Having spoken about the Gospel and its reach (vv.1-6) Paul now expands and says that, simply, he is just a small part of a much bigger plan.
He says that he was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace (v.7) and that he feels like he is the least worthy of all to receive such a commission (v.8). Given Paul’s history with the church and with believers (Galatians 1.13, for example) it is no surprise that he felt this way. Grace is surely amazing.
Paul goes on to lay out for the Ephesians the bigger picture goal of his commission:
“…to enlighten everyone about God’s secret plan — the mystery that has been hidden for ages in God who has created all things. The purpose of this enlightenment is that through the church the multifaceted wisdom of God should now be disclosed to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly realms. This was according to the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access to God by way of Christ’s faithfulness.”
(Ephesians 3.9-12, NET)
Rather than seeing himself as central and indispensable to the plan, Paul knows that he is simply a small part of a much bigger movement. How we wish that ministers now would see themselves in the same way!
Because Paul is so secure in his role in God’s plan he is able to say to the Ephesians not to lose heart because of what I am suffering for you (v.13). When we put ourselves at the centre of our own worlds the desire to control each and every outcome grows exponentially. Paul would surely have broken down had he been trying to control his own circumstances (read about him in Acts for example). However, being anchored to someone greater and more in control brings a wonderful sense of freedom in what we are doing and how we are doing it.