If the church is a mystery to you, you are not alone; it is a mystery to a lot of people! It is hard to figure it out and sometimes harder to figure out the people who go to church! In fact, Paul says that the church was intended by God to be a mystery. When we look at the church, and the people who attend, we are tempted to think he succeeded! However, the mystery surrounding the church was never meant to be obscurity or to last forever. God provided for its revelation. Paul speaks of how God had made this mystery known through the gospel and the preaching of his apostles and prophets (3:5-6). The mystery that was not fully known in ages past to the former people of God, Israel, was that God fully intended to included Gentiles in his offer of redemption, all along. Indeed, God intended for Gentiles to share in redemption on equal terms with his own people, through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross (Eph. 2:11-18). The cultural and religious barriers of the Old Testament that separated Israel from other nations was to be removed in and by the Messiah. Israel had been the vehicle through which God would bring redemption, and Paul often speaks of the advantage Israel had because of their prior knowledge of God, and the privileges they enjoyed under the covenants with God (Rom. 3:1-2; 9:1-5; Eph. 2:12). God had singled them out as a nation through which he would execute his plan of redemption for the world, and as a result they were offered first opportunity to respond to God’s grace (cf. Isa. 42:6; 49:6; 56:6-7; Rom. 1:16; 9-11).

The inclusion of Gentiles, uncircumcised, into the grace of God and into the fellowship of the church, scandalized many of the early Jewish believers in Christ. Some leaders from Jerusalem sought to go behind Paul and ‘clean up’ the mess he had left behind, by suggesting that Gentiles, now they had been saved, should also be circumcised. However, Paul vehemently opposed such a notion, because it meant robbing the cross of Christ of its power to save, and implied that continued righteousness after salvation depended on law-keeping rather than the power of the indwelling Spirit (cf. Gal. 3:1-14; 5:1-31). Paul did combat with the Judaizers in the early church, and the issue was settled in the first church council, largely based on Paul’s testimony, as well as the witness of Peter that God had baptized uncircumcised Gentiles in the Holy Spirit, in exactly the same way he had baptized the 120 on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 10, 11, 15). Many of the early Jews were surprised by God’s inclusion of uncircumcised Gentiles, some were offended, and some were literally scandalized by it.

Paul uses strong language to describe the inclusion of the Gentiles. He says that God included them as fellow-heirs. The word that describes Gentiles as fellow-heirs with Jews, is the same word used by Paul of believers being fellow-heirs with Christ of the glory of God (cf. Rom. 8:17). What Paul has in mind is that just as believers share in the glory of the final kingdom with Christ. Through their faith in him, salvation makes Gentiles fellow-heirs with the Jews of the full eschatological and redemptive purposes, promises and benefits of God (3:6). All that God intended through redemption was not for Israel alone or for Jews alone, but for everyone who put their faith in God. These benefits Paul calls the boundless riches of Christ. So whatever advantage and blessings God intended for redeemed Israel, he now makes available and real to all who call on the name of Christ for salvation. It is the way God saved and blessed the Gentiles, as Paul brought them the Gospel that threw light on the revealed mystery. God was in Israel reconciling not just Israel, but the whole world to himself through Christ (3:10).

Indeed God is silencing the world and overpowering the authorities and rulers of this age by what he is doing in the church (3:10). Through the church, and its inclusion of people whom the world has discarded and written off, God is pushing back against the culture and evil of our age. We call it revival, but God calls it the mystery revealed, that salvation can change a life and rescue a man or a woman from sin and destruction. Doug Small says, stop asking God for revival for you church, but call on God to give you revival that will shut down your city and bring it to its knees in repentance and salvation. This battle is taking place in the heavenly realms, where the influence of the enemy is wrecking America and the lives of American people of all ages. Through the church God desires to push back against our culture for the sake of the salvation of the lost. It is time to throw off discouragement we often feel and hide behind, and to approach God so that he can break our hearts for the lost. We must to welcome new people into our fellowship!

Things About Guests And Visitors That Offend Church People

They are not religious! We are offended, concerned and scandalized by the people that God brings to our church, because they don’t know how to do church properly. We often set about a reformation and educational process to get them to fit in, rather than a salvational one! Attempting to reformation to fit into our religious mold repels people, but genuine salvation attracts people. Grace is an attractive proposition that actually end produces godly reformation (but not religious). Premature attempts at mere religious reformation produces nothing but frustration and eventually leads to attrition.

Why Should We Fully Welcome New People into Our Fellowship?

Another thing that often offends us about new people and converts is that they are sometimes more passionate and enthusiastic about the church and its ministry than we are, and it brings us under conviction! It is a hard thing to explain, but new converts are the most passionate and enthused church members we have. Long time members are often offended by their enthusiastic, but involvement unsophisticated involvement in ministry and worship, and we complain about their lack of religious training. Mostly the complainers have no intention of doing anything themselves, but they are resentful and critical of these new converts causing a stir and excitement in tranquil life of the church. Such criticism often arises because of jealousy over the accolades or recognition these on-fire people get. And there is more than a little conviction that comes as a result of their doing something for God that has been neglected for so long. We don’t like to be reminded of their laziness and lack of engagement, and we are offended when they “take away my job”!

We are also offended and envious of the short amount of time it takes for new converts and people to make a difference. God included the Gentiles very early on in the church in Acts. The jews were offended because the gospel literally flourished beyond the Jews. Revival broke out throughout the empire. Some of us want to hold the new converts back, until they are “seasoned” enough to be as religiously sophisticated as we are. The truth is we are jealous that they are ready to get to work right away, and that God seems to bless them in what they do. If we hold them back, they will lose heart and we will kill not only their passion, but their spiritual life as well. Church and leaders, church people and church controllers are going to answer to God for such things.

They Seem to Get Blessed and Are Full Of Joy

If God promised to Gentiles the full riches of Christ, along with his people, the Jews, it should be no surprise that he often blesses the new people in our churches. The Jews couldn’t handle it, and they chaffed under the grace God shown to the Gentiles. But we should rejoice and celebrate the grace of God on newly saved people. It is often the overflowing of God’s grace to the newly saved, and the new converts that renews our hope in receiving the miracles and blessings of God. It reveals to a dying world God is not just for the religious professional, but for all people who put their trust in him, even if they have not known him long!

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