Summary: 18th in a series on Ephesians. God blesses us with His grace so that we can "pay it forward."
Although it has only been three weeks, it seems like quite a while since we last looked at the book of Ephesians. We’re going to continue our journey through our basic training manual this morning as we come to Chapter 3. Let’s read our passage out loud together.
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles - Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.
Ephesians 3:1-3 (NIV)
I’ve now had three weeks to deal with this passage and it’s been a real struggle. It’s not that the verses are hard to understand – in a sense they’re pretty simple. But when I preach one of my goals is always to leave you with something that you can apply in your lives and for some reason, I’ve had a hard time doing that with this passage. It’s not that there aren’t some important principles here. In fact, as I’ve discovered, there are some really crucial lessons for us to learn.
I’d like to use a brief clip from the 2000 movie “Pay It Forward” to get us thinking about the principles we’ll look at this morning. [Show from 29:55 to 35:09 of movie after setting the stage for this scene].
The grace that God has given to us is not just for our own benefit. Although we need to make sure we don’t care the analogy too far, there is certainly a sense in which God bestows His grace on us so that we can “pay it forward.”
So what I’d like to do this morning is to spend a few minutes making some general observations about this passage and then share three important principles that all of us need to apply to our lives as followers of Jesus Christ.
After our journey through the first two chapters of Ephesians, we should be pretty familiar with Paul’s style of writing. He often starts to write about one topic and then something else will come to his mind and he’ll completely change course for a while before he comes back to his original thought. He also tends to use very long sentences. As we come to Chapter 3, we find Paul doing those same things again. He begins this new section with these words
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles…
And then you’ll notice that in almost every translation those opening words are followed by a dash. That’s because for the next 12 verses, verses 2-13, Paul is going to insert a parenthetical comment before he finally comes back to his opening thought when we get to verse 14 and he writes: “For this reason I kneel before the Father…”
Before we get to the “meat” of the passage this morning, there are two phrases that we need to look at briefly so that we can examine our passage this morning in its proper context.
For this reason…
This is one of those connecting phrases like “therefore”, “because”, “since” or “for” that Paul uses that ought to cause us to pause and to look back to what he has previously written. In this case, Paul is probably referring back to all of chapter 2, but particularly to the idea that Jews and Gentiles have been brought together through Jesus Christ into this new creation that God calls the church. As we’ll see when we get to verse 14, that unbelievable work of God is the reason Paul pauses once again to pray for his readers. That’s very similar to what Paul has already done in chapter 1 where he prayed for his readers that God would reveal Himself so that they could know Him better.
…as I have already written briefly
There are several possibilities that Paul could be referring to here:
• Letter to the Colossians
Ephesians and Colossians were probably written around the same time, while Paul was a prisoner in Rome. So it is possible that the readers of Ephesians were also familiar with Colossians. And in that letter, Paul had brief addressed the whole idea of the revelation of God’s mystery, which we’re going to look at this morning and again in much more detail next week.
I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness - the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.