People of Purpose 

God’s amazing plan in Christ. (Ephesians 3:1-13)

By Pastor Terry Inman

9-2-12

Last week Neil Armstrong the first man on the moon passed away. Some of us will never forget watching this historic event on TV. Armstrong took that first step on July 20, 1969 and said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”  Mary and I were newly married and having dinner with Robert and Helen Goree at there home in San Jose. A few years later they became the Pastors to this church.

Shortly after the landing, Buz Aldrin radioed NASA and asked for a moment of silence so that “each person listening in could contemplate the events of the last few hours. During this quiet period, the Astronauts opened little plastic packages containing bread and wine, silently read a few verses of Scripture and shared communion. 

The first liquid ever poured on the moon and the first food eaten there was Holy Communion,” Until years later only Aldrin’s Presbyterian Pastor and a few NASA personnel—knew that this was happening on the moon.

Right after his mission to the Moon Neil Armstrong visited Israel. As he walked up the steps to the Temple in Jerusalem he asked his guide if Jesus would have walked the same steps. The guide said yes. Armstrong said, “I have to tell you, I am more excited stepping on these stones than when I was stepping on the moon.”

Paul’s letter to the Jewish and Gentile church Ephesus is giving us a greater understanding of God’s amazing plan in Jesus Christ. He is not in the great temples of the Greeks or the synagogues of the Jews.

He is really not even in outer space. His kingdom, beyond space and time, is in another dimension altogether. He raised Jesus from the dead. He raised us when we were dead in our sins and seated us with Christ in the heavenlies. This is a realm that transcends our galaxy.

On earth we are His Temple we are His body. He is our head. He fills us with his presence so we can bring his influence to those around us. The last verse of Chapter two says, “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (v.22)

We have already seen in this letter that the church is not an after thought. You and I as members of the Body of Christ are People of Purpose. We are part of God’s amazing plan in Christ!

After planting this church then ending up as a prisoner in Rome some might be wondering how well this plan was working. Paul is very concerned about their perception of his suffering. As he writes the chains tug on his arm and the people of Christ tug at his heart.  

In the last verse of todays selection Paul says, “I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.” (v.13) To his understudy Timothy he wrote,“This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.” 2 Timothy 2.8 (NIV)    

He didn’t need to defend himself but he wanted them and us to see that adverse circumstances on earth do not mean God’s plans and purposes are failing. It’s so easy when we or someone else is suffering to wonder what God is up to. Adversity causes some believers lose faith.

Many Christians are very worried about politics and economics right now. Some feel we have lost some of our favored culture in America. We should be concerned about righteousness in our nation but ether political party does not necessarily advance God’s plans and purposes. 

I’m not saying drop out of the elections. We should vote prayerfully but who ever fills the white house, is not nearly as significant as who fills God house. God is executing an amazing plan, and you and I are part of that awesome plan. In these few verses Paul refers to it as a sacred “mystery”.

I have titled my message People of Purpose because here in this short passage Paul reveals the mystery God’s purposes for his own apostleship, God’s purposes for the Gentiles, God’s purposes for the angels and God’s purposes for us, his people.

First there’s something to learn form God’s purpose for Paul’s apostleship. Here in the first verse Paul identifies himself as “the prisoner of Christ not the prisoner of Rome. “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles.”

His circumstances take noting away from his calling as an Apostle. In verse 7 he says, “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ”   Eph. 3.7 (NIV)

Paul actually means “little”. Our newest grandchild’s name is Paul and he is small. Paul also identifies himself as a “servant” and “less than the least” In his letter to the Corinthians he says, “I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”  1Cor. 15.9 (NIV)

Paul was probably little or at least short. He was defiantly humble and often in trouble. But here he uses some words he used before to describe the grace of God on his life. “by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.” Those are power words. We get “energy” and “dynamite” from these two Greek terms.  

Prison did not limit Paul nor should any human circumstance we may find our selves in limit us. “In Christ” we have been given powerful grace to be people of purpose.    

Next he reveals God’s purpose for the Gentiles.

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. Eph. 3.2-3 (NIV)   

The word translated here, as “Administration” is a word similar to our economy. It is a management term. He was a steward or manger of God’s resources. God grace was given to Paul to be ministered to the Gentiles. 

He continues, In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. Eph. 3.4-5 (NIV)

God’s grace extended to anyone other than the Jews was something hidden in the past but now revealed through the ministry of Paul. It was actually the reason he was imprisoned.

In Acts 21 Paul was accused of teaching people to ignore Jewish laws and illegally taking his gentile friend Trophimus into the temple. There was a warning sign in the Jewish section of the Temple. “No foreigners to go beyond the barrier and the plaza of the temple zone. Whoever is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his death which will follow.”

Extending grace to Gentiles was a mystery. Mysteries were a vital part of the Greek religion. Mysteries were secrets known only to the enlightened. Paul uses their mystery to describe something now revealed in Christ.

No one could have imagined that God would welcome Gentiles into to His grace. Paul says, “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.”  Eph. 3.6 (NIV)

Every promise ever made by God is now available to all people who put their trust not in a religion but in a relationship with Jesus Christ. In Romans Paul also makes it clear that he has not forgotten the Jews but also has a plan to fulfill his promises to them.

God’s purposes are also revealed to the angels.

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. Eph. 3:10-11(NIV)

As Paul reveals these previously hidden mysteries he used two very descriptive terms to describe God’s grace. In verse 8 he says, “this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ”

Now we have already talked about the incredible blessings or riches we have received in Christ but here he says you can’t trace it or track it, it’s unsearchable! You can’t even google it! It’s beyond discovery. There is no explanation for how valuable God’s amazing plan in Christ really is.  

God is putting his grace to the church on display to the “principalities and powers” in the heavenly realms. He is demonstrating his “manifold wisdom” His multicolored or multi-faceted wisdom.  It’s a term we would use for the beauty of a diamond or the variety of color in a kaleidoscope. 

Just when the enemy thought man had violated God and there was no mercy apart from the law God had a marvelous plan in Jesus Christ. Now the church is on display to His angels and all evil “principalities and powers” as a trophy to God incredible, indescribable grace.

The angels who serve the heirs salvation (Heb. 1.14) are captivated by God’s plans and purposes. They celebrate when one sinner comes home. (Luke 15.10) Peter speaking of the good news of the gospel said, “Even angels long to look into these things.” 1 Peter 1.12 (NIV)

God has put His purposes for His people on display in heaven and earth. Satan and his demons are clueless. They are always in the dark and on the defensive. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matt. 16.18 (NIV)

Finally Paul reveals God’s purpose for His people, all of us! 

“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.” Eph. 3:12-13 (NIV) 

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