|Series Theme: Meditations in Ephesians|
Meditation No. 6
Meditation Title: Mystery
Eph 1:9,10 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
Films used to sometimes be designated ‘mysteries' although today they more often tend to be called ‘thrillers'. Mysteries tended to go with such names as Sherlock Holmes or Poirot, or Miss Marple. A mystery was a story or film where schemes and machinations were hidden and were gradually brought to light by the sleuth. A mystery is all about something that was initially hidden but is now being revealed. In Paul's day there were so-called mystery religions, called that because there was something that was to be revealed only to the initiated, the ‘insiders' of that cult. Paul uses ‘mystery' to refer to something that was previously hidden but which has now been revealed for all to see. This is the Gospel of the ‘coming one', referred to many times in Old Testament prophecies but never quite clear, thus leaving a mystery – who is it, who will it be? Now it has been revealed as Jesus.
The ‘he' and ‘his' refers to God in this verse. He has made known His will, or His plan, which had previously been largely hidden. But there is something else very significant here. Paul says that God making known His will was, “according to his good pleasure”. When Jesus was speaking about his miracles he said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” (Mt 11:25,26). Luke picks up what is clearly another incident but where Jesus applies the same words: “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” (Lk 10:21). In all three instances the sense is that finally revealing His will to the world brought great pleasure to the Father. It was like He had been sitting on it for millennia but now He could reveal it. Bringing salvation, or at least the means for it, to us brought the Father great pleasure. There is an implied suggestion that He was sad that man had been out of relationship with Him, but now He looked forward eagerly to the wonder of His salvation being revealed to men who would receive it and come back into relationship with the Himself again.
This plan God "purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment". Put this another way and Paul says that God put this plan in effect – which involved Jesus dying on the Cross outside Jerusalem, when the time was right. Why was the time right? We're not told but we might suggest a number of things. Michael Green in his book Evangelism in the Early Church suggests there were a number of things that made that time in history one of the best for the spread of the Gospel. It may also be that the time being right also included the right people were on earth for God to use, people who would respond as God wanted then to (e.g. Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary Joseph, wise men etc. etc.). God knows exactly the right time and that was it! But I've led you astray! All that I've just said is true except it is not true for here, for there are two sets of words that reveal that Paul has a future time in mind: “to be put into effect” and “when the times will have reached their fulfilment.” See how careful you have to be reading the Bible! In verse 21 Paul speaks of, “not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” so he clearly has future events in mind. What we need to see is that the work of Christ is an ongoing work and there is much to be achieved.
The Cross, his death, resurrection and ascension were only the start of it. If we take just a few verses of Paul's from elsewhere we will see this more clearly: “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor 15:24 -26). This all has a time element to it and indicates that this is all yet in the future.
But there is a remarkable end goal that is then revealed in our verses today: “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” The ultimate outworking of the work of Christ is that eventually absolutely everything will be brought under his rule, whether it be angels in heaven or men on earth; absolutely everything will come under the head of the church, Christ.
That is the declared outworking of the mystery that has been hidden and is still hidden from so many unbelieving eyes. The promised work of Christ, prophesied in the Old Testament, has now been revealed and our salvation is obvious. What is not so obvious is that eventually, one day, it will work out so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:10.11). He will rule over all things. Worship him!