“That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
The Gracious Revelation Of His Mystery: Ephesians 3:1-13
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
In this section of Scripture we will be looking at God’s grace being shown to us in the form of a “mystery”. What does the word mystery mean in the context of this study? The Greek word translated “mystery” literally means “to shut the mouth”, in other words “to remain unrevealed”. We will see this mystery will be revealed to God’s people while yet remaining unrevealed to the lost world.
What is this mystery being talked about? It is the inclusion of the Gentiles as recipients of the gracious salvation of the Lord. It is the Gentiles being put on the same spiritual footing as the Jew, receiving God’s gift of repentance and faith, His forgiveness, His indwelling Spirit, His worship and His eternal inheritance, among many other gifts of grace. It involves the Gentiles being included into the institutions of the Lord (His family, His nation, and His local church).
Our study of the “mystery of Christ” will teach us two different aspects of God’s gracious intervention on our behalf:
1. We will see that, the Gentiles inclusion in the Lord’s work of salvation is an act of God’s grace,
2. but also revealing this mystery to God’s people is another aspect of this display of divine grace.
A very basic outline of this section of Scripture:
I. The revelation of this mystery to Paul – 1-3a
II. The revelation of this mystery to the Ephesians (and us) – 3b-6
III. The calling of Paul to minister this mystery to others – 7-11
IV. The enabling of Paul to minister this mystery in the midst of persecutions – 12-13
In our text today, Paul now shares with us the two goals he is attempting to accomplish as he ministers the “mystery of Christ!” to others …
(Ephesians 3:8b-9) that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
Goal number 1…. To bring the gospel message to the Gentiles
The word “preach”, in this verse, comes from a Greek word meaning “good news” or “gospel”. As Paul delivered this wonderful mystery to the Gentiles, he was delivering the gospel message to them. He was telling them of Christ’s death, burial, resurrection and witnesses to His resurrection (1 Cor 15:1-11).
Paul describes this gospel message as “the unsearchable riches of Christ”. Another way to say this is that the news of Christ’s work is of such great value it can never be fully understood or assessed.
And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery,
Goal number 2… To reveal to all men that they share in common access to this work of Christ (as revealed in the gospel message).
Paul was concerned that both Jew and Gentile would come to understand that the acceptance of the Gentiles though God’s grace. In doing so, he desired to increase the fellowship and acceptance between them.
which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God,
This mystery (the acceptance of the Gentiles by God) was a part of God’s plan from the beginning of the world. How He would accomplish this (through Christ’s gracious work) was hidden throughout the times of the Old Testament.
Although basics concerning the work of Christ was presented by the prophets (Isaiah 53:, Daniel 9:24-27, Zechariah 13:7-9 and others), many of the details were not revealed until the actual occurrence of those events that surrounded His great sacrifice. In that sense, the basis of the acceptance of Gentiles by God through the work of Christ was “hid in God” in other words, “hid in the counsels of God”.
Likewise, the acceptance of the Gentiles by God, although similarly revealed in the Old Testament, was only fully revealed during the life of Christ on earth and following. (Please see Ephesians 3:3-5 for more information on this aspect of our teaching)
who created all things by Jesus Christ:
Paul is reminding us of the great authority that God possesses to do all these things.
Paul is reminding us that…
1. the God that decreed Christ would be the sinless substitute for His chosen people;
2. the God that decreed that Gentiles would possess access to His gracious workings on an even level as Jews;
… is the same God, in the 2nd person of the Godhead, that created all things.
God, as Creator of all, possesses absolute authority over all…
1. As such, He has the right to choose how He would save mankind from their sins (through the death of Christ)
2. He has the right to choose whom He would accept into His family, nation and church (Jew and Gentiles)
3. and He has the right to choose to whom the work of Christ would be applied through faith (His elect people).
Paul, through gracious, God-given wisdom is mentioning the authority possessed by God for a good reason. Perhaps, he looked ahead and saw many arguments coming his way by religious, but lost, men who would question God’s choices and actions. Paul’s response is very clear and unarguable… God has the right to do anything, and to make whatever choices he desires, because… AS OUR CREATOR, HE POSSESSES ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY OVER US ALL…
“Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will [have mercy], and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed [it], Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? [What] if God, willing to shew [his] wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:18-24)
We can see in our past few studies that Paul, in the fulfillment of his God-given ministry, carried with him a great burden to fulfill his calling with a two-fold motivation…
1. To bring glory and honor to the Lord
2. To work for the greatest benefit of those he was ministering to.
May we all seek to do the same in whatever area of service to which we are called. In doing so, may we all hear from our Lord “well done my good and faithful servant” when we stand before Him.
May we all get a clearer picture of our Lord and Savior, and the great grace He has shown to us. Let us be always watchful to keep His great acts of grace on our behalf in the center of our attention… In doing so, may we be motivated to LOVE Him more, APPRECIATE Him more and SERVE Him more!
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