Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
Ephesians 3:1-12 identifies the Gospel as a "mystery." Specifically, it says that the heart of the mystery is that even the Gentiles are made heirs of God through belief in Christ.
There are several levels to this mystery, as you can easily imagine. One of the greatest at the time of Paul's writing to the Ephesians is the realization that the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ was for Jews and non-Jews alike. This was a precious realization to the Ephesians.
Ephesus was a place of both great commercial and religious interest in the middle of the first century. It was the home of a great temple to Artemis, as well as the home to a thriving industry, creating idols of Artemis, who was the patron goddess of Ephesus. The city was one of the largest and most urbane in the Greco-Roman world of the time.
It would have been very easy to hear about Christianity and come to a conclusion that Jesus was the Messiah who rescued the Jews from sin. He was the savior from the root of David, fulfilling the promise to Abraham, which seemed to be a promise pointed at the Jews. He would certainly do a lot of good in Jerusalem. But in Ephesus?
If we were Ephesians it would be likely that we would hope for rescue in Jesus, but deep down assume that Artemis was our best chance. And Artemis wasn't a very good prospect. All the Greek deities were capricious, self-centered, and vindictive. What if we did something wrong? And what if Artemis was jealous of the fact that we had entertained thoughts of Jesus possibly being on our side? We wouldn't want her to find that out, for fear of sudden and painful death.
The mystery of the Gospel, though, is centered in the promise of God to Abraham. Abraham would be a blessing to all nations, through his offspring. And that offspring we are looking for is none other than Jesus, God the Son, who has made salvation available, not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles. People like me. People like my neighbors in Ephesus.
The Gospel is for the Ephesians. It is also for everyone everywhere who believes. Jesus is the one who has done all that is necessary to rescue us from sin, death, and the devil. This great mystery can make even me an heir of God. It can make you an heir of God as well. And it accomplishes all this through faith. All it takes is believing in Christ. That's the greatest good news of all time.
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