MSG: State of the Church – 2014: Eph. 3:8-16

Grace has a great future in 2014. It is building on past leadership and growing new leadership. There is an excitement in the halls that is refreshing and exuberant. There is momentum building for home groups, men’s and women’s ministries and stability in other ministries. There is a growing spirit of unity at Grace in the bond of peace.

I want to begin 2014, by looking at one of the most fundamental issues of life. It is the basis for all organizations and organisms. It establishes whether a marriage, family, church, or country will function well. To the extent that the members of any organism understand it and live it will determine to what extent that organism will grow.

What issue is that? Well, consider your body. You have a number of systems that ensure it functions well. For example, you have a skeletal system of 206 bones, which ensure you are able to sit and walk upright. You have a muscular system of about 700 muscles attached to your bones and organs, which allow you to be mobile and keep things moving. You have a circulatory system, which pumps about five liters of blood through miles of blood vessels that transport oxygen, nutrition, hormones and cellular waste products throughout your body. You have a digestive system, which converts food to energy and nutrition and feeds the entire body. You have a respiratory system, which converts oxygen from the air for transport by the circulatory system to provide oxygen and remove carbon dioxide. The nervous system provides communication and control between all the parts.

What happens if one of the organs within one of the systems decides not to function well? That happened to me. Three years ago, I had intussusception. That’s when the intestine telescopes onto itself and causes blockage. For three years, the digestive system worked, but when I had a “malfunction,” there was quite a bit of pain and I remember many times of not functioning well during a meeting, at night, on a plane or at the office and having to lower working expectations. After three years of problems, there was a total blockage. The nervous system relayed to my brain, “Houston, we have a problem.” That sent signals to the muscles to move my bones to the ER and six hours later I was in emergency surgery on Saturday night at midnight.

So, what is the issue in organisms? God designed the systems to function extremely well. However, if there is a malfunction of the parts, or lack of authority, functioning goes way down. The issue is authority. Why did God establish authority?  Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. (Heb. 13:17 NKJ)

1)    God established authority in the Godhead Eph. 3:8-16

Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. (Gal 3:20 NKJ)

We’ll discuss the concept of mediator in two weeks. What you need to see is that “God is one.” But is that in the Jewish sense of Deuteronomy 6:4, when Moses wrote, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God the Lord is one”? Or is it in regard to the Muslim faith of one God like Allah? No, one here means that God is one, or the same in essence, in attributes, and in purpose.  But, we also know that God is three in person. How is God both one and three? To our finite minds it doesn’t make sense, but both statements are true. Turn to Ephesians 3:8 and notice also, that God is three in person and this passage reveals the authority that God has established in the Godhead,

8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowshipof the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. 14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, (Eph. 3:8-16 NKJ)

God the Father created all things through Jesus. Jesus is the agent of creation, but it was the Father’s eternal plan. The Father has authority over the Son. Notice, the eternal purpose of the Father was accomplished in the Lord Jesus. It was the Father’s eternal purpose that He accomplished in Jesus. The Father has authority over Jesus. They are both equal in essence, but the Father has authority over the Son.

Paul bowed His knees to the Father, because He has authority from whom every family is named. The One who names something has the authority over what is named (unless the object is a cat!).  Notice that the Father grants you, because He has authority, to be strengthened by His Spirit, because He directs the Spirit what to do. The Father grants and directs, because He has authority over the Son and the Spirit.

In fact, the Father designed the eternal plan of salvation, the Son executed the Father’s plan of salvation, by coming to earth and the Spirit regenerates man every time a person trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation.

The question is how much do the Son and Spirit submit to the Father.  Is it kind of an equality type thing, whereby they do the big stuff the Father wants, but they get to decide all the little stuff? Are they just nice to each other? How much do the Son and Spirit submit to the Father’s authority? Turn to John 5:19 and 5:26-30. Who is talking here?

19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. (John 5:19 NKJ)

26 “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27 “and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. 28 “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 “and come forth– those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. 30 “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:26-30 NKJ)

Jesus submits to the Father. How much? Notice, He says, “I can of Myself do nothing.”  Why does Jesus make an issue of the Father’s authority? What characteristic does the Father’s authority emphasize? That is right, His sovereignty. Why is God’s sovereignty so important? The sovereignty of God is at issue at Satan’s rebellion and man’s rebellion. God has the right to decide how all things are done.  There is no other like Him. Moses said it well,

 Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the LORD Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. (Deut. 4:39 NKJ)

Let’s notice the submission of the Spirit to the Father and the Son,

13 “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13-14 NKJ)

Who is speaking here? Jesus is. The Spirit does not decide on His own what to reveal to you or what you are to learn. “Whatever He hears” is given to Him by the Son, which is given to Him by the Father. Notice “He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” Why is this important? Of course, we need illumination in order to understand the Truth, but also that the Spirit is under the authority of the Father and the Son. Is that good? It is what God established.

So what do you do about authority abuse? Authority is often abused and a difficult word and concept for people.  Consider these examples. I checked a few websites in preparation and found the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, has an article on its site entitled, “Authority, if it’s good, why does it make us feel bad?” On another website called, “Instructables,” there is an article entitled, “How to lie to authority.” Additionally, there is a song called “The Authority Song,” by John Mellencamp that goes like this,

Oh, they like to get you in a compromising position
They like to get you there and smile in your face
Well, they think they’re so cute when they got you in that condition
Well I think it’s a total disgrace
And I said:
I fight authority, Authority always wins
Well, I fight authority, Authority always wins
Well, I’ve been doing it since I was a young kid
I come out grinnin’
Well, I fight authority, Authority always wins

So I call up my preacher
I say, “Give me strength for Round 5.”
He said , “You don’t need no strength, you need to grow up son.”
I said, “Growing up leads to growing old and then to dying”
“and dying to me don’t sound like all that much fun.”
So I said: (chorus)

If authority is bad, then why is there authority in the Trinity?

Let me illustrate. When does a train enjoy itself the most? How many of you have been on a train that has traveled across the United States? A year ago, Barbara and I took a train out west. We saw parts of the United States, you can’t see from the road. It was great! You can walk from car to car and not be concerned about a seat belt. We really enjoyed it. When does a train have the most freedom? When it is under the authority of the railroad tracks.  When the train is off the tracks, it can’t go anywhere.

Was the Father’s authority good? Turn to Hebrews 5,

6 As He also says in another place: “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek”; 7 who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, 8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, 10 called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 5:6-10 NKJ)

Was the Father’s authority good? Jesus offered up vehement cries. What does vehement mean? It means powerful or loud. Jesus was crying out to the Father with tears in His eyes as He dealt with situations of life. Do you remember Jesus prayer in Gethsemane? He said, “Father, if it is possible, take this cup from Me, nevertheless, not My will, but Your will be done.” He cried out vehemently. Was the Father’s authority good? It was good to us, because Jesus death provided the means that we could have salvation. Was the Father’s authority good for Jesus? ……YES!

Jesus learned, experienced, and demonstrated obedience AND “having been perfected,” Jesus was made complete. Yes the Father’s authority was good for Jesus. He suffered, but through suffering He was made complete. He also is worshiped forever, because He suffered for us. That’s good.

If you continue reading in the rest of Hebrews 5, you see Israel was dull of hearing, because they rejected the Father’s authority. The Father sent Jesus, but Israel rejected Him and the Father’s authority. Instead, they needed milk. The people said, “Moses, Prophets, you all speak over our heads. We want to be treated like adults,” but God said they were children. They wanted meat, but they couldn’t handle it. They wanted to be called spiritual parents, but needed to be treated like spiritual infants. They could not discern between good and evil. Just like there is authority in the Godhead, God established authority over man.

2)    God established authority over man Gen. 2:15-17

In the Garden, God gave Adam freedom under absolute authority.

15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:15-17 NKJ)

Was that good that God put Adam in the garden under His authority (cf. 2:15)? Yes. Was it good that God said he could freely eat of every tree (cf. 2:16)? Yes. Was it good that God restricted him from one tree (cf. 2:17)? Yes! That one tree was a constant reminder that Adam’s love and submission was more important than what he could have wanted in life. Isn’t that good? Yes!

But, Adam rejected God’s authority. When you read Genesis 3:1-10, that one choice by Adam to eat of the fruit influenced all the problems we have today. Adam wanted to have control and be his own authority. That is the issue in life. The issue in life is who has authority? Who will have control?

Let me give you one example, before we answer the question, “From where does authority come from and why it is so important?” That is next week. Here’s the example:

3)    God established authority in the church 1 Pet. 5:1-5

The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. 5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” (1 Pet. 5:1-5 NKJ)

We have written the constitution for maximum freedom in church. That constitution states that elders will be chosen to lead the church. Who trains up the authority in the church? The constitution doesn’t give all the details of training, but we are all responsible to help the elders be well-equipped. We work together as a team.  And it takes tremendous humility.

Instead, what often happens in churches is Christians who want to have their way. They want to tell Pastor Gabe what kind or quality of music. They want to direct what is taught. They want to have control and say things like, “We’ll agree to disagree,” or “We just won’t address those issues,” or “ We pick and choose what we want to do,” or “We don’t do those activities,” or when they don’t get their way, “It’s obvious that you just aren’t going to change.” When people say or do things like that, what do they reveal about who wants to be in control? Unfortunately, they also lack the joy of His presence in their lives.

What happens when order is lacking? When authority is demeaned? We saw this several weeks ago looking at 1 Timothy before the Advent series. Paul wrote,

18 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, 20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1 Tim. 1:18-20 NKJ)

Hymenaeus and Alexander were in the faith, but they rejected it and became shipwrecked. They were part of the faithful ones in church, but they wanted control. So Paul said, “…whom I delivered to Satan.” You can’t deliver unbelievers to Satan, because they are already under Satan’s authority. We live in the devil’s world and until one receives Jesus, they are in the kingdom and authority of the devil (Eph. 2:1-3).  That’s why church members have the greatest freedom when they submit to church leadership,

Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. (Heb. 13:17 NKJ)

The question is where does that authority come from to determine authority? We’ll look at that next week.

Men and women:

God’s authority gives you maximum freedom from disaster!

(Man submits to authorities to mirror submission to God.)

  • Understand what the Lord Jesus has revealed for you.
  • Humbly pursue what He has revealed to avoid disaster from sin. Remember sin is lack of dependence on God. Sin is acting independent, passive indifference, and active rebellion.
  • Rejoice in His sovereign authority.

There is great freedom under authority. It’s just how the Lord designed our bodies.  When the systems function as intended, they provide benefit to the whole. For example, all the body systems function within the Integumentary system. This contains the largest organ – the skin. When all the parts function within the skin, the body works well. But when parts break through the skin, like bones or intestines, “Houston, we have a problem.” When my intestines did not function right, the control center reduced expectations of work output and said, “Let’s get this spacecraft back on track.” It wasn’t until the “rebellious” portion of the intestine was removed that full function could continue.

Every problem exists because of a lack of some kind of authority. When Jesus is in control, you’ll have the joy of His presence. That could be a great discussion starter over dinner. Just remember Jesus came to serve, not to be served.

Message Based Discussion Questions

1)    What did you learn about authority growing up?

Digging Deeper:

2)    If God has perfect authority, was His authority questioned in the Garden of Eden (cf. Gen. 3:1-6)? ____________ Who questioned it and how was it questioned? What made them question God’s authority?

3)    How long has authority been questioned in society? _____________ What are examples in Genesis where you see authority questioned?

4)    Are there any perfect churches (cf. 1 Pet. 5:1-7)? _________ What are five things leadership must do and what are five things the people must do in order for the church to reflect godly authority?

Making Application from the Message: 

5)    What kind of baggage do people carry with them regarding authority, which prevents them from maximum freedom?

6)    How can you live out what Jesus said regarding the Father’s authority (cf. John 5:19, 26-30)?

7)    What kinds of things can your group discuss to create a more godly authority environment?


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