Sometimes we might read the word “mystery” in the New Testament and think that it is something cloaked, cryptic and cannot be understood. Such is FAR from the truth. In fact, when we read the word “mystery” in Ephesians 3, it is clearly something that is understandable. Let’s consider together—what is “the mystery of Christ”?
The word “mystery” is found a couple dozen times in the New Testament, and while the word is not always used to address the same subject, the meaning of the word is the same. When God uses the word “mystery,” it is not to scare us off into thinking that something is secretive or inexplicable. Rather, God uses that word to indicate that there was a hidden truth that WAS hidden UNTIL it was revealed, and once it IS revealed it CAN be understood.
In fact, look closely at the wording in Ephesians 3. Paul says that “the mystery” was “made known” to him “by revelation” (3:3), having “been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (3:5). The word “revelation” indicates that something is being unveiled or uncovered. And, when Paul, by that same Spirit, writes down this revealed truth about the once hidden truth, his promise is, “when you read you can understand my insight” (3:4).
So, what was it that was so special and so amazing that God had been planning? What is “the mystery”? “That the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the [same] body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (3:6). Take this in two main pieces.
First, God’s plan involved ONE BODY. That is the emphasis of the entire book of Ephesians (1:23; 2:16; 3:6; 4:4, 12, 16; 5:23, 30). There is only one body—the body of Christ—and Christ serves as its only head. This premier truth is of such utmost value and importance that the Son “gave Himself up for her” (5:25). To understand “the mystery” is to understand there is one church.
Second, God’s plan involved ALL the saved being EQUALLY in the SAME BODY. Again, that is emphasized throughout the book of Ephesians (1:22-23; 2:14-22; 3:6, 11, 15; 4:12-16; 5:21-33). Look at the prefix “fellow” used three times in verse 6—“fellow heirs, fellow members, fellow partakers.” The word draws attention to a union and equality that exists in Christ, that did not exist before and does not exist anywhere else.
“The mystery of Christ” is the eternal plan of God (3:10-11) to establish His ONE church (4:4), that belongs to Him (2:14-22) and over which He exercises full authority (1:22-23), which must obey His laws (5:1-27), teach one faith (4:5) and accept all members as “one” (2:14-22). What a truth!