Read the passage here.
In a Nutshell…
There are only a couple of things that I want to focus on in this passage – two things that I want us to pay attention to:
Firstly, the mystery.
In v. 2, Paul says:
2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.
In v. 6, Paul says:
6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
And in v. 9 Paul says that he is given grace:
to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.
This mystery is actually referred to earlier in the Epistle in chapter 1 verses 7-10.
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
Peter O’Brien says, about this mystery:
9 God intended that we should understand his saving purposes. He therefore lavished his grace upon us ‘in all wisdom and insight’ by making known to us the mystery of his will, the content of which is the summing up of all things in Christ (see v. 10b). Although v. 9 is syntactically dependent upon and explains the meaning of God’s grace poured upon us (v. 8), with these words about the divine mystery there is a significant development in the eulogy, leading to its climax. God’s saving purposes, planned from eternity, had as their final goal the uniting of all things in heaven and earth in Christ, the details of which are spelled out in what follows.
In other words, the mystery has to do with God’s saving purposes for all things, an indication of which is the gathering together of Jews and Gentiles alike under Christ. As we see in verse 4, this was not (fully) understood before the coming of Christ. The assumption was that Israel alone was the bearer of God’s promise. Without getting too deeply into Jewish expectations, the further assumption was that God’s salvation (God’s blessings) would take place within history, specifically within the history of Israel. There wasn’t an understanding that God’s covenant pointed to eternal things nor that it pointed to a redemption of all things under heaven and earth. This was the mystery that was now being revealed through Christ.
The second thing that I want us to pay attention to is said almost in passing and will be fleshed out later on in the epistle. Verse 10 tells us that:
10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In other words, this mystery of God’s purpose, his plan of redemption is to be made known through the church.
Remember what we looked at last time, that Abraham’s descendants would be a blessing to the whole world, a kingdom of priests. We see here the development of Paul’s thinking that this covenant is now passed, not to an ethnic Israel, but to the church.
So What Now…?
Now this may seem obvious, but I’m not sure how well we (the whole church) are actually doing this. Is the church, the people of God, making know the manifold wisdom of God? Are we a representation of, a testimony to God’s redemptive purposes in the world?
I believe we are given community, kingdom community, within which we learn, grown, struggle, and live out the promise that God has given us. And I believe that, inasmuch as we are living out real, kingdom life in these community, we testify to the glory of God. We live in the “not yet” the “already” for which we are destined.
“Church is the textured context in which we grow up in Christ to maturity. But church is difficult. Sooner or later, though, if we are serious about growing up in Christ, we have to deal with church. I say sooner. I want to begin with church.”
“We look at what has been given to us … and try to understand why we have a church in the first place, what the church, as it is given to us, is. We are not a utopian community. We are not God’s avenging angels. I want to look at what we have, what the church is right now and ask, Do you think that maybe this is exactly what God intended when he created the church? Maybe the church as we have it provides the very conditions and proper company congenial to growing up in Christ, for becoming mature, for arriving at the measure of the stature of Christ. Maybe God knows what he is doing, giving us church, this church.”
(Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection)