I shared last time that a mystery in Scripture is something previously hidden that God wants to reveal to us. It’s not something you can never know; it’s something we were meant to progressively grow in—from glory to glory.
Paul makes an interesting statement in Ephesians 3 about this seeming paradox:
8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ (Eph.3:8-9 NKJV*)
The English word “unsearchable” here is translating the Greek word ἀνεξιχνίαστος (anexichniastos), which means “a track which cannot be explored, inscrutable, incomprehensible.”
In other words, Paul is saying his mission is to help us know something that’s unknowable! He basically says the same thing in Romans 11:
33 Who could ever wrap their minds around the riches of God, the depth of his wisdom, and the marvel of his perfect knowledge? Who could ever explain the wonder of his decisions or search out the mysterious way he carries out his plans? (Rom.11:33 TPT*)
Again, God gave Paul the assignment to explain the unexplainable. So, how do we make sense of this?
The first thing we should understand is that we, as human beings, have no mental capacity to figure these mysteries of God out on our own. We cannot logically deduce them or even begin to scratch the surface of this other-worldly knowledge. Science cannot address it, but it could benefit from it. Let me explain.
Imagine the major advancement in science if we partnered our learned knowledge with this revelation knowledge. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of our greatest inventions and innovations have come from having received glimpses into these unsearchable riches by doing this very thing, even though it may not have been done knowingly (we may have called them inspirations).
But we must be clear about this type of knowledge, as Paul told the Corinthians:
14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor.2:14 NKJV*)
It’s not a problem of intelligence. This would be a category mistake. It’s both a different quality and higher form of knowledge because it comes from the One who holds our existence together (Col.1:15-17).
This is the problem with limiting our understanding of God to natural theology. While we can certainly discern God’s attributes from creation (Rom.1:20), we cannot know His mysteries, or even know Him this way. And, while philosophy may help us intuit that there must be a “God” (Prime Mover, Subsistent Existence Itself, etc.) at the bottom of it all, the benefit of this discipline stops there.
And the downside: it was natural thinking that led the very people who were waiting for their Messiah have Him crucified, as Paul told the Corinthians (see 1 Cor.2:7-8).
We simply do not have the mental grid to go beyond the “fishbowl” we’re swimming in. But, again, I want to emphasize, these mysteries are meant to be discovered.
God is not hiding them from us; He’s hiding them for us. We just won’t learn them by natural means because spiritual things can only be spiritually discerned. And the Spirit of God reveals them to open hearts who access them by faith.
And if all this doesn’t blow your mind, then look at Paul’s reason why we should know these unknowable’s of God:
10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. (Eph.3:10-12 NKJV*)
Whoa! Wait a minute, Paul. You mean our understanding of these mysteries is so that principalities and powers in heavenly places can know them from us? Yup.
Again, notice how we access them: “in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.”
We access these unsearchable riches by faith in Christ (not faith in our faith). He is the way to this life beyond human measure. And when we live this way, we’re showing all of heaven and earth God’s eternal purpose.
Beloved, are you pursuing this glorious destiny? Are you becoming fully human, according to your new life in Christ, or are you living the confined and smallish life of a “mere human?” (See 1 Cor.3:3). It’s time we look beyond the “fishbowl” perspective and learn how to walk in the wild and wondrous world of God that He has prepared for us from before the beginning.
11-13 Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively! (2 Cor.6:11-13 MSG*)