Devotion from Pastor Steve

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Listen to Ephesians here

Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. Ephesians 3:8

“Get over it.” That is the advice we sometimes receive when we have not moved on past something someone else thinks we ought to have already let go. Sometimes that is good advice. But, there are some things I hope we never get over.

There was something the Apostle Paul never got over. We catch a bit of his humility here in Ephesians 3:8. My translation reads, “I am less than the least” of all God’s people. In Greek he changed a superlative “least or smallest” and turned it into a comparative “leaster” and made a grammatically wrong, but theologically right move.

So what? Why did he do that, and what does it mean?

The name “Paul” came from the Latin surname “Paulus” which means “little” or “small.” Paul was reported to be a small man. He was little by name. He was little in stature. He implies here that he was morally and spiritually little. And yet Paul was chosen to be an apostle. Twice (3:1; 4:1) he used the Apostolic “I” — minimizing himself while maximizing his office.

In other words Paul saw a disparity between what he earned on merits and what Jesus gave to him. In short, Paul saw that his calling was by grace alone, and he never lost sight of the grace of that calling. He never ceased to be astonished by the wonder that God loved and trusted him. Paul persecuted the church and, by God’s grace alone, he became her instrument. (see Galatians 1:13 and Philippians 3:5–6). He had blasphemed Jesus, killed Christian people, tried to destroy the church, and yet he was forgiven and entrusted with the Gospel. Paul never got over God’s grace.

If we ever cease to be astonished by grace; if we ever miss that “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15); if we ever stop being surprised that, given who I am — who you are — we are forgiven; if we ever forget that the One who knows us best, loves us most, then we lose the wonder of the mystery.

I wonder if Saul decided he needed a name change? I wonder if he sensed “I am the least of all” and decided to give himself a name change — to “Little.” I will be called Little. So that every time a church wrote him or a disciple called out his name he would remember “I am very little — compared to the grace of God.”

You know, there is something very freeing about seeing ourselves in the context of grace. Something liberating about saying with John the Baptist, “I must decrease, He must increase.” That perspective shifts the focus from our performance to God’s acceptance.

Maybe all of us ought to change our names to “Paulus.” One thing is for sure: when you are little, you don’t get over it.