The Preaching of Jesus Christ According to the Revelation of the Mystery.

(Notes of an address.)

Ephesians 1:9-11, 19-23; Ephesians 4:7-16; Colossians 1:13-18; Colossians 2:8-10.

While considering Paul's Gospel, we read from the 16th of Romans about the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery. The preaching of Jesus Christ is a big subject. We might consider it according to the Old Testament Scriptures, and meditate on the Lord Jesus as Son of God, King of Israel, as presented in the second Psalm; or view Him as Son of Man in relation to His glory indicated in Psalm 8; or trace in Isaiah the greatness and sufferings of Him Who is called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Then we might consider the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the way He is brought before us in the four Gospels, as The King in Matthew, The Servant of God in Mark, The Son of Man in Luke and The Son of God in John. But tonight I desire to speak of the Lord Jesus as the Apostle Paul speaks of Him in the Scriptures we have read, according to the deep secret that was hidden in the heart of God from eternity until the Lord Jesus was glorified in heaven, after having glorified the Father in His life on earth and in His death upon the cross. The great mystery of which the Apostle speaks was neither disclosed nor hidden in the Old Testament; it was hid in God, and was not unveiled until the Holy Spirit came; yea, until the glorified Christ made it known in a special revelation to Paul. To see the Lord Jesus according to the revelation of this wonderful divine secret I have read these passages of Scripture from the Epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians.

Ephesians 1 shows the Lord Jesus to us as the Man of God's counsels; the fourth chapter views Him as going down into the dark domain of death, then ascending in His own might and triumph far above all heavens that He might fill all things. Colossians 1 presents the Son of the Father's love in a rich galaxy of glories, pre-eminent in all things; while Ephesians 2 tells us that "In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." In these Scriptures, the Lord Jesus is brought before us in an entirely new way, not as in the Old Testament, not as in the four Gospels, not as preached by the twelve apostles, but according to the glorious mystery, the ministry of which was committed to the Apostle Paul.

From the first verse read we see that God has made known unto us the "Mystery of His will." Is it not wonderful to think that God has taken men into the great secrets of His heart; that He has told us what He is going to do? Men have for long been looking for a man who could manage their affairs for them; one who would be able to subdue all the evil that is constantly manifesting itself in the world; one who could dispense the provision of earth equitably among the nations, and put an end to unrest and strife. When the head of the revived Roman empire comes, men will probably think that they have at last found the man for whom they have so long looked, only to find that he will involve them in the most devastating judgments this world has ever known. But God has His Man in reserve, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Man of His counsels, who will not only head up all things on earth, but also all things in heaven. Many things lie in the will of God; there is the will of God connected with His Son while on earth; there is the will of God in relation to each one of us individually, in relation to His church, and in relation to many other things; but here is God's great secret regarding His will for the whole universe — what He has purposed and determined — to gather together the whole universe under the Headship of Christ, so that He might be supreme, and hold all things together for the glory and the pleasure of God. Nothing can fail of all that God has purposed; to accomplish the mystery of His will God has His plans in the "counsel of His own will," and He is working all things according to this counsel.

In Ephesians 1:20 the Man of God's counsels is found in death. Why is He found lying in death? It was necessary for Him to die, for only through His death could the will of God be brought to fruition. But from the time of Christ's death God begins to work in view of securing all that lay in His will; and He commences with a display of the exceeding greatness of His power. He manifests the kind of power that will bring everything to pass that He has purposed; it is a power the like of which had never been seen before; it is irresistible, so that nothing in the wide universe will be able to hinder Him establishing Christ as the Head of the whole scene in the coming day. It is Christ whom God has chosen as the Man of His pleasure, and it is in Christ that God has displayed the greatness of His mighty power. God allowed the devil and men to slay His Christ; it was then He intervened, and showed that His power infinitely transcended that of men and Satan. They could not hinder God raising Christ from the dead. Pilate could seal the tomb, and the powers of darkness marshal all their forces, but nothing in all the armouries of earth or hell could stand against the mighty power of God. Throughout the history of man on earth, and doubtless before men inhabited the earth, there have been displays of divine power in the creation; but there never had been such a display as this before. It was not only that God took Christ out of death, but He set Him down at His own right hand in the heavenly places: He took Him from the very bottom and put Him on the very pinnacle of the universe. In that place He is above, yea, far above every position of greatness known in earth and heaven; and His Name transcends in fame the names of all the great ever known or that ever shall be known.

But notice particularly how the presentation of Jesus Christ in this passage is connected with the truth of the mystery. In this place of glory Christ is not alone. His place at God's right hand is His alone; but in the day when He will be Head over all things, the church will be with Him to share His glory. When Adam was set up in Eden by God as head over the lower creation, Eve was taken from his side, not to be put under his feet, but to be at his side to share his glory. So the church has been derived from Christ, and united to Him, to share His glory in the day of its display before heaven and earth. But the church is not only Christ's bride; it is His body; and through the members of His body Christ will express His thoughts and carry out God's will in the wide creation.

When we see Christ in Ephesians 4, He is the Giver of grace to His own from the place of exaltation into which He has gone. His place in death and His resurrection are viewed quite differently from what we have considered in chapter 1. There He was lying in all the weakness of death; here, He steps in His own intrinsic power into death's dark domain, into the stronghold of the enemy; and in mighty triumph leads captive the forces of darkness, ascending in His own rights far above all heavens to fill all things. In chapter 1 God raised Him from the dead, but here we have a Man Who is great enough, and powerful enough, to meet the foe and to overcome him, and to fill the whole universe with His fame and glory.

From His place of exaltation, Christ not only gives grace to each one of us, but gives gifts unto men. This is one of the special features of the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery. While on earth He sent out the twelve apostles with a special mission in relation to the kingdom; from the glory the Lord Jesus gives the gifts, specified in Ephesians 4:11, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. The apostles and prophets have done their work (see Eph. 2:20) and they abide with us in the writings of the New Testament; but we still have the other gifts, and shall have them until "we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." Depend upon it, the church will yet come to what it is in the counsels of God, "The fulness of Him that fills all in all;" not all the power of Satan and hell can prevent it. All around us we have the witness to the church's failure and ruin, but in spite of it all, the church will be brought to the stature of the fulness of Christ, and this because Christ has triumphed over all the power of the enemy. In His place of triumph the church is associated with Christ as His body, and from the heavenly Head the body receives the direction and nourishment which works for the body its self-edifying in love. There are therefore three things that come from Christ to His own; first, grace to each individual, that which is peculiarly Christ's gift to you and me; secondly, the gifts to men for the help of the saints and the edification of the body; thirdly, the resources from the Head of the body, through the supply of the joints and the effectual working of every part, for the building up of the body of Christ.

Passing to the First Chapter of Colossians we have the Lord Jesus Christ brought before us in yet another way, but still according to the revelation of the mystery. In Ephesians 1 we saw Him as the Man of God's counsels; then in Ephesians 3 as the Man of power; here He is the Son of the Father's love. John's Gospel also speaks of the Lord Jesus as Son, loved by the Father, but there it is the Son of God in Manhood on earth; here it is the Son in His present glory in heaven. Moreover in John's Gospel, although the Lord Jesus in resurrection makes known the Father's Name, and shows the new relationship into which the disciples are brought as His brethren, we do not find the Lord Jesus in relationship with the church as such. Here, the Apostle by the Spirit is bringing out the Personal greatness of the Head of the body, the church. Still, there is a very marked resemblance to Colossians and John; both speak of Christ as our life, both bring out the glory of His Sonship eternally, and both speak of Him as creator.

First of all then we contemplate the glory of Christ's Sonship, the glory of the relationship in which He now is, and ever was, with the Father. Then we see in Him the glory of redemption, and it is because we have redemption in the Son that we are able to behold the glories that follow. The best authorities omit the words "through His blood," which are rightly found in Ephesians 1: it is not exactly how the redemption was secured that is before the Spirit of God here, but rather the greatness of the Person in whom all the efficacy and the glory of that great work abide. Because of the abiding virtue of the work of redemption in Christ, we have the forgiveness of sins.

While upon earth, the Lord Jesus said, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father;" He was the perfect and full revelation of the Father. Where the Son now is, in the presence of God, He is the image of the Invisible God. It is not exactly what He was, but what He is that is emphasised. God still dwells in light unapproachable, whom no man hath seen, nor can see; but that invisible God is seen in One who perfectly represents Him. Man was made in the image of God; but only the Son could be the image of the invisible God. Adam represented God in the lower creation, but the Son fully sets forth His thoughts, desires, counsels and activities. All that can be known of God is to be found in the Son as the image of the invisible God; and it is as occupied with the Son in the glory that belongs to Him — as our minds are set on the things above where Christ sits at God's right hand — that we learn of God and find joy in Himself and His things. I do not think that we shall ever learn, not even in heaven, anything of God except in the Son.

Having become Man, having stepped into the creation, the One who brought it into being must take the first place in it; therefore is He the "Firstborn of all creation." (Firstborn has to do with precedence. Normally this belonged to the son who was born first, but the birthright could be lost. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, and Reuben lost his birthright to Joseph — 1 Chr. 5:1, 2; Heb. 12:16). What other place could the Son, the Creator, have but the first place when coming into His creation? First, He is brought before us as the source of all, "Because by Him were created all things." The word translated by is sometimes translated in, and here draws our attention to the great truth that creation proceeds from Him. Secondly, "All things have been created by Him." Now He is viewed as the active agent in creation. Thirdly, all things have been created "For Him." All things have been brought into existence to serve His will and pleasure. There are three outstanding presentations of the creation where the Son is viewed as creator: in John 1, where The Word makes all, "Without Him was not anything made that was made;" In Hebrews 1, where, by the Son, God makes the worlds, the physical universe; here, all comes from the Son, "For by Him were all things created, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth." All the great spheres of government and dominion, both heavenly and earthly, are specially in view in this Scripture. The reason is evident later in the chapter; what he creates He reconciles; that is where there is need for reconciliation, on the ground of redemption. There is coming a time when the whole universe shall be for God's pleasure; what was lost through sin will be brought back by the Son. Not a single seat of authority in the wide universe will be in alien hands; all will be in the hands of Christ.

"He is before all" in point of time, and also in point of Personal greatness; before all the creation that came from His hand; before every creature, no matter into what station the Lord has brought him or allowed him to take. Think of all the great men the earth has known, whether in Scriptural or profane history; the Son is before them all. Think of the great angelic beings that the Colossian saints were being tempted to worship; the Son created them, and He must have precedence of them.

"All things subsist together by Him." We can thank God for the outstanding men of our generation, who have been the instruments used to check the forces of evil in this world; but we must look behind all such men to see the One Who holds back the evil powers of the universe. All around us things appear to be out of hand and going to pieces: why have they held together? Christ holds all things together. Of old He said to the raging floods, "Hitherto shalt thou come and no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed;" He says this now to the powers of darkness that would fain overwhelm all ordered government in this world. We have but a feeble idea of the great forces, spiritual forces, that are active in the affairs of men at the present time; the "principalities, authorities, the universal lords of darkness; the spiritual power of wickedness in the heavenlies." Although the seat of their evil power is not in this world, yet their diabolical influence is exercised over the minds and spirits of men, and only the power of the Son of God holds them in check. Knowing that all is held together by Christ; knowing that His power is greater than all the forces of evil, why should there ever be a tremor in the hearts of His own? While sad when we think of all that is transpiring in the world, our hearts should be peaceful and calm in the knowledge of Christ's supremacy.

But the preaching of Jesus Christ involves the whole truth of the Headship of Christ, and this preaching according to the revelation of the mystery is specially connected with Christ as the Head of the body, the church. Each of the passages of Scripture from which we have read speaks in one way or other of the Headship of Christ in relation to the church, and here, it would seem that the Spirit of God is particularly bringing before the Colossian saints the greatness of their Head, so that they might not be drawn away to the barrenness of Judaism and philosophy, but seek their true spiritual substance in Christ, the Head of the body.

All things proceed from the Son, for he is the "Beginning." We have seen Him as the starting point of the creation that will soon be reconciled to the fulness of the Godhead; but He is the starting point of all in the new creation. If then all begins with Christ; if all our blessing begins with Christ; if the life that God has given us comes from Him; why should the Christian imagine that he can continue without Christ? and this is the meaning of seeking the things of this world, whether religious or otherwise.

As "Firstborn from among the dead," Christ takes the first place in the resurrection world. He was not exactly the first out of the realm of death, for both Elijah and Elisha brought dead to life, and the Lord while upon earth raised others. But I should judge that all returned to death again. Whether or not, in the world of resurrection, the Lord Jesus takes precedence over all others. "In all things He must have the pre-eminence." Wherever we see the Lord Jesus; into whatever circle He enters in grace or in power, He must have the first place.

Our passage in Colossians 2 shows the dangers that beset the saints at Colosse, and also the divine presentation of the truth regarding Christ which, if received, would rescue them from their dangers. Well does the Apostle say, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit," for these things have ruined the testimony of many dear saints of God, and led astray many who have been brought up among the saints of God. There is no room for human thoughts in the things of God; the assembly has no need for the help of the great thinkers of this world; indeed, they do grave harm to all who imbibe their opinions, for all human thoughts, all that springs from the mind of man away from God, leads to infidelity. Philosophy makes much of man, and those who absorb it usually think very highly of themselves and of their intellectual powers, but it is empty; there is nothing substantial in it for the soul or mind of man, nothing that can bring peace to the conscience or joy to the heart. It allures with great promises, but is actually empty and deceitful.

Human teachings and worldly principles have invaded the professing church, and have put Christ outside. The men of this world can understand the things of the world and are controlled by the principles of the world, but they have no desire for the things of Christ; nor can they understand them. But Christ is enough for the Christian, and only Christ and His will should be allowed in the Christian circle.

In Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," where He now sits in the presence of God, and the Christian is complete in Him. If then we are complete in Christ, why should we seek for anything outside of Christ? In Christ we have everything; without Christ we have nothing. What is there outside of the fulness of the Godhead? When Christ was upon earth, all the fulness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell in Him (Col. 1:19); The Father was present in Him in testimony, the Spirit indwelt Him in power, and the Son was present in Person. Where Christ is now, in heaven, there is nothing outside of Him. And how wonderful to think that we have been brought into association with such an One! What infinite resources of wisdom and grace are available for us in Christ, so that no matter how great our difficulties are, no matter how great the weakness and confusion of the last days, no circumstance or combination of circumstances need find us without the help of Him Who can resolve every difficulty for us.

Christ is not only the Head of the body, but also the Head of every principality and authority in the universe. Do angels rely on their own wisdom, or draw upon their own resources? No! they are subject to Christ and entirely dependent upon Him. They carry out His will, under His direction. How solemn then the state of those who would go to angels instead of Christ; and how sad to think that saints of God, who form part of the body of Christ, being thus united to Him so as to draw from Him the nourishment, wisdom and resources that abide in Him, should seek the advice and help of the men of this world for the assembly of God!

This then, beloved brethren, presents something of the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery; the Scriptures present it perfectly; it is but feebly and partially that we enter into it. How wonderful is the presentation of the Son of God in the Scriptures; wonderful wherever we read of Him, whether viewed in the Old Testament or in the Gospels; whether presented by the Apostle Peter or the Apostle John; whether seen as in Paul's Gospel, or according to the great secret of the ages, now disclosed in connection with His place as Head of the body, the church.
Wm. C. Reid.