A mystery unveiled for all - Ephesians 3
So far in Ephesians 1 and 2 there is some mind-blowing stuff, which Paul wrote whilst in prison. God's perfect and predetermined plan, his fullness in everything, his headship, and the way in which grace has been poured for us and has made us spiritually alive in Christ, bringing us close again to the Lord by His blood. Looking at Ephesians 3, I want to continue on from major themes in the first two chapters and help apply this to our lives. That way we can better understand how we should be reacting to this.
God’s purpose for the Gentiles
So let’s look at the first part of this chapter. Paul is talking about the administration of God’s grace and the mystery of Christ. Before Christ walked the earth; nobody foresaw the coming of the messiah except the Jewish people. They were awaiting their messiah. As we see in much of the Old Testament, many precise prophesies correspond perfectly to the accounts of Jesus’s actions on Earth. Isaiah 53, as an example, detailing the sufferings of Christ to remove our transgressions, our sins.
Indeed, up until Jesus arrives on the scene, this prophecy was a great mystery and it was only through the will of God and his perfect timing that Christ’s descent to Earth was known... and the mystery of the saving Gospel was unveiled for all to see. What I want to point out here is that this revelation is for all to see:
‘This mystery is that through the gospel the gentiles are heirs together with Israel’.
Not just for the Jews, God’s original chosen people, but for Gentiles also (i.e. everyone else who ain’t a Jew). This means anyone and everyone.
As we know very well, many people have not heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. Paul writes that it was revealed through the spirit to the apostles and the prophets, the same spirit which hovered over the waters before God’s creation of the world (Genesis 1:2).
It's the Holy Spirit which makes known the Glorious Gospel, which has redeemed us and brought us into relationship with Christ, if we choose to accept it. We can all be heirs, and can all take membership together in Christ’s promise!
Servant of the Gospel
We in essence become servants for the Gospel also. For the spreading of this news.
Paul continues by describing himself as a ‘servant of the gospel’ in verse 7. So after God has made know the Gospel to us, and when we accept, we in essence become servants for the Gospel also. For the spreading of this news and to see God’s Grace poured out onto others. We can make a clear link here between the fact that this mystery is for all and that God’s intention is to make this known everywhere. He urges us to go out and make disciples, just as the apostles have done. So let's strive to do this in such an apostolic way. We know this because in verse 9 Paul writes :
‘...and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, for which ages past was kept hidden from God’.
If we become servants, we are workers for the Lord and thus we are taking part in his mission and his perfect plan, which He loves, and we join Him in loving.
We see once again the immense sovereignty of God, as this incredible mystery of Christ. And God’s wisdom is to now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavily realms. Stretching far beyond just our World, and putting God as Lord over the Universe. It’s all to do with God’s eternal purpose.
‘According to His eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
Note here, ‘accomplished’, or ‘realised, carried out’ is in the aorist tense from the original Greek-regular past tense. (If you love language you'll get this... if not ignore!!) This means Christ has done it, a one off finished job. God’s promise has been eternally fulfilled once and for all. It is through this one accomplishment that both Gentile and Jew may share in Christ’s love and promise.
Since He took our sin, we now have a free road to God that isnt stopped by our sinfulness
The last two verses of this part are also vital for us to remember. Let us not forget the Grace in our own lives. Yes, we have become servants to this Gospel but we must also remember that we have confidence in approaching God with freedom, through our justification through faith in Christ. Since He took our sin, we now have a free road to God that isnt stopped by our sinfulness. This mystery that has now been revealed in ourgeneration is for us personally.
Verse 13. Lastly, suffering should not baffle us; this mystery is counter-cultural. It's counteracting the world, as we know it, but we are not of this world (John 17), we are simply working in it. Paul has suffered hugely, but as a servant of God he continues to run the race and so we should also follow this courageous example. We will suffer as Gospel people, God promises it.
Empowered by Spirit and Love
But how do we do this? How does this become a reality amongst us in the world in modern society? Paul prays a spiritual blessing over the Ephesians from verse 14 onwards. We must rely on that same spirit who revealed this mystery to us, which binds us together in Christ’s promise, which gives us strength to carry out good works for the Gospel.
God grants us power and authority and strengthens us for his mission
Verse 16 mentions the Spirit being part of your inner being. That to me suggests an inside out approach. The spirit dwells deep within us and it is from this that God grants us power and authority and strengthens us for his mission. Also, what Paul picks up here towards the end of this passage (verse 17 onwards) is this depth of the love of Christ:
‘And I pray you be rooted and established in love’.
Just as God loved us in this way: that He sent is only begotten son, we must stay rooted and established in that love for all to see. This is Christ’s light shining through us, just as Ben talked about in Ephesians 2. Equally we should be expectant of great things as we are filled with the fullness of God.
'That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God'
Just as Charlie spoke about looking at Ephesians 1, the fullness of God is infused throughout Christ’s Church. We experience that in ourselves and we seek to see this Mystery of Christ revealed for all to respond to. Let us, therefore, keep our eyes fixed on our Lord Jesus Christ, and really push to see our non-Christian friends and family understand this incredible eternal purpose that God has promised.