The revealed mystery
Lesson Text: Ephesians 3:1-11
Preached in Quabbin Valley on 2/15/09
When you hear the word “Mystery” what comes to mind? You might think about something that just doesn’t make any logical sense or you can’t figure out something.
There is a story told of a “mystery boy”.
Mystery Boy Came In From The Cold
A singular mystery began with the discovery of a youth lying unconscious on the beach near Meteghan, Nova Scotia, in 1860. Both of his legs were amputated above the knee and the stumps were skillfully bandaged. The lad was about 20, well-groomed, wore an expensive suit from which the labels had been removed, and his only possessions were a bottle of water and a bag of biscuits. Besides being a total stranger, he was—or pretended to be—deaf, dumb and unable to read or write.
Being unclaimed and helpless, Jerome, as he came to be called, was cared for by one Meteghan family after another until his death in 1912. As he did not speak or write a word during his 52 years among them, the villagers never learned who he was, whether he was acting or how he, far from home and unable to walk at the time, happened to be found on their beach.
Now that is a mystery, here is a story that is not fully understood and it baffles or eludes our understanding.
Paul tells us of a mystery hidden from generations past but now made known to the Apostles and prophets. But unlike the mystery of the boy found with no legs on the beach this is not something that we cannot understand this is rather a secret kept in the mind of God. So there is a difference between what we call a mystery that cannot be understood, some like to say things like “God works in mysterious ways” and they mean that we can’t understand how God works. The mystery that Paul is talking about is something hidden or kept secret for a time.
1) The mystery kept hidden
a. There were many things that were proclaimed in the Old Testament in types and shadows and prophetic visions and some people may have the idea that this mystery is that the Gentiles will be blessed in the future but that is not the mystery. The Gentiles were always going to receive blessings from God.
i. God spoke to Abraham in Genesis
1. Genesis 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Gen 12:3 ESV)
2. Genesis 18:18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? (Gen 18:18 ESV)
b. God has always taught that the Gentiles, that all nations will be blessed through the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) and through the seed of Abraham, this is the same seed that is being talked about. But even though we were told that the Gentiles will be blessed there was a mystery and in Romans Paul talks about this mystery.
i. Romans 16:25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages (Rom 16:25 ESV)
ii. Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations... (Col 1:24 ESV)
c. So what is this mystery and was it revealed?
2) The mystery revealed
a. Jesus said to his disciples:
i. Matthew 13:17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. (Mat 13:17 ESV)
b. You see Jesus was that final fulfillment of all the prophecies and types in the Old Testament but was also “revealing” things that many righteous people from the past longed to see and hear but didn’t.
c. Paul tells us in this passage the mystery has been revealed to him by a direct revelation from God but that it was also made known to the other Apostles and prophets.
i. Jesus said he would send another to remind them of all things.
ii. John 15:26 "But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. (Joh 15:26 ESV)
iii. John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (Joh 16:13 ESV)
d. The mystery was revealed to the apostles and prophets of Christ by the Holy Spirit. But not only did they get this mystery revealed; we have it revealed to us as well through what they wrote down. Paul says:
i. Ephesians 3:4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, (Eph 3:4 ESV)
e. The good news is that we are not left in the dark, the mystery has been revealed, we know the mystery and so it is no longer a mystery.
3) What the mystery is?
a. It is that the Gentiles are heirs with the Jews and are members of one body together with the Jews. We are heirs with the Jews without becoming Jews and without the Law of Moses. If a person in times past wanted to receive the blessings of God and become part of his people they needed to become a proselyte, that is become a Jew as much as one who was not born Jewish could. Follow circumcision and the law; keep certain rituals and festival, ect. But now in Jesus there is no nationality needed to receive the inheritance or the blessings or to become a child of God. That is part of the revealed mystery.
b. Not only that but we, both Jew and Gentile are brought together in one body. There are not two peoples of God with two covenants and two inheritances or two different promises but one.
c. We are all made one in Christ, this is the mystery revealed, no longer a mystery.
i. Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28 ESV)
ii. Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands-- 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph 2:11 ESV)
We were told that there was a mystery at one time, a secret in times past but that secret has been made known to us by the apostles and prophets of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
There are no mysteries of God’s plan of salvation we don’t need any secret knowledge to get into heaven. Don’t ever be fooled by anyone who might come along and tell you that you need them to make known to you some mystery of God and you need to follow them or you need to buy their tape or DVD series in order to unlock the mystery of this of that all we need is written in God’s word and Jesus is his name.
The mystery has been revealed and his name is Jesus the Christ, which includes the gospel, the good news and we have it written down for us and Paul says we can understand his insights into the mystery when we read his words.
Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.