Hello and good evening, everyone.
It’s great to have you all here with us. We greet each one of you in Jesus’ name. This afternoon, we are continuing our series in the book of Ephesians, and we are in chapter 2. I invite you to turn there with me. Last week we looked at the first ten verses of chapter 2, but there is so much here, it’s more than we could reasonably cover in one lesson. So, we are back to these same verses again today, and we are going to dig into another aspect of what Paul writes here.
And before I read, let me thank everyone who has been contributing financially to the work we do here. We have never solicited donations, but there is a giving link on the website where you can make donations online. And since we switched to just having online services back in July, our expenses are a lot lower, and we have been channeling most of those donations that are coming in to help the people who are leaving the message. Some of the cases that leave are especially desperate, and we try to do what we can to help people who are trying to heal mentally and emotionally from the experience they face leaving the cult.
The people inside the cult, of course, never admit what they are doing to people, but many who leave are in a very bad state. Many of them have been driven to the brink of suicide by the tactics of some of the message leaders. In some cases, the cult has forced divorces on them and taken their children and family away from them. Others suffer loss in other ways. And the ones who are most embedded in the group, they lose their income and their jobs; even some lose their housing and home when they leave. It is really very terrible the way the cult attacks the people who leave. They will say something along the lines of, “If you don’t like it here, just leave.” They will say they are not holding you there, but we all know that is not true. They are holding all kinds of things over the heads of the people—family, jobs, homes, community, finances, and more. And when someone leaves, the leadership actively seeks to pull every one of those levers to bring harm to the people who exit.
Not every message church is that extreme, but many are.
And from the very start, we have done our best to help those people in need, and that has really been a key part of our mission. So, on behalf of those people, I just want to thank everyone for their donations. Many people are being helped and have already been helped. And to everyone who has donated, we thank you for your kind support towards that mission. We are coming up on the end of the year, and I just wanted to share that information. We will be mailing out donation statements once we get into January. Our mission is a registered non-profit, and all your donations are tax deductible.
So, coming back to Ephesians chapter 2 here, let me go into our lesson, and let me read starting at verse 4, and I will read down to verse 10.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.Ephesians 2
Let us pray:
Lord God, we thank you for blessing us with your grace. It is a wonderful picture that Paul describes to us in these verses. It’s almost too wonderful to comprehend. But God, as we approach these verses today, open our understanding. May the Holy Spirit reveal to us what we have need of. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Well, brothers and sisters, I am really pleased to come back to these verses again today, and there is something here we just very briefly touched on in the last message that I want to draw a little more attention to in this lesson. It is most clear right there in the middle of what we read in verse 7. In that verse, Paul tells us that, in the ages to come, God is going to show His immeasurable riches of grace and kindness towards us in Christ. Paul is telling us something there of the future, something beyond the time and the day and the age that we live in today.
In that verse, Paul is looking off to that brighter tomorrow. It’s an age of time that is talked about a lot in the Old Testament. Jesus spoke of it in the days of His ministry. We see glimpses of it in the book of Revelation, in chapter 21. And Paul gives some descriptions of it here and there in his writings, like this passage that we are reading here.
But there is an age coming where things will be different than today.
And this coming age is what I would like to take some time to talk to you about this afternoon. But before we talk about the coming age, let me first just draw your attention to the fact that there are ages.
And, I don’t think that is really a surprise to any of us. History is something we generally divide into ages. There was the ancient age, the dark age, the middle age, the classical age, the Renaissance age, the industrial age, and today we live in the modern age. Referring to periods of history as ages is just a normal way to look at history.
And in the most basic sense, that is what Paul is doing here. He is telling us there have been ages in the past, and he is also telling the Ephesians that there will be more ages to come in the future.
And I am pointing this out to you for two reasons. The first is that I want to make sure that we realize that believing that there have been ages in the past and that there will be more ages of time in the future is a very biblical thing to believe. The Bible contains language, like what we are reading here from Paul, that supports the idea of there being different ages of time. So, it’s not a radical idea to say, generically, there are different ages of time. Paul divided up time into different ages, God divides time up into different ages, and it’s acceptable for us to likewise divide up time into different ages.
So that is one thing I want you to catch here. And the second thing, or the second reason I am pointing this out to you is that I want you to see how Paul speaks about these ages because, if you will pay attention, it’s actually pretty different than what you and I have been used to hearing in the places we have come from.
We did believe in different ages of time in the places we come from, but we had a very elaborate framework for it, something much more specific and detailed than what Paul describes here.
Paul talks about these ages in a much more generic way than people do in the places we come from, and I think it is important to look at how Paul defines these ages because that is a solid starting point for us to understand what exactly he is talking about.
And what we can gather from Paul’s statements here is that there was an age in the past when men did not fully understand the plan of redemption. And then there is an age in which we presently live in when that plan of redemption is revealed through Jesus Christ. And then there will be yet another age in the future when redemption is completed and we will all be sharing in the glory of God.
And as we read Paul’s writings, that is the essential framework of ages that we see in the writings of Paul: a past age when the plan of redemption was obscure, a present age in which the plan of redemption was revealed by Jesus Christ, and a future age when redemption will be finished.
When Paul writes and speaks of ages, there is no concept of a Jewish church age, and then seven gentile church ages. Paul never speaks of those sorts of things in the context of ages. There is nothing anywhere nearly that specific in Paul’s writings, and it’s important to catch that. There is a framework of looking at ages of time which some people have developed, which really does not align with the plain reading of scripture. People have introduced all those ideas of ages of this sort and ages of that sort through interpreting symbolism or trying to present a framework of ages which is really just something of their own creation.
If we wanted to use terms that perhaps we are more familiar with, in Paul’s writings we can see an age when God dealt with the nation of Israel and the patriarchs of old, an age in which the plan of redemption was only partially understood, and then we see an age when Christ was revealed, and the plan of redemption was made known to mankind, and the church was born. And then you could call that a church age if you wanted.
But there is not a Jewish church age, and then a gentile church age. There is just a church age, and just one of them. You will find nothing in the writings of Paul or the sayings of Jesus to give you an idea that there would be a Jewish Church age and then seven Gentile Church ages to follow. There is nothing anywhere near as specific as that in scripture. Scripture just gives us one present age – one single church age – one single age in which Christ has revealed the plan of redemption.
If we jump forward to Ephesians chapter 3, verse 8, I will point out where Paul talks about these ages again in that chapter. Paul writes here:
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.Ephesians 3
So here in chapter 3, Paul is speaking of ages in the past. Ages of time where the mystery of God was hidden. If you look through Paul’s writings, you will find this is the consistent event he used to divide the ages—the ages before the mystery was revealed and the ages after it was revealed. The mystery of God is how God would reconcile all creation through Jesus Christ—that is the mystery of God. The revelation of redemption through Jesus Christ was revealed by Jesus Christ and preached by the early church.
And that is how Paul defines the ages before Christ—they were ages where the understanding of the mystery was hidden, and that is true. In the past ages, people did not understand the plan of God as clearly as they did after Christ came. In the days of Abraham, they did not understand the plan of God as clearly as Paul did because, in the days of Abraham, Jesus Christ had not come into the world yet, and God had not fully revealed the plan of redemption. That does not mean they knew nothing of a savior or redemption because they knew, at least in general, there would be a savior who would redeem them. They understood elements of the plan of redemption, but their knowledge was incomplete. It was still a mystery that was not fully revealed to them.
And you see how they strained to understand that mystery in the ages before Christ. There had always been a knowledge that a savior would come, from the very first promise of God to Adam and Eve when he put them out of the garden. God promised a seed who would bruise the head of the serpent. God had provided the promise of the savior from the very beginning.
But just how it would unfold and come to pass was not fully revealed. Consider Abraham and Isaac and Jacob—they all had some knowledge of the coming savior and redeemer, but it was incomplete. Or you could think about Job. Job called out, “I know that my redeemer liveth,” and then he went on to say, “Oh that I wish I knew how I might find him. I wish I knew how I could come before him.” There were so many things Job didn’t know, and there was a longing in him to know more about his redeemer. But he trusted that somehow, before it was all over with, he said, “Yet in my flesh shall I see God. Though the worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”
Job had an incomplete understanding, and in those past ages, the righteous people longed to have this mystery known to them. Peter wrote about it in his epistles. He said that the prophets and the holy men of old, even the angels themselves, desired to look into and understand the mystery of the plan of redemption in the past ages before it was revealed to the church by Christ.
When you read the book of Job and read his passionate words, you can almost sense the tears and sorrow and desperation in his words: “Oh that I might know where I could find it. Oh that I might know how to come before his throne. I go forward, but I don’t see him. I go backward, but I can’t perceive him. On the left, he is working, but I can’t behold him. I look to the right, and he is not there either.”
The patriarchs of old longed to know and find their savior, but it was never fully revealed to them. David, the patriarchs, and the men of the Old Testament—they understood a savior was coming, but just how it would come in the person of Jesus Christ and the full scope and depth of it, they did not understand. The complete understanding of these things was hidden in ages past. But when Jesus Christ came into the world, that mystery was finally revealed. God, who in the olden times spoke by the prophets, in these last days, spoke to us by his son Jesus Christ, and that began the present age.
The Present Age
Go back to chapter 1, and we will read where Paul describes a little bit about the age we now live in, and it is an age where the mystery hidden to the patriarchs has been made known to us. Chapter 1 verse 8, Paul writes:
8 … he lavished upon us, … all wisdom and insight, 9 making 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.Ephesians 1
So this mystery is no longer a mystery in our present age; it has been revealed. It hasn’t been finished, but it has been revealed. And the mystery is that God is going to unite all things in Christ Jesus; He is going to redeem all things through Christ Jesus.
Today, that mystery is known to us, but it is not finished yet because, as of yet, not all things have been united and redeemed through Christ—that is yet to come. Today, the age we are living in right now, this age is a work in progress, and it has been a work in progress for about 2000 years now. It is going to continue to be a work in progress until we arrive at the fullness of time. And when is the fullness of time? When will that be? Jesus said these things are reserved to the Father. Not even the angels of heaven know, and you and I certainly don’t know. We watch and we wait, and there are signs we are looking for, but none of those clear and unmistakable signs have manifested yet. The fullness of time is not here yet.
And anyone who tells you that those clear and unmistakable signs of the end have manifested, you need to write down their predictions and come back in six months or a year or two and see if it happened. And if it hasn’t – then you need to stop listening to them. They don’t know what they are talking about.
And today, as we sit in this present age, the order of the day is redemption. The order of the day is that all things are to be united into Christ to be redeemed. Our job and our duty in this age of time are to share and present the gospel. It’s to tell people the good news of Jesus and to see people unite themselves with Christ.
The Ages to Come
And one day, everyone who is to be united with Christ will be. When the mystery of God is finished, when everyone who is to be united with Christ has been united with him, then we will enter a new age of time. Paul tells us about that coming age back in chapter 2, which we read at the first. Let me read that to you again, Chapter 2 and verse 7:
7 … that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.Ephesians 2
That is how Paul describes the ages to come. It will be an age where God will show the riches of his grace and kindness. And if we read on here, the means by which he will do that is us—the Ephesians, the Christians of days gone by, all the way down to believers like you and me today, and all those Christians who will come after us. All of us together will be the means by which God shows the immeasurable riches of his grace and kindness.
In the coming ages, God will show the immeasurable riches of his grace and kindness, and he will do it by using you and me. And that truth is what Paul is conveying in this verse.
There are things about the coming ages that are mysteries to us today. There are things we do not fully understand or know about the coming ages, just like the patriarchs of old had only a partial glimpse into our age, which began with the coming of the Savior. We also have a partial glimpse into the future age that will begin with the second coming of our Savior.
It’s not a full or a complete picture of the future; it’s just a little glimpse of the future that God has chosen to give us through the scripture. Paul explains that in 1st Corinthians 13; he said, “Now we see through a glass darkly.” It’s a dim picture, not perfectly clear. Paul lets us know there that we are not ever going to have a perfect understanding of the future until it actually gets here. We have just the little windows opened up to us, like what Paul says here.
But we don’t understand fully what that age will be like. It is important to realize that we don’t understand the coming age fully, and the Bible tells us plainly that we cannot possibly understand it fully. Paul, who was saved to the utmost, and the believers of his day looked through a glass darkly into the coming ages. This bears witness to the fact that our ability to clearly discern or understand the coming ages is not what will save us—it’s a false notion.
What saves us is that we are in Christ, and because we are in Christ, we will be there with him in the coming ages. You are not going to be in the coming ages with Christ because you have an advanced understanding of what those ages will consist of. No, you will be in those coming ages with Christ because you are in Christ today in the present age.
Christ does not know the day or the hour in which it will come; he said that is reserved to the Father. But he is going to be there, and I am going to be there too because I am in him. That is part of what Paul is saying here to the Ephesians.
Trophies of Grace
Paul is letting his readers know that, in the ages to come, God will use you and me, and all the saints of all the ages, as evidence to prove His grace, kindness, and goodness.
God will use us as evidence to prove His own kindness and graciousness.
We will be the living proof, the living evidence of how a holy God showed mercy, salvation, and compassion toward sinners, as an act of pure love and pure grace.
That is something God will display as proof of His goodness in the ages to come, and you and I will be the evidence.
We will be Exhibit A in the catalog of evidence of the goodness of God.
So, if someone were to say to God, “You claim to be a merciful and gracious God, I want you to prove it.”
If someone were to say that to God, He would point us—Exhibit A.
We will be the evidence that He is indeed merciful and gracious.
And we will be that evidence not just for a day or for two days, but we will be God’s evidence for the ages to come.
That is what Paul is telling us here in these verses, and our understanding of that is part of our glimpse into these future ages. At least part of our purpose in the future ages will be to serve as evidence of the goodness, kindness, and graciousness of God.
Who is it really about?
And that is a really powerful thought to consider because it puts God at the center of what is happening. And that is God’s rightful place, at the center of everything.
This great drama of creation and redemption is ultimately about God. It is easy to look at the plan of redemption and put ourselves as the centerpiece and to make it all about us.
We could make it all about ourselves. I could say it’s all about my salvation. It’s all about me.
And that is true to a point. There is a degree to which this plan of redemption is about me. God does love me. God wants to have a relationship with me.
But at an even higher level, this plan of redemption is about God.
God is performing this redemptive work so that in the ages to come, He can show how wonderful He is, so that He can demonstrate and show something about His nature and His attributes.
In the highest respect, God is at the center of this thing. This whole great drama is about God demonstrating His attributes, and you and I are trophies in that sense. We are the plaques on the wall that prove God is good, kind, wonderful, and gracious.
And it is important that we have that perspective right. This is not all chiefly about us. It is chiefly about God.
And we have a part to play. We have blessings and love and life—all gifts from God.
But we are not center stage. We are not the ultimate focus in this plan of redemption. The ultimate purpose is not to glorify us. The ultimate purpose is to glorify God, and our own glorification is a happy by-product of that.
And this truth lays right in the words Paul has written here in this second chapter of Ephesians.
And as you consider that truth, it has implications—implications that Paul even touches on in these very same verses. This whole great plan of redemption, this whole project of redemption, is God’s reputation that is on the line here.
This thing is about the reputation of God. It’s not simply something about my reputation or your reputation; it is about God’s reputation.
And God wants to prove that He is a redeemer. There is a desire in God to show His reputation and to show His credentials as a redeemer. Paul doesn’t tell us exactly why, but could it be He wants to prove it to you and me? Or could it be He wants to prove it to the devil? Somewhere, God wants to prove His good reputation, and it is His reputation that is on the line here.
And you think about that. Is God going to lose? Is God going to fail to prove His good reputation? Is that even a possibility? And we know the answer is no. Of course not. God will never lose. If God wants to prove His reputation as a good and kind and gracious God, then you better believe that is exactly what He is going to do, and there is nothing that can stop Him.
And you notice there in verse 10, Paul says we are God’s workmanship. It is God who is doing the work. He is working on us, and he is doing the work here because it’s His reputation that is on the line. It is the evidence of His goodness and His kindness and His graciousness that He is furnishing through this work in our lives. And Lord willing, we will look at that more in our next lesson.
But as we bring our lesson to a close today, I want to draw your attention to this one last fact. God is not saving and redeeming you and me simply for our own sakes. God is redeeming and saving us for His own sake too—for the sake of His reputation, to prove that He is kind and good and gracious.
God has something He wants to prove. He is proving that He is merciful, and kind, and gracious—to people who deserve no grace, and deserve no kindness, and deserve no mercy. And He is proving it by saving people who do not deserve to be saved, and that is you and me, everyone who has come to saving faith in Christ.
We are His workmanship. He is at work in our lives. He is changing us into the image of His dear Son, and He is doing it not simply for your sake but also for the sake of holding you up as a trophy in the ages to come. So He can point at you and say, “I am merciful, I am kind, I am gracious,” and He will point at you, and God will say, “You are the proof.”
Amen. Isn’t the truth wonderful? Isn’t the truth of scripture powerful?
And it could be that today you are acutely aware that you are still a work in progress. You may look within yourself, and you may see a lot of rough edges that still need smoothing out. You might face difficulties of different sorts, and all of your own effort and all of your own labors have not been enough to fix yourself.
If you find yourself in that situation today, I want you to know that your faith in Jesus as your Savior is not misplaced. God is going to change your circumstances. He is going to deliver you from the difficulties you face. He is going to purify you like fine gold, and He is going to one day hold you up as a trophy and proof of how wonderful He is. And it won’t be because you were wonderful; it will be because He was wonderful. It won’t be because of your reputation; it will be because of His reputation.
If you are in Christ today, it’s not some small thing you have got ahold of. It’s not some pittance that may or may not work out. In Christ Jesus, you have got ahold of the fountain of youth. You have got ahold of the goose that laid the golden egg. You have got ahold of the secret to life eternal. You have got ahold of the inheritance of the greatest fortune that could ever be.
And no one can take that away from you. Not the devil, not the world, not wicked men, not false religious leaders. No one can take it from you. No one can pluck you from the Savior’s hand. This thing is going to work out, and it’s all because we are in Him. We are united with Christ.
Let me close in prayer.
Lord God of heaven, we thank you for your loving kindness towards us, your people. What a marvel it is for us to understand that you are saving us for the sake of your own reputation, so that we might serve as evidence of your kindness and graciousness in the coming ages.
Lord God, let it be true that we may be evidence of that even today. Work through our lives so we may be a living testimony that brings you honor and glory.
Let it be in Jesus’ Name.