Ephesians 3:1-13

Radiant Church’s lead pastor, Keith Welton, delivers a sermon from Ephesians 3:1-13. In this passage, the apostle Paul tells us the main responsibility of the church community–proclaiming the manifold or many-sided wisdom of God.

Sermon Notes

A few years ago, I was looking into planting a church when a person told me I should replant a church. I didn’t know what that was and he informed me it was going into a struggling church and bringing new life to it. The idea resonated with me and I began to look into it. One of the books I read was by Mark Clifton called Reclaiming Glory. He had a great quote in there that stuck with me to this day. What does a dying church tell a community about the glory of God? Fascinating to ponder!

It got me thinking and led me to replanting. One of my hopes is that God will use our story to give hope to others that they too can change. Radiant Church, Psalm 34:5 those who look to him will be radiant, their face will no longer be covered with shame. I’m praying for this. 

But there is another thing going on as we have tried to rebuild. It is not just a dying church in the neighborhood, but it is the overall understanding of church. Why would I want to go to church? Why do I need to go to church when I can watch a sermon online?

We are trying to reclaim this church for God’s glory. But I believe we have a great cultural challenge, and that is reclaiming a biblical understanding of the church that is connected to a biblical commitment to the church. The passage we are looking at today helps with both of these. 

The Stewardship

[For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles– 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 

The apostle Paul is in prison for preaching the gospel. He has been called by God to make known the unsearchable/unfathomable/in calculable riches of Christ Jesus. What will he get for all his work? In this life–a lot of trouble. He did not lose his faith because of the hardship, he didn’t even slow down. His last words in this chapter are words of faith that God can do immeasurably more than all we hope or ask. Paul’s goal was not a safe career with a hefty pension plan. It was to serve Jesus at all costs. 

What Paul writes here should have you on the floor overwhelmed and in awe. He has given him insight and revelation into God’s plan. 

God has revealed his plan of salvation to Paul. There were things hidden in the past, that God has now revealed. He revealed it to Paul. And as God does throughout Scripture, he does not reveal himself to individuals so they can keep it to themselves. He reveals and blesses so those people can in turn be a blessing. 

Steward. Stewards were like restaurant managers. They don’t own the restaurant, but they have been entrusted with it and are to manage it for the well being of the owner. So now Paul does not own these promises, but he is to steward it for the owner of the promises. 

The mystery of what God is doing in the world was made known to Paul by revelation. Paul was not seeking it out. Paul was persecuting the church. Jesus chose Paul and revealed himself to Paul. This is the Damascus Road experience in which Paul sees Jesus, is blinded by the light, and hears Jesus telling him what to do. In that moment he knew enough to trust in Jesus, but he will spend the rest of his life growing in the knowledge of salvation and his calling as an apostle. 

[3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. (Eph 3:5 NIV)

This is amazing! God reveals himself to Paul. God spoke in the past what he was going to do, he does it, and then reveals to the apostle why he did it. 

Paul writes what is revealed so that others can be instructed. He has already written, and they can read this letter too, and perceive his insights into Christ. Why do we read Scripture in church? Because we believe God has revealed himself and called his chosen people to make known his words to us. 

Don’t throw your hands up and say I have no idea what my purpose is, what is the point of life??! God has made it known. Read your Bible and find out. You too can perceive this insight. 

If Paul was given a stewardship by Christ, of the mysteries that have now been revealed, and we can read all this in the word of God, then 1) we ought to know them. 2) we too have a stewardship to prove faithful to. We have been given a gift and talent that we are to prove faithful to. 

“Every Christian here is either a missionary or an impostor… You either try to spread abroad the kingdom of Christ, or else you do not love him at all. It cannot be that there is a high appreciation of Jesus and a totally silent tongue about him.” Spurgeon

The gospel 

[6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

God has been faithful to his promises to redeem a lost and broken world. The world was in misery because of sin. People rejected God and problems came into the world. But God is faithful to make a way for people to be restored. He made these promises to Israel, but what is amazing is that now all nations can experience this. All the non-Jewish people can be saved! Partakers of the same promise and members of one body. This is amazing because in this time period Jewish people would not associate with Gentiles. But now they are made one through the gospel!

This is the gospel! To those who don’t have a place to belong you can find that in Christ. You who feel like you don’t have a people, you have a people. To those who feel like you messed up so bad you can’t move forward, you have a reason to move forward. If you can’t shake your guilt, you have a reason to dance.

This is better than a sneak peak of the next Star Wars movie or your team winning the championship.It is the revelation of God’s eternal purposes being realized and fulfilled in Jesus Christ. 

The gospel is revealed, Paul is a steward and that stewardship comes to us as well, with all its benefits and responsibilities, and that brings us to verse 10 and the church. 

The Church

[10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places

The church is a gathering of God’s people committed to honoring Jesus and making him known. The word church means gathering, an assembly. God’s people are to assemble together. 

There are things that you cannot do by yourself. You can’t win a football game by yourself. In fact you can’t build much of anything by yourself. You need others; you cannot share the good news by yourself. What does an isolated, detached, belonging to nothing individual have to offer to a world desperate to find help, community, belonging, and grace. It takes a community to live out the gospel and a community to preach it. This is the church!

Our greatest need is to have our sins forgiven and be reconciled to God. We have that in Christ. The greatest thing we can do for others is share that news with them. 

This is what the church is called to do! Churches do not exist because there are not enough committees in the world. They don’t exist so people can advance in the social order or to make you feel comfortable and respected. Churches exist to make Jesus known! They are to proclaim the greatness of Jesus! In words and actions. 

The object displayed is the manifold wisdom of God. 

[so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Eph 3:10 ESV)

Talk about the many-sided grace of God. Manifested in a great variety of forms, many-sided, most varied. God’s glory is being seen through his many faceted wisdom. This is displayed in what God has done, and it is displayed in his people as they understand and reflect what he has done. 

Sin is punished. People are forgiven. Unrepentant will be held accountable. A new heaven and new earth are coming. God gets all the glory for saving. His people are reconciled to him. God remains perfect in all his being. 

  • The grace of Love. Through Christ we know what love is. When you know that love it changes how you love others. You were not loveable but Christ loved you. You can go to the unlovable and show them love. 
  • Racial barriers are broken down. This is unheard of. Ephesians 2 is all about the dividing wall that separated Jew and Gentile being destroyed in Christ to make one new people. Jews would not even eat with Gentiles. Now they are brothers and sisters in Christ. Amazing. That was a massive shift. Black and white can call each other brother and sister. Asian and latino. American and Russian.  
  • People are experiencing rebirth. Trusting in Christ makes you a new person. You are born of Spirit into life as God designed. It is powerful.
  • The grace of judgment. Yes, I said that. Sin is put down. People do wrong things, and we are not to stand for that. We dont judge the world, but we are to judge those inside the church. Have to contend with those who profess faith and go against God. Committing adultery, stealing, lying, cheating, murder, neglecting their family. Churches have to deal with unrepentant members. condemn and remove the unrepentant. Hard stuff, but necessary to show the grace of God. They are to rebuke leaders who persist in sin. That declares the glory of God. Matt 18. That is the grace of God and it is displayed in the church. Organized. Loving. Redemptive discipline. 
  • Mercy shown to the downtrodden. They are treated with dignity and lifted up. 
  • Boldness and faith in mission. How do we reach more people?? Church not sitting on the couch doing nothing. Looking for opportunities to take the gospel forward. Take some risks. 
  • Building people up in their faith. Talking about struggles. Starting a business, and it is hard. Share that in a prayer meeting walk, away with prayer and a lot of advice. 
  • Sacrificing to make Jesus known. Giving up the treasures of this world in order to have treasures in the next. 

It is not simply a place you come and listen to a sermon. That is one of the reasons so few people come to church. Can do that at home. God’s grace is many-sided and church has many facets too. 

It is being a part of this community on mission.

The church is the agent through which the manifold wisdom of God is made known.

This is the means through which God is made known. 

Agent: acts on behalf of another person. 

The church is God’s chosen means of revealing his glory to the world. That’s amazing. In verse 9 it mentions that God created all things. Romans 1, Psalm 16 says the heavens declare the glory of God, night after night they speak. That is true. You can see the glory and goodness of God in creation. But you only know the message of salvation through the word of God!

Romans 10, faith comes by hearing the word of God. It is the word of God that is entrusted to the church. The stewardship of God’s revelation is the primary purpose of the church. 

It is fantastic that you find hiking a spiritually enlightening experience; it is that. It’s fantastic that you see God working through meeting the needs of low-income families. That is fantastic. But by themselves those are insufficient. Those cannot take the place of church. Church is God’s primary vessel. Christian school is great, but your kids will grow up and move out of that school- what next. Or you can’t make the payment! The church’s sole mission is to make Jesus known.

Hear me on this. My goal is not to talk you out of those things. Do them. But know what is of first importance. That is the church. When there are healthy churches ministry of the saints in those other areas florish. When there is healthy church ministry of the saint, those other areas flourish. But when you neglect things of first importance, the things of secondary importance are lost too. When you get first things in their right place they lead to the secondary things. 

Right now there is a church culture that says church doesn’t matter. I don’t need to go to church. And most of us sit idly by. Let’s stop doing that. Does it matter that you disobey God? Yes, it absolutely does. 

The church is the bride of Christ. It is the people Jesus died for.  Jesus created the church and called his people to be in it. Persecuting the church was persecuting Jesus. Serving the church is serving Jesus. Forsaking the church is forsaking Jesus (Heb10:).

The audience: The rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 

What does this mean? If it said to a watching world I would get it. I believe it is a “yes, and” statement. God is revealing his manifold wisdom through the church and to all the cosmos. It is a city on a hill. A light to the world. And here it 

We are told in first Peter that even angels long to look into these things. God is doing something on earth, through his people and in the church that the angelic world longs for. So God is doing something in the church, or could do something so great and powerful in the church that even angels long to behold it, and we are bored with church and stay home to binge watch the latest netflix series. The problem is not in the church but in us.

In the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 12:22), Christians are encouraged in their warfare by knowing it to go on before “the city of the living God” and “an innumerable company of angels.” 

The church appears to be God’s pilot scheme for the reconciled universe of the future. 

The church is God’s agency for bringing about the ultimate reconciliation. 

**If you have a high view of Jesus you ought to have a high view of the church.**

Uche Anizor in discussing apathy said we don’t just have a problem with people uninterested in Christian disciplines like reading their bible and going to church. The problem is Chrsitians are not interested in Jesus. People are turning from him. Not seeking discipleship. Not seeking out guidance and leadership. Trying to do life on their own and work church in occassaionally. 

To the intent – Greek, “that” Ἵνα Hina. The sense is, that it was with this design, or that this was the purpose for which all things were made. One grand purpose in the creation of the universe was, that the wisdom of God might be clearly shown by the church. It was not enough to evince it by the formation of the sun, the stars, the earth, the seas, the mountains, the floods. It was not enough to show it by the creation of intelligent beings, the formation of immortal minds on earth, and the various ranks of the angelic world. There were views of the divine character which could be obtained only in connection with the redemption of the world. Hence the universe was created, and man was made upon the earth, not merely to illustrate the divine perfections in the work of creation, but in a still more illustrious manner in the work of redemption. And hence the deep interest which the angelic hosts have ever evinced in the salvation of man. Matthew Henry. 

If you want to see god work then going to church ought to be the first thing that comes to mind. The people around you. Do you have God’s view of the church or the world’s view of it?

This is what the church is called to be and do. Have churches gotten away from their purpose? Yes. They are constantly doing that and constantly coming back. Just like you do in life. We need to get our lives right. We need to commit to the things Jesus calls us to. 

So how do we get to a point where people are bored with church? I think it is because people were bored with Jesus. They quit reading his word and what he had done, quit putting his word into practice and seeking the leading of the Spirit for what he calls them to do. Not willing to sacrifice. They quit on Jesus, and so naturally the next decision was to quit on church. Started seeking advice for secular sources rather than the church. 

Following Jesus became a show up on Sunday, nod your head, pay your tithe, and come back next week. The gospel got lost. Whose fault? Everyones. Leaders shouldn’t have done that, and people should have stood up for it. Made their idols more important. 

If Eph 3 is true there is a great consolation to you. You have Purpose in Life. It should not surprise you today, in a world that has pushed off the Christian faith and its teaching, that so many people are struggling to find purpose in life. Struggling to find something that fills the longings in their heart. 

Blackaby: Find out where God is at work and join Him there.

First need to look at Scripture and say he ought to be working in the church. I believe he is working here. 

If so, you/we need to prove faithful to our stewardship. God has entrusted his message to us. We need to be faithful. It’s not just about you. I need to be here as much as anybody. I need God’s word in my life. If I am not pastoring a church, I am going to be here early with my family and sit in the front row. 

It takes throwing yourself into the church. The hardest thing over the last few years, has been that people are abandoning church. Not caring. Hardest is not missing. What are we doing as churches if people don’t notice a difference when they are absent. Want it to be the spiritual equivalent of drinking a case of red bull. 

One of the things that we value here is church. Church is not watching a message online. It is being together with God’s people living out our lives in longing submission to his word and believing he can save others. 

I didn’t go into ministry because I didn’t have anything else to do, but because God’s grace changed my life. Someone told me to “throw your life into the church and you will never regret it.” I don’t regret it. There are many things that didn’t go the way I wanted. But God has used that and often it took others in the church helping me see it. I have seen some amazing things done, and have seen some people do terrible things. Being at a church that rejoiced in achievements and called out the problem was deeply encouraging to me. It gave me a pattern for how to address things in the corporate world, my family, my marriage, my friends. Men standing up for things, having a backbone, loving others. Women being strong and honorable, connecting others, ministering, gathering people. 

Ephesians 3:1-13

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is[a] that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 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[b] God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.