Bible Reading Ephesians 3:1-12
The Mystery Revealed
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.
Purpose of the Mystery
To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.
The Holy Spirit employs many figures with which to describe the redeemed people of God. We have already considered the word "church" and the word "building," and now we shall look at the word "body."
This metaphor is probably the most descriptive and easily understood of all those used. We all have a body and some understanding of its structure, function, unity and liability to malfunction and illness. The simple message of "the body" is that all believers are bound together by a common life, and that each individual believer contributes to the life, health and function of the whole "body" as the members and parts of a human body contribute to its total life.
The word "body" like the word "church" has a twofold meaning. It refers to all of the redeemed universally and also a local group such as the Corinthians of whom Paul says, "Now you are Christ’s body, and each of you is a member of it." (1 Cor. 12:27 - NET). Each local gathering is a sort of microcosm of the whole church (body).
Probably the great message of this metaphor is UNITY. "There is ONE BODY" (Eph. 4:4). "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; FOR YE ARE ALL ONE IN CHRIST JESUS" (Gal. 3:28). When Jesus came into the world, the Jews felt they had an exclusive right to God. "We be Abraham's seed!" It is true that they had been greatly privileged, but the Abrahamic promise carried with it also a great responsibility to bring blessing to "all the nations." (Gen. 18:18; 22:18). In failing to fulfill the will of God they had deteriorated into disobedient religious exclusivists. God's redemptive purpose was universal. This Jewish exclusivism, and indeed all religious exclusivism, was to be erased by the purpose of God in creating "the church which is His body" in which all believing men would have equal standing before God. It is hard for Gentiles to imagine how difficult it must have been to the Jew to think of Gentiles being brought in on the same basis as themselves. It was to converted Jews that this was made known.
A. THE REVELATION OF THE "MYSTERY" OF THE BODY
Eph. 3:3-6 (Amp.) - "and that by [divine] revelation the mystery was made known to me, as I have already written in brief. By referring to this, when you read it you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not disclosed to mankind, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the [Holy] Spirit; [it is this:] that the Gentiles are now joint heirs [with the Jews] and members of the same body, and joint partakers [sharing] in the [same divine] promise in Christ Jesus through [their faith in] the good news [of salvation]."
JBP - "...He allowed me to understand His secret BY GIVING ME A DIRECT REVELATION. This secret was hidden to past generations of mankind, but it has now, by the Spirit, been made plain to God‘s consecrated messengers and prophets. It is simply this: that the gentiles, who were previously excluded from God‘s agreements, are to be equal heirs with His chosen people, EQUAL MEMBERS and equal partners in God's promise given by Christ through the gospel."
The word "as" in verse 5 is most important. That the Gentiles should be converted was no mystery. The Old Testament taught this (Rom. 15:8-12). However, "the form in which the calling of the Gentiles was predicted in the Old Testament led to the general impression that they were to partake of the Messiah's reign by BECOMING JEWS, by being as proselytes merged into the old theocracy, which was to remain in all its peculiarities." The revelation of the "gospel" and "the body" revealed that converted Gentiles did not become Jews, but that both converted Gentiles and Jews became "EQUAL MEMBERS" of a new order called "the church, which is HIS BODY." The repeated reference to the word "body" as describing God's people indicates the importance placed upon the descriptive figure in the life and teaching of the early church.
Rom. 12:5 — "So we, being many, are ONE BODY IN CHRIST, and individually MEMBERS OF ONE ANOTHER."
1 Cor. 10:17 — "For we though many are one bread, and ONE BODY."
1 Cor. 12:27 - "Now ye are THE BODY OF CHRIST .... "
Eph. 1:22-23 - "...the church, which is HIS BODY."
Eph. 4:4 - "There is ONE BODY!"
Eph. 5:30 — "For we are members of HIS BODY, of His flesh and of His bones."
Col. 1:18 - "He is the Head of THE BODY, the church."
Col. 1:24 - "...HIS BODY, which is the church."
B. THE REALIZATION OF THE BODY IN FACT
1) QUALIFYING THE MEMBERS OF THE BODY
We have already seen that it is God's revealed purpose that Jews and Gentiles should be "equal members" in the body of Christ." How was this to be accomplished? The Jew looked down on the Gentile as an "uncircumcised" outsider, and the Gentile despised the Jew for his claims of religious superiority. There was deep "enmity" between the two. The Jew insisted that the Gentile must come through him if he was to know God. The Gentile refused and clung to his idols. The deeper "enmity" of the human heart, both Jewish and Gentile, toward God needed to be dealt with. The answer to all our divisions is Christ.
Eph. 2:14-16 - "For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity."
Jew and Gentile must now both come to God BY WAY OF THE CROSS. The Jew comes "apart from the Law," and the Gentile "turns to God from idols." Each turns from "his own way" to find "PEACE through THE BLOOD OF HIS CROSS (Col. 1:20). When Jew and Gentile come to Christ, their enmity against God goes, and so does their enmity against one another. They are no longer Jew or Gentile, but "ONE IN CHRIST!" Each one has become "a NEW CREATION in Christ" (2 Cor. 5:17), and together they form another "created" order, namely, "a NEW HUMANITY," the "BODY OF CHRIST." "Not only is every believer a new creation, but the corporate organization into which they are built is also a creation. The Gentile is not turned into a Jew, nor the Jew into a Gentile, but both into ONE NEW MAN, thus removing all grounds of jealousy." All members of "the Body of Christ" leave their human religious identity at the cross. The old divisions and marks are gone and each member is EQUALLY "IN CHRIST!"
This is made clear and real to us at the very beginning of our Christian life when we obediently submit to baptism.
Rom. 6:3 - "Know ye not, that AS MANY OF US (Jew or Gentile) as were baptised into Jesus Christ were BAPTISED INTO HIS DEATH?"
By the baptism of repentance we acknowledge our death to all "old things." We emerge from our baptism to A NEW KIND OF LIFE. Whatever we were before, we are NOW "partakers of the divine nature"
(2 Pet. 1:4). We are members of a new order in which the old Adamic divisions have no place. We are members of "His Body."
2) CALLING THE MEMBERS OF THE BODY
Col. 3:15 - "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also you were CALLED IN ONE BODY .... "
Amp. - "And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from the Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts - deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds - (in that peaceful state) to which (as members of CHRIST'S) ONE BODY you were also CALLED TO LIVE."
We have learned in past lessons that the members of Christ's church are "CALLED OUT ONES." Since the "church is His body," to be called to one is to be called to the other. Our Lord by His redemptive work, has made it possible for both Jew and Gentile to be "reconciled" to Him. The call has been issued. Those who respond are, among other things, CALLED TO THE LIFE OF THE ONE BODY. We are NOT CALLED ALONE! we give the lie to our calling if we do not RELATE TO THE BODY. We have been "ELECTED TOGETHER" (1 Pet. 5:13). "He chose US" (Eph. 1:4). The individual believer is to have "inner harmony" and such harmony is to characterize the whole "body," whether we think in terms universal or local.
3) UNITING THE MEMBERS OF THE BODY
1 Cor. 12:13 - "For by one Spirit we were all baptised into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free .... "
Amp. — "For by (means of the personal agency of) one (Holy) Spirit we were all, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, baptised (and by baptism united together) INTO ONE BODY...."
Wey. — "Were baptised to FORM ONE BODY."
The repentant, believing, obedient person is made a member of the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. He is supernaturally introduced into a community of supernaturally endowed "new creatures." This certainly marks the body of Christ as being more than a human society of "nice" people, whatever their academic, social and economic qualities may be. The body of Christ is Spiritually formed! The Holy Spirit not only puts the believer into Christ's body, but He is the believer's life in the body. Having been "baptised into the body" we now "drink of one Spirit." The Holy Spirit both inaugurates and perpetuates!
STUDY QUESTIONS FOR LESSON #16