What is “the mystery”? — Ephesians 3:3

In Ephesians 3:1-5, the Apostle Paul makes mention of his writings as the revelation of “the mystery.” He uses the Greek word “mustḗrion” (μυστήριον). This word does not refer refer to something unknowable. Rather, it refers to what can only b known through revelation (that is, God would have to first reveal it before you can see it).


In classical Greek, “mustḗrion” (μυστήριον) was used to describe knowledge which outsiders to a cult could not grasp — Truth covered until it was revealed. The New Testament writers (particularly the Apostle Paul) similarly used the same Greek word (“mustḗrion”) to refer to God’s plan of salvation which was once hidden in the Old Testament but has now been revealed by the Gospel.


In Romans 16:25-26, for example,we find that this mystery is in the prophetic Scriptures (Genesis to Malachi). In 1 Corinthians 2:7-16, this mystery cannot be known except by the Spirit of God (see verses 11-12). The natural man (the one who views things sensually or carnally) cannot receive the same — they are foolishness to him (vs. 14). This means that a natural/casual reading of the Old Testament Scriptures (as stories, fairy tales or mere history) would lead to your missing the Gospel hidden therein. That is, there is a way the Old Testament can be read which would veil its message from you.


In Ephesians 3:9, Paul says that this mystery was “hidden in God.” This does not mean that God hid it. Paul had explained this earlier in Ephesians 1:7-9 when he referred to that “which He (God) purposed in Himself.” This is the same thing he refers to in Ephesians 3:9. That is, the Gospel had been in God’s heart since the foundation of the world (“hidden in His heart”) till He revealed it, i.e. made it known through His Spirit.


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2020.


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