Sermon September 13, 2020

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1460

September 13, 2020 Ephesians 3.1-13

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

Click here for audio worship "The Mystery of the Gospel" Ephesians 3.1-13

“The Mystery of the Gospel”

3.1For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, 3how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5which 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. 6This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

 7Of 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. 8To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

 

When we speak of mystery we are of course talking about something unknown. Mystery is about something we cannot fully grasp, something we do not fully know. Many people love to read mystery novels. We enjoy television shows that give us a mystery to solve, crime show, or science fiction genre. We love both the mystery and the revelation of who done it! But there is also a sense of loss, I think, when the mystery is revealed because the mystery brought an excitement to life or to the story. I do not think we appreciate mysteries as much as people in the past, especially those prior to the Enlightenment and the rise of science. When science came along as we know it today, it sought to explain everything. I think it is unfortunate that we live in such a modern world that wants to explain away all mystery.

But there is still mystery in our world. There are still things science cannot explain and things we do not know through technology or any other means. After all, where does that missing sock go when it escapes the dryer? Why are there ten hot dogs per pack and only eight buns? Mysteries!

 

  • Mystery – Enchantment (Amazing Grace)

In Ephesians 3 Paul speaks of the mystery of the gospel. I want to approach this mystery in a couple of ways. We might view the gospel in as no longer a mystery because of what Christ has revealed. Jesus has opened the eyes of His people to see God’s purposes in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. And yet, the gospel also remains a mystery in many ways because there is so much that still brings question and amazement in what Christ has done. We might think about this as a mystery of paradox, how two things that appear different can both be true at the same time. Our modern thinking has great problem with such things. But we know what we know and we know what we don’t know! We know that we walk by faith and not by sight. That is, we do not have to have everything revealed. What we have is enough for our salvation and for our faithful devotion to Jesus.

The gospel is enchanting in the sense that it enthralls our imagination. It is both fully revealing and a mystery. We are amazed by the things that we know about the gospel. Amazed by God’s love, mercy, and grace. We do not fully understand them, but it is why we call it amazing grace! Paul the apostle was perhaps the most amazed that God chose him as one who would reveal this mystery to the Gentiles. Paul had persecuted Christians prior to his conversion, and yet the Lord called him to become the kind of person he had once hunted down.

These things we see throughout the Scripture, the mysteries of God. Yet we believe in all of what we know and even what we do not know. I used the word enchantment in the sense that the gospel is fascinating and beautiful and we take great delight in both what is known and unknown. I truly believe that one of the reasons people today reject the gospel is they have so little capacity for enchantment. If anything, especially now, we live surrounded by a disenchanted society. There is so little imagination, no respect for mystery, no room for faith, and therefore no room for God. It may be one of the reasons people resort to deception or violence to get what they want. Many have lost the capacity to be enchanted by the things that make life worth living. Part of that is we do not respect or marvel at things beautiful and mysterious. Instead we will seek to discover why something is beautiful and by the time we have dissected that which is beautiful it no longer holds us in awe. It becomes nothing to us and we are even disenchanted by it. This is why liberal thinkers have given up on the Bible, because they have sought to dissect it rather than appreciate its beauty and power simply by reading and studying it as God’s Holy Word. They are no longer enchanted by God’s Word in the way Psalm 1 is, delighting in it day and night.

 

  • Mystery – Revelation (Revealed in Christ)

 

Christ is the center of the mystery revealed. He is the connection between what was known through the Old Testament and what we know today with both Old and New Testament. Paul tells us this in verses 8-11…

the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,

What was not known before Jesus is now known because of Jesus. But there is still mystery because the riches of Christ are unsearchable! We cannot know everything about Jesus and what His work has done for us. But verse 9 reveals that God has brought to light His plan that was hidden before Jesus. His purpose for salvation has been made known and can be known by rulers and authorities in heavenly places. This was God’s purpose realized, made known, in Christ.

 

 

  • Mystery – Light (All Gentiles Included)

What is particularly revealed in verse 6 is about the Gentiles.

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.

This was the mystery revealed to the Jews but especially to those who were once far off, as Paul says it, to the Gentiles. God is Lord of all people. God is not just for Jews, but for Gentiles. Jesus shows us that Jesus has opened the inheritance and promises through the gospel. That is, His sacrifice was the key to open the mystery of God’s purpose.

 

  • Mystery – Eternal Purpose (Eternal – from beginning to end!)

All of this was God’s eternal purpose (vs. 11). I think it is in essence the mystery of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven. The mystery of Christ redeeming all things and yet not yet complete. There is more to come. There is more mystery to be revealed and even when that mystery is revealed, we will still be able to live an enchanted existence in heaven where everything will be endlessly amazing and enchanting.

There was a time when we were enchanted by everything. We once marveled at mystery. We were children then. But our adulthood has stolen something important from us, enchantment, marvel, respect of mystery that still surrounds us in Christ. It is the mystery of the gospel that has both been revealed in Jesus and yet maintains a huge unknown in how the truth of this mystery saves us and loves us and gives us peace.

There is great need to recover the mystery of what has been revealed and what is yet to come. We need to honor that which we do not know and cannot fully explain that has captured our imagination and can gladden our hearts. This is partly what I think robs us of joy, that we can no longer come to Christ with a childlike faith that is enthralled by the beauty of God and what He has done through Christ Jesus. Some would say that we have become too familiar with the gospel and it loses its wonder. But I do not believe that. I think we have not been enchanted enough with the familiarity of it. Yes, we know the gospel, but we are not yet deep enough that it can spark the mystery once again, the enchanting nature, the marvelous wonder, and the amazing grace. We treated the gospel as old news rather than the exciting good news that it is. We allow the things of this world to knock us down, or as Paul would say, to cause us to lose heart.

Do not lose heart. Covid will not triumph over us. Elections will not bring down Christ’s church. Violence will not deter the kingdom of God. Jesus has secured the victory. Isn’t that marvelous. It is a mystery how it will come to be. It is exciting to know the end of the story and have the final judgment, but we know not when or how it will all pan out. The mystery has two sides, what we know already that is enough, and what we do not yet know, but we take both sides on faith. We trust the One who holds the plans and the purposes and has revealed enough thus far to bring us into His marvelous light.

The mystery of the gospel has been revealed and yet remains mysterious. It calls us to a childlike faith and to recapture God’s amazing grace with excitement and enchantment. I liken it to Psalm 29 where the Psalmist ascribes glory to what God has done and is doing. In Psalm 29.9 we read,

 

The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

It is very likely that that last “glory” is equivalent to a child bursting out “Wow!” That is how I hope we can reclaim the mystery of the gospel, with a united “wow!” That will rekindle joy and wonder and God’s peace in our lives no matter what is happening in the world. “Wow!” and glory to God. Amen.

 

 
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