Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

A Mystery Revealed! (Meditation on Eph.3:3-6)

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 This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma. 

A Mystery Revealed!

Meditation on Ephesians 3:3-6

How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.

In Ephesians 3, the Apostle Paul used the word “mystery” four times. He used it already in Chapter 1, speaking of “the mystery of God’s will”, namely to bring all things in heaven and earth together under one head, even Christ (vs. 9-10). Paul will use this word again in chapter 5:32, “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” But it is mainly in chapter 3 that he develops this doctrine.

What is a mystery? This word is used today in contemporary English as “something that is unknown.” But this is not the way it was used in Paul’s day. In Greek, the word mysterion refers to something known only to the initiated. It is not that the thing itself is unknown. It is known, but only to those to whom it is revealed. Paul used this word to describe something that was unknown before the coming of Christ but is now revealed fully. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members of one body, and share together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

So in our pericope, the word mystery is used three times, and then again in verse 9-11. “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Quite clearly, the mystery is that the Gentiles should be made partakers along with the Jews of God’s great blessings in the church.

But is this really new? Did not God promise to Abraham that all nations and peoples on earth would be blessed through him (Gen. 12:3)? Does not the Psalmist worship God saying, “Let the peoples praise thee, O God; let all the peoples praise thee. O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the peoples righteously, and govern the nations upon the earth. Let the peoples praise thee, O God; let all the peoples praise thee” (Ps. 67: 3-5)? But before the coming of Christ, this could only happen as the Gentiles became Jews through proselytizing. A Gentile could approach the God of Israel , but only as an Israelite. He had to become a member of the covenant people through the rite of circumcision. The new thing revealed to Paul is that this approach was no longer necessary. God in Christ had broken down the wall, making one new people out of two previously divided people. Now both Jew and Gentile approach God equally on that new basis.

What the Holy Spirit says about the mystery of God’s creating one new people in Christ is that Jew and Gentile hold their salvation blessings jointly in Christ’s church. Paul does this in verse 6 using three times a Greek prefix ‘syn’ which means ‘together with’. The NIV translation of the Bible probably brings this out the most effectively because it repeats the word ‘together’. It says, “heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promises in Christ Jesus.” The Philips translation says: “equal heirs with his chosen people, equal members and equal partners in God’s promise.”

What a rich concept was revealed: equal or heirs together of all that a person receives or will receive in salvation. There are not two different groups of people that are saved and blessed as premillennialists teach. Jews are not first-rate people, and Gentiles second-rate. They are made one and inherit salvation blessings jointly.

Jew and Gentile are members together of one body, the church. Christ is the head, and all true believers are His body, mystically united to Christ and to one another. This is something into which the people of God must grow and toward one another strive. How is this to happen? It is to happen only as we grow in the love and knowledge of the One who has brought us together. We are equally sinners. We have been equally brought to the same Savior. We have the same salvation.

We share together in the promise in Christ Jesus. While we have many promises, in our text the word ‘promise ‘ is singular. It refers to the promise of redemption made to our first parents Adam and Eve, and repeated over and over in greater clarity in the Old Testament predictions.

This mystery was revealed to the Apostle Paul, and Paul in his preaching and writings makes this mystery known to God’s people. As the Apostle Paul did, may the church today continue to share it with a great variety of races, peoples, and cultures. We are to make it known to the world. Jesus saves!

We have heard the joyful sound, Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Spread the tidings all around, Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Bear the news to every land, Climb the steeps and cross the waves; Onward! ‘tis our Lord’s command, Jesus saves! Jesus saves! (William Kirkpatrick)

Last modified on 21 November 2020
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Spriensma, Audred T.

Rev. Audred Spriensma (Wife: Alva)

Ordained: January 1981

Pastorates: Atwood, MI CRC - 1981; Bethany, S.Holland, IL CRC - 1984; Grandville, MI - 1992; Missionary to the Philippines - 2002; Kalamazoo, MI - 2007; Byron Center, MI - 2010; Home missionary (Byron Center PRC), 2017

Website: www.prca.org/missions/domestic

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