"GOD'S VIEW OF THE CHURCH"
(A Message from Ephesians)
Westgate Chapel 8/15/04 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.
- WHY are you here this morning?
- WOULDN'T it be great to go around and hear some of your reasons for being here this morning?
- MAYBE some of you are here;
* Because coming to church 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 or Children's Church.
* Because you like the preaching........it stirs you to better things in your life.
* 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 you are not just here by accident.
- WHEN Rita goes to the Outlet Mall, she knows exactly why she is there.
- WHEN I go to Lynnwood Yamaha, I know exactly why I am there.
- I WOULD love to know why you felt it was important to come to Westgate Chapel this morning.....and why you are a part of this fellowship, if you are.
- WHY would anyone be a part of a church?
- IS church 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 fellowship?
- ON a 1-10 scale of importance, in the middle of the Iraq war, unemployment, the national budget, retirement and interest rates.......what priority does God place on the church?
- WE are going to discover that this morning from the first thirteen verses of Ephesians 3, in the New Testament (page 1157).
- LOOK at verse 1 with me.
“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles…”
- PAUL, a prisoner of Christ.
- NOW, there's an interesting statement for openers.....it is an insight into Paul's attitude about life.
- ACTUALLY, at the time he wrote Ephesians, Paul was a prisoner of the Roman emperor, Nero. He was in jail because of the message of Christ he was preaching around the world.
- AND, from that jail cell, he was penning some of the words that would be a lighthouse for the Church of Jesus 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...
* In 2 Corinthians 5:14, he writes that it is the “love of Christ that constrains him…”
* In 1 Corinthians 9:16, he writes that he is “compelled to preach the Gospel”, in fact, it is impossible for him to be silent.
* And in places too numerous to list, Paul sees himself as a slave to Christ, a slave to righteousness, and a slave to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- THIS is no spiritual weekend warrior. Paul is surrounded, hemmed in, imprisoned by Jesus Christ and can do nothing else but serve the Lord.
- AND he sees his imprisonment as having nothing to do with his life….but ours. We are the “Gentiles” he is serving through his imprisonment in Rome.
- NEVER for a moment does Paul 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 does he believe that he or his circumstances outside of the control of Jesus.
- WHY was Paul a prisoner in Rome?
* Because he didn't have faith?
* Because he had never seen God bust anyone out of prison before?
* 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 when we come together.
- LET'S take a closer look.
II. THE MYSTERY MADE KNOWN TO US
- PAUL uses the word, "mystery", four times in 13 verses.
In verses 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....."
In verses 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.”
In verse 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."
In verses 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......"
- WHAT is 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."
- SO, 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 humankind.......creating for Himself a new society made up of all people....namely His church.
- THE mystery 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.
- BUT this mystery also has a corporate reality.
* Ephesians 3:6 says that we are members together of one body.
* This "mystery" that Paul is writing about is that we are "sharers together" in the promise "in Christ Jesus."
* The church of Jesus is the context in which the blessing of salvation are experienced and shared.
* 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."
* But, you can't have the Head and reject 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 rest of the body.
- THIS is the substance of the "mystery" that Jesus revealed to Paul.
- PART 1 of God’s plan for reaching the world was the nation of Israel. Part 2 of His plan is to reach the world through the Church.
- AND the Church is the body of Christ........complete in each local expression.
- THE book of Ephesians was written to a local 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 in Rome, or in Corinth......and when Jesus writes to the churches in Sardis or in Laodicea.
- THIS thing that we hear today that some people are members of the body of Christ, universal, and don't need the local church trivializes the teachings of Christ about His body.
- THIS "mystery" was God's new plan for humankind....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 until 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 the grace of God, 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 chapter 1;
- 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 PEOPLE 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 administration 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 philosophical 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 Westgate Chapel....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.
* They 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 Filipinos and Hispanics and Irish and Swedes 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 watch us love God and one another.
* And they stand in awe at the grace and power of God.
- THE local church is God's master plan for this age.
- IT is not the economy, it is not global warming, it is not wars and rumors of war. 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 not abandoned it, how can we?
- SECULAR history concentrates on kings and queens and presidents......the bible concentrates on a group of people called the "saints"......often little people, insignificant people, who are at the same time center stage of what God is revealing to unseen powers and authorities.
- SECULAR history concentrates on wars and battles and peace treaties. The Bible concentrates on the war already won between good and evil on the cross and worked out in the church......with the message of amnesty for all rebels who will repent and believe.
- SECULAR history concentrates on maps and national boundaries...the bible concentrates on God's new society, the church, around the world, of every race and color.
- NOW, I ask you, "If the church is central to God's plan for His people and the world, how can we push it out to the perimeter of our world?"
- HOW can it just be a place where we come to be entertained or blessed or socialize or get a good feeling?
- IF He died to build it, shouldn't we give our lives to see it grow in Him?
- SHOULDN'T we do more than just sit on the outskirts looking in on Sundays?
- IF it is weak, then make it strong.
- IF it is cold, make it warm.
- IF it is faltering, help it stand.
- IT is the very place that He is still unfolding His mystery and using to reveal to all men and even unseen powers His grace and power.
- WHY not get all the way in to His plan today, by the blood of His Son, and become a part of His plan.