"God's Wisdom Revealed to All (Ephesians 3:7-20)

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1 "God's Wisdom Revealed to All (Ephesians 3:7-20) by Rev. Jackie Stoneman Paul begins this chapter by reminding the Ephesians that he is in fact a prisoner. Because he has been preaching to the Gospel especially to Gentile people he has ended up in jail. Paul could have been upset and sorry for himself. Instead listen to how he describes his situation in verse one. 3:1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles Paul doesn t see himself as a prisoner of the Roman Empire. He sees himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ. In other words he is in jail because that is what God has allowed. He knows that God is in control. It is actually because he s in jail that he has the time to write these letters. It is an amazing attitude. From the world s point of view the situation looks hopeless. Certainly people are becoming Christians. But there is so much opposition and Paul now finds himself in prison. Paul wants them to look beyond the current circumstances and to see God s big picture. So let s read from chapter 3: Surely you have heard about the administration of God s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God s holy apostles and prophets. 6 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. Here Paul talks about a mystery. What does Paul mean by this? Let me tell you a story to help us understand. Naomi had started a small dressmaking business. She had always been skilful with her hands, and had a good eye for colour and pattern. Now she realized she could turn these abilities to good use, not only to make clothes for herself and her family but to earn some money to supplement the family income. The brightly coloured fabrics of her part of Africa were popular not only in the surrounding district but also, she d heard, in foreign countries as well. Who could tell where it all might lead? She employed two local women to help with the actual dressmaking, and a young 1

2 man who would travel to the city to buy supplies and sell the finished products. Together they worked hard and had a measure of success. People liked what they did and they were reliable. Soon they had more orders than they could easily complete. Naomi hired two more helpers to make sure they didn t fall behind what the customers wanted. The little group worked happily together, until one day one of the younger women said, You know, I wonder if we could make other things as well as dresses? Curtains? Covers for chairs? Things like that? The others agreed enthusiastically. They were good at dressmaking, but were ready for a new challenge. Naomi smiled. At last the moment had come. She went to her desk, to the drawer she had always kept locked. She took out a plain sealed envelope, which had a date written across the seal the day on which she had started the business in the first place. She passed the envelope to the woman who had asked the question. Open it, she said, and read it out. The young woman opened the envelope, and took out a single typed sheet. She read it out. It contained the plan for a larger business that would make the wonderful fabrics into all sorts of things that people might want in their homes. I ve kept it a secret from you all this time, smiled Naomi. I knew if I told you from the start you d say I was daydreaming, and then you d have started daydreaming yourselves. We had to prove we could make dresses first. But now I ve shared the secret with you. This is what I planned all along. Let s do it! And the young man, sitting in the corner and listening to it all, suddenly realized that his job was about to change drastically, and forever. That s what Paul means by a mystery. God had a plan that he formed before the creation of the world. The plan was about how he would rescue human beings when they sinned. As history went on God revealed a little bit more of his plan. He spoke through the prophets in the Old Testament. When Jesus came to earth He told his disciples about what God was doing. Of course Jesus was the central part of God s plan. The plan was that God was going to enable all people who trusted in Jesus to become his friends. It didn t matter whether they were Jews or Gentiles. The gospel or good news was for all people. When Paul first became a Christian god helped him to understand this truth. Remember Paul had been a Jew and he thought that God was only interested in Jews. But God helped him to understand that all people were welcome God s family. God gave Paul the particular job of telling the Gentiles this good news. We need to be very careful in our world today. Sometimes people claim that they ve received special messages from God. That will say that they are the only people that God has talked to. These people are not from God. They are false teachers. We now have God s plan written down for us in the Bible. We need to test everything we hear with what the Bible says to see if it is true. 2

3 Paul did not see himself as special because God had chosen him to do this. He didn t see himself is better than other Christians. Listen to what it says about this in verses 7 to 9. 3:7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. Paul never stopped being grateful for what God had done in his life. He actually saw himself as the list of God s people because he had persecuted the church. But then God had taken him and changed him. Now God had given him this wonderful job of preaching the gospel. All the promises of God were available to both Jews and Gentiles if they would put their trust in Jesus. Then Paul says something that is absolutely incredible. It s in verses 10 to 13. Ephesians 3:10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. The Christians at Ephesus were not a significant group in their society. Many had come from backgrounds where they had worshipped other gods in fear. Now they had come through Jesus to the true God who welcomed them into relationship with Himself. A relationship of freedom and confidence. This Jesus was now known as the Christ - the Messiah - the one who had truly rescued them from sin and He was also the Lord of all. He was greater than any emperor or human power. But more than that they had been brought into a gathering of people called the Church. Christ s body. The church was actually the means where by God would make his wisdom known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. These rulers and authorities could include spiritual beings who are good and evil. It could include human rulers who are used for the purposes of evil spiritual beings who are opposed to God. 3

4 Can you see how amazing this is. As we live our lives for Jesus. As we participate in God s church we are showing the whole universe how great God is. God has taken ordinary people and made them members of His family. God has freed us from our sin. God has freed us from satan s power. We can have freedom and confidence in our relationship with God. Not because we have done anything but because of God s grace. Peope may mock us now for being Christians but one day they will recognise that we have been right to follow Jesus. People may try to destroy God s church but they never will be able to. That s why Paul doesnt want the Ephesians to be discouraged by his imprisonment. It is worth it he says because the Gospel is true. God is working and no one can stop him. Paul will gladly suffer if it helps more people become Christians. And that leads Paul to prayer. Paul was a man of great prayer. It was natural for to pray about these things. He can teach us much about prayer. So let s read his prayer in chapter 3 verses For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Paul begins his prayer by acknowledging the greatness of God. Because God created the world He was the one who came up with the idea of families. He is the one who has acted in Jesus to enable us to come into his family. He knows what is best. He is the God who has given so much. So Paul prays that out of these riches God will work deeply in people s lives. That God s Holy Spirit will strengthen each Christian in the very core of their being. Remember that God is not far off. If we are a Christian God s Holy Spirit dwells within us. Not because we re good but because our faith is in Jesus. Every Christian needs God s power at work in their lives. Someone has said that our lives are like a house with many rooms. When we become a Christian Jesus becomes our Lord and our 4

5 saviour. Through his Holy Spirit he comes and lives within us. We re completely loved and accepted by him. The work of the Holy Spirit is change us in each area of our lives. In every room of our life. So he works on our thoughts and attitudes. He helps us in relationships. He helps deal with wrong things in our lives. We need God s power for all of those things. But Paul particularly prays that we would have the power to understand God s love. God s love is so important in our Christian life. The Bible tells us that God is love. God s plan to save us was based on love. The image that Paul has here is of the tree. The roots of our life go deeply down into God s love. That s what will hold a strong in the storms of life. And as we understand and experience more of God s love we will see how great it is. Paul says God s love is vast. You wanted the Ephesian Christians and us to know the extent of God s love. Not just to know about it but to experience it. Paul says that God s love is so huge we can never fully comprehend it. We need God s help and power to keep growing in God s love. Many people have a wrong idea about God s love. They think that if God loves them they won t have any troubles in their life. It is true that in heaven we will never again experience any more pain. But that is not true in this life. We still live in a broken world. But even in the midst of our pain we can know God s love. God will hold us and help us. He will never leave us or forsake us. Where do we look to be reassured that God loves us? We remember Jesus death on the cross for us. The greatest act of love. We also remember Jesus resurrection. This was the greatest demonstration of God s power for us. That same power will help us to grow in our knowledge and experience of God s love. In the last two verses Paul reminds us that God is able to do much more than we think he can. God is at work in his church. His purposes involve the people in the past, the people now, and the people in the future. Do we think God for the people who shared the gospel with us and told us of God s great love? Do we pray for one another in the church that we will keep growing in God s love? Do we pray for our children and grandchildren that they will grow up to know the love of Jesus? When we understand that God operates from love it is very freeing. Will we know he loves us we can help him with the things that need changing in our life? We can ask for his help? We can confess our sin. We can be certain that he will not stop loving us and he will help us. I want to encourage you to take Paul s prayer and write it out in your own words. Use it to pray for one another. Use it to pray for others. Use it to pray for yourself. 5

6 As we grow in our knowledge and experience of God s love we bring glory to him. If you are someone who feels that you were not worthy know that God loves you just as you. If you are someone who feels you have done terrible things in your life know that God loves you and forgive you. Perhaps you re struggling because life is difficult and you think God doesn t love you. Let me reassure you that God does love you and he will help you. Don t let go of him because he will not let go of you. 6

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