Partakers Of The Promise, In Christ, For Christ – Ephesians 3:1-13

Partakers Of The Promise, In Christ, For Christ

Nick Esch, 6/30/2019 Cornerstone Baptist Church

Ephesians 3:1–13

Before the conference, two Sundays ago, we began looking at this text; so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the first part of our passage, but instead I’ll just address it by way of summary. What we see in verses 1-9 is that through an act of God’s sovereign grace Paul was given a stewardship of God’s grace… God graciously revealed to Paul the mystery of Christ, and made him a minister of the gospel of Christ according to the gift of God’s grace… This is the mystery that Paul said was hidden for ages, or in eternity, in God… And this mystery is directly tied to the gospel. It’s God’s gospel-plan made manifest in the person and work of Jesus, and the fruit there of…

In verse 6 we’re told that, “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Now it only mentions Gentiles here, but that’s because what’s being stressed is that there is no longer division between Jews and Gentiles… As Ephesians 2:14-15 laid out, Jesus has made Jews and Gentiles, “one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two…” So what’s being laid out here in 3:6 is not just about Gentiles, but about Jews and Gentiles… And all of this ties to Jesus and the gospel—it all comes in Christ Jesus through the gospel. So verse 6 is telling us that both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians are co-heirs with Christ (we have a great inheritance in Christ—we’re heirs of the kingdom); it’s telling us that both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians are members of the body of Christ (and there’s just one body—just one church, not a Jewish church and a Gentile church, but the churchmade up of God’s people from every nation and generation); and lastly what verse 6 is saying here is that Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians are both partakers of the promise in Christ.

Now we should pause and ask, what promise? Is it God’s promise to Abraham? His promise to bless him and make him a blessing? His promise to multiply his offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore? Or His promise of land?… Or maybe it’s something else… Maybe it’s the promised Holy Spirit… Or just the overall promise of salvation?… What do you think?…The answer is yes! All of these promises are in view here… As 2 Corinthians 1:20 says, “allthe promises of God find their Yes in him.” Back in Ephesians 2:12 Paul said, “remember that you (Gentiles) were [once] separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” But here in Ephesians 3:6 Paul is saying that now in Christ believing Jews and Gentiles are both partakers of the promise…

In Galatians 3:26-29 God’s Word says, “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Men and women, boys and girls, people from every nation and generation are becoming children of Abraham and thus children of God through faith in Christ (the Great Commission). And all in Christ will inherit the earth. All in Christ have the Spirit of Christ in them… All in Christ are saved, are being saved, and will be saved… And that means that all in Christ will get Christ forever and ever… All the promises of God find their yes in Christ! They find their yes in Him, because it is because of His person and work and the faith that unites us to Him that Christians are partakers in the promises of God, but also it’s because all of the promises of God find their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Himself.

Let me show you what I mean… God promises us numerous good gifts: things like eternal life, an eternal new heaven and new earth that is free from the effects of sin, and new glorified bodies that are free from the effects of sin… All of these gifts are great in and of themselves; but the purpose of all of these good gifts are the glory of Christ. We are given eternal life so that we can enjoy Jesus forever… We will inherit the universe—we will dwell in a new heaven and new earth forever with God, because we need a place-an arena to fully enjoy the glory of God in Christ forever… We will be given new glorified bodies because we need a body that can dwell in the presence of the glory of God and live… All of these good gifts exist to help us enjoy the ultimate good—which is God and His glory, and Jesus is the glory of God incarnate… “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3)… And just as all of these eternal good gifts exist to help us glorify and enjoy God, especially the Son of God, so too does every temporal gift. This life, just like eternal life to come, is meant to be lived for the glory of Christ… Everything you have and everything you are is meant to be leveraged for the glory of Christ… It’s all about Jesus…

In Ephesians 3:6, being fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise are all linked to and focused on Christ Jesus… We are fellow heirs with Him, we are members of His body, and we are partakers of all the promises that find their fulfillment in Him. And this is all a part of this great mystery hidden for ages in God… It’s this mystery that is unfolding throughout history, and that’s now being revealed or coming to light as Paul says in verse 9… This mystery is God’s plan, or as it says in verse 11, it’s His eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord… In other words the mystery that is coming to light is that everything exist for the glory of Christ… And that God is saving for Himself a people, in Christ, from every nation and generation, Jews and Gentiles… He’s taking people from all walks of life, from every tribe and tongue… He’s taking sinful rebels like you and men, who were dead in their sin, and He’s making us alive to Christ and for Christ. As Romans 11:36 says, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” And in His glorious grace, He makes us alive to Christ and for Christ, and gives us every good gift in Christ. Though we were once without God and without hope, by grace through faith in Christ, we are now partakers of the promises of God. It doesn’t matter where we’re from. It doesn’t matter what we look like. It doesn’t matter how bad our past was. It doesn’t matter how much money we have or don’t have… In Christ we are made full-fledge members of the family of God… We are partakers of the unsearchable or incomprehensible riches of Christ, that verse 8 speaks of…

Everyone who turns from their sin and trusts in the finished work of Christ—that He lived the sinless life, died a wrath absorbing death, and rose on the third day in a death defeating resurrection—is saved and brought into all of this. So if you’ve yet to trust in Christ, please do so now… But for all who us who are Christians, now that we’ve seen what’s here in this text, the question that we should ask is, now what? If we exist for the glory of Christ, how do we go about glorifying Christ? To answer that let’s start by looking at verses 9 and 10.

Paul says that he’s preaching the gospel—the mystery of Christ, “to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” When I first began to see what these verses are saying I was totally amazed… In fact I still am… What we see here is that not only does everything exist for the glory of Christ, but that God created all things with this great plan to magnify His glory and display His wisdom to the universe, to the heavens, to people, angels, and demons even, in and through the church. That means that the church is at the very heart of the reason God created the universe. Last time we looked at this text we said that the heavens declare the glory of God to us, but we declare the glory of God to the heavens. As John Stott once said, “It is through the old creation (the universe) that God reveals His glory to humans; (and) it is through the new creation (the church) the He reveals His wisdom to angels.”  

“God’s chief design in the universe is the public display of His manifold wisdom in and through local churches” (John Folmar). And the idea behind that word wisdom here is on the one hand, simply God’s wisdom… that He is wise, and He knows what He’s doing… That His grans plan of redemption is truly glorious… But also behind this idea of wisdom is the one who is at the very center of God’s grand plan of redemption, Jesus Himself. As 1 Corinthians 1:30 Christ Jesus became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption… Just as Christ is the grace of God and the glory of God incarnate, so too is He the wisdom of God incarnate… So these verses are telling us that part of the reason God created the universe is so that the glory of God in Christ would be made know, put on public display, or magnified in and through His church… in and through redeemed sinners like you and me. But how do we do that?

Think about what all Ephesians has been laying out to us: that in Christ people from all walks of life, from every nation and generation are being reconciled to God and reconciled to one another. In spite of our differences, we are being united together into the family of God. When we are saved we are saved from something (the wrath of God) and into something (the church of God)… And our lives together in the local church are in part how we are to magnify the glory of Christ. As we covenant together to be and to do all the church is called to be and do. As our covenant says, we are to work and pray for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. To be devoted to one another in brotherly love. With humility and gentleness to patiently bear with each other, forgiving, encouraging and building one another up, exercising watchfulness over each other and admonishing one another when necessary. To not neglect to gather together, or to pray for ourselves and others. Our regular habit will be to gather with God’s people each week. To rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, helping to carry each other’s burdens. And on and on I could go… To be in community with one another and do life with one another truly loving one another, in spite of our difference… Because though we may have great differences, we have an even greater commonality: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and His great gospel… So we glorify God and make known His wisdom by being a community of believers who love and serve one another sacrificially… We can love one another at great cost to ourselves because Jesus loved us at the greatest cost to Himself. As 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.”

Verse 11 says, “This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God’s grand plan and purpose of magnifying the glory of Christ happens in part as we lay down our lives for one another… As we love one another, not to get anything, or because of how we are or will be loved in return, but because we are already loved with an incomprehensible love in Christ… So a basic gospel-centered church that seeking to be faithful to God’s Word is a cosmic church with an eternal purpose… At the heart of what it means to live for the purpose God created and saved you for, at the heart of what it means to be a faithful Christian is to be a committed member of a local church… So if you want to properly glorify Christ you need to be a faithful church member…

Now look at verse 12. It says that In Christ, “we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.” This is similar to Hebrews 4:16 that says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” It’s the idea of worship and prayer. That we can draw near to God with confidence, knowing that we have been reconciled to Him through Christ, and that He will also draw near to us. In Christ we have access to God. We can go to Him. We can pray to Him. We can lean on Him, and He will show Himself to be a good Father who cares for His children… This is true for every individual Christian; and so every individual Christian she be devoted to prayer and worship… But notice that here it says we have access… Once again this is getting at a corporate or community reality… We now as the people of God, as the family, as a faith family together have access to God. Together we can be a praying and a worshipping community… And that too is in part how we live for the glory of Christ… By not neglecting corporate worship, and by being people who are desperately dependent upon God in prayer, together and individually, and for ourselves and for one another…

Now look at verse 13. Paul closes all of this off with, “So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.” Paul began in verse 1 by reminding the Ephesians that he is a prisoner of Christ Jesus… Meaning that he is in prison for the cause of Christ: because he has been preaching the gospel, especially because he has been preaching the gospel to Gentiles and traveling with Gentiles, and most importantly because his imprisonment was a part of God’s sovereign plan for the glory of Christ. He didn’t say he was a prisoner of Rome, but of Christ. Paul was a glad prisoner of Christ, joyfully chained to His will… And now in verse 13, after showing the Ephesians that God in His good sovereignty, has a grand plan of redemption, a grand plan for the glory of Christ that He is working in and through all things, and his imprisonment is not exempt from that; so he says, therefore, do not lose heart…

The Greek for lose heart could also be translated, to not be discouraged, don’t lose your drive or your motivation… And Paul tells them not to do this because he knew that whatever happened to him happened for the glory of Christ and the good of His people… Which is why he says that he is suffering for them, and this suffering their glory, meaning that it is playing role in leading them to glory, to eternal life with Christ. And that’s where Paul’s focus is, on being with Christ and the glory of Christ. So he’s gladly willing to suffer for the cause of Christ, because he loves Jesus and he loves people that much… because he knows eternity matters that much… because he knows that Christ deserves to be glorified that much…

And notice how Paul glorifies Christ here: by joyfully counting all things as lose for the sake of Christ, even his freedom… And, as we know from history, even his very life… Paul joyfully gives up everything for the glory of Christ and the eternal good and eternal joy of people… And that displays to the world that Paul truly believed that Jesus was better than anything this world could give him or take away from him… even his own life…