Ephesians 3:1 RSV For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 that is, how the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[by] God who created all things; 10 that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.
Stewardship: Utilizing and managing all resources God provides for
the glory of God and the betterment of His creation.a
Stewardship is easily defined. The mystery lies in the phrase that follows that word in this passage, “of God’s grace.” This great evangelist, held in such esteem by people of faith all these generations later, is reminding us grace is the mystery purposefully designed to encourage the diligence of people of faith to “see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[by] God who created all things.” Don’t miss the footnote “in[by].“ Prepositions show relationship. “In” is about position and “by” is about closeness. Paul [and the translators] have used those two letter words to emphasize this truth; the closest we will come to solving the mystery “of God’s grace” and our stewardship of it in this life is to recognize our position in God and stay close to Him through “the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
Ephesians 3:17-19 MSG “And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights!
Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” MSG 3:17-19
aHolman Bible Dictionary
ESV Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
NLT Eph 2:8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Take a minute and think of how many times you’ve heard yourself say “I should.” We are by nature a people of “shoulds,” even when it comes to our faith. Should’s are like the underbelly of human response compared to God’s Grace. Grace is “the gift of God.” That gift is the foundation of His heart that validates every aspect of our faith. “And you can’t take credit for this;”…your repentance, your transformation, your growth, your study, your wisdom, your knowledge and understanding of your relationship to God and it’s impact on your human relationships and behavior.
Only by fully accepting how powerful Grace is in our life can we come to realize there is nothing in that list that is dependent on our “should’s.” Grace is responsible for our repentance, our transformation, our growth, our study, our wisdom, our knowledge and understanding of our relationship to God and it’s impact on our human relationships and behavior.
This is the Word of God: “We are God’s masterpiece.” He has “created us anew in Christ Jesus.” Jesus is the Piece of the Master created within us to change our human nature from “should’s” to our response of the heart “so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. NIV
Be alert and watchful, of sober mind and spirit. The devil is not an adversary content with luring you into sin but one who is intent on your complete destruction. All my children are united in this struggle at this time of suffering…but I am the God of all grace who has called you beyond death to eternal glory with me. I’ve given you faith to make you strong beyond your own ability to stand firm and resist. I myself will support and strengthen you and make it happen. Stay in toucha.
a A composite of ESV, NIV, NLT and NASB versions
I Peter: 1:10 The prophets searched carefully and tried to learn about this salvation. They prophesied about the grace that was coming to you. 11 The Spirit of Christ was in the prophets, telling in advance about the sufferings of Christ and about the glory that would follow those sufferings. The prophets tried to learn about what the Spirit was showing them, when those things would happen, and what the world would be like at that time. 12 It was shown them that their service was not for themselves but for you, when they told about the truths you have now heard. Those who preached the Good News to you told you those things with the help of the Holy Spirit who was sent from heaven—things into which angels desire to look. NCV
Walking through the Coronavirus pandemic has been like a daily reminder of exactly how a walk of faith begins. We’ve realized an awareness of needing to be saved. Circumstances have revealed our best efforts to live well are not powerful enough to make us feel safe without help and following certain guidelines. “Feeling safe is not proof you are safe…You can need to be saved and not know it. For example, if a jet taking off from the airport were losing altitude and heading straight for this sanctuary right now, you would need to be saved; but you wouldn’t know it unless someone came running in here and shouted what was happening. So you can see that feeling safe is no proof that you are safe.a”
“About this salvation:”
“Salvation [soteria from soter = Savior] is a broader term in Greek than we often think of in English. Other concepts that are inherent in soteria include restoration to a state of safety, soundness, health and well being as well as preservation from danger of destruction.b“
“About this salvation:” salvation is the inheritance of a believer in Jesus Christ and Grace is the promised allowance for the expenses of life. That’s the “Good News.” Your life as a follower of Jesus Christ is now under a contract revealed long ago by diligent people writing on behalf of the Holy Spirit, “not for themselves but for you” today. Today…when many of us see “suffering” as never before, we need an outpouring of that allowance of “grace” and “restoration to a state of safety, soundness, health and well being as well as preservation from danger of destruction” because the expenses have been too great for us to handle without help. Come Holy Spirit!
Inheritance: property passing to those entitled to succeed
Allowance: a sum granted as a reimbursement for expenses
a John Piper, Desiring God
John 15:22 They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. NLT
Jesus had “come and spoken to them” to make them aware of their guilt. John records this truth about Jesus’s living Word; it reveals the destructive reaction of human nature to the awareness of sin and guilt. That same reaction has lasted across time and many generations. Is there anybody reading this that can’t understand a defensive response when confronted with their sin? Let me answer that for you…NO! Jesus’s Word only requires changing the generic pronoun “they” to make it personal enough to impact our human nature today too.
Hearing Jesus speak about sin in the same sentence with your name awakens an awareness of guilt that leaves you with a choice: defend your sin or take Jesus at His Word. Jesus has “come and spoken to [me].” He speaks to offer this replacement for excuses…opportunity. Opportunity to let defensiveness be replaced with repentance that replaces guilt with forgiveness and Grace.
NLT Hebrews 12 and James 1 & 2 [NLT]
Hebrews 12:2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy [or instead of the joy] awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame…23 You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which `speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel. 25 Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking…
You have come…. x4 to the place that “speaks of forgiveness.” When we ask God to forgive our behavior His response is the unmerited favor of His Grace. Forgiveness is the foundation of our faith that becomes this specific discipline of Grace; “Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” and “mediates the new covenant between God and people.”
Hebrews urges “Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking.” The first words I heard as I listened were; “forgiveness” [what only God can do] and “discipline” [what I can do]. Then I heard a familiar echo of those words with these from James 1 and 2 – “faith” and “actions.” They’re copied below for you to read with ‘forgiveness’ substituted for the word [faith], ‘discipline’ for the word [endurance] and ‘Grace’ as the verb that replaces [actions].
James 1:3 For you know that when your forgiveness [faith] is tested, your discipline [endurance] has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your discipline [endurance] is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing…2:14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have forgiveness [faith] but don’t show it by your Grace [actions]? Can that kind of forgiveness [faith] save anyone?
This post has become a perfect example for me of these truths:
ALL the books of the Bible work together for our good. The Spirit really does link truths from different Scriptures in new and meaningful ways. Forgiveness and discipline do help explain faith and actions AND faith and actions do help explain forgiveness and discipline.
AND finally the most important truth of all: God has saved the unmerited favor of His Grace IN us. Living with the reality of that forgiveness is the discipline of Grace that turns faith into action.
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken
2 Timothy 2 [NIV]
1 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others…4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this…25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth…
Renewal is the application of “the grace that is in Christ Jesus” that fills the void sins once occupied in us. What makes renewal real is Jesus’ grace, and our confidence in it. That’s the only thing that can overcome our limitations.
Paul knew it was God who’d entrusted him AND his limitations, to be a witness for Him. He had first-hand experience of the power of Jesus to change even the most undeserving opponent, despite their limitations. Isn’t that an interesting thought? God knows how to teach us to use what we wish he would just take away.
This is my grand finale for all of us today. I want our confidence to be in God’s power and the grace of Jesus to help us reveal He is the strength we count on despite our obvious limitations. Then we can we be His reliable witnesses “qualified to teach others… in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth…” I guess it’s the “takes one to know one” method of witness….and on a personal note, if God can “gently” instruct and continue to change a woman who once said…I’ve changed enough…He can change anyone.
NASB Philemon 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
6 and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake.9 yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—10 I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment,
16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Philemon is clearly the wronged party in this story of slavery and freedom. The slave Onesimus has effectively stolen his “property” simply by running away from him. Onesimus ran away hoping to find freedom in the crowded city of Rome. God had a different plan to teach him about a different kind of freedom from a man “now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus.” The Apostle Paul writes of “my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment.” Onesimus found his freedom in the faith of Christ from a man in chains.
God led Onesimus to Paul in that crowded city. It was receiving grace and freedom that made it possible for him to return to the master he’d run away from. It was receiving grace and freedom that made it possible for Philemon to accept Paul’s word that Onesimus has become part of the fellowship of faith and “more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
What began as a story of slavery and freedom God turned into a blessing of grace and freedom for both Philemon and Onesimus.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
We all know about keeping schedules don’t we? They depend on arriving at the right place at the right time. That’s why the word “came” defined the reality of the first 5 verses of John for me. There was a plan! There was a time! There was a schedule! There was a baptist and there was a Jesus!
* John “came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.”
* Jesus “came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet …to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—…born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen…the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”
16 “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.”
and that’s still on the schedule. Don’t miss it!
II Corinthians 6:1 As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” [from Isaiah 49:8] I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
To my co-workers:
“Now” seems like such an insignificant little word compared to these other words in the verses; God, grace, favor, helped and salvation. How important could one little word be? I can answer that for you.
If it weren’t for that one little word we’d have to settle for other words like “then, later, eventually, and sometime.” Ask yourself: how significant faith would be if those words were all God had to offer you?
“Now” may be a small word but it’s an indispensable part of the grace we are urged to receive and respect. “Now” is why God’s Word is called “living.” “Now!” Is the whole point of the narrative of faith.
God – Now! Grace – Now! Favor – Now! Helped – Now! Salvation – Now!