Los Alamos Church of Christ

Let the Word Dwell

#23 Ephesians 3:20

According to the Power

 

This morning we are in Ephesians 3:20… #23 in the 50 Verse Challenge.   But before we work on memorizing it, we need to pick up the flow.  Most verses of Scripture are not written in isolation.  The Bible is not like looking through posters. The Bible is not typically one-liner, sound bites.  Rather, Scripture has flow.  Thoughts grow.  Points are built upon.  Thoughts are stacked.  Climaxes are reached.  It is always important to understand the flow; especially when you are doing memory verses. 

 

Ephesians 3:20 is one of those verses where the flow matters.  It is the powerful conclusion of the 3rd chapter.  So, we can’t just memorize our one verse.  We have to get in the flow.  We have to carefully understand what is going on before we get to it.  We need to flow into Ephesians 3:20 so we can understand what it really means. 

 

Let’s begin our flowing at the beginning of chapter 3. 

 

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The flow of Chapter 3 begins with a mystery

--This mystery was revealed to Paul. It is a mystery that changes the way we understand to people.  The mystery, once understood, breaks down our tendencies to be tribal.

--What? Tribal is our tendency to identify with tribes. Because of years of conditioning, people tend to identify with certain groups.  Most people want to be connected to a group.  That’s okay except, every group thinks they are… special.  Every group of people views themselves as unique.  Every group assumes they deserve, more than the “others”.  Every group has a tendency to marginalize other groups.  “We are better. We’re Number One!  You are not.”

--This week I watched the NBA finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.  I am not a fan of either team.  I like the San Antonio, Spurs.  But I kind of like LeBron James. I began to pull for the Cavilers.  I have never been to Cleveland, I really don’t care.  But, I found myself connecting to the tribe of Caviler fans.  And quickly, disliking the Warriors and specifically their fans; their tribe.  I began to marginalize them.  “They’re ridiculous. They’re obnoxious. They’re crazy”. Well, the Warriors won. My tribe lost.  I was sad. 

--Human tendency is to be tribal.  We identify with one group and then marginalize “others”.

 

We see this tribalization in sports, but that is not the only place we see it.  It is everywhere. 

--Racial hatred, political divisions, national pride, financial snobbery, educational elitism, religious bigotry…

--Our tendency is to be tribal.  “We’re Number One. We’re Number One. We’re Number One.  And you’re NOT!”

 

In the beginning of Ephesians 3 the mystery Paul reveals runs counter to our tribal nature. The mystery is… there are no tribes in Christ Jesus.

 

ESV Ephesians 3:6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

 

For a Jew to say this about the Gentiles; about the ethna, was amazingly anti-tribal.  “Gentiles are unclean. They are despicable. They are pagan.  They are rejected by God.  They are the ethna.”  Ethna is the word translated as Gentiles but it literally means the “others”.  

 

These undeserving Ethna are… 

--Fellow heirs… “No we Jews, we are the heirs of Abraham… not them.”

--Members of the same body… “No they pollute the body.  We aren’t the same.”

--Partakers of the promise… “Not the promise.  The promise is to “us” not “them”!

 

This is the mystery… tribal divisions don’t exist in Christ Jesus!  We who are in Christ need to stop thinking tribal.  We, who are fellow heirs, are fellow heirs.  We, who are in the body of Christ, are in the body of Christ.  We, who are partakers of the promise, partake it with “others”.  The flow of the Gospel runs against our human tribal tendency!

 

The mystery is how Ephesians 3 begins.  Let’s keep flowing.

 

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ESV Ephesians 3:8-10 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, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 

 

The church’s job is to make known the mystery. This mystery of tribal prejudice is being erased.  The reason the church was created was to end tribalness.  The reason we have church, here this morning, is to destroy the tribal tendencies of the world.  Rulers and authorities in powerful places are to be… educated about the mystery.  The kingdom of heaven, the church, is to take the message of the mystery into the power centers of this earth to teach them the unsearchable riches of Christ’s love for all people!  That is our job as the church. 

 

This is amazing.  The church’s job is to reveal the manifold wisdom of God.  God is manifold.  God’s riches are manifold.  God’s grace is manifold.  God manifolds mankind.  Our job is to make known that God’s love reaches every tribe.  God loves every “other”.  That message of tribal, busting love is what can change our world.  The God’s manifold love reaches “others”.

 

We have the mystery.  We have our job to preach the mystery.

 

Let’s keep flowing towards Ephesians 3:20.

 

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ESV Ephesians 3:14-16 For this reason… I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named… that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

 

--For this reason… that the mystery blows up tribalness.  That the church’s job is to preach the manifold love of God to all others…

 

--Every family, every tribe is named by God.  God the Father has named them all.  Every tribe belongs to God, he named them.  Every tribe is precious like a pet.  You name a pet in order to love it.  God named every tribe… God loves the ethna. 

 

For this reason Paul begins praying.  When Paul prays we should join him.  Here is Paul’s prayer…

 

You are to be strengthened in your inner being because your job is to take the mystery of no tribalness to the world.  The strength is through the Spirit within.  We have already learned that memory verse…

 

#6 1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own.

 

God lives within us.  You are a temple of the Spirit.  You are not your own.  You are on a mission from God to take the mystery.  But the good news is that this Spirit, in you, can strengthen you with power.   That is Paul’s prayer. 

 

In our job of taking the mystery of no tribalness, the Spirit can give us power from the inside out to accomplish our mission.  The Spirit within us is not just there for decoration.  Paul prays that this Spirit inside us is there for… power. 

 

Paul continues his prayer… the flow continues…

 

We are getting closer to Ephesians 3:20.

 

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ESV Ephesians 3:17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-

 

Let’s stop at faith.  Christ dwells in our hearts by faith. 

--We have faith that Christ is one with the Father. God’s fullness dwells in Christ.

--We have faith that at the incarnation Christ became human… a human baby. 

--We have faith that Christ lived a sinless life, performing miracles and preaching righteousness!

--We have faith that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.

--We have faith that Christ was buried.

--We have faith that we join him in the tomb by baptism to leave our sins in the tomb.

--We have faith that on the third day he rose in accordance with the Scriptures.

--We have faith that Jesus ascended to the heavens and that we sit with him above all heavenly places.

 

This faith merges us into the body of Christ.  This same faith merges “others” into the body of Christ.

 

Now keep flowing with Paul’s prayer… strength from the within by the Spirit; Faith in our hearts…

 

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ESV Ephesians 3:17-19  …that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

 

Paul’s prayer is that we may know what surpasses knowledge.  “What?”  We are supposed to know what we cannot know.  We put our roots into the ground of Christ’s love.  These roots, digging deeper into the love of Christ, will cause us to grow in Christ’s love.  We anchor our love in the love of Christ for us.  Because Christ loved me I can begin to glimpse…

--how wide is the love of Christ… wider than east from west.

--how long is the love of Christ… to infinity and beyond.

--how tall is the love… as tall as the cross.

--how deep is the love… deeper than the oceans.

 

Christ’s love fills us with the fullness of God! 

 

Paul’s prayer is for us…

1) Be strengthened by the Spirit within us.

2) So that, our faith in Christ.

3) Will learn how much he loves us.

 

With Paul praying for our rooted-love, we are ready for Ephesians 3:20… First, let’s memorize it.

 

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#23 Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.

 

 

 

Memory Picture…

 

 

Tree List

 

We have it memorized. We have Paul’s prayer…Let’s experience Ephesians 3:20.

 

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Last, week in #22, Philippians 4:13, - I can do all things through him who strengthens me - I told you that the “do” was handle, be strong for, be persistent through all things.  Here is Ephesians 3:20 the “do” is a different Greek word.  Here the “do” is do! Here the do is… bring about, accomplish, perform, create, produce.  In Ephesians 3:20 we do far more that all we could ask or think. 

 

This “do” is do the love of Christ. That is the flow of this entire chapter. 

--The mystery of no-tribalness in Christ…

--Which is our job as the church to preach…

--Strengthened by the Spirit within us…

--As we have faith in Christ…

--Rooted in his love..

So we do the love of Christ for all the ethna! 

 

Christ is able to love through us with more power than we can image.  We are able to love the marginalized by the power within us.  Because of the one who lives in us, we can powerfully love others. 

 

Here is the amazing thought of Ephesians 3:20…

 

The love we have for our tribe is turned outward to the “others” by his power within us.  Our love for our little tribe… our family, our friends, our connected groups… is to be turned to others; the same love. “That is going to take some doing.”  We have some doing from the power at work in us! 

 

Some have asked why Tony and Zee went to Mozambique. How could they take their little tribe, three kids, and go to these “others”. The people of Mozambique are as completely different tribe as possible.  The have to be the exact opposite of us… different color, different language, eat different, live different, they have witch doctors, they are uncivilized, dirt poor, there are no common tribe-liness with us at all.  Why? How?

 

Tony and Zee have turned the love they have for their little tribe outward to engulf “others”. 

 

If we have our faith and our love rooted in Christ, Christ will give us power to love the opposites; the others; the ethna.  Christ will be able to “do” more than we can imagine through his power in us… loving “others”.  Tribalness is destroyed by the love of Christ which flows outward from within us connecting to others. 

 

Wow.  I told you that in order to understand Ephesians 3:20 you needed the flow.    

 

Ephesians 3:20 is an incomplete sentence… let’s finish it.

 

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ESV Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

 

--The church shares the mystery… there are no tribes in Christ.

--We have power to love the “others” from within us.

--We glorify God when Christ loves others through us.

 

This unimaginable power to love the marginalized is how we bring glory to God. 

 

Stand and ask Christ to do far more than we can imagine in love for “others”.

 

#23 Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.

 

 

Tim Stidham

June 14, 2015

Los Alamos Church of Christ