In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
And, from the Message Bible . . .
As you read over what I have written to you, you'll be able to see for yourselves into the mystery of Christ. None of our ancestors understood this. Only in our time has it been made clear by God's Spirit through his holy apostles and prophets of this new order. The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I've been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.
We are still in the midst of a lengthy parenthetical statement. Simply put, as the Ephesians re-read Paul's letter to them, they will be able to make their own judgment about whether the apostle has really grasped the essence of God's secret plan. It seems that Paul's credibility was always in question because of how he became one of the apostles Unlike Paul, the other apostles were apostles because they lived with, ate with, spoke with and learned from the Master, Jesus, during His 3 years of ministry on earth. Paul became an apostle later after Jesus went up into heaven. He's always having to defend his credibility as one of the apostles equal to Peter and John and the others. Maybe that's why he's always so long winded and works so hard at driving his point home and explaining his message over and over again. How about you? Do you ever feel as if you have to defend yourself, your credibility? At work? At home? As a Christian with some knowledge of scripture? I bet we can all relate to Paul a bit here.
|The Apostle Paul in Prison by Rembrandt|
The mystery of Christ was simply this: Christ lives in and among His believers and gives us an unwarranted and unexplainable hope of eternal glory. This mystery was not made known to the generations before them. Paul extrapolates this mystery out a little further knowing what we now know. This mystery extends to Gentiles, too. Now, in and of itself, this is not news. Genesis 12:3 says that through Israel ALL nations will be blessed. We've talked in depth about Israel's important role to the other nations. It was through Israel that the other nations would know the Living God -- the same as the church's role today.
The big news here is that the old theocracy is superseded by the body of Christ composed of Jews and Gentiles -- equally. We stand together on the same ground. The ground is level at the foot of the cross of Jesus. The Jews were no longer the ones through whom God would speak and lead the nations. The Church now takes that role. The Church, as we know, is made up of any and all who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It knows no distinction between Jew and Gentile, slave and free, rich and poor, married and divorced, etc. If you believe in Jesus as Savior and confess Him as Lord, you are among those to whom this mystery extends. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.
Paul is exhaustive in his attempts to bring this point home -- to make it clear to Jew and Gentile alike -- to you and to me. As far as his credibility goes, even the great apostle Paul had his insecurities. Friends, if nothing else, this should make him someone to whom you can relate.
Living into the mystery,