Ephesians 3:4-6 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
It is hard for a Gentile like me, and probably you too (?), to feel the full impact the newly-revealed ‘mystery’ Paul is talking about had on him as a dyed-in-the-wool, committed Jewish Pharisee (cf Philippians 3:4-6)! It represented such a significant change in the direction of Jewish thinking, and the firmly entrenched theology of Judaism, that nothing short of a miraculous revelation by the Holy Spirit to divinely chosen ‘holy apostles and prophets’ could have made it so effective that more than 3,000 Jews (on the Day of Pentecost), and a growing number of Jews and Gentiles since then, were truly converted – ‘born again’ and baptised by the Spirit of God!
Sadly, entrenched Judaism had whole-heartedly embraced the first part of the promise given to Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great”(Genesis 12:2a), but had failed to understand the implications of the second part of it: “and you will be a blessing … and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2b, 3b)! The big challenge for the new believers in Ephesus (and every other part of Asia Minor impacted by Paul’s missionary activities) was to learn to live and worship together in full harmony with, and acceptance of, one another – Jew and Gentile alike. As Paul had just said to them: “For [Christ] himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 3:14-22).
May this amazing ‘mystery’ inform ALL our relationships within our churches into which God still calls people from such divergent cultural backgrounds, skin colours, family histories, working backgrounds, stages in life’s journey, and any other differences that the world might think important.