Friday, January 29, 2021

The Gospel Mystery

"And He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ" (Ephesians 1:9).

When some liberal scholars see the word mystery in Ephesians 1:9 and other places in Paul’s writings, they get excited. Here is evidence, they say, that the “mystery religions” were influencing early Christianity.

Mystery religions pervaded the ancient world at that time. The mystery cults required elaborate rituals of initiation and promised their members all kinds of secret knowledge and occult powers. A faint shadow of these mystery cults is seen in modern Rosicrucianism and freemasonry. Liberal scholars suggest that Paul was comparing Christianity to these mystery religions.

Paul’s use of the term mystery is not at all analogous to the mystery cults. Christianity does not have an elaborate rite of initiation. Water baptism is very simple and points to the fact that we as sinners can’t do anything to be saved. Moreover, Christianity does not conceal anything; the Bible is open and is to be read by all.

The “mystery” in the Bible is simply the Gospel, which was partially revealed from the beginning of the world, and now has been fully revealed in Christ. In the time before Christ, the kingdom of God was partly revealed but also partly concealed. The promise made to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15), the sacrifices, the tabernacle, the laws of uncleanness, the priesthood, and the Davidic monarchy (to name a few aspects of the Old Testament revelation)—these showed forth the salvation of God, but they also partly hid it in symbols. Also, people were not allowed to go into the tabernacle and temple (only the priests were allowed in), which showed that the “mystery” of the fullness of God’s revelation had not yet been given. Moreover, while many Gentiles were saved during the Old Testament, they did not enjoy the same status as Jews in the covenant community.

Now, however, the fullness of the mystery has come in Christ. Now Jew and Gentile are on a par because both are equal in Christ. Now we all have access to the throne of God in the heavenly tabernacle/temple under the covering of Christ. Now the elaborate symbols have been replaced by the clear revelation in the Gospels. All of this was in the plan of God from the beginning.

What are some other aspects of the Old Testament revelation that both revealed and concealed the “mystery” of the Gospel to come? What other changes can you see, now that the “fullness of time” has arrived? Thank God for His grace in revealing His redemptive work.