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Being the Trophy Wife (Ephesians 3:10)

March 12, 2017 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: The Essentials: One Body

Topic: Ephesians Passage: Ephesians 3:10

 

Being the Trophy Wife

Ephesians 3:10

(One Body: You Shall Be My People)

March 12th, 2017

 

I. Of Wives and Trophies

Of all the questions we could ask of God's word this morning, here's one I bet you didn't expect: What does God, what does God's word say about being a 'trophy wife'?

You're familiar with that term, right? Trophy wife? That's a younger attractive woman who is married to a much older, typically unattractive man. But he's a man of means. He's a financially successful man, for whom this young wife becomes a status symbol. Thus, she is his wife and she is his 'trophy'.

Now, God's word has a lot to tell us about marriage and wealth and worldly perspectives. But this morning, I want us to think about a 'trophy wife' in more generic terms, simply as a wife who is both on display, and a sign of success.

Turn over this morning to Ephesians 3. Let's look there together.

 

II. The Passage: "Through the Church” (3:1-13)

Let's go back and look at our main verse for today and for this week, the verse with which we began our time this morning. Let's look at Ephesians 3:10. Paul writes...

...so that now through the church, the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

The second of our Four Essentials here at Way of Grace is One Body. By the grace of God, we are siblings in One Body. This verse, Ephesians 3:10, has incredible things to teach us about what it means to be God's people. Let's dig into this verse by looking together at three of its key terms: 1) “the church”, 2) “the manifold wisdom”, and 3) “the rulers and authorities”.

And of course, we're going to use the context of Paul's letter to help us unpack everything Paul was communicating to his first readers and everything God is communicating to us this morning. So let's start with...

 

1. The Church

When Paul writes, “so that now through the church”, what or who is talking about? Well, the first two chapters of this letter had some amazing things to tell us about the church. Look at Ephesians 1:22, 23, we read this about what God did for Jesus...

And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, [23] which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22)

So right away in this letter, Paul corrects popular thoughts about the church being some kind of building or just another community group or charitable organization. No, the church is the body of Jesus, and Jesus is the head of the body. In turn, in this world, the church represent the “fullness” of Christ in the world.

But there's more. Turn over to chapter 2, verses 19-22. We find there that as the church, we 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. (2:19-22)

So not only are we the family of God, the church is also the true temple of God, the place where God dwells through His Spirit. Ah, but there's more.

Look over at chapter 5, starting in verse 22 (through the end of chapter 5). In his instructions to wives and husbands in Ephesus, Paul draws parallels between these married couples and Christ and his Church. Other places in the NT use this image to describe the covenant relationship between Jesus and His people, which is built on the OT foundation of God's relationship with Israel.

Like Israel in the OT, the Church is pictured as the bride of Christ. We are the wife of Jesus. So the picture that Paul is painting of the Church in just this one letter is putting to shame small ideas that many people (maybe even some of us?) about the church. But if you can believe it, Paul's going to take things up to another level. We also find in 3:10 the phrase...

 

2. The Manifold Wisdom

Paul writes in Ephesians 3:10, “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known...”. Since I started working on cars when I was 15, when I hear the word “manifold”, I think about parts of an engine: the intake and exhaust manifolds. But what is “manifold wisdom”? Some kind of automotive expertise?

No, the word “manifold” here comes from the Greek work polypoikilos, poly meaning many, and poikilos meaning various or diverse. It's a layered word emphasizing great variety or diversity. It can be used of a cloth woven with many colors, or of something that manifests itself in a great variety of forms. The English word multi-faceted might be a better translation.

But what exactly is described this way? It's the wisdom of God! I think the greatness Paul wants to communicate here about God's wisdom is also found in Romans 11:33, where Paul writes,

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

Paul also talks about this wisdom in I Corinthians 2:7, where he reveals...But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.

And if we look at the immediate context of Ephesians 3, we find that Paul describes the wisdom of God in this same way in terms of his preaching and teaching ministry. Look at Ephesians 3:1 and listen to how Paul uses the word mystery to reveal the wisdom of God:

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of 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] 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. [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 bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in 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.

Did you hear that? In a beautifully rich, multi-faceted, elegantly complex way, God, in His wisdom, formulated a stunning plan to save a people from all the peoples of the earth. You see, for some of Paul's readers, there would have been a tension between God's work with one people group (the Jews, with their covenant promises) AND every other people group on the planet, the Gentiles, who were lost in ignorance and idolatry.

So just before this, at the end of Ephesians 2, Paul describes how the wisdom of God reconciled this tension, and in doing so, reconciled all who believe. Look at 2:11. Paul writes:

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 [Jew and Gentile—all people!] have access in one Spirit to the Father.

The “secret and hidden wisdom of God” (I Cor. 2:7), the “mystery hidden for ages in God” (Ephesians 3:9) is Jesus Christ and His redeeming work for all people. As Paul says in 3:11... This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord...

Or as Paul described in Ephesians 1:9-10...[God has made] known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ [10] as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

So it is the church that showcases the redeeming and reconciling work of Jesus Christ. But if we look back at 3:10, we see there's something else that verse tells us. It speaks of...

 

3. Rulers and Authorities

This is probably, at first, the most puzzling part of this verse. Through God's people, through the church, the wisdom of God revealed in the work of Jesus, has now been made known to...now here's where we might expect to find the term “world” or “unbelievers”. But no, the “manifold [multi-faceted] wisdom of God” has been made known to “the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places”.

Hmm? What in the world does that mean? Well, we know from chapter 1 that when God raised Jesus from the dead He seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, [21] far above all rule and authority and power and dominion (1:20, 21). We find more clarification at the other end of the book in chapter 6. There, in v. 12, Paul tells us that as believers...

...We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, [who are they?] against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

See that same terminology? Paul is speaking here about demonic hierarchies who carry out the devil's work of global deception and domination. You see these “spiritual forces of evil” not only entice and deceive on a personal or religious level. These demonic forces are referred to as “rulers”, “authorities”, and “powers” because they seem to have a global network of deception through which they are using human leaders and nations to accomplish their goals.

Daniel 10 speaks of the “prince of Persia” and the “prince of Greece”, demonic rulers who fought against the angels of God. It was these 'cosmic power', these “spiritual forces of evil” that stood behind even the Roman Empire, under which Paul and the Ephesians live (cf. the “dragon” and “beast” in Revelation 13:1-10). And this is why the devil is called “the prince of the power of the air” inEphesians 2:2, and “the prince of demons” in Matthew 12:24.

You see, one of Satan's greatest strategies to deceive and destroy the human race is to exploit our differences as human beings. To use things like racism, nationalism, isolationism, classism, religious diversity, and so many other temptations involving our differences.

But guess what God has done in the Church? He has opened a door to all people, without exclusion, and invited everyone into His kingdom. He has formed and is forming a new human race, not washed of all their differences, but united in their Savior. Isn't this very thing the Apostle John near the end of his life? Revelation 7:9, 10...

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, [10] and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

But remember, humanity can only truly be reconciled to one another in the church because each of us can now be reconciled to God. The devil and his demonic network are rendered powerless in terms of accusations against us as sinners. Thus Paul writes in a related letter...

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, [14] by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. [15] He [God] disarmed [who?] the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him [Jesus]. (Colossians 2:13-15)

 

III. On Display, Everyday

So do you remember our generic description of a 'trophy wife'? We said she is a wife who is both on display and a sign of success. If we move beyond worldly ideas connected with that title, isn't that the Church? Aren't we the bride of Jesus who is on display to the “spiritual forces of evil” and a sign of Christ's success over them through the cross?

Brothers and sisters, this is talking about us! Think about everything we've seen this morning. Didn't I say Paul was going to put to shame our small thoughts about the Church? Wow!

But how should this perspective shape our practice? What does it look like for us to live each day as this kind of 'trophy wife'? Well, the sobering truth is that just because God's wisdom is made know through THE Church, doesn't mean it is made know through every church, or even this church. We each need to consider whether it is, not so we can point the finger, but so that we can strive to live in light of God's wisdom

You see, the second half of this letter is a call to do that very thing. Consider everything we've learned about the church this morning, then consider these words:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, [2] with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, [3] eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (4:1-3)

How can you and I live as the 'trophy wife' of Jesus? What is fitting? What is appropriate? What is suitable? What is reasonable in light of the manifold wisdom of God, that has reconciled all of us to God and all of us to one another through the blood of His Son? Paul answers that in 4:2, 3...lives of humility and gentleness and patience and love and unity. Is that what you strive for in this church family? Are you encouraged as you see those things?

Like a pauper learning he is really a prince, God is calling us to grow up in the reality of our true identity. And that means clinging to these words, and letting them be the stuff of your ambitions and prayers: (the 'Big Five') humility, gentleness, patience, love, unity.

And how do we cling to them, and strive after them? 2:18...For through him [Jesus] we both [Jew and Gentile] have access in one Spirit to the Father. 3:12...[12] in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. We cling and we strive prayerfully, emboldened by grace because of Jesus. Will you prayer for yourself and for us, even now, that the “Big Five' would be “made known” through us?