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Ephesians
Sunday, 05 November 2017

WE ARE FELLOW-HEIRS
Ephesians 3:1-13


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It is important to know what we value. Yet, how do we measure that? Of course, the obvious place to look is a personís checkbook: they value what they pay for. And in one sense that is true. But what about things that donít necessarily require money (or much money at least)? How can you measure someoneís value of that? I ask all of this to get to this question: How much do you value Jesus and the free offer of the gospel to all, Jews and Gentiles? How can we answer that question? We could look at our checkbooks and that would give us some indication. We could look at our schedules and see how much time we give to Christ. We could check Sunday School attendance and ministry involvement as well. All of these would at least give us an idea of how much we value Jesus and the good news.

 

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We see another way of demonstrating value in our passage this morning, namely willingness to suffer for His Name. As we have noted, Paul is writing this letter from prison. He mentions that in verse 1. Look at that with me. After writing of Godís grace toward the Gentiles in chapter 2, Paul is about to once again tell them how he is praying for them. Yet, he wonít get to that second prayer report until verse 14, which we will look at next week. Before he prays, he wants to say a few things about his imprisonment. It seems that after mentioning it, he felt he needed to explain and encourage the readers concerning his suffering. That is the conclusion he makes it verse 13. Look at that with me.

Paul is in prison for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles. Yet, he does not want them to be discouraged about that. What reason does he give for them not to be discouraged about his suffering? His answer is that he is suffering for the mystery of Christ, which is your glory. He speaks of this mystery throughout these verses and I want to consider what he says in our time together. We should start with his definition, so look at verse 6. The mystery is that the Jewish Messiah has come to save both Gentiles and Jews. Through faith in Jesus, we are fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Paul is in prison and is suffering for this mystery. He values it so much that he is willing to suffer for it. This is why he does not want the readers to lose heart. Yet, in order to understand his argument, we need to see what else he says about this mystery.

Revealed by the Spirit (v. 2-5)

A Ďmysteryí in the New Testament is something that was once unknown but has now become clear through the coming of Christ. The mystery of God including the Gentiles in salvation was revealed by the Spirit to Paul. Look at verses 2-3. Paul was told by God that he would be a minister to the Gentiles (see Acts 9:1-19, 26:12-23). Just as Peter was called to take the gospel to the Jews, Paul was called to take it to the uncircumcised (see Galatians 2:1-9). God had given him this Ďstewardship of grace.í He was called to get the good news to Gentiles.

And not just Paul, but the other apostles confirmed this as well. Look at verses 4-5. The mystery had been concealed until the time of Christ. Not that the Old Testament did not speak of Godís heart for the nations and how the Messiah would be a light for all nations (see Isaiah 42:6), but how this would come about was not revealed completely until the coming of Jesus. Through Him and through the further work of the Spirit, the mystery became plain.

Proclaimed by Paul (v. 7-9)

What is Paulís relationship to this mystery? He is called to make it known! Look at verses 7-9. Notice Paulís emphasis on Godís grace in his life. He was persecuting the Church and doing all that he could to stamp out Christianity when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. But everything changed. The Lord opened his eyes (physically and spiritually) and gave him the charge to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. God did not withhold from him the truth that he would suffer greatly for this mission (Acts 9:16). Yet, Paul willingly embraced the call. He loved and valued the good news so much that he was willing to face prison for it, which is where he is now as he is writing this letter. As he took the good news to the Gentiles, he was arrested by Jews and thrown in prison for his faith in Christ. Paul counted it a privilege to suffer in ministry for the One who suffered for him.

Do we think like that? Do you count it a privilege to be a minister of the gospel? We might dismiss such a question by reminding ourselves that Paul was an apostle and that we are just followers of Jesus. But every follower of Christ is called to take the good news to the lost and every follower of Christ will suffer for it. Yet, can we, like Paul, count it a privilege to suffer for Jesus? One of my commentators writes: ďImplicitly we think of ministry as our gift to God, but Paul thought of ministry as Godís gift to him.Ē I want to have that perspective. Every act of service, every job done, every class taught, every dollar given, every table cleaned, is a gift of grace from God. Every opportunity of service is a privilege. Like Paul, we have been entrusted with the unsearchable riches of Christ. What a privilege to serve Him!

Planned by God (v. 10-12)

Paul goes on to give a reason for this calling on his life. Look at verses 10-12. God had a plan, an eternal purpose, in this mystery of salvation for both Jew and Gentile. And what did that plan include? The salvation of both Jew and Gentile through faith in Christ puts on display the manifold wisdom of God. That God could save men from every tongue, tribe, and nation is a testament to His great wisdom. The word translated Ďmanifoldí is a poetic term and it means multi-layered or multi-colored or multi-faceted. This is how Paul describes Godís wisdom that is on display in the salvation of Gentiles. The rulers and powers cannot help but see it, even if they war against it. Godís wisdom is there for all to see.

And where exactly is this wisdom displayed? Paul says: through the church. Do you realize what that means this morning? Right now, through our salvation through faith in Jesus and our commitment to our brothers and sisters in Christ here at Trinity, we are proclaiming the wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. We have not committed to each other because we are all alike, we have committed to each other because we have all been saved by faith in Christ! We are unified in Him. And that unity screams out the wisdom of our God. Such teaching from Paul implies the importance of committing to a local church (as we talked about in our discipleship video this week). This display of Godís wisdom is only done in community. In other words, you cannot do it by yourself. So, join a church. Commit to a local body of believers. Fight for unity together. And put on display the manifold wisdom of God. This is Godís plan for the mystery. It was His purpose to save both Jews and Gentiles through Christ to display His wisdom. Be a part of that plan today!

Conclusion
Before Paul launches into his prayer for the Ephesians, he encourages them to not lose heart over his suffering. Look again at verse 13. Yes, Paul is in prison for them, but this is all part of Godís great plan to save both Jews and Gentiles. It was a mystery, but the mystery has been revealed by the work of the Spirit in the lives of Paul and the apostles. Even though he was unworthy, God gave Paul the privilege of proclaiming the good news to the Gentiles. And though their belief in Jesus, the church is putting the wisdom of God on display for all to see.

So how should we respond? If you have never placed your faith in Jesus, then I plead with you to turn from your sins and believe in Him today. Jesus came to die for both Jews and Gentiles. Through His death and resurrection our sins have been paid for and we can now be forgiven through repentance and faith in Him. You can become a part of Godís great mystery. If you are a follower of Christ, then I encourage you to recommit yourself to the local church. Like Paul, we have a part to play in proclaiming the good news to those who have not heard and we get the privilege of doing that together. Letís be committed to that task. Letís be committed to one another. When suffering comes, we will not lose heart because we know that we are in this together and that we are playing our part in Godís eternal purpose. May His manifold wisdom be seen through us! Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Friday, 10 November 2017 )

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