Every May, The Master’s Seminary celebrates its graduating class during a commencement ceremony where the men receive their diplomas. This year, TMUS President Abner Chou addressed the 2024 graduating class. Below is an adapted transcript of his stirring charge.  

I want to impress upon you by way of charge the reality, the beauty, the honor, the weight of responsibility, and the nobility of what you are about to engage in.

When you go forth from here, you will be engaged in a precious ministry, and you need to remember what that really means because so often in life you can become tempted to cut corners in exegesis and expository preaching. You may be tempted to take shortcuts and try to gain a crowd instead of trying to please the Lord. Many men fall into this trap. 

It is easy to become distracted and discouraged in ministry. It is equally easy to become demoralized because people may not like what you have to say. Some people will not like you standing for the truth, and they may belittle you. There might be things out there that seem more tantalizing and prestigious, and your heart may at times long to pursue those things. In those times, you need to remember the glory of the church—the glory of the eternal ministry to which you are called.

I want to direct your minds to Ephesians 3:5–6, where we understand not only the nature of the church but why it is so beautiful. May this be what weighs on your heart whenever you are tempted to take shortcuts, whenever you are tempted to become discouraged or distracted—that you are part of an eternal, everlasting, honorable, noble mission.

The book of Ephesians, in and of itself, is so glorious because it demonstrates line-by-line the majesty of the church. The very context leading up to Ephesians 3:5–6 exhibits these qualities. Paul’s opening words remind us that the church is in the context of blessing. Paul says in Ephesians 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places." 

This is the truth that we have and that the church is in the context of—it is of blessing. We need to remember—even the context teaches us this—that the church is the highest good for the world. It is so high it is not just called “good.” It is indicative of the reality that God is blessed because He has overcome evil with blessing. That is what the church is. It is the highest good for this world. 

Not only that, but Paul, as he continues to wax eloquent about the plan and the situation of the church, says it is part of an eternal plan. In this eternal plan, God, before the foundation of the world, chose saints unto the destiny of being the inheritance of Christ forever. From eternity past to eternity future, the church is nested as a linchpin and part of the main impetus of an everlasting agenda of God.

You have undoubtedly heard someone say the words, "Oh, I made history. That person made history." They take a video of themselves and post it on social media, and people say they made history. We use those words way too much. There is one institution of this time that makes history—that is the church. There is one institution for this time whose contribution will be beyond history—that is the church. 

God has built the church in this time; therefore, it is His institution for this time and for all time. This is the institution of the church. It is the highest good, part of an eternal plan, and not only that, but the centrifugal force of God's power. Paul, as he reflects on these things, wants us to know in Ephesians 1:15 and following, the surpassing greatness of the power of God. The reason that there is surpassing greatness in His power is because not only is the church blessed, not only is the church eternal, not only is the church part of His power, but it is indicative of a great salvation. 

Ephesians 2 presents us with a truth we should never forget. To put it in Paul's own words, you and I should be dead right now. Right now, we should be not just physically nonexistent. No, death in Scripture deals with the wrath of God, with the outpouring of His fury. That should be us. We should have died. But because of His great mercy, as Paul recounts in Ephesians 2, God made dead men live, and that's us.

Were it not for grace, right now there should be no graduation. There should just be hell—but we don't have that. You and I not only live and breathe, but we have what Paul says is life indeed because of the gospel. There is no greater salvation than that. We are raised from the dead. We are raised with Christ unto works that He has prepared beforehand, as Ephesians 2:10 reminds us. Those works beforehand include the reality that we are part of the church, Jew and Gentile united, in peace with each other, as Paul says, and in peace with God as He brings us to Himself.

In this context, Paul has laid out blessing after blessing after blessing and showcased thereby that the church is in the context of the greatest good, of an eternal plan, of immense power, of the greatest salvation, of peace with God, and of peace between men. Here's the question that you get to in chapter three: Why is that so beautiful? What is so significant about that? 

Paul answers that question in Ephesians 3 in a fascinating way. He explains what the church means and why it is significant for him. Here's what he says in verse one: "For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus." 

Do you know how beautiful and important the church is to Paul? He goes to prison for the church. How can something like the church, this idea and this institution, be so magnificent and so captivating that someone would go to jail for it? Paul explains it to us, and he lays it out clearly in two points in Ephesians 3:5–6. To put it succinctly, Paul unveils to us the supremacy of the church in verse five and the splendor of the church in verse six. 

The Supremacy of the Church

In verse five, what makes the church so supreme? In introducing the church in the discussion, Paul portrays it and posits it as the climax of all things in three particular ways. 

Climactically Reserved

Paul says that the church was climactically reserved. His opening words are this: "Which in other generations was not revealed to the sons of men" (Eph 3:5). Part of describing the mystery of the church inherently is that the church was not revealed. It was hidden, veiled, and concealed.

There is a definitive nature of reservation, as God actively ensured that it would not be made known. There is also an extensive nature of this because it was not revealed in other generations, time after time after time. There is also an exhaustive nature of this because it says in the text that it was not revealed to the sons of men. No one knew.  

Here's the question: Why? Why did God hide this? Why did God completely conceal the mystery of the church? In part, the answer is this, and let me just put it succinctly: You save the best for last. There is something so majestic, so unique, so spectacular, and so compelling about the church that God designed it so that no one would know—so that when it is unveiled people would be astounded at what took place. 

This is something like the painter who hides his masterpiece under a veil and rips it off so that everyone is stunned. The church is the masterpiece of God's grace, and so He hides it for the right moment. 

Brothers, we need to realize the significance and beauty of the church. Do not take for granted the fact that you are in the church. This was a hidden mystery. It's a privilege to be a part of this.

We talk sometimes about once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and those do exist. You have to understand this: to be part of the church, to be an undershepherd of the church, to have leadership and influence in it—that's a once-in-history opportunity. Brothers, the church is climactically reserved. It's a privilege to be a part of it. 

Climax of Redemption

A reason for the church’s climactic reservation is that it is the climax of redemption. Listen to the words of verse five: “Which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it was now."

The word “now” not only refers to the present moment, but Paul uses it to refer to the moment's presence as secured by Christ. Think about this with me. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

We understand that “now” is not just the present moment, it is the present moment as secured by the Lord Jesus Christ—His sacrifice and His death and resurrection. That's what Paul is thinking about when he talks about “as now” in Ephesians 3. 

What is prerequisite, what is foundational for the church is this: redemption. The church assumes God's work in the Lord Jesus Christ—to atone, to propitiate, and to forgive. That's what is undergirding the church. The church assumes that redemption has been secured. That's why God reveals it now.

If the church is so precious to God that He redeemed it, if it's so prized by God that He sent His Son to die for it, it better be that precious to you. 

Climax of Revelation

The last part of verse five says this: "As it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit.” Notice that Paul, although he earlier said that the church was not made known, now switches the term. He doesn't make an exact parallelism. He doesn't just say, “And now it was made known.” He uses the word “revealed.” Why? Because the term “revealed” demonstrates not only God's disclosing of information, knowledge, and truth, but also God's central activity of the time. God's focal point of concentration in His supernatural work. 

Think about the book of Romans. It says “the wrath of God was revealed” and then later on it says “the grace of God was revealed.” That is the hub of God's activity. Where is God's hub of activity right now? It is in the church. God established that truth and revealed that truth definitively, so that everyone would understand the church is His institution for this time, by virtue of the fact that He not only revealed it in the past when He used prophets, but this time it is with apostles and prophets—the fullness of His revelation. And they are holy because they have been made holy and they are dedicated as holy, and they are called to that task.  

And along that very line, this is a definitive revelation because it is done in the Spirit. Of course, the Spirit has always inspired the Scripture. We understand that. But Paul's emphasis on calling this “in the Spirit” is a reminder not only of the Spirit's work in inspiration but also the context of the Spirit's work in the New Covenant. This is where promises are being fulfilled. 

Everything that the Old Covenant believers were waiting for, the tip of that is happening now. Everything they longed for. Everything they were expecting. Everything they died to preserve is happening now.

Brothers, there may be days when ministry is hard and it looks tempting to go to a different task, to be with different people, to have your own platform, and to make yourself great. In those moments remember this: there is nothing like the church. The church is the place where God's activity is. The church is where His spiritual promises are being worked out. The church is precious. He died for the church. And therefore it is a privilege to be part of this institution. The church is supreme. It is climactically reserved, the climax of redemption, and the climax of revelation. Never forget that. 

The Splendor of the Church

But it's not just that the church is supreme. The church is splendid. Look at verse six with me. Verse six explains the promises that are being fulfilled and the splendor of the church.

To really understand verse six well, we have to think a little bit about the Old Testament and even the purpose of Israel. Why did God raise Israel up? Well in the Old Testament, Israel's purpose in part was to show that God was over, is over, and will be over all. That is part of Israel's purpose.

They are a nation designed to have international impact, to demonstrate that before the nations, and to have the nations do that. That's why Israel has the promises that they do—that in them all the nations will be blessed (Gen 22:18). That's why they are in the Promised Land—a land in the middle of everywhere—to have that kind of impact. And that is why the prophecies about Israel are worded the way they are, that in the end the nations will all come and worship around Jerusalem, and Christ will be there dominating. Israel's hegemony is indicative of this: that from heaven to earth, natural and supernatural, individual to national, everything and everywhere will have allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. It will be Him alone. And just as Yahweh is one, there is one place of worship because there is only one God. The entire world in the millennial Kingdom will demonstrate that reality so that all will know that everything belongs to the Lord and to the Lord alone. That's what's going on there. 

And so God demonstrates through Israel that He is over all and He is over us. But people may confuse that and take the wrong lesson from that. They might believe that because He's over us and He's over all and He uses Israel this way perhaps Gentiles are second-class citizens, less loved by God. From Jonah in the Old Testament to the Pharisees in the New Testament, such thinking prevailed. And so God raised up the church to demonstrate a beautiful lesson about the heart of God: that our God is not just over us, He is for us. 

Think about this as we get to verse six. How is God for us? He gave us a future. How? The Gentiles are going to be fellow inheritors. They have a future. The idea of inheritance here is not just what we possess. In context, in Ephesians 1:14, we are the inheritance. We are the ones who are the love gift from the Father to the Son. The Son inherits us as well, even as we inherit all the blessings that are in Him. 

To any unbeliever and to any Gentile outcast, sin makes people unloved. Sin corrupts people and makes people unlovable so that they do not love and are not loved. But this is the kind of hope we can give to people: that one day we'll be loved forever. We will be the precious treasure of Christ Himself. There is nothing more beautiful than that. Through the church, God shows that people have a future. 

And this is not just about the future, it is about what happens in the here and now. Not only is there a future, there is fellowship. We are not just fellow inheritors, we are fellow members of His body. We are those who partake of gifts that allow us to serve one another. And we are part of Christ's body so we partake in union and sweet communion with Him. The result of this is profound because as a visible consequence of sin, humanity post-fall is inherently fractured and divided. But in the church, we are united in Christ. 

And so there is purpose, participation, partaking in deep relationships. That's the sweet fellowship that is happening right here, right now, every time the church is gathered. And it is a beautiful thing. There is a reason that in Psalm 120 the psalmist laments being separated and cast away and far from the assembly in Jerusalem. People need fellowship and the unbeliever in their sin is not just unloved, they are lonely. They are all alone because that's the corrupting nature of sin. That is its consequence. But to sinners, through the gospel, we demonstrate that you can have fellowship. You can have joy right now. That happens every Sunday. That happens every time the church is gathered. 

But this is not just the future or the present, it even goes to the past, the foundation of it all. And that is, as the final part of verse six says, that we are partakers of the promise. 

What promise is Paul talking about? Well in Ephesians 1, he has said that the Spirit is the one who is promised. Why does that matter? Because unbelievers, fundamentally, are lost. They are estranged from God. Cut off and condemned by Him, and thereby outcasts and those who are scattered, separated from His affections. That is the underlying condition of man—totally perverted, wretched, and despicable in their shame. 

And you know what God does to those sinners? He puts His Spirit in them, and the one who was unholy becomes the Holy of Holies. The one who was cast away now has complete access to the Lord Jesus Christ. The one who was separated and cut off is now brought in near, to intimacy greater than anything Israel had ever experienced. Their top one, their High Priest, had access to the Holy of Holies for mere seconds once a year. Those who partake of the promise of the Holy Spirit have access to God constantly. We have a relationship that is unparalleled, one that is characterized by one word: adoption. The Spirit who dwells in our hearts causes us to say "Abba Father." 

 And so there is this beautiful reality about the church. It gives people a future. It gives people fellowship. It grants people family. And when you have something from past to present to future, beginning, middle, and end of all of life, you know what God gives through the church? It's life, and that is beautiful.

God is not just over us, He is for us. And Paul emphasizes and reminds us that such a gift, such blessing cannot be separated from Christ. It is partaking of the promise, as the text says, in Christ Jesus. Everything just mentioned happens in union with Him. It cannot be had apart from Him. And that is why, brothers, we preach Christ. 

There is a temptation in churches and in pulpits to deviate from that. There is a temptation not to make Christ central, to exalt something else or someone else, or to talk about self-help or whatnot. We must never do that. This is Christ's church and He has centrality, because all things for life and godliness are in Him. And not only that, life itself is in Him. He is all-sufficient. He is all that we need, and we cling to Him. And so we preach Him. 

We don't just preach the Messiah, we preach His message. That's why Paul concludes by saying “through the gospel" (Eph 3:6). Sometimes people wonder, how is Jesus's death and resurrection and faith in Christ even relevant to the modern day? Brothers, remember this: there is nothing more relevant to life and death than that which pertains to life and death. That is the gospel. It is intrinsic to our existence. It is essential to our existence. Therefore its impact on our existence is comprehensive. That's what Paul reminds us here. We will always preach the Messiah. We will always preach His message because there is nothing more necessary or relevant to human existence because it is the very foundation of human existence. And so with that message and with that Messiah, Paul reminds us that God is not just over us, He is for us. 

And a gentile might think, "But Paul I know that works for the Jews. I know God loves the unlovable and He makes family from the lost and he draws near and fellowship those who are in Him, but that's for the Jews. I'm just a Gentile." Most of us here are Gentiles. And what Paul says is that we're not just inheritors, we're fellow inheritors. We're not just members, we're fellow members. We're not just partakers, we're fellow partakers. God gives of Himself in these spiritual blessings and His spiritual relationship with His people fully. You have all of Him and He has all of you. 

Every time we meet, every time we partake of those realities through the gospel of Jesus Christ, we demonstrate that our God truly loves us. That's why this is the best news ever. Because our God didn't separate us off. He loved us so. 

This is the message that humbles Paul. That's why he says “I'm the least of these Apostles." This is the message that captivated him so that he said, "I bow the knee” (Eph 3:14). In prison he bows the knee thinking about these truths of how good God is. He says that God is the one whose love has height and depth and breadth (Eph 3:18). Paul sees that God is not only over us, He is for us. He recognizes that Goes does more than we could ever ask or think, and he gives all glory to Him in the church (Eph 3:20). 

And then in Ephesians 4:1, Paul says this: "I, the prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called."

 Brothers, you are not just a participant in the church, you are an undershepherd. You are not just part of the highest good, the most powerful entity, something that makes history, something that stewards the great salvation that we have, that which is splendid, that which is supreme. You are not just a participant in it, that would be good enough. You are a leader of it. It is entrusted to your care. 

And so like Paul, brothers, I urge you, walk worthy of the calling to which you were called.