Today, we continue in Ephesians chapter 3 with verses 1-13. Paul uses words such as mystery and secret to explain the revelations Jesus gave him and gives us. They are not secret from us, they are not mysterious to the children of God who ask to know Him; they are mysterious to the world who cannot know Him, who do not see, and who are unable to hear Him. Verses 1-6 read,
For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Paul did not keep his astounding calling and appointment a secret. His testimony was miraculous. Several places in scripture indicate that Paul had told people of the miraculous way he was called and discipled and of the astonishing things God had shown him. We’ve read about how Jesus Himself called him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19). We’ve seen the references to Paul’s visions of Heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2-4) and here Paul refers to how the Holy Spirit had taught him supernaturally all the wonderful truth of Jesus that the scriptures hold, that Jesus is in every part of what we call the Old Testament, the history, laws, prophecies, and poems. For about 13 years Paul studied and Jesus showed Himself to Paul and the Holy Spirit made him into a new man, no longer Saul the Pharisee of Pharisees, persecutor of the church, and zealot for the law, but Paul the apostle, the missionary, the man zealous for Jesus and who loved people as Jesus had loved him.
Paul was writing to explain this mystery of Christ, this enigma which is written in the scriptures, which was known by Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Isaiah, and the other prophets. It was not understood by most of Israel, certainly not by the majority of the world, but now it is clear to anyone who will come to know the Father through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. The great secret is this, that God loves both Jew and Gentile alike, that Jesus did not come to save only Israel but all people. That all of us can together be united in Christ and enjoy the same inheritance. That the Jewish people are not the only one chosen people.
For every part of the life of a Jewish person, they learn they are God’s treasured possession, the chosen people, that it is they who have been given the way to worship, the right to worship, and privilege to worship God. This gives Jewish people a special identity, a pride, and a culture. God is theirs and they are God’s. And so for them to have their eyes opened to the fact that God is also for the Gentile, the others, the ones who persecuted them and the ones who did not get circumcised or follow the Law or even learn the law was no small thing! Imagine it from the side of the Gentiles who had not spent a lifetime learning about the One True God, who had not once participated in the feasts, and who had never heard of the Ten Commandments much less followed any of the Levitical laws. Salvation was for them too! Jesus is for every single one who will call on His name, not only for the elite few. In Jesus we are the elect, we are chosen. Peter wrote this to us in 1 Peter 2:9-10
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
While God had always told Israel that He would include all nations in His promise, most had not accepted the truth of Salvation as a gift of grace by faith. They were as blind to the truth as the Gentiles were. Isaiah 42:16 says this about Jesus,
And I will lead the blind
in a way that they do not know,
in paths that they have not known
I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do,
and I do not forsake them.
And Isaiah 9:1-3 reads,
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
2 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
3 You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
And in case you do not see that this passage is about Jesus, let me the scriptures show you. It comes just before the well-known messianic prophecy we sing every Christmas and use to praise Jesus with often, Isaiah 9:6-7.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Believer, you and I whether Jewish or not are His chosen people, His kingdom, His nation, His. That is the mystery that so many cannot grasp. They simply cannot understand the simplicity of “God loves you so much that He gave His only Son Jesus to be make the way for you to be His son as well.” We think we must pay a price, be a certain way, follow rules, or spill our blood. We cannot fathom that we only have to believe Jesus is Christ and confess that He is Lord (Romans 10:9).
Ephesians 3 continues with verses 7-13.
Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
Paul was given the special job of giving this great news to everyone. He taught the Jews that God’s tremendous grace was for them as well as the Gentiles and he told the Gentiles that Jesus had come to bring them to God. That ministry was not just for Paul, it was for all the apostles, it is for all believers today. We are called as verse 9 says “and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things.” How can I say that Paul’s ministry is also our ministry? Because Paul wrote it in verse 10, “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” It is through the church that this manifold or multi-layered wisdom will be made known to everyone. This is a mystery which is not meant to remain a mystery. It is a mystery to many simply because the light has not shown on it and revealed the truth to them.
We, the church are to bring the light. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Jesus said that about Himself with The Father as His witness. And look what He said to you and me! “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
This wonderful mystery is ours to share and everything we do, how we handle life’s circumstances, how we endure suffering, how we enjoy blessings and use gifts are all a testimony to Jesus. It is us shining His light into the dark so that they will see the greatness and goodness of the Father. Paul was in prison, yet it was he encouraging people not to lose heart. He didn’t give up hope; he spent time with God in the throne room. Being in prison gave Paul time to spend with God and I imagine that it had to remind him of those thirteen years when he and God fellowshipped together as Jesus revealed Himself and the Holy Spirit transformed him from Saul to Paul. He did not stop spending time with the Lord, Paul continued to spend that time with God and in verse 10, he reminded the readers of the letter that we too can come fearlessly right into God’s presence through our faith in Him.
Believer, the truth is so simple and so plain that it is an inscrutable and unfathomable concept to the world. But Jesus is the Light who will make the Father known to them and we are the light who can shine God’s love on them.