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A Mystery Revealed

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
December 31, 2020 7:00 am

A Mystery Revealed

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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December 31, 2020 7:00 am

Whether its a Sherlock Holmes story or movie about a private investigation, everyone loves a good mystery! Did you know that the Bible even tells the stories of great, spiritual mysteries? Paul refers to them throughout his letter to the Ephesians and on todays broadcast of The Bible Study Hour, Dr. James Boice will explain the significance and revelation of one of these amazing Biblical mysteries.

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Whether it's a Sherlock Holmes story or a movie about a private investigation. Everyone loves a good mystery.

Did you know the Bible tells the stories of great spiritual mysteries, Paul refers to them throughout his letter to the Ephesians and on today's broadcast of the Bible study our Dr. James Boyce will explain the significance and revelation of one of these amazing biblical mysteries welcome to the Bible study hour with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act quickly throughout the entire course of human history that the problem of racism has been one of our greatest struggles. Some governments have promoted some have banded most still continue to battle its effects. But the Bible has always contain the answer for achieving ultimate unity. The solution that not only eliminates racism but also settles the rest of our sin. One of the great words in the apostle Paul's vocabulary was the word mystery, but it's not very widely understood.

We know the word – probably from first Corinthians 15 versus 51, to which are incorporated into Handel's Messiah has an aria. Behold, I show you a mystery. We should all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet by that word mystery occurs. 19 more times in Paul's writings for a total of 20 occurrences and it's found seven additional times in the Gospels and the book of Revelation.

Some years ago, Harry Ironside wrote a book called the mysteries of God in which these various New Testament mysteries were discussed had nine chapters and those chapters, Ironside, covered what he called the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. Mystery of the olive tree great mystery of Christ and the church mystery of piety.

The mystery of the rapture of the saints, the mystery of lawlessness, and the preface, these chapters with an analysis of mystery in the old and new Testaments. We asked the question as we begin. What is a mystery in the biblical sense.

In contemporary English, the word mystery usually refers to something that is mysterious or unknown. That's not the meaning it had in antiquity.

In Paul's day that Greek word wisteria on which is where we get our word mystery meant something that was formerly unknown but is now revealed to a special set of initiates. This is the way the word was used for example in reference to the Greek cultic religions that were called mystery religions was the mystery of Mithra or ISIS in your Cyrus or Lucius or Dionysus. These were religions in which the doctrine of the religion was known but was known only to the initiated people on the outside might know more or less about what went on inside. But once they were initiated into the religion. The mysteries were revealed to them.

Now it's somewhat in that same vein of thought that Paul uses the word Paul speaks of a mystery. He's not speaking of something that is mysterious and can't be known by us speaking instead of something that was hidden in the Old Testament.

But which has now been made fully known for the coming of Jesus Christ and the proclamation of the gospel. Now in Ephesians 3 which were studying. Paul uses this word mystery four times you put that over against the fact that the word only occurs 20 times in his writings, you'll see that 20% of all the occurrences of that word are here in this chapter. That means that this word mystery, and the doctrine that he talks about here are very crucial for understanding this important concept. Let me read the verses that have the word mystery and the three of them in the verses were immediately considering and one of the verses that follow, which will be looking at more thoroughly next week. Paul says, surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you.

That is the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly in reading this then you'll be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to man. In other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel.

The Gentiles are heirs together with Israel members together in one body and shares together in the promise in Christ Jesus. Then as I said several verses further on. Paul uses the word once more. He says that it was his task to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God who created all things. But is that now, through the church the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. What is the mystery well, quite simply, it is today. Jews and Gentiles jointly are brought together in the body of Christ which is the church while someone might well ask at that point how this can be something new. Seeing that God's purpose to save the Gentiles's was announced in the Old Testament, even from very earliest times we think for example of God's initial call of Abraham is that's given to us in the 12th chapter of Genesis.

Part of that called Abraham included the words and in you all the families of earth will be blessed. That is all the nations, the Gentile nations will be blessed through you. Somebody might say well how can that be know that since God had said from the beginning that salvation was not to be an exclusively Jewish affair but was to include Gentiles to answer that question is why was Crow that in the Old Testament.

Gentiles were saved at this nevertheless the case that they were saved by becoming Jews that is Gentile. Could approach the God of Israel, but he had to approach him as an Israelite through the process of proselytizing and circumcision and all that went into making him the Gentile part of the Jewish covenant people.

What is new is that according to Paul's teaching here and elsewhere in the New Testament that process of becoming Jewish has been abolished. That's the middle wall of hostility that Christ is broken down now. According to Paul, Jew and Gentile alike and jointly come as one people into this new body of Christ and that's what Paul says was revealed to him as it had not been revealed in the Old Testament. In which it was his particular responsibility as the apostle to the Gentiles, to proclaim now we let many thousands of years after this and Ross especially Gentile Christians used to worshiping in Gentile churches is hardly seems radical.

We say to ourselves well I suppose that's obvious. God is the God of all. Certainly salvation must be for all that we have to understand that in Paul's time and for us as well. If we understand that this really was a radical new thing Paul gives us a clue.

I think understanding how radical it was, by the way he introduces chapter 3 and its sentence we find in verse one that which he breaks off in order to deal with these verses, which are digression (see says in verse one. For this reason I Paul, then there's a – at the end of that verse and it's not the first 14 to get back to that.

For this reason is about to say. For this reason I Paul pray for you and introduce the prayer but when he says I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles very mention of the word Gentiles brings us to his mind and he goes off into this progression were studying but I say verse one contains a clue to how radical this was. I say that because he refers to himself as the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles. That of course was literally true story that tells us about it is found in acts in the 21st of the 22nd chapter. Paul had gone to Jerusalem, bearing the offering from the Gentile churches to help the poor among the Christian community in Jerusalem and while there, he determined to submit to rite of purification in the temple area along with certain other Jews. It was a right spread over a week period of seven days, and he had been going up to the temple with these other Jews at each of those seven days in the last of these days some Jews from Asia, which interestingly enough is where emphasis was located so I am now. Earlier they had seen a Greek from Ephesus, a man named from Themis in the city with Paul and so they made the assumption that Paul was in the process of bringing Gentiles into the temple enclosure were no Gentiles could go so they burst out in the great cry to all the Jews were standing around men of Israel help us. This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our laws and this place, and besides he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defined this holy place second half of that was not true.

Paul is not brought from Themis or any other Gentiles in the holy place of the temple, though spiritually now since the death of Christ. He had every right to do that part wasn't on fro but the first part of it did have some merit. They accused him of teaching all men everywhere against our people and our law in this place.

Now Paul wouldn't put it that way. Paul would've said this is the fulfillment of the promises to Israel, but from their perspective. He was teaching against the law by saying the very kind of thing that he is said now so clearly in the second chapter of Ephesians, namely that Jesus broke down the dividing wall of the Old Testament traditions, particularly the regulations concerning worship and outweighed the way open to Gentiles as well as Jews immediately into God's presence. Well, what we learned from that to see his Paul was accused later arrested because of the fanatical Jewish opposition to his mission to the Gentiles recall as the story goes on, that he was almost lynched by this angry mob.

He was rescued by the Roman centurion and his soldiers as his responsibility to keep order in the city and so he took Paul and was leading him away, probably prisoner when it came out that Paul was a Roman that the course of gendered respects on the part of the century it because the Romans were protected by law from any such thing as a Bob and Paul got an audience with him.

Paul said, you misunderstood what this is all about. Give me a chance to talk to the people so that the jury and said all right and no doubt throwing a cordon of soldiers around Paul.

He allowed Paul to stand up what he could be seen in Paul began his speech to the crowd now wisely began in Aramaic. Spoken like a native of course he had grown up in Jerusalem and as soon as he began to speak in their own tongue. They grew silent gave Paul an opportunity to give a long speech, which was a testimony to what God had done in his life, he described how he had been born in Tarsus no means city and how early in his life he come to Jerusalem and how he had pursued his studies under Gamaliel, who was a distinguished rabbi there and everybody knew Gamaliel. He said you know my conduct in the early days solid for the traditions of my father's. I was jealous. I went about trying to arrest Christians because I thought they were destroying Judaism. I even receive letters giving the authority to go to Damascus where I intended to arrest those who were following the way bring them back to Jerusalem and punish them for their crimes set on the way the Lord of glory appear to me. I was blinded by the revelation I was told to go on into the city of Damascus where I would receive help and while I was waiting there a man named Ananias came and was used by God to restore my site.

I began to testified what happened to me and I went back to Jerusalem and here in Jerusalem I began to tell what God had done through Jesus Christ and the Lord that is Jesus Christ spoke to me and said go away from here.

They will not listen to your testimony rather Lord said go bring the message to the Gentiles of the point isn't up to that moment in his speech. This great angry crowd in Jerusalem listened intently to every word that Paul said I didn't object to his mentioning of Jesus.

They didn't object to his mentioning a revelation on the road to Damascus of the commands of the Lord to do all sorts of things.

But when he came to the last part and said Jesus sent me to the Gentiles. They were so enraged by the word that immediately they broke out and they said get rid of him.

He is not fit to live rid the earth of them so intense you say was their opposition to the Gentiles. Now it wasn't all on one side, of course, the opposition of Jews to Gentiles was particularly intense because with them. It was a religious issue, and there's no fanaticism as fanatical as religious fanaticism, but the Gentiles had their prejudices to one Gentile Celsus who wrote early in defense of Christianity said and what he no doubt thought was a great complement to the barbarians by which he meant everybody to Greeks. He said the barbarians no doubt have a gift occasionally for discovering truth but is that it takes a Greeks to understand it.

Well, this is what the Greeks thought of themselves. The Romans had their own prejudices they had conquered Greece and so they considered the Greeks as being moral isolation of slaves and so on. All those divisions were multiplied throughout the ancient world. The barriers in ancient times were absolute. That's why you say it was such a new novel message Paul, saying that God has revealed that now all people, whether Jew or Gentile bond or free male or female put into that any other subgroup you can think of of the human rights all people are brought together in Christ on equal footing Jew doesn't have to become a Gentile. The Gentile doesn't have to become a Jew, but rather in coming to God through faith in Jesus Christ, they become something new one.

New people, which is Christ's church. Emphasis the Paul hands in this passage is upon all these blessings of the church being enjoyed by Jew and Gentile, jointly.

This is a hard thing to capture in English because in order to teach this what Paul does is bring together in verse six. The key verse three words, all of which are introduced by the Greek preface soon, which means with or together with two of these words occur elsewhere.

One, he probably invented one word is clay runabout which means heirs and Paul puts the word soon with that, meaning heirs, together with the second word is so much meaning, body, and he puts the word soon with that, meaning body with a doesn't even sound good in Greek, let alone in English, but that's what he does. The third word is Toca which means partner companion or one who shares in any put soon with that. So, in the Greek language of three words, all of which fall upon one another in a parallel kind of construction, I said, it's very hard to translate accurately in English and capture the flow of the passage at the same time, King James version doesn't do very well at all, although it does give an accurate translation.

The King James says hello heirs and of the same body, and partakers of his promise is more or less a pattern that's followed by the revised standard version of the new English Bible Phillips in his paraphrase, does better. He uses the word equal as an equivalent of the word. Soon the preface so he says equal heirs with his chosen people equal members in equal partners in God's promise. Repeating the word equal. You see, in each case my opinion the new international version probably translates it best. It says you can read it heirs together with Israel members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. Now, it's worth looking at each of those phrases in some detail. Take the first one heirs together with Israel. This word heirs is an important one in Paul's teaching. It occurs in Romans four, verse 14. Reference Abraham there. Paul calls Abraham, the heir of the world through Christ's righteousness in Galatians Paul extends this to all believers, not just Abraham, but to ourselves as well, saying, Galatians 329 if you belong to Christ that you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise that is the same promise. Abraham received Titus 37 speaks of the future inheritance so that, having been justified by his grace we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. In Galatians 4 verses one through seven, where the word air occurs twice. Paul speaks of what seems to be more of a present possession says now you're no longer in infants when you were little more than a slave, but you become a son, and of soul enter into the full rights of your inheritance. Then in Romans 817, Paul uses the same word that occurs here in Ephesians that is with the preface soon saying now if we are children, then we are heirs. Heirs of God and coheirs. That's word with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory see what he's talking about there. When he speaks of our being heirs together with Israel, is the fact that the Gentiles now by the grace of God. Enjoy all and full privileges that Israel enjoyed that's a way of saying that there are no first and second class citizens in Christchurch, Jews are not first followed by the Gentiles in second place, the Gentiles are not first followed by the Jews in second place, but rather they are all one in Christ.

In Christ, they inherit God's blessing jointly holding it as one.

Secondly, there's this phrase members together in one body. The end of chapter 2 where Paul first began to speak in detail of the church uses three images to describe it church is described as a kingdom as a family and is a building which turns out to be a temple here introduces 1/4 MH which he has anticipated already in chapter 1, at the very end.

God placed all things under his feet and appointed him, that is Jesus to be head over everything for the church which is his body, and which he comes back to again in greater detail in chapter 4, read, for example, there is one body and one spirit in verse four and in verse 11 and following Jesus gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and pastors and teachers to prepare God's people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up.

This is what he is talking about in the passage when you read these references to the church and particularly study this great image of the body. You understand that it has two facets. On the one side there's a unity which is given we refer to it as the mystical union of Christ.

People with Christ and those Christians with one another in the body of the church. That's a given thing. It's not something that has to be prayed for.

On the other hand, there is a unity that needs to be achieved because as we well know that which is given is not always actualized in our experience, so her prayers in the Bible that those who are one in Christ might actually be one which is to say they might so grow in Jesus Christ that their unity in him becomes evidence in the natural barriers whether there barriers of race or nation or culture might be increasingly overcome.

You say how does that happen happens as we study Scripture and are drawn to Christ same. When we look about us in the world and consider our backgrounds and all that sort of thing we always are going to find things to divide us from other people only things that make us different with things which, in our own judgment make us better yet, as were drawn to Christ and see him and in his presence have the fullness of the gospel explain all of the changes we recognized that those little differences that exist out there just that little differences in all the important thing are the things which unite us in our common salvation. We are all equally sinners before God we all equally need a Savior we all have the same father. We all have the same Bible we all have the same Holy Spirit that works for our sanctification.

We all at the same time ask all of the same mission in the world. It's the same image of Christ in which we are to grow. So as we understand these things and grow in them. God does in grace what the Lord Jesus Christ prayed for in that great 17th chapter of John's gospel, that is, he makes us one in the unity I will and purpose which has its great model in the unity which exists within the Godhead. The third of these phrases in verse six is sharers together in the promise other many promises in the Bible and we have them all. Of course, but in this particular verse, that word promises in the singular promise not promises, because it's in the singular, it must refer to these various and great promises, but to the great promise of redemption, which we have in Christ. This is the promise that was given Abraham and which is repeated again and again in the Old Testament books and the prophets, and which has now been realized by Christ's work on Calvary. See Paul says we share this together in the church and that we don't share this together in the church were not a member of it. I close in this way you can hardly have escaped noticing if you read this carefully that throughout this entire section a great theme, something that Paul has on his mind equal to that subject of the mystery now revealed is his own role in making this note.

This is what strings the passage together. I focused largely on verse six. Notice that when Paul leads up to it, he talks again and again about God revealing these things to him and commissioning him as Christ's ambassador in the world.

Verse two. Surely you've heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you. That is the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I've already written briefly in reading this then you'll be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ in verse seven I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power, and so on. It is my grace to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, see the point he's making.

This is not a matter of this great mystery of Jew and Gentile being brought together in one body to church. This is not a matter of what it earlier generation was referred to in the Broadway as the universal brotherhood of man and the universal fatherhood of God. That's not what Paul is speaking of it all. This is a unity in Christ received through the gospel of which Paul himself was made a messenger. Paul is saying you see if the divisions of the world are ever to be over, if those of one race are ever to be made in line with those of another race which we sense instinctively is the way things ought to be. It is going to be through Christ, the mediator, because he's the only one. It was broken.

The barriers down at his Paul says that is the message which I have received and and commissioned to proclaim to the Gentiles.

May I point out that that is the message it you will receive as well.

You're not an apostle. As Paul was 11 received new revelation.

You can't claim to be a prophet but that's revelation which was given to Paul was by Paul given to you.

So although it's not new with you. It's nevertheless your message also. You believe that the understand that if that's the case, then this great message reconciliation with God and reconciliation with one another in the fellowship of the church is your message for a divided world. May God give us grace as those who have entered in that body and that experience, my God, give us grace to take it proclaim it that others for whom Christ died might also find this salvation, let us pray for father we ask for your busing upon our study in the sense that when we read here might be blessed to our hearts by your spirit father if we find within our hearts, a reluctance to live this out practically sensing for some reason that we would prefer not to be one, nor proclaim a oneness with some other brother or sister in the body. We asked that we might receive grace to confess that the Senate is reach out across those barriers would one day we hold in common.

Because of our common experience of Christ from that stance that is so for those who have known what true unity is then how the Lord Jesus Christ died to achievement by go out with that very same message and have our proclamation of the gospel made credible by the demonstration of its reality in our lives bless us. To that end, we pray our father in the name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen and amen. You are listening to the Bible study hour with the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce, a listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals. The alliance exists to promote a biblical understanding and worldview.

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