The Mystery By Franklin Camp The word “mystery” is used a number of times in the New Testament. This word is very often misapplied by many. The idea

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The Mystery

By Franklin Camp

The word “mystery” is used a number of times in the New Testament. This word is very often misapplied by many. The idea that some attach to it today is that it suggests something mysterious. Others have the idea that it means something that cannot be understood. Is this its meaning as used in the New Testament?

The New Testament is its best commentary. A study of the use of this word in the New Testament will help to see how it is used. Firstly, the word “mystery” and its explanation in the New Testament involve the divine wisdom of God and the inspiration of the men who were guided by the Holy Spirit. Secondly, it makes plain the fact that God is the author of the Old Testament as well as the New. Something that was a mystery in the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament. The types and shadows of the Old Testament contained in them “secret or divine mysteries”. When these were fulfilled and their meaning revealed in the New Testament, they were no longer mysteries. The revelation did away with the mystery because it was revealed, and thereby explained or made known. The full meaning of God’s plan in redeeming man was concealed in the Old Testament. This is the basis of its being called the mystery. When it was revealed by inspiration through the apostles, it was no longer a mystery. Some of the words that are used in contrast with the word “mystery” make this evident. We have such words as “revelation” (unveiled) used in connection with the word “mystery”. Something had been “veiled, but by revelation it became “unveiled”. When it was unveiled, it no longer remained a mystery.

Let me turn to the New Testament and look at a few passages. When Christ gave the parable of the sower, the disciples came to Him and asked why He was speaking in parables (Matthew 13:10). Christ answered, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matthew 13:11). It is vital in understanding the Gospel to keep in mind that they were pre-Pentecost. The parable veiled, at least to some degree, the kingdom. Even the apostles had difficulty in understanding its meaning prior to Pentecost. But it was given to them to know the mysteries, and with the coming of the Holy Spirit to guide them, this is exactly what happened. It was not a mystery that they would never know, and it was not a mystery that could never be explained. In Mark’s account of the same parable, Christ makes plain the meaning of his use of the mysteries and why it was given to the apostles to know. “And he said unto them, ‘Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not to be set on a candlestick? For there is nothing hid which shall not be manifested; neither was anything kept secret, but that it should come abroad’” (Mark 4:21,22). There cannot be any doubt that this refers to that which may have been concealed in parables but was later to be revealed to the apostles and then through them to the whole world, for Christ repeats the same words of verse nine in verse twenty-three. A comparison of Matthew 10 with these verses makes this certain. Matthew 10:19 and 20 mention directly the inspiration of the apostles. Now read Matthew 10:26 and 27. “Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered [parables, etc] that shall not be revealed; and hid, [same word in Mark 4:22] that shall not be known.” That which was hid, covered, mystery, not known, would be revealed through the inspiration of the apostles and when this occurred, it would no longer be hid, covered, a mystery, or unknown. Now look as the next verse. “What I tell you in darkness [parables, etc.] that speak ye in light [inspiration and revelation]; and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.” What is this verse but the Great Commission “hid, covered, in mystery”? Christ is just as certainly looking at the Commission and Pentecost as if He had used these very words. But at the time He spoke them, neither the apostles, nor anyone else, could see this in its fullness. Read the book of Acts, and all becomes clear. The mysteries of the kingdom during the personal ministry of Christ were clearer than in the Old Testament, because it was at hand, but even during this period, it was still a secret because it was not revealed until Pentecost and following.

I stated earlier that the Bible is its best interpreter. Let me show you now that this is true. “Let a man so account of us [apostles] as of the ministers of Christ [His apostles], and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1). This is the reason that it was given to them to know the mysteries, while to others it was not given as mentioned in the parable of the sower. Surely it included the willingness of the apostles to hear and reflect upon the things contained in the parables, but even then if they had never received the Holy Spirit to reveal the full meaning, the things of the kingdom would have remained “hid, covered, and not known.”

Finally, Paul’s reference to the mystery in Ephesians 3 makes plain how the New Testament uses the word. The including of the Gentiles in the body of Christ with the Jews upon the same basis was a mystery in the Old Testament. Read it and see. “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote before in a 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 was now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the spirit.” Then he tells what the mystery was–that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs with the Jews in the same body. Does anyone think that this is still a mystery or mysterious now? It is no longer concealed, hid, or mysterious. Revelation has brought the thing out in the open and made it known. The man that would now make a mystery of this could make a mystery out of anything. It seems that is what some try to do with everything in the Bible.

I am not saying there are not difficult passages. I am not saying that everything in the Bible can be easily understood or even that we can understand everything the Bible mentions. I cannot understand the Virgin Birth, but I believe it. Peter said Paul wrote “some things hard to be understood” (2 Peter 3:16). I am simply pointing out that the word “mystery” does not mean mysterious.

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