Saturday, August 7, 2010

EPHESIANS: Mystery From the Messiah - The Church

After some weeks we will now return to the study in the book of Ephesians!
We begin with chapter three of this marvelous book that Paul the Apostle wrote to the church at Ephesus, but also "to the faithful in Christ Jesus." (EPH 1:1) Is this book then applicable to you and I? Are we faithful in Christ?

If you find yourself lacking in faithfulness, bring it before the One who loves you supremely; He can work this good fruit into your lives; sow the seed of God's Word into your heart, be diligent in prayer in this matter, yield to His power by the Spirit who alone can empower us to obedience, then march out in faith, trusting that He will in fact perform this good work in you (PHIL 1:6; EPH 2:10)!

Paul continues to elaborate on the body of Christ, which is the holy habitation, the building of God, of which each and every saint is a "living stone" but takes it a step further; "Paul the prisoner of Jesus Christ for [us] Gentiles" starts out in vs. 2 in speaking of "the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward":

EPH 3:1-2
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

Dispensation here is the Greek word, oikonomia - "the administration (of a household or an estate) spec. (religious) economy, stewardship. The management of a household or of household affairs (oikos - house; nomos - law); the management or of administration of the property of others; stewardship." Oikonomia is found in four references in scripture: 1 COR 9:17 (dispensation of the gospel); EPH 1:10 (dispensation of the fullness of times [the Second Coming]), 3:2 (dispensation of the grace of God) and COL 1:25 (dispensation of God, and His Word).

Interesting to note that when one speaks of salvation, we address the spiritual truth of our deliverance from slavery to sin, and the enslavement of death that is (was!) upon all our lives; the hard, cruel bondage of these ruthless, merciless task masters that Satan uses to keep people bound in fear (HEB 2:14-15). Yet we that are in Christ Jesus are liberated from such bondage, but it seems Paul still refers to himself as a prisoner, or a desmios - "a captive, one who is bound, a prisoner".

Paul addresses himself with this term in several places: including here in our text: EPH 4:1; 2 TIM 1:8 and PHILEMON :1, and :9. To be bound to Christ is not a compulsory binding, but out of a willing heart of love, a love so sacrificial and self-denying that the lover of Christ Jesus seeks only the will of their LORD, and never assumes any rights for themselves.

This is the life of a true disciple, and that is a life of willing sacrifice:

PSALM 118:27
God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.

On the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus was shown the glorious Light of Jesus Christ, and fell to the ground, and his immediate response to the Word of the LORD was "What will you have me to do, Lord?" (ACTS 9:6)

He bound himself as a living sacrifice (ROM 12:1) to the LORD and to any uses He would employ in him that became, Paul the apostle. Among those uses was the primary stewardship of grace to the Gentiles, as the apostle to the Gentiles, as he elaborates here!

Note that according to the definition of dispensation, that this is a stewardship of Another's resources, and not one's own. It's said of some that Paul was a renegade from the other apostles and turned the message of Jesus Christ towards his own views and agenda.

Nothing could be further from the Truth! His preaching of the grace of God through Christ Jesus is the heavenly resource of God Himself, not of Paul or any other!

We read about this here:

GAL 1:6-12
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant [slave] of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.


If Paul was a renegade, and created a pseudo-gospel himself, he certainly would not have been received by any of the other Apostles, yet we read in various places, that the others "perceived" that the grace of God was upon them (Paul and Barnabas), and they gave them the right hand of fellowship (GAL 2:9). At the Council at Jerusalem (ACTS 15), where the apostle James (the LORD's brother) presided along with Peter, Paul was present and there is absolute no indication that he and, or his gospel message was rejected as heretical.

Some would suggest that this concept of 'grace' was a Pauline idea, however even a cursory examination of the Gospels reveals that grace is most certainly taught, expounded upon, and revealed by the teachings and actions of Jesus Christ, and of our Father God!
The word 'grace' doesn't appear in JOHN 3:16, and yet there in that one verse alone the act of grace is the most profound of any biblical text! Amen?

Paul continues:

EPH 3:3-4
How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ).

Mystery: we are all intrigued by it, be it in a novel or a film; these are puzzles of perplexity that are rather entertaining to unravel and solve. Yet here the word 'mystery' is musterion, and this word implies something revealed, not solved or a case 'cracked' by some Holmesian detective.

No one with all their intellect, and scholastic training, or keen insights could ever penetrate any of the mysteries which God has recorded in scripture (and there are quite a few!); the word mystery occurs 22x in 22 references in the New Testament. Seventeen of these times by Paul in his epistles; six times in the epistle to the Ephesians alone! Rather, as Paul here indicates, these hidden mysteries are things that God brings by means of His own Divine intervening and imparting of revelation!

EPH 1:9; EPH 3:3, 4, 9, EPH 5:32 and EPH 6:19. In these mysteries as recorded in this epistle, God reveals His will and purpose (1:9), the Person of Christ and all that this Office entails (3:3-4 [Christ, i.e., Messiah-King, both Ruler and Savior of Israel and of the people of Gentile nations who express faith in Him]); He reveals the fellowship with God and how its obtained (3:9 [through Jesus Christ]); the relationship between Christ and the church is revealed (5:32); lastly the mystery of the Gospel is revealed (6:19).

I find it imperative to elaborate on this point as there are so many out there today that take it upon themselves to 'interpret' God's Holy Word and proclaim what the Bible really means when it says such and such, particularly where the Gospel is concerned.

The likes of Rick Warren, Brian McClaren, Rob Bell, Tony Campollo and Doug Pagett, among countless others now, all purporting to proclaim the true Gospel, when in fact they are producing perditious and plastic imitations of the Gospel that really bear very little resemblance to the genuine article!

What is the Gospel then? According to the Divine revelation of God Himself which He imparted to Paul the Apostle who was himself inspired by God's Spirit to scribe two-thirds of the New Testament epistles:

1 COR 15:1-4
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

All this happened "according to the scriptures" (read that, Old Testament) and thus has been verified and fulfilled by the LORD Jesus Christ, demonstrating the Truth of these things!

The Gospel is non-negotiable! It is not open to 'interpretation'! It cannot and should not be perverted by 'consensus' so that mutual 'understanding and common ground' may be arrived at in some vain attempt at ecumenical peace with the unsaved peoples of all religions as those of the Emergent Church movement are intent on doing!

There IS no common ground between the Word of God, and its accompanying Gospel and those world religions that know nothing of salvation by grace alone, in Christ alone, by believing in the Truth of God's Word alone!

EPH 3:5-6
Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

This mystery was unknown in the Old Testament ("other ages"), that is that the Gentiles would become a part of the same body of believers as the Jews who would come to know their Messiah, which resulted from being born of His Spirit (EZEK 36:26-27). True there were many Gentile proselytes under Judaism; they were circumcised and adopted Judaism and followed God in this way, but the actual spiritual regeneration of both Jews and Gentiles who would form an entirely new entity apart from Israel was something hidden in these 'other ages', but . . .

" . . . now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit . . . "

The LORD Jesus stated that He had many things to speak to His Twelve, but that they could not bear them now, but later when the Spirit was given, He would in fact reveal these things to them (JOHN 16:12-13); of course this is one of those things that the LORD intended on revealing to them, in time, for the benefit of the church, which He (Jesus Christ) would build (and no other! MATT 16:18).

Verses 5 and 6 relates very well with Ch. 2:14-22 in that these deal with the union in Christ being experienced by both Jew and Gentile in the establishment of this new entity, the ekklesia (called out [of the world] assembly) of Jesus Christ.

Its vital to understand that the church is not to mimic the world, or adopt its ways, or cater to its culture, or modify its conduct or message in order to make them more palatable to the world's tastes. Why would that be such a bad thing? Because we are called OUT from the world, and while we are IN the world, we are not to be OF the world. Listen to the words of the LORD Jesus Himself as He prayed to the Father:

JOHN 17:14-18
I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

And hear His admonition to His followers:

JOHN 15:18-20
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also
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Now, no one goes out of their way to cause people to hate them; we all generally make every attempt to be on good terms with everyone, and we enjoy being liked. It gives us a sense of belonging and security; the scriptures even tell us to be at peace with all men, as much as we are able (ROM 12:18).

Yet if we follow our LORD faithfully, and obey His call to proclaim His Word to others, there will be those of the world that will hate us. As the days we live in here in America proceed to get darker, I'll warrant that we will experience this more and more, that is, those of us who refuse to compromise the Gospel, the Word of God, the message and commission of the Church.

What price are we willing to pay in order to remain faithful to God? What sacrifice on our part, in the Holy Light of Calvary, is 'too extreme' in order to faithfully follow our LORD, the Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah? I believe we are going to find out in these days ahead, exactly what we are all willing (or not) to do for the LORD.

Unfortunately, the church in general is becoming quite the friend to the world these days (JAMES 4:4), hob-knobbing and associating with its members, and forgetting that we are not OF this world; that as saints we are to be SANCTified, set apart FROM the world, and exclusively FOR God. Much of the church is seeking consensus and unity, not merely with other denominations and affiliations, but with other religions, as well as with secular society!

What would Paul have to say about such things? I have no doubts what he would say!

2 COR 6:14-18
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

Getting back to EPH 3:6 " . . . partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel . . ."

He has promised never to leave us nor forsake us, He has promised us that His grace is sufficient for us, He has promised that where sin abounds, grace much more abounds, He has promised we will never endure any temptation that is greater than what we can bear. We are partakers of His promise in Christ, and all that this entails.

Whatever the trial, whatever the hardship, whatever the persecution or ostracization from society, we are partakers of His promise, and for any assault from our own sinful flesh, the world, or Satan himself, He has a provision for us that will more than compensate! This is the spiritual truth we must brand into our very hearts by the conviction and fire of the Holy Spirit! We will have need of such convictions in this wayward nation of ours!

EPH 3:7-8
Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

Are you a minister? Well, that depends; are you born again? are you saved? are you a member of the body of Christ? If you can answer 'yes' to these questions, then you know the answer to the first question as well, which is "YES, I AM A MINISTER!"

'Minister' in this reference is from the Greek word diakonos, that is, "to run errands, an attendent, a waiter, minister, servant; it can also refer to a Christian pastor and or teacher, a deacon or deaconess. This word focuses on the servant in his activities for the work."

Are we not all servants of Christ? Is this not the admonition which our LORD gave us when addressing who will be the greatest in the kingdom (MATT 23:11)? Obviously, the greatest in the kingdom will be Jesus Christ, for He took upon Himself the form of a servant, and humbled Himself to the death of the cross for our sins (PHIL 2:5-11)!

Those who model their lives after His, will establish such a glorious procession of beautiful saints which we shall behold on that day in which we shall all face our LORD and Master in Judgment (for rewards - the bema seat judgment: 2 COR 5:10). I can't help but wonder, will I be one of those? How about you?

Life is short, as HIS saints let's make the most of it: let us be the ministers that God has called us to be! If you're feeling inadequate to the task remember that old but true saying, God doesn't call the qualified (there ain't none!), he qualifies ("according to the gift of His grace of God . . . by the effectual working of His power") "the called" (ROM 8:28).

Vs. 8: " . . . the unsearchable riches of Christ . . . "

How can one possibly plumb the depths of this eternal reservoire of righteousness, this everlasting well of Living Water, this storehouse of sanctified power and grace that surpasses our greatest of needs? I find myself powerless to even comprehend, let alone expound on the truth of this verse, but this small token I can give you:

God, Creator of the heavens and the earth, He who is the Creator also of the New Heavens, and the New Earth, the New Jerusalem, and the New man which all of us are in Christ Jesus; this God for Whom nothing is impossible, will freely grant to His own Beloved Son, the LORD Jesus Christ, any request that He would.

If you are in Christ, then these same riches are yours (not the paltry, cheap, deplorable, and wretched 'riches' of this world that those of the Word-Faith movement would have you covet after: a bigger better house, car, bank account, wardrobe, etc.) but the eternal riches that shall endure and outlast sun, moon and stars! (EPH 1:17-23)

Ask what you will of God, and in accordance to His will, you will have your request! AWESOME INDEED! See 1 JOHN 5:14.
And finally, the last two verses of this segment in this study of Ephesians

EPH 3:9-10
And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

There is a phrase here (highlighted in green) that perplexed me somewhat and so I referred to a work in the Hebrew/Greek linguistics to find out how this verse was rendered there.

Jay P. Green's Interlinear Bible renders this verse in a rather fascinating way (Green is a renowned Hebrew and Greek scholar, whose works are used by many reputable pastors, teachers and seminarians):

"and to bring all to light, what is the fellowship of the mystery having been hidden from eternity in God, the One creating all things through Jesus Christ, so that now to the rulers and to the authorities of heavenlies might be known the manifold wisdom of God"

It seems that this mystery is not only being revealed to us, to teach us the spiritual truth contained therein, but likewise also, the angelic realm is learning some lessons as well. It may very well be that not all of these are the holy angels either!

God, in His grace and mercy, 'flaunting' them as it were, in the face of Satan and all his legions, amply demonstrates His glory and beauty and holiness and grace as the One Who alone is WORTHY of worship to the exclusion of ALL others! Hallelujah!

Peter makes this remark concerning the sufferings and glories of Christ Jesus (which we will witness! JOHN 7: 24; 1 COR 2:7) that angels themselves are investigating:

1 PET 1:11-12
Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
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In the "manifold wisdom of God" He has devised this Divine plan of redemption whereby the sins of humanity are judged, without condemning humanity to eternal punishment. He has revealed this mystery of redemption wherein we can now, thanks to the LORD JESUS, stand as righteous before a Holy God without violating His Holy Nature and Judgment!

Having dealt with sin, having imparted to us holiness, maintaining our communion with God Almighty by His grace, we can now enjoy fellowship with HIM! The very thing that was broken by Adam and Eve, that put us at an unreachable distance (as far as we're concerned) from God, which distance was maintained throughout the Old Testament and its sacrifices which could only cover up, and not remove our sins; that distance, that gap has been repaired, and by the blood of Calvary its been closed up, so that God is no longer distant, nor confined to a single location, as in a Temple made of stone, but ably resides in temples made of flesh and blood!

May we never, ever take for granted the blessedness of fellowship with our heavenly Abba, nor ever forget the supreme sacrifice that was paid for its availability! May we ever abide within the hallowed halls of this fellowship and commune with our tender-hearted Father Who loves us so supremely, so sublimely, that it will take an eternity to perceive its depths, heights, widths and breadths in Christ Jesus our LORD! May I suggest as a closing that you read Romans Ch. 8 for meditation and supplementation to this study?

ROM 8:38-39
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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May the LORD continue to bless and encourage you in your walk with Him, and grant you His grace and peace in ever increasing installments, according to the riches of Christ Jesus our LORD! AMEN!
Nikao Aionios A.V.R.A.S.!

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