The Seventh in a Series of Sermons on Paul's Letter to the Ephesians
Like the majority of his letters, Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians is divided into two parts. In the first half of this epistle (chapters 1-3), the Apostle sets out a number of important doctrinal issues before making specific applications of these same doctrines to the Christian life in the second half (chapters 4-6). As we conclude the first half of this letter, Paul brings us back to where he began in the first chapter–God’s eternal decree to save sinners “in Christ.” But Paul is so moved by the very thought of how God’s eternal plan has played out on the stage of human history, as well as in the circumstances of his own life, that he wraps up the doctrinal section with a heart-felt prayer of thanksgiving for the glorious inheritance which is ours “in Christ.” Paul wants his readers to both know and experience the glorious reality of the love of Christ.
As we continue our series on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we now come to the end of chapter three, which is also the conclusion of the first half of this letter. Here at the end of the third chapter we will find that Paul is quite moved by the very thought of all that God has done in providing for the salvation of his people. In the first three chapters of this letter, the Apostle to the Gentiles has laid out for us in unmistakable clarity God’s plan for those of us Gentiles who were formerly strangers and aliens, without hope, and without God in the world. Paul has told us how we relate to God’s old covenant people (the Jews), and how in Christ, God has done the impossible–he has taken those divided by race, diet, and culture, and made them one people. God has done all of this, Paul says, through the shed blood of Jesus, who, in his death has reconciled God to us, us to God, and Jew to Gentile.
In verses 14-21 of Ephesians 3, Paul wraps up this doctrinal section with an impassioned prayer that everything he’s just told us about the grace of God, the revelation of the mystery of Christ, as well as God’s purpose for Jew and Gentile, would be fully realized in the lives of all those reading (or hearing) this epistle. As an English biblical scholar once put it, “who has not read and re-read the closing verses of the third chapter of the Ephesians with the feeling of one permitted to look through the parted curtains into the holiest place of the Christian life.” This prayer is but one reason why so many of our theological forbears, like John Calvin, identify Ephesians as their favorite book of the Bible.
But in order to understand what it is exactly that Paul is praying for, and what specific blessings he desires us to experience, we need go back to that point where Paul began (Ephesians 1:3-14), and where he returns in Ephesians 3:11. Paul clearly emphasizes that everything he has stated about the mystery of Christ and the reconciliation of God’s people “was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God’s eternal plan has been fully realized in the person and work of Christ.
To read the rest of this sermon, Click here