The Great Mystery

Ephesians 3:1-13

For thousands of years, there was a secret in the heart of God.
It had been hidden from the world, from the priests, from the patriarchs, from the prophets, even from the angels
until the time for God to reveal it through His Son to his holy apostles.

The secret was that there would be a new creation.
The secret was that there would be a new living temple.
The secret was that there would be a new spiritual body through whom God was going to work
to take the message of salvation to all the world.
This new creation would comprise both Jews and Gentiles, and this new creation was to be called, the church.

There was nothing written in the Old Testament that foreseen the church.
In Paul's letters to the Ephesians, he calls it a mystery… a musterion… something previously unknown
which has now been revealed in Ephesians 3:3-5 by direct revelation from the Lord Himself.

Jews and Gentiles are to be joined as one in a new spiritual body called the church.
That is the mystery.
Why is Paul making so much of this?
It was because there was absolutely no comprehension of the degree of separation
that existed between the Jews and Gentiles.
Just think of what it would have meant to a Jew to become one with a "Gentile dog".

That is why Paul makes the point, emphasizing the three levels of unity that now exists between Jews and Gentiles.
We are now fellow heirs in all the eternal riches that God has to bestow on His people.
We are now fellow members of the body of Christ.
We are now fellow partakers of the blessings of God. (Ephesians 3:6)

So what will we do about it?

Blacks and whites united in South Africa.
Protestants and Catholics united in Northern Ireland.
Christians and Muslims united in Lebanon.
Arabs and Jews united in Israel.

Paul's message of Jews and Gentiles united in Christ was more earthshaking than any of those,
and met with even more resistance.
Yet Paul was willing to go wherever necessary to proclaim this message of reconciliation.

While Paul was writing his letter to the Ephesians, he was sitting in a Roman prison.
He was waiting to go on trial before Caesar.
He did not consider himself a prisoner of the Romans or of the emperor, however;
he was a "prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles." (Ephesians 3:1)

God was unifying Jews and Gentiles into this new body called the church.
It was Paul's primary responsibility to spread the message of the gospel to the Gentiles.

We need to see the irony in this.
Prior to his conversion, Paul had been a rabid defender of Judaism and a persistent persecutor
of the followers of Jesus Christ.
He had watched, and even gave his approval when the Jews stoned Stephen to death.
After his conversion, God revealed to Paul that he was the apostle who was to proclaim the message
that there was no longer a distinction between Jews and Gentiles.

So, Paul knew that he had a responsibility to tell others about this magnificent mystery,
and he would not let any circumstance hinder him from it.

Like Paul, we have a responsibility also to minister to others.
Each one of us has been given knowledge of the truth that will help others prepare for their eternal destiny.
We not to keep that truth to ourselves.
We have a responsibility to share it with others.
All of us have that responsibility, not just pastors and church leaders, but every Christian is responsible
to share the message of Jesus Christ.

There are people who might say they do not know what their spiritual gift is so they use that
as an excuse to do nothing.
Yet the Bible has much to say about our responsibility to others than it does about spiritual gifts.

Every Christian has a responsibility to minister.
Every Christian has a responsibility to do something for God.
Setting up chairs for a morning worship service may not seem like a ministry.
Handing out church bulletins on a Sunday morning may not seem like a ministry,
until you realize that those activities are an important part of the worship service.

Eliminate those ministries, and you cause damage to the worship service.
When you realize this, you will discover the secret to finding your spiritual gift is involvement.

Get involved.
When you do, God will guide you, to experience your place in the most rewarding and fruitful service.
There are no little people, and there are no little jobs.
There is only faithfulness to God.

As imperfect as it is, God has chosen the church to advance His kingdom on earth.
To the degree that we are involved in contributing to the church, we are involved in the work
that God is doing in the world.

When the church denounces sin, people are influenced to stand against it.
When the church speaks out on moral issues, people learn to penetrate the deceit of compromise
and get the courage to stand alone against the tide of immorality.

Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth."
Jesus said "You are the light on a hill."
That is the role of every Christian.
That is also the responsibility of every Christian.

Though many in the world around us will not enter the doors of a local church, they can see us
living in their midst -- living for Jesus, and standing for the truth.
It is true that we may be the only sermon that they will ever see or hear.
So therefore:

"Let's stand against sin.
Let's stand against unrighteousness.
Let's stand against wicked, worldliness.
Let's stand against the darkness.

Let's stand for love.
Let's stand for goodness.
Let's stand for truth.
Let's stand for light.
Let's be His church!"

There are probably few people in the world who have never tasted a Coca-Cola.
Coca-Cola had a jingle on the media saying that when you have tasted a Coca-Cola
that you have tasted "the real thing."

When Robert Woodruff was president of Coca-Cola from 1923 to 1955, he had a vision.
During World War II, he made a promise.
That promise was that "We will see that ever man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for five cents
wherever he is and whatever it costs
After the war, he stated that in his lifetime, he wanted everyone in the world have a taste of Coca-Cola.
With such vision and dedication, Woodruff and his company reached their generation
around the globe for Coca-Cola.

Woodruff was more committed to giving each person in the world a drink of Coca-Cola
than most of us are to giving each person in the world a drink of the water of life.

As the church, our mandate from God is to take the gospel to the world.
That is the mission of every Christian.
As individual members of the body of Christ, we are commanded to do what we can
to obey that command of Jesus Christ.
We must ask what we can do individually.

At the very least, we can pray that God will raise up workers for the spiritual harvest,
and then pray for those workers.
At the very least, we can give our finances.
We can also give our time and our talents to take the gospel to the entire world.
And some of us can go.
Some have given their life to do this.
Some can become missionaries and do this for a few years or even for a summer or a couple of weeks.
But every Christian can do this right where they live everyday to everyone who needs to hear
this great gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ

The Great Commission is a personal assignment for each one of us.
So each one of us must ask the Lord, "Dear heavenly Father, what do You want me to do?"

Also the heart of the ministry is that the church has another ministry.
That ministry is the wisdom of God.

The totality of the wisdom of God includes the outpouring of His grace and His saving power,
and the fact that we are kept not by how faithful we are, but how faithful God is.
God takes the fallen, the broken, the earthbound sinners raises them up, heals them,
and puts them on the road to heaven.

Someone has said that the ministry of the wisdom of God turns things backward,
upside down and inside out.

Such as:
"Elevating yourself lowers you;
Lowering yourself raises you.

To keep what you have is to lose it;
To give it away is to keep it.

To find your life is to lose it;
To lose your life is to find it.

Abundance can bring poverty;
Poverty can bring abundance.

Freedom leads to slavery;
Slavery leads to freedom.

Cleverness is folly;
Foolishness is wisdom.

Strength leads to weakness;
Weakness brings strength.

The first shall be last;
The last shall be first."
(Copied – unknown source)

Although the wisdom of God is beyond the comprehension of our natural mind,
the Holy Spirit illumines the receptive mind with the Word so that we can began to understand
the mystery of the ages.
It is so amazing that the church is God's great instrument in history is to display His wisdom to the world.

I have read where a former president of Youth for Christ, Jay Kessler gave five reasons
why he believes in the church.

1. The church is the only institution dealing with the ultimate issues of death, judgment, relationships,
purpose, lasting priorities, meaning in life, identity, heaven and hell.

2. The church provides perspective that gives dignity to mankind.
We live in a day in which man has become a means rather than an end.
This creates a desperate sense of inner worthlessness.
The church counteracts this insidious message.

3. The church provides a moral and ethical compass in the midst of relativism.
Like a swamp of murky, slimy water, our society has either rethought, resisted
or completely rejected absolutes.
But not the church.
The church still stands on the timeless bedrock of Scripture.

4. The church is the only place to find true community, healing, compassion and love.
It is here where people really care – really care.
They care not because of status or money.
They care because the Spirit of God is at work, weaving together their lives within the Body.

5. The church (like no other institution) has provided motivation for the most lasting, unselfish,
essential, courageous ministries on earth.
Such ministries include schools, hospitals, halfway houses, orphanages and many other charitable ministries.

So every Christian should be seriously involved in the church and its ministries.
The church is a place where the Body and the Head meet to celebrate this mysterious union.
Ordinary people gather regularly to worship the only true and living God.
Ordinary people gather to serve.
Ordinary people gather for encouragement.
Ordinary people gather for instruction.
Ordinary people gather for expression.
Ordinary people gather together for support.

When we carry out the God-given role that God has given us nothing on earth can match or surpass that.
The church isn't perfect.
For after all, we are a part of it.
The church hasn't always practiced what it preached.
But still today God is using the church to carry out His eternal will in the world.

"Rise up, O Church of God!
Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and soul
And mind and strength
To serve the King of kings.

Rise up, O Church of God!
His Kingdom tarries long;
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.

Rise up, O Church of God!
The Church for you doth wait:
His strength shall make
Your spirit strong,
Her service make you great.

Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod,
As followers of the Son of Man
Rise up, O Church of God!"
-- William Pierson Merrill

Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White