Unravelling the meaning behind the deep mysteries of the Bible
Great is the mystery of Godliness:
@ the heart of the universe
@ the centre of creation
@ the wellspring of life
There is mystery
One of the great tragedies of 20th and 21st Century is that, that mystery has to some degree been obscured, as if all is already explained.
The sceptical minds of many have managed to convince many that there really is no mystery, that all is explicable, empirical explanations exist using the laws of physics and biology which exist within that system to explain the system which they are a product of! Many have been dubbed into believing that the chicken explains the egg!
Fine tuning of the universe
Beat of the heart
Miracle of life
Order of nature
Passions and emotions
Many now are convinced that everything has a mechanical / empirical explanation.
This is manifestly false!
We do not possess empirical explanations for everything, if for no other reason than we do not know what we are trying o explain!
We have not defined everything, therefore we cannot even begin to construct explanations as to the origin of what we have not defined.
New Scientist, November 2018: 37 Trillion Pieces of You
'It is one of biology's dirty little secrets: we don't really know what we are made of.'
Well if we don't know what we are made of then what confidence can we have in any explanation of how we were made?
We can never know if such an explanation actually cuts the mustard!
New York Times article 09/01/2019: 'How beauty is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution.'
The unnecessary excess of beauty on the natural world which if anything disadvantages the survival of the creature with energy unnecessary expended on beauty which renders the organism more noticeable to predators:
Lesser bird of paradise
Complex mating patterns and displays of birds; flame bowerbird
When we lose that sense of mystery, turning to materialism and simple explanations for the existence and cause and meaning of all things, 5 things happen:
Despair – this cannot satisfy
Depravity – ultimately no real foundation for morality
Distraction – look for mystery elsewhere – fiction, entertainment, depravity, occult
Disdain – arrogance, 'know it all'
Disaster as we base decisions upon the erroneous view of reality
This leads to disastrous decisions and error:
Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, set off to travel the world by bike, left their office jobs in USA, travelled Europe and Africa. Jay Austin wrote in July 2018:
“You read in the papers and you're led to believe that the world is a big scary place... people the narrative goes are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil. I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own … By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind. No greater revelation has come from our journey than this.”
On the 29th July 2018, their 4 bike convoy was struck by a mini bus in Tajkistan, the mini bus, drove on turned and 5 men jumped from the minibus, stabbed the 4 cyclists to death. Islamic State claimed responsibility.
Mystery – what is it?
'Truth once concealed and now revealed'
With the thought of 'mystery' often attribute to previous concealment, ie that they once were a mystery.
Certainly this highlights one important aspect of the NT mysteries – that they are NT mysteries and that if anything can be discerned of them in the OT can only really be discerned in retrospect!
But as definitions go its not the best:
It's not very precise. It is not very informative. It tells us nothing about the subject or content of the mysteries, its a rather cryptic definition of mystery! Having heard the definition of the mysteries of scripture, if I were to then ask; 'what is a mystery?' we would really be none the wiser.
It's not entirely accurate – there are some mysteries which are not yet revealed (eg 2 Thess chp 2 and 3 mysteries in Revelation).
Mysteries seem to maintain the character of mysteries in the NT rather than surrendering that character now that they are 'revealed' eg 1 Tim 3:9.
What are the NT mysteries?
''μυστήριον'' : from 'mustes' – a person initiated into the sacred mysteries, from 'mueo' to initiate, learn a secret or esoteric knowledge.
Linked to the sacred mysteries.
At the heart of many of the ancient religions lay a secret, an answer, a hidden insight into the nature of reality, the meaning of life, the destiny of existence, the mysteries!
This is still seen in some today: Mormonism, Free Masonry etc.
There is a reason we come to a place of worship, to a gathering, a reason we read the Bible!
One of those reasons is our search for answers, for meaning, for purpose.
We seek answers to why we are here, where we are going, the meaning of life, the answers to the big questions of life.
There are answers in the Bible.
The Bible is exceedingly interesting!
The Word of God contains God's answers to the reason why, who, what and how!
God's answers to:
Why I am here
What in the world is happening
How I can find God
Who God is
These are the NT mysteries!
These are Gods answers to the question why?
Gods hidden agenda.
They are justification for the conspiracy theorists paranoia that there is an agenda behind the scenes.
Gods hidden agenda, revealed not by time, not by a time delay switch but revealed to those that have ears to hear, those who have the Spirit of God!
'he that hath ears to hear let him hear' (Matt11:15; Luke8:8) and also Matt 13:11; Luke 8:10.
Not so much:
Concealed in the past and revealed in the present but
Concealed to the unregenerate and revealed by the Spirit of God
The distinction between:
concealment and revelation
mystery and understanding
lies not so much in time but in aptitude and ability.
The mystery is unlocked not by time but with a key; and that key is Christ.
Not so much a distinction between:
without the Spirit
with the Spirit
It is not time that is the key but Christ who is the key (Matt 16:19; Rev 1:18; Rev 3:7)
God's agenda in human history has not been hidden.
God's desire is for a world saturated with the knowledge of God:
Habakkuk 2:14: 'filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord'
Isaiah 11:9: 'They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of -- the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.'
Perhaps perfectly foiled by the attempt of Satan and the flesh to rid the world of the knowledge of God.
The New Testament contains not just one great mystery but there are at least 14 bible mysteries:
- Mysteries of the Kingdom – Matthew 13:11; Mark 4:11; and Luke 8:10
- Mystery of blindness on Israel (Roms 11:25)
- Mystery of the Gospel to all peoples (Rom 16:25ff)
- Mystery of the Cross (1 Co 1+2:7ff)
- Mystery of the Rapture (1Co 15:51)
- Mystery of His will, of all things in Christ (Eph 1:9)
- Mystery of Jew and Gentile in 1 body (Eph 3:3ff)
- Mystery of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:32)
- Mystery of Christ in you (Col 1:25ff)
- Mystery of Iniquity (2 Thess 2:7)
- Mystery of Godliness (1 Tim 3:16)
- Mystery of the 7 churches (Rev 1:20)
- Mystery of Gods judgement (Rev 10:7)
- Mystery of Babylon the Great (Rev 17:5-7)
“Great is the mystery of Godliness”
'in the flesh' … 'in the spirit'
'angels' saw Him … 'gentiles' heard Him
received by faith in 'world' … received up into 'heaven'
The 'mystery of godliness' – not the mystery of is there a God?
This is the mystery of what is God like?
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18)
Christ tells out God.
John describes the revelation of Deity though a series of miracles and personal encounters:
Wedding at Cana of Galilee; 'manifested forth His glory' (John 2:11) – Christ brings a joy superabundant beyond the water, wine and the old dead religion of Judaism.
Woman at the well – The Christ who sustains, who gives life and who satisfies.
Feeding of the 5000 (John 6) – He is the God who satisfies
Healing of the blind man (John 9) – He is the Christ who gives light.
Raising of Lazarus (John 11) – The Christ who gives life.
1 Timothy chp 3 – here is the revelation of God through all things, throughout the universe:
In the material realm: 'in the flesh'
In the spiritual realm: 'in the spirit'
To the temporal world
To the eternal
Here is the mystery; the answer to the question why? How? Who? When? Here is Gods agenda in history; a universe saturated with the knowledge of God!
This has always been God's agenda for human history
This has been the great theme of scripture:
Not history – although the Bible is full of history
Not humanity – although what is said about man is critical for us to understand.
Not philosophy – although there is much knowledge and wisdom contained therein.
Not Israel – although we won't understand 20th and 21st century politics without a knowledge of the Israel in the scriptures.
Not the church – as precious as it is is to the heart of God
Not covenants – as fundamental as they are to the structure of history
Not dispensations – as evident as these distinctions are through scripture.
The great theme and revelation of scriptures is God Himself:
''Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.'' (John 5:39)
Page after page is all about God!
Here is the knowledge that humanity must not lose!
Not of itself, not of its own history but of God.
He is the:
Sovereign of history in Genesis
Righteous judge of all men in days of Noah and Lot
Saviour of Israel in the days of Joseph
Redeemer by blood and the lamb in Exodus
Sustainer of His people in Exodus
We see His
Holiness in Leviticus
Salvation in Joshua
Love in Ruth
Justice in the Kings
Mercy in Nehemiah
Sovereignty in Daniel
Wisdom in proverbs
Passion in Song of Solomon
Passion and feel the pulse of His heart in the psalms
Raises his standard at Sinai
Breaks with convention in Jonah
Genesis teaches that His is a Creation incomprehensible and His fellowship is essential.
Ruth is redeemed by a Grace is uncontainable
Jonah struggles with a Mercy immeasurable
Old world drowns under a Wrath unquenchable
For Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzer and Darius they see a Power irresistible
His ways are Unfathomable
His Kingdom Uncontainable
The cry of His Son inconsolable
Ways past finding out
This is your God!
We see that God is omnipotent in creation
Abraham learns that God is faithful in His covenants
Noah understands that God is righteous in His judgment
Israel depends on the God who is faithful in His provision and long suffering in the wilderness.
God is Saviour in Joshua
God is Sovereign in Daniel
God is sufficient for Israel and David
God's grace is surprising for Jonah
God is sensitive in the Psalms
God satisfies at the well and the rock
God reveals Himself in:
Creation (Gen 1)
Inspiration of Scripture
Incarnation of Jesus Christ (1 Tim 3:16)
Regeneration of His people
'God was manifest in the flesh'
Emmanuel – God with us (Isaiah 7:14)
Isaiah 40: 'the voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord.'
Isaiah 40: 'behold your God'
Zech 12:10 'And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me -- whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.'
The divinity of Christ is concealed in many OT scriptures:
Consider 'the branch':
Isaiah 11:1 – Branch from the stem of Jesse
Jeremiah 23:5 – Branch a King
Jeremiah 23:6 – 'the Lord our righteousness'
Zech 3:8 – 'my servant the branch'
Zech 6:12 – 'the man whose name is the branch'
Job 19:25 'for I know that my redeemer liveth and the He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.' - a redeemer who endures into the distant future beyond the mortality of Jobs worm eaten body.
Redemption is the work of God: Exodus 6:6; 15:13; Psalm 19:14; 69:18; 72:14; 74:2; 77:15; 78:35; 103:4; 106:10; 107:2; 119:54; Isaiah 41:14; 43:1; 43:14
'Justified in the Spirit'
The Spirit of God was active throughout the life of Christ.
Romans 1:4 'declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from te dead.' Why the Spirit of Holiness? Is this because death ought to lead to corruption and uncleanness? Here is one sinless and undefiled, uncorrupted by sin and thus incorruptible by death! The Spirit of Gods intervention proves this holiness! He is thoroughly 'Holy' before God (Ps 16:10). His holiness is declared and established by the removal of Christ from corruption. Death could not hold its prey!
The baptism and transfiguration of Christ may be relevant here but His resurrection seems preferable – the idea of holiness and righteousness, with the endorsement of His holiness at the end of His earthly ministry by that resurrection.
Baptism → Transfiguration → Resurrection are all interconnected of course, as they are in the parallel work of the Spirit of God in the life of the believer: Salvation → Metamorphosis (Sanctification) → Resurrection / Translation.
Yet the verdict of righteousness is most suitably delivered at the end of His life by the endorsement of the Spirit of God in resurrection.
'It is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment,' here is Gods judgment on His Son: Holiness.
The practical challenge then of the Christian life is to reflect this in my own life, to have a life saturated with God.
Here is the problem with hypocrisy; not simply that it's not nice, not genuine or causes relationship problems but that it is a perversion of the very essence of Divine purpose – that I ought to be like Christ, in faking, in pretending, I deny God His purpose for my life.
In pretending we resist the Divine purpose for our life.
'Justified in the Spirit' – Is this the ultimate declaration of the justification of God? The ultimate evidence that God is righteous, Christ is righteous, not only in the character of Christ but in the work and purposes of God worked out in Jesus Christ? Is God really aloof and uncaring about the plight of a fallen world? Is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not the ultimate declaration that God is just after all in all of His dealings with mankind?
'seen of angels':
Angels have a ministry around the:
Conception of Jesus (Matt 1:20,24; Luke 1:26) – the angelic ministry was instrumental in bringing to pass the purposes of God in reassuring Joseph to take Mary as his wife.
To Joseph (Father after the flesh) – cf Angel to Abraham
To Mary His mother – cf Angel and Hagar (Gen 16:11); cf birth of Samson (Judges 13:3)
Birth of Jesus (Luke 2:8ff)
Flight into and exodus from Egypt (Matt 2:13,19)
cf Exodus of Israel led by the angel (Ex 3:3ff; 14:19ff; 23:20,23; 32:34; 33:2; Num 20:16)
Testing the wilderness
cf. Ex 32:34 and angels ministered cf. Elijah in 1 Kings 19:5ff
Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43)
Resurrection (Matt 28:2)
cf Daniel in the Lions den
Ascension (Acts 1)
Angels ministered to Christ (Matt 4:11; Mark 1:13)
No angelic ministry at Calvary – Christ had to go this alone (Psalm 22:1)
Is there perhaps no angelic insight into the mystery of the sufferings of Christ on the cross?