Scripture Reading: Isaiah 55:6-13
Sermon Title: The Revelation of God’s Mystery (part 5) ... God's Eternal Purpose in Christ
Sermon Text: Ephesians 3:11-12
This week’s message:
Center of the Mystery (v.11-12)
According – to the eternal purpose
Accomplished – in Christ Jesus
Access – through faith
NOTE: “Scripture quotations are 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. Thanks for understanding.
Have you ever looked at the stars on a clear evening and realized the universe is spectacularly huge? Or, have you ever seen microscopic images of DNA, molecules, and atoms, and realized as large as the universe might be, it is spectacularly small at the same time? Some things cause us to wonder.
Bad things happen that cause us to wonder. A nation brings a war against another nation. Tornadoes rip up towns. ISIS murders innocent people. We go to the hospital and visit a friend dying of cancer or we walk by a child who is living homeless on the streets.
Not everything is bad. Good things happen that cause us to wonder. Neighbors help a family whose house burnt. People show random acts of kindness. Missionaries reach out to refugees and bring blankets and a good word.
Is life just a series of good and bad events? Is going to Market Basket and Wal-Mart, working a job, and taking our kids to soccer all there is to life? Are the stars and molecules spinning about in the universe for a reason? Is there more to life than what meets the eye? What is the big picture?
Does life have a purpose? The answer to that question is yes!
Life most definitely has a purpose. In fact, life has a purpose which existed before the universe existed.
Let me read to you the sentence in the Bible, God’s Word, which tells us about the purpose of life.
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. (Ephesians 3:11-12)
Everything God does is according to His eternal purpose. God said, “Let there be light” and it was according to His eternal purpose. God spoke into existence animals, plants, and humans according to His eternal purpose. God creates nations and governments according to His eternal purpose. Our jobs, families and children’s soccer games are according to God’s eternal purpose. Everything made in the heavens and the earth and every event and circumstance takes place according to God’s eternal purpose.
The message this morning focuses on three things this Bible passage teaches about God’s purpose.
The Apostle Paul, the writer of Ephesians, begins the sentence with the words, “this was according to God’s eternal purpose.” Think about that! God’s purpose is eternal. It existed before clocks and calendars. His purpose existed before everything.
What is he referring to when he says, this; this was according to God’s eternal purpose?
Paul is referring to everything he wrote about so far. The Apostle is referring to a great mystery which is the subject of the letter to the Ephesians. God revealed the mystery of His purpose after Jesus died and rose again. The mystery, Paul says, was hidden in God. Nobody knew except God.
Here is God’s purpose - God offers salvation to all people of all nations through Jesus Christ.
Before the revelation of this great mystery, the people of God, especially Paul who is a Jew, thought God’s purpose for creating the universe was all about the people of Israel. Before we think Paul and all the other Jews are crazy, think about what the Scriptures teach.
Give someone a copy of the Old Testament and ask, “what is this about”? They would say something like this.
This is a book about a relationship between God and the Israelite Nation. God chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and from them, He formed a Nation. God calls them His chosen people. His beloved. His children. They are known as the people of God. God saved the Israelites when He led them out of Egypt. God established a special covenant with the Israelites. God gave the Israelites incredible military victories over other nations who stood in their way. No other people on earth had a special relationship with God. God talked to them. God led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night. God gave them a special land to live called the Promised Land. God gave them the great King David and all the spoils of war. God spoke to them through prophets. Everything we read in the Old Testament is about the special relationship between the Israelites and God.
Part of God’s special relationship with the Israelites was to promise to send them a Messiah. The Messiah would be a Savior who will rescue God’s people once and for all. The Messiah would be the greatest blessing the Israelites could ever imagine. The Messiah would be the King of kings. Life under the Messiah will be nothing but prosperity.
The Messiah is the hope of all Israelite people. They studied what the Scripture said about Him. They talked of Him. They sang about Him. They knew that once the Messiah sat upon His throne, there would be no wars and the Israelite kingdom would be the center of everything. What an incredible hope and what a great blessing to be an Israelite.
But, during the time of the Apostle Paul, God revealed the Messiah is not just for the Jews. Yes, the Messiah is born of Israel descent, but He is the Savior of all people of every tribe and every tongue. God’s purpose with the Messiah is not only to save Israelites, but God’s purpose is to save all people in Asia, the north and south pole, Africa, Europe, Australia, and the Americas. With the Messiah, God is making a new Covenant.
The saving of all people and not just Israelites is according to God’s eternal purpose. Saving people is not God’s plan B. It is God’s plan all along.
Jesus knew this. He said as much to Nicodemus. You may be familiar with what He told Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). In other words, “Nicodemus, God does not just love the Jews of Israel, God so loved the people of the world. Whosoever, Nicodemus, not just the Jews.”
When non-Jews, the Gentiles, were saved, Peter, James, Paul, and all the Apostles were taken by surprise. But, they soon realized, God’s saving of all the nations, not just the Jews, is part of the eternal purpose of God.
God works according to His eternal purpose.
The next point is that God’s eternal purpose is carried out in Christ. It is accomplished in Jesus.
We mark years with the life of Jesus at the center. Every year before Jesus is BC, before Christ, every year after Jesus is AD, the initials for the Latin words “anno Domini,” the year of our Lord. Jesus is at the center of the years of human history, and Jesus is at the center of God’s purpose.
Why is Jesus at the Center of this great mystery of God? How is God accomplishing His purpose in Jesus?
For the answer to that question, we have to look at the very big picture. We have to look beyond human existence and understand there is more to life than what meets the eye. What we don’t see with our human eyes nor hear with our ears are spiritual things. There is a spiritual realm with spiritual beings.
Before God created the earth, there was a great battle in the heavens. Satan and one-third of the angels rebelled against God. They did not want God on the throne of heaven and earth. Satan and his demon followers set to establish a kingdom of their own.
God’s purpose is to set out to accomplish the defeat of Satan’s rebellion.
What we see on earth is the result of the spiritual rebellion against God. We battle not against flesh and blood, not against people, but we battle against evil spiritual forces. Satan is seeking people to follow him. Satan attacks us with a vengeance because he is God’s sworn enemy and the Bible says we are made in God’s image. We all have heard of the first battle which took place in the Garden of Eden. Satan, as a serpent, set out to deceive Adam and Eve and to bring them in rebellion with him against God. They were tempted by Satan and they took the bait. And, as they say, the rest is history.
Satan has been at work upon the earth ever since. Satan works in people to make them children of disobedience and children of his rebellion. Jesus said Satan is the father of lies who leads people astray against God. We see the work of Satan everywhere upon this earth. Greed, selfish ambition, pride, wars, corruption, and evil are all a result of the rebellion of Satan and the fallen angels. The fruit of Satan’s rebellion is broken families, homelessness, poverty, sickness, disease, decay, and death.
Big picture: Spiritual beings rebelled against God. Jesus enters the picture.
Jesus Christ is at the center of God’s purpose. In verse 11, Paul refers to Jesus as Christ Jesus our Lord. His name is Jesus. And Paul recognizes two titles for Jesus; Christ and Lord.
The title Christ means He is the Messiah, the anointed Savior. He is the Messiah promised to the Israelite people. God accomplished salvation in Jesus. Jesus is the Messiah who will bring healing and prosperity. Not now, but at the end of this world.
Jesus is the Savior because He died as a punishment for sin on the cross. Jesus died for the sins of the world. He took our punishment that we deserved because we were once children of disobedience and followers of Satan.
You may say, I didn’t follow Satan. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever been angry because you didn’t get your way? Do you honor your mother and father? Are you always thankful? Do you love others as you love yourself? Have you always loved and obeyed God? Were you ever a two-year-old?
The fact of the matter is in those moments, days, or years, we did not follow and obey God, we were in rebellion against God. We were following the ways of Satan and not the ways of God. Every person born is guilty of rebelling against God. Jesus died, to save people from sin and to take the punishment they deserve.
Jesus lived an innocent life. Jesus always obeyed God. Jesus died as an innocent man who pleased God and obeyed God perfectly. Satan tempted Jesus and Jesus did not take the bait. Jesus defeated Satan at the cross. The Bible says Jesus disarmed the rulers and authorities. Jesus disarmed Satan like a nation who takes away all the military weapons of another nation. Satan and the fallen angels have no power over Jesus. He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them on the cross (Colossians 2:15). Jesus is Lord over all.
God rewarded Jesus’ perfect obedience and defeat of Satan on the cross. God raised Jesus from the dead and highly exalted Jesus. Jesus now sits at God’s right hand as Lord over all.
This is where Jesus receives the second title as Lord. Jesus is the Master; He is the King of kings and the Lord of Lords. Jesus is the one who will sit on King David’s throne and reign forever and ever. God accomplished in Jesus the ruling over all authorities and power.
He is Christ Jesus who saves people from sin and death. He is Jesus the Lord who rules over all. God accomplished more than saving people and defeating Satan.
And, He is Jesus, Immanuel which means God with us. The Bible says it pleases God to have all the fullness of God to dwell in Him.
The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 3:8 says he preaches the unfathomable riches of Christ. The riches of Christ are inexhaustible. They are plentiful enough to set the entire universe right again.
Christ’s righteousness and holiness overcome all disobedience and rebellion. Christ provides healing for every disease and all sickness. His humility overcomes all pride and selfishness. His abundance overcomes all poverty. In Jesus’ heavenly kingdom there is no need. Love overcomes hatred. Goodness overcomes evil. The riches of Christ provide an everlasting life for all who are dead in sin.
What problem are you facing? The riches of Jesus Christ our Lord is the answer.
Are you sorrowful? Find comfort and joy in Jesus. Are you anxious, take your cares and concerns to Jesus. Do you have a heavy burden? Jesus says join with Him and He will make your burden light.
Are you guilty of sin? Ask Jesus for forgiveness and mercy.
God is defeating evil and rebellion and it is accomplished through Jesus. Jesus is the central figure in accomplishing God’s purpose. Jesus is the center of all human need.
God’s eternal purpose is that those who believe in Jesus as Christ, as Savior, and those who obey Jesus as Lord, have access.
When we put our faith in Christ Jesus, we have access to God. We have access to all the blessings of heaven. The blessings of heaven are not money or material possessions. The blessings of heaven are forgiveness and mercy. The blessings of heaven are living in peace and unity. These are things money may not buy. With access to God, we experience love as we never have before. We have access to all of Christ’s treasures. God is our strong tower, and we have the access keys to enter into His Kingdom of safety. Death is not our end because we have access to life eternal.
Not only do we have access, but we have bold and confident access to God. If we were to see God on His throne, we would do what everyone else in the Bible does. We would fall flat on our face in fear and trembling. God is to be feared. The Bible says it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God (Hebrews 10:31).
However, those who have access in Christ may approach God with boldness and confidence. We are still to show reverence and honor to God as we approach His throne; however, we now approach His throne as His children and not as rebels who were His enemies.
Just as the President’s children may have access to the Oval Office, we have much more access to the throne of God because we enter through faith in Christ. He stands at our side.
The boldness and confident access to the riches of Christ only come one way; by faith. Faith is believing everything about Jesus is true.
There is no other way. If our mom is a Christian, that does not give us access. Her faith will not save us. If we do good things in the community, those good works do not give us access.
A rebellious enemy is a rebellious enemy no matter how many good things they do for people. I am sure when soldiers are on the battlefield facing an enemy; they don’t stop to ask how many old ladies they helped across the street. No amount of good works erases our willful rebellion against God. One act of rebellion against God is enough to have your soul cast into hell with Satan and the demons.
The only way to have access to God is to put faith in Jesus.
We must have Faith in Christ. The Christ of the Bible is the Messiah; the Savior. We must recognize we are sinners in need of a Savior. We need to have faith that Jesus’ perfect life is our righteousness. Jesus makes us sinners into Saints when we believe in Him
We must have faith in the Lord. We must surrender to our Lord in obedience. He is our King. We must believe Jesus the Lord is a Master who is right and good. Bending our knee to the commands of our Lord are for our benefit. Obedience to the Lord is a blessing.
Faith in Christ as Savior. Faith in Jesus as Lord and King.
We must have faith in Jesus. Jesus is God and full of all the riches and blessings of God. The riches of Jesus are for our satisfaction. We will not find satisfaction in this world. There are many things in the world which promise our needs will be met. But, we must believe Jesus will meet our every need for comfort and peace. Jesus is our joy. No amount of suffering should steer us away from Him. We must be willing to suffer all things so we will gain Jesus. Have faith that Jesus is a treasure worth having.
Trusting Jesus as our Savior and Lord is not easy because the world teaches very differently. The world teaches the one who dies with the most toys wins. The world teaches every person for themselves. The world teaches the opposite of Jesus’ commands.
When we follow Jesus, we learn joy doesn’t come from receiving from others, but it comes from giving to others. True joy comes from humility, not pride. True joy comes from the riches of holiness and not the riches of Wall Street greed.
Follow Satan’s ways, and the world will applaud. Continue being a rebel for God and the world will reward you. Follow Jesus, and the world will hate you. Following Jesus is not easy. But, we have faith it is the best thing we may do.
We need to ask ourselves, are we living with God’s eternal purpose in mind?
God’s purpose centers around Jesus. Is your life centered around Jesus? Have you surrendered to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Submit to Jesus. Don’t wait until He comes on the Last Day riding a great white horse and carrying a sword to defeat His enemies. Wave the white flag. Surrender now. Find joy in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Find Joy in the abundant life of humility, obedience, and peace with God.
You can do it right where you sit. In your heart, tell Jesus you are sorry for sinning against Him, and you want to put your faith in His sacrifice for your sins.
If this is something you have done, please talk to me after or talk to a friend who you know is a Christian. Let us help you understand how the Bible tells you to follow Christ.
Maybe you are sitting here today, and you have surrendered to Jesus. Think about your life. Do you live according to God’s eternal purpose? Is Jesus at the center of your life or have you allowed your job, children, sports, material goods, or something else become the center?
These things are not in and of themselves evil. But, they are if we put them at the center of our life.
We will only know true joy when we keep Jesus at the center. Pray and ask for God’s help to keep Jesus at the center of your life.
Speaking of prayer, thank God for confident access to Him in Christ. Don’t waste this great gift. Be fervent in prayer. Bring your prayers to God. Tell Him of how you desire for Him to save your loved ones. Ask God for help in being a follower of Christ. Pray for our church. Pray for our Nation. We have a great gift of access to our Heavenly Father.
As we go to Wal-Mart and Market-Basket or as we go to our job, remember, they exist because of God’s eternal purpose. As we take our child to the soccer game, remember, we have a child because of God’s eternal purpose.
As we gaze up into the night sky and think about the vastness of the universe, or look at strands of DNA in a microscopic image, remember, remember they are there for a purpose. Stop and think about our great God. Praise Him for His glorious wisdom. His ways are beautiful. Look at His creation and remember all of this is made as part of His eternal purpose to defeat evil.
God doesn’t fight evil with evil, but God proves evil is overcome by what is beautiful, good and holy. It is so wonderful to know God has purposed a future where evil is banished, and we can live in freedom and safety, and we may enjoy being in the presence of our great and loving God for all eternity.
Rejoice in God’s eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have bold confidence and access through our faith in Christ.