Head Hunting Days In PNG Are Over

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The Gospel Has Transformed PNG Culture

Making changes in the rough draft of a translation of Scripture can be a very slow, tedious process.  In the article written below by one of our PBT missionaries, she relates how difficult it was to check the translation of John in one language, and was only able to finish checking chapters 1-15 of John in a three week period.  Praise the Lord that she and the language team were able to identify rough spots that needed some corrections and these have now been entered into the computer.

Changing the hearts and minds of a people group can take much, much longer.  This is especially true here in Papua New Guinea, where tribal warfare, fear of evil spirits and all manner of animistic practices have reigned for millennia among the hundreds of distinct linguistic and cultural groups of this country.  But praise God even more, that we are seeing the fruit of countless missionaries and budding churches here as the lives of many Papuan people have been and are being transformed by the Gospel.

                                

“This isn’t right!  What is this ‘doing the head’ thing anyway?  We don’t talk like that!” said one man.  After several rounds of discussions about how to communicate “hate/treat someone as an enemy, ” the national translator finally said, “I have something that will work.”  After a few more minor corrections of pronouns, the first man and the other translation assistants were giving good back-translations and everyone agreed that the phrase was accurate. 

The literal back-translation of John 15:23 now says, “One man dislikes me and puts the head and sees me, he also will dislike my father and put the head and see him.”  In the NIV this reads as follows, “He who hates me hates my Father as well.”

Wanting to better understand this idiom for hate/treat as an enemy, I asked them to explain it a bit more.  One of the older men said, in the past our ancestors fought with various neighbouring language groups.  The leader of our village/clan would take a trophy – the head of an enemy and bring it back after a fight.  They would sometimes eat the edible parts, but sometimes they would just let it rot until it was just a skull and then they would paint it red and hang it up in the leader’s house. That is the way we showed that we were treating those people as enemies.” 

I asked if anyone living had participated in those kind of raids, and he assured me that when the first missionaries came, all of  that had ended.  He had just grown up hearing the stories about it all and various idioms from their head-hunting days (such as the one above) are still a part of their language.  He ended by saying that if it were still the head-hunting days, there would be no way that he could safely travel to Madang – he would have been killed.  Hearing the stories from probably 100 years or more ago, made me very thankful for the transforming power of missionaries on a country that had been controlled by tribal warfare.   

    

A few days before this discussion, we had been struggling with the concept of “peace”.  In the language of wider communication, “peace” is referred to as having a “stomach that is soft/slow/at rest” – bel isi.  The translation checkers, however, objected to the literal translation of this phrase into their own language and said, “What is this soft stomach stuff!”  I tried several scenarios to help them find the correct term. The one that worked best was when I asked, “After you have been fighting for a while with another village/language group, how do you resolve it?” 

They explained that after things were talked through and people all had “one thought” they planted a coconut as a symbol of the peace, the fact that they now had “one thought”.  I explained that John 14:27 was saying that when people end the fighting and have “one thought,” it only lasts for a while and eventually fighting will break out again about something. However, when Jesus does it and we have “one thought,” then that kind of “one thought”  will last forever.  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14.27 (NIV)

After three hard weeks, we ran out of time and thanked God that we had been able to complete the checking and revising of John 1-15.  It was a difficult checking session in which the rough draft was heavily revised.  Thank you for praying that we would find the problems.  God definitely answered those prayers.  Pray that the discussions we had about peace and many other important concepts will have an impact on the lives of all the participants in the checking session.  Please pray too that we will find a time to complete the checking of the Gospel of John in 2014.

    

Prayer:  “Lord God, we praise You that the truth of Your Word can be expressed in every language of the world.  We pray that You would help all of the missionaries and the national translators who work so diligently to find the best way to express Your truth into their local languages.  We praise You for the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ so that we are no longer Your enemies, and that You can grant to us Your eternal peace.  May this message of Love continue to transform the lives of the people here in Papua New Guinea and around the world.  Amen!”

Praise God

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Jesus Gives Us Supernatural Peace

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John 14:22-31

22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”

23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. 28 Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. 29 I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.

30 “I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me, 31 but I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father. Come, let’s be going.

                                

One of the greatest desires that almost all people in the world share is the desire to see us have peace in the world.  One of the funny lines in “Miss Congeniality” is how shocked people are at the tough things that Sandra Bulluck would want to see happen if she were chosen the beauty queen of the pageant.  No one applauds, until she adds on to the end, “Oh, and world peace.”  But no matter how hard we try to work things out between two parties, whether they be two individuals or two nations, peace seems so often to be so very elusive.  We never quite seem to be able to reach this goal.

One of the world’s most beloved Christmas Carols is “Silent Night“.  In this carol, we get a sense of the holiness of the baby Jesus, and we who are mortal stand in silent awe worshiping the new King of Kings.  The song ends with us wishing Jesus to “sleep in heavenly peace.”  It is said that during World War 1 when it came to be Christmas Eve, men from both sides of the war stopped shooting and started singing “Silent Night“.  The cold weary soldiers from both sides could hear the other side singing the song, one side in English, and the other side in German.  For just an instant out of that terrible four year war, there were voices from opposite camps being raised to wish for heavenly peace.

    

After this “War to end all Wars“, it wasn’t long until the globe plunged into the dark times of World War 2.  Only a few years later there was the Korean War, then the Vietnam War, and even that bizarre 6-Day War between Israel, Syria, Jordan and Egypt.  Highly precise technological weapons took us to a new level of killing strategically in the Gulf War, which was closely followed by the Iraq War.  Today we are deeply concerned that a return to barbarism may happen with the threat of chemical warfare by the gov’t of Syria against its own people.

Our deep sense of a lack of peace does not have to be created just through the wars between men.  In recent days, we have seen that Mother Earth seems to be at war against us as well.  In this month alone, which is only 17 in so far, we have heard of the raging fires damaging communities in Syndey, Australia, Hurricane Ingrid is bearing down on the east coast of Mexico and could cause thousands of people to evacuate the area, Mount Sinabung in Indonesia has just erupted and has caused many thousands of people to evacuate that area, and most recently we are seeing and hearing of the great devastation being caused by the flooding waters in Colorado.

    

Where can a person find peace in a world like this?  Jesus says that He is able to give us peace, and then he qualifies it by saying it is “a peace of mind and heart” and “the peace I give is a gift that the world cannot give.”  Jesus knows that there are of these terrible things happening in life, the brutality of man against man, and the true insignificance of man when he comes face to face with an angry “Mother Nature“.  But Jesus’ peace is not something external, which might cause a temporary ceasefire between enemies.  Not does Scripture promise us that the assaults upon man from nature will decrease and become better devastating.  Romans 8:20-22 tells us that the created world too is under God’s curse, due to the sins of men, and it is broken and fallen apart, and the world awaits the day that God will create a New Heaven and a New Earth.

Instead, Jesus offers to all those who will believe in Him and will obey all the things that He asks of them, they will experience true joy and a supernatural inner heart peace, no matter what the external circumstances might be at the time.  For when we are truly in love with God, then Scripture tells us that we will be accepted and loved back by God, which is worth more than any precious item that this world could ever offer.  And He will send His Teacher, His Comforter and His Advocate for us who will help us remain pure and to stand in our place and make our defense before God whenever He saw someone being caught in sin.

So what kind of peace are you looking for: temporary man-made peace (based on rules of conduct), or eternal God-made peace which helps you get through this life, and prepares you for the eternal life you will have when He is ruling in your heart.

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A Little Piece of Paradise

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Bitter Sweet Memories

Here I am, looking out my window at the luscious velvety green rolling hills of the Aiyura Valley up in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea.  There are some puffy white clouds sitting lazily within the gorgeous blue skies above.  I am once more living here, if only briefly, in what I consider to be one of the truly peaceful little places of Paradise here on earth.

Those were the thoughts I had while I was at the mission base again up in the highlands of PNG.  I was doing the translation consultant check on the Gospel of John for one of the language groups there.  The missionary couple that work in that project are friends of ours and are also fellow Canadians.  They graciously opened their home for me to live with them for the three weeks that we worked together.

In that quiet moment, I thought back over the many years that I have come and gone and done mission work here in PNG.  And especially when I have been at this highlands base and get reflective, I see all the good times, and the not so good times.  But in all of these times, God has been there.  Allow me now to share some of these with you.

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The PBT mission house is located in one of the corners of the center where it is a sharp dip down from one of the more major roads to our side road area.  The roads are not paved, so they are dusty and bumpy when it is dry, but muddy clay and slick when it rains.  That does not phase the children here though as they play their various games on the center whether on the grass sides or on the rock-strewn dirt roads.

We will never forget that one day our son Glen decided to try to ride one of those stand up foot scooters down the steep curving road near the PBT house where we were.  I think he would have been fine, except for the anxious shout from Jill who said, “You be careful son!”  That is when he looked up and the front wheel hit a rock.  Glen went flying off the scooter and landed on his chest and slid down the road.  Oh, we wish he had been wearing a T-shirt that day.  Yowwee!!  Gravel and skin are not a good mix.

I also remember the times that I was done my work and Eric was nearby and it just felt like having a “father-son” moment.  We would go across the lower road to a little grassy knoll that overlooked the beautiful valley.  We would talk about nothing and everything, whatever seemed to be the most important thing to talk about that day.  And we connected in a powerful way in that place of quiet and peace.

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And then came the fateful day in 2002.  Eric had found a place for himself in the International School there on center.  He had presented a good case for leaving the village and starting his Grade 7 up there and to live in one of the Youth Hostels.  He had made some friends, and he felt like that was where he belonged.  The other three of us in the family had gone up there to spend some time with Eric before we went back down to the village where I would continue the Bible translation work.

But a nagging string of little illnesses caused us enough concern that we had Eric checked one more time.  The blood work looked suspicious and we suddenly found ourselves packing up overnight and heading to Brisbane, Australia instead of to the village.  It turned out that Eric did have Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia which sent us all on a three year road of chemotherapy treatments.

But God had not abandoned us.  Just like we quickly picked up Glen after his wipe out and tenderly treated his bruises and scrapes, we saw over those cancer years some wonderful ways that God sent us encouraging letters and prayers from others and gave us special moments for Eric that were only made possible because of his illness.  No, God does not abandon us, but He may change the path we are on.

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And I thought that was what was happening for me when God opened the door in 2007 for me to return to the mission base to get the training to become a Bible translation consultant.  I was so thrilled to be involved again with language projects, and this time I would help with the last check to be done before a book of Scripture goes to be published.

But immediately following my first trip to do consultant work in Feb. ’08, my own disease hit me and I have not been able to walk since then without experiencing pain and fatigue.  I thought my time of Bible translation work was finished when this hit me.  But I could never have been so wrong.  This is now the sixth time in four years that I have come back to PNG to do the consultant checking of a Bible translation project.

I don’t know why I feel that this mission base seems to be just a little closer to God than in other places.  I just know that it does.  And even though my family has experienced many bumps and bruises, and even life-threatening diseases which have been partly connected to this center, I still know that God is with us and loves us.  Maybe that is the point.  Through thick or thin, good or bad, God is still God and His loving kindness is always there.  We just need to open our eyes sometimes to see it.

The Year of Jubilee

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[Editor’s Note: the following letter came to me just last week from a colleague of mine working with Pioneer Bible Translators in Tanzania, East Africa.]

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Year of Jubilee

Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. – Leviticus 25:10 KJV

On December 9th, I looked out of a hotel window in the capital and saw the British frigate Somerset that had arrived for Tanzania’s 50th birthday celebration. In 1961 something seemingly impossible happened – an African country achieved complete independence without a war of independence. The UN Protectorate of Tanganyika applied for independence and actually got it! The British administration peacefully handed over Tanganyika’s governance and a nation was born on December 9th 1961.

On the other side of the world, I was a baby girl being born that same day. I think of this concurrence as the first prophetic event of my very blessed life. As Tanzania and I begin this year of jubilee, I invite you to join me in praying for consecration for me personally and also for this country that I love. Let’s proclaim spiritual liberty for all those throughout this land who are in spiritual bondage. God bless Tanzania!

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15 Years in Africa

When I was in Bible College, I was shocked to read the statistic that 75% of missionaries serve no more than one field term (usually 3-5 years). How could I believe that my dream of spending decades overseas would come true? But I did believe. And it did come true, and still is coming true in fact, despite the little I have to do with it. If it were up to my abilities, health and moods, I would not have made it to Africa in the first place, and I would definitely not be listening to monkeys partying on my roof in January 2012. What is the secret of my success? God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NIV

Lord willing I will arrive in Florida at the end of February to begin what we call “temporary home assignment.” In addition to my heavenly home, my heart has two earthly homes, and other than trip preparations and deadlines, I transition easily between Tanzania and the USA. I don’t often think of my life as being apart from either place. Neat, eh? It is just another example of God’s grace and blessings.

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As I read this letter, it brought home two important spiritual truths for me.  The first is the fact that we live in a world where there is the reality of war, and even though peace treaties may be signed between different parties or nations, that peace can often be a very fragile peace.  We have just passed the Christmas season, which speaks of the hope of “peace on earth, and goodwill toward all men.”  But that kind of true peace can only be found in Christ, not a human agreement.

The other spiritual truth that hit me was the reality that we who are committed to serving the Lord in mission work abroad will often find the same thing as my colleague, that our definition of “home” becomes much bigger.  As stated above, we find ourselves to “be at home” in the places where we work overseas, while still being attached to our friends and families “back home” where we grew up.  And then as we think about it, we also realize that this world is not our true home, but in fact Heaven is where our heart truly is.

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You know, I think that is one of the neat things about being a missionary.  As we continually cross back and forth between our home where we minister abroad and our home back in the country we grew up in, we can often find that the attachments we may have had toward material objects greatly decreases.

Rather than investing in “things” of this world, we find there is a greater joy when we invest in people, wherever they may live.  And that is what our Christian faith is all about; it’s about having a relationship with God and others that is most important.

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I will say that I too am very pleased that there is a structure and the will to have peace in this part of the world where our family also had the privilege to serve God.  But we did live there for 18 months and saw that there are still many problems within the country, just as there are in any country.  Violence, crime, poverty and an unwillingness on the part of many people to submit in obedience to the true God above.

What is exciting is that there is still relative peace and freedom to bring the Good News of salvation to those who need to hear it.  PBT has been able for many years to bring the translated Word of God to a number of language groups in that region of the world.  And that is the key to bringing true freedom to all who have been in bondage to sin.

And so my final word is to say thank you to my colleague who has been faithfully serving God and the people of East Africa for more than 15 years now.  My prayer is that she will find herself refreshed and renewed as she spends time with her American friends and family so that she can  soon return to living among and ministering to her African friends and neighbors.  And may we all be open to be renewed in our hearts by the God above, the true Author of peace for the world.

God And His Word Will Guide Us

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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Trusting God for the Future

God will reveal what we need to know for the future when the time is right. We know that, for some reason beyond our understanding, some things must wait in a trusting relationship with God.

Other texts make some things clear:

  • It is always the will of God to pray for sexual purity and to ask God for that to be true within family, friends, and society. This means celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in the “one man/one woman” marriage bond. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3, NASB).
  • It is always the will of God to pray that others hear about Jesus Christ and His salvation. “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day”(John 6:40, NASB).
  • It is always the will that we baptize and coach those who take that step: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
  • It is always the will of God that we become a people of God with other believers together as the power of the Holy Spirit flows through us, and that everything in heaven and on earth be “summed up,” joined together under the Lordship of Christ. “He made known to us the mystery of His will . . . the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth” (Ephesians 1:9-10, NASB).

–Adapted from Power Praying (Hearing Jesus’ Spirit by Praying Jesus’ Prayer) by David Chotka

Lord, thank You for what You have revealed to me in Your word, so that I am able to pray with clarity about what is on Your heart and mind for my life. May I be obedient in these things as You teach me to hear the voice of the Spirit.

Posted 19 Nov 2011

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Perhaps the most frequently asked question by Christian young people is, “What is God’s will for me?”  Now this could mean they are wanting to know what God’s overarching plan is for their life.  Or, the person may simply want to know which decision they ought to make as they consider more than one option of what they could do in the realm of day-to-day living.

What’s interesting these days, is that these questions are being asked by Christians of all ages.  There is certainly more options available to most people living in the developed western culture.  Along with that is greater freedom to make important life-changing decisions.  Then add into this the current instability of our society, where job security is no longer guaranteed, and the economic downturn is causing many people to have to rethink their options and their lifestyle.

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It is good to know then that in the midst of the turbulent world in which we live, that we can be sure that there are still some absolutes upon which we can stand and which can help to guide us in how to live.  I am thinking of the Bible, which provides us with tangible and realistic ethical principles which can guide us in how to live our lives, just as the North Star has been a point of reference for sailors over the centuries which helped them to navigate the seas.

Many of us though desire to know more clearly and specifically what exactly it is that God would have us do.  I looked at this issue briefly in a recent article as I tried to encourage people to go forward when we sense that God is leading us to make important decisions.  (You can read that article here.)  Take a good look at the three questions near the end of the article.

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What is important to realize is that Christianity is not just a religion with a book full of rituals which we must perform to be in good standing with God.  No, Christianity is a relationship with a Living God.  And He is intimately concerned about us and desires that we seek His help and His guidance in our lives.  1 Peter says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”

We also know from Scripture that God is ready to guide us in our daily decision making, as long as we are prepared to fully trust Him as to what He is telling us to do.  Proverbs 3:5-6 say, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

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And knowing that God cares so much just about me and about my wife, Jill, helps me to relax and not worry too much about how things will turn out for us in 2012.  Sure, there are some big questions in front of us.  Do we maintain a home in Canada?  Do we consider living long-term in Papua New Guinea again?  Is that even an option?  How does living and working in Dallas fit in, like I did this year?  Do we let my muscle condition dictate where we live, or not?

Yet in the midst of all these questions, I have a sense of peace knowing that my God will walk before me and show me that way.  As we head into the New Year, do you have this sense of peace?  Let God’s Spirit and His Word, the Bible, provide you with this security, and give you hope for a good new year.

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.