Summary: Paul reveals the mystery: "A divine, sacred secret that is hidden in the heart of God, and cannot be understood unless God chooses to reveal it to man." Link included to formatted text, audio, PowerPoint.
I Know a Secret
"Paul, you keep calling yourself a prisoner of Jesus and this is confusing to us," said the Ephesians. Is it confusing to you as well?
Of course, he was literally a prisoner in many jails and prison cells, and yet he is also God’s prisoner?
"Mystery" is a key word in this passage. It’s not the same meaning as we think of when we hear the word. It’s not a ’whodunnit’. The Biblical definition is this: "A divine, sacred secret that is hidden in the heart of God, and cannot be understood unless God chooses to reveal it to man."
Paul had a way of taking pop culture words from his day, baptizing them in the faith, and then using them to teach the people things of God.
The Greek games of the Olympiad were very popular so Paul mentions running, wrestling, and boxing. And when he speaks of the judgment seat of Christ, the ’bema’ seat is the platform that winning athletes would stand atop and be rewarded. Praise God, our sins have already been judged, but the rewards are still to come!
This word mystery is taken right out of Paul’s culture, where mystery religions were common. Ephesus was filled with secret societies, mystery religions which taught all sorts of doctrines contrary to the Word of God. To join one, you would go thru initiation, and if you passed, then certain secrets would be disclosed to you. And as you climb thru their hierarchy more would be revealed to you.
But to the man on the street who was not a member, those secrets were called ’mysteries’.
In contrast, Paul knew some secrets revealed from God, and said, I’m going to tell the whole world the secret, whether they wanna join or not!
3 main mysteries of the NT:
I Cor. 2 - Christ’s cross. Who would think that the messiah King would die rather than take the throne?
I Cor. 15 - Christ’s coming. "Behold, I show you a mystery..."
Eph. 3 - Christ’s church.
This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
1. Understanding the mystery.
a. The revelation of the mystery.
ill.--imagine a couple is engaged, and they haven’t told a soul. No one knows. But one of them whispers it to a friend, and like feathers in the wind, very quickly word spreads.
One day God had a secret which He had kept for all time, but whispered it into Paul’s ear, who made it his business to tell everyone.
THIS IS WHY PAUL WAS A PRISONER!
He was kept in trust with this mystery, which he is now allowed to reveal. Namely, that Jews and Gentiles will be united into one believing group, the church!
In Acts 22, Paul is arrested, and he gives his testimony to the Jews, and said the ’G’ word. "Gentile!" In disgust they tore off their clothes and threw dust in the air, and said Paul was not fit to live. He could have gone free if he had compromised his message and left out the Gentiles, but that is the mystery, Scoob! You and I are part of the mystery!
Still today the temptation is for preachers to compromise the message and not take their full stand.