Scene 1: The Great Cosmic Purpose of God is to make know the glory of his wisdom to the demonic powers of the universe
John challenged us to not just focus on world evangelization but instead to see that it is the cosmic universal mystery
Scene 2: God gathers a people from the nations through the suffering of the missionaries.
Paul draws attention to his suffering because it becomes our glory. God’s design is for the church to be drawn into the unsearchable glory through the suffering of ministers and missionaries. Why do it this way? Because it displays God’s infinite wisdom.
Scene 3: God has chosen that the supernatural power required to see the glory of his wisdom and to suffer for his name come to us through earnest prayer
Paul prays throughout the book of Ephesians, especially that this practice will match his teaching. It’s only when the Spirit works in us that anything divine will happen.
At this point he re-goes through the sermon adding more detail.
- the wisdom of God manifest to the powers – demons and satan himself
- the unsearchable riches of the glory of Christ
- revelation of the mystery of the ages
What is the relationship between these 3 parts? It’s found in the meaning of mystery. The mystery is that the Gentiles and all nations are now fellow heirs (members of the same body). There is nothing greater for the global church than the fact that God wants to use us to make his stunning cosmic plan happen. At this point John then makes some very clear points on the theme of penal substitution dipping in and out of 1 Corinthians: we have no choice over our nature, we are by nature sinful and so God is angry, this is the greatest problem in the universe. There are two truths that are then in tension in the global church today:
- When the gospel takes root in our souls it pushes us to resolve injustice in our world.
- When the gospel takes root it awakes ourself to our horrid impending suffering from a perfect just God.
John believes that too often in the church today we love one of these two truths but not both. John would prefer us to have one truth:
For Christ’s sake we care about all suffering especially eternal suffering
Scenes 2 & 3:
At this point Piper moves to scenes 2 and 3 and unfortunately rushes them. His key theme is the Christ is more precious than prosperity and even life. No one would ever choose suffering, prison, pain etc., without divine supernatural omnipotent power that is in our lives when we pray. That is the wisdom of the cross.
I wish he’d spent more time on these last two scenes – I’d have loved to have heard his thoughts developed on how prayer leads us into suffering which leads to God being glorified.
Following John, Libby Little, an American whose husband was murdered in Afghanistan in 2010 with 9 other missionaries shares some of her faith journey around suffering. No one knows why or who killed these 10 people, but we do know this all-encompassing reason why they were there. She spoke about how:
God’s grace isn’t something you can debate or discuss …. it has to be seen, to be experienced.
She had his last sermon notes which were blotted with blood (Ephesians 2:8-10, 5:2) which contained a story about Nuristani cheese – on a windy day you can smell Nuristani cheese for miles – some find it offensive, horrible, it takes some getting used to – one has to develop a taste and then you are hooked – you can’t wait for more. She challenged us to spread the aroma of Christ in the hard places – a very powerful and moving challenge.