him, when the Ephesians thought about him, they would say the same thing: “You know, he was crucicentric. He was back at the cross again and again. He loved to say, ‘Oh, Jesus and the cross.’ And he loved to tell us about all that is ours in Jesus.”

Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption

With this I will finish: “So that no human being might boast in the presence of God,” he says, “God has chosen the low and the despised, the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are. And because of him, you are in Christ Jesus.”[17] Remember the whole question: Paul would not say, “Are you a Christian?” He would say, “Are you in Christ Jesus?” “And because you are in Christ Jesus, you realize that he became to us”—then he says four things— “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.”[18] I’ll leave you to ponder it on your own, with just a comment or two.

Wisdom from God. Wisdom from God. You may be here with morning, and the reason you’ve come is because included in your quest to make sense of your existence has been this notion of church, the Bible; maybe a friend has invited you. And you don’t know where you’re from, you don’t know why you’re here, you don’t know where you’re going. You don’t know if there is a loving God, you don’t know if that loving God can be known in any way, and you’re in search of these things. What do you need? You need wisdom. Where is this wisdom? In Christ. In Christ. You see, it is as a result of the wisdom which is ours in Christ that we can actually stand back from the political arena and rest in his grace.

He is not only wisdom to us but also righteousness. Righteousness. “Well,” you say, “I’m not a very righteous person. I’m a sinful person. I’m afraid to approach God.” I have people around me in the community here; I invite them to church with great regularity. And one lady in particular, she always says the same thing: “The roof will fall in on everybody’s head if I come there!” Now, I take it that she must think somehow or another she has to be cleaned up before she can be Christian. And the fact is, she needs to become a Christian in order that she might be cleaned up. No, you see, this righteousness in Jesus is a “righteousness from God,” Paul says in Romans 3, “through faith in Jesus … to all who believe.”[19] If you will believe on the Lord Jesus today, your sins will be forgiven, you will be clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and you will be able to stand faultless in his presence.

Not only righteousness but sanctification. What does that mean? “Well,” people say, “well, I might be able to get the Christian thing started, but I don’t think I could possibly keep it going.” Well, the answer is that he who begins it will keep it going, that he will conform you to the image of Christ.

And also, redemption. We ended our service, I think—or sang—last Sunday night,

And when I face my final day,
You will not leave me in the grave,
For I will rise;
You will call me home.
The Lord is my salvation.[20]

He redeems our life from the pit. He crowns us with steadfast love and tender mercy.[21] And Paul says, “I am a servant of this gospel, I’m humbled by the privilege entrusted to me, I’m clear about my audience, and I want to be equally clear in proclaiming the unsearchable, illimitable, infinite riches of Christ.”

Wesley wrote great hymns, none better than the hymn that contains the lines—with this I close:

Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
More than all in thee I find:
[You] raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
Heal the sick, … lead the blind:
Just and holy is thy name,
I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am;
Thou art full of truth and grace.

And then the stanza that follows it is even better, but I won’t quote it. It begins, “Plenteous grace with thee is found, grace to cover all my sin.”[22] All my sin. All my sin. Do you know of any other place? Do you know of any other person to whom you may go who is able to deal entirely with you in that way?

Father, we thank you that we come to you in the middle of our increasingly fractured and broken culture. And we come to you to have our hearts and minds renewed by the truth of your Word, so that we will not become ugly Pharisees, talking down to people, but rather that we might with Paul say, “I’m at the bottom of the pile when it comes to these things, but Jesus is so gracious and so good.”

Lord, help us to find our identity in Christ as servants of your Word. Grant that our humility might be found at the foot of the cross of Christ. Forgive us our pride. And remind us again of the responsibility to go out, and not to talk about ourselves or our ventures or our achievements but to basically say to people, “You know, all I really have is Christ. I didn’t use to, but I do now.”

Hear us, O God, as we come to you. Help us as we sing our final song, as we go out into the day that lies ahead. For Christ’s sake we ask it. Amen.


[1] 2 Corinthians 5:19 (KJV).

[2] Ephesians 2:12 (NIV).

[3] See Acts 7:1–60.

[4] Ephesians 1:18–20 (ESV).

[5] See Galatians 2:20.

[6] 1 Timothy 1:12–16 (paraphrased).

[7] Emmanuel T. Sibomana, “Oh, How the Grace of God Amazes Me” (1946).

[8] Philippians 3:4–9 (paraphrased).

[9] 1 Corinthians 15:9 (paraphrased).

[10] See Charles Dickens, David Copperfield.

[11] John Stott, The Message of Ephesians, Bible Speaks Today (1979; repr., Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity, 1986), 119.

[12] See 1 Corinthians 2:2.

[13] See 1 Corinthians 2:5.

[14] 1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV).

[15] Ephesians 1:3 (ESV).

[16] See Ephesians 1:3–8.

[17] 1 Corinthians 1:28–30 (paraphrased).

[18] 1 Corinthians 1:30 (paraphrased).

[19] Romans 3:22 (NIV 1984).

[20] Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, Nathan Nockels, and Jonas Myrin, “The Lord Is My Salvation” (2016). Lyrics lightly altered.

[21] See Psalm 103:4.

[22] Charles Wesley, “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” (1740). Lyrics lightly altered.

Copyright © 2020, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.