A little over thirteen years ago, the calendar was about to turn over to the year 2000. Of course, there were some “doomsayers” then, just as there were a few weeks ago. One of the fellows I knew back then was trying to convince me that the Bible spoke about the destruction of the world that was going to take place in the year 2000. He spent some trying to convince me that a Bible Code from Genesis and other places was predicting such an event. Of course me…being the reasonable guy that I am…didn’t believe a word of it. This doesn’t mean I didn’t listen to what he was sharing, because I was willing to do so. There are still some proponents of the Bible Code. What is it, exactly? Though Bible codes have been postulated and studied for centuries, the subject was popularized by Michael Drosnin's book the Bible Code a couple of decades ago. The code, as reenergized by Drosnin, stipulates that there is a set of secret messages encoded within the Hebrew text of the Torah, Genesis through Deuteronomy. This hidden code has been described as a method by which specific letters from the text can be selected to reveal an otherwise obscured message. One cited example is that by taking every 50th letter of the Book of Genesis, starting with the first “taw,” the Hebrew word “torah” is spelled out. The same happens in Exodus and so on. Modern computers have been used to search for similar patterns and more complex variants. My opinion? Baloney. Stick to crossword puzzles…they make more sense. However, Paul does reveal to us a code, or a mystery, in the third chapter of Ephesians…and this code makes a lot of sense…it is a message we can trust.
Paul speaks about being a prisoner of the Lord. He was the Lord’s bond-servant, commissioned to take the message of the gospel to all mankind. As he shares in Ephesians 3:1ff, Paul believes in God’s new program of uniting believing Jews, Gentiles into one body…the church. There is one small problem – the Jews don’t like the Gentiles. They want nothing to do with them (or the Samaritans for that matter). Paul courageously defends the grace of God and the unity of the church in Acts 15, Galatians 2:1-10 (and the message in those places is that…the Gentiles did not have to become Jewish in order to become Christians). Paul follows his calling by taking the gospel to the Gentiles, even though he is accused of prejudice by the Jews. Paul is no longer a prisoner of the law…he has been released. He wants to free both Jews and Gentiles from bondage to law and bring them to genuine life in Christ. For Paul, it isn’t enough simply to win Gentiles to Christ and form them into local assemblies. He is also able to teach them about the wonderful position that they have in the body of Christ…one that is equal to the Jews. Paul ministers this critically important mystery that had not been revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures. It is revealed in the New Testament to the apostles by the Holy Spirit. The Gentiles, even though they were outside of the covenant just a few years before, are to experience this new relationship with God through Jesus Christ that they were never able to experience before. The mystery shows that new power is available to them through the Holy Spirit. They can witness and minister concerning this message concerning Christ and this new power that is available to them and to others.
Paul continues to describe the new riches that the Gentiles have available to them. Paul describes them as being so vast that their end cannot be discovered. Paul understands all of this and it humbles him. Some of the Jews might think that they are God’s gift to mankind, but Paul considers himself, “the least of all of the saints.” Understanding the great mystery of unity that is revealed does not “puff up” people so that they have “a big head”…rather it “humbles” them and brings “a broken and contrite heart.” When God saved Paul, He gave him the treasures of the gospel truth. Paul in turn, invests his life in bringing these truths to others. In doing this, he exhorts them to commit the truths to other people (2 Timothy 2:2). This is our responsibility. We cannot simply own this message ourselves, but we must live it, share it with others. The great truth concerning the church was not some divine afterthought, as if God was piecing together some puzzle haphazardly. It was all a part of God’s eternal purpose in Christ Jesus. To understand this truth gives us great hope, confidence in the faith. And if there is one thing that people in this broken, fallen world need, it is a message of hope, confidence. The final gift that comes for believers is courage in difficult circumstances. We know that we can and will be victorious if we persevere. Any suffering we experience…including that for the cause of Christ…will bring about blessings, glory.
Rodney Buchanan shares concerning the book, “Mystery on the Desert,” in which Maria Reiche describes a series of strange lines made by the ancient Nazea people in the plains of Peru, perhaps as early as 200 years before the time of Christ. The area where the lines are covers over 37 miles. It is impossible to make out what these line drawings are from the ground, and people at one time assumed they were irrigation ditches. No one really knew what they were until 1939 when Dr. Paul Kosok of Long Island University studied them by flying over them in an airplane. There is an assortment of perfectly straight lines, many running parallel, others intersecting, forming a grand geometric form. In and around the lines there are also strange symbols, and pictures of 70 animal and plant figures that include a spider, hummingbird, monkey and a 1,000-foot-long pelican. One geometric figure goes in a straight line for nine miles across the plain. All of them are etched on a giant scale that can only be appreciated from the sky. When viewed from high in the air, these seemingly random lines form enormous drawings of art. They have meaning. People often assume that since they cannot see the purpose of something from their perspective that there is no purpose — no reason or rhyme to what they are facing…that it is a mystery. But from God’s perspective it makes perfect sense. There is not only order and design to what he is doing…it is a work of art. It doesn’t matter if you are too small to see the whole masterpiece, it is still there. And one day, looking from heaven, the mystery of what God has been doing will be clear to us. What looked like a ditch to us will be seen as a part of God’s design that has been stretched out over his universe.
A preacher (not me) was driving to a preaching engagement, trying to follow a map that he had in his car. He couldn’t locate the highway he needed, so he stopped at a nearby convenience store. The attendant said, “You’ve got an ancient map there, mister!” Here is the latest map. Follow it and you will get to where you are going. And the attendant was right…the preacher arrived in plenty of time for the meeting. People who do not understand “God’s mystery” in His church are trying to make progress with the wrong map. There are no such things as social, race, age or even “religious” distinctions in the family of God. The church is not ever to be shackled by the physical, by the reasoning of men…because it has been set free by the spiritual, through the blood of Jesus Christ. God had a “secret”, but it is not a secret any longer. If you and I understand the wonderful position that we have in Christ, it is going to knock down any barriers to progress. And, we will be a blessing to and for the kingdom of God.