Picture in your mind a great, wise painter, painting on a huge canvas with many brushes, most of them very ordinary and messy. The painter is God, so you can’t picture him. He’s invisible. But he intends for his painting to be the visible display of his wisdom. He knows people can’t see him, but he wants his wisdom to be seen and admired. His canvas is huge. It’s the size of the created universe. I know you can’t really imagine looking at that canvas because you are in it. But do your best. And God is painting with thousands and thousands of colors and shades and textures—a picture as big as the universe and as old as creation and as lasting as eternity—a picture we call history, with the central drama being the preparation, salvation, and formation of the church of Jesus Christ. And he is using thousands of different brushes, most of them very ordinary and very small because every minute detail is crucial in this painting, to display the wisdom of the Painter. These brushes are God’s missionaries.
That’s the picture. Now there’s a reason in the text that I am encouraging to have a picture like this in your mind. It’s in the word “manifold” in verse 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.” This Greek word for “manifold” occurs in the Bible only here. It is very unusual. Half of it (poikilos) is used to mean, “wrought in various colors,” diversified, intricate, complex, subtle. It’s basic idea is of varied in color. Then Paul puts a prefix on the word that means “many” (polupoikilos). So the emphasis is very many colors and variations and intricacies and subtleties. So, since that is in the text, I want you to think of the display of God’s wisdom as a universe-sized painting with innumerable colors and shadings and texture. It is unsearchably intricate.
The brushes he uses are messy, ordinary people who have seen the unsearchable riches of Christ and are willing, and often eager, to take these riches to the nations. The brushes are broken, sinning, ordinary missionaries—of whom the world is not worthy (Hebrews 11:38).
Verse 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.” There are two reasons Paul mentioned that he was the least of all the saints. One is because he was a hater and persecutor of the church and of Christ. He never got over that God had chosen him in spite of his horrible past. The other reason is to remind you today that he can do the same for you.
So here is one of the greatest incentives of all to draw you into missions. God intends to use ordinary, messy, small paint brushes on the canvass of the history of missions because every minute stroke of his brush matters. Every bright stroke of triumph and every dark stroke of suffering matters. He is an infinitely wise painter. He knows what he is doing with your life. Not one stroke will be wasted. You can trust him with your life. Yield the wise hand that would paint with your life.
Oh, what riches we have to give!