Life is full of mystery. Things that seem unexplainable. Others that seem unimaginable. Then, along comes someone who is more than curious. Someone who has a furious passion to unlock the mystery no matter how long it takes, no matter how hard they have to work, no matter what others may think of their endeavor, and what was once a mystery becomes known and explained.
As we live on this planet called Earth, we look up into the sky and watch the Sun move from the east and finally disappear in the west. We see the stars at night and we wonder how it all works? People throughout history have offered their best conclusions based on their observations.
Claudius Ptolemy, an Egyptian astronomer who lived from about 90-180 A.D. believed that the Earth was the center of the Universe and his theory stood firm for the next fifteen centuries. Then, along came a man named Nicholas Copernicus, a Polish mathematician, astronomer, physician, artist, a man with many talents who lived from 1473-1543. Copernicus believed that Ptolemy’s model of the Earth as the center of the Universe was incorrect. He believed that the Earth, and all of the other planets, revolved around the Sun.
In 1609 a man named Galileo invented the telescope and it was able to magnify objects twenty times. Galileo proved Copernicus’ theory to be right and because of the telescope, Galileo was able to make discoveries that were never possible for Copernicus. Discoveries like the four moons of Jupiter, observation of a supernova, and the discovery of sunspots.
New and more powerful telescopes have come about since Galileo’s twenty magnification telescope which has enabled us to make new discoveries about the Universe. The latest development, a joint venture between the United States, the European Union, Japan, and Chile, is the “Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array” or ALMA which is located in a desert in Chile. Who knows what discoveries will be made? Who knows what further mysteries will be unlocked?
How the body functions has been one of the great mysteries that people have pondered for thousands of years. There have been many discoveries made, but there are still many, many things about the body that we just don’t understand. One of the mysteries that has been solved is how the circulatory system of the body functions. For many years people believed that the liver was the producer and pump of blood. That is until the discovery of a man named William Harvey in 1628.
The belief that the liver produced blood and then pumped the blood throughout the body came from the most accomplished physician of the ancient world, a man named Cladius Galenus, better known as “Galen of Pergamon.” Galen lived from 129-199 A.D. and was the personal physician of several Roman Emperors. Galen’s discoveries and writings were studied by medical students well into the 19th century and some of his discoveries were absolutely right, but Dr. Harvey could not accept that the liver produced and pumped blood throughout the body.
Dr. Harvey had learned in medical school that veins had valves that permitted blood to travel in only one direction. That sparked a question in Harvey that led him to find some answers. The question was, “What is the exact role of veins in the human body?” Dr. Harvey decided to study the flow of blood by operating on live animals. For twelve years, he conducted his experiments before members of the Royal College of Physicians in London, England. The members however, continued their support of Galen’s theory and questioned Harvey’s ideas.
In 1628, Dr. Harvey published his book, Anatomical Essay on the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals. It detailed all that he had learned during his twelve years of research and study. In the eighth chapter of his book, he carefully introduced the revolutionary idea that blood goes in a circle in the body, traveling from the heart to the arteries to the veins and back to the heart. He devoted the remaining chapters of his book to proving that he was right.
Dr. Harvey’s book inspired other like minded scientists to conduct research on the mechanical functions of many bodily processes, including respiration, digestion, metabolism, and reproduction. As these scientists have probed and questioned, studied and observed, some of life’s great mysteries have been solved.
We, as modern-day people, are thoroughly convinced that there is no unsolvable problem; there is no mystery that cannot be explained if we have enough time, new and better tools to do our work with, and a relentless commitment to learn. Yet, in our Scripture for today, we will learn about a mystery that is beyond the capability of the human mind. We will learn about mystery that can’t be “discovered,” but only “revealed.” Let’s turn to Ephesians 1 and read our Scripture for today.
9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:9-14 NIV)
As we have been working our way through the first chapter of Ephesians we have learned some of the most important lessons in life. We’ve learned that God has chosen us, He has adopted us as His very own, He has freed us from the shackles of sin, and He has forgiven us of our sins. If you have not read the studies that we have done so far in our study of Ephesians then I want to urge you to go back and read them. The lessons are vitally important for us to know and apply to our daily lives. You can’t apply what you do not know and you can’t know what you don’t take time to learn.
Today we are going to learn another great lesson. In the Scripture we have just read we learned that God has “…made known to us the mystery of His will…” You have to remember that verses 3-14 of Ephesians 1 is one long sentence in Greek and the subject of Paul’s ecstatic writing is what God has done, and what He is doing, through Jesus, on our behalf. What we learn in verses 9-12 is that God has revealed His will, His purpose in history to those that He has chosen, adopted, freed, and forgiven.
God’s purpose is described by Paul as a “mystery.” That is an interesting word that carried with it lots of baggage in Paul’s day. The Greek word, “?????????” (musterion) means, “hidden thing, secret, or mystery.” It most often referred to religious secrets, confided only to a special group of people who were included by going through initiation. The word was used to describe the Greek mystery cults, like the followers of Isis or Dionysus. In the mystery cults, people had to go to the temples and pass through certain procedures before they could be initiated and gain the knowledge of the mystery. Their meetings were held in secret and the followers had to promise to never reveal the information to outsiders. That is just the opposite of what the followers of Jesus are commanded to do. Jesus said,
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)
While some believe that there are spiritual secrets that are only to be shared with a select few, there are others who believe that some things in life, like God and religion, are beyond us. We can’t know anything definite about God because everyone has their own concept of what God is like. According to this belief everyone’s concepts of God and everyone’s opinions about what God is like are equally valid. That is the popular opinion of most people today, but the Apostle Paul would never agree with that sentiment.
We can know God. We can know God’s character and how He interacts with His creation, because, through the Bible, God has revealed Himself to us. The Bible is God’s record of how God has interacted with His creation. The Bible also tells us that God has revealed Himself to His creation in a second way. Read with me from Hebrews 1:1-2.
1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:1-3 NIV)
So the Bible says that Jesus “is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…” As we learn about Jesus, as we become more familiar with the life He lived, then we will become more familiar with God. In John 14, Philip asked Jesus to show the disciples the Father. Jesus answered Philip with these words.
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. (John 14:9-10 NIV)
Jesus made it known to His followers that as they watched Him they were watching the Father. As they witnessed the way He cared, the way He demonstrated love and mercy, the holiness of His life, and the things that angered Him—they were witnessing the very heart of God the Father.
In the very first chapter of John’s Gospel we read, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (John 1:18 NIV) Jesus has made God known to you and me. This doesn’t mean that all “mystery” concerning God has been solved for “God’s ways are not our ways and neither are His thoughts ours.” There is no way, left to reason or logic or human intelligence that we can know the ways of God. God has to reveal Himself to us. One of the greatest examples of this is Simon Peter’s confession.
There was a lot of whispering going on in Caesarea Philippi about Jesus. Who was He? What was He doing? Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They answered Jesus, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and still others say Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus turned the question to His own followers. In Matthew 16 we read,
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 16:15-17 NIV)
God had made Peter aware of the truth about Jesus. He didn’t learn that truth in school. He wasn’t instructed by any great teacher. The truth was revealed to Simon Peter. And so it is for you and me. The mystery of God’s will, of God’s plan, comes by revelation, it must be revealed to us by God.
One of the most “mysterious” truths of God that He has made known to us is that God has a plan for all of history and we are included in that history. For most people today, life is nothing more than a random series of events that takes place throughout our lives. Most people believe that we are living in a random Universe of which we are its victims. For those who trust in God life is full of meaning and purpose. There are certainly trials and countless troubles that we will go through in life, but they are not without meaning and each and every one serve His purpose for our lives.
When we talk about God’s plan we need to recognize that there are many facets of God’s plan. One of the great illustrations of the intricacies of God’s plan is His plan for the redemption, the salvation, of lost people. Who would have ever put together a plan for the redemption of lost people that looked like the plan God devised? I can answer that for you—no one. We would have formed a committee. They would have studied the situation for years. Finally, they would have come up with something that would probably closely resemble what most people today already believe about how to get right with God. They would ask that people work harder at “being good.” Live a good life. Follow the Ten Commandments. Or they might have proposed that folks pay a price, write a check, or work off their debt to God. None of the plans that the committee would have devised would have even come close to resembling the plan that God set forth.
God sent His Son, His only Son, and He paid the price for you and me. As we look back at history, as we read the Bible backwards, read the Old Testament through the revealed truth of the New, we see that from the beginning God had planned the redemption of the lost by the death and resurrection of His own Son. God gave hints of what He was doing, He gave them signs that His plan was being unfolded, but when the time had come, the time that He had set, God made His plan known. In Galatians 4 we read,
4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. (Galatians 4:4-5 NIV)
There is another facet of God’s plan that Paul mentions in his letter to the Church in Ephesus. Take a look once again at Ephesians 1:9-12.
9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:9-12 NIV)
We don’t hear much discussion about the facet of God’s plan that I want us to take a look at for the next few minutes. Paul says that God’s plan is “to bring together all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” Different versions of the Bible translate this section of Paul’s letter in different ways. Let me give you some examples. The New American Standard says, “…the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth…” (Ephesians 1:10 NAS) The King James Version says, “…he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:” (Ephesians 1:10 KJV) The Revised Standard Version says, “…as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:10 RSV) You can see, it is a difficult phrase to understand and the difficulty is found in one Greek word that Paul uses. The Greek word, “??????????????” (anakephalaiomai), means, “to sum up, to repeat summarily, to bring together, or to condense into a summary.” The Grimm-Thayer Lexicon says that it means, “to bring together again.” If we run with this definition then we can understand Paul to be saying that all things in heaven and on earth are to be brought together again, to be re-united, in Christ.
At the Creation there was perfect harmony. There was no tension, no brokenness, no sin, no corruption, and no strife. We learn in the New Testament that “by Him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth.” We learn that “all things hold together in Him, in Jesus.” Let me read to you from Colossians 1:15-19.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him… (Colossians 1:15-19 NIV)
With perfect harmony among the Creation something happened. We learn from Genesis that it was the Fall of humanity. Adam and Eve chose to go against God and from that day to this there has been disharmony, corruption, tension, and all kinds of strife and turmoil in God’s Creation. When will it end? How will it end? Well, if you listen to the popular opinions of the greatest thinkers of our day you will be led to believe that all of our troubles will be solved by our best thinking. We are making advances. We are ironing out the kinks. We are figuring out what it is that plagues us, and in time, we will experience the peace and prosperity that we all long for in life. That is what our best efforts lead us to believe, but that is not what God says. God says that He has a plan and the plan is to re-unite everything in heaven and on earth in Christ. He is the Restorer of everything that is broken. He is the Bridge to bring it all together. We have not experienced this yet, but we have the assurance that God is true to His promises.
Even before Jesus was born God placed this hope in the hearts of His people. In the Hebrew Bible we can learn that God gave insight to His prophets that the day was coming. In Isaiah 11 we read where the prophet believed that someday God would send Someone and “the Spirit of the LORD will rest upon him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” (Isaiah 11:2 NIV) This Promised One will bring about change which Isaiah describes like this:
6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9 NIV)
That is a reality that we know nothing about do we? We are all too familiar with the brokenness of life. Paul says that it is not just us who has suffered under the brokenness brought about by the Fall—nature is struggling as well. In Romans 8:20-22 we read,
20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:20-22 NIV)
I’m sure that I won’t have to work too hard to convince you of this truth after the earthquakes, tornados, and floods that we’ve experienced over the past week. All of this is true, but a day is coming. The absolute peace, the perfect harmony, the continuous Shalom of God that was known in the Garden before the Fall is coming when Jesus comes back to reunite all things in heaven and on earth in Himself. John was given a glorious vision in the book of Revelation. Turn to Revelation 5 with me.
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:11-13 NIV)
“Every creature in heaven and on earth and under the sea and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!” My friend, God’s plan for you is that you will part of that multitude of voices that will be singing the most glorious song that will ever be heard. I want to give you an invitation this very morning to allow the Lord to unlock the mystery and reveal Himself to you. Won’t you invite Him in?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
November 13, 2011