The Sunday before Epiphany January 2, 2022
391, 131, 127, 129
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
Video of the Sermon: https://tinyurl.com/MbM-vid-Epiphany2022
Prayer of the Day: O God, by the leading of a star You made known Your only-begotten Son to the Gentiles. Lead us, who know You by faith, to enjoy in heaven the fullness of Your divine presence. We pray this in Jesus’ name, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Surely you have heard of the administration of God’s grace given to me for you, namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation (as I have already written briefly). When you read this, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ. This mystery was not made known to people in past generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that in Christ Jesus the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and people who also share in the promise through the gospel. I became a servant of this gospel, in keeping with the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. To me—even though I am the very least of all the saints—was given this grace: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ and to enlighten everyone about the administration of this mystery. In past ages this mystery remained hidden in God, who created all things. He did this so that, through the church, the multifaceted wisdom of God in the heavenly places might now be made known to the rulers and authorities. This was done according to the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him we can freely approach God with confidence through faith in him. (EHV)
Do you know what an “escape room” is? If so, have you ever been to one? They have become fairly popular over the past few years and various versions of them have popped up all over the country. The premise of these games is that you are given a few clues scattered around a room and you have to use those clues to try and figure out various puzzles, “mysteries,” and codes that will eventually unlock the rooms or boxes you are trying to get into to finish the challenge—and you have to do it within a time limit (usually they give you an hour). They actually do lock you in a room and you have to solve all the “mysteries” in order to finally unlock the door you came in and “escape.” Now, each room does have a “game keeper” who watches your progress on a monitor and comes in from time to time to see how you are doing and to see if you need to be given a “hint” to help you figure out whatever puzzle, code, or mystery you are currently working on.
During one of our Pastoral Conferences the congregation that was hosting us treated us pastors to one of these escape rooms. I will say, not only was it a lot of fun, but I was very impressed with how well our group of pastors worked together to figure things out. Thankfully, we “escaped” and we actually completed our escape room with about 10 minutes to spare. But at one point in the game, no matter how hard we thought about our clues, no matter how hard we tried, we simply could not figure out the answer to one of the “mysteries” on our own. We needed a “hint” in order to “reveal” the answer to the “mystery” we were trying to solve. We had to ask our “game keeper” for a hint to help “reveal” the “mystery” of one of the puzzles we were working on.
How does this relate to our sermon text? Well, Jesus our Savior is described in our text, and in many places in the Bible, as a “mystery”—a secret. It is not a secret which God tried to keep from people. It is not a mystery in the sense of something that is “unsolvable.” Rather, the “mystery of Christ” (v.4) is something that must be revealed by God in order for us to see it and truly understand it by faith.
Today we celebrate Epiphany Sunday (Epiphany day is actually January 6th). During the Epiphany season we celebrate the epiphany or the “revealing” of Jesus. Today we are celebrating the fact that the “Mysteries” of Jesus’ Epiphany have been revealed to YOU and to me!
As we consider this “Mystery” today, we need to remember that we would not truly know our Savior Jesus if God had not revealed Him to us in His Word. We would know nothing of how we can inherit eternal life if God had not shown us how He so loved us and sent Jesus to be our Savior.
The Apostle Paul frequently wrote about this “mystery” of God—the “mystery” of salvation that has been revealed in Jesus Christ. God revealed it to Paul and Paul, in turn, revealed it to his readers in his letters. Our text from Ephesians today is one of those letters. Listen again to what Paul wrote to the Ephesians, who were themselves Gentiles (non-Jews):
“Surely you have heard of the administration of God’s grace given to me for you, namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation (as I have already written briefly). When you read this, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ. This mystery was not made known to people in past generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that in Christ Jesus the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and people who also share in the promise through the gospel.” (v.2-6)
Many of the Israelites (the Jews), especially in Jesus’ day, believed that salvation in the Messiah was theirs only and did not belong to the Gentiles (non-Jews). This was never the case! God had chosen the Israelites to be the people from whom the Savior would come, but salvation was always there for all. Anyone who would put his or her trust in the Messiah for the forgiveness of sins would receive the forgiveness which Jesus would earn for all people. We read about this in our Old Testament reading for today from the book of the Prophet Isaiah, which was written 700 years before Jesus’ birth. He prophesied this about the coming Savior: “But the LORD will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.” (Isaiah 60:2b-3)
We, as Gentiles, can take great comfort from this truth. We have had that light and salvation also revealed to us, namely that our sins are forgiven and that we too will live forever with Christ.
This “revelation” of salvation for us sinners comes out of God’s grace (undeserved love) and power. There was probably no one who understood this better than Paul. He writes in our text, “I became a servant of this gospel, in keeping with the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. To me—even though I am the very least of all the saints—was given this grace: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:7-8)
Remember what Paul was early on in his life: he was a persecutor of the Christian Church. But God stepped in and rescued Paul out of his unbelief and made him His apostle, His missionary especially to the Gentiles (v.8). By the grace and power of God, salvation was revealed to Paul and Paul believed.
Each one of us could come up with a long list of reasons why we don’t deserve to have eternal life. Every sin we commit is a reason. We could come up with all sorts of blessings—both spiritual and physical—which we know we don’t deserve, but which God showers upon us. And that is the beauty of the revelation of the mystery of Christ. While we don’t deserve that salvation, God’s undeserved love—His grace—has brought salvation to us and His power has created saving faith in us. We too can say, just like Paul, “Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me.” (Ephesians 3:8 NIV)
Now, as Paul writes in the last verse of our text, because God has revealed the “Mystery” of salvation to us through His Son Jesus Christ, “In him we can freely approach God with confidence through faith in him.” (v.12)
We have “freedom” and “confidence” because the revelation of the “mystery” of Christ has been given to us by God’s grace and power. We have “confidence” in going to the throne of God because we know that even though we are approaching the holy and almighty God, we are coming as His holy children because Jesus has washed our sins completely away. We have “confidence” in facing the trials and tribulations of this life because we know that Jesus is there with us. He has revealed His presence to us. He has pulled away the shades of the darkness of an unknown future that lies before us to show us that He is guiding us and controlling all things in this life for our blessing. We can be bold because of the “confidence” we have through faith in Christ Jesus! The “confidence” you have is the result of God revealing the “mystery” of Christ to YOU by His grace and with His power.
Finally, let’s remind ourselves this morning that God revealed this “Mystery” of salvation to us by His grace and power, not just to save us, but also to save others!
This “Mystery” of God’s salvation through Jesus has been revealed TO us so that it might be declared BY us. Paul writes in our text, “He [God] did this so that, through the church, the multifaceted wisdom of God in the heavenly places might now be made known to the rulers and authorities. This was done according to the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (vv.10-11)
We too, like Paul are called to declare this “Mystery.” We are to reveal the Light of Christ and the glory of His salvation to those who are still walking in darkness. The eternal purpose of God (even when it was still hidden to mankind) was that sinners would be saved. God has revealed His plan to us in His Word, the Bible. We have the full revelation—the wonderful news of salvation accomplished by God through Christ, His Son, our Savior. We are truly blessed to have the greatest “Mystery” of life “solved” for us by God who revealed eternal salvation to us through His Son, Jesus. Let’s appreciate and praise God for His “Epiphany”—His revealing—of Jesus to us, and let’s reveal that “Mystery” to others. Amen.
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The Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage Version® (EHV ®) © 2019 The Wartburg Project. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.