The Mystery of the “Body of Christ.” One of the Seven in the Bible. Pastor A. W. Weckeman (revised Sept. 2021)
The Seven mysteries in God’s Word:
- God manifest in the flesh, the mystery of godliness: “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” (1 Tim. 3:16).
- Christ in you, the indwelling Holy Spirit: “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory…” (Col. 1:27) “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:17 & 19).
- The Church as the Body of Christ:“And hath put all things under his [Jesus’] feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23), [ All Emphasis added]. Full explanation to follow.
- The Restoration of Israel: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” (Rom. 11:25-29).
- Mystery, Babylon the Great: “And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” (Rev. 17:4-5)
- The Mystery of Iniquity: “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [hinder] will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders…” (2 Thess. 2:7-9)
- The Rapture: “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Cor. 15:51-53).
The Concept of the Church as the “Body of Christ” was a “mystery” before the apostle Paul’s conversion.
The following exposition of (Eph. 3:1-6) unveils the Mystery of the Body of Christ:
[All Emphasis mine]
1 “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles…” Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles: “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office…” (Rom. 11:13). Also see: (Rom. 15:8 & 16, Acts 26:17-18).
2 “If ye have heard of the †dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward…”
† The word “dispensation,” as used in the Scriptures, refers to different administrations or stewardship, which occurs in specific periods (ages) involving variations of God’s dealings with humanity. Dispensations concern accountability, responsibility, and faithfulness to God’s revealed will regarding the steward. The “dispensation of the Law” contrasted with the Church age, “dispensation of God’s grace,” vividly demonstrates their distinction. (See article: “Biblical Dispensations Defined”).
3 “How that by revelation he [Christ] made known unto ME the mystery…” [Emphasis mine]. Paul, chosen by God, to be the custodian of the mystery known as the “dispensation of the grace of God” (not a mystery in the sense of being mysterious but rather something not previously revealed).
The “Mystery” of the Body of Christ (the Church) revealed to the Apostle Paul.
The “mystery of Christ” mentioned (Eph. 3:4), the revolutionary truths concerning the “body of Christ” (the Church), were exclusively revealed to Paul through God’s direct revelation… NOT from those who were apostles before him:
“But I certify you, brethren, the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11-12). “And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them [the apostles in Jerusalem] that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.” (Gal. 2:2) “But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles…” (Gal. 2:7-8). Cf. (Rom. 2:16 “my gospel” also Rom. 15:16 “That I [Paul] should be THE minister [not a minister] to the Gentiles, ministering the GOSPEL OF GOD…” [Emphasis mine].
4 “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ…”
Paul’s knowledge regarding the “mystery of Christ” included a complete understanding of the unique body of doctrine associated with the Church during the dispensation of the grace of God; i.e., “co-crucifixion,” “standing vs. state,” “spiritual circumcision,” “new man vs. old man,” the “Rapture,” etc.
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…”
Verse #5 declares that this mystery revealed to Paul shortly after his conversion [A.D.35], was previously unknown. “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to MY GOSPEL, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the MYSTERY, which was KEPT SECRET since the world began…”(Rom. 16:25), [Emphasis mine]. Notice, “…as it is NOW revealed…” v.#5 By the time Paul wrote Ephesians [AD 62], the Spirit had made known the mystery of the “body of Christ” to the other apostles and prophets. Consider the words of Peter in 1 Peter 1:10-12, “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that NOT UNTO THEMSELVES, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.”(1 Peter 1:10-12) [Emphasis added].
Verse 6 reveals the crux of the mystery concerning the Body of Christ:
6 “That the Gentiles should be FELLOWHEIRS, and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel…” [emphasis added].
Before the Cross, there was A WALL between the Gentile and the Jew: “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision [Jews] in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath BROKEN DOWN THE MIDDLE WALL OF PARTITION between us [Jew and Gentile]; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he [Jesus] might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby…”(Eph. 2:11-16) [All emphasis added].
During this present dispensation (Church Age), all believers are “IN CHRIST.” The distinction between Jew and Gentile has been removed (Gal. 3:26-28). Consider (Col. 2:13-17). In the early chapters of Acts, the Church was in its infant stage, a small unique group considered a Jewish sect (Acts 24:5 & 28:22), Hebrew in culture, nature, and religious practice. In many important ways, these early Hebrew followers of Christ differ from the churches of Asia Minor, which would later be founded by the apostle Paul. A distinction of paramount importance regarding rightly dividing the Word!
The “Mystery” concerning Christ and the Church; the formation of a SPIRITUAL BODY/ KINGDOM, separate from the Jewish people (the nation Israel), was hidden until after Paul’s conversion. Paul’s preaching concerned an entirely new spiritual entity made up of both Jew and Gentile (The Body of Christ). A distinct dispensation began at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) and ends with the Church’s Rapture ( 1Thess. 4:15-17).
It is worth noting that the equality of the Gentiles did not sit well with all at the Church in Jerusalem. For millennia the Jews had prided themselves in their national heritage, considering themselves superior to the Gentiles. The Gentiles’ new reality was to be “fellow-citizens” with the Jews in the same body (without the Law) was not readily accepted.
Consider the Jew’s reaction when they found out that Peter had dinner with a gentile named Cornelius (Acts 11:2-3) and the telling nature of Paul’s rebuke concerning Peter’s hypocrisy in (Gal.2:11-16). Paul’s gospel, in which he declared: “For Christ is the END OF THE LAW for to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4) [emphasis mine] caused bitter contention between Paul and the Judaizers [a sect of the Pharisees] in the Church at Jerusalem, (Acts 15), eventually leading to Paul’s imprisonment.
Long after the Church’s birth, the Jewish believers at Jerusalem held to a strange mingling of Law and grace. Consider the following description of Paul’s visit to the Church at Jerusalem AD 60: “And when we [ Paul and his fellow labors] were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and THEY ARE ALL ZEALOUS OF THE LAW…” (Acts 21:17-20) [emphasis added]. At this juncture, the Church at Jerusalem had been in existence for 27 years and was still following the Law!
Consider Paul’s declaration in Galatians 2:16: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
The Body of Christ, a “Spiritual Kingdom” The concept of the “Body of Christ” (the Church) being a spiritual kingdom made up of both Jew and Gentile was a MYSTERY in the Old Testament, the Gospels, and early chapters of Acts; a reality not revealed until AFTER the conversion of the Apostle Paul (Acts 9:6).
All “born again” believers are part of a spiritual kingdom: “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath [past tense] translated us into THE KINGDOM of his dear son” (Col. 1:13) [emphasis added]. “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace are ye saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together IN HEAVENLY places in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:5-6) [emphasis mine]. “Beloved, NOW are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2) [emphasis added]. Also, see (Col. 3:3-4).
What the Church is not:
The true Church of Jesus Christ is NOT a visible human organization run by a hierarchy of officials. Not a denomination, NOT a building of bricks and stained glass filled with oak pews. Nor is it a social agency formed to meet the physical needs and demands of the community. The “body of Christ” is NOT a religious, social club where people of like-minded beliefs get together to socialize or be entertained.
What the Church is:
As established by Jesus Christ and described and defined in the New Testament, the true Church is a LIVING ENTITY. The spiritual body of Jesus Christ, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized [not water] into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”(1 Cor. 12:12-13 & 27), also consider Gal. 3:27 & Eph. 1:22-23. The members of that body are ENTIRELY and EXCLUSIVELY the saved (born-again believers) who have personally repented of their sins and placed their faith in Jesus’ substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection on their behalf and NOTHING ELSE.
The Greek word for Church is “Ecclesia,” which means the called out. Those removed from Adam and supernaturally placed “IN CHRIST” (1 Cor. 15:22). “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are pasted away; behold, all things are become new.”(2 Cor. 5:17); “a new creature” called out of this “present evil world.” In the world, yet not of the world. Spiritual beings living in temporal physical bodies. “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:49).