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Description: It is not our knowledge or works that can convince people of God but only his grace as people are moved by His Spirit
We the Least Are Called to Give Life
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Will you take a Bible please and turn to 2 Corinthians 11:22. 2 Corinthians 11:22, “Are they
Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are
they servants of Christ? I am a better one – I am talking like a madman – with far greater labors,
far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I have received
at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once
I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on
frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger
from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false
brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without
food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my
anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not
indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father
of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed for ever, knows that I do not lie. At Damascus, the governor
under King Aretas guarded the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket
through a window in the wall, and escaped his hands.” May God see how good our lives are. Amen.
Loved ones let us turn to Ephesians 3:8, and we could look at it briefly before communion.
Ephesians 3:8, and it runs like this, “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.” And I was saying to
Greg before the service that it’s a wild Greek word that is used for the very least, it’s
“elachistoteros” and it’s a superlative with a comparative added on. Superlative, you know, is most
of anything and comparative is better than anything. So superlative is always best and comparative
is better and this is better than the least and that’s why it’s translated I am the least of the
apostles. I am the least of the apostles, the very least of them.
I am the very least of the apostles, the very smallest and really one of our translations has, “I am
less than the least of the apostles.” And it’s important to see that he wasn’t just putting it on.
Paul wasn’t just trying to be very, very humble and Uriah Heepish (a Charles Dickens character) but
he was really serious, he really meant it because he had persecuted the Christians. You remember
it’s in Acts 22:3. Acts 22:3, and it’s really something we know ourselves. Acts 22:3-4, “I am a
Jew, born at Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in the this city at the feet of Gamali-el, educated
according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as you all are this
day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women.” And
that was in his mind that he had persecuted the very Christ who had now called him to his work and
so he felt he’s lower than the lowest and he really did feel that.
And really, it’s just worth looking at ourselves in the light of what we read about his
imprisonments and his being shipwrecked, and his being beaten, and his being in all kinds of ways
tortured and persecuted for the faith, it’s important for us to see that this is the man who says he
is less than the least of the apostles. And it kind of brings it home to you yourself, not what am
I from the point of view from my natural inferiority because of my poor human characteristics, but
what am I in my heart towards Jesus compared with this man? I have not suffered as he has suffered.
I have not been shipwrecked as he has. I have not born insults has he has, cold and exposure,
hunger as he has. And if he is the less than the least of the apostles, than I am less than the
less of the least of the apostles. And it’s worth thinking of because I think it is easy for us to
drift into – I don’t know that we’d call it pride, but a complacency about what we are doing for
God, or about what we deserve, or about how important we are.
I think I’ve said that to you before, it is remarkable in a way what kind of importance we do have
just because of some degree of success in business, and it’s very easy to receive the way people
speak to you and think, “Oh, it applies to me personally. It’s my own brilliance that they’re
respecting,” and it’s very important to pass it right onto Jesus every time it comes. I say that
because I think I’ve said to you at times before, it is kind of dangerous when you’re a great leader
so called, and people lionize you. It’s very easy for you to fall into a kind of attitude that I
don’t know, at first wants to ignore it and then kind of is used to it, and then if somebody doesn’t
treat you in that strange way then you wonder at it.” And so it’s very easy to come to take for
granted the respects that people give you and then be set back when they don’t give you that. And
so it’s very important to always see ourselves as less than the least of the saints.
People who – I don’t know how you all feel, I feel I’m a rat compared with what I’m supposed to be,
I feel – so it seems as you – I hope it is, that as you go on with Jesus you see more and more your
own feelings and your own weaknesses, and your own lack of Christlikeness and as life goes on you
sense more and more, “I need thee every hour most precious Lord,” and “I cannot do without you and
there’s no way in which I can live this life unless you live it for me.” So, I think that that is
what happens to us as life goes on and it is important that it does. It’s important that we do come
to see ourselves as less than the least of the saints.
So that’s that bit that I thought I should speak about. And then do you see the next piece in the
verse, “This Grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
Unsearchable is another wild word, I don’t know if I can even pronounce it in Greek,
“anexichniastos”, “anexichniastos”, and it means, “ane” you can guess is usually “not” in any
language but anonymous means the same, with no name, but it means something that cannot be traced
out or tracked down. So it’s the unsearchable riches of Christ in that way that there’s no way to
track them down. There’s no way to trace them out. There’s no way to explore them fully. That’s
what he’s called to preach.
Now I think I can explain that, at least explain the idea to you. Can you imagine a computer into
which we fed all the six billion lives that are here on the earth? We fed into it all the names and
then we fed into it every action and every word that each of those people had said or done up to
this point in time. And then if we could, if we were able, to extrapolate all that, and we were
able to feed into it all the things that they were going to do over the next 40 or 70 years of their
lives, and then we were able to feed into it actions that the computer would suggest to them. Not
to change them, not to force them to do it, but just to lead them back to give them another shot at
it. Now you can imagine how difficult it would be to track, well as you would say, the riches of
that computer. But then you know, if you turn the computer into a person and you have that person
feeling everything that those six billion people did and then knowing all the things that were going
to happen in their lives, and all the things that they would do. And if that person not only did
that but if he felt the sympathy of all the other people who would be hurt by those things, and then
above all, since they were all made inside him, and they were all part of him, he felt the pain of
all their actions inside himself. And then on top of that, he bore that pain and initiated all
kinds of counter moves to continually draw them back and draw them back, to give them another chance
to see what he and his Father were after.
Those are part of the unsearchable, really untraceable riches of Christ. And the great privilege
that Paul had was that he was called to preach those to the Gentiles. The Gentiles were the people
who didn’t know those things and who were regarded as not the people who would benefit from those
things. In fact, the Gentiles were regarded as outside the benefits that God had brought through
his suffering servant. The Gentiles were the non-Christians. The Gentiles were the people that
everybody regarded as having no part in this miraculous work in Christ and they didn’t know they had
a part. They didn’t know that all their lives had been fed into this Jesus and all their future
lives had been fed into him, and that he had already lived their future life and had seen all the
difficulties they have and had sorted them all out so that they hadn’t a thing to worry about.
The Gentiles are the non-Christians who are in that state. And that’s why I think it’s such a great
privilege that we have. The wee souls don’t know any of that and so they labor under all their bad
balances in the banks, they labor under all their fear when they find they have a terminal illness,
they labor under all their anxiety as to how they’re going to get this car repaired when they have
no money. They labor under all the fear of another year like last year with no relief because they
don’t know that there is a loving God who has foreseen all that and has worked it out, and has a way
through for them and that’s our privilege, to somehow get that over to them so that they can live in
So really we could put ourselves in this verse and say to us who are the less than the least of the
saints, has been given the grace to preach this gospel to those that we visit each week in the
stores and that we talk to. We who are the least of the apostles, the least of the saints are
called to explain the unsearchable riches of Christ and to set them forth in our lives and that’s
some privilege. Let us pray.
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