Mystery #15

by Tad Lindley

If you are an avid Bible reader you probably already know that the word mystery appears in the Bible 27 times. You probably also know that the record holder is the Book of Ephesians with six mysteries in it. It is upon that book that I would like to focus today.

Mystery #15

Reading the Bible from start to finish the 15th time the word mystery appears is in Ephesians 5:32. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Now in order to solve the great mystery you need to know what the “this” is in this is a great mystery. (it will also be a huge help to you if you would read the verses along with this column). It is an odd thing, and, although I have read chapter 5 probably over sixty times, I never caught it until this afternoon. To understand what the mystery is, you have to understand what the “this” is.


The preceding two paragraphs in Ephesians are often preached as the recipe for a successful marriage. In a nutshell, they teach, wives, submit to your husbands like the church submits to Christ (Ephesians 5:22-24), and husbands love your wives like Christ loves the church (5:25-29). They are summed up in verse 33: Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. This section of the Bible is widely preached as exactly that. In fact, you have probably read it presented just like that in my column.

But the “this” is not about that

Mystery #15 is that Ephesians 5:22-31 is not really about husbands loving and wives submitting; it is about Jesus and the church. Look closely at verse 25: Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. We would focus on the husband, but God is calling us to focus on himself and the fact that he loved the church so much that he gave himself for it. There are a couple of mistakes we might make about this.

Potential mistake #1

First of all we might tell ourselves, “Matthew and Peter, and all those guys were good and holy men, that’s why Jesus chose them.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Look at Judas, he was one of Jesus 12 closest friends. Jesus chose him, and yet he was both a thief and the ultimate betrayer. He led the troopers straight to Jesus. And yet Jesus so loved Judas that even though Judas betrayed him, he greeted Judas as, “Friend.” (Matthew 26:50).

Look at Peter. After Jesus was arrested he was at his arraignment. He was indicted and the men there began to spit on his face and to slap him. They even put a hood over him and hit him, saying, “Go ahead and prophesy, who hit you?” Meanwhile, Peter, was outside the court denying that he even knew Jesus. At that precise moment, with other men’s spit running down his face Jesus turned and looked at Peter. (Luke 22:61) No, these guys that formed the early church were far from perfect or holy.

Potential mistake #2

If you quit reading your Bible as soon as you got to John 3:17, you might make this second mistake, thinking that Jesus was not God. After all doesn’t John 3:16 tell us, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) Almost sounds like God sent someone else to do the dirty work for him. That the body that hung on the cross was not really God himself, but God Jr. Fortunately we have other scripture that gives us a deeper look into who Jesus, the Son of God is. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (I Timothy 3:16) Jesus was actually God manifest in the flesh, not a third of God, not a Jehovah Jr., there is no controversy about it. (Also see Colossians 2:9)

Not about the husbands

And so when the Bible appears to be talking about the husband’s role in marriage, it is really giving us a hard hitting reminder of the fact that Jesus loved us so much, that he allowed himself to experience utter humiliation and defeat so that he could have a church! He allowed men to spit in his face (Matthew 26:67) and to pull out his beard hair (Isaiah 50:6), so that the heroin user could pull the needle out of their arm and never stick it back again (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus let the Roman soldiers tear his back open with whips (Matthew 27:26), so that we could be healed (Isaiah 53:5). He himself wore a crown of thorns (John 19:2), so that the ungodly could someday rise up and wear a crown of glory (I Peter 5:4).

Ephesians 5 is not about the husband’s love, which is imperfect and impatient. It is about God’s love, which defies human frailty. God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) At any moment he could have stopped the spit. He could have ended the shame. He could have spoken to the nails that held him to the cross to let him go. He could have stopped it all, but he didn’t, because he loved ungrateful and unlovable sinners like you and me, and Peter and Judas. Hebrews 12:2 says it best of all I think: Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Reverend Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.

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