THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL
INTRODUCTION: Our family recently toured Meramec
Caverns, not far from our home. One of the fascinating things about this
cave is that is has some significant historical value. During the time
of the Old West Frank and Jesse James were active around the area of the
caverns. Each time they would be pursued by posses they would seemingly
disappear into thin air. It was a mystery that lasted for over fifty years.
Finally, in the 1930's it was discovered that there was a whole series
of caverns that had been undiscovered. They had been undisturbed for years
because they had been blocked by water. But one year there was a drought
which caused the water to go down some. This revealed that there was crawl
space into another room of the cave. What they found solved the Jesse James
mystery. The James boy had always gone in the cave, hid their horses, and
swam the 20 feet underwater into the hidden room. After hiding their loot
they would wade down the underground river to where it emptied to the outside.
Mysteries can sometimes be hidden for many years.
Paul talks about a mystery that had been hidden, known by God throughout
the centuries, but only revealed in Paulís generation. It was the mystery
of the gospel.
I. PAUL WAS A PRISONER OF THE MYSTERY.(Verses
A. Paul was a prisoner for the preaching
of the revealed mystery (Verse 1).
II. PAUL REVEALS THE PLAN OF THE MYSTERY (Verses
1. Paul considered himself a prisoner
of Christ. It is not because of the Romans or Jews that Paul is in chains.
It is for the furtherance of the gospel.
a. Philippians 1:7 - just as it is right
for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch
as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel,
you all are partakers with me of grace.
b. Colossians 4:3 - meanwhile praying also for
us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery
of Christ, for which I am also in chains,
2. Paul was not ashamed of his bonds,
and he encouraged others to not be ashamed of him either.
B. It was for the very purpose of preaching the
revealed mystery of the Gospel that he was in chains (Verses 2-3).
a. 2 Timothy 1:8 - Therefore do not
be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share
with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God,
3. Paul wanted them to know that he was not unhappy
or distressed. We must look past our temporary discomfort and distress
to a spiritual good that we can do in our circumstances. "If all we can
see is our immediate situation, then our circumstances control us" (John
b. 2 Timothy 2:9 - for which I suffer trouble
as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not
1. Paul had the blessed opportunity
of being the great revealer of the mystery (once hidden plan) of God.
C. It was a mystery that had been revealed to him.
a. Dispensation here comes from the
Greek word, oikonomia, which literally means, "administration (of
a household or estate); spec. a (religious) "economy":--dispensation, stewardship."
2. This is the very reason for any preaching - to
make know Godís mystery (once hidden plan).
b. Paul considered himself a divinely appointed
steward over the great mystery of God.
c. 1 Corinthians 9:17 - For if I do this willingly,
I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship.
a. Romans 1:16
b. Romans 16:25 - Now to Him who is able to establish
you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according
to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began
1. Paul had received what he was declaring
to them from God, and not from other men.
C. It is a mystery that can be understood by all
a. Galatians 1:11,12 - But I make known
to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according
to man. 12 - For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but
it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
2. 1 Corinthians 14:37 - If anyone thinks himself
to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which
I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.
3. It is thus incorrect to try to "soften" any
words Paul writes by saying that they are just his words and not from the
1. Notice that while it was revealed
by divine revelation to Paul, those who read what Paul wrote could understand
2. This statement that Paul made implies at least
three great truths.
a. We can know the truth. Thus, there
is an objective standard for truth. There are some things we can KNOW.
See John 8:32 and John 17:17.
3. We are to study from Godís truth, the Bible,
for His revealed will.
b. It is possible to understand the truth without
a direct leading of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote to be understood. It was
clear that the Holy Spirit had a hand in the teaching. He revealed the
message to Paul. Paul then communicated the message to the Ephesians by
his writing. They did not need the Holy Spirit "energizing the pages" or
"illuminating the word" to understand the message.
c. Paul wrote so he could be understood. Preachers
need to write, teach, and preach a message than can be understood. It should
not be fair words that lead away others into error (Jeremiah 12:6) but
sound words (2 Timothy 1:13) that will strengthen Christians and convert
a. John 5:39; Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy
A. Godís plan had been hidden in ages
past, but was now made know to inspired men (Verse 5).
III. THE PREACHING OF THE MYSTERY (Verses 7-9).
1. 1 Peter 1:10-12
B. What was the mystery? (Verse 6).
2. It is a plan which could not have been understood
simply by reading the Old Testament. The New Testament fully brings to
light the divine truth that was spoken of in symbols, shadows, and figurative
language. It is much like a night light in a room. One can see shadows
and darkened figures, but cannot see clearly until the ceiling light is
1. It was that both Jew and Gentile
were to be joined together in one body united in Christ Jesus.
2. The Gentiles would be -
a. Fellow heirs - Every promise of eternal
inheritance would apply equally to both Gentiles and Jews.
3. The mystery was spoken of in the Old Testament,
but was completely revealed in the New.
b. Members of the same body - All would be equal
in the body of Christ.
c. Partakers of the same promises in the gospel
of Christ - Every promise of forgiveness, joy, and peace would apply equally
to both Jew and Gentile.
a. Genesis 12:3 and Galatians 3:8
4. It is a truth that we must always keep ever before
us. There is no distinction between races today in the sight of God. Any
prejudice we have toward others of a different race is sin.
b. Isaiah 49:6 - a light to the Gentiles, Acts
13:46-47 through the offering of Christ.
c. Amos 9:11 - rebuild the tabernacle of David,
Acts 15:16 - refers to the Gentiles.
A. Paul became a minister by the gift
of the grace of God (Verse 7).
IV. THE PURPOSE OF THE MYSTERY.
1. He did not believe that he had any
right to the ministry, but was there because of the unmerited favor of
a loving God.
B. What Paul preached (Verse 8).
a. 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 For I am the
least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because
I persecuted the church of God. 10 - But by the grace of God I am what
I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly
than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
2. Minister here comes from diakanos, which
means "a servant."
b. 1 Timothy 1:12-16
1. He preached the "unsearchable riches
2. Look at all the blessings that the Christians
in the First Century had, even though many had little of this worldís goods.
a. Fellowship with God and each other.
3. These are blessings which every Christian has
today, but we often take them for granted.
b. Pardon from sins.
c. The assurance of eternal life.
d. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
these intangible blessings satisfy our modern church members, who have
to be entertained, coddled, flattered, babied, and tricked into being faithful
? These need to learn the preciousness of being in Christ, the joy of Christian
fellowship ( I John 1 :3), the joy of the Holy Spirit (I Thessalonians
1 :6)." (Wilbur Smith)
A. It is to make known Godís wisdom
to the heavenly powers (verse 10).
1. Angels have desired to see the things
CONCLUSION: The overall theme of Ephesians is the
glorious church. How glorious the mystery of God, hidden from eternity,
but now revealed to His people. Godís wisdom has its repository in the
glorious church, the heir of the mystery, and the means through which the
wisdom of God is made known to all.
2. 1 Peter 1:12 - To them it was revealed
that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which
now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel
to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven; things which angels desire
to look into.
B. This shows that the church is the means of demonstrating
3. While we cannot know for certain every aspect
of this passage it seems as if Paul is saying that the gospel vindicates
Godís desire to save sinful and rebellious man and allow him to live in
Heaven. It shows that even angels, citizens of Heaven, did not have unlimited
knowledge. This being the case we should not doubt that the wisdom of God
might often be beyond our comprehension.
1. It is in the church that forgiveness
of sins by the blood of Jesus comes - Acts 20:28
C. This whole plan, the mystery, the wisdom of God,
the church, was planned from eternity.
2. The saved are added to the church - Acts 2:47
3. The beauty of Godís wisdom is seen in the
relationship between Christ and his church - Ephesians 5:22-33.
4. Both Jew and Gentile are brought together
in one body, the church - Ephesians 2:14-20
1. It began before the foundation of
a. Revelation 13:8 - All who dwell on
the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book
of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
2. It was promised immediately after the fall.
a. Genesis 3:15
3. It was repeated to Abraham.
a. Genesis 12:1-3
4. It was spoken by Isaiah.
a. Isaiah 2:1-4
5. It was foretold by Malachi.
a. Malachi 3:1
Copyright 1999 by Grady
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