Growing up I was addicted to the Bobbsey Twin books. Later, I graduated into Encyclopedia Brown mysteries and even later I enjoyed Agatha Christie’s exploits of Mrs. Marple and Hercule Poirot.
As an educator I’ve often used mystery as a way to build curiosity and motivation within students. Weave a set of dry facts into a story filled with twists and turns, add a character that begs for empathy, build the action to a death defying crescendo and then conveniently leave out the conclusion. Instant curiosity!
Lay out some primary and secondary sources, provide a little time for examination, and students become detectives as they analyze possible outcomes in a historical event, or as they make predictions regarding scenarios where there are no right or wrong answers.
The word mystery is used at least 25 times in the Bible with Paul using it the most….a whopping 21 times. However, the word mystery as Paul uses it in Ephesians 3: 4 (By reading this you are able to understand my insight about the mystery of the Messiah) does not refer to a puzzle that needs to be solved or some unanswered question we may never have enough data to answer.
Going back to the Greek used in the original text the word mystery is musterion and it refers to a hidden secret…hidden to those who did not have the secret knowledge to understand the mystery. Musterion referred to a secret which was hidden that is made known.
Knowledge regarding Jesus Christ was not known to men in past generations. The knowledge was a secret….a musterion….kept hidden by God until He was ready to reveal it.
The mystery was revealed not only to Paul by revelation but also to Peter (Acts 11:1-18, mentioned in the prophecy given in Isaiah 49:6, and Jesus speaks of it specifically (Acts 1:8). In my own Bible text (Holman Christian Standard, 2003) a sidebar note states, “The mystery is received spiritually and manifested in the proclamation of the gospel.”
Part of the mystery is that Jews and Gentiles are both able to partake in the promise in Jesus Christ and join together in a new entity….the body of Christ…a New Covenant… the Church. There are no second place citizens in the Church. All believers including Gentiles inherit the wealth of Jesus Christ, and they receive power that never runs out.
Paul reminds the reader that God revealed the mystery to His holy apostles and prophets and even entrusted Paul to spread the word about the mystery. In fact, all Christians are comissioned to spread the word about the mystery, and they have been equipped to do so through the wealth and power of Jesus Christ that is inherited upon profession of belief.
Per Paul God’s multi-faceted wisdom isn’t just for those on Earth. Ephesians 3: 10 states “This is so that God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens.” Heaven? That seems strange. Wouldn’t they already be aware of God’s wisdom?
In his book, Ephesians, W.A. Criswell explains that since angels are heavenly beings they cannot experience redemption, however, by witnessing how God saves man and how His redemptive grace builds his Church they can be made aware. I find that truly facinating!
All of the mysteries I enjoyed as a child and as a young adult had something in common. There was always that point in the story when loose ends were tied up and the mystery was solved. Ephesians 3: 1-13 reveals the mystery, but as my title suggests man chooses his own endng. It’s not enough to acknowledge Christ and to acknowledge the purpose of the Church in this world and in Heaven. It takes commitment to to “shed light for all about the administration of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.”