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Dec 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 7, 2014 – Ephesians 3:1-7

 An Open Window to Mystery

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles–if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you . . . Ephesians 3:1 & 2

Intro: Right off the bat we can see that there is something wrong with these two verses

Paul begins a sentence, but does not finish
– he’s about to tell them something he was doing
• but before he gets to the what, he trails off into another thought
• we have to wait until verse 14 for Paul to return and explain, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father . . .”

Nevertheless, already Paul has given us something to chew on
– “prisoner” – defined his situation; he was living in a Roman jail cell
• but in spite of that, it was not Rome that determined the meaning of his life
• wherever he was, whatever he was, he belonged to Christ Jesus
– there are two ways to read everything, whether a book, a person, an event, a period of history, and so on
• one way is to read the outside – the bare words, the obvious, the surface appearance
• the other way is read the inside — underlying meanings, motives, and motions
◦ a truth not visible on the surface – this is having “eyes to see” and “ears to hear”
◦ it’s possible that none of the Roman soldiers who guarded Paul could see that he was the Lord’s prisoner
– the section of scripture we are going over today is based on Paul’s inside reading of God’s word and revelation

It was “for the sake of you Gentiles” that Paul was in prison
– it is his reference to them that gets Paul side-tracked
• from the time of his conversion, Paul had a special connection with Gentiles, forged by Jesus (Acts 26:16-18)
• Paul describes his ministry to the Gentiles as a stewardship
◦ in v. 9 the same word is translated administration
◦ a steward was a trusted servant that a wealthy person would put over all of his household affairs

Who then is the faithful and sensible steward whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? (Lk. 12:42)

– what is it that Paul “rationed” to the Ephesians? “Grace”
• in 1 Corinthians 4:1 it was “the mysteries of God” over which he was a “steward” (as here in v. 9)
• we expend a lot of energy defining grace
◦ for Paul it wasn’t a word to define, but a gift to experience
◦ it is through God’s daily gifts of grace that he puts us where we’re supposed to be

Vv. 3-7, The key thought in this passage is “the mystery of Christ”

The key words in verse 3 are revelation, made known and mystery
– they are repeated in verses 4 and 5, but in reverse order
• this was the heart of Paul’s ministry
◦ getting the truth of Jesus Christ to Gentiles
• but this is a truth that is not observable or accessible to logic
◦ it had to be delivered to Jewish and Gentile audiences
– here we come face to face with what Paul calls “the mystery”
• the way mystery is used in New Testament, it means unknowable or secret (“hidden,” v. 9)
• mystery is a truth or reality that cannot be:
◦ discovered with the mind
◦ or detected by senses
– the mystery is something that belongs to a transcendent realm
• it does not originate in our 4-D universe — that is why it’s not within the reach of humans

God cannot be discovered in a lab, he cannot be seen through a telescope or found under a microscope
– the best that philosophers could hope to ever accomplish is to logically prove the existence of a deity or deities
• but that would not result in an actual or personal knowledge of the God of the Bible


. . . when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (“secret” translates the same Greek word for “hidden,” Mt. 6:6)

• God exists beyond the range of human organs of perception
◦ this, of course, was Job’s great frustration — as it has been for millions of people through the centuries
◦ it is not a denial of God’s existence, but a despair over what the eye cannot see, nor the ear hear, nor heart perceive
Behold, I go forward but He is not there,
And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;
When He acts on the left,
I cannot behold Him;
He turns on the right, I cannot see Him. (Job 23:8-9)

– the only for humans to know God is for him to reveal himself to them
• this is the role of God’s word, the Scriptures

Therefore, when Isaiah complains that Yahweh is a God who “hides himself” (Isa. 45:15), the LORD reminds him that he had not spoken in secret (v. 19, where “secret” comes from the Hebrew root that is translated “hides” in v. 15). In other words, God’s response to Isaiah is, “My word word is not hidden”

– the ultimate Word of God was personified in the first chapter of John’s gospel (and Rev. 19:13)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:1, 14, 18; cf. John 14:9; 2 Cor. 4:6; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:1-3)

• so one great mystery that God has revealed is himself
◦ but there are other important mysteries and one in particular
◦ God had revealed to Paul as well as to the other apostles and Christian prophets the unbelievable!

Our minds have been formed (and prejudiced) by 2,000 years of world history
– so what Paul says doesn’t shock us or even make sense to us
• but the theology of God’s Messiah and salvation belonged and applied exclusively to Israel
• Israel’s prophets had declared that God would bring his rule into world

  • the Messiah would be a descendant of David, whose kingdom was remembered as Israel’s finest
  • the Messiah’s kingdom would bring order, peace, and righteousness to the whole earth
  • other nations would continue to exist around the Messiah’s kingdom
    – they would be ruled by it, slaves to it, and dependent on it to learn about God and his ways
    – but they would not be included in it
  • a revived and restored Israel would be the Messiah’s earthly kingdom
  • Gentile nations (the goyim) would be beaten into submission
    – this, in fact, was the job of the Messiah (e.g., Ps. 2:8-9)

– at first, Jesus’ own apostles were in disbelief that Gentiles could share in Israel’s salvation and glorious future
• Peter had to be convinced (by a divine vision) and had to convince other Christian leaders
◦ Gentiles could become Christian, member’s of Christ’s body, without first becoming Jews (Acts chs. 10-11)
◦ we can almost hear the tone of wonder and resignation when they finally conceded:
Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life. (Acts 11:18)

Paul had been gripped by this revelation and he devoted his whole life to it

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be the glory forever. Amen. (Ro. 16:25-27)

– Paul’s short introduction (“as I wrote before in brief,” v. 3) refers to the first two chapters
• after reading of his wonderful insights into Christian spirituality, they would be able to understand his insight
• three times in verse 6 Paul uses the prefix “with” (syn), which the NASB translates “fellow”
◦ Gentiles were now heirs with, in the body with, and partakers of the promise with Jewish believers
◦ Paul’s life’s work was to get this message out and by God’s grace it was what he was empowered to do

(note that the “you can” in v. 4 translates a word from the same root as power in v. 7)

Why has God revealed anything? (regarding himself, his will, our salvation, etc.)

Was it to provide concepts for theological discussion and erudite seminary dissertations?
– Helmut Thielicke observed that the person addressed by word is its object
• in other words, if the message comes to you and is given to you, that’s because it is for you
• God’s revelation looks for a human response

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law. (De. 29:29)

Conc: What sort of response might fit the revelation that comes to us in this passage?

First thought:
It seems to me that reverence is an appropriate response
– if we’ve lost our sense of wonder, then we must begin to practice reverence to recover it
• this is fairly easy when we see beauty in nature, an object, an event, or an action
• but reverence may also be close by when we find ourselves saying, “I don’t know”
◦ there are still many things we do not know and cannot know
◦ Jesus once prayed:

I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things fro the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. (Lk. 10:21)
If wisdom and intelligence, as valuable as they are in understanding the universe and human behavior, cannot uncover divine mysteries, then we cannot depend on them for our experience of God.

God is not a concept to be grasped, but a person to be known, loved, trusted and enjoyed

Second thought:
When you get in your car, before driving to work, the store, or off on errands, say the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father)
– when you return home, before getting out of your car, ask, “Was I there?”
• of course you were there physically, but were you there consciously, aware of the mystery hidden in everything
• ask, “Did I see God”–that is, his image in others, his handiwork in nature, his fingerprints on culture
◦ in this way, we begin to look at everything differently

Third thought:
Let’s revisit Ephesians 1:17 and ask for a spirit of wisdom and revelation to know God
– but also thank God for giving you a spirit of wisdom and revelation
• as you do this, you will begin to realize how, in spirit, you have already begun to know him
◦ and how you already have been given eyes to see, and ears to hear, and a heart to perceive

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