The Secret Okay To Tell

Bible Book: Ephesians  4 : 1-13
Subject: Witnessing; The Mystery of the Gospel; Evangelism

Ephesians 4:1-13

It is every preacher's desire to communicate - it is my desire, my goal each Lord's day. Sharing information is not enough, there must be true communication.

I know that Jesus had the same dream and desire. Over and over, we find him questioning His listeners to see if they really understood. I recently read a satire which illustrates Jesus' desire and frustration.

"Then Jesus took His disciples up the mountain and gathering them around Him, h aught them saying: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek, Blessed are they that mourn, Blessed are the merciful, Blessed are they who thirst for justice, Blessed are you when persecuted, Blessed are you when you suffer, Be glad and rejoice for your reward is great in heaven.'"

Then Simon Peter said: "Do we have to write this down?" And Andrew said: "Are we supposed to know this?"

And James said: "Will we have a test on this?"

And Phillip said: "I don't have any paper."

And Bartholomew said: "Do we have to turn this in?"

And John said: "The other disciples didn't have to learn this."

And Matthew said: "Can I go to the boy's room?"

And Judas said: "What does this have to do with real life?" And Jesus wept.

Will we truly understand God's message or will Jesus weep again today?

Turn with me to Ephesians 3:1-13. Twice in this letter, Paul reminds his reader hat he is a prisoner (Eph. 3:1; 4:1), and at the close he calls himself an "ambassador in bonds" (Eph. 6:20). No doubt the Ephesians were asking, "Why is Paul a prisoner i Rome? Why would God permit such a thing?" In this paragraph, Paul explains his situation and, in doing so, also explains one of the greatest truths  in this letter, the "mystery" of the church. In the New Testament, a mystery is not something eerie or inscrutable, but rather "a truth that was hidden by God in times past and is now revealed to those who are in His family."

Paul explains the mystery--the Gentile believers are now united to the Jewish believers in one body, the church (Eph. 3:6). But now Paul explains the tremendous impact of this "sacred secret" that had so possessed his own life and ministry. His use o he words "prisoner" and "Gentiles" leads him into this important explanation of the "mystery of the church," and in this explanation, Paul shows us that the "mystery" is important to four different groups of persons.

I. It Was Important to Paul (3:1-5)

The best way to grasp the importance of "the mystery" in Paul's life is to focus on the two  descriptions he gives of himself in this section. He begins by calling himself "a prisoner" (Eph. 3:1), and then he calls himself " minister" (Eph. 3:7). Paul was a prisoner because he believed in God's new program of uniting believing Jews and Gentiles into one body, the church. The orthodox Jews in Paul's day considered the Gentiles "dogs," but some of the Christian Jews did not have much better attitude toward the Gentiles.

Paul was a leader in Jewish orthodoxy when Christ saved yet in the providence of God, he began his early ministry in a local church in Antioch that was composed of both Jews and Gentiles.

Paul knew from the very beginning of his Christian life that God had called him to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, and he was not disobedient to that call. Wherever Paul ministered, he founded local churches composed of believing Jews and Gentiles, all "on n Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).

God made Paul a steward of "the mystery" with the responsibility of sharing it with the Gentiles. It was not enough simply to win them to Christ and form them into local assemblies. He was also to teach them their wonderful position in Christ as members o he body, sharing God's grace equally with the Jews. This truth had not been revealed i he Old Testament Scriptures. It was revealed to the New Testament Apostles and prophets by the Holy Spirit. This was the "dispensation" of stewardship that God had given him. And because Paul was a faithful steward, he was now a prisoner in Rome. But, in the end, it brought great glory to God and salvation to Jews and Gentiles.

II. It Was Important to the Gentiles (Eph. 3:6-8)

In Ephesians 2:11-22, we discovered that Christ's work on the cross accomplished much more than the salvation of individual sinners. It reconciled Jews and Gentiles to each other and to God. It is this truth that Paul presents here, and you can imagine what exciting news it would be! The truth of "the mystery" reveals to believing Gentiles that they have a wonderful new relationship through Jesus Christ.

To begin with, they are fellow heirs with the Jews and share in the spiritual riches God gave them because of His covenant with Abraham. In Christ, being a Jew or Gentile is neither an asset nor a liability, for together we share the riches of Christ. The Gentiles are also fellow members of the body of Christ, the church. Our human birth determines our racial distinctions, but our spiritual birth unites us as members of the same body. Finally, in their new relationship, the Gentiles are partakers of God's promises. Once they were outside the covenant, with no claims on the promises of God (Eph. 2:12). Now, in Christ, they share the promises of God with the believing Jews.

"The mystery" not only gives believing Gentiles a new relationship, it also reveals that there is a new power available to them (Eph. 3:7). This power is illustrated in the life of Paul. The word "working" here is energeia from which we get our word "energy." The mighty resurrection power of Christ is available to us for daily life and service.

Finally, there is available to the Gentiles new riches, "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:8). Paul called them "exceeding riches" (Eph. 2:7) but here he describe them as "unfathomable." The words can also be translated "untraceable," which meant that they are so vast you cannot discover their end.

Are these riches available to every believer? Yes! In fact, Paul makes it clear that he himself had no special claim on God's wealth, for he considered himself "less than the least of all saints" (Eph. 3:8). Here he calls himself, not "the least of all saints," but "less than the least of all saints" (Eph. 3:8), and he later calls himself the "chief of sinners" ( 1 Tim. 1:15). Understanding the deep truths of God's Word does not give a man a big head. It gives him a broken and contrite heart.

III. It Is Important to the Angels (3:9-10)

Perhaps at this point, you are asking yourself the question, "Why did God keep His secret about the church hidden for s any centuries?" Certainly the Old Testament clearly states that God will save the Gentiles through Israel, but nowhere are we told that both Jews and Gentiles will form a new creation, the church, the body of Christ. It was this mystery that the Spirit revealed to Paul and other leaders in the early church, and that was so difficult for the Jews to accept.

Paul tells us that "the principalities and powers" are also involved in this great secret. God is "educating" the angels by means of the church! By "the principalities and powers," Paul means the angelic beings created by God, both good and evil. Angels are created beings and are not omniscient.

What, then, do the angels learn from the church? "They learn the manifold wisdom of God" (Eph. 3:10). Certainly the angels know about the power of God as seen in His creation. But the wisdom of God as seen in His new creation, the church, is something new to them. Unsaved men, including wise philosophers, look at God's plan of salvation and consider it "foolishness". But the angels watch the outworking of God's salvation, an hey praise His wisdom.

But there is another facet to this truth that must be explored. What are the evil angels learning from God's "mystery"? That their leader, Satan, does not have and wisdom! Satan knows the Bible, and he understood from the Old Testament Scripture hat the Savior would come, when He would come, how He would come, and where He could come. Satan also understood why He would come, as far as redemption is concerned. But nowhere in the Old Testament would Satan find any prophecies concerning the church, "the mystery" of Jews and Gentiles united in one body! Satan could see unbelieving Jews rejecting their Messiah, and he could see Gentiles trusting the Messiah, but he could not see both believing Jews and Gentiles united in one body, seated with Christ in the heavenlies, and completely victorious over Satan! Had Satan known the far-reaching results of the Cross, no doubt he would have altered his plans accordingly. God hid this great plan "from the beginning of the world," but now He wants "the mystery" to be known by His church. And this is why He made Paul a "steward" of this great truth. Here is an amazing truth: Now all believers are to be faithful stewards of this great truth! This "sacred secret" that was so important to Paul, and to the Gentiles, and to angels, is now in our hands!

IV. It Should Be Important to Believers (3:11-13)

During the apostolic days, the truths of the Gospel and "the mystery" were guarded, preached, and handed own to faithful men. A study of church history reveals that, one by one, many of the basic truths of the Word of God were rarely preached during the centuries that followed. God had His faithful people, a minority, at all times, but many of the great truths of the Word were buried under manmade theology, tradition, and ritual. Then, God's Spirit began to open the eyes of seeking souls, and these great truths were unveiled again. In recent years, the truth of "the mystery" has again excited the hearts of God's people. We rejoice that we are "all one in Christ Jesus."

The reason many churches are weak and ineffective is because they do not understand what they have in Christ. And the cause of this is often spiritual leaders who are not good "stewards of the mystery." They confuse their people concerning their spiritual position in Christ, and they rob their people of the spiritual wealth in Christ.

This great truth concerning the church is not a divine afterthought. It is a part of God's eternal  purpose in Christ (Eph. 3:11). To ignore this truth is to sin against the Father who planned it, the Son whose death made it possible, and the Spirit who today seeks to work in our lives to accomplish what God has planned. When you understand this truth, it gives you great confidence and faith (Eph. 3:12). When you know what God is doing in the world, and you work with Him, you can be sure that He will work in you and for you.

But an understanding of God's program in this present age not only gives the believer confidence toward God. It also gives him courage in the difficult circumstance of life. Paul's sufferings for the Gentiles would mean glory for the Gentiles. Our blessing re spiritual, not material (Eph. 1:3). They have been given to us completely in Christ.

We appropriate them by faith. However, if we disobey God, He does not revoke them. We imply lose the enjoyment and the enrichment of them.

People who do not understand God's "mystery" in His church are trying to make spiritual progress with the wrong map. God's churches on this earth, the local assemblies, are not supposed to be either Gentile culture cliques or Jewish culture cliques. God's church is not to be shackled by culture, class, or any other physical distinction. It is a spiritual entity that must submit to the headship of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit.


Yes, God had a "secret," but God does not want it to be a secret anymore! If you understand your wonderful position in Christ, then live up to it--and share the blessing with others. This "secret" was important to Paul, to the Gentiles, and to the angels--and it ought to be important to you and me today.

God has chosen the church to be the earthly conveyor of His love, His care, and His fellowship. Victory in spiritual warfare is to be proclaimed through the church. Is it? Why have we allowed the church to be so earthly? Why are we so lacking in enthusiasm and commitment? Will Jesus weep yet again?