Our Testimony to the Angels: Angelic Rebellion–Part 2
Ephesians Lesson #092
January 10, 2021
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father, we are so thankful for your grace and your goodness to us. We know that You protect us. We know that our lives are in your hands, and that You determine the time, the manner, and the place of our death. Yet, Father, when we hear of a saint who has run the race well and has served you, there is still sorrow in our hearts because it’s a reminder to us that life is not what it ought to be.
“This is not how You originally created things, but you created us to be sinless and to stay walking with you. Because of Adam’s sin, corruption has come into this world and things are not what they ought to be, and one of the reminders to us that things are not the way they should be is when death occurs.
“Father, we rejoice that David has gone to be with you, and Father, we also pray for his family for the grief, the sorrow, and the loss, that they will experience the change in their life. Just as our Lord wept at the grave of Lazarus, not because Lazarus had died, but because he looked on the crowd and saw their grief. And in His compassion for the human race, He knew that that was not what He had intended, and that all this pain and sorrow was the result of sin, and that He was going to deal with that very shortly.
“Father, we thank You for the study we’ve had in Ephesians 3, learning about the remarkable new entity of the church. Help us to understand it significance, our role within the body of Christ, and the way we are to be a witness to the angels, as well as to all humanity. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles to Ephesians 3; we will review today because it’s been a couple of months since we were last here. In fact, Ephesians lesson #091, “Our Testimony to the Angels,” was really the beginning of this sub-series we did on the Angelic Rebellion.
We’re looking at this as a second part to that because we took the opportunity to investigate what the Bible teaches about the Angelic Revolt through the last couple months as a sub-series. It turns out that at the same time we were hitting this important verse, we were coming to a verse related to the Angelic Revolt in 2 Peter 2:4–5.
Also, on Tuesday night we had been going through some Psalms, and a key element was to study some of the psalms related to this Angelic Revolt. That helps us to understand what is going on in these verses. We just need to review a bit, get the flow of thought back into our minds. I will read through this section with comments, then we will focus on the review.
Ephesians 3:1, “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles.”
He’s a prisoner in Rome, from where he is writing to them. One reason he’s writing this is because they’re upset that he’s in prison and their view is that maybe God’s plan isn’t being accomplished because Paul has been sidelined. He takes this opportunity to segue into a seeming diversion, but which really lays the foundation for his ministry.
Ephesians 3:2–7, “if indeed, you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets …”
That’s New Testament Church Age apostles and prophets, not Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles. “… that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.”
Ephesians 3:8–13, “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the—not fellowship, if you’re looking at a New King James or King James, but what is the—dispensation or the administration of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Christ Jesus, 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 places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. Therefore, I ask that you do not lose heart and my tribulations for you, which is your glory.”
To understand Ephesians 3:7–10, we really have to contextualize it, so I want to review a little more.
Ephesians 3:1 Paul starts off saying, “For this reason.” That’s a key phrase.
Look at Ephesians 3:14, what does it say? “For this reason.”
When we look at that, we know that something interrupts what he is saying in Ephesians 3:1, “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles …” emphasizing the fact that he’s in prison.
He will return to this thought in Ephesians 3:14, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ …” picking up where he left off.
He’s concerned about them, because in Ephesians 3:13 after this diversion in Ephesians 3:2–12, he says, “Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.” “Therefore” is a conclusion drawn from what he says in Ephesians 3:2–11, “… therefore don’t lose heart.”
Why would they lose heart? Because it looked like Paul had been sidelined by the Roman government, that he was being prevented from carrying out his ministry. What was actually going on is exactly what God intended, that he was going to use Paul’s imprisonment.
Remember, he was arrested in Jerusalem, taken to Caesarea by the Sea. Two different governors there interviewed him who didn’t want to make a decision on the case one way or the other. Finally, Paul appealed to the emperor to go to Rome and have his case adjudicated.
He’s imprisoned in Caesarea by the Sea in Israel for two years. Then, however long it took for the ship to travel to Rome, then the shipwreck, and then he’s in prison two years in Rome. It’s close to five years. But during that time, there are all kinds of people who are coming to see Paul; he’s teaching, he’s training leaders and pastors, and using that time to carry out his particular ministry. He is telling them, don’t lose heart, God’s plan hasn’t been sidelined.
Whatever is going on in the world today as we face the fact that there’s a pandemic, that there is political turmoil, and the fact that many people have lost jobs. Some people have had the virus, they’ve lost health, some have had long-term consequences; others have not. There’re all kinds of things that are going on; there’re hindrances to missionary work that are taking place.
God is still in control; God is going to accomplish His purposes, and God accomplishes those purposes through whatever speed bump, potholes, or roadblocks we think are being erected by the world. God is able to use them, as Romans 8:28 says, to work all things together for good.
In the last almost 10 months since the pandemic really hit us here in the US, there have been a lot of people who’ve had to adjust to a lot of things, including myself, I may not be able to leave on Wednesday to go to Kiev, but this is part of what is going on in the devil’s world right now. Continue to pray that it will work itself out, but I have no idea whether it will or will not.
Paul is saying that he has a particular mission that’s being accomplished, Ephesians 3:2, “if indeed you have heard of the—I’ve made a big point of this over the months—the dispensation—literally the administration—of the grace of God which was given to me for you.”
It’s not the administration of the dispensation of grace. You have to look at the whole phrase, and if we read it through, we find that Paul uses that whole phrase, or almost all of it, several times.
Ephesians 3:6b–8, we are “partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which—that is, of the gospel—I became a minister according to—what?—the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. To me, who am less than the least of the saints, this grace was given—to me—that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
“The grace of God which was given to me for you” is Paul’s mission as an apostle. When he was saved on the road to Damascus, he was commissioned as an apostle, and Christ gives him a mission as an apostle, which was primarily, but not exclusively—that’s the important phrase—primarily to be the apostle to the Gentiles, but not to the exclusion of taking the gospel to the Jews.
It’s not an either/or, it’s a both/and, but his primary focus was to take the gospel to the Gentiles. Peter was the apostle to the Jews, but Peter also ministered to Gentiles, the first one to take the gospel to Gentiles in Acts 10–11 when he took the gospel to Cornelius.
Older dispensationalists have made an issue out of that, as if his commission as the apostle to the Gentiles excluded going to the Jews. That’s just a total misrepresentation of his ministry. He always went to the Jew first and then to the Greek, and there was never any indication in Scripture that there was anything wrong with that. That’s how he established all these different churches on his different missionary journeys.
That’s his commissioning as an apostle, and his mission was to take the gospel to the Gentiles. But there was something distinctive about this, described throughout the section as the mystery. A mystery is not something that is a riddle you try to uncover, like a murder mystery. A mystery, in the language and use at the time, was a previously unrevealed truth.
That’s very important to understand because he’s talking about something that God did not disclose to anyone. He didn’t tell the angels about it. He didn’t tell any prophets in the Old Testament about it. There’s not even a hint in the Old Testament that something is going to change in the future.
In the Old Testament there is a stark division between Jew and Gentile. God has called out the Jewish people, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to be His unique and distinct people, He is going to work through them. Gentiles, if they were going to be able to even come to God in the temple, would have to completely convert to Biblical Judaism. Not the intertestamental Judaism or rabbinical Judaism, but Biblical Judaism, based on the Old Testament Law, the gospel of grace in the Old Testament.
In that circumstance, there’s nothing for Gentiles; they are distinct. They can’t come past the historic wall in the outer courtyard of the temple, they are excluded from the covenants, they are excluded from the Commonwealth of Israel; they’re strangers from the covenants of promise. As Paul said in Ephesians 2:12, they have no hope and are without God in the world.
Then something changed: Christ came! He died so that He could take the two and make them one: one new man, one new body, one new temple. Ephesians 2:11–22 is all about this being the mystery—what was never revealed.
Satan had no clue this was going to happen. In our study on angels, I pointed out that Satan’s not omniscient. All he knows about God’s plans are what’s revealed in the Word, and God didn’t reveal anything about that. Although the resurrection was hinted at and is focused on in some passages, it is somewhat cryptically to obscure it from Satan.
When he thinks that he has defeated Christ by having Him killed at the Cross, and He can’t bring in the kingdom, Jesus is raised from the dead, and Satan is defeated at the Cross.
The next thing that happens is that God creates a new organism, a new entity, and that’s the church. The church that is now composed equally of Jew and Gentile, where there’s no distinction between Jew and Gentile.
Ephesians 2:14, “He Himself is our peace—by ‘our’ Paul is talking to Gentiles. He’s our peace, Jew and Gentile—He Himself is our peace, who has made both one—Jew and Gentile—and has broken down the middle wall of separation …” which was the Law separating Jew from Gentile and now they are come together.
Ephesians 2:16, “… that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” This is a critical element in what Paul is preaching.
Ephesians 3:7, “of which I became a minister—that is, of the gospel. That’s his commission as the apostle—according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.”
Ephesians 3:8, “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints.”
This is not false humility. He knows that under religious conditions, he has nothing to qualify him to be saved. All the things he counted on when he was a Pharisee meant nothing. He calls it SKUBALA; it is manure. It is nothing; it is worthless.
He murdered, he conspired to murder Christians, and he knows that there’s nothing that gives him any value before God. So he is the least of all the saints. But what is given to him is the first thing that’s mentioned in Ephesians 3:8, “… to preach the good news to the Gentiles the unsearchable wealth of Christ.”
“To preach” is important; EVANGELIZO in Greek, meaning to give the gospel, the good news. ANGELOS, the word for angel, is from the verb ANGELIZO. The word “angel” means a messenger and ANGELIZO means to proclaim a message. EU at the beginning means something good, so it means to proclaim the good news.
In English we have this word “preach.” In seminary you learn that preaching fits a certain rhetorical style. Often, it’s three points and a poem. You can turn on the TV and watch all kinds of people do what they call preaching. That’s not what the Bible calls preaching.
C.H. Dodd, a theologian in the 20th century, is absolutely correct. He said that in the New Testament KERUSSO, which means to announce something, should be translated “preach.” Often the translators of the King James translated EVANGELIZO as preaching, and it doesn’t mean that. It means to give the good news; it is to evangelize—which is where we get the word.
KERUSSO is proclaiming the gospel. But there’s another important word that runs through the pastorals. In 1 & 2 Timothy, DIDASKO means to teach, to instruct. That’s what a pastor is supposed to do, not preach according to the rhetorical style of modern churches. That doesn’t educate, inform, or instruct people on the Christian life. They are to also proclaim the gospel, which is what Paul is saying.
His first mission had to do with proclaiming to the Gentiles the gospel of the unsearchable wealth of Christ. This isn’t limited to telling the Gentiles how to have eternal life—believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved—but to let them know that not only do you get eternal life and your destiny is Heaven, but look at all of the wealth of Christ that is now yours in Him.
That’s teaching everything about the spiritual life. Paul’s mission was not just to give them the gospel, but to give what I call the truthful gospel, which is everything related to the spiritual life, everything related to what we now have in Christ once we are saved.
He refers to this in Ephesians 2:17, “He came and preached—this is Christ coming during the first advent and preaching or proclaiming the good news. The same word was used there. Jesus was giving the good news in His first advent of peace—to you who were far off—the Gentiles—and those who were near—the Jews.”
Jesus had a ministry to the Gentiles under the Law, but He wasn’t doing during His ministry what Paul is doing in his, because there’s something new that happened from the Day of Pentecost.
These are the focal points of his ministry:
1. to evangelize the Gentiles and give them all the information about the incredible wealth that we have in Christ;
2. “… to reveal to all what is the dispensation—literally the administration—of the mystery …” Ephesians 3:9. To tell them that now they’re equal with the Jews in the body of Christ, they are in one new body, one new man, and one new temple, and its significance.
It is important in Ephesians 3:9 that he is saying, “to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery.”
I’m emphasizing this so that we see God’s intent in Ephesians 3:10, “… that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in heavenly places …”
Some have said that’s God’s primary purpose is to make this proclamation or testimony before the angels. But it’s not saying that’s it exclusively. It is saying that this is one of the ways God is multitasking through the church.
God is the Master and the Originator of multitasking. He can usually do more than three things at the same time. He says, “… to make all see.” Who are “all?”
Interestingly, there are two ancient Egyptian 3rd or 4th century manuscripts that survived in the desert of Sinai that don’t have “all.” But nearly every other manuscript, two or three other manuscripts, found down in the Sinai have “all,” and the majority text has it also. That should be in the text, “to make all see what is the fellowship of the ministry—or, what is the administration of the ministry.”
“To make all see:” who are “all?” “All” are humans and angels. “To make all see.” We’re not just talking about a singular purpose here, but to make all, that is, humans and angels, see. In other words to enlighten them—which is how I’ve translated that verb,
“… to enlighten all what is the fellowship of …”
Or … it should be translated the “administration” or “strategy”—“of the mystery.”
I like “strategy.” I didn’t emphasize that when I taught this two months ago, but there is a strategy to God’s plan to include Jew and Gentile together in one body. What is that strategy? I think it’s hinted at well here. That strategy has something to do with this testimony to humans and especially to angels.
There’s a strategy in why God now institutes this new entity of the church because He’s demonstrating some things to the angels. That relates to the resolution of the angelic revolt: that God is demonstrating the wealth of His grace, undeserved merit, which is critical in the condemnation of Satan and the fallen angels.
Paul is saying in Ephesians 3:9 that his ministry is to enlighten all, which would be humanity and angels, on what is the administration of the mystery—that is, putting into effect this new revelation of Jew and Gentile together in one new body. We don’t grasp that!
2,000 years later as Gentiles, we don’t grasp what a bombshell this was, especially to Jews in the first century. This was something that was never anticipated and the new Gentile believers are realizing that they have greater privileges now in the body of Christ than an Old Testament believer had.
Paul says about this mystery, that “from the beginning of the ages it was hidden in God.” Nobody knew about. Satan didn’t know about it, demons didn’t know about it, angels didn’t know about it, no prophets in the Old Testament knew about it. It was “hidden in God who created all things in Christ Jesus …”
Ephesians 3:10, “… to the intent”—this is defining God’s purpose—
“… that now”—in contrast to then, to the former way before the mystery—
“… that now the manifold wisdom of God …”
What God is doing with you and me in this new entity: as the church, we become an example to the angels and to man. We are part of the evidence put on display in a cosmic trial. God is saying to the angels in this angelic revolt, “Look at the manifestation of My grace now with the church.” This is the evidence that is being put on display, and it’s displaying the multifaceted wisdom of God.
The word translated “manifold” is POLUPOIKILOS, which means something that has many different colors, many different dimensions. It’s varied, it’s complex; it’s multifaceted. It is putting on display how rich and full of the wisdom of God actually is.
What about the wisdom of God? It is to make something known.
I want to take your attention back to what we’ve read so far. Notice Ephesians 3:3, “how that by revelation …” Revelation is making something known; He is making something known. This is emphasized all the way through the chapter—"how that by revelation”—God made something known. He made the mystery known—something that was not revealed has been revealed.
Ephesians 3:4 “… you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ.”
In Ephesians 3:5 he says this information was not made known to the sons of men in other ages as it’s now been revealed.
Ephesians 3:9–10, is again reminding us that the whole issue here is making information known that was never known before. This is a remarkable shift in the plan of God, that the manifold wisdom of God is being put on display in the church, so that it “may be known BY the church …” By us as a corporate entity of the body of Christ, as well as individual local churches, that God is teaching something to the angels, as well as to humanity.
Just because you teach something doesn’t mean people learn anything. In college I was an education minor—which you have to be in Texas in order to get your teaching certificate—and I would hear professors say, “If they haven’t learned, you haven’t taught.”
Then I heard seminary professors say that, and I said, “What about individual volition?” Just because you’re the best teacher in the world—like Jesus Christ—and people reject what He said, doesn’t mean He didn’t teach. You can teach till you’re blue in the face, and if people don’t want to learn, they’re not going to learn.
Just because people and the angels don’t get it, doesn’t mean it hasn’t been made clear. It has been made clear, and that is the evidence that comes up in this trial of Satan and the fallen angels in their rebellion against God.
Slides 15 and 16
It is to be made known, relating back to that concept of being enlightened to make all see or to enlighten all regarding the administration of the mystery. It is related to both angels and humans, that “the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church—to whom?”
“… to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” Who are these principalities and powers?
1. ARCHE can refer to something that is primary, something that is of first importance.
If you read Greek, in John 1:1, you read ARCHE, “In the beginning.” It has also to do with that which is first or that which has authority. Or it’s translated “as a principality.” It refers to someone in authority.
2. EXOUSIA has the idea of authority, so a principality or ruler. He’s first.
ARCHE also means the beginning and first, so the first person, the first ruler, that whole idea comes together. It’s interesting how this is translated. Who are these principalities and powers? We are to manifest them.
“Principalities and Powers”
1. The combination phrase: ARCHE and EXOUSIA indicates the hierarchy of angels.
This phrase is translated usually in Ephesians and Colossians as principalities and powers. Unfortunately, other peoples’ translations of Romans and 1 Corinthians, used other terms, so it became inconsistent. But in Ephesians and Colossians it is consistent; it reads principalities and powers: ARCHE and EXOUSIA.
EXOUSIA has to do with authority. It should have been translated “principalities and authorities” because there is a third word that we’re going to see. In Romans 8:38, translated “powers”, not EXOUSIA, it’s DYNAMIS, just to confuse you. That’s why it’s important to get back in the Greek. It should have been translated “principalities and authorities and powers. DYNAMIS has to do with might and ability to do things.
Romans 8:38 is a verse most of us know by heart, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers … having to do with hierarchy.” But it’s a different word here, having to do with those who have power, those who have certain abilities.
1 Corinthians 15:24 talks about the fact that “when Christ delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule—ARCHE—and all authority—EXOUSIA.”
They’re not consistent. “All principalities and powers” is how it’s translated in Ephesians and Colossians. 1 Corinthians 15:24 is the way it should be translated all the way through: rulers and authorities. But they’re not consistent, which is always my little bugaboo.
Here are three classifications: rule, authority, power, describing the hierarchy of angels. It’s made clear in Ephesians 1:21—of course, it’s consistently translated all through Ephesians and Colossians, where Paul says, “far above all principality—ARCHE—and power—EXOUSIA—and might—DYNAMIS—and dominion—KYRIOTES. KURIOS means lord, so it’s the ruling power or dominion—and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.”
In Ephesians 6:12, talking about spiritual warfare, Paul says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers—again, those two words ARCHE and EXOUSIA—against the rulers of the darkness of this age …”
This begins to help us define that this phrase refers to rankings of authority or position among the demonic, or even in the holy angel hierarchy.
Colossians, written at the same time by Paul is very similar to Ephesians.
Colossians 1:16, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.”
Colossians 1:18, “And He—Christ—is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have preeminence.”
Colossians 2:10, “and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”
Colossians 2:15, which we will look at next week, “Having disarmed principalities and powers.” How did He disarm them? That’s the next lesson.
Going back to Daniel, which we looked at in our study of the angels, there are rankings of evil angels. We see hints of this in Daniel 10 and Daniel 12.
Daniel 10:1213, “Then he said to me—‘me’ is Daniel. ‘He’ is probably Gabriel (although he’s not specifically identified in the text) who is revealing this to Daniel—Then he said to me, ‘Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days.’ ”
Who’s the prince of the kingdom of Persia? It’s not the human king because that’s identified by the phrase the kings—melek in Hebrew—the kings of Persia at the end of Daniel 10:13. The prince of the kingdom of Persia is somebody who fights with an angel. This is not a human being; it is a fallen angel. This is a demon who is influencing the kingdom of Persia and is fighting with Gabriel.
Gabriel says, “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.” Michael is an archangel identified as such in Jude.
Interestingly, the Hebrew word for prince is sar, and can refer to a ruler. It’s translated into the Greek of the Septuagint with the same word ARCHE. That is what it’s talking about in Ephesians and Colossians as principalities and powers.
We’re learning that the concept of ARCHE refers to someone who is a higher authority within the angelic breakdown. It refers to Michael and to other upper echelon angels. Michael is one of the chief princes, but prince is different from kings of Persia.
In Daniel 10:20–21, Gabriel says, “Do you know why I’ve come to you? And now I must return to fight with the Prince of Persia—the demon—and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece—the demon who’s associated with influencing the politics and the leadership of Greece—will come. But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth. (No one upholds me against these, except Michael your prince.”
Why is he calling him Daniel’s prince? Because in Daniel 12:1, Michael is “the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people—Israel.” That’s one of Michael’s primary responsibilities: to watch over and guard and protect the Jewish people.
Our verse, Ephesians 3:10, “to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in heavenly places …” is to holy angels as well as fallen angels; these terms are used to describe both.
God is demonstrating through us corporately and individually His manifold wisdom to the fallen angels and to the holy angels. So, our lives are a testimony and are on review before all of the angels, so that they see what sinners we are, how unworthy we are.
That isn’t to make you feel guilty. That’s to make you feel blessed out, because God in His grace has saved us, and that’s what God’s teaching through us. The grace of God in saving us is not something the angels could personally experience, so through us God is teaching them things that they would never understand at all.
1. This is part of God’s plan to use the church as a visible demonstration to teach some things to the angels about His wisdom that could not have been learned any other way.
1 Corinthians 4:9. I would just quote the first verse, but there’s something about these verses that we ought to pay attention to. We don’t live in a nice world; we haven’t for a long time. But a lot of people are just waking up to the fact that we live in the devil’s world and our future may not be all that we once thought it would be.
This is what Paul says about his life as an apostle, 1 Corinthians 4:9, “For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last.” The display is to the angels. That’s the point I’m making from this passage, but the context is important.
“He has displayed us, the apostles—if it’s true for the apostles, it’s true for us—as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you—he’s being sarcastic here to the Corinthians, because they think they have all the answers—but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!”
1 Corinthians 4:11–13, “To the present hour we—apostles, the great Apostles Paul and Peter. How are they described?—we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure, being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world.”
The word that is used for filth, for example, is when you are cleaning the ring around the tub, you scrape it up and throw it away; that’s filth. In our idiom this should be translated, “We are in the eyes of the world the scum of the earth.” That’s how Paul describes his apostolic ministry. The world looks at us; it persecutes us. It rejects us; it reviles us. To them we are the scum of the earth, “the offscouring of all things until now.”
We go through this to be a testimony to the angels, a spectacle to the angels.
2. Angels observe church leaders.
1 Timothy 5:21, “I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.”
He charges Timothy before God and the angels because he is a witness before the angels, as we all are. The holy or the elect angels watch how church leaders perform their responsibilities; and therefore, we are to conduct ourselves with integrity because we are being watched by the angels. We are to witness to them in terms of our integrity.
3. Angels long to look into what God’s grace is accomplishing in the Church Age.
They never experienced anything comparable to the kind of grace that we experience.
1 Peter 1:12, “To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven …”
“To them” refers to the Old Testament prophets, “… which has now been reported to you that those who have EVANGELIZED you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things which angels desire to look into.”
It’s a very picturesque word that’s translated “desire.” Angels are bending over with a magnifying glass to examine you because they are learning so much about God that they couldn’t learn any other way. We are on display to teach eternal lessons to the angels.
4. The church, specifically in terms of the unity of Jew and Gentile in the body of Christ, is the evidence,
Ephesians 3:10, that we display the manifold wisdom of God: the multivariate, multi-dimensional wisdom of God. When we are obedient, they see it from a positive dimension; and when we are disobedient, they see the negative side of it.
All in all, they learn about the grace of God, that we don’t earn or deserve His favor, we simply trust in Him and He provides everything for us, like in salvation. Whether it’s trusting in God to be saved eternally because of what Christ did for us, or whether it is to trust God day-by-day in every dimension of our life.
Both display the grace of God to the angels. And when we fail, God doesn’t kick us out. He disciplines us perhaps; we suffer the consequences of our failures. But God never falters in His love, in His care, in His provision for us. That’s what God is teaching the angels, as well as all mankind through what He is doing in the church today.
“Father, we’re thankful for this opportunity to study Your Word, to be reminded of Your grace. For as Paul says, it is the grace given to him that has to do with his spiritual gift, his commission, his mission, and we have grace given to us in terms of our spiritual gift and our commission and mission.
“Father, by carrying that out, we glorify You. And it teaches the angels, it informs them, and they long to look into it, as our lives are put on display as trophies of grace. Father, we pray that we might be challenged to live up to that reality.
“Father, we pray that if there’s anybody here who has not trusted in Christ as Savior or is unsure about eternity or eternal life, that they would recognize that the Scripture presents it very simply and very plainly: that we are born without life, alienated from the life of God. Christ died for our sins that we might have everlasting life by simply trusting in Him. That’s the good news of the gospel.
“We don’t have to do anything. We don’t have to change our lives, reform our lives, join the right group—none of those things. We simply trust in Christ, and we’re saved. He regenerates us, He imputes His righteousness to us, He declares us righteous and makes us new creatures in Christ that we may have the potential to experience all the wealth of the riches of Christ that we have.
“Father, help us to desire to want to know these things and to make them a reality in our lives. We encourage those who’ve never trusted Christ to trust in Him. We pray that for all of us that we would not take this lightly, and in these uncertain times, we would realize the only certainty and stability we have is in You and Your Word. And that this may cause other things in our life that we have spent so much time focusing on to begin to dim and fade away, as we focus on our eternal destiny and what You have given us in Christ. We pray this in His name, amen.”