The Church: Founded in Wisdom
Continuing our look at Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
The overall theme is the church of Christ.
Chapter 1 shows the church is predestined for heaven and that her head, Christ, has all authority.
Chapter 2 shows how the church is saved (by grace through the faith) and is built upon the solid foundation of Jesus Christ.
Chapter 3 is about the wisdom of God made manifest in the church of Christ.
The thematic verse for understanding this chapter is vs. 10.
The church is tasked with making known the manifold wisdom of God.
Greek word for manifold (πολυποίκιλος).
Much-variegated; marked with a great variety of colors: of a cloth or a painting.
Much varied, manifold: manifested itself in a great variety of forms.
The exhaust manifold in a car takes the exhaust from several cylinders and directs it into one pipe—from many.
I prefer to think of it as an ornate painting or tapestry—beautifully woven together.
But before we can get there, let us see that it was first revealed, then preached, then applied.
Wisdom Revealed (3:1-7).
Here is one simple principle in all theology.
We do not know something about God unless it has been revealed to us.
We cannot know the mind of God unless the Spirit of God has revealed it (1 Cor. 2:10-12).
Paul calls it a mystery (3:3) – but that mystery has been revealed.
Paul was given the “dispensation of the grace of God” for the Christians at that time to hear (3:1-2).
Dispensation can also be understood as an administration, as a steward would dispense or administer his master’s property.
It was God’s grace that was dispensed to them.
We know that this grace that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts so that we might live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age (Titus 2:11-12).
As we discussed last week, our faith must be accompanied by obedience for it to be true faith—in like manner, grace must be accompanied by teaching in order for it to be true grace.
Paul taught the grace of God to them—he dispensed it to them.
That mystery was revealed to Paul and he shared it with us—in written form! (3:3-5).
This passage shows us that our only reliable rule of faith is the Scriptures.
These things were written down by holy men of God, moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21).
The Holy Spirit was sent by Christ who came on the Father’s authority (John 16:13-15).
Because of this, Paul says that what is written is meant to be understood (5:17).
Reading Paul’s words means we can understand his knowledge of the mystery.
This message has only been revealed at the time of the writing of the NT—the first century a.d.
Many like to say that the Bible is one huge mystery (3:6).
It is true that there are many things that are hard to understand and are easy to twist (2 Pet. 3:15-16).
But it is also true that this Scripture shows the mystery as having been revealed.
It is that both Jews and Gentiles are in fellowship together in Christ through the gospel.
It hearkens back to being predestined for a heavenly inheritance in Christ in Ch. 1.
It also references the middle wall of separation being torn down by Christ who brings peace in Ch. 2.
It foreshadows to the mysterious relationship between Christ and His church as compared to a man and his bride in Ch. 5.
By His wisdom, we all are united together in Him—through the gospel.
It is only through the gospel of Christ, the good news preached, that which was revealed by His grace, that we can have this fellowship with Him.
Wisdom Preached (3:7-12).
Paul writes about himself and his charge to preach the gospel (3:7-8).
He became a minister (one who administers the grace/teaching of God) according to that grace.
This was done by the effective working of God’s power—through the gospel.
In 1 Tim. 1:12-16, Paul talks about that in more depth, but in vs. 14, he says that the Lord’s grace was exceedingly abundant toward him, and toward all of us.
He considered himself least of all the saints because, as he says in 1 Cor. 15:9, he persecuted the church of God.
The purpose was to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.
One might say that they are unsearchable, yet he preached them!
When we think of all that the Lord has done for us, that only barely scratches the surface of his wonderful and awesome riches.
This shows the scope of that manifold wisdom (3:9-12).
This fellowship (dispensation/stewardship/administration) of the mystery was first hidden in God.
Recall that before time began, God had His church in mind.
Through His wisdom it came to fruition.
Now it is known (or able to be known) by all mankind.
The Bible shows the beautiful tapestry of God’s wisdom as it has been revealed to us through Paul and the other apostles and prophets (the foundation).
Because of all these beautiful things, we can have our faith built up so much that we can come to God with boldness and confidence that He will hear us.
We are His heirs, adopted as sons, made to sit in the heavenly places in Christ, are we not?
Wisdom’s Application (3:13-21).
Do not lose heart (3:13).
It is easy to lose heart and be discouraged when bad things happen.
When we are familiar with the wisdom of God by studying His Word, we can be encouraged that God keeps His promises.
God’s promises in Christ are “Yes” and “Amen” (2 Cor. 1:20).
Be strengthened with might (3:14-16).
Paul now offers a prayer on their behalf, including one for strength.
That strength is to apply to the inner man through His Spirit.
He goes into greater detail later on when talking about the armor of God in Ch. 6.
For now, we know God’s wisdom can help us by strengthening our spirit.
Christ dwells in our hearts (3:17a).
Having this knowledge of His wisdom is having knowledge of Him.
By this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments (1 John 2:3).
Since Christ is in heaven, we know that such a dwelling is not physically literal.
But He is with us in spirit always (Matt. 28:20).
Be rooted and grounded in love (3:17b).
So much could be said about this most important characteristic of Christianity.
It is the foundation for all we do—love of God and love of our fellow man.
Let our love for God and our neighbor never waver, running deep and being steady and stable.
If we understand God’s wisdom, we will know the importance of love.
To comprehend the love of Christ (3:18-19a).
If we are to be rooted and grounded in love, we must recognize the love Christ has for us.
He loved us while we were still sinners and died for us.
His love is so amazing, and Paul wants us to comprehend and know something so wonderful and beautiful.
To be filled with all the fullness of God (3:19b).
This world is so full of sin and hate and things that do not build up or edify.
Let us not be full of these things, but be full of the things of God.
Knowing His wisdom will help us to identify what those things are.
These things are holy and loving, things that build up and edify (Phil. 4:8).
Recognition of God’s immense power (3:20).
He is able to do so much for us that we might not even think to ask Him for it!
He also works according to the power that is in us—the power of the gospel.
Give glory to Him (3:21).
Let us never forget that it is only in the church that true glory can be given Him.
This glory extends to all generations, forever and ever, since His church will never end as long as this earth stands (Matt. 16:18).
I hope this lesson will help us have a greater appreciation for the beautiful tapestry of God’s wisdom that we see in Scripture.
His wisdom encourages us and gives us strength.
What better way to learn of God’s wisdom than in the church.
It is only in the church where true glory and praise can be given to God.
Not necessarily in this building, but in the body of believers that is the church of Christ.
Do you want to give Him true glory and honor?
Do you see the great encouragement and strength that can be had in Him?
There’s only one way to be in that church—talked about last week.