Hello and thank you for reading.! Remember where we left off from last time?
One obvious keyword in this discussion is “mystery.” What does it mean? What did it mean to Paul and the recipients of this letter? Paul uses it quite differently, as “the private counsel of God, (God’s) secret,” which is hidden from human reason and ingenuity, and can only be known by revelation. Paul is talking about a secret, hidden for the ages and only now ready to be revealed.
Paul tells us that he has been particularly chosen for this mission of revealing God’s hidden secret. He makes it a point that it isn’t his idea or his discovery or something he figured out, but that “the mystery was made known to me by revelation” (Ephesians 3:3), that is, that God revealed it to him.
Christianity is not a religion that men figured out or inferred. It comes to us by revelation, that is, God revealed it directly to us through inspired writers of Scripture, the “holy apostles and prophets.” Okay, but what is this mystery Paul is talking about? “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.” (3:6)
That’s it! Gentiles are equally the people of God with God’s chosen people, the Jews. That may not be a revelation to you, but it sure was an eye-opener to the early Jewish believers, and to the Gentile believers.
Now Paul comes to the Church’s place in all this: “His intent was 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 which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (3:10-11)
The church is the agent of making known God’s wisdom. But our audience in declaring the Gospel is not only mankind who are lost. But it is also the evil spiritual powers that have usurped God’s authority here on earth. Why it is important that we proclaim the Good News in their hearing, we don’t really know. But Paul is clearly saying that the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel is not merely local and temporal, but cosmic in its importance.
Paul has been assuring the Gentile Christians of their full status and full citizenship in the Kingdom of God. On the basis of that status, he encourages them to draw near to God: “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”
The Apostle Paul reveals to the church one of the greatest revelations of God, the secret that the love and mercy of God was not just for the Jews, but for all mankind, that God was reaching out the Gentiles, the pagans of the world with the message of hope through Jesus Christ.
This seems rather academic to us today, but in Paul’s day this was the issue! It was almost inconceivable to the Jews that Gentiles would be allowed to join them in sacred worship of Jehovah…much less any kind of fellowship.
Imagine what would happen if a large group of Jehovah’s Witnesses were brought into your congregation and allowed to be trustees and teachers and elders…and that we were to fellowship together with them! This is exactly what the Jews were experiencing. This prospect of Gentiles being accepted by God was repugnant to them and was partly responsible for keeping many Jews from embracing Christianity. However, this was just as hard for Jewish Christians to accept! That is why we are told that they were placing strict rules on their fellowship like requiring that they be circumcised, and eat certain foods. Let me ask you this, “What kinds of things do we impose on those whom we will accept into our fellowship?
The mystery is important to Paul, it is important to the Gentiles, and it…was important to the angels. Verses 9-10. 9 “and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” How do you feel about that?
Did you know that God is educating the angels through the church? Angels are created beings just like we are. 1 Peter 1:10-12 tells us; “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”
Even the angels are curious about God’s plans because there are parts of what God is doing which are not revealed to them just as they are not revealed to us. God’s plan concerning the church was hidden in the beginning. Now Paul is making it known and with that knowledge comes responsibility. I cannot even begin to explain the spiritual realm of things that are all around us! I simply believe it, because God’s Word says it exists; and I can see its effects on people… To that extent, if angels are watching and learning from the church, how are we doing? What impression is the church giving?