Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

Mystery and Clarity

As we navigate cultural and sociological changes, the pathway can be obscure. How do we balance differing opinions, program history and congregational expectations? How do we figure out the right paths in our decision-making? I have to admit , it can be overwhelming. In this week’s text (in our Ephesians study at First Baptist), we are reminded of the tension between mystery and clarity.

In the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he speaks of unsearchable truths as well as lucidness in God’s mission. I would like to take a few minutes to explore these two elements.

First of all, Paul understands his mission,

(Ephesians 3:8 NIV) to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ . . .

The Greek word that is translated unsearchable (anexichniaston) is an interesting word. It is only used once more in Scripture. In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes

(Romans 11:33 NIV) Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

The word describes something that is beyond our comprehension. On the one hand, the truths of God are impossible to understand. Some level of mystery is appropriate. And the same time, Paul plans

(Ephesians 3:9 NIV) to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery . . .

I love the tension in this text. While God’s wisdom and understanding is more then we can fathom, we are also able to discern His will. We never fully grasp what God is doing. Yet we are able to clearly see His mission. In short, the Gospel is both. It is beyond us and clearly communicated to us.

May we keep this tension as we discern God’s leading. While directions sometimes seem impossible to navigate, God assures us that he will provide needed clarity. He will not leave us confused. Yet when he speaks, we will sometimes not be able to explain (in a rational sense) what He is doing. His ways are not always understandable. May God give us the grace to trust Him as we follow Him. May we learn to live in this tension between the unsearchable and the uncomplicated paths he calls us to travel.