Summary: The mystery of the gospel is revealed in the glory and grace
Grace and Glory
I love a good mystery. I have been a fan of Agatha Christie and PD James for years. I also love magicians and illusionists. There is something about a mystery that we all like. The moment when we ask ourselves, “What is going to happen next?” followed at the end by “How did they do that?”
Mystery is the spice of life. We want to be intrigued. It is almost as if we don’t want to know the trick or the solution, because we know, that when we know the answer, we are disappointed. We are disappointed because now there is no mystery. In chapter 3 of Ephesians Paul has led up to the greatest mystery in the universe, the mystery of Christ. Christ is God’s greatest revelation of his plan for the universe. This mystery has two elements; Glory and Grace.
We looked at Grace last week and how it is the overflowing of God’s mercy, personally to his special creation, you and me. And now we can also see that through God’s grace while he reconciles us to him, he also reconciles us to his specially chosen people, the Jews. We are now share citizenship with the Jews in God’s kingdom. Now, there is no difference between Jew and gentile. To the Galatians, he had written (3:28)
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”
It can seem such a little mystery to us, but to the Jew this is earth shattering. The Jews were THE chosen people, identified by God, proven by circumcision, empowered by God, a nation especially blessed. The apple of God’s eye. And now these gentile interlopers were a part of the family. We as gentiles are the country cousins to the Jews in their eyes. We are the outsiders, the addicts, the sinners, the wasters, the prodigals. We are ignorant of their traditions, the meanings of their rituals. Even warned against by God himself against intermarrying. And yet the mystery of God’s grace is that he has also chosen us, and chosen a moment to reveal the mystery of grace. It is indeed a mystery. And it has an impact for us, the interlopers into the kingdom of God. We ought never to forget that the grace of God IS a mystery. And in this mystery God chooses mysteriously. God chooses those who ought not to be chosen. He chose Paul, who admits in verse 8 that he is the least of the least. In 1 Tim 1 15 that Christ came to save sinners of whom he is the worst. Paul was the persecutor of the Christians. He ought not to be their spokesman and theologian. And yet he was. We ought not to be saved, and yet we are. God chooses and uses those we naturally would not choose. His grace to us is a mystery, even though we know that the mystery is his grace. God’s grace is no mere magical trick. Even when we know the trick of grace, it is even more mysterious.
But the Grace of God has a further purpose. It is to bring glory to God. I remember years ago watching Tommy Cooper do a trick where you tear up a cigarette paper, blow on the pieces and magically them whole again. He then went on to teach the trick to the audience. The trick he told them was to have another cigarette paper hidden inbetween his fingers and he went through the trick again. However the obviously hidden second cigarette paper dropped from his hand and didn’t appear to notice. At the end of the trick when the audience thought that this was another of his tricks that wouldn’t work, he mysteriously put the pieces back together again, to rapturous applause. God does this kind of thing with his Grace to his great glory.
Verse ten tells us that God had kept the revelation of this mystery back until the time that as he united Jews and Gentiles under his grace, he could declare to the audience of rulers and authorities in the heavenly places, his intent and unfolding plan of salvation in order that he would be glorified. And this unfolding I imagine would be and is a surprise not only to us his creation, but to the heavenly powers and authorities. God has an eternal and mysterious purpose. It is clear that the mystery is Grace. It is clear that the mystery is the uniting of Jew and gentile into one people. It is clear that this has been the purpose from the beginning. It is clear that we are a part of that great purpose because it is through the church (V10) that this is to be accomplished. It is through the gathering of his holy people, under his great grace, to accomplish his holy purpose and to bring him honour and glory. Now that is a mystery. Why would God depend on such weak and clay like pots to bring him glory? When the queen inspects the troops, they bring out the best. The best looking, the best trained, the fittest. The better they are, the more respect the queen receives. And yet God chooses you and me, and Paul, and Peter, and John, and Andrew, and the others. He has chosen weak men and women down the ages to fill with his mysterious grace, and fulfill his holy purposes, and this brings him the greatest glory. I had a friend who was a coach. He would coach hockey or football. He never did coach the best players. He always got stuck with the leftovers. The last to be chosen. The last anyone would choose. But consistently throughout the season, he would take them and mould them into a winning team. When they didn’t win, they were second. To me he had the harder job. He deserved the wins. It is far easier to win if you have the fittest and most skilful. And there is glory in that. But far greater is the glory when you win with the least likely. And God has chosen the least likely. The human race does not have a great track record. And amongst the human race, God chooses the least likely, and the least fit, and the least skilful. And through Christ, he wins. And the mystery is that despite knowing the mystery, it is still a mystery how he does that.