the mystery of God revealed

Have you ever been a part of a really good mystery or very important secret? People love mysteries and secrets. We watch shows like CSI, NCIS, NYPD Blue, Unsolved Mysteries, Fringe and X-files on the edge of our seats. My wife can figure it out in a matter of minutes, while I am still scratching my head for hours afterwards. Today is a mysteriously unique day. It is the 10th day of the 10th month of the 10th year of the millennium. Never will this day happen again. Some think today could be the end of the world, as we know it. Spooky, isn’t it?

In Ephesians 3, Paul takes part in the greatest mystery unveiling known to mankind. In fact, you have a part to play in the global scale mystery too. God has been waiting to reveal His divine plan and this passage shows us the main point of God’s purposes in history, which has already been revealed.

The Mystery Hidden for Ages has been Revealed to You [Ephesians 3:1-6]

Like a lid opening on a treasure chest hidden for centuries, Paul shares the secret news of God that has been hidden for many generations [Romans 16:25; Colossians 1:24-28]. Paul came to know this mystery through the revelation of God [v.3-5; cf. 1:8-10], and it had to do with Jesus [v.4].

The mystery hidden for ages in a nutshell [v.6], “is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” The mystery hidden in God is that the gospel is for the Gentiles too. This news is huge. According to the Ephesians 2:11-12, Gentiles were once outside the redemptive purposes of God. The gospel was first promised to the Jews only, but in God’s plan for history it included all nations [Romans 1:16; 2:29; 4:16; 8:17]. Prior to the cross, Gentiles were welcomed into God’s plan only by becoming a circumcised Jews, but in Christ, Gentiles can inherit the same promises given to Abraham [Galatians 3:29; Genesis 12:2-3], become members of the same body [cf. 2:13-16], and be partakers of the promise [1:13; 2:12].

The Mystery is Spreads Globally through His People [Ephesians 3:7-12]

If we are to mimic Paul in spreading the good news it is important to observe how he was motivated to his core by the gospel. First, he refers to himself as “a prisoner for Christ on behalf of the Gentiles.” [v.1; cf. Philippians 1:12-17] We are certain Paul is in Rome, which would mean he was a prisoner of Nero and the Empire, but he only acknowledges being a prisoner of Christ. The reason for his imprisonment is preaching about Christ. You would think the gospel would be on pause while Paul was in prison rather it was spreading rapidly.

Second, he realizes he is a steward of the gospel [v.2]. Paul is entrusted with the mystery as an apostle [1 Corinthians 4:1; 9:17];[1] and is committed completely to the cause of the gospel of Christ.Third, he is humbled by the gospel, “I am the very least of all the saints.” [v.8]. Paul regarded the stewardship of the gospel to the Gentiles as the highest honor. He was humbled that God would use sinful people to display His glorious message. Throughout his life and ministry the gospel never became an old-hat, but it was a vital part of his message and relationship with God.

Paul had a hard time keeping the gospel a secret. Paul says, “Of this gospel I was made a minister.” [v.7] There are two ways that Paul spreads the gospel message: First, Paul spread the gospel by preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ [v.8-9; cf. 2:7]. Paul is passionate up about telling everyone [Gentiles] the gospel.[2] Can you hear him? “You are included in the promises of God. Come to Christ. Turn from your sin and embrace Him.” It is as if he is Publishers Clearing House telling everyone they have won the richest prize known to man and they don’t have to gamble their lives away anymore on silly rubbish.

Second, Paul spread the gospel by making known the manifold wisdom of God through the church [v.10]. Manifold [πολυποίκιλος] means “many colorful layers” and it specifically is used to describe God’s wisdom [cf. Romans 11:33]. In other words, God’s wisdom is not like a color-by-number painting, but a priceless masterpiece of magnificent detail, texture, colors, and layers. It is a portrait that has been worked on for eternity and through the church it continues to display more and more of the wisdom of God.

People are not the only ones who take note of the gospel message. Angels and spiritual powers also marvel at the church and see the wisdom of God [v.11]. You are a participant in God’s divine drama displaying His rich glory to a celestial audience. Angels learn about grace, redemption, the character and purposes of God through men. Therefore a promise is given: you can boldly share the gospel without being hindered by evil spiritual powers [v.12; cf. 6:19-20]. This is quite encouraging since a normal response to the gospel is rejection and ridicule.

For the Sake of Christ, it is worth being spent for Mystery to be Spread [Ephesians 3:13]

The ridicule and rejection that is a response to the gospel is the reason why Paul writes in chains, “So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.” [v.13] Suffering is a normal part of being a committed follower of Christ. Does that surprise you? Paul was forewarned of his suffering even before coming a follower [cf. Acts 9:16]. The New Testament is full of promises that suffering comes when you share the gospel,[3] and Paul also shares specifically how he has suffered for the sake of the gospel,

I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather. And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut.[4]

Paul certainly had been through the ringer for following Christ. For the gospel, Paul says, “I will gladly spend and be spent,” [2 Corinthians 12:15] be “poured out as a drink offering” [2 Timothy 4:6], and “Whether I live or die it is gain for the sake of Christ,” [Philippians 1:21] Paul was committed in life or death for the cause of Christ and making the gospel known. The questions stands: are you?

[1] Thomas Schreiner. Paul: Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ. IVP Books. Downers Grove, IL. 2001. 57-60.

[2] 1 Corinthians 15:1; 2 Corinthians 11:7; Galatians 1:11, 23; Romans 10:15; 2 Timothy 1:10

[3] Matthew 13:21; 24:9; John 16:33; Acts 14:22; Romans 8:17-18; 2 Corinthians 1:4; Philippians 1:29; 3:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:4; 2 Timothy 2:10; 3:12; Hebrews 10:32-33; 1 Peter 2:19-21

[4] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 2002), 2 Corinthians 11:23–29.