According to the dictionary, a mystery is something that is not fully understood, or that baffles or eludes our understanding. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul says that the mystery was made known to him by revelation (Eph. 3:3). The word “revelation” means a disclosure, an unveiling.In Paul’s case, God has revealed to him a mystery, something that was previously not understood.
So what is the mystery? I have heard some claim that it is the Gospel itself. That what God was doing to save a lost world was a mystery previously not understood. But let me say that personal predisposition, or even prejudice, is no excuse for poor exegesis of the scripture. In other words, it is not ok to impose our point of view on the Bible.
Paul tells us exactly what the mystery is in Ephesians 3:6, where he writes, “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.” This is an incredible mystery revealed to Paul. The power of the Gospel is such that it can make people of any ethnic group to be one.
In Paul’s day that meant bringing unity between Jews and Gentiles. In the mind of a Jew of his day, there were two groups, Jews, and everybody else (Gentiles). In the revelation of this mystery God makes one both Jews and Gentiles. And he does this not by making the Gentiles into Jews, or the Jews into Gentiles, but by transforming both into something new, Christians.
This is true in any and every day. In the deep south where I live, there has been strong prejudice between black and white dating back to the roots of our history. But the amazing power of the Gospel is that it can bring African Americans, Caucasian Americans, and any and every other ethnic group into one body of people. Again, it doesn’t do this by transforming one into the other, but by transforming both into Christians.
Unity among people of differing ethnic origin does not begin by seeking reconciliation between the peoples, but by proclaiming a message that brings reconciliation between any person and God. When that person is reconciled to God, the love of Christ compels them to love all people. That is the mystery that is revealed to Paul, and through the Word of God, to us.