Equality in Christ
A. Last week, in Chapter 2 of Ephesians we took a look at the Lord's "Never Ending Grace."
1. And although the Apostle Paul was speaking specifically to Gentiles, we saw how the cross has united us all into one body and as verse 19 puts it, we "are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God".
2. Tonight Paul continues that discussion by explaining the equality that the Gentiles had in Christ.
a) Of course, the Jews didn't feel that the Gentiles were equal.
(1) You know, bigotry and hatred can make you "blind".
(a) Not necessarily physically, but spiritually blind.
(b) It can keep you from "seeing" things the way the Lord does.
(c) The Jews, because of their bigotry and hatred couldn't fathom that the Lord would allow "those Gentile dogs" the same grace that he did them!!!
(d) But Paul wants to reassure the Gentile believers in Ephesus that they were every bit equal!
b) Let's take a look.
A. Ephe 3:1 (NKJV) For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles--
1. Paul starts with his explanation of equality based upon the previous Chapter of God's grace.
a) That is why he starts the verse with "For this reason."
(1) In other words, "Based upon the reasons already stated!"
b) As he makes this statement about being in prison, he feels the need to explain to the Ephesian believers why he is a prisoner!
(1) No doubt, he felt that they would be stumbled with "why" the Lord would allow Paul to suffer as a prisoner in Rome, and ultimately die a martyr's death.
(a) You see, even back then, there were those who believed in the "prosperity doctrine".
(i) "If Paul is a Christian and the Lord is on his side, then what is he doing in prison?"
(ii)"After all, Christians are supposed to live in perfect health, and wealth, aren't they?"
(2) So, he digresses until verse 14, where he picks up his original thought and purpose.
2. Please notice that Paul does not consider himself a prisoner of Rome!
a) He is the prisoner of Christ Jesus!
(1) He is helping them to deal with his trial the way he deals with it.
(a) He want them to see it the way he does!
(b) And Paul sees this as God's work!
3. Then he tells them that his imprisonment was at least in part for their glory.
a) You see, if he hadn't preached that the Gentiles were "equal" to the Jews, he probably wouldn't be in prison.
(1) They would let him get by with just about anything but saying that the Gentiles were equal to the Jew!!!!!
b) So, he starts his digression:
B. Ephe 3:2 if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, 7 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.
1. The word "dispensation" in verse 2 means = "stewardship."
a) In other words, Paul had been given a "stewardship " to preach grace to the Gentiles!
b) He tells the Ephesians that this "mystery" had been withheld prior to the cross, but had now been revealed to the Apostles and prophets through the Holy Spirit.
c) And that he was called by the Lord to deliver that message.
(1) Also that he had been vested with a certain amount of spiritual power to enforce this message with signs and wonders done among the Gentiles.
C. Ephe 3:8 (NKJV) To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what [is] the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly [places], 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.
1. Paul is overwhelmed to think that he has been called to be a part of all this!
a) To tell the Gentiles about the Lord's unsearchable riches.
(1) Which God had kept hidden since the beginning of time, in order to reveal it during Paul's life.
(2) He got to participate in making it known to the church the amazing grace that came with Jesus!
(a) The cross was and is, the great "equalizer!"
(b) And now, any believer can have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him!
D. Ephe 3:13 (NKJV) Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
1. Paul love these believers and doesn't want them to be stumbled because of his imprisonment!
2. He reminds them that with all this in view, they should glory in his tribulations knowing what it represents and Whom is behind it all!
E. Ephe 3:14 (NKJV) For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
1. As far as Paul is concerned, he will gladly submit to such a noble calling!
a) Even if it meant imprisonment and death!
F. Ephe 3:15 (NKJV) from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what [is] the width and length and depth and height-- 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
1. Paul prays that they will be strengthened in faith and that the Lord will give them the ability to understand this awesome truth.
2. 1Pet 2:9 illustrates that truth even further! But you [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once [were] not a people but [are] now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
3. And then, Paul closes with a prayer:
G. Ephe 3:20 (NKJV) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
1. He reminds them that although he is in prison, it doesn't in any way diminish God's power.
2. He is still Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think!