Summary: God gave Paul a mystery to share with the world. Something for both Jews and Gentiles.
Sermon: Jesus, Help!...I’m a Gentile.
Scripture: Ephesians 3: 1-12
Today, I want to ask...Have you read your Bible any this last week?
Have you at least picked out one verse and meditated on it during this last week? Have you read through that verse more than once...maybe four or five times?
Have you read your Bible this last week and picked out one verse and then read a commentary on that verse?...maybe Barclay or McDowell?
Have you read your Bible this week and picked out one verse and then read a commentary on that verse and then also researched the history of that verse?
Then at the end of the week, have you gone back and read that verse again and have you found it be richer in its meaning to you?
Well, that’s what I have done with our scripture today and more. And at the end of this week, these verses have become so rich in meaning, because I now know so much more about them now. I hope I can squeeze everything that I have discovered about these verses into the time that I have with you today.
Our scripture today is from Ephesians. Paul was writing to this small community of New Christians and trying to encourage them in the way of Christ-likeness.
Christ-likeness...Two weeks ago we celebrated the birth of our Savior, the Christ child...the child that would grow up to be a man who would become the Holy of Holies in the history of the world. A man who would impact the world for the next 2000 years and even now continues to impact the world.
This child we welcomed into our midst just two weeks ago became a man who without money or arms and ammunition conquered more millions than Caesar, Napoleon, Mohammed or Alexander. Without science and learning, he has shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined. Without schooling he spoke such words of life that have ever been spoken before or since and that have produced effects that are still being felt today. This man has set more pens in motion and been the subject of more writings, treatise, books, poems...he has been the subject of some of the most beautiful artwork, music and literature than any other man in the history of the world.
But even this kind evidence that clearly exists is sometimes not enough for people to believe that Jesus is God come to us in human flesh.
As I read this scripture and listened to Paul say that he has been given an insight into the mystery of Christ by God...it struck me as how amazing it is that God would use Paul for anything. I mean consider what Paul’s life was like...He grew up as a devout Jew. He was taught by some of the best Jewish teachers of the time. He became a most respected Jewish religious leader...a Pharisee, the top of the line for Jewish religious leaders. He was zealous in keeping the Jewish faith pure...so zealous in fact that he was adamant about stamping out the ‘Religioso Illicitata’...this illegal religion called Christianity. He was eager to jail and even kill professed Christians. In fact he had procured letters introducing him to the Jewish leaders in Damascus, so that he could continue to scour the countryside for these cultists, to put them in jail or have them stoned to death. In fact, he stood by and watched while holding the cloaks of those who were stoning Stephan to death.
Why would God give Paul any great mystery to proclaim?
And then look what happened on the road to Damascus. Jesus himself came down on Paul and blinded him and asked him what he thought he was doing. And then in just a few days, Paul denounced everything that he had been brought up to believe...he denounced his Jewish life and became a Christian convert. He was a traitor to his Jewish faith.
We need to stop here a minute and realize what this meant...this was not a small change for Paul. His family, who were probably so very proud of him and what he had attained, were probably in shock. He was a Pharisee...respected...well-to-do,a comfortable life. No digging ditches for Paul...his future looked good.
And yet, now, what an embarrassment! A traitor to his Jewish upbringing, his family, his friends, his teachers, his coworkers...everyone who knew him as an eager zealous Jewish leader became upset and angry with him.
And even as a new Christian convert, this man, Paul, was alone. Could he be trusted by the other Christians?...why would anyone want to befriend this man who had just days before been killing Christians, like themselves?
So, as we come to read our Scripture today, we must understand that we find Paul, now Apostle Paul, trying to encourage the small church at Ephesus from a prison cell in Rome.