Today we continue our messages from the letter that Paul wrote to the Ephesians.
Please note the tone that Paul has when he writes this letter is one of deep and humble gratitude to God. Thankfulness and gratitude is not one of my main points for the day, but it is a wonderful introduction to what we are about to read and a reminder to us to live life gratefully.
This morning’s message is simply an encouragement to receive God’s gift of grace with gratitude and to live life declaring the gospel energised and enriched by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I would like to consider how we have:
A grace to receive
A gospel to proclaim
A power to experience
A Gospel to Receive
Paul points out that the Ephesian believers are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit – and that meant both Jew and Gentiles together. This could only happen in HIM, that is in Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus Christ is the pre-requisite for God to have anything to do with us at all. He is the touchstone to life. It is only in Him that we can have God dwell in us by his Spirit.
Secondly and perhaps Paul’s main point from chapter 2 is that there no longer can be any barrier between Jew and Gentile. It is only when we are in Christ that the barriers that exist to divide us all can be thrown away. This was such an extraordinary statement to the Christians of the day that Paul digresses to remind them how this all came about. As he writes we learn the following:
Paul explains that believers are being built into the dwelling place of God. This is in Christ alone and by his Holy Spirit.
God’s grace is a gift to the Ephesians. It is a place of deep privilege and blessing and security as we learned from chapter 1
Paul’s stewardship/responsibility (to the Gentiles) is also a gift from God. This is a role that he takes very seriously, but also humbly and gratefully.
Paul describes the mystery of Christ – something not previously explained before – that the Gentiles are
Members of the same body and
Partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus – through the gospel
The implications of this gift and this knowledge is that:
We need to understand firstly the Goodness of God and his Grace to us
There is absolutely no excuse for the barriers that we create between people. We really have no excuse to feel ongoing resentment to people. We are all sinners. We are all needing cleansing. There is no one who can lay any kind of prior claim or privilege to the gospel. We have all been brought together to share in Christ body
We need to be humbly grateful for God’s gift of grace.
A Gospel to Proclaim
In particular he describes himself as given to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of God. This too was another mystery – one where the church was going to be the vehicle for revealing the wisdom of God. This is big stuff. Here is what he says
Paul is a recipient of God’s grace. Paul was deeply grateful to God. He recognised that he was undeserving of God’s blessing on him. But he was certain that God had appointed him to the role of ministering God’s grace to others. God’s gift came to Paul by the working of God’s power in him. It was God’s power that challenged him and then changed him on the Damascus road at his conversion. It was God’s power that taught him and moulded him whilst away in Arabia. It was God’s power that energised him and motivated him in all his travels through Asia on his missionary journeys and which still inspired him endure suffering and hardship and then to be able to write and contribute to the inspired word of God that we hold in our hands today.
His task was to preach to the Gentiles - He was to reveal the mystery of the role of the Church. The Church is make known the wisdom of God to all rulers and authorities in heavenly places. The church that we have in mind may look disorganised and disunified and factional. The church which is Christ’s body is revealing the wisdom of God to heavenly beings. There will yet be a day when the church will presented to himself as a spotless bride in splendour (Eph 5:27) without spot or wrinkle or blemish. - the unsearchable riches of Christ. He had learned something of this in day to day experience of walking with his Lord through his Spirit. He had learned from the Scriptures of how it spoke of the Messiah, the Christ. He had learned and was continuing to learn through suffering and hardship. He counted everything but loss/or dung to know Christ (Phil 3:7-11)
God has an eternal purpose in mind through Jesus Christ. He will not be thwarted in his overarching plan of the ages. His plans will be fulfilled and realised in Jesus Christ. He has a plan for the church, he has plan for you and me. He also had a plan for Paul.
Paul is a prisoner for this gospel and suffering on behalf of those to whom he is writing. This too is part of God’s calling for Paul. He knows that God is sovereign. He knows that God is using him for his own glory and to bring many “sons to salvation”. Paul’s suffering is not in vain
The gospel is an immense treasure to be valued and prized above all things
We need to understand and appreciate the unsearchable riches of Christ. There is more to be learned in the knowledge of God than we will ever accomplish in this life. But to know Jesus Christ and learn more of him and experience more of him on daily basis in every department of our lives is to plumb depths of living which cannot be matched by anything else in this world
We too have been given a responsibility to make disciples of every nation. Paul took this command very seriously. He said I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it is the power of God for salvation (Rom 1:16). In Acts he preached: “ for there is no other name given under heaven whereby we may be saved” (Acts 4:12). He reminds us again in Romans 10:14 and 15 that how are people to come to Christ unless they hear about him. How are people to hear without someone telling them. “How beautiful are the feet of those that preach the good news”. We all have a responsibility – out of gratitude – to tell people the good news of the gospel
We need to have a high regard for the church which exists to display the wisdom of God to rulers in heavenly places. Yes there are terrible depths to which so called “Christians” go in sinful and immoral and even violent behaviour. But God is calling us his body to declare his wisdom and love and power and holiness
We must not lose heart over our own suffering when it occurs, nor for others who suffer around the world, but rather seek God’s help in time of trouble and seek to help others where we can. In doing so we must learn – perhaps afresh – what it means to both live out and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ
A Power to experience
Paul now ends his digression and is back on track. He wants to pray for the Ephesian believers some more. He had a prayer back in chapter 1. He has explained so much. He is going to pray for them again. He wants them to know and experience Gods power in a very deep and real way. This is something so extraordinary because it is rooted in God’s love and it surpasses knowledge.
How does this all happen and what is the purpose of God’s power in us?
Firstly, God’s power comes through his Spirit in us. He is not some magic that we tap into. God indwells the believer when they come to faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their saviour. Notice this is the Trinity. God indwells the believer through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. We do not need to do stuff to get God to work for us. He is working on us and in us and through us. It is His power and His working and His agenda – not ours.
The purpose of God is that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith. One of the Holy Spirit’s main work of power in us is simply this – a strengthening of our faith. A real and settled assurance of all that God is to us in Christ Jesus. From him comes salvation itself, but then the assurance of salvation and then the power of change in our lives to become more like Christ.
Our faith is rooted in grounded on the love of God. The Holy Spirit will strengthen us to know the love of Christ. His immeasurable and overwhelmingly comprehensive love. This is love that is part of the perfect love within the Godhead, perfect unity, perfect obedience, perfect sense of the plans and purposes of God, and a perfect commitment to fulfil that plan even if it meant the death on a cross and being subjected to the wrath of God for sin. Yes, the love of Christ surpasses knowledge.
The love Christ is completed when we are filled with the fulness of God. These are words and ideas beyond our comprehension and beyond what we can adequately describe. They point us to a depth of experience of love and assurance and fellowship with God that we can but point each other towards and let God himself teach us what this means in each of our lives.
The first mention of the word power with respect to believers was actually in Acts 1:8 where Luke writes how Jesus instructed his disciples to go to Jerusalem. There they were to receive power…for what? They were to be his witnesses. One of the main reasons for God indwelling us by His Spirit in power is to enable us to be his witnesses.
God is able to do far more abundantly that all we ask or think, according to th