|Volume 21 Number 8 August 2019||
The word “mystery” occurs twenty-two times in the New Testament, most often in the writings of Paul. The apostle used the word ten times in Ephesians and Colossians alone. Our English word is translated from the Greek, musterion, which has an interesting history. According to Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, the term means “primarily that which is known to the mustes, ‘the initiated’’’ (424). Ancient religious cults often held ceremonies that were open only to those who had been initiated into the secret teaching of the group. These enlightened ones then gained special status and privileges not available to outsiders. Words, however, are ultimately defined by their use, and the New Testament context suggests a different sense of meaning.
In the NT it denotes, not the mysterious, but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, and to those only who are illumined by His Spirit. In the ordinary sense a “mystery” implies knowledge withheld; its Scriptural significance is truth revealed. (424)
Notice this pattern in the letter to the Ephesians. Paul explained his knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which consisted of the following: “that Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6). This mystery was unknown to the men of other ages (3:5) but was part of God’s eternal purpose (3:11). When the time was right (1:10), God brought His plan to fruition in Christ, and then He revealed the message of the Gospel to man through the Holy Spirit (3:5). Once revealed, the Gospel was no longer a mystery as such, but was intended to be shared with all men (3:4, 9).
Consider the implication of Paul’s message. First, spiritual truth is unattainable without God. The mystery does not disclose itself to man, and no amount of searching can uncover God’s hidden purpose (1 Peter 1:10-12). Second, God wants man to know His will. Paul wrote that the revelation of the mystery was according to God’s good pleasure (Ephesians 1:9). God wants a relationship with His people, and that comes through knowledge (John 15:15). Finally, God has revealed His greatest work to man through Jesus Christ. This is not a claim that man knows all that God knows, but rather a recognition that what God chose to reveal is very valuable. The scheme of redemption was centuries in the making from the call of Abraham to the contributions of multiple world empires. When all the preparations were complete, God revealed His masterpiece (Ephesians 1:10). In Christ the church is to display God’s manifold wisdom to the world (Ephesians 3:10).
Post-modern culture has sparked a renewed interest in the mysterious aspects of religion. Christianity, however, is not based on decoding secrets or searching for subjective truth within self, but rather a life changing response to the objective truth of Jesus Christ. The greatest mysteries of the Christian faith have been revealed in the New Testament. Thank God for such a powerful gift.
“Mystery,” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Ed. Merrill F. Unger, W.E. Vine and William White, Jr. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
We See Jesus
Denver E. Cooper
Most preachers have been confronted with folks who said, “I saw Jesus the other night as He stood by my bed, and I am saved.” Those who know the Scriptures know that Jesus does not appear personally to anyone in our day and age. Like Thomas, many fail to believe unless they are able to reach their finger into the prints of the nails in Christ’s hands or into the side of the Lord where the spear pierced Him. Only when Thomas saw Jesus, and could have done as he desired, did Thomas declare, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). On another occasion Jesus told Thomas, “If you had known me, you should have known my Father also” (John 14:7).
While it is true that none of us have ever seen Jesus in the flesh, the writer of Hebrews penned, “We see Jesus” (Hebrews 2:9). Just how do we see Jesus? The writer indicated that we see Him “made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”
We also see Jesus as a great Teacher. He “taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). The superiority of Jesus was expressed in His teaching over that of Moses. He repeatedly stated, “But I say unto you.” While He kept the Law of Moses perfectly, He did not hesitate to indicate His superiority.
Also, we see Jesus as a man of sorrows. “He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised; and we esteemed Him not” (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus was sorrowful for others. When Lazarus died, He visited Mary and Martha. Seeing their sorrow, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). He did not weep for Himself but showed compassion for others. Looking on Jerusalem and seeing the Jews scattered about as those having no shepherd, He was moved with compassion. How sorrowful He was when His own rejected Him. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not” (Matthew 23:37).
In addition, we see Jesus as a humble servant. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in the fashion as a man, humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death on the cross” (Philippians 2:5-9). In John 13, we have the record of Jesus taking a towel and a basin of water and washing the feet of His disciples. Simon reluctantly submitted to Him. Jesus thus taught him a lesson of humility and service. He always claimed to have come to do the work of His Father. He said, “I must work the works of Him that sent me while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work” (John 9:4).
Best of all, we see Him as a risen Redeemer. Because flesh and blood, that which is corruptible and mortal, shall not inherit the kingdom of Heaven, Paul said, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). How thankful we ought to be that we are able to see Christ in all the attributes of the Father and especially in the few mentioned above.