The apostle Paul was ever aware of how unworthy he was to preach the gospel. In Ephesians 3:8 he said, “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.”
His was a world in which half of all people scraped along to make ends meet, and the other half strove for power and great wealth. Some would say things haven’t changed very much today. At one time, Paul was an accomplished Jewish Pharisee, respected for his strength and zeal and his opposition to the early church. He would not have been unfamiliar with wealth and power. But all that changed when he met Jesus.
In Paul’s estimation, he went from greatness to the very least of all saints. His pride of power and place no longer existed. He now lived to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. But God gave him the valuable and ironic role of preaching to the Gentiles, no longer the Jews.
But it was the substance of what he taught them that was so stunning: “the unfathomable riches of Christ.” They are riches that are so deep and complex that no man can ever wear them out or fully learn them all. They were mysteries that had been “hidden in God for ages,” but now revealed. Paul was given the work of preaching such marvels about Christ to people who had never heard them before.
Most of us live basic lives without much wealth to enjoy or power to wield. We wonder if society has passed us by. But Paul reminds us in Ephesians 3:8 that we have been given unfathomable riches that open up to us more and more every day, and will be fully revealed in the next life. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom.8:18).
Like Paul, we are certainly unworthy of such profound things.
– Tim Johnson
CS Lewis, the famous British author and broadcaster of the 1950’s, once called Psalm 19 “the greatest poem in the Psalms and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.” In it, David declares that nature reveals only partial answers about God, but His word reveals the rest. He said that God’s judgments in His word “are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold” (v10).
I did a little research about the desirability of gold. The largest owners of gold bullion in the world are governments. This is because gold has traditionally served as a source of security when there are upheavals in the world. In the 1960’s, Canada used to own about 1000 tonnes of the stuff, but has since sold off most of it. The Royal Canadian Mint has created quite an impressive business designing and manufacturing gold coins for the world’s governments. The United States has 8,133 tonnes, worth roughly $300 billion dollars. The top ten gold-owning nations in the world store about $804 billion! Apparently, that’s only about 15% of all the gold ever mined to date, which includes the ring on your finger.
David, being the greatest Old Testament Israelite king, must have owned quite a bit of gold. But he considered the word of God and its wisdom to be more desirable than owning large quantities of it. That’s a marvelous comparison that rings true in our materialistic country. It’s far better to learn God’s word than it is to have a pile of gold! The latter might be impressive, but the former will bless your life and give you great happiness and salvation. David, in verses 7-11, actually gives us eight blessings that the word of God can give us. Have a look, and marvel at what he says.
Oh yes, CS Lewis was right.
– Tim Johnson
Promises don’t impress us these days. Politicians all over North America seem to be promising all sorts of things. One says they’ll get the deficit under control in a few years, another says they’ll have the economy booming in a few more, and yet another says he will build an impossibly long wall between countries. We’ve witnessed so many failed promises, we are skeptical of new ones.
People getting married promise to love and care for each other for the rest of their lives, yet almost 50% of all marriages fail. What happened to their promises? Sadly, people make them about as often as they break them.
God tells us in Galatians 3:22 that all men are saved through a promise of God. “But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” In verse 29 he said, “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” While salvation is by faith, it is described as a “promise” in this chapter because we must have faith when a promise is given. In this case our faith is well founded, for who is more reliable than God? Abraham trusted God to fulfil his promise, and that is what we must do as well.
What does this teach us about our own promises? If we trust God to fulfil His, shouldn’t we have the character to also do what we say we will? In this same book, faithfulness is listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit (5:22). We are to be faithful to fulfil promises. People should feel they can trust us. “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbour, for we are members one of another.” (Eph.4:25)
Promises, promises. Are you making good on yours?
– Tim Johnson
One December many years ago, a stranger pulled up to our house with a package. He asked my mother to give it to me, which she did. Upon opening it I was overjoyed – it was a shiny new Kodak Brownie camera. (You know – those old boxy things with the big flash attachment on the side). It was a very expensive gift for a child to receive. You see, I’d met the man a few weeks before on one of my frequent visits to the dentist. He was a fellow patient waiting his turn, and he asked me what I wanted for Christmas. Having never owned one, I told him I’d like a camera. The memory of his generosity has been a great example to me over the years.
There are many things one could point out from this story, but I’ll mention only two. I didn’t deserve this stranger’s gift. I hadn’t ever done anything nice for him; in fact I still don’t know who he was. But he did the work to go and buy the camera, then figure out where we lived so he could deliver it. God says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (NRSV).
A second thought: responsibility. There is no doubt the man expected me to look after his gift, appreciate it, and not be selfish with it. My parents didn’t have a camera at the time, so we shared its use for many years. God expects us to be responsible with His gift of salvation, to live in a worthy way, and to share it.
There’s something special about a Kodak moment. But what God did for you is enormously better.
– Tim Johnson
The world values good leadership. Without it armies falter, companies go bankrupt, the economy sours, and whole countries weaken. We’ve seen all of these things happen lately in the world. When wise leadership does not exist, people long for someone to provide guidance.
Jesus Christ is described with an interesting term in Heb.2:10 – “The captain of our salvation” (KJV). More modern versions translate the word as “author” or “leader.” It’s used a second time in Heb.12:2, where he calls Jesus the “author and perfecter of faith.” We’re told in that verse to keep our eyes on Him, for He is our leader. Continue reading