GSFA Devotional: Bread for Our Journey
Trinity 5 (4 July 2021)
THE SECRET IS OUT … WE MUST THEREFORE BE ON OUR FEET! (Ephesians 3:1-13 )
“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.
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.” (Ephesian 3:6-7)
Have you been part of a secret plan? What I am referring to more precisely is a secret plan to bless others. My guess is that most of us have. We have experienced planning or participating in a birthday or wedding anniversary or some auspicious occasion surprise for someone we love. There is meticulous care in guarding the secret until the right moment so that the maximum impact is achieved.
God had a secret plan by which he was going to bless the whole world – not just his ancient people Israel but all the Gentile peoples spread across the face of the earth. That secret plan was concealed throughout the ages and then activated through the coming of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, into the world. The plan was that through the death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, a way was opened for both Jews and Gentiles to be reconciled to the living God, and for the whole cosmos to be renewed and united under the Lordship of King Jesus. This is “good news” for everyone – that by believing that Jesus died for your sins and that he was raised to life as proof of God’s acceptance of his death on your behalf, we are put right with God forever (Romans 4:25). A new life begins through God’s forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit. This new life begins now and extends to all eternity.
The secret plan carried another inextricable dimension. Through the Cross, a new humanity was to be formed that had equal access to God, lived in winsome holiness and for whom the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile was broken down. Not only that but, as v 6 emphasizes, the Gentiles through faith in Christ came to be members of the same body of God’s people, inheritors of the wonderful promises made to Abraham, and fellow heirs of the kingdom of God promised to the Jews.
It was, and still is, hard for Jews who have been tutored for centuries by the Law of Moses and the Temple sacrificial system, to accept a plan from God that resulted in Gentiles having an equal footing in the new household of God’s redeemed people (the Church). But that is in fact what God in Christ has done. Jesus not only fulfils the Old Testament expectations of the Jewish Messiah, he exceeds it by becoming Lord of all nations. All this was intended by God’s concealed plan which “has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” (v 5)
As you reflect on the wonder of God’s secret plan in Christ Jesus, a plan concealed for years in the Old Testament and revealed in the fullness of time in the New Testament, would you take heart that God’s secret plan could still be working itself out in your life, the life of your family and the life of your church? Take the hardships, setbacks, delays, and ambiguities in life, as well as the unfinished story, to God in prayer. Confess his absolute goodness and trust His perfect wisdom and love!
God’s salvation plan also envisions the oneness of the people redeemed by the Cross – a oneness that transcends culture, race, language, age, and every other social boundary. So, consider how you can be an instrument of unity in the body life of God’s people. By the power of Christ’s love on the Cross, we shed our prejudices against one another, forgive each other and serve side by side to make known “the faith once delivered.” (Jude v3).
Looking more deeply at the passage, there is more to how we can respond.
Each one of us is called to participate in making known God’s secret plan to the world around us. Let us be inspired by St Paul’s stirring passion and total commitment (vv 8-13). We know from other parts of Scripture that he was prepared to make known God’s salvation plan person by person, family by family and sub-community by sub-community. His passion was aflame with God’s love because he was convinced that the Gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16).
Indeed, Paul wrote the letter of Ephesians when he was imprisoned for spreading the Gospel. But being in prison did not dim his vison of the transforming power of the Gospel spreading throughout the world nor dampen his energy to do whatever he could to build a Church faithful to her calling (v 19). He may be chained but he knows that under God, the Gospel and its power can never be chained (c.f., Philippians 1:12-18 ). It is amazing then how Paul in a dark prison dungeon, like David in a sheltering cave (Psalm 57), can still behold the glory of God on the throne and know assuredly that His good purposes will prevail!
How about us in these dark, trying and difficult times? What is our posture, especially as pastors of God’s flock and stewards of the Gospel? The secret of God’s wonderful salvation plan for the whole world is OUT – it has been made known to us by the Spirit through the holy Scriptures. If the Secret is out and it is a Secret that brings life, we must get the GOSPEL OUT into our societies and into the world with passion. We must lead our churches to proclaim by word and deed the “immeasurable riches of God’s grace … in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:7; 3:8). We must not be resigned or lacklustre. Rather, we must be up on our feet and pressing forward to make the Gospel of hope known. We can only do so by the power of God.
St Paul knew that he has been entrusted with “the stewardship of God’s grace” (v2) that was given to him for the sake of reaching and building up the Gentiles. He knew that he was “made a minister of the Gospel according to the gift of God’s grace.” (v7a). And then he added in v7b that this appointment and its accompanying grace was “backed up with the power through which God accomplishes his work.” (N T Wright in PAUL FOR EVERYONE: The Prison Epistles). What a promise to uplift us in these difficult times. We have access to a POWER not our own – God’s own power by the surging and life-giving power of the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 37:1-10 ; 2 Timothy 1:6-8 ). Be renewed in the Spirit’s power through prayer, Word, and community. Let us “kneel in communion with God” each day in order that we can stand in the hour of testing and continue ‘sowing and harvesting’ for God.
Beloved, the SECRET PLAN of God is glorious. That plan has been accomplished in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the risen Lord who summons and strengthens us at this present time to rise up and make His salvation known. As the people of God, we are to evangelize widely and disciple deeply. Our goal and vision is that one day all creation will be ‘ransomed, healed, restored, (and) forgiven.’ Then, we too can stand before God on that Day to receive His good pleasure and enter the fullness of the Kingdom prepared for us! To the God who never fails be all honour and glory now and evermore!
The Rt Revd Rennis Ponniah
Hon Director, GSFA Secretariat
Hon Fellow, St Peter’s Hall (Diocese of Singapore)