Formerly, both Jews and Gentiles were separated from God, but He has made a provision for both of us through the life and death of Jesus Christ. Whereas we once were enemies of each other, we have the opportunity to be fellow heirs of God's grace. Will we choose to have a relationship with Christ, and in doing so become one body?
Believed the Truth? Received the Life? Then Walk in the Way.
Getting a Grip on What it Means to Love God
Believe What He Has Done, Be Living Like He Has Done It
The Blueprint of the Church, part 2
The Blueprint of the Church, part 1
A Reasonable and Right Response to His Radical, Redemptive Love
The Divine Dimension of Love
The Breadth, Depth, Width and Height of Puppy Love
A Suffering Steward in a Cell: What was True of Paul Ought to be True of Us
Things into Which Angels Long to Look
Lord, we thank you for your Word. We want to study it now. We want to respond to it. We want to not be little children who love only in word or with tongue, but in deed and in truth. Change our hearts, O God. In Jesus name, amen.
Turn with me to John 16. I want to show you something. If you remember last week, we looked at our family tree. We saw that every single one of us was a person who was, it says in the Scriptures, separated from Christ. We did not have a relationship with the Messiah. I'm talking about the Gentiles.
No matter how far back every Christian family goes that is not of the nation of Israel, everybody who is not a Jew, and who cannot trace their family history back to Abraham specifically, Paul showed us we were separated for Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, outside of the covenant of promise. We were without hope and without God in this world.
Paul said, "This is who you formerly were, but God brought us near. You who were formerly far off have been brought near." He says, "So then, this is how you should respond." We looked at an entity last week, for the first time, that is called a mystery. In fact, that's what we're going to study extensively today.
What we had last week was a revelation in a fuller sense than we have anywhere else in Scripture about this body called the church. It's just that. We found out in Ephesians 2:11-22 that the church is a body with one head. It is a temple with one Spirit. There are not a bunch of different divisions running amongst us and different people running different ways. We've been united in Christ. We should be unified in purpose. We should be constrained and controlled by the same love.
In that and the way that we love one another as a body with one head, as a temple with one Spirit, now we're going to find that we're a mystery with one source that reveals the truth to it. We should be a people that when we come together, no matter how separate and different that we are, we are united.
Even as all the animals on the ark found their rest in one whose name meant rest (Noah), even though there was a natural enmity (hatred) between them and normally the lion ate the lamb, when God supernaturally called the lion and called the lamb, and they came to the ark, they got on that ark, and they were all united in one man. They had one Savior.
By the grace and mercy of God, they were lifted up in the ark of reconciliation, and they were excluded from judgment. Instead of the lion walking down the corridor one day and devouring the lamb, he was so thrilled and pleased to be delivered from judgment that he didn't eat the lamb because his needs were met in the one who gave him rest (Noah).
So where there was formerly hatred, there was now unity. Where there was formerly hatred between the Jew and the Gentile, there was unity in one man where we both found our rest. The Jew found his rest from trying to perform and appease God by the law, but no longer. It says Christ is the end of the law and the law was fulfilled in him. So the Jew no longer had to fulfill it himself. He had to trust in the one who God found acceptable in his sight. He found rest.
The Gentile no longer had to wonder about truth and no longer had to pursue the best opinions of man. He found rest in the one who was truth. He says, "I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life." We found our rest from wandering aimlessly through history. One guy said this. "Every non-Christian nation (that's all of us) should have this written at the beginning of their history book. 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'"
That's really true. You can look at the history of mankind. At the very beginning of history, you should have inscribed there, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." We were wandering aimlessly until we found rest in the one who is true: Jesus Christ. So we are united by grace and mercy and lifted up and delivered from judgment. You were, but God, so then. Love one another and be one as you're united in that one man, that one Spirit.
I'll tell you what. We don't have a lot of tension in us in here between the Jew and the Gentile, but we do have tension between generations, we do have tension between cultures, and we do have tension between the awkwardness that comes with people who are generally self-centered.
As we come and as awkward as those tensions are, as we focus on our one God, our one Savior, the one who is awesome in this place, we're united. There's a hope, and there's a picture of the world that is to come when all things will be united in one man, Jesus Christ, and all people will be gathered before him and all hatred, and all separation will be done away. That was God's intention.
The church is a picture of that even as the ark is a picture of that. That is why Paul is going to pray for us. He's saying, "If this is who you formerly were, but God did this in your life, I pray for you." That's what chapter 3 begins like. Look what we have here in John 16:12.
"I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." This is Jesus talking to his disciples right before he goes to the cross. "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come." He's going to show you everything you need to know.
Some people often ask, "How did the disciples or the apostles or, specifically, how'd the authors of Scripture, know what to write? How could they have remembered that well? We see men are having a hard time remembering facts about a case that didn't happen but a year ago. How could some of these men who didn't write for, literally, decades record an accurate picture of truth?"
The answer is these men were led, Peter and Paul tell us, by the inspiration of the Spirit of God. When he came, he led them in all truth. We're going to find that the church was founded on that, the teaching of the apostles and the prophets. There are certain men who God has given that truth to (the apostles and prophets), New Testament prophets who God spoke through until the Bible was put together and the Canon was closed, and the truth was there for us to learn from in the church. So he's given us this record. The Spirit of truth has led us in that way.
These men, at this point, did not have that. There was a lot they did not understand. Flip to your right to a book called Acts. Look at chapter 1. These men were good Jews. The good Jews who were not separated from Christ… Let me make an observation and application right here. It's a little hors d'oeuvre, if you will, a little free meal.
It says the Jews were a part of the commonwealth of Israel. That is where God had chosen (we looked at last week) to reveal himself, to show that you don't just approach him rashly based on your own works and that your works are found wanting in his sight. So when you come to the temple, you come with great fear and trembling, and you come with a blood sacrifice. You atone for your sin, and that's what will make you right before God.
So the Jews were looking for a day when there would be one who was a sacrifice that would be permanent, and there would no more need to offer sin again and again. The Jews were looking for one to be that sacrifice. They were looking for one to be their king who would reign forever and forever deliver them from oppression of all the Gentile nations which so desperately hated them.
The Jew had to make a decision. Even though it says that we as Gentiles were separated from Christ, the Jew who looked for this Messiah had to identify himself with that Christ. The Jews were not unified with that Christ just because they looked like him. That's what Paul started in Ephesians 2 by saying. "…you…who are called 'Uncircumcision' by the so-called 'Circumcision'…"
When you were a Jew, and you were male, the eighth day after you were born, you were taken into a tent, and they circumcised you. They did with the works and hands of men, put a mark on your body, and removed the foreskin. When they did that, you would appear differently than every other man in every other nation. You were given a sign that you were part of a covenant community. That sign did not save you.
There were many Jews who were circumcised and who were separated from Christ, but in a different way than the Gentile was. They were separated from Christ because they never individually responded to him. You and I, at that point, were separated from Christ, because we have never even heard of him. Some of the males and some of the females who had the mark of a Jew in culture, in dress, in circumcision, were also separated from Christ because they did not personally respond.
Let me give you little hors d'oeuvre here, as I said, or if you will, let me give you a little application for us. There are children who are born into the covenant community today, the church, where God specifically is entered into a new covenant by his blood. Of all the signs of the covenant community…they carry their Bible, they wake up early on Sundays, they drive to a building with a cross on top, they sing hymns, and they cut out pictures of the 12 disciples every summer in June. They have all the marks of a covenant people, but until they individually respond to that Messiah, to that Christ, to that Anointed One that their parents, by faith, are related to, they are not saved.
Did you catch that? It's not enough to be born into a Christian family. Are you blessed? Absolutely, in the same way, that a Jew was blessed to be born into the Jewish nation. Why? Because as we looked at last week, the Jew was one who was born into the covenant community. They'd been given the very oracles, words, promises, and revelation of God.
As a Christian parent, the children who are born into your household are blessed. Their parents are not wandering haplessly through Dallas, Texas. They are living according to a purpose. They are living in response to truth. You teach them that truth, but they individually must respond to it even as a Jew did. The way we were separated from Christ was different than the way some individual Jews were separate from Christ.
Here's another application. The Jews were not to take that place of privilege and to confuse it with a place of favoritism. The Jews were not to despise those who did not have the Word of God. They were to be a light to the blind, a corrector to the foolish, and, as it says, a light in the midst of the darkness, a guide to the blind. That's what the Jew was to be. They instead despised the Gentile. They hated those who did not believe what they believed and did not have the revelation that they had.
Question for those of us who are Christians. How do you view those who are pro-choice? How do you view those who are pro-choice in the area of sexual orientation? Do you hate them? Do you call them dogs? Do you call them despicable or abominable in your sight? Now, it's true that what they do and the things that they are for are abominable in God's sight, but they are outside of the very thing which will make them right with God. It is his grace. It is his gift. It is his truth.
We are not to hate them because they have not yet received it. We are to be humble. We're to love them. We're to give a picture of how God values them by the way we care for them and by the way we reach out to them. Don't make the mistake of the nation of Israel. God subbed them out because they weren't faithful.
Young children, 20-year-olds who grew up in Christian communities, have you responded personally to Jesus Christ? Just because you have the sign of a Christian: your Bible is worn, your vacation Bible school record is complete, and your Sunday school attendance is regular, don't think that gets you in. You must individually respond to this Messiah.
Christians, are you angry towards the community that rejects the Christ who we worship regularly? Yes, we should long for them to come. Yes, we should say, "One day, judgment will fall upon you if you don't respond, but until then I'm going to love you, and I'm going to reach out to you, and I'm going to correct you with truth."
Look what we have here in Acts 1. These men, who were going to lead into all truth, did not yet have it. Jesus said, "I'm going to give you this truth…" when? It says, "You'll know all things when the Spirit of truth comes." Bible quiz: when did the spirit of truth come? It came when this mystery had begun. It was at the beginning of what is called the church age, which happens in Acts 2, which happens during a day, which is called Pentecost. That is the beginning of the church, the mystery we are going to study.
Until then, men were still a little bit confused, especially the Jews, especially those who had the oracles and promises of God. Though they had a certain revelation, that revelation was not complete to them. There was, if you will, a time where they were promised that the Messiah would come. They knew the Messiah was going to suffer, but they didn't understand how the Messiah could suffer and how the Messiah could also reign forever. It confused them.
So they thought it was going to be back to back. They thought the suffering might be along the lines of Hezekiah when he was king of the nation of Israel. There was a siege put on the city, and it looked like they were going to be destroyed, but God miraculously delivered them. He slayed 186,000 Assyrians in a night, the Assyrians fled, and the Jews got all the plunder of the people who formerly had a siege around them.
They thought, "Okay, that makes sense. That's how the nation is going to suffer, but their king will show himself to be the deliverer as God works mightily through him." They didn't understand that there was this huge gap.
Those of you who had been to Colorado, you know that sometimes you can drive up on a range of mountains. You can see one peak, and you see another peak that looks to be exactly beside it. Then you get to that first peak, and you realize that second peak wasn't side by side like it looked like it was from a hundred miles away. There is almost 200, sometimes 300 miles between those peaks that you could've sworn were side by side.
That's exactly what happened to a Jew. A Jew would read in their Old Testament, and they saw that the Messiah was going to suffer, but they also saw the Messiah was to reign. They never saw that there was a gap between them. We're going to find out today that that gap was always there and always planned there by God.
During that gap, there's going to be something called the church age. During the church age, we're going to find that God was going to do a work in a people who were going to be faithful like Israel was not. Those people are you who were formerly far off: the Gentiles. Let me show you something in Acts 1:4. It says this. This is Jesus with his disciples.
"Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, 'Which,' He said, 'you heard of from Me…'" You just read about it in John 16. "…for John baptized with water, but you shall be…" Meaning will be, meaning they have not yet. "…baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
"And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, 'Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?'" Do you understand what they were asking there? "Is this when you're going to do what we knew you were going to do?" Now we see that the Anointed One, the Messiah came, and he suffered. He was the Lamb who was led to slaughter that Isaiah 53:6 talked about.
"Now must be the time when you're going to be the King who will reign forever. Is this when you're going to restore the nation of Israel and be our King who we have not had for close to six centuries at this point?" Look at Christ's response. "He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses…'" Then he goes on to tell them where.
He saying, "You don't know when that day is going to come when I'm going to reign, but it's not now. Those mountains you thought were side by side have a gap between them. You're about to step into it. The Spirit of truth is going to show you something that formerly you could not see and that the prophets who wrote about it did not understand." Yea, we're going to find out today that the very angels of God did not know. It's for you and me to know. It's for you and me to experience. It's for you and me to be in the middle of. It's for you and me to participate in.
Now then, with that as a background, flip to Ephesians 3. You are about to be brought into one of the greatest secrets of all eternity. You're about to be introduced to one of the truths that men had no idea about, and angels, we're going to find out today, longed to see. It is in the inner circle of the inner circle. It is the very heart of God that has been revealed to you and me.
In chapter 3:1, Paul says, "For this reason…" You go, "Wait a minute. For what reason?" For the reason that I just got through spending 15 minutes catching us up on. For the reason in verses 11 through 22 in chapter 2, that you who were formerly far off have been brought near. If you will, on our money and our country, this multicultural land we live in, this great melting pot that says on our coinage, E pluribus unum, which simply means of many, one. That's what Paul was saying.
You are a people who are of many different nations and are many different tribes, but you are to become one in Jesus Christ. For this reason, I'm going to pray for you. As you guys become one, you're going to be a picture of what eventually will happen in the recourse of history that God has working out.
There's going to be a day when all things are united in him. Who's him? Jesus Christ. The evidence that he is indeed who he claimed to be will be that those who know him now begin to be one, begin to love each other even as they love themselves. Just like the animals that are very different that by their nature would destroy one another on the ark are held together by one man, we, who by our very nature would destroy one another, are brought near in Christ.
We have found our reconciliation to him, to God, through Jesus Christ. We are humbled in that we all have a common Savior. So though I formerly would've been selfish in my treatment of you and looked to exploit you to have my needs met, I now go, "No. You are my brother in Christ." So while there is still time, especially to those who are of the household of faith, let us do good works and let us love.
"For this reason [because you who are many are now one] I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles…" This is a very confusing part of Scripture. Paul is a guy who gets so excited when he teaches he gets on a lot of tangents. So what he's going to do right here is digress. He's going to go back.
Let me read it to you like he's saying it. Now you understand what I mean when I say about this great truth I'm going to tell you, this mystery. He's going to go on for 13 verses talking about this great thing that he's about to pray for you for. If you will, verse 2 all the way through verse 13 is a parenthesis where he's saying, "This is why I'm going to pray for you," again.
Then look down in verse 14. In verse 14, he repeats himself. "For this reason [the reason I just got through telling you about in chapter 2 and just got through telling you about in the last 12 verses again] I bow my knees before the Father…" He says, "I'm going to pray for you because you are the mystery. You are the new body with head, the new temple with one spirit, and the mystery that men, long ago, longed to be a part of."
I put a little parenthesis at the very beginning of chapter 2 and I closed it right down there at the very end of chapter 3. That is what this entire statement is. It's Paul putting a big parenthesis saying, "I have to tell you more about the reason I'm about to pray for you." Let's see what it is. "For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace which was given to me for you; that by revelation…"
By that, he's saying this. "I have this insight I'm going to teach to you by the very revelation of God. It is not by speculation. It is not by opinion. It is not by imagination. It is by revelation. That means it has been given to me from a source that is greater than me." It's the same claim Joseph Smith made. What Paul is going to do is going to say, "Now I'm going to tell you where this information came from and if you reject this information, it's yours to reject for sure, but you need to know it's not just my opinion. This is from God."
He says, "…there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief." He's going to on with this idea. "By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ…" He's saying here, "I wrote before about this in brief." When he did that it was over there in chapter 2, verse 13 where it says, "But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near…"
That's when he wrote about it in brief. He didn't think that was sufficient, so he wants to give you more insight into this mystery about how the two (the Jew and the Gentile) are now one. It is a new thing. There is no longer Jew or Greek. If you'll remember, we talked about the temple. It used to have a bunch of walls diving things.
There was the court of the Gentiles where only the Gentiles and Jews could mingle, and the Gentile could go no further, but that wall has been broken down. Why? It says in the Scripture because there is now no longer a distinction between Jew and Greek. There is a new man. A Christian. After that, there is was what is called The court of women. The women could go no further, but that wall has been broken down. Why? We find out that neither male nor female are different in Jesus Christ.
When he's saying before them there is not a place ultimately that one is going to be more loved by God, do they have different roles and responsibilities here on this earth? Yes. Does God love one more than the other? Can one come nearer than the other? No. They have all been brought near in Jesus Christ.
After the court of women, then what? You had the court of Israel where the men of Israel could go. But we find there is no court separating us. Why? Because we are…what, it says? We are a nation, a new people, a holy nation, in fact. What kind of nation because after the court of Israel there was one more court that only guys who were of the tribe of Leviticus (the Levites, the priestly tribe) could go to. They could go further than the regular Jewish men. Is that wall separating us anymore? No. Why? Because you are a kingdom of…what? Priests. So everybody can go near.
I have some other news. After the court of priests, there was the Holy Place. Then behind the Holy Place, there was another divider into the Most Holy Place where the very presence of God was. Nobody but the high priest on one day could go into the Most Holy Place.
So the fact is, you could be a Gentile, but you couldn't get very close. God has done away with that divider. You could be a woman, but you couldn't get very close. God has done away with that divider. You could be an Israelite male, but you could only get so close. He's done away with that divider. You could be a priest, but you could only get so close. He's done away with that divider. You could be a priest that could come on one day into the Holy of Holies. He's done away with that.
If you'll read in Matthew sometime, you'll find out that the curtain, which separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, was ripped at the very point when the blood of Jesus Christ was shed. It says, interestingly enough, in your Scriptures that it was ripped from the top to the bottom. If it were not for Christ, but God, to rip out that dividing wall to let us into his very presence, men could never do it.
They said you could put a team of horses on either side of the curtain and let them go and that curtain would not rip, but at the very time the Scriptures tell us that Jesus Christ was crucified, that his flesh was ripped, the veil which protected God from us, that separated us from him was ripped. We are not only a kingdom where there is no distinction from Jew or Greek, male or female. All of us are priests. We are not just a new kingdom. We are a holy people by Jesus Christ. We are holy and blameless before him so we can boldly come now before the very throne of grace.
It was unthinkable to the Jew that a common man could walk before God. That was unthinkable that not just a common man but a woman could go before God personally. Not just a woman, but how about a Gentile woman. Unthinkable. A mystery. How could God do that through the one man who would be our rest?
So this is what he says. He says, "By referring to this…" **Meaning the things that I'm now writing to you."…when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ…"** Listen, there is no more. You need to know this. There is no further revelation other than what God has given us in order to lead you into the way of truth.
You will find that, right now, the Mormons in their temple are going to make you think you're missing out on something. Only after you do a certain amount of their little tasks for a certain period of time, will they let you into the secret service, and they close the door and they go, "Hey, this is just for really committed Mormons."
They'll shut that door. They'll get you in, and they'll put you through a secret temple ceremony where they'll have you do things like baptize yourself for the dead relatives you have who cannot baptize themselves. Or they'll have you take certain oaths and swear that if you tell people what those oaths were, that you will have your head cut off from ear to ear. You sometimes think, "I wonder if I'm missing out on the truth of God. I wonder if there's some knowledge in there that I need to know about that I can't get."
If you ever look at a kingdom hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, you'll notice something very unusual about their temple. There are no windows in their churches because they don't want you to see what they're doing inside. Why? You have to be part of that secret society. "You have to come a little bit closer and get inside because this is where real truth is. We are the chosen. Only Jehovah's Witnesses are going to heaven."
The Masonic Lodge. Do you want to go inside there? "Do you want to be a part of this? You have to come inside our secret little union and get inside our secret little enclave and get the secret little bit of truth." You'll find that that is something and people are constantly looking for somebody who can go in, who will invite them into their dark room, pull the curtain, and whisper to them truth with some revelation from old.
Let me show you something. Put your finger right here. You need to know this. Turn to Matthew 24. You need to put an end to this. This needs to be buried forever. What if somebody comes from outer space? You laugh, but a lot of people think that stuff going on with the UFOs and the theories about our government suppressing truth, that there is truth we can't get ahold of and our government is keeping us from certain knowledge. There's going to be somebody from outside of us who will come and give us all truth and all enlightenment and show us things that once we have that we can be delivered.
There was a cult or a theory or a group of people during that age called the Gnostics. The Gnostics were folks who basically believed that it's nice to have your cute little Jesus. The Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses think that. You go to their temple out in Salt Lake City, you'll see a big statue of Jesus Christ. You'll hear them say, "Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ," but they think you need more. The Gnosticssaid the same thing. "Your Jesus is nice, but what you really need to be spiritual is a certain enlightenment, which if you'll step over here, we'll share it with you."
Look what Jesus said in Matthew 24:15. He's speaking about this specifically at a time when there's going to be great tribulation. This is during the seven-year period where all hell is literally breaking loose on earth.
In verse 15 it says, "Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION…" which we believe happened about three and a half years into the seven-year period and when the Antichrist will sit himself on the throne in Jerusalem in the temple and say, "Worship me, for I am your deliverer. I am the one who delivered you from all the nations who came to do war with you." The Scriptures will tell us it was God, but the Antichrist, who will be a leader of a 10-nation confederacy (the old Roman confederacy), will take credit for that.
He says, "When this thing happens, you run to the hills because all hell is about to break loose." Look over there in verse 23. "Then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ,' or 'There He is' do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect." Now, look at verse 25.
"Behold, I have told you in advance." In other words, you have been forewarned. "So if they say to you, 'Behold, He is in the wilderness'…" In other words, if you have to go over to India where the Swami sits, where the Dalai Lama reigns, and get a special word from him, he says what? "…do not go out, or, 'Behold, He is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them."
You lack nothing. The mystery that has been hidden that the angels long to hear about has been revealed by the apostles and prophets. It is the New Testament truth which reveals the church. You lack in nothing. You don't have to worry what the Mormons are doing in their temple service. I'll tell you what they're doing. They are caught up in the speculations and the opinions of men, and it's going to be their death.
I'll tell you what the Jehovah's Witnesses are doing. They're taking their people, and they're teaching them doctrine which is not sound. They are distorting the truth which came from the very mouth of God. I'll tell you what the channelers are doing. They're making it up.
I'm not surprised for a second that that stuff is out there, and I do believe it's spiritual. I don't have a hard time at all believing it's spiritual, but I don't think they're being led by the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit has given us this truth. He says, "You don't need to go into an inner circle and pay $350 an hour to get it. You get it here."
Turn back to Ephesians 3. He says, "…the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit…" He's saying, "This mystery that I have to tell you about and that I'm going to pray for you because as you guys understand this and as you become one and are united in Jesus Christ, men previously did not understand."
It was something that they just didn't grasp. How could God take these two people who are so different, the circumcised and the uncircumcised, the people who had a hope with the Messiah and the people who are outside the covenant of promise, and bring them together? Through Jesus Christ. Look what it says in verse 6.
"…to be specific…" Meaning, "…to be specific about the mystery that I've been now telling you, I'm going to tell you about." Paul finally says, "I digress. Let me tell you what I'm talking about." In his digression, he digresses. He says, "…to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel…"
What is the gospel? It is to believe in Jesus Christ and be saved. The gospelis the good news that you no longer need to perform. The gospel is the good news that you no longer need to wonder how you can become right before God. It is by grace through faith. It is what Paul has been begging you to understand and believe in this letter that he's writing to you in a church in Ephesus.
So what he's saying right here is that it's not a mystery that the Gentiles would one day be saved. That was recorded in the Old Testament. The Gentiles were going to be saved, but they were going to be saved as they were proselytes to the Jewish faith. They were never going to be completely accepted. But they could find salvation as they trusted in the Jewish God. So the mystery is not that Gentiles would be blessed through the seat of Abraham. The mystery is that they would be…keyword…fellow heirs.
Did you catch it? Three times it's in there that you would be fellow heirs, meaning that you would be fully brought into the covenant community, that you would be fellow members of the body and fellow partakers of the promise. Do you remember how chapter 2 ended? He said you who were formerly not of God's kingdom are now citizens of God's kingdom. Not only are you citizens, but you're a member of God's household.
It would be like if I told you, you are no longer part and never have been a part of the great commonwealth of England, but I'm going to make you a part of the queen's country. You are now a citizen of England. I'm going to tell you something else. I'm going to really give you some good news, which the way that news has gone the last three or four years, may not be such good news, but you're going to be part of the queen's family. You're going to be Chuck's brother or sister. Hopefully, you won't follow in his ways. That's where the analogy horribly breaks down.
The point is, he's saying, "You who are formerly not of England are now citizens of England, the greatest country on the face of the earth. Not only are you citizens of England, but you are of the King's family and a fellow heir." How could he do that? Take a crass man who's not refined like an Englander and bring him into the very queen's home?
Look what he says in verse 7. "This great mystery, I was made a minister of." That word minister can be, and probably is in the NIV, the word servant. "I was made a servant (steward, I believe)," it says, "…according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His power." I don't want you to read that word and go, "Oh, if I was a minister, then I would do some of the things Paul is doing." You are a kingdom of priests. That is why there is no dividing wall. You are a servant who is compelled to respond.
Look what it says in verse 8. "To me, the very least of all saints…" Look at Paul's humility. I'm telling you, he was walking down an alley and some joker went, "Psst,Paul, come over here. I have some big news for you." He's just hanging out and walking down. In fact, he was walking to Damascus to go slaughter a few of these Christians. Jesus went, "Psst, Paul. Over here. On your knees. Let me tell you something. You are persecuting me. That's a problem."
Paul said, by the grace of God, the blinders fell off his eyes. Him, even though he was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee circumcised on the eighth day, he was separated from the Christ because he had never individually responded to the promise because he was blind to it. But Paul, by the gift of grace, had been given it, and so he's humble.
What's your story? Where were you when you were on your way to Damascus? I was an arrogant, lost as a goose and irrational 15-year-old in St. Louis, Missouri, who for the summer had been shipped up for seven days to a little camp in Minnesota. By the grace of God, he went, "Psst, Wagner. Over here. Let me tell you about this. This Jesus is not just a nice story. He is my Son. He is me in the flesh. He is your only hope.
You, who were formerly without hope, who thought your best bet was to get a good education, to get a good job with that good education, to make the right amount of money so you could live in the right neighborhood, so you could attract the right girl and marry her and have the right kind of family and be as miserable as your parents."
That was my hope. That all glory led but to the grave. He said, "Psst, I have a better story for you. Know this Jesus." I got on my knees on a Thursday night. I was given the revelation of the mystery of God by his grace, and I've been humbled by it ever since. I've never thought for a moment that I figured it out, but God called my name. I do not know why, but he did it. I have responded to it, and you can too. Look what he says.
"I was given this stewardship so that I might bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; in order that the manifold wisdom…" Do you know what the manifold is? Do we have any mechanics in here? What's the manifold? Have you had somebody pop your hood and go, "Hey, down there by the manifold…" "Oh jeez. That sounds like something pretty expensive."
A manifold on a car is a pipe of which there are many different fixtures to it that other pipes might be joined to it. It is one pipe through which other pipes are connected to the main pipe. Interesting isn't it that Jesus, if you will, is the manifold wisdom of God? He is the one who we are connected to. There's a little theology under your hood.
Manifold really means the many colors of the flowers. It means the beauty of the embroidery that is complex but it is one. The incredible glory and beauty of, "…the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church…" Now catch this. Guess who you are to teach. The law was a tutor to men to lead them to realize that they were not holy and that they were in need of a Savior.
Guess what the church is? We are a tutor to all men and all angels and all rulers and all principalities that Jesus is the one. He can do what no else can do. He is the manifold pipe that can connect us, and we cannot be connected except through him. He is what will make this universe tick that has been separated by sin. When men are united in him and only united in him, then there will be peace.
The universe was torn in half when Satan and a third of the angels (or whatever it was) that rebelled, and hell has been reigning ever since. One day, even on earth, when men rejected God in the relationship with him that hell has been reigning ever since, that one day all things will again be brought together in this man and there will be peace. The church is an illustration of that. Look what it says.
"… [He] made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory."
Let me just show you one thing. Quickly turn to 1 Peter. Paul, it says, was one of the apostles and prophets to whom this mystery had been revealed. Paul is not the only one who had this mystery revealed. It was all apostles and all prophets. You read with me in chapter 2 that the church was built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, of which Christ Jesus himself is the cornerstone, meaning that is the one stone in the foundation which holds every other stone together.
On Jesus, they have built this body of truth as the Holy Spirit has given it to them. They have built this thing, and it's becoming the church as they respond to that wisdom that had been given from God. You're going to find Peter, who was the apostle to the Jews, even as Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, wrote this. Look at 1 Peter 1:3 with me.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…" Who's he writing that to? Largely a Jewish audience. What does that sound like? What Paul wrote largely to a Gentile audience.
"You who were formerly dead have been made alive. You, even though you were of people who were part of the covenants of promise, were ignorant to him. Now by the grace of God, you've been connected to the manifold wisdom of God who is the Jesus Christ, who is the Word." Look what he says.
"… [You're going] to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you…" Sounds like what we're going to get, doesn't it? It sounds like they're our fellow heirs. Look at verse 5. "…who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." It sounds like you and me. We're saved not according to works but by the very power of God.
Jump down there with me to verse 10. "As to this salvation [this incredible truth I'm telling you about] the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries…" In other words, men for ages thought, "How is God going to pull this off?" Look at verse 11.
"…seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow." What he's saying is these prophets in the Old Testament saw two mountains side by side, but they couldn't figure out how he was going to do it. Look at verse 12.
"It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves…" He was talking about the prophets who wrote that Jesus said through the Holy Spirit to the men who wrote the Old Testament, "Just keep writing. This isn't for you. You're not going to understand it. Just keep on writing."
"…but you, in these things…" It was written for you. "…which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven things into which angels long to look." Do you know what that is? It is grace. It is fellowship with God. It is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.
The angels are going, "Unbelievable that he reconciled the world to himself through himself. Unbelievable that the Holy One, who we cannot look upon, has humbled himself to take on the form of humanity, to walk on that earth, to die on a cross and to reconcile all men to him." It says the angels are in shock, and they're even more in shock at the results of it, that God indeed has brought together these people who were formerly self-centered and made them others-centered, even as God was not self-centered. He did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many, even as you are to do.
Let me show you something. Turn to Luke 24. This is what is so fun about reading your Bible. I want to ask you a question. If men in the Old Testament who could not understand/search diligently to be encouraged with the Scriptures, what should you do who has the answer key?
It should make you so excited to go back and look. That's why I can go to Naaman the Assyrian and show you a picture of you and me. I could never have done that before the Holy Spirit revealed the mystery of truth to us. That's why I can go to 2 Kings 7 and talk about the siege which was on Samaria and show you that there's a picture of you and me (lepers) set outside the camp who have found a bounty of wealth sitting there for us because God has gone before us and defeated the enemy.
That's a picture of you and me. That's why we can go to Moses and show how when they were in the desert walking along the way, the manna which fell from heaven was the sustenance from God, the daily bread, the provision which he would give them as they trusted him. That is why I can go and show you that the rock they struck in the desert was Jesus Christ. The mystery has been revealed. These pictures that God was putting in the Old Testament are now made evident to you and me.
In fact, the greatest sermon that has ever been preached was this. If I could go to one spot in my Bible, I'd go to Luke 24 and eavesdrop on a conversation. Look at this in Luke 24:25. It says, "And He said to them…" Let me catch you up with what's going on. That, "He," is the resurrected Jesus Christ. This is on the road to Emmaus.
There are a couple of guys walking along, and they are depressed because this Messiah, this Jesus who they saw do the very works of God, had been killed. They go, "What's God going to do with this? The one who we hoped in is dead. The suffering servant was not just one who suffered because there was a seed set around him. The suffering servant was nailed to a tree, and he died. What's he going to do? How's he ever going to be king?" Look what it says in verse 25.
"And He said to them, 'O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?' Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures."
Do you see what he did? I think he went back and when it says, "…beginning with Moses…" that's not Moses and the exodus, that's the book of Moses. That's Genesis 1. I think he told them what Paul later wrote about in Colossians 1, that all things were created through him and nothing was created that was not created through him.
He said, "I am the one who gave life. This Jesus who you look at now, that little animal that was sacrificed in the garden to make atonement for the nakedness of Adam and Eve in their sin, was the picture of me that would one day be sacrificed for you. The blood that was just shed on the cross is the Lamb's blood that will never make sacrifice for sin necessary again." He went through every prophet and every picture that he could have time to explain to them and revealed to them.
Look what it says in verse 28. "And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. But they urged Him, saying, 'Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.'" They wanted to hear more of his truth, but it came about, "When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them."
Look at verse 32. It says, "They said to one another, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?'" I think there's somebody out there tonight whose heart is burning. You realize you are without hope, and you are without God. You don't have a clue how you can get inside those walls that separate you from God.
I'm here tonight to tell you that it's through this Jesus. I want to explain to you the mystery of God. You who were formerly far off and without hope, that through this Jesus you can be brought near. But God, by grace. You are dead in your trespasses and sins. There is nothing you could ever do to be found acceptable in his sight except to fall on your knees and cry out to mercy before him. Will you do it? This is your night, maybe.
Christians, if you are in here and you've always trusted, this is your night to remember your night and to restore your first love and to go, "God, I've been searching for knowledge and encouragement other places. Tonight, I want to come back to this truth, and I don't want to ever get over it. I don't ever want to get over the fact that you saved me by grace."
Are you out there? Are you confused? Do you wonder how you could ever be found acceptable in God's sight? Let me explain to you the mystery. God loves you so much, and I think I sound like a fool every time I say it. Those are exactly Paul's words, in fact. I can remember when I shared the gospel standing before a bunch of Rastafarian Jamaicans, and the smell of dope was all in the gym. I'm sitting there talking to these people, and I looked up at them.
I said, "I need to tell you this. God loves you. He does not want to find you distant from him. He's not asking you to perform. In fact, he knows you never can. He asks you to fall on your knees, acknowledge your state, and to ask that the provision he has sent (Jesus Christ) would be appointed to you that the blood that was shed on the cross could be yours. He made him who knew no sin (Jesus Christ) to become sin on your behalf that you might become the righteousness of God."
I tell you people that God loves you so much that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever…Jamaican, American, Black, White, gay, straight, pro-abortion, or anti-abortion…believe in him should not perish but have eternal life. That's who you formerly were, every single one of us. That's what Paul writes in Corinthians. But God, by grace, so then.
If you've responded to that or if you will respond to that in a minute, you are a steward of the mystery of God, and you should not sit on that. You cannot sit on that. We're going to look next week (we're going to go back to these passages) at three things we're going to respond to. We're going to see that God… Let me never get over the fact that you saved me.
Let's pray. Then we're going to sing a song together. That song talks about how we are obligated to do what Paul did, that we are stewards of the mystery of God. Let us not sit on that great truth. He tells us to shout it from the mountain tops. I want to give you an opportunity first to trust in that great mystery and to be fellow heir with me, a fellow partaker, a member of God's kingdom, and a member of God's family. Let's pray.
Indeed, Lord, you do reign, and so we worship you. We thank you for the fact that there have been faithful men from Paul all the way down to today who continue to take the mystery of God, that you can take those who were formerly far off and bring them near, and that you did it in the most amazing of ways. Beyond our ability to comprehend, you came yourself. You, who was fully God, still took on the fullness of humanity.
Even though you found yourself in the form of God, you did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but you humbled yourself taking on the form of a bondservant who served the Father even as those of us in this room need to do. We're sitting in here today, and all we have to do, Father, is trust, even as Jesus trusted.
We thank you that Jesus did not follow you like we did, but he followed you perfectly, that he was one who was perfectly obedient to the law, that he loved the Father in everything, and he loved his fellow man in everything, and that he never had to say "I'm sorry," and he never had to say, "Would you forgive me?"
Yet that one who was without blemish turned out to be the Lamb that you said, "I'll take that one. I'll choose him to be the sacrifice." You brought him to the very city where the sacrifices always were (Jerusalem) on the day that the sacrifice was always made. You had that be the Passover Lamb. That all who would have faith in that Jesus, even as death passed over the Egyptians, death would now pass over us, and we would have life because we trusted in the Lamb.
So, Father, we come, and we say we can never be made righteous in our own works. It is you that is our strength. It is Jesus which is our provision. I turn nowhere else. I pray that amazing grace, tonight, penetrates the heart of someone who is out there who is being wooed by you. I pray for those of us who have responded before are reminded again tonight how great our God is and how he reigns in our hearts, how he reigns in the universe, and people will know that he is God by the fact that we are one and he reigns in us.
Though we are still selfish in our nature, we are made new. Our new nature allows us to serve and to love and to die to self that the whole world might see that the angels might be encouraged, that one day you will do what you said at the beginning you will do, which is to make all men reconciled to you who trust in Jesus Christ, and sin and wickedness will be abolished and banished forever. May we be part of those people who trust in the blood of the Lamb, that we could be fellow heirs of the promise with him. Our God reigns.
Most people are desperately looking for answers to such age-old human dilemmas as violence, greed and racism; not to mention personal pain and disappointment with our own duplicity and lack of fulfillment. In this series on the book of Ephesians, Todd Wagner challenges us to open our eyes to the truth that Christ has called us to be part of a completely new society called the Church. Our highest calling then is to be men and women whose lives have been regenerated and empowered through faith in Christ. Our 21st century challenges are not unlike those faced by followers of Christ in first century Ephesus. The Apostle Paul, author of this letter to the Ephesians, emphasizes that the problem with the Church then and today is not that God hasn't given it everything necessary to be successful in its mission. Rather, our problem is like that of a wealthy miser who dies of starvation rather than dip into the abundance of resources at his disposal. Allow yourself to be challenged and encouraged by this ancient letter that adroitly analyzes the plight of Christ's bride, the Church, and then paints a vivid portrait of what we can - and indeed do - look like as His redeemed people. This volume covers Ephesians 3:1 through Ephesians 4:32.