There are repeated references in the Bible to the mysteries of God’s plan, and to things only revealed after the Author of salvation had come into the world and completed his redemptive work.
Today there is yet much which we must accept by faith, believing the statements of fact, but not knowing how God has worked out his perfect will.
In Deuteronomy we read: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of the law.”
God has reserved to himself mysteries which will be explained when the redeemed stand in his eternal presence. But he has revealed to us glimpses of eternal truth which we are to believe and act upon and which lead into his presence forever.
After the resurrection our Lord called his disciples’ attention to Scriptures fulfilled by his death and resurrection and which before were an enigma to them, “for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”
The Prophet Amos exclaimed: “Surely the Lord God does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets,” but these same prophets often spoke without knowing the meaning of their words. Peter tells us: “The prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and enquired about this salvation; they inquired what person or time was indicated by the Spirit of Christ within them when predicting the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things which have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”
Speaking to his disciples our Lord said: “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables.”
That God’s plan of redemption was determined in the councils of eternity reveals to us something of his love, wisdom, and power. Before the creation he knew man would choose to sin, continue in sin, and that nothing less than the death of his Son could effect atonement.
Paul refers to this repeatedly in his epistles. To the Corinthian Christians he wrote: “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.”
To the Christians in Ephesus he wrote: “How the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ.… To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.… This was according to the eternal purposes which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Writing to the church in Colossae he says: “… I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints.”
There are many mysteries in redemption. The New Birth is a mystery. Men may deny it, rationalize or try to explain it away but it continues an imperative for eternal life. Supernatural? Yes, but so is the work of sanctification.
The Trinity is a mystery no man can explain. The Incarnation is a mystery and wrapped in that mysterious intervention of God into the stream of human life is to be found God’s plan of redemption.
The Gospel is itself a mystery—foolishness to the unregenerate but God’s power of salvation to those who believe. Paul prayed for the ability to preach it boldly: “… that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,” and in another place he speaks of the effect of understanding this mystery: “That their hearts may be encouraged as they are knit together in love, to have all the riches of assured understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Speaking of the office of a deacon Paul asserts: “They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” and he then affirms: “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion:” following this with a vivid sketch of our Lord’s work: “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”
Running parallel to the mystery of God’s redemptive work is the mystery of iniquity. Satan is active and lawlessness abounds, but countering this mysterious force of evil is the unending grace of God so that, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”
Many have tried to explain the mysteries of God’s redemption in natural terms and in so doing brought confusion to themselves and to those influenced by them. Redemption is a supernatural act of God’s grace and it cannot be defined in any other than spiritual terms. The Church and Christ’s relationship to her are profound mysteries, explained in human terms as a Bridegroom and his bride.
The Cross is a mystery, for on that instrument of punishment and death there took place the central drama of all history—God, in human form, dying for sinners, and in that supreme act in which are to be found the love, mercy, and grace of God combined with his holiness and justice, there is atonement for sin, forgiveness for the penitent, and access into the presence of God himself.
Can we explain it all? Of course not, nor should we try to do so. When God acts man should respond, not asking the hows and the whys of his love hut rejoicing in the privilege of believing, and the blessings which flow from faith.
But some day the mystery will be clarified by the glorious presence of the Christ for whom we look.
John saw this final denouement and in the Revelation he declares: “And the angel … swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there should be no more delay, but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God, as he announced to his servants the prophets, should be fulfilled.”
At the moment we see as in a glass darkly, but some day we shall see him face to face and the mystery will vanish in the revelation of his presence.
When the mysteries of redemption are fully known, our hearts will thrill with praises to the One in whom are centered all the secrets of God’s redeeming love.
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