Revelation or Speculation (Ephesians 3.2–6)


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SCRIPTURE READING

Ephesians 3.2–6:

…assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 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.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT

Is the Bible God speaking to us or us speculating about God?

Paul answers that question in Ephesians 3.2–6: “[I assume] that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 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.”

Paul uses the word mystery three times in these verses. In each case, the word refers to the truth that “Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus.” In our day, of course, this truth is not controversial, but in Paul’s day, it was hotly contested. Indeed, one of the greatest theological controversies in the New Testament is the status of Gentile converts in what was then a largely Jewish church. Must Gentiles become Jews in order to become Christians? Must male converts be circumcised, as the Old Testament law requires? What about a kosher diet? The issue boils down to whether we are saved by grace through faith or through performance of works of the law. Paul’s answer, and that of the early church is clear: “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2.8–9).

An important question is whether this answer is divine or human in origin. Does God tell us that we are saved by grace through faith, or is that merely the personal opinion of Paul and other early church leaders? We cannot disregard the answer if it is divine. Indeed, if God is speaking to us, we are unconditionally obligated to obey him, for he is our Creator, Savior, and Judge.  But we are free to disregard merely personal opinions if we do not like them.

So, divine revelation or human speculation? Paul clearly states that salvation by grace through faith is “the mystery…made known to me by revelation.” And he adds, “it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” As the early church questioned the status of Gentile converts, the Holy Spirit spoke God’s answer through Paul and the other apostles. Apart that divine answer, we Gentiles would not be Christians today.

Even though the status of Gentile converts is a settled question for Christians today, we must still come to a conclusion regarding the nature of the Bible. Is it God’s word to humans, or merely human words about God? Revelation or speculation? If speculation, we can ignore whatever the Bible says that we don’t like. But if the former, we must pay attention to it, for in it, God speaks to us.

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