Summary: Believe it or not, Paul was a mystery writer. But not fiction. His mystery was the previously unrevealed truth of the union of Gentile and Jewish believers into the body of Christ, the Church. This sermon examines this earth shattering truth.
The Mystery of the Church
Ephesians - Live Like You Really Are
September 2, 2012
TEXT: Please turn in your Bibles to Ephesians 3.
We live in a world of unsolved mysteries.
• Being something of a history buff, I’ve always been intrigued by what might have happened to the lost colony of Roanoke in the 1500s, which to this day is still a mystery.
• It still remains a mystery as to who really were Jack the Ripper and the Zodiac killer.
• Why an unusually high number of planes and boats have gone missing in the Bermuda Triangle is a continuing mystery…and I could give scores of other mysteries in this life.
Something in human nature is drawn to mysteries.
• That’s why the mystery novel remains one of the best-selling genres of fiction: Think Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, the Hardy Boys, Grisham and Larsson.
• Mysteries are still one of television’s most enduring staples.
> Perry Mason was so popular because it was always a mystery who the real killer was until the very end of the show when the real killer—the one you least expected—finally spilled the beans under Perry Masons withering cross examination…and the guilty always admitted it right on the witness stand…every week!
>Even today, one of the most popular TV shows is C.S.I., a team of criminal science experts unraveling the toughest of crimes, a series so popular that there is not ONE C.S.I. show, but THREE—C.S.I. Las Vegas, C.S.I. Miami and C.S.I. New York.
Now here’s something surprising: Did you know that the Apostle Paul was a mystery writer? Well, his mystery writing wasn’t fiction, but Paul used the word mystery, which is the Greek word mustērion, no less than twenty times in his writings. What mystery did Paul about?
Let’s unravel that mystery in Ephesians 3:1-12.
I. NOTICE FIRST OF ALL, A MYSTERY REVEALED IN VERSES1-6.
• Now remember that chapter 3 is a continuation of one LONG thought of Paul which begins back in chapter 1, verse 22 and goes all the way though chapter 3, verse 12.
• So to get Paul’s flow in chapter 3, let’s review what he had taught up to this point:
‣ In chapter 1, verses 22-23, Paul says that Christ was the head of the body, which he identifies as the Church.
‣ In chapter 2, He delineates three vast people groups: sinful mankind as a whole; Israel, God’s special chosen people nationally; and a totally new corporate entity, the Church, which came into existence through the work of Christ.
‣ This new entity, the Church, made up of both Jews and Gentiles, is referred to by Paul as “one new man” in verse 15—that is, a new humanity, a new spiritual people of God.
• With that background in mind, we can now examine chapter 3:
Paul begins the chapter with these words, “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words.”
Paul says in verse 1 that he was the prisoner of Jesus Christ for the Gentiles sake.
In verse 2 he said that he’d been given a special dispensation, which means stewardship, or responsibility of God’s grace on behalf of the Gentiles. That is, he had a special responsibility for them; a special ministry. When describing his conversion to King Agrippa in Acts 26, Paul said on the very day he was saved, God called him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. So it’s no wonder that in various places in the New Testament, Paul refers to himself “the apostle of the Gentiles” and “the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles” in Romans; and “a teacher of the Gentiles in Galatians.”
In verse 3 Paul tells us that he received special revelation about a special mystery. Now understand that mustērion, the word translated mystery here, means something slightly different from our modern word mystery, which has more the idea of a “whodunit” or something seemingly inexplicable in life or nature. The Greek word mustērion in the New Testament meant a previously hidden truth not knowable by human means, revealed by God in His perfect timing.
What is this mystery, this formerly hidden, but now revealed truth Paul refers to in this passage?
He explains it in verses 4-6 – “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.”