“That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
The Gracious Revelation Of His Mystery: Ephesians 3:1-13
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
In this section of Scripture we will be looking at God’s grace being shown to us in the form of a “mystery”. What does the word mystery mean in the context of this study? The Greek word translated “mystery” literally means “to shut the mouth”, in other words “to remain unrevealed”. We will see this mystery will be revealed to God’s people while yet remaining unrevealed to the lost world.
What is this mystery being talked about? It is the inclusion of the Gentiles as recipients of the gracious salvation of the Lord. It is the Gentiles being put on the same spiritual footing as the Jew, receiving God’s gift of repentance and faith, His forgiveness, His indwelling Spirit, His worship and His eternal inheritance, among many other gifts of grace. It involves the Gentiles being included into the institutions of the Lord (His family, His nation, and His local church).
Our study of the “mystery of Christ” will teach us two different aspects of God’s gracious intervention on our behalf:
1. We will see that, the Gentiles inclusion in the Lord’s work of salvation is an act of God’s grace,
2. but also revealing this mystery to God’s people is another aspect of this display of divine grace.
A very basic outline of this section of Scripture:
I. The revelation of this mystery to Paul – 1-3a
II. The revelation of this mystery to the Ephesians (and us) – 3b-6
III. The calling of Paul to minister this mystery to others – 7-11
IV. The enabling of Paul to minister this mystery in the midst of persecutions – 12-13
In our text today, Paul describes how the “mystery of Christ” was revealed to the Ephesians (and by extension, to us also)…
(Ephesians 3:3-5) How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
Paul now describes for us the manner in which the Lord has revealed this great mystery to His people…
How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery;
The Apostle Paul received an understanding of this mystery through divine revelation. In other words, it was the Lord who, personally, that “took the cover off” of his mystery, which resulted in Paul becoming aware and fully understanding of this mystery (Acts 9:10-17, Galatians 1:11-17).
(as I wrote afore in few words,
Paul had written to them about this same mystery in the previous two chapters of this book. In them he had explained the gracious nature of salvation and the fact that, by grace, this salvation had become available to Gentiles as well as Jews. He went further and explained how Gentiles were now graciously given access to the Lord’s three institutions (the family of God, the nation of God, and the local assemblies of God).
Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
Paul knew that the Ephesians, based upon the previous two chapters, were now coming to an understanding of this mystery and coming to an acceptance of Paul’s extensive knowledge on this subject.
Please take note that Paul was actually fulfilling his calling by writing about this mystery of God within the pages of Ephesians. This would be one way that he reveal to the Gentile believers this mystery. This, in turn, allowed them to come to a fuller understanding of their graced standing before the Lord as equals with Jewish believers.
Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men,
Previous to the Lord’s first coming to the earth, the truth about Gentile access to salvation and acceptance by God was not clearly understood among God’s people, although there were Gentile believers in the Old Testament…:
1. Everyone saved before the establishment of the nation of Israel (Gen 1:-11:),
2. Inhabitants of Nineveh under the ministry of Jonah (Jonah 3:)
3. Rahab the harlot (Hebs 11:31)
4. King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:)
5. Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5:)
6. Ruth the Moabitess (Ruth)
7. Perhaps others
Also, it is also important to remember that even the some of the Old Testament prophets had received a glimpse of Gentile acceptance by God (Gen 17:7; Isaiah 42:1,6, 49:6, 55:5-6 56:8; Hosea 2:23; etc) .
In spite of all of this, Gentiles were still, in many ways, excluded from acceptance in the worship and service of Jehovah. It was only following Christ’s coming to the earth, His teachings, His work and His use of the Apostle Paul, that the inclusion of the Gentile believers became more fully grasped and accepted. This is Paul’s meaning when he says that this mystery “in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men”
as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
“Now”, in other words “in Paul’s day”, the Lord revealed His mystery to the apostles and prophets. It was revealed through the Spirit’s intervention in the lives of these people opening their eyes to the truths of the Lord (including the truth of Gentile acceptance).
Keep in mind the term “prophet” helps us to understand that along with the Apostles, the New Testament prophets of the Lord had knowledge of this mystery as well (Eph 4:11, Rom 12:6, 1 Corinthians 14:1-3).
In both the Old and New Testament writings we find examples and inspired revelation of the truth that Gentiles are accepted by God through His grace and mercy. However, it was only in the times following Christ and the ministry of the Apostles and NT Prophets that Gentile acceptance became clearly understood by a majority of God’s people.
May we all praise and honor our Lord for showing His grace to the Gentile peoples throughout history. What a wonderful blessing it is to know that, as Gentiles, we are “accepted in the beloved” just as the Jew. What a greater blessing of grace it is to live in a time when these truths of God are more fully understood, accepted and proclaimed. We certainly are a graced generation!
May we all get a clearer picture of our Lord and Savior, and the great grace He has shown to us. Let us be always watchful to keep His great acts of grace on our behalf in the center of our attention… In doing so, may we be motivated to LOVE Him more, APPRECIATE Him more and SERVE Him more!
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