“What’s happening?” It seems to be way young people communicate today on their mobile (cell) phones. They utter that particular phrase to find out what their friends are doing. Often the response seems to be “Come on over!” or an invitation to meet up at a later time. However I felt it had gone a bit too far when our grandson at less than 3 years of age heard us talking excitedly in the kitchen and shouted out, “What’s ‘appening?”
On a broader scale many people are asking the question, “What’s happening? What’s going on in the world.” Some ask the question with real concern as they see so much evil in the world, the breakdown of morality and increasing revolt and rebellion. I’m going to share with you what’s happening behind the scenes; what is really going on in the world today. It’s hidden. It’s a “mystery” as St Paul wrote many years ago.
Everyone wants to know the secret to mysteries. There was once an episode of “The Saint” on British television with Roger Moore. At the end of each episode he would declare who the murderer was. On this particular night there was an electrical breakdown over much of Britain just as Roger Moore said, “And the murderer is …”. People were in suspense to find out “Who done it.” But the TV didn’t come back on for some hours. Meanwhile the TV studio’s switchboard was besieged with calls from people who wanted to be relieved of their suspense, “Can you please tell us who the murderer was?” We all like to know the answer to mysteries.
Let me put you out of your suspense by telling you what is going on in the world behind the scenes. It was the same thing that was going on when St Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians.
1). GOD’S MYSTERIOUS PLAN HAS BEEN REVEALED. 3:1-5. No one could really recognise what God was doing in the world until Jesus came at that first Christmas. St Paul wrote, Ephesians 3:5 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind. However the mystery was revealed to those whom God had chosen. 3:5 …as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: It needed the Holy Spirit to bring enlightenment about God’s plan and purpose for a world in darkness. He revealed what was going on in God’s world; what was happening behind the scenes.
This is what Epiphany Sunday is all about. Epiphany stands for the manifestation or revealing of Christ to the Gentiles (non-Jews). St Paul had been chosen by God to make God’s mystery known to those from Jewish and from Gentile (non-Jewish) backgrounds. He wrote in Ephesians 3:8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things. Paul was preaching Christ, and telling Jewish and Gentile believers about the unsearchable, unfathomable, incalculable riches that existed in Him for all who believed from any background.
2). WHAT ARE GOD’S UNSEARCHABLE RICHES TO US IN CHRIST? Ephesians 3:6-11.
I). Paul made them known to all peoples. (Jews and Gentiles). He wrote, Eph 3:8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ. What are the boundless or unsearchable riches in Christ? That all who respond to Christ through the gospel and receive Him, gain these three blessings. They become:-
i). fellow heirs. As the born-again children of God from every background they share in the same inheritance of Christ. All that God has given to Jesus, is ours in Him. Paul wrote in Romans 8:17, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. It means that we are fellow-heirs with one another and also co-heirs with Christ of all the Father has given to Him. We may have known the pain of missing out on family inheritances but as believers we have the greatest inheritance this world has ever seen. It is the inheritance that God has given to His Son and to His children in Him. To you and me in the family of God.
ii). members of the same body. Paul is saying that all believers belong to the one body of Christ, the same body. There is only one body of Christ in the world. As Paul wrote in Galatians 3:26-29, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. You and I belong equally to the same body of Christ as the great missionaries Hudson Taylor and William Carey. We belong to the same body of Christ as the great preachers such as John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones and others. We belong to the same body of Christ as Mother Teresa, Billy Graham and all the other great saints or believers throughout history. We BELONG! To God, to the body of Christ and to one another in Him!
iii). sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus. Paul wrote in Galatians 3, 3:29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. What was the blessing of Abraham that would bless all the nations of the earth? It seems to be the gift of the Holy Spirit who would come to indwell all believers in Christ in every generation. Paul had previously written, Gal 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”– Gal 3:14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Jesus had promised that His followers would receive the long-promised gift of the Holy Spirit. As Peter explained on the Day of Pentecost, Act 2:33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. The promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. Jesus was anointed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Paul was indwelt and empowered by the same Holy Spirit. You and I as believers are anointed and empowered by the same Holy Spirit. The person in Australia who hears about Jesus today and believes in Him receives the same Holy Spirit. The man or woman on the other side of the world who believes in Jesus today, receives the same Holy Spirit. The drunkard crying out to God for mercy and sincerely asking Jesus to come into his life to make him different, receives the same Holy Spirit by believing in Him. The good news is that every person born on this earth from whatever background is a potential candidate to receive the same Holy Spirit of God if they put their trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
II). The church is to make the “mystery” known to all in the universe. Paul wrote, Eph 3:10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord. The “church” (Greek word “ekklēsía”) means the “called out ones”. They are called out of the unbelieving world to trust in Christ and to belong to the family of God. It includes all who belong to God through putting their faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord from every generation, from every locality, from every background. It includes you and me as believers. We have a job to do, to make Christ known in the world. That is God’s mysterious secret plan and purpose that is going on behind the scenes. Despite everything else that might be happening in the world He is at work bringing more and more people from every nation into His family. He is filling them with His Holy Spirit and He is using them to share Him with others.
3). WHAT IT MEANS FOR US TODAY. 3:12. Paul concludes this section in Eph 3:12 in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. Every believer has direct access to God through Christ. I discovered that on New Year’s Eve 53 years ago when I asked the Lord Jesus to come into my life to be my Saviour and Lord. I realised then that I did have access to God. As the days went on I came to understand that I could come to God in boldness and confidence, not in arrogance. I discovered that He wanted me to come to Him at any time and in any place in adoration, praise, thanksgiving and in prayer. From that moment on New Year’s Eve, 53 years ago, life has meant sharing with others the mystery of Christ; that people from any background (even from a Gentile background like myself) can come to God through Him. They too can receive the same Holy Spirit of God I received, to enable them to know God, to love God and to serve God in His purposes in the world.
The Greek word for “mystery” (mustērion) means an open secret for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, all those enlightened and made alive by the Spirit of God. The mystery of “What’s happening?” is solved. The hidden things are now clear, but only to those who receive God’s offer of His Son into their lives and are born again of the Spirit of God. Only they really understand “What’s happening” in God’s world. Because God has made them part of what He is doing! You can become part of His plan by receiving Christ as Saviour and allowing Him to guide you by His Spirit to fulfil your particular role in His purposes in the world.
Blog No. 54. Jim Holbeck. Posted on New Year’s Day, Sunday 1st January 2012