- Published: 30 August 2010
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Mystery occurs 6 times in Ephesians. Although all these are not the dispensation of the mystery, they are very closely related. They fit well in the ABC, ABC structure form.
A. The Mystery of His Will (1:9). This was something God had purposed in Himself. It was that in the fulness of seasons (or times) all things should be gathered together in Christ. All things here of course refer to the things that remain when all things that offend have been destroyed or removed in some way. It refers to things in heaven and on the earth. Now at first glance we might conclude that this would refer to people of the heavenly calling and those of the earthly calling. But since principalities and powers are mentioned so often and in close connection with the church, we must include them. The goal then for the ages is a perfect unity with Christ at the Head of all.
B. The Mystery (3:3). Believers of all nations, all 71 of them which includes Israel, have an equal allotment in an inheritance, joint members of a body or church, and partakers in a promise of eternal life in Christ, made before the ages began (See also 2 Timothy 1:1 & Titus 1:2). This has nothing to do with any promise made to Abraham. It is all in Christ, even the blessings (Ephesians 1:3).
C. The Mystery of Christ (3:4). This secret was first mentioned in Genesis 3:15 and was gradually unfolded in all the Scriptures till in the dispensation of the mystery Christ is fully revealed as Head of the church. Up to this time the fullest revelation was that He was King of kings and Lord of lords (Re 19:16). But now He is Head of a church that has its home, its citizenship, in the highest heavens, far above all principality and power. With this will come His headship over all things in due time. Note the phrase my knowledge.
A. The Dispensation of the Mystery (3:9). Like A above, this is something God purposed in connection with an eternal purpose. But it was hid in God till revealed to Paul. It cannot be found in Moses and the prophets. It cannot be found in the stars. And note the connection with powers above. The Church now witnesses to powers in the heavenlies as Israel was to
witness to nations on the earth. Paul's proclaiming the secret was to principalities and powers as well as to all men. They had not known it.
B. The Great Mystery (5:32). We noted in B above that there was a joint relationship, threefold in nature, of the members to each other. But here is a relationship between the Head and the Body, like that of husband and wife. There were bodies in the apostolic administration, but never anything like this.
C. The Mystery of the Gospel (6:19). This was made known. Compare with Paul's knowledge in C above. Here is a full revelation of the mystery of Christ. And note that it is in connection with bonds (See also 3:1 & 4:1). The good news for today is connected with prison, with bonds. If the apostle could speak boldly when in such a condition, just what is your and my responsibility today?
1:9. The Mystery of His Will. We could write a booklet on the meaning of the word will as used here and elsewhere, but suffice it to say that the words want or desire come near to filling the bill. It is for us to search for this will of God and do our best to be conformed to it. Mystery is something that has been kept secret till revealed to the initiate. An initiate is one who is a believer and is being taught by the Holy Spirit. This wish or desire of God was concerning His Son; that in the fulness of times, right now, the Son should be Head of all things in heaven and earth. That it is a desire, tells us that there might be a hindrance, an obstacle to be overcome. Other ages did not know this secret.
3:3. The Mystery. In structure, this is parallel to the great mystery of 5:32. This is the mystery that was hid in God from ages and generations. It was not revealed till the earth purpose was postponed. The enemy did not know what was coming. This mystery is defined' in verse 6; that the nations, and Israel included as just another nation, have a joint relationship. We mean here, just believers. None who does not lay hold of these things by faith, can be included. Note that the mysteries of the kingdom were to be made known by 12 apostles. But the dispensation of the mystery, was to be made known by one man, Paul. The 12 had about 35 years to work; Paul about 4.
3:4. The Mystery of Christ. Here was a secret that was gradually made known to man from the garden in Eden. We find it in Genesis 3:15. We find it written in the stars. But this mystery or secret was not fully made known till it was revealed that He was made Head of all things in heaven and earth and especially of the church which is His body.
3:9. The Dispensation of the Mystery (R.V.). This has to do with a household, and that is not the household of Israel as such. It is a program for the heavens, not the earth. It was not made known till the earthly program was rejected by the chosen people in Acts 28. The light of this gospel almost flickered out in past centuries. Even today, there is just a small remnant that is included in this great household of God which is in the heavenlies.
5:32. A Great Mystery. This mystery is concerning the union or relationship of Christ and His church. It is likened to the unity of the man and wife who are one flesh. But Christ and His church are not one in flesh, but in spirit. That this is a great mystery indicates that it should be studied and comprehended as far as possible.
6:19. The Mystery of the Gospel. There are at least 9 gospels mentioned in the Scriptures, but it seems that the greatest of these is the gospel of the dispensation of the mystery, here called the mystery of the gospel. There is a gospel of everlasting life to proclaim (John 3:16), but here is a greater one. Paul was an ambassador of the ascended Christ to make known this mystery of the gospel. Much depended on his faithfulness and ability to make it known. Christ working in and thru Paul has made it possible for you and me to know this gospel today. The reader should do much homework on this subject, MYSTERY.