The Mystery or Secret of Christ and the ChurchVolume 3, Number 67
Created Date: March 2, 2013
Posted Date: March 2, 2013
The Mysteries or Secrets of God revealed to the Apostle Paul - Part 6:
We continue examining the various aspects of the mystery that God revealed to the Apostle Paul by tracing the 20 occasions Paul used the Greek word “musterion,” translated either “mystery or mysteries,” in his epistles. This word refers to a secret or secrets. It’s found 6 times in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, the most often in any New Testament book. This is consistent with the fact Ephesians contains the capstone of truth for the church of this age, the Body of Christ, which is made up of all true believers who have lived since Paul. This was God’s secret before it was revealed to Paul,. We’ve examined the first 4 occasions it’s found in Ephesians; 1:9; 3:3, 4 and 9. Today we consider : “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
The Greek word translated “church” here is “ekklesia,” which simply means “a calling out, or a meeting.” We find it in the New Testament describing various groups of people, including a mob or assembly in, 39 & 41; the earthly kingdom church made up of believing Jews, e.g., , etc., and the local churches established by the Apostle Paul during his ministry, , 4, 5, etc. Here in Ephesians 5:32, Paul is not talking about any particular denomination or religious group, nor any particular building as some may picture. The church referenced here is made up of all true believers who have lived since the Apostle Paul, regardless of nation or the particular local church to which they have or do belong. The church referenced here is the Body of Christ: ; ; 4:12; 5:23; .
The church referenced here is made up of “saints,” that is, the “faithful in Christ Jesus,” as this epistle to the Ephesians was addressed,. The word saints is a translation of the Greek word “hagios,” which means: “sacred (physically pure, morally blameless or religious, ceremonially consecrated): - (most) holy (one, thing), saint,” according to Strong’s lexicon. A person does not become a saint because some one or group of people declare them as such, based on their deeds or actions. People are saints because they believe (have faith) that they are sinners and Christ Jesus died and rose again to save them, . And so Paul is writing not only to the Ephesians at the time this letter was penned, but to every saint, i.e., believer, the faithful in Christ Jesus, who has lived since then.
The first 3 chapters of Ephesians contain doctrine or teaching for the saints, that is, the faithful in Christ Jesus who have and do now make up the church, which is the Body of Christ. Paul explains the blessings we, along with all past saints, have inherited in the heavens; the fact that we were dead in trespasses and sins but have been made alive in Christ; we are saved by God’s grace though faith and built as a holy habitation of God on the foundation of Jesus Christ. And God’s purpose in all this is that we might be filled with all the fullness of God.
Then, in light of the doctrine of Ephesians’ first 3 chapters, Paul explains in the last 3 chapters the practical aspects of how we should live and what we are up against. He opens this practical section with: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,”. This means we are to walk (live, deport ourselves, or be occupied with) the vocation (or calling) with which we are called in a manner worthy of our positions as stated in the first 3 chapters. Here is where many who call themselves Christians fall short and hypocrisy shows its ugly head. Some either fail to pay any attention to or totally misconstrue these practical aspects of the believer’s life. Or, some may be members of Christ’s Body in name only. History has demonstrated this in such dismal episodes as the Inquisition when the so-called church, in the name of God, persecuted and tortured those they deemed guilty of heresy. Another example can be found in observations of the runaway slave turned abolitionist leader, Fredrick Douglas. He stated in his autobiography that the most vicious slave masters he encountered, those that starved, whipped and raped their slaves most severely, were the ones who claimed to be Christians, many of whom were teachers and preachers in the Christian churches of the time. Although we may not witness such exaggerated examples today, the hypocrisy of some people who call themselves Christians is nevertheless obvious. Only God knows their hearts and whether they are true believers or not.
Now, let’s consider the context of today’s text: “(25) Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (26) That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (27) That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (28) So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. (29) For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: (30) For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. (31) For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. (32) This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”.
Paul is saying that “Christ and the church” was a secret before He related it to Paul and that the relationship between Christ and His church can be seen in the love a man should have for his wife. God loved the church so much that He stepped out of heaven and became a man; and as a man He willingly gave Himself to die the most horrible death that can be contemplated, all for the church. He did this even though the people making up His church were/are unlovely, disobedient and contrary. He did it because He loved us, not because of some inherent beauty or goodness we possess. This passage is very sobering in two ways. First and foremost, we see Christ’s great love for us in what He did for us, and secondly we see the type of love husbands should have for their wives, even though many times they may be unlovely and contrary in their ways.
God has truly blessed His chruch, as we are reminded “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:”. But our blessings are not without struggle and strife as we live our lives here on earth: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. . The Greek word translated “high places” is the same word translated heavenly places” in Ephesians 1:3. So, our blessings are in heaven and that’s where our battle takes place now. Today, we see the truth of the Church, the Body of Christ attacked on every side by false religions, cults, atheism and ecumenical movements that either totally obliterate or skew to some degree the pure Gospel of God’s Grace in the finished work of Jesus Christ. And we even see God’s ordained “holy bonds of matrimony” for man and woman assaulted by the move to condone and encourage the abomination of same sex marriage.
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:”.