What the Church Gets to Show the World

A sermon idea based on Ephesians 3:1-12.

Ephesians 3:1-12 NRSV

[1] This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— [2] for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, [3] and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, [4] a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. [5] In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: [6] that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. [7] Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. [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, [9] and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; [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, [12] in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.

Angle

The relevant topic I would be addressing, based on this text…

When you align with the church, you’re joining hands with other believers of every tribe, tongue, and nation and showing the rest of the world what a powerful and redemptive work of grace God is doing.

Anchor

In our American context, everyone has an opinion on what the church really is or should be. And nearly everyone has a thoughts on how the church is falling short.

However you define the church, Paul’s words here can’t be ignored. He moves from sharing his own testimony to connecting his story to the story the church gets to share. The flow of the passage is essentially…

  1. You’ve been hearing me talk about the mystery of God’s grace and how God has revealed that he is saving the broken and bringing us all into one eternally restored family.
  2. I talk about it all the time because I’ve personally experienced this grace when I least deserved it.
  3. Now YOU get to talk about it too! As God’s church, you get to be an assembly of people linking arms to share the good news of the gospel with everyone!
  4. Everybody who believes and receives this message will experience a totally different kind of spiritual life.

You might believe the church should be an institution with layers of leadership, and volumes of officially written protocols, and be organized in local, legal entities called churches. You might believe the church is more organic and simple, happening when believers spontaneously identify with one another whether or not they ever call themselves a church. Most Christians have opinions about those kinds of issues.

Paul’s passion was that the church ultimately is a people who represented the good news about Jesus to the rest of the world. No matter what your institutional machinery looks like, the church should be doing three things well…

1. The church should be shaped by the gospel.

That is to say, the grace that has changed our lives must continue to change our character. The church is a gathering of Jesus followers who have been changed and are being changed by the redemptive work and message of Jesus Christ.

The more deeply we appreciate and understand the grace given to us, the more our lives and communities can be renewed, reformed, and reshaped by it.

2. The church should be showing the gospel’s effects.

The New Testament uses a lot of language about how sacred and set apart God’s people should be. It’s possible you come from a tradition that sees this separatism as behavioral in nature (“we don’t drink, smoke, cuss or chew…”) or even relational in nature (“and we don’t run around with those who do”), but I think it’s deeper than that.

As followers of Jesus, we should show the world that we have come to think differently. We’ve embraced the upside-downness of Jesus’ teachings.

When wronged, we forgive. When criticized, we praise. When threatened, we pray. When persecuted, we rejoice. When we are rich, we give. When we are poor, we still practice gratitude.

When the world gets violent, we choose peace. When laws and systems oppress, we resist nonviolently. When moral boundaries disappear, we take the high road, go the second mile, and pray for our enemies.

When the church has been shaped by the redeeming gospel of God’s grace, and when we are able to show the real difference that God’s grace makes, then…

3. The church should be sharing the gospel with everyone.

The gospel is the saving story of God’s redemption of his creation through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, his Son. Paul calls this good news a “treasure” that God has deposited into us, like fragile and broken clay pots, to give to the rest of the world.

This kind of news can’t be forced on others. You can’t trick or manipulate people into it. You don’t eliminate other competing messages by force.

The good news of the gospel flows forth out of the lives and the mouths of those who have been changed by it.

When we know just how loved we are, and we’re willing to love everyone else the way God has loved us, then we’re ready to tell everyone about the redemptive work of Christ.

Application

The big call-to-action in the message…

It’s possible that you’ve adopted Christian beliefs and Christian behaviors without actually experiencing the grace God has poured out through the gift of his Son, Jesus. Pray right now that God would enter the sanctuary of your soul and change you continually by his grace so that you’re ready to show and share with others what a difference the story of Jesus makes!

 

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About the Cover Art: Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash.

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