Note carefully II Timothy 1:8:
“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God”
Most Christian preachers and most people are ashamed of Paul and the mystery, and ashamed of the specific testimony of the Lord which Paul here refers to. Only those who suffer for proclaiming the mystery are the partakers of the afflictions of the gospel mentioned in II Timothy 1:8; for in verse nine we are told it refers to that purpose of God which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before Adam was created, but was manifested by the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, Who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.” II Timothy 1:10 and 11. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us, that denying ungodliness and wordly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:11 to 13. So this is saving grace. Note II Corinthians 9:8: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” This is enabling grace. Then this is teaching grace. As members of the Body of Christ, saved by grace, we shall not be ashamed and we shall look for the blessed hope. All of this is quite different from the Lord Jesus as the Son of man, on His earthly throne in Matthew 25:31 to 41. Now let us compare
Matthew 10:5 to 8 and 23
“THESE TWELVE JESUS SENT FORTH, AND COMMANDED THEM, SAYING, GO NOT INTO THE WAY OF THE GENTILES, AND INTO ANY CITY OF THE SAMARITANS ENTER YE NOT: BUT GO RATHER TO THE LOST SHEEP OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL, AND AS YE GO PREACH, SAYING, THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND. HEAL THE SICK, CLEANSE THE LEPERS, RAISE THE DEAD, CAST OUT DEVILS, FREELY YE HAVE RECEIVED, FREELY GIVE.” “BUT WHEN THEY PERSECUTE YOU IN THIS CITY, FLEE YE INTO ANOTHER; FOR VERILY I SAY UNTO YOU, YE SHALL NOT HAVE GONE OVER THE CITIES OF ISRAEL, TILL THE SON OF MAN BE COME.”
Titus 2:11 to 13
“FOR THE GRACE OF GOD THAT BRINGETH SALVATION HATH APPEARED TO ALL MEN, TEACHING US THAT, DENYING UNGODLINESS AND WORLDLY LUSTS, WE SHOULD LIVE SOBERLY, RIGHTEOUSLY, AND GODLY, IN THIS PRESENT WORLD: LOOKING FOR THAT BLESSED HOPE, AND THE GLORIOUS APPEARING OF THE GREAT GOD AND OUR SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST.”
I Timothy 1:11 and 5:23
“ACCORDING TO THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL OF THE BLESSED GOD, WHICH WAS COMMITTED TO MY TRUST” (PAUL). “USE A LITTLE WINE FOR THEIR OFTEN SICKNESSES.”
As we compare these programs we wonder why any of God’s people are so foolish as to condemn “dispensational” Bible study. There is only one intelligent Divine principle to be employed by members of the Body of Christ for the interpretation, appropriation, and application of Divine Truth recorded before the Lord Jesus Christ gave Paul, by special revelation, the dispensation of the grace of God. This principle is to study all the Old Testament Scriptures, Genesis, the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms in the light of the Pauline “grace” message contained in Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, II Timothy, and other Epistles.
Jesus Christ, on earth, was a Minister of the circumcision, with a message in fulfillment of Scripture (Romans 15:8). The Holy Spirit led Paul to write II Corinthians 5:16: “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.” Therefore, the earthly ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, and the ministry of the twelve apostles, in the first eleven chapters of Acts, must be studied in the light of the same Pauline Truth concerning Christ and the members of His Body. The dispensation of grace was given to Paul to supplement and supersede Christ’s “confirmation” ministry to Israel concerning the kingdom of heaven. This kingdom is in abeyance during this parenthetical period.
This does not mean that any intelligent, spiritual child of God will be guilty of a wholesale discard of God’s Divine messages given before Christ came, during His earthly ministry, or given to the Twelve thereafter. But we must have some better Divine principle for the appropriation or elimination of the truth of God in other ages than the “hit-and-miss” “snatch-grab” method employed by most Christians.
There is a sense in which all Scripture is to be interpreted and applied as to whether it was given before or after the great event declared in Acts 14:27: “And when they were come and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.”
“Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself.” Ephesians 1:9.
Here we have the fact that God hath made known “the mystery of His will.” In connection with that revealed secret, note the truth of verse eleven: “In Whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.” Because this particular phase of God’s will was predestinated by God, but not disclosed by Him until it was made known to and by the Apostle Paul, it was called “the mystery of God’s will.”
God’s will for His people was expressed in the Old Testament Scriptures. In those Scriptures we find God’s prophesied will; but the will of God given to any generation of His people, or prophesied in the Scriptures for some future generation of His people, would not be called “the mystery of His will.” “The mystery of God’s will” refers to “the eternal purpose” of God in Christ Jesus, the purpose given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. Note again Ephesians 1:4: “According as He hath chosen us in Him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” Ephesians 3:11: “According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” II Timothy 1:9: “Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” Also note Romans 8:28 to 30.
From generations and ages God withheld His sacred and glorious secret. Colossians 1:26. But after God made known “the mystery,” His desire was, and is, that His servants make all to see what is “the dispensation of the mystery” which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God. Ephesians 3:9. Note the duty of the Lord’s servants expressed in I Corinthians 4:1 and 2: “Let a man so account of us, as the ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”
Now let us note Paul’s testimony in Ephesians 3:1 to 6: “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 you-ward: How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery (as I wrote afore in 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 is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same Body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel.”
What method did God employ to make known the mystery of His will? “How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery.” Not unto Peter, or any of his fellow-apostles; but unto Paul. “My knowledge in the mystery of Christ.” When other saints read they were to understand Paul’s knowledge in the mystery of Christ, and then make others see it.
The Apostle Paul wanted to tell many others concerning this glorious truth, hence his request for prayer: “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 and 20.
Sometimes we wonder at the power of Satan and what success he has in hindering the servants of the Lord. Note Paul’s words to the Thessalonians, in I Thessalonians 2:18: “Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again, but Satan hindered us.”
Paul wrote the Epistle to the Ephesians from the Roman jail. He was the prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ for the Gentiles. He was in jail for the secret. Satan was determined that the secret should not be told. God wanted all to see the dispensation of the mystery: “To the intent that now unto principalities and powers in the heavenlies might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.” Ephesians 3:10. In Ephesians 6:12, we learn that Satan had much to do with the principalities and powers in the heavenlies. It was in that connection that Paul instructed saints to put on the whole armour of God to stand against the wiles of the devil; and he closed by urging every saint in the Body of Christ to pray that utterance might be given unto him to open his mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel. If that courageous uncompromising, fearless apostle needed prayer for utterance and boldness, surely ordinary saints like us need much more.
But Satan has the great majority of church leaders so interested in their denominational religious program that they are utterly ignorant of the fact that there is such a truth in the Bible, as “the mystery of God’s will,”—“the dispensation of the mystery”—“the mystery of Christ”— “the mystery of the gospel”. And so they never open their mouths boldly, or any other way, to make known “the mystery.”
Other Fundamentalists, who are looked up to as spiritual leaders, and authority on dispensationalism, are like the lawyers of whom Christ on earth spoke. He said, “Ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” Luke 11:52. These brethren make little or no effort to open their mouths boldly to make known the mystery, but, on the other hand, they help the devil out by opposing the servants of Christ who are seeking to do God’s will in this respect.
Then there are some dear brethren who call themselves “diplomats.” They are like Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night, or like Peter who practiced duplicity at Antioch because he feared them that were of the circumcision. Galatians 2:11 to 15. These brethren keep their mouths closed concerning their knowledge of the mystery to keep peace in the camp, and incidentally to keep themselves in good standing for speaking engagements and financial offerings.
Of course Paul could have been such a diplomat, compromiser, or coward, and kept out of jail; but his motto in Christian service was Galatians 1:10: “For do I now persuade men or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” He fought a good fight. He kept the faith. In I Timothy 1:16, the Holy Spirit presents Paul as the pattern for believers. In the midst of his afflictions and bonds, Paul wrote from the jail, “Brethren be followers together of me.” Philippians 3:17.
But what is the duty of every child of God, every member of the Body of Christ who claims to be the Lord’s servant? His duty, with respect to this profound and glorious truth, is to open his mouth boldly and to make it known. But before that saint endeavors to make known the mystery of His will, he should be taught it in God’s specific way as given in Ephesians 1:17 to 19:
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; The eyes of your understanding being enlightened: that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.” Ephesians 3:16 to 19: “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”
May we ask you a few questions?
One—Does not God tell us in Ephesians 1:9 that He has made known His secret, and that that secret has to do with His predestinated purpose, which means, that members of Christ’s Body were chosen in Christ before the world began?
Two—Does not the Apostle Paul tell us that he was the Lord’s first human depository of that glorious truth; that he was selected by the Lord to preach this truth, which he calls “the unsearchable riches of Christ”?
Three—Does not God want all members of the Body of Christ to see the dispensation of the mystery which had been hid in God, and hid from generations and ages until made known to Paul by Christ, by revelation?
Four—If you are a saint, does not the Lord want you to know the mystery of God’s will and then to open your mouth boldly and so utter this truth that your fellow-saints may know it? Any intelligent and honest believer, who will carefully read Ephesians, will answer “yes” to these four questions. Then remember God’s Word, “to him that knoweth to do right and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
Of course the young preacher feels a timidity in speaking out boldly concerning this truth when he observes that the older Christian leaders, who are supposed to be big Bible teachers, keep their mouths closed, either because of ignorance or cowardice. What a pity! For this truth is the most wonderful truth in the Bible for saints. The devil does not want it made known; he does not want any to see the mystery of the gospel. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit want every saint to know it, and talk it over with other saints, and tell it to other members of the Body of Christ.
Now carefully consider before answering this question: Do you know a loyal, zealous denominationalist who is endeavouring to make known the mystery? Certainly not. Do you know one zealous immersionist or baptizer who is making the mystery known? Certainly not. For none of them know what the mystery is. The knowledge of just one aspect of the mystery is sufficient to deliver any member of the Body of Christ from sectarianism, or any kind of religious water ceremony. The entire truth concerning the mystery of God’s will, the dispensation of the mystery, is centered around the making of the One New Man of Ephesians 2:15, the revelation of the secret of Ephesians 5:31 and 32, that members of Christ’s Body and Christ are one flesh; that God, under the dispensation of grace, is building one Church, and only one, the Body of Christ, the fulness of Christ, called in Ephesians 3:6, the Joint-Body.
How can any enthusiastic, zealous Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Episcopalian, or Baptist, who is devoting his time to the building up of his denomination, make known the mystery of God’s will, when he himself is going contrary to that will by his sectarian activities?
The mystery includes much more than the “oneness” of believers.
Jews and Gentiles in Christ are in one Body. This is one phase of the mystery. The mystery is the remedy for every ‘ ‘ism’ and ill with which the Church of Christ is afflicted, and the Holy Spirit wants the members of the .Body to be established in this high and blessed truth so that they will be no longer children tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. Ephesians 4:14.
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.