Read This Week: Ephesians 3
Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. He intended that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Ephesians 3:2-11 NIV
Mystery embodies the core of the human experience. We relate to and are drawn toward the mysterious at the moment we take our first breath until the day we take our last. It is part of who we are, what we sense, and how we think and interact. We are designed to be driven by what we can’t see.
This wonder brings vitality to our existence. Mystery makes us feel alive and takes us to the edge of our seat. If there was no mystery, we would be people without dreams, vision, and imagination. We would lack the desire to understand what we can’t comprehend. The drama of our plot would be replaced by a predictable apathy. The depth of our souls would be shallow and without hope, faith, and the longing for eternal life.
In the New Testament, however, a mystery is not something one cannot see or understand. It is a truth that was hidden in the past that God has now revealed to His followers. A mystery is a “spiritual secret” that is unknown to those outside the faith but understood and valued by the family of God.
Paul talks about one of these mysteries in Ephesians 3. He explains the mystery of the gospel and how it unites all people in one body known as the Church. Paul himself was a perfect example of this mystery. He had been a Jewish leader who was now sharing the good news of Jesus with the Gentiles. Paul was doing the unthinkable and building community among the Jews and Gentiles under the banner of Christ. The world had not seen this before and didn’t understand what was happening.
Verse 6 captures this perfectly where it says, “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” The Gentiles, along with the Jews, received the inheritance which the Lord promised to his people from the beginning. They were all God’s children and members of the same body.
There was and is only one people of God. In the Church, through Jesus, all believers are part of the same community regardless of human differences. Christ’s work on the cross and his resurrection accomplished more than the salvation of individuals. It reconciled and brought Jews and Gentiles to God and each other.
The same reconciling power of Christ that unites all people is still effective and available today. In a volatile and divided world, the unifying nature of the gospel should be seen in the Church. The Church is to put on full display the manifold wisdom of God to those who are unbelieving. It should be a diverse community of individuals from all races, cultures, and backgrounds coming together under faith in Jesus.
God’s plan and work in and through the Church is a beautiful mystery. It is not understood by the world when they see His kindness, goodness, and grace expressed in the lives of His people. But it stands as a beautiful contrast to the ugliness of sinful attitudes and relational discord that divides mankind.
Yes, God had a mysterious plan or “secret” but He does not want it to be a secret anymore. Paul says in verse 9 that the beautiful mystery of God’s plan should now be a splendid realization. He wrote that we are to “make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.”
The Church has the awesome responsibility to explain the mystery; to counter the evil of prejudice, marginalization, and racism that is so prevalent in modern society with love, acceptance, and harmony that comes from our unifying identity in Christ.