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This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.
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Well, let’s take our Bibles. We’re going to finish out our study of Ephesians 3:1–13, the message we started last week called “The Great Mystery.” We’re not going to read the text; just have your Bible open. We’ll work our way through what remains.
As you know, our daughter Beth has been dealing with a medical condition where she’s gone through several fainting spells. And, a week or two ago, they put her on a tilt table to induce another fainting spell or a blackout to see what was going on. They were disturbed—and we were disturbed, and afterwards she was disturbed—to learn that during that time her heart stopped for eight seconds, and it beat one more time and then stopped for eight seconds until it started to beat once more. That bothered the doctors and the medical staff, and so since then, they have been working on a remedy or trying to get to the bottom of that.
This week she went in for surgery, and they put inside of her and her chest a loop recorder, which is a wonderful piece of medical machinery that has a battery life of three years. And so, it records the rhythms of her heart and her brainwork in relation with her heart so that they can keep an eye on what goes on on a daily basis and perhaps get to see what might be triggering these fainting spells. And so, in two weeks she goes back in, the data will have been gathered, and they’ll have a better read on what’s going on. In fact, every morning now for the next 14 days, a technician will read the data that’s just being live-streamed.
Late one night this week, Beth texted our family and said, “Does anybody want to download the app?” Because there’s an app she has that we can have that allows us to see the live-streaming of this data regarding the rhythm of her heart and, I believe, the brainwaves that work with the heart to keep us alive. I texted back, “Yeah, I’d like to download the app.” When I wrote back to let her know I’d love to have the app, I wrote this: “What a time to be alive.” What a time to be alive with this kind of technology and medical apparatus available to us. Now there’s something inside your body that live-streams your heartbeat and the rhythms of your heart and the working of your brain. And you can actually have your own app to watch what’s going on. It’s an amazing time to be alive. We’re so thankful for scientists and medical staff who have developed these wonderful mechanisms that extend life and help us live life. “What a time to be alive.” That’s what I said to Beth.
And, you know what? As we come back to Ephesians 3:1–13, I think that’s exactly what Paul’s thinking and what Paul’s trying to communicate to the Gentiles who made up the majority of the church in the great city of Ephesus in modern-day Turkey. He wants them to know, “What a time to be alive.” Because he has just told them in chapter 2, verses 11–22, that through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, an entity has come into existence we now call the church, the household of God, the body of Christ.
In distinction from the nation of Israel, which was in this wonderful covenant relationship with God, the church is made up of Jew and Gentile, who have equal standing and equal access to God. This is what he calls the mystery of Christ. He mentions the word “mystery” three times in this passage: verses 3, 4, and 9. We defined “mystery” last week, didn’t we, as something that can’t be discovered by human speculation; something that can only be known through divine revelation; and something that was hitherto unknown in the Old Testament but has now been revealed in the New Testament.
And so, Paul writes to these Gentile believers who have come out of paganism, who have come out of the temple of Diana, who once worshiped all kinds of gods but have come to believe in the one true God manifest in His Son, Jesus Christ. And he wants them to know: What a time to be alive as a Gentile. You who were once without God—separated from the commonwealth of Israel, outside of the covenant blessings of Israel—now you’re no longer on the outside looking in. You’re on the inside looking up because Jesus Christ has reconciled us to God and to each other. And there’s now this new, distinct entity called the church.
So, Paul’s been celebrating that. We looked at the first thought in this wonderful passage we called the misery (vv. 1, 13). This is Paul writing from his first imprisonment, and yet he wants them to know that he’s not so much a prisoner of Caesar; he’s a prisoner of Jesus Christ. He’s living under the lordship of Christ, and all things are working together for good. In fact, as he said to the Philippians, these things “have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel” (Phil. 1:12). The gospel has reached into Caesar’s household. Can you believe that? And so, he writes to say, “You need to know I’m not a prisoner of Caesar. I’m a prisoner of Jesus Christ. I belong to Him, and He’s using my imprisonment and my suffering and my tribulation for you Gentiles.”
We looked at the perspective, the posture, the purpose. That was the misery.
Let’s move on to what I call the ministry. Beginning in verse 2, we have another long sentence by Paul, the whole way through to verse 13. In this sentence, he talks about a ministry. Look at verse 7. He’s become “a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me [Paul] by the effective working” of God’s grace in his life. God gave him a ministry, and the ministry was to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to the Gentiles, to be a steward of the mystery of the doctrine of the church. This marvelous, new, amazing reality: the Jew and Gentile are now equal in Christ and have equal access to the Father and have an equal standing before God (Eph. 2:18).
Now, as he talks about this ministry, two things stand out: the ministry was from God, and the ministry was through grace. Let’s look at those two thoughts. Look at verse 2: “If indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was”—notice—“given to me for you.” Look at verse 7: “I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God”—notice—“given to me by the effective working of His power.” Look at verse 8: “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace [this kindness, this favor, this stewardship] was given, that I should preach . . . the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
“This dispensation,” which is a word that means the running of a home or an administration of something, and housed in that is the idea of being entrusted with something, being given a responsibility. If you remember back to the story of Joseph, Joseph was a steward. He was trusted by Potiphar concerning all the things in his home. That’s the argument he will make when Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce him: “You know what? I’m a steward of all of my master’s possession and property. And you’re his wife. You belong to him. You don’t belong to me. You are off limits.” Paul’s kind of got this idea going on here: “I’m a steward. I’m responsible for what God has given me, and He’s given me the stewardship of the gospel, this amazing mystery we now call the church that is a result of the unsearchable riches of Christ being preached and believed.”
In 1 Corinthians 4:1–2, Paul says that God had entrusted to him the mysteries of God. In 1 Corinthians 9:17, he talks about the gospel being entrusted to him, to discharge that trust once committed. In Titus 1:3, he talks about the preaching entrusted to him by the commandment of God. So, we see here this ministry was given to him from God, and it was given as a trust. What God trusted to him, he was to share with others faithfully.
Now, I’m not going to spend a lot of time on that. We have talked about stewardship before, but you need to remind yourselves, “I am a steward. I am a steward. God has entrusted certain things to me—certain gifts, certain experiences. Even my sorrows are a trust gift from God that I can speak out of to the blessing of others.” Right? Isn’t that what Paul argued in 2 Corinthians 1? But think about this. God has entrusted you with time—the days and years of your life. God has trusted you with treasure—material wealth, homes, money, things. God has entrusted you with gifts—spiritual gifts and material gifts. And God has entrusted you with talents, abilities. God wants you to do something with all of that time and all of that treasure and all of that talent. I pray that every day you pray, “Lord, help me to live up to my potential. Help me to embrace the opportunities that are around me in the light of the obligations given to me with the resources you have indeed shared with me.”
Now, this stewardship is in the context of a gospel ministry, so it’s really a very, very important word to teachers and preachers. Now, that certainly starts up here behind this pulpit, but it’s from the pulpit down. Whether you’re discipling our youth—which we have enjoyed hearing about today in these several baptisms—whether you’re teaching our kids over in children’s ministry, whether you’re a home group leader, even a parent teaching their child and bringing them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord—this is a word to you. You need to make sure that the word, the gospel, and the message that God has given us in His Word is the one that you’re giving to those whom God has set under you, beside you, and before you.
I like what John Stott says: “The Christian preacher is to be neither a speculator who invents new doctrines which please him, nor an editor who excises old doctrines which displease him, but a steward, God’s steward, dispensing faithfully to God’s household the truths committed to him in the Scriptures, nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.” Pray for this pulpit until Jesus tarries, that whoever stands behind it will give you nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else than the whole doctrine of God, the whole counsel of God, the full gospel of His Son.
Let’s be faithful in all of that stewardship, like the story of R. A. Torrey. If you go to Biola University, you should know about R. A. Torrey. He was one of those who helped start the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. He later got involved in Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. I’ve been there. If you’ve been there, you’ll know there’s the Torrey Auditorium. He was an evangelist, among many other things, and once he was involved in a week of revival meetings and outreach. His song leader was a man by the name of Homer Hammontree. I don’t know what his parents were thinking, but it was Homer Hammontree. He was known to R. A. Torrey as “Ham.” During the first few nights, it was low attendance; it was flat, and nobody was getting saved. Homer got a little discouraged, and so R. A. Torrey, late in the evening of one of those nights, said, “Ham, it’s required of stewards that a man be found faithful. Goodnight, I’m going to bed.”
A few nights later, the windows of heaven opened, God came down, people were saved, the blessing was there, the tide rose. And Ham, Homer, was really excited. That night, again in a conversation with R. A. Torrey, he was sharing how excited he was now, to which R. A. Torrey replied, “Ham, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. Goodnight, I’m going to bed.”
Now, do you get the point of the story? I hope I tell stories that have a point. The point of the story is, blessing or not, saved or not, big crowd or not, R. A. Torrey got it. I am a steward. I’m a delivery boy. I’m a postman. My job is simply to preach the gospel, and it’s God’s job to save. That’s beyond my pay grade. I’m a steward. But, God blesses faithfulness, by the way, and God blessed the faithfulness of His steward.
Be a good steward as a parent. Be a good steward as a discipler, as an older woman teaching younger women, as an older man teaching younger men, discipling our children, helping in the youth group, leading a small group. Hopefully, at the end of every night, you can say, “Goodnight, I’m going to bed,” having been a good steward of your time, your talents, and your treasure.
Now, you’ll notice that he mentions here “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” This is an interesting phrase, “unsearchable.” It’s actually translated in Romans 11:33 in my version as “past finding out.” Remember Romans 11:33, that God’s ways are past finding out? In fact, the literal Greek is “without footsteps.” As in, if you and I tried to trace and tried to understand the marvelous nature of God’s love and mercy in Christ, it’d be hard to find the footprints. It would be hard to comprehend the breadth and the length and the height and the depth of God’s love, although we are encouraged to do that. And, before we get to Ephesians 3, we’ll be told to do that. But I just love that, and I want to be reminded, as I preach the Word of God and stand before you and share to you, my beloved people, that the gospel must always be ultimately incomprehensible.
Now, we know the basics. We know the tenets, and it’s enough to save us. But, you know what? The depth and the breadth of it, incomprehensible and incalculable. All that God has done for us and God has yet to do for us out into infinity—it’s unsearchable. It’s without footprint. Oh, the manner of love that God has bestowed upon us that we—you, me—should be called the sons of God. Why you and not someone else? Why me and not another person? Why any of us at any time? God didn’t have to save one of us, but He spared not His own Son. Amazing, isn’t it? That all has gripped the heart of Paul.
I came across a poem. It’s a little lengthy, but it’s beautiful. Just in case this morning you’ve lost track of what really can’t be tracked, ultimately, regarding God’s love for you and all you have in Jesus Christ. Stop being dispirited. Stop being discouraged. You have been exposed to the unsearchable riches of Christ, and you’re beginning to wade into the water that has no bottom.
Christ for sickness, Christ for health,
Christ for poverty, Christ for wealth,
Christ for joy, Christ for sorrow,
Christ today, and Christ tomorrow;
Christ my Life, and Christ my Light,
Christ for morning, noon, and night;
Christ when all around gives way,
Christ my everlasting stay;
Christ my rest, Christ my food,
Christ above my highest good;
Christ my well beloved, my Friend,
Christ my pleasure without end;
Christ my Saviour, Christ my Lord,
Christ my portion, Christ my God;
Christ my Shepherd, I His sheep,
Christ himself my soul doth keep;
Christ my Leader, Christ my Peace,
Christ hath brought my soul’s release,
Christ my Righteousness divine,
Christ for me, for He is mine;
Christ my Wisdom, Christ my Meat,
Christ restores my wand’ring feet,
Christ my Advocate and Priest,
Christ who ne’er forgets the least;
Christ my Teacher, Christ my Guide,
Christ my Rock, in Christ I hide;
Christ the everlasting Bread,
Christ His precious blood hath shed;
Christ hath brought us near to God,
Christ the everlasting Word,
Christ my Master, Christ my Head,
Christ who for my sins hath bled;
Christ my Glory, Christ my Crown,
Christ the Plant of great Renown,
Christ my Comforter on high,
Christ my Hope draws ever nigh.
Oh, what a privilege to be saved this morning, having heard the unsearchable, ultimately untraceable riches of God in Christ. From God, through grace. Did you notice verse 8? The thrill. “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given.” Paul’s thrilled. He’s nipping himself. “Me?” That’s the joy. It’s from God by means of sovereign grace. He’s humbled. He knows himself. He tells us who he was: a blasphemer, a violent man who did harm to the church (1 Tim. 1:12–17). And yet God saved him. God has kept him. God has blessed him. And God has gifted him and called him into the administration of the gospel.
And Paul here is not groveling. This isn’t self-deprecation. Paul didn’t have a problem with self-image here. This is just a recognition that he’s unworthy of the grace of God. This is a sense of the overwhelming nature of grace. Paul wants you to know he’s surprised, humbled. In fact, he coins a phrase here. In the New King James, it’s translated, “who am less than the least.” It’s kind of the idea, one commentator said, “Leaster.” If there’s such a word. Leaster. “Me, I’m the leaster of all the saints. You got to get to the bottom of the pile to find me. I was a violent man, self-righteous, a blasphemer. I was there when the blood was shed of Christ’s servant Stephen. I’m the leaster.”
Beautiful, isn’t it? Let me throw this your way and move on quickly. In AD 55, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:9, “I am the least of the apostles.” In AD 62, seven years later, he says in Ephesians 3:8, I am the very “least of all the saints.” And four years after that, in 1 Timothy 1:15, he says he’s chief among sinners. Did you notice the progression? As he progresses in grace, as he grows up in his knowledge of Christ, he grows down in humility. He starts saying, “I’m the least of the apostles. You know what? Forget that, I’m the least of the saints. Forget that, I’m the chief of sinners.” He’s growing downward as he grows upward. Make sure that’s happening in your life. If you get twinges of self-righteousness, if you can look and I can look down my nose at unbelieving sinners, I’m not where I need to be. I’m not where Paul got. He’s growing down, not up.
You see, the Christian life is a race to the bottom. Not self-deprecation. I’m not arguing that, neither is Paul. We’re not arguing for false humility. We’re asking for a recognition that we don’t deserve what we got. And God is good, and God is kind. And it’s amazing that He saves any of us and uses any of us. We can be too big for God to use, never too small. Always remember that. Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer, was asked, “What are the three greatest virtues?” He said, “First, humility; second, humility and third, humility.”
James 4:6: He gives more “grace to the humble,” and He “resists the proud.” You want to know God’s blessing? “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God,” says Peter, “that He [Christ] may exalt you in due time” (1 Pet. 5:6). God is attracted to weakness. You know the word “Paul” means “little, small”? It’s not only a reflection of his stature; it’s a reflection of his spirit. God keep us from becoming high and mighty, holier than thou, forgetful of the grace of God, trusting in ourselves.
There was a time in the life of Hudson Taylor where he was being introduced by a church in Melbourne—I think—Australia. In the introduction, the chairman introduced him as “our illustrious guest.” I mean, he was the head of China Inland Mission; he had done some marvelous things for Jesus Christ. He got up, and he said, “Dear friends, I am the little servant of an illustrious Master.” See, that’s where you want to be. Let’s fight any pride and confidence in ourselves.
I’ve got a quote in my study at the church offices in Chaparral Court by J. N. Darby, the man who founded the Plymouth Brethren Movement. My wife, June, grew up in Plymouth Brethren in Scotland. In a book I read about him, he had this quote: “All Irishmen whom grace has not total mastery of . . . has an amazing confidence in himself.” But I’m not sure that’s true of Irishmen. I think that’s true of Americans. I think it’s true of any ethnicity. Apart from the grace of God, left to ourselves, we lean on our own understanding, and we put too much store in what we can do. And we forget apart from Him, we can do nothing that lasts.
All right, let’s move on to the mystery, for the time that remains. This is at the heart of this passage, right? In verse 3, he uses the word “mystery.” In verse 4, he uses the word “mystery.” In verse 9, he uses the word “mystery.” Remember what we said. It doesn’t mean “spooky.” It doesn’t mean a puzzle beyond solving. It’s not a whodunit. We’re not thinking about an Agatha Christie novel. No, a mystery, from what we can tell in comparing Scripture with Scripture, is something that can’t be discovered by human speculation. It has to be revealed through revelation from God directly. In the case of the use of this word in the New Testament, it’s used of something, a truth, that wasn’t known to those living in the Old Testament but has now been revealed by God to those living in the New Testament.
Paul tells us here about this mystery that was hidden from the sons of man in ages gone but has now been revealed to Paul and his holy apostles and prophets (v. 5). That’s New Testament apostles and New Testament prophets. We don’t know when God revealed this mystery—maybe in the three years when Paul was in Arabia or when he was saved on the road to Damascus in Syria. But we don’t know. But we know this: God has revealed something to Paul, according to verses 5 and 9, that wasn’t known up until this moment. The Old Testament prophets didn’t know it. The New Testament prophets came to know it. Daniel and Moses and Jeremiah and Isaiah didn’t know it, but Paul and Peter and James and John came to know it. He didn’t learn it from the Old Testament. No, God revealed it, this mystery.
Now, a few things about this mystery: the plan of the mystery. What are we talking about? Well, we’re talking about something exciting, something new. The mystery is this, that Gentiles in the church age are on equal footing with the Jews, and together they now make up the body of Christ. That’s verse 6. This is what’s been revealed: “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I [Paul] became a minister” (vv. 6–7). Together they are joint heirs, joint members, and joint sharers: fellow heirs of God’s riches (1:3–14); made up of the same body belonging to the church (2:16); and now partakers of the Messianic promise, which is Jesus Christ Himself (2:12–13).
That’s the plan. That’s the mystery, that God, at this moment within history, in this dispensation, in this ordering of His world, has brought into existence a body—unique, distinct from Israel—a body that hasn’t existed anywhere in time up until this point, made up of Jew and Gentile with equal standing and footing.
Now, this isn’t new in the sense that Gentiles are blessed or Gentiles are saved, because we know from the Old Testament, example Genesis 12:3, that God intended to bless Gentiles through Israel, in connection with Israel. And God would save Gentiles. In fact, Israel as a nation was meant to be the light to the world, but they disobeyed. They rejected their Messiah, and God has set them aside—not forever. We believe in the future of Israel and the restoration of the Jew to Jesus Christ in the end times. But, in the meantime, with Israel set aside, you have this parenthesis, the church—this new entity that’s being brought about by this gospel of the unsearchable riches of Christ.
Now, it’s not that the gospel has changed. The gospel’s always the same. Dispensationalism doesn’t teach that there are different ways to come to God. It’s the same gospel, by grace through faith alone. The content and object of faith concerning Christ will change from dispensation to dispensation as the knowledge of Christ progressively becomes known. But what has changed is the result that comes through that gospel. In this dispensation, in the ordering of this epoch in history, God, in full revelation with the coming of Christ, is now indeed bringing together a new international community hitherto unknown called the church. That’s the mystery, and it’s a marvel. And Paul’s thrilled about being part of it and thrilled about preaching about it.
We’re no longer in the dispensation of the law of Moses (2:15). We’re not yet in the dispensation of the millennial kingdom (1:10). We’re in the dispensation of the church. Israel in the Old Testament was not the church. You’ll hear preachers tell you about the church in the Old Testament. I beg to differ. The church is a New Testament entity, was birthed at Pentecost. It’s unique. It’s the mystery that was hidden. Oh, we know about Gentiles being blessed, but not to this degree, in this manner. Jew and Gentile baptized into the one body.
Israel in the Old Testament was not the church, and the church in the New Testament is not Israel. We have not replaced Israel. Reject replacement theology, which you’ll find in some quarters of Reformed theology. People ask me all the time, “Are you Reformed?” And I always answer, “Tell me what you mean, and I’ll tell you whether I am.” I am Reformed in certain aspects, but there’s an element of Reformed theology I reject. And one of the elements of Reformed theology we reject here at Kindred is replacement theology, covenant theology—that Israel is done with, finished, finito. And any blessing the Jew is going to enjoy today and going forward is through the church. And it’s certainly true right now that if you’re Jewish, you need to put your faith in Jesus Christ and become part of the church, or you’ll be lost forever. Just because you’re a Jew in a special relationship with God doesn’t mean you’re saved. The Messiah has come. He has made Himself abundantly clear. You need to trust Him.
That said, God’s not done with that nation. He covenanted to do something special with that people for His glory, and He will. And if you come to Israel with us next year, you’ll see something of that. Why does this nation exist? How has it survived? The only answer to that is the sovereign grace of God, and you’ll be brokenhearted to see the blindness and the hardness of heart toward the gospel. But don’t be thinking that God’s done with Israel as a land or as a people. He’s not. The church is not in the Old Testament, and the New Testament church is not Israel. That’s the glory, the wonder of this dispensation of the church.
Scroll down to verse 11. Talking about this eternal purpose, this plan in this dispensation—it’s all part of an eternal plan, an eternal purpose centered on Jesus Christ. I just want to say this and move on. We are in 2022, and it’s going as fast as 2021, if not faster, isn’t it? Where’s history headed? Where are we going? What’s happening? A lot of stuff happening. It almost spins your head and makes you fall over—the world we’re living in, the things that are happening, the speed of change. But know this, that it’s all happening sovereignly and according to an unfolding plan. God’s still having His way. The church is being built. And, in the future day, God will restore the fortunes of the nation and people of Israel, although they’ll go through a lot of stuff to get there. History is His story.
The river of God’s eternal plan in Christ started high up in the throne room of God and has flowed and meandered its way throughout the ages, during the changing of kings and the coming and going of kingdoms. That plan, that river of redemptive purpose, will continue to do so during the church age, during the Great Tribulation, during the millennial kingdom, until it spills out into the vast ocean of God’s eternal state of blessing.
The purpose of the mystery. This is where we’ll wrap up. There’s a few other things in this text I couldn’t get to. I’d love to have developed verse 12, about the boldness we should show in coming to God in prayer. We’ve touched on that. We’ll come back to the idea of prayer next time in verses 14 through to 21. But here’s what I want you to get in the time that remains. The plan of the mystery. And now the purpose of the mystery. Notice verse 10: “So that,” or, in my version, “To the intent.” This is the purpose of the church. This is why the church exists. Verses 10 and 11: “to the intent”—for this purpose—“that now”—during the church age, the dispensation of the mystery of Christ in the church—“the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose” and plan.
Let’s unpack that quickly. Hang with me for a few moments. The church exists—did you notice it—for the purpose of glorifying God, that the manifold wisdom of God might be known to principalities and powers—notice—in “heavenly places,” not kings and queens, not prime ministers and premiers, not people of authority on the earth. “. . . to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” We’ll get to that. The word “manifold” is fascinating. Ladies, you would enjoy it. It’s a word that means “fine embroidery,” some beautiful stitching, multicolored stitching. In fact, it’s used of Joseph’s coat in the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament. So, Paul’s saying the church, which is a demonstration of a multicolored entity, made up of all kinds of people, of all kinds of color, from all kinds of countries . . . That church, the polka-dotted church . . . That’s what the Greek word means, by the way. It gives us our English word “polka-dotted.” The polka-dotted wisdom of God put on display in the church is a marvel to the principalities and powers.
As I kind of gave the shop away, principalities and powers here, I believe, are ranks and orders of angels, both holy and unholy, fallen and unfallen. Ephesians 6:12 talks about how we wrestle not against “flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers.” There’s our phrase. So, it’s not flesh and blood principalities and powers. It’s heavenly principalities and powers, and we believe that is angels and demons together. Did you catch the implication of it, as we close? The church exists not to save sinners, not to bless believers—although it does exist to do all of that glorious work—but to glorify God. You and I—in unity, displaying harmony, pulling down all the walls that the society puts up to divide us—as we live in unity and harmony in Jesus Christ and love one another and display the grace of God and the wisdom of God and salvation and speak of the value of the unsearchable riches of Christ, angels and demons sit up and take notice.
I’m going to focus on angels just for a moment. Do some studying on angels. Do you realize, according to 1 Corinthians 11:10, angels watch worship services? That’s a passage about whether or not a woman should have her head covered in worship before the angels. Have you ever thought about the fact that angels are watching our service right now—the way we worship, the way we love one another. Angels were sent, according to Hebrews 1:14, to watch over those whom God will bring to faith, to watch over the elect. They’re involved in salvation. Although they have never experienced salvation, they marvel at it. They marvel at the story of Jesus Christ and the gospel. They want to inquire into it (1 Pet. 1:12). Someday they’ll want to hear your story. Someday an angel will come up to you and say, “Let’s sit down here. You drink coffee, because you’re in a body, and I’ll listen, because I’m a spirit. Tell me your story because I have wanted and desired to inquire into God’s marvelous plan of redemption.” Because, remember this, unfallen angels have never known grace, and fallen angels will never know grace. But fallen sinners have come to know grace. What a passage.
When I started this passage, I was wondering what I was going to do with it. I think God was saying, “You nincompoop, sit up, study, and I’ll tell you what’s here. It’s really good stuff.” And here’s the kicker, that you and I, this little humble church, growing in grace, is a marvel to the angelic world. We are telling them that God is glorious, God is wise, and God is holy. According to Luke 15:10, unfallen angels rejoice over any sinner who comes to Christ, and they go, “There’s another evidence of God’s wisdom.” And this plan, this river that’s been running through history, and the patriarchs and the prophets in the nation of Israel, and then the 400 years of silence, and then the coming of the Messiah, Israel rejecting their Messiah, and this new entity coming into existence—they’ve watched all of that. And it’s a marvel to them. And they can’t wait to see the end of the story, which is Israel restored, the church complete, Jesus exalted, righteousness established, sin judged, and Satan bound. It’s all a wonderment to them.
Write down 1 Corinthians 4:9 and make it homework. In fact, I’ll read it. Forgive me, I’m going to steal a minute here. It’s just such a good passage. It reinforces all that I’ve been saying. There’s a little twist to it that’s glorious, and it’s where we’ll stop. Paul says this: “For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.”
There’s a whole lot of verses I read and overlooked in this little study, verses about angels watching us and God saving us so that they can see something that will cause them to worship Him even more. Do you realize that when the angels worship in Revelation 4 and 5, one of the reasons they’re worshiping is you? They rejoice that you got saved, and they stand amazed at God’s wisdom being displayed in your life.
And Paul says we’re a spectacle to them. You know what that word means in the Greek? “Theater.” Ever been to a theater? Of course you have. Great experience. Paul is saying, the universe is a theater. World history is a stage. And you are the actors, and God is the director. And angels and even demons are the audience. That should make you think through the priority of the church, the place of your marriage, the purpose of your life, and the progression of history.
You know the story of John Newton, “Amazing Grace” author, composer. He was once a slave trader in the grizzly, brutal, ugly, wicked business of trading in people from Africa. God saved him, and he became a minister of the gospel. As people notice this change in him, here’s what he said about them: “They find me a mystery.” And he said, “I am a mystery. I’m a mystery to myself, and I’m a mystery to others.” On another occasion, he said, “Once I was a wild thing on the coast of Africa, and Jesus caught me and tamed me. Now people come to see me the way they come to watch the animals in the zoo.” Isn’t that beautiful? I’m a mystery to myself and to others, and so are you. I hope that will cause you to think and worship and reflect on your life and where it’s going and how you view yourself and where you see yourself within history. You’re a mystery, a mystery to yourself and to others.
Remember, you’re on the world stage to remind angels and demons that God is wise and God is glorious and God is sovereign. What a time to be alive.
Father, we thank You for this passage. Help us to meditate on that. What a time to be alive as a Gentile and all that You’re doing in the church and all that You want the church to be and all that it is before a watching world and even an unseen world. Lord, thank You for saving us. May we never lose the wonder. May Your love be a mystery to us, and may we be a mystery to others as they see Your life in our life. May we be the front and shop window to bring others to Jesus Christ as they see the wisdom and the love and the mercy and the power of God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.