By Stan Brown
Ephesians 3:4-5 And by referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;
These two verses serve to emphasize the extreme importance of the mystery which Paul will define in the following verse. For us, they serve to accentuate the tremendous blessing and exhibition of God’s grace that those of us living in this age are receiving. It involves an insight into God’s grace and our role as the place of God’s presence that was never previously available. (I must briefly digress as I ask the question “If this be true, why then, as we near the end of this present age of the outpouring of grace, do we seem to be coming to the same place as in every previous age? It highlights the sinfulness and arrogance of people. No matter what God does to reach out to people, many still turn to the lies of Satan rather than to the unfathomable grace of God. Even in the coming millennium, Satan will still be able to turn thousands away from God. Digression ends here.)
We return the point of these verses. (1) They point back to the previous verses where Paul states that in spite of his extreme depth of knowledge concerning the Old Testament Law (and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions (Gal. 1:14)), it was still necessary for this mystery to be revealed to him by God Himself. (2) Paul states unequivocally that this mystery had not been previously revealed. It is true that the Old Testament knows something about God spreading His message to the Gentiles. It is shown in His promise to Abraham, And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Gen. 12:3)”. Isaiah proclaims it, And all the nations will stream to it. (Isa. 2:2). Yet, the revelation of its true impact is reserved for the current age. (3) as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in(by) the Spirit. Just as Paul did not receive it from men but rather received it as direct revelation from God, so His holy apostles and prophets received it directly through the Holy Spirit. They did not hear it from Paul just as he did not hear it from them. In context, the word prophets must refer to New Testament prophets since it was not revealed in the Old Testament. This mystery of the church is something that was always in the plan of God but was only revealed to holy apostles and prophets by the Holy Spirit in New Testament times. Those of us living in this age, including you and me, are uniquely recipients of this mystery of God’s grace.
These two verses serve as a transition from the source of the mystery (God Himself) to the content of the mystery as Paul strategically and beautifully builds to the conclusion in verse thirteen that we might not lose heart. God not only wants to give us eternal life as we accept His gift of grace through faith. He also wants us to experience that grace right now. Just as Paul knew that the Ephesians would be discouraged by his imprisonment and perhaps fears for their own safety, God knows that we can easily become discouraged by the events that encircle us. This message, written nearly two millennia ago, is a message the shouts out to us today. God does want us to be discouraged as we view the events that seem to imprison us. God has showered upon us His grace that we have received through faith. God continues to pour out His grace upon us.