Reconciled to God and to Each Other, Part 17 (Revive the Family, Revive the Church, Awaken the Nation, O Lord #186)
A series of homilies on Ephesians.
A homily is “a short talk on a religious or moral topic; a usually short sermon; a lecture or discourse on or of a biblical theme.”
I am sharing a verse-by-verse series of short messages on Ephesians (as well as other passages of Scripture) specifically targeted at reviving families and encouraging and exhorting husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children to do what God has commanded them to do, for if the church is to be revived and the country is to be awakened, the family must be revived first.
TEXT: Ephesians 3:7-12:
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.
8 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.
Charles Finney said, “Revival comes from heaven when heroic souls enter the conflict determined to win or die — or if need be, to win and die!”
Leonard Ravenhill said, “Why do we expect to be better treated in this world than Jesus was?”
In their book, The Ten Greatest Revivals Ever, Elmer Towns and Douglas Porter share with us: “George Whitefield attracted listeners to meetings in unusual locations, such as fields, orchards, barns, and riverbanks. One observer said of a typical assembly gathered to hear him: ‘The riverbanks were black with people and horses.’ He promoted the separation of the church from political control, ‘untainted with the affairs of the colonies.’ To attract attention to his revival meetings, Whitefield employed loud music and marched through the streets, and his oratorical style was theatrical and powerful. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he spoke extemporaneously—that is, he did not read his sermon from a written text. In all these regards, Whitefield challenged the established way of doing things, raising considerable controversy in the process. One association of ministers, for example, wrote a letter attacking the itinerants on five points: l. They claimed it was against the will of God to separate converts from the unconverted. 2. They denied that everyday ‘saints’ could recognize ‘true ministers.’ 3. They denied that one need only be a Christian to preach the gospel. 4. They denied that there was any greater presence of God in meetings led by lay preachers. 5. They insisted that God had not disowned the ministry and ordinances of the established churches. Despite such objections from the religious establishment, however, the awakening blossomed everywhere. God’s Spirit would not be corralled.”
The mystery that God has unveiled through the church is a part of God’s “eternal purpose” which will be fulfilled in Christ Jesus. Paul’s statement in verse 11 looks forward to the consummation of the Church’s ultimate union with Christ. In the last days, all barriers will be removed, and a vast array of people will be one with God in Christ.
As John looked forward to the future, he saw in Revelation 7:9-10, “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” That is where we are headed. That is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s mystery revealed in the Church. F.F. Bruce said, “The church thus appears to be God’s pilot scheme [His prototype, if you will] for the reconciled universe of the future, the mystery of God’s will to be administered in the fullness of the times when the things in heaven and the things on earth are brought together in Christ.”
In the meantime, while we are still on this earth, Paul reminds us in verse 12 that it is in Christ Jesus that “we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” This verse reminds us that all believers have the same access to God the Father. And not just any access, but access with boldness and confidence by faith. God does not play favorites with His children. Jews and Gentiles have the same level of access.
During the Reformation, many of that movement’s leaders preached against the division that had arisen between the people and the church leaders. The Catholic Church had taught that only the clergy could have direct access to God. Their priests stood between the people and God when it came to confession of sin. They stood between the people and free access to the Word of God, opposing the translation of Scripture into the common languages. They opposed the Biblical teaching of the priesthood of all believers. They tried to suppress this great mystery of God.
Paul’s words remind us that it is a great privilege to be a part of the Church. We must not take for granted the access that we have to the throne of God. We ought not to use the Bible and the revelation of God to divide believers one from another. Rather, we ought to be about the business of inviting others into the fellowship of unified believers.