- [Rom 16:25] Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
- [Eph 3:3-5] How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote before in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 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.
- [Eph 3:8-10] Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
In my study of Paul's writings, I noticed the frequent use of the term 'mystery'. Now, at least in Paul's usage, a hidden truth about God’s plan is called a 'mystery' not because it cannot be known today, but because it was kept by God as a secret in past ages, before it was supernaturally revealed by God through the apostles at the start of the church age. In fact ‘musterion’, the Greek word translated ’mystery’, actually means ’secret’. God kept these wonderful truths secret until this age of grace.
While Eph 3:3-5 states that the secret was revealed to other apostles and prophets also, it would be hard to argue that Paul was not the principal agent through which the important truths were revealed. As stated in the verses cited above, the mystery was made known to Paul by revelation. It was not made known to the sons of men in other ages. It concerns the Church and God's great eternal plan of redemption.
Probing a little deeper into Eph 3:8-10 as cited above, we see that the revelation of the secret is a demonstration to the ‘powers and principalities’ -- angelic powers -- of God’s ‘manifold wisdom’. The Greek word for ’manifold’ means ‘much variegated’ or ‘multifarious’. What is that? What kind of wisdom is demonstrated to the angels by the Church? Peter said that angels are intrigued by it: [1 Pet 1:12] ‘...the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.’
One dictionary defines variegated this way: ‘Diversified in colors or external appearance‘. It defines multifarious as ’Having great multiplicity; having great diversity or variety’. You can draw your own conclusion about what that says about God’s wisdom, but to me it means it has many facets, like a cut diamond, or many aspects that one could explore. I believe that it will take all eternity to discover the extent of all the wonders encompassed in what God has accomplished in the Church through Jesus Christ and Him crucified. That’s why Paul speaks of ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ’ in verse 8.
The unfortunate fact is that while the great secret has been revealed by Paul, many facets are not widely known by Christians. The truth about justification through the Lord’s death and resurrection is fairly well known, but others, such as the believer's position in and identification with the ascended Lord Jesus are not. The late Miles Stanford had a correspondence ministry with thousands of Christians over a period of half a century. Based on that experience, he stated that only about 5 percent know their position in Christ.
You might be thinking, 'So what? Why should I be concerned with doctrinal issues like that? They just cause divisions. I just want to love Jesus!'. Well, it was important to Paul. In the midst of the highly doctrinal first part of his Ephesian letter, he prayed that [Eph 1:18,19] ‘The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe’. To the Colossian believers he said, [Col 1:9,10] ‘...we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God’.
Ephesians and Colossians, along with part of Romans, are the richest mines of positional and identification truths in the Bible. In those contexts the apostle earnestly prayed for God to open the understanding of the believers to know them. And note the results of a full understanding of Paul‘s doctrine:
- Walking worthy of the Lord,
- Pleasing God, and
- Fruitful lives.
H A Ironside points out the practical value of assimilating Paul’s doctrine of the mystery. In his commentary on Ephesians 3, he says this:
The extent to which we accept these precious truths for ourselves, will determine our practical sanctification. The Christian who truly understands his unity with Christ, and therefore with all who are in Christ, cannot be sectarian in heart or practice, but must embrace all believers in his fellowship and interest.
To profess to believe the truth is one thing. To be governed by this belief in quite another. So intimate is the link that binds all believers to each other and to our glorified Head in Heaven that everything I say or do as a Christian has an effect for good or ill on all my fellow members, just as every part of the human body affects every other part. This amazing truth should make us very careful in our walk and our attitude toward one another.
If we realize that we are members one of another (Rom 12:5), one practical result should be a concern for the suffering members of the Body. Christians should make an effort to be informed about the suffering Church. The mainstream media will not tell you.
One good source of information on the persecuted Church is the Open Doors ministry cited on the Links page. Another is Paul Marshall’s work, ‘Their Blood Cries Out’. On the back cover of that book is the astounding assertion that ‘200,000,000 Christians throughout the world live in daily fear of secret police, vigilantes, or state repression and discrimination’. That’s two hundred million! It goes on to say, ‘These are not wild rumors. Nor are these simply Christians who, like so many others, suffer from war or tyranny. Hundreds of millions of Christians are suffering simply because of what they believe’. The Word of God says, [Heb 13:3] ‘Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body’. We should keep them in our prayers.