The Now of the Mystery - Continuing
It is here, at this point, that the great weakness of the Church is seen. Very often, students in our Christ-life studies ask the question, "Why is it that Bible believers do not see the plainly written truths of the mystery of Godliness given in the Word?"One of the problems, it seems, is that our knowledge relating to the "ages" theme as given in the Scriptures is ignored. An examination of New Testament passages which make reference to the program of the ages will show us that Christ is the very center of that program. In Hebrews 1:2, He is said to be the one on whose account the ages are ordered. In 1 Timothy 1:17, Christ is related to the program of the ages,where He is called the "King of the ages." In Hebrews 9:26 and 1 Corinthians 10:11 the ages are seen to center in His Calvary work for the sins of the world. The very work was planned before the ages began (1 Cor. 2:7; 2 Tim.1:9; Titus 1:2), and that which had not been known in past ages was now revealed (Rom. 16:25). Thus, the ages are time periods, wherein God is revealing His divine purpose and program as it centers in Christ. The word age as it is used in the New Testament, frequently translated as "world," is essentially a time word defined as "a span of time, a life, a generation, or eternity." Also, a secondary definition would be "the sum of the periods of time (such as dispensations), including all that is manifested in them."
What Is God's Divine Purpose In The Present Age? The Old Testament age--in which God's purpose for Israel is stated in covenants-closes with those purposes unrealized. After the death of Christ, God instituted a new divine program, not to replace the program for Israel, but to interrupt that divinely covenanted program. This new program is anticipated by the Lord in His upper room discourse in John 13 through 16 and becomes effective after the advent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:14) announced that "God at first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name."This people constitutes the Church, the Body of which He is the head (Eph. 1:22-23), the Bride of which He is the Bridegroom (Eph.5:25-27, 32), the branch of which He is the supporting vine (John 15:1),the flock of which He is the shepherd (John 10:7-27), the temple of which He is the cornerstone (Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5), the ministering priests of which He is the High Priest (1 Peter 2:5-9), the New Creation of which He is the Head and the first fruits (1 Cor. 15:45). The reason for this calling out is stated in Ephesians 2:7: "That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Jesus Christ." The divine purpose in the out calling of the Church is to display the ultimate intention of the Father on this Earth. They had seen His glory,His majesty,His wisdom and His power,but no man or angel had ever seen His grace. Other attributes might be subject to a variety of demonstrations, but the manifestation of grace is restricted to what God may do for those among men who, in spite of the fact that they deserve His judgments, are objects of His grace. It would seem then that God, in this present age, is pursuing a program through which His infinite grace shall be perfectly displayed throughout all eternity. That grace is "Christ in us, as us," which is the essence of the mystery.
The Character of The Mystery Modern usage of the word mystery relates it to that which is mysterious or unknown. Scripture, however, uses the word to denote that divine purpose or program of God,known only by Him from eternity, but which could not and would not have been known unless it was revealed by God-unknown in other ages, but now known by revelation, The mystery-Christ in us-is a sacred, liberating secret hitherto unknown but now made known to all hungry believers,those hungry to know God in His fullness. This knowing comes only by what Paul called "the revelation of Jesus Christ." In the twenty-seven New Testament usages of the word mystery, it will be observed that the body of truth referred to as a mystery is particular truth related to this present age. Ephesians 3:5 gives us the best definition of a New Testament mystery. It says a mystery is a truth hither to withheld, or "hid in God" (verse 9), but now revealed. This simply means that the Father has made the mystery of the New Testament the sum total of the gospel for the present age, and none of these truths were revealed in the Old Testament. On the other hand, we must be careful to distinguish the New Testament mystery from the cults of Babylon and Rome, whose secrets were sealed and held on the penalty of death. The New Testament mystery, when it is revealed, is to be declared to the ends of the Earth (verse 9), and is restricted only to the limitation of the natural man (1Cor.2:14). In the Old Testament, the believer was saved only by his obedience to whatever it was that God required of him. While God always wants a believer to be obedient to Him, the Old Testament way caused men to have to work for their salvation. In the New Testament, it is not the believer's effort that saves him, but Christ's atonement; it alone saves. To accomplish this, the Father placed Christ within the believer, and by so doing, was able to look only to Christ for the believer's salvation. This is the heart of what the mystery of godliness is.
All of the New Testament Program Is A Mystery Starting on the Day of Pentecost, the Father placed Christ in the believe-er and the believer in Christ. This was the mystery in operation for the first time since the world began (Eph. 1:4). From that point on, all God did for the New Testament Church was a part of this liberating mystery. The very fact that the Father was to interrupt His established program with Israel was a mystery (Matt. 13:11). That Israel was to be blinded so that the Gentiles might be brought into a relationship with God was a mystery (Rom.11:25). The formulation of the Church, made up of Jews and Gentiles to form a Christ-body, was a mystery (Eph. 3:3-9; Col. 1:26; Eph. 1:9). This entire program of God's, showing that the believer's life is in Christ and results in salvation, was called a mystery (1 Cor. 2:7). The relation of Christ to men was called a mystery (Col.2:2; 4:3). The incarnation itself is called a mystery (1 Tim. 3:16). The development of evil unto its culmination into the man of sin (2 Thess. 2:7) and the development of the great apostate religious system (Rev. 17:5, 7) both constitute that which is called a mystery. That there should be a new way by which God received men into His presence, apart from death, was called a mystery (1 Cor. 15:51). These mysteries reveal that which is God's program for this present age but has not been revealed in other ages (the Old Testament period). It is now revealed only by the Holy Spirit. This means that the entire program for this present age of grace hinges on the revelation of Christ as the believer's life. It is a new program, and in no way is there even a part of it revealed in the Old Testament. It is a new program bringing about the kind of believer the Father wants in His house.
Erroneous Applications Hinder Growth This brings us to a solemn point. One reason that so many modern-day believers have not entered into the rest the Father has prepared for us is the constant Bible preaching which ignores the New Testament mystery. Far too many preach the Old Testament as if there were no change between the two. Applications made for Christian living from the Old Testament which are not provoked by the institution of the mystery as the final truth can only lead to confusion and frustration. God set Israel aside (Rom. 28:25-28) to perfect, for Himself, a perfect Body called Christ-persons (Christians). They are a new creation. Nothing like them has ever existed before, and the Old Testament has no doctrine for the message of the new creation. Of course, Christ is plainly seen, by us today, in all the Scriptures of the Old Testament, but those who lived then did not see this, even as Israel today does not see this. Old Testament saints were saved by doing; New Testament saints are saved by being the Christ in them (Rom.5:10). A warning should be made to all who would handle the Word sincerely and faithfully-that when preaching anywhere from the Old Testament, present-day believers can only be helped by plainly stating that God deals entirely differently today than He did then. Without the preaching and making known of the mystery of today, there is no Bible salvation. This means that even in what might be called a simple application of some truth, without the mystery included, the simple truth may be error. Abraham was a great man. God dealt with him severely. Yet, in all of God's dealing with Abraham, there is no help for us unless we see Jesus in the dealings. There is no life in Abraham; the life is in the Son-only in the Son. Moses was a great leader, but there is no life for us in Moses. The same goes for David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, or any character that was used of God before the Day of Pentecost when the Christ Body was formed and the Christ-life began for mankind. Remember, the Lord rebuked the Jews in John 5, that even though they were searching the Scriptures, there was no life in their search, for they did not see Jesus.
The Mystery Form of The Kingdom Another area that is often confused by teachers is the subject of the kingdom of God on this Earth. Because the revelation of Christ has not as yet happened to many believers, a self-effort program of man continues to try to set up an earthly kingdom. Some are saying the kingdom has already come; others say it is here now; and many say it is coming. That God is going to establish a kingdom on Earth is no mystery. Since Lucifer first sinned in the Father's house, when God's sovereignty was challenged, it was God's purpose to manifest His sovereignty by establishing a kingdom over which He would rule. However, He saw from the beginning that that kingdom would have to be Christ in us (Eph. 1:4). Through the periods of time we call dispensations, we see the Father proving His point of how to get His kind of kingdom by showing that all men at all times could never, within themselves, do what was necessary to please Him. When Adam was created, God gave him dominion (Gen. 1:26); Adam's sin proved that man, by himself, cannot manifest any characteristics of God. The reign of conscience was intended to bear evidence to the individual as to his responsibility to the sovereignty of God, but man failed under this test. Human government was ordained that men might recognize that government as a manifestation of God's sovereignty. But man failed even here. God appointed judges so that these might manifest God's authority, but man rejected this display of sovereignty. God instituted theocracy, in which God was recognized as sovereign, but the nation chosen to manifest this display of sovereignty rebelled (1Sam. 8:7). God then chose to reveal His purpose of sovereignty through David's seed, who would reign (2 Sam. 7:16). When Christ came, even this manifestation of God's sovereignty was rejected. Sinful man has consistently rejected each manifestation of the authority of God. Within this program, the unrevealed secret was not the fact that God was going to establish a kingdom. The great mystery was the fact that the one who was to establish God's kingdom of authority and sovereignty was to be Israel's rejected Messiah, and further, to make the kingdom work perfectly, He would place Christ in every believing creature and depend on Christ to honor His authority and sovereignty. Thus is the spiritual kingdom established. How sad it is to see believers working to establish another kingdom or their own kingdoms. Praise God, the King has come, and He rules supreme; He lives in us, as us.
"Ye Must Be Born Again" To get what He wanted, the Father saw that we could never manifest His authority and sovereignty on our own, for time had proven that no man could ever overcome Satan's nature within himself. Thus, the main point of the mystery was established. To get what He wanted, He would have to "birth" the sons Himself. He would, indeed, be the Father of the sons. He would plant His incorruptible seed, Jesus, within them (1 Peter 1:23), and by this, they would have His own nature. Then He would be able to depend on Christ, who never failed and never sinned, to be the righteousness needed to fulfill His purpose. Christ in us is the hope of glory, the hope of the Father's purpose and the establishing of His kingdom of His Son in this period of grace. As we go from place to place we see men once again, by their own efforts, attempting to set up the Father's kingdom. This is done by a trick of Satan, who does not want to acknowledge God's authority. It is the same old rebellion. Men want to see the kingdom, as did Nicodemus in John 3. Men want to take credit for building the kingdom. Men want to prove their way is best, but the Lord has already completed His work (Heb. 4:3), and there is nothing man can do but believe. All the gifts and graces of God are meant to bring the believer to this understanding. Our faiths, our baptisms, our works, our miracles, our prayers, our praises, our all is but to bring forth the kingdom which is already within us. The Father has done His part in placing the Son in us. Our part is to become one, in union with Him, so that the life we live is Christ. Only the revelation of the mystery will bring about this great truth. Paul said no man can teach you this Christ-not by the Church, not by works, not by human effort-only by the revelation of the mystery by the Holy Spirit can a man learn Christ. When it happens, the believer knows. It is not an intellectual thing. It is not something that can be carnally understood. It will not come by just reading the Bible. It takes a work of the Spirit, plus the Scriptures (1 Cor. 2:9-10). Reading Paul's epistles is a good place to start. Prayerfully say to the Father that you want Him to reveal His Son in you. It is only by getting alone, waiting prayerfully on the Father, and holding His Word in hand that the Spirit will reveal Christ as your life and bring forth Christ's kingdom in you. Jesus said, "The kingdom is at hand" for Israel. They rejected the kingdom, and God set it aside until later. But His spiritual kingdom came and is totally fulfilled by Christ in us.
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