Paul’s Stewardship

Introduction:

There was a little girl walking beside her mother in a pouring rain and loud thunderstorm. Every time the lightning flashed, her mother noticed she turned and smiled. They’d walk a little further, then lightning, and she’d turn and smile. The mother finally said, “Sweetheart, what’s going on? Why do you always turn and smile after the flash of lightning?”

“Well,” she said, “Since God is taking my picture, I want to be sure and smile for Him.”

Think with me about unity in diversity, are we very good at it?

Can a football team win if they are not united?

Can society be united with different cultures blended together?

I don’t think our society has been too successful at this lately. It seems like people naturally segregate themselves, but that is not how it needs to be. I don’t know that it is always wrong as long as it is not done with hate. If we can still come together in love for a common purpose then that is wonderful. That is exactly what happens in family. When a family is successful there is unity in diversity. Actually, in marriage there is unity in diversity. Male and female come together and they are now a family. There can be, and should be, mutual submission in family. There should be self-sacrifice in family. Marriages fail for many reasons, but a major reason is that there is diversity, but the unity does not last.

 

So, with society we can have unity in diversity. I have one example now and another at the end of the sermon. Chuck Swindoll writes the following:

The first is WWII:

I was the youngest of three children born to parents whose lives had been shaped mainly by work. Hard, honest labor. They met and married during a difficult time in the United States, on the heels of the Great Depression. As giant walls of dust rolled over Texas, blown east from the Dust Bowl, fear of unemployment haunted every hardworking person in America. In 1934, one out of every four people couldn’t find work, crops withered, banks failed, and families in every neighborhood risked foreclosure and homelessness. That’s when I came along. Actually, I was a “mistake.” I know this because my parents told me. My father escaped unemployment, and, as the nation recovered, he thrived in the insurance business—business— in no small way due to his strong work ethic and positive mental attitude. Then, while he was driving to enjoy a few pre-Christmas days of vacation at my grandfather’s bay cottage near Palacios, Texas, a startling announcement came over the radio in our new 1941 Ford. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor; the United States had declared war on Japan; and on top of all that, it was announced that we would also enter the fight against Hitler in the carnage of Europe. My father immediately turned the car around and headed for home. “This is no time for a vacation,” he said quietly as my mother began to weep. A short time afterward, he resigned his job selling insurance, and we moved from my sleepy little hometown of El Campo to Houston, where he began work in a defense factory in support of the war effort. Too old for military service, this was my dad’s way of serving his country. He said it was the least he could do. He supplemented the lost income by working double shifts.[1]

 

I was not alive during World War II, I don’t know if you know that. I know I look much older than I am. What I have learned and been taught is that America came together. We were diverse, but we were united. Everybody came together for the common cause of defeating the axis powers.

Can the people of God be united? As we continue through Ephesians we see the idea of the unity of God’s people. I am speaking mainly of the unity of Jews and Gentiles. God has called us together as one. Paul called that a mystery that was hidden in the past.

 

Let’s talk about God bringing unity to His people. This is not merely about fellowship. This is bigger than fellowship. This is the phenomenal idea of God bringing all human races together into Judaism. This is God bringing gentiles into His covenant.

 

My theme:

Paul is given stewardship of the mystery of the Gospel to take the Gospel to the Gentiles

My application:

Search yourself to make sure you are helping with the unity of the church.

 

  1. Paul writes that he has a stewardship. Let’s read verses 1-7.
    1. Ephesians 3:1-7: For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s 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 God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.
    2. Notice that Paul begins with “For this reason…” This means that he is making an inference based off of the previous material. Paul had been writing about salvation in Christ which we receive freely, not by works, but by grace. Paul wrote extensively about the unity between the gentiles and the Jews. Paul is about to review.
    3. Paul says that he is in prison. Paul was under house arrest in Rome for preaching about Christ.
    4. I don’t think Paul means to blame the Gentiles when he writes that he is in prison, “For the sake of ‘you’ Gentiles.” He comes back to them in verse 14.
    5. Verses 2-13 are like a parenthesis. Paul reviews his stewardship and calling to reach them with the Gospel. You can see that verse 14 begins “for this reason” just like verse 1.
    6. In verses 2 and 3 he writes about the stewardship given to him. Paul was called as a missionary to the Gentiles, we can read this in Acts 22:21 among other passages.
    7. Verse 3 Paul writes about revelation making known to him the mystery. Ephesians writes about Revelation a lot. God was revealing things of Heaven to him. What is the mystery?
    8. There is debate with this but it seems that the mystery has to do with gentiles and Jews being united together. Though if you do cross reference there are many places where Paul talks of the Gospel being a mystery.
    9. In verse 4 Paul writes about the mystery of Christ.
    10. Verse 5 is wonderful: in the past, this mystery has not been made known to the “sons of men” or we could just say to humanity.
      1. Do you realize that God has made known to us things that in human history He had not revealed before?
      2. God does not have to share anything with us, but He chooses to.
  • Deut. 29:29: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.
  1. Notice verse 6: The Gentiles are:
    1. Fellow heirs
    2. Fellow members
  • and
  1. Fellow partakers
  2. In Christ Jesus through the Gospel.
  1. All tribes and tongues are now God’s people.
  2. This is why Billy Graham could take the Gospel all over the world. This is why Thomas, the Apostle, could go to India. This is why Hudson Taylor could go to China. This is why we can be here right now. But even though God opened the door to Gentiles, we can still be divided within, can’t we?
  3. God’s people can have and should have unity.
  4. Quaker theologian Elton Trueblood once spoke “of consciously inadequate persons who gather because they are weak, and scatter to serve because their unity with one another and with Christ has made them bold.”
  5. I suspect John Baillie was thinking in that direction when he wrote: “It is impossible for men to meet with God and love him without at the same time meeting with and loving one another.” That sounds like community.
  6. Elton Trueblood reflects on the power of community: “Simple people can be amazingly powerful when they are members one of another. As everyone knows, it is almost impossible to create a fire with one log, even if it is a sound one, while several poor logs may make an excellent fire if they stay together as they burn.”
  1. Let’s look at verses 8-13.
    1. Ephesians 3:8-13: 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; 10 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. 11 This wasin accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.
    2. Notice how Paul writes about preaching the “Unfathomable” riches in Christ?
    3. Here we go again, Paul is writing about how rich we are in Christ.
    4. Notice Paul’s modifiers. Hidden in God, “who created all things.”
    5. Verse 10, Paul references rulers and authorities in the “heavenly places.” This would be referring to demons and angels. This is really cool, the angels, even the demons are made known to the wisdom of God through the church. The church is all tongues and tribes and people groups.
    6. There is so much more here: verse 12: we have boldness and confident access through faith in Jesus.
    7. Verse 13: I like what one person shared: Just as a mother endures the pain of childbirth in order to bring new life into the world, Paul endured the pain of persecution in order to bring new believers to Christ. Obeying Christ is never easy. He calls you to take up your cross and follow him (Matthew 16: 24)— that is, to be willing to endure pain so that God’s message of salvation can reach the entire world. We should feel honored that others have suffered and sacrificed for us so that we might reap the benefit.

 

Close:

We have unity. I love Revelation 7:9-11:

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches werein their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,

“Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God…

 

Isn’t that awesome? God brought people together again. At the tower of Babel in the Old Testament (Genesis 11) He separated the people groups, but He has brought us together again.

 

My theme:

Paul is given stewardship of the mystery of the Gospel to take the Gospel to the Gentiles

My application:

Search yourself to make sure you are helping with the unity of the church.

 

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

 

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

 

[1] Swindoll, Charles R. (2012-02-02). Saying It Well: Touching Others with Your Words (p. 143). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

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