Chapter 24. Participating in the Mystery of God
"And to make all men see what is the fellowship [participation, partnership, benefit conferred] of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 3:9).Participating, or fellowshipping [Greek = koinonia], in the Mystery of God indicates it is not something you do alone. You will be both partnering with God in experiencing the mystery in your own life, and also being a faithful steward of the mystery for others. It is clear that there are benefits to participating in the Mystery. But, what is the Mystery? Can it be understood? Let's look at other Bible verses that refer to the mystery of God in order to help demystify this mystery.
1) The mystery is meant to be understood.
"That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:2-3).The mystery of God, which had previously been kept secret (Romans 16:25-26), was made known to the apostles (1 Cor. 4:1), and is meant to be understood AND acknowledged by God's people (Col. 2:2-3, Eph. 3:9).
2) The mystery is revealed to lead people to obedience through faith
"Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret [silent] since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen" (Romans 16:25-27).The mystery is explained to people everywhere for the purpose of leading them to the type of obedience that accompanies true faith. The type of faith that saves will include willing obedience, which can only be done when Christ is let fully into the life. By learning about and seeing the unfolding of the mystery, a person is led to desire and implement obedience in his or her own life.
Note that the apostles made the mystery known "by the scriptures of the prophets". The mystery, though hidden prior to Christ's day, was foretold in the Scriptures. God's people, in ancient times, were told that a saviour was coming, and saw the mystery through symbols in the earthly sanctuary. They saw the promises "afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them" (Heb. 11:13) (see also Hebrews 11:4-5, 13, 39-40, Galations 3:5, 17). The mystery wasn't made manifest, or shown, until Christ arrived to fulfill the symbols, but they could participate in the blessings by believing and embracing the promise of it.
3) The mystery is how divinity can combine with humanity.
"And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness [piety, holiness]: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory" (1 Tim. 3:16).The incarnation of Jesus, whereby divinity and humanity were combined, is a great mystery. We, along with the whole universe, long for a deeper understanding of the amazing selfless love and immeasurable wisdom behind the execution of such a plan. Jesus lived a perfect life as a human, and this was witnessed by angels and He was accepted back into heaven as victorious. The whole plan of salvation hinged upon the success of the divine-human combination in Jesus, which then made it possible for Christ to be formed within His people, as they partake of His divine nature.
"According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:3-4).
4) The mystery is Christ's character being reproduced within you.
"Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily" (Colossians 1:24-29).What does it mean to have Christ in you?
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
"And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness" (Romans 8:10).
"My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you" (Galatians 4:19).The mystery is revealed to and in God's saints as "Christ in you, the hope of glory". When Christ is in you, it means that the Holy Spirit has moved into your heart, making a new formation/new creature, and that through this agency, Christ's mind, nature and character are replicated within you (partaking of the divine nature). Christ lives "in you" by giving you His thoughts and giving you power to assimilate those thoughts to make them part of who you are and how you live.
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:2-5) (see also 2 Cor. 13:11, Phil. 1:27).
5) The mystery is the gathering together of all who are Christ's.
"Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation [administration, stewardship] of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him" (Eph. 1:9-10).The apostle, using the plural "fulness of times" (Greek=pleroma kairos), refers to a succession of time periods (a completion of seasons), a future time, when the mystery will be fulfilled. The gathering together (Greek=anakephalaioo) is referring to a summing up, or a way for the whole to be briefly comprehended by looking at one. The same word is only used in one other passage in Scripture, Romans 13:9, where various laws within the ten commandments are said to be "briefly comprehended" in the saying "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself". Though the revealing of the mystery occurred when Christ became human, it doesn't completely unfold until a later time when all of His people can be comprehended just by looking at Christ. In other words, something happens to those who are "in Christ" that causes them to become like Christ, in harmony with His ways and a reflection of His character.
Being "summed up by one" and the completion of the mystery of God is closely related to the concept of unity. Being one in Christ is the goal.
"And the glory [dignity, praise, honour] which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me" (John 17:22-23).As the mind of Christ is reproduced within His people, it brings them into unity. This means their thoughts and actions will be based on the same right principles and they will have the same desire for good and goals for the kingdom. God's people become like-minded, just like Jesus and God the Father are like-minded and united in thought and purpose.
6) The mystery is how Christ joins with His church to make it without blemish.
"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church" (Ephesians 5:25-32).The mystery is the joining of Christ and His church, with the goal of producing a people having no spot or wrinkle. The concept is illustrated by the symbol of a loving relationship and complementary roles of a husband and wife. The realization of this goal is described later in Revelation when the marriage of the Lamb comes and his wife has made herself ready by being clothed in righteousness.
"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints" (Revelation 19:7-8).In the parable of the marriage of the king's son (Matt. 22:1-14), the guests were inspected to see if they were wearing the wedding garment. A man was found who did not have it on. Even though he had accepted the invitation, he hadn't continued on in the type of faith that is accompanied by obedience and let Christ's character be formed within him. The righteousness of Christ is His perfect character imparted to, or formed within, all those who claim Him by faith. Those who put on this robe trust in Christ's righteousness to take the place of their own filthy garments (Zech 3:1-7). When the inspection time comes (the Heavenly Day of Atonement), it is revealed that Christ's church is without blemish because His followers have let Christ be formed within them, and their sins are blotted out of the record books (sanctuary is cleansed).
7) The mystery is revealed in a demonstration through Christ's church.
"How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery... Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister... that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship [participation, partnership, benefit conferred] of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by [through] the church the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:3-13) (see also Ephesians 2:19 - 3:21, Isaiah 60:1-7).The mystery is how God makes it possible for any human, whether Jew or Gentile, to become "in Christ" and part of His body, the church. Participating in this mystery leads others to also want to join as they see the fellowship and benefits. The mystery is also taught to mankind so that, through the church, the beings in the universe can be shown that God is wise. Remember from an earlier verse (1 Timothy 3:16) that the angels witnessed Jesus living a successful life as a human, and they also need to witness that Jesus' followers can overcome and be changed into His likeness. This brings our focus to the culmination of the great controversy between Christ and Satan, when all questions and accusations against God are put to rest and His ways are proven right and good (the "sanctuary is cleansed" - Dan. 8:14). The mystery of God reveals God's glory, which is His character, the truth about His selflessness and righteousness. That this information is revealed to angels and beings of other worlds through a demonstration by the individuals composing Christ's church, is a momentous responsibility and awesome privilege.
- In summary, the mystery of God is the mysterious combining of divinity with humanity, first in the incarnation of Christ as He demonstrated how to live a holy life, and second in His people as they partake of the divine nature to form minds/characters like Christ's.
- In order for the mystery of God to be finished (Revelation 10:7), then just like the Divine Jesus lived a successful life as a human, was witnessed by angels and went back to heaven accepted, His people must become one with each other and Jesus through this same experience. Having the thoughts, principles, goals and purposes of Jesus assimilated into the life through His power to transform the character will bring the unity that God's people seek and that Jesus asked of His Father (John 17:22-23).
- Though there are many mysteries related to God, this specific mystery is the one primarily focused upon in the bible, and can be identified as the one that was hidden prior to Christ's day and which unfolds with His sacrifice and priestly ministry. This mystery is performed so that
- participating individuals will experience a restored relationship with Christ and the joy of unity,
- other humans, of any race or gender, who witness those participating in the mystery, are inspired to seek the same experience of exercising the type of faith that is accompanied by obedience, and
- when all of God's people are tested and proven to be transformed to reflect Christ's character, the heavenly beings who witness this will be shown the wisdom of God in His dealing with sin and saving humans.
- The verses explored above point to a time when the character of God's people have been fully ripened, and they are investigated and vindicated before heavenly witnesses, which shows God to be merciful, yet just, righteous and wise. His character and methods are completely vindicated to the onlooking universe. He, and His people/church, are glorified. This is the time of...
- A) the court scene of Daniel 7 (see "The Four Beasts"),
- B) the cleansing of the sanctuary of Daniel 8 (Heavenly Day of Atonement) (see "Sanctuary Symbolism"),
- C) the inspection of the wedding garments in Matthew 22,
- D) the judgment announced in the 1st Angel's Message of Revelation 14 (see The Three Angels' Messages), and
- E) the finishing of the Mystery of God in Revelation 10 during the 7th Trumpet (see 7th Trumpet),
"The church is God's appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world. From the beginning it has been God's plan that through His church shall be reflected to the world His fullness and His sufficiency. The members of the church, those whom He has called out of darkness into His marvelous light, are to show forth His glory. The church is the repository of the riches of the grace of Christ; and through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to "the principalities and powers in heavenly places," the final and full display of the love of God. Ephesians 3:10." (EGW, Acts of the Apostles, 9.1).
Complete understanding is yet futureIn John's vision of the Little Book, the angel told John that the mystery of God would be finished during the sounding of the 7th Trumpet (Rev. 10:7). The seventh angel, who was about to sound, would sound the trumpet while the mystery of God was finished.
"But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets" (Revelation 10:7).Earlier verses also indicated that the Mystery would be more fully revealed at a future time (from the apostle's day), but the 7th Trumpet makes this point clear. Before probation closes, there is a culmination of Christ's work in His church that brings all into unity with Him in character, which proves His character to the heavenly beings. This occurs during a time of testing and authentication, which completes or finishes, the mystery. After this, Jesus returns to earth to resurrect His people who sleep in the grave and deliver those who are still alive at His coming. It is then, after the finishing of the mystery, that humanity and angels will finally understand the mystery in its fullness.
"The Saviour has purchased the fallen race with His own blood. This is a great mystery, a mystery that will not be fully, completely understood in its greatness until the translation of the redeemed shall take place. Then the power and greatness and efficacy of the gift of God to man will be understood" (EGW, The Upward Look 260.2).Next Bible Term: Achieving Perfection
Conversion: The singular instance in time when you become willing and equipped to begin the process of true character transformation.
Overcoming: The process of character transformation and development.
Authentication: The testing and proving of character and its rewards.