The Sacred Secret You Must Know

A mystery of God, revealed to the Apostle Paul, is shared with the Gentiles in (more) detail in Ephesians 3. But, there's also a sacred secret tucked in this message just for you. 

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—

2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 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.

-        Paul refers to himself as a “prisoner” in this first verse. Don’t miss the point that he wasn’t caught up on being a prisoner of Rome (even though he was under house arrest); instead, he chose to fixate on being a prisoner of Christ for the sake of others. Lord, give our hearts this perspective, especially when we’re amid hardship!

-        This was a stop-you-in-your-tracks statement: “…the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel…” Say whaaaat?! As mentioned in Ephesians 2, the Jews thought the Gentiles were dirty, and the Gentiles most likely felt the Jews were pompous with all their rules and regulations. Both the straight-laced Jews and the wild and crazy Gentiles shared a common need: redemption. Paul reveals to the people of Ephesus how God’s plan of redemption wasn’t only for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles. To take it a step further, it was an equally distributed promise of Christ.

-        Human birth determines our racial distinction – and there’s plenty of uproar about ethnicity and equality these days. God strips our dissentions down to the true root when it comes to these upheavals. He reminds us that we, as believers, are of one body, and share together in the promise in Christ Jesus. The conflict we see and read about in today’s world – whether it be labeled as gender, ethnicity, religion, politics, or lifestyle choices – the true issue lies in the heart of man because he is devoid of God.  

-        Romans 8:17 tells us this: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” I’m so thankful I am a co-heir with Christ. I don’t deserve the equal share, but because of His love for me He adopted me by His blood purchase into His family.

7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

-        A couple key points here in relation to the posture of Paul’s heart:

o   Paul realizes he is a servant of the gospel by grace and through the working of His power. The word working in verse 7 is energia, where we derive our word energy, and power is dunamis, which gives us our word dynamite. When we are fulfilling the purpose of God (we learned in the last chapter how God intentionally created us for a purpose unique to us), we can expect His spiritual energy and dynamite to propel us forward in the ministry. Don’t miss this, folks! If you’re wondering what your holy gift(s) and unique purpose is, one indicator is to consider the topics or activities which give you energy. If there was something you didn’t do, would it feel like a burning fire shut up in your bones (see Jeremiah 20:9)?! If so, this may be tied to your earthly ministry (and like with Paul, our ministries are for the sake of others). Remember, a gift/ministry of God is clearly aligned with the Word of God and validated through the Spirit – it’s not just a “feeling.” Be cautious going around and saying, “I felt ____” or “I feel God ______.” Feelings are inconsistent, mood-driven, and can lead us quickly astray because our heart is deceitfully wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). If there’s an ongoing work God wants you to accomplish, He’ll provide sacred echoes (repeat experiences/words/validation) which point you toward true north.

o   Paul refers to himself as “the least of all the Lord’s people.” Paul was well-known in this day, yet his calling did not create a puffy heart, but a broken and contrite one. May we desperately seek to know Christ’s character of humility.

-        Paul said his desire was to “make plain to everyone” a mystery, which was kept hidden by God. What is this mystery that was revealed to him through the Spirit? It isn’t your Unsolved Mysteries type of eeriness. This mystery was a story of power – that the Gentile people would be found in Christ and be members of the body sharing equally with the Jews. God’s work is always just and fair – it is carefully weighed and measured and distributed in accordance to love not performance.

-        Why was this mystery not revealed prior to Paul? We know from the Old Testament that God planned to save the Gentiles through Israel; but, we weren’t told the two groups would form one unified body (the church). God is the optimal designer of the plan of mankind. He knows how much “revelation” we can absorb. Paul had the special stewardship of revealing this news regarding the dispensation of His grace to all of mankind.

-        Check out verse 10. “His intent was that now, through the church [that’s you], the manifold wisdom of God should be made know to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What’s all this mean? Angels are not all knowing, and we know this because in 1 Peter 1:10-12 it talks about how “even angels long to look into these things” (meaning, the plan of salvation). Angelic beings are not omniscient, and these verses tell us that as we live out our life here on earth, the multi-colored wisdom of God is being displayed. We’re on display for the angels and they are marveling at the plans of God!

-        Don’t just attach this message of grace to Paul – this “sacred secret” that was so important to him, the Gentiles, and the angels, is now in your hands (Wiersbe). How will you share the sacred secret with others today?  

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

-        I thought about explaining this section of verses like I normally do. But here’s all I’ll say about it: this is a prayer for the Ephesians from the heart of Paul. It’s also a powerful prayer for you to speak over others. Instead of reading, take a moment and think of three people who have been on your heart lately (go ahead, I’ll wait). Got the names? Okay, now pray verses 14-19 over each person individually.

-        Now, know that I’ve prayed this same prayer over the people (that means you) who read this Bible study. Amen.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

-        When I was in middle school (you know, that totally awkward time of life no one cares to relive?), one fad at my small, rural school was to buy a spiral bound notebook and have your friends sign the back of it. {Btw, I’m still a nerd for notebooks. I love a fresh sheet of paper and a smooth pen.} I had bought one of these notebooks at the store and that evening I asked my dad to sign the back of it first. I remember to this day, he thought for a moment and then carefully scribed verse 20 on the backside in black pen. Verse 20 is an encouragement for ourselves, but also for this upcoming generation. Make certain your children know that God will accomplish in them immeasurably more than they could ever ask or imagine because of His (dynamite) power. Even if this verse wasn’t part of your childhood, it can still be active in adulthood. We know from Numbers 23:19 that “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” You can trust that He still does immeasurably more than all you ask or imagine (in accordance to His nature), no matter if you’re 9 or 90. Amen.