United To God’s Plan — A Revealed Mystery (Ephesians 3:6)

During Fall 2017, I taught Calvary Monterey the book of Ephesians. During the series, I also wrote about Ephesians in sixty-plus short, devotionally styled posts. Each Thursday, through 2018, I will release a post. I hope you enjoy. For the entire series, please visit nateholdridge.com/united-for-unity-posts.

“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).

In Ephesians 3:5, Paul spoke of a mystery "which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." What is this mystery that is now revealed?

Paul wrote extensively about it in Ephesians 2:11-22, but revisits and refreshes it here. The Gentiles are part of God’s plan. In Christ we see it.

The recent unveiling of God's plan for the nations is not to say the Old Testament was silent about the Gentile world. God’s promise to Abraham that through his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed established anticipation of what God would do in the Gentile world. From that point onward the Old Testament alluded to the eventuality of Gentile blessing. Still, the plan, though foreshadowed, was darkened at that time. Gentiles, in those previous eras, would convert to Judaism to receive the God of Scripture. But now, Paul and the apostles and the church saw and preached a different path for the Gentile world.

First, Gentiles are fellow heirs.

Elsewhere, when Paul speaks of being a fellow heir, he connects the believer to Christ. We are fellow heirs with Jesus; His position before the Father is our position (Romans 8:17). Here, however, Paul does not connect us to Christ, but to one another. The Jew and Gentile are in a tandem relationship with one another. The Jew does not become Gentile, nor the Gentile become Jew. They do not leave their nationality or culture or language behind. But the blood of Christ makes them brothers and sisters. They are both heirs standing together on the same foundation of apostles and prophets, with the same cornerstone, Jesus Christ.

Second, Gentiles are members of the same body.

Paul had previously spoken of the church as Christ’s body. Jesus is the head. Here, Paul coins a new term, previously unused in the Greek-speaking world. It is as if he looked around culture and society, trying to find some club or organization or family which pictured the membership believers have together. He couldn’t find one. So he spoke of being “members of the same body.” After Paul wrote it, Christians used the term exclusively, for only in Christ is their such a unique blending together of people, one in which we become part of the same body, under the headship of Christ. We have different body parts and distinct members, but we are still one with each other, for we are part of his body. There is no other society like the church.

Third, Gentiles are partakers of the promise.

Paul had previously reminded his Gentile readers they were at one time without the covenants of promise (Ephesians 2:12). They were not the targets of the Messianic hope. They were not expecting the sign of the Spirit spoken through Ezekiel — “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you” (Ezekiel 36:26). But Christ had brought, by His blood, the entire world into the scope of God’s plan. The Jewish Messiah was the world’s Messiah. The promise of the Spirit was for all who would believe.