In this sermon Tim starts this new series on the gospel by unpacking Ephesians 3:1-13, where Paul talks about the boundless riches of Christ and the wonderful gospel we have the privilege to preach and live every day!
05/02/23 – John 12:20-33 Following Jesus & Intro – by Tim Giovanelli – The Farewell Discourse Series – Manly Life Church Podcast
- 05/02/23 – John 12:20-33 Following Jesus & Intro – by Tim Giovanelli – The Farewell Discourse Series
- 29/01/23 – The Glory of Christ – Greg Beech
- 22/01/23 – Luke 15:1-8 God's Heart for the Lost – by Lani Daniel
- 15/01/23 – 1 John 4:11 Friendship In Church by Tim Giovanelli
- 08/01/23 – Philipians 3:17-4:4 Stand Firm in 2023 – by Peter Brooks
Amazing to have Greg finish our series on the Holy Spirit… (image of Hippie Greg as a young preacher! Flares and sunflower glasses..)
- I think it has been one of the best series that we have done… and I am always trying to think… what have learned and what might have shifted in our faith as a result!
- Hopefully you have seen how thoroughly biblical the teaching on the Holy Spirit is. Our bibles are soaked in the language of the gift of the Holy Spirit!
- And then hopefully we have all seen that the Holy Spirit is for us now! We live in the age of the abundance of the Spirit!
- And this is not just about the more remarkable manifestation of God’s presence, but also the empowering for all of us to be a Christian…
- Moving on… but that doesn’t mean our services wont still be about seeking the presence of God!
In the lead up to the 10th birthday weekend, I just want to do a little series on the boundless riches of the Gospel
- For me, this is a season of thanksgiving! 10 years!
- How good is that weekend going to be? Please don’t miss out!
- And for us to be reminded that we must always keep the main thing, the main thing!
- That is Jesus – the Lord of all creation and the Lord of our lives.
- And the remarkable things that following Jesus brings into our lives.
You know, when we read Paul’s letters in the bible, that is what a lot of it is about.
- How he had come to know Jesus as Lord… and he often then brings clarity to exactly what the gospel is.. and then he expounds on the implications for our lives.
- And for Paul, it started with becoming a messenger for the gospel after his revelation of Jesus on the road to Damascus.
- And Paul then 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…
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.
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.
- “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace.”
- 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 slowly…)
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.
- That is, a society with lots of views and religions and cultures and so on…
- 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.
- Right? We have seen it…
- 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 there was an article in the SMH saying exactly that yesterday. He vast majority of people do not know what Christianity 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).
One of the things I love about this building is it’s beauty is in it’s plain-ness. Although it has stained glass windows, they are not adorned with saints or images from the bible.
- Part of that is our Baptist history which during the reformation was a reaction against glorifying saints and trying to get people back to the bible.
- Anyhow, as far as I can tell, we literally have one image in our stained glass windows here at Manly Life Church…
- Turn around… look up… what you see in the highest place of the church is crown of thorns
- What we exalt as the power and wisdom of God is what seems to the world as weakness and foolishness
- That is a saviour who laid down his life amongst common criminals, as the suffering servant…
1 Corinthians 1:18 says;
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Verse 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Just one more note… our weddings… the seating is usually turned around…
- We get married under that crown of thorns…
- Again I love that this open secret of the gospel is about a loving saviour who comes to serve and not be served.
- And so in marriage and so in the Christian life, the way of Jesus becomes the way of us his followers…. We lay down our lives so that others may have life!
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?
- How is this, my Doctor once said to me… I was a bit short for my weight.
- But actually he is here this morning…
- Deeply annoying because he is 6 foot 3 and got a full head of hair!
- So now there is no more guessing, you can meet him this morning. He is a lovely guy! Bit like me…
And that is what Paul did, that is what we are to do…
- We introduce people to who we believe God is because we have met him in Jesus. We know him personally.
- The word revelation in the Greek is the 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: you can play your part in the great revealing of the mysteries of God!
- Next weekend I will be out near Orange taking Katie and Oli’s wedding… it’s going to be such a great celebration.
- And one of the privileges to a largely non-Christian wedding guests is to talk about Jesus.
- To preach about how wonderful Jesus is and what difference following his command to love makes in a marriage.
- I’ll be doing some apocolypso! Revealing who Jesus is…
Well 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.
- The 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?
- If you read the first 2 chapters of Ephesians, 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.”
Verse 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.
And Paul, I guess is speaking from his own experience of his life…
- 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 knowing 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, your marriage – clearly enriched!
- Your sense of purpose – clearly enriched!
- Having community and friendship – clearly enriched!
What a joy it was this morning to help with the dedication of Jack and Sienna.
- I don’t know about you, I want a lot of things for my children, but as I get older, the main thing I want is for my children to know Jesus!
- Obviously I care about their salvation…
- But in the here and now, I know that there is not an area of their life that wont be enriched by knowing Christ!
- Now nothing is a guarantee, and no one knows what curve balls life will throw at them…
- But statistically if they follow Jesus we know they will have better marriages, better mental health outcomes, lower rates of addictions…
- They will join a community where they will be loved and encouraged and finds friends…
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.
I was reading an article a while back 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, we are 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 the 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 yes, controversially, 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!
John Newton, a drunken slave trader who experienced the unfathomable riches of Christ and became a pastor and the author of the hymn Amazing Grace.
- Late in life, a pastor friend noticed that Newton was showing signs of old age and urged him to stop preaching and take life easy.
- “What!” he replied, “shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak at all?”
- He wrote his own epitaph: “John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was by the mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had so long laboured to destroy.”
- Late in life he said, My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things, that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Saviour!
Amen? Let’s pray!