God’s Greatest Secret


Arthur Conan Doyle's Crime solving detective "Sherlock Holmes" made his living by solving otherwise inscrutable mysteries which people brought to him. By observing the ash from a cigar, or the color of mud on someone's trousers and so forth he would deduce who they where, where they came from and so on. At the end of the Mystery, the good Dr. Watson is always amazed at Holmes' deductions even after they are explained to him.
Even for Sherlock Holmes however, some mysteries cannot be solved using even the brightest and most piercing logic. These are the mysteries of God. There are many things which can be learned about God from the natural world; but not everything.
In 1265 AD Theologian Thomas Aquinas began a monumental work named Summa Theologica in which he endeavored to record "the sum off all theology." He argued from nature, the Bible and secular sources; discerning and recording all that he could. He wrote hundreds of pages. But on December 6, 1273 he had a vision in which it is said, God revealed His glory to him and Thomas Aquinas promptly put down his pen and never wrote again stating that after thousands of pages of cataloging the nature of God, "I can write no more. I have seen things which make all my writings like straw." He died Three months later, March 7, 1274
Aquinas had run head on into what the Bible calls a mystery. In Biblical terms "mystery" does not refer to something that can be discovered by examining the facts; but rather something which God has planned even before the world was made and which can only be learned by revelation from God.
The Bible describes several different doctrines as "Mysteries," almost all of them dealing in some way with salvation "“ God's plan of the ages and our position in Christ.
I want to walk briskly through several of them with you this morning starting with the thorny problem concerning God's chosen people Israel "“ somehow failing to choose God's Messiah.
Unbelief of the Jews
Salvation in general wasn't completely a mystery in the full sense but different aspects of it were. One thing to keep in mind is that hindsight is 20/20. It's easy for us to read through the Psalms and the prophets and pick out all the details that precisely mirror the life of Jesus. It's also quite easy to see the relative locations of buildings, rivers, and roadways from an airplane, but not so easy from ground level.
This is the type of problem that has, in part, caused a current unbelief among God's chosen people, the Jews.
Romans 11:25 says
"For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery"”so that you will not be wise in your own estimation"”that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in;" (Ro 11:25, NASB95)
Paul was constantly ramming his head against the hard wall of the synagogue. Yes there was a majority of Jews in the earliest church but that began to change as Paul's ministry progressed. As a "rule" the Jews constantly turned away, while the gentiles embraced their messiah.
But unbeknownst at the time it was in God's plan. The Jews will accept Him en-mass once the set number of Gentiles is redeemed.
Gentile Salvation
In Acts 10 When Peter first preached the gospel to Cornelius' household ushering in the first gentile converts he was chastised by some in chapter 11. After he explained how God had filled them with His Spirit the Bible says that, "When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life."" (Acts 11:18)
Up to that moment, gentile salvation was a mystery. Paul refers to this in a few different places but let me refer you to Colossians 1:25-27
"I have become [the gospel's] servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness–the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Jews & Gentiles as One Church
Six times in the small book of Ephesians Paul talks about the mystery of the gospel and the mystery of Christ, all of which revolve, as does Colossians around the fact that God has brought the Jews and the Gentiles together to form one Church.
""¦ By revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (Eph 3:3-6, NASB95)
(Compare: Eph. 1:9, 10; 3:8"“11; Col. 1:25"“27)
The relationship between Christ and his Church
Last week we had a wedding. The wedding is just a ceremony but it's the event that get's everyone's attention. The real investment however is the marriage. That's where all the drama takes place, as two people become one family. The mystery of Christ's relationship to the church is explained in the parable of marriage.
Ephesians 5 brings us a number of lessons for how a husband and wife should relate. At their heart "“ these are not just wise injunctions aimed at keeping harmony in the household "“ they form a picture concerning how the church (embodied in the wife) relates (submissively) to Christ (husband) who lovingly sacrifices self in order to make her holy.
(Ephesians 5:31-32)
The Unknown
There are many other mysteries which God has revealed. Things like the resurrection from the dead, (1 Co 15:51) and the Coming of the Antichrist, (2 Thess 2:3-10). A quick search on "Mystery" in your Bible reveals a number of fascinating passages meant to draw your attention towards God's perfect wisdom and power, so that we might worship Him.
So it leads me to this question: Does God still have any secrets? Yes he does! The scripture says,
"The secret things belong to the Lord, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever." (Deut 29:29)
As Thomas Aquinas discovered, there still remains far more to God than we can learn without him revealing it directly to us. But those things which we have learned "” these are the teachings which are intended to be passed from generation to generation. The salvation of our souls by the sacrifice of God's Son, Jesus Christ. The inclusion of Gentiles in the church with God's chosen people; and the model of Marriage as a model of Christ's relationship with His church.
Salvation is God's greatest secret revealed to us by His prophets and apostles.
That's the secret"¦ Pass it on.