There is an idea in the world that religion is a mysterious affair and therefore cannot be understood. Because of this belief, there has arisen an erroneous principle in religious teaching with respect to man’s salvation.
It is thought that since it is a mysterious affair, man cannot understand God’s plan for saving men and hence he has to wait and pray for the direct operation of the Holy Spirit to come into his heart and remove this mystery and destroy the “Adamic sin” that has blighted his life, and the proof of all this is his feelings in the matter. In other words, he will know when he is saved and when the mystery has been revealed by the way he “feels.”
This is either true or it is not and it should interest all of us to know just what the mystery was that was connected with the salvation of the world. That the above idea is wrong, I am certain, and that we may be able to arrive at the proper understanding of what this mystery is, I am confident.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he gives an explanation concerning the mystery of religion that becomes the hope of the world and especially of the Gentiles. In his explanation lies the entire principle of man’s salvation and the how it is to be brought about. Hear the letter as Paul gave it:
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ, to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him (Eph. 3:1-12).
From this reading it is clear that there was a time when all this was a mystery to men but now it has been revealed. To whom was this a mystery? To us or to those before Paul’s day of preaching? Paul says, “which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men.” Not in our age, but in other ages this was a mystery.
This question then arises: “Why is it not a mystery to us today?” Hear the answer given by Paul: “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ.” It is plain to see that the reason for its not being mysterious now is that Paul had this mystery revealed to him from heaven and he in turn wrote it down that if we will read we may also know what that mystery was in other ages.
Just what is a mystery, anyway? It is anything we do not understand, but when it is explained the “mystery” part of it is gone. With this plain statement by Paul that he received this mystery and then wrote it that as we read we may understand what it is, how do we become so confused in matters of religion as to think it is all yet draped with mysterious utterances so that no man can understand, much less be able to teach others? Because of the above theory we are told we have to wait for the Holy Spirit, in some supernatural way, to operate upon us and reveal to us, in this mysterious manner, the truth of the Lord. Friends, read the revelation of the apostles, and you can understand what it is, for Paul said in so many words, “you may understand when you read.” He knows. Try his suggestion. It works.
Let us now examine this mystery to see if we can find out just what it was that God would not reveal unto the sons of men in other ages. It must have been very important to have remained in the mind of God for so long a time before revealing it. Here is the mystery: “That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” Not one thing is said here about a “mysterious operation of the Spirit upon the hearts of men to convert them,” but that by the gospel the Gentiles were to become one body with the Jews. This was to be accomplished not by the Law of Moses with Moses as lawgiver, nor by the Gentiles’ Patriarchal worship, but by the “gospel” of which Paul said he was given authority to preach to the Gentiles.
Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to digress here long enough to say this: If you and I would stop telling our Jewish friends that they are still God’s chosen people and the Lord is yet to come to this earth and gather them out of the nations of the earth and with them rule the world, but would tell them what Paul, a Jew, has told both them and us, that we both must enjoy the promises of this mystery by being in one body and that we get into this one body by obeying the gospel alike, we would be doing them a great favor.
Paul has been given this mystery and the mystery, correctly understood, is the hope of the world, both Jew and Gentile. That was the purpose of this revelation of the mystery, to show that both Jew and Gentile shall receive the promises in one body, the church, and that by the gospel.