7 “Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 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 3:7–8 (ESV)
The Apostle Paul continues his extended parenthesis, prior to his prayer on behalf of the Ephesians, in today’s text. He referred to himself as a minister of the gospel in vs. 7. This ministry, the apostle made clear, was a sovereign gift and responsibility given to him from God alone on the basis of God’s grace alone.
Such a responsibility could have resulted in Paul being filled with pride and a huge ego. After all, his perspective on his pre-converted self-righteousness was certainly lacking in humility (Philippians 3:1-9). I wonder how many of us elevate ourselves in the ministries and responsibilities we have in the church.
However, the apostle called himself the very least of all the saints. The phrase very least (ἐλάχιστος; elachistos) means the lowest, the least important, and to be insignificant. It refers to an individual of low status (Matt. 2:6; 5:19b; 25:40, 45; 1 Cor. 15:9; Eph. 3:8+). Paul’s view of his own insignificance is not with respect to the world, but rather with respect to the church and among the saints. One of the greatest apostles of the living God viewed himself as the least of all God’s people (1 Cor. 6:2; 2 Cor. 13:12; Philip. 4:22; Rev. 18:20+; Rev. 22:21) within the church of the living God.
Paul understood that any responsibility God gave him was based upon God’s sovereign grace. The apostle identified his primary mission was to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Compare the progression of Paul’s self-description from I Corinthians 15:9 to Ephesians 3:8 to I Timothy 1:15-16. In each text, Paul stresses his own unworthiness and God’s excessive grace. But the contrast between these two truths grows more stark from the earliest of these self-descriptions to the latest.”
How would you describe yourself and your status and ministry within the church? Do you love to receive accolades and awards named in your honor? Or do you view yourself as the least of all within the church and want all the praise to go to God and His grace? May all of us carefully consider these questions.
Soli deo Gloria!