Worship Leader Rev.Shinichi Hirohashi 司会者 廣橋信一牧師
Accompanist Mrs. Kazusa Oba 奏楽者 大場かづさ姉妹
Preacher Rev.RainierVillamayor 説教者 ヴィリャマヨー・リニャー師
Interpreter Rev.Shinichi Hirohashi 通訳者 廣橋信一牧師
Song Leader Elder Ｍuneyasu Nasu さんびリーダー 那須宗泰長老
|Worship song : Shout to the LORD|
Worship song : Every time that we are gathered
Worship song : All Heaven Declare
Bible Reading : Ephesians 3:1-21 エペソ3:1-21
Message： “The Mystery of the Gospel” 「福音の奥義」
Rev. Rainier Villamayor
Worship song: The Power of your love
Worship song: Awesome God
Benediction Rev.Shinichi Hirohashi
We’re now closing the first half of the letter of Paul to the Ephesians. It is my prayer that, as we conclude our series, we would have a burning interest to know Christ more, than we already know him today.
When we started this series, we saw the work of the Holy Trinity in our redemption. We realized that (1) God’s plan was conceived in eternity, (2) accomplished by the coming in the flesh and the sacrifice of the Son and (3) applied by the power of the Holy Spirit! This is an eternal anchor for our souls! Paul told us that God is doing this “to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (1:6)” We were told that God’s ultimate purpose is that the whole of God’s creation both in heaven and earth would finally find their perfect harmony under the headship of the Son of God (1:10). In the second chapter we saw the abundance of God’s grace magnified as the Spirit of God graciously energized and made us alive, with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (2:20)! We had a lengthy discussion of how the Ephesian believers, we as Gentiles included, were finally given access or introduction to the throne of God’s grace. We learned that without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ there would have been no full satisfaction for our acceptance. Everything that kept us away from God had been removed. Even the wall that distinguishes between the Old Covenant people and the Gentiles, who had been kept away from for ages, had been broken down! This is because becoming God’s people do not depend on external circumcision made by human hands. It is instead, the work of the Spirit of God in the hearts of those whom Jesus purchased with his blood. “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. (Rom 2:28-29)” All men who are called therefore from all nations are together included in the great promise of the covenants – “I will be your God and ye shall be my people. (Exo. 6:7)”
“For this reason…(3:1)” Paul says, “…I bow my knees before the Father… (3:14)” What Paul had been telling us in the previous chapters is the very motivation and end goal of his prayer. In Paul’s prayer in Chapter 1 he was asking God to give us Spirit of wisdom, a clarity and conviction. Then he continued by magnifying the work of the grace of God in bringing Jews and Gentiles to himself in Chapter 2. He then closes here in Chapter 3 with another prayer followed with a wonderful praise of God.
When you were born, do you still remember what you did as soon as the doctor pulled out of your mother’s womb and slapped you on the back? Anyone? (cry) And how and when does this crying stop? …When we take nourishment from our mother’s breast and rest in her loving arms. Brother’s and sisters crying is as normal to a new born, as praying is to a man quickened by the Spirit of God! When we are suddenly made alive, we naturally start communicating with God our Father, feeding on the Word, resting in the gracious arms of God and living under his careful and gracious watch as we grow. Let us now have a look at Paul’s explication…
- The Purpose of Paul’s Ministry (v.1~6)
Paul (formerly Saul) was humanly speaking, an important asset of Judaism in his time. We all know that he was an accomplice in the murder of Stephen. He heard Stephen preached about this gospel, but at that time, Saul’s heart was darkened. He even thought that zealously persecuting and killing Christians was a very noble calling. But then the grace of God literally fell on him. He was stuck with terror, fell to the ground and something like scales formed in his eyes. The gracious Lord said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads. (Acts 26:14)” God sent Ananias, a devout disciple, to minister to him. Ananias was hesitant and scared of Saul, but God said, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” (Acts 9:15-16)”
All the apostles of the Lord are those who had been with Jesus. Paul’s special ministry started with a personal appearance of the resurrected Jesus. He was on his way to Damascus with a warrant of arrest for Christians so that he could bring them bound to Jerusalem for trial (Acts 9:1-2). But God’s ways are marvelous. Now Paul himself was in chains here, but not in despair. He calls himself the “prisoner of Jesus Christ. (v.1, KJV)” He was made by God a willing servant. Even the humiliation of the chains was exalted to the highest honor of being a steward of the grace of God. A revelation was given to the apostles and prophets and Paul was specially chosen to become its herald to the Gentiles.
This is a mystery. “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (3:6)” This would have been completely incomprehensible and unknowable if it were not for the revelation of the Holy Spirit. This purpose of God was not new, but the understanding of it was new. The Old Testament Scripture talks about God’s plan for the Gentiles but “how” and “in what way” it will happen was kept unknown until its fulfillment in the coming of Jesus Christ to power and glory!
It was unthinkable at that time to see that the blessing of the covenant was for the “uncircumcised in the flesh,” the Gentiles, the “unclean.” This is why Paul magnified his office when he said, “the mystery was made known to me by revelation. (v.3)” God had opened the door wide and bringing in the Gentiles on equal footing with the Jewish believers in Jesus! The Gentiles need not become God’s people through the Jews. They need not convert to Judaism. They needed not be circumcised in the flesh! They can become equally God’s people through faith in the work of Jesus Christ! In fact, even the Jews needed to come to faith through the same one door, Jesus Christ (John 10:9)!
This reminds me of the Ethiopian eunuch who was reading a text about the suffering Messiah in the Book of Isaiah while riding a chariot. The Spirit of God led Philip to go and join him. He was asked whom Isaiah was talking about. Philip explained that it was talking about Jesus. He believed and along the way he was baptized. And the Scripture says, “And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:39)” Amazing! The Gospel had come to the Gentiles.
- The Unsearchable Riches of Christ (v.7~13)
Paul reminds me of John the Baptist when he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30)” In spite of the direct revelations he received, he claims to be the least of the saints. In his effort to explain the unfathomable revelation, he emphasized that this grace was given so that he could preach “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Paul was trying to amplify his language in his effort to explore the vastness of God’s wisdom. If we ever come to the point where we feel there is nothing more to know about Jesus, then let’s be assured that we know nothing. We think, if we could just make use of our minds and act according to our understanding and experience, that is wisdom. No. We can’t even apply the Book of Proverbs correctly apart from the person of Jesus Christ. No one can have the right understanding of everything about life apart from Jesus. Oh yes, many people seem to manage successfully apart from Jesus. But I tell you, their lives have no eternal value whatsoever. The most exalted and honorable and precious in this world, apart from Jesus is the most debased:
“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1Cor. 1:21-25)” Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God!
We are called as a church by God to “bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (v.9-10)” I used to think that the preaching of the gospel was only to bring sinners to Christ. But our text says God also want to make his manifold wisdom known to the creatures in the heavenlies! Even Peter in his epistle declares that the preaching of the gospel was something that the “…angels long to look. (1Peter 1:12)” These angels are perfect unfallen creatures. They have knowledge of God that we don’t have. But, they never knew what’s it like to be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. They never knew how it is to become an object of God’s mercy and compassion, to the point where the Son of God himself had to come in the flesh to die on their behalf. Can we understand this? I do… and I don’t. I need to know Jesus more – the unsearchable riches of Christ, the manifold wisdom of God.
- On Bended Knee (v.14-19)
This was why Paul said, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father.” We often tell people, “I’ll pray for you,” and we never do. Paul was already often kneeling because of the weight of his chains in prison. But he intends to make a strong petition and to approach the presence of God. The weight of his burden was to make people see and understand the mystery that was revealed. He intends to kneel and pray to the Father, for the believers who are yet in their earthly sojourn as ambassadors of Christ. Paul wants the believers in the church to be founded and firmly rooted. Our heart is the area we are often week. But Paul prays, “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being. (v.16)” He’s praying that this center of our being be enlarged and strengthened, so that it can bear the weight of God’s wisdom. He’s praying that we be filled with the fullness of God.
Much of the favorite preaching by many is about “what God can do for me” and “what I want God to do.” But this is a sign of a shallow faith, if it can be called “faith.” It can be a sign of a lack of spiritual understanding of the abundant mercies of God. It’s centered on this tiny, little empty “me” who thinks he’s the center of God’s universe.
But the gospel that was revealed connects the very center of our being to the originator of Life and Truth, Jesus Christ. I can imagine all the prison guards around Paul either enlightened by Paul’s testimony or scared; nothing is more scary for an unrepentant sinner than to talk to a man who is personally acquainted with the Creator of the Universe. It’s liberating to realize that the gracious Creator prepared a place for us (cf. John 14:2) in his great plan. Let us all ponder on Paul’s prayer, and also pray for the same. Allow me to close by reading the last two verses.
Closing (v. 20-21)
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3:20-21)”