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A MYSTERY

There was a mystery which was kept secret from the foundation of the world, “hid in God,” a mystery which was revealed to none of the sons of God before the gospel age, a mystery of which Paul alone of all the apostles was made a minister. This dispensation of the gospel was committed unto him, that whether he preached willingly or by constraint, still it had to be preached. Necessity was laid upon him, and there was a woe unto him if he preached it not. The whole work of salvation is a mystery, and no part of it can be understood with the natural mind. But there was a special feature of this great work of salvation which had been hidden until the gospel age, and this special feature of the work of grace was given to Paul to preach unto the Gentiles. It was for the Gentiles’ sake that Paul was a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and while there were twelve apostles unto the Jews, we, the Gentiles, have Paul, who is the thirteenth apostle.

This mystery of which Paul was made a minister he tells us about in his letter to the church at Ephesus. Now, the church at Ephesus was a Gentile church and Paul was a Jew. The same truth which was revealed in Paul was also revealed in these Gentile brethren. These Gentiles knew nothing about Judaism, and were strangers to that covenant which God gave Israel by the hand of Moses. This Mosaic covenant forbade the Jews to deal with the Gentiles. According to that covenant no Gentiles had any right to the feasts or the solemn assemblies of the Jews; they could not partake in the temple service, nor in any of the sacrifices or holy things. From all these the Gentiles were shut out. He did not have the oracles of God, he did not have the prophets, none of the types or shadows, was indeed barred from all the blessings and privileges of the Israelites. Consequently the Mosaic law constituted a barrier between Jew and Gentile, it was a “middle wall of partition” forbidding intercourse and fellowship between them. It was a handwriting of legal ordinances enjoined upon Israel for their obedience, carrying with it blessings for the observance and punishments for the breach. But none of these blessings or punishments could ever be the lot of the Gentiles, for the Gentiles were never under the Mosaic law. If Jesus, therefore, were made under the Mosaic law he would be the Savior of none but Jews, no Gentile could ever benefit by the shedding of Jesus’ blood.

When the Scripture says that Jesus was made of a woman, made under the law, it is not the Mosaic law which is meant, but the law under which Adam fell in condemnation, which fall embraced all the elect of God in Adam. This fall embraced both Jew and Gentile, for there was yet no difference between Jew and Gentile when Adam transgressed. The obedience of Jesus was not confined to the law of Moses, but his obedience was unto the law of God, of which law of God the law of Moses was but a faint shadow, portraying in the temporal blessings which fell to the lot of Israel the spiritual blessings which under the new covenant fall to the lot of spiritual Israel.

Indeed, literally, Jesus did not keep the Mosaic law at all. That law forbade any work whatsoever on the sabbath day, and Jesus did pluck ears of corn on that day. That law said, Honor thy father and mother, and Jesus never did honor Mary as his mother nor Joseph as his father. That law said that any man calling himself equal with God was a blasphemer and was to be put to death, and Jesus did say, I and my Father are one. All these, and other acts which Jesus did, were looked upon as literal breaches of the law. But in the spirit Jesus did keep the law, and fulfilled to every jot and little its spiritual import; but he did far more, he obeyed the law and the will of God, so that his salvation is not confined to Jews, which it would have been had he obeyed merely the law of Moses, but reaches out and takes in both Jew and Gentile: all his people from the four winds of heaven and from the four comers of the earth, in every nation, kindred, tribe and tongue.

Thus we see that the Mosaic law comprised a “handwriting of ordinances” which was against the Gentiles, being contrary to them, because they were barred from the observance of it and from the blessings or privileges or punishments of it.

This Mosaic covenant made an enmity between Jew and Gentile. So when Jesus died it ended the old covenant. He took away the handwriting of ordinances, nailing them to his cross, thus abolishing the enmity. This expression, “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity,” and that other expression, “Having slain the enmity” by the cross, both found in the second chapter of Ephesians, do not refer at all to the enmity of the carnal mind and the mind of Christ, nor to the enmity between the flesh and the Spirit, but to the enmity between Jew and Gentile, which enmity arose from the makeup of the Mosaic covenant which excluded Gentiles from participating in it. This enmity, this old covenant, had to be abolished before Gentiles could come into the kingdom of God. This abolition Jesus performed by the death of the cross.

Resulting from this death of Jesus comes the revelation of the mystery kept hid from the foundation of the world, and it is thus: the church, or body of Christ, composed of both Jews and Gentiles, are one in the kingdom of God. Having broken down the middle wall of partition Christ made of the twain one new man. The “twain” means two, and the two are Jew and the Gentile. Of these two he makes one new man, or one new body, the body of Christ. All are members of his flesh and of his bones, all fitly joined together, growing unto a holy temple in the Lord, builded through the Spirit for the habitation of his honor and glory. The children of God are not destined to become perfect men and perfect women. No, never. The gospel holds forth no such promise, but we all shall, that is, all his people from among both Jews and Gentiles, shall ultimately come unto the one perfect man, and that one perfect man is the measure of stature of the fullness of Christ. We shall all become as we already are, molded into one body, the body of our Lord.

Paul says somewhere in writing to the church at Corinth, Ye are all one bread. No loaf of bread can by any possibility be resolved back into its original grains of wheat. Each grain and all the grains lose their separateness when in the loaf of bread. Just so, only infinitely more co, the body of Christ while composed of redeemed sinners of Adam’s fallen race can never be resolved back again into the individual men and women whence it came. Now this is the mystery which Paul particularly refers to in his letter to the church at Ephesus: “That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body (with the Jews), and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” This doctrine of the new man; that is, of the body of Christ, made of Jew and Gentile, a wholly new thing until the resurrection of Christ, that is the special dispensation which was committed unto Paul to preach. It was not in other ages made known unto the eons of men, but it is now in the gospel age revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

In come of the prophecies of the Old Testament, to be sure, there is abundant evidence of the bringing of the Gentiles to the light of the truth. Especially is this true of the prophecies of Isaiah. But that One body, or one new man, was to be formed of the hosts of the redeemed from among both Jews and Gentiles that both were to be quickened together with Christ and to be raised up together with Christ, and both to be made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ; we say all this had been kept hid throughout all the ages heretofore to be revealed and made known in these last times, and was first made known in the ministry of Paul, the Gentiles’ apostle, and was the special dispensation of the gospel committed unto him. This, the unity of the whole church of God in the one body of the new man, Christ Jesus, is the “unsearchable riches of Christ” which Paul says he was especially called to preach among the Gentiles. This oneness of Christ and his people, whosoever they may be in the flesh, whether Jew or Gentile, bond or free, Greek or barbarian, is the gist and kernel of the whole gospel matter. It is the fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined, on which God feasts his children in his holy mount.

Elder H. H. Lefferts
Nov. 1, 1920
(We question if Paul was the 13th Apostle. Ed.)

Republished – Signs of the Times
Volume 151, No. 1
January 1983