Adapted from a Jim Black sermonhttp://www.sermoncentral.com/print_friendl y.asp?ContributorID=&SermonID=54851
Ephesians 3:1 NET For this reasonI, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles — 2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of Gods grace that was given to me for you, 3 that by revelation the divine secret was made known to me, as I wrote before briefly. 4 When reading this, you will be able to understand my insight into this secret of Christ.
5 Now this secret was not disclosed to people in former generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, 6 namely, that through the gospel the Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus. 7 I became a servant of this gospelaccording to the gift of Gods grace that was given to me by the exercise of his power.
8 To me — less than the least of all the saints — this grace was given, to proclaim to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ 9 and to enlighten everyone aboutGods secret plan — a secret that has beenhidden for ages in God who has created all things. 10 The purpose of thisenlightenment is that through the church themultifaceted wisdom of God should now bedisclosed to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly realms.
11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confident access to Godbecause of Christs faithfulness. 13 For thisreason I ask you not to lose heart becauseof what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
Paul‟s mission was to reveal the fact that God has broken down the walls whichdivide and made all one in Christ; a mission which he also gives to the church. We‟reurged to take up Paul‟s challenge to reveal the multifaceted wisdom of God to the world!
The storys told about a young fellow who was very short, but his greatest ambition was to play basketball. His father heard about an old torture stretch rack down atthe local museum. Later the father reported on the success of this experiment like this:“The rack didnt make the boy any taller, but he did confess to many secrets that I didnt know about.”
Who doesn‟t love having a secret? Don‟t you love hearing a secret? Oh, it is so hard sometimes keeping asecret. The divine secret, revealed to Paulwas a secret that has been hidden for ages in God who has created all things. Thisdivine secret was a real mystery. Paul was given the answer to the mystery to enlighten everyone about Gods secret plan.
Did you know that in one sense the Bibletells of God‟s Plan as being a “mystery”?Now, it‟s not the kind of mystery that youand I might think of, a “whodunit,” and it‟s not the kind of mystery that could have been figured out by Perry Mason, Columbo, or Joe Friday.
But in the very real sense what God wasultimately „up to‟ had not been fully realized- it was a mystery to many. What God was doing (& had been doing from the verybeginning) to reconcile his people to himself had not been completely clear to the people. But now, Paul has the privilege of unveiling, of uncovering and revealing the greatest of mysteries for all time!
Let‟s look again the text that we just read, Ephesians 3:1-13 . Remember Paul has just pointed out that the dividing walls have been brokendown, now we are all (Jew & Gentile) on the same team, so to speak! He‟ll build off of that theme and launch into a prayer, butsomething stops him short. As he writes, he pauses to reflect upon the ministry that he has been given.
1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner ofChrist Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles — 2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of Gods grace that was givento me for you, 3 that by revelation the divine secret was made known to me, as I wrote before briefly.
Remember, Paul is in prison here. He‟s been given this wonderful ministry to takethe good news to the Gentiles, but now thathas landed him in prison. But notice that noteven chains will stop Paul from proclaiming the message! Though he‟s chained to a Roman guard, he doesn‟t say that he is a prisoner of Caesar!
And then it‟s as if this thought reminds Paulof something and causes him to stop short.My Bible has a dash at the end of vs. 1. It‟s an indication of an abrupt change in thought, perhaps something „theater folks‟call an „aside‟. He leaves his train of thought for a few paragraphs, but he‟ll return to it next week in verse 14.
He‟s not just aimlessly meandering, he pauses because he has something important to say! He has been handed asecret. By revelation the divine secret was made known to me…for YOU gentiles. The stewardship of Gods grace that was given to me for you. Paul, by God’s grace, has been made a steward ormanager of this divine secret. Well, what is this „divine secret‟ Paul speaks of?
4 When reading this, you will be able to understand my insight into this secret ofChrist. 5 Now this secret was not disclosed to people in former generations as it hasnow been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, 6 namely, that through the gospel the Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus.
This divine secret - which those ingenerations past had not known- has NOW been revealed: The Outsiders have been brought IN! „that through the gospel theGentiles are fellow heirs, [with Israel] fellowmembers of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus!‟
Imagine what a shock this must have been! Its hard for us to realize because we‟vegrown up in a „post-gospel‟ era hearing from birth this truth, but for those in the 1st century, this was a radical statement! Jews had always just assumed that they were going to be God‟s chosen people and Gentiles would always be outsiders.
But Godhad a plan that was a mystery to everyone!Now, to be fair, there HAD been clues along the way. In commissioning Abraham & giving him the promise, God told him in Genesis 12:2 NIV “I will make you into agreat nation and I will bless you; I will makeyour name great, and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Later the prophet Isaiah prophesiesconcerning the „servant of the Lord‟, Isaiah49:6 NIV he says: “It is too small a thing foryou to be my servant to restore the tribes ofJacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for theGentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”Jesus himself hinted at this in Matthew 8:11NET I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet withAbraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,
And again John records Jesus making the bold claim, I have other sheep that do notcome from this sheepfold. I must bring themtoo, and they will listen to my voice, so that there will be one flock and one shepherd. John 10:16 NET So, there had been clues, but the wholescope of God‟s plan had not been fully laid out, until NOW!
We may not share Paul‟s concern that this be understood. We live in a day & time where this fact is a given- we take it for granted. In fact, Gentiles have taken over the church! There are relatively few truly Jewish Christians today compared withGentile Christians. But let‟s remember whatPaul is stressing: the unity of the church in Christ! The church is made up of all kinds of people!
This is a theme he‟ll come back to inChapter 4, but for now let us just emphasize that the differences which divided Jew & Gentile in the 1st century are FAR moresignificant than any differences which divideChristians today! More than race; more than politics; more than religion!
To be in Christ is to be made ONE with allof those who are also in Christ, like it or not! Whether you agree with them or not;whether you have anything else in common or not; whether you speak the samelanguage or dress in the same styles or eat the same food, you are ONE with all thosewho are in Christ! So, how do we show that „oneness‟ that we share in Christ?
Well, with Paul languishing in prison, what motivates him to keep going with this radical message? 7 I became a servant of this gospelaccording to the gift of Gods grace that was given to me by the exercise of his power. 8To me — less than the least of all the saints — this grace was given, to proclaim to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ
9 and to enlighten everyone about Gods secret plan — a secret that has beenhidden for ages in God who has created all things. Paul‟s is a “Grace-Motivated” Ministry! It‟sworth pointing out that Paul very much saw this duty as „by God’s grace‟ or out of hisloving kindness! He saw himself as nothingspecial, „less than the least of all the saints.‟
Yet he recognized that God had given him a special grace to be able to proclaim to the Gentiles this message of Christ . . . the unfathomable riches of Christ . . . to enlighten everyone! This wasn‟t a chore that brought burden for Paul! It was awonderful privilege to be entrusted with this gospel message!
And even though he was in chains becauseof it- he still saw it as a grace! I believe God has given me a great grace to be your preacher. It‟s not because I‟m so good or qualified, but because God has given me this privilege to proclaim his good news to you and those you bring with you. It‟s the message that‟s important, not the messenger! Being involved in Ministry is a GRACE! Keep that thought in mind as we move to Paul‟s next major point:
10 The purpose of this enlightenment is thatthrough the church the multifaceted wisdom of God should now be disclosed to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenlyrealms. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confident access to God because of Christs faithfulness.
13 For this reason I ask you not to lose heart because of what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. Paul is in prison! While he‟s doing a lot even in prison, he‟s also writing to encourage the church that his mission is theirs as well! Paul was given this ministry to the intent that now the entire churchshould make known the wisdom of God! His mission of proclaiming this reconciliation inChrist is now the church‟s mission, ministry!
It‟s what we‟re supposed to be about! Ephesians tells us how to be the church! Now let‟s think about that mission for a moment. Who is „the church?‟ You know, preachers get into trouble when they start to think alittle too highly of themselves. But, it is alsoeasy for members to think too highly of the preacher.
Paul didn‟t say, “His intent was that now through the wonderful and talentedministers, the multifaceted wisdom of Godshould now be disclosed.” Or “Through the wise and prudent Elders, the wisdom should be disclosed.” NO! He said this is the church‟s mission! How can a church accomplish this?
Some might say. "We can‟t tell anybody the good news if they won‟t come to church,” Ohhh, how we‟ve misunderstood what church is! The church is YOU! That old hand exercise we learned as kids . ..“Here‟s the church, here‟s the steeple, open the door & see all the people,” is WRONG! The church is the people! For many of us, the church is a place that „puts on services.‟
We‟ve GOT to move beyond this understanding and rediscover God‟s intent for the church! The church is the body ofsaved individuals who assemble together to lift Him up in praise, to embody the unity that God models and to be His hands and feet in a lost and dying world! Grace callsALL OF US! Its not about hiring a preacheror evangelist to go out and do this for you! If it‟s the responsibility of the church, it‟s the responsibility of all of us!
Well, how do we do it? One method that we‟ve tried for years and know doesn‟t work: wait for them to come to us. If we know it doesn‟t work, why is that typically how we do evangelism? Albert Einstein is credited of saying, “thedefinition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.”
Is THIS what we‟ve been doing? Paulcertainly didn‟t wait on unbelievers to come to him! He didn‟t learn the mystery of the good news and then sit back to see who came for it. He went to them and took themessage to where they were! What are we doing to take the message to the community?
Now, part of that might be inviting them tocome to our services- but most won‟t come unless invited. That‟s just the way manypeople are. Who have you invited? It‟s up to us. We have a job to do and it involves sharing the good news about Jesus Christ with others, your family, friends andneighbors. You are uniquely qualified for the job, too, because there is no one else like you.
You have opportunities each week that I don‟t have, that Brother So-&-so doesn‟t have. Sister What‟s-her-name will never haveopportunities that God has uniquely given to you. What will you do about them?
Well, fortunately, the mission of the churchis in God‟s hands. We do our part, but He‟ll handle the details. We sow and water, but God will bring the increase. This is God‟schurch, not ours. Our confidence is in Him, notourselves! So, Paul says to the Ephesians, “don‟t worry about me. The mission of the church is bigger than any one of us! The good news will be spread whether I‟m in prison or not!”
What are you doing to be a part of thismission? What is your part in revealing thismystery to those around us? The wall which has divided people from God has been broken down! And that is Good News!When the Berlin Wall came down, CNN was right there to broadcast it to the world! Where‟s the CNN‟s broadcasting THIS NEWS? What are you doing to broadcast it? Who do YOU know needs to hear it?
Have YOU heard it? Do YOU have a relationship with God? If not, did you know you could? That‟s the mystery that Paul is talking about: you cancome to God with „boldness and confident,‟thru faith in Christ who has taken down that wall! What‟s your faith in this morning?
If you‟re willing to turn from that old life of placing your confidence in yourself . . . if you‟re willing to place your confidence in Him . . . if you‟re willing to commit yourselfto Him thru baptism . . . we‟d love to accept you into the great family of God! He‟s got a plan for you, a mission, if you‟ll just accept it!