Ephesians 1:9
It was the high distinction of the Apostle Paul that to him, and not to any one of the twelve apostles, was committed the revelation of a great mystery. Ten times is this mystery named in his Epistles. It is called significantly "his gospel;" for which he was, indeed, an ambassador in bonds; but a gospel even more gloriously practical than it was speculative in its tendency and character. It was a revealed secret, "hid from generations" - indeed, hid "from the foundation of the world;" a matter, not indeed unknowable, but simply unknown till it came to light through the revelation of this last apostle.

I. THERE IS A TIME WHEN THE WORLD IS NOT READY FOR GOD'S MYSTERIES. The Divine purpose might be defeated by a premature disclosure to minds untrained for their reception. The presence of mysteries is a sort of moral training for man, in so far as it stimulates a sort of sober and devout inquisitiveness in minds blunted by sin, while reason needs likewise to be humbled under a sense of the necessity of illumination from on high. While we sit under the solemn shadows of Divine mysteries, we feel the need of lifting up our mantled eyeballs to the great Father of lights.

II. THE MYSTERY DOES NOT COME WITHOUT DUE PREPARATION HAVING BEEN MADE FOR IT. Not only is the New Testament contained in the Old, but the whole pre-Christian period is one long preparation for the coming of Christ. Not only the types and prophecies of the Mosaic dispensation, but the whole history of the world, with all the marvelously intricate movements of providence, had a certain Christward tendency and leaning, as if to prepare the way for him who was the end of the Law, the turning-point between the old and the new time, "the pivot on which the entire plan of God moves." Thus we find "the Incarnation to be the center of gravity to the world's great movements."

III. BUT THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL WHICH THE APOSTLE MADE KNOWN WAS A VERY LARGE AND INCLUSIVE THING, EMBRACING JEW AND GENTILE, HEAVEN AND EARTH, IN ITS FULL AND GRADUAL DEVELOPMENT. Sometimes it appears as if it meant only Christ: "To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). Sometimes it appears as if it included nothing but the reception of the Gentiles into the Christian Church upon conditions of perfect equality with the Jews: "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 fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel" (Ephesians 3:4-6). It was no mystery to pre-Christian ages that the Gentiles would be afterwards included in the Christian Church - for the prophetic Scriptures are full of the subject; but it was never known till after the day of Pentecost that the theocracy itself was to be abolished, and that a new dispensation was to be established, under which the old distinction of Jew and Gentile was to be abolished. Sometimes it appears as if it meant a Divine purpose or plan, with Christ for its Center, stretching out over the whole length of the Christian dispensation, and finally re-collecting into one "things on earth" and "things in heaven" (vers. 9, 10). In fact, it means all three things; for the Divine plan for "the summing up" of all things included, as one of its earliest and most momentous facts, the inclusion of the Gentiles in the Church, and Jesus Christ as the very Center of the whole Divine dispensation, to whom shall be "the gathering of the people" in all ages of the world. This is the mystery of the gospel: not the Church, as some say, restricting the term to believers of the Christian dispensation; for it was by the Church the mystery was to be made known: "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10). Yet the Church was included in this glorious mystery of God, as the form in which there should be the final "summing up" of all things in heaven and in earth. - T.C.

Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself.

1. The gospel is called the mystery of God's will. We must not expect to be able to grasp with our reason all that is contained in it.

2. God has made known to us His will, according to the good pleasure which He purposed in Himself.

II. THE PURPOSE OF GOD IN THIS DISPENSATION — "That He might gather together in one," etc.

1. The gospel is called the dispensation of the fulness of times.

2. The apostle teaches us that one end of this dispensation was, that God might gather together in one all things in Christ.

3. The apostle farther teaches us that the gospel is intended to unite in Christ all things, both which are in heaven and which are in earth.

(1)An argument for Christian love. In heaven charity never fails.

(2)An argument for Christian candour.

III. THE OBLIGATION WHICH LIES ON SUCH AS ENJOY THIS PRIVILEGE: to live to the praise and glory of God's grace.

(J. Lathrop, D. D.)

1. God works saving wisdom to none, to whom He opens not the doctrine of wisdom, the gospel of salvation.(1) God opens this saving wisdom to us outwardly, by the preaching of His ministers. As in great schools there are inferior ushers as well as the principal master, so it is here: it pleases God by man's outward ministry to open the eyes of the mind, and bring from darkness to light.(2) Man can but speak to the outward ears; God himself applies the doctrine to the heart.

2. The doctrine of our salvation through Christ is a hidden secrecy.(1) It is a mystery absolutely, because it is a thing of itself within the will of God, which no creature by itself is able to know. If a thing within my mind be such that no creature can know it further than I make it known — none doth know the things of man but the spirit of man — how great and deep a secret is that which is within God Himself?(2) Although now partly revealed, yet still a mystery because —

(a)Only partly revealed.

(b)Only revealed to a limited number. If the king acquaint some two or three of his nearest favourites with a secret, it remains a secret still in comparison with things commonly known.(3) The wisdom of the gospel is still a mystery, when it is now divulged, in regard of those whose eyes are not opened to see it, and their ears bored to attend to it. As news so common everywhere that they are no news are still secret to those who, being deaf, have never heard them, so the gospel is to this day a hidden riddle to many Christians by outward profession.

3. The reason why God reveals the gospel to any is simply His good pleasure. Human merit absolutely excluded, so there is no ground for anyone to boast.

(Paul Bayne.)

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