Summary: The Church is God's amazing plan. We must not discount the importance of being called into that church through Christ.
EPHESIANS # 5
We are exploring the grand themes of Paul’s letter to the Church in Ephesus. As you know, I love this letter! The heart of our hope is captured in the first 3 chapters and the practical implications of that hope are explored in the last 3 chapters.
Paul opens by pouring out praise to God for the favor that He pours out on us in keeping with His plan to call us to know, love, and serve Him.
He continues by praying for us to grasp God’s amazing power that creates living faith in us. He steps back to remind us that our natural state was wretched, that we were ‘objects of wrath,’ but that God stepped in to save us, remake us, and prepare us to live in His will.
At the end of chapter 2, Paul teaches us that there are no more ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ in God’s family. We are ‘built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.’ Our amazing destiny is to make the invisible God visible in the world!
Would you pause to really think about such a GRAND purpose?
In the middle of all our little pursuits, our obsessions with Facebook, our love for celebrities,
our diversions with food .... God says, “if you really understand Me, if you really live in
faith, you exist to be part of my plan to change the universe!”
This is amplified in chapter 3, today’s text.
Do you like a mystery? When we watch ‘Elementary’ - the new Sherlock Holmes - I try to guess the identity of the bad guy as the program progresses. I usually do better when we watch an episode of ‘Bones.’
In our text passage from Ephesians, Paul talks about the mystery that God revealed to him - a mystery of which we Christians are a part.
TEXT - Ephesians 3
Paul opens this part of his letter by reminding the readers that he is currently imprisoned because of his work to bring God’s message to ‘Gentiles,’ a broad word that includes all pagans or godless peoples. For centuries prior to Christ, the descendants of Abraham, who lived in faithful obedience to the Law, were the ‘people of God.’ But, all that changed with the coming of Jesus.
Now that the Church has gone into every part of the world the idea of a select race being God’s people may strike us as strange. But it was the way things worked in the B.C. world in the Bible.
Paul writes that God’s plan was to bring the Church into existence, something that had never before existed, that no one had even conceived. The Church, His Body on earth, His people - exists not in some specific kind of person, not in a nationality, or a race - it exists because of Christ Jesus. The Church cuts across all human boundaries!
This is a radical idea, a mystery, a secret God chose only to bring out into the open first in Christ Jesus, then through the apostles, and then through Paul.
We usually think of a mystery as a puzzle, a riddle to be solved by careful analysis of the clues. Paul uses the word ‘mystery’ in a different way. The word he uses means: “something which is secret, known only to a select few; something beyond natural knowledge.”
He uses the same word in the letter to the Colossians, as well as verse 3 of our text: “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.” - Colossians 1:26 (NIV)
What is this secret? We don’t have to guess because Paul lets us in on what God had revealed to him.
"This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 3:6, NIV)
"And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 3:6, NLT)
This may not mean much to us because we have such a low view of the Church. For many the Church is like a club. It’s a place to form friendships, to provide a social center for our kids and teens, to do some helpful things for those who are needy. All those things may be true, but they are not the reason that Christ called His Church into existence.
Paul was not giving his life in missionary work to create a new social club. He certainly was not willing to sit in prison so nice people could get together on Sunday mornings with other nice people.