Yesterday we were introduced to the Greek word “mystery” mustḗrion and how its use in the New Testament is different than what it means in contemporary English. For us today, mystery means something not known or unknowable. But in the Greek, where it is used in these passages, it means something that is known or knowable but not to everyone. It is knowledge or truth that is known only to those who it was meant to be revealed. Not to everyone, but to the elect.
But there is more we can learn about this mystery.
When Paul speaks of both Jews and Gentiles being created into one new people, the church, he is revealing something given to him “by revelation” (Eph. 3:3) that will allow us to understand his “knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3:4). And this revealed knowledge has been, in other ages, hidden from “the sons of men” but is now “revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Eph. 3:5) and, as such, it is now being communicated to us.
What is this incredible mystery? You got it. That “the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6).
Let’s look at the first promise: fellow heirs. Being a “fellow heir” means the Gentiles are now heirs with Israel and equal beneficiaries of all of God’s blessings a person receives, and will receive, in salvation. There is no longer any distinction in the eyes of God. Both groups, Jews and Gentiles, are now melded into one body by the new birth and “fellow heirs” of all that God has for His children. Can you imagine what that must be?
And again, since most of us are Gentiles, this mystery is the key to unlock our “acceptance in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). And now, since it has been revealed to us, it should bring us to our knees in praise to our Father who planned our reconciliation from the beginning.
One more point before we go to the Lord in prayer. In the Old Testament, there were many clues to this mystery. We see one in God’s promise given to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 where God says, “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” The phrase “all the families of the earth” would naturally include both Jews and Gentiles. But for centuries the Jews believed this could only be accomplished by Gentiles first becoming Jewish proselytes. In other words, a Gentile could approach God, but only after first becoming a Jew. This led to arrogance and a perceived Jewish monopoly on God’s grace. But that wasn’t God’s plan. He had something much better, a mystery to them but now a truth revealed to us.
Time to Pray
It addition to thanking God for allowing you, as a Gentile, into His Kingdom with full standing as a son, you might also want to think about other mysteries of His character He wants to reveal to you. God’s wisdom is inexhaustible and I personally believe one of our greatest joys will be spending much of eternity learning more about Him. Are there things about God you don’t know? Are they a mystery to you? If so, that means these mysteries are knowable and known to those He chooses to reveal them. And that person, according to Scripture, is you.
Remember, the only difference between the intimacy we have with the Lord compared with the spiritual lives of Paul, James and John, Peter, or even Billy Graham, is the time we spend with the Lord compared to the time they spent with Him. Nothing more. God does not show partiality and He does not like one of His children more than another (Acts 10:34). So the only thing holding us back from the relationship with God we always thought possible, but just seemed out of reach, is the time we spend with Him. And that is something that can change. Right now. Today.
This Sunday morning we will be looking at what it means to surrender your life to the Lord. But, more than just trying to understand what the concept of total surrender means, we will ask the “how” questions in order to learn specifically how to submit and surrender and receive the promise such actions hold. We will take a step-by-step approach to this all-important subject and, hopefully, learn some tools we can apply to other promises in the Scriptures.
I am looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.
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).
Sometimes, in the smallest of words, the Lord can show a picture of His love in ways we may have overlooked or taken for granted in the past. I see one of these in the verse we are using to focus our prayers today. It is Ephesians 3:1 which reads:
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles – Ephesians 3:1.
As we discovered yesterday, Paul considered himself a prisoner of the Lord and not of Rome or the Jews or even Caesar himself. He was totally committed to his Lord and gladly accepted his imprisonment. Why? Because Paul’s God is absolutely supreme and sovereign. Therefore, it follows that God could change Paul’s situation at any time, if He so desired. But since He hasn’t, then this imprisonment must be His will for Paul at this point in his life. And for us, who have the advantage of hindsight 20/20 wisdom, it was the perfect will of God to take Paul off the streets and put him in a cell where he could write many of his epistles for the glory of God.
Not For Me, But For You…
But today, we want to look at a picture of what true Christianity is all about. It is found in three small words, “for you Gentiles.” Paul is saying he is a prisoner of Christ Jesus and freely accepts that fate. But he continues to state the reason for his suffering and imprisonment. And that is “for you Gentiles”, for someone else, for the sake of the Gospel. Paul is saying he is suffering, not for what he did or to pay for his alleged crimes, but for the sake or benefit of people he has never met— “for you” Gentiles. Or, “for you” church in America. Or, “for you”… and put your name there.
“I am a prisoner for your sake,” he is saying. And he learned to live like this from Jesus.
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15). Did you catch that? Jesus lays down His own life for the sheep. His sheep. The church, the elect, the called-out ones, for you and me. He could also say it this way, “I lay down My life for you Gentiles.” Or for you Jews, you males, females, sinners, Democrats and Republicans, and Independents, for you who are rich or poor, young or old, blue-collar, white-collar, or no collar, it doesn’t matter. Jesus lays His life down for everyone who is called by His name.
Again, Jesus said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Jesus came to die, the just for the unjust, in order to reconcile sinful, fallen man with a Holy, Righteous, Perfect God (1 Pet. 3:18). He gave His life as a ransom… for you.
Finally, Jesus described the kind of love He has for us when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13) and then has the audacity to call each of us His friends (John 15:14). He was one who loved so great He would gladly lay down His life… for you. And that is exactly what Paul is saying in Ephesians 3:1.
Time to Pray
Who do you love that much? Who would you be willing to suffer like Jesus for? Or, who would you be willing to be imprisoned unjustly for? Your family? Maybe. Your friends? Probably not. Somebody you have never met? Never.
But Jesus did. And so did Paul and countless other saints over the centuries who have counted all things, even this life, as “rubbish, that they may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).
When you pray today, thank our Lord for what He has done in order to bring you to Himself. And then, if you dare, surrender all to Him by placing yourself on His altar as a “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). And watch what He is willing to do with the life you have placed in His hands.
Today we move on to a new section in Ephesians 2. Here we find Paul giving us still another example of who we are in Christ. We have learned we are “no longer strangers and foreigners” but are now “fellow citizens with the saints” and, if that wasn’t enough, we are also “members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:20). Next, the Lord shows us we belong to a grand temple, a “holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:21), which is the “dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22). This magnificent temple has its foundation built on the teaching and revelation of the apostles and prophets and the chief cornerstone is the Lord Himself (Eph. 2:20). This is who we are in Christ. Breathtaking, isn’t it?
As we pray today, let’s focus our prayers on the first phrase in Ephesians 2:20. This verse speaks of the household of God being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets yet it is in the past tense. It says:
Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone – Ephesians 2:20.
When we read this our attention naturally gravitates to the words “apostles and prophets” and to “Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone”. But if we’re not careful, we’ll miss the beginning of this verse and all that simple beginning conveys. There it says “having been built”. That’s past tense, something already done and established in the past. And from these three words, we can get much encouragement today in our prayers.
Having Been Built
There are some elements in our relationship with Christ that are clearly our responsibility. We have to act or meet some conditions to receive the promise or result. Or, we have to do the “if” (in an “if / then” promise) in order for God to do the “then”. One is conditioned upon another. For example, using the classic salvation verse of Romans 10:9, notice the “if / then” promise: “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and (if you) believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, (then) you will be saved.” The condition has to be met in order to receive the result. No confession and belief, no salvation. It’s really that simple. Most of the aspects of our salvation that are conditional usually have to do with sanctification, or how we live the life Christ has provided for us.
But there are other facets of our salvation in which we are passive recipients by grace. There is nothing we did in the past, nor need to do currently, to merit God’s actions. We see this truth in Ephesians 1:4-5 where God, on His own without our cooperation, “chose us in Him” and “predestined us to adoption as sons.” This is a reality God accomplished in the past that we reap benefit from in the present and for all eternity. This is also the same truth communicated by the phrase “having been”… something. It doesn’t matter what God did, we just know it has already been done and there is nothing we can do to enhance or negate God’s blessing.
Let’s close by looking at just a few of the other places in Ephesians where God has already done something for us, something He chose to do, without our cooperation or permission, that from our perspective is finished, complete, and unalterable. Be encouraged by these “having been” or “have been” acts towards us by our sovereign Father.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God – Ephesians 2:8. Done!
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ – Ephesians 2:13. Already done!
Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone – Ephesians 2:20. Already accomplished! Done!
Which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets – Ephesians 3:5. Already revealed! Finished and complete!
Get the point? And these are only a few verses in Ephesians. The totality of Scripture speaks volumes of what God has already done for you.
Time to Pray
When you pray today, remember the Lord wants you to abide in Him, to rest in Him (John 15:4). The work of salvation has already been done. It is over, finished, complete, and there is nothing you can do that will make God change His mind. In fact, Jesus said, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone (including you) snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28). So rest in the assurance your future is in good hands and rejoice in your Lord. The frantic days of working and striving for something that already belongs to you should end. Today is your Sabbath, your day of rest. So quit worrying. Relax. And enjoy your time with the Lord today.
We’ll talk again tomorrow.
There is one last point we need to discuss regarding being “members of the household of God” before we move on to Ephesians 1:20, and that is the unity and security that comes from being a member of a family. Our verse for today reads as follows:
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God – Ephesians 2:19.
Yesterday we looked at how someone actually becomes a member of God’s household and focused our prayer time on Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus as found in John 3. But today we want to examine the dynamics of being in a loving, functional family. Not the type of dysfunctional, narcissistic, and often abusive families many of us came from. But from the type of family God intended and designed. The type of family we would expect with God as the Father. Think about it.
Most families have members that don’t always agree or see things the same way. In fact, sometimes members of a family may have political or social views that are in stark contrast to each other which makes mealtimes and holidays something of an adventure. In addition, some families have siblings that often fight with each other, purposely irritate each other, and basically just get on each other’s nerves. That’s the nature of the family. Actually, it’s just human nature. In a family, we might have teenagers who are fighting for independence, pre-teens who are either goofy or moody or just plain loud and annoying, toddlers who want nothing but undivided attention, and parents who are just tired and don’t seem to have the time for each other, let alone this growing gang of children. In a functional family, often members are angry with each other and say things that are hurtful or cause pain. It happens.
Love and Protection
But the one thing a family shares together, the finite nonnegotiable responsibility of being in a family, is love and a common bond for the protection of each other.
When an outsider, a stranger, begins to pick on a family member, the other members rally around and protect each other. When someone tries to divide the family by choosing one member and excluding the others, a functional, loving family will see what is happening and always put family first. “Sorry, if you can’t invite my sister to your party, then I can’t come either.” Why? Because family comes first. Family bonds together. Family is forever. Family as a whole is more important than the wants of an individual member. Again, why? Because when the world turns against you (and it will) and all forsake you, who can you depend on for support and unconditional love? That’s right, your family. As the saying goes, “All for one, and one for all!” Sorry, I borrowed the Three Muskateer slogan. But it fits.
Remember, this type of family may not be the type of family you had growing up or have now, and you may have experienced your greatest hurt and rejection from members of your family. I know I have. And if that’s true of you, I am truly sorry. But that’s not the way God intended it to be.
God tells us we are “fellow citizens with the saints (holy ones) and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19). Or, to put it bluntly, we are family. We are siblings with other believers and we all have God as our Father. We are a family. And the Lord calls this family, the new breed of people, these called-out ones, His church.
When you pray for others in your church, you are praying for your family. You are praying for your brothers and sisters who all share a common heritage. We all have the same DNA. It’s called the Holy Spirit of promise who has “sealed” us and is “the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession” (Eph. 1:14). By the way, the “purchased possession” is you and me and other family members in the “household of God”.
Time to Pray
Before you pray today, spend some time forgiving those in the “household of God” who may have hurt you deeply. Forgive the elders, pastor, friends or fellow believers who may have caused you great pain. Turn all those feelings and fears over to the Lord. Don’t let a dysfunctional church family sour you on what church was meant to be. If you will remember, most of the references to saints in Ephesians deal with praying for the church to be all God intended it to be, a loving, thriving, insightful, powerful, functional family of God.
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints – Ephesians 1:18
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God – Ephesians 2:19.
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 – Ephesians 3:17-19.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ – Ephesians 4:11-12.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints – Ephesians 6:17-18.
Thank Him for creating the church and placing you in the midst of it. And remember, as a family, we may not always agree about everything, but we will stand united, side by side, to protect, encourage, love, and pray for each other.
After all, that’s just what family does.