“…..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.” (Ephesians 3:6 NIV)
The word ‘mystery’, in normal usage, would refer to “something hidden, unclear or unknown”. But the Bible uses it in a different sense. In the Scriptures, the word refers to “a secret that has now been revealed or made known”.
Paul the apostle, in his letter to the believers in Ephesus, talks about this secret which was hidden from people in other generations and finally made known by the Holy Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This revelation was so special and unique that he was even willing to lay down his life for its proclamation and application!
What is this mystery? It 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”.
Now, in order to fully grasp this truth, it is necessary to consider the larger context of “God’s eternal purpose”. What is in the heart of God? Why did He create all of us? What is His plan for mankind? Why are we all here?
The Scriptures reveal that God’s purpose from all eternity has been “to form a people for Himself”. This desire and dream to have a community of people that belong to Him and are His very own can be seen in various places and is demonstrated in various ways (Genesis 3:8; Exodus 6:7; Isaiah 43:7; Acts 26:17-18; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Ephesians 1:4; Titus 2:14; Revelation 1:5-6; 5:9-10).
God, in the outworking and fulfillment of this great plan, created Adam and Eve. Their rebellion led to Him inaugurating the plan of redemption in order to restore a fallen humanity back to Himself. It started with Adam’s son Seth and his godly line of descendants. It continued through Noah, finally narrowing down to Abraham and his people, the Jews. Then through this nation, the drama of redemption reached its climax with God sending His Son as the Messiah (Anointed One) to reconcile to Himself all people and all things.
Studying the drama of redemption is exciting and enthralling. How God began it all with the selection of the Jewish people and has been working it all out is indeed an amazing story. Infact, the existence of Israel and the events surrounding her clearly show that there is a ‘living God’ and that the whole of ‘human history’ is ‘His story’.
Consider some remarkable facts, for instance, with regard to this nation. Israel’s ‘formation’ was a miracle- a very, very old man became a father against all odds; Israel’s ‘deliverance’ from slavery in Egypt was a miracle- a series of sovereign interventions rescued a group of helpless slaves from the hands of the most powerful Empire at that time; Israel’s ‘preservation’ was a miracle- a forty year journey safely through the wilderness in impossible living conditions; Israel’s ‘position’ is a miracle- the location of her land is in territory which once belonged to a host of indomitable warriors (seven powerful kingdoms were defeated and destroyed); Israel’s ‘survival’ is a miracle- though the land has been fiercely attacked and the people have been brutally killed down through the ages, this tiny nation and its inhabitants just cannot be erased or eradicated; Israel’s ‘contribution’ is a miracle- though comprising only 0.08% of the world’s population, it has given more to society both in size and significance.
Today, the good news for us Gentiles or non-Jews is that through faith in Jesus Christ, we too can become part of God’s eternal plan, being added along with believing Jews into His community of chosen people. No longer do we need to live separate from Christ, without hope and without God in the world. From being a people without any identity, we can now become the people of God; from once having not received mercy, we can now experience mercy.
Paul, after revealing this great mystery, goes on to describe three privileges that then become our own.
1. We become ‘heirs’.
An heir is someone who is entitled to an inheritance. As children of God, we become heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). This inheritance has a present and future dimension.
In its present aspect, we are entitled to receive the promise given to Abraham. The promise God gave him (which is available to us Gentiles) was that through his seed or offspring (namely, Christ), every believer would be blessed with the gift of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:14).
In its future aspect, we are entitled to share in the glory of Christ. We live with the hope of eternal life and wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, when we will receive the full redemption of our bodies and are completely transformed to be like Christ (Romans 8:17-23; Philippians 3:20-21; Titus 3:7).
2. We become ‘members’.
No longer foreigners and strangers, we become fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household. This community of believers is otherwise known as ‘the church’.
Every believer is a spiritual stone and in Christ, we (Jews and Gentiles) are all joined together and built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit (Ephesians 2:21-22; 1 Peter 2:4-5). This picture is a marvellous description of what God intends to do through the church.
For it is in and through His people that God wishes to make Himself known. The church is Christ’s body through which His voice is heard, His love is experienced, His power is revealed and His glory is manifest (Ephesians 1:22-23).
3. We become ‘sharers’.
The Bible reveals God as One who makes ‘covenants’ with people. A ‘covenant’ is different from a ‘contract’. A covenant is made between two unequal parties, whereas a contract is entered into by two equal parties. The wonder of it all is that a holy and majestic God is willing to put Himself under binding obligation to us who are finite, insignificant creatures, with absolutely nothing to boast of in ourselves.
In the Bible, we find various covenants made by God. There are the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic and Messianic covenants. Of these, only the Mosaic has been annulled and made obsolete (and is to be considered as ‘Old’ Covenant).
We Gentiles who were foreigners to the covenants of the promise can now share in the covenants which God has made, especially with regard to the Messianic covenant (‘New’ Covenant) that has been activated through the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ (Hebrews 8:10-13). This covenant has the following features- the ‘instruction’ element (a revelation of the heart and ways of God), the ‘inclination’ element (a desire to do the will of God), the ‘individual’ element (accessible to anyone), the ‘intimacy’ element (a direct and deep relationship with God), and the ‘innocence’ element (having sins forgiven and forgotten).
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you!