August 23, 2009
PLAINER WORDS ONLINE …THE REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY
“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 youward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; …” (Ephesians 3:1-3).
In Ephesians Chapter Three, between Verses 2 to 12, the Apostle Paul explains his unique office as “the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles” (Ephesians 3:1). He was a prisoner for the express purpose of receiving the revelation of the Mystery. Paul didn’t consider himself a prisoner of Caesar, or a prisoner of the Roman Empire. He, rightfully, acknowledged that he was the prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. Likewise; he suffered tribulations as a prisoner for the specific purpose of making known the Holy Secret, to wit, the Mystery, which he had received by revelation.
It seems that the loftiest and most glorious truth God has made known to man was revealed to one who said of himself; “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” (Ephesians 3:8). Not only this, but He chose a man in prison, who was suffering tribulations, to make known the grand and noble Truth “which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:9).
God’s Greatest Secret was not revealed to a man on a throne but to a man in a dungeon. It was revealed to a man who enjoyed no prestige of this world, nor was it revealed to a man who was at liberty to travel freely, making the Truth of the Mystery known.
It should be noted that the grander the Truth God reveals, He selects the least likely to be the revelators of it. When God spoke in times past to the fathers of Israel, He spoke BY THE PROPHETS, not BY THE PRIESTS. For the most part, the Prophets were obscure men, known only by their father’s name. Humanly speaking, you would think that when God wanted to speak to Israel, He would have done so through the divinely appointed and ordained religious set-up, that being the Priests. However, He chose not to do so; rather, He spoke through the Prophets, by-passing the Priests. The Priests were ordained to teach Israel what God had spoken through the Prophets.
When it was time to herald the long-awaited Gospel of the Kingdom, none of the men from Israel’s religious establishment were selected to herald the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven/God. Rather, He chose obscure fishermen and men who had no recognized standing in Israel—one was even a revenue-man.
So, when the Lord was ready to reveal His Sacred Secret—the Mystery—He worked it out so that the human revelator was a legal prisoner of the Roman Empire. Paul was a prisoner, deprived of his liberty, and kept under involuntary restraint by governmental authority. While this confinement appeared to be the result of Paul awaiting trial, it was, in reality, for the purpose of him receiving the revelation of the Mystery (Ephesians 3:3).
Therefore, the most profound Truth God ever gave man was given to a lowly prisoner who was suffering in chains. The Lord Jesus Christ’s Present Testimony was made known to His prisoner, the Apostle Paul. That is why Paul could say, “Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.”
He did not want the saints to faint, that is to say, lose heart because of his tribulations because his tribulations were FOR THEIR GLORY. The Truth for the hearts and minds of the saints at Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus, anywhere, was the fact that NOW the Hope of Israel was placed in abeyance, and Christ was NOW among the Gentiles and was their HOPE of GLORY (Colossians 1:27).
In plainer words, the Apostle rejoiced in his sufferings because, apart from them, the revelation of the Mystery would not have been made known! He had to have been a prisoner. He had to have suffered the “afflictions of Christ” in his flesh. He had to be in “chains.” Otherwise, he couldn’t say that he was “an ambassador in bonds” (Ephesians 6:20). All of these things had to have happened to him for “the furtherance of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12). He rejoiced in his sufferings because it was “for you Gentiles” (Colossians 1:24). It was for their GLORY, so, “faint not at my tribulation” (Ephesians 3:13).
Paul’s tribulations were endured on their behalf and were of infinite value for them. He conveyed to his readers his own assurance that his sufferings were in direct harmony with God’s eternal purpose. The Apostle’s desire was that believers would come to appreciate the intense hardships he went through on their behalf. It was no cause for discouragement but cause for rejoicing, since it was for their glory. Paul saw, in his tribulations, proof that God’s purpose was advancing towards consummation. He stated, in Colossians 1:24, that his sufferings were something which he was called upon to undergo for the sake of the Church over which Christ Jesus is the Head.
So, in plainer words, Paul was saying, “I am asking in my own interest, that you do not lose heart or be discouraged by reason of my trials on your behalf, which are of such a nature as to be for your glory.”
PAUL’S HOUSE ARREST
In order to fully understand the tribulations Paul endured, it is incumbent on us to point out that the Apostle underwent different imprisonments. We will not concern ourselves with his imprisonments prior to the Twenty-Eighth Chapter of “The Acts of the Apostles.” It is, generally, accepted that the epistles written to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and, even, his personal note to Philemon were written while he was under House Arrest during the “two whole years” (Acts 28:30). He was, during this time, a prisoner in Rome.
We want to distinguish between his “two whole years” in his “own hired house” and his, subsequent, imprisonment which was much harsher. After the Apostle Paul pronounced judicial blindness on Israel, in Acts 28:28, we read:
“And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves. And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him”
It should be noted that he “dwelt two whole years in his own hired house.” A “hired house” is one that had been rented. For two years, Paul, even though a prisoner, lived in a house which he, or his friends had rented. Certainly, this type of accommodation showed some leniency on the part of the Roman judiciary. His confinement was not severe. Dwelling in “his own hired house” could possibly mean he was no longer imprisoned but was out of prison, on his own recognizance, with an obligation to appear before court at an appointed time. Failure to appear would require the forfeiture of money; as we would say, today, the forfeiture of the bond. Many individuals who are charged with a crime are released from jail, on bond, while awaiting their trial date. Being out of jail, on bond, does not constitute being a “prisoner.”
During these two years, Paul “received all that came in unto him …no man forbidding him.” In plainer words, no one hindered Paul from receiving guests in his own hired house. This does not hint of severe imprisonment. Whereas, in Paul’s Prison Epistles, he spoke of a much more stringent imprisonment. Quoting from the “Introductory Notes” in the “Companion Bible” on his “Epistle to the Philippians,” Dr. Bullinger wrote regarding Paul’s imprisonment, “most likely this necessitated a more rigid condition of imprisonment than when he dwelt, as at first, in his own hired house.”
Observe in Philippians; Paul spoke of “my [his] bonds.”
“Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace … But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear … The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds” (Philippians 1:7, 12-14, 16).
“Bonds” are, also, mentioned in Ephesians and Colossians.
“And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:19-20).
“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds” (Colossians 4:2-3).
If Paul wrote Ephesians and Colossians during the two years as recorded in Acts 28:30-31, it would seem inappropriate for him to request their prayers concerning him speaking boldly, as he ought to speak. For, during those two whole years, he could speak freely, “no man forbidding him.” Not only that, but Paul’s message, according to Acts 28:30-31, was the same message he had spread and preached throughout the Acts Period. During the “two whole years,” mentioned, Paul had no new revelation. The Secret, hid in the Heart of God, was not revealed to Paul during his two years of House Arrest. We are told, specifically, what he preached—THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and what he taught—THOSE THINGS WHICH CONCERNED THE LORD JESUS CHRIST (Acts 28:31). Had he received the revelation of the Mystery during the “two whole years,” he would have preached it and made it known.
If the Mystery had been revealed during “The Acts of the Apostles,” it would have been closely associated with “the Hope of Israel” (Acts 28:20).
Paul’s imprisonment during the two year period, mentioned in Acts 28:30-31, was a very lenient incarceration. In fact, he was even allowed, by the Roman authorities, to meet with the chief Jews of the City of Rome. If Paul had been considered a threat to the state, this would not have been permitted. After being in Rome for three days, the Apostle asked to see the Jewish leaders of the City. He asked them to grant him a day in which he could explain why he was “bound with this chain for the Hope of Israel” (Acts 28:20). The Jews granted his request.
“And when they [the Jews] had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging [his rented house]; to whom he expounded and testified the Kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening” (Acts 28:23).
Is there a direct reference to the Mystery in this verse? No, there is not. Is there even a hint, or a veiled reference to that which had been hid from ages and generations, as mentioned in Colossians 1:24? No, there is not. The “Law of Moses” and the writings of “the prophets” made no mention of the Mystery. The Old and New Testament makes no mention of God’s Sacred Secret. There is absolute silence on the subject.
The Revelation of the Mystery will not be made known until Paul can say, “…praying also for [me], … to speak the Mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds” (Colossians 4:3).
From Plainer Words
The Revelation of The Mystery - Part 1
Posted in: 2009
By Tom L. Ballinger
Aug 24, 2009 - 11:36:49 AM
Aug 24, 2009 - 11:36:49 AM
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