Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Great Gospel Mystery

Everybody loves a mystery. When I was growing up, Hardy Boys Mysteries were some of my favorite books. It seemed like every time I went to the library, I came home with more of them. I remember looking on the back cover at the list of all the titles and checking off which ones I had already read. When I got a little bit older, I graduated from Hardy Boys to Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie Mysteries. I enjoyed reading mystery books because they made me think. As I read, I rarely knew who committed the crime even though the author continually gave clues throughout the book. Sometimes those clues would lead to nothing more than a wild goose chase, but occasionally they were fairly easy to figure out. If you paid enough attention to the subtleties and clues, you could figure out the mystery. Whether you figured it out or not, the final pages would clearly unveil the mystery. There was always a review of the most important clues and those clues would all be tied together. The result was a completely clear picture of what really happened. The mystery was solved!

The words that Paul uses in Ephesians 5:32 are interesting. When referring to marriage, he says, “This is a great mystery.” What is he talking about? How is marriage a mystery? Marriage had been going on for thousands of years since God first instituted it in the Garden of Eden. When God instituted marriage, He used it to provide for our need for intimate relationship. He also used it to illustrate His nature. There wasn’t much mystery there—God established marriage as a permanent covenant relationship in order to show His covenant nature. He established marriage as a new, one-flesh union that replaced the individual lives who went before. That was a wonderful display of His regenerating nature.

The covenant nature and regenerating nature of marriage weren’t a mystery. God clearly revealed them when He first established the institution in Genesis 2. What remained a mystery was how God would accomplish those things. How would He fulfill His covenant? How could He establish a permanent, faithful covenant relationship with people who are completely unfaithful? How would He provide regeneration? How would He cause all old things to pass away without doing damage to His holiness? How would He make all things new? That was the mystery. And, like any good mystery, the Old Testament is filled with clues.

Looking back on the Old Testament from this side of the cross, we can see the entire Gospel in its pages. But from the perspective of the Old Testament saints, all they had was hope and trust in the promises of God. They didn’t see how the clues would all fit together but they trusted that God would fit them all together and reveal the mystery in His perfect timing. What is fascinating is that one of the clues God gave was marriage. Of course, many men in the Old Testament messed up the clues that God was giving them when they had multiple wives. That was never God’s design and it was sinful. Had they not engaged in that sin, they would have had a clearer picture of the mystery of salvation that God was revealing to them. But they were hard-headed just like we are.

If we treated marriage like we are supposed to, we wouldn’t have such a hard time spreading the Gospel. Instead, the testimony of Christ's love for His bride would abound because a wonderful picture of the Gospel would be constantly on display in our lives. Throughout the Old Testament, God used marriage as a clue to His redemptive purposes in Christ. They just didn’t get it. Today, God still uses marriage as a picture of His redemptive purposes in Christ. Imagine the response in the world today if we were to “get it” and display the sacrificial love of Christ for His bride in the way that we sacrificially love our wives. Once again, the church would be turning the world upside-down for Christ.

Hebrews 12:2


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