Solving the Mystery

Ephesians 3:1-7

July 19, 2009

Jerry A Collins



v     Is the church a mystery never revealed in the OT?

v     Who is the church and what is a dispensation?

v     What role do Jews and Gentiles have in the church/


Frankly, we have a tough time seeing things from God’s point of view. We are always misreading God’s intentions as He works out His plan in our daily lives. Mature believers understand God has His own way of doing things and are often incomprehensible. However, we can be assured that God is always at work orchestrating everything happening in our lives and perceptive believers can pierce through the veneer of their circumstances in faith—knowing God is at work. There is no guarantee that walking in a manner worthy of our calling in Christ is going to be free of sorrow, distraction, or hardship. Even in this age when God’s grace is so evident should we have a naïve understanding of how God does His work and accomplishes His purposes? God is doing a new thing today called the church. Should we expect our service during this age to be free from difficulty? And just what is this age all about anyway?


We do not live in the Old Testament age full of upheaval, terror, fear, judgment, and hard work. We might tend to think serving Christ, obeying God, and doing His will is going to be much easier and more favorable. But we have to take a gut-check at the get-go in vs 1 when Paul says For this reason… This links chp 2 with chp 3. The household of God is in view but where did this household emerge from and what is it’s identity?

1. One thing we learn is something that looks like a setback—Paul is a prisoner because of his service for Christ Jesus. He had pertinent information about a rag to riches story—a story about our spiritual roots. That we were without any claim to the promises of God. But amazingly, he describes a new unity that exists between those who had those promises—the Jews—and gentiles like us who had none. Christ accomplished this at his death so that anyone no matter their nationality, skin color, dialect, or age could be in God’s household with full privileges attached. Classified information that God has de-classified for the first time.

2. But Paul took a lot of heat for having this information and handing it out. He had attracted the anger of the Jewish religious establishment. It was his bold offer of the gospel to the gentiles that antagonized the Jews leading to intense persecution and his eventual imprisonment in Rome. The bitter Jewish opposition led to personal attacks and being put on trial in Rome. He even tells us he was in Rome due to his service for Christ (Eph 4:1; 2 Tim 1:8; Phil 1,9) and more particularly he says he is there due to his service as the apostle to the gentiles (2 Tim 1:11-12). But sitting in those darkened walls of his cell notice how he views his imprisonment—he does not state he is a prisoner of Rome but of Christ Jesus. Quite clearly he saw through the veneer of his circumstance to perceive the hand of God in it. The lesson may be the same for us—that ultimately the lack of a free ride in this age as we serve Christ—is 1. What qualifies as service for and to Christ and 2. That we can expect opposition from religious people who already like what they have and see no need for an offer from Jesus Christ.

PT: This is true of all world religions and often true of your neighbor. It may also stick its head out in your immediate family as well.


For the second time we have this word stewardship in this book—the first in 1:10. There he uses the word to describe the last future dispensation or administration of God—the millennial reign of Jesus Christ on the earth. But here he describes our present age or God’s present administration and calls it a mystery vs 3.

A. First this mystery is from God alone vs 2. This was not something manufactured by Paul or connected to human ingenuity or study. This arrangement came from God’s grace. Once again we are confounded by the grace of God. It was given to Paul to be given to us. We carry on that ministry begun to the gentiles. It is now in our hands.

B. Then this mystery used to be a sacred secret but God has let it out by revealing it to us vs 3. This is not something unknowable but something unknown and then came out of hiding by God’s grace. He gave us this information.

C. This revelation has already been articulated in what has been previously written by Paul in Ephesians and then already read vs 4. The point of writing and reading about this was to gain insight and understanding as to what God is doing. God does not want you in the dark  about  His  purpose and plans. In other words, it is time to get with the program. This is the heritage of our age—it is no longer a sacred secret. He describes this mystery with four statements.

1. It was not made known in previous ages to any human being 5a. So it was a mystery from Adam until Christ. They never had it in the OT or the time of Christ. God kept this mystery hidden throughout the ages until the exact moment it needed to be unveiled. And what a surprise it came to be. No one saw it coming and it was difficult to come to terms with—especially the Jews.

2. It was now revealed by the Holy Spirit through His agents, the NT apostles who also functioned as prophets 5b. It began with Peter and Paul and then in concentric circles outward. Ultimately, this was revelation by means of the HS whose role was inspiration of scripture so we could have a record of that revelation. 2 Peter 1:20-21 says “But know this first of all that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will but men moved by the HS spoke from God.”

3. Believing gentiles and Jews are co-equal shareholders in God’s Kingdom 6. This joining together of Jew and Gentile by the gospel was a revolutionary concept for everyone. The two groups were for so long alienated and separated and belligerents that the transition period was prolonged by misgivings, unbelief, pride, fear, and anger. The book of Acts traces this transition during a thirty-year period. Much like the transition in America after the civil war when two groups—slave and free—had to come to terms with the new arrangement during reconstruction which took almost another 100 years into the civil rights movement. We now have promises in Christ that are much more profound for both groups than the OT ones given only to national Israel.

4. Our gospel ministry is initiated by God and continues thru us in His power 7. We hqve been saved by grace and have a ministry by grace. The idea seems to be that we spread the gospel truth in our generation as Paul had in his. In this age we have been given the responsibility to give this mystery message to everyone we can. We cannot save anybody nor can we persuade anyone to believe—that only comes about by the power of God working through us. Concious of our mission, it is Gods grace and power that accomplishes the work in this age. We wre the tools, the instruments, the ambassadors he uses to dispense His ministry today.

1. The spiritual life must be understood as something, which was not revealed in the OT. The offer of Gods grace to the individual is unique this age.

2. This age provides unique opportunities that were never true before and not true in the age to come. The gospel.