Ephesians: A Prisoner On Your Behalf


Good evening,

It’s time to begin our service. I am so glad to have you with us, and I send my love and greetings to you all.

I want to make sure I send special greetings today to our friends in Canada, in Alberta, British Columbia, in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and in Ontario and New Brunswick. God bless you all. I have been glad to have a chance to exchange messages with the different ones there over the past week.

To our friends in Bath, St. John, Fredericton, Moncton, and Dieppe in Portage la Prairie, God bless you all. I am so thankful for all of you and so appreciate your support. There are so many different churches that we fellowshipped with for so many years. Even though I have lived almost my entire life here around Jeffersonville, I am a Canadian by birth. I have spent a lot of time in those different churches across Canada over the years. Two of my grandfathers were pastors of churches in Canada, and my father-in-law is the pastor of a church in Canada still. We have many friends across Canada, and I send you all my greetings.

I also send my greetings to all our friends at Faith Assembly. A lot of the congregation there are regular listeners here, and I’m thankful for all the ones there who reach out regularly. We send you our love. We’re continuing to pray for your safety and deliverance. We hear stories of how more and more things are just unfolding worse and worse, and we are certainly praying for you all. I know most of the groups we fellowshipped with have doomsday dates set over the next few months, and we are certainly praying that God will preserve you through those false predictions and see you out safely to the other side.

I also want to make sure that I praise God for the wonderful reports coming out of South Africa. There have been amazing breakthroughs happening there, so please lift up in prayer the people there.

If you are tuning in here for the first time and wonder who we are and what we are doing, my name is Charles Paisley. I, and most of our listeners here, are formerly part of the cult following of William Branham known as the Message. I am formerly the assistant pastor of the second oldest Message church in the world, right here in Jeffersonville. Most of our friends here are people who associated with my church for many decades. To the Spoken word and voice of God tabernacle crowd, we were the black birds. But at our high point, there were dozens of churches that fellowshipped with us. There was a point in time in which we were one of the largest Message groups, and our church was, for many years, the largest Message church in the Jeffersonville area. A lot of that has changed since Raymond Jackson died. This year will be twenty years since Raymond Jackson died. Raymond Jackson preached many times that the week of Daniel was supposed to start about the year 2005, and then that never happened. He died about six months before the date he had set. After that, all the preachers turned on each other and broke up seven ways for Sunday, all trying to figure out how to carry on with Raymond Jackson’s version of The Message. They broke up our homes, they broke up our families, they broke up many of our lives. People were driven to suicide, and it turned into a long period of continual turmoil since Raymond Jackson died, and none of the leaders feel the least bit bad about all the lives they harmed through all those things, not to mention the rapists and child molesters who moved into our churches, some of whom were preachers. Instead today, what you will find is that they are doubling down, threatening their people that they will burn up and die if they leave, insisting that you cannot make it without them when, at this stage, they have a very long track record of being totally wrong, not to mention all the horrendous abuses they have carried out in the name of their false beliefs. At some point, if time allows, I do intend to take some lessons and talk about some of these things in detail.

But, today, I operate a mission here in Jeffersonville with the help of some different friends. Several other ministers have left from our churches at roughly the same time I did, and we have made friends with many other preachers around the world who have done the same. I’d say there are well over one hundred preachers who have left the Message at this point, and the number of people is even much larger than that. I am here just operating this mission in the Jeffersonville area to give comfort and support to those who are leaving the Message, to help them heal, to offer encouragement, and to just go back and take a look at the plain reading of scripture. I believe it is important for the people who are just starting their journey out of The Message that you are not alone and that faith in Christ will see you through.

And since October, we have been working our way through the book of Ephesians. Last week we finished up chapter 2, and today, we are finally starting chapter 3. So, I invite you to open your Bible, turn with me to Ephesians chapter 3. Today, we are only going to be focusing on two verses, but I am going to read from verse 1 down to verse 13.

1 For this reason, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 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, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church, the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

Ephesians 3 English Standard Version

Let us pray.

Lord God, thank you for delivering us from a doomsday cult. Help every soul listening to heal and grow in you. Help us to understand that Jesus Christ is who we need. Help us to understand that the void left by removing William Branham from our lives is a void that we need to let Jesus Christ fill. Bless all of my brothers and sisters. And bless our reading of the scripture today. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Well, brothers and sisters, I have to tell you that I am a bit excited for these verses we are going to be examining today. I have read this entire passage because we are going to be spending the next several lessons going through it. But today, we are just looking at two verses out of these 13 – verse 1 and verse 13.

In verse 1, Paul talks a little bit about his personal condition, and then from verse 2 to verse 12, he talks about the mission he is on. Then, in verse 13, he goes back and tells us a little bit more about his personal condition. So, the chief thing we are going to look at today is to consider the personal condition of the apostle Paul as he writes this letter to the Ephesians.

And as we begin that, let’s just walk through the life of Paul. Let’s talk about the things that brought him up to this point in his life, to the time he wrote this letter to the Ephesians.

And I really enjoy these sorts of studies myself, making a character study of the men and women in scripture. It is just something I especially enjoy doing. And, for the most part, when you do that, you will find that their character is totally different than anyone you ever met in the doomsday cult we come from. In fact, most of the characters in scripture would be treated like dirty dogs if they showed up in a message church, Paul included.

Now, Paul started out as someone who was a lot like your average Message believer. If we read in the book of Philippians, Paul explains what he was like before he met Jesus. He was a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He loved rules. He loved commandments. He kept every single one of them. And he was very zealous. He was deeply passionate about pleasing God, and there was really no limit to what he would do to please God.

And he grew up at the feet of Gamaliel, who was one of the greatest teachers of the Bible of that day in all of Temple Judaism. Gamaliel was the president of the Sanhedrin council in Jerusalem, and in that way, Gamaliel was right next to the high priest, at the very top of the hierarchy of Temple Judaism. And Paul was just one step away from that level of authority himself. The Bible seems to indicate that Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin himself. That is not perfectly certain, but it is pretty likely. And even if he was not on the Sanhedrin itself, he was certainly working directly with the council to carry out its decisions and orders. He was there during their deliberations. So, Paul was a man of authority in his own right.

You read in scripture about Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. They were two other men on the ruling council at that time. And Paul would have been of a similar caliber. He was of a home and family where he was on a path to be one of the most senior leaders of Israel.

And so, in that way, Paul had a lot going for him. He was highly educated. He had a position of power and authority. His future prospects were really good. He had a good reputation in his community, and he was very righteous – or, you might say, self-righteous. He said that, in keeping the law, he was blameless. He had a perfect track record, and that is something not easy to say, but Paul had a perfect track record.

He also had a good pedigree. He could trace his roots back to the foundation of Israel. And all of those things added together to give Paul a very good life. And through that life, he served with great passion and zeal towards God.

Zeal, But Not According To Knowledge (Romans 10:2)

And I think that gives us a picture of Paul.

He was deeply religious man.

He was following God with all he knew, with all that was in him, with all of his passion.

But as Paul explained it, the Jews are good in that they have a zeal for God. It’s a very good thing to have a zeal for God. That is a commendable thing.

Very much like the message we come from, it is good that they have a zeal for God. That is a good thing. Their passion and zeal to serve God is commendable. Many of them – you and I know it because we lived it ourselves – we would die for our faith. That is how much passion and zeal we had.

But Paul said it was a zeal without knowledge, a zeal, and a passion, without knowledge. They are very zealous, very passionate, but they are ignorant. And in their ignorance, their passion and zeal are easily misguided.

And when you think about that, it’s dangerous. When you have people who are really passionate, really zealous, people who are willing to die for a cause, and then you combine that with ignorance, what you have is something really dangerous. People are going to get hurt. People are going to get killed.

And that is exactly what happened. The Jewish people were zealous with a huge passion but not according to knowledge. (You can read about that in Romans chapter 10; we touched on that when we went through the book of Romans last year.) And in their blindness and their ignorance, they began to persecute people and kill people.

And Paul was right there, going along with it all – zeal and passion, but not according to knowledge.

Here were all these Christians telling the Pharisees that Jesus was their savior, telling them they didn’t need the temple, telling them Jesus was enough, telling them they didn’t keep all these rules of the law anymore, telling them that Jesus Christ had fulfilled the law, and that now they had grace. And anyone who would believe on Jesus as their savior would be saved.

And when the Pharisees heard the Christians saying those things, it made the heads of the Pharisees explode. In their ignorance, the Pharisees could not understand what the Christians were saying. They could not understand that faith in Christ could save the lost. They did not understand that, being justified by the blood of Christ, someone would escape all wrath without needing to add anything to it.

And in their zeal and in their ignorance, they started to arrest the Christians. They started to beat them. They started to throw them out of the synagogues. They started to expel them from their communities. They shunned them. And as the church kept growing, in the second and third year after the church started, they started to get even more crazed, and the Pharisees started to kill the Christians.

And, as you come to Acts chapter 6, they caught Stephen preaching about Jesus, telling people Jesus was the savior. And because Stephen was telling them Jesus was their savior, they arrested him. And what did they accuse Stephen of? Exactly what I am talking about. They accused him of saying Jesus fulfilled the law and that the law was over. And when the Sanhedrin heard Stephen say those things, it they rose up and they murdered Stephen. They hated what he said so much; they murdered him right there on the spot.

That is what passion and zeal will do in ignorant people, and that is exactly the sort of thing we see among the ignorant people who sit in The Message today. They do not recognize Jesus as their full and complete savior. They believe Jesus is not enough. They think you need a man named William Branham and the special revelations you can only get from him and his successors. They do not believe faith in Jesus will save you from the wrath to come. They believe faith in Jesus is just milk. And if that is all you have, you will certainly burn up in the tribulation. And they will say people like you and I who have decided to follow Jesus – that we are dogs who have returned to vomit, we are pigs that have gone back into the mud. And that is what faith in Jesus is to them – it’s vomit, it’s mud, it’s milk.

But they think they have the strong meat. But the truth is, they are ignorant people without understanding, professing themselves to be wise. They have become fools. And people like you and I who have awakened, who have realized we were part of something that was not correct, we have awakened from our ignorance. And we have had come to realize that Jesus is truly our savior, and that he is savior enough. And that we don’t need to add to him to escape the wrath to come.

And when we do that, and say that, we see the exact same reaction among the ignorant people of The Message. It is zeal without knowledge. In their passion and in their zeal, they have persecuted us. They have even killed some of us. There have been a number driven to suicide by them.

They have thrown us out of their churches. They have reviled us. They have gnashed on us with their teeth. They have spread hateful rumors. They have lied on us. They even physically attacked some of us. They damaged our property. They have thrown stumbling blocks of every variety.

And you know, I think my own case is proof that it doesn’t really matter what you do. You can pack up and leave quietly and make no scene, and they will mercilessly come after you anyway. Some of them will harass and assault you whether you leave quietly or vocally.

It is that exact same spirit that was on the Pharisees. The spirit of a Pharisee is the spirit of a murderer, and the Pharisee will murder you if they thought they could get away with it. And they would think they did God a service by killing you.

Zeal, but not according to knowledge.

Now, are they all that way? No, of course not. There are many of them who are not that way. But the fact they sit quietly by while their neighbors do all that dirty work makes them just as guilty. Paul was just as guilty, holding coats, as the men who were throwing the rocks to kill Stephen, and Paul knew it.

And that is exactly the kind of person Paul was. He stood right there and held their coats while they murdered Stephen.

I think any one of us who spent much time in the doomsday cult can relate to that, certainly if you come from the places I did. How many of our friends and loved ones did we sit by and do nothing while we watched them be destroyed? I will be honest; I lost count a long time ago, a very long time ago. Where I came from, we lost hundreds—friends, family, dear loved ones. We stood by and did nothing while the leaders descended on them and destroyed them one after another, time after time.

I know one case I will tell you, just as an example. The pastor’s son was committing adultery with a married woman who was the next-door neighbor of my parents, and they lived together in sin for quite some time. We never said anything; we kept it to ourselves, like many, many, many other things. We kept it to ourselves, especially when the leaders were involved in it, as they often were. But they were living in sin, in adultery, and the woman’s son and daughter were privy to it all. And when the son threatened to expose it, the pastor got with the family and forced the boy to enlist in the military to get rid of him, to shut him up. He is, last I heard, over on the border with North Korea, his life permanently damaged in that way by being forced out of his home and gotten rid of just because he knew the pastor’s son was committing adultery.

Brothers and sisters, I was there in the back rooms when the decisions like that were made; they were calculated purposeful decisions. Don’t be fooled.

You know things like that will weigh on you, and I was in the back room many a time. I could tell you a hundred other stories like that one.

The same family, the pastor’s other son came in; he was a sex predator too. And he lured off an underage girl and had relations with her. Rather than do anything, rather than see that man for the sex predator he was, they decided to put the young girl out of church, and it was a joint decision. The deacons all were in on it too. They had her parents throw the underage girl out of the home and forced her to go live with the sex pervert. And again, I was in the back room when the decision was made.

And again, I could tell you a hundred other stories just like this. I am honestly to the point where it makes my blood boil, but it’s hard to talk about because I was right there going along with it at the time.

Life after life was destroyed, these things will weigh on you. And if you are from the churches I come from, every last person there is guilty of going along with these things. Some knew more than others.

Some were throwing the rocks; some were only holding the coats. Some people were just being quiet because they didn’t want to be the next ones to get stoned. But they went along with it. And if you are sitting there in those churches today, you are still going along with it because it is still happening, and we are out here catching and trying to save the broken lives.

I will give you one more example. We had a lady who had been around since the days of William Branham. She sat on the front row and played the accordion in the church service. They treated her like dirt. Somewhere along the way, she had rubbed the pastor the wrong way, year in and year out, they treated her like dirt. They would insult her from the platform, spread rumors about her, treated her kids like outcasts. They treated her like she was a leper. Finally, she tried to commit suicide. Her doctors told her not to come back to church because it was the way people were treating her, making her feel that way. The poor lady, she made the mistake of telling that to a preacher, thinking he would help her. Instead, they preached a sermon at her about it. That poor woman barely survived; they had to put her in a mental hospital after that because she tried to kill herself again.

You know, I could spend a whole hour just telling you suicide stories. Many people were killed in the doomsday cult, and I am afraid it was many people. I think there were cases that we were just too brainwashed at the time to even realize. And that is the sort of place Paul found himself; he was killing people.

Zeal, but not according to knowledge.

Zeal, but not according to knowledge.

The Damascus Road

And as Paul was going about with great zeal in the things he was doing, believing he was doing God a service in persecuting and destroying people who thought faith in Christ could save them, we all know what happened next. He was traveling on the Damascus road, going to arrest more people so he could put them in jail. And while he was traveling, the Lord Jesus appeared to him, and Jesus smote Paul blind. Paul said, “Who are you, Lord?” and He said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” The Lord said, “I have chosen Paul to take my name to the Gentiles.” This dramatic miracle turned Paul on his head.

Suddenly, Paul came to realize the great mistake he had made, and Jesus said, “It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.” That makes you think, perhaps Paul’s conscience was already bothering him before Jesus ever showed up. But when he finally saw Jesus for who he was, it blew the lid off the false notions in his mind. He came to realize Jesus really was who the Christians said he was; Jesus really was the Messiah, the Savior of the world; he really was the sacrifice to atone for the sins of lost mankind. Jesus was who he claimed to be, and people didn’t really need that temple on Mount Zion anymore. People didn’t really need to keep the law, and people could just believe in Jesus and be saved. And that revelation changed Paul’s life.

So, Paul traveled on down the road until he finally reached Damascus, and there he was baptized, and his sight was restored. In Galatians, Paul wrote that he went into the desert immediately after that, and he spent three years in the desert.

And that is something I think is notable. Paul had this great experience, but that is a whole lot for a person to process. God brought him to a knowledge of Jesus Christ, but he didn’t answer all his questions. He didn’t tell Paul how to make that mesh with the Bible; he didn’t tell Paul how to explain it. And we have to know that this thing left Paul’s head spinning; it was going to take something more for him to actually make sense of it all.

There are a lot of people in the world who practice a religion of Only Believism; they don’t really care if or how to reconcile anything they believe into a coherent system of thought. They don’t care if it adds up or not; they don’t even care if they can’t make it fit the scripture. They just believe it; they have something they think is a miracle or what have you, and now this thing is vindicated. It might make no sense; it might not add up; it might not fit the scripture, but they got some miracles – and they will build a whole religion on that event, Only Believism.

But Paul was not that kind of man, and if you think he or any of the apostles were those kind of people, you are deeply mistaken; you have been fooled. They most certainly were not those sort of men; Paul was not the kind of person who practiced Only Believism. It is impossible to read his epistles and come to that conclusion. Paul had a very reasoned, a very logical, and very systematic explanation for the gospel; he had a beginning-to-end comprehensive view of the whole thing, and it was reasoned, principled, Bible-based. And he could lay it all out to anyone who asked.

Beginning to end, Paul had a well-thought-out, principled explanation for all of it. And we can say that was a revelation to him from God; it sure was a revelation. But what it was not is Only Believism. Paul did not have Only Believism; his faith was based on hard facts, hard evidence – evidence he could present to other people, and it all added up; it was coherent.

And he explained it all a number of times in his writings. In fact, that is what the book of Romans is; Romans is the most comprehensive explanation he ever gave. But 1st Corinthians is another book where he lays out his basis for believing the Christian faith. And in both of those cases, he starts with hard facts – things you can lay your hands on, things that could be observed, things that could be proven. And from those foundations, he laid out the entire argument for the Christian faith.

And don’t ever miss that. And I will suggest to you, if you haven’t got that from his writings, if you have not gotten a system of understanding which begins with the evidence for God, and the evidence for Christ, and the evidence for the resurrection, I would encourage you to read them again. Paul did not follow a religion of Only Believism. In fact, he would say things like this: If the resurrection didn’t really happen, our whole faith is just junk.

Paul could look at very specific things like that, and he would say, “If this thing didn’t actually happen, it is all meaningless.” Because he understood that the Christian faith was not a religion of Only Believism; it was a faith based on things that they could prove had happened, and they could prove that Jesus rose from the dead – the tomb was empty; hundreds and hundreds of people, who were still alive, watched Jesus Christ float up off the ground and disappear in the cloud of glory; and the apostle Paul himself personally met the resurrected Jesus Christ.

And there is nothing that puts any of their testimonies into question. And, even to this day, you can look into things like the case for Christ, and there is very good evidence to this day which we can still lay our hands on that allows us to ground our Christian faith in something that is solid.

And Paul, and Peter, and James, and John, and Thomas – let’s be real here, none of the apostles had Only Believism. Thomas said, “Unless I see the wounds in his hand and side, I will not believe.” Jesus had to come to these people and personally convince them he had risen from the dead. None of them – not a single person believed in that upper room on the day of Pentecost was there because of Only Believism. The risen Jesus had walked and talked with them; they saw it and heard it and touched it with their own hands, their own ears, and their own eyes.

And there are people today who try to make the apostles out to be bad guys for wanting to see the evidence. But brothers and sisters, we are commanded to try the spirits; we are commanded to only believe on the mouth of two or three witnesses; we are commanded to check the scriptures to see if it is so.

Only Believism is the religion of the devil, and that is not what Christianity ever was. Only Believism is zeal but without knowledge. God told Jeremiah (Jeremiah 9:23), he said, “Let not a man boast in his wisdom, or boast in his strength, or boast in his riches, but he that boasteth, let him boast in this, that they understand and know me.”

God does not call us to Only Believism; God calls us to understand and to know. And if you do not understand, and if you do not know, then you ought not be boasting. Ignorance is nothing to boast of; Only Believism is nothing to boast of; ignorance is something to be ashamed of, and ignorance should make you very humble.

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of God. Faith is based on something that is real – something that comes from God, and faith that is not based on the word of God is not faith at all; it’s just foolishness.

And that is what Paul had before he traveled down the Damascus road. Paul did not have faith; he had foolishness. And that is what you and I had when we were in that doomsday cult; we had zeal but without understanding; we confused faith with foolishness.

And there is a whole lot of people stuck in that same pattern today. And, you know, I have to be careful; I can preach hard. In fact, that is my nature; I come from a cult where hard preaching was about all we ever did, and that is something I resist doing on this side of things. But I can become very hard with the people who go on with this Only Believe nonsense. A lot of them are no better than the Pharisee murderers from the days of Paul, and when you are killing and harming people in the name of Only Believism, then I think sometimes we have to get a little hard with it.

But you know what, brothers and sisters, God can save Pharisees; God can save Pharisee murderers. Just look at Paul; he is case and point. God can save people like that; it is a mighty hard thing for a Pharisee to find grace, not because grace is elusive, but because the Pharisee is just so blind. But I am glad God will save a Pharisee because that is exactly the kind of person I once was; I didn’t grow up in the world; I grew up in a Pharisee religious system that taught us Jesus is not enough to save us.

So, I am glad that Jesus saves the Pharisee, and that should encourage us because a lot of our friends and family and loved ones, they are still trapped in that doomsday cult; they are just like Paul was; they are still blind; they are holding coats and throwing stones; they don’t believe someone who just believes Jesus will make it; they think you need their special prophets, and their special churches, and their special rules. But there is hope for them to wake up, just like there was hope for us to wake up.

In The Desert

And after Paul woke up, he didn’t go find the nearest church to join up with, did he? Now, there would have been nothing wrong with that if he did; he sure could have. But that is not what Paul did; Paul went into the desert. Paul decided to spend some time alone with God.

And, brothers and sisters, you and I are not Paul; we might not take the same route Paul did. But his example here shows us something, and if our inclination is to go spend some time in the desert, so to speak, that is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. In fact, it may even be the wise thing to do.

Can you imagine Paul going back to Jerusalem and having to tell the Sanhedrin what happened? He didn’t do that, did he? Paul just disappeared. I bet after a few weeks, Caiaphas was asking around, “Hey, what happened to Paul? Where’d that guy go?”

Contrary to what the doomsday cult we come from may tell us, you can’t turn a life on a dime. You cannot heal a heart and mind from decades of indoctrination in a day. Getting somewhere that you can heal your heart and mind, to figure things out, that is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. And Paul spent three years doing just that sort of thing; he spent three years getting this thing right in his heart and mind and, most importantly, in his understanding.

And when he came out of the desert, he was ready to go. He had figured this thing out, by the grace of God, and by the revelation of Jesus Christ. When he came out of the desert, he understood backward and forwards; he understood line and verse, and he could explain from every angle that Jesus Christ was Lord, that Christ was the savior, that salvation was by grace, that the law was over, and he could write his letters. He could write the word down: being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath. Being justified, we are not appointed to any wrath. He that confesses with the mouth and believes from the heart, he shall be saved.

When he came out of the desert, he was prepared.

And you and I, if we should have to go to the desert, let us do the same. Let us become prepared; let us learn backward and forwards that Jesus Christ is Lord, let us learn backward and forwards that salvation is by grace, let us learn backward and forwards the faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone – that is enough to save us to the utmost. Let us learn that backward and forwards and be ready to deal with what we will find when we come back out of the desert.

And Paul, after he came back from the desert, he spent about two weeks in Jerusalem. Paul wrote about that in the book of Galatians. And then he ended up doing exactly what the Lord told him to do on the Damascus road; he went to preach to the Roman world, and he started at the church in Tarsus. Before long, he ended up traveling all over the heart of the Roman Empire, telling the Jews and Gentiles everywhere about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

That is what Paul is talking about here in Ephesians chapter 3, right there sandwiched between verse 1 and verse 13. Paul is explaining how he preached the gospel to the Gentiles.

But as Paul did that, those Pharisees started to come after him. It’s ironic, isn’t it? Paul, who had been this great Pharisee leader himself, suddenly has all the Pharisees turn on him once he starts trying to show them where they went wrong. All of a sudden, Paul becomes enemy number 1.

You would think they might listen to someone like Paul who had come from their own ranks; they might have considered – hey, we should take this man seriously; he has everything we think is important; he has pedigree; he has grown up at the feet of our greatest teacher; he was a man of zeal and passion for God; he was blameless. Maybe we should listen to this guy Paul, but you know that never crossed their minds; Only Believism doesn’t work that way.

And Paul got to experience all the things he had been doing to others. Paul got to experience being persecuted; he got to experience being beaten, being stoned, all these sorts of things. And it got very hard on Paul, but he kept pressing on. They beat him, and he kept going; they stoned him, and he kept going. On and on they came after him, but he just kept going. And at the heart of everything he did lay the simple revelation he received from God: if you will confess with the mouth and believe from the heart that Jesus is your savior, you shall be saved.

You shall be saved.

And the Pharisees hated it. Oh, how they hated it.

A Prisoner for Your Sake

And that brings us to verse 1 of Ephesians chapter 3.

1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles.

Paul was a prisoner when he wrote this letter. The Pharisees had made up false charges against Paul while he was in Jerusalem. They accused him of blasphemy and of defiling the holy temple, and they raised up a huge mob to kill Paul. As a result, Paul ended up arrested and spent years in jail.

Sitting in his jail cell, Paul wrote down this verse.

1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles.

Paul was in prison because he was fulfilling the mission God gave him — to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. He was in jail because the Pharisees hated Paul for teaching that Jesus saves and for telling people they didn’t need to keep the law of Moses.

It wasn’t the Romans who got Paul arrested. It wasn’t the worldly people or the pagans. It was the Pharisees, that same group of blind Pharisees with lots of zeal but not according to knowledge.

Paul ended up arrested and was on a path that would lead to his execution and death. He was going to die before it was all said and done.

And as the Ephesian church received this letter, they got it from a man who was in prison — a prisoner. Paul is bringing that to their attention in verse 1.

1 For this reason I, Paul, [am] a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles.

Ephesians 3:1 ESV

Paul suffered a great deal to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. It came at great personal cost to him. He sacrificed his career, reputation, authority, family, pride, time, comfort, and freedom. He gave up pretty much everything.

As Jesus said, “No greater love hath a man than this, but that he lay down his life for his friends.” That is what Paul had to do — lay down his life. In Philippians, Paul wrote that he had suffered the loss of all things.

He suffered the loss of all things.

And brothers and sisters, it was not an easy thing to do what Paul did. It was a very costly affair. It cost Paul, quite literally, everything to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.

But he didn’t make the sacrifice for himself. Paul could have just stayed in the desert. In one sense, he didn’t gain anything by leaving the desert. As we read through Paul’s writings, we see that he was a man who suffered greatly. His missionary journeys were filled with suffering and hardship.

If we went to Romans chapter 9, Paul wrote that he lived with unceasing sorrow and grief. Paul lived with a constant sorrow and grief in his heart that never went away, and he explained that it had to do with the people he left behind in Judaism. His entire life, he never got over his love for the people he left behind, and it caused him grief and sorrow until the day he died.

That is something about Paul that Message preachers never tell you. Paul lived with sorrow and grief in his heart, a sorrow and grief that never went away. He talked about that in a number of his epistles. In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about spending time in utter despair.

In Romans 9, Paul said, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” Paul was a man who had something in his heart which he never got over. That was part of the cost he paid — the grief, sorrow, anguish, and despair.

And there in verse 13, after bringing this to their attention, Paul says:

13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

Ephesians 3:13 ESV

Paul wanted his readers to recognize the great cost with which the gospel came to them, not so they would praise Paul, but so they would praise God. Paul said, “Nevertheless, it was not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” It was God working in Paul that enabled him to endure so much hardship.

It was a miracle. It was a miracle that Paul could find his way through it all, to do what he did. It was a miracle that Paul held it together through his great sorrow and unceasing anguish of heart. After spending years in isolation in the desert, after being so deep in despair he was completely overwhelmed, suffering the loss of everything he ever held dear — in spite of all that, he was able to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. He demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice that showed the people a Christ-like example.

And there in verse 13, after bringing this to their attention, Paul says:

13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

Paul wanted the Ephesians to follow his example, to be brave, to keep up the good fight, to not lose heart or be afraid because Paul was suffering all these things. Paul was at the tip of the spear, so to speak. That is not an easy place to be.

I think, the brothers and sisters who listen here, who are outspoken — you know that to be true too. It’s not easy to be at the tip of the spear. There is a price that comes with making the decisions we have made. There is a cost, at times, for choosing Jesus over the doomsday cult we all come from.

And every one of us has paid some cost to escape the cult. Some of us can say, like Paul, that we suffered the loss of all things. Some of us have gone to the desert and stayed there. Some of us have been able to recover and move on. But I think we can all relate in some way to Paul’s experience.

And just like Paul had Pharisees after him, we have our own Pharisees after us today. They play the same sort of wicked tricks and have no shortage of false witnesses, self-righteous individuals, zealous fanatics who are nothing but ignorant fools, and wolves in sheep’s clothing. If they could find a way to lock us away forever and throw away the key, there are a few who surely would.

We should always pray for our brothers and sisters who put it all on the line to tell the truth to the people. When we see people, out of an honest heart, trying to help others find the truth and willing to sacrifice so much to do it, that is something to be respected, just like the Ephesians respected Paul’s sacrifice.

So, we should pray for our brothers like Joe Hefflin in Missouri, James Manuel in South Africa, Brother Jordan in Ohio, and Brother Simon in Kenya. We should also pray for our sisters, like Sister Charity in Texas and Sister Naomi, who is also in Texas. What they have done and what they are doing is important and has helped many people.

We should be thankful and pray for the brothers at “Believe the Sign” and for all the other groups that are doing their part. I know, and you know, they have only been able to do these things at great cost, through great personal sacrifice.

A whole army of people is like Paul right now—many of them are in the desert, figuring this thing out. A few of them have come out, and a few are speaking up. But, as I talk to and hear from them, I can tell you that there is more for us than there is against us. And if you don’t believe that, just look at the numbers of people who watch these videos.

I know that each and every one of you has also paid a cost. We didn’t get on this side for free. It all came with a price, but it is a price we have paid because we got a glimpse of our Savior. It’s a price we have paid because we love the truth.

The devil may have his temporary victories, but the battle is already won with God. We may have unceasing sorrow and despair, but with God, the battle is won. It was won the same day Jesus said, “It is finished,” and glory is what awaits us now.

In this life, we will have tribulations. If they have persecuted our Lord, they will persecute us too. But fear not, Jesus has overcome them all. Show them the love of God. Turn the other cheek as often as you can. And even if they don’t believe today, it doesn’t mean they won’t believe tomorrow.

Amen, brothers and sisters. I pray you all have a good week. Be of good cheer — what awaits us is the glory to come. Come back next Sunday, and we are going to look at a topic that I am sure will interest anyone who comes from our background — “The Mystery of God.”

Let me close in prayer.


Lord God, thank you for the comfort of scripture. Thank you for the example of the apostle Paul. Through pain, sorrow, grief, and great suffering, his faith and dedication to the mission you gave him to fulfill serve as great inspiration to us.

Help each one of us, wherever we are along life’s pathway, to fulfill whatever you have for us today. For the brothers and sisters who are on the Damascus road, help them to find a desert where they can come near to you. For our brothers and sisters in the deserts, Lord, equip them for the work to come. And for those who have taken the field, give them strength to persevere and to lead many souls to the cross.

For all, may you heal their hearts and comfort them with the knowledge that one day, in glory, there will come a day of eternal peace, joy, and rest.

Deliver our friends and loved ones who are yet trapped in that wicked doomsday cult. May you grant them an opportunity to hear and see the truth of the gospel.

This we ask in Jesus’ name.