Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Are You Keeping A Secret?

“For this reason I, Paul a prisoner for 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 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 unreachable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly place. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory” (Ephesians 3:1-13). Twice in this letter, Paul reminds his readers that he is a prisoner, and at the close he calls himself an “ambassador in bonds.” No doubt the Ephesians were asking, why is Paul a prisoner in Rome? Why would God permit such a thing? In this paragraph, Paul explains his situation and, in doing so, also explains one of the greatest truths in this letter, the mystery of the church. In the New Testament, a mystery is not something eerie or inscrutable, but rather “a truth that was hidden by God in times past and is now revealed to those who are in His family.” Paul explains the mystery-the Gentile believers are now united to the Jewish believers in one Body the Church (3:6). Now Paul explains the tremendous impact of this “sacred secret” that had so possessed his own life and ministry. Actually, this explanation is almost a parenthesis in the letter, for, Paul begins this section with the intention of praying for his readers. His use of the words “prisoner” and Gentiles” leads him into this important explanation of the “mystery of the Church” and in this explanation, Paul shows us that the “mystery of the Church” is important to four different groups of persons. First, it was important to Paul (3:1-5). Paul was a prisoner because he believed in God’s new program of uniting believing Jews and Gentiles into one Body, the Church. Because Paul was the “Apostle to the Gentiles,” he was accused of being prejudiced against the Jews (v. 1). Paul was not only a “prisoner” because of “the mystery,” but he was also a “minister,” God gave him a “dispensation (stewardship) that he might go to the Gentiles (v. 2). 1. The word dispensation (house, law). Gives us the English word “economy”. The law of the house or a management like the management of a company. 2. God has different ways of managing His program from age to age. 3. God’s principles do not change over the course of history. However the way He rules his house does. “Distinguish the ages,” wrote St. Augustine, “and the Scriptures harmonize.” Any other method of Bible interpretation leads to an improper understanding of the Bible. Paul was made a steward of “the mystery” with the responsibility of sharing it with the Gentiles (v. 3). 1. This truth had not been revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures (v. 4). God revealed it personally to Paul, and he was responsible to share it with the Gentile believers (v. 5). Second, it was important to the Gentiles (3:6-8). The mystery gives believing Gentiles a new relationship (3:6). The mystery reveals that there is a new power available to us (Ephesians 3:7). This power is illustrated in the life of Paul. Paul is my brother in Christ. The Church exits in two places, on earth and in heaven. There is available to the Gentiles new riches (3:8). The “unfathomable” riches of Christ. 1. These riches are available to every believer. 2. Understanding the deep truths of God’s Word does not give a man a big head; it gives him a broken and contrite heart. Third, it is important to the angels (3:9-10). “The principalities and powers” are also involved in this great secret (3:10). This means both good and fallen angels. The angels learn from the Church the manifold wisdom of God. Paul calls it manifold wisdom, and this word carries the idea of “variegated” or “many-colored.” This suggests the beauty and variety of God’s wisdom in His great plan of salvation. The supreme display of God’s wisdom is found in God’s plan of salvation. What are the evil angels learning from God’s “Mystery”? They learn that their leader, Satan, does not have any wisdom. Verse 9 reads best as follows “And to make all men see what is the stewardship of the mystery.” Now all believers are to be faithful stewards of this great truth. Fourth, it should be important to Christians today (3:11-13). The mystery is the key to what God promised in the Old Testament, what Christ did in the Gospels, what the early church did in the Book of Acts, what Paul and the other writers teach in the Epistles, and what God will do as recorded in the Book of Revelation (v. 11). It is a part of God’s eternal purpose in Christ. When we understand this truth it gives us great confidence and faith (v. 12). It also gives us courage in the difficult circumstances of life (v. 13). God has a “secret”—but God does not want it to be a secret anymore. If you understand your wonderful position in Christ, then live up to it-and share the blessing with others. This “secret” was import to Paul, to the Gentiles, and to the angels-and it ought to be important to you and me today. The Mystery is one secret that God doesn't want us to keep. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

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