Summary: The love of God for the Gentile church
May 16, 2010
This morning we’re back in Ephesians in chapter three.
If you’ll recall, chapter two describes the Gentiles before and after Christ (they were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship, and foreigners to the promise, but now they’re in Christ and sons of God.
They’re considered equal in every way with the chosen people of God, the Jews. Christ has torn down the barrier separating the two groups so that they can be presented to God as one new man.
We’re all saved by grace through faith and we all approach God through the same Spirit whether Jew or Gentile. In fact, Gentiles and Jews alike are being fitted together into the temple of the Lord.
Now we pick up in chapter three:
Paul’s Ministry in Chains to the Gentiles (:1-13)
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles-- 2if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace which was given to me for you; 3that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.
Paul is in prison because he was faithful to preach the gospel; he’s in prison for the sake of the Gentiles…so much for “success” and “health and wealth.” The success of our faith has nothing to do with the American Dream.
Paul’s obedience and success led him to a prison cell.
Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. (Philippians 1:12-14)
The disciples rejoiced not when they were received by all men and loved by them, but when they were rejected and beaten by men for the sake of Christ (Acts 5:41).
This should be a lesson for the American church—first of all, there’s a difference between blessing and reward. The vilest sinner can experience the blessing of God as God draws him towards repentance, but God’s reward is reserved for His faithful servant.
In the disciple’s case, they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the sake of Christ; in Paul’s case, he was rewarded with a prison cell for the sake of the Gentiles and the gospel.
The second lesson for the American church is this—rejection and suffering are a part of following Christ. For some reason we’ve got this idea that we’ve got to get everyone to like us. But what does Jesus say?
If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19"If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)
But these believers in the Ephesian church were concerned over the persecution of their faith, and Paul writes to calm them down. In verse thirteen he writes, “I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.”
We can’t define our faith or our obedience by our material blessings. Suffering is a part of the Christian life, and Paul accepted it as a part of his ministry.
But a little persecution and suffering weren’t too bad because as he says, “you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you.” A steward is someone who’s put in charge of something. Paul was put in charge of getting the message of God’s grace to the Gentiles.
His chains are helping him do that (Phil. 1:12-14), so the Ephesians shouldn’t lose heart.
These chains are helping to reveal what Paul calls a “mystery.”
When you think of the word “mystery,” think Sherlock Holmes. We’re not talking about something inscrutable; the mystery is to be solved through clues.
Or think of a puzzle. A 10,000,000 piece puzzle would take some time to figure out, but it’s not undoable, you just have to put it together.
What is the mystery?
4By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,
Christ is the mystery.
If we were putting together a puzzle, once we completed it, we would see that Christ is the picture in the puzzle.
If we were looking for clues to solve the mystery, they would all point to Christ.
If we were searching for a hidden treasure, we would find that Christ is the treasure.
5which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,