Mystery Reloaded

 

 

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Mystery Reloaded

Text: Ephesians 3:1-13

Dr. Alex Tang

 

Summary

God in His own timing will reveal His mysteries (God’s secret plan)         

One of the mystery of Christ is that the Jews and Gentiles are One:

                                        One Body, One Family, One Temple

                             

EPH 3:1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles--

 

    EPH 3:2 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 men 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.

 

    EPH 3:7 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 God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable 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 which 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.

 

I.                   Introduction.

We shall continue with our study of the Epistle to the Ephesians. An outline of what we have done so far will be as follows:

 

     Hi Saints

      (Eph.1:1-2)

 

The Godhead

Spiritual blessings in Christ

    (Eph.1:3-14)


 

                        Prayer and Thanksgiving (Eph.1:15-23)

 

 

Alive in Christ

 (Eph.2:1-10)

 

 

One in Christ

(Eph.2:11-22)

 

                                                                        Prayer for the Ephesians (Eph.3:14-20)

 

                                                                                                            BTW

Mystery Reloaded

                                                                                                            (Eph.3:1-13)

  Unity in the Body of Christ

 

II.                Text Exposition.

1.                  Paul Starts to Pray (Eph.3:1)

EPH 3:1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—

The words I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles, refer to Paul’s imprisonment in Rome because of his service for Christ and more particularly because of his ministry as the apostle to the Gentiles. Because of his faithfulness to the stewardship God had given him among the Gentiles, bitter Jewish opposition arose against him. This resulted in his being attacked in Jerusalem and put on trial in Caesarea and Rome. Having broken off in the middle of a sentence in verse 1, Paul began one new long sentence that ended with verse 13. It is a conditional sentence with verse 2 serving as its introduction and verse 13 as its conclusion.

 

2.                  The Mystery (Eph.3:2-6)

2.1              God’s grace for the Mystery (Eph.3:2)

EPH 3:2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you,

The word “administration” (oikonomia; cf. v. 9) has the sense of stewardship or a trust to be dispensed (in 1 Cor. 9:17 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. oikonomia is trans. “trust” and in Col. 1:25 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness-- 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. it is rendered “commission”). Paul was to administer “God’s grace”, which was given to him. He elaborated on this in verses 3-6. This grace was given to him to dispense to the Gentiles because he was an apostle to the Gentiles.

 

2.2              Revealing the Mystery (Eph.3:3-5)

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 men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets.

This mystery was revealed by the Spirit, and its recipients were God’s holy apostles and prophets . It was given to the apostles and prophets and that Paul was one who was to disseminate it.

 

2.3              What is this Mystery? (Eph.3:6)

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.

Paul now called the church a “mystery.” The word (mysterion) is used in the New Testament primarily by Paul (20 of 27 occurrences) and is always associated with a verb of revelation. What is a “mystery”? It is an insight made available to Christians which was not made clear in the Old Testament.

The “mystery” here is the fact that the Gentiles would be “heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise of Christ Jesus” (v. 6). While Isaiah and others had foretold that Gentiles would one day be saved, all thought theirs would be a subordinate position. No wonder Paul repeats and repeats in Ephesians the doctrine that the church is one.

Thus the mystery is not something mysterious, but is a secret hidden in Ages past but now revealed. This is made possible through the gospel: believing Jews and Gentiles are in one body. The mystery is not that Gentiles would be saved, for the Old Testament gave evidence of that, but rather that believing Jews and Gentiles are joined together. That was a revolutionary concept for Jews and Gentiles alike!

 

3.                  Paul’s Ministry (Eph.3:7-12)

3.1              Gifting into his ministry (Eph.3:7-8a)

EPH 3:7 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 God's people, this grace was given me

 

3.2              Doing his ministry (Eph.3:8b-9)

: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable 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.

Firstly, Paul was to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. Secondly, he was to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery. Though Paul ministered to both Jews and Gentiles, he was especially designated as the apostle “to the Gentiles” so that the Gentiles can know something of the riches of Christ’s blessings.

 

3.3              Purpose of his ministry (Eph.3:10-12)

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 which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

The rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms are angels, those who worship the Lord and those who have fallen.  The eternal purpose of  Lord is that all things in heaven and on earth will be united in Christ Jesus (Eph.1:10).  Thus the church has a role to play in the reconciliation of angels in the future. What it is, we do not know. Even the angels do not know. That is why they watch with interest this unfolding of God’s plan.

4.                  Paul’s Encouragement (Eph.3:13)

13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

If Paul had not dispensed to the Gentiles the stewardship of God’s grace, then Jews would not have been hostile to him and he would not have been imprisoned. His preaching brought salvation to the Gentiles, but it incurred the wrath of many Jews on him. However, many others became members of the church, Christ’s body, and this was their glory.

 

III.             Lessons for Us.

God’s Eternal Plan

God has an eternal plan for the ages and this plan is unfolding as it should. Though the creation of a chosen people is one of the major aspects of this plan, it also includes the angels, who are also created beings and the nature or the earth. In the Bible, we can discern the various stages of this plan. Some scholars find that they can divide God’s plan into 7 dispensations (oikonomia). This approach is called dispensationalism.

A dispensation is a period of time in which God is dealing with human beings according to certain divine goals and human responsibilities. Such segments, which may have overlapping features, are designed to show His grace and human failure apart from Him. 

People come to know of God’s plan slowly. This is progressive revelation and what Paul calls the mysteries of God. The people at Noah’s time will not know of Israel and the Israelites will not know of the Church. Yet, when the time is correct, and it is in God’s time, the mystery will be revealed.

 

Dispensation

Scripture

Duration

Point of

Test

Time

Human Failure

God’s Judgement

Innocence

Gen.1-3

Fruit of the tree

Creation to Adam & Eve

Fall

Expulsion from the garden, curse & death

Conscience

Gen.4-8

Individual obedience

Adam & Eve to Noah

Widespread sin

Flood

Human government

Gen.8-11

Human rule in righteousness

Noah to Abram

Failure to govern

Babel/ confusion of languages

Promise

Gen.11- Exo.18

One family to trust God for blessing

Abraham to Moses

Disobedience

Slavery in Egypt

Law

Exo.18-Acts 1

Keep the Law

Moses to the Cross

Failure to keep the Law

Captivity and Exile

Grace (Church)

Acts 2- Rev.19

Live by the Spirit

Pentecost to Millennium

Unbelief

Tribulation and Second Coming

Millennium

Rev.20

Response to visible King

1000 years

Rebellion, unbelief

Great White Throne Judgement

 

IV.              Closing Remarks.

God is a merciful God and throughout these dispensations, he has given humankind the opportunity to choose the right way. Yet we failed, and we failed miserably. Yet God did not give up on us but continued to give us another opportunity to try.

We are now living in the Church age or age of grace. This period does not last forever and there are signs that this age is coming to an end. It will end with the rapture, tribulation and the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Are we ready? Are we living the way we should? Are our spiritual life of worship acceptable to the Lord?  Are we bringing people into the Kingdom? Soon it will be too late, when Jesus comes again. We are blessed because we are at the time when most of the mysteries are revealed to us.

                                                                                                Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

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