According to the Apostle Paul in the magnificent fifteenth chapter of his first Epistle to the Corinthians, “there is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars.” And according to this same Apostle there is a glory of the mystery. The word “glory” in this verse under consideration, is no mere ornament or embellishment. A special and peculiar glory attaches to the mystery. What constitutes the glory of sun and moon and stars? Just this: They never talk about themselves; they talk about the great God who made them. It is not their beauty, it is not their harmony, it is not their profundity, it is not their multiplicity, it is their testimony which constitutes their chief glory. “The heavens declare the glory of God (literally, the heavens are recounting the glory of God); and the firmament sheweth His handywork” (Psalm 19. 1). They are
“For ever singing as they shine,
The hand that made us is divine.”
A similar, and at the same time, grander glory belongs to the mystery. Of that mystery it is recorded: “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be (made) known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3. 10). This constitutes the greater, grander glory of the mystery. “The glory of the terrestrial is one, and the glory of the celestial is another” (1 Cor. 15. 40). The glory of creation is one thing, the glory of redemption is another thing. Creation, magnificent as it is, is but the platform for the display of the manifold wisdom of God in the greater work of redemption. The Church is a witness to the redemptive work and purpose of God. And here she is a spectacle not only to men, but to angels. The dispensational purpose of God was the revelation of the mystery; the dispensational work of the Church is to make known to heavenly intelligences the wisdom of God in the glorious economy of redemption. For the Church this is a dispensation of testimony.
The Subject of this Testimony. The grand subject of this testimony is, as we have just intimated, “the manifold wisdom of God.” A transcendent subject indeed! Who can doubt the wisdom of God!
“The heavens declare Thy glory Lord,
In every star Thy wisdom shines.”
None but a wise God could have contrived so great and wondrous a universe. Every star that glitters, every flower that grows, every bird that sings, every river and stream, every wood and hedge-row, every rolling sea and placid lake, every lofty mountain and high hill, and all things great and small in nature’s vast and glorious panorama, bears constant testimony to “the manifold wisdom of God.” “O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! in wisdom hast Thou made them all” (Psa. 104. 24). And if this is true of creation, much more is it true of redemption. Redemption is the great masterpiece of God’s wisdom.
What a masterpiece of divine wisdom is God’s remedy for human ruin! How can sin be condemned, yet the sinner freed from condemnation? How can God so save sinful men, that, at the same time His honour shall remain untarnished and the righteous claims of His throne be fully met? How can God be just, and yet justify every sinner who believes? How can God be just and good? How can God temper justice with mercy? It was here that the wisdom of God came in. A way was contrived whereby every problem was solved, every question answered, and every claim fully met. Justice and mercy found a suitable meeting-place in Christ crucified. The Son of God took our place; He the just One suffered for the unjust; He the sinless One died for the sinful. In the obedience unto death of God’s dear Son, the claims of both justice and mercy have been met, the one in punishment and the other in pardon. The Law which says that the sinner must die, has been so fulfilled that it can now say: “Let him live.” Well might we say with the Apostle, “O the depth of the riches both of. the wisdom and knowledge of God”! Mercy pitied us, Love wept over us, and Grace sought us; but the contriving of a way to happiness between the justice of God and the sin of man, was the rich discovery of Wisdom. Thus the Church is both a monument and a testimony to “the manifold wisdom of God.”
“Oh, loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the fight
And to the rescue came.”
The Objects of this Testimony. According to the verse already quoted in Ephesians, the special objects of this testimony are “principalities and powers in heavenly places.” In the first chapter of the first Epistle of Peter, the Apostle tells us that angels desire to look into these things; and the Apostle Paul in chapter four of his first Epistle to the Corinthians, reminds us that we are a spectacle to angels. From these and other Scriptures, it is very evident that the angels contemplate with holy curiosity the beautiful house that wisdom has built out of redemption’s precious and enduring materials. Clearly, “the house of God, which is the church of the living God,” is of very deep interest to them. Have we considered the implications of this sufficiently? We are accustomed to think of the angels as encamping round the godly, and ministering well-being to those who are the heirs of salvation. All of which is blessedly true. How tenderly the angels watch over us! They protect us from countless dangers, and lead us into the enjoyment of unnumbered blessings. A great deal of what we call providence is really the ministry of angels. How much we owe to their watchful care! On the other hand it is our privilege, not only to receive contributions from the angels, but to make contributions to the angels. “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be made known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.” What a dignity is ours! We are called to minister instruction to angels. Every redeemed soul is intended to be an object-lesson to angels. The call of the Church, involving as it did the marvellous scheme of redemption, was no afterthought with God. It was all part of an eternal plan which is of deepest interest to angels. In this gracious arrangement, purposed in God before time was, not only were Jews and Gentiles to be brought into one body—made into “one new man”—but angels, and principalities and powers, were to be enlightened in “the manifold wisdom of God.”
The Vessel of this Testimony. The Church is the chosen vessel of this special testimony. We have already seen something of this. The Church is constituted a holy and beautiful vessel for the display of the manifold wisdom of God in the greatest and grandest of all His works, the work of redemption. Both in the universe of nature and the universe of grace, God is the great workman. In, that wonderful universe of wisdom, love, and power which we call Creation, God has fashioned the most amazing instruments for His use and service. From the highest archangel to the creeping worm, from the loftiest mountain to the smallest grain of dust, all are intended to minister to God’s pleasure. Every created thing and being in heaven, earth, and sea is intended to be, in its measure, an expression of the glory of the invisible God.
So, too, in the universe of grace. Here, also, everything is intended to minister to God’s glory. Thus the Son of God became incarnate, that in Him the glory of the invisible God might shine forth. He was “the brightness of His (God’s) glory, and the express image (or substance) of His Person” (Heb. 1. 3). All that is of the essence of God was embodied in the Person of the Lord Jesus. His brightness was not the reflected brightness of His Father’s glory, but the very brightness of that glory itself. In Him God is revealed to us in all the perfections of His uncreated light and glory. Such an unveiling of the glory of God there never had been before. Truly:
“God in the person of His Son,
Hath all His mightiest works outdone.”
But He who was the effulgence of His Father’s glory is no longer here. He is now in heaven. Where is the glory of God resting now? It is resting on the Church. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, this beautiful vessel was formed, and upon it the glory of God is now resting, and through it the manifold wisdom of God is being made known. What honour God has heaped upon us! It is not through angels, principalities, and powers; it is not through heavens, worlds, and systems; it is not through sun, moon, and stars—it is largely through the Church that God is now revealing His perfections to the universe. Just as we give active expression to ourselves through the medium of our bodies, so, today, God is giving active expression to Himself through the medium of His body, the Church.
Such is the glory of the mystery. The Church is God’s vessel of testimony on earth. It is both her privilege and her responsibility to make known to men and angels the many-coloured glories of the manifold wisdom of God.
The word “riches” here is no mere instrument of rhetoric. For Paul, this wonderful mystery was overflowing with riches. All riches are attractive, but what riches could be more attractive to a spiritual mind than “the riches of the glory of the mystery”! What boundless wealth is intimated here! Elsewhere the Apostle speaks of “the weak and beggarly elements” of Judaism. A striking contrast this to “the riches of the glory of the mystery.” To be brought into the truth of the mystery is to be rich indeed. Power, not weakness; wealth, not poverty; is the keynote of the mystery. The word “riches,” therefore, well describes that mystery, the revelation of which has conferred such unspeakable blessings on Jews and Gentiles. What constitutes “the riches of the glory of the mystery”? The Apostle tells us: “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” These riches are here comprehended in three things: “Christ,” “Hope,” and “Glory”; Riches of Christ, Riches of Hope, and Riches of Glory.
Riches of Christ. “Christ in you,” says the Apostle. Christ in whom? Christ in you Gentiles. That was the wonderful thing. These sinners of the Gentiles not only received like precious privileges and like precious blessings with the heirs of the promises (Acts 11. 17), they also received a like precious Christ. Christ was among them, Christ was with them, Christ was for them, and, wonder of wonders, Christ was in them. Sinners they had been. In times past they had walked according to the course of this world, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and mind; but now, washed and sanctified, they were temples of the Holy Ghost. Christ was in them—in them saving them; in them separating them; in them transforming them; in them educating them; in them comforting them; in them both to will and to do His good pleasure.
And such a Christ, and such a privilege, is ours. He is not only among us, He is not only with us, He is not only for us, He is in us! What a heart-searching, soul-thrilling truth this is! Christ in us! Christ brought into our hearts by the Holy Ghost! That He should save us; that He should remove our transgressions as far as the East is from the West, is wonderful. But the greatest wonder is that He should take up His abode in us; that we should become the Temples of His Presence. May it be ours to be temples in deed and in truth; temples of love, light, and power.
“Make me a temple O my God,
Set apart for Thyself alone;
A temple cleansed, a temple radiant,
With Thee as Lord upon the throne.”
Riches of Hope. To sinners of the Gentiles this wonderful mystery not only brings riches of Christ, it brings riches of Hope. They had been without Christ and without hope; the mystery, therefore, brings a Christ to the Christless, and hope to the hopeless. Well might the Apostle speak of “the riches of the glory of the mystery”; overflowing all barriers, it dispenses its wealth even to despised Gentiles.
Be it noted: Christ first, then Hope. What is hope? Hope is the expectation of future good. But what expectation of future good could there have been for any child of Adam’s fallen race but for the down-stooping of the Son of God. He is Himself the hope of every contrite heart. He is the fountain from whence all the streams of hope flow. He is the “Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope” (1 Timothy 1. 1). He is Christian Hope personified; the beautiful grace of Hope is the fruit of which He is the root. This fruitful tree springs from the rich and fertile soil of His death and resurrection. God, “according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1.3). Natural hope sometimes dies, Christian hope never; it is bound up with Him who lives in the power of an endless life. While He lives Christian hope can never die. From whence comes this living hope? It arises from God’s abundant mercy. Upon what does it rest? It rests on the basis of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
“Hope is a living act
Of Jesus’ life within;
’Tis founded on the Gospel fact,
That Jesus died for sin.”
Riches of Glory. To sinners of the Gentiles this wonderful mystery not only brings riches of Christ and riches of Hope, it brings riches of Glory. The hope here is the hope of Glory. What is hope? Hope is the joyful anticipation of Glory. What is Glory? Glory is the crown and consummation of Hope. Two glories are mentioned in this verse under consideration; one is connected with the mystery, the other with the riches. The one is present, the other future; the one is here, the other is something outside of this scene altogether. The one is on earth, the other in heaven.
And what is true of hope, is true of glory. It is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Christ must be in me here, if I am to share His glory hereafter. Does not the Apostle speak of “salvation in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory”? (2 Timothy 2. 10). There can be no eternal glory without salvation in Christ Jesus, and there can be no salvation in Christ Jesus without eternal glory. He who is the Christ of hope and glory will not fail to bring many sons to eternal glory. Such is His gracious purpose, such will be the consummation of “the mystery.”
“A purpose, wondrous fair!
Of hope and glory, too,
Hope in time; the glory
When He maketh all things new.”
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