Does anybody here like mysteries? I love a good mystery! And I am going to share a mystery with you this morning. But I may be misleading you a little. Because when people use the word mystery nowadays they are usually talking about detective mysteries, Sherlock Holmes or Chief Inspector Morse – puzzles to be solved. But I am using the word mystery in its original sense. Something hidden. Something mysterious. Something waiting to be revealed. This morning we are going to talk about what the apostle Paul calls God’s mystery. Something God is doing in secret which at the moment is concealed but in the fullness of time will be revealed to everybody. We could call it “God’s cosmic masterplan.” That is the heart of the message of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: God’s cosmic masterplan. And that masterplan is all wrapped up in the Church, God’s new community.
One body for God’s glory SLIDE 2
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. (3:6)
In the Old Testament all of God’s purposes were being fulfilled through His chosen people the nation of Israel. But when Christ came all God’s promises were offered more widely to reach every person of every race and every nation. So anybody can be blessed with
the unsearchable riches of Christ, (3:8)
Indeed the blessings God has given us in Christ are unsearchable – we will enjoy God’s love throughout eternity and still have only experienced a tiny fraction of all that God has for us in Christ. But God hasn’t just planned to bless us as individuals.
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, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. (3:10-11)
God’s masterplan is to reveal His wisdom to the whole of Creation – through Christ and through the church. But for us the most obvious expression of his mystery is in
All the blessings God gives us SLIDE 3
every spiritual blessing in Christ. (1:3)
he chose us in him …
“You did not choose me but I chose you” Jesus said
.to be holy and blameless in his sight. (1:4)
We see our own faults, imperfections, our failures, our wilful sins, but God does not see these things! He only sees Christ on the cross in our place paying the penalty for us. God makes us holy and blameless.
he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, (1:5)
Salvation is God’s gift. There is nothing we could have done, not even saying yes to god’s gracious offer of eternal life, which can contribute to our salvation. It is all of God’s wonderful grace. And God the eternal heavenly Father adopts us into His family and makes us His beloved children!
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, (1:7)
God has redeemed us – He has bought us back! Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven! Who like me His praise should sing?
the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (1:8)
Grace – God’s riches at Christ’s expense. God has lavished on us every spiritual blessing in Christ!
If only we could see ourselves as God sees us!
In eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, the root of problem is that the person looks in the mirror and sees a distorted picture of themselves. They see themselves as too fat, or too thin. So they starve themselves or binge eat to compensate. If only they could see themselves as they really are they would not do these things!
Many Christians suffer from spiritual anorexia – they just don’t see themselves as God sees them! We need to remind ourselves that what matters is not how we feel about ourselves but how God feels about us. What matters is not what we say about ourselves but what God says about us. The Bible shows us how God sees us in Christ! The Bible is God’s mirror that shows us what we are truly like in God’s eyes, just how precious and special we are to God!!
And the wonderful truth is that each one of us who has trusted in Christ as our Saviour has received EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING IN CHRIST! The sadness is that for most of the time we just don’t realise it!!
There was once a rich man who read about a very special and precious painting. He saw a photograph of the picture, liked what he saw and wanted to own the original. So he sent his staff out to buy it for him. For months they asked around and looked in all kinds of places. In the end the report came back. The painting had been wrapped up and tucked away in the rich man’s own house. He already owned it!! But just wasn’t enjoying it! In the same way so many Christians do not enjoy so many of the blessings they have already received in Christ!! We are already so richly blessed!
God’s “mystery” = cosmic masterplan SLIDE 4
the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, purposed in Christ, (1:9)
God doesn’t just plan to bless each of us as individuals. God has a mystery, a secret cosmic masterplan to bless the whole of Creation. That plan is this:
to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (1:10)
God’s purposes are not complete when individuals are saved. His masterplan is to unite the whole universe in Christ. He has begun this already when Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead. We have been
brought near through the blood of Christ. (2:13)
Jesus has brought us back to God. And all who are brought back to God in Christ are also brought closer to each other – in Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one (2:14)
Christians talk a lot about the peace of Christ. Can the world see that peace in our church relationships? Within the Body of Christ there is plenty of room for diversity of gifts, but underlying that diversity is a very special unity which comes from Christ Himself.
His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, (2:15)
The world is divided by so many things: race and colour, riches and poverty, even religion, Jews and non-Jews. God’s cosmic masterplan is to heal division by bringing peace through Christ. All who come to Christ are united in His body, the church.
God’s new community the church SLIDE 5
When any person is saved they become part of God’s new community, the church. They are
no longer foreigners and aliens,
but fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, (2:19)
This is God’s cosmic masterplan – we are all united in Christ.
built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (2:20)
Each of us are the bricks God is using to build a new kind of temple.
In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. (2:21)
And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (2:22)
The old Temples were built of stone. The New Temple is made of living stones and God lives in us!
So what part do we have to play in God’s cosmic masterplan? It’s very simple. God is creating a new community, all one in Christ Jesus. All we have to do is not mess things up!
Don’t break that unity! SLIDE 6
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (4:1-6)
We have so much in common that draws us together – so much which we share as Christians which this lost world does not share.
4 There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
We have SO MUCH in common. All the blessings God has poured out on each of us as Christians as we saw from Ephesians chapter 1. God’s wonderful grace which we haven’t even looked at from chapter 2.
2 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
As Christians we share all these blessings. We have so many things in common – we HAVE to learn to live with each other. We are one body – says Paul. Think about your body. Is there any part of your body you don’t like? Your ears? Your nose? Your feet when they play you up? But is there any part of your body you dislike so much that if you could you would have the doctors chop it off? I very much doubt it. We are the family of God! Think of your human family – your relatives – is there any member of your human family you wish was dead? Wish they were cut off? Wish they just weren’t part of the family any more? Of course not! Christians should never ignore other Christians or treat them as if they aren’t part of the family of the church.
Keeping the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace can be very hard. Some people are very hard to please!!! We can all find things to criticise and even fall out about!
The wife of one hard-to-please husband was determined to try her best to satisfy him for just one day. ‘Darling,’ she asked, ‘what would you like for breakfast this morning?’ He growled, ‘Coffee and toast, bacon and sausage, and two eggs — one scrambled and one fried.’ She soon had the food on the table and waited for a word of praise. After a quick glance, he exclaimed, ‘Trust you to go and scramble the wrong egg!”
We can always find things to criticise. We need to work hard at preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. God has already created the unity – in Christ. All we have to do is not mess things up! Because when we do we are getting in the way of His cosmic masterplan!
Two porcupines in the freezing north country of Canada huddled together to keep warm in the snow. But because they were pricked by each other’s quills, they moved apart. Soon they were shivering again and had to lie side by side once more for their own survival. They needed each other even more than they needled each other!
Members of any church sometimes rub up against each other and needle each other. But we DO NEED each other even more than we needle each other! But we need to work hard to stick together, to move on with God as ONE body, ONE family.
To dwell above with saints we love,
That will be grace and glory.
To live below with saints we know;
Well that’s another story!
At the end of Ephesians 4 Paul explains in practice what we need to do to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Eph 4:29 Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you. 30 And do not make God’s Holy Spirit sad; for the Spirit is God’s mark of ownership on you, a guarantee that the Day will come when God will set you free. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.
Forgive others as God has forgiven us. A great general once said to John Wesley, “I never forgive and I never forget.” To which Wesley responded, “Then Sir, I hope you never sin.” When we reflect on how much God has forgiven us, it makes our own little grudges against others seem rather petty.
Here is God’s mystery. His cosmic masterplan is to bring the whole of Creation together in one body, His new community, even in Christ. And we who have received every spiritual blessing in Christ are part of that masterplan!