Summary: Discover the tremendous wealth we have from God and how to tap into that wealth.
I was talking with Shiqiu on the phone this week. She mentioned that at the first Mandarin Fellowship meeting, people introduced themselves and made various comments about Christianity. One person, not yet a Christian, noted he had researched possible causes for why certain nations remained poor while other nations became wealthy. One of his findings included the influence of Jesus Christ on the wealth of a nation. In countries where people believed in Jesus, wealth increased.
Now, before you lump me with those who teach that you are guaranteed health and wealth if you trust in Jesus Christ, you need to know I’m not saying that. I’m also not saying that true Christians need to be poor. The Bible does not equate material wealth or poverty with trust in Jesus Christ.
Yet the Bible does teach that Christians are extremely wealthy. This morning, we will look at what kind of wealth Christians have and how we got that wealth. We begin the study of a new book in the New Testament, the book of Ephesians. Let me read the text for this morning, Ephesians 1:1-3; we won’t have time to cover verses 4- 6.
Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary on Ephesians, tells about Hetty Green, who left an estate valued over $100 million dollars. That’s not unusual, except she died in 1916, and she lived like a pauper. She ate cold oatmeal in order to save on heating cost. She would not take her son to get medical help until she found a free clinic. And when she finally found a free clinic, it was too late to save her son’s leg, so his leg was amputated.
Was Hetty Green wealthy? You can argue both ways, but she certainly didn’t live as if she were.
Paul, writing to the Christians in Ephesus, reminded them of their wealth, less they live and die as paupers. We will only have time to look at four of the many riches belonging to believers in Jesus Christ. We’ll look at others on June 30th. This morning we see that God gives two worlds and two gifts to Christians. Let’s look together.
First, God gives believers in Jesus Christ two worlds. We see this in verses 1 and 3.
Some copies of this letter from Paul did not have the word "Ephesus," indicating that this may be a letter written by Paul to Christians in general. Most, however, believe that Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Ephesus, giving us the title, "Ephesians."
Paul wrote this letter and the letters of Colossians, Philippians and Philemon from a Roman prison cell. You need to know that Paul was not in jail for a civil or criminal violation, but for his faith in Jesus Christ. I’ll introduce Paul more next time.
After identifying himself, Paul identifies the recipients of this letter as "saints" and "faithful" or believers in Christ Jesus. If we look closely, we will see that Paul doesn’t waste any time, but he lets the readers know they are recipients of two worlds. Let me define the word, "saints" and then show you how Christians are recipients of two worlds.
Contrary to popular understanding, saints are not dead people. Paul is not writing to the dead but to the living. Saints are not perfect people. Perfect people don’t need to be instructed or reminded by Paul. And saints are not Catholics. This letter, written about 60 AD, predates Catholicism.
The word, "saints," simply means "those who are set apart." In the context of this letter, "saints" are those who are set apart for Jesus Christ. Saints belong to Jesus Christ but still live in this earthly world. Saints are also described as the faithful or the believers in Christ Jesus. Today, we call them Christians.
Therefore, Paul is reminding Christians that they have riches from two worlds, this earthly world and the heavenly world where Jesus Christ is. Later in this letter, Ephesians 2:6, we are told, "And God raised us [Christians] up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus."
What does this mean? This means that as Christians, we have resources from two worlds, that of earth and that of heaven. Let’s first unveil our wealth on earth.
Genesis 1:28 tells us, "God blessed them [Adam and Eve] and said to them, ’Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’"
Let me ask you: "For whom were the riches of the earth made?" According to the Bible, they were made for mankind. True, some people and governments have laid claims on certain parts, but God intended mankind, sometimes in the form of institutions, to manage His creation, not to misuse His creation.