Ephesians 3:1-13. For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
This just got deep. Dare I say mysterious.
Mystery: Something that has been hidden that is now revealed. For Paul, the gospel, the church, and of course even Christ himself are all mysteries. God, in the Old Testament, revealed his redemptive plan for the world piece by piece, bit by bit. In prophecies, and pictures. Shadows and symbols. A plan hidden for ages in God. God becoming human? The cross? God indwelling humanity? Looking backwards we can see the hints but not the fullness of the plan.
But now in Christ we see the mystery revealed. God’s redemptive plan is no longer a puzzle to figure out. God and his entire will for humanity are now fully knowable in Jesus Christ. Redemption is plainly seen – the eternal purpose realized in Christ Jesus our Lord. The plan to save the world, the whole world, Gentiles included, is now made known. There is no more revelation yet to come. No “part 2” that we are waiting for. This is it – the church in Christ.
Christ, the union of God and man, is the mystery, plain and simple. But more deeply, our union with Christ becomes our union with each other in Christ. We are united to Christ by faith in his gift of life and his death for us on the cross. All who believe are placed into him. Jew and Gentile. Male and Female. Rich and poor. Slave and free. All members of the same body.
I hate to say it, but so far that’s the easy part of Ephesians 3. The more Paul keeps writing though the more our minds get blown.
The greatest of wisdom in the simplest of forms (warning: language).
The church’s salvation in Christ is also the manifold wisdom of God. All of God’s multi-faceted wisdom climaxes in the church. That’s a big statement. Especially considering that many of us as Christians can’t even make it out of bed on Sunday morning.
Mystery and wisdom were common ideas in Paul’s day. The so-called “Mystery Religions” had all kinds of secret and hidden “wisdom” attached to them. Magic spells and incantations were sold and worn and engraved everywhere. In Ephesus it was all connected to the Artemis cult centered in the huge temple down the street. You can read Acts 19 to see just how messed up it was.
So here’s the irony: All of God’s glorious wisdom is found in a back-woods preacher from Palestine. A Jewish stone mason. A nobody that died the death of a slave, an animal even. Knowing God and dwelling with him is as easy as trusting in the claims and the work of this man who claimed to be God with us.
So actually God’s wisdom is NOT hidden and secret. It’s not something that only a few will figure out. We don’t trust in a spell or an incantation. We trust in an event. The God-man actually lived and actually died and actually rose again. An event that everyone can trust in. A person that everyone can receive.
What’s more is that God’s wisdom is actually quite backwards and foolish. His manifold wisdom is the cross of Christ. It doesn’t come from figuring life out. It comes when we stop trying to figure it out. It comes by submission – not my will but yours be done. It comes by faith in this cross for salvation. It comes by faith in this cross as a way of life. Life by death. Glory by suffering. Wisdom by foolishness.
It’s so far-fetched that even the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places couldn’t see it coming. Not even the smartest of cosmic forces could predict the incarnation. No angel or demon could see the death of Jesus in the stars. Not even Satan himself figured out God’s plan (which is why he participated in Christ’s death, the very thing that would destroy him).
So go to church. Get involved. Join. Serve. When you do, you’re part of the very thing that fooled the Devil. When you forgive and share and put your needs second each week, you’re doing what the cosmic superpowers just can’t understand. When you love a person who’s not anything like you by earthly standards, but who shares the same indwelling Christ, that’s the greatest wisdom of the eternal God on display.
Simple, basic, boring everyday love and grace through union with the life of Jesus – mystery solved.
“To live is Christ” is the great mystery of God. Not something that can’t be figured out. Quite the opposite. The wisdom of God is now perfectly known in Jesus. God and his will are clearly revealed. It is Christ in us. It is the church. Hard to believe? Yep. But that’s kind of the point.