The Riches of the Mystery.

Ephesians 3:1-11.

We are living in a period marked by all the difficulties that Scripture has warned us would characterise the last days. Nevertheless, in these difficult times, the grace of God has recovered to His people the great truth of the Mystery concerning Christ and His church.

As of old, in the days of the captivity, the mass of God's earthly people were in bondage to Babylon, so today the greater number of professing Christians are associated with the Babylonish corruptions of Christendom, and are either ignorant of, or wholly indifferent to, the truth that God has recovered to His people. Nevertheless, as in that day, God opened a door for His people to return to His land, and build His house, and a little remnant gladly availed themselves of this way of escape; so, today, the eyes and hearts of a few believers have been opened to see and value the truths recovered concerning Christ and the church; and, in obedience to the Word, such have taken a place apart from the organised Camp of Christendom in order to walk in the light of these truths.

Moreover, as in the days of old, the returned remnant from Babylon at once found themselves opposed by enemies from without and within, who sought to thwart the purpose for which they had returned to God's land; so, today, those who have sought to answer to God's mind for His people have found themselves in constant conflict with the enemy who has sought by opposition from without, and contentions within, either to rob the people of God of these truths, or once again to entangle them with the corruptions of Christendom, and organisations of men, that in different measures deny these truths.

Further, it is clear from Scripture, that though the returned remnant from Babylon miserably broke down, yet when the Lord came to earth there were still found a few earnest believers who in great weakness were true to the purpose for which they had been delivered from Babylon, and who were looking for the Lord. So, in our day, however great has been the failure and breakdown of those to whom the precious truths concerning Christ and the church have been revealed, yet Scripture clearly indicates that there will be those who, with but a little strength, will keep the Lord's word and not deny His Name until His coming. Every true heart among those who have received the light of the Mystery will surely desire to be found of this number.

If, however, we are to be found answering to the Lord's mind, it behoves us to seek earnestly to enter into the truth of the Mystery, to have, as the Apostle says "the full knowledge of the mystery of God: in which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:2, 3, N.Tn.).

In seeking to enter into the truth of "the Mystery" it is important to remember that the word "mystery "'is used in Scripture in different connections. Thus we read of the "Mysteries of the Kingdom" (Matt. 13:11). Then the change of these mortal bodies is spoken of as "a mystery" (1 Cor. 15:51). Again we read of "the mystery of godliness" (1 Tim. 3:16). Further we read of "the mystery of iniquity," and on the forehead of the false woman is written, "Mystery, Babylon the great" (2 Thess. 2:7; Rev. 17:5). There are, however, several passages, found only in the Epistles of Paul, in which he speaks of "the Mystery" (Romans 16:25; Eph. 1:9; Eph. 3:3, 4, 9; Eph. 5:32; Col. 1:26, 27; Col. 2:2; Col. 4:3). In all these passages the word is used to set forth the truth concerning Christ and the church. We do well to remember that this mystery does not refer only to the church, nor exclusively to Christ, for as the Apostle can say, "This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church" (Eph. 5:32).

Before looking at the passages which speak of this great mystery it is well to remark that in Scripture the word "mystery" does not mean something that is mysterious in the sense of being impossible for a human being to fathom or understand. The word refers rather to truths which can only be known by divine revelation, and when revealed can only be understood by those taught of God. Further, mysteries in Scripture always have reference to the time of Christ's absence. A mystery is something that cannot exist in the public ways of God. This is very manifest in connection with the mysteries of the Kingdom which obviously refer to the form the Kingdom takes during the absence of Christ. There will be no mystery when the Kingdom is established. So, too, the mystery of iniquity and of Babylon will be over when these evils are dealt with in the day of the Lord. So the great mystery concerning Christ and the church refers, not only to the truth as to Christ and the church which will come into display in the day to come, but also to the formation of the church during the absence of Christ. This could not take place in the public ways of God either in the past or in the day to come. In the past the nation of Israel was called out from the Gentiles and under their law had to remain apart. In the future restored Israel will be a distinct nation with Christ their King. Today all distinctions between Jew and Gentile are for the time set aside, and believers are called out from both to form a joint body of which Christ is the Head in heaven.

In the fifth chapter of Ephesians, speaking of the natural relationships of husband and wife, the Apostle says, "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh." In this relationship he sees a figure of the far greater relationship of Christ and the church, for at once the Apostle adds, "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church" (Eph. 5:31, 32). Have we not here an allusion to the fact that during the time that Christ is cut off from His earthly people — His kindred according to the flesh — the church is formed and united to Christ in the glory? Of this great truth Joseph of old is a striking type. During the time he was cut off from his kindred according to the flesh, he was exalted to the highest place of glory and Asenath was given to him to be his bride. Thus, in type, the mystery is disclosed that during the rejection and absence of Christ there will be formed a company of believers drawn from Jews and Gentiles and united to one another and to Christ in the glory.

This great truth is brought before us in the Third chapter of Ephesians. This chapter, it will be noticed, is a parenthetical chapter coming in between the doctrine at the close of Ephesians 2, and the practical exhortations based upon the doctrine in Ephesians 4. The chapter is plainly divided into two portions; the first thirteen verses unfolding to us truths concerning the mystery, while the latter verses present the Apostle's prayer that we may be in the spiritual condition that will enable us to apprehend the mystery.

(Eph. 3:1, 2). The Apostle opens this portion of his Epistle by telling us that the proclamation of this great truth had raised opposition against him which finally brought him into prison. The Jew resented any teaching that set aside the distinction between Jew and Gentile which had been established and sanctioned by God according to their own Scriptures. They failed to see that owing to the rejection of their own Messiah. Israel had come under the governmental judgment of God. It had become manifest that, "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Jew and Gentile had come on to one common ground before God. Then we learn that God, in His infinite wisdom, takes occasion by the utter ruin of man, to fall back on His sovereignty and reveal to us His eternal counsels whereby He will secure a heavenly people called from Jew and Gentile, and united to Christ in glory. The dispensation ("administration" or "stewardship") of this great mystery had been committed to the Apostle Paul.

(Eph. 3:3, 4). This great truth, of which the Apostle was the steward, he had not received from men. It had been made known to him by direct revelation, as he had already explained in a brief letter so that the Gentile believers, to whom he was writing, would understand from whence he derived his knowledge of the mystery. Thus though coming through the Apostle we can receive it as coming from a divine source and therefore with all the assurance of divine authority (2 Tim. 3:14).

(Eph. 3:5). In other ages this great truth was not made known to the sons of men as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets. The Apostle is clearly speaking of the New Testament prophets. It is evident that the truth was revealed to others, but that the Apostle was the special vessel chosen to administer this great truth. Thus it is only in his Epistles we find any mention of the mystery.

(Eph. 3:6). In this brief verse the Apostle sums up the truth of the mystery, "That the Gentiles should be joint heirs, and a joint body, and joint partakers of His promise in Christ Jesus by the glad tidings" (N.Tn.). This verse speaks of "heirs"; of a "body", and of God's "promise in Christ." Here we may well pause and enquire, What is the inheritance, of which Jewish and Gentile believers are "joint-heirs? What is this "body" of which they form a "joint body"? What is the "promise" in which they are joint partakers?

First, as to the inheritance. It will be remembered that the Apostle Paul was sent to the Gentiles to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God that they might receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith in Christ (Acts 26:17, 18). Writing to these Gentile believers at Ephesus, he reminds them, in the first chapter, that they have the forgiveness of sins through the riches of God's grace, and that in Christ they have obtained an inheritance (Eph. 1:7, 11). Moreover, the Apostle definitely tells us what this inheritance is. He tells us that in the fulness of times — the Millennial day — all things which are "in heaven" and "in earth" will be headed up in Christ. The mystery tells us that in this vast inheritance, over things heavenly and earthly, believers from Jews and Gentiles are made joint heirs. Further, we have the Holy Spirit who is "the earnest of our inheritance" that we may enter even now into the blessedness of this inheritance (Eph. 1:14).

Then the Apostle prays that we may know the riches of the glory of the inheritance (Eph. 1:18). In order to this he directs our thoughts to Christ. We see Christ set in the place of supreme power, at the right hand of God. We see Him set far above every spiritual power — "all principality and power," far above every temporal power — "might and dominion." We see that He has a name above every name that is named whether in this world or the world to come, and we see all things put under His feet. As we look at Christ in the glory our eyes are enlightened to see the riches of the glory of the inheritance which, as joint heirs, we are going to share with Christ.

Thus, it will be seen, that the inheritance unfolded in the mystery far transcends the earthly inheritance promised to Abraham and the nation of Israel.

The second great truth as to the Mystery views the church as the body of Christ. Of this body Christ in heaven is the glorious Head. Thus the Apostle can say of Christ, "He is the Head of the body the church," and of the church, "Ye are the body of Christ." Further, we learn that "by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body whether we be Jew or Gentile" (Col. 1:18; 1 Cor. 12:13, 27).

In connection with the church viewed as the body of Christ three great truths come before us. First, we read that God "hath made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Believers from Jews and Gentiles are united together and represented in Christ their risen and exalted Head in heaven. All that God has purposed for us is set forth in Christ in heaven. As we look at Christ in glory we see that God has purposed to have the church in His own abode, in heavenly places, with Christ and like Christ for His own satisfaction and delight, so that "in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." Secondly, the church viewed as the body of Christ is said to be "the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22, 23). Not only are all the blessings of the body set forth in the Head, but it is also God's purpose that all the moral perfections and loveliness of Christ, the Head, should be set forth in the church, His body. In the day to come Israel and the nations will come into blessing through Christ, but in the church alone will Christ be fully displayed. Thirdly, the church as the body of Christ is viewed, in the First Epistle to the Corinthians as that in which, at the present time, all the manifestations of the Spirit are seen (1 Cor. 12).

The third great truth of the mystery as brought before us in this passage is connected with the promises of God. These promises, as the Apostle Peter reminds us, are "exceeding great and precious" for by them we are called to glory and partake of the divine nature. Further, "we according to His promise look for new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 1:3, 4; 2 Peter 3:13). The Apostle Paul tells us that in the mystery we learn that believers from Jews and Gentiles are joint partakers of these promises in Christ. It will be thus seen that God's "promise in Christ" far transcends the promises of God to Abraham, to whom God said. "I will make of thee a great nation . . . and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:2, 3). Thus the promise to Abraham is national and earthly and views the Gentiles as entirely distinct from Israel.

Alas! the Christian profession having lost the truth of the mystery has attempted to use Christianity to form so-called Christian nations and to make our blessing earthly, thus turning Christianity into a merely moral system for the improvement of a world that has rejected Christ. By the great truth of the mystery we learn that believers are called out of the world to be pilgrims and strangers on earth, with promises that connect them with Christ in glory, that are heavenly and not earthly, and that carry us beyond time into the new heavens and new earth.

Thus, through this great truth of the mystery we learn that believers from Jews and Gentiles are connected with the highest Millennial glories as joint heirs; are taken into heaven itself as a joint body, and are carried into the new heavens and new earth as joint partakers of God's promise in Christ. As the immensity of these blessings rise before our souls we begin to understand why in this mystery there are found "the unsearchable riches of The Christ," and why the Apostle speaks of "the riches of the glory of this mystery" (Eph. 3:8; Col. 1:27).

(Eph. 3:7). Having been made the minister of this great truth, the Apostle now tells us that to carry out such a ministry needs the grace of God and the power of God. If in our little measure we are to pass on these great truths ministered by the Apostle, we then shall surely need divine grace and divine power. Thus, in another Epistle the Apostle can charge Timothy to "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" in order that he may commit to others these great truths that he had heard from the Apostle. Nature could never discover the truth of the mystery, and when revealed, nature could not apprehend the truth, and when apprehended, mere natural ability is not sufficient to minister the truth. The grace of God reveals the mystery; by the work of the Spirit in us the truth revealed can alone be apprehended, and by the grace of God it alone can be ministered (Verses 2 and 3, 7, 16-18).

(Eph. 3:8). Further the Apostle lets us know the effect of this great truth on the one by whom it is known and ministered. The more we realise the immensity of the unsearchable riches of Christ made known in the mystery the more we shall realise our own insignificance. Thus, the Apostle who, above all others, entered into the greatness of the mystery is the one who can speak of himself as "less than the least of all saints." And the one who has some sense of his own littleness is the one to whom God gives grace to minister the truth. Thus, though the Apostle was the least of all saints, yet to him was grace given that he should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.

(Eph. 3:9, 11). Moreover, through the administration, or "stewardship," of the Apostle, God would have us to learn His ways in carrying out the great purposes revealed in the mystery. We are told that this great mystery has been hid in God from the beginning of the world. The mystery was no after-thought with God. It existed in the counsels of God before time and creation. Indeed all things were created to bring to light this great mystery. Counselled in eternity the church is formed in time to be for the glory of God in Christ in the eternal ages yet to come. In the formation of the church in time and in its passage through this world, all the principalities and powers in heavenly places are to learn the manifold wisdom of God — the wisdom whereby out of a wrecked and ruined world God triumphs over every power of evil and carries out His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus to have the church for His eternal glory by Christ Jesus.

This then is the mystery about which the Apostle, in his day, had such great conflict in order that the saints might apprehend it in the full assurance of understanding. This is the mystery which for long centuries has been lost to the professing church. This is the mystery which has been recovered to us in these last days, and of which the devil is again seeking to rob us, either by wholly neglecting it, or by adopting practices wholly inconsistent with it, or by leading us into associations in which it is impossible to walk in the light of it. Well then for us to pray the prayer of the Apostle, with which the chapter closes, so that our "hearts may be encouraged, being united together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the full knowledge of the mystery of God."
H. Smith.