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Dec 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 14, 2014 – Ephesians 3:8-13

 Another Kind of Person

To me,
the very least of all saints,
this grace was given,
to preach the unfathomable riches of Christ,
and to bring to light
what is the administration of the mystery
which for ages has been hidden in God
who created all things;
Ephesians 3:8-9

Intro: We saw that Paul has taken a long detour

In verse 13 it will become clear why he went off-topic
– in referring to himself as a prisoner, Paul realized the reminder could disturb them
• so trailing off from verses 2-12 was meant to reassure them — there was no need to worry

Paul repeats themes that we went over last week
– for a third time he refers to:
the grace given to him (for his ministry)
Gentiles (to whom the doors of salvation were opened)
• made known
– and, for a second time, he refers to his stewardship (translated administration in v. 9)

When themes recur like this, we look for what is added or expanded in the repetitions

Vv. 8-9, Catching his own reflection (in v. 7), Paul backtracks

“To me . . .” of all people!
Paul refers to himself as “the very least of all saints”
– as if he suddenly feels really small
• and in light of the message he carries, he is small
• he works this huge contrast between the messenger and the message
– Paul makes three additions to what he’s said already:

  1. “unfathomable riches of Christ” – unfathomable is a metaphor that means “unable to track”
    – the greatness of Jesus’ wealth is so vast that its limits cannot be explored
    – there’s a spiritual wealth for us in Jesus — there is no reason to live at a low level of spiritual development
    . . . in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge . . . . For in Him all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete . . .  (Col. 2:3 & 9-10)• the spiritual journey is a continual sinking ever deeper into Jesus Christ
  2. “for ages had been hidden in God”
    – Paul said this in verse 5, but in different language — “in other generations was not made known”
    – here we learn, the mystery existed, but it was hidden in God
  3. “who created all things”
    – God working out what was hidden within him
    – he engineered space and time to achieve a goal; namely, to bring humankind to himself

As small as Paul was, the truth he handled was infinite
– he was given the task of bringing all this “to light”
• same word in 1:18, “eyes of your heart may enlightened”
– God working enlightenment on both ends:
• in Paul as he proclaimed it, and in us as we receive it

so that the manifold wisdom of God
might now be 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,

Vv. 10-11, God intended church to be a showpiece

What Paul adds to what he already said is:
– first, “manifold wisdom” – manifold is a poetic term
• why introduce poetry?
◦ what does poetry do that ordinary speech cannot?
• poetry speaks to experience
◦ it not only present ideas, but brings them to life
◦ it invites us to participate in what it describes
– second, “made known through the church
• Paul does not mean through the institution (Religion, Inc.) or simply through Christians talking about it
• he means what God does in and through our lives in community and in the world
◦ In Christian Spirituality, Rowan Williams briefly alludes to the formation of monasteries

“. . . the two essentials of Christian (and so of monastic) life, growth in love and growth in humility, cannot be realized in solitude. . . How will you learn patience without the irritation of having people around resisting you or disagreeing with you? And all this comes finally to two basic theological data: the incarnation and the existence of the Body of Christ on earth.”

In the Greek text, the word translated “carried out” in verse 11  is related to workmanship in 2:10
poiema, something made or formed (like a sculpture)
• but the point here is not the masterpiece,
◦ the point is God produces his new creation “in Christ Jesus”
• most of us are easily moved gazing at a masterpiece of visual art
◦ but more fascinating is observing the master at work
◦ that is what has Paul in reverent awe
– the writer of Hebrews tells us, way to go forward is by

fixing [our] eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith (Heb. 12:2)

• this is how God works his glory into us

in whom we have boldness
and confident access

through faith in Him.

V. 12, The most important development of Paul’s thought

Faith in Jesus opens the door to our experience of God
– “boldness” – a “total outspokenness”
• it is in Jesus that we can discuss all these things freely
– “access” – this is one of the loveliest revelations regarding our relationship to God through Jesus
• for many years I had envied Jeremiah — he was so near God that he could call out other prophets
◦ prophets had not received God’s word directly, but drew inspiration from their own hearts and imaginations

But if they had stood in My council,
Then they would have announced My words to My people (Jer. 23:22)

◦ I desired that sort of insider experience, that sort of intimacy, to approach God’s door and sit in his  secret council
• does it seem remarkable to you, that we (humans) can interact with God?
◦ this is infinitely more than any backstage pass
◦ Jesus not only gives us free access to our Creator, but also the confidence to “draw near” (Heb. 4:15)

Therefore I ask you
not to lose heart
at my tribulations
on you behalf,
for they are your glory.

V. 13, Now we see why the detour

Paul did not want his troubles to discourage them
– “tribulations” or “sufferings” comes from a Greek word, “to squeeze”
• what we might describe as physical, psychological, or social pressure
• whatever creates a burden too great to bear
– to “lose heart” is, of course, to despair, to give up

Paul brings this up in 2 Corinthians (4:1 & 16) and Galatians (6:9)
– the stuff we go through is sometimes enough to do us in
• add to that the surplus of suffering on this planet
◦ the darkness and misery of some places so overwhelming that we have no choice but to walk away
• otherwise, we’d be swallowed up without making any difference
– Christian spirituality has given world another type of person
• men and women who knew their limitations, but did not give up or lose heart
◦ and that is because the knew the unlimited resources of God

. . . the people who know their God will display strength and take action (Dan. 11:32)

◦ we’ll meet such people next month
(a husband and wife who will be telling us about their work with victims of sex-trafficking here in the U.S.)

Paul’s suffering was not meaningless or without purpose and effect
– it was, he says, “on your behalf ” and for “your glory”
• so far from being disheartened by Paul’s situation, it served for their glory
• this is the effect of the revealed mystery regarding the Gentiles: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 2:27)

Conc: I want to take one last look at who we see standing here in this passage

Regarding Paul, Albert Schweitzer observed, “Behind this humble attitude lies a tremendous self-consciousness.”
– in other words, Paul may have a lowly view of himself as a person
• but he is absolutely certain of who he is in Christ, what has been revealed to him, and what he is to do
• Paul knows that he has called to something big enough to be worth suffering for

To know Jesus is to understand and embrace his full title: “Christ Jesus our Lord”
– “Christ” is not a name — it is God’s designation for his unique Servant and Son
• the ultimate Prophet of God, the ultimate Priest, and the ultimate King
– “Jesus” is a name, and a common one at the time of Christ
• it is the English form of the Hebrew name Joshua, “Yahweh’s salvation”
• it is the name that defines him
. . . and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Mt. 1:21)
– “Lord” is a title of honor and status

God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Php. 2:9-11)

• Jesus is Lord, yet he is ours — we own him as the One to whom we have surrendered our lives and destinies

You and I
– some of us need to be told, “You’re not as big as you think”
– others of us need to be told, “You’re not as small as you think”
• but all of us need to know who we are
• it is knowing who you are and having something big enough to give your life meaning
that enables you to face this world
and go forward in spite of suffering
without losing heart

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