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The Essence of the Gospel

May 6, 2011

Ephesians 3 is one of my favorite parts of Scripture.  Why?  Because the “mystery” Paul talks about within it is the very reason I was saved.  What is the mystery?  “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.” (Eph. 3:6)  I don’t know why God chose to save me.  I don’t know why I was born to Christian parents who attended a great church (yup, that’s a shout out to Beachpoint).  I don’t know why I enjoy the blessings of an affluent society.  But that is the mystery, isn’t it?  That is the mystery of Christ’s sufficient sacrifice.

But that’s not my favorite part of the chapter.

“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, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – 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.”  (Eph. 3:14-19)

This is the essence of the Gospel.  Let’s take a look at a few phrases that explain this.

1. “… I bow my knees before the Father…”  Our response to the Gospel must be surrender.  We bow before the Lord and examine ourselves.  But, that’s not what Paul is speaking about here.  Rather, he is writing out a prayer for them, explaining not only his, but the Lord’s desire for them to be strengthened.  The Gospel is not about self.  It is about others.  It is about pouring oneself out for people.  It is about relying on the sufficiency of Christ to give us the grace to devote ourselves entirely to living out the Great Commandment (Matt. 22: 36-40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

2.  “… that… he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being…”  The strength to pour ourselves out comes from Christ.  We cannot rely on anything else.  I try to find strength in many things – relationships, food, friends… heck, even laughter.  While these things aren’t bad, and, indeed, they can certainly give us the energy and focus necessary to survive a particular situation, they do not provide ongoing strength.  They do not enable us to maintain what my ministry calls a “Great Commandment heart and Great Commission lifestyle.”  Only Christ, through the Holy Spirit, can give us the strength – and even the desire – to do so.

3.  “… so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…”  If I am in Christ, Christ dwells in my heart.  He is the strength Paul is talking about.  He is the one that enables us to live out the Great Commission.  He is the one that gives us the grace to be included in the number of his children.

4.  “…being rooted and grounded in love…”  Time and time again the Gospel comes right back to the concept of love.  God’s grace is his love.  God’s sovereignty is his love.  God’s strength is his love. It is in this love that our lives are rooted.  This is the incredible reality of the Gospel.  We don’t have to work for it and we don’t have to beg for it.  God freely distributes his grace and love to his children.  I don’t have to wonder whether or not my life is rooted in love.  It just is.  Plain and simple.  We must live in that reality.

5.  “… to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  I love that phrase – “… to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge…”  It seems to contradict itself, doesn’t it?  I think it hits on a pretty fantastic aspect of the Gospel that I haven’t really pondered prior to the last few days, namely that the mysterious (unknowable) nature of the Gospel is the very thing that makes it so lovely.  I don’t understand grace.  I don’t understand how God, before the foundation of the world, prepared me for his love.  But acknowledging that fact is what allows us to be filled with “the fullness of Christ.”  We must admit our depravity, our complete inability to understand the mystery of his grace, and allow God, in his glory, to fill us with himself.

Paul then closes with my favorite prayer, one that affirms God’s control and ability to work all things together for his glory:

“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.”

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