Today’s Chocolate: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Almonds
Today’s Passage: Ephesians 3
Let’s talk about mysteries. I’m having trouble getting started today, obviously, and we’ve got to talk about something, so mysteries it is.
Paul mentions the mystery of Christ three times in this chapter, but before we look into what the mystery of Christ is, let me give a little background on mystery cults in ancient Greek and Roman culture. These religions hinged on secrecy, initiating a select few into their doctrines and practices, thriving on exclusivity and concealment. A “mystery” in ancient Greece isn’t some problem that you call in Sam Spade or Scooby-Doo for; it’s an esoteric teaching revealed to an exclusive few. We get the word “mystical” from the same root word: it’s arcane, it’s occultic, it’s hidden from the general populace. It’s a mystery, and the secret society holding it wants to keep it that way.
Paul, like many of these cultic societies, claims to have received his mystery from a divine source. He tells the Galatians, “By revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief” (3:3). God himself has initiated Paul into his secrets, revealing what had previously been concealed. Paul further explains the nature of the mystery he’s received: “In other generations [the mystery of Christ] was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (5-6). Others have also become initiates. The Spirit has brought them through to the other side of the veil, from the outside into the inner circle.
So what’s the mystery of Christ? It’s that Gentiles, not just Jews, can be heirs and partakers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that they can join the body of the faithful. In the first century AD, Judaism had grown exclusivist, elitist, God’s chosen people clutching their Torah like the nations were going to take it away from them. They’d forgotten their call to share God’s blessings with the world, as God promised Abraham: “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). The big secret is that God isn’t keeping his gospel a secret. Through Jesus Christ, God’s chosen person, who perfectly embodied what it meant to be Israel, God tore back the curtain.
This isn’t some exclusive mystery given only to a privileged few. No, it’s a secret to everybody.