Paul’s Mystery in Ephesians 3 -- By: W. Harold Mare

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 08:2 (Spring 1965)
Article: Paul’s Mystery in Ephesians 3
Author: W. Harold Mare

Paul’s Mystery in Ephesians 3

W. Harold Mare

The book of Ephesians presents to us a glorious list of doctrines concerning God’s salvation and its application to His people. One of these great topics is the mystery revealed to Paul “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ by the Gospel” (Ephesians 3:3-6). That the saved Gentiles became fellowheirs with saved Jews, and were united then in Christ through the Gospel is the obvious teaching of Paul in Ephesians 3, a proposition upon which all will agree. But as we probe into the text deeper, certain questions arise. Are these fellowheirs distinct from the heirs of the Old Testament body of Christ, both Jews and Gentile proselytes? Is this body completely different from that to which the Old Testament saints belonged? Are these promises different from those upon which salvation was based in the Old Testament?

In relation to these questions, some time ago I was confronted with the question as to whether the μυστηριον teaching of Ephesians 3 was in conflict with the scriptural concept of the unity of the covenant of grace and the unity and oneness of the invisible church of Jesus Christ existing throughout the ages as presented in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapters 7 and 25, respectively.

That there is a conflict of viewpoint based, at least in part, on this doctrine of the μυστηριον is seen in comparing the concepts of the following writers:

1. “Passages referring to the fact that the mystery was not explained until Christ came are the following: Romans 16:25, 26; 1 Corinthians 2:7-10; Ephesians 3:3-13; Colossians 1:26, 27. These passages do not deny the prophecy by which Christ) and His working in redeeming His church were foretold in type and symbol and literal prediction. What these Scriptures teach is that the mystery was not known then as it is now known (Ephesians 3:5).”1

2. “Paul then [in the use of the word ‘as’ in Ephesians 3:5], is explaining, not limiting the mystery there set forth. The concept must stand that this whole age with its program was not revealed in the Old Testament, but constitutes a new program and a new line of revelation in this present age.”You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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