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Eph 3,1-12 The Church Calling to make plain the mystery

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The Churches Calling To Make Plain The Mystery  Ephesians  3:1-3:12

 1 For this reason I, Paul,

 the prisoner of Christ Jesus

for the sake of you Gentiles—

 2 Surely you have heard

about the administration of God's grace

that was given to me for you,

3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation,

 as I have already written briefly.

4 In reading this, then,

you will be able to understand

my insight into the mystery of Christ,

5 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.

6 This mystery is that through the gospel

the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel,

members together of one body,

and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

 7 I became a servant of this gospel

by the gift of God's grace

given me through the working of his power.

8 Although I am less than the least of all God's people,

this grace was given me:

to preach to the Gentiles

the unsearchable riches of Christ,

9 and to make plain to everyone

the administration of this mystery,

which for ages past was kept hidden in God,

who created all things.

10 His intent was that now, through the church,

the manifold wisdom of God should be made known

to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,

11 according to his eternal purpose

which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

12 In him and through faith in him

we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged

because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

This past week the City of Winnipeg

       was touched by tragedy

       when two experienced firefighters

       lost their lives in a blaze.

We are silenced and puzzled

       how something like this can happen

       to experienced and well trained professionals.

The deaths of  Harold Lessard and Thomas Nichols

       are a mystery.

For their families,

       it will forever remain a mystery

why they had to die in the prime of their lives.

God’s love for us

and God’s desire for reconciliation with humanity

is also a mystery.

The cross, which was an instrument of death in Jesus’ time,

Has become the symbol of reconciliation for all people.

This great mystery has been entrusted to the church

to make plain to all people.

In today’s passage of Scripture

the Apostle Paul talks to us about a mystery.
When Paul talks about a mystery,

he’s talking about the mystery of God

revealed in Christ Jesus.

When we think of the word “mystery

we think of the word “secret”

or of a “Mystery novel”

in which we must follow a set of clues…

or we think of a classical “who done it” movie.

But what does Paul mean when he says

that God has revealed to him a mystery?

The Biblical meaning of “mystery” refers to

“something formerly unknown,

hidden in the Old Testament,

but now revealed to us by God in Christ Jesus.”

The way that God chose to make His mystery known to us

       was through the process of divine “revelation”.

The word “revelation” means “to unveil”.

Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote that,

“As prayer is the voice of man to God,

so revelation is the voice of God to man.“

Paul discusses the process of revelation in verse 5.

He writes “the mystery of Christ,

5which 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.”

The mystery that Paul speaks of is now

for the first time in history revealed by God

through Christ Jesus.

It’s a mystery no longer!

The story is told that after Helen Keller’s teacher,

Anne Sullivan, had given her

the names of physical objects in sign language,

Miss Sullivan attempted to explain God

and tapped out the symbols for the name "God."

Much to Miss Sullivan’s surprise,

Helen spelled back,

"Thank you for telling me God’s name, Teacher,

for he has touched me many times before."

How could Helen Keller have known about God?

It was because although she was blind, deaf and mute,

Helen Keller knew God,

for God had shown Himself to her.

That is “revelation.”

God Has Revealed Himself to Us.

God is a mystery to us.

In the process of revelation,

God has made his intentions clear to us.

The Mystery of what God is up to in Salvation History

Has Been Revealed to Everyone.

“This mystery is that through the gospel

the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel,

members together of one body,

and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” (6)
That is the Heart of the Mystery.

In the Old Testament period,

the Jewish people were the instruments

through which God revealed Himself to the world.

They were God’s “chosen people”.

The Jews believed that they were “exclusively”,

and that the only way to be included in Salvation

was through circumcision

and keeping the Law of Moses.

In verse 6 Paul reveals the heart of the mystery:

“This mystery is that through the gospel

the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel,

members together of one body,

and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”

Paul tells us that the Jewish people had it all wrong.

God is not anyone’s “exclusive” posession.  

His intention from the very beginning was

to have a relationship with all people.

“This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel.”

Verse 6 describes three layers of privilege and responsibility. A) We are heirs together,

B) we are members together, and

C) we are sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

“heirs together” speaks of having

the same inheritance as the Jewish people –

God’s plan includes all people.
“members together ” speaks of belonging

to the same family as the Jewish people.
“sharers together” speaks of having the same privileges

as the Jewish people.

Moreover, Paul was given a special privilege

that he himself could hardly grasp.

In v. 8 he writes,

“this grace was given me:

to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ,

and to make it plain to everyone.”

Paul states that God desires to have

an “inclusive” relationship with the whole world

through faith in Christ Jesus.

In verse 8 Paul states that he considers himself

less than the least of all God’s people.

I don’t believe that Paul is expressing

a false sense of humility…

like a “poor me” kind of attitude…

or “I’m a nobody”.

Rather, he is completely blown away

by the mystery of God’s grace…

that God would choose him to be God’s messenger.

Paul had a special place in God’s great plan of revelation

and salvation,

namely to preach the Gospel of salvation

to the Gentiles,

and to extend the message of God’s grace

beyond the walls of Judaism.

But this is not only his job, but

       “God’s intent was that now,

through the church,

the manifold wisdom of God should be made known.” v.10

Together with Paul

       the church has a calling

       to make plain to everyone

       how God’s plan of salvation works.

The question that we often hear these days is,

       “What’s the point of the Church?”

“What is the purpose of the church?”

According to Paul in the Letter to the Ephesians,

       it is the responsibility of the church

to make known the mystery of Christ Jesus

to everyone throughout all generations.

That’s no small task.

That is a gigantic responsibility and privilege.

Like Paul, we do not feel worthy.

We too, are less than the least of God’s people…

And yet, God says,

       “Listen, I am calling you

       to make plain to everyone

       what they don’t know,

       namely that I sent my son Jesus

       for the salvation of everyone who believes in him.

God is with the Chruch

       and God gives us the strength

       to carry on the task of

       making plain the mystery.

Ill.: In the nineteenth century,

lighthouses on the U.S. coasts

       were tended by lighthouse keepers and their families.

If a man who tended the light became disabled,

often the work was picked up by his wife or children. Such was the case of Hosea Lewis.

In 1853 he became the keeper of the light

on Lime Rock Island at Newport, Rhode Island.

Lewis suffered a stroke four years later,

at which time his teenage daughter Ida

assumed responsibility for the light.

Each day included cleaning the reflectors,

trimming the wick,

and filling the oil reservoir at sunset and midnight,

along with providing for her father’s care.

With long and demanding tasks,

Ida was unable to continue her schooling,

but daily delivered her siblings to class,

whatever the weather,

by rowing the 500 yards to the mainland.

In the mid-1800s, it was unusual

to see a woman maneuvering a boat,

but Ida became well skilled

and well known for handling the heavy craft.

The teenager gained a measure of fame at age sixteen

when she rescued four young men

after their boat capsized.

She rowed to their aid,

hearing their screams as they clung

to their overturned craft.

On March 29, 1869, Ida saved two drowning servicemen

       from nearby Fort Adams.

Public knowledge of Ida’s courage spread

as far as Washington,

inspiring President Ulysses S. Grant to visit Ida

at Newport later that year.

Ida rescued another two soldiers in 1881,

for which she was awarded

the U.S. Lifesaving Service’s highest medal.

In early February of that year

the two soldiers were crossing from Newport

to Lime Rock Island on foot when the ice gave way.

Ida, the lighthouse keeper,

came running with a rope.

Ignoring peril to herself from weak and rotten ice,

she pulled one, then the other to safety.

All told, Ida Lewis personally

saved something like 25 people

in fifty-plus years of keeping the light.

Her last reported rescue came at age 63

when she saved a friend who had fallen into the water

on her way to visit Ida on the island.

Asked where she found strength and courage

for such a feat, Ida answered:

’I don’t know, I’m not particularly strong.

The Lord Almighty gives it to me when I need it,

that’s all.’

Ida Lewis was a faithful steward

of the gift entrusted to her.

But the reason she was so faithful in her task

is that she realized there were always people

that would need to be saved.

The Church is the “Keeper of the Light”

       In the dark world in which we live.

That is the highest calling there could ever be!

The church is the hearld of the Good News…

the messenger of God’s desire for reconciliation

in Christ Jesus.

In our daily walk as followers of Jesus Christ,

       we have the high calling

to unlock the mystery of God’s love and forgiveness

in Jesus Christ,

and to make plain the intentions that God has

with the world.

May we be faithful to our calling.

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