“Wonder what mystery Dad’s working on now?” Joe asked.
His brother Frank looked eagerly down the platform of the Bayport railroad station. “It must be a very important case, the way Dad dashed off to Detroit. We’ll know in a few minutes.”
Both boys were wondering about a certain surprise their father had hinted might be ready for them upon their return.
Waiting with Frank and Joe was their best friend Chet Morton. “Your dad’s cases are always exciting–and dangerous,” the plump, ruddy-faced boy remarked. “Do you think he’ll give you a chance to help out on this one?”
“We sure hope so,” Joe replied eagerly.
“Well, if I know you fellows,” Chet went on, “you’ll get mixed up in the mystery, somehow–and so will I, sooner or later. There goes my peaceful summer vacation!”
I’m quoting, of course, from the beginning of a Hardy Boys mystery, The Secret of the Old Mill, to be exact. I spent many hours reading them when younger. At the center of every Hardy Boys book is a mystery, or something hidden that needed to be revealed.
St. Paul speaks here in Ephesians 3 of the Greatest Mystery known to man and one that has the greatest power to change our lives. Mystery in the New Testament is not a riddle to be solved but something once concealed that is now openly revealed.
What is the mystery? In verse 4 Paul speaks of the mystery of Christ. In verse 6, he qualifies it with “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.”
The greatest mystery that lies behind the one mentioned here in Ephesians 3:6 is the mystery of Christ, who has made union with God, and thereby salvation, possible for man.
Maybe Paul has in mind his own teaching of I Timothy 3:16 – “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” It is the whole work of Christ, therefore, that is the mystery of God that has been revealed. It is God made man; it is God preached to us and believed by us; it is God’s eternal plan of salvation made manifest in His Son.
And it’s Christ in us.
This is the Mystery of the Ages of which Paul speaks. As Paul makes clear in Ephesians 5:30-32, the mystery is that God and man are made one in Christ, that Jesus Christ and His Bride the Church are one flesh and that on this basis man may be saved.
Men have looked for this Greatest Mystery for millennia. They have desperately sought to unlock the Secret of Life, to find salvation, in many places. Some seek this mystery in false religions, of which there are many. Today, in the Western world, at least, the most common way for man to seek the Mystery, to find the Meaning of Life, is to look in himself. One of Shirley MacLaine’s books is titled: “Going Within: A Guide for Inner Transformation.” A book search online reveals many books about how man is divine without God – including one audaciously called The Lost Teachings of Jesus: Finding the God Within.
But the only place to find the Greatest Mystery of salvation is in God, as He has revealed
Himself through His Son, through the Church, and through the Scriptures.
We love to unlock the mysteries of the universe. But God’s great mystery – His plan of redemption through His Son – is one mystery man cannot discover for himself.
God had to reveal it to us. As Paul writes in I Cor. 2:9 (quoting Isaiah 64:4) “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him . . . . But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit.”
In verse 3 Paul reminds us that even the great apostle himself had to have this Great Mystery of salvation in Christ revealed to him. Paul is keenly aware of God’s gracious revelation in his life in all His letters and mentions in verses 7 and 8 that he was made a special minister of God’s grace (especially to the Gentiles.)
It was not only to St. Paul but also to the entire Church that God’s mystery was revealed; not only St. Paul but the entire Church was made a steward of the mysteries of God. It’s a good thing because St. Paul was only one man, and he’s no longer here with us.
Paul writes in verse 5 that the mystery of God was revealed now to apostles and prophets, just as he wrote in 2:20 that the apostles and prophets are the foundation of the Church and the foundation of God’s mystery in the world.
Therefore, it is the Church as a whole who is the steward of the mysteries of God.
But how does God’s mystery get propagated throughout the whole world? God does not offer new revelation to men, and they cannot find it by themselves. The Church is God’s means of speaking to the world because it is the Body of Christ here on earth. It incarnates the mystery of God with us, of Christ and His Body.
There is a kind of divine respiration at work, then, in the world: God breathes His mystery, His gospel, out into us, His Church. Then we are to breathe it out again into the world. God breathes life into us by His Spirit, and then He breathes out life through us, to the world.
In other words, the mystery of God – His eternal plan of salvation – is first revealed to the Church, and then it is revealed to the world through the Church.
There was a TV commercial years ago: “When E.F. Hutton talks . . . (and everyone in room got instantly quiet.)
But when God talks, the Mystery of mysteries is revealed
When God talks, people are saved and lives are transformed
God spoke once, and the world was created; He spoke again – through His Son and now
through His Church – and the world is re-created.
So important is the Church’s part in revealing God’s mystery to the entire cosmos that Paul says in verse 10 that even the angels are taught about God by the Church.
This is one of those absolutely astounding verses of Scripture to me, and unless Paul had revealed it, I wouldn’t have known it or believed it. Through us the angels, the principalities and powers in heavenly places, come to know the wisdom of God. Incredible!
This makes each of you and all of us together stewards of the mystery of God. A steward is someone who has been given the responsibility to watch over and administer something valuable, such as a house or the wine.
We have a sacred treasure entrusted to us: the mysteries of God, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are heirs of a long line of faithful stewards of the mystery, and we must prove just as faithful. We cannot let this unbroken chain of revelation – from Jesus Christ to Paul to the
Church to us to the world – be broken by our negligence.
The mysteries of God are like a great treasure that has been entrusted to us, and our job is to pass it along to as many as we possibly can. God’s mystery of salvation is like hidden treasure, except that He has shown us exactly where it lies. Unlike earthly treasure, which everyone wants to keep to himself and because of which everyone is figuring out a way to
cut others out, God’s mystery of Christ in us is one that you want to share, because the more you share the treasure the greater it will be.
By the way you live, by your holiness, the mystery of God is revealed to the world
By the way you manifest the peace and joy and love of God in your lives, the gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed.
By your daily worship of God and your desire for Him, the angels are instructed.
Guard this treasure, this mystery with your life and by your life. God has put His treasure into these earthen vessels, these old, frail bodies and sinful souls that we might speak it and perform it before the world.
Remember: the world, and even the angels, are watching and learning – from you.
For you are a minister of the mysteries of God.
Prayer: Father, I thank You that You have revealed Yourself and Your salvation to Your people through Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank You for choosing me as a minister of Your great mysteries and for making me an heir of Your great salvation. Remind me today that I have a holy obligation to help reveal this mystery to others, as much as is in my power. For the salvation of the world and the enlightenment of the angels, make me Your minister today. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
1. Meditate on some of the ways that God has revealed Himself and His salvation to You. Rejoice in and give thanks for each one.
2. Meditate on one way that God has been calling You to be a more faithful steward of His mystery. It might be by more faithfully revealing Him to others through evangelism or discipleship, or it might be by being a more faithful minister in your own holiness. If you have been working on other resolutions recently, continue them with today’s meditation in mind.
Resolution: I resolve to meditate today on the fact that I am a minister and steward of God’s mystery of salvation.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson