Scripture Reading: Exodus 33:18-34:9
Sermon Title: The Revelation of God’s Mystery (part 4) ... Shining Light on God's Wisdom
Sermon Text: Ephesians 3:1-13 (focus on v.8-10)
Revelation of the Mystery (v.1-3); Ministers of the Mystery (v.4-7); Purpose of the Mystery (v.6); and Riches of the Mystery (v.8)
Illumination of the Mystery (v.9)
Wisdom of the Mystery (v.10)
NOTE: I provide this manuscript as a courtesy. I hope you find it useful. I do not follow the document word for word during the message. I also do not write the document with the intent of publication; so there may be grammatical or typographical errors I didn’t notice. Thanks for understanding. “Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB."
I am really excited about our text this week and I hope you are as well. It has some very interesting statements which should cause us to think deeply, to wonder, and ultimately, bring us to deeper worship of our great and amazing God.
Our text this week focuses on Ephesians 3:8-10:
8To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; 10so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.
These verses compose one sentence with three declarations about the gospel. Each verse is a separate declaration. However, they are all working together to convey a larger truth. The first declaration is this:
- To preach the gospel is to preach the unfathomable riches of Christ; (v.8).
I love how Paul describes the gospel as the unfathomable riches of Christ. We talked about this declaration last week. Christ is rich with treasure; He is able to satisfy our every need. We are in union with Him and our every need is met.
We need forgiveness and the riches of Christ meets our needs. We are spiritually dead and Christ’s riches give everlasting life. We have sorrow and despair and He provides unspeakable joy. Every need we may imagine, the riches of Christ surpassingly fills.
When we think of the gospel as the unfathomable riches of Christ, it provides an easy framework for declaring the gospel to others.
The first declaration is that to preach the gospel is to preach the unfathomable riches of Christ.
The second declaration is verse 9:
Illumination of the Mystery (v.9)
- The preaching of the gospel brings to light the administration of the mystery which has been hidden in God (v.9)
Let’s first tackle the latter part of the verse which is, “the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God.” We already know what is this mystery. We’ve been talking about it for weeks. The mystery is that the Gentiles, and here is the most important part we need to wrap our minds around when he says Gentiles he is referring to people of every tribe and every tongue, are included in all the promises of God. Paul preaches to all people that the promises of salvation belong to the nations and not just the Israelites.
In his preaching, Paul is shining a spotlight on this truth which was once hidden, but now is being revealed. Paul did not hide the light under a bushel, but Paul illuminated this truth in every way he was able. Paul’s preaching is like a lighthouse which for generations, could only be seen by Jews because it was hidden in God, but now it is seen by all the nations. All who see the light may follow it to the heavenly city where they may find safety and refuge in Christ.
The light illuminates the administration of the mystery. It seems like an odd phrase, “to bring to light the administration of the mystery.” We saw the word administration at the beginning of the book. Please turn there for a moment because it will help us understand what Paul is talking about.
In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him (in Christ) with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, (here Paul explains the administration) that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. (Ephesians 1:8-10)
God is orchestrating everything, all events of the Universe, to arrive at a goal. The goal God is, “an administration suitable to the fullness of the times.” The word administration means under management or overseen. We are to understand the word administration in the same way we understand it in our day. We have school and hospital administrations. In the executive branch of our government, we have had the Obama, Bush, Clinton, and Reagan administration.
The administration of the mystery is God’s working plan to save people. God has in view an administration and He is working everything in the universe towards the establishment of His administration. His plan is suitable for the fullness of time; in other words, it is suitable for eternity. The administration which God sees as being suitable for all times is that in which all things are summed up in Christ; things in the heavens and things on the earth. In other words, Jesus is head of God’s administration. As chief administrator, God intends for Jesus to be King of kings, and Lord of Lords. Jesus is provider of providers and healer of healers. Jesus is the judge. Jesus is our all in all.
We will stop looking to the world for our satisfaction, and we will look to Jesus. Jesus can do this because of His unfathomable riches.
When Christ walked out of the tomb, that administration reached a significant milestone. God highly exalted Jesus by ascending Him to Heaven. In Heaven, Jesus took His seat of power. Right now, Jesus Christ is exalted and sitting at the right hand of God. Jesus is Lord.
As we go back to 3:9, Paul is saying that his preaching shines a light on a particular aspect of God’s plan which is hinted at in chapter one, but now fully revealed in chapter three. Paul’s ministry shines a light on the aspect of God’s plan which is the saving of the nations. The saving of the Gentiles. All people will sit at the feet of Jesus, and it will be a grand time. Imagine enjoying Christ forever alongside people from Plainfield, Cairo, Nairobi, Sydney, and Tokyo, and all four corners of the globe.
The preaching of the gospel is the means for bringing about God’s administration. When people hear the gospel and put their faith in Christ, they are “summed up” in Christ. They, by God’s grace and by faith, are placed in union with Christ. Jesus is the head, and His people are the body. Jesus is their Lord.
There is only one way for the administration to take place and that is to preach the gospel. The gospel applies the riches of Christ to the poverty of the human condition.
- The gospel transforms spiritually dead people and makes them alive in union with Christ.
- The gospel calls people who walk according to the prince of the power of the air to walk according to God’s Beloved Son.
- The gospel changes people from being children of disobedience to being children of Christ’s righteousness.
- The gospel takes people who were under the power and influence of sin and makes them under the power and influence of His Holy Spirit.
- The gospel sets the captive free; calls them from darkness to light; brings healing to the broken and makes them whole.
- Those who respond to the gospel have their sorrow and suffering replaced with unspeakable joy.
- The gospel is the good news to all the nations that God’s justice and power overcome all the evil and corruption of Satan.
There is no other way for the administration to take place except by the preaching of the gospel. The gospel is the administration of God’s transforming power of changing a sinner to a saint and defeating the power of Satan.
Paul preaching the gospel illuminated the mystery.
God’s Glory in the building of His Kingdom
At this point, as we consider God’s administration, it is important that we consider the bigger picture. God’s administration is the summing up of all things in Christ. God’s is making much of His Son. However, let us also remember there is an even bigger, more grand picture of God’s administration. The bigger picture is God is making much of His glory. His glory is being manifest in the universe and the spiritual realm through Christ.
Remember at the beginning of Ephesians we spent a lot of time talking about the glory of God. This is why our Scripture reading today is from the passage in Exodus when God reveals His glory to Moses. Remember what God said to Moses as He passed by:
“The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations. (Exodus 34:6-7)
Whenever we hear of God’s glory and God’s purpose and plan, this passage must come to mind. This is the most significant passage of Scripture. This passage reveals God’s plan and purpose in the earth. The crucifixion of Christ is the most significant event in human history. It is for the glory of God that Jesus Christ died upon the cross and rose again from the dead. The cross is God being compassionate and gracious, abounding in lovingkindness and executing His judgment. God is doing all things for His glory.
History typically is measured by Kings and Queens, dictators and revolutionists and how nations are formed and how they come to an end. History from God’s perspective is the administration of God’s glory.
To say it simply, everything that happens in the world with the raising up of nations and to setting nations down is all part of God’s grand plan of bringing glory to His name.
God’s glory is manifest in the choosing of Abraham and the establishment of the nation of Israel. God’s glory is manifest in leading Moses and His people out of Egypt. Egypt was made great, and Egypt was made small for the glory of God. God’s glory is manifest in the placement of David upon the throne as king and by Israel’s captivity by the Babylonians.
We need to have God’s glory as the lens for how we read the news and look at history and Scripture.
God’s intention is brought to light. It is fully revealed and on display. God is glorified through the gospel of Christ. God’s glory of being compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; keeping lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin are brought to light, fully illuminated, by the preaching of the riches of Jesus Christ to the nations.
- To preach the gospel is to preach the unfathomable riches of Christ. (v.8).
- To preach the gospel is to bring to light the administration of the mystery. (v.9)
This brings us to the next declaration of our passage.
Wisdom of the Mystery (v. 10)
The preaching of Christ and the bringing to light God’s administration has a purpose. The purpose is stated in verse 10:
10so 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 is a remarkable statement. And from this, we have our third declaration:
- To preach the gospel is to make known the wisdom of God to the spiritual realm. (v.10)
As we look at verse ten, our observations should lead us to ask a few questions so as to understand what the verse means.
1-What is the meaning of manifold?
Manifold is not a common word in English. It means many.
The only time I’ve heard the word used is when people talk about the car engine. A manifold takes the exhaust from all the many cylinders of the car and brings them to the exhaust. It is a manifold because it is made of “many” pipes.
This verse it not talking about God’s wisdom as an automotive exhaust engineer.
Manifold in English means many, but it doesn’t quite convey the complete strength of the Greek word polypoikilos (po-lü-poi'-kē-los).
The root word, “poikilos”, means various. It has added the prefix “poly”, and it becomes polypoikilos. The prefix makes it a much stronger word, many-various. The word in the Greek is most often used to describe intricate tapestries and woven colors and patterns, like Joseph’s coat of many colors. It is a manifold garment. (Which must have been truly beautiful.) The word in this sentence implies there is a beautiful and intricate variety of richness to God’s wisdom. God’s wisdom is many varied.
Another question we may have in looking at the verse is:
2-Who are the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places?
God’s wisdom is on display for the entire spiritual realm. But in this context, I would argue the heavenly beings to which God is displaying His wisdom are primarily the fallen angels. God is vindicating His glory by displaying His wisdom. Holy angels acknowledge the wisdom of God and the unholy angels do not.
We might ask, do fallen angels have power and authority? Yes. We are well served in heeding the Scriptures warnings about the influences of demonic beings.
Paul tells the Ephesians:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (6:12)
Earlier in Ephesians, Paul refers to Satan as “prince of the power of the air” and as a “spirit working in the sons of disobedience” (2:2). His spirit is ‘working’ in people.
When Jesus sent out the seventy to evangelize, they came back with joy (probably amazement as well) saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” Apparently, beforehand, they knew they had no power over demons. Now, when speaking with the authority of the name of Christ, the disciples are joyous. Jesus replies, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority … over all the power of the enemy.” (Luke 10:17-20)
Unholy angels do have authority and power. They have authority to dwell in people and influence their life. The evil which exists in this world is all because of demonic influence. Jesus has “disarmed” that influence. To the Colossians, when talking about the cross, Paul writes:
When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. (2:15)
So, yes, demons have power, but not power over Christ and those who are joined with Him.
Remember, what it says in Ephesians 1? It says God is working all things after the counsel of His will for the “praise of His glory (1:12).
God is working all things according to His purpose which is that the saving of the saints is for the praise of His glory. The preaching of the unsearchable riches of Christ and the revelation of the mysterious plan of God have the ultimate purpose of the praise of His glory. God’s glory will be praised not just by mankind, but by all the heavenly hosts; especially Satan and the fallen angels.
The immense, enormous, beyond our universe, purpose of God is to make the whole universe say: God is infinitely wise!
The many varied wisdom of God is being made known to the spiritual realm.
3-What is the wisdom of God?
All this begs the question, what is the wisdom of God which is on display? In other words, is there a particular aspect of God’s wisdom which is being shown? Yes.
When Paul speaks of God’s wisdom, the context is not about God’s general wisdom, such as God’s wisdom in Creation (which is truly a remarkable show of wisdom). Whenever Paul talks about God’s wisdom, it is in the context of God’s work of salvation.
A key phrase in this verse to help us know what aspect of God’s wisdom Paul is talking about is the phrase through the church. What is God doing through the church? God is saving the church.
It is not that the church itself is showing wisdom, but God’s wisdom in saving men is being revealed. Not what the church does but what God does for the church.
Here are a few examples in which Paul talks about God’s wisdom in the context of salvation. After Paul writes eleven chapters about the gospel to the Romans, it is no wonder he proclaims:
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Romans 11:33)
Paul is overwhelmed with God’s manifold wisdom in salvation.
To the Corinthians he writes:
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (Corinthians 1:20-25)
What is Paul talking about in this passage? Paul is talking about the cross of Christ, preaching Christ crucified. He says preaching the cross, preaching the riches of salvation in Christ is the manifold wisdom of God.
The last example I will use, there are more, is from Paul’s letter to Timothy. He writes, “from childhood you have known the sacred writings which can give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ” (2 Timothy 3:15).
The manifold wisdom of God is His provision of all the riches of Christ to all who put their faith in Christ.
Verses 8-10 make three declarations about the gospel:
- To preach the gospel is to preach the unfathomable riches of Christ (v.8).
- and this brings to light the administration of the mystery, (v.9)
- so that the wisdom of God is made known to the spiritual realm. (v.10)
How should we live knowing that, through the church, the wisdom of God is being revealed to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places? How should this inform us and renew our minds?
We, the church, are a display of God’s wisdom. We are as a beautiful tapestry of many colors and fabrics. We are as a painting for the spiritual realm to look upon with wonder and amazement.
Here is how we should live and think as a display of God’s wisdom.
Live to Display God’s Wisdom
We are to be a display of God’s wisdom by the way we live. I’m sure you noticed in the Bible how it tells us to live like Jesus. We are to be more forgiving, merciful, etc.
We display God’s wisdom when we are living in a Christ-like manner. Listen closely to the words of James
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. (when we live according to the flesh, we are living according to demonic wisdom.) For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:13-18)
When we display compassion and grace to one another, we display the wisdom of God for all to see. When we have selfish ambition, jealousy, or pride, we display demonic wisdom.
We need to remember that we are looked upon by the spiritual realm. We are completely in God’s will and giving Him glory when we live like Christ.
Let’s endeavor to be a display of God’s wisdom by being people with the character of God. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit for help in being a beautiful display of God’s manifold wisdom.
Speak to display God’s wisdom
Living the wisdom of God is only a small percentage of how we are to respond. The wisdom of God is displayed not just by how we live, but by the words we proclaim. People will not know of the riches of Christ just because of the way we live.
The wisdom of God is displayed by our proclamation of God’s wisdom. We are to be like Paul, preaching the riches of Christ and bringing about the administration of building God’s kingdom. This is how God ordained for people to be saved. God did not ordain for people to be saved because we live rightly.
None of us lives such amazing Christian lives that unbelievers will look at us and fall and worship Christ as their Lord and be satisfied in His riches.
This is what we desire to do with the Open House. We desire to invite people to come and hear about the riches of Christ and the manifold wisdom of God. Come, neighbor, come coworker, come lady who cuts my hair, come and hear and come and see the glories of Christ.
We want to do more than just live as a display of God’s wisdom. We want to proclaim the wisdom of God. This is the purpose of the church. As Peter says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9). We are to proclaim the excellencies of God’s wisdom and the excellencies of the riches of Christ.
Do you desire to reveal and display the wisdom of God to the world? The way God ordained for His wisdom to be displayed is the proclamation of the riches of Christ. The world is looking for wisdom. The world is seeking forgiveness and mercy. The world desires rest for the weary and safety from evil.
Let’s be a great big lighthouse in the upper valley where people may see and hear the riches of Christ on display. Let’s not put our light under a bushel, but let’s set it upon the highest mountain so people will see and hear our display of God’s wisdom.
God’s will is that He is glorified. We bring Him glory by declaring His wisdom to the world who is walking according to the prince of the power of the air. Let’s display for all of the fallen angels that they are defeated and Jesus is Lord! Let’s not rejoice in their downfall, as Jesus said, “… do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you. Let us rejoice that our names are recorded in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
The church exists for the glory of God. Let’s live and speak as a display of God’s wisdom to the nations.