Holy Living In An Unholy World,

A Man With A Mission

By Dr. Robert Jeffress

Chances are you’ve never heard the name Robert Woodruff. But I guarantee you, you’ve heard of the product his company produced. In fact, he and his product impacted the lives of hundreds of millions of people worldwide—including yours. You see, Woodruff had a very clearly defined purpose in life—and he pursued it with a passion.

What is the name of the company and the product? The Coca-Cola Company, of which Woodruff was president from 1923 to 1955. 

At the outbreak of World War II, Coca-Cola was bottled in 44 countries. And when America entered the war in 1941, Woodruff sent down marching orders that “every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for 5 cents, wherever he is and whatever it costs the company.” 

Two years later, a cablegram from General Dwight Eisenhower’s headquarters in North Africa arrived at the company’s office. General Eisenhower requested material and equipment for 10 bottling plants, as well as three million filled bottles of Coca-Cola and supplies to fulfill those many bottles twice monthly. Six months later, a company engineer arrived in Algiers and opened the first plant. 

Before the war ended, Coca-Cola opened 64 plants worldwide. More than five billion bottles of Coca-Cola were consumed by American servicemen during the war—and that’s not counting local populations or service personnel from other countries who had their first taste of Coca-Cola during the war. 

When peace was reestablished in Europe in the Pacific, Coca-Cola, from the mid-1940s to the 1960s, more than doubled its global bottling operation.

As my friend Max Anders points out, Robert Woodruff was more committed to giving each person in the world a drink of Coke than most Christians are to giving each person in the world a drink of the water of life.

Most of us have forgotten our mandate from Jesus Christ to “Go into all the world and make disciples of Christ, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you.”

Instead, most of us here today can identify with author John Eldredge’s words: “For years, all my daily energy was spent trying to beat the trials in my life and arrange for a little pleasure. My weeks were wasted away either striving or indulging. I was a mercenary. A mercenary fights to pay for his own benefit; his life is devoted to himself. The quality of a true warrior . . . is that he is in service to a purpose greater than himself; that is to a transcendent cause.”

Are you a mercenary or a true warrior? Do you have a clear understanding of your purpose here on earth? Are you tired of a life spent striving for self-centered goals or indulging in self-centered pleasures? Are you ready to start realizing your true purpose here on earth? 

If so, I think you will be encouraged as we look at one man who had a clear understanding of his purpose in life in Ephesians 3 as we look at Paul: A Man with a Mission.

1. Paul the Prisoner (Ephesians 3:1)

Remember that Paul was under house arrest in Rome when he wrote this letter to the Christians at Ephesus. He was a prisoner, not just in a spiritual sense, but in a very real sense. I want you to notice Paul’s attitude to his imprisonment. He could have said, “I’m a prisoner of Rome” or “I’m a prisoner of Nero.” But he didn’t. He said, “I’m a prisoner of Christ Jesus.” Your point of view makes all the difference in the world.

Why was Paul imprisoned? This verse gives us two reasons for Paul’s incarceration. By the way, these are the same two reasons for whatever difficulty you may be facing in your life right now.

  • The Logical Reason

There was a logical explanation for Paul’s imprisonment. It’s found in the phrase “for this reason,” which is like an arrow that sends us up to the preceding verses. Paul has just been writing about the joining together of believing Jews and Gentiles into one body, one spiritual temple, and Paul says, I want you to understand that it is this message that landed me in jail.

He wasn’t kidding. Just look at Acts 21. I’m convinced that God has a great sense of humor. Think about Paul. He was a devout Jew, a defender of the Jewish faith. He was so zealous in his beliefs that he decided his life’s calling was to stamp out this new heresy called Christianity that was threatening the foundation of the Jewish faith. 

He presided over the stoning of the first martyr named Stephen—he was standing so close to  Stephen that some of Stephen’s blood probably splattered onto Paul’s clothing. That was in chapter 7 of Acts. Then, in chapter 9, when he heard that there was a group of Christians in the Syrian capital of Damascus, he decided he had to go there to eradicate them.

But on his way to Damascus, God stops him dead in his tracks, and the Lord Jesus Christ appears to him and says, “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And there, on that dusty road, Paul was saved and selected for a unique mission. Jesus Christ said, “Paul, you are going to take the gospel message to the entire Gentile world.”

Think about it—Paul, who just a moment earlier had been going to Damascus to persecute the church, is now instructed by God to go to Damascus and join the church there, which was mainly composed of Gentiles. God said, “When you arrive in Damascus, go to a certain home, and there, wait until one of my servants named Ananias comes to you, and he will tell you what to do.”

Ananias says, “You’ve got to be kidding. Saul of Tarsus. He is a terrorist. He hates Christians. He will kill me.” But God says, “No, He’s my chosen instrument of mine to bear my name to the Gentiles.” So, Ananias obeys.

How would you feel about that assignment? Probably like Ananias felt. That is what God asked Ananias to do. Not only to put his life in danger but also to put his credibility on the line as he tried to explain to the Christians in Damascus that Paul was no longer their enemy but was now one of them.

  • The Theological Reason

But there was also a theological reason for Paul’s imprisonment. Notice again how he refers to himself. He doesn’t call himself  “Paul prisoner of the Jewish Sanhedrin, or Paul a prisoner of Caesar’s.” He says I am Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ.

Hear this—Paul’s imprisonment was no accident, no tragedy that came about because of the anger and injustice of other people. Paul said, “I am in prison because Jesus Christ put me here. He has a reason for this.”

What possible reason would God have for taking his number-one spokesman for the Christian faith and allowing him to be out of commission for two years? In one of the other letters Paul wrote during this time, Paul sees two benefits of his imprisonment.

He says, first of all, my imprisonment has allowed me to spread the gospel throughout the Praetorian guard. This was a special group of soldiers—they might be like the Secret Service today.  A different guard was chained to Paul every eight hours, and he used that opportunity to witness to them. The result was not only were many of the guards converted, but because of their access to Caesar’s Palace in Rome, many of Caesar’s employees were also converted. That is why Paul closes Philippians by saying every Christian here in Rome greets you, especially those in Caesar’s household.

Another benefit Paul said was that other Christians were being encouraged to be bold in sharing the faith as well. Another benefit, implied here, is that these two years gave Paul the time he needed to write four of the most important books of the New Testament that would be used not only to encourage Christians in Paul’s day but also those of us who are 2000 years later studying his letter.

2. Paul the Minister (Ephesians 3:2-13)

These verses in the original language create one long sentence and serve as a parenthesis, a digression in Paul’s thought. Paul says in verse one I am in jail because of the message I have preached about you Gentiles being joined together with the Jews in the church–and that causes Paul to digress into an explanation of the uniqueness of that message that God had given him to proclaim throughout the world.

Paul was the one who established the church at Ephesus. But Paul was merely a steward—a temporary caretaker of the gospel. The Greek word for “stewardship” is oikonomia. Its literal meaning is “dispensation.”

It refers to someone who manages the affairs of another person. In Paul’s case, he’s managing the affairs of God as for Gentile people. Paul used the same word in 1 Corinthians 9:17, where he said the “stewardship” of the gospel was “entrusted” to him, and in Colossians 1:25, he writes, “Of this church, I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God.”

There’s another important word we’ll encounter in this section of Scripture: “mystery.” A musterion or mystery is a secret that is beyond human knowledge but has been revealed through divine grace. Paul says in verses 4–5 that God revealed to him a mystery, a secret that in past ages was not revealed to believers, but now God has revealed it.

What is this mystery or truth? The equality of Jews and Gentiles in the church.

Through Christ, Gentiles are:

  1. Fellow heirs with Israel.
  2. Fellow members of the Body.
  3. Fellow partakers of the Promise.

This message, this mystery, was to be shared how?

  1. By Paul (Ephesians 3:7-8)
  2. To the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:8b)
  3. Through the Church (Ephesians 3:9-10a)
  4. For the Angels (Ephesians 3:10b)

Paul understood that his entire life had one purpose: to bring glory to the name of God. He knew his master, he understood his message, and he played his part well.

What about you? Whether you are going off to college in a few months or whether you are going to work tomorrow morning, do you know whom you are serving? Do you realize that regardless of what you do to earn a paycheck, your real assignment here on earth is to bring glory to God’s name by pointing people to His son, the savior of the world?

Knowing your master and understanding your message are essential to living a life with purpose.


Full Passage: Ephesians 3:1-13