Everyone is fascinated by mysteries...
Mysteries are something that is dark, obscure, a secret, or puzzling to the majority. When a mystery is revealed it inspires and empowers our knowledge. The Greek word is mysterion - a truth hidden from human knowledge or understanding but now disclosed by the revelation of God. Specifically, in Ephesians 3, it is several things hidden since the beginning of time.
1) The Dispensation of God’s Grace
Ephesians 3:1-4 NKJV - For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— 2 if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)…
The grace of God is a combination of forgiveness, salvation, undeserved kindness and empowerment. Of all these most references in the NT refers to grace as empowerment. This is a supernatural power given to us that transforms our hearts and minds daily. It is God’s sanctifying, renewing, empowering and transforming power that we become more like Christ. Paul’s theme over and over through his letters is this mysterious transformation power received through faith and humility. The best evidence of a real God is a changed life. The sinful nature no longer has control over our lives in addictions, negative emotions, bondage and pain. We can now live in freedom and victory as overcomers through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the mystery
2) The Salvation of the World
Ephesians 3:5-7 NKJV - which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, 7 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…
For thousands of years only the Jewish race of Israel was given the privilege of being God’s people. They were blessed with God’s provision, protection and prosperity when they walked in obedience and faith. As God’s people they had a special covenant of promise. But after thousands of years of separation the unthinkable happened. Through Jesus’ work on the Cross all people around the world now have the invitation to walk and live in relationship with God. To have the privilege and honour of being part of His people – loved and treasured unconditionally. This is the mystery.
3) Heaven on Earth Channeled through God’s Church
Ephesians 3:9-12 NKJV - to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 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, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.
Finally, God’s perfect plan from the beginning of time was that believers would gather together in communities of love and fellowship called the Church. It would be a place of unity, serving one another, encouraging and growing together in the knowledge of God. Heaven on earth is no better displayed than when God’s people live and walk in grace towards each other in fellowship. God’s eternal purpose from the beginning of time was that the universe of the heavenly places of His manifold wisdom would be expressed through His Church. This is the mystery.
Paul marveled at the grace given to him which he was called to preach the gospel that makes the mystery a reality. When we consider his life before Christ and life as an apostle, we see that his calling really was all a powerful work of grace. Furthermore, it is indeed amazing that God would take a reformed Pharisee, and a persecutor of the church to be the main minister of the mystery. Bringing the hostile relationship between Jew and Gentile together into one new body called the Church.
In his letters Paul wanted everyone to know, “I’m not making this up. This isn’t my invention. God gave me the revelation and I am only His messenger of this truth.” It cost Paul a lot of persecution and sacrifice to hold on to this mystery, so he could never have made it up himself. He wants everybody to see and share in the fellowship of this mystery - which it precisely was because it was unknowable until God revealed it.
The ancient Greek word for God’s wisdom is polupoikilos, which has the ideas of intricacy, complexity, and great beauty. God’s dream was that the church would shine brightly and be glorious on the earth, in reigning over the nations. For it is through the church that the infinite wisdom of God might be made known.
This explains how God will reveal His wisdom, and to whom He reveals it. He will reveal it by His work in the church, and He will reveal it to angelic beings (principalities and powers) both good and evil. This is God’s eternal purpose in Jesus, that in the fullness of the times, God will gather together and resolve all things in Jesus.
The church appears to be God’s pilot scheme for the reconciled universe of the future, the mystery of God’s will to be administered in the fullness of the times when the things in heaven and the things on earth are brought together in Christ – anonymous.
Now that you understand this mystery, what are you going to do about it?