Friday 4 January 2013

Ephesians 3 v.1/13

This is the Epistle ordered for Sunday next.

When Paul wrote this Letter he was awaiting trial as a Roman prisoner. The Jews had become aggressive to him because he was telling them that the Gentiles could be accepted into God’s kingdom and they thought Gentiles were only fit to be their slaves. The Jews then called on the Roman authorities to take action against him. Paul appealed to be heard before the Emperor as he had once been granted Roman citizenship, so was sent to Rome and was awaiting the arrival of the Jewish prosecutors bringing their false allegations.

Some sympathy had been extended by the Romans to Paul and he was allowed to stay in a house and have friends visit him, but he was still required to be chained to a Roman soldier to avoid escaping. Paul saw himself not as a prisoner of Rome, but a prisoner for Jesus Christ.

Paul was proud of the fact that God had given him the special task of preaching to the Gentiles, having also been called in a unique way when on his way to persecute Christians. He speaks of the mystery God revealed to him. In secular language mystery means something dark and concealed, but in biblical terms means something kept secret until God chooses to make it known, so it now becomes an open secret.

This revelation was that the Gentiles would have full share with the Jews in all the riches inherited by all God’s children, and all the blessings given by Christ when they accept that Jesus gave His life for them. These blessings were the forgiveness of sin; reconciliation with God; eternity with Jesus in heaven. It had never been contemplated that God’s grace would be available to all people, only hitherto to the Jews.

This is why Paul’s letters are so important, it was to Paul that this fact was made known, and without Paul Christianity would never have become the worldwide religion it has become.

Paul was a humble man who never claimed credit for making this discovery, he gave all credit to God for revealing it to him. He just saw himself as the one honoured to proclaim, the mere channel used by God.

It is an essential part of Christianity that we are bound to share and spread the faith we have received with others, and if we fail to do so, they will be lost.

The Church is a vital part in God’s plan and the proclamation of biblical truths. Some Christians consider it is sufficient for them to have a personal relationship with Christ without Church involvement. Other Christians think being a Church member is sufficient, without any deep personal commitment. The Church will often receive criticism, some of it much deserved, but for a Christian personal relationship and Church attendance are both necessary. To be effective however, the Church must function efficiently, be faithful to Scripture, and showing total commitment to proclaiming the (true) gospel. This, alas, is not always the case.

In far too many places the worship is sloppy, the attitude being something has to be done, and people are allowed to preach who never should be. This was a strong feeling of Charles Wesley many years ago. I have been to services and come away wondering what that was all about. Robert Louis Stevenson once remarked,’ I have been to Church this morning and I am not depressed’. I have returned home and said to my wife, ‘I have been to Church this morning and am thoroughly depressed’.

We come to Church to meet the Almighty God and should see it as a privilege only worthy of our best. Our services should be meaningful, and our message only strictly biblical, without any social or political agenda. The tragedy is that some men and women are concerned more with their own ambition and prestige, their c.v. for future appointment than furthering the message of Jesus Christ.

The Central part of all worship is the Cross. Billy Graham at the start of his ministry vowed always to mention the Cross in every sermon, and every sermon I have heard him preach, he has done so.

Every Church passes through a time when renewal is needed, but God never has abandoned His Church, and neither should we. All Christians should see working for God in the same way. We can do this by working for the Church, doing one of the many tasks needed to be done for Him. This will not always be easy, especially in today’s climate where anti-Christian forces are so powerful in government, and especially the judiciary. Who would ever have expected a Conservative Prime Minister (even one in name only) to propose destroying the sanctity of marriage? Of a judge who stated that a Christian woman cannot claim the right to have time made available for her to attend worship on a Sunday, but a member of another faith can?

One can tend to lose heart at the force of anti-Christian pressure, but the Lord does not want us to give up and surrender. Bear the words of the hymn, ‘have faith in God, my heart.’

The purpose of God is that all should be brought into His eternal design, and in Jesus Christ we have the only direct access to God. Jesus opened the way for us into His Father’s presence.

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