By Stan Brown
Ephesians 3:6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,
Paul specifically defines the mystery in this verse. I begin this morning with a quote that affirms the content of the mystery and then I will look into some of the details. Hoehner writes, “The mystery is not that Gentiles would be saved, for the Old Testament gave evidence of that, but rather that believing Jews and Gentiles are joined together. This was a revolutionary concept for Jews and Gentiles alike!” This is possibly a revolutionary concept for believers today to realize that all believers are partakers together of one body.
Paul uses three compound nouns that are each a combination of the Greek preposition sun (meaning with and translated fellow in this verse) and a noun. This serves to heighten the union and the unity of all members of the body into one entity. The first word translated fellow heirs signifies that as believers of all stripes we stand together united with one another. The second word translated fellow members of the body emphasizes the fact that as believers of all stripes we are dependent upon one another. Each member of the body has an independent function that works in conjunction with every other member of the body and must be performed in conjunction with every member of the body. The third word translated fellow partakers of the promise fulfils the words which God spoke to Abraham when he said And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Gen. 12:3)”. In the Old Testament Gentiles had to become members of the Jewish community in order to be recipients of the promises. In this age there is no distinction among the members of the body. This does not abrogate the literal promises of the Old Covenant to the Jews which is demonstrated in the existence of the nation of Israel today. It rather today unites us all as one entity in Christ. God is fantastic in His ability to multitask. He still remembers His literal promises to the nation Israel as he ensures its continued existence. Yet this remains somewhat in the background today as the New Testament emphasizes the unity which all believers have in Christ Jesus through the gospel. These entities will ultimately be united together in eternity.
So, what is the practical result of this mystery? Paul has been building to this point as he has said (1) we are all created into one new humanity (2:15); we are fellow citizens and members of God’s household (2:19); we are being fitted together (2:21); we are being built together into a dwelling place of God (2:22). This is unbelievably exciting. God has made us as individuals his dwelling place through the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God is in the process of building those individual temples into a unified dwelling place for Him. He never denigrates the individual relationship that we have with Him as we are united in one body. We worship Him as individuals as we love Him (Matt. 22:37-38 Jesus said unto him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.). We worship Him together as we love one another (Matt. 22:39-40 And the second is like unto it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.). God has chosen us as the united body of Christ to be His message to the world as we love Him and love each other. Paul will soon write, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love (Eph. 4:16).