For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—you have heard, haven’t you, about the administration of God’s grace that he gave to me for you? The mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have briefly written above. By reading this you are able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ. (Ephesians 3:1-4 CSB)
In my preaching, friends at my church have noted that I tend on occasion to have ‘squirrel moments,’ like the dog from the movie “Up.” I’d like to say that I’m not alone (I hope so), but to use this section of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians to bolster my feelings by claiming to be in good company—with Paul—is an inadequate analogy. To be sure, Paul does begin to address an issue in verse one—”For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles”—and he sets it aside until verse fourteen, at which point he repeats, “For this reason.” In those intervening twelve verses, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is distracted…distracted by mystery.
As we read verses two through four, we are introduced to this great mystery. I like a good mystery—historical, fictional, even scientific—but what the Scritpure introduces here is more jaw-dropping and important than any other mystery, fictional or real.
Now, this mystery, this covered truth, is complex, developed in the mind of God and revealed by God to Paul for the glory of God alone. The world-changing nature of this mystery for Paul, his Jewish counterparts, and all people lies less in the presence of the Holy Spirit and more in the fact that the Spirit has now undertaken a residential empowering role in the lives of the people of God after the completed work of Christ on the cross and through his resurrection. Equally as astounding is the fact that this present work makes access to God the Father immediate to all people through Jesus Christ…including the Gentile sinners. Those who were definitely seen as outsiders are now included in the complete and perfect plan of God.
The complete expression of the mystery of which Paul speaks is not individual but corporate. Their identity—our identity—found in Christ’s salvation alone, finds complete expression in fellowship. Our lives as the people of God are most fulfilling as we unashamedly proclaim our unity as the Body of Christ…His Bride…His Churches.
One of my favorite passages in which Paul summarizes the beauty of this truth and its impact on how we must focus our lives is Colossians 1:27-28:
God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
Today, and every day, may we live distracted by this glorious mystery!