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The Mystery

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(3/20) Ephesians 3:1-13

Introduction- Palm Sunday

I donít know about you but I am discovering the truth that life is like a roll of bathroom tissue (toilet paper); that is, the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes. I cannot believe that it is Palm Sunday already. I just took the Christmas tree down and the lights off the house. My grass needs to be cut but it is too wet.

Palm Sunday should begin for us, a very reflective week. I hope that you will take the time this week, daily, to reflect on the love of God for you. These songs that we have sung I hope will be on your mind. "I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how He could love me, a sinner condemned unclean." Oh the love that drew Salvations plan, Oh the grace that brought it down to man, Oh the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary."

This is what we call Passion Week; that is, passion meaning suffering. This is the week of Jesusí suffering. From His weeping before he entered Jerusalem, to tormenting thoughts of His impending suffering, this was an intensely hard week for our Lord Jesus. It culminated in His death, a cruel, torturous, death, as he took on the wrath of God for us. We call that day, Good Friday. It was great for us, but it was hell for Jesus. So, I hope this week, you will pause each day and re-read the gospel accounts beginning with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on this day, Palm Sunday, and ending shortly after 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon. And, then, His glorious resurrection on Sunday, as we will remember next week.

This week is the week that changed all of history for all time and for eternity. This is the week that the first promise, after Adam and Eveís fall into sin that infected every member of the human race, and every promise of salvation since then pointed to. Do you get that? Not Dec. 7th, 1941, or Sept. 11th, 2001. It was this week around the year 29 or 30 A.D. in a city called Jerusalem, (I know, "How could Jesus be 33 and die in 29 A.D.?" The answer is, that we realized that the calendar we use was off by about 4 years. So Jesus was actually born in 4 B.C.).

So, take the time to reflect on what your creator and the lover of your soul did so you could be His child and an heir to His riches, cleansed and redeemed from sins and slavery, and set free to enjoy His peace and rest in His promises. That is what the key verse to the first 3 Chapters of Ephesians says. Find Ephesians 1:3 and letís say it together. Ready? "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." Do you know the Doxology? Letís sing it together. Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below, Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen!

I. Paulís Pause (vv. 1, 14)

Chapter two ended with Paul emphasizing the grand plan of God for the church. How God brought two people groups that did not like each other and from them created a new body. Non-Jews and Jews having equal status with God. God is in the process of building a Holy Temple, not out of bricks and mortar but out of people who responded by faith to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By His limitless mercy and love He rescued them from impending wrath and hell for their sins. By Grace, He adopted them, forgave them, gave them hope and an inheritance and came to live in them (us) by His Holy Spirit. Now both Jew and Non-Jew, male and female, slave and free, have equal access to the Father by the Holy Spirit.

Chapter three begins by Paul readying himself to share his heartís desire for this church in a prayer. He says, "For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles"-Those first 3 words will appear again in verse 14. But itís as if he catches himself and says I want to pause and explain something important to you. So, verses 2-13 are an explanation of verse 1. Whatís Paul doing in Jail?

Notice that he doesnít say, a prisoner of the state, or a prisoner of Rome; rather he refers to Himself as a prisoner of Christ Jesus and in 4:1 as a prisoner of the Lord. He says, he is a prisoner of Christ for you Gentiles. Hereís what happened.

Listen to Acts 21:27ff, "the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, 28 crying out, "Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place." 29 (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) 30 And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple;" They were false assumptions, but perception is often damaging. And Paul was arrested and sent to Rome. By the way, did you see the commercial about the couple that assumed you couldnít get good food at a gas station -Sheets? The point is, what assumptions often do. So, Paul was in jail for mentoring an Ephesian man. But he didnít see it as a bad thing, but rather part of the plan of God. And He didnít want the church to see it as a bad thing. God has a plan even when we donít understand. To understand, letís look back.

II. Paulís Past Ė Look back at Acts 26:4-5; 9-11. As a Pharisee Paul would

have had little affection for either Christ-Followers or Gentiles. He imprisoned, tortured and consented to the deaths of Christ-Followers. I imagine that his past actions never left his mind.

III. Paulís Position Ė Acts 26:12-15. He was intercepted by Jesus and given an

appointment (Acts. 26:16-18). He was to take the Gospel to not only the Jews but to the Gentiles. Look at Gal. 1:11-18. Paul spent time alone with God in the desert, maybe 3 years, and God began to reveal to Paul His gospel plan for the world. That brings us back to our text in Ephesians 3.

IV. Paulís Privilege (3:2-6)

Preach the Dispensation, or administration of grace -New Covenant-given to Israel Ė running a household

God doesnít change but his administrations have changed

Adam to Noah Ė No code that we know of, - No Capital Punishment

From Noah to Moses Ė promises and human government to protect life-hence Capital Punishment Ė selection of a distinct people to be light carriers

From Moses to Saul- revealed and written laws governing every area of life, moral, civil, dietary, worship, selection of leaders with judges and a theocratic rule. Jehovah was King

From Saul to Jesus - revealed and written laws governing every area of life, moral, civil, dietary, worship, selection of leaders with Kings ruling the people of God Ė All this time Israel was to be a light to the world to display the power, uniqueness, and grace of the sovereign yet invisible God. God had a conditional covenant. Blessings or Cursingís based on what Israel did in obedience or disobedience to God. The goal was that as Israel obeyed God and received unexplainable blessings the world would see the reality and want to know the one true God.

From Jesusí death and resurrection came a New Covenant based on Godís promise alone. All that would be required was faith from the follower. This New Covenant was a covenant of grace promised to Judah in Jeremiah 31:31. Included is forgiveness, knowledge of Godís laws on their hearts, adoption into Godís family, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Our Bible are divided by these two covenants, the Old Covenant or Testament, and the New Covenant or Testament.

But in this administration is a mystery - concealed until Paul. Now a mystery is as it seems, something that has been concealed, but now has been revealed by Paul. Revealed in the desert? Most Likely! So what is this mystery? The mystery is the Church as we know it to be. The Church is not in prophecy or anywhere in the Old Testament, unless it is used of Israel as a set apart people. The few times that our Lord uses the word in the New Testament, He doesnít hint at exactly what it is going to be. It was assumed that He was referring to a set apart or called out company of Jewish believers, sometimes referred to as a remnant.

Nowhere is it hinted that there would be a 2000 or more-year-old dispensation of grace called the Church age. And that Gentiles would be included in the New Covenant.

From Genesis to Malachi, God promised a Messiah, a Savior. He would be a Prophet like Moses, a Priest like Melchizadek and a Prince like David. He would put an end to sin. He would heal the handi-capped and the sick. He would destroy sinners and rule with a rod of iron. The earth would experience a golden age. Children could play with snakes, lions and lambs, wolves and kids could dwell safely with each other. People would live long, long lives. And the Messiah would restore the Glory of Israel, and sit on Davidís throne.

Even though there were some hard to understand passages like Psalm 16, and 22, and Isaiah 53, that speaks of a suffering Messiah, no one ever believed that there would be a gap of at least 2000 years since the birth of the Messiah and the Golden Age of peace and freedom that Israel longed for. The 12 disciples were waiting for Jesus to put on the crown and get a can of whoop----- and restore the kingdom.

When that didnít happen, they didnít understand. When they saw Jesus suffer and die, they lost hope and heart. After Jesus rose again, He met with them, and walked them through the O.T. Scriptures (Luke 24:44-46). He showed them why He had to die and rise again for them, and how it was prophesied. Look at Acts 1:5, "Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" The light went on for them and they said, Okay, we were a little dense and didnít understand, but now we get it, so are you ready to establish the kingdom and put on the crown? And our Lord said, "No." You have an assignment first. One that I am going to empower you to do. Tell everyone about me. Not only here, but throughout the world, (1:6-8).

And though it was plain that Gentiles were to be given the light, no one would have assumed that they would be considered equal to the Jews, and under the New Covenant, any more than anyone in the south in the 1800ís and maybe most of the 1900ís would have ever have thought that blacks and whites would be considered equal. Do you get that? Even though the Jew could see the story of Rahab, and Ruth, and Ninevehís revival. God had promised Abraham in Gen. 12:3, that through his descendants, all the families of the earth would be blessed. Then, there are the scriptures that you have in your notes (Gen. 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; Ps. 72; 87; Isa. 11:10; 49:6; 54:1-3; 60:1-3; Hos. 1;10; Amos 11ff; Mal. 1:11) that speak of God reaching the Gentiles.

Paul is saying in verse 6, that Gentiles, (most of us) are partakers of the same promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel. We are included in the New Covenant, and part of the same family of God. Romans 11 reminds us that we have been grafted into Godís vine. This should not make us proud but very humble for Godís grace.

Paul was eventually given the assignment to be the messenger to the Gentiles and ended up in jail as we saw earlier. But God was reaching soldiers and citizens in Rome and was ministering to the churches through his writings.

Listen, if you are listening say, Amen. We are living in a mystery period. God is building a living temple, that He is living in. A Temple that is on the move, a Temple composed of Jew and Non-Jew, male and female, slave and free. Israel has been temporarily set aside as Godís light until the rapture (also a mystery) occurs. After our series is over on Ephesians we may return and look at the Mysteries of the Church. Listen to Galatians 3:26ff, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christís, then you are Abrahamís seed, and heirs according to the promise. And again, 1 Cor. 12:13, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one bodyówhether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or freeóand have all been made to drink into one Spirit."

Listen, revealing the mystery is what God wants you and me to do. He wants us to tell people, all people, that God will receive by grace anyone who repents of sin and receives Jesus as their Savior and Lord-anyone! They donít have to earn this salvation. The Holy Spirit will be given to them and they will have forgiveness, adoption into Godís family, and hope forever, with a reserved and prepared inheritance in heaven. Thatís our assignment class. Thatís part of the good works we have been ordained to walk in. Look at 1 Peter 2:9-10, But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy." There are no exceptions. The Great Commission is Godís word to you. You donít have to wonder what God wants you to do. It is here (Matt. 28:18-20) tell somebody about the Gospel of Grace in Jesus Christ. Raise your hand if you understand this.

V. Paulís Problem and Promotion (Vv. 7-9)

Paulís problem is his past. A haunting past. Maybe like David in Psalm 51:3, his past was ever before his eyes. Memories of the Christ-followers, he had jailed, tortured and condemned to death. Hating the very one who had died and rose again for him. Even if he did it in ignorance, the memory was there. Why would God confer this privilege on him to be an ambassador for Jesus? The other 11-12 didnít do those things. They were schooled by Jesus. He had prayed for them. He was an example for them. They had loved Him, while Paul had hated him. No wonder he saw himself as less than the least of the Apostles. But listen to 1 Cor. 15:9-10, "For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." Often, though not always, those who know the depth of their sins are the ones who know the depth of Godís grace and want to serve the Lord. Paul wanted to spend all of his life sharing the grace he had experienced. Listen to His testimony in 1 Tim. 1:12-16, "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life." Simply stated, Paul wanted the world to know that if God could save, change, and forgive him, he could save, change and forgive anyone.

Listen, God saves and changes people, so He can use changed people, to change people. Let me ask you, do you know the depth of Godís grace? Has He saved and changed your life? Who have you told? Donít cop to, "Oh, I just want my life to do the preaching." The song has no message if it is all guitar and no singing.

VI. Paulís Power (v.7)

Paul knew that he could be Godís man. That he had all the power he needed to make a difference in this world. He had the resurrection Power of the Holy Spirit. The same power that raised Jesus from the grave lives in us by the Holy Spirit. God will empower you to speak and to live the Gospel, (Acts 1:8).

Secondly, Paul knew that there is power in the Gospel itself. The author of Hebrews tells us that the word of God is living and powerful and sharper than a two edged sword." (Heb. 4:12). Paul, himself would say in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."

That is the same power that you have. God will enable you with the power of the Holy Spirit to speak the words, and God will use the power of the Living Word to change lives.

God wants you to be part of the fellowship of this mystery period. Verse 10 is kinda like this. We all have the light of God in us. Our lives have been changed. Individually we are like a candle, together we are the city on the hill that canít be hidden.

VII. Godís Purpose for this city on a hill. (Vv.10-11).

We donít exist for ourselves, we exist for Godís glory. Do you understand that? When the angels of God see the works and wisdom of God evidenced by the church, their knowledge of God is increased and they rejoice and honor Him.

Even Satan and the demons assigned to hell will bow their knee to God and confess Jesus as Lord and they will know they that as with Job, they cannot stop the power of grace. They may have thought that Jesus was done at Calvary and they had a victory, only to learn that their victory became the means of their defeat. When the church, a living organism of people who may have been enemies are living in harmony as can only be explained by the gospel. The invisible world can only marvel at Godís greatness. And the gates of hell cannot stop the Church.

VIII. Godís Great Plan (vv.11-13)

From all the peoples of the earth, God is building a family. No matter who you are, you can call Him, Father. You always have access to Him because of Jesus. You can approach Him boldly and confidently because of the privilege you have of being His Son in Christ. You have His Holy Spirit with you and in you, forever.

If you donít understand what is happening in your life. Stop. Look up, and know that he has a plan, a good plan, even if you donít understand (v.13). Paul did.

I once read a story about a man whose son was accused of being a deserter and sentenced to be shot. The dad hurried to Washington D.C. to try to get an audience with President Lincoln and ask for mercy. No one would let him near or in the white house. He stood outside of the gate weeping when a small boy asked him what was wrong. The man told the boy that he desperately wished to see the President. The boy took the manís hand and led him past the guards and into the white house and into a busy room and said, "Dad, there is someone who needs to talk to you." The man asked for mercy for his son and was granted it, because the President was always available to his son.

IX. Paulís Prayer will be next week. Appropriate for Resurrection Day.

Take awayís from this portion of Scripture.

  • No matter who you are or what you have done, there is grace available.
  • Praise and worship ought to pour out of us for the hope we have because of Jesus and this wonderful plan of God to include us in the family.
  • God wants to change your life so he can use your changed life to change lives.
  • God has the power to enable you to share His grace with everyone. The power of His Holy Spirit and the Power of His living Word.
  • God has a good plan even if you donít understand. Those who see your change are not just the visible mortal but also the invisible spiritual.
  • Letís leave here today ready to make a difference in this world. Amen? Amen!

Letís pray.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman