Summary: Through Christ we have constant access to God
No Appointment Necessary – Eph. 3:1-13
Steve Simala Grant, Sept. 9, 2001
Did you ever get in trouble in school for writing an incomplete sentence? The teacher scrawls a big red pen word across the page – “incomplete!” and reduces your grade accordingly. Our Scripture passage today, Eph. 3:1-13, begins with just such a sentence. _______ read it earlier for us, so I’m not going to read the whole thing again, but turn to it and keep it open and we’ll look at it together.
Paul begins a sentence, says “for this reason, I Paul, …” and then gets sidetracked – gets diverted – and never finishes the sentence. He does comes back to the thought, and completes that in verse 14, which we’ll look at next week. What sidetracks Paul is the need to explain his role and his responsibility, he talks about being a prisoner of Christ for the sake of the gentiles, and realizes that it would be helpful for his readers to know more about him and what it is that Jesus has told him that is so incredible he was willing to suffer imprisonment and persecution.
The passage can be organized into the first paragraph, vss. 2-6, which talks about what the “mystery” is; the second section, vss. 7-11, which talks about sharing this mystery, and the climax of vs. 12.
1. The Mystery is… (vs. 1-6)
Back in chap. 1:9, Paul said that God “made known to us the mystery of his will,” but he never told us what that mystery was. He left that until now. He tells us several things about the mystery before actually stating what it is:
1) it is described as “the administration of God’s grace” (vs. 2), a phrase that makes sense once we see what the mystery is in vs. 6.
2) it was given to Paul by “revelation,” (vs. 3) meaning it came directly from God to Paul. It is possible that this happened when Paul met Jesus on the Damascus road (see Acts 9), I think it maybe came a little later, but regardless, it is clear that Paul intends us to know that revealing the content of the mystery is directly from God.
3) it was previously hidden, but has now been revealed (vs. 5). It is like a good mystery novel or movie – the clues have been there all along, but it is not until we get to the end that we see how the various pieces all fit together.
So what is this mystery, exactly? vs. 6 (read). The mystery is the incredible unity of the church – that we are all one in Christ. The entire passage thus far comes to this point – that through the Gospel of Jesus Christ we are all one. Paul uses three terms to describe this unity: 1) heirs together; 2) members together of one body; and 3) shares together in the promise.
A. Heirs together:
You don’t earn an inheritance – it is a gift. Paul is saying here that together we receive the inheritance of God. And it is not the idea of God divvying up His riches and distributing a bit here, a bit there – the idea is that together we receive the same thing. Together we receive the gift of salvation. It is like leaving your house to your children – it is not like one gets the upstairs and the other gets the basement. The inheritance is to them together, and then they need to work together to receive the benefits of the inheritance. Earlier in chapter 1 we saw that the Holy Spirit is the guarantor of this inheritance, here the emphasis is on the fact that we are heirs together.
B. Members together:
This is interesting – Paul invents a word here. The word he uses is found nowhere else in the Bible or in any other writings of the time; in order to make his point Paul invents this word that pictures us all joined together into one body. This is the theme he has been developing all along – that we all as Christians belong to the same body – the church of Christ, with Jesus as the head – and that it is only us all together that make up this body.
C. Sharers together:
This is the third great unifier – that together we share in the promise. What promise? I believe this is a reference to the Holy Spirit, based on 1:13. This then means that the third thing which brings us all together is the promise of the Holy Spirit – and the fact that all who believe in Jesus receive this gift of the Holy Spirit.
Note the key word in each of these three points – together. We are not heirs alone. We are not exclusive members. We do not receive the Holy Spirit in isolation from one another. Rather, the point Paul is going to great lengths to make (even inventing a word to maintain this emphasis), is that the great mystery of God is that together, all Christians make up the church of God.