This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Eph 5:32)
Ephesians has a lot to say about God’s Mystery. Six of the twenty-two verses that contain the word mystery are found in Ephesians which is the most for any book of the Bible, next is Revelations with four verses. In Ephesians 3:3 we see “How that by revelation he (God) made known unto me (Paul) the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,”.
The Bible uses figures of speech many times and many ways in the Bible. In Ephesians chapter five God uses the relationship of Christ and the church as a metaphor for comparing the relationship between Christ and the church to marriage, with Jesus as husband and the church as the wife.
Earlier in this study, we have seen that God had foreordained plan that Christ would be the head of His body of believers called the church. Peter tells his hearers in Acts that they with the help of the lawless gentiles (Pilot) had nailed Jesus to the cross. However, death could not hold Him and He was raised back to life. (Acts 2:23-24)
Paul has said earlier that the wisdom he spoke of was the secret plan (wisdom/ mystery) of God, which was hidden in former times, though he made it for our benefit before the world began. Paul says the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would never have crucified our glorious Lord. (1 Cor 2:7-8) Also in Ephesians 3:9, Paul says “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hidden in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:”.
We have earlier studied the Mystery of the Gospel of Christ. In Eph 3:4 we see Paul saying “Whereby, when ye read (God’s Word), ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” and as the Book of Ephesians closes in Eph 6:19 Paul states “And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.”
Everything that was created was created for the pleasure and glory of God (Rev 4:11). God with His foreknowledge knew of Satan and man’s rebellion before He created them and put this plan of Christ and the church into place before He created them.
The foundation of this plan was Jesus and Him crucified. In the first chapter of Ephesians Jesus is referenced over thirty times by name, noun, or pronoun and the word mystery appears in verse 1:9 which states “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself.”
This will be developed in more detail in a later chapter but is mentioned here to make the point the thing that was predestined in chapter one was not the salvation (election) of a specific human, but the predestined method of salvation provided through the predestined event of Jesus and Him crucified!
The “who” is the focus of chapter one of Ephesians is very important and is the foundation of many church doctrines. Is the focus man or Christ? The “Who” is Christ as was mentioned in the first chapter of Ephesians Jesus is referenced over thirty times as my name, noun, or pronoun.
The method of salvation was the predetermined element, not the individual believer!
There are many similar decisions we must make as we wrestle with God and His Word. For example, is chapter nine of John about the one born blind ( a physical store), or is it to be viewed from a spiritual sense to show that mankind is born sinful (spiritually blind) so that God might be glorified. The Bible says that every time a sinner repents the angels in heaven rejoice, and God is glorified. It does not say every time one is healed physically angels in heaven rejoice.
As we think about Christ and His church, let us think about how Jesus is magnified through the Church. Let us examine how Jesus is magnified as people become a member of Christ’s church, as they become a mature member of the church and the work of the mission and ministry of Christ’s body the church.
Christ be Magnified
The Bible tells us that all of God’s creation is for His pleasure and glory(Rev 4:11). One way that He is magnified is that every that God raised Jesus to the heights of heaven and gave Him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:9-11)
We have seen how God is magnified when Jesus is acknowledged as our creator, sustainer, and redeemer when one sinner repents! Jesus will also be magnified as mankind’s final judge. The Bible says that He prefers none to be lost (condemned) but all come to a saving knowledge of Him as Lord and Savior. (2 Peter 3:9-10)
The Lord isn’t being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and everything in them will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be exposed to judgment.
Since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives we should be living! We should look forward to that day and hurry it along-the day when God will set the heavens on fire and the elements will melt away in the flames. We are to be looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world where everyone is right with God. (2 Peter 3:9-13)
Let us not overlook 2 Peter 3:14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
Membership in Church – a Christian
It appears that one of the reasons God created man was that He desired a people to whom He would be the God they would be His people and He would dwell with them. Just as God planned the crucifixion of Christ before the foundation of the world, He also planned that His people would ultimately be the church.
Just as Biblical history was marching to the cross, it was also marching to the establishment of the church. All of the Old Testament sacrifices pointed to Christ and were fulfilled in Him. Jesus replaced the tabernacle, the High Priest, and the temple sacrifices. The church replaces Israel as the people of God and the individual Christian replaces the priesthood. This was God’s plan before the world was created, but kept a secret until the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Israel’s rejection was not a surprise, just as Adam’s rebellion was not a surprise. God’s plan had a replacement strategy that magnifies Jesus. In Hebrews, the Bible states all these things happen to Israel for our example and that their covenant relationship was a shadow of a new covenant relationship (a new people of God).
How one becomes a member of the church is he must be “born again” of the Spirit of God to enter God’s Kingdom. That is saying that the “true people of God” are those who have circumcised hearts by the Holy Spirit. Paul says the true Jew is not one born as a physical Jew, but one born who has a circumcised heart (as a Spiritual Jew) (Rom 2:28-29).
It is by grace (the cross) through faith in Jesus’ death burial and resurrection that one becomes a believer (born again). A believer in Jesus is a child of God, one who acknowledges God as His Father, and God acknowledges Him as His child. The final proof of this relationship is the Bible says that when His Spirit dwells with us we will know it because it will testify to our spirit that we are His.
Ephesians 2:8-10 says that we are saved by grace through faith and not of works, but unto “good works” that God has ordained for us to do. These “good works” are acts of maturity.
Maturity in Christ
Jesus said that He came so that we might have life and it abundant. Galatians says that if we will walk under the control of the Holy Spirit we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. It goes on to say that the fruit (results of this walk) of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, and long-suffering.
In other words, we start to act like the Spirit that is controlling our lives. In Exodus God speaks of His desire for Israel to be a kingdom of priests. He says you shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation (Exd 19:6).
However, Israel never accomplished that goal, nor has the physical church, however, this will be accomplished by the spiritual church, bride of Christ, the true Jew, remnant, etc when Jesus comes again.
However, Peter challenges the church much like Israel was challenged to conquer the “Promise Land” when he writes “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Walking in the light is a sign of Christian maturity and should be a desire of all professing disciples of Christ.
God’s Word uses several metaphors to show what a mature Christian looks like. For example, chapter ten of John speaks of Jesus being the good shepherd and the church are obedient sheep who hear His voice and are obedient (follow) His commands.
Ministry of Christ
One aspect of Christian maturity is obeying His commands such as going make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all things. This is a key ministry of God.
He tells us that the fields are white unto harvest and for us to pray for workers in God’s kingdom. A picture of God’s ministry is where He is the head and we the church are the body. Just as the body is under the control of the head (nervous system), we as mature Christian is to be under the control of Christ as the head.
Also, the picture of the vine and the branch in John chapter fifteen shows a mature Christian as one who stays attached to the vine and bears abundant fruit. We can see that a mature Christian will bear fruit of the Spirit such as love, joy, peace, and patience. Also, the mature Christian will be able to be productive in the fields white unto harvest. They will be able to be like Philip was with the Ethiopian and start where people are and preach unto them, Jesus.
A mature Christian has learned to be submissive. God uses the metaphor of the husband and wife in Ephesians chapter five from which we took our opening verse where Paul has stated that this is a profound mystery which I am talking about Christ and the church (Eph 5:32.
This section of Scripture starts by stating wives are to submit to their husbands. The reason for this submission is that the husband is the head of the wife and this is compared to Christ’s headship over the church. As Christ is the Savior of the church, His body, so a husband should be the protector of his wife, who is “one flesh” with him. As the church is in submission to Christ, so also a wife should be to her husband. It would be foolish to think of the church being head over Christ.
After speaking of a wife’s submission to her husband, Paul then stated the measure of the husband’s love for his wife. Husbands are commanded, Love their wives just as Christ loved the church. The word “love” means seeking the highest good for another person. This is an unselfish love as seen in Christ’s sacrificial death in which He gave Himself up for the church.
The purpose of Christ’s death was to provide a way of restoration for sinful man by dying in our place. Jesus and the church is a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy of God’s people dwelling amid Jerusalem (Zec 8:8).
In the New Testament, God continues the same theme when He says the believer is the temple of the living God; as God had said, I will dwell in them, and walk-in [them]; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people (2Cr 6:16).
Rev21:3 completes this promise when a great voice out of heaven says, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God.
Book – Mystery of God