For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
One of the questions that the student of the Bible must ask as they read the book of Ephesians, certainly while reading chapter 3 of the book of Ephesians, is “does Paul have new information?” Are the verses in Ephesians chapter 3 telling us that Paul has been given new information?
What most who read the Bible commonly think is that the biggest distinction that matters within the Bible is the distinction between the Old Testament and the New Testament. That, however, is not the most significant distinction.
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
The dispensation of the grace of God was given to the apostle Paul. If it was given to individuals prior to the apostle Paul, then it is meaningless for Paul to state that it was given to him in particular because it would have already been in existence. If the dispensation of the grace of God existed before Paul’s conversion, it would not make sense for Paul to make this statement. Ephesians 3:2 tells us that the dispensation of the grace of God was given to Paul.
How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
Did Paul get this “mystery” information from other men? No. God revealed it to Paul and it was information that Paul, via the Holy Spirit, labels as a mystery:
You will often see “mystery” referred to as “secret” when Strong’s G3466 (mysterion) is in view.
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;
Were there individuals who knew about this mystery information prior to the apostle Paul? These verses tell us that there could not have been. The dispensation of the grace of God is stated to be a mystery, a secret, that was not made known to men prior to the establishment of the dispensation of the grace of God, given by revelation to the apostle Paul.
That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
In Ephesians 3:6, we are provided the definition as to what the “mystery” is – it is that the Gentiles can now be fellowheirs with the Jews, God’s chosen people, and be placed into one body, Jew and Gentile alike, the new creature known as the body of Christ. No longer does a Gentile have to convert to Judaism and become a proselyte to obtain salvation (Ephesians 2:12). The middle wall of partition (Ephesians 2:14) has been taken down between Jew and Gentile and there is now no distinction within the body of Christ (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11).
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;
The apostle Paul, as the apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11:13), was given special revelation and a unique apostleship. Paul was not one of the 12 and every Christian should ask the question, “why did God need a 13th apostle?” The answer to that question is that Paul was tasked with preaching the “unsearchable” riches of Christ among the Gentiles. This stands in contrast to Jesus’ ministry to the nation of Israel (Romans 15:8, Matthew 15:24, Luke 4:43). It stands in contrast to the ministry that Jesus commissioned to the 12 apostles sent to the nation of Israel (Matthew 10:5). It also stands in contrast to the instructions that Jesus provided to His adversaries:
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
The Bible is a fascinating book in the way in which it designs its cross references. What the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 3 is that he preached the unsearchable riches of Christ. In John chapter 5, Jesus Christ is dealing with His adversaries and notice what He says in verse 39 – “Search the scriptures” – what Jesus says to His adversaries in John 5 is “look, you don’t believe I am who I say I am. So, here’s a test. Search the Scriptures.” What Scriptures is Jesus talking about? The Old Testament. “Search the Old Testament” is what Jesus is saying. “If you were to actually read the Old Testament and believe it, you would know what it says about me and none of what I say or do would be a surprise to you.” “I’m the one the prophets spoke and wrote about!” That’s exactly what they would have concluded if they honestly had read the Old Testament.
When Jesus’ opposition saw Him and they knew that He was born in Bethlehem, that He was born of a virgin, that He was from the tribe of Judah, that He was from the House of David, that He was fulfilling the prophecies, and they saw the works that He performed, what should have immediately occurred to them was that this Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the One that was promised to the nation of Israel. In John 5:39, what Jesus Christ specifically says is “Search the scriptures” because they tell you that I am who I say I am.
In Ephesians 3, Paul said that he preached the unsearchable riches of Christ. That is fundamentally different from John 5:39. The idea of being “unsearchable” is that you could read the entire Old Testament and it would not give you even a hint of what Paul was going to reveal? Not at all. The information revealed to the apostle Paul is different. There is a difference between that which is searchable and that which is unsearchable.
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:
This mystery information from the very beginning of the world was hid in God. Did Moses know it? No. Did David know it? No. Did Peter know it? No. The answer to all three of those questions is that none of them knew about the mystery because it was hid in God until Paul was called to be an apostle.
What Ephesians 3 is telling us is that the most important distinction within the Bible is not between Old Testament and New Testament. The most important distinction within the Bible is between the mystery information that was hid in God and the prophecy information that was and is contained in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Prophecy is the telling in advance of what will happen. The prophets recorded that the Messiah was going to be born in Bethlehem, that He was going to ride into Jerusalem as a King upon a colt, that He was going to be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. All of those prophecies were specifying the future in advance. That is what prophecy does. When a prophecy is referred to within the New Testament, we usually see it presented in the form of “that which was spoken of by <insert prophets name>” –
As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;
But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
Recognize that the last two examples provided above come from the early chapters within the book of Acts. It is all too common within Christendom today to hear that the Church began at Pentecost within Acts chapter 2. What we see in Acts chapter 2 and chapter 3 is that what was prophesied, spoken of by the prophets since the world began, was being fulfilled. The events that took place on that day of Pentecost were part of the prophecy program and not part of the mystery program. Understanding that distinction will assist the Christian with recognizing that the Church, the body of Christ, did not begin in Acts chapter 2.
There is a Divine Intelligence that underpins all of this that has such a complete understanding of the future that He can write it down in specific detail and it happens exactly that way, even though Satan and sinful men don’t want it to be fulfilled. The Old Testament has hundreds of prophecies that are all fulfilled to exact detail. That is what prophecy is – it is the telling in advance, followed by its fulfillment. What we need to recognize is that the mystery is the complete opposite of that. The mystery is “here is this profound truth that eventually is going to be made known, but first, not one word of it is spoken or recorded in Scripture.” There is not a hint about the mystery information anywhere within the Old Testament.
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
1 Corinthians 2:7
The verse above provides us the Scriptural definition of what a mystery is. A mystery is not simply wisdom. It is hidden wisdom. It is wisdom that God has intentionally hidden for a period of time. Then notice what the verse says, “which God ordained before the world unto our glory”. This is the exact same thing that Ephesians 3:9 said. The next verse states:
Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
1 Corinthians 2:8
Satan did not have any idea that the mystery existed. “For had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.” As students of the Bible, we must identify what it is that “the princes of this world” (Satan and his minions) did not know. Did the prince of this world, Satan, not know about the resurrection? Satan knew about the resurrection because that event was prophesied, it was contained in the Old Testament. When Jesus Christ in John 2:19 states “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” Satan knows exactly what Jesus is speaking to. Was the resurrection a secret? No, it was not. It was told in advance by the prophets and by Jesus Himself. We can apply this understanding to many other topics that are proposed to be the mystery (the redemption of Israel, the crucifixion, election, the Millennial Kingdom), but each of these topics is revealed within the Old Testament and before Jesus went to the Cross. These subjects were discussed and prophesied “since the world began” –
Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
The mystery is the body of Christ. What God has done as a result of the Cross is not only did He purchase the redemption of Israel, but He also purchased the redemption of the body of Christ. The body of Christ is the Church that is being formed today – it is Jew and Gentile, in one body, and it has a heavenly inheritance separate from Israel’s future earthly Kingdom.
Now to him that is of power to stablish 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,
While most everyone recognizes the existence of both the Old and New Testaments, hardly anyone recognizes the presence of a third element, “the mystery.” This should be viewed as tragic since the Bible plainly declares that we are to make the mystery known (Ephesians 3:9), we are to preach Christ according to the revelation of the mystery (Romans 16:25), we are to “speak the wisdom of God in a mystery” (1 Corinthians 2:7), and we are to be faithful stewards of the mystery doctrines (1 Corinthians 4:1-2). Once one understands this unique doctrine, provided by revelation to the apostle Paul, the mystery doctrine that was kept secret since the world began, they must ask themselves, “does my pastor / priest / reverend preach Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery?” If not, there might be some type of action that is needed on your part…