The Apostle Paul was someone God entrusted with secrets—in a unique way. In fact, you know the thorn in his flesh he discussed in 2 Cor. 12? The reason he got that affliction, which many believe was an eye problem, was so that he wouldn’t get proud over the many revelations God gave him.
Even Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus was a dramatic, direct revelation from God. Paul’s salvation wasn’t a result of the disciples’ witness or of reading the parts of the Bible available at that time. He had a God-orchestrated encounter with the Almighty.
Later, in the 2 Cor. 12:1-7 account that ends with his thorn in the flesh, Paul talks about being caught up into paradise and hearing amazing revelations. What he took away from that life-altering experience was not the beauty he saw, but the words he heard (12:4). He had a message from God.
This shouldn’t surprise us. After all, the Old Testament prophets received secrets from God in dreams. They recorded them by inspiration from God for us to read, though they didn’t understand them. It was a matter of progressive revelation in which God didn’t make His whole plan plain all at once. His design was to build understanding on the prophets’ truth by the apostles. (Eph. 2:20) Enter the Apostle Paul.
Paul was God’s choice to open up some of those Old Testament hidden secrets, which he revealed in the New Testament books he wrote, and most notably the book of Ephesians, as far as mysteries are concerned. How did I figure that out? Did I read a commentary? No. I went to my Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (TSK) via my eSword app and typed in the word mystery. You can do it too. You’ll see the word shows up in 22 verses, all in the New Testament. Ephesians is the book with the most mystery mentions. (And interestingly, all but five of the 22 verses show up in the books Paul wrote.)
Now, just what were those mystery revelations? Anyone can look them up and be amazed, but I’ll just focus on the ones from Eph. 3:3-10 and its companion verses in Col. 1:25-27.
Before I share the secret, it’s important to understand that up to this point, everyone’s understanding was that the promises of God were for the Jews. He made kingdom promises to their forefathers Abraham, (Gen. 13:15-16) Isaac, (Gen 26:24) Jacob (Gen. 28:13-3) and David (2 Sam. 7:12-13).
What hidden mystery was revealed to Paul for such a time as that (and now)? “That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” (Eph. 3:6) That’s the simple answer. He expands it a bit by naming that body the church.
I hope that I don’t need to explain another mystery we know somewhat. That is that us humans aren’t all there is. There are spiritual beings out there called principalities and powers in heavenly places. They aren’t omniscient. They also marvel at the revelation of God’s mysteries as they unfold in progressive revelation. That secret revealed about the Gentiles being fellowheirs and of the same body and partakers of God’s promises in Christ by the gospel was equally news to them. “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.” (Eph. 3:10)
The body of Christ, the church, is a witness of the gospel truth to the world and a witness to powers and principalities.
Paul expounded on this previously enshrouded mystery in Col. 1:25-27. Remember, to these first readers and to the powers and principalities, this was novel. “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27)
Here’s an exercise. If you do a TSK search on Col. 1:27, you’ll find that in many ways, when Jesus was on earth, he told his followers that He would be in them. Here’s just one: And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; (17) Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:16-17)
The gospel, Christ in you, the body of Christ—it was all a revelation given to Paul that is now common to us.
Let me end with this. Does this mean God’s promises to the Jews transferred to Gentiles and that He is finished with the Jews? We’re living in an age that increasingly believes that’s the case. They even have an elevated name for the false teaching—replacement theology. But a good Bible student sees another secret that shows how God will deal with the Jews in the future. It’s fascinating, and it’s progressive revelation with elements still enshrouded in a bit of mystery because it hasn’t happened yet. Stay tuned.