Weekend Broadcast

Mystery

A Message by R.C. Sproul

Can we penetrate the depths of the concept of the Trinity? What about the incarnation of Jesus, where there is one person with two complete natures? We are now introducing a category about which Dr. Sproul would say that it’s safe to say the Scripture has many mysteries.  In “Mystery”, we find that it is possible to know our God on an intimate level yet bow to the truth that a perfect knowledge of Him is too high for us and it is beyond us.

From the series: Defending Your Faith

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    The Mystery of the Faith

  2. devotional

    The Riches of God's Mystery

  3. article

    A Simple Mystery

The Mystery of the Faith

Although the deacon is tasked primarily not with teaching the people of God but with mercy ministries such as caring for widows and orphans (Acts 6:1–6), there are many occasions in which deacons will offer instruction. Assisting a family who is suffering a severe budget crisis involves the distribution of funds and advice in how to wisely use the family’s finances. In this case, the deacon will undoubtedly rely on the wisdom and principles of Scripture to help the family learn how to manage their money. When the opportunity comes to help non-Christians, the deacon may very well be called upon to explain the Christian faith and the motivation it provides for doing “good to everyone” (Gal. 6:10). These situations and many others that can possibly arise require deacons to be solidly grounded in the truths of the Bible.

That is why Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 3:9 that deacons, like every other church leader, “must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.” Paul’s use of the term mystery does not mean that there are secret truths of Christianity that only a select few can grasp. Instead, Paul always uses the word mystery to refer to the content of faith newly revealed by Christ Jesus through His apostles (Rom. 16:25–27; Eph. 1:7–10). The “mystery of the faith” includes things such as final atonement through Jesus’ death and resurrection (a truth not wholly unknown under the old covenant but dimly revealed in the shadows and types of the Mosaic law, Lev. 16; Heb. 9:1–10:18). John Calvin writes that Paul titles the sum of Christian doctrine mystery “as indeed God, through the gospel, reveals to men on earth a wisdom which angels in heaven behold with admiration; and, therefore, we need not wonder if it exceed human capacity.”

Deacons must hold the mystery of faith “with a clear conscience” (1 Tim. 3:9). In other words, their consciences should not accuse them of lying when they profess the Christian faith. A deacon’s confession must not be mere lip service but something that he embraces with both mind and heart. The deacon without a clear conscience lacks the integrity needed to do his job well. More importantly, he lacks saving knowledge of the One whom he claims to serve.  

The Riches of God's Mystery

As noted yesterday, Paul uses the term mystery to refer to a truth that was partially and dimly revealed under the old covenant but is now displayed in all its fullness to the new covenant people of God. The apostle speaks of mysteries in several places in his epistles, including Colossians 1:25–27, and having spoken of his call to make clear “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints” (v. 26), Paul now identifies the mystery of which he is speaking. This mystery, made known among the Gentiles, is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (v. 27).

We take it largely for granted today that the gospel is for all people and that those who believe it become full citizens of the kingdom of God, heirs of all the promises that the Lord has made to His people throughout history. In the first century, however, this was a radical idea. Strict interpretations of the purity laws in the Torah — Genesis through Deuteronomy — made it difficult indeed for the earliest Jewish Christians to believe Gentiles could remain Gentiles and become faithful servants of Yahweh, the covenant Lord of Israel. It took both the intervention of God Himself and constant admonition from the apostles to convince the earliest Jewish believers that Jews and Gentiles could be full members of the same Abrahamic family in Christ (Acts 10; Gal. 2:11–14). To be fair to the ancient Jewish Christians, it is hard to find this idea of full citizenship for the Gentiles revealed in the old covenant. It is not entirely absent, as seen in the story of the Gentile woman Ruth, who became the great-grandmother of David, the greatest king of the old covenant (Ruth 4:13–22). Still, Ruth was the exception rather than the rule, so it is not surprising that the Jewish Christians had trouble accepting Gentile believers as full-fledged brothers and sisters at first.

Jesus, by His Spirit, dwelling in all believers, no matter their background, makes Jews and Gentiles full citizens in the kingdom of God (Col. 1:27). We are all so identified with Christ that it is impossible for any Christian to be a second-class citizen. And we can add to this grace the fact that our hope of glory in Jesus has present and future aspects. In the present, we are assured that we belong to Him and will persevere so that in the future we will enjoy the full benefits of redemption — life in a resurrected body before the presence of God in the new heaven and earth (Rev. 21).

A Simple Mystery

Burk Parsons

John Wesley is quoted as having said: “Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man, and then I will show you a man that can comprehend the triune God.” A clever statement indeed, but just as every analogy of the Trinity that has ever been offered breaks down under scrutiny, so Wesley’s analogy of a worm’s comprehension of man compared to our comprehension of God breaks down as well. First of all, worms are not made in the image of man. Secondly, worms have not been given special revelation from man, and, what is more, no man ever became a worm, even though at times our wives may be led to think otherwise. We were made in the image of our triune God with minds carefully crafted by God to understand certain things about God. Our Creator then provided us with certain information about Himself through His revelation to us. As a result, we have been given the ability and the knowledge to understand all that God has intended for us to comprehend — and such comprehension comes only through faith given to us by God, for the natural man cannot understand the things of God.

At the heart of Wesley’s statement is the truth that no mere man can comprehend God completely. But the mistake is often made by the people of God in thinking that we cannot comprehend God rightly. In fact, in many circles, for someone to speak of God as some sort of unknowable, mysterious figure that is beyond reality is thought of as super-spiritual. The Bible does teach that there are certain things God has hidden from us (Deut. 29:29). The Bible also teaches that God is not completely comprehendible by men, nor are His ways fully understood by men (Rom. 11:33–34; 1 Cor. 2:16). Nevertheless, as we examine the Bible, many divine mysteries are unfolded by God Himself. Though we may not understand completely how God is three in person and one in essence, we do know the simple truth that He is.

We who are finite in our capacity cannot fully comprehend our infinite God, for the infinite mystery of our triune God is contained only by He who is infinite. And although the explanations that our Lord provides are simple, they are indeed true. For that reason, we should be less concerned with trying to figure out those things about God that He has not given us the ability to comprehend and be more concerned with living coram Deo, before His face, according to all that we can comprehend about our gracious and holy, triune God.

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