Animistic Practices & The Cross of Christ

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[Editor’s Note:  This story happened to a couple who are members of Pioneer Bible Translators and have been working in Nothern Africe.]

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The witchdoctor got to my husband first.  He was surprisingly young, and his white tennis shoes contrasted starkly with the leather loin cloth around his waist and baboon hide satchel slung across his chest.  A spray of feathers was tied to his head and most appendages were adorned with leather thongs tied around small pieces of wood.

Cupping the back of my husband’s head firmly with one hand, the Kujur pulled his face towards him and with amazing precision, showered a thick spray of saliva and chewed ginger root across both cheeks and forehead. After he finished, it was my turn.

When it was once again appropriate for us to continue on our way, our cultural guide and host informed us that we had just received a blessing.  “He is welcoming you,” he happily assured us as we nodded and smiled while discreetly wiping ginger paste off of our eyelids.

The reason for our warm welcome last week was Garin, a traditional ceremony we had been invited to attend in a remote village. We spent four days in the area watching and learning as hundreds of people took part in very old rituals and celebrations of their culture. It was a fascinating glimpse into a world that felt very far away from the ones we grew up in.

From what we could tell, the occasion was a mix of celebration and grief as people danced and sang through the night and wailed and mourned for people who had died in the past year. It was beautiful and haunting, and above all very, very spiritual. 

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Late into the evening, drums resounded to the rhythms of people reciting Arabic prayers from their holy book. Most songs the witchdoctors sang involved hands or massive animal horns raised heavenward.  Several goats were brought to the gathering and slaughtered, most likely as sacrifices. Every greeting included the words “Praise be to God” many times over.

And there were blessings—many blessings (some of which involved ginger root and spit). Consciousness of God and the spiritual world were all around us. And even though the spirituality we witnessed was very animistic, with strong flavors of another major world religion blended in, we were deeply impacted by people’s awareness of God and their desire to draw close to him.

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It was a bitter-sweet occasion for us. While we were amazed at the genuine spirituality of these people, we were burdened by the great fear that the absence of Jesus left in their lives. However, in the midst of all of these frenzied traditions and rituals, one thing was particularly meaningful to us. Everywhere we looked we could not help but to notice crosses.

These crosses were engraved in brass bracelets. They were chalked onto the shaved heads of grieving women. They were carved into wooden dancing sticks.  And perhaps most notably, they were scarred deep into the cheeks and forearms of people everywhere. The cross is meaningful to this community in ways we don’t fully understand yet, denoting things like clan membership and status. It is a part of who they are and has been for hundreds (maybe thousands) of years.

Last week, watching the singing, dancing and crying from the shade of a baobab tree, we grew ever more excited about the future. A people hungry for God who already find identity in the cross stirs our hearts. But it’s Jesus and His cross that we long for these people to know. Our prayer is that the day will come soon when these symbols that they have born for so long will mean more to them than they ever have before.

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This is quite a haunting story, as mentioned above.  I would have to agree that this story burdens my heart too, to read about a people group that recognizes the spiritual realm that exists all around us and yet they do not have a personal relationship with the Creator God who is the Author of all that exists, both physically and spiritually.

The details shared here, about the engravings of the crosses, does give us hope that these people will want to discover the full story and meaning of the Cross of Christ.  The images are there, but the message has been obscured so that they don’t know its true meaning.  Yet I believe they are searching and yearning to know the truth.

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This reminds me of a story shared by Marilyn Lazlo, a well known missionary who worked with Wycliffe Bible Translators.  She traveled one time deeper and deeper into the interior jungle of Papua New Guinea, to a region where no Christian missionary had every traveled before.  She was fascinated by all the sights and sounds and meeting all the people for the very first time.

Then she looked up on to a hill ridge, and she noticed a Papuan style thatched roof and bamboo siding house.  And on top of the house, there was a cross that had been nailed together and placed there.  When Marilyn asked what missionary had come to build that house, they told her that she was the first missionary to ever come there.

She asked the next obvious question then.  “Then why is there a cross on top and whose house is that?”  The people replied, “It is God’s house.  We have built it for Him.  And someday, God will send us someone to explain what the cross is and what God wants to tell us.”  These people too once had a cross, but no meaning in that cross.  Praise God, now some 40 years later, they do know God.  Now we must pray that the people of North Africa will discover the Christ of all the crosses they bear.

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* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

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Jesus Suffered So That We Might Live – Pt 2

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 10

At the end of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story“, there are study questions and activities to consider that relate to each chapter.  I invite you to read the book, and look over the entire question and application section.  In my articles, I will usually only pick up on two or three questions and relate them to my own experiences.

                                          

Chapter 5: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….
YOU WON’T BE FORSAKEN

Question #1: What does “forsaken” mean to you?  Share a time in your life when you felt forsaken.  How did someone encourage you?

The word “forsaken” to me has got to be one of the loneliest and saddest words in our English vocabulary.  It would be one thing to go off by yourself and feel alone.  It would be similar if say perhaps you had an accident, like a boat crash, and you were marooned and isolated on a remote island.  Yet these two kinds of experiences would not be as bad as “forsaken”, because you could either choose to join people again, or at least have the hope that you could be rescued and be with people again.

But to be forsaken means that there were plenty of other people around, but they all left for one reason or another, and then you were completely left by yourself.  You were abandoned, and you had no hope of rejoining the group.  I recall very vividly the few times that a baseball game or football game was started in our park or school ground, and I was not chosen to be on a team.  Everyone lined up, and they took turns picking team mates.  I was the last one, and even then, neither captain of the two teams wanted me.  They left to play the game, and I was forsaken.

    

Thankfully I have matured past those silly old ball game days.  But at that age I do remember feeling left out of life itself and didn’t seem to be accepted anywhere.  I praise my God that He found me, and I found Him, and invited Christ into my life.  Ever since that, I have always known that I am accepted by God and would never be alone again.

As a Christian adult and aspiring missionary though, there was still a moment when I felt rejected and forsaken.  Jill and I had made a tentative start with one mission group, and had submitted our application.  But just as I thought they were going to accept us, they told us that “we were not ready yet”, and that there were some life issues and finances to get straightened out first.  I felt so rejected.  But again, I praise God that a caring friend a few years later said, “I thought you were going to be a missionary?”  So we moved forward again, and that time we were accepted and we have been doing Bible translation work ever since.

Question #4: How crucial is the cross to your personal story?  In what ways has the fact that Jesus died on the cross changed your life?  How would your life be different today if Jesus hadn’t died on the cross?

This is an easy question for me in some ways.  Simply put, without Christ and His offer of spiritual life through His death, I would be so truly lost and messed up, not just in this life, but for eternity.  I now know as I look back over the years, that if I had not accepted Christ, then I would have become such a self-centered and self-serving person.  But knowing that Jesus, God’s Son, gave up his life for me so that I could live, that helps me to give up my life to serve others in order that they too might live eternally with God in the glorious Kingdom that He will usher in one day.  All I can say is “Thank you, Jesus!”

                                          

[Editor’s Note:  In the “Ideas” part in this section for Chapter Five at the back of his book, Lucado challenges his readers to consider what we used to be like and how we felt before we knew Christ and accepted Him into our lives, and then what our lives became after we invited Christ into our lives.  He suggests making a list of the two sides, a “Before” and an “After” shot.  He provides some good examples for us.  I challenge my readers to look this chart over and then make a list.  You can use some of Lucado’s examples if they fit, but try to think of other features so you can reflect well on your true identity as it stands now by being “in Christ“.]

OLD

NEW

I was alone because of sinful choices.

I am complete in Christ.

I was accused and ashamed.

I am free from condemnation.

I was fearfully running from God’s purpose  for my life.

I am established and anointed.

I was lazy and unmotivated.

I am God’s co-worker.

I was harming my body with my actions.

I am God’s workmanship.

I was living without care or responsibility.

I am a royal priest in God’s eyes.

I was unethical.

I am honest and hard-working.

I was a bad parent.

I am a good, intentional parent.

I was feeling forsaken.

I am forgiven.

I was prone to wander.

I am a faithful spouse.

I was addicted.

I am dependent only on God.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

                                           

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

The Power Of A Testimony

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John 4:28 – 30, 39 – 45

28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.

39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.

                                

This is the third and final section in John chapter four that highlights the Samaritan woman, with whom Jesus had spoken.  In the earlier section of this story, Jesus had shown to the woman his omniscience by describing in detail the true nature of her relationships with multiple husbands.  That prompted the woman to consider Jesus to be a prophet.

But as Jesus and the woman talked further about the true nature of worshipping God, an even greater aspect of His nature became clear to the woman.  In her desire to worship the true God, the woman mentioned the promise of God that an anointed man, the Messiah, would be sent by God to teach all people about God.  Jesus responded by saying basically, “I am that Man.”  (Read the earlier article here.)

    

Now recall how this woman had come to the well in the heat of the day to draw water.  (We drew attention in the first article to the idea that this suggests that she was an outcast from the nearby town since the practice would have been for the ladies of the town to go together in the cool of the morning to draw water.)  But now in the excitement of the moment, this woman dropped her jar and ran back to town to testify to the town’s folk that just perhaps she had met the promised Messiah, the Christ who would come to lead God’s people.

If we are seeing this event as it really happened, that was quite a bold move by that woman.  If she had been a social outcast, having been married to five men, and now living with a sixth man, then it would be highly doubtful that the town’s folk would stop to listen to anything this woman had to say.  But she was so excited and so hopeful and so insistent on what she had experienced, that the people really had to come out to meet Jesus and find out for themselves.

    

In fact, this woman’s testimony concerning the nature of who Jesus was and what He had done was so powerful that it says, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him…”  That is a pretty strong testimony, wouldn’t you say?  So the people ask Jesus to stay with them a few more days, and as they too came to see the real Jesus, they too put their trust in Him as God’s anointed Messiah, the “Savior of the world.”

This would be a good spot for us all to stop and reflect on our own faith in Jesus.  Especially for those of us who have believed in Jesus for many years.  Do we still have the desire to tell others about Jesus with great excitement and energy?  Did we have that kind of excitement when we first accepted Jesus into our lives?  Perhaps we need to reflect a bit more on the amazing freedom and salvation from sin that Jesus gave to us when we stepped out of darkness and into His light.

    

Our passage goes on, and we see Jesus is ready to leave the Province of Samaria.  But I wonder if He did it with a bit of a heavy heart.  No one is quite sure what John meant when he wrote in verse 44, “Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown”.  This clause is being used differently than how Matthew, Mark and Luke used it, when Jesus was not accepted in his home town of Nazareth.

It is possible that Jesus was thinking of how his own people in general, the Jews, were not very receptive to Him, which stands in strong contrast with how the Samaritans believed in Him.  Or it might refer to Jerusalem where He had just come from.  And how awfully sad it is that the Holy City, where the Temple of the Living God stood, was the very place that Jesus, the Son of God was most rejected.

    

And yet, there was still an openness and acceptance that Jesus found among the Galileans.  Perhaps it really is true that God can be found better by those who live more simple and down-to-earth lives.  It seems to me that the hustle and bustle of the “big cities”, and also the highly institutionalized religious centers, are not the places where the lowly and humble Jesus can be found.

And what about you my friend?  Has the busyness and distractions of life, and even “religion”, kept you away from having a deep personal talk with the Lord, such as this Samaritan woman had?  Open your eyes, and your heart, and let the testimony of this changed woman also help change your life.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Introducing The Gospel of John

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The Gospel According to John

In the last article, I mentioned that because it was the start of a new year, I would start on some new ideas for what I want to do with my article series this year.  Tuesdays will be the day that I share interesting and exciting stories from the mission field written by my colleagues within Pioneer Bible Translators.  Now I want to tell you my idea for the Thursday articles.

I realized last month that I will be doing a lot of preparation to do the consultant check on the Gospel of John for two completely different language groups in Papua New Guinea.  So then I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be neat to do a number of articles on the Gospel of John?”  So far, I have worked on both translating and checking the translations of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke).  Now is my opportunity to study more deeply the Fourth Gospel.

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Most people agree that the Synoptic Gospels are easier to read and to translate.  There is so much more narrative material in these books which gives us more action and fewer extended  passages of deep and difficult theology to try to unravel in the translation.  But that does not mean that there are not difficult sections to understand and translate in the Synoptic Gospels.

Certainly the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew chs 5 – 7 is full of complexities.  And the many parables throughout all the gospels contain every day words on the surface, but also carry some deep spiritual truths below the surface form which must be handled very carefully.

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Let’s take a quick tour then of the Gospel of John to see what spiritual treasures we will encounter as we go through this book:

The Prologue

Chapter 1 gives us not so much a historical setting as a theological setting for this man, Jesus.  We know from the other Gospels that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of a Jewish mother who was able to become pregnant through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit of God.  That tells us that Jesus was no ordinary child.  He in fact was God who came down from Heaven and took on the form of a man.  John’s Gospel will give us more insight into the divine nature of Jesus even from his opening words of his prologue.

The Book of Signs

Chapters 2 – 12 cover the entire ministry of Jesus up until the last week before his death.  We see Jesus traveling extensively, starting with his baptism by John east of the Jordan River, and then moving back and forth between the province of Galilee in the north to the city of Jerusalem in the south.

Everywhere Jesus went though, he astounded the people by his insightful and authoritative teachings and amazed them by his miraculous deeds.  Jesus demonstrated that he was from God by exercising supernatural power over nature (turning water into wine and multiplying bread) and over any sickness or disease (healing a crippled man and also a man who had been blind since birth).  Jesus even had power over death itself as he was able to bring Lazarus back to life after being dead for four days.

The Book of Glory

Chapters 13 – 20 have been called “The Book of Glory”.  They reveal the true depth of Jesus’ love for his disciples, and let us hear his heartfelt prayer to God on their behalf.  Then Jesus demonstrated his magnificent love and his power by being crucified on a cross, followed by his resurrection from death.  There is no way that you can read these chapters and not get caught up in the deep emotions (“pathos”) of those few days in Jerusalem.

But all of the book of John up to this point was not written just so that we would have an emotional response.  Certainly we do feel awe when we read about the amazing miracles he performed.  And we feel despair when Jesus died but then we rejoice when he rose to live again.  No, this book was written for a much more important reason.  John himself states in chapter 20 verse 31 the purpose for recording the life of Jesus.  He wrote:

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

The Epilogue

Many scholars think that John finished writing his book at the end of chapter 20, and then later added chapter 21.  We will never know that for sure.  Most likely, there was some later concern among the early believers with regards to Peter who had denied his faith in Christ before the crucifixion, but afterwards was reinstated as an apostle and leader of the church by Jesus himself.

This gives us a very rough outline of John’s gospel.  I do hope that this is helpful to those who read this.  Now what I would like to do is to go back and start at the beginning and work through the book slowly, one passage or section at a time.  My desire is to try to have a balance between what the text is saying (interpretation) and how its truths can still impact us in our lives today (application).

Please be praying along with me that I will be able to write very good, meaningful and helpful articles.  I invite everyone who reads these to feel free to respond and interact with me as we go through the book.  May God bless you as we go on this journey together.

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[If you find these articles to be an encouragement to you, may I suggest that you subscribe to this site on the right hand side to get these sent directly to your email Inbox.  God bless.]

The Practice of Prayer

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“We Believe in Prayer” – Part 4

This is the last article on the series on “Prayer”.  I have been blessed to be able to attend the Sunday School teaching hour at Crossroads Christian Church in Grand Prairie, Texas.  In previous articles, we have covered the topics of “The Power of Prayer“, “The Passion for Prayer“, and “The Purpose of Prayer“.  Now we will try to touch on “The Practice of Prayer“.  Of course we will never be able to completely cover this topic, and we will be fortunate to just mention key ideas here right now.

The lesson for the day came from Matthew 6:5 – 13 which covered what we call today “The Lord’s Prayer”, and also includes the preamble of Jesus just before He uttered what is perhaps the best well-known prayer in the world.  And the Lesson Overview given to us is quite straightforward, “This lesson is to show us what vibrant, effective prayer looks like and how we can deal with the things that hinder our prayers.”

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Here is what we can learn from this passage:

1.  We Need to Pray Privately (vv. 5 – 6)

In these two verses, there is a parallelism that puts two very opposite practice of prayer into sharp contrast.  The ritually religious leaders of that day would have the habit of standing up in public and delivering loud and elegant prayers in the presence of many witnesses.  Even if their prayers were genuine petitions before God, it is clear that their motivation was to be seen in public, and to be considered “highly religious” in the eyes of the average person.

The bottom line for the religious leaders was that they wanted to be seen publicly and so receive the praises of men.  This form of outward religious performance is the very opposite of what God wants from His children.  His desire is that we withdraw from others when we pray to God, because He wants us to put our full attention on the Lord, and not seek approval or admiration from men.  Such people who do that Scripture says they already have received their reward (people’s approval), but we are to seek an intimate relationship with God, and He in turn will bless us here in this life, and also grant eternal life in the next.

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2.  We Need to Pray Effectively (vv. 7 – 8 )

In this next short section, before Jesus tells his disciples how to pray, He first reminds them of how not to pray.  Jesus says that we are not to babble when we pray to God.  The picture here is that when “pagans” (unbelievers) pray, they continuously mumble repetitive prayers to God in the false believe that if we pray the same stuff endlessly to God, then surely He will hear our many prayers and He will have to answer.

In effect though, these people are trying to manipulate God and believe that God will eventually give in to whatever they want.  In contrast to this, Jesus tells the disciples that God already knows what our needs are.  And in fact, Jesus says that God already knows what we need even before we ask Him.  Remember, God is omniscient, and He is motivated by love.  Part of the purpose of prayer is to recognize our needs and our true dependence upon God.  That is often the time that God pours out His richest blessings to us, when we are humble, obedient servants who bow to His authority.

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3.  We Need to Pray Specifically(vv. 9 -13)

In this model prayer, which we call “The Lord’s Prayer”, Jesus shows how we can have an intimate time to talk with our Father.  But he clearly demonstrates for us that we need to be very specific in our prayers.  We can’t be like our little children who often start out a prayer life by simply uttering a catalogue of names and events and then asking God to “bless them”.  No, we need to be carefully and specifically mindful of what we are actually saying when we repeat the Lord’s Prayer:

  • Person: we must always remember to whom we are praying.  But also rejoice that even as we pray to God, we can call Him and pray to Him in the intimate of ways by saying, “Our Father…”
  • Perspective:  when we say “who is in Heaven; Hallowed be His name”, we perceive ourselves more accurately that we are just the creation, but He is pure and holy Creator God.
  • Presence: above all else, we want His Kingdom to come, for Scripture tells us in the book of Revelation that when Christ comes next time, it will be an everlasting presence of God among us.
  • Purpose:  But considering that not all things are rightly in tune with the Father here on earth, then is should be our passion to seek for people to come to God and follow Him and His ways.
  • Provision:  It is finally at this point, when we recognize and honor God and seek to help establish God’s kingdom here, then we have the right to come and ask God to meet our daily needs.
  • Pardon:  And the key to all of the above is that God forgave us our sins and allowed us to have a relationship with Him.  And in like manner, we are to pass on this forgiveness to all others.
  • Protection:  Then finally, we must pray for God to help us and protect us in the spiritual battle that we are engaged in with the author of our sin and our greatest enemy, Satan.
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This is quite the awesome prayer, isn’t it?  What’s truly amazing is how simple this prayer is in reality.  But I challenge you to follow the pattern of this prayer and to practice it, in the quiet part of your home and life, and see if you might just discover that the God of Miracles, and the God of Great Power is in fact still present with us today.  We simply need to unleash Him through our reverent and faithful prayers.

Translating Ephesians

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Insights From Checking Ephesians

Earlier this week I finished doing the consultant check on the translation of Ephesians into one of the languages of Papua New Guinea.  It would take too long here to explain the process of doing a translation consultant checking session, so I will leave that for a future article.  What I would like to do now, and on each of the Thursday articles over the next seven weeks, is to share some insights that we have made into some of the verses of Scripture that we are checking.  Needless to say, in this limited space, I will only touch on a couple of the more interesting discoveries we have made.

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“In Christ”

This phrase, “in Christ”, is one of Paul’s favorite expressions to describe our state as Christians.  He uses this exact phrase 12 times in the book of Ephesians, and the idea of it is at least more than double that if you include phrases like “in Him” or “in whom”.  In other words, it is a very common phrase found throughout the book.  But what does it mean to be “in Christ”.

Most commentaries will use wording like “united with Christ”, or “joined with Christ”, and this is helpful.   But I love how the T. language handles this phrase.  It literally says “we who are stuck to Christ”.  To me, it gives the picture of us being super-glued to Jesus.  When we accept Jesus as our Lord, we do not have a casual “take-it-or-leave-it” relationship with Him.

It is more like we are “joined at the hips” and so what He wants, we want, and what He has (i.e. all the spiritual blessings of heaven – v. 1:4) we also have.  This is such a comforting thought to me.  The God that I believe in is not some distant deistic God who doesn’t care or involve Himself in our lives.  No, when we are “stuck to Jesus”, we have become partners and co-heirs with Jesus, who is the Son of God.

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“The Mystery that was Hidden”

Another word that is one of Paul’s favorites in the book of Ephesians is the word “mystery”.  This word shows up 7 times in the book, and it in itself is a bit of mystery when you first start reading the book.  Paul introduces the word in 1:9-10, and says that “God had made known to us the mystery of His will…which He purposed in Christ to be put into effect when the times have reached their fulfillment…

Paul goes on in the rest of verse 10 to explain what the mystery is, namely, “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.”  Even though this world and its course appears to be chaotic and meaningless to some, there is in fact a master plan which will all be revealed and order restored when Christ one day will come back to rule the world.

In chapter five, Paul talks about another “mystery”, and it is based on the picture of a husband and wife relationship.  Quoting from the Old Testament, in marriage, “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  But then Paul says the mystery is the fact that what happens between Christ and His people is just like a marriage relationship.  There is a spiritual union that happens between Christ and the Church that is just as mysterious as the spiritual union of a husband and wife.

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But chapter three is Paul’s best use of the word “mystery”.  He uses the word four times, and he is so excited about the wonder of the mystery that had once been hidden but now is made known, first to him and then to us through Paul.  He says in verse two and three that people should know God had given the task to Paul to make this mystery known, and after reading his words, they too would understand the insight Paul has into this great mystery.

He then goes on in verse five to state that the mystery “was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.”  And by this time, after waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more, you want to scream out to Paul, “So what is this great mystery?”

I almost believe that Paul did this deliberately, to tease us along for quite a few verses, just so that we would catch the full impact of what this mystery is when he finally revealed it to us.  And the key verse to this chapter, and to much of the entire epistle is found in verse 6 of chapter 3.  It reads:

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

When we reflect deeply on this, it is truly amazing that after many millenia of bitter hatred and wars fought between those who were Jews, and those who were not Jews, it is amazing that peace and unity can be found for them in Christ, and together they will share the eternal blessings of God.

It is for certain that in Jesus’ day that such a statement of God’s will, namely the “breaking down of the walls of hostility” between these two ethnic groups, would have been quite a revolutionary thought.  But what is really profound is that God had intended from the beginning of time to bring peace to those who are by nature bitter enemies.  And if God can do that for the Jews and non-Jews, then God can do that between any two hostile groups today.  So let us pray that this peace of God, by means of the Gospel, can truly be known by all peoples today, and that all would see His unfathomable love for all mankind.