My Bible study group recently studied Ephesians 3:1-13 and the message "A Foretaste of the Future" by Dr. Tim Keller.
The full sermon notes from our study are available HERE.
The first section of the message focused on the "hardness of life." This is not news that life is hard, but as humans we are constantly at war with ourselves about why our life is hard. Is there something that we did to deserve pain and suffering? Could we have done better to avoid it? I was amazed to focus on John the Baptist in Matthew 11 - while in prison he sent word to Jesus asking whether or not he was actually "the one!" Even John the Baptist faced doubts during rough times.
Section 2 jumps in to an analysis of the "mystery" of grace. Mystery meaning not something hidden that has to be found, but something counter-intuitive that needs to be wrestled with in order to be accepted. Following the Ten Commandments is intuitive - it is about doing good. But grace comes from not perfectly following the law but as a gift from God. It is a mystery. I learned also about a famous Martin Luther quote "Simil Iustus et Peccator." This means "at once justified and sinner." That is also a mystery.
The next section is called "The Brilliance of the Church." Keller asserts that Paul is saying the manifold wisdom of God is made known through the church. The primary means that the gospel is communicated is through the church. We all need the church, flawed though it is, to learn and grow in Christ. We will wither without it.
Finally, the message is wrapped up by a discussion of how we overcome suffering through Christ with the aide of the church. We put the earlier points together to gain an understanding of how suffering is never for nothing, no suffering can ultimately hurt you, and how your suffering will be for glory (verse 13).
Be sure to read the notes for more detail on this beautiful section.