Jeff Grisham

Bella Vista Church of Christ

01/22/2017 A.M.

 

Declaring the Wisdom of God

Sunday morning,January 22, 2017

 

Introduction

Thank you Randall for the scripture reading, Anthony for the song service, and those who helped out last week with the Dallas Trip.

 

Our text this morning is from Ephesians 3, verses 7 through 13.  Let’s begin by reading this.

 

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. 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[b] God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

 

There are so many things in this passage that we could examine, but I would like for us to start by looking at the idea of God’s eternal purpose.  What is God’s eternal purpose?  For that we will look at several scriptures, beginning in Genesis 1 and ending in Revelation 21. Let’s start with Genesis 1:

 

26 Then God said, “Let us make man[h] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 

So God createdman in his own image, in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

 

Here we see that God created mankind and gave them instructions.  They were to be fruitful and multiply and to subdue the earth.  They were to bring everything in subjection to God.  God wanted a close, personal relationship with his creation.  We see that in Genesis 3 as we read of God walking with Adam and Eve in the Garden. 

 

We hear this desire for a relationship with all people in the teachings of Jesus.  In that Good Shepherd passage in John 10, we hear Jesus say:

 

And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

 

When we get to Revelation 21, we see that purpose come to completion:

 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

 

We see the purpose of God is to be in relationship with all of his creation.  But that is not all.  We also see that God enlists his creation in helping to facilitate that relationship.

 

In Genesis 2 we see Adam and Eve placed in the Garden to keep it (protect it) and to cultivate it (cause it to grow and spread). They failed in that when they decided to become gods to themselves in the eating of the forbidden fruit.  Sin severed the relationship and we see God continuing to work toward his purpose through others.

 

In Genesis chapter 6 it is Noah.  By the time of Noah, sin was so pervasive that every thought and intent of man was on evil continually.  But, through onefamily, Noah’s family, God began the process again.  In Genesis 9, after the flood we hear God saying some very familiar things to Noah and his sons.

 

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered.

 

Once again, it didn’t take long until mankind decided to try to make a name for themselves in the incident of the tower of Babel.  After God scattered them, he again chose one family, that of Abraham and Sarah to move the plan forward.  We see that in Genesis 12:

 

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

 

Centuries later we see this family being led out of Egypt. God visited the plagues on the Egyptians and brought the nation of Israel out through the Red Sea to Sinai.  We hear him talking to Moses on the mountain:

 

They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob,and tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

 

They were to be a nation of priests and a light to the Gentile nations around them.

 

Looking At Our Role

So, we see that God has a purpose and he enlists his creation, his family in carrying out that purpose.  Where does that leave us?

 

Paul tells us this in our text.  He says that it is through the church – this one family of God -  that God’s wisdom is to be declared.  In other words, the purpose of God, and even the very existence of God is declared through the church.  It is by looking at the church that those who are outside form a judgment on the wisdom of God’s plan – and by extension his existence.

 

Examining the Evidence

We are engaged in this battle and it seems to be escalating.  Atheism is becoming more and more aggressive– some might say militant.  We still have the constant conflict regarding the teaching of evolution in our schools.  We hear of the court cases and demonstrations that surround religious symbols in the public square.  Prayer has been eliminated from the public schools so that atheists will not be offended. The attacks continue to come.

 

Now, we are in our strong suit here, aren’t we? This is right in our wheelhouse; declaring the existence of God. Think about this battle with the atheists in which we seem to be constantly engaged.  Volumes are written.  Debates are held.  A lot of ink spilled in discussing the existence of God. 

 

We look at the Bible and we hold it up to the atheist and say, “Here is definitive proof in the existence of God!”  Yet they don’t believe.  They don’t even believe in the validity of the Bible at all. 

 

We appeal to nature and the intricacies of the human body and say, “This must be proof of the existence of God!”  After all, as the Psalmist said, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Ps. 19.1) It was Paul who said to the church in Rome that God is evident by the things that were created. (Romans 1.20)  Still they refuse to believe.

We will go in search of other evidence that will show the atheist that God exists.  We find archeological evidence that confirms what we find written in Scripture.  We run to the atheist and show them, “This is validation of our claims, both of the accuracy of the Bible and the existence of God who created us!  Will you believe now?”  And they refuse.  It is frustrating.  We can’t understand why they don’t see the truth.

 

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to read some of the writings of some of the leaders in the atheist movement.  These are highly educated very articulate men. They are difficult to read just from the standpoint of their aggressive opposition to everything we hold dear.  One of the authors I read was Christopher Hitchens who, in 2007, wrote a book entitled God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.  He puts forth the usual atheist arguments denying the existence of God.  He talks about the inconsistencies of the Bible, and in particular the New Testament. The writing is very combative and can really make us angry. 

 

There was a chapter in it that I found hard to read for a different reason.  The title of the chapter is Religion Kills, and in it he responds to a question that he was asked during a panel discussion dealing with the existence of God.  He was to imagine himself in a strange city as evening was coming on.  Toward him was approaching a large group of men.  The question was, would he feel safer if he knew that the group had just left a prayer meeting?  His answer was “no.”  He went on to explain his answer further by recounting what he called “religious inspired cruelty” in different places in the world.  He started with Belfast, Northern Ireland where people were brutalized and murdered in the name of “right religion.”  He then went on to talk about places like Beirut where Muslims, Jews, and Christians each have their own power base and fight with each other for control.  He went on with more cities and more examples of violence and cruelty committed by people who claim to be followers of Jesus.

 

While the attacks against the Bible and the theory of evolution are much easier to dismiss, this angle is harder to dismiss. These incidents lead to the questions, “Could it be that we are running to the atheist with the wrong type of evidence?”  Could it be that what needs to be seen is not the validity of the Bible, or the evidence of creation, but rather the evidence of a changed life.  You see, that is the evidence that Paul is suggesting in this passage.  That is the evidence that declares the wisdom of God.  Look at chapters 1 and 2 of Ephesians. 

 

InEphesians 1, Paul talks about the fact that we were chosen since before thefoundation of the world.  We werepredestined for adoption as sons. And he keeps repeating the phrase, “to thepraise of his glory” which brings to mind the scripture that Randall read forus this morning; we are to let our lights shine so that people will praise andglorify God. 

 

In Ephesians 2, Paul writes:

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

 

We live in a time where there seems to be more division than I have ever witnessed.  We witnessed protests and riots this past Friday.  A few weeks ago we were horrified and disgusted as we heard about 4 individuals brutalizing a mentally challenged person for no other reason than racial differences.  We see the news and a person of one race guns down another because of the color of his skin. I watched parts of two cable news shows this past week.  Within the last 15 minutes of one show and the first 5 minutes of the next, almost every segment dealt with racial tension in our nation.  And it is easy to get sucked into taking sides.  Every 2 years to some degree, and for certain every four years, people look for people to put in leadership that will solve the problem. The reality is that no candidate will ever accomplish this.  It is the job of the church to demonstrate how God sees all people.  The world is looking for solutions.  People of all kinds are acting out because of fear.  In Christ, all are welcome regardless of race, economics, social status, political affiliations, past sins, or gender.   What are we showing in the midst of a terribly divided world?  When we see these acts of violence that seem to fill our headlines, are we disgusted because of the color of the skin of the perpetrator or the victim, or is it because someone who is made in the image of God has been abused? 

 

What if we took the teachings of Jesus seriously?

 

Let’s use our imaginations for a minute.  How would our world look, what would the headlines be if people who claim to follow Jesus actually took the commands of Jesus seriously?  What would our nation look like, what would our communities, schools, and families look like if we took the teachings of Jesus seriously?  

 

What if, instead of memorizing and analyzing the teachings of Jesus, we just obeyed those teachings.  How would our world look if we who wear the name “Christian” made it our mission to live out Matthew chapters 5 through 7?  I believe that the more we focus on being what we have been called to be instead of just knowing what we have been called to be, those who deny the existence of God would have to take notice.  They might not accept the fact that there is a God, but such a difference in our lives would certainly be a step in declaring the existence of God.