Sermon: The Mysterious Gospel (Ephesians 3:1-13)

The Mysterious Gospel

Ephes. 3:1-13 (ESV) 

    For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles- [2] assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,  [3] how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.  [4] When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,  [5] which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.  [6] This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

    [7] Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.  [8] To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,  [9] and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,  [10] so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  [11] This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,  [12] in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.  [13] So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

Introduction

Four times in this passage Paul uses the word mystery.  I love a good mystery.  I love to watch movies that don’t unravel till the end.  It’s a good movie if you’re kept on the edge of your seat and then at the end it all makes sense.  That’s what the word means today.  However, that’s not exactly what Paul means by the word mystery here in this text.  For Paul, he uses this word to express something beyond natural knowledge, but has been opened to us by divine revelation through the Holy Spirit.

It’s something that humans could never figure out or understand on their own.  Only through God revealing it to us can we see it.

Col. 1:24-27 (ESV) 

    Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,  [25] of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,  [26] the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.  [27] To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 

This verse helps us get a handle on the meaning Paul had in mind.  There is something unknowable apart from God showing us and it’s this very thing Paul, as an Apostle, is making known.

Chapter 2 of Ephesians has shown us what God has done for the church.  He has made us citizens and household members.  God has brought Jew and Gentile together to form a new people called the church.

Now he begins to show us what we are to do.  This isn’t a suggestion but a divine dictate that must be accomplished.

1. Receiving the Mystery (3:1-6)

[3] how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.  [4] When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,  [5] which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. [6] This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

If Paul was to understand this mystery, namely that Jews and Gentiles would become one new people through Christ, then it had to be given to him by revelation.  This mystery is one that no human given their own natural ability would ever conceive.  Especially, if one knows the culture and the hatred between Jew and Gentile in the first century. If Paul was going to understand the church rightly God had to tell him about it. 

 the mystery was made known to me by revelation.  The word revelation means an unveiling.  It means to lift up the curtain and allow someone to see what had been hidden.  The Book of Revelation is an unveiling of what will take place mostly in the future.  Here in this text Paul explains that God had revealed something secret to him and this was the only way he would have ever known it.

Have you ever had the experience of reading along in your Bible and it happens…you see something you’ve never seen before?  It’s as if God raises the blinds and allows you to see a divine truth or a new way to apply the text to your life.

What God revealed to Paul was that there is a new group of people called the church.  In one sense, the church has always been in existence.  God has always had a people set apart and called out.  Throughout the OT we see this.  Throughout various events there were gatherings, assemblies, and congregations in the OT referring to God’s people.

Psalm 111:1 (ESV) 

     Praise the Lord!I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,

        in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

Today, that church continues with one major shift.  Now we don’t become Israelites, we become Christians.  This is the amazing part of God’s plan to join together former enemies into a new people…the Church.

Verse five clearly states that before this time, the mystery had been hidden.  No one ever knew anything about it until Paul.  The Old Testament prophets new many things but they didn’t know this.  This news is so groundbreaking that we’ll see in a minute that it even amazes the angels. 

The Church is no small matter.  It is something modern believers for the most part do not understand rightly.

-Christ Loves and Died for the Church

Ephes. 5:25 (ESV) 

    Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 

– Christ Builds His Church

Matthew 16:18 (ESV) 

    And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 

– Christ Adds to His Church

Acts 2:47 (ESV) 

    praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Purpose of the Church

– Worship…As we worship God we are fulfilling one of the purposes for which the church was established.

Col. 3:16 (ESV) 

    Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 

– Build Up Believers…According to the Bible the Church has been given the task to nurture and build up believers.  Our task is not to bring a person to saving faith only but to continue with them helping them mature in their faith.

Col. 1:28 (ESV) 

    Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 

– Evangelize the World

Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV) 

    Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 By these verses and many others like them, we must take the church very serious.  She has been given a clear purpose, to make God known throughout the world.

2. Ministering the Mystery (Ephesians 3:7-8)

    [7] Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.  [8] To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,  [9] and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 

The Apostle Paul was chosen by God and then gifted by God to be an Apostle. His job was to take what God had shown him and make it known to everyone.  As he reflects on his past, he remembers that he was only deserving of God’s wrath.  He believes that if you took all the people of God and ranked them from the lowest to the highest, he would be the lowest.  Paul is just amazed to be saved.  However, he is even more amazed that God would call him to be an apostle. 

We learned from before that an apostle speaks for God.  So, when we read the Book of Ephesians, for example, we are reading God’s Words. 

What did Paul preach?  He spoke about the unsearchable riches of Christ,

Why did he preach this message? to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 

His job was to explain to all people the gospel…the mystery…that God’s plan is unfolding before our very eyes.  Gentiles and Jews are coming together for the Glory of God.  They are coming together by faith.  This new creation fully seen is now coming to life.  Something that before had not even been imagined was now alive and pushing back the forces of evil.  In every generation it has been the Holy Spirit working through the church to overcome the darkness of Satan’s realm.  The church is the kingdom of God in action.  This army is made up of former enemies.  This army is made up of those who are now children of the King.

3. Living Out the Mystery (Ephesians 3:9-10)

[9] and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,  [10] so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

 Paul’s job was to make the mystery, the Gospel, known to all people.

Acts 9:15 (ESV) 

    But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 

Paul proclaims the mystery to all people.  There is another group watching. 

In verse ten the Apostle shares with us that the angels are watching very closely to see what is going on.  Redemption is a concept that truly amazes the hosts of heaven.  As the church functions the angels watch.  They watch as churches share the gospel.  They watch as churches care for their members.  They watch as church discipline is carried out.  The Church composed of both Jew and Gentiles is a mirror in which the angels behold the astonishing wisdom of God displayed in a manner unknown to them before.  They see a work which is new to them.  God reveals this mystery to us by the Word.  God reveals this mystery to the angels as the church functions according to the Word.  They see the mystery working out and are amazed.

1 Peter 1:10-12 (ESV) 

    Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,  [11] inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.  [12] It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

There is something about salvation that greatly interests the angels.

In the parable of the lost coin, Jesus tells us that every time salvation takes place the angels rejoice.

Luke 15:8-10 (ESV) 

    “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?  [9] And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’  [10] Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

I think part of the amazement is because the angels know that every sinner who repents brings us that much closer to the day when Jesus will be sitting on his throne in the new heaven.  They are greatly anticipating that day as we should be as well.

Rev. 5:6-14 (ESV) 

    And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.  [7] And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.  [8] And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.  [9] And they sang a new song, saying,

 

    “Worthy are you to take the scroll

        and to open its seals,

    for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

        from every tribe and language and people and nation,

    [10] and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

        and they shall reign on the earth.”

 [11] Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,  [12] saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”  [13] And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”  [14] And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

The angels are excited as they see the church in action.  They know what’s coming next.  What does all this mean for us here today at our church.  It’s vital that we function as a healthy church that is active in seeking out the lost and then making them disciples.  As we function to make the mystery known to others then people will praise God for His mercy and the angels will praise God for His wisdom.  As the church we exist for Him and His glory.  People are watching and angels are watching…What do they see???

%d bloggers like this: