Sermon from October 14th, 2018

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“Ephesians #4: Epistles, Apostles, Jesus, and You”

Ephesians 3:1-13; John 17:20-26


By Pastor John Bent



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Sermon Text
Good morning! Welcome to worship!  It was 11 years ago this Sunday that we had our first worship service in this building! We had windows and doors and the heat was on but that was about it. No gathering area, no sanctuary, no classrooms, but we were happy! 

Has God been good, yes?  His mercies have been new every morning, great is his faithfulness. He knows what he’s doing and he knows how to get it done. Would you agree?

That’s good because if it depended on our strength and wisdom, this building would never have happened. Satan’s roadblocks would have stymied us to the point we would have given up. But by the grace of God, we didn’t! To God be the glory! Would you agree?

With that in mind, let’s get back to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Today we begin Chapter 3. “For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles – surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you…”

Paul is in house arrest in Rome awaiting trial before Caesar on the false charges that he was a threat to the Roman Empire. Throughout his ministry he faced opposition, frustration, suffering on a daily basis. I’m sure there were times when he prayed, “Lord Jesus, what are you doing? Do you know what’s going on here? I’m at the end of my rope! I’m ready to give up!” 

But through it all, Paul learned the Lord does know what he’s doing and his timing is perfect. He turns Satan’s schemes on their head and uses them to accomplish his own purposes!

Look at the words Paul uses here. “Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you.”  God is the master administrator. He organizes, plans, assigns, provides, makes it all happen. From the dance of galaxies to the bounce of electrons, through the joys and sufferings of our daily lives, he administrates his grace through it all.

He’s in absolute control. He creates out of nothing, he sets boundaries, he provides, saves, leads, loves, nurtures, corrects, disciplines. Satan does everything he can to throw sand in the gears but he cannot stop God’s plan to bring his broken world back together again.

When we really get a grip on this reality, the only appropriate response is to fall on our knees in worship and dedicate ourselves to working with him in the redemption of all things.

That’s what happened to Paul. When Jesus came into his life, the Lord moved him from being a wall builder to a bridge builder and peace maker. In vs 3, Paul calls this plan to bring all things together in Christ a mystery. And it is. How is it that Jews and Gentiles can become one in the Body of Christ? Is this a new thing God is doing?

There are those in the Christian church today who say it is. They say God tried one way in the OT but it failed so he gave it a second shot in the NT. That’s heresy.  It assumes God makes mistake. God doesn’t make mistakes. He knows exactly what he’s doing and his timing is perfect. When a mistake is made its not God, it’s us and our understanding of what he is doing.

God’s plan of salvation hasn’t changed from Genesis to Rev. His ways may be inscrutable, not understandable to our way of thinking, but they are never wrong. From Genesis to Revelation, from beginning to end, the Bible is about Jesus and his cross.

Look at verse 4-5. Paul writes, “In reading this then, you will be able to understand my insight into this mystery of Christ 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.”

Here is something we dare not miss! Paul isn’t saying that the plan of salvation in Jesus wasn’t made know to the people of the OT. He is saying that now in Jesus, the plan that was there from the beginning has been revealed more completely.

It’s like the prophets in the OT were peeking through a narrow slit in the curtain. They saw part of the picture, but not the whole thing.  Why did God do this? I don’t know for sure. I know parents and teachers do the same. As we raise and train our children we don’t change the truth, but we reveal it to them in deeper ways as they are able to handle it.

In the little congregation in Ephesus, God’s plan from the beginning of time was revealed in the miracle of both Jewish and Gentile Christians becoming as One in Christ. 

Paul calls it a mystery - an unexplainable miracle of love by which God brings people in the OT and the NT together with believers of every time and place. God is administrating his grace to bring all his people together under the cross of Jesus as one Body of Christ.

Look at vs 7. Paul writes “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.”

No matter what chaos may be swirling around us, God is still in charge. He’s the master administrator. He pulls the strings, he sets the agenda. Paul didn’t choose Jesus, Jesus chose him. And Jesus chose you as well! Are you willing?

He told Paul, “I have appointed you, chosen you, to take my message to the Gentiles.”  If you told Paul beforehand that this would be God’s plan for him, Paul would have scoffed. But when the timing was right God, the master administrator, sovereignly poured down his grace and the unthinkable happened. Paul became the first missionary to the Gentiles.

Why Paul? Remember Paul was an OT scholar. He reminded the Jewish Christians of what Isaiah had prophesied 700 years before Jesus’ birth. “I have made you a light for the Gentiles that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6

This isn’t our church, it’s Jesus church and the reason we are here isn’t only because he loves us, he does, but we have been called here for the sake of those who aren’t here yet!

I want you to consider the word epistle and apostle. Both words are derived from the same root which means to send. An epistle is a letter that is sent with a message! An apostle is a person who is sent with a message!

Paul tells the Ephesians, “I’d rather come in person, but since I’m in house arrest in Rome, until I can come in person, I’ll do the next best thing, I’ll send a letter.”

Paul didn’t chose to be apostle to the Gentiles, Jesus sent him. It was part of the administration of God’s grace to bring all things together in Christ. Note that the Lord doesn’t send us because of our ability or skill or worthiness.

Paul writes, I am less that the least of all God’s people, yet this grace was given me”  If God has saved you by his grace then he is sending you as his living letter of love to share the unsearchable riches of Christ with a dying world.

It has nothing to do with how skilled you may or may not be!  It’s not about how your ability, it’s about your availability and his sovereign call on your life. He has already empowered you, addressed you, and stamped you with His Holy Spirit. So who is he sending you to?

Jesus is real. His death and resurrection are real. He forgives sinners. You qualify, so the people he is sending you to. He gives new life to anyone who will call on his name.

Paul writes this letter while he is under house arrest in Rome. Some might say, “That’s terrible! Why would God do that?”  If the Lord is a master administrator he certainly messed up!

 Don’t be so quick to judge!  Paul is chained 24/7 to the most elite soldiers in Caesar’s army, the Pretorian guard!  Through Paul, many of these men came to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Paul will soon argue his case and testify to Jesus in the supreme court of the Roman Empire.  No human could have scripted this. But God did. He’s the master administrator of his grace. He’s in charge and he sent Paul to testify before Caesar.

Every day the Lord is on the throne administrating his grace for the sake of his purpose to bring all things in heaven and earth together again under the cross of Jesus. Don’t be discouraged by the circumstances you may be facing. God knows what’s going on.

He’s in charge and he’s working all things out according to his sovereign will. His kingdom of is coming and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Don’t be intimidated by the powers of this world.

Praise Jesus every day, in good times and bad. In every circumstance worship him, pray about everything, read your Bible, praise him, grow in your knowledge of him, testify to him, share him, serve him, depend on him! Let’s be the Body of Christ in a dying world!

Amen.


Christ Lutheran Church • 5150 River Lakes Parkway, Whitefish, MT 59937 • 406-862-2615


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