TODAY’S READING: EPHESIANS 1-3
“How the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ.” (Ephesians 3.3-4)
Jesus used the Greek word for mystery, mysterion, one time, although it is record in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Matthew 13.11, Jesus said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets [mysteries] of the kingdom of heaven.” Mysterion is used a few times in Revelation, but, for the most part, mysterion is exclusive to Paul’s writing.
Here is a sampling of what Paul says about mystery.
- “I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers.” (Romans 11.25)
- “The mystery that was kept secret for long ages.” (Romans 16.25)
- “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1 Corinthians 4.1)
- “This mystery is profound.” (Ephesians 5.32)
- “Of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.” (Colossians 1.25-26)
- “To reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ.” (Colossians 2.2)
The mystery is Christ.
The mystery is the word of God, Jesus, not the Bible, which was hidden for ages but can now be fully known.
What exactly is this mystery that is Christ?
Jesus told us himself in Luke 24.46-47, saying, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.”
It should be no surprise that Paul writes so much about this mystery since it is the one thing he was occupied with.
It is quite interesting to know that the Greek word for mystery, mysterion, is derived from the Greek word muo, which means to shut the mouth. Perhaps this is why Paul said, “Now we know that whatever the law speaks it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped and the whole world may be held accountable to God.” (Romans 3.19)
What does the law speak?
According to Jesus in Luke 24, the law speaks that he had to suffer, die, and rise from the dead. This mystery of Christ was meant to shut every mouth. The mystery of Christ crucified, God suffering and dying, was meant to shut us up so that we behold God in utter amazement that he would do such a thing.
How is such a mystery made known?
Luke 24.27 says, “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
Luke 24.45 says, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”
A mystery cannot be known through effort, hard work, reading, study. The mystery of Christ cannot be seen and understood no matter how much time and effort you put into reading and studying the Bible. The mystery can only be shown to by Jesus. He has to interpret and open up the scriptures so that you can know the mystery.
Paul says “the mystery was made known to me by revelation.” According to Merriam-Webster’s, this is the very definition of the word mystery – something profound and inexplicable, something beyond understanding, a religious truth that one can know only by revelation but cannot be fully understood.
So, what is revelation?
The Greek word for revelation is apokalypsis, which literally means the act of uncovering. A mystery is covered. Revelation uncovers it. Jesus opens it.
The holy of holies, the place of God’s presence, was covered by a veil. When Jesus was crucified, the veil that covered God’s presence, God’s true character and nature, was torn. Through the crucifixion of Christ, God was uncovered.
In Ephesians 3.4-5, Paul says. “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.”
The sons of men in other generations had the Bible, scriptures, writing, letters. But, none of these made the mystery of Christ known to anyone. But, the mystery has known been revealed, uncovered, opened, by the Spirit. More literally, Paul says it has been revealed “in spirit.”
Therefore, in 2 Corinthians 3.6, Paul says he is a minister “of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.” He literally says “not of letter but of spirit.” Again, the new covenant, the mystery of Christ, cannot be known by letter, writing, scripture, the Bible. It can only be known, only be revealed, by spirit. This is why God caused the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts. It is our only hope for knowing him. The Bible is useless, a collection of dead letters, without the Spirit revealing, opening, and interpreting the true meaning of the mystery of Christ to us.
In 2 Corinthians 4.3-4, Paul says. “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Here Paul alludes to the veil in the temple that covered the true nature and character of God from us. And, again, it was Christ’s crucifixion, which is shorthand for his suffering, death, and rising from the dead, that removed the veil and uncovered, revealed, who God really is.
We must keep in mind that we are not talking about knowing about God. We are talking about knowing God, experiencing God in a practical way. The deepest knowing of anything is always by experience.
And, we must never forget the one writing to us that says the true knowledge of God could not be known by the literal letter of scripture. Paul was a Pharisee. I would venture that he spent more time studying, memorizing, and practicing the scriptures than anyone of us could ever dream of. Surely, his understanding of the scripture was far greater than any of ours.
So, if Paul says that you cannot know God by a literal reading of scripture by the letter, through effort, hard work, diligent study, but that you can only know God, the mystery of Christ, by revelation through the Spirit who dwells in our hearts, then we probably should take him at his word.