Grace, peace, and mercy to you from God the Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Epiphany is a day we do not get to celebrate much because it rarely falls on a Sunday. However, its story is familiar. The wise men come and visit Jesus. They give frankincense, myrrh, and gold. Yada, yada, yada, old news.
It is such old hat that we forget how revolutionary it all is. In our Epistle Lesson today (Eph. 3:1-12) we get a bomb shell and we just blow over it. Through the centuries it has lost its force. What Paul is writing here, in his time, is a major scandal. Verse six, “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Everybody knew that somehow the Gentiles would become part of the church, this was promised as far back as Genesis 12:3 [The Lord said:] “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” But the question was how? What would it look like? How would Gentiles become Jews?
From Sinai on, the requirements of the law had distinguished Jews from Gentiles. But, in his life, death, and resurrection, Christ brought down the “dividing wall of hostility” made of “the law of commandments” (Eph 2:14–15). In his life, he was accused of not upholding the Law (healed on the Sabbath, etc), and he openly engaged and brought blessings to sinners, Samaritans, Canaanites, and other Gentiles. He did so, even to the point of being rejected and crucified (2:16; cf. Gal 3:10–14; 4:4–7). But, God raised Jesus from dead, which vindicated Jesus on all counts, including his stance toward the law and toward Gentiles. Now, instead of the law separating Jews and Gentiles, God offered salvation apart from works of the law to both Jews and Gentiles. As Paul explained, Gentiles had become “fellow heirs and members of the body and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph 3:6).
To see how the Israelite church reacted to this you must go no farther than Acts 13. Paul and Barnabas are in Antioch. They has preached about Jesus in the synagogue and the people were so desperate to hear it again they begged Paul and Barnabas to return the next Saturday.
Gentiles were not becoming Jews by following the Old Testament ceremonial laws. Instead, they were being brought into God’s family simply by faith in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:
Today, the mystery continues. People around the world are still being brought into the family of Christ. There is a ministry of the LCMS to Muslims called PABLO. They relate countless testimonies of Muslims moving to the United States and having dreams of Jesus to the point that they seek out Christians to try and figure out what is going on. But, it is not happening only in America but in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. There are missionaries around the world, both abroad and close by, who are preaching the word of God to those who have never heard it. The mystery still continues. God is still knitting His body together.
So we, like Paul, are prisoners of Christ on behalf of fellow Gentiles. We have been made ministers of the Gospel, a royal priesthood though we are the least of the saints. We have been given the gift of faith. But, not a faith to bury and hide. But, a faith to grow and expand. A faith to witness about. We are to lead lives worthy of our calling (Eph. 4:1), and to “walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). For our light has come. And we are to shine for the whole world to see, calling all to faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
And now may the peace that surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.