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The Revelation of God’s Mystery (part 3) … Unfathomable Riches of Christ

Sermon Date:September 4, 2016

Sermon Topics:Ephesians 3:1-13

Author:Allen Burns

Scripture Reading: Colossians 1:13-29

Sermon Title: The Revelation of God’s Mystery (part 3) ... Unfathomable Riches of Christ

Sermon Text: Ephesians 3:1-13

MAIN IDEA:   Worship God who reveals His wisdom through the riches of Christ

Previous weeks:

Revelation of the Mystery (v.1-3)

Ministers of the Mystery (v.4-7)

Purpose of the Mystery (v.6)

 

This week:

Riches of the Mystery (v.8)

So What: Application to our lives

 

NOTE: “Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB."  I provide this manuscript as a courtesy. I do not follow the document word for word during the message. I also do not write the document with the intent of publication; there may be grammatical errors throughout. Unfortunately, there is not always time to proofread. I choose to use my available time for studying, finding ways to explain the truths of Scripture while keeping a balance of time for visiting and discipleship of people in the church. Thanks for understanding.

 

 

Introductory Review

Paul writes to the Ephesians to help them see that God is building His house. Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone and the Jews and the Gentiles are all being fit together into this great work of God.

The fact that God is fitting Gentiles as building blocks into the household of God is a new revelation. God began a radical new work in the first century. Beforehand, God’s people did not know God would be saving Gentiles through the Jewish Messiah. It was a great mystery.

By God’s grace, this great revelation is given to Paul. God divinely opened Paul’s eyes and chose Paul as an instrument to proclaim this great mystery to the world. Paul is not alone; he is not the only instrument of proclaiming the mystery. God raised up prophets and apostles to preach the glories of salvation in Christ alone to the Jew first, but also to the Gentile.

God completely oversaw the revealing of this mystery. In His providence, He orchestrated events such as shipwrecks and imprisonments for Paul and the burning of occult books and a riot by the idol sculptors in the great city of Ephesus. God chose the timing in which to reveal this great mystery. God chose servants and sanctified them as holy prophets and apostles. God gave them grace to preach and led them by His Holy Spirit telling them where to go and what to say. To complete the task, God empowered them with His power so they may preach His truth. God is in complete control in exercising His sovereign will and revealing His mysteries and His will to the world.

God’s chosen ministers of the mystery proclaimed salvation in Christ as a double union. The first union is union with Christ. Jews and Gentiles are together alive with Christ, together risen with Christ, and together seated with Christ in the heavenly places. The second union is stated in verse six of chapter three. This verse is the key to the purpose of the Apostle writing the letter to the Ephesians.

6 …, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,

Jews and Gentiles, who are in union with Christ, are also in union with one another. The Jews and Gentiles are together heirs, together members of the same body, and together partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus.

Riches of the Mystery (v.8)

It is because of this union of Gentiles with the Jews and that they may share together the glorious inheritance of Christ, Paul has great joy. He gets to be part of this wonderful gift of speaking the good news. He makes this beautiful statement:

8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,

By God’s grace, the Apostle Paul was given charge to preach to a people who were for generations a people who were outcasts from the goodness of God’s providence; the Gentiles.

And what was Paul preaching to the Gentiles? Paul preached nothing less than the riches of Christ. Paul preached the riches of the mystery.

Before salvation in Christ, Paul’s name was Saul. Saul found his joy in preaching the Law of Moses. Saul lived and breathed the Law. He considered himself to be blameless of the Law (Phil. 3:6). Saul zealously sought to persecute anybody who opposed the Law. For Saul, the greatest enemies of his joy were Christians and he found joy and satisfaction in seeing them killed and in locking them in prison.

But, as we all know, God sovereignly opened the eyes of Saul. God revealed to Saul the mystery of the Gospel. God told Saul you are no longer Saul, but Paul, a chosen instrument to preach Christ to the Gentiles.

Paul is amazed that despite the fact he persecuted the name of Christ, that God gave him the mercy, forgiveness, and grace to put him on a different path. God changed Paul so that he would no longer persecute the name of Christ, but instead, proclaim the riches and excellence of God’s beloved Son. By God’s grace, the mouth that cursed Christ spoke the blessings of Christ.

Paul considered himself the very least of all the saints because he formerly persecuted those who put their faith in Christ. Paul understood grace. Of all the people in the world, God chose Paul and gave him opportunity to know Christ and to make Him known.

To Paul is given the grace to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ. And, oh, what riches did Paul discover and make known. Paul’s eyes are opened to grasp the greatness of the riches of Christ. He calls the unfathomable. They are unsearchable and beyond human comprehension.

When we think of what may possibly be unfathomable for us to comprehend, perhaps the greatest thing for us is the universe itself. The universe is remarkably beyond our reach of understanding it’s depth. It is so big that we find difficulty describing its enormity and its complexity. Yet, the Bible does not describe the universe as being unfathomable. God’s works and His wisdom are unfathomable and so are the riches of Christ.

God opened Paul’s eyes, and God opens our eyes, to have a glimpse into the great treasure of Christ’s riches. Because Paul’s eyes are opened, he finds a new joy and a new desire. No longer does Paul find joy in the Law, but Paul finds joy in proclaiming that all people may find complete and utter satisfaction in the riches of Jesus Christ. Christ became his treasure.

Imagine being able to go around with an inexhaustible treasure filled with riches and proclaiming, “Come see the riches. Have your every need met. Come and partake of this treasure. It is all free. Jesus paid the price. It is yours for the taking. Come hear about this great gift from God.”

To which someone might respond, “Paul, tell me what is this treasure.”

Paul could then open up the Scriptures and also share all that he learned from Jesus and from Peter, James, and the other apostles.

He could begin by telling about being joined with Christ. Jesus Christ is the vine and those who are in Christ are the branches (Jn. 15:1). If you remain in Christ, the vine will continue to feed the branch. His riches flow to His saints and He gives the nourishment to meet every need for He is our all in all (Col. 3:11)

Physical needs of food and water

Paul knows the Ephesians, and the people in all the churches, and he knows every person he preached to is a physical being with physical needs. People hunger and thirst. Paul could begin telling his listeners about how Christ richly nourishes.

“Jesus is the Good Shepherd who leads His sheep to lie down in green pastures and He leads them to the still waters (Ps. 23:1-2).”

“The riches of Christ are for everyone who is poor, but hungry and thirsty. Come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. (Is. 55:1).”

“Are you thirsty? Jesus provides living water for all who thirst and whoever drinks of His water will never thirst again (Jn. 4:14). Are you hungry? Jesus is the bread of life; those who come to Him will not hunger (Jn. 6:35).”

Christ’s riches are unfathomable; those who He nourishes will never again hunger or thirst. The hungry are fed and the thirsty have drink.

Healing for all the nations

Paul knows physical needs go beyond eating and drinking. Hunger and thirst pains are not the only pains his audience experiences. People experience the pain of cancer, broken bones, skin infections, and failure of hearts and kidneys. There is no end to the pain and suffering and experiencing everything from bumps and bruises or being plagued by sickness and disease.

Because people are sick and dying, Paul preached about the riches of Christ healing for sickness. He could look in the book of treasure and tell of Solomon proclaiming Christ to be a healing ointment poured forth (Song of Sol. 1:3). He could preach of Isaiah saying by Jesus bloody whip mark stripes they may be healed (Is. 53:5).  And how the prophet Jeremiah gives Jesus the name “the Balm of Gilead” (Jer. 8:22) and both Luke and Matthew proclaim Jesus to be the Great Physician (Mt. 9:12; Lk. 4:23).

Paul may proclaim to those listening that the riches of Jesus healing are not just for people, but for all the nations. In His Kingdom, on either side of the river which is the water of life, Jesus planted a tree of life. The tree bears twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of this tree serve a unique purpose, they are for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2).

The riches of Christ heal all of our aches, pains, diseases, and sickness.

Loneliness and despair

Paul preached to those who are lonely and have despair. He preached Jesus will never leave them or forsake them. Jesus’ love surpasses anything they ever experienced and His love has no end. Jesus loves them so very much that He laid down His life as proof of His love.

Security and safety, peace and comfort

Paul could ask, “Are you ever afraid, does the evil in the world make you anxious, are there times you desire safety? Let me tell you about the riches of Christ’s protection.”

“Jesus is the great Shepherd who watches over His flock (1 Peter 5:4). He lays down His life for His sheep.  Jesus provides refuge because He is a refuge (Isa. 25:4). In His Kingdom He is a mighty Fortress and a He is our Hiding Place (Isa. 32:2).”

“If you are anxious, Jesus provides peace to His people which passes all understanding. He provides more than just safety; Jesus is the Comforter (Isa. 61:2; Jn. 14:16).”

“Jesus has great authority over armies of angels. He rules and watches over His people because He is King of Kings and (Zech. 14:16) and Lord of Lords (1 Cor. 12:3; 2 Pet. 1:11). Jesus carries the government upon His shoulders. Jesus is the Chief among ten thousand (Song of Sol. 5:10). Jesus rule is not a temporary rule which may be toppled by a usurper. His Kingdom has no end and He perpetually sits upon His throne forever and ever.”

Wisdom and knowledge

Paul preached from the wisdom of God’s word. He might ask, “Tell me, are you curious about life? Do you seek to understand? Do you have a thirst for knowledge seeks after truth? In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). We need not look any further to find complete satisfaction in the riches of Christ’s wisdom.”

Joy of beauty and music

“What about beauty, art, and music? Do you desire these things?” Paul preached to the churches that Jesus Christ is the beautiful Rose of Sharon talked about by Solomon (Song of Sol. 2:1). “Jesus is the Potter who molds the clay. Imagine yourself, one day, walking into the heavenly city built by Jesus Christ. The One who created music and beauty and who clothes the lilies of the field and adorns the sky with stars has built a great city for all His people to dwell. His Kingdom city is of magnificent beauty of which people have never seen it’s equal. It is built with gates made of pearl and adorned with beautiful gems. It is illuminated by the brilliance of His glory which emanates from His magnificent throne.”

Justice and wrath

Again, let us look into the treasure of God’s word which tells of the riches of Christ. “Tell me, do you live in a corrupt world? The colosseum of the cities are filled with the blood of entertainment. Politicians retain office by bribing the army and murdering their foes. The poor are forced to live on streets filled with all sorts of crime. We live in a world sorely needing justice. Who will speak on our behalf?”

“Jesus Christ is just. He pleads before the throne as Advocate for those who belong to Him (1 Jn. 2:1). He speaks justly for those who belong to Him.”

“Jesus is the Just One (Acts 7:52) and He is the Judge (Micah 5:1; Acts 10:42). Jesus not only judges over the Law, but He is the Lawgiver (Isa. 33:22) and the purpose for the Law (Ro. 10:4). With Christ, the need for justice is satisfied.”

“There is coming a great day of reckoning. It is called in Scripture, the Day of the Lord. On that day, the heavens will open and Jesus will ride upon a white horse, leading all the armies of heaven. From His mouth a sharp sword will come forth and with it He will strike down the evil of the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron. Jesus Christ treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of Almighty God (Re. 19:11-16).”

“On the Day of the Lord, the one who is called the Commander (Isa. 55:4), He who has written upon His thigh, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS”, will forever banish and pour out the punishment of God upon all who resist Him. Evil comes to an end. Sinners will be punished. In Christ’s Kingdom, there is no corruption.”

Forgiveness, mercy

Paul could then pause, knowing his listeners are just beginning to have their eyes opened to the vastness of Christ’s riches. And he could say, “Have you sinned against God? Are you pure and holy? Will you receive the punishment of God’s wrath or will you receive the riches of Christ? Because, if you are not pure and holy, these riches are not for you.”

Paul knows people are sinners. Those who listened to him preach are dead in their trespasses and sins. They do not obey God but live in rebellion to Him. They don’t walk in obedience, but walk according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit working in the sons of disobedience. They live in the lusts of their flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:1-3).

His listeners would know they sinned and the riches Paul described are not for them. And Paul could continue by saying, “I have the best news of all.”

“If you are a sinner needing forgiveness. Christ, because of His great love, and because of the riches of His mercy, offers forgiveness of sin. He is the Merciful and Great High Priest (Heb. 4:14; 2:17); the Minister of the Sanctuary (Heb. 8:2), and the great Deliverer (Rom. 11:26) who will rescue you from the kingdom of darkness and deliver you to His kingdom of light.”

“Jesus paid the penalty of sin with His death upon the cross because He is the Horn of salvation (Ps. 18:2; Lk. 1:69); the Savior of the world (Lk. 1:47; 2:11; 1 Jn. 4:14). Even though people are dead in their sins, Jesus makes them alive and through His blood, washes them pure and presents sinners before the throne of God as a people who are holy, blameless, and above reproach.”

Jesus says:

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mk. 8:34-35)

Paul preached, “Repent of your sin and submit to Jesus as your Savior and Lord. Stop putting your faith in your good works because they are not good in the eyes of God. Your works do not cleanse you from your sin. Put your faith in the finished work of Christ.”

Life Everlasting

“When you put your faith in Christ, He gives the rich gift of everlasting life. Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the Life (Jn. 11:25).”

Timing of Christ’s inheritance

Someone listening to Paul’s preaching might ask, “When does all this take place? When will we receive this living water and the bread of life? When should we expect healing and security? When will there be justice against the evil? I don’t see these things happening now Paul.”

Paul knows God is provident over all things and He is sovereign over time. God knows the time when the Day of the Lord will come and God’s chosen saints will be whisked away as the bridegroom comes and fetches the bride. He knows those who follow Christ, will not have their best life now. Paul will not preach, “Follow Jesus and everything in life will be great. If you have enough faith your disease will be healed. If you have enough faith in Jesus, you will get that job so your table will be filled with plenty.”

The Apostle Paul knew all too well suffering and Christianity sometimes go hand-in-hand. The Christianity Paul preached is based on God’s perfect timing. God has a purpose and a plan. Jesus is Lord over time. He is the First and the Last (Rev. 1:17), the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 1:8; 21:6), and the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:9-11; Rev. 1:13-16).

Paul preached that people must trust Jesus Christ. The promises of Christ will come to pass. We may know because He gives to those who trust Him His Holy Spirit as a pledge. Paul preached that people must persevere until the end.

“Put your faith in the One who is faithful. Don’t look at circumstances, but look to the cross. The God who gave His Beloved Son on our behalf, will He not also give us all these things? God is not a liar. Put your faith in Him. Hope in Him.”

Paul preached what he prayed for the saints. He preached, “God will open the eyes of your heart so you will know the hope of His calling, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power working toward you.”

Paul rejoiced in preaching the riches of Christ.

So What

What about us? How do we respond to Paul’s preaching? I have three questions. These questions are designed to help us know how we respond and apply the riches of Christ to our lives.

The first question is this:

Question 1: Have you received all the riches of Christ?

What are your riches? Where is your treasure? Are money or possessions your treasure? Is sex your treasure? Is your family your treasure? Is your job your treasure? Is the world your treasure? Or, is Jesus your treasure?

Some people are willing to receive the riches of Christ’s mercy and forgiveness. They desire forgiveness of sins, and they want Jesus to heal their sickness, but they are unwilling to receive the gift of having Jesus as Lord of their life.

Submitting to Jesus as Lord is a rich treasure. Receiving Jesus as King of kings is a blessing. The commands of Jesus are a treasure. They are given for our benefit. Being part of a church is a rich blessing.

The riches of Christ are one package. We may not pick and choose which riches we want to take and leave the rest of His riches in the treasure box. No. We must receive all of the riches of Christ.

We must pay the price. We must deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Jesus. We must die to self and die to our sinful passions. Dying to self is a rich treasure given by Christ. Living a life of holiness is a rich treasure. Preferring the needs of others before yourself is a rich treasure.

Everything Jesus offers is a treasure. Receive all that He offers by laying down the treasures of this world and by picking up your cross to follow Him.

Receive all the riches of Christ, not just some.

The second question is:

Question 2: Are you excited about the riches of Christ?

We all enter seasons in our walk with the Lord where it seems messages about the riches of Christ lack the excitement they once held.

We have to be careful not to allow the riches of Christ to become passé. The gospel is good news and always will be. It should ring in our ears as good news each and every day.

I stand here every Sunday and endeavor to preach the riches of Christ. Some of you are great listeners and we will later talk about the riches of Christ preached.  But I get the impression some people are not always listening. Sometimes I see people falling asleep.  I hear during the week that the sermon was not as entertaining as the guy on the radio or the internet. I hear people say, “I already know all this. I am not being fed.” Maybe even today, while listening to all the different ways Christ’s riches satisfy our every need, for some reason, the sermon is stale.

I understand because I’ve been there myself. I’ve had times when I’ve zoned out during a sermon. I’ve said, “I already know this.”

We must be very careful. We may not allow ourselves to become apathetic. Let us not allow ourselves to say, as Keith Green sang, “my eyes are dry, my faith is old, my heart is hard, and my prayers are cold. And I know how I ought to be, alive to You and dead to me.”

When we do not approach the Word of God with eagerness, we need to come to the realization somehow, somewhere, our love and passion for the Lord is diminished. We need to ask for the Lord’s forgiveness and pray that God restores the joy of our salvation.

If the riches of Christ are not exciting to you, ask God to restore your joy in the Gospel. Pray He puts a fire in your heart.

Endeavor to be excited about the riches of Christ.

The third question is this:

Question 3: Are you excited to tell others about the riches of Christ?

If we put our faith in Christ, we are given the same grace as the Apostle Paul to preach the riches of Christ.

We might consider ourselves the least of all the saints because we rebelled against Christ, perhaps even used His name as a curse. We don’t feel adequate or we may not know what to say. But, by God’s grace, we are given the privilege to speak of the glorious riches of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We must learn what to say. We must endeavor to speak the riches of Christ to this fallen world. We must be bold with the gospel.

Imagine not knowing Christ and telling our friend how we are tired and they, as a Christian, never tell us Jesus bids for those who are weak and heavy laden to come to Him to find rest.

Imagine being sick, and telling your cousin you have a serious illness, and they, as a Christian, never speak of the Great Physician.

Imagine being guilty of sin, and telling your coworker you have an anger problem and need help, and they, as a Christian, never speak of forgiveness found in Christ the Savior and the blessings of His indwelling Spirit.

Yet, this happens every day. We hold in our hands the treasure of the riches of Christ and our mouths are sometimes silent. We offer no food or drink. We offer no healing for the nations. We offer no peace or comfort. We offer no joy or beauty. We offer no hope of justice. We offer no forgiveness of sins. Our mouths remain closed.

We are content to look into the riches of Christ and know they are for us, but we are unwilling to open the treasure up for others. This is a tragedy of epic proportions. 

We need revival. We have the honor and the privilege to proclaim the glorious riches of Christ. The Apostle Paul saw evangelism as a gift of God’s grace. Our Christianity is lacking excitement because we have no new babies in the house. We are not experiencing the joy of seeing people come to faith in Christ. Don’t overlook the rich gift of evangelism and in seeing souls rejoice in having all their needs met in Jesus Christ.

Receive all the riches of Christ.

Endeavor to always find joy and excitement in the Gospel.

Proclaim the riches of Christ to a lost and dying world.