“Word for Today” – Ephesians 3 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

November 2, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Communion 1It seems as though almost every person goes through a season in life where they feel the need to “prove themselves.”  In my case, I have gone through several such seasons.  For instance, when I was a first year student at seminary, studying to become a pastor, I felt the need to prove myself intellectually.  This sometimes meant feigning knowledge about things which I did not understand.

I can remember one evening when I, a lowly first year seminary student, was chatting with some more educated, more insightful, more erudite fourth year seminary students.  They were talking to me about the centrality of the Verba in worship.  What?  You don’t what the Verba is?  That’s okay, neither did I.  But I pretended I did and tried my best to sound intelligent while, in the final analysis, contributing nothing of substance to the conversation because I didn’t even understand what was being talked about.

The Verba is Latin for “words” and refers to the Words of Institution spoken by the pastor when the Lord’s Supper is celebrated.  If I would have been humble enough to admit my own ignorance, perhaps I could have learned something from that conversation that evening rather than walking away confused and bewildered.

Humility, it seems, is a lost virtue on many people.  Sadly, it is regularly replaced by two other sinful dispositions – that of haughtiness on the one hand and self-hatred on the other.  Haughtiness is when a person refuses to admit there is a God, and they’re not it!  A haughty person will not fess up to their mistakes and shortcomings.  Self-hatred, although it may masquerade as humility, is really a refusal to be thankful for life.  Like a haughty person, a self-hating person refuses to admit there is a God who made them “fearfully and wonderfully” (cf. Psalm 139:14).  For both the haughty and the self-hating, humility is sorely needed.

The apostle Paul, in our reading for today from Ephesians 3, models what it means to live a humble life.  On the one hand, Paul certainly does not hate himself.  Indeed, he defends himself against those who would seek to disparage him and his ministry:

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. (verses 2-5)

With these words, Paul claims apostolic authority and “insight into the mystery of Christ.”  He further asks that his words be read by the Ephesians.  This does not mean that Paul asks that his words be scanned personally and silently, but that his words be read aloud publicly in the context of an Ephesian worship service.  Paul, then, seems to have quite a high estimation of his words and authority.  Indeed, elsewhere, he claims that his words are God’s words (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:3), a claim which is defended by the Christian doctrine of the inspiration of all Scripture.  Yet, Paul is no haughty egotist with false messianic delusions.  For his confidence in the grace of God, not in himself, as he says just verses later:

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, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. (verses 8-9)

Paul freely and fully admits that he is the “less than the least of all God’s people,” for he once fiercely persecuted the church, “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1).  Thus, he does not seek to minimize or marginalize his sin.

This, then, is true humility:  To be confident in God and the gifts and authority which he has given you by his grace while also having a sober estimation of yourself and your sin.  Humility is not haughtiness nor is it self-hatred.  Rather, it is seeing yourself as God sees you:  As his imperfect, yet beloved child.  Do you see yourself this way?

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – Ephesians 2 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Ephesians 4 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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