Ephesians 3:1-13, The Mystery of the Gospel and it’s Work

The Mystery of the Gospel and it’s Work

Ephesians 3:1-13

In our last look into Ephesians, Josh was preaching to us from chapter 2 and we have been observing what Paul will describe in Chapter 3 as a “mystery”.

This word in English gives us a wrong impression of how it is used in the New Testament.

In the NT the word “mystery” means something that is beyond natural knowledge but has been opened to us by revelation through the Spirit and through the word. It is something that was previously unknown and now has been made known to God’s people. It’s now free information available to all who will see it.

Paul has been hinting at this mystery in chapter 2 that he is about to unfold for us in chapter 3:1-13.

Take a look at the “hints”:

2:10

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

2:13

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

2:14-16

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

2:19-22

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members (members is supplied in English to make sense of the lone word “house”) of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

So, what is this mystery?

Mystery of the gospel 3:1-6

Paul begins chapter 3 with the intent to pray and he digresses back to chapter 2 and this glorious  and mysterious work of the gospel to be clearer in his writing about the gospel’s work in the Ephesians.

We know this because he picks up his prayer in verse 14 that he begins in verse 1. Verse 2-13 is Paul’s digression back to chapter 2 and it’s hinting at the gospel’s mystery. Paul wants to further explain it.

As a side note, this not-so-smooth writing, is a built-in indicator of the letter-nature of this work as the authentic work of Paul because it’s not a stylized and smooth theological treatise produced by later authors attributing the work to Paul.

Paul is writing the letter in real-time and needs to further explain what he has just written before going on to the prayer he is praying for them.

Paul begins his digression in 3:2-5 by explaining how the revelation of this mystery came to him.

So, what is this mystery of the gospel?

Let me summarize it with the “hints” from chapter 2: We, God’s people, are his workmanship (2:10), having been brought near (2:13), and the two divided people he has re-created into one new man in himself (2:15), and we (all those in Christ “him”) are not strangers and aliens but fellow citizens, members of the household of God, with Jesus himself the cornerstone, and we are growing into a holy temple in the Lord and being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (2:19-22).

This mystery is that Father, in Christ Jesus, has made a new people in unity out of what used to be separate people. This is called the church.

At the fall all things fractured and broke. Eventually at Babel, the nations were separated and segregated due to the fall and their continuing rebellion.

In redemption, the Lord Jesus chose Abraham to be a blessing to all the families of the earth that were just divided so that there would be one family again like the beginning.

In the fullness of time, Jesus comes to die, secure salvation for those the Father has given him from all the families of the earth and to rise in order to secure their salvation from all the families of the earth and unite them in one people, one nation, one community, the community of the Kingdom of God, the church.

In verse 6 there are 3 words that describe what those who were outside are now. In each of Paul’s descriptions of how gentiles are now part of the new people of God, he uses a compound word. Each share the same particle “sun”. Literally it means “with” or “together with”. Typically it is translated as “fellow”.

1. In this mystery gentiles are fellow heirs

sukleronoma” – fellow-heirs

2. In this mystery gentiles are members of the same body

susoma” – fellow-members of the body

This is the only place in the bible where this word is used and has not precedent for being used outside of here. Paul had to make up a word to communicate this glory of outsiders now being insiders together with the insiders.

3. In this mystery gentiles are partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus

sumetocha” – fellow-partakers

What do we take from this truth?

1. There is no segregation of race in the church, so we work for reconciliation.

2. There is no segregation of age in the church, so we work for unity.

3. There is no segregation of economic disparity in the church, so we work for equality.

This has effect on how we do ministry.

1. We don’t seek to segregate our RL Groups by age or any other demographic.

2. We don’t seek to provide ministry that allows people to disengage from their responsibility. (parents from their children         in RK; in a growing student ministry we won’t provide what it is the parent’s job to provide thus segregating the family)

Paul does not end by simply telling us what the mystery is. Paul now points us to the ministry of the mystery of the gospel. This ministry is our application of the mystery of the gospel.

Ministry of the mystery of the gospel 3:7-13

1. Preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable (literally, riches that cannot be tracked) riches of Christ v. 8

1. Our scope is the “Gentiles” (all nations)

2. Our message is that Jesus always enriches life, never subtracts from life

3. We are to proclaim the message of the enriching work of Jesus in all of life and all domains of society.

There is no domain where Jesus does not enrich all of life.

1. Jesus supplies relational riches in all domains

2. Jesus supplies saving riches in all domains

3. Jesus supplies sanctifying riches in all domains

4. Jesus supplies practical riches in all domains

5. Jesus supplies eternal riches in all domains

4. We must know experientially that Jesus is better if we are to really make this known.

2. Tell the world about Jesus’ church v. 9

We are to bring to light the plan of the mystery (to create a new people from all nations, called the church) hidden for ages in God who created all things.

The God who chose to create all things chose to create a new people comprised of Jew and Gentile in one body with one leader, the church. Kent Hughes, in his commentary on this passage, calls the people of God made up of many nations the “third race”. Meaning that the people of God are no longer just their ethnic background, but their ethnic distinction is now subject to the identity of the kingdom of God and now the many are one.

We don’t loose distinction, but my distinction does not trump my identity as citizen of the kingdom first.

This mystery, now revealed, is to be told far and wide.

1. Invite people to church

No, “church” won’t save the rebel, but there is no better community where the gospel is being spoken of or adhered to than the community of the kingdom.

3. Be aware that our ministry proclaims the wisdom of God to the spiritual authorities v. 10

“Here it will help us to imagine a cosmic drama. The theatre is history. The stage is the world. The actors are the church. The writer is God, who also directs and produces the drama. And the audience? Cosmic beings.” – Kent Hughes

“The history of the Christian Church is the graduate school for angels. It is through the old creation (the universe) that God reveals his glory to humans; it is through the new creation (the church) that he reveals his wisdom to angels.” – John R.W. Stott, God’s New Society

1 Peter 1:10-12 tells us that angels long to look into this glorious mystery (literally, angels long to stoop). Angels are stooped over in their realm looking into the glorious work of Father to make a new mankind out of his people under the headship of the Son.

1. The church is central to history

2. The church is central to the gospel

3. The church is central to Christian living

This reality gives great significance to our engagement in the church and should drive our desire to be part of the community of the kingdom.

4. This mystery of one new people, the church, is Gods eternal purpose in Christ v. 11

5. We don’t loose when suffering for this ministry because it is our glory (it is to our glory to be about this work and our glory if we have to suffer for it) v. 13

“Verse 13 brings us back to the claim of v 1, that Paul’s imprisonment is ‘for the sake of you Gentiles’. His readers might be discouraged that God has allowed this apparent set-back, but Paul would rather have them see it as your glory. Why, after all, had he been arrested? It was because he stood for Gentile equality with Jewish believers in the one new-creation people of God, Christ’s body.” – D.A. Carson

1. If we suffer for the gospel in defending / advancing the church, we win

Psalm 147:1 “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”

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TRCC DNA: Church

Church
KDSC

The church consists of all true believers in Jesus Christ throughout all time.

The kingdom manifests itself through the church.

Experientially, the church provides a foretaste of the future reign of Jesus Christ.

The church exists only because of Jesus and is mandated with extending his mission to all nations.

For the glory of God we will build the church both local and global by being and producing radical followers of Jesus Christ.

Why do we want to build the church? Why is the church so important?

The church is what Jesus is building as the community of the kingdom
Matthew 16:18

TRCC Statement of belief (Kingdom):
Therefore, “we believe that those who have been saved by the grace of God through union with Christ by faith and through regeneration by the Holy Spirit enter the kingdom of God and delight in the blessings of the new covenant: the forgiveness of sins, the inward transformation that awakens a desire to glorify, trust, and obey God, and the prospect of the glory yet to be revealed. Good works constitute indispensable evidence of saving grace. Living as salt in a world that is decaying and light in a world that is dark, believers should neither withdraw into seclusion from the world, nor become indistinguishable from it: rather, we are to do good to the city, for all the glory and honor of the nations is to be offered up to the living God. Recognizing whose created order this is, and because we are citizens of God’s kingdom, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, doing good to all, especially to those who belong to the household of God. The kingdom of God, already present but not fully realized, is the exercise of God’s sovereignty in the world toward the eventual redemption of all creation. The kingdom of God is an invasive power that plunders Satan’s dark kingdom and regenerates and renovates through repentance and faith the lives of individuals rescued from that kingdom. It therefore inevitably establishes a new community of human life together under God.” (TRCC Statement of belief)

1. We are now new citizens of a new kingdom

2. The church is not a building, but the people of God who live by the values of his
kingdom

3. The church gathered, equipped, and mobilized is the fruit of the gospel of the kingdom
The church is Father’s agent of transformation
1. In the community of the kingdom we become great by being the least
Mark 10:35-45
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

2. In the community of the kingdom we are being built into a spiritual house as a holy priesthood that offers spiritual sacrifices acceptable to Father through Jesus and we serve one another in the gifting he has given us
1 Peter 2:4-5; 4:10
“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:…”

The church is an expression of Father’s Trinitarian nature
“Professor Colin Gunton, in his seminal work, The One, The Three and the Many, points to the secular search for an ideology that can protect the individual while promoting community. Recent history, he suggests, had been ruled by two competing regimes. In the west, we are products of a world driven by the individual. An increasingly privatized worldview has promoted the rights of the individual above all else. In the east, communism exalted the many. What mattered most was the common good, the people and the nation. The result, Gunton declares, has been two equally oppressive and totalitarian regimes. The answer lies in the discovery of a worldview capable of honoring the one and the many, without either being at the expense of the other. The doctrine of the Trinity presents such an ideology. The God who is Father, Son and Spirit models this unity amidst diversity, and this community of equality. The church, through its relationship with the Triune God, is called to model this for the world.”

The existence of the church is not arbitrary but reflects the nature of the God who is its source.

Scripture defines the church in relation to the Father (his family – Eph. 2:18; 3:15), the Son (his body and bride – Eph. 1:22-23; 5:25-28), and the Spirit (his temple – 1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:22; Ezek. 40-48)

1. This reality shows off some of the glory of the church

2. This makes the church a non-negotiable.

3. The church must be married not dated and discipled into Christ
The church is Father’s dwelling place
1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:22

1 Corinthians 3:16 “Do you not know that you (plural) are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells in you?”

We often read this passage and read the “you” as singular and make it an individual passage and then use it to talk about eating or exercising or something unique to an individual.

However, this “you” is plural. This means that the whole church is God’s temple. Does that mean that the Holy Spirit does not reside in us individually? No. He does. But it does mean that his residence in us individually is not intended to keep us isolated rather to draw us together.

Therefore, if we harm the body of Christ or neglect the body of Christ we will fall under the condemnation of verse 17 which says, “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”

1. We, together, are Christ’s dwelling, so the gathered body matters
2. We dare not neglect or damage the church
3. Jesus will not stand for his church being hurt
4. The church is bigger than the Radical Life group, the Sunday gathering and our little
denominations. She is the universal bride of Christ that must be cherished and fought for
The church displays Father’s manifold wisdom
Eph. 3:8-11
“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold (varied, diverse, multi-colored) wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,…”

1. The church is the vehicle through which the manifold / multi-colored wisdom of God is made known.

There are other organizations that have purposes to do great and good deeds on our planet for people and for nations, but only the church contains the special presence of Jesus Christ (see Revelation 1).

This is not to say that we don’t experience the presence of the Lord daily when not gathered. We do.

But being covenanted to the body of Christ is special and carries with it supernatural realities that church discipline removes, which is why Paul says to remove the unrepentant sinner from the fellowship.

The disciplined sinner, once removed, no longer has access to the supernatural protection and presence of the Lord.

Therefore, the “Christian” who does not covenant with a body but refuses to covenant with a body refuses, in a real way, to come under the influence of the Chief Shepherd and his supernatural shepherding.

2. God’s manifold wisdom is made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places through the church

Note that This is probably the whole host of heavenly beings; not merely angels or evil powers, but both (see 6:12). These heavenly beings, fallen and faithful alike, are assembled witnesses before whom God vindicates his wisdom (D.A. Carson, NBC). God vindicates his wisdom through the church which is the expression of his wisdom. And even deeper, verse 11 affirms that this is according to his eternal purpose that was realized in Christ. According to 1:9-10 and 2:11-22 the eternal purpose realized in Christ that vindicates God’s wisdom and shows it to be so glorious as to call it manifold / multi-colored is the unity of all things in Christ (1:9-11) and this unity is brought to expression in a local / global church where Jew and Gentile live and worship as one body in harmony with God and with each other in Christ. And this unity emphasized in chapters 4-6, to Paul, is the central witness to the powerful gospel. Jesus’ prayer in John 17 emphasized this unity under God purchased by Christ as the powerful witness to the work Jesus was about to accomplish on the cross. All this through the church!

3. The glorious church is realized through Jesus
1. The church is not realized through created means

How do we live this out locally?

1. As the family of God we grow in our love for and fellowship with each other
1 Timothy 5:1-2
1. Attend regularly to encourage one another and grow together across demographic lines (Hebrews 10:25)
2. Attend a RL group with members who share the DNA and multiply that DNA
in others who can impact others (Vision / Relationships / Collaboration / Family)
a. It’s hard to have deep fellowship with people who don’t share the vision.
you just end up arguing over the vision or circling in the wilderness without
every multiplying until the darn thing dies.

2. As the bride of Christ we seek greater love for Jesus and submission to him
2 Corinthians 11:2-3
“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

3. As Father’s new temple we increase awareness of his presence among us
1 Peter 2:4-8

4. As the body of Christ we increase interdependence on each other’s gifts
2 Corinthians 12:12-27

5. As a priesthood we have an increasing sense of Father’s joy in our praise and good works
1 Peter 2:5
Psalm 147:1 “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”