Summary: Paul helps us treasure the Bible as we should.
For years it sat on a farmhouse wall gathering dust. And when Fiona McLaren redecorated, she didn’t even take the time to cover the apparently worthless painting in a protective sheet, so it got flecked with specks of house paint. However, in an astounding twist, it has emerged that the picture is likely to have been the work of master artist Leonardo da Vinci and worth over $200 million CDN (dailymail.co.uk). How did such a valuable painting end up in a Scottish farmhouse? The painting was given to McLaren’s father by one of his patients, but other than that not much is known about how it ended up on the British Isles, or how no one seemed to realize that they had a treasure on their hands.
Is there perhaps a valuable painting hanging in your house or shoved into a basement corner? Maybe it was a piece you picked up at a garage sale because you liked the colors, or just wanted the frame. Wouldn’t it be something if that painting was worth $200 million? But what are the chances that you are sitting on such a treasure? Quite good, actually, for if you have a Bible, you have a treasure. In our continuing study of the New Testament book of Ephesians, the Holy Spirit today will give us a God’s-eye view of the Bible and help us see that it offers treasures like nothing else in this world can.
You would, of course, expect a Lutheran minister to tell you that the Bible is a treasure. It’s a theme Lutheran pastors have been expounding since the days of Martin Luther himself. But because of that, you who have grown up listening to Lutheran preachers may now view the Bible the way that Scottish lady viewed her da Vinci painting. Since it was something she had seen every day since she was a child, she didn’t think much of it and certainly didn’t take care of it like she should have. Likewise it’s easy for us to take the Bible for granted because we have such easy access to it. But that’s why I’m excited to pick apart the Bible lesson before us. For the Apostle Paul will help us gain a new appreciation for the treasure that is the Bible.
We’ll only begin to appreciate the Bible if we understand what it is: God’s revelation. Paul put it like this: “In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles… (Ephesians 3:4, 5). What Paul had shared with his readers in the previous verses, which was last week’s sermon text, was not just his religious opinion. It was a secret revealed to him and the other apostles by the Holy Spirit. That’s what Paul meant when he spoke about the “mystery” of Christ. The word “mystery” here doesn’t mean something “mysterious” as in you can’t understand it like why aren’t the Oilers a better hockey despite having four, #1 draft picks. No, when Paul talks about the “mystery” of Christ he means something you wouldn’t know unless it was revealed to you.
So the first reason that the Bible is such a treasure is because it tells us what God thinks about us. That’s something that you would never be able to figure out by looking at the stars or reading tea leaves or listening to your conscience. And what we learn is what we heard a couple of Sundays ago when Paul said that we were once dead in sin, but made alive in Christ Jesus and have been given the gift of forgiveness and eternal life at no cost to us (Ephesians 2).
What I just said is worth more than a $200 million da Vinci painting. You could in fact own every da Vinci painting but would not be able to exchange the collection for what God just offered us through his Word: a place in heaven. You see, we’re like a canvass that a pre-schooler got hold of and wiped his dirty, snotty fingers all over. We’re not a picture of beauty by a long shot. But Jesus painted over the filth with his crimson blood. That is the “mystery” of salvation that everyone needs to learn and believe if they want to enjoy their life after death.
But has this message of salvation become a familiar painting that we hardly glance at anymore? If so, consider what Paul says next. “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 3:10). Not only has God revealed the “mystery” of salvation to us through his Word, his plan is that now through the church, that is through believers, to reveal this “mystery” to the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” Who are these rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms? Angels. Much of what you read in the Bible is information that not even the angels knew until it was revealed to the apostles. When they announced that the show X-Files was going to be televised again, fans couldn’t wait to see what Scully and Mulder would get up to in the opening episode. Well the angels were even more enthusiastic about learning exactly when Jesus would be born, and how he would conduct his ministry, and how he would die and rise again. The Apostle Peter tells us that the angels “longed to look into these things” (1 Peter 1:12).