In this passage, we read about something called “the mystery” (3:3), also known as “the mystery of Christ” (3:4). As used in this text, the word “mystery” does not mean something that is beyond human comprehension. Rather, it refers to that which previously had not been revealed.
Planning of the mystery – Paul described it as “the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God” (3:9). Whatever this mystery is, it was in God’s mind before the creation of the world. Yes, it was “the eternal purpose” which He had in the Christ (3:11).
Understanding the mystery – The mystery was made known to Paul (3:3), who in turn shared it with the brethren in Ephesus. When they read his message to them, they could understand Paul’s knowledge of the mystery (3:4). Not only could they understand it: the Lord expected them to understand it, telling them to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (5:17). Those who have a heart that is ready to accept the truth can understand God’s revealed word.
Revelation of the mystery – When was it revealed? It was not made known “in other ages,” meaning during the Old Testament era. However, Paul wrote that the mystery “has now been revealed” (3:5). “Now” is an adverb of time, indicating that the mystery was revealed in the first century.
How? How was the mystery revealed to mankind? The Bible says it was “revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (3:5). The Spirit brought the mystery’s message from the mind of God to the minds of the apostles and prophets, who in turn proclaimed it to others (3:8). In this context, the prophets were the prophets in the first-century church.
Explanation of the mystery – The Lord’s mystery was revealed to mankind. Okay, so what does it mean? After Paul said the mystery was revealed by the Spirit to God’s apostles and prophets, he immediately wrote, “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (3:6).
The mystery involves someone being “fellow heirs.” As God’s children, Gentile Christians are heirs of God along with their Jewish brethren (Romans 8:16,17). Thus, the mystery involves the uniting of Jews and Gentiles.
Where do Jews and Gentiles come together as one? In “the same body” (3:6), which is the church. They do it through the Christ and the gospel (3:6). The mystery is God’s “package deal”: Christ-gospel- church.
— Roger D. Campbell