Archives: Ephesians

Sermons on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians

Ephesians 3:1-13 – The mystery of God (part 1)

Is God a racist?

When God called Abraham, he worked through him, and he worked through his sons (Isaac, Jacob and the whole tribes of Israel)….

Was God being a racist? God was not just interested in one small tiny people……

God had and has a bigger plan / bigger purpose for the rest of mankind….

So as we can see, when God first calls Abraham……

Read: Genesis 12:1

We see him calling Abraham, but we see that tucked in that promise is God’s plan for all the families of the earth……

I want to boldly say that God calls Abraham not just to bless him….but significantly so that the true God of Abraham may bless all the families of the earth.

Rarely would God call someone without having a bigger picture, without a purpose to bless many people…..

So the Jews were called, or Abraham was called and then the Jews who descend from him were called…

But this action was meant to touch all the families of the earth……

In fact we must emphasize that such a calling, “I will bless you. Anyone who blesses will be blessed, anyone who curses you will be cursed”.

That promise was meant for you and I. We are the possessors and recipients of that promise…..

If we have come under Christ, thus spiritual children of Abraham, we are not under any curse, we are under a blessing…..

Look at this – from all the corners of the earth……God wants to bless his people…..

The sad part of this is that the people of the world are slowly withdrawing from God’s hand of blessings…..

They want to live their lives without God in the world…..

This is the mystery that Paul refers to here in Ephesus – let’s have a look at this:

  1. The Mystery of God

Let me explain the term ‘mystery’ – In English this word has a meaning of something dark and secret, but to Paul in his Greek thinking, mystery refers to the truth hidden from human knowledge or understanding but only revealed by the revelation of God….

In other words it’s a ‘specially concealed and revealed truth’.

We note therefore few points about this mystery:

  1. Mystery was made known to the apostle by revelation (vs.2-3 & 7-8)

In Ephesus 1:17,

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know him better”

This revelation from God which he prays for is something that Paul himself has experienced, as he states in vs.3.

Here, Paul by revelation, he is referring to his experience which is outlined by Luke in Acts 9. You might remember Paul (known as Saul at that time) was the enemy strongly fighting against Christianity and we are told a lightning / light flashed, and then he was addressed by Jesus himself vs.5 “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”

Paul went for three days blind and lead by another to a place where he received this message from a man called Ananias. This message comes from God and states this about Paul:

But the Lord said to Ananias, Go this man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.”

That is the revelation, and thus we can conclude that this mystery does not come from a self-proclaimed man.

But this comes from a man who has been given a special revelation towards his task at hand……thus you can trust his interpretation of this mystery…..

May I say that as Paul prayed in chapter 1 for a Spirit of revelation for the church in Ephesus…..that prayer should be ours….so that we can point to a time and times when God took our path and turned upside down…….when God took a normal, perhaps a religious day and turned everything in your life upside down…..

In such a way that if you were fighting against God but instead you bowed the knee and confess Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

In such a way that even as a Christian that you can tell of God’s wonders in revealing his purpose for your life……

Maybe you were about to kill yourself, but somehow God showed you something in his word and your life was saved……

Do you have something like that in your life?

Those are people that the church of God needs, people who are continually being shaped by God’s revelation……

Those are people that God uses….

Have you had a revelation about Jesus Christ? is there a day when you were headed in another direction and God turned everything around and thus you bowed the knee and confessed Jesus Christ is King? Without that experience, you cannot have any claim with Christianity and Jesus (you are not a child of God).

The message for you, is as it was for the Jews who turned a blind eye to Jesus, Luke 13:34-35

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings and you were not willing. Look, your house is left desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Will you be left desolate or will you bow and declare, “Blessed is Jesus who has come in the name of the Lord”?

  1. This mystery is the mystery of Christ

Look at vs.4

It’s a mystery (of) Christ – that is, it belongs to him, he concealed and he revealed at the time of fulfillment…..

Yes, it is about him, but Paul is raising the fact that this mystery is of Jesus Christ.

He concealed it – he revealed it to Paul…….

He was there in the beginning and he revealed this plan in part with the Jews….but now he makes known. See vs.5 & 9

Paul says that it was revealed in part (somehow concealed). Vs.9 says, “was kept hidden in God, who created all things”.

How can this be of Christ and at the same vs.9 points out that it was “hidden in God who created all things?” Unless Paul wants to point out that Jesus and God are one, in such a way that it can be said that this belongs to Jesus and yet hidden in God…..

May I say then, Jesus is the one who was there in the beginning, is the one who ushered the new era of the revelation of the mystery…..

He is the author and the perfect-er of life……

At the time of concealing, he was right there, when it’s time to reveal things in your life (he is right there)

The whole calendar of God is in his hands…..the whole plan of God is his hands…..

Many people miss the direction and the plan of God for their lives because they ignore Jesus Christ.

You cannot know God’s timing for your life – if you ignore Jesus Christ.

I appeal to you today – if you want to walk in God’s plan for your life (draw closer to Jesus, listen to Jesus’s words, walk in Jesus’ words)

We come now to what this mystery is:

Read Vs.6: Gentiles and Jews are heirs together

Heirs of the kingdom –

Luke 12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you his kingdom.”

God reigned and ruled for Israel (they were his kingdom).

But now God in Jesus Christ, all people have a privilege of having God ruling and reigning over their lives…..

You know what that means – that we don’t have to fear a thing for we know that as we live in this world:

God rules and overrules

God closes and opens doors

God guides and shields us

God rules over our lives, just as he did to the Jews, so he does to us……

Members together of one Body (In the OT, phrases like “my people” were exclusively referring to Israel i.e. Isaiah 40:1 says

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem….”

There was only one people of God then, but today God has revealed that he refers to even Gentiles as we saw in Isaiah 56:1-8,

“God’s house will be known as the house of prayer for all nations”.

This was revealed in part, but now in Jesus…….both Jew and Gentile can claim to be “God’s people”.

God himself calls them “my people” and sharers together in the promise in Christ.

In Genesis 12, the promise was that God wanted to bless Abraham, and that some day all the families of the earth will be blessed through him…..

That promise for the blessings of God is now fulfilled and it’s for all people.

Just as the angel said to the shepherds who were keeping their flock, Luke 2:10

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”

The promise of Abraham and Israel is now shared together by all people (not second class or first class).

All are equal and all are sharing in God’s blessing in Jesus Christ.

What this means is that if in Christ, we are on the blessed side……

Whoever curses you – God will deal with.

Whoever blesses, God will bless.

For we are the families of the earth who are blessed in the Son of Abraham……

Conclusion:

We plead with you – praise the Lord for his many blessings that are ours in Jesus Christ.

Let your life tell a story of people who are blessed by God.

All this has been made possible through Jesus Christ.

 

  1. The mystery and the church
  1. The church is the instrument of God in revealing the mystery Vs.10
  2. The church can now approach God with freedom and confidence Vs.12

Ephesians 1:15-23 – A fresh comprehension of God’s work in us

The words of the song by Jimmy Cliff, “I can see clearly now the rain is gone” portrays someone who sees an imminent and certain positive change. He talks about the rainbow, and blue sky as signs of how he clearly sees a bright sunny day appearing…..

This is a prayer for that type of comprehension for something new that God is achieving in Jesus Christ…..

Having pointed out the blessings that are for God’s children in Christ, Paul opens up his heart to these Christians……as he reveals how they feature in his prayer life.

Something special about these Christians – something that moves the apostle’s heart to remember these Christians.

I suppose this is a critical element – Christians are attracted to us due certain qualities that they can observe in us.

There are certain fruits that are strictly of God’s children.

Paul has heard something about these Christians:

Vs.15, “your faith” and your love for all the saints”…..

These are qualities that the world would not necessarily look for.

But for us, they are paramount. These are observable in the churches in Ephesus…..these move the heart of the apostle to pray for them……for they are known as people of faith…..people of love.

Look at the content of his prayers for them:

  1. God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

In life, it is one thing to have knowledge and education and the capability to make money and fame etc., but, and very importantly, it is another to know what to do with what you have……what to do with your life, to perceive and to comprehend what is beyond the surface.

So he prays for wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus.

This is to know Jesus and as a result have superior, discernible comprehension of life as a whole…..

Let me give you an example of what the spirit of wisdom and revelation looks like in someone’s life:

  1. A spirit of wisdom can be observable in Solomon in 1 Kings 3, there you see someone faced with a difficult situation; but shows a great spirit of wisdom……

One child has died and the other is alive (two mothers fighting over the living one), knowing that the real mother would not let her child die, he devised a plan to have a child cut into two thus exposing the lying mother…..

That is a spirit of wisdom…..

This is what James speaks about when he says that if anyone lacks wisdom he should ask;

James 1:5if any of you lack lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault; and it will be given to him.”

This spirit of wisdom is something that we need to pray for others, but also for ourselves…..

We need to be known as people that possess great discernment of life as a whole, who act in a special way, a way that honours our Lord.

That is the spirit of wisdom, let’s have a look a spirit of revelation – to be able to see beyond the natural: see Shadrack, Mishack and Abednigo when they were before Nebuchadinezzer.

Their words show a great level of revelation, when they were told to bow to the statue or they would die they respond – Daniel 3:16

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand O King. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king that we will not serve your gods or worship the image you have set up.”

Now, often we are called upon to act under difficult situations and we don’t know what to do, I think this prayer brings to the fore a very important aspect:

A spirit of wisdom and revelation: whereby you are able to see beyond what is happening…..see beyond the natural…….see life from God’s point of view……

I want to say to you this morning, this prayer is a prayer we need to have for ourselves and for Christians in general, so that when we are called upon, we know how to respond.

I saw an interview with a lady on a Christian TV station, she was testifying how God had saved her from her life of multiple men relationship / almost from prostitution…..what stood out as she spoke was how she lacked a spirit of wisdom in the way she was dressed: she was dressed like a prostitute, in her mini-skirts…..

She was still dressed as if she wanted to seduce someone…..and yet now she is testifying about how God had saved her from the life of seducing men……

We need wisdom in how to behave as Christians, spirit of revelation, so we look at life from spiritual point of view.

That reveals that we are experiencing growth in our knowledge of Jesus ……

  1. The eyes of your heart (heart may be moved / comprehend) enlightened so that you know the hope to which he has called us.

The world doesn’t know real hope. It knows hope that is no hope but just wishes……Christians, on the other hand know something special…..

For there is a hope that God has called them into……

It is the hope of eternal life……the hope of life not remaining as it is forever……a time when God will do a reversal of fortunes……

A life whereby God would turn our mourning into dancing……tears into endless joys; death into endless days.

Sometimes, we are not able to see this, faced with a life like everyone else, difficult times come to us as to others……

The hope of eternal life doesn’t seem to make a difference in our lives.

Beloved, when we are faced with difficulties, we need like no other, to hold on, to reclaim God’s promises to us.

Who I am today, what I experience today is not the final experience by any means….

God has reserved something special for his children…..something that cannot be fully comprehended in this life…..

But this is our hope – that God will turn our experience of lacking and mourning into a time of endless joys……

We need to comprehend this, we need to pray for such comprehension……in these days of sorrow and sin and fear, we need to refocus again on the fact that God has a special day coming for his own……

A day when no pain or suffering, or lack will be experience – that is the hope God has called us into.

And that is, (according to vs.18) the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, which basically means that this great future, our future where mourning is turned into dancing; is God’s glorious inheritance in the saints……this future will benefit us in ways we cannot fully comprehend today.

But also, this future is God’s glorious inheritance, he looks forward to what he will do in us……

When we will forever be dancing a song of joy…..song of praise forever……that is his inheritance.

  1. To discern the great power that is at work in us who believe, vs.19-20.

We Christians often live our lives as if we were part of a defeated, dead Christ…..Christ who claims to be the Messiah, but was not and was proven by being crucified and his life ended at the grave.

We miss the fact that we belong to the Messiah, the true Messiah, the One who was dead but now is alive…..the one whose claim as the true Son of God were all proven true when God raised him from the dead….

Paul here reminds and prays that we would comprehend this truth, that the God we are serving has this incomparable power (power that raises someone from the dead).

Paul prays that we may comprehend the fact that the same power that was at work in raising Jesus from the dead ——is at work in us today…..

Think through this – what is impossible with this God? If he conquered the grave, what would be impossible for him……what would he find difficult to do in our lives if it’s in his will to do…..

Think through this – the things we fear most……the things that greatly concern us…..are things that are powerless when they capture afresh the power at work in us……

Do you see what we fear, in the light of what God has done in Jesus, we should not fear?

We should be like the Leper who once said to Jesus, “If it is your will you can make me whole.”

The leper believed nothing was impossible with God…..that same attitude should be present in us…..

As we close, our prayer is that you can say, I can see clearly now the future is full of hope (eternal life is real).

I can see clearly now the power is at work in us (me).

I can see clearly now the wisdom and revelation in Jesus Christ…..

That your life may be clearly discernible……that you can stand and face whatever demon, whatever fear, whatever challenge you may be facing today, knowing of God’s power at work in you…..knowing the great hope of God’s great future for us who believe.

Amen

Ephesians 1:7-14

This past week I was discussing with a Muslim gentleman about Jesus……for which he declared that he also believes in Jesus and he believes that there are no differences between the two religions.

I then responded by pointing out that according to Islam, Jesus did not die on the cross, but Allah took him away – and according to the bible Jesus died (in fact at the centre of Christian faith is the death of Jesus Christ).

I would like to reaffirm that statement and point out that without the cross of Jesus, we have not Christianity…..we are still in our sins…..

Just as the heart is at the centre of every life – so is the cross of Jesus, the crucifixion is at the centre of every Christian…..

Without the crucifixion, there is no resurrection…..without the resurrection there is no hope for eternity (since our hope to new life is intertwined with the resurrection of Jesus Christ).

Would you then turn with me to Ephesians 1:7ff

Note what this text does not say;

In him we have redemption through church attendance, through our parents’ faith, through our own good works……through our own. At the centre of our redemption is a person (In Him)…..it is through his blood”.

But what it does say is:-

Through the blood

In him (Christ), we have redemption through his blood…..

But before we focus on this, some explanation of term ‘Redemption’ is necessary:

Redemption:

Redemption is an act whereby a price is paid to free another (could be a slave, land, someone who went bankrupt).

Redemption for our text has an understanding of someone who was enslaved to hell, and complete bankruptcy towards heaven / towards God.

In this text it says “In Him we have redemption through his blood”.

In other words in Christ, man’s bankruptcy towards God is brought to an end. The one who couldn’t come into the presence of God can now stand before God in his presence.

The one who couldn’t cry out to God, today, when he or she turns to God, knows that he can be heard……

The one whose life was confused, had no direction, no hope……today has hope and a clear direction for his life, because God in him, has drawn himself to us and drawn us to Him (heaven has come down to us, and us have been given a place heaven).

We are known, we are loved, we are cared for, we are shielded, we are guided, and we are not alone…..

In this life, that can be lonely and scary, we can know that we are not alone (God has come down to us from heaven).

All this has been made possible through his blood……

Without the blood……it is for this reason I said, “The cross, the crucifixion, the death of Jesus is at the centre of our move and being and our faith”.

This was a message that God has been communicating right from the beginning of time…..

For Adam and Eve, God killed an animal and used the skin to cover their nakedness.

An idea that seem to have come to the fore even with the offering of Abel.

Then the whole sacrificial system in the OT, was a prophetic word to his people, that God would one day let one die for the sake of the other……

Animals had to be slaughtered.

Animals had to be killed. These animals would serve as an substitutionary atonement for sin (the idea of the substitute did not start with soccer, but it started with God).

When an animal would die as a substitute for man….

There is a beautiful story in OT that illustrates this so well; Leviticus 16:20-22 reads “when Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of Israel – all their sins and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place and the man shall release it in the desert”.

On the Day of Atonement, two goats were required (one was slaughtered as a sin offering), the other was then brought before the people and the priest would pronounce all the sins of the people). He would say something like this –

Idolater here is your sin, immoral people here is all your sin placed on this goat ….”

God taught his people the idea of another given for the sins of another.

That is what God did in Jesus (he punished him for our sins). He paid the prize for us (he punished his Son for our sins).

God still punishes sin (instead of punishing you – he has punished his Son).

So that it would be possible for you to live your life (in a riddled with sin, fear, sickness, death), you are able to stand and face life because God has made him who knew no sin to be a sin offering for you…..

You can face life – because God is on your side…..God is for you – “If God is for us, who can be against us?” says Paul elsewhere.

I want you to get this right: God has done all this for you and I (not because we were good people, but rather the opposite).

Look at vs.7c, “according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us”.

That simply means our forgiveness or his blood was offered because God is rich in grace.

Rich in grace – God is very generous in giving that which we don’t deserve. What motivated him was his generous heart in giving that we don’t deserve (that is what grace is) getting what we don’t deserve….

God’s heart is so generous – so generous that he would have a plan to give his own Son so that justice will be served on him instead of us…..

So generous that he would not treat us as our sins deserve…. That is the God we serve; is that not good enough reason for you and I to offer our lives as a praise of his grace?

This plan was not an afterthought, it was not trial and error – look at vs.8:

Vs.8b “in all wisdom and insight, making known to us the mystery of his will”.

This was done with precision and complete knowledge on what he was doing – of course revealing the mystery of his will”.

If you are anything like me – you would agree that there was a time in your life where you thought you knew all things? Where you thought you were the wisest man to live on earth?

Maybe you were 18, 28, 38, or even 58, then something happened (bang) then you realized that you were not as knowledgeable and wise as you thought ….

You don’t always have the answers, you don’t always know what will become…..

But what we are dealing with here – it’s something completely different from what you have seen before “in all wisdom and insight, making known the mystery of his will”.

God has a clear picture, not just how to do it but also what it will achieve, when it will happen….he knows all angles….

He possesses wisdom and insight into all things – He is the all-knowing and the all-wise God.

He doesn’t walk by faith as we are, he walks by sight ……the full plan was laid before him.

He possesses all wisdom and all knowledge….. The plan of Salvation and our redemption as Paul says was planned before the foundations of the earth…. He will die for us…..he dies in our stead….

However for many this is foolishness – The cross is foolishness – who should send his son to die for the sins of others? (that is foolishness)

From 1 Cor. 1:18 Paul writes “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”.

It doesn’t make sense – for them – God is like a foolish old man.

Paul wants you and I not to get confused – God’s plan was done with all wisdom and insight…..

Mind you, the pagan gods of the time were understood to be often inconsistent or bound by an uncertainty as to what they could do.

Paul says, “Don’t confuse them with God, he is the all knowing and all wise God at his best……. Revealing his plan”.

A plan that he had put in place…..

Know this and receive this – you are not an afterthought!

You are not second thought; You are not a product of trial and error…..

You are a product of the One and Only who planned his Son to die for you…..and planned your life to be found in his Son…..

Paul questions, “Is that not sufficient for you to join with us and offer your life in praise of this God?”

God has this plan perfect for you, that at the exact moment he sent his Son……

Read vs.9,

“Making known to us the mystery of his will according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth”.

For the fullness of time” – there was an exact moment and time that God’s plan, which comes from his full understanding and wisdom, would be fulfilled…..

In AD27 Jesus began his ministry up to the year 30AD. For man, this was an opportunity to get rid of him at his prime time dying at the age of 33yrs.

However, as he walked up to Jerusalem – in AD30 – telling his disciples that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be killed, he knew this was the moment – God’s plan had reached its climax….the time had come – the Son of Man was to be given to man to spit upon and even be killed.

Jesus was not killed by circumstances – by chance – it was all the plan of the all knowing – all wise God…..

God doesn’t work through guess work…..or throwing dice…..no!

In fact, in Acts 17 we have a similar statement made about you and I in 17:26, “From one man he made every nation of men that they should inhibit the whole earth, and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”

He didn’t guess when you will be born (he set your day of birth) he didn’t guess and be surprised where you were born (he set the exact places where you and I should live).

That was his accuracy…..it’s all the plan of this wise, all knowing God.

The purpose – For what purpose?

Vs.10c “To bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ”.

That which was not revealed in full previously…….that which was according to his purpose.

That which was worked with such precision and foreknowledge – was done to unite all things in Him.

What does it mean “all things united in Him” (in heaven and on earth)? It seems Paul has in mind the cosmic renewal – where creation finds it restoration and its purpose again….

It is in Jesus’ ministry that everything is restored to God’s first intended plan…..

As we stand today the whole of creation is fragmented and frustrated……

Romans 8:22-23, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of child bearing until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies”.

Somehow in Jesus the whole creation finds its meaningful and restful relationship in God….

The purpose for all of this is to make sure that God’s creation is restored to God’s intended plan…..

To that meaningful relationship with God…….to that relationship that Adam and Eve enjoyed before the fall…..

The entire salvation history has been directed and guided to just this one purpose: the unification of all in things in Christ…..

From a troubled, fragmented, frustrated creation – To a restored, restful, in the right place in God (its all been heading towards this aim….this Man, Jesus Christ)

So for you, child of God, I wonder if you can see part of something bigger than yourself …..of something that history has been directed towards … it’s a grand plan of God….. to restore you your Creator God?

This is not an overnight cooked plan…..this plan has existed throughout eternity…..it’s been guided by the hand of God throughout history and in the fullness of time – It’s been brought through…..in the person and the ministry of Jesus…..

Creation finds its purpose – man and woman find their purpose…..

Maybe you haven’t come? There is something bigger than you at stake here……will you ignore such a great plan? Amen.