J. W. H. Nichols.
We have seen that the gospel of God is spoken of in Rom. 1:2, as "promised afore by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures." In Romans 16, where the apostle speaks of "my gospel," (i.e., "by prophetic writings" not "the writings of the prophets"), and the epistles possess this character. In the "writings of the prophets" there is no reference to the mystery (Romans 16:25, 26); the present period of time does not come within the scope of prophecy. During this parenthetical period the gospel is proclaimed world-wide — not for world-betterment, but to call out a people, irrespective of nationality, set apart to God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul's gospel evidently included the revelation of "the mystery," which had been kept secret since the world began. His commission, received direct from Christ in glory (Gal. 1:15-17), led him outside of his much-loved nation — for divine grace could not be bound within its narrow limits. "A people for His name" was henceforth the apostle's watchword, and his written ministry throughout breathes the spirit of his commission. For the unfolding of this wondrous truth (simply referred to in Romans 16), we must read Ephesians and Colossians. These contain the whole truth of Christianity: Romans laying the foundation; Ephesians leading us into the most exalted truths of Christianity, making fully known the secret long pent up in the heart of God. Colossians is closely allied with these two epistles, and the admonition of 2:19, indicates the special character of this epistle.
Committed to the apostle for the obedience of faith, this wondrous revelation took precedence over all else in his mind, and it was for this he gladly suffered (Eph. 3:1). This chapter (Eph. 3) is a parenthesis in the epistle, and clearly unfolds the essential principle and character of the mystery according to the counsels of God. This truth was hitherto hidden, and necessarily so; for, to have put Gentile and Jew upon one level would have been to demolish that barrier which God had carefully placed between; and if this line of demarcation were not observed, the Jew sinned. Now, however, they are co-heirs of the same body, and this was part of God's eternal counsels before worlds were. It was ever in the mind of God that when His blessed Son, having become man for the suffering of death, should be glorified, He should have companions fitted to share His acquired glory — "all of one" (Hebrews 2). Here let me draw your attention to the beautiful rendering of Ephesians 3:8-12, in J. N. D.'s new translation. Here, then, was a distinct manifestation of the wisdom of God. Creation had been the silent witness to His almighty power and glory; the earth, the scene of His government and providence; and afterward, Christ manifested in flesh showed His intervention and kindness on man's behalf; but here was something entirely beyond all that had been manifested before. His manifold wisdom as manifested to the highest of created intelligences by the bringing into blessed union with the risen and glorified One, the Church, which is His body, and though called out on earth, does not belong to it, for in Heb. 3:1, we see the calling is heavenly. The assembly is His fulness, or complement, as Eve was to Adam (Eph. 1:23). He fills all things, and the Church united to Him forms the mystery which is now revealed. Surely the knowledge of this, and the place given us in God's counsels as to His blessed Son, should bow our hearts in worship, and fill our souls with the desire to walk worthy of this high and holy calling. For this the apostle prays (in chap. 3.), that Christ, who is the centre of all this glory, might be the supreme, commanding object of our affections, and that we, in company with "all saints" (the circle of His love), may joy in hope of the glory of God. This surely is the great antidote for all worldliness and laxity in our daily life. "Not holding the Head" was the Colossian snare, exposing them to philosophy and vain deceit — a needed word of admonition in our day, when there is such feeble apprehension and appreciation of the glorious truths which constitute Christianity.