THE MYSTERIES OF GOD Lesson #1
The Mysteries of God 1 Corinthians 4:1
As it is ordinarily used, the word “mystery” refers to something that is unknown, perhaps unknowable, a phenomenon. It refers to that which is secret, or hidden. A “mystery” commonly implies the withholding of knowledge. However, as it is used in the New Testament the Word “mystery” refers to divinely revealed truth. A mystery in the Word of God is something that was hidden, or only partially revealed in the types and shadows of the law and in the prophecies of the Old Testament, but is clearly revealed in the New Testament in the gospel of Christ. A mystery is something hidden from natural man, but revealed to regenerate people, to those who are born of God. A mystery in the New Testament is a profound, spiritual truth that could never be known or understood but by divine revelation.
When we come to study the mysteries of God we are studying that which no one can understand apart from divine revelation and a God given faith in Christ. These mysteries revealed in the New Testament are the most profound truths of the universe. Yet, to the believer, these are matters of confidence, assurance, joy, and peace. Our Savior declares, “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but unto them (who believe not) it is not given” (Matt. 13:11). The fact is, the mysteries of God are those aspects of gospel truth which are most confusing to the world, but most comforting to God’s elect. The word “mystery” is used twenty-two times in the New Testament, “mysteries” is used five times; but all the mysteries revealed in the New Testament may be setforth in seven distinct categories. In this study, we will look at all seven in a general overview. In the studies that follow we will study these mysteries individually.
THE MYSTERY OF GODLINESS spoken of in 1 Timothy 3:16 has reference to the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. The word “godliness” simply means devotion. The devotion, dedication, and commitment of a true believer to Christ is a mystery to the unbeliever and to the religious hypocrite. The world calls our faith fanaticism and our devotion to Christ foolishness. The fact is “The world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (1 John 3:1). What is it that inspires and encourages the believer’s commitment to Christ, his church, and the gospel of his grace? Here Paul declares that the mystery of godliness, the mystery of our devotion to our God and Savior is the person and work of Christ as our Substitute and Savior. Here are six things about the Lord Jesus Christ which graciously constrain and irresistibly compel the hearts of all who know him to consecrate themselves to him.
1. “God was manifest in the flesh.” The Son of God came into this world in human flesh that he might both bring in everlasting righteousness and satisfy divine justice as the Substitute and Representative of God’s elect (Isa. 7:14; 9:6-7; Matt. 1:21; John 1:14; Gal. 4:4-6).
2. Our Savior was “Justified in the Spirit.” There are many ways in which the Holy Spirit has born witness to Christ and justified all his claims as the Messiah and the Son of God. He did so at our Master’s baptism (Matt. 3:13-17). He did so on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:33-36). The Holy Spirit bore witness to and justified the claims of Christ by the miracles of the Apostolic Age (Heb. 1:3). He continues to do so today through the preaching of the Word by the gospel. However, Paul is talking about our Lord’s justification from sin by his resurrection from the dead. When he was raised from the dead, Christ, who was made to be sin for us was freed from sin and justified in the Spirit.
3. In all his work as our Representative, the Lord Jesus Christ was “Seen of Angels.” The angels of God beheld him and worshipped him at his birth, saw him and ministered to him in the wilderness, and watched with wonder as he prayed in Gethsemane, as he was made to be sin, and as he suffered and died at Calvary. They watched him in his resurrection and ascension. They behold his face in glory today. They even behold him through the ministry of the Word in the house of God (1 Pet. 1:12; Eph. 3:10).
4. Christ Jesus, our crucified, risen, exalted God and Savior, has been and is now “Preached unto the Gentiles.” The gospel of God’s redeeming, saving grace in Christ is now preached to us Gentiles, the most vile men and women in the world, the vilest wretches of the earth, by our Lord’s express command (John 3:16-17).
5. The preaching of Christ to the Gentiles has brought saving faith to God’s elect throughout the world. Christ Jesus is “Believed on in the world.” Wonder of wonders! God has given faith to the most despicable wretches in the world. He has given us faith in Christ. Truly, this is the basis of and motivation for all true godliness, devotion, and commitment.
6. When he had finished all that he came here to do, our Savior, the Son of God, God manifest in the flesh, was “Received up into glory.”
He was raised from the dead in a glorified body. He ascended into heaven in a glorious manner. When he was received up into glory he was there received as our Representative and Forerunner (Heb. 6:20; 9:12). He is crowned with glory. He is the King of Glory. He holds all the fullness of glory for all those for whom he lived, died, rose again, ascended up into heaven, and makes intercession. The believer’s devotion to Christ is not fanaticism. It is the most reasonable thing in the world (Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 6:19-20). It is devotion to an all-sufficient Redeemer who is the sovereign Monarch of the universe! “Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness!”
THE MYSTERY OF THE FAITH (1 Tim. 3:9) is the doctrine of the gospel. A pastor must be a man who holds the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. This mystery of the faith is called “the mystery of the gospel” in Ephesians 6:19. Paul does not leave us to guess what that mystery is. It is the message which God has sent his ambassadors to proclaim (Eph. 6:20). Very simply put, the mystery of faith, the mystery of the gospel, is the salvation of sinners by a Substitute. It is the revelation of atonement, reconciliation, peace, pardon, justification, righteousness, sanctification, and eternal life for sinners through the merits of Christ’s redemptive work as the sinner’s Substitute. The mystery of the faith, the mystery of the gospel is Substitution! To the wiseacres of the world, it is foolishness. To the self-righteous religionists it is a stumbling stone and rock of offense. Yet, to every believer it is the power of God, the wisdom of God, and the glory of God. We see and find everything required for the saving of our souls in Christ, our crucified Substitute (Gal. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 9:12; 1 Cor. 1:30-31).
THE MYSTERY OF SPIRITUAL UNION (Eph. 5:30-32) is one of the most soul-cheering, delightful things revealed in the Word of God. Nothing in all the Bible is more profound and nothing more blessed, than the wondrous union that exists between Christ and his people. This union is a union common to and enjoyed by all believers. We are one with Christ representatively (Eph. 1:6), spiritually (Eph. 4:4), mystically (Eph. 1:22-23), and vitally. We are one in him, like branches are in the vine. He is in us, like the soul is in the body (Col. 1:27). Without him, we cannot live; and without us, he is not complete. Yes, God’s elect are the fullness of him that filleth all in all. We are one with Christ eternally. We always have been one with him (Eph. 1:6) and always shall be Rom. 11:29). We shall be one in Christ and one with Christ perfectly forever (John 17:21-26).
THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE (Rom. 11:25-26; Eph. 3:3-9) is that which assures and comforts our hearts as we face the sorrows, trials, and troubles of life in this world. This is the mystery of providence - God almighty sovereignly arranges, manipulates, and disposes of all things for the salvation of his elect (Rom. 8:28). Just as the Lord God raised up Pharoah and Egypt, and destroyed Pharoah and Egypt, for the saving of Israel, so to he raised up and destroyed Israel as a nation for the saving of his elect throughout the whole world, so that all the Israel of God shall be saved. It is still true today. God hides the gospel from some in judgment that he might reveal it to others in mercy (Matt. 11:25-26). God, our Father, sacrifices men and nations on the altar of his love for his elect, to gather his precious seed out of the earth (Isa. 43:1-5). This is the mystery of his will (Eph. 1:9-11); and this is cause for adoration and praise (Rom. 11:33-36).
THE MYSTERY OF THE STARS AND THE CANDLESTICKS (Rev. 1:20) speaks of gospel preachers and the churches they pastor. The seven golden candlesticks are the churches of Christ. There are seven of them - always enough! Christ is in the midst of them (Matt. 18:20). As he walks in the midst of his churches, he sends out his Word. The churches are established by Him, provided for by Him, and ruled by Him. The seven stars are the pastors of the churches. Pastors are God’s messengers (angels) to his churches. It is Christ who puts His messengers in His churches. Those who are Christ’s messengers are in His hand.
THE MYSTERY OF INIQUITY (2 Thess. 2:7-12) is called the mystery of Babylon in Revelation 17:5. It refers the delusions of antichrist, the delusions of Arminian, free-will, works religion. One might wonder why God allows so much perverse religion in the world. Why is it that the religion of antichrist is so prevalent in the world today? Do not allow these things to disturb you. This too is according to the purpose of God. When men and women will not receive the love of the truth, God sends them a strong delusion and gives them over to a reprobate mind that they might be damned (2 Thess. 2:11-12). The heresies of this age must abound, so that God’s elect might be distinguished from the reprobate (1 Cor. 11:9). Christ’s sheep hear his voice. A stranger they will not follow! (1 John 2:19, 20, 27). The only reason God’s elect are not engulfed in the perverse religion of antichrist is their eternal election to salvation in Christ by his grace (2 Thess. 2:13-14). “The mystery of iniquity doth already work.” God’s greatest judgment upon this generation is not immorality, drugs, abortion, or aids. God’s greatest judgment upon the world in which we live is the perverse freewill, works religion of this age. Just as the universal acceptance of papacy brought degeneracy to the world in those dark days prior to the reformation, so the universal acceptance of free-willism has brought degeneracy upon this age. Wherever and whenever men embrace a religion of works salvation degeneracy and immorality follow!
THE MYSTERY OF THE RESURRECTION (1 Cor. 15:51-58) is the blessed hope set before us. Scoffers laugh at us, skeptics ridicule us, the religious world derides us for what they call our “old fashioned”, “unintellectual” beliefs; but all believers walk in the old paths of divine truth, believing exactly what we are ridiculed for believing. We believe in the literal, bodily resurrection of the dead and the triumph of God’s elect over death, hell, and the grave. “We shall not all sleep.” We will not all die. Some will still be living in faith when Christ comes again. “But we shall all be changed.” Both those who have died in the Lord and those who are yet upon the earth when he comes again shall be transformed into the likeness of Christ in glorious immortality and perfect holiness. We shall all be triumphant at last.