…to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, Eph. 3:6 NASB
A lot of things about life are full of mysteries. Some mysteries are profound. Like how the sea is strangely married to the moon controlling the tides. Another great mystery is how the planets never skip a revolution around the sun. Time is consistent 24 hours a day. Some are not so profound but are just as baffling and sometimes even humorous. In every home is the mystery of the washing machine. What happens to the twelve perfectly matched pairs of socks you KNOW you put in the machine when all you can find is eight matched pairs? Somewhere between the washing machine and the dryer is the Land of the Lost Socks. Where it is no one really knows. It cannot be seen by your natural eyes.
Many people are intrigued by mysteries. In fact, one study showed that the mystery genre is what Americans read most, accounting for 17% of all books sold. Most people look at a mystery as something that is difficult to explain or understand. They are often stories where a problem, crime, or puzzle must be solved. Mysteries often contain secrets or hidden qualities that must be also be solved. There may be information that is unknown and must be explained. Professional detectives and sleuths seek out clues to solve mysteries. To solve a mystery, people must use their skills at deductive reasoning.
In Webster’s dictionary a mystery is defined as “a religious truth known by revelation alone; something not understood or beyond understanding; a work of fiction dealing with the solution of a mysterious crime.” What I find fascinating is that in the dictionary the number one definition of a mystery is “a religious truth known by revelation alone.” The word “mystery” actually appears in the New Testament and fits Webster’s definition of a “religious truth known by revelation alone.” Whatever we learn about this mystery can only be known because God reveals it to us.
In Ephesians 3:1-13, Paul uses the word “mystery” three times. Paul really wanted to make sure his readers understood what he was talking about before he moved on to something else. In the previous section, verses 11-22, Paul discussed the fact that God broke down every barrier that separated us from Him and each other. Not only did God break down the wall, He united every believer, Jew and Gentile alike, into one body and called them the church. How God could take Jews and Gentiles from every walk of life and unite them into one body was a complete mystery. Paul wanted his readers to have a greater understanding of what it means to be united into one body.
God uses the mystery of the church to reveal and proclaim His glory. The concept of Jews being united with Gentiles was revolutionary in Paul’s day. The Old Testament does speak of Gentiles being blessed by God, receiving the Holy Spirit, and being saved by the Messiah. But to put them in the same body with Jews was equivalent with saying that lepers were not to be isolated and were free to intermingle as normal members of society. All believers share the same status with God. Being fellow heirs means that Gentiles and Jews share the same legal status of being God’s chosen people. Being fellow members links us together in life with all those who claim Christ. There are no second class citizens in God’s kingdom. We are not distant relatives twice removed. All those who claim Christ as their Savior are positionally in the same perfect and new society. For this unity to be lived out practically, every Christian must realize this and make an active choice to think about and treat each other as equals. The mystery of the church teaches us that we should be working together for the cause of Christ instead of attacking each other for the cause of self.
Paul’s mission was to bring to light how this unity in Christ affected the way he lived on a daily basis and how he ministered to other believers. He dedicated his life to fulfilling God’s calling to proclaim reconciliation to all. Paul recognized that every believer was to proclaim that truth. He understood that God was the one who called him and gave him his marching orders. Nothing about Paul qualified him to be a minister of God’s grace. Same is true of us. It is all about God. All we have is a gift from God as a result of His grace. Paul had such a clear understanding of God. He had a clear understanding of how far short of God’s standard he had fallen. To the end of his life, Paul never became proud of all “he had accomplished”. Instead he continued to be overwhelmed by his sin and sense of unworthiness. That is the key to being used so greatly by God. Until we comprehend all that God has accomplished on our behalf, we will struggle to live in obedience. How have God’s riches changed you?
One of the ways God’s riches can change us is in our response to suffering. Don’t lose heart when you suffer for him. You have the privilege of direct access to God through faith. Under the Old Testament economy only the High Priest had direct access to God. Under the economy of grace, every believer has direct access. You can come to God at any time in any place. You can come in faith with boldness (not flippantly or irreverently) and confidence. Don’t grieve over your circumstances or the circumstances of other believers because you KNOW that God is working everything for His glory and your goodness. Your access to God means He is with you in your trial.
Don’t hoard the riches. God made you a part of the church, His body, so you could proclaim His greatness. Don’t be content to sit on the sidelines and not participate in ministry. God has called and equipped every believer to proclaim His life changing message. Keep your head up. We are all in this together. When you or other believers suffer for the cause of Christ, rejoice knowing that God uses the suffering to bring others to Him or to help other believers glorify Him. Your position in Christ has secured your blessing and riches. If you handle suffering the way God desires, your life will be a testimony to others of the goodness and grace of God. It is at that point, you have the greatest opportunity to see them come to Christ.
The mystery of the church is God’s illustration to the angels of his multifaceted wisdom. What picture do they see from watching you?