God’s Secret Plan

June 02, 2024 | Jess Rainer

Passage: Ephesians 3:1-13

Opening Illustration: Random old guy shows me magic trick at the Cape. A couple of months ago, I was walking with some of my kids to play at a park. As we were walking, there was an older gentlemen that slowly made his way over to us. Once he got close, he asked me a question. He asked, “Can I show you magic trick?” I don’t know if you’re like me, but anytime a stranger asks me a question like this, I am processing every possible outcome depending on how I answer – or not answer. There is a decision tree going exploding in my head in about 2.2 seconds. Well, there was genuineness to this guy, so I took a chance and said “yes”. He actually had a really good magic trick. After he was done, he told me, “I want to show you how it’s done.” He said, “I want to let you in on the secret.” “And here’s why: I want to show you how to provide joy to other people so they can provide joy to other people.” So, he showed me the magic trick and gave me the prop needed to complete the trick. Some of you are really excited because you think I’m going to show you magic trick, but I’m not. Maybe another day, but that’s not the point right now. Magicians typically don’t want to let you in on the secret. But this guy did. His whole point was to evoke a positive change in someone else.

I think a lot of times we look at God and see someone who is mysterious and far off. We feel like He’s this magician-of-sorts. The reality is that our God is personal – our God is intentional – our God is constantly guiding us and showing us what’s next. God is actively involved in our lives. Yes, I do understand that we have a God that we don’t fully understand – and I like it that way – I would never want to serve a God whom I’ve figured out. But God has chosen to reveal so much of Himself and His plan for our lives. Today, we are going to look at a passage where we learn that God has revealed a big mystery to humanity. A mystery that remained unknown for many, many years. Here’s what we are going to see in our time in God’s Word today: God revealed His secret plan to you for a reason. As you open your Bibles to Ephesians 3, let me remind you that we are journeying through the book of Ephesians in our Sermon Series: Ephesians: Masterpiece in Progress. We are looking at how we are God’s masterpiece and what that means for our lives. Read Ephesians 3:1-13. Pray. God revealed His secret plan to you for a reason. I think a good starting point for us would be to understand what this secret plan is. It’s a good starting point because that’s what Paul starts with. Here’s what we find out in the first six verses: From the beginning, God’s plan was for you to be in His family.

1) From the beginning, God’s plan was for you to be in His family. (vs. 1-6) Paul starts off by reflecting on everything we saw in chapter 2. Look at verse 1:  1When I think of all this, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the benefit of you Gentiles . . . As Paul was thinking about God’s grace that comes through faith…As Paul was thinking about being unified in Christ…It overwhelms him and he begins to pray. But just before he starts praying, this other thought enters his mind and all the sudden he has a “squirrel moment” This might make some of you feel better about your prayer life! It’s hard to stay focused! Well, Paul got distracted by God’s mysterious plan for humanity. Which is a lot better than the things I get distracted by in my prayer life. What Paul starts in verse 1, he will pick up in verse 14. Verse 2 then begins Paul’s detour. assuming, by the way, that you know God gave me the special responsibility of extending his grace to you Gentiles. As I briefly wrote earlier, God himself revealed his mysterious plan to me. As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ. God did not reveal it to previous generations, but now by his Spirit he has revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets. 

What Paul says in verses 2 through 5 is nothing short of remarkable. First, Paul was given a unique role in redemptive history. God chose Paul bring about the revelation of His mysterious plan. Through the Holy Spirit, Paul is given insight into what God is up to. Second, it’s remarkable that Paul was chosen. Do you know Paul’s story? I don’t have the time to go into all of it, but Paul used to hate Christians. He detested anything that was Christian. Paul was a devout Jew that would imprison and beat Christians. But what happened to Paul? Let me read a little bit from Acts 9:1-9. I encourage you to read Acts 9 and Acts 22 this week and let the fullness of Paul’s story set in. But let me read a little bit right now.  1Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains. As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.

Skip down to verses 15 through 19. 15 But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16 And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” 17 So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength. From a human perspective, Paul would have been one of the last people you’d choose to reveal God’s mysterious plan. Paul was on his way to persecute Christians, but Jesus showed up. Paul encountered Jesus and it changed his life. Paul was primed to be used by God in a way no one expected.

So, what is mysterious plan? We finally see it in verse 6. And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus. Throughout the Old Testament, and leading up to Jesus, we see that God chose a group of people – the Israelites – to His people. These people, the Jewish nation, we preserved throughout history for God’s purpose and glory. So, the Gentiles – or the non-Jews – were left on the outside looking in. But when Jesus came, that changed everything. God’s family was now opened up to anyone who believes in Jesus. As a Jew or Gentile enters into union with Jesus, the Jew and Gentile are now unified together in Christ. It’s this double union that takes place. This was God’s plan all long. Both Jew and Gentile stand on equal ground in Jesus.

This plan had been hidden throughout history. There were hints, but nothing was revealed. And now, because of Jesus, God’s family open to anyone who believes in Jesus. What was revealed with Paul and the apostles still continues today. The gospel is still radically uniting people in Christ. Illustration: Meeting people on the beach. Family and I spent some time at the beach recently. Rachel and I were talking one day and she says, “I just want to know all these people’s stories.” You look at out and we are surrounded by people, yet, we have zero connection with them. We look for opportunities to connect with these people – typically dogs and kids are easy ways to connect. Which, by the way, there are no cats at the beach. Nobody wants to connect with a cat. The people we were staying next door to were packing up leave. As they loaded up their SUV, I gave some causal comments. The next thing I know, I am having a conversation with a young man about Billy Graham, seminary, church planting, missions to Scotland. This twenty-something year old loves Jesus. There were stood, in the glorious Florida sunshine, united in Christ as brothers. I felt the connection with this stranger that was only because of the Holy Spirit.

This grand mystery is now revealed. We need to look at each other and marvel at the fact that God has brought us together, not only as a local church, but as the Church, the family of God. Application: God is serious about unity in His family. God wants us to marvel at this revealed mystery and be united by this mystery. It was His plan from the very beginning. Let me remind you: We have to fight for unity. Remember that as your hands are raised in praise to God, your arms are locked together with your brother or sister next to you. Paul has now told us what this once-secret plan is. Now, starting in verse 7, Paul speaks to his purpose and part of this plan. And I want these verses to serve as brief reminder to us: You have purpose in God’s not-so-secret plan.

2) You have purpose in God’s not-so-secret plan. (vs. 7-9, 13) Take a look at verse 7 as Paul tells us his part given to Him in God’s plan: By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News. Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning. Paul uses three verbs to describe his calling: Spreading, telling, and explaining. Paul also specifies two groups of people that He is called to: The Gentiles and everyone. 

I want to point out three things that apply to us from these verses: 

  1. Our purpose in God’s plan begins with being overwhelmed with the gospel 
    • Just look at Paul’s heart in these verses:
      • By God’s grace – by God’ power
      • The privilege of serving
      • God graciously gave
      • The endless treasures available in Christ
    • If are sitting here today and you don’t know what your purpose in God’s big plan, then it starts with being overwhelmed God’s grace
      • Do you like at the now-revealed mystery of God and go, “Look at the endless treasures!”
      • Does your heart become overwhelmed to the point of tears?
    • If not, ask God to overwhelm you
      • Ask God to show you the magnitude of Christ
      • Ask God to move your soul in a way that puts you in awe of Him
  2. God has given you something to steward right now
    • Paul was given the task of proclaiming the gospel to the Gentiles
    • Each of you have been given something you can steward right now
      • “Well, Jess, I’m trying to figure that out right now. I’m trying to figure out what God wants me to do next.”
      • That’s great! Keeping searching for God’s calling.
      • But for now, what has He given you to steward?
        • Illustration: Unpacking the van after a trip
          • I’ve lamented before about how after a trip, someone how everyone disappears when our van needs to be unpacked
          • I don’t understand how I can get out of the drivers seat, walk around to the back of van, open the hatch, and look inside the van and everyone is gone
          • It’s like the unpacking rapture
          • Well, this year, I got ahead of it
            • I told my kids they cannot get out of the van without bringing something in
            • There was weeping and gnashing of teeth
            • “But there’s so much stuff and so much to do!”
          • I simply said, “Start with whatever is in front of you.”
        • It’s the same for us
          • What has God put right in front of you, right now?
        • Can you smile and shake a hand?
          • Then join our Welcome Team
        • Can you hammer a nail?
          • Join our Facilities Team
        • Can you make a phone call and tell someone you are glad they came to church?
          • Join our Connections Team
        • Our church family needs you.
          • In the coming months, we are going to do a better job of making sure you know how to serve
          • For now, write on your Connect Card or find me – I’ll make sure you get plugged in
  3. Your purpose may not be easy
    • Look at where God’s calling on Paul’s life led him in verse 13:
      • 13 So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here. I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored.
    • Someone needs this encouragement this morning:
      • Don’t give up.
      • If you are in the middle of a trial, don’t give up.
      • Go to God and ask Him to give you your daily bread
      • Daily cling to Him and ask, “God, give me what I need to get through today.”
      • And them tomorrow, ask Him again.
    • Let God turn your pain into a mighty purpose.

Paul started in these verses by giving us the big plan – the revealed mystery. Paul then narrows in on his part. And now, in the final verses of this section, Paul zooms out again. Here’s the last thing we see in these verses: You are a part of something big. 

3) You are a part of something big. (vs. 10-12) Not only does Paul zoom out again, but Paul shifts our perspective on God’s plan. God wants us to understanding something big here. Take a look at verses 10, 11, and 12: 10 God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. What’s happening in verse 10? First, you have God’s wisdom. My translation describes God’s wisdom as “rich variety”. Your translation may say God’s manifold wisdom or multifaceted wisdom. The Greek work used means “many colored” which usually was used to describe flowers and tapestries. God’s wisdom is beyond our comprehension. The best worldly wisdom pales in comparison. Now, look closely, who does Paul say is being shown God’s wisdom? “to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places”. Did you catch that? Who is the audience in this verse? The heavenly realm – the spiritual realm. The angels and the demons are the ones who are taking it all in. We know angels and demons are not all-knowing. So, as God’s wisdom is being revealed, it’s all new to them. These spiritual beings are looking at the revelation of God’s wisdom in one of two ways: 1) With awe and grandeur; 2) With reality of defeat. Spiritual beings are the spectators of God’s grace being extended to all mankind. 

There’s one more important piece in this verse. God’s wisdom is being shown to the heavenly realm. Who is displaying it? The Church! The family of God! You! Me! Us! Ever since the Church was established in Acts 2, it has been displaying the manifold wisdom of God to the spiritual realm. You are part of a cosmic sermon that is being preached to the heavenly realm! Quote: “The church as a multiracial, multicultural community is like a beautiful tapestry. Its members come from a wide range of colorful backgrounds. No other human community resembles it. Its diversity and harmony are unique. It is God's new society. And the… fellowship of the church is a reflection of the ‘many-colored’ wisdom of God.” – John Stott. Some of you need to take a step back and see just how much the Church – the family of God – matters. Illustration: Seeing 2.8 miles out into the ocean. The beach is still fresh on my mind, so let me give you one more illustration. I was standing on the shores of the beach and it felt like I could see for miles into the ocean. Where I was on the Gulf of Mexico, I knew were to point toward Texas. It felt like I could see all the way to Texas. I was curious about how far I could see. The answer is 2.8 miles. I decided to look up how far away Texas was. If you drew a straight line from where I was standing, it would hit the south tip of Texas – South Padre Island. The distance from where I was standing to South Padre Island was 759 miles. What I thought was this great distance was just drop in the bucket to its reality. What we learn in these verses is that there is so much more going on beyond what we see in these walls. As a child of God, as part of the Church, you are a part of something big. God is using you to display his rich, varied wisdom to the spiritual world. God is using the existence of the Church for His purpose and His glory. 

How you view the Church affects how you view history and the future. The Church – God’s family – is central to history, central to the gospel, and central to Christian living. The Church is central to God’s purpose and plan. God is building His Church. God is refining His Church. God is using His Church in every age of humanity for His purpose and glory. That means God will never abandon His Church. No matter how chaotic the world – your world – feels, God’s now-revealed plan will prevail. There’s no doubt, if you saw the news this past week, that we are headed into another chaotic season between now and November 5th. No matter how tumultuous it gets, God’s plan won’t fail. The Church won’t fail. God’s family won’t fail. What you are a part of, won’t fail. That means we can sit back-to-back, lean on each other, so our heads don’t have to sleep in the mud.

I want to close with this quote…“All of the events in the history of the world are tied to God’s eternal purpose. Now, think about that for just a minute: behind all the events of world history—allthe events of world history—is the eternal purpose of God. God is not working on an ad hoc basis. He’s not working on the basis of contingency. The purpose of God from all of eternity is being worked out. That includes the microcosm of my tiny, little life. That includes the ebb and flow of our lives together as a congregation. That includes the moves and the changes of political history. And it is incumbent upon the children of God to keep their eyes upon the King.” – Alistair Begg. God let us in His mystery. God let us in His secret. There is only one option for us then…Be a part of it.

Some of you need to join God’s family for the first time.

GOSPEL PRESENTATION

For others, find your purpose because you are a part of something big. Let’s all lock our arms together as we raise them in praise. Let’s hold tight to the promise of God’s Church. Let’s live our lives knowing the best is yet to be. Let’s pray.

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Series Information

This sermon series walks through the book of Ephesians, emphasizing God’s action at work in our lives both to restore us to himself and to restore our relationships with each other.

Other sermons in the series

May 05, 2024

Outlook of Life

Ephesians 1:13-14 [ESV] 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of...

May 12, 2024

Ask God to Show You

Ephesians 1:18 [ESV] 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened...

May 19, 2024

In His Grace

Ephesians 2:8-9 [ESV] 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith...

June 09, 2024

A Prayer for Strength

Ephesians 3:19 [ESV] 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses...

June 16, 2024

Family of God

Ephesians 4:15-16 [ESV] 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are...