I love a good mystery. I have shared before my enjoyment in reading fiction (like the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz). It all began for me in a class in college called ‘Mystery and Detective Fiction’ (now that is a good title for a college course). We read around 10 novels (some pictured above) in that class and it was the only class I ever took where I was actually ahead in my reading (it’s hard to put a good mystery down!) We regularly talked about whether or not the author was playing ‘fair’ with the reader (giving them hints and clues as to how the story would turn out) or if the ending was a complete surprise. Even today I ask those same questions as I enjoy good fiction.
Paul uses a term translated ‘mystery’ several times in his writing to describe something that was hidden before but has now been revealed with the coming of Christ. I first encountered this word when writing a paper on Ephesians 3:1-3. The mystery that Paul is describing in that context is the inclusion of the Gentiles in salvation. He concludes: This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (Ephesians 3:6). The fact that Gentiles would be grafted into the people of God and become heirs with Israel was hidden. The Lord hinted at it throughout the writings of the prophets, but it was not clearly known until the coming of Christ. It was a mystery.
Paul uses the same term to describe the purpose of marriage in Ephesians 5. He commands the woman to submit to the husband as the Church submits to Christ and for the husband to love the wife as Christ loves the Church (5:22-30). Then he references the institution of marriage by quoting Genesis 2:24 and concludes: This mystery (concerning marriage) is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (5:32). The reason why wives are called to submit like the church and husbands are called to love like Christ is because marriage is to be a disply of the gospel. This purpose was hidden until the coming of Christ. Yet, now that He has come and given His life for His Bride, the mystery has been revealed.
In 1 Corinthians 2:7, Paul again uses the term that is often translated mystery: But we impart a secret and hidden (mystery) wisdom from God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. Paul is contrasting worldly wisdom, which is here today and gone tomorrow, with the wisdom of God, which is eternal, decreed or predetermined before the ages began. The Corinthians were tempted to trust in the fleeting wisdom of the world and Paul encourages them to look to the everlasting wisdom of God. What is this wisdom that was hidden but has now been revealed? The secret wisdom of God is the glorious good news that sinners can be saved by trusting in the message of the cross. Jesus’ crucifixion is folly to the world, but to those who are being saved it is the wisdom and power of God (1 Corinthians 1:22-24). God has revealed this hidden wisdom to both Jews and Gentiles so that they can turn from their sins and be saved through faith in Christ. In other words, He has revealed this wisdom to those in Christ for our glory! He has opened our eyes to see our need for the Savior, to repent and believe, to live a life that honors Him, and to take us to be with Him forever. For our glory!
Brothers and sisters, this is the greatest mystery of all: God loves us so much that He had a plan before the ages began to redeem us in Christ. I love the mystery of God’s sovereign grace revealed through the message of the cross.