“For you are able to read this to recognize my understanding in the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to those of other generations of the sons of men as now it is revealed to his holy Apostles and Prophets in the Spirit, that the gentiles are co-heirs and part of the same body and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel of which I was made a servant according to the gift of the grace of God given to me according to the working of his power.”
It should be noted that in the Greek text of this passage, verses 1-7 are a single sentence, binding the ideas together as one. To whom did God not unfold the mystery? The generations of the sons of men prior to the coming of Christ is the answer given. That does not mean that God gave them no hints or indications of what would come, but it means that the fullness of such has come after the resurrection of Christ. Jesus is the Rosetta Stone when it comes to understanding the Bible and the mystery of God. If you reject Jesus, the mystery remains clouded.
By what means is the mystery being made known? By the Prophets and Apostles. We have seen this language already for it is upon the writings of such that the church is built. If the church strays from the clear teaching of Scripture, it loses its foundations and will collapse. If a church seeks to add to that which has been laid down in the scriptures, it is building on the foundation of men, not that of the Prophets and Apostles and once again, it will collapse. How do we know? We are seeing it all around us in the world today.
And what is the heart of this great mystery? It is God’s plan to redeem a people from amongst the gentile nations in Christ and to make us fellow heirs and part of the same promise of God. As we have noted before, it is a great error to presume that the church and Israel are two separate peoples; we are bound together as one, through faith in Jesus Christ.
How is this accomplished? It is done by the outworking of God’s power. It is not about the work of men…it is all about God and His work and his design. It is his plan.
“making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Him as a plan for the fullness of time to sum up all things in Christ — that which is in the heavens and that which is on the earth, in Him.”
Thus, it is by God’s grace that He makes known to us the mystery of His will. To what, then, does this mystery refer? The simple answer is that the mystery of God’s will has to do with God’s plan of redemption through his Son. One might respond by asking, “How is this a mystery? Surely we find the Gospel bound in the Old Testament as well as in the new?” It is very true that there are pointers to the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the Scriptures. These pointers even begin with the Fall in the Garden where God promises that a redeemer would come (Genesis 3:15).
The Gospel is found in bits and pieces, then, throughout the Old Testament. It can be found in the various aspects of the covenant made with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is found in people like Boaz, who point us to Christ. It is found in the institutions of the Judge, the Prophet, the Priest, and the King, and it is found in more explicit ways, like in Isaiah 53 or in Psalm 103.
At the same time, we have the advantage of hindsight when we look at these events and peoples. We understand what the Author of Hebrews clearly states, that indeed, all of these things point us to Christ. We can look back and see the Christ for whom the saints of the Old Testament diligently searched (1 Peter 1:10-12). As Sherlock Holmes would argue, when you know the elements that lead up to an event, discerning the solution is a matter of elementary deduction. We have the advantage of being able to “reason backwards” as Holmes would call it, and doing so, the mystery is not a mystery to us — God has revealed it in his Son. At the same time, those who lived on the other side of the cross had a much more difficult time understanding the nature of these prophetic writings that formed clues to the solution revealed in Christ.
“How your works are great, Yahweh,
Your plans are quite mysterious.”
(Psalm 92:6 [verse 5 in English])
Oh, heavenly Father, “what is man that you are mindful of him!” We make plans and perceive our designs to be deep and meaningful, but in a moment they are washed away by the winds of time. How we plan for tomorrow yet have no control over today. How we ponder our designs while neglecting the design that you have revealed in your word. Oh, how foolish are we puny men, yet you have condescended to reveal yourself to us in fearful and wonderful ways. Amen!
As great and mighty as God’s works are, his decrees and plans run deeper. We may spend a lifetime plummeting the depths of that which he has revealed in his Word to us, yet will never scratch much more than the surface. Oh, were we given a thousand generations to dig into the word, we still would not come closer to reaching the bottom of the richness of God’s revealed Word.
Thus, they are a mystery to us, but not the kind of mystery that discourages or disheartens, but the kind of mystery that draws us in, that sparks our interest and curiosity, and that envelops us in the love and truth of this mighty God.
Oh, the depths of the riches and of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How unfathomable are his decrees and incomprehensible are his ways! For who is he who knows the mind of the Lord? Who is he that has become his counselor? Who is he that first gave to him that he might receive repayment? For out of him and through him and for him are all things.
For to him is the glory unto eternity, amen!