Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ephesians 3: Church Reveals God's Mystery

Eph 3:1-12 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 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. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and 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 now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

In this short passage of Ephesians, Paul uses the word "mystery" four times. The mystery which was not made known to past generations has now been revealed, viz., that the Gentiles would be included in God's final redemption plan. God's plan is not just to save Israel, but through Israel to save the world. So now, in Christ, all nations are included in God's salvation plan: "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" (v.6).

No one need feel left out by virtue of race, language or religion--except those who wilfully reject God's free gift of salvation by grace through Christ. And it is through this united and universal church that God has chosen to reveal "the manifold wisdom of God might now be made know to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places" (v.10).

The church is God's secret weapon to unleash his "manifold wisdom" to transform the world enslaved by the "rulers and authorities in the heavenly places." The church has never been called to be a self-absorbed and mind-our-own-business community. Rather, it has been called to be outwardly focused in order to reveal God's manifold wisdom to a world dominated by spiritual hosts of wickedness, as witness these days in Iraq and elsewhere in Northern Africa and the Middle-East.

The demonic forces in these places are bent on destroying the church. In the first 13 years of the 21st century alone (2000-2013), it is estimated that 1 million Christians have died as martyrs for their faith. In the 20th century alone, it is estimated that some 10-20 million Christians have been put to death around the world, particularly in communist and Islamist countries. More Christians died in the 20th and 21st centuries than the total of the last 19 centuries since the church came into existence. While believers in other faiths have also been persecuted, the violence against the church is beyond human motivation. Its root is demonic because the church stands as a witness against the evil unleashed by the demonic forces in the heavenly places.

Some believers claim the Great Tribulation has already arrived. Why? Satan knows his hours are short and so he is doing his greatest damage in these days to snuff out the light. Just as when the Son of God was first revealed in the flesh, Satan sought to kill the Son of God--but it backfired on him. Today, Satan and his hosts are equally bent to destroy the Son of God who is incarnated in the Church. It will again backfire on him, leading to his final defeat and destruction. God will cause a tsunami of spiritual revival to break Satan's hold in places now controlled by his demonic and dark forces.

Despite the church's weakness, it is through the church that God's fullness -- his power and presence -- is revealed to the world. The church needs to wake up from its slumber to realize its glorious self-identity and destiny to move beyond its current self-aborption in order to wage war against the evil that is now arrayed against it.

Father, open our eyes to see ourselves as You see us--the glorious church that reveals the mystery and manifold wisdom of God. Amen.

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