by Mike Ratliff
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints and believers in Christ Jesus who are in Ephesus. 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:1-2 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
As my 61st birthday is less than two months away and the fact that I have seen the incredible changes not only in our culture, but in how Christians and our culture relate I am amazed at how polarized things have become. When I was a young and growing up as a Southern Baptist, the secular government was not Christian by any means, but on the other hand, neither did it invade into what we call Christianity. I never heard the term “Christian World View” until sometime in the mid 1970’s. The Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973 that legalized abortion on demand in the United States also created an awakening of sorts within those whose consciences had not yet been seared with a hot iron and so began a resistance to the rise in this country of the Culture of Death. Not everyone who is part of this resistance would be those I would call my brothers or sisters in Christ and neither would some of them share the same Christian World View that I have. Also, many who affirm whole heartedly the precepts of the Culture of Death also claim to be “Christians,” but by their rejection of orthodox Christianity beginning with the Word of God as being authoritative, Jesus Christ as the Second Person of the Triune God, et cetera, they fail the test and thereby show themselves to be apostates.
True Christianity is not of this world, that is, it is not man-made. In fact, in the passage we will examine in this post, the apostle Paul refers to the gospel itself as a “mystery” that was not explained or understood until the coming of Jesus Christ, his life, his death, his burial, his resurrection, his ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit in the creation of the Church in this world. With the acceleration into the darkness of the Culture of Death in this country we have also seen the polarization of or separation within the visible church of those who simply call themselves Christians, but who are obviously not because of their identification that they hold to the values of this lost and dying world. On the other hand, those who truly do belong to the Saviour are different. They are new creations. Their Lord is Jesus Christ and they serve him alone no matter the cost. With the Culture of Death taking over, this identification as a true disciple of the Lord Jesus also means that it can become costly indeed.
Are we there yet? No, this is an election year, but anyone with any sense can look at the economic mess that the Government has created and see that a crash of some sort, even worse than what happened in Greece, is coming very soon, that is, unless people with backbone and resolve are elected and do things to correct the problem that those with vested interest will find quite painful. However, as a Christian, where is your treasure? From where does your daily bread come? Who provides your food, shelter and clothing and with these we are to be content? I suppose you can consider this my small little plea for you brothers and sisters in Christ to pray to our all mighty Father who is rich in mercy, to provide for those who are his in the midst of the fiery trial that is coming.
1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles– 2 if indeed you heard of the stewardship of the grace of God, which has been given to me for you; 3 that according to revelation was made known to me the mystery as I wrote before in brief. 4 As to which you are able by reading to understand my insight in the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men as now it was revealed to his Holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 [specifically that] the Gentiles are to be joint heirs and a joint body and joint partakers of the promise of Christ Jesus through the gospel, 7 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God having been given to me according to the working of his power. 8 To me, the less than the least of all saints this grace was given to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable wealth of Christ, 9 and to enlighten all men as to what is the stewardship of the mystery which had been hidden from the ages in God, the one who created all things; 10 that the many faceted wisdom of God might be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenlies 11 according to the plan of the ages, which he made in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access in confidence through faith in him . 13 Therefore, I ask you not to despair concerning my afflictions for you, which is for your glory. (Ephesians 3:1-13 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
When Paul was ministering as a Church planter and missionary, a “Culture of Death” existed in his time too. The Greco-Roman culture was pagan and the Government, that is, the power in place, was closely intertwined with the pagan religions, the cults, et cetera. Homosexuality was rampant as well as infanticide. Slaves were killed for entertainment in arenas. However, what is so amazing for those who actually do study history in an honest way, the parallels with what was going on the Roman Empire culturally and what is going on in Europe and the United States now are eerily the same. What is the major precept of Christianity that makes it different from paganism that covers most of the world? Paganism does not care what religion you practice as long as you do not insist that yours is the only one that is right, which is what Christianity says and proves it from the Word of God.
Look at Paul’s statement in vv1-3. Where did Paul get the Gospel message he preached? God revealed it to him. Also, if you study Paul’s writings in the New Testament you will see that he quotes from the Old Testament continually so from where did God give Paul this revelation? Paul calls it a mystery. It was a mystery in the Old Testament. That means that the coming of the Messiah was promised all through the Old Testament, but it was as a shadow and type and not understood clearly. When was it revealed and how? In v5 we see that his Spirit made the mystery plain through God to our Lord’s apostles who are also prophets in the Spirit.
The Jews could not grasp that the Gentiles were to be part of the Church, but when the mystery was made more clear, Paul was made the minister to them and was given the same apostolic power as the other apostles. Look at how Paul describes the Gospel and our Lord Jesus in v8.
My brethren in v11 we see that the supreme purpose of the church is to glorify God, which includes the displaying of God’s wisdom before the angels, who then honor him with even greater praise. In v12 we see that all in Christ can come before God at any time not in self-confidence, but in Christ-confidence.
In v13 Paul mentions trouble and suffering. My brethren, we still have time to bring God glory in this life as his Church in this world. God produces glory through trouble and suffering. God uses trials with heretics and attacks on our religious freedoms and freedom of speech, et cetera to draw us into prayer and dependence upon him and his grace. As I tried to say earlier, the Church I knew when I was young was not very strong nor doctrinally centered. I doubt if anyone I knew in the churches I attended as a young person could define Justification by Faith. When I attempted to teach these things at an SBC church back in 2005-2006 it caused such outrage that it became one of the reasons we left, the other being that church going Purpose Driven.
However, on my blog, we discuss these things all the time. We go deep into the Word and my walk with my Lord is not marked by religiosity, but by actually spending time in prayer, studying the Word, teaching, and especially sitting under the teaching of elders—big difference.
What is God’s Purpose for the Church? It is to bring him glory and that means that he may allow it to undergo tests, fiery trials, darkness, attacks, and even his rod of discipline. However, it also means, that those within are loved and his goal for each is to bring them complete into eternity.
Soli Deo Gloria!