One of the important truths coming out of our study in Ephesians 4 is that ministry is a gift. When God includes us in His work and entrusts us with a particular way of serving others, we should receive that as a gift from Him.
We saw this yesterday in Ephesians 3, where Paul wrote, “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” (Ephesians 3:8). The grace given to him was the ministry of preaching to the Gentiles.
This same language appears in several other passages as well. Consider the following:
But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:15-16
On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.Galatians 2:7-9
Perhaps the most startling example is found in 2 Corinthians 8:
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.2 Corinthians 8:1-7
In order to truly understand this passage, we need to know that the word translated as “favour” (in bold above) comes from the very same word that is translated as “grace” elsewhere in the passage.
God gave to the Macedonians the ministry of sacrificial giving. The Macedonians properly understood this ministry opportunity as a gift of grace from God to them, and so begged Paul for the grace of “taking part in the relief of the saints”—i.e. of giving sacrificially.
This passage is particularly relevant after yesterday’s congregational meeting. This past year, we made a decision to hire a new staff member, and as a result we’ve had to increase our budget for 2020. Meeting this budget will require generosity from all of us at EBC.
As we anticipate the ministries which the Lord has set before us as a church, and the opportunities he will give us in 2020, the question before us is, “Will we see this opportunity to give as a ministry, and a gift of grace from the Lord?” As the Lord enables us to have that perspective, it will radically alter our approach to generosity.
Jesus has set ministries before each one of us. Like Ephesians 4:7 says, “Grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” One of those ministries is the grace of generosity. Let’s embrace that ministry together by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit as we look together towards 2020.