Summary: The mystery that Paul talks about is God’s plan to include everyone who wants to serve Him.
The Mystery In Christ
Text: Eph. 3:1-13
1. Illustration: Everybody loves a good mystery. My personal favorite is Sherlock Holmes. He would solve the most baffling cases using what he referred to as pure deductive reasoning.
2. The apostle Paul loved a good mystery too. However, the mystery he preferred had nothing to do with who killed whom, but about who gives new life.
3. In our text today, he talks about:
a. The revelation of the mystery.
b. The implementation of the mystery.
c. The exaltation of the mystery.
4. Read Ephesians 3:1-13
Proposition: The mystery that Paul talks about is God’s plan to include everyone who wants to serve Him.
Transition: First, Paul talks about...
I. The Revelation of the Mystery (1-5)
A. God Revealed His Mysterious Plan
1. Paul begins this chapter "When I think of all this. . ."
a. What he is doing is referring back to what he has already written.
b. When he thinks about our spiritual blessings in Christ.
c. When he thinks about God’s free gift of grace that has been bestowed upon all people.
d. When he thinks about the peace of Christ that is available to all who believe.
e. When he thinks of all of this, it makes what he is now going through worthwhile.
2. What he is going through is that he is "a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the benefit of you Gentiles . . ."
a. I want you to notice something. Paul at this time is under house arrest in Rome, but he does not say that he is a prisoner of Caesar.
b. He is in prison because of the Jews in Jerusalem, but he does not say he is a prisoner of the Jews.
c. He says that he is a prisoner of Jesus Christ.
d. Whatever he did and wherever he went were under Christ’s control.
e. Without his Lord’s consent, he was not subject to the plans, power, punishment, or imprisonment of any man or government (The - MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Ephesians).
3. Paul not only had the realization that his steps were ordered by God, but that he had a mission.
a. He was not just in prison for his own sake but for the sake of those he was called to serve - the Gentiles.
b. He talks about having the "special responsibility" of extending God’s grace to them.
c. The word being translated here refers both to the office of being a steward and to the carrying out of the responsibility (Snodgrass, NIV Application Commentary, New Testament: Ephesians, 159).
d. Paul is a steward in charge of God’s grace. If he fails in his task, the Gentiles will be deprived of God’s grace.
4. He says, "God himself revealed his mysterious plan to me."
a. Here is where we get into the idea of a mystery. However, the concept of mystery to those in Biblical times is quite different from the way we think of it today.
b. When we think of a mystery, we think of something that is hidden that we need to discover for ourselves - like Sherlock Holmes.
c. In their "context it refers to what is known only because God revealed it" (Snodgrass, 159).
d. Therefore, it wasn’t something we had to figure out for ourselves, but God himself revealed it to us.
e. His mysterious plan was to include all people, even the Gentiles, in His free gift of salvation.
f. Peter 3:9 (NASB)
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
5. Paul tells us "God did not reveal it to previous generations, but now by his Spirit he has revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets."
a. It had been God’s plan all along to include the Gentiles in His gift of grace.
b. Genesis 12:3 (NLT)
I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”
c. However, the ones to whom God chose to bless the world did not realize it.
d. Consequently, since Jesus came and gave his life on the cross, thus making salvation possible, God has revealed the fact that His salvation is for anyone who chooses to receive it.
B. God’s Desire
1. Illustration: In July of 2005, Angelina Jolie adopted a little Ethiopian child. While she was touring drought and disease and famine stricken Ethiopia, she got the idea that although she couldn’t do every child in Africa a favor, she could grant favor to one child. So she stepped out of her world and into the world of this little girl whose existence was difficult at best. Can you imagine the difference in the life of this little girl before Jolie adopted her and after the adoption. Jolie chose her. She showed favor to her. Her life, once deprived, now had abundance. Her life, once without any real future, not exploded with possibility. What a difference it can be when someone who has everything shows favor to someone who may not have very much.