Because there is misunderstanding by some within the Church of Jesus Christ about the word mystery, and how it is used in Scripture, it would be good to consider the Biblical teaching on this subject Of particular interest is the mystery that Jews and Gentiles “should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.”
“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Eph. 3:1-6). In order to appreciate what Paul is saying, two words need clarification.
There is the word “dispensation” in verse 2, and there is the word “mystery” in verse 3. The word “dispensation” is oikonomos, and refers to the steward of the household. If you were to think of the modern word “butler”, you would come closer to understanding the idea of the word, oikonomos. Those who remember the comedy show, Family Affairs, will remember Mr. Sebastian, the Gentleman’s Gentleman. Those who have watched Downtown Abbey are familiar with Charles ‘Charlie’ Carson (played by Jim Carter) who is the butler at Downton Abbey in England. Mr. Carson is in charge of the pantry, wine cellar, and dining room, as well as the male staff, who report to him.
The steward, or oikonomos, was the master’s deputy in regulating the concerns of the family, providing food for the household, seeing it served out at the proper times and seasons, and in proper quantities. He received all the cash, expended what was necessary for the support of the family, and kept exact accounts, which he was obliged at certain times to lay before the master (Adam Clarke’s Commentary).
Paul says that he is a steward of the gospel. The truths of the gospel have been entrusted to him to teach others. One of the gospel truths Paul is to disseminate is that Jews and Gentiles “should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” Paul calls this truth a mystery. The term “mystery” refers to a secret that is revealed by God to His servants, through His Spirit. When properly understood, a biblical “mystery” is an “open secret.”
The idea of a mystery being an “open secret” is what confuses some. How can something be a “mystery” and yet an “open secret”? The answer is to realize that the word mystery is used in a technical way. Something can be known, something can be an open secret to those within a fraternity, but a mystery, or hidden to those without the fellowship.
The Mormons have many mysteries to non-Mormons, as do the Masons. What is an “open secret” to a Mormon, or a Mason, is a mystery to those outside those fraternities.
To those who have been called of God, in both the Old Testament economy, and those within the New Testament economy, there was an “open secret”; Jews and Gentiles were to be “fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.”
In the New Testament era, the mystery of Jews and Gentiles being united together in the body of Christ was known to Paul. But it was also known to many in the Old Testament era, though not AS, or to, the same extent, as is revealed in the Last Days. There is abundant evidence that the “mystery” of Jews and Gentiles being united together was an “open secret” for many centuries.
Abraham Knew the Secret that the Time Would Come When Jews and Gentiles Would be United Together. Part of the Abrahamic Covenant was that the Gentile nations of the earth would be blessed. “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen. 22:18). The seed, singular, of Abraham, was Christ. “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal. 3:16).
Joel Knew the Secret that the Time Would Come When Jews and Gentiles Would be United Together. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. 30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. 32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call” (Joel 2:28 – 32). On the Day of Pentecost, Peter said this prophesy was fulfilled, not partially, but completely.
Isaiah Knew the Secret that the Time Would Come When Jews and Gentiles Would be United Together. “For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. 12 To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear” (Isaiah 28:11-13). Writing to the Church of Corinth, Paul said they were witnessing prophesy being fulfilled (1 Cor. 14:20-22).
Jeremiah Knew the Secret that the Time Would Come When Jews and Gentiles Would be United Together. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:31-34). The author of Hebrews declares this prophesy to be fulfilled (Heb. 12:24).
When you see the word “mystery” in the New Testament, if you are a Christian, think of a gospel truth entrusted to you care to distribute wisely to others who are part of the ecclesia, the Church of Jesus Christ. There are eighteen such “mysteries”, or “open secrets” in Scripture.