World Communion Sunday Reflections
Ephesians 3:1-13

(c) Copyright 2008 Rev. Silas Nefefe


Ephesians 3:1-14

3     For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 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. 6 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.
7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 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, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 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, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

Theme: God’s plan is to have a new international community. (Or Global community of  God)

 Introduction:

Before we arrive here in Canada we have visited several Christian schools  in Chicago and Grand Rapids. What I have seen is that schools in Canada and US do have one thing in common, that is both of them have written mission and vision statements. I think by having vision and mission they want to achieve a specific goal.

Last Sunday when we arrived in one of the Christian Reformed Church we were give paper or  bulletin, when I read the first thing which I noticed is the mission and vision of the church. After all these observation I concluded that Christian schools and Church have visions and missions because their God is  visionary and missionary God. This is clear when you read from Genesis to Revelation. His vision is that one day there will be one new international community in his Kingdom. Therefore our responsibility as Christians is to become labourers or co-workers, together with God   in achieving his goal.

Jesus Christ before he ascend to heaven he made it to be the first priority to his disciples that they should understand their commission in this world. In Acts1, He taught them about the Kingdom of God,but they ask him Lord are you going to restore the kingdom of Israel?  See how he responded:

 “But you will receive the  power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will  be my witness  in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”.  Acts 1: 8. he was not concern about the restoration of the Israel Kingdom.

Jesus had a broader vision of His Kingdom and His kingdom is not bound to Israel.

 1.  In this chapter of Ephesians 3, Paul now  put clearly    God’s plan that need to be achieved by all of us as Christian church in order to be an international God’s community.

 
“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. (Vrs 2)

 “This mystery  is that through the gospel the Gentiles are the heirs together with Israel, members together of the  body , and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus”(vrs6 )

 If you look clearly here the key word for our understanding of the Apostle Paul’s  mission is Mystery. The English and Greek words do not have the same meaning. In English a mystery is something dark, obscure, secret, puzzling. The Greek word mysterion is different, however. Although still a “secret “It is no longer closely  guarded but open.

The Christian mysteries  are truth which , although beyond human  discovery, have been revealed by God  and so now belong openly  to the whole church. More simply, mysterion is a truth which is hidden  from human knowledge or understanding but now disclosed  by the revelation of God.

 The question is, what is the particular open secret  or revealed truth, which  was not  made known to the sons of men in other generations but has now  been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by his Spirit (vrs 5)? So evidently it is a specially revealed truth of which Christ is both the source and the substance. Its exact nature Paul spells out  with force and clarity in verse 6.: He say :

“This mystery is that through the Gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel member together of the body and sharers  together in the promise in Christ Jesus. (Vrs6).

In this verse Paul assembles three parallel, composite expressions. Each has the same prefix, together with” these indicate what gentiles’ believers now have and are in partnership with the Jewish believers.

Gentiles and Jews are co-heirs, member together of the body, and sharers together of the promise.

And this shared privilege is both in Jesus Christ. These privileges are enjoyed equally by all believers whether Jews or Gentiles, provided that they are in union with Christ and through the Gospel. The Gospel’s proclamation includes this unity and so makes it available to those who believe.

 Paul now said this Mystery is now revealed to him, It was new, for it was not made known …..in other generation.(vrs9). These statements puzzled Bible readers because the Old Testament did reveal that God  had a purpose for the gentiles. It promise , for example that all the families of the earth would be blessed through Abraham’s posterity. Jesus also commissioned his followers to make Disciples.

But what neither the Old Testament nor Jesus revealed was the radical nature of God’s plan, which was that the theocracy( the Jews nation under God’s rule)would be terminated, and replaced  by a new international community, the Church, that this church would be the body of Christ; organically united to him. There is no Jews nor Gentiles, all of us we are one in Him.

How to become the member of this Church: Paul said:

2.The divine commission to all Christian  is to preach the good news so that people become the members of the new international community.( vrs 8-10)

 It is through the Gospel that the Jewish and gentiles Christians become united in Christ(vrs 6). Here Paul equated the mystery with the Gospel, this equation is significant, because mystery was essentially truth revealed to him, while the gospel was essentially truth proclaimed by him. The gospel had been revealed to him to be communicated. That is how we should understand the importance of given the gospel, I am aware of the Christians who are ashamed of the Gospel, they do not see it as privilege.

 Beloved Christians ; let us see the importance of proclaiming the good news to the unbelievers:

(a) Making known Christ’s riches to the unbelievers (vrs8)

“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.

The greatest concern of our Lord is that the unbelievers should be called to Christ by preaching of the gospel, and this should be the first priority of the church and every Christian. Peter said ‘ But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praise of him who called  you out of darkness into a wonderful light( 1 Peter 2:9)

 If you listen what Paul say about the Gospel you will agree with me that we should take the preaching of the Gospel very serious. In verse 8 he said gospel consisted of the unsearchable riches of Christ, the riches which he possesses in himself and he bestows on those who come to him.

If you read Ephesians  1-2  you will see all these riches: They are riches freely available because of the cross.

They include resurrection from the death of sin, you were dead but God raised you,  victorious enthronement with Christ in the heavenliest, Reconciliation with God, incorporation with Jewish believers in  his new society, and we have access to the father  through Christ  and by the Spirit, membership of his Kingdom  and household,  being  an integral part of his dwelling place among men. All these are our  riches.

And all this only a foretaste of yet more riches to come, namely the riches of the glory of the inheritance which God will give to all his people on the last day.

 Therefore what had been made known to us we must without fail make known to others, what I mean is all revealed  truth is held  in stewardship. It is given to be shared, not monopolized. If men cannot keep their scientific discoveries to themselves, how much less should we keep to ourselves the divine disclosure?

Let me remind you one thing which I have learned since I have been here, The Christians of Christian  Reformed North America had passion of Christian Education, they have build Christian schools and their Children are going to Christian schools and Colleges. The point I want to make is that Christian education is part of God commission of making disciples and they must share this to other countries.

 Another thing which  I have learned also in most Reformed churches around the world is the lack of the  evangelistic zeal, especially young people, in most church 2% can share the Gospel to unbelievers, I am not sure about this church.

So what is needed today for a recovery of evangelistically zeal in the church is the same apostolic conviction about the gospel. Once we are sure that the gospel is both truth from God and riches for mankind, nobody will be able to silence us. And we will not be ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for salvation.

 (b) To preach the good news is to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all thing( vrs 9)

In this verse the preaching of the gospel is now defined not as  euangelizo (to announce the good news) but as photizo  ( to enlighten). In other words the thought shifts from the content of the message (good news) to the condition to whom it is proclaimed, they are in the darkness of ignorance. Jesus himself had characterised Paul commission in these terms, since he told him he was sending him to the gentiles to open their eyes, which they may turn from darkness to the light and from the power of Satan to God. Jesus took this sin of ignorance very serious, in such a way that he prayed for it on the cross, he said Father forgive them for they know not what they were doing. In other words they did not want to know the real meaning of the death of Christ. Some times it happens in the church that some people become the members of the church but they do not mind about the importance of the death of Christ in their lives.

 Brothers and Sisters let me remind you today, we ourselves must always remember in our evangelism that the prince of darkness holds men and women in darkness, and that only by a divine enlightenment will their eyes be open to see. Our responsibility is to be faithful in spreading the gospel, since this is the means which God has ordained by which to bring the light to those in darkness.

In my country we are facing a new challenge, the young people are no longer involving themselves in the church, the present pop culture is deeply influencing them. I think this may be the same here in your country. People are focusing on themselves; on their wealth etc. therefore the prince of darkness hold men and women in darkness, only the word of God can liberate them. They need to be enlightened.

 (c) Making known God’s wisdom to the cosmic powers

“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. (Vrs 10)

 All of us do understand that the gospel is direct to humans, but here Paul is saying the Gospel now indirectly directed to the Angels.  What does this mean?

The first result to be expected from the preaching of Christ’s unsearchable riches and the mystery would be the birth of the church. Gentiles and Jewish would embrace the gospel, be converted, and find themselves joint members of the family of God and the body of Christ. Indeed this has already happened, as Paul was writing, he was not theorizing. The Mystery was not an abstract. It was taking concrete shape before people’s eyes. And in this new phenomenon, this new multi-racial humanity, the wisdom of God was being displayed.

Brothers and Sisters in the Lord, Indeed the coming into existence of the church, as a community of saved and reconciled people, is at one and the same time a public demonstration of God’s power, grace and wisdom.even by our coming together today is a demonstration of god’s power, grace, and wisdom. In the Holy communion we will remember these.

 The members of this multi racial, multicultural community come from a wide rage of colourful backgrounds. No other human community resembles it. Its diversity and harmony are unique. It is God’s new society. And the many coloured fellowship of the church is a reflection of the many coloured wisdom of God.

We must now understand that as the gospel spreads throughout the world, this new Christian community develops.

 Let me put it in this way, It is as if the drama is being enacted.  History is the theatre, the world is the stage, and church members in every land are the actors. God himself has written the play, and he directs and produces it,  Act by act, scene by scene, the story continues to unfold. But who are the audiences?  They are the cosmic intelligences, the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.  They are the spectators of the drama of salvation.

 What does this mean to you and me today?  The final goal of our Lord is to have one and big Christian community. That means we have to look beyond our local church. As a Christian you need to think that you are part of global Christian community, by so doing you will be able to participate in global Christianity. Let me remind you this, I do have now three weeks in this country, One thing which I have seen is that you are a wealth community. God has blessed you with so many things. May be some of you may  not believe what I am saying, but if you go to Africa there are many people who are Christian who do not know what to eat tomorrow, our organisation is supporting children who are alone, parents died by HIV, I do have DVD of 14 years daughter looking after 3 young sisters and brother , but if you start to think and look through the window of God’s kingdom you will agree with me that you are a wealth community, Those who understand God’s plan for his kingdom, they do not think for themselves only they believe that God’s family is broader that their local church, God’s family is broader than their own family.

 I am coming from South Africa, I believe you can bless our people by what you have and south African Christians can also bless you especially when you come and see. By so doing we will experience what does it mean to be an international community of God. The are so many business people in the Christian Reformed churches in North America, I want to encourage them to partner with small business of the developing world. We want them to come and develop our people. In Africa Christianity is wide as hundred miles but one inch deep in faith, here you have resources and expertise you can share that with us.

I want to thank God who is working among of the Christians here in BC, some of them came to South Africa, and Seira Leon. Those who were outside Canada can share with you God’s blessing. God changed their perspective.

 I have been here for three weeks one of our task is to build relationship and partnership, we want Christians to work as a family of God.

 I invite you to have the same vision as that  of John the Apostle   “ After this  I looked and  there before me  was a great multitude  that no one  could  count, from every  nation, tribe , people and language , standing before the  throne  and in front  of the lamb. They were  holding  palm branches in their hands . and they cried  out  in a loud voice “salvation belongs to  our God, who sits  on the throne and to  the lamb. Revelation( 7: 9-10) Will you be there?

 .In this Holy communion let us thank God who called us to be part of the greater family through Jesus Christ blood.

 AMEN

 
 

 


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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