Mystery, in the Greek language, refers to a truth unveiled rather than as in English a truth still hidden. Paul essentially says that in verse five, “Which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:5). Notice ‘which in other generations was not made known’ with ‘it has now been revealed.’
The key questions about this ‘mystery of Christ’ was who was He and why did He die? Paul has clearly elaborated what this mystery was in the first chapter and showed us some of the practical results of it in chapter two when he spoke of the combining of the Jews and Gentiles into the body of Christ. They are no longer two bodies but one. We should remember, that though this does not seem to be a big problem today, but it was a great problem in the early church. At the sound of the word ‘Gentiles’ the Jews surged toward Paul to kill him. This was the beginning of a long trip to Rome in which he faced trumped up charges much like Christ for which he now was in prison.
And He said to me, ‘Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” And they listened to him up to this statement, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live! (Acts 22:21-22).
Paul says this very thing in Ephesians 3:6, “to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Up until Christ’s resurrection, if one wanted to belong to God’s people, they would have to first become a Jew. There was no other way. If you wanted to worship the holy God, then you had to become one of God’s people. People claim that this was unfair, but we should recognize that God revealed Himself and salvation to anyone is a work of grace. Nobody deserves a chance.
The problem was that the Jews did not rightly live out and even less proclaimed God’s truth. They kept it to themselves. They prided themselves in being chosen when they should have focused on their responsibility to share the truth. The implications of what it was to be chosen.
Let’s note what happened to those from other nations that believed. Paul specifically mentions three things. In the Greek the three points all begin with the same preposition denoting union to form special words. The English word ‘fellow’ is used to translate this sense. They represent the union of the people from the nations can equally, substantially and rightfully share in all the promises that God had promised to the Jews if they would but trust Him.
Fellow-heirs (Ephesians 3:6)
Those from all the nations will share with the Jewish believers all the riches of Christ. They are joint-heirs. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,” (Ephesians 1:18). Everyone shares all things alike. This world prides itself in being tolerant, but it does not come near to God’s sacrifice to bring those in from every nation to share all that He has.
Fellow-members of the body (Ephesians 3:6)
Those who believe no matter what tongue they use are part of the body of Christ. Christ is the head but all of the believers function as one body. We cannot do without them, and they cannot do without us. Historically, there might be war between Korea and Japan, but in Christ Korean and Japanese Christians eagerly serve Jesus Christ.
Fellow-partakers of the promise of Christ Jesus in the gospel (Ephesians 3:6)
The promise that is spoken of here can refer to several things, but they all related to the result or fruit of redemption. Here are three things.
- It might refer to the Holy Spirit, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
- It certainly would have to do with the forgiveness of sin. Peter spoke this to the Jews but is was no different now for those from other nations.
And Peter said to them, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. “For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself (Acts 2:38-39).
- Lastly, it no doubt referred to the promise of eternal life. Let me read the fuller passage to gain the context of the tension between the Jews and the Gentiles at that time. “And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. “For thus the Lord has commanded us, ‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU SHOULD BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.’” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:46-48).
The Gospel is radical. We can go anywhere on earth and share with people the great call of God to become the children of God through Jesus Christ who died on the cross for the sins of His people. Whether it be the minorities in China, the tribes in Africa, the castes in India, the Muslims in Indonesia, the Buddhists in Thailand or those infiltrated by modern secularistic teachings. The Gospel goes everywhere in terms of location and everywhere in terms of kind. The Gospel is intentionally ethnic oriented because God made it that way.
The Gospel is the only means by which God uses to bring people into His divine family. And having done so, it gives them full rights to all the greatest gifts of love, joy and peace.