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Sermon #39 — Ephesians Sermons
Title: “For This Cause”
Text: Ephesians 3:1-12
Subject: The Gospel and Its Ministry
Date: Tuesday Evening — May 24, 2016
Readings: Mark Daniel and Larry Brown
Every man who is engaged in work has a cause for which he labors. Some causes are noble and worthy of commendation. Others are selfish and worthy of censor. There are many who give themselves to the worthy cause of philanthropy. They gladly sacrifice time, talents, and money to relieve the sufferings, poverty, and misery of the human race. Our doctors make many noble sacrifices to the cause of medicine. There are men and women who are dedicated to the cause of freedom, seeking to maintain the freedom and liberty that we enjoy in this great country. Many are the soldiers who have died for our safety. Men live and die for a cause. Otherwise, their lives are without purpose and meaning.
We too have a cause. Ours is the cause of Christ, the cause of the gospel. — Sadly, very few in the pulpit or the pew realize this. Preachers commonly make the defense of some particular creed their cause. They study and labor and reason with men to win them to their creed. In our day the church of Jesus Christ is divided simply because the man who occupies the pulpit spends his labors defending some pet doctrine. Countless preachers make the mistake of engaging in politics or social issues (abortion, temperance, etc.); and their passion becomes the cause for which they live. As the man in the pulpit takes up a mistaken cause, so do those who hear him. To many, the purpose for which the church exists is vague and undefined. It doesn’t really matter what the cause is, the point is God’s people are led to substitute something other than the gospel for their cause.
The Apostle Paul announces my subject for me as he opens this 3rd chapter of Ephesians — “For This Cause.” It appears from those words that there was one purpose, one cause, which inspired the zeal of this old man. What was that cause? He shows us throughout his epistles that the church of Jesus Christ has only one purpose, one cause for her being. What is our cause?
Proposition: There is only one cause worthy of all our efforts as God’s people in this world. — The church of our Lord Jesus Christ is to be engaged always in the work of making known the marvelous grace and wisdom of God revealed in the gospel.
I have said it before, and I say it again, — the church of Jesus Christ is here in this place for the spread of the gospel. The church is not a community center. It is not a social club. It is not an organization for entertainment. If this church fulfills its responsibility to this community and to our generation, it will be a preaching center, a sounding board for the gospel.
The Apostle Paul was a wise and loving servant of God. As we observe in this chapter, it was very much the practice of this man to mingle prayer with his instruction. He made intercession to God for these saints, knowing that all his teaching would be vain and useless unless God made it effectual. This is an example every preacher should follow, praying earnestly that God the Holy Ghost may attend our labors, making them effectual and crowning them with success.
This 3rd chapter of Ephesians is divided into two parts. First, in verses 1-12 Paul tells us God’s purpose for us, God’s purpose for the existence of his people in this world, and particularly God’s purpose for setting a gospel church in any community. He tells us what his commission from God was in this matter. — Second, in verses 13-21, Paul makes a fervent prayer for God’s people. This evening, and for the next several weeks, we will confine ourselves to the first paragraph of this chapter, verses 1-12.
Divisions: I have three statements, which I have drawn from these verses, that I want to set before you. As the servant of Christ, I have but one cause. As a church of Christ, we have but one cause. — Our cause is Christ. Our cause is the gospel. We have no other.
1. For this cause, we endure relentless hardship and reproach (vv. 1-2).
2. For this cause, we were enlightened by divine revelation (vv. 3-7).
3. For this cause, we are entrusted with a great responsibility (vv. 8-12).
Hardship and Reproach
1st — For Christ’s sake, for this cause, the cause of the gospel, we endure relentless hardship and reproach (vv. 1-2).
(Ephesians 3:1-2) “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, (2) If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward.”
Paul here gives us an account of himself as the apostle of Jesus Christ. He shows us some of the trials and difficulties he endured for the gospel’s sake. It is obvious that Paul’s language is more easily adapted to the preacher than to anyone else. But remember that he wrote these words to the Ephesian church, so that they would understand and appreciate the purpose and responsibility of the ministry.
If we are made to suffer for the gospel, the cause for which we suffer is a noble one. — It is a fact that none of us have ever really had to suffer very much. And usually that which we suffer from others we bring on ourselves. But there is one cause for which all of God’s people must be willing to suffer. Paul was a prisoner at Rome “for this cause.”
The Apostle Paul suffered greatly for having preached doctrine of the gospel which he set forth so clearly chapters 1-2. — He preached free grace salvation in Christ, our omnipotent, effectual Savior, everywhere he went.
Š He dared to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.
Š Paul boldly declared that believers are free from the law and that the sabbath days and ceremonies of the law are meaningless.
Š Breaking all Jewish tradition, Paul asserted that Jew and Gentile were one in Jesus Christ.
Watch this. — Paul tells us he suffered “for you Gentiles.” Here is the grace of God, a Jew going to prison for his love to Gentiles (Acts 21:27-33).
(Acts 21:17-26) “And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. (18) And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. (19) And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. (20) And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: (21) And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. (22) What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. (23) Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; (24) Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. (25) As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. (26) Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.”
How sad! How very, very sad! Yet, we must expect no better from flesh than flesh. Paul’s compromise here accomplished nothing! Compromise never accomplishes anything good or beneficial!
(Acts 21:27-34) “And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, (28) Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. (29) (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) (30) And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. (31) And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. (32) Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul. (33) Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done. (34) And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle.”
The gospel was committed to Paul for the sake of God’s elect among the gentiles (v. 2).
(Ephesians 3:2) “If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward.”
It was particularly committed to him for the sake of God’s elect at Ephesus, for the Church at Ephesus.
Š God doesn’t put any man into the work of the gospel for his own benefit, or as something to be used for his benefit.
Š And those men who are called, gifted, and sent of God into the blessed work of the ministry are called, gifted, and sent to a specific people, a specific sphere of service in the cause of Christ.
Like Paul, we may be called to suffer for Christ and the gospel, but the things we may be called to suffer are really nothing. — When we are called upon to suffer in this world, let us think nothing of it. Rather rejoice in that which Christ gives us and follow his example in suffering (Philippians 1:29; 2:16-17; 1 Peter 2:20-24).
(Philippians 1:29) “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.”
(Philippians 2:12-17) “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (13) For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (14) Do all things without murmurings and disputings: (15) That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; (16) Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. (17) Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.”
(1 Peter 2:20-24) “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. (21) For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (22) Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: (23) Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: (24) Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”
Paul was the prisoner of Jesus Christ, not of Caesar, but of Christ; and he knew it. — Christ’s servants, if they become prisoners, are his prisoners, and Christ does not despise his prisoners. Paul did not suffer as a criminal. He suffered as a preacher. If we suffer for Christ’s sake, then Christ will own us, care for us, and protect us.
Š Paul was imprisoned for the sake of God’s people among the Gentiles.
Š We may learn from this that faithful servants of Christ must declare his truth, however disagreeable it may be to some, or regardless of the cost.
The fact is — all of God’s people are required to suffer for Christ’s sake. There are no exceptions. — “I will show him what things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). — “Yea, and all that will like godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
Š We suffer the enmity of this world. “Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22).
Š We may suffer the loss of reputation.
Š We may suffer the loss of worldly goods.
But the important thing for us is that we be willing to suffer for the cause of the gospel (Acts 20:24; 21:13).
Š If I’m willing to suffer for Christ, I’m willing to live for him.
Š If I’m willing to suffer for the cause of Christ, I’m willing to give for the support of his cause.
Š If I’m willing to suffer for the cause of Christ, I’m willing to work for his cause.
Š If I’m willing to suffer for the cause of the gospel, I’m willing to go anywhere to preach the gospel.
What an example Paul set before us!
(Acts 20:22-23) “And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: (23) Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.”
(Acts 20:24) “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”
(Acts 21:13) “Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
2nd — For this cause — the cause of the gospel — we are enlightened by divine revelation (vv. 3-7). Here Paul informs us that he had been taught the gospel by revelation and that God had appointed him to the ministry, gifting and qualifying him for its work.
The gospel is a mystery revealed (vv. 3-6).
(Ephesians 3:3-6) “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, (4) Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) (5) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; (6) That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.”
The mystery of the gospel is spoken of in many ways in Holy Scripture. It is called the mystery of godliness, the mystery of faith, and the mystery of Christ. The doctrine of the gospel is spoken of as the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.
The doctrine of the gospel is a mystery that can only be received by faith when it is revealed by God the Holy Ghost.
Š The doctrine of the trinity is a mystery revealed.
Š The doctrine of Christ’s person is a mystery revealed.
Š The saints union with Christ is a mystery revealed.
Š The resurrection of the dead is a mystery revealed.
Š The blessed gospel doctrine of salvation by Christ is a deep mystery revealed in a few words — (Ephesians 1 and 2 — Predestination — Election — Redemption — Regeneration — Salvation in Christ Alone, By Grace Alone, Through Faith Alone).
And this mystery is received by faith, only by faith.
Š We are justified by the righteousness of Christ.
Š We are redeemed by the blood of Christ.
The mystery of the gospel, of which Paul has given us the summary in a few words, in other ages was hid from the sons of men (v. 5).
Š Under the Old Testament economy, it was hidden from the sons of men in types and shadows and prophecies.
Š It was revealed to men, but not so clearly and extensively as it is now — Adam — Abraham — David — Isaiah.
Š Even now, the gospel is the mystery of Christ hidden from men by nature (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
(2 Corinthians 4:3-7) “It is hid to them that are lost: (4) In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (5) For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. (6) For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (7) But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”
The mystery of the gospel is made known by revelation, only by divine revelation. Paul does not here suggest that he received a revelation that no one else had received. Indeed, he declares that this was a revelation made known to all the apostles and prophets of our Lord.
Š The mystery of the gospel is revealed in Sacred Scripture. — “Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life.”
Š The mystery of the gospel is revealed in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-3).
Š The mystery of the gospel is revealed in the hearts of men “by the effectual working of his power” (Galatians 1:15).
The mystery of which Paul here speaks is the mystery of the kingdom of heaven. It is the union of all believers in Christ Jesus (v. 6).
(Ephesians 3:6) “That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.”
Š Jew and Gentile have an equal inheritance in Christ.
Š All who are in Christ are one.
Š Both Jew and Gentile must receive the promise of God in Christ.
Š The only medium by which men are born into this blessed kingdom is the gospel (1 Peter 1:23-25).
Paul very pointedly reminds us that God alone is the source and authority of any true gospel ministry (v. 7). Many false teachers made charges against Paul’s authority as an apostle and mocked him because of his imprisonment. But Paul’s confidence was this: — He was God’s servant. As the gospel is of divine origin, so the ministry of the gospel is of God.
(Ephesians 3:7) “Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.”
Paul was made a minister. He did not make himself, neither did any man make him a minister. God made him a minister (Galatians 1:1).
(Galatians 1:1) “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.)”
John Gill wrote, “He is a true minister of the gospel who is called of God to the work of the ministry, and is qualified by him with grace and gifts for it; and who faithfully discharges it according to the ability God has given.”
You can be sure of this — If God calls a man to the work of the ministry, he graciously gifts him for the work. — “According to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.” Paul was not called because of his natural gifts, or his liberal education. He was gifted of God for the work of the ministry.
Š This is the gift of understanding and explaining the Scriptures.
Š The work of the gospel is accomplished “by the effectual working of his power.” — It is the power of God that makes a preacher. — And it is the power of God that makes his message effectual.
3rd — For this cause, for the cause of the gospel, we are trusted with great responsibility (vv. 8-12).
(Ephesians 3:8-12) “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; (9) And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: (10) To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, (11) According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: (12) In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.”
The greatest privilege and heaviest burden, the highest honor and the most demanding responsibility upon the earth is laid upon the shoulders of the man who is called to the work of the gospel, the man who is called of God to preach the gospel. He must preach all the counsel of God, constantly and faithfully preaching the gospel of Christ in the exposition of Holy Scripture. He is responsible to preach to eternity bound sinners with immortal souls. — “Who is sufficient for these things?” Blessed be God, “Our sufficiency is not of ourselves, but of God!” Let me remind you of some of the responsibilities of a gospel preacher. Paul had the daily care of all the churches upon him (2 Corinthians 11:28). As your pastor, I have the care of your souls upon me, the care of several other congregations, and in a very real sense “the care of all the churches.” I want you to pray for me in this great, great work our God has given us.
Every true gospel preacher knows that he is trusted of God with the gospel of Christ (v. 8; 2 Corinthians 4:7).
(2 Corinthians 4:7) “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”
After preaching the gospel of the grace of God for almost 49 years, I am more fully aware of this fact today than I have ever been. — I am utterly insufficient for the work I am responsible to do.
Š Utterly Unworthy!
Š Utterly Insufficient!
Š Utterly Incapable!
Every God called man knows that he is a sinful man. — “We have this treasure in earthen vessels.”
Š He is commonly more tempted of Satan than anyone else.
Š He sees the greatness of God’s mercy, grace, and love in Christ.
Š He sees the greatness of Christ’s sacrifice (Isaiah 53:1-12; 2 Corinthians 5:20-21).
Š In the light of these things he sees the enormity of his own enormous iniquity, transgression, and sin.
And the subject of our ministry, the subject of every faithful man’s preaching, the theme of every God-honoring pulpit is “the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
Š Our all-glorious Christ, the God-man our Savior, is full of riches. — He is rich in the perfections of Godhead. — He is rich in power. — He is rich in glory. — He is rich in holiness, righteousness, and truth.
Š Christ our Mediator is full of riches. — He is rich in grace. — He is rich in forgiveness. — He is rich in love. — He is rich in wisdom.
Š The riches of Christ for his people are unsearchable! — They are unsearchable to the natural man. — They are unsearchable to the saints on earth. — They are unsearchable to the saints in heaven. — We shall be telling them to one another throughout the endless ages of eternity!
Here is the great, unutterable delight of the gospel ministry — We proclaim to men, who are in the poverty of sin, “the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
It is the great privilege and responsibility of God’s servants to make known the mystery of Christ (vv. 9-11).
Š We must proclaim the gospel to all men (v. 8).
Š We preach the gospel to all men with simplicity so that they may see the riches of Christ.
Š The gospel which we proclaim was hid in God from the beginning of the world — In his heart — In his counsel — In his Covenant.
Once again, the Paul shows, because we must be reminded constantly, that the gospel is all about Christ, that the Word of God is all about Christ, that all things center in Jesus Christ. — The Triune God who saves us is the Lord God “who created all things by Jesus Christ.” — As it is true in the old creation, so it is true in the new creation — God has made all things by Jesus Christ.
In the 10th verse of Ephesians 3 the Holy Spirit tells us a remarkable thing. — The angels of heaven attend the ministry of the word, that they may learn from the church the manifold wisdom of God (v. 10; 1 Peter 1:12).
(Ephesians 3:10) “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.”
(1 Peter 1:12) “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.”
That which the angels desire to learn from us is not Jesus Christ, the perfection of wisdom, for they are before him day and night, but the wisdom of God in the gospel as it is known and experienced by saved sinners like you and me.
The gospel we preach is the eternal gospel of God, “according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 11). Salvation is by the eternal purpose of the eternal God!
Š The way of salvation is by eternal purpose.
Š The time of salvation is by eternal purpose.
Š The people saved are by eternal purpose.
Š The very conditions in which salvation comes to a sinner are by God’s eternal purpose.
This purpose of God is in Christ Jesus our Lord. — In his everlasting purpose of grace, in the everlasting covenant of grace, God’s eye was upon his Son. His thoughts centered in him. His promises are in Christ. His blessings are in Christ. The execution of his purpose is by Christ. So that Christ is all in salvation.
The confidence and joy of God’s people is in Christ Jesus (v. 12).
(Ephesians 3:12) “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.”
Š In him we have boldness of access to the Father.
Š In Christ we have the confidence of faith in God.
Š We are confident of his everlasting love.
Š We are confident of our acceptance.
Š We are confident of righteousness brought in.
Š We are confident of redemption accomplished.
Š We are confident of sin put away!
Š We are confident of his promises.
Š We are confident of his faithfulness.
Š We are confident of heaven.
Š We are confident of perfection.
(Romans 16:25-27) “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, (26) But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: (27) To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.”