Everyone loves a mystery. We have mystery books and mystery movies. Everyone wants to know the answer to a mystery. Mysteries that go unsolved give cause for speculation and conjecture. Everyone wants the resolution to a mystery. God had a mystery also. For thousands of years God possessed a mystery that many longed to know but were unable to know because it had not been revealed to them. As we begin our study I want to give you an outline for our text. Paul is going to tell us how we can know the mystery (3:1-5), what is the mystery (3:6), the ministry of the mystery (3:7-9), and what is our purpose in relation to the mystery (3:10-13).
How To Know The Mystery (3:1-5)
Paul begins in Ephesians 3:1 to state a prayer on behalf of the Gentiles. But before he enters this prayer, he starts down another valuable road concerning this mystery. It seems that in verse 14 the apostle Paul returns to what he started in verse 1 as he restarts his prayer to God on their behalf. Rather, Paul says that the Ephesians know why he is doing what he is doing. You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me. Paul says that he was given the responsibility as a steward of the gospel of grace to extend the message of God. In the Colossian letter he describes this stewardship as making the gospel fully known. Now this message he calls a “mystery.” A mystery was made known to Paul by revelation. In verse 5 Paul says that this mystery was not revealed to people. No one else received this revelation of the mystery of the gospel. No one else was given this revealing from God. The mystery of the gospel was revealed to the holy apostles and prophets by the Holy Spirit. Please note this truth that the apostle Paul is declaring. God is not revealing the mystery of the gospel to humanity by directly speaking to them. God is not directly revealing his will to Christians. God revealed the mystery of the gospel through the Holy Spirit to the apostles and prophets. In fact, consider that this is what made one an apostle or prophet: receiving direct revelation from God.
So how are we to know what we must do? How are to learn the gospel? How can we know the mystery that God has finally revealed? Carefully read verse 4. “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ.” Paul says that you can have his mind (this is what the word “insight” is getting at). You can have the same knowledge as Paul. You can have the same mind as Paul concerning this mystery of the gospel. How? Paul says when you read his words. The Holy Spirit revealed the mystery of God to his apostles and prophets and when you read you also can understand the mystery. We must feel the weight of what Paul is saying. God is not revealing himself to you or to me. He already revealed himself to his apostles and prophets. Those apostles and prophets who received the stewardship of God’s grace wrote those words down so that all people for all generations could read and have the same insight into this revelation. Now go back to Ephesians 1:20 where Paul is praying that the Ephesians Christians would have a spirit of wisdom so that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened. How would this wisdom and enlightenment come? When you read with that spirit of discernment and wisdom you will have the eyes of your heart enlightened. This is why the writer of Hebrews could powerfully declare that the Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). These words will enlighten your heart and illumine your mind.
What Is The Mystery (3:6)
In verse 6 Paul explicitly declares what this mystery was that has now been revealed to the world through the apostles and prophets. The Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. The mystery is the message of the gospel. How would God save the world when there was only one chosen people, Israel, who had miserably failed in living by the glory of God? Ephesians 2:11-22 explained how God did it. Jesus would nullify the covenant of hostility that separated Jews and Gentiles and create a new body of people, so that all who belong to Jesus, regardless of race, would be reconciled to God and saved from their sins. Paul summed this mystery up in Colossians 1:27 — “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The good news of salvation and reconciliation was not revealed to humanity, but to God’s special servants which we can fully understand when we read what they wrote. This puts all people on an equal plane. No Christian is greater than another. What I am giving to you when I teach is not by special revelation by God but by diligently pouring over the Word of God and declaring to you what I have read. Read and you can understand the gospel. There is no other mechanism and there is no other way. If there is, then God foolishly wasted his time having the apostles and prophets write and preserve these words.
The Ministry of the Mystery (3:7-9)
The apostle Paul goes on to say that this is not a message they could sit on. They became stewards of the grace of God to preach. Paul does not describe his effort to preach to the world as a duty or chore. Paul calls this “the gift of God’s grace.” It was a gift of grace given to Paul to be able to share the gospel message to the Gentiles. This is not a task. This is a joy. It was an honor to Paul, an honor that he says he did not deserve. He calls himself the least of all God’s believers and unworthy to proclaim this mystery of grace. Notice what Paul is preaching. Paul called what he is writing down and preaching “the mystery of Christ” a couple verses ago. Now Paul calls this “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Paul says he is telling the world about the incomprehensible riches of Christ that has now been revealed. When you read what the apostles and prophets wrote, you can know the unsearchable riches of Christ! Now what is the purpose of all this? Are we to read the words of the Holy Spirit so that we can be smarter? Are we to read the words of the Holy Spirit so that we can have an extra jewel in our crown in heaven? Are we to read because God likes to give out homework? Does all of this terminate on us?
The Purpose of the Mystery (3:10-13)
Notice that verse 10 begins, “So that.” Paul now gives the reason for all of this. Paul is proclaiming and writing down the mystery of Christ, the gospel, the unsearchable riches of Christ, to the Gentiles “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” God has entrusted the gospel message of reconciliation to the apostles and prophets who wrote it all down so that we would understand when we read so that the church… The church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23). The church is not something that does not include you. Notice that Paul goes back to a corporate concept, not an individual concept. We, together as the body of believers, will do something. This mystery does not terminate on us. The gospel message of reconciliation was proclaimed so that each of us together as the body of Christ, the church, would display the manifold wisdom of God. We are displaying the staggering depth and vastness of God’s wisdom. What God did by his grace in reconciling us to himself was to display his wisdom to all creation, even the heavenly places. Did you notice that? This is so that the wisdom of God would be displayed “to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” We are displaying God’s vast wisdom to all creation, including the spiritual realm. God has revealed his will to change your life and reconcile you to him to display his own glory and wisdom to all creation. This was the eternal purpose of God accomplished through Jesus (3:11).
How can we display the wisdom of God to the rulers in the heavenly places? A transformed life that comes from faith in Jesus is certainly the starting point. We show the wisdom of God when we renounced the wicked ways of the world and strive to avoid sinful living. We show the wisdom of God to the creation when we love others as God has called us. God revealed his will to us by the Holy Spirit through the apostles and prophets so that we would display his wisdom. This is our purpose. When we read his words, we are to become so different that it shows God’s wisdom to creation. When we remain unchanged and do not desire worship and do not desire holiness and do not desire fellowship, then God’s wisdom is not on display. In fact, such actions blaspheme God’s wisdom. Therefore:
- You can know the mystery of Christ, the gospel message of reconciliation. Desire to learn the message. Desire to know it because it was not clear before God revealed it to his apostles and prophets. To know God does not mean looking for some kind of miraculous experience. God told you how you can know what was revealed to the apostles: read what the apostles and prophets wrote. God’s grace has allowed us to be full citizens in God’s kingdom and full family members in God’s house. We must want to know more about what this means for our lives.
- God revealed his mystery of the gospel so that together we would display his wisdom. Our lives must be changed individually and our lives must be radically altered for fellowship and love for each other. We must show we are body of Christ to the world and to the heavenly places so that they become in awe of the wisdom of God.
- Don’t lose heart. Don’t let your suffering or the suffering others stop you from fulfilling your purpose to display God’s wisdom. Not sure you can perform your purpose? Look at verse 12. “In Christ we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.” We have boldness and access to the throne to ask for strength and help for transformation by God’s grace. God’s wisdom is shown when God takes our sinful, weak hearts and turns us into strong followers of Jesus by faith. God is glorified when he takes our wrecked lives and shows his glory through us.