Storeroom Sermons of David Chadwell

Insights From Ephesians (Part 6)

First, we want to put ourselves in the frame of mind Paul was in when he wrote our text today. To do that, play a game of "Let's Pretend" with me. Pretend that you have a close friend you admire and respect. This person is a close friend because he cared about you. In his care for you when he first met you, he went "way out on a limb" to help you. He literally put himself in a situation that he could be hurt because he helped you.

Continue to pretend with me. After he leaves you, your close friend does get into trouble because he helped some people just like you. The trouble is so serious that he winds up in jail. In fact, you are convinced that one of the reasons he is in trouble is because he helped you.

And there is nothing you can do to help him. He is too far from you for you to be of personal encouragement to him. You would have no influence on the people who put him in jail if your were with him.

Then one day you get a letter from him. In the letter he is concerned about you. He is genuinely concerned that you are discouraged because of his problems. He wants you to know as fact it is okay that he is experiencing problems. He knew from the beginning he would have problems because he cared about and helped people like you. He saw his situation as a price he paid for helping people like you. He saw his opposition as a God-given task the Lord gave him to help others understand God's intentions in Jesus.

His concern: you might be discouraged by his problems. The thing that encourages him most in his situation is knowing you are okay. He does not want his troubles to discourage you!

I ask you to listen to or read with me in Ephesians 3:1-13 and see if you can hear all of this in this passage of scripture.

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentilesóif indeed you have heard of the stewardship of Godís grace which was given to me for you; that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of Godís grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory (Ephesians 3:1-13).

  1. Paul the Christian personally cared deeply about the people he taught.
    1. When he understood that Jesus was resurrected, was the Christ (the Jewish Messiah), he was amazed that God was so patient with him to the point of forgiving him and letting him participate in God's mission.
      1. Listen carefully to what Paul the Christian said about himself and Jesus' response to him in 1 Timothy 1:12-16:
        I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
      2. In what way was Paul the sinner ignorantly acting in unbelief? He completely misunderstood Jesus! He did not know who Jesus was!
      3. Listen to what he said about himself before he became a Christian in Acts 26:9-12:
        So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities. While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests . . .
    2. The transformation in Paul from violent opponent of Jesus to encourager of those who sought Jesus is astounding!
      1. In the scriptures we just read, we see how violently Paul opposed Jesus and those who believed Jesus was the Christ when Paul did not understand who Jesus was and regarded the reports of Jesus' resurrection as lies.
      2. Listen to the contrast Paul made from the violent man who did not know Jesus was the Christ to the encouraging man who understood the work of God in Jesus. This statement is made to the Christians at Thessalonica concerning Paul's behavior when he was with them. It is recorded in 1 Thessalonians 2:5-12.
        For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greedóGod is witnessónor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority. But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
      3. The change occurred in Paul because he finally understood God was at work in Jesus.
        1. The same kind of transformation will occur in you when you understand that God is at work in Jesus.
        2. You will continue to change, to grow closer to God's character all your life, as you deepen your understanding of God's work in Jesus.

  2. For the reason of spiritual growth and development, Paul never left new Christians alone to struggle to understand their new life in Jesus Christ.
    1. Do you remember the charge the resurrected Jesus gave to the apostles in Matthew 28:18-20?
      And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ďAll authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.Ē
      1. I ask you to note four things.
        1. The first thing: God through Jesus' resurrection gave him all spiritual authority, so the resurrected Jesus had the right to give the apostles this charge.
        2. The second thing: The charge Jesus gave the apostles was a worldwide charge meant for all people, not for a single nation nor a group of nations.
        3. The third thing: the core of the charge was to go worldwide and make disciples.
          1. Disciples are the followers of a teacher.
          2. They were to understand that Jesus was the teacherl; they were to follow him.
        4. The fourth thing: Their message about Jesus would produce two results.
          1. The people who wanted to follow Jesus would be baptized (baptism then meant immersion).
          2. The people who wanted to follow Jesus would observe Jesus' teachings, his instructions on how to live, his commandments.
          3. These people would not prove they belonged to Jesus just by being baptized, but they would change the way they lived by following Jesus' teachings.
        5. Today, it is essential to teach people to be Jesus' disciples, to teach people to allow Jesus' teachings and values to determine how they live.
    2. Paul cared greatly about the people he converted to Jesus Christ, and he did not leave them to struggle on their own to discover how to be disciples.
      1. Sometimes persecution or other obstacles prevented Paul personally from remaining and being of assistance to people newly converted to Christ.
      2. When that occurred, when Paul attracted so much opposition he was forced to leave, he would either leave part of his team to teach the converts, or he would send someone to check on them.
      3. Often, that person was Timothy.
        1. Listen to Acts 17:15, 16--
          Now those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they left. Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols.
          1. Paul was by himself in Athens.
          2. He was by himself because people who strongly opposed Jesus Christ came to Berea because Paul was teaching there.
          3. The new converts perceived Paul's life was in jeopardy, so they escorted him--for his own safety--to Athens.
          4. But Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea.
        2. Listen to 1 Corinthians 4:17--
          For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.
        3. Listen again to Philippians 2:19, 20--
          But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.
        4. Listen still again to statements Paul made in 1 Thessalonians 3 --
          Verses 1-3: Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and Godís fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this.
          Verses 6-8: But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.
        5. To this same person, Paul wrote these instructions and encouragement in 2 Timothy 2:24-26:
          The Lordís bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
      4. It is not enough for a person to be baptized into Jesus Christ.
        1. As important as that is, Jesus said it is not enough.
        2. The baptized person must dedicate himself or herself to living as Jesus' disciple by learning his values and teachings.

  3. I want to end by directing your attention to today's text we read at the beginning of this lesson, Ephesians 3:1-13.
    1. First, I want to note how deeply Paul cared about these people.
      1. Paul was Jewish by birth, and the people to whom he wrote were not Jewish by birth.
        1. In Paul's lifetime, and long before, that mattered a lot.
        2. It mattered so much that typically devout Jews had only necessary interaction with non-Jews (gentiles).
        3. Devout Jews worshipped the living God; gentiles generally worshipped idols or believed in nothing.
        4. The lifestyle of Jews and the lifestyle of idol worshippers were quite different.
      2. Paul, who had been very Jewish (Galatians 1:13, 14), understood through God's revelation that God wanted to save gentiles as much as He wanted to save Jews.
        1. That was not a popular understanding to have!
        2. People never like their religious beliefs to change, and Paul's understanding would result in a huge change.
        3. Paul's understanding was not accepted by many Jews, and it was not accepted by many idol worshippers.
      3. Paul said he knew his understanding by God's revelation meant trouble for him.
        1. However, that trouble was okay.
        2. He looked upon his understanding as a stewardship from God--God was in charge of the understanding; Paul was only responsible for handling this understanding responsibly.
      4. Paul labeled his understanding "the mystery of Christ."
        1. He said this mystery had not been previously understood by people.
        2. He said this mystery of Christ meant through the gospel (of God working through Jesus Christ), God could make Christians of gentiles as certainly as He could make Christians of Jews.
        3. Paul's responsibility was to tell everyone of God's grace expressed in the resurrected Jesus.
        4. Paul wanted everyone to understand what God did in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
        5. Paul wanted everyone to see how wise God was.
          1. He wanted everyone to see this was God's eternal purpose, not some afterthought of God, not some crazy idea of Paul's.
          2. Paul's responsibility was to handle this understanding boldly and confidently.
      5. Therefore, Paul did not want them to be discouraged because he was being opposed and physically suffering.
        1. He did not deny what he endured was the result of teaching them.
        2. However, he wanted them to understand that their continuing in Jesus Christ glorified what God did in Jesus.
The issue is not "is Jesus Christ opposed." That has always been true. The issue is "are you willing to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?" Do you understand what God did in Jesus' death and resurrection? Are you willing to let Jesus teach you how to live?

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