Paul begins chapter 3 of his letter to the Ephesians by speaking about the “mystery of Christ” which was revealed to him. As we saw last time, in 3:1-5, Paul focuses attention on the simple fact that the mystery has been revealed – without getting into the content of the mystery at all. In 3:6, however, the focus shifts from the revelation of the mystery to the content as Paul boldly declares: “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” (3:6). In essence, the mystery is that the very problems Paul laid out in 2:12 have been radically taken care of through Christ. In 2:12, Paul reminded his readers that prior to Christ, they were “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of promise”. Now, however? There has been a radical transformation through the perfect work of Christ.
First of all, rather than being “separated from Christ” (2:12), we are now “fellow heirs” (3:6). The concept of inheritance has come up a few times in Ephesians, and here it relates to our being heirs with Christ. As we have referenced before in this letter, being a Christian means that we are joined together with Jesus and, as a part of that, become joint heirs with him. As Paul told the Romans, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16-17a). Through His perfect life, death, and resurrection, Jesus won a glorious victory and will reign forever as King of all Kings. As “fellow heirs”, we have a glorious hope and inheritance that is waiting for us because we will get to reign with Him forever. Whatever belongs to Him will belong to us as well. So the first part of this incredible mystery that has been revealed is that the glorious hope of life and resurrection belongs to us – even us Gentiles – because we are “fellow heirs.” We are no longer separated from Him.
Second of all, rather than being “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel” (2:12), we are now “members of the same body” (3:6). As Paul has been detailing in 2:14-22, Jesus has brought together Jews and Gentiles in one new, glorious body called the Church. As “members of the same body”, we are part of God’s special people. We now know His special favor and love that is working all things for our good. In the Old Testament, it was only the nation of Israel that had special relationship with God, and in order to partake in that special relationship, a person had to become part of Israel. But it is not so any longer. Through His blood, Jesus has made us part of His people – whether we are Jew or Gentile. Race and nationality no longer matter if we have trusted Christ. So another part of the incredible mystery that has been revealed is that the particular position of being part of God’s chosen people belongs to us – even us Gentiles – because we are “members of the same body.”
Finally, rather than being “strangers to the covenants of promise” (2:12), we are “partakers of the promise” (3:6). Because we are joined together with Christ, we have become partakers of the covenant promises of God as revealed to His people in the Old Testament. We are “partakers of the promise” because we are joined to Christ and “all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Cor. 1:20). The promises that were originally given specifically to Jews (Rom. 9:4) are now available to all who know Christ. So one final part of the incredible mystery that has been revealed is that the covenant blessings and promises belong to us – even us Gentiles – because we have been made “partakers of the promise.”
In short, the mystery that was made known to Paul by revelation, and of which he became a steward is that there is now a complete union of all who are “in Christ” – both Jews and Gentiles. The old distinctions are gone, and salvation is proclaimed to all people through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Once again, before moving to the last part of the text, we must understand the importance of these realities. First, for those who are not Christians, this makes clear the nature of the salvation that is offered to you. There is a way for you to be joined together with Christ who is the source of all blessing. There is a way for you to be part of God’s particular people, and there is a way for you to receive the promised covenant blessings. Repent of your sin and entrust yourself to Jesus as Lord, and you will be saved. Second, this reminds those of us who are Christians of the incredible nature of our salvation yet again. We should meditate often on these realities and praise God appropriately. It is a glorious and amazing reality that Christ has brought salvation not only for God’s chosen people, the Jews, but for all who will believe in Him and follow Him as Lord. Finally, this helps us better understand the message that we are supposed to proclaim and the audience to whom we are to proclaim it. In short our message is that there is hope in the person and work of Christ. And our audience is every person in the world, because it is now possible for any person in the world to be a part of this. And all this is possible “in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (3:6).