W. C. Reid.
Wonderful divine secrets have been disclosed in the revelation of "The Mystery." It is a treasury of truth, unveiling in "The Mystery of God" the secret of God's heart and counsels; in "The Mystery of Christ," the Headship and pre-eminence of the Son of the Father's love; in "The Mystery of the Christ," the riches of God's glory in blessing the church in union with Christ; and in "The Mystery of the Gospel," that the great secret of the ages was now enshrined and proclaimed in the heart of God's Glad Tidings.
The Mystery in divine revelation.
God was silent regarding the Mystery in ancient times, having purposely hidden it from the past ages and generations. It was not concealed among the mysteries of creation, to be discovered by the enquiry of the philosopher or the exploration of the scientist; nor was it revealed or hidden in the Old Testament Scriptures to be found by the prophets who diligently searched their own writings. The treasure of mystery of the kingdom was hid in the field; but "The Mystery" was hidden in the heart and counsels of God until the time for its revelation. Moses told Israel that God had secret things when he said, "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those which are revealed belong unto us" (Deut. 29:29).
The time for the revelation of the Mystery arrived, when the Lord Jesus, after manifesting the Father's Name and accomplishing redemption, sat down at God's right hand. A special revelation was made to Paul of this great truth, because he had been divinely chosen as minister of the Mystery. But God also made it known to Christ's "holy apostles and prophets in the power of the Spirit."
Fulfilling his ministry, Paul declared, "all the counsel of God" to the saints; and he communicated it in writing that the truth of the Mystery might remain for the saints down the church ages in "prophetic scriptures, according to commandment of the eternal God, made known for obedience of faith to all the nations" (Rom. 16:26). The Mystery is the keystone in the glorious edifice of divine revelation: the foundation of which concerns the Person and work of Christ; and whose superstructure contains the counsels and purpose of God. Without this subject the canon of Scripture would be incomplete, for, said Paul, "It was given to me for you, to fulfil (or complete) the word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations."
Christ's place according to the Mystery.
That Christ has a special place in relation to the Mystery is learned from Romans 16:25; "To him that is of power to stablish you according to my Gospel and the Preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the Mystery." Prophecy, in the Old Testament, pointed out Christ's place in relation to Israel; and even the blessing of the nations through Christ depended on Israel's blessing. In consonance with the prophetic word, the Lord Jesus while on earth, identified Himself with the godly remnant of Israel, though presenting Himself to the nation as Messiah and Son of God. But the preaching of Jesus Christ according to revelation of the Mystery, announces the heavenly glories of God's anointed, and the exalted position of the Son of God at God's right hand.
Colossians 1 develops the subject of the "preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the Mystery." Speaking of the Lord Jesus as, "Christ — the hope of glory," Paul adds, "Whom we preach." The Christ, Whom Paul preached, is the Son of the Father's love, and the Head of the body, the assembly. He is not found to-day among an earthly people, as an earthly Messiah, displaying the glories of an earthly kingdom; but He is among the Gentiles, their Head and their life; and the glory they are to share with Him is in prospect.
Similarly, in Ephesians 3:8; Paul in pursuance of his ministry, was to "preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." Psalmists with raptured heart, and in glowing terms, described the searchable riches of God's king, the Son of David; and with exquisite language Solomon in his Song of Songs portrayed the deep affection of Christ for His earthly people: but how surpassing, the privilege given to the apostle Paul as minister of the Mystery, to unfold the wide range of Christ's unsearchable riches, as Head over all things to the church; and to speak of "the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge."
The Church's place according to the Mystery.
Formerly, God had blessed Israel as a nation bringing them near to Him; and erecting in the Law, a wall which hedged them in, and kept them separate from the Gentiles. In the cross, God broke down the middle wall of partition and revealed in the Mystery the blessings existing in Christ for both Jew and Gentile. The elements of divine blessing, as found in Eph. 3:6, are (1) Jew and Gentile are Joint-heirs, (2) Jew and Gentile form a joint-body, (3) Jew and Gentile are joint-partakers of God's promise in Christ by the Gospel
The inheritance in which believing Jews and Gentiles now jointly share, is not the inheritance belonging to man as derived from Adam; nor is it the inheritance belonging to Abraham by the promise of God; or that held out to Israel on the ground of law. Man has forfeited his right to the earth by reason of sin; and Israel by breaking the Law has proved the inheritance cannot be secured by human effort: and although the promise to Abraham remains, the fulfilment refers to a future day. The inheritance given to the saints is "in Christ," in Whom God will gather up in one all things, the things on earth, and the things in heaven, in the dispensation of the fulness of times. In that day, God will occupy the vast inheritance in His saints, even as He occupied Canaan in Israel, and shall yet occupy the earth in the princes of Israel. God desires that His saints should have the spiritual condition now, to know the "riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints."
When the Lord Jesus is manifested as Head over all things in the coming day, the church will be united to Him as His body and fulness. Jewish and Gentile believers share jointly this wonderful place and privilege as Christ's body. Already they have been reconciled to God in one body; and without discrimination partake together of the blessings and benefits accruing from this place of nearness and intimacy. They receive the same care from Christ, and draw the same nourishment from the Head of the body; all the resource and wisdom of the Head being available to both alike. No hint of such blessing is given in the Old Testament; nor that Jew and Gentile should jointly participate in divine blessings without distinction.
God's promise in Christ by the Gospel is something outside any promise given to saints of old. Promises were made by God to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; to Israel and to David; but this promise "in Christ" which is brought to light in the Gospel is something of a new order connected with God's purpose. Consideration of 2 Tim.1:1 and Titus 1:2 would lead us to conclude that this is the promise of eternal life. Paul speaks of it as "Eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began." It belongs to God's counsels, which existed before the world; and reveals a life which is heavenly, and which shall be ours in glory with Christ. John, who ministered the truth of eternal life, and shows it a present possession of the children of God also speaks of it as a divine promise, saying, "And this is the promise that He hath promised us, even life eternal."
"This is a great mystery — Christ and the church."
Although the mystery is not found in the Old Testament, God in making Eve from the rib belonging to Adam, had Christ and the church in view. Eve was derived from Adam, and was therefore suitable to be united to him. As Christ's body, the church is part of Him; being first taken from Him in His deep sleep of death and then by the Spirit united to Him to share His place of Headship and glory. Israel, as the King's daughter, all glorious within the Ivory palaces, was derived from the King: the Queen in gold of Ophir, at his right hand, shows Israel united to Christ in the display of His earthly glory. But the church is united to Christ for the display of His heavenly glory, and is in the nearest possible place of intimacy and affection.
The ministry and administration of the Mystery.
God gave the revelation of the Mystery to the apostles and prophets of the New Testament; but the ministry was committed to Paul, so that the saints might receive its manifestation. Through this ministry, God would have His saints "know — the riches of the glory of this Mystery," and have them "knit together in love, and unto all the riches of the Mystery of God, in which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. chs. 1 and 2). Possessing such a ministry, Paul realised his indebtedness to the grace of God; and also that the successful exercise of the divine gift depended upon the formation within him of God's grace by divine power. This spiritual preparation does not puff up the vessel; but gives the greatest servant of Christ to account himself as less than the least of all saints. As specially chosen, and as wrought upon by God, Paul was to declare to the Gentiles Christ's unsearchable riches, "And to make all see what is the fellowship (administration) of the Mystery."
This administration delineates God's present purpose in creating the universe. When the creation came into being "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy," as they saw the display of God's wisdom and power: and in the ages to come God will display "the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus." But in this day; the day of man's sin and ruin; God is making known to the great intelligences of heaven His all varied wisdom. All that the human eye can see in the church is failure and confusion; but among the debris of the old creation, God is producing in new creation, the vessel that shall display His glory and love in the eternal ages. To form such a vessel, from such material and in such conditions, demands not only infinite power, but wisdom of greater variety than that which brought the old creation out of nothing. God, then, created the present universe, that He might have a platform upon which to display to His heavenly hosts the wonders of His wisdom.
What the reception of the Mystery produces.
Romans 16:25 states that two things are necessary for the establishing of Christians: Paul's Gospel; and the truth of the Mystery. Without the knowledge of the Mystery we cannot therefore be established according to God. But Colossians 1 shows that if we are to be mature Christians we must have the preaching of Jesus Christ, the hope of glory, as revealed in the Mystery: "Whom we preach — to — present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." Paul's prayer, after treating of the Mystery in Eph. 3, makes known the result desired by God in giving this revelation: "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith"; "That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God."
What the reception of the Mystery involves.
For Paul, the ministry of the Mystery brought reproach and sorrow; and those who receive into their hearts the truth he ministered cannot expect to escape these things. Paul's special sufferings as minister are recorded in Col. 1:24, "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body's sake, which is the church." He specifically mentioned in his letters to the saints at Ephesus and Colosse that he was bound with a chain because of the Mystery; yet all Asia, which must have included these assemblies, turned away from him, evidently being ashamed of his chain.
Had the truth of the Mystery gripped their souls, as holding the Head they could not have been indifferent to the sufferings of a member of His body; and had Christ been dwelling in their hearts by faith, they would not have turned away from the servant imprisoned for His testimony. Demas, who loved this present world, forsook Paul; and in his day of crisis the apostle has to say, "no man stood with me." But there was consolation in all thus. When no man stood by him, Paul could add "notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me"; and when all Asia turned away from him, he said, "Onesiphorus — oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: but — sought me out very diligently." Reception of the truth of the Mystery involves a life of separation from the world, and this will bring the world's reproach. If we are faithful to the Lord in holding fast the truth as Paul was, we must expect to be "turned away from" by those ashamed of the testimony, and forsaken by those who love the world. We cannot expect to have many companions, but we can count upon the companionship and support of the Lord; and we can rely on the refreshment supplied in true fellowship by those who have Christ dwelling in their hearts. Wm. C. Reid.