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Please turn in your Bibles this evening to Ephesians chapter 3 as we continue our study through the Word of God. Tonight we will finish up this section on doctrine, the truths of God, which Paul speaks of in Ephesians chapters 1-3. It is after Paul shows us all that we have in Christ that he then tells us we need to walk accordingly, and we will see that in Ephesians chapters 4-6. With that said, lets begin reading in Ephesians chapter 3, starting in verse 1 and lets see what the Lord has for us this evening.
Notice that Paul is not a prisoner of Rome, nor of Nero, nor of the Jews but of Christ. Paul spent two years in prison in Caesarea before being sent to Rome as he appealed to Caesar to hear his case. At this point Paul could have been in prison for some 5 years now, including his time in Caesarea. And yet Paul was not bitter, he was not angry, he realized that God was in control and thus, as he said in Philippians 4:11-13, Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Having the correct perspective in regards to the situations we find ourselves in is vital. You see, it will determine how we respond to those situations. If we truly believe that God is in control, then no matter what may come our way, no matter how unfair or unjust the situation may seem, we will respond with a positive outlook, with joy in our hearts. James put it this way as he tells us in James 1:2-4, and this is from The Amplified Bible, Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing. You see, these trials area working in us to produce faith, which produces endurance that leads to perfection or completion of our godly life, it is a life-long process but God is working in us!
A great example of this is seen when Paul and Silas were thrown into the Philippian jail for freeing a girl who was demon possessed. And in Acts 16:25-34 we are told, But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, Do yourself no harm, for we are all here. Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? So they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household. Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.
Now think about that, if Paul and Silas were angry, bitter, complaining on how unfair this was, do you think the jailer and his household would have been saved? Maybe, but not through Paul and Silas. You see, if you dont have the perspective that God is in control, then your actions will reflect that. May we learn that lesson, God is for us and He is in control, He never sleeps nor slumbers!
Paul opens up this section by saying, For this reason . . . What is Paul speaking of here? The truths that Paul just spoke of in chapters 1 & 2, all those blessings that God has given to us and Paul was willing to suffer so that others could hear and partake of those blessings. Paul is beginning a prayer for the Ephesians but before he gets into that prayer he gets distracted and takes a side road before returning to the prayer in verse 14 and that prayer will continue on through verse 21, the end of the chapter.
The word dispensation or stewardship is OIKONOMIA (oy-kon-om-ee-ah) in the Greek and it speaks of a slave who is responsible for taking care of that which belonged to someone else, kind of like Joseph overseeing the household of Potiphar even though he was Potiphars slave. But what was Paul overseeing or dispensing to the Gentiles? Lets read on and see.
Paul was dispensing a mystery that was revealed to him by God. Paul uses the Greek word MUSTERION (moss-tay-reeon) for mystery and it is different from our English word, which speaks of something that is secret, or puzzling, or dark, something that we cant know. The word that Paul uses speaks of something that has been hidden from human knowledge but now has been disclosed by the direct revelation of God and here, to Paul.
That mystery is that Jews and Gentiles would be united together into one body in Christ. This idea of Gentiles being one with a Jew must have blown their minds, even though the Old Testament teaches us this truth, it was hidden until Paul revealed it to them. In Genesis 12:3 we are told, I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Genesis 22:18 tells us, In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice. Genesis 26:4, And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. Genesis 28:14, Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. In Isaiah 11:10 we are told, And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; For the Gentiles shall seek Him, And His resting place shall be glorious. Isaiah 49:6, Indeed He says, It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.
In Isaiah 60:1-3 we are told, Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. And in Amos 9:11-12, On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old; That they may possess the remnant of Edom, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does this thing.
For the Jew, this was outrageous. It would be like saying a leper was no longer to be isolated but could mingle and associate with anyone and everyone. And for the Gentile, they did not love the Jew either. There was truly a separation between Jew and Gentile but now God has revealed this truth to Paul, and also to Peter, (Acts 11:1-18), a truth that once was hidden and now has been revealed even though the Old Testament Scriptures clearly teach of salvation coming to the Gentiles. It is as Paul said in Ephesians 2:14-18, For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. The walls are down now, for in Christ we are one!
Pauls ministry was primarily to the Gentiles, bringing to them the grace of God found in Jesus Christ. But Paul also had a heart for his people, the Jews. He wanted to see them saved so badly that he tells us in Romans 9:1-5, I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. Why did Paul have such a passion to see his people saved? Because he knew their outcome in the Lake of Fire if they rejected the Lord and the love of Christ constrained Paul to go forward with the Gospel message, the Good News of Jesus Christ!
Have you ever sat in amazement just thinking of all that God has entrusted to you? I have and Paul felt no different. Paul saw himself as the least of all the saints. In I Timothy 1:15 he said, 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. Paul knew that it was by the grace of God that he was in this ministry and not because he was so special or worthy. I have said this before but I think it bears repeating. You can never be too small for God to use you but you can be too big! May we learn by Pauls example to live humble lives and let God exalt us, lift us up higher than we can ever lift ourselves, to heaven ultimately!
Pauls ministry was to preach or EUAGGELIZO (yoo-ang-ghel-id-zo) in the Geek, and it is a word that means, to announce good news (evangelize) especially the Gospel. Again, that was Pauls ministry to the Gentiles, to bring to them the unsearchable riches of Christ. The word unsearchable is the Greek word ANEXICHNIASTOS (an-ex-ikh-nee-as-tos) and it speaks of something that cannot be traced out or tracked down by human searching. It is past finding out by human wisdom or understanding. Thus, it can only be taught and understood through the Holy Spirit speaking to us as Paul said in I Corinthians 2:14, But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Gods riches for our lives are far beyond anything we can imagine. But it is as the Holy Spirit teaches us as we read and dissect the Word of God. We then can learn of the blessings He has for our lives. And I am not talking about physical blessings even though many times God does bless us in that way. I am talking about spiritual blessings, salvation, joy, peace, love, fellowship and-so-on. God is so good to us if we would only understand all that He has for us and apply those things to our lives!
The word fellowship in verse 9 is the same Greek word we read in verse 2 meaning dispensation or stewardship. In other words, we are to live what we believe, we are the stewards of the mysteries of God and we are to make them available to those that dont see, have not received them into their lives, not just by what we say, but how we live, showing our faith to be real!
Here Paul gives to us a very broad picture of our calling reaching far beyond our salvation and sanctification. Paul tells us that God is using us as a lesson for the universe, for the angelic hosts to learn from, that the grace of God has united Jews and Gentiles together and will one day restore this world back to the way it was when God had created it, bringing glory to God by showing His multifaceted wisdom not only to men but to the angles also.
Of this Stott tells us, It is as if a great drama is being enacted. History is the theater, the world is the stage, and the church members in every land are the actors. God himself has written the play, and he directs and produces it. Act by act, scene by scene, the story continues to unfold. But who are the audience? They are the cosmic intelligences, the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.
And Bruce tells us, The church thus appears to be Gods pilot scheme for the reconciled universe of the future, they mystery of Gods will to be administered in the fullness of the times when the things in heaven and the things on earth are brought together in Christ.
As Paul closes these verses out he goes back to the idea of being a prisoner for Christ. His concern was for those who would lose heart by seeing this great Apostle locked up in prison. Paul did not want them to become discouraged but to be encouraged. As we go through life it is easy to become discouraged but the Lord wants us to be encouraged. He is still on the throne; He is still in control no matter what comes our way. Think of a weight lifter, before he puts on the muscle and strengthens his physical body he must endure pain. The same is true for our spiritual bodies, so dont be discouraged, as Paul admonishes us in I Corinthians 15:58, Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Just because Paul was in prison it didnt mean his service for the Lord ended. In prison he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon! They played and are playing an important role in Gods eternal plan! In Philippians 1:12-14 Paul tells us, But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. The Gospel still went out, the palace guards were getting saved, and the believers were encouraged while Paul was in chains in prison.
Our Bible studies go out to men and women who are in prison in several states and I pray that this would encourage them, that Gods Word is never chained and you can be a witness of the Grace of God to those around you! And in the end, the reality for all of us is what Paul said in Romans 8:18, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Now we come back to Pauls prayer that he was going to start back in verse 1.
Pauls prayer was according to Gods will and folks, we cant pray effectively if we dont know Gods will, His purpose. Paul knew and thus, he prayed! Yes, there are times we dont know Gods will in a given situation and we pray, Lord, your will be done! There is nothing wrong with that, but also, the Scriptures show us Gods will in many situations and we need to pray accordingly.
In verse 15 Paul speaks of the family, PATRIA (pat-ree-ah) in the Greek and there are three possibilities on what Paul is saying here.
A. EVERY FAMILY: The idea here is all created beings can call Him Father because He has created all things. Every living creature owes their existence to Him. I dont think that is what Paul is speaking of even though John Kerry feels this way.
B. FATHERHOOD: It is a pattern for all fathers. A sort of prototype for all fathers to look at and learn from. Again we do look to God to pattern our lives after but I dont think that is what Paul is speaking of here.
C. REDEEMED FAMILY: All the redeemed from Heaven and Earth. Those alive here on earth and those already with the Lord make up one family. This idea continues to flow from the previous verses where Paul is saying that we as believers are united into one body in Christ. I feel this is what Paul is speaking of in this verse as his ideas are flowing from verses 2-13 of this chapter.
We have been adopted into the family of God through Jesus and our family is huge, all believers will gather before the marriage supper of the Lamb one day and what an occasion that will be!
Notice what Paul is not praying for here. He is not praying for health, for wealth, or for prosperity. Now there is nothing wrong with praying for your health or someone elses health but some become obsessed with it. Others, when they are not healed, some say it is because they lack the faith or have some sin in their life. No, not all are healed physically but all who come to Jesus and ask Him into their lives will be healed spiritually. You see, that is the bigger issue for one day we will all die unless the Rapture comes first. Wealth and prosperity are not evil, you can use it to bring glory to God, to build up the kingdom of God, you cant take it with you but you can send it on ahead depending how you use it.
Paul prays that the inner man, the spirit would grow and that is where strength comes from our dependence upon God. How is this seen in our lives? By the decreasing frequency of sin in our lives. Think of it like this, the more you exercise your spiritual muscles, yielding to the Spirits control in your life, the less sin is present. Paul said in Galatians 5:16, I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. If you are walking with God you are walking away from sin!
Paul speaks of Christ dwelling in our hearts; it is the Greek word KATOIKEO (kat-oy-keh-o) and it speaks of a permanent residence Jesus doesnt want to be a stranger, He wants to be at home in you. It is as Jesus said in John 14:23, Jesus answered and said to him, If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
What is the love of Christ? It is seen in the cross His love for us pointed in four directions:
· WIDTH: The width speaks of the world, that Gods love is wide enough to include every person if they would receive Him as their Lord and Savior. In John 3:16-17 Jesus said, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. His arms are outstretched for all!
· LENGTH: Gods love is long enough to last through all of eternity, it will never end, it will last forever! It is as Paul said in I Corinthians 13:4-8a, Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails . . .
· DEPTH: Gods love is so deep that it can reach down to the worst sinner and rescue him, save him. Remember the thief on the cross next to Jesus, a murderer, many would look at that man today and say that he could never be saved and yet he cried out to Jesus to forgive him and Jesus said to this man, Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise. Luke 23:43. Folks, thank God that His love is so deep that it can save sinners; it can save you and me! Paul said in Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
· HEIGHT: Gods love is high enough to take us to heaven, we wont fall short for He will bring us to the very throne of God, not because we are so good, but because He is so good and loves us that much. Again, as Jesus said in Luke 23:43, Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.
We can never fully understand the richness of Gods love for us but every time we look to the cross we do get a glimpse of it. It is as Paul tells us in Romans 5:5, Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Dont put a cover over your life, but allow His love to be poured out into it for then you can allow that love to flow from your life to touch the lives of others.
Paul concludes this prayer with this doxology or short hymn of praise unto God. Listen to what Paul is saying here. God is able and He is more than able. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think! Dont limit God to what He wants to do in your life or in the life of this church. God wants to do and He is looking for people who are willing to walk. And Paul concludes by saying Amen or Let it be! What else can you say?
As I conclude this evening, think of chapters 1-3 of Ephesians as Paul calling for us to start our engines because the race is about to start. And now that our engines are started we move into chapters 4 through 6 as we begin moving in our Christian walk now that we know what we possess in Christ. I remember at the Indy 500 how they prepare by saying, Gentlemen, start your engines! The green flag is about to go down as the race begins, and we will see that next time. Let me leave you with this to think about, may we run to win!