Continuing our thoughts on what pastors should be preaching today, first, our content should be the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8b).
Second, we are also to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ (v. 9). We recall that the Church was a mystery; before this age the Church was completely hidden.
In 1799, during Napoleon’s occupation of Egypt, some of his troops found a black basalt slab near the town of Rosetta in Lower Egypt. What came to be known as the Rosetta Stone now resides in the British Museum in London. It was inscribed in 196 BC with a decree praising the Egyptian king Ptolemy V, but what was startling was that the inscription was in three scripts: hieroglyphic, demotic (a simpler hieroglyphic), and Greek. Using the Greek as their key, scholars were able to decipher the never before understood hieroglyphic and demotic.
And so it is with the mystery of the Church; in a sense, it is God’s “Rosetta Stone.” As one expositor puts it, the Church is “the key to understanding what He promised in the Old Testament, what Christ did in the Gospels, what the early church did in the Book of Acts, what Paul and the other writers teach in the Epistles, and what God will do as recorded in the Book of Revelation.” Without an understanding of the Church (its meaning, it’s minister, and its ministry) we are clueless as to what God is doing today.
That little word all is also significant. Paul is saying that he was to preach and teach everything concerning the Church and was to teach it to everyone. To Paul the responsibility was given to preach (and write) about the origins, the organization, the officers, the duties, the ministry, the ordinances, the discipline, and everything else concerning the Church.
He goes on to say that he wanted all men to see these truths. The Greek here is photizō (English (“photo”), which we first encountered back in 1:18, where it is translated “enlightened.” Paul repeats his desire that all men, Jew and Gentile, understand God’s Truth.
Likewise, every preacher today is to preach everything concerning the Church to everyone in the Church so that they understand it. I am convinced that the reason for the state of the Church today is that preachers are not studying, much less preaching, the Biblical doctrine of the Church. The trends in church ministry today are the direct result of ignoring what the Bible says about the Church. To say, for example, that preaching and church ministry must appeal to the “unchurched” (one of the most popular views today) is to show a total, absolute, and all-encompassing ignorance of what the Church is about. It’s hard to put into words how incredulous this is! Virtually everything we have in the Church today is based on tradition and man’s ideas of ministry. Why? Why is the Church dominated by tradition Why is the majority of ministry based on man’s ideas and programs? Why isn’t preaching the focal point of Christian ministry? The answer to all those questions and several others is that preachers are first not studying the Biblical doctrine of the Church and second are not preaching that doctrine. This fact became such a burden to me that I took six months to preach an in-depth series on the doctrine of the Church at Grace Bible when I first came 18 years ago, followed just a couple of years ago by an exposition of I Timothy.
Honestly speaking the Church has become so undefined, convoluted, and nebulous down through Church History that it barely resembles the Church of the Book of Acts and the Epistles. For this reason, what we desperately need today is the preaching of the doctrine of the Church from the book of Acts and the Epistles; all that we do in our churches should be based only on that.
Oh, may we preach the unsearchable riches of Christ and the dispensation of the mystery. So encompassing are these to two categories, that all we will ever preach will fit into one or the other. And may we add once again, if preaching is not the primary ministry in a church, that church really has no ministry at all.