WHAT IS “THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE MYSTERY?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
Exactly what is “the fellowship of the mystery” referenced in Ephesians 3:9? Dear friends, as Bible students, we must study the Bible—not commentaries, not religious tradition or church history, and not lexicons—to discover the answer to our question.
The Holy Spirit wrote through Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:9: “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.” While this verse is often used to teach that our Dispensation of Grace was kept a secret since the world began, it is actually conveying a very special truth regarding a doctrine associated with our dispensation. Verse 6 defines the “fellowship of the mystery:” “That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” The word “fellowship” simply means, “a gathering of people with like interest or identity.” The context of Ephesians chapter 3 is actually how God is currently forming the Church the Body of Christ (of believing Jews and believing Gentiles) in this the Dispensation of Grace—see also Ephesians 2:13-22.
It would greatly benefit us if we read Ephesians 3:1-9 here: “ For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,  If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:  How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,  Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)  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;  That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:  Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.  Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;  And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:”
The “fellowship of the mystery” is the body of believing Jews and Gentiles, the body of believers that is associated with Paul’s secret ministry and message (the Gospel of the Grace that was committed to his trust; verses 6-9). God did not make known the Church the Body of Christ until we come to Paul’s ministry (verse 9). The “one new man” (the Church the Body of Christ, Ephesians 2:15) is the special agency (group, church) God forms using Paul’s ministry. This group of believers is “not known after the flesh”—there is no distinction between Jew or Gentile in the Body of Christ, circumcision or uncircumcision (2 Corinthians 5:16-17)—the Church the Body of Christ does not know Jesus after His earthly ministry. This would be in contrast to things God spoke (of Israel’s program) since the world began (Acts 3:21; cf. Luke 1:70).
When we “study… rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), we do not confuse the nation Israel with the Church the Body of Christ, Jesus’ earthly ministry (Matthew through John) with His heavenly ministry (Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon), and prophecy (Israel’s program) with mystery (our program)—compare Romans 16:25-26 and Acts 3:21. Much of Christianity is confused today because they have mixed Israel’s Scriptures with ours, and they have combined two Bible programs that are to be divided. We would have saved ourselves much headache and heartache if we had used God’s Word as He instructed us!!
We read in Galatians 5:6: “ For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” And Galatians 6:15: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” The Holy Spirit through Paul wrote these two verses—they are only true today, in the “but now,” but they were not true in “time past” (see Genesis 17:9-14, where physical circumcision was necessary to be in fellowship with the God of the Bible). There is no contradiction in the Bible, just a change in program. It did matter to be a Jew (physically circumcised) in time past, for Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry was to Jews only (Matthew 15:24; John 4:22; Romans 15:8). Prior to Paul’s ministry, if one was to be saved and have a relationship with the God of Scripture, he was to believe/trust whatever doctrine He had revealed at that time. If somebody wanted fellowship with the God of the Bible, that individual had to come by way of the nation Israel (Ephesians 2:11-12; cf. Genesis 12:1-3; Isaiah 60:1-3; Zechariah 8:20-23). Today, there is the “new creature,” the “one new man,” the Church the Body of Christ made of believing Jews and Gentiles—this is “the fellowship of the mystery” (Ephesians 3:6,9). Today, Israel is fallen, spiritually blinded, temporarily set aside (Romans chapter 11). We approach the God of Scripture without Israel (Romans 11:11-13)—this was the secret that God kept from the Old Testament prophets.
Before Paul’s ministry and prior to our Dispensation of Grace, if one was to be saved and have a relationship with the God of the Bible, he was to believe whatever doctrine He had revealed at that time. If somebody wanted fellowship with the God of Scripture, that individual had to come through the nation Israel. However, when God saved Saul of Tarsus and made him the Apostle Paul in Acts chapter 9, He began a new body of believers. In this body—the Church the Body of Christ—there is no difference between Jew or Gentile (1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28; Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15). It would simply be “a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17), “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15), a new species of mankind. This is “the fellowship of the mystery” referred to in Ephesians 3:9. It is not to be confused with the nation Israel—Israel and the Body of Christ will always remain separate entities.
Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:7-9 that he was made a minister, an apostle, in order to preach to the Gentiles “the unsearchable [previously kept secret] riches of Christ,” and to “make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery….” The goal of Paul’s ministry was to reveal “unsearchable” (previously-hidden) doctrine—hidden from the Old Testament prophets (compare John 5:39)—and this included having Gentiles see and understand the mystery (secret) agency (group of believers) associated with the Dispensation of Grace.
The “fellowship of the mystery” is the Church the Body of Christ, the secret group of believers that God said nothing about until the resurrected, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ revealed it first to the Apostle Paul, and to us through his epistles, Romans through Philemon. This agency is separate from the nation Israel and her prophetic program that had been operating prior to Paul. It cannot be stressed enough that the nation Israel has nothing to do with the Church the Body of Christ. Interestingly, with no manuscript evidence, the NIV translators added to God’s Word in Ephesians 3:6, “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel.” Beloved, what a lie! Again, the Church the Body of Christ has nothing to do with Israel (the NIV translators, like most modern bible translators and publishers, have no appreciation for dispensational Bible study).
Please understand that believing Jews individually can be saved today and placed into the Church the Body of Christ (the same way that Gentiles do, by simple faith in Jesus Christ and His finished crosswork as sufficient payment for their sins; Paul’s Gospel of 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; cf. Romans 4:1-8), but God is not dealing with Jews on the national basis like He did prior to Paul, or like He will do in the future after our dispensation ends. Israel is fallen today, enemies of God, Romans chapter 11 says—the Church the Body is neither fallen nor an enemy of God, so they Church the Body of Christ and the nation Israel are two separate groups!
» What is “the Dispensation of Grace?”
» What is “Replacement Theology?”
» When did the Church the Body of Christ begin?