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THOUGHTS FROM EPHESIANS

27 THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST

A meditation on Ephesians 3

Almost everyone loves a secret, a mystery. But there comes a point when the secret, the mystery, becomes too much to bear ... a point when we wish we knew, when we wish someone would tell us, someone would explain to us, what it is all about; a point when our ignorance becomes overwhelming.

As we read the New Testament we become aware that something tremendous has happened, that something that had been hidden and unknown for centuries is finally out in the open, that something that was previously unknowable is now known.

When we read 1Corinthians 2:6-16, or Colossians 1:25-2:4, or 1Peter 1:10-12, or the words of Jesus in Luke 10:23-24, we begin to understand that in the New Testament we are observing the unfolding of a mystery, a mystery that had been embedded in the Old Testament scriptures for generations, a mystery that the Old Testament believers knew was there and desperately wanted to understand, and desperately wanted to see implemented.

In Ephesians 1:9 Paul writes of the mystery of God's will which was put into effect in Jesus Christ. In Chapter 3 he again refers to this mystery. It is 'the mystery of Christ' [3:4]. It had been kept hidden for ages [3:9], but has now been revealed [3:3,5].

Now, Paul says, we finally know what God's hidden plan is:

It is all about God's grace [3:2].

It incorporates the Gentiles into the people of God so that they share in his promises along with the Jews [3:6].

Its content is 'the unsearchable riches of Christ' [3:8].

It is made known by the church [3:10].

It has always been part of God's purpose [3:11].

It is put into effect by Jesus Christ' [3:11].

We might ask: What is so special about this mystery, this secret plan of God that is now revealed and accomplished by Jesus Christ?

It is this: that now, because of Jesus Christ, and through faith in Jesus Christ, 'we may approach God with freedom and confidence' [3:12].

Our human hearts, and the common mindset of the world, tell us that we have to have something in our hands when we approach God – a certain standard of goodness, or enough good deeds to merit his approval, or the performance of religious rituals. Whatever it is, we believe that we have to be good enough to earn entry into God's presence. In that there is no freedom and no confidence.

But God's secret, God's eternal plan, God's eternal purpose, a secret, a plan, a purpose that is no longer a mystery, that now shouts out clearly from both Old and New Testaments, is that in Christ, and through faith in Christ, we have free, permanent and confident access into his presence.

For Paul, this is reason for exultant thanksgiving and praise [3:14-21]. So may it also be for us!

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2006, 2010