Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 4 * BOOK 26
I CORINTHIANS 3:10 – 4:2
We’ll be looking at the mysteries that are recorded in Paul’s epistles – Romans through Hebrews. We’ll see just how often Paul makes reference to the mysteries. Now the mysteries are a unique term, we have the word used in Matthew 13, when Jesus spoke of the mysteries of the Kingdom, but that was a different setting. But throughout Paul’s epistles he is constantly coming back to this term, “The mystery.” Now let’s begin with I Cor. 4:1. Remember what Paul has been talking about throughout these first three chapters.
I Corinthians 4:1
“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
Now underline that word `stewards’ and `the mysteries.’ The first thing we must do is define them. Remember back in the Old Testament when God was telling Abraham that he was going to be the father of a nation, with many people, and what was Abraham’s answer? “How can I be, I don’t have a son, all I have is this steward Eleazer of Damascus.” Now what in the world was Abraham talking about? Well, he was a manager. Now our word `economy’ really comes from the same root word that we get `steward.’ And all it is is someone who is a manager of a household or who is in control of something. And then Paul tells us in verse 2 that if we’re going to be the right kind of steward, or manager, then what do you have to be? Faithful.
I Corinthians 4:2
“Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”
Say you owned a business and you were moving to another state; and you leave your business in the care of a manager or steward, what would you expect him to be? Faithful and honest. He has to be a good, faithful steward of what belongs to you. The amazing thing is that Paul has given to every true believer an understanding of the mysteries. But the problem is that most believers don’t understand them. And so, I’ve just always made it a priority to try to help believers understand what are these mysteries that Paul is always referring to.
I’ve got this great big wagon wheel with all the spokes for an illustration. And within this wagon wheel are all the various mysteries that make up what I call this body of truth that Paul calls the dispensation of the Grace of God. And within this dispensation, or period of management, we have all of these Pauline doctrines that you won’t find anywhere else in your Bible. We’ll just take a run through the Scriptures during the remaining time we have in this lesson, and look at them. Now we’ll start back in the Book of Romans where the first one is found and we’ll just come right up through Paul’s letters.
So, Romans Chapter 11, verse 25. And of course this the great chapter where Paul makes it so certain that God is not through with the Nation of Israel. There’s a lot of literature that tries to say that He is, but the Book says that He is still going to return one day, and we think it’s getting soon. He’s yet going to fulfill everything He has promised to the Nation of Israel. Now here is one of the mysteries that was revealed to this apostle that no one else had ever dreamed of, and here it is:
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, (or secret, and this secret has been held in the mind of God until we come to this apostle) lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; (which a lot of Gentiles are tonight) that blindness in part (not forever, but they have been blinded for the the past 1900 + years) is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”
The Old Testament understood that God would one day save Gentiles, but they had no idea that it would be without Israel. See the whole idea in Isaiah 42:6, Isaiah 49:6, Isaiah 60:1-3, Zechariah 8:22-23 and other prophecies, that once Israel became the obedient vehicle, that “Kingdom of Priests,” then Israel would evangelize the Gentiles. But kept in the mind of God a total secret was that He would go to the Gentiles without Israel. They rejected Him, and He displaced them from Jerusalem, and dispersed them into the nations of the world, and now He has gone to the Gentiles with the Gospel of the Grace of God. A mystery, a secret, kept in the mind of God, but now revealed. Now our next mystery is found in Romans 16:25 right at the doxology of the chapter. And whenever you see this word `mystery’ it’s the same identical Greek word meaning secret (Musterion).
“Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my (Paul) gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation (or revealing) of the mystery, (secret) which was kept secret since the world began (or the ages).” So ever since the creation this had never been revealed that God would take salvation to the Gentiles by faith and faith alone. All the Old Testament was by way of Israel. Now the next one is in I Corinthians chapter 2:7, and here is where Paul has been dealing with wisdom. We looked at this not very long ago.
I Corinthians 2:7
“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, (secret) even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our (my) glory:”
Now what was it? That Jesus was The Christ, and that secret in the next verse was that the princes of this world didn’t know Who Christ was, for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. Now I’ve told my classes for years and years that Israel should have known Who Jesus was because the Old Testament was full of Him. Israel could have known if they would have just simply studied their Old Testament, but Israel did not know. Now don’t jump all over the Jews for their ignorance. America has had the Gospel (I Corinthians 15:1-4) preached, America has the Bible, I trust, in almost every home, and every library. Almost everywhere you go there are copies of the Scriptures, yet how much of America today knows that we are approaching the end-times? Very few.
There was a lady that told me recently that she saw in the supermarket a tabloid magazine that the headlines read, “Repent, The End Of The World Is Coming Next Week.” Leave it to a tabloid, but you see they know nothing of Biblical prophecy, they know nothing of all the details that God has already laid out for us. But even here in America, with all of our Bibles, very few people know or understand that we’re getting close. The Lord is about to intervene in human history. So in the Scripture we have just read, they didn’t know and we’re no different today. It was a secret that had been kept in the mind of God until He revealed it to the Apostle Paul. Now we’ve already looked at I Corinthians 4:1 in the first part of this lesson, so now let’s go to I Corinthians 13:2. Here’s the love chapter, and it sits right between the two chapters where Paul is dealing with the gifts of the Spirit.
I Corinthians 13:2
“And though I have the gift of prophecy, (which was a gift that was needed at that time before the Word came into print, and it was a gift. Men had the gift of speaking forth the Word of God even though it was not yet in print.) and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”
Now I think Paul is taking it beyond the mysteries given to him, because of pagan religion, and I’m afraid too many people don’t understand this. In all of the pagan religions of the world, what do they speak of when they speak of the very inner sanctum of that religion? The mysteries, the secret things that the common initiate (I call them), never are aware of. But the big wheels, the guys who are really at the head of everything, the guys who get all the wealth accumulated, they understand those mysteries, and they’re Satanic every time. If you ever have an opportunity to visit with missionaries from the still rather dark areas of the world where they are still in pagan practices, ask them if there is power in those pagan religions. You bet there’s power. Not God’s power, of course, but it’s that whole idea of the mysteries of those religions. But Paul is, I think, including both when he says hypothetically “even if I could,” it doesn’t say that he does. Now let’s go on to the next one, and that will be in I Corinthians 14:2.
I Corinthians 14:2
“For he that speaketh in an unknown (`unknown’ has been added by the translators, I prefer to leave it out.) tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries (or secrets that not everybody can understand. Still means the same thing. Those things that have been kept secret in the mind of God.).”
Now I Cor. 15:51. Here again is a truth that has never been revealed in Scripture. There is no hint of this in the Old Testament. Jesus never referred to it. What is it? The Rapture of the Church. It’s not called that here, but the language is such that you know that’s what it is.
I Corinthians 15:51
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; (what’s this secret? That there will be be a group of believers who will not die physically. Look how he explains it.) We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,”
We’re not going to go up to Heaven in this old body. We’re not going to die if we are part of this secret when it happens, and are resurrected and get a new body. But we’re going to be changed. A metamorphosis. Then Paul goes on to explain it further in the following verses.
I Corinthians 15:52
“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we (who are alive) shall be changed (in a moment).”
It was a mystery (also found in I Thessalonians 4:13-18) that no one had ever understood until the Lord revealed it to this apostle. Some people get Matthew 24 confused with this secret, but Matthew 24 deals strictly with the nation of Israel, the Tribulation, and His Second Coming to the earth. So don’t confuse those events with the Body of Christ which we are a part of. A good way to remember is that at the Rapture He comes for us in the air, and at His second coming we come with Him to the earth seven years later.
Now the next mystery is in Ephesians Chapter 1. I always stress when I teach Paul’s letters that he had a progressive revelation even as the Bible as a whole does. So some of these things come out in greater detail in his later prison epistles than they do in the first one, and this is very obvious. Romans and Corinthians were the pre-prison epistles. These are the revelations that Paul got early on, but when you get over here in Ephesians, Colossians and Timothy, this is toward the end of his writing career, and he has a greater revelation than he did back here. Never lose sight of that when you study Paul.
“Having made known (that is speaking of Christ, and our position in Him) unto us the mystery (secret) of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times (in other words when everything is complete) he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:”
In other words Paul says, “This is a secret now revealed that is the hope of the believer, that when God brings everything to it’s culmination, and we go into eternity, we will be the objects of His eternal purpose.” And what was His eternal purpose? His Mercy and Grace in saving lost sinners. The next mystery will be Ephesians 3:3, but in this mystery we almost have to start with verse 1.
“For this cause (in other words, everything that he wrote in the first two chapters) 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 didn’t get it from other men) he (The ascended Lord) made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, [Well what’s this particular mystery?]
“Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ;) Which in other ages (or past generations) was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles (remember Paul was not the last of the apostles, others followed after him during the apostolic age) and prophets by the Spirit; (and this is what this secret amounts to) That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel (“Gospel that saves” Ref. I Corinthians 15:1-4):”
Now remember, Israel never had a promise like that. Israel never had a promise that they would be joint-heirs with Christ. Do you know what that means? Everything that belongs to Christ now belongs to us believers also, as we are joint-heirs as Gentiles in this “Body of Christ.” Now drop down for the next one to verse 9, and we’ll almost have to start with verse 8. All of this is just a summarization, this is certainly not detailed commentary as I would like to teach on these mysteries.
“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship (meeting of the mind) of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world (age) hath been hid in God,…”
Now what’s Paul saying? Remember, he was talking earlier in this chapter that the Gentiles are going to be joint-heirs with Christ. And like I said, that’s something that the Jews had never heard of in their Covenant promises. But you and I, as Gentile believers, have this prospect that when we go into the eternal abode then we will be joint-heirs with Christ. Now in verse 9, Paul wanted this mystery to be seen by all believers, not just the spiritual, not just the pastors, or theologians, but everyone. Now what I can’t understand is why people can’t see that this wasn’t yet revealed during Christ’s earthly ministry. Jesus never indicated that there would ever be this kind of a consort between Himself and Gentiles. He only talked about Himself and Israel. But this was kept secret in the mind of God until it was revealed to this man. And now it comes out to the whole Gentile world, “Look at this glorious prospect of having a joint-heirship with Jesus Christ.” Now let’s look at the next one in Ephesians 6:19.
“And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery (secret) of the gospel.” (As given to Paul in I Corinthians 15:1-4.)
Now that’s what it says, and you can’t twist it to mean something else. Paul is now proclaiming something that had never been revealed before – that Gentiles as well as Jews can be saved by believing on the finished work of the Cross. Enter into this glorious relationship with Christ that makes us a joint-heir with Him, not for just this life but for all eternity. What a glorious prospect. It should make the hair on the back of our neck stand on end to think that this is what’s facing us. Not some great doom, and judgment. Not, I hope so, and maybe. But we have this assurance that this mystery is this fellowship that we as Gentiles are going to enjoy, and already do. The next one is found in Colossians 1:26, and again we also need to look at verse 25.
“Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, (Gentiles) to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; (and what is the secret?) which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Christ in a Gentile is something a Jew could never comprehend, but that’s what the Book says.
“That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery (secret) of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;” How few people will understand it. And if they do they won’t recognize it, they won’t acknowledge it. Now Chapter 4, verses 2 and 3:
“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:”
I Timothy 3:8,9
“Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.”
I Timothy 3:14-16
“These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh: justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”