September 10, 2017

Incorruptible Love

Paul is the model for the Ephesians and Tychicus is the messenger to them, but Grace alone is the medium through which they and all others live in Christ.

Sermon Notes:

1.These final four verses form a personal footnote to the Ephesian saints from Paul. The letter was meant to be circular, delivered throughout Asia Minor, so it necessarily makes few personal remarks to the Ephesian saints, but this would have been very comforting to them. 

2.Almost 2000 years ago people heard these words for the first time. They sat under Paul's ministry and word and they would have been touched by this note. To explain why, it is important to give some background on Paul's relationship with Ephesus. 

3.Paul spent about three years in Ephesus. His time ends in a riot incited by Demetrius the idol-maker (cf. Acts 19:24-41). After this, Paul sails for Macedonia. Here we first read of Tychicus, who travels with Paul to Jerusalem. Paul meets the Ephesian leaders at Miletus to bid them farewell (cf. Acts 20:17-38).

4.This is the last thing the Ephesians have heard of their beloved brother Paul. They had probably heard he had been arrested, but nothing further. They would have cared how he was doing. After four years Tychicus brings news, and a letter, from Paul.

5.Perhaps it's a bit of a rebuke to us who have at our disposal countless copies of this letter and an opportunity to pore over them at any time we wish, yet we lack the appetite to receive it.

6.Tychicus is almost through the letter, and has not had a word about Paul’s circumstances. Then he speaks about the importance of prayer, and he says 'and also for me.'

7.Paul speaks directly to his own need for prayer. Paul has mentioned earlier in the letter his prayers for the Ephesians, but now he says I need your prayers for me.

8.Paul didn't seek to arouse their sympathies for him; he does not ask for comfort or deliverance, but rather for words and boldness to declare the gospel. He seeks for them to be built up and edified. 

9.Paul gives a model (himself), a messenger (Tychicus) and a medium (grace).

10.Paul the model: Paul is modeling through his life what he had taught in this letter. He doesn't just tell them of the urgent need for prayer but he earnestly desires their prayers that he would not yield ground.

11.If we ask for prayers, are we not to have our lifestyle accountable to that request? We need to show support for what we ask in the way we live.

12.Satan is looking for every opportunity to trip us up and disgrace our message. May we encourage one another by our lives to be faithful. May we examine our hearts to make sure that we are not just reciting truths but that we are willing to pay the price to live them out. That's Paul the model. 

13.Tychicus the messenger: Paul knew that what Tychicus communicated and how he communicated would encourage the Ephesians. Tychicus was a beloved brother and faithful minister (Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7). He was entrusted with Colossians and Ephesians and to mediate the Onesimus-Philemon letter and reunion.

14.We never read that Tychicus was a great evangelist or speaker. But he was available. He was never too busy. He had a singleness of purpose. A clear grasp of what was important. He could be trusted to get the job done.

15.Tychicus would have relayed the truth as Paul intended it, not a watered-down version. We too are to be faithful to the text and to proclaim it in the power of the Spirit. We are to live out the gospel to demonstrate the worthiness of this message.

16.Reasoning without God brings discouragement. The one relaying the message has great significance in what reception that message will have (cf. Num. 13).

17.Grace, the medium: At the start of the letter Paul has sent them grace and peace from God the Father. Now at the end he speaks this benediction. The human heart cannot contain the vastness of the mystery that Paul has imparted to them, so Paul sends them grace. This grace is available to all who love the Lord Jesus.

18.Paul weaves themes of grace, peace, faith and love throughout the letter. These start in the mind of God, reaching to us and then spreading out towards others. These aren't empty platitudes like best wishes or good luck, but blessings from God and key to walking in the good and blessing of all we have in this letter. 

19.The grace that saves us and preserves us also brings us into a deeper understanding of this. The grace flows to those who love Jesus with love incorruptible. That does not mean only a group of elites that really love incorruptible (cf. Jude 21).

20.25 years after Paul’s letter, Jesus says to the Ephesian church that they have abandoned their first love (cf. Rev. 2:1-7). Their zeal did not pass to the next generation. We can teach biblical orthodoxy, but children will only embrace what they see lived out daily. We must live out a passion for Christ in our own lives. 

21.As we think of Jesus hanging on the cross, with nails in hands and feet, giving up his body so that we might be brought in as members of his body, we see in that the blood that cleanses us from all our sins.

22.God says when He sees the blood He will pass over you. The bread and wine are pictures. As we partake we say we have been cleansed and we remind ourselves that we are a part of this body. 

Application Questions:

  1. How does your outlook on the events around us affect your ability to encourage?
  2. Paul took a considerable risk entrusting these letters to Tychicus. Paul would have loved to have delivered the letter himself. He could have had peace that everything was under control. Are you preparing a Tychicus? Are you willing to take the time to mentor and willing to take the necessary risks? This letter made it into our hands today because Paul himself did this.
  3. We are to live out the gospel to demonstrate the worthiness of this message. The Lord urges us to prove it by letting the gospel change us. Is saying we believe it making a change in our lives?
  4. What does it look like to be available for whatever God would have us do?
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