Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE MYSTERY MADE KNOWN”

Ephesians 1.9-10

 

In Ephesians 1.3, Paul refers to the blessings of God in the lives of Jewish Christians: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” The “us” in this verse refers to Paul and those of the house of Israel who, like him, had been saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Where are the blessings? In heavenly places in Christ.

In verse 4, he refers to the election of those same people, declaring that God had chosen them in Christ before the foundation of the world. Thus, there is location, followed by election, followed by predestination in verse 5. Predestination, of course, refers to marking out with a boundary beforehand, to foreordain, to predestinate.[1] As well, remember that predestination is never used, in scripture, in connection with lost people. Always and only the saved.

Verse 6 speaks of acceptation, and verses seven and eight focus on redemption. Recounted to us, then, are the blessings of God in the lives of Jewish Christians. Location, election, predestination, acceptation, and redemption. In today’s message, using as our text Ephesians 1.9-10, we see revelation:

 

9      Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:

10     That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

 

To distill these two verses down to their essence, allow me to paraphrase what Paul is communicating, without the prepositional phrases that he uses to round out and qualify his central statement: “Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, that in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ into Christ.”

There are four essential features that we do well to understand to grasp the Apostle Paul’s main intent in these two verses. First, the phrase “having made known unto us.” You might notice that at the end of Ephesians 1.8, Paul indicates that one of the results of genuine conversion, having redemption through the blood of Christ and forgiveness of sins, is that God gave to them both wisdom and prudence.

It is almost certainly this wisdom and prudence that Paul is referring to when he points out, in verse 9, that God had also made known unto them the mystery of His will. Paul and his had been given insight, knowledge, revelation, if you will, about certain principles and practicalities, wisdom and prudence. It is in verse 9 that we learn that the wisdom and prudence, the principles and the practicalities, have to do with what Paul calls “the mystery of His will.”

This “mystery” is the second essential feature of these two verses. The word “mystery” in the New Testament has an entirely different connotation than does the word as it is commonly used today. In the Word of God the word “mystery” always and in every case refers to something that was previously a secret known only to God, a secret man was not able to discover on his own, but a secret that has now been uncovered and explained by God. So, a “mystery” in the Bible is a secret that is not a secret any more.

There are three basic kinds of mysteries in the New Testament. There are the “mysteries of the kingdom” mentioned by the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 13.11 and in Paul’s letter to the Romans, there is the “mystery of godliness” spoken of in First Timothy 3.16, and there is the mystery spoken of here in Ephesians and in Paul’s Colossian letter. In each case they are truths that used to be secrets known only to God, but are now clearly revealed for all God’s children to see in the Bible.

The “mysteries of the kingdom” are the details found in the New Testament related to the millennial kingdom reign on earth of the Lord Jesus Christ, yet future. The “mystery of godliness” is the secret no more that God became a man. The mystery spoken of here in Ephesians and in Colossians? It is the secret no more of the church congregation, the body of Christ, in which God has gathered into one body both Jews and Gentiles who have trusted Jesus Christ as their personal savior.

The third essential feature of these two verses centers on the word “dispensation.” Referring to stewardship and management of affairs, this word highlights the fact that God superintends the affairs of men and unfolds history along a predetermined course to achieve and accomplish His goals and desires. This word underlines the fact that history really is His Story. Where does His Story lead? What is the final of the four essential features found in Ephesians 1.9-10? It is the fact that history will witness that God will ultimately bring together in Christ all things that are in Christ, in both heaven and on earth. Let me explain how we know this is true from verse 10.

Notice the key phrase in verse 10, “that he might gather together in one all things in Christ.” The “he” here is, of course, God the Father. His intentions are to gather “all things in Christ.” The phrase “in Christ,” as well as the context of this passage referring to things related to salvation and redemption lets us know that Paul is not referring to angels, and he is not referring to lost folks, and he is not even in this passage referring to the physical universe.

Only Christians are “in Christ.” Therefore, we recognize that Paul is using expansive language to refer to God’s intention to bring together every Christian, both those who have died and gone to heaven and those who are still alive on earth. This is important because people play fast and loose with the specific wording of the Bible and try to use this passage to deny that lost men go to Hell forever, or that fallen angels will go to the lake of fire forever. They say, “Well, if God will eventually gather everyone together in heaven and earth then people who go to Hell will not be there forever. Eventually, (they say) everyone will be saved.”

Not so, my friend. Only those who are “in Christ” will be gathered together. Since only those who are saved, only those who have been washed clean in the blood of Christ through faith, only those who have trusted Christ, are said to be “in Christ,” this passage does not leave room for lost people to escape the torments of Hell. On the contrary, this passage teaches that only those who know Jesus Christ will be eventually gathered together in Christ by God. In other words, saved through Jesus Christ, blessed through Jesus Christ, and concluded in Jesus Christ. Folks, everything that God does to and for His people, He does through the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

SERMON:

 

Reading Ephesians 1.9-10 together, stand to honor God’s holy Word as we read:

 

9      Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:

10     That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

 

My friends, what God is going to do to you, and what God is going to do for you, He will always and He will only do through the Lord Jesus Christ. Though my sermon this morning is not an exhaustive proof of what I have just said, this truth can be better understood when three topics are considered.

 

THE FIRST TOPIC IS THE SECRET OF GOD

 

There are various reasons why God keeps secrets. One rather obvious reason why God keeps a thing secret is that it is something that is simply not helpful or beneficial for His Own people to know . . . yet. Such secrets are called mysteries. However, once the time to reveal the secret has come, God openly and freely declares the truth that He had previously hidden.

One such previously hidden but now revealed secret is the mystery referred to in our text for today. I will call this the mystery of the church. Paul refers to it as a great mystery in Ephesians 5.32. The explosive truth that God had kept hidden within His Own counsels regarding the church, until the Apostle Paul was called upon to reveal it to God’s people, involves two details related to the church, the body of Christ.

First, that God would save both Jews and Gentiles by grace through faith. Jews and Gentiles saved the same way? By faith? Initially, the earliest Christians were almost exclusively Jewish Christians, men and women who were the physical descendants of father Abraham and to whom the promises and covenants of God were made. Eventually, when persecution came to the Jerusalem church and the several thousand men who were saved on and shortly after the day of Pentecost fled for their lives, it could not be helped but that some of those Jewish Christians who went back to the Gentile communities they had originally come from would preach to and eventually win Gentiles to Christ. Granted, most of the Gentiles who were converted were people already fed up with paganism, and already attending nearby Jewish synagogues, so it could not be helped that when the gospel story was retold in the synagogues the Jews were not the only ones to respond to God’s free offer of salvation. The Gentiles sitting in the back also heard, and were converted to Christ. Over time, the gospel message spread out beyond the walls of the synagogues, out into the streets of the Gentile cities, reaching Gentiles who had previously shown no interest in Judaism at all. When those people repented of their sins and turned to Christ, a number of Jewish Christians strongly opposed them for not having first converted to Judaism and the observance of the Law of Moses. The friction and the divisions among Christians eventually became so great that a great meeting was held in Jerusalem. As I read the words Simon Peter spoke to the gathered Christian leaders, notice how he speaks out in favor of recognizing that God’s plan of salvation is the same for everyone, and no one has to convert to Judaism in order to be saved. Acts 15.5-11:

 

5      But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.

6      And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.

7      And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.

8      And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;

9      And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

10     Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

11     But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

 

Therefore, despite great resistance, God’s men convinced God’s people that God saves both Jews and Gentiles alike through faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, you can go directly to Jesus to be saved, and you do not have to first convert to Judaism. What wonderful news that was.

Oh, but that was an important meeting, affirming in the people’s minds that salvation was by grace through faith alone, apart from works. Do you realize that if Gentiles had been required to convert to Judaism as a requirement for salvation, human works would have been added to the gospel message? How grateful, then, we ought to be that God’s men, Paul, Peter, and James, stood tall for the truth. However, there is a second aspect of God’s truth that, if possible, shook up folks even more. That truth, previously a mystery that was now to be revealed, was that God would unite them, both Jews and Gentiles who had trusted Christ, into one body, one congregation, the church. How would people react to this truth? “Well, pastor, I don’t mind if we actually win those people to Christ. But pastor, those people are different from us. They really need to have their own church, full of their own kind of people.” How many of you have heard of those kinds of things happening? I have heard, since I have been a pastor, the following statements: “Pastor, we think we should go to a church with more of our own kind of people in it.” One fellow looked me in the eye and said, “Pastor, to be honest with you, this church just isn’t black enough for me.” Then I heard of a visitor who had come with her husband telling one of our men, “Well, I’ve never actually been to a church that had so many colored people.” Folks, it started out with Jewish people. Because of their covenant relationship with God, and because of their higher moral and cultural standards, as well as because of their superior hygienic practices, they simply did not want Gentiles in their churches. Why not? Because we Gentiles were so different. We were dirty. Spiritually, morally, hygienically, we were filthy. Although the present lines of demarcation are not necessarily between Gentiles and Jews, but more along black, and white, and Hispanic, and Asian lines, it is still essentially the same problem, and it is still the same sin. God’s plan is for everyone to be saved the same way, and then for everyone to get together in the church where they were saved. This notion of white churches and black churches and Hispanic churches and Chinese churches and Filipino churches and Indonesian churches seems so crazy to me. Of course, language barriers are understandable. However, God’s secret, which has now been revealed and ought to be acknowledged by those who name the name of Christ, is that God wants us united in one body, this church, the body of Christ. So, if the number of this kind of people, or that kind of people, or the number of your own kind of people, is a factor to you in determining where you go to church . . . you are in sin and you need to repent. If this church is predominantly one ethnic group now and you join, do not presume to convince yourself that it is God’s will for you to move in the years to come when the demographics of our community change and we start reaching different ethnic groups. You stay where God puts you. God’s reasons for leading folks away from a church are not cultural reasons, racial reasons, or economic reasons. So much for the secret of God, that in God’s economy grace supersedes race and culture.

 

THE SECOND TOPIC IS THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD

 

Sovereignty has to do with rule. Sovereignty has to do with authority. Sovereignty has to do with the fact that God has the absolute right and prerogative to do whatever He wants to do, whenever He wants to do it, with whomever He wants. Sovereignty declares loudly and boldly that God has rights and we, His subjects, have responsibilities.

With respect to God’s sovereignty and His intentions to gather together into one body all of us who have trusted Jesus Christ as our Savior, whether we be Jewish or Gentile, black or white or brown or yellow, and whether we are alive on this earth or have died and gone to heaven, notice three references in these two verses to God’s sovereignty:

First, we see reference made to His will. “Having made known unto us the mystery of His will.” It is His will, not yours, that results in your salvation. John 1.12-13:

 

12     But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

13     Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

 

It is also His will, not yours, that results in your baptism. Is not baptism commanded? Of course. Baptism is a response to His revealed will for the new convert’s life. Finally, it is His will, not yours, which ought to be the determining factor in your involvement in this church, not whether or not there are people from other cultural backgrounds. We should praise God for Christians who are secure enough to be whatever kind of Christian they happen to be, within the context of your own culture, while at the same time serving alongside other Christians God has brought into this congregation. Thank God, there are so many here in this church that, whether consciously or not, accede to the mystery of His will for the church. Our common ground is the Word of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Second, we see reference made to His good pleasure. “According to His good pleasure.” God has this notion of His creatures functioning in such a way as to give Him pleasure. He thinks that this company of redeemed people, Christians, who have been brought together into the church, should wait upon Him, do His bidding, and give Him pleasure from our obedience. That is a far cry from most so-called Christian’s ideas of the way churches ought to operate these days. I once had a guy transfer to another church because there were not enough eligible women in our church for him. Never mind that there were six or seven quite spiritual women in the church, none of them particularly hard to look at. Too bad, he refused to consider the fact that the real problem was that he was a jerk, or that he was more concerned with his own pleasure than God’s pleasure. My friend, if you are saved this morning, it is because it was God’s good pleasure to save your wretched soul. Furthermore, if God’s good pleasure is appropriate reason to save you, it ought to be appropriate reason for you to just get busy and serve Him here in this fundamental Baptist church. Am I right? Therefore, as I understand God’s Word, we should concern ourselves with His good pleasure, this morning, not our own good pleasure. Am I right in this?

Then, we see reference made to His purpose. “Which he hath purposed in himself.” God has His Own designs and plans. In addition, those designs and plans are arranged to fulfill His purpose. Who, then, are we to resist? Who, then, are we to revise? Who, then, are we to remake or renovate to suit our purposes? God has a purpose. And His purpose is fulfilled when lost sinners like you and me are convicted of our sins, are converted through faith in Jesus Christ, and through the ordinance of baptism cooperate in God’s ultimate plan of gathering together in one all things in Christ. Do you claim to be saved? Then why do you not take whatever steps are necessary to accomplish now what God will bring to pass eventually anyway? If you really are a Christian, talk to the pastor and present yourself as a candidate for believer baptism so your testimony can be thoroughly scrutinized to ensure that our church does not unwittingly take in a lost person. Why should you? Because it is God’s will. Because it is His good pleasure. Because it is His purpose. Finally, because it is the old Baptist way. Let me read to you from this biography of the great old English Baptist, John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, to show you what the standard practice was among Baptists 350 years ago. On page 104, we are given this line from the church’s minutes:

 

26th of the 4th moneth [26th of July], John Wilson’s desire of joyning with the congregation was mentioned, and it was agreed that he should give an account of the worke of grace in his soul, next meeting.”[2] On the next page we read these words: “25th of the 10th moneth [25th January]: Upon friend Allen’s desire of joyning with us bro: Whitbread and bro: Grew were appointed to commune with him. We do also agree that such persons as desire to joyne in fellowship, if upon the conference of our friends with them, who shall be sent for that purpose, our saide friends be satisfyed of the truth of the worke of grace in their heartes; then they shall desire them to come to the next Church Meeting, and to waite neare the place assigned for the Meeting, that they may be called in.[3]

 

Thus, you see that our church’s practice is very much like the old English Baptist practice of doing what we can to reasonably ensure that only qualified candidates are baptized or otherwise received into membership. Here is yet another reason why you should endeavor to become a member of our church once you are persuaded you are genuinely converted: If you really are saved it is going to occur anyway, this gathering together in one all things in Christ, but without you receiving the rewards that come from the obedience of serving God as a member of Christ’s church. However, if you have not been converted you will not be gathered in one body in Christ. Instead, you will be cast into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

 

THE FINAL TOPIC IS THE SAVIOR FROM GOD

 

I have spent considerable time this morning discussing with you the secret of God and the sovereignty of God. Both of those are truly significant and important topics, worthy of further study. However, they are not issues that are of overriding importance to you if you are not presently saved.

You see, the mystery of the church is totally irrelevant to you if you are lost. As well, what concern do you have for the sovereignty of God if you are unsaved and therefore in open rebellion against Him? No. You are lost and have no need to consider such issues at this point in time.

What you need is to be saved. Saved because you are lost, dead in trespasses and sins, headed for a devil’s Hell if you are not saved.

So, what do you need to be saved? You need a Savior. A Savior Who both can and will save you from your sins. Let me tell you about the Jesus of the Bible, Who will be the Savior of your soul, if you trust Him.

Did you know that He is a Savior who provides adoption? Look back to verse 5: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” Here you are, a child of the devil. Jesus said you are of your father the devil. The devil’s kids go to Hell when they die. Only God’s children go to heaven. However, you are not God’s child because you have not been converted. Understand that Jesus Christ died and shed His blood to make it possible for you to be adopted by God into His family. When God adopts you, you become His child. His children go to heaven. This adoption occurs when you trust Jesus.

Did you know that He is a Savior who provides acceptance? Look back to Ephesians 1.6: “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” Running around trying to please everyone all the time. Trying to have just the right hair do, usually with too much makeup and lipstick. Boys have to wear just the right sloppy and ugly clothes. Mustn’t do anything that would cause your “friends” to reject you. However, if you trust Jesus as your Savior then God will accept you. Once God accepts you, the Creator of all things, it does not matter whether some ignoramus accepts you or not. You have been accepted in Jesus.

Did you know that He is a Savior who provides redemption? The first part of verse 7 reads, “In whom we have redemption through his blood.” Described by God’s Word as a slave to sin, though you may choose which sins you will commit, you have no choice as to whether you will commit sins, because you are a slave to sin. Jesus died and shed His blood to pay the penalty for your sins. Jesus will set you free from slavery to sin, if you will only trust Him to wash away your sins in His blood.

Did you know He is a Savior who provides forgiveness? Verse 7 reads, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” What is the only thing that will keep you out of heaven? Sin. However, what does Jesus provide for those who trust Him? Forgiveness of sins. By the way, it is not the kind of forgiveness that we hear about so much, where the person says, “I’ll forgive, but I’ll never forget.” No. When Jesus saves you, God says “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”[4]

 

Friend, God kept a secret for a long time. The secret that is now revealed is this: He saves Jews and Gentiles in the same way, and then He gathers them together into one body, the church congregation.

What gives God the right to do this? He is sovereign. He is God. He made everything and He is all-powerful, so He makes all the decisions. And He consults with and asks permission of no one.

He has sovereignly decided that what He does, and how He does it, and who He does it to, will be always and only through Jesus Christ, His precious Son, the Savior of mankind, and the Savior of individual men.

What does that mean to you? It means that unless and until you trust Jesus as your Savior you have no hope whatsoever. There is no way around Him. There is no possibility of placating or appeasing God in any other way than to humbly admit that you are a helpless sinner and that you are in need of a Savior. That Savior is none other than Jesus. Then, of course, you must actually trust Jesus.

Trust Jesus this morning and you will walk out of here saved and assured of heaven. Reject God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ (and saying to yourself “Not now” is rejecting Jesus, mind you), and you face the danger of eternal Hellfire.

In a moment I will pray. After that we will sing and then go next door for a sandwich and some conversation before you go to lunch. Why not take just a few moments before you go to come back into the auditorium and talk to me, so we can arrange to open the Bible to see what God’s Word says about you and your need of Jesus Christ?



[1] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), pages 521-522.

[2] Cited in John Brown, John Bunyan, (London: Wm. Isbister Limited, 1887), page 104.

[3] Keep in mind that the beginning of the new year was not January 1st until 1752, thus accounting for the Baptist church in Bedford reckoning July the fourth month and January the tenth month of the calendar year.

[4] Hebrews 10.17



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org