Revealed Life: God's Plan Applied

God's Plan Series
  • We live in a culture that constantly tells us that our identity is found in what we have or have not done; what job we have or what career we are hoping for; how we have succeeded or how we have failed. This however is not God's plan for our lives. The Gospel says that the identity we all need is one that cannot be taken away by our failure or circumstances. The identity that we need is found only in Christ.
5. Revealed Life: God's Plan Applied (Ephesians 3:1-13)
  • God is making Himself known to the world through the Church.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • The secret of God's plan of creating the Church to include all who come to Him in Christ has been revealed. (Ephesians 3:3-6)
  • The revealing of His plan is a working of God's grace in Christ. (Ephesians 3:7 & 8)
  • Through the Church, the wisdom and wonder of God is made known to all creation. (Ephesians 3:9-11) 
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • Why is the make-up of the Church important?
  • What is it about the Church that shows God's grace?
  • How does the Church make God known is all His splendor?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • Describe what is unique and wonderful about God including the Gentiles with the Jews in the Church.
  • Why do you think the mystery of God's plan was not more fully revealed before Jesus came to earth?
  • How was the apostle Paul a steward of God's grace? What were Paul's responsibilities as a steward of God's grace?
  • To whom is the Church to make known the wisdom and glory of God?
  • What are the “unsearchable riches of Christ?” (Ephesians 3:8b) Why are Christ's riches unsearchable?
  • What was God's eternal purpose? (Ephesians 3:11)
  • What privilege does the child of God have with regard to God the Father? (Ephesians 3:12)
  • Why did Paul ask his readers not to lose heart over his sufferings?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • What does it make you feel like to know that you are included in the Church in Christ?
  • What is it about the revealing of God's plan that excites you?
  • What does it mean to you to be a “fellow heir,” a “member of the same body,” and a “partaker of the promise” in Christ? (Ephesians 3:6)
  • What is it about the Church that shows God's glory and His purposes?
  • Paul was a minister of the gospel of God's grace appointed such by Jesus Himself. In what ways are you a minister of the gospel of God's grace and how were you appointed as such?
  • What does it mean to you to have boldness and access with confidence to God? How is it that you have such access?
  • Do you ever get discouraged over the resistance to the gospel and the bad circumstances that may result from the mere preaching or sharing of the gospel? Why shouldn't you be discouraged?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
We’ve seen that God’s plan was implemented through His grace and accomplished in Christ by whom He brought the Church together into one united whole to manifest His kingdom and reflect His glory. Now, in Christ the previous dividing wall between Jew and Gentile has been broken down (Ephesians 2:14), and both groups are fully welcome into God’s presence; and more than that, they have been made into “one new man in place of the two” (Ephesians 2:15). Jesus Himself is the means by which God accomplished this uniting and in fact, is Himself the peace (Ephesians 2:14) that makes two into one, a totally new creation, which is the Church, a living picture of the reconciling work of God in Christ. This new Temple, the Church, has thus been founded and built, but it is continually being built and growing into a “dwelling place” for God by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:21 & 22), including all who come to Christ no matter their background, race, gender, or whatever their circumstances. Christ came to save all by grace who come through faith (Ephesians 2:8).

Having built this picture of God's plan revealed, understood, implemented and accomplished, and in light of the reality of such truths in the lives of those to whom he is writing, chapter 3 Paul begins what will be a prayer for these believers. So Paul starts his prayer in verse 1, but interrupts it as he thinks about his imprisonment “on behalf of [the] Gentiles.” (Ephesians 3:1), and what God has done for them through his ministry. This interruption covers verses 2 through 13, following which the prayer picks up in verse 14; and it serves to further expound on what God's plan is and how it has been applied, in this case, through Paul himself. He reminds his readers that they have certainly heard of and know about his ministry that was for them, among others (Ephesians 3:2). And he calls his ministry the “stewardship of God's grace” that was “given” to him. The word “stewardship” means a trusted responsibility given to someone to implement another's will and strategy. In the Old Testament, Potiphar, who was captain of Pharaoh's guard, made Joseph “overseer of his house and put him in charge of all he had.” (Genesis 39:4). Joseph was trusted with the responsibility of handling everything that related to Potiphar's household for the benefit of Potiphar. Using Paul's word, Joseph was given “stewardship” of Potiphar's household. In the same way, God entrusted Paul with the responsibility of giving out the message of grace in the creation of His household, and in particular, to give that message to the Gentiles which included the Ephesians and people in the surrounding region (Acts 9:15; 22:21; 26:15-20). To that end, Paul adds that God revealed His “mystery” which had not been fully revealed to those in prior generations as it now was to Paul and the other apostles and prophets (Ephesians 3:3-5. See also Ephesians 1:9). And the mystery is that God is in Christ reconciling people to Himself, bringing them into His kingdom (meaning under His rule and reign), making a people for Himself, namely the Church, and that the Church includes Gentiles as well as Jews, all brought together in Christ. In verse 6, Paul puts full texture to the now unfolded mystery by indicating that Gentiles are “fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus.” The key word is “fellow” which means “together” and implies equal. The New International Version (NIV) translation puts the verse this way: “the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” (emphasis added). Gentiles thus with Jews have the same inheritance of the Kingdom, are part of the same Kingdom, and receive the same promises of the Kingdom.

As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:15, God has created “one new man in place of the two” in Christ, and Paul had been given the privilege of participating in the telling and actualizing of that truth. Thus, Paul had become a “minister” of that gospel (Ephesians 3:7. Other translations use the word “servant”), and that such responsibility was a “gift” of God's grace to him through God's power at work (Ephesians 3:7b), even though he was the least of anyone (Ephesians 3:8) He describes his responsibility as being “to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God.” (Ephesians 3:8 & 9). And he adds that all this was part of God's plan and eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:10 & 11) to make known, to put on display, His wisdom, His goodness, His mercy and His love, to the world and to all in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3:10) – in short, to put on display all that He is to all creation, “in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” (Philippians 2:10) In describing this reality, Paul uses the phrase “manifold” which means many splendored and ever expanding in beauty and depth. God's plan, in other words, is unbelievably beautiful itself and it shows how unbelievable beautiful, deep, wise, good, loving and glorious God is. He is literally beyond great, and it is this unfathomable greatness that is on display in the working out and application of His eternal plan that includes the Church as not only prime channel through which this greatness is manifested, but as the featured example and reflection of this greatness. Wow! Talk about the great big, beautiful picture of God's plan; this is it!

But as he reaches this high point in laying out God's plan that includes the Gentiles, Paul provides a key implication, specifically that in Christ and through faith in Christ, we have access to God Himself! And this is not mere basic access, it is “boldness and access with confidence!” (Ephesians 3:12) The NIV puts it this way, “we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” The Greek word translated “boldness” has the sense of freedom to speak and persuade. Thus, in Christ, we can come into God's very throne room (cf. Hebrews 4:14-16) and speak to Him directly and freely of whatever is on our heart and mind, because we are part of His family as His children. And all this is the result of God working out His plan to make a people of His own possession, a “holy temple in the Lord” which is a “dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:21 & 22) Because of all that, and because God used Paul in the bringing of that message of grace, Paul tells his readers not to be discouraged because of his situation; his sufferings and imprisonment were part of the accomplishing and application of God's plan to their benefit. It seems that Paul is saying to them, “Don't worry; God's got it! And it's all part of bringing you into His Kingdom and to Himself. Praise the Lord!”
God's plan is indeed many splendored and beautiful. He has brought the far off near, the outcast in, the separate together. He has created the Church to reflect His greatness and glory. In Christ, He has accomplished and applied His wisdom to work out His eternal purpose. And it is all to His glory and issues in our having full access to the King. So don't be discouraged, and don't lose heart in the difficulties anyone might have as a result of sharing this great gospel. It is all part of accomplishing God's purposes as a display of His glory. Be blessed to be a part of His great plan!