Sermon preached by Tim Giovanelli on Sunday April 18 2021.
- Welcome… Victoria and I are just back from a few days holidays!
- We had a great time down in Jervis Bay staying at a glamping site in the bush. For those who don’t know what glamping is…
- It is camping for people like me who are a bit precious and still need a King sized bed and oversized bath tub in their tent!
- The kids had a great time. Particularly on Thursday at Jamberoo water park. We ran into Lisa and Bruce Dando which made it even more fun.
- So we are thinking an all in holiday down the South Coast next Easter with a church day at Jamberoo!
Diving right back into the Book of Ephesians. And we are nearing half way…
- Reminder where we are on the Bible Project diagram!
- And todays passage actually covers some of the themes that we have already covered like the new humanity formed between Jews and Gentiles through Jesus.
- So I just want to focus on a few of the verses that are new material, knowing that we are not too far away from the big pivot of the Book.
- And that is the big shift from what the Gospel story is all about, to how we then are to live in light of this amazing story!
Helped in this series by a course I took on Ephesians by my old preaching and NT professor, Darrel Johnson from Regent College in Vancouver…
- Got to this part of the course ready to take some notes…
- And he skipped over the whole section saying he didn’t have time…
- So I’m flying blind today! Haha… but I think we will be ok…
- And it is an interesting passage, because as I mentioned, Paul in one sense revisits, or expands on what he already covered in Ephesians 2, that we looked at on Good Friday.
- The new humanity, of Jews and Gentiles, who have both received peace from God and are now living in peace with one another.
I told the story on Good Friday about my South African friends who would meet illegally together during the apartheid regime to eat a meal in each others homes
- Of course, eating together is one of the signs of peace and reconciliation.
- Old saying… eating together turns enemies into friends…
- And there is no greater meal to share, or to come around than the meal of communion…
- The body and blood of Christ, the bread and wine, broken and shed for us…
But that has to start somewhere… and it starts with hearing the good news…
- And for Paul, it started with becoming a messenger for the gospel after his revelation… his apocolypso of Jesus on the road to Damascus.
- So in this next section of Ephesians, Paul reminds us of his mission to the gentiles… which brings us into the promises of the Gospel, the boundless riches of knowing Christ.
- Paul saw his job as revealing the mysteries of God, now manifest through Jesus, that brings us all into the people of God. Into the family.
- Lets listen…
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 people 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 the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless 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 that 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.
For Paul, this part of his letter to the Ephesians is deeply personal. He recounts how he found himself a servant (verse 7) in the great unravelling story of God’s mission in the world.
- You guys know the story…
- God begins his involvement with a people in the Book of Genesis with a guy named Abraham.
- He promises in a covenant with Abraham that he will be blessed, and all families will be blessed through his family, and that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars…
- From that story God reveals his character and faithfulness to the people who become Israel through ups and downs of their nation.
- From slavery in Egypt to the exodus, to giving them the law, to the settlement of the Promised Land and the beginning of their Kings like David.
- It is all about God revealing himself to and through a people (say again)
But here is the thing. It is always a tension between being set apart from other nations (the gentiles) and their mission to be a blessing to all nations.
- So as Paul says, it’s a mystery… that God has chosen to act through a people…
- But now the time has come when God’s mission of forming a new humanity is now through Jesus, to expand to all people.
- And Paul gets chosen to explain this mystery to people like the Ephesians… that in Jesus, verse 6 they all become; “sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”
- And that is the mystery that Paul is now revealing.
Leslie Newbigin who was a missionary to India and then came back to a post Christian UK has helped many of us understand the gospel in a pluralistic society
- Because it is a bit of a mystery right?
- Why would God do things the way he does? Seriously…. Why?
- Why start with one people? Why bring it together at one particular moment in history in Jesus Christ.
- What about other religions, other claims on truth?
- And what about this and what about that… and to some of the big questions of what do you do with people who haven’t heard the gospel…
- Verse 5 even references people in other generations…
- It’s a bit of a mystery. And ultimately in these things I have to trust God, his character and that his ways are higher than my ways….
But Newbigin called the Gospel the Open Secret.
- Because what we believe is that the mysteries of God are no longer a mystery. The secret is now open.
- John 1 says the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory.
- So Paul in verse 9 says his role in preaching is “to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery.”
- So while it still needs to be preached… in other words, the mystery needs to be explained…
- It is open! It is a free gift available to you and me!
And I love that. It’s a secret in that we live still in a country where the vast majority of people could not articulate what the Christian message is.
- In fact many young people now only know Jesus as a swear word.
- But it is Open in the fact that it is to be preached freely to all…
- Newbigin “It is entrusted to those whom God has given the gift of faith by which the weakness and foolishness of the cross is known as the power and wisdom of God.” Again.
So Paul in verse 2 calls “the administration of God’s grace” that is what he saw his role as… administering the grace of God, the message of Jesus… the good news of the gospel.
He says; “that was given to me for you.”
- So he saw himself as playing his part in this story of the unfolding revelation of God to the world.
- Right he saw himself in the story of being part of the family of God that was to be a blessing to all nations…
- Right? His story was about being uniquely called to the mission to the gentiles… which you can read about in the Book of Acts.
So verse 2 goes on… “that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation.”
- And that is kind of the open secret. That God has now revealed himself.
- We are the people of the revelation. And we need revelation!
- I could ask you what do you think my oldest brother looks like? You could guess… maybe a bit like me? Bit bald maybe? As my Doctor once said to me… a bit short for your weight.
- But at Easter he came up from Melbourne and many of you met him here at church
- Deeply annoying because he is 6 foot 4 and got a full head of hair!
- So it was revealed to you who met him what he is like.
And that is what Paul did, that is what we are to do…
- We introduce people to who we believe God is.
- Remember we looked at that word a few weeks before easter.
- Revelation is that Greek word Apocolypso. And it means an opening of a door or the pulling back of a curtain. It means to see what is hidden.
Challenge: play your part in the great revealing of the mysteries of God!
- I took Jonathan and Jacquline’s wedding from church yesterday.
- And one of the privileges to a largely non-Christian wedding guests was to talk about Jesus.
- To preach about how wonderful Jesus is and what difference following his command to love makes in a marriage.
Did you know that you can play your part in the mission of God?
- You don’t have to know all the mysteries or finer details…
- You just need to help people have an apocolypso… a revealing of who Jesus is and what he can do in your life.
- You might start by just sharing your story of meeting him, or something he has done or changed in your life.
- The story of being a part of God’s family and blessing others continues through you!
- OK? You can do it. Comedian Uncle Nath. “Say nothing… nothing will happen. Say something… something will happen!”
Ok, here is what I want to focus on and finish on today…. Is what is that message? What is the heart of what Paul preached?
- And as we have seen in the first 2 chapters, it includes lots of things… redemption from slavery to sin, and forgiveness and adoption into God’s family…
- It is undeserved grace from God to us! A gift we cannot earn!
- But l love verse 8 of Ephesians 3… because I think Paul is summarising the whole thing
- And for Paul, who had poured his whole life into following Jesus since that encounter on the road to Damascus, the message could be described as “the boundless riches of Christ.”
8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ.
The Greek word for riches is Plutous. It means a plentiful supply, an abundance, a plenitude.
- So ploutos literally described in Greek material prosperity riches or wealth. It refers to an abundance of possessions exceeding the norm.
- And from it we get words in English like plutocrat which puts together the Greek words plutous and krat, wealth and power…
- So Paul preached to the Gentiles in Ephesus, the boundless plutous of Christ, the riches of Christ.
Now we will get to the implications for this, including whether financial blessings are meant from being a Christ follower in a bit…
- But I think what is obvious from all that Paul has written, that primarily he is talking about the spiritual riches we have in following Jesus.
- This is his story. That in Christ he had received the boundless riches of Christ.
- Although he was writing from prison he felt he was the richest man in the world.
- That he was literally in awe at what he had inherited from God.
- He’d gone from a hate filled persecutor of Christians, to its main messenger of love to the Roman Empire.
One NT commentator Kent Hughes puts it this way;
- “What are the implications of this? Primarily, that Christ always enriches life. Christ never subtracts from life; he always enriches it with untrackable riches.”
- Right? This is big….
- It is big in preaching Christ… right? We are proclaiming good news, that in Jesus, everything in life in enriched…
- And it is big in our own lives… from following Jesus, we too like Paul should be able to testify to the abundant things, the wealth of blessings that we have received.
Right? Can you think of an area of your life that knowing Jesus will not enrich?
- Your relationship with God – clearly enriched!
- Your relationships, particularly marriage – clearly enriched!
- Your sense of purpose – clearly enriched!
- Having community and friendship – clearly enriched!
I mean are you with me? In becoming a Christian, can you not testify, that following Jesus has helped! This is John 10:10 stuff…
- Jesus said; “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.”
- This is 2 Corinthians 4; “we have this treasure in jars of clay”
- 1 Timothy 1 tells us “the grace of our Lord is poured out on me abundantly.”
So there is not an area of your life that knowing and following Christ will not enrich!
- And if I could just get personal for a minute, I am just so grateful.
- Knowing God has saved me.
- In the negative from so many destructive tendencies and dispositions…
- But in the positive, into such a blessed life. Enriched in every way. I don’t know what life would look like without Jesus.
- Think about how Jesus enriches and changes your life.
I was reading an article this week about Abraham Piper. He is the son of a well known Pastor in America and he has rejected his families faith.
- And he has amassed almost a million Tik Tok followers with these pithy videos mocking the Christian faith.
- And I get that he is probably reacting against a certain strain of evangelical faith… and who knows what his upbringing was like.
- But here is the thing. His basic message to young people was… just get drunk and get laid.
- Right, throw off your faith and just live how you want to live.
And it makes me sad… because I feel the exact opposite. I feel that knowing Jesus will never subtract from life, it will only enrich every area it touches.
In your relationships, it wont be about getting laid or getting your way…
- Right, following Jesus will teach you how to love unconditionally, to forgive when you are hurt, to serve when you feel like being served…
- But everything Jesus will touch in your life, if you are obedient… if you put it into practice will help!
Right? Paul preached the boundless riches of Christ.
- Think about the purpose you can have in being a child of the Kingdom of God
- As it says in Ephesians 2, created to do good works… we are God’s handiwork!
- When we follow Jesus, life is not meaningless, it becomes about being part of the light and overcoming the darkness.
- We should get involved in great causes… we should care about the poor and the marginalised in life like he did.
Right? Think of community and friendship and how it is enriched by knowing Christ!
- Think of that dinner we had here on Good Friday and the dividing wall of hostility that Jesus has broken down!
- We have peace with God and peace with each other.
- There is room at the table. We become part of God’s new humanity
- We beckon all people to be reconciled to God and join the family that is called to bless all families on earth!
And even our finance. Now we know that Christianity is not a tool to make you rich.
- Indeed if anything it should make you generous and we are warned about the dangers of loving money.
- But I am always amazed at how when Jesus gets a hold of a life, it can create the conditions to succeed.
- Now I need to be careful here… but the reality is that integrity and hard work and making wise investments are Christian values.
- And you should be spared from the folly’s of get rich schemes, or cheating and getting found out.
- There is a solid rock, that Jesus puts under our feet that allows us to get focussed and purposeful and wise.
How good hey? Never an area that Jesus subtracts, only the promise of enriching our lives!
Amen? Let’s pray!