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.
I choose to take a stand, though many warn it will get me in hot water. But the pot is already boiling, and I am only stirring it, pointing out that those in violation to God’s laws are the ones in that hot water.
a. The revelation of the mystery. It was revealed to Paul, and then to the world...
b. The explanation of the mystery.
v. 6 Anybody who wants to be saved, can be saved!
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
Next verse? v. 13-"For whosoever..."!
Paul is the keeper of this mystery, entrusted to him, but it doesn’t give him the big head, but a broken heart. He is the greatest Christian of all time, yet he considers himself less than the least of all saints and the chief of sinners!
There’s so much pride and arrogance in ministers and churches today...we need some humility at the thought of being entrusted with the mystery. It’s not about us!
c. The manifestation of the mystery.
v. 10 Did you get that? Angels can learn something from the church?!
... we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.
There’s a lot more beings in this room than your eyes can see. Let’s give ’em a good show!
The fallen angels are watching as well. Just as angels are learning of God’s wise plan thru the church, demons should learn their leader has no wisdom, that they cannot win. The devil should learn from our church that when he inspired the ones who killed Jesus he in effect sealed his own doom! I’m glad everyone can learn something in church!