The Sixth in a Series of Sermons on Ephesians
In many ways, Christianity is like a good novel–redemptive history is an unfolding and compelling drama played out on the stage of human history. Throughout the first half of the redemptive story (the Old Testament), the central character (Jesus) remains hidden deep in the shadows. Early on in the story, God called a people unto himself (the nation of Israel), but as the story continues to unfold, God sends a series of prophets who declare that the good things God has promised to Israel, will one day extend far beyond the narrow confines of Israel’s borders. The great turning point in the redemptive story comes about when Jesus leaves the shadows and takes his place on center-stage, fulfilling all of the promises made about him centuries in advance. In his letter to the Galatians (chapter 4:4-5) the Apostle Paul speaks of this coming of Jesus as follows: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” But in the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle tells us that the mystery of Christ has been revealed to him, enabling Paul to fulfill his calling as Apostle to the Gentiles. The mystery of Jesus Christ is tied directly to God’s saving purposes, which do indeed extend well beyond the borders of Israel, just as Israel’s own prophets had promised. In fact, the gospel which Paul preaches will go to the very ends of the earth, and God will save each and every one of his elect (Jew and Gentile) and unite them together into one body, the church of Jesus Christ. What had been hidden is now revealed. What had been a mystery is brought out into the open.
We have been working our way through Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, and we now come to the third chapter of this profound and remarkable letter. Before we turn to our passage (vv. 1-13 of Ephesians 3), we need to develop the context for the key points Paul will make in this chapter, because his points flow directly out of those important themes Paul has already developed in the first two chapters.
Recall that Paul opens the epistle by setting out the big picture of God’s redemptive purpose. As we have seen, the Apostle takes us from eternity past unto the resurrection of our bodies at the end of the age. The Father has chosen us “in Christ.” The Father sends Jesus Christ to save all those whom the Father has chosen. The Spirit then applies the work of Christ to God’s elect, ensuring that we came to faith when the gospel was first preached to us. In the final verses of the first chapter, Paul prays that struggling Christians would be able to live confidently in the knowledge that God has chosen them “in Christ.” He also prays that in the midst of our struggles, we might see God’s love for sinners when we look to the cross, where our Savior suffered for us, in our place.
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