We all love a good mystery story! I remember in elementary school my friends and I were all caught up in the Hardy Boys books (the young ladies enjoyed Nancy Drew). We would read these books and then swap books with each other when we finished. The intriguing part of reading these mystery novels was trying to figure out the mystery. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, there were many TV shows about detectives solving mysteries. You may remember some of these, such as The Rockford Files, Kojak, Magnum PI and Hunter. We loved watching these detectives look for clues that would solve the mystery. Obviously, these were mysteries surrounding crimes. In Ephesians Chapter 3, the mystery is not about a crime, but about how God put two groups normally at enmity with each other and made them one, equal in standing, in Christ. In chapter 2, Paul says God took both Jew and Gentile and made “one new man” (Eph. 2:15). Now Paul brings more clarity to this revealed mystery so we will have a better understanding how Christ formed this community of faith. Just as in a mystery story, I will list all the characters and their role in the third chapter of this epistle.
First, Paul reveals his role in bringing this mystery to light. Christ himself prophesied Paul’s ministry (Acts 9:15-16). Christ ordained this ministry for Paul to take the Gospel to the Gentiles and to suffer for him. Paul states that this mystery was given to him by revelation for the Gentiles and was not made known to other generations. Paul identifies himself as the “least of the saints” but entrusted with bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles by the working of God’s power through grace!
Apostles and prophets are the foundation on which the church was laid (Eph. 2:20) were given this revelation by the Spirit. The Apostle Peter struggled with this idea of the Gentiles being joined together with the Jews, as seen in Acts 10:9-28 and Galatians 2:11-14. The custom for this time was for Jews not to associate with Gentiles. But God accepted the Gentiles by evidence of them receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-48). The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) addressed these issues within the church and simplified matters concerning what was actually required by God.
Rulers and authorities are angelic beings. These are the angels and the whole host of heaven who have an interest in God’s redemptive purposes and what he has done in creating the church. There is an eternal purpose in the church that can only be found in Christ. By our Sovereign Lord’s design, the church was the plan to bring about His purposes, not plan B!
The church is where God shows his manifold wisdom and we see now how God revealed his church to the apostles and prophets, the heavenly rulers, and authorities and to the apostle Paul who was ordained by Christ to be a minister to the Gentiles. God’s plan is now complete in Christ by bringing Jews and Gentiles together by his divine power and establishing His body, the Church. In Christ, we have “boldness and access” with confidence through faith (v11-12; Hebrews 4:16).
Paul closes chapter 3 with praise to the Father and prayer for the Church. His prayer is for spiritual strength and includes key components such as knowing the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, strengthened by his Spirit’s power, and being filled with all the fullness of God! Our great God is able to do far more than we can ask or even think!
Now that we have an understanding of the mystery of how Christ has fashioned Jews and Gentiles into “one new man”, fellow heirs, and joint members in the same body, we should have an appreciation of this great salvation. We were once dead in our trespasses and sins, children of wrath, but God being rich in mercy in his great love made us alive together in Christ. By grace you have been saved and seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 2:1-6). Our identity is now in Christ!