J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 2.)
We may, I suppose, put aside some passages where this word occurs, as furnishing the explanation in themselves, and giving its application to something special.
1 CORINTHIANS 15:51
"Behold I shew you a mystery, we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." This may have place at the summing up and accomplishment of the mystery of Christ, but it is a special mystery revealed; so 1 Corinthians 4:1, "Let a man so account of us as ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." So Babylon is called "Mystery"; and the "mystery of iniquity," though it has its connection with the mystery in way of contrast, evidently is another thing apart.
1 CORINTHIANS 2:6-7
There is nothing very precise here - it is the character rather of his testimony, and the wisdom which he spake; it was not the public, common-place wisdom wrought out of man's wit, but the wisdom of God in mystery - things which never would have been known but for God's communicating them, and which were of His counsels in Christ, hidden, while His government even was of this age, for a time but revealed by the Holy Ghost to those who are based upon the risen Man, whom God has made the Centre of His counsels and of the mystery. It is this wisdom of this place, these counsels of God before the worlds for our glory, known therefore only by revelation and by the Spirit, and this is what he goes on to speak of to the end of the chapter. Here then "mystery" is not the subject of the revelation, but the character of the wisdom which the Apostle by the Spirit spake.
We may also put this aside - it is the special mystery, ancillary to the prosecution of the great mystery, of setting aside Israel as blinded for a time, "in part," until the fulness of the Gentiles was come in. This was a peculiar plan of God, which was not exactly the Church nor the kingdom, but a temporary displacement of the earthly part, not its establishment under the new covenant, nor Messiah, but the setting aside of Israel in part, under blindness, until the fulness of the Gentiles should be come in. Then this preparatory thing being accomplished, the blessing of Israel, as such, would take its course according to the enlarged scope of the counsels of God, which embraced the heavens also. It was a subordinate special mystery, for naturally Israel would have been continued placed under the new covenant, and the Gentiles blessed with God's people; but all this is for the moment set aside, that the Gentiles, as a special thing, according to the counsels of God, to whom all His counsels are known from the foundations of the world, may come in. This then also is a special mystery, though serving in its place to the development of the great mystery of God's will in result.
109 ROMANS 16:25
We have here the mystery without being told in what it consists, "The preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of (the) mystery, as to which silence was kept in all ages" (in the times of the ages) "but now manifested, and by prophetical Scriptures according to the commandment of the eternal God of ages, made known for the obedience of faith to all the Gentiles; the only wise God through Jesus Christ to whom be glory for the ages. Amen."
Here however we have much, as suits the Epistle to the Romans in which is revealed that "there is no difference, for that all have sinned," that Christ is set forth as the mercy-seat through faith in His blood, the righteousness of God being the only one for all, and upon all that believed, Jew and Greek, i.e., Christ risen - Object of faith and Power of life in resurrection, which was in effect the basis of the mystery. Its result was not stated here, i.e., revealed rather than preached; we have here what is preached as the basis of hope to bring in souls into that which was revealed. Further, we have seen in this epistle a special mystery subordinate and ancillary to this, that is that blindness in part is happened to Israel till the fulness of the Gentiles be come in; indeed this was, in a sense, necessary to it - impossible to preach no difference through a risen Christ while the Jews maintained their privileges. The Gentiles brought to light by a risen Saviour - sufficient Object between them and God, without the intervention of the Jews - such is the face of the mystery presented here, and proclaimed to the Gentiles for the obedience of faith. No difference is proclaimed; the unity of the Body is not yet brought out, but we have creation groaning till the manifestation of the sons of God, the joint-heirs of Christ who suffer with Him and will be glorified together. See chapter 1:16-17, also verses 2, 3, 4, 5; compare also Acts 15:7-19.
110 EPHESIANS AND COLOSSIANS
These still remain and here we have the substance and sum of the mystery.
EPHESIANS 1:7 - 12
God has made the riches of His grace abound towards us in all wisdom and understanding, "having made known to us the mystery of his will according to his own good pleasure, which he purposed in himself, for the administration of the fulness of times, to head up all things in Christ, those in the heavens and those upon the earth, in him in whom we also have received [our] inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his own will, that we should be to the praise of his glory, who have pre-trusted in Christ."
Here we have evidently the mystery in its general scope according to the counsels of God, that is, to gather together and head up in one all things in Christ, in heaven and in earth, for the administration of the fulness of times; they also among the Jews who had believed anticipatively in Him, and the Gentiles also, being to the praise of the glory of His grace as taking inheritance with Him, and in the meanwhile sealed with the Holy Ghost until the redemption of the purchased possession.
111 EPHESIANS 3:3-4, 9
Here we learn that the mystery was made known to him by revelation. It is the mystery of Christ (a Messiah accomplishing the earthly promises of God is no mystery) that was committed to Paul, to make known what was the dispensation of the mystery, hidden during the ages in God, Creator of all things, that thus by the Church might be made known to principalities and powers the manifold wisdom of God, for it was a new thing. Here we have then added that the preaching of the fulness of Christ, and making known the dispensation of this mystery, brought the Church into the position of testimony of the variousness of God's wisdom to the heavenlies.
In Ephesians 5:32, "This mystery is great, but I speak as to Christ and the Church." Here we have a special part only, that is the union of the Church with Christ, as of His body, His bones and His flesh, which set the Church in its own special and wonderful place when all was headed up in Christ in heaven and earth. It is a special mystery to itself.
This merely takes up in general the idea of that which was thus specially revealed - the mystery of the Gospel. It was not the good news of evident import, as of old - the accomplishment of promises which belonged to the aion or aionoi of this world, but the mystery which none of its princes knew, or they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
In Colossians, after naming Christ as the Image of the invisible God - the headship of creation - the headship of the Church - the reconciliation of all things - the present reconciliation of the Church - comes the ministry of the Gospel to every creature under heaven, and then the ministry of the Church to fulfil the word of God gives i.e., all its fulness, to wit, the mystery hidden from ages and generations, but now manifested to His saints, to whom God has willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you the hope of glory. Here we have another face of this revelation, unknown through the ages - suited to the subject of the Colossians, the bringing in Christ Himself as the fulness, so that they had no need of Judaizing; thus it is "among the Gentiles," Christ is in them the hope of glory. It was the practical realisation of the unity of the Church with Christ, not in the height of its privilege, but in its preservative power, still being really the mystery, i.e., no Messiah accomplishing in person the age, but a Christ among the Gentiles, source and power of hope. This then gives the present power of the mystery here below.
112 COLOSSIANS 2:2
We have here the mystery of God in which are hid all the treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge - this in order that they should not be going to seek fantastic notions elsewhere, evidently implying both the whole extent of God's counsels, long time hidden, and the position and interest of the Church in them by its unity with Christ, centre of all these counsels.
The Apostle here speaks of the mystery of Christ, for which he was in bonds. In general this is the same Gospel of a Christ for the Gentiles according to that which was now revealed, for the first time, of God and formed in part of conscious knowledge, and which was specially entrusted to Paul, that he might make it manifest as he ought to speak. These passages give the just idea of the mystery, that is Romans 16, Ephesians and Colossians, alluded to in 1 Corinthians 2:7.
There is yet another passage which bears on the same subject, though it treats it in another way, it is:
1 TIMOTHY 3:14-16
The Apostle speaks of Timothy's conversation in the house of God, the pillar and ground of the truth. The Church is thus in the world, the sustainer of truth, and what is this? The mystery of piety or godliness. And this is what Christ was among the Gentiles - Object of Angels' gaze - believed on in the world, and received up into heaven; in virtue of all which the Church existed. She sustained, as united to Christ and thus the centre and body of the mystery in the world, the knowledge of all that He was to whom she was united. God manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of Angels - thus incarnate and owned - preached among the Gentiles (not again a Messiah present among the Jews), believed on (not seen) in the world, received up into glory - thus the necessary Centre of all things - so by counsel also in the accomplishment of this ordained glory which identified itself with that inherent, which found itself, in Him by whom and for whom all was created. The Judaizing Gnostics are again set in contrast by the Apostle. This, I think, quite shows and confirms the force of the expression.
113 REVELATION 10:7
This passage remains; here there is more apparent difficulty, and that partly from the word musterion. The word etelesthe seems always to mean something brought up to its completeness, hence often necessarily the end of a thing, because, if I am accomplishing a task, finishing it is arriving at the completeness of the task, but if it is something in progress, or which develops itself, then it is its full existence which finishes, if you will, the development. And this word musterion carries its own dissolution, because the moment the subject of it is brought to pass, it ceases to be a musterion - when labours are complete, one ceases to labour; when the work is complete it exists in its perfection - thus teleo may mean "beginning to exist" or "ceasing," because in either case it is the completing of something. But here taking the words chronos ouketi estai (time shall be no longer) I think we must take etelesthe musterion, not as if the subject matter of the mystery had ceased to exist, but that the mystery is accomplished and ceased to be an unaccomplished mystery. It was no longer a mystery spoken of, and only circumstances working out to that which was contained in the mystery as a revelation; this would now take place and be accomplished. This gives its usual sense to mystery, but supposes that God, having only revealed certain things in hope - Christ in us, the hope of glory - His power in the proper exercise of government, so that evil has not been allowed to rise, has not been exercised.
There is also in 1 Timothy 3:9, the general expression "holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience."
114 It is a striking expression of the state of things in which we are that Christ, not simply works miracles and sets aside the power of Satan wherever he is, but gives power to His disciples to do it - yet John Baptist is put to death and it is not hindered. And He would not do any mighty work in "His own country"; Mark 6.
Note the absoluteness of Christ's gathering out of the world, and being a separative and positive Centre, is shown in this, that He received even those who were with John Baptist. The whole passage has a character of unworldliness which it is well to note in the elements already given. He gathers round Himself - God Himself - as a new gathering to Himself out of a world which is thus judged and left as evil, a way wholly new and divine through it, following Christ (none in and of it), and heaven opened here on Christ, but to us now through the rent veil. All is taking (not the body yet) out of earth and associating it with God on a new footing with Christ and with heaven through the rent veil - oh! what a blessing.