“1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; 3 that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. 4 And by referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit”
A lot is said lately about Gnosticism; especially the books written in the late second and third centuries called the “Gnostic gospels.” In them, the writers proclaim a “secret” knowledge that leads to salvation. The discovery of these books in Egypt has caused quite a bit of controversy, namely because of the cannon, we have already been given and what is taught in it. Some would infer that the Gnostics are true when it comes to a secret knowledge, yet I personally find that the New Testament clearly negates that necessity. Today’s passage is another indication that supports this notion in my mind.
Paul clearly speaks of a revelation being made known (gnosis) to him and he calls it a mystery that has been hidden prior to the appearance of Jesus Christ. You may recall that I began this study by talking about the need to cross-reference at times, and this is one of them. Look at chapter one again, specifically verses, nine; seventeen; eighteen; chapter three, and verses nine; ten; eleven; sixteen; eighteen; and nineteen. Here they are, listed in order. See if you notice a theme in them:
9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention, which He purposed in Him
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God
in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.
11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose, which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,
That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man;
May be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
Here are basic words having to do with knowledge (gnosis). Paul was no fool. He was well educated and traveled, a “man of the world” so to speak, and he knew about the Greek philosophies of the day. They used the word gnosis quite often to refute the notion of one God, or even that a human might comprehend if any God existed. They used the word for the purposes of debate and human reason. I do not believe it is an accident that Saul of Tarsus is writing the Ephesians Christians about this word using this language. I believe he is being his usual “tongue in cheek” self, using the language of the day to redirect the attention of people to the Gospel truth. Simply put, Paul is making the Gospel message to be culturally relevant to his day to the Greek converts to Christianity. He is telling them what they can know. He is also telling them what kind of knowledge they can have in Christ and where it resides in the holistic being of the human make-up.
First, he tells us that it is revelation (apokalypsis) knowledge. It is the unveiling of those things hidden by God in the past. Paul also uses the word mystery to describe a portion of the hidden plan of God. Therefore, the gnosis given to us is revealed by God in Christ and is unveiled.
Paul also describes this knowledge as motivational. It has to do with God’s intentions and will toward humanity. We are told that we may now know and understand the workings of the will of God. We do not have to be ignorant of God’s purpose thru the Gospel. These passages describe the Father’s intentions as one’s of producing faith and hope that they are kind and powerful for those who will believe and receive.
Paul also tells us that this knowledge is a powerful “inner” knowledge. This is the central point of the book, and happens to be my favorite verse. Chapter three, verse sixteen states:
“…that [God] would grant you according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner [being]; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, that surpasses all knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God…”
Wow! Can you dig it? All the fullness of God. This passage is one that I have meditated upon many days, and still cannot get enough of it. It is packed with promise, power, and of course, knowledge. The phrase “strengthened with might” refers to the “dunamos” power that Jesus promised the disciples would come if they waited in Jerusalem. Cf. Luke 24:49 and Acts1:8, 2:4. It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the revelation and guidance that the Spirit would provide. Read John chapters 14 through 17 for details on the work of the spirit in your life, along with Romans chapter eight. This explosive power ignites the chain reactions of unveiling light in the minds and hearts of the believers. It is important to note that it is not just the reason, the mind, the brain that gets enlightened. The heart, the human spirit, our innermost being gets ignited and bound to the Holy Spirit, and thus our hearts and minds become balanced and “in tune” with the will of God; and importantly, with each other. All secrets are revealed; Gods and ours.
That brings me to the final kind of gnosis, or knowledge found in these passages. Paul refers to an intimate kind of knowledge. It is a knowing of the heart of God, and one that lets God know us. The message in chap. 2:4 and 3:17 -19 are awesome. God’s great love motivated Jesus to make it possible for Christ to dwell in our hearts. The word dwell is very important to understand because it not only implies taking up space, but it describes the interaction and endurance of the one who resides in that space. The space is our innerpersons, our hearts and spirits. Here, the word dwell is the Greek word katoikeô and it means to take up a permanent inhabitance. The implication is that the indweller comes in and “unpacks” all of his belongings and riches. Nothing is hidden and everything is shared. Wow. Could this really be all the fullness of God? It sure transcends my ability to imagine all that God has for me! May God unpack all of His treasures in your heart today?