Just When You Thought You Had the Mystery Figured Out, There’s a Surprising New Twist
Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 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.
Ever since I was young and devoured the Hardy Boys mysteries books, I have loved a good mystery. It can take the form of a novel, a movie, a play ... you name it. Part of what I love about a mystery is figuring it out in advance. But, in truth, the best mystery is one that includes a twist, something I had not anticipated, something that makes perfect sense but comes as a complete surprise.
We have a situation like this in Ephesians 3. Here, Paul refers several times to the mystery that God revealed to him and which, in turn, he is revealing to the world. The core of this mystery is that "through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus" (3:6). This bringing together of formerly alienated people offers a striking illustration of the cosmic mystery of God that was uncovered in Ephesians 1: God's plan "to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ" (1:10). The unity of Jews and Gentiles reflects and epitomizes the unifying of all things in the universe.
Are you ready for the twist? It comes in Ephesians 3:10: "[God's] 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." God's grand plan for the universe, God's mystery, God's manifold wisdom, is to be revealed to the whole cosmos, including supernatural powers, through the church.
Through the church! Now that's an unexpected twist in God's mystery, if you ask me. I don't find it intuitive to think of the church as playing such a central role in God's plan for the cosmos. Yet, according to Ephesians 3:10, the church is right in the core of God's redeeming, restoring, unifying work. In tomorrow's reflection, I consider a bit further why the centrality of the church can come as such a surprise to us. For now, I'd encourage you to consider prayerfully what this text is teaching about the church and how this instruction might make a difference in your life.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Are you surprised that the church plays such a pivotal role in God's plan for the redemption of the cosmos? Do you tend to see the church in this way? If you did understand the church in light of Ephesians 3:10, what difference might this make in your daily discipleship?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the surprises in your grand story of salvation. Of course, the biggest surprises have to do with Christ, his birth, life, death, and resurrection. But today we discover another twist in your mystery: the centrality of the church in your plan to reveal your wisdom throughout the universe. Help us to understand what this means. Help this truth to fill our minds and transform our lives.
Today, I pray for my own church as well as for every church throughout the world, that we might live up to our role as the megaphone through which you communicate the Gospel. Help us to be faithful in response to this amazing calling. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.