Seven hundred years before Christ, the Prophet Isaiah said this: “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.” And the other Jewish prophets all agreed that this would happen.
So for hundreds and hundreds of years, the Jewish people believed that, when the Messiah came, he would reboot David’s holy kingdom and conquer the world. And the Messiah’s kingdom would be so beautiful and so powerful that all nations would come to Jerusalem — voluntarily — to pay tribute to the Jewish Messiah, and learn how to worship the Messiah’s God. But the Jews believed that these Gentile worshipers would always be second-class citizens in the Messiah’s kingdom.
Then the Messiah arrived: a Jewish man named Jesus. And he said, “Actually, brothers, um, in my kingdom the Gentiles are going to be equal citizens with the Jewish people.”
So…the Jewish people killed him for contradicting the Old Testament prophets (among other things).
But some Jewish people believed that Jesus was the Messiah (the “Christ” in Greek). So they called themselves “Christians”. And those first Christian apostles and prophets taught that Jesus was right: in Jesus’ kingdom the Gentiles would be equal citizens with Jews, because those Gentiles were going to become Jews. Therefore: equal.
But then a guy named Paul showed up. And during a church meeting of all the apostles, he stood up and said, “Actually, brothers and fathers, in Jesus’ kingdom there is no such thing as a Jew, there is no such thing as a Gentile. We are actually one new combined race of people.” And he showed how this radically new idea actually did not contradict the Old Testament prophets — in fact, it fulfilled the Old Testament prophets.
So, for instance, Paul would have turned to the prophecy in Isaiah, Chapter 2 (and this is the prophecy we read for our Call to Worship, it’s on page one of our Worship Guide). Paul would have shown how “in the last days” — the days of the Messiah’s kingdom — “the mountain of the Lord’s temple” is the Christian church, the Christian people. And the Christian church has been “established as the highest of the mountains” because it is, literally, the largest temple on earth. There is no size limit to your temple when your temple is not made of stone! And finally Paul would have pointed out how all nations are now streaming into the Christian church in a way that could never happen with the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.
So the rest of the apostles and prophets talked about it. They searched scripture. They prayed for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. And they said, “Actually, Paul…you are right! So go! Do your thing! Preach to the Gentiles. Bring all the nations into the church so that we can be one new Christian people of God!”
And Paul did exactly that. He became a church planter in Asia. Everywhere he went he led Gentiles into the church. And everywhere he went the radical Jews hated him as a heretic, just as they had hated Jesus. They tried to kill him many times. The radical temple leadership in Jerusalem swore out many fatwas against him. So Paul stayed away from Jerusalem.
But finally, after about fifteen years, it was time for him to return to the Christian church in Jerusalem and report on his work. And he knew that he would probably be arrested and killed by the Jewish temple leadership. But he wanted to make one last effort to win the Jews of Jerusalem over to his side. So he collected a huge offering from all the Gentile churches in Asia — lots of money — and he brought this money to the Christian church in Jerusalem. He was trying to prove to the conservative Jewish temple element that, “Look! The people of all these different nations are paying tribute to the Jewish Messiah! Prophecy is being fulfilled right now! These Gentiles are not your enemies, they are your brothers, and Jesus really is the true Messiah!”
But as soon as Paul stepped foot in the temple, the mob recognized him. They attacked him. There was a massive riot. The local police arrested him to save his life. But the radicals tried to assassinate him while he was in jail. So the police moved him to another city on the coast, and eventually sent him to Rome to stand trial.
And it was while Paul was in Rome, waiting to go on trial, that he wrote this to his Gentile friends in Asia:
 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
Paul is in prison because of his ministry to Gentiles. That’s why he says he is “the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles.” Jesus called him to preach this radical gospel of unity, and prison is the price Paul has to pay now.
But it is possible that some of the Christians in Asia have not heard yet that Paul has been arrested. And some of them, when they hear this, might think, “Oh no! But, surely an Apostle cannot go to prison! Why doesn’t he just use his miraculous powers to break out? It’s happened before!
“Uh oh: what if Paul has lost his powers? What if he lost his powers because he has fallen into sin and God is angry with him?
“Should we even listen to him anymore if God is mad at him?”
Paul knows that at least some are going to think like this. So he interrupts himself right here and explains very carefully why he is in prison, and why being in prison is actually God’s will for him.
He breaks off and says,  Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you,  that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.
He’s saying, “You guys know me, right? You remember that God called me — specially — to preach to you Gentiles? — which technically is against the rules of my old Jewish faith. And you remember what I used to teach you, right? — this thing about how Jesus met me face-to-face on the road to Damascus and told me that from now on Gentiles and Jews are now combined into a completely different race in him. You remember all that, right? In fact, I just wrote it down for you again earlier in this letter.
“So, keep all that in mind as I now explain to you in more detail why I am now in prison.”
He goes on:  In reading this, then — this explanation — you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,  which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.
Paul is saying, “You guys know my history! You know my story! So it should be no surprise to you that I have this special insight into this radical new idea. None of the Old Testament prophets knew that Gentiles and Jews would be combined like this into a completely new thing called the Christian church. Nobody knew! — until God revealed it directly to me and to the other apostles and prophets.”
 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
No one saw this coming. Everyone thought that in the Messiah’s kingdom, Gentiles would be brought into the Jewish covenant through the sign of circumcision.
No one had any idea that Jesus the Messiah would start a whole new covenant — a Messianic covenant, a Christian covenant, a non-race-based covenant — that everyone could join through the sign of baptism.
Paul goes on, verse 7: I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.  Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ,  and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.
Paul is telling us that God called him specially to preach this radical gospel — but that doesn’t mean Paul is special. That doesn’t mean he is better than anyone else. He says, “I am less than the least of all God’s people!” And this is could be a bit of a joke. Because Paul’s name, “Paulus”, means “Shorty” in Latin. It means “Si Keci’”.
— which changes things a bit, doesn’t it? We can imagine this conversation in church: “Hey, who is that preaching? I can barely see him.” “That’s the Apostle Shorty. Have some respect!”
But anyway, that is the point Paul is making: he was called by God’s grace just as he was saved by God’s grace. Remember how, back in Chapter 2, he said that we were all once zombies, we deserved nothing but destruction, but God gave us a salvation we did not deserve? Here, Paul is saying that, in the same way, he did not deserve this huge privilege of being the Preacher to the Gentiles, but God called him anyway.
Why did God call Paul to do this? Well, not because Paul was special, but because God’s plan is special.  His intent — God’s purpose — was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,  according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Now we are going to pause here for a minute. Because this verse, verse 10, is the hinge upon which Paul’s whole letter turns. Until now, it is as if Paul has been digging deeper and deeper into the foundations of the Church, showing the Ephesian Christians how, in Christ, they have become one new race. He’s been telling us how the Church exists.
Now, with this verse, he begins to tell us us why the Church exists. From this point on, he is going to be climbing back up through the layers, showing us in detail what our one new race is supposed to look like, what we are supposed to do, and why.
So: why did God call Paul to preach this strange new gospel of radical unity? Because that is how the church is built: through preaching.
And why does God want the church built? Well, so we can do good works, right? Remember that, from Chapter 2?
Okay. But why does God want his church to do good works? Is it for the sake of evangelism? Well…yes.
But…not evangelism as we normally think about it.
Because normally we think of evangelism as bringing new people into the family. And that’s right! — but that is incomplete. We often think of evangelism as something that is good just by itself. Once we’ve brought someone into the church we generally think, “Great! All done!”
But actually, evangelism has a much larger purpose than just building up the church for its own sake. See, the church herself is God’s poem, God’s artwork. Remember that from Chapter 2? You as an individual are not God’s artwork. I mean, this should be obvious: after all, have you looked at yourself lately?
— I’m sorry, that was mean. You are all very lovely, and God loves you, and yes he crafted you as an individual. But scripture is clear: our real beauty as individuals is only truly revealed when we become part of the body of Christ.
And, again, this should be obvious to us! — but we’ve all been blinded by our individualistic modern culture. Don’t believe me? Here’s an example which I trust will make the point: we could all look at a woman and agree, “Wow, she has a beautiful face!” But if her face is not attached to a body…
So scripture, here, is correcting our shallow, modern, individualistic concept of evangelism. We tend to plug new believers — new body parts — into the body of Christ, and then we say things like, “Honey, you are beautiful just the way you are. Jesus loves you and he wants you to love him back, and that’s the joy of the Christian life, baby!”
No, it’s not! Yes, the purpose of preaching and evangelism is to build the church. But the purpose of the church is to evangelize the universe!
Now, really this shouldn’t come as such a shock. Remember, back in Chapter 2 Paul hinted at this when he said that in the coming ages God would be pointing to the church as evidence of his grace. At that time I told you that Paul would develop this concept further in Chapter 3. Well: here we are.
So we have to ask: what does Paul mean? Are we going to be preaching on Mars, Jupiter, Alpha Centauri?
Uh, no. Paul is more sophisticated than that. In fact, our modern science has just now caught up to Paul’s level of sophistication: a number of modern physicists are theorizing that there must be multiple universes, multiple dimensions, in order to explain some of the weirdness that quantum physics is coming up with.
Well, Paul — and almost everyone else in the ancient world — would say to our scientists, “Uh, ya think?” Of course there’s another dimension! Ancient people called it the spirit world, and as we’ve talked about before, they believed that these two dimensions — the spirit world and the physical world — are intertwined. The dimensions affect one another…just as quantum physics is starting to suggest might be the case.
So, for Paul, the universe that the church is designed to evangelize is an alternate dimension that exists side-by-side with ours. Now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God is being made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms — the spirit world.
Now, what is this “manifold wisdom of God” that we are making known?
Well, that word “manifold” in Greek means “beautifully many-coloured”. It is a poetic word. And remember that the church is the beautiful “poem” of God, designed to do beautiful things. The church is the “many-coloured” wisdom of God! — all of these different threads, different cultures, different colours — brought together, united into something new.
So Paul is saying that through the church, the beautiful many-coloured “poem” of God, the beautiful, poetic, many-coloured wisdom of God is being displayed to every spirit-being in the universe(s). Angels, demons, multi-dimensional beings…none of them saw this coming either! This was a secret that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit kept to themselves from before they created any universe — and it was only through the church that God finally revealed the true beauty of Christ to everything that exists.
So the fact that Jesus has taken Jews and Gentiles, Africans and Asians, Buddhists and Hindus and Muslims and people from every race and tradition and bound them all together into a new living race of mankind — this is the proof to Satan and all his followers that they are defeated. Basically: if Jesus has the power to reconcile mankind, that most stubborn of species! then Jesus definitely has the power to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
So when we evangelize, when we bring someone new into the church, we have saved another soul but…that’s not actually the point! Yes, God wants to save souls of every possible colour because he loves us. But his purpose is to weave us all together into one beautiful multi-coloured poem, so that he can show the unverse(s) that Satan has been defeated through the humiliation and death of Christ. In fact, in another letter, Paul points out that the rest of the universe is laughing at Satan because he miscalculated so badly…
This is quickly getting beyond us, obviously. We don’t know what else is out there. Scientists tell us the universe is…unbelievably massive, and scripture confirms that there is more than one dimension to it. So we don’t know if maybe there are whole galaxies of beings, part of God’s creation, that might be tempted to rebel against their creator as Satan did, as mankind did. So maybe our multi-coloured body of Christ is God’s warning and his gospel to those beings. Maybe God points to our situation on earth and says, “Watch out! If you rebel — if you continue in your rebellion — you will get what Satan got. But if you submit to me, look how merciful I have been to mankind! They were fractured, divided, defeated. But now I have made them one with myself!”
We just don’t really know what all this might mean about our existence in this age or the next.
But we do know this: somehow our purpose as a church — the end result of evangelism — is to change the fabric of reality for powers and authorities that are way beyond our comprehension!
Which leads us all to a very important question, and that’s this: “Oh my God, how are we supposed to do that?!”
It’s okay. Just: breathe in. Now breathe out. Don’t worry. Relax. Paul will tell us.
But for now, he knows that he just blew our minds a little bit. So he returns to basics for a moment, verse 12: In him — that’s “in Christ” — and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
So, putting all that crazy cosmic stuff aside for a moment, let’s just remember that, on a very simple level, we live in our Father’s presence. We are his beloved little children. We can come in, sit on his lap, and he’s not going to say, “Hey, have you evangelized the universe yet?” Our Father is not going to ask us to do anything that he has not also prepared us to do. All right? So: breathe in. Breathe out.
So, Paul goes on,  I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
Paul has not forgotten that, for some of his Asian friends, him being in prison is a terrible shock that could shake their faith in him and in Christ. So here Paul finishes his explanation: “Yes, I am in prison. But not because God is upset with me! I am in prison because God told me to preach to you, and that got me in trouble. But the fact that you Gentiles are now part of the new Christian race means that all my sufferings are totally worth it. So don’t feel sorry for me! I am doing exactly what God has called me to do and I am happy to do it!”
And now that Paul has explained why he is in prison, he goes back to the beginning, where he interrupted himself. He gets back to what he really wants to say:  For this reason —
For what reason?
Well, the fact that these multi-coloured Asian people have now become one race, one temple, and the fact that they are now God’s testimony to the universe —
“For this reason,” Paul says, “I am praying for you!” I kneel before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
God is the creator, and therefore the Father, of everything in the universe. Some have rejected him as Father! — but he still the Father, he still rules them even if they won’t acknowledge it.
“So,” Paul says, “for this reason… I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
We all just had a moment of panic, right? We all wondered, “Sooooo…how can ah?”
Paul, with this prayer for the church, just told us how this is going to happen. He makes two requests here: first he asks God to give us power so that we can do something. Then he asks God to give us power so that we can do something else.
First, he asks God to give us the power of faith: the faith that Christ dwells in our hearts. And remember, this is not pie-in-the-sky hyper-spiritual faith. This is real physical faith. This is “Am I part of a living Christian community” faith. When Christ dwells in my heart, and Christ dwells in your heart, his Spirit in my inner being calls out to his Spirit in your inner being, and draws us together in worship and in life. The primary evidence of faith is that we long to be united with one another. So Paul is praying that we will experience more and more of that kind of faith.
But where does this kind of faith come from? That’s what Paul prays for next: he asks God to give us the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
The foundation of faith is Christ’s love. The more we see and know and experience Christ’s love, the stronger our faith will be. And the stronger our faith becomes, the more we will long to be united with our brothers and sisters in the faith.
So what are we supposed to do here to evangelize the universe? Shall we panic and race off and start doing all kinds of good works? — because, surely, we’re behind schedule here!
Paul’s foundational instructions are simple. We are called to do. But what are we called to do?
First: pray for the power of faith, the kind of faith that draws us together with our brothers and sisters.
Second: pray for the power to know and experience Christ’s love more and more, because Christ’s love for us always produces the kind of faith that draws us together with our brothers and sisters.
Christ’s love leads to faith. Faith leads to unity. And it is through our unity that we make the manifold wisdom of God known to the universe. It is our multi-coloured unity that God holds up before the powers and authorities in the heavenly realms in order to show them, “See? Satan’s work of division and destruction is finished. He is defeated.”
So, how are we as church supposed to change the fabric of reality for the universe? Shortest answer: by loving one another.
And the rest of Paul’s letter, starting next week with Chapter 4, is all about the details of what it looks like when Christians love one another.
So, as we finish the first half of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we have learned three essential things about the church:
First, we know how the church exists: through the blood of Christ.
Second, we know what the church is made of: us! A new race, a new kind of human being, with Christ as head of our body.
And third, now we know why the church exists: as a multi-coloured song of victory and grace, proof to every creature in heaven and on earth that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, the Lord who rules all who love him with gentleness and joy and strength…!
And all this feels like it ought to change everything about what how we live, but…what? How? Where does it stop? What are we supposed to — ?!
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Let’s keep it simple. What does our Father want us to believe? What does he want us to do?
Believe this: we are one in Christ. We are one in the Spirit. We are one multi-coloured race, the evidence of the wisdom and the grace of God! This is the reality that has become the foundation of all other created realities. It is a reality so revolutionary that Paul died for preaching it. Paul died, in the end, because he refused to give up his Gentile friends.
And that leads us to what our Father wants us to do.
So let’s do this: let us lay down our lives for one another, for our brothers and sisters.
Paul is a good example of how this works, actually. When we are persecuted, it is not usually just because we worship Christ. Jesus is a pretty hazy concept to non-Christians. No, when we are persecuted, it is usually because we begin to hang out with different people. We begin to talk about our new “brothers and sisters”, right? And then our friends and relatives from our old life meet our new brothers and sisters and they say, “What? These people are a different colour, a different culture, a different language…! You are betraying your heritage, man! You are betraying your race! You are betraying your parents, your ancestors!”
Persecution comes to us, ultimately, because we have changed families. Most often what our persecutors want is for us to give up our loyalty to one another. They want to divide us. And that is what Satan wants also. Because Satan knows that the multi-coloured unity of the church is his greatest embarassment!
Satan’s purpose is always to destroy the unity of the church. Our purpose is to stick it to him! by sticking together through thick and thin, by loving one another, by laying down our lives for one another. And that is what Paul is going to be talking about for the rest of his letter.
So in conclusion:
What do we believe? We believe that the church is the Lord’s multi-coloured temple. We believe that all nations are streaming into it to become one new race, one new humanity, one new People of God.
What do we do? We pray for the faith to stick together through all the misunderstandings and frustrations and hurts that come from trying to communicate. We pray for the eyes to see just how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ for us, because if we can see Jesus’ love for his whole body then we will be better able to love his whole body.
So if you’re sitting there thinking, “Evangelize the universe! I can’t even evangelize my neighbor!” — relax. Let God take care of that. Let the body of Christ take care of that. Your job is simple: just be part of the body that is evangelizing the universe. Your contribution counts, no matter how small.
But of course we are going to talk a lot more about this in the coming weeks.
 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine —
— even if that means evangelizing the universe!
according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!