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Preaching the Unsearchable Riches of Christ

Ephesians 3:8 (ESV) … “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…”

Since the mystery revealed to him concerned God’s plan to incorporate the Gentiles in Christ, it was only logical that the ministry entrusted to him should be directed first and foremost to them. He was commissioned to preach to the Gentiles. ‘Preach’ here is euangelizō, to ‘announce good news’, for he was well aware that his gospel was a message of great good news for the Gentiles. It consisted of the unsearchable riches of Christ, the riches which he possesses in himself and which he bestows on those who come to him. What these riches are we may judge from Paul’s exposition in Ephesians 1 and 2. They are riches freely available because of the cross. They include resurrection from the death of sin, victorious enthronement with Christ in the heavenlies, reconciliation with God, incorporation with Jewish believers in his new society, the end of hostility and the beginning of peace, access to the Father through Christ and by the Spirit, membership of his kingdom and household, being an integral part of his dwelling place among men, and all this only a foretaste of yet more riches to come, namely the riches of the glory of the inheritance which God will give to all his people on the last day.

No wonder Paul terms Christ’s riches unsearchable. The word anexichniastos means literally ‘not to be tracked out’. In the Greek version of Job 5:9 and 9:10 it was applied to the wonders of God’s creation and providence, which are beyond our understanding, and Paul himself has already used it in Romans 11:33 of the deep mysteries of God’s plan of salvation. The riches of Christ are similar. Like the earth they are too vast to explore, like the sea too deep to fathom. Translators and commentators compete with one another in their attempt to find a dynamic equivalent in English. The riches of Christ, they say, are ‘unsearchable’, ‘inexplorable’, ‘untraceable’, ‘unfathomable’, ‘inexhaustible’, ‘illimitable’, ‘inscrutable’ and ‘incalculable’. Perhaps gnb’s ‘infinite’ is the simplest, for what is certain about the wealth Christ has and gives is that we shall never come to an end of it.

Indirectly in these past verses the apostle has indicated two of the strongest incentives to evangelism. He began by emphasizing that the revelation and the commission which had been given to him belong indissolubly together, for what had been made known to him he must without fail make known to others. All revealed truth is held in stewardship. It is given to be shared, not monopolized. If men cannot keep their scientific discoveries to themselves, how much less should we keep to ourselves the divine disclosures? Paul then went on to emphasize the valuable content of the message itself. He was convinced, as we must be, that Christ never impoverishes those who put their trust in him, but always immeasurably enriches them. Here then was the double obligation Paul felt, first to share God’s truth and secondly to share Christ’s riches. So what is needed today for a recovery of evangelistic zeal in the church is the same apostolic conviction about the gospel. Once we are sure that the gospel is both truth from God and riches for mankind, nobody will be able to silence us.[1]

[1] Stott, J. R. W. (1979). God’s new society: the message of Ephesians (pp. 119–121). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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