The verses we are looking at for the next couple of days are another one of Paul’s blessed digressions. It is his style of writing, his way of making sure we understand the past, present, and future aspects of our relationship with Christ. It is the Holy Spirit’s way of taking nothing for granted and making sure each of us is fully equipped with what we need to know about His church. Let me show you how this works.
Paul ends Ephesians 2 by describing who we are in Christ as fellow citizens, saints, and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:19). He then goes on to say the church, now revealed to be made of both Jews and Gentiles, is like a temple of God built on the foundation of Christ and each of us, regardless of our backgrounds, are perfectly “fitted together” into a growing entity for a “dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:20-22). This is an amazing revelation about His church. And it seems natural, after making this proclamation, that Paul would continue in prayer as he does in Ephesians 3:14:
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:14-19).
But he doesn’t. He can’t. Why? Because there is still more to be said about this great “mystery” he only spoke about briefly in Ephesians 1:9-10.
Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth— in Him (Eph. 1:9-10).
Paul knew, through the Holy Spirit, he needed to spend more time letting the church at Ephesus, and each of us today, know about this great “mystery” we call the church and God’s design behind its creation. Hence, we have the wonderful and blessed digression of Paul in Ephesians 3:2-13.
The Church— the Great Mystery
What is this mystery? And what does the word “mystery” mean?
The word “mystery” is used four times in this chapter alone and, therefore, seems to be an extremely important concept for believers to understand. The Greek word translated “mystery” is mustḗrion and means “something hidden or not fully manifest.” But you must understand the original use of this word in order to grasp what the passage is saying. In contemporary English, we use the word mystery to speak of something unknown or something unknowable. “I don’t know how that happened. It is a mystery to me.” But in New Testament times the Greek word refers to something that is known or knowable but not to everyone. It is some truth or knowledge known only to the initiate, or only to those it was meant to be revealed. When the word is used in Ephesians, it is meant to describe something that was unknown before Christ came, but is now fully revealed. It is a mystery to some, but to us, the church, it is revealed truth given to us at this time.
We will speak more about this word tomorrow, but for now, let’s close by looking at how mustḗrion is used in Ephesians. Hopefully, this will give you a deeper appreciation for the digression of Paul (Eph. 3:2-13).
Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself – Ephesians 1:9.
How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) – Ephesians 3:3-4.
And to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ – Ephesians 3:9.
This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church – Ephesians 5:32.
Time to Pray
There is much about the Christian life that is a mystery. And God’s ways and His wisdom are called a mystery to those who don’t understand, to those who are outside of the family of faith.
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory – 1 Corinthians 2:7-8.
But for you and me, they are not a mystery. We have been granted, by grace alone, the privilege of having these truths revealed to us through the Spirit of God.
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God – 1 Corinthians 2:9-10.
So what do you lack in Him? Nothing. What do you not know or what knowledge is being deliberately kept from you by God? Nothing. And where do you find your source of belonging and illumination in the things of God? Exactly, through the Spirit who dwells in you. The only thing holding you back from being all that God wants you to be, is you.
When you pray today, remember what you already have in Christ and thank Him for it. And do not fret about what you think you don’t have. After all, you are complete, not in yourself, but in Him (Col. 2:9-10).