"GOD'S VIEW OF THE CHURCH"
(A Series on Ephesians)
C.R.3/8/87a.m. Ephesians 3:1-13
PROPOSITION: The New Testament church is the
"mystery" of God, revealing His grace, His unsearchable riches and His wisdom to the Gentiles, to all men and to cosmic powers.
- HERE we are, March 8, 1987. History behind us. Eternity in front of us. The events of the world around us gathering downhill speed towards that great day when God calls time.....and all the events recorded in the Book of Revelation will begin to happen.
- HERE we are, in the middle of the Iran Arms scandal, Brazil deciding that it can't even pay the interest on its US Bank debts, farm prices at an all time low, 1.5 million babies being aborted every year, marriages collapsing, the world not having any solutions so it is partying its way into amnesia......and in the middle of all this, there are about 1200 of us here in church.
- ALMOST seems out of sync with the gravity of world affairs for us to be removed from it all and in church this morning.
- BUT here you are, some place between the delivery room and the grave.......and your place in eternity.......and YOU are in church.
- WHY are you here?
- WOULDN'T it be great to go around and hear some of your reasons for being here this morning....or maybe I don't want to know.
- MAYBE some of you are here;
* Because coming makes you feel good......you leave feeling better about yourself and life in general.
* Because you like the music.....it is uplifting and worshipful.
* Because it is a habit....you have always gone to church on Sunday.....it is the American thing to do.
* Because your children need some spiritual training, so you come in here while they are in Sunday School and Children's Church.
* Because you like the preaching........it reminds you of going to church with your Grandfather at an old-fashioned fiery Methodist church......and it makes you feel nostalgic.
* Because you like services with a pentecostal emphasis........and you are here for now because you feel this is where things are happening.
* Because your life is in a mess and you are looking for some way to put it back together.........and you are going to give Jesus a try.
* Because you enjoy worship......and some of the freedom of worship you find here.
* Because you are sick......and you have heard that we believe in divine healing.
* Because you are looking for God.
* Because someone invited you, and right now you are wondering why you are here.
- WHY are you here? Surely you know and are not just here by accident.
- WHEN Rita goes to Seiferts or Younkers or Peck and Peck at Westdale Mall, she knows exactly why she is there.
- WHEN I go to Dairy Queen, I know exactly why I am there.......and, believe me, I get what I go there for. I see to that.
- I WOULD love to know why you felt it was important to come to First Assembly this morning.....and why you are a part of this fellowship, if you are.
- WHY would anyone be a part of a church?
- GOD has a reason that you are here this morning....and it is far bigger than you or I will ever realize.
- HE has an incredible plan in mind for you being in church this morning, and in being a part of a local expression of His church? (First Assembly, Nazarene, Baptist, Covenant.)
- WHERE does the church figure...in light of His plan for your life and eternity?
- IS it optional. Is it OK with God if you accept Jesus, but stay apart from His church?
- JUST how important is it to Him that you are here this morning, and become a functioning part of this local organism.
- ON a 1-10 scale of importance, in the middle of nuclear arms, farm prices, unemployment, the budget deficit, retirement and interest rates.......where does God view the church........not exclusively, but particularly, First Assembly.......cause that's where you are this morning.
- WE are going to discover that this morning.....from Ephesians 3:1-13. (READ)
- PAUL, a prisoner of Christ.
- NOW, there's an interesting statement for openers.....that let's us in to see a glimpse of Paul's attitude about life.
- ACTUALLY, Paul was a prisoner of Nero. He was jailed by the Roman government because of his message that Jesus died to save Himself a church.
- AND, from that jail cell, he was penning some of the words that would be the lighthouse for the church for thousands of years to come.
- BUT look at his attitude.
- IS Nero his jailer? Is Rome his confinement? NO! Paul is a prisoner of Christ......for the sake of the Gentiles.
- NEVER for a moment does he believe that Nero and Rome are in control of his destiny........He is a prisoner of Christ.
- IN Paul's mind, because his whole life was surrendered to the Lordship of Christ, never for one moment was he or his circumstances outside of the control of Jesus.
- WHY was he a prisoner? Because he didn't have faith? Because God lost control? NEVER! Because Jesus had a plan to build a church for Himself that included Jews and Gentiles.......and he was using Paul to write the shop manual.
- EPHESIANS is the shop manual for the eternal church of Jesus Christ.
- IT tells us why we are here this morning....and every other time and place we get together.
- IT tells you the real reason that you should be here this morning.
- IT tells us what we must be together.
- IN the 13 verses that we are studying this morning, the Holy Spirit, through Paul, tells us about the "mystery".......and its vehicle.......that God has revealed.
- LET'S take a closer look.
II. THE MYSTERY MADE KNOWN TO US
- PAUL uses the word, "mystery", four times in these 13 verses.
EPH 3:2-3 "Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation....."
EPH 3:4-5 "In reading this, then, you will be able to understand 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 3:6 "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."
EPH 3:8-9 "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, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery......"
- IN the English language, the word, "mystery" means something hidden, dark, obscure, secret and puzzling.
- IN the Greek language, the word, "mystery" means; " a truth which is beyond human knowledge and discovery, something revealed by God."
- WHAT is this "mystery?"
- IT is the fact that, since Christ died on the cross, salvation is not just for a few Jews, but for all mankind.......creating for Himself a new society made up of all people....namely His church.
- IT is the truth that man is no longer bound and crippled and destroyed by his sin, but as he comes to Christ he can be a;
* Co-heir, together with Israel, of all the promises of God that He will be our God and we will be His people. (Verse 6)
* That if we turn to Him, He will cleanse us from all sin.
* That He will do battle for us, and the enemy will never prevail against us.
* That He will be a banner of salvation over us.
* That He will be our healer and deliverer.
* That we will one day reign with Him in a kingdom that He will bring down from heaven to a new earth without sin and suffering.
* That we will be members together of one body. (Verse 6)
* What is this "body" that we are members of?
* It is the local expression of the church of Jesus Christ.
* I Corinthians 12:27 says; "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it."
* Some people say, "I can take Jesus, but I can't handle the church. I just serve the Lord on my own."
* You can't have the head without the body.
* There is no way that this Christian life can be lived without being a functioning part of the Body of Christ.
* I Corinthians 12:14-26 says that one member of the body, like an eye, can't say that it has no need for the body......not because it is a neat, homey, cosey thing to say........BUT BECAUSE GOD SAID IT ABOUT HIS BODY and how it is to function.
* This "mystery" also says that we are "sharers together" in the promise "in Christ Jesus."
* The promise of Christ is forgiveness of sin, membership in His family, and eternal life.
* The church of Jesus is the context in which these blessing are shared.
* The church is the place where the joy and delight of the promise are shared and enjoyed.
* And the church is what He is coming back for one day soon.
- THIS is the substance of the "mystery" that Paul had revealed to him.
- GOD'S old plan for reaching the world was the nation of Israel. His new plan is the church.
- AND the church would be the body of Christ........complete in each local expression.
- EPHESIANS was written to the group of believers that met in Ephesus. They had all the gifts of leadership and ministry that they needed to be the body of Christ, right there.
- AND the same is true when Paul writes to the church in Crete, in Rome, in Corinth......and when Jesus write to the church in Sardis and Laodocea.
- THIS thing that we hear today that some people are members of the body of Christ, universal, and don't need the local church is trivialising the teachings of Christ about His body.
- THIS "mystery" was God's new plan for mankind....the church.......in which He would make every race, tribe and people known to mankind "heirs, members of one body and sharers together in the promise."
- VERSE 10 says explicitly that;
"His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known...."
- THIS is the "mystery" that is available to all mankind through Christ and His blood......it is possible to become part of His divine plan for mankind through faith in Jesus Christ.
- THE "MYSTERY" is the gospel....held in trust...worked out in the context of the local body of Christ.
III. THE MINISTRY ENTRUSTED TO US
- WELL, this is all exciting and stimulating, and it is all reason to stand and worship and give thanks....that we can be part of that plan.
- BUT there is more than thanksgiving.
- THERE is a divine strategy for the working out of this "mystery"......it is the church....and Paul lives and teaches it for us in these verses.
- HE calls it the "administration of God's grace" in verse 2.
- HE calls it "the administration of this mystery" in verse 9.
- GOD has a plan, a strategy that you and I are called to participate in here....and the plan is His church.
- AMERICAN religion has turned church into a spectator sport.
- WE come Sunday, open our tanks, top them off and then go park the car untill next Sunday.
- THE day is coming soon, when spectator Christians will be left behind in the move of God in the end times.
- GOD is calling a church today that will move in the "administration of His mystery" with dynamic and power.
- WHAT is this administration?
* Paul says in verse 8, "....this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ......"
* The word "preach" here, means to "announce".
* We are to announce to those who are outside what we would call "acceptable" people, the unsearchable riches of Christ.
* The church is the place and the context in which this preaching is to take place.
* What are these unsearchable riches? Paul has already spelled them out in chapter1;
* resurrection from the dead.
* victorious enthronement with Christ in the heavenlies.
* reconciliation with God.
* the end of hostility with God and the beginning of peace.
* access to the Father through Christ, by the Spirit.
* membership in God's kingdom and household.
* and much much more.
* The church is where these unsearchable riches are to be lived and announced by His grace in us....it is God's plan for the administration of His mystery.
- WHAT is this administration?
* Paul says in verse 9 that his job is, "to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery."
* Notice that the verb here is no longer "announce" but to make plain, or to "enlighten"
* The men and women of this world are walking in darkness concerning the plan of God.
* The work of satan is to keep them in darkness...where they will eventually be destroyed.
* The work of the church, in the administration of the mystery of God, is to enlighten ALL MEN with the liberating truth that Jesus has come reconcile us to Him and unite us in His Body, the church.
* It is in this place that all men are to see and understand the Light.
- LASTLY, the adminstration of the mystery is described in verse 10, where Paul writes, " 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."
* First, the result of preaching and living the unsearchable riches of Christ, would be the growth of the church. People of all races and kinds would turn from sin to God, in Christ.
* This would prove that this "mystery" is not some philosphical abstraction, but a powerful reality.
* What would come into existence would be a church, a community of saved and reconciled people.......a public demonstration of God's power, grace and wisdom.
* All over the world today this is happening as he Spirit builds the church of Jesus.
* A great drama is unfolding, even here at First Assembly....as lives are born again and changed by the power of God....and as people sample the unsearchable riches of Christ.
* Then, observing all this is an audience.......rulers and authorities in heavenly places.
* Demons and angels of heaven did not fully understand the teachings of the Old or New Testament.
* The did not understand the cross or the good news of salvation. (I Peter 1:10)
* They don't understand God's plan for the church, the Body of Christ.
* So they watch, fascinated, as they see Czech's and Poles and Irish and South Africans and black and white and prostitute and drug dealer and divorced and widowed and good and bad come to God through Jesus Christ, and have the stain of sin washed away, and are made altogether new and become united in one loving family.....the Body of Christ.
* They stand in awe at the grace and power of God.
- THE church is God's master plan for this age.
- IT is not the economy, it is not Gorbachev or the arms treaty, it is the church........the administration of the mystery of God.
- THE church is central to God's plan for this age.
- THE Christian life is NOT "Just Jesus and Me" even though that's how some people try to live it.
- YES it is not perfect...it has warts and flaws and weaknesses.....but we must be careful incase we despise the very instrument God has chosen for the administration of His "mystery" in this age.
- GOD Himself may not be altogether pleased with His church today...But He has not abandoned it. He is still building and refining it. And if He has no ----
t aband ----
oned it, how can we.