Things Declared by the Holy Spirit Sent Down from Heaven.

The apostle Peter in speaking of the salvation of our souls. which is now received by faith, tells us that this was spoken of by the prophets of the Old Testament. In the Scriptures alluded to, there are many mentions of salvation, and these were cherished by the godly ones in Israel. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, prophesying said of the Lord Jesus, that He was "An horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David: as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy to our fathers … to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins." Simeon, by the Holy Spirit, entered into the meaning of these things, when he took the child Jesus into his arms and said, Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation." Peter connects the thought of the grace of God with salvation, for the prophets enquired into the salvation who prophesied of the grace that should come unto God's people. Indeed, God's wonderful grace is expressed in the salvation He has declared. But the Holy Spirit has not only brought to light the hidden meaning of truths found in the Old Testament in amazing grace, He has unveiled mysteries that were hidden from eternity in the counsels of God.

The Salvation and Grace Prophesied of Old.

Perhaps the first mention of the word salvation is found in Genesis 49:18, in Jacob's foretelling of what would befall his sons in the last days. The days foretold in verse 17 are evidently days of trouble and sorrow for Israel: days when the godly remnant would pass through great distress but Israel's consolation and hope are in the salvation of the LORD. God's grace and salvation for His people are displayed in Exodus 14, where in His great goodness He delivers them from the hand of the oppressor, and brings them into the wilderness to care for them. The failure of the nation, and the many occasions in which they find themselves in need of deliverance, but give the LORD the opportunity to speak of the salvation that He had in mind for His own in these days. Such beautiful Scriptures as Isaiah 49:1-6: Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 6; and many others, enable us to see the vast field of prophesy spoken of by Peter.

Into these writings the prophets sought and searched; into the very writings. it would seem, that they had themselves written under the control of the Spirit of God. Interwoven with the blessing that God had prophesied for His saints, there were many mentions of Messiah, both as suffering and as glorified. Here was an enigma the prophets would fain have understood. They desired to reconcile the apparently contradictory presentations of a Messiah whose path to the glory lay through suffering. Moreover, they wished to know the time referred to by the Spirit of God, when He spoke through them of the suffering yet glorious Messiah. God, in His wisdom, kept from them the true meaning of these things; but in His goodness, told them that they had been privileged to minister to a generation to come. When we consider how the disciples of the Lord Jesus were unable to enter into the meaning of His sufferings, although spoken of in the plainest and simplest terms, we can understand the perplexity of the prophets of old, and realise that only a divine work in the soul could enable any one to understand these great truths.

The Gospel Preached by the Disciples.

When the Lord Jesus stood before His disciples on the day of His resurrection. He said to them, "These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day." With their understanding opened, and later, receiving the Holy Spirit, the disciples were able to minister the blessed truths bound up with the death, resurrection and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. How powerfully did Peter and the other apostles preach these things on the day of Pentecost, and in those early days, when the Lord wrought mightily among men for their salvation and blessing. And in his epistles, the apostle Peter can say, "I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand; and "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen." Grace and salvation were much before Peter. In chapter 1 of the first epistle, he not only speaks of the salvation of the soul, which we have already received, but also of the salvation ready to be revealed in the last time, wherein ye greatly rejoice." We are about to enter into this salvation, at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. These are most wonderful revelations, given to men for their present and eternal blessing: things that may well constantly engage our hearts and minds, so that we may grow in them and in the knowledge of Him Who has so graciously revealed them to us. Angels are great creatures, with exalted privileges; but here are privileges given to men, which angels do not have. How must angels wonder at the indifference of men to these immense revelations: things they fain would look into.

The Exceeding Riches of God's Grace.

Towards the close of his second epistle, the apostle Peter, speaking of salvation in the long-suffering of God, refers to the epistles of "Our beloved brother Paul … in which are some things hard to be understood." Paul had a very distinctive ministry from the ascended Christ, having received peculiar revelations: and he unfolds truths that are not to be found in the writings of the other apostles. Much of what he writes to the saints at Ephesus is found only in his ministry. The second chapter of this epistle shows the present portion of the saints, as quickened in the life of God, raised up, and made to sit in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Here are wonderful truths declared, by the Holy Spirit come down from heaven; but these are not according to the writings of the Old Testament prophets, but entirely new, according to the eternal counsels of God, made known only after the Lord Jesus Christ took His seat at God's right hand in heaven. Quickening is not peculiar to Paul; it is spoken of in John, and by the Lord Himself: what is new, is the place that has been given to us by God, in the riches of His grace. We can now take account of ourselves as in Christ Jesus, and as seated in Him in the heavenly places. That is the place and portion which belongs to the saint of God altogether apart from his responsible life; it has become ours through the sovereign working of God. It is one thing to look at the saints down here in their weakness and failure, and quite another to view them in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. Israel was indeed a very perverse nation, which grieved God sorely in their tortuous ways but He saw them in another light, in the light of His grace and purpose for them; so that Balaam had to say, "He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perversity in Israel." Again, with "The knowledge of the Most High" and "the vision of the Almighty," he sees Israel doing valiantly, and all the rest of the nations under the judgment of God. Thus, as seeing the saints in the vision of God, as He has been pleased to make it known to us, we can rejoice in Him, Who has wrought for them, and say as Balaam prophesied of Israel, "What hath God wrought "

This blessed portion has been given to us in the mercy of God, for the great love wherewith He has loved us, and is the fruit of His grace. To be rescued from the dreadful condition of spiritual death, in which we were by nature, is great salvation. Before God wrought in us, there was not a movement in our souls towards Him; not a desire after His blessing, not a response to the expression of His great love. From out of this our natural state He has saved us, in matchless grace; and this same grace has set us down in the heavenlies, in prospect of being with Himself and like His Son, in heaven for ever. But what God has specially in view in giving us this blessed place is, to display in the coming ages the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.

God delights in mercy and desires to display before the universe the character of His grace. He has not taken up angels for this, but men who once were sinners far from Him: who were dead in trespasses and, in sins. Why did He, in sovereign mercy, lay hold of the chief of sinners, who was persecuting His Son? Surely it was to display in him, in the coming ages, the exceeding riches of His grace. And in that wonderful display there will be myriads of saints; every one taken out of this world, rescued from the dreadful state of death in which mercy found him, and every one there a monument of what God's rich grace has wrought. Nor has God simply brought each and all from the wreckage of human nature, but He has given them the very best place in heaven along with His Son. It would have been wonderful grace, had we been forgiven our sins, and been left on earth for ever in our mixed condition: and such a place might well have satisfied us; but it could not have satisfied the heart of God. He wanted us in the best place along with His own dear Son; His love resting on us, as it rests on Him and in the same glory in which His Christ is displayed. When the great intelligences of the universe (and all who are able to see the church along with Christ in the coming ages) gaze upon Christ in His glory, and see the church united to Him, they will see expressed in the great kindness of God towards us, the exceeding riches of His grace.

Faith has brought us into divine blessing; it has enabled us to lay hold of that which God presented to us in the Gospel. Yet even this is God's gift. God would have us even now to realise that our salvation is entirely the fruit of His grace, so that it might affect us while here. Man's working could only procure for him the judgment of death, as witnessed in the law: but God has wrought for His own glory, to secure His will in us, while awaiting the display of the coming ages. So that the workmanship that is going to bring us out in glory with Christ, enables us down here to walk in the path that God has marked out for us, a path of good works. According to God's working, the saints are formed into one new man; and we have been reconciled to God in one body by the cross. Now, Christ has opened up the way for us to the Father's presence, where we can approach by one Spirit. How great are the blessings and privileges given to us by God, in the things declared by the Holy Spirit, sent down from heaven: we have a place in Christ Jesus in the heavenlies in view of the display of the coming ages; we are God's workmanship, to come out for His pleasure in the path of His will; and we have access into His presence, to commune with Him regarding the wonderful revelations communicated to us, and to worship before Him in the power of the Holy Spirit.

God's Revelation to the New Testament Apostles and Prophets.

If the prophets of old were permitted to speak of the grace to be brought to the saints in these days; it is not to be wondered at that God reserved something special for the apostles and the prophets of the present dispensation. Paul, in Ephesians 3 writes of "The administration of the grace of God which has been given to me towards you, that by revelation the mystery has been made known to me." The administration of this wonderful grace was towards the saints, for God was mindful to bless His people with the greatest of blessings, and to enrich them with the most glorious revelations. To the apostle Paul, the ministry of the mystery was committed: it was peculiarly his; but the revelation of this precious truth had also been given to Christ's "Holy apostles and prophets in the power of the Spirit." Moreover, the Spirit of God is careful to observe that this mystery had "not been made known to the sons of men" in other generations; it was so precious to the heart of God that He hid it in HIMSELF from eternal ages. We do well therefore to enquire diligently and with becoming reverence into this great secret, which God has now made known to His saints.

The three parts of the mystery as unfolded here are: firstly, that the Gentiles should be joint-heirs with the believing Jews; secondly, that Jew and Gentile should together form a joint-body; thirdly, that Jew and Gentile should jointly partake in Gods promise by the Gospel. The inheritance spoken of here is not that promised to Abraham. In that earthly heritage Israel will be supreme and the Gentiles will come in to blessing on that ground, with perhaps Egypt and Assyria in a special place (Isaiah 19:25). Here we have the great inheritance of which Christ is the heir, and in which, in the grace of God, we are joint-heirs with Him. Chapter 1 of this epistle shows that God has given us an inheritance in Christ: here we learn further that Jew and Gentile come into the inheritance on exactly the same footing. Israel's blessing is earthly, and every Israelite who believes the Gospel in this dispensation, receives the blessing of God on a much higher plane than that of Israel's earthly calling. This it was that disturbed the religious Jew. He could not bear the thought of the Gentile being on the same ground as Israel; but little did he conceive that both were on a plane infinitely higher than mortal could have imagined. Association in the inheritance of God with God's own Son surely surpasses the most exalted of all human thoughts.

Search throughout the pages of the Old Testament and not a single mention will be found of Jew and Gentile forming a joint-body. On the earth, at this moment, there is a living organism, which God has formed, in which the life of His dear Son is expressed. And in the body of Christ, composed of every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, there will be the expression of the mind of the Head, in the coming ages. How our souls should delight in this wonderful revelation! Should our lives not be governed by such great truths now? So many acknowledge that there is the truth of the one body; yet so few order their lives in the light of it: so few cane under its power. These great truths are not only given to be held and ministered as dogmatic doctrines; but are to control all our movements, in relation to our individual path, and in relation to the affairs of God's assembly. This chapter commences with "For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles." He was a prisoner because his ministry and life were controlled by the truth of the mystery. His preaching of Jesus Christ was not confined to the law and the prophets, but was "according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now … made known to all nations for the obedience of faith." Oh that our lives were more deeply affected by this great revelation.

God's promise in Christ by the Gospel is for Jew and Gentile alike, without distinction and discrimination. The promises for the earthly people await the coming day, but here is something of a different order. Christianity has brought in what is entirely outside of dispensations, and this, God, in His wonderful love has given to us. To Titus, Paul speaks of this promise, saying, "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began, but hath in due times manifested His word through preaching, which is committed unto me." Of this eternal life, John says, "And this is the promise that He hath promised us, life eternal."

We have noticed that Paul's preaching of Jesus Christ had its own peculiar character. In this chapter he tells that divine grace was given to him to "preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." The prophets of old told out the searchable riches of Israel's earthly Messiah, whose glory would fill the land, and cover the earth as the waters cover the sea; but how transcendingly great are the glories of the heavenly Christ, of Him Who is the Head of the body, the assembly. Who can comprehend the glories of Him Who is the Head over all things; Who is the Head of every principality and authority: Who has gone far above all heavens to fill all things; Who is the beginning of the new creation; Who is the firstborn of all the creation, and firstborn of the resurrection world? What a great and glorious Person the Son of God is! And how surpassing wonderful that God has associated with Him those who once were sinners of the Jews and the Gentiles!

These are things indeed that angels desire to look into. How much or how little God permits the angelic beings to know, we cannot say; but here we are told that, He has created all things "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God." To have part in that which now displays God's all varied wisdom is ours. Should it not bring us down on our faces before God in worship!
Wm. C. Reid.

Eye has not seen these things, ear has not heard of them,
Never has fancy the fringes of them reached;
Never to creature was uttered a word of them,
Till by the Spirit the Gospel was preached.
Then in its glorious might broke forth the living Light
Darkness assailing:
Then from the heights above shone forth the thought of love,
Then the unveiling.