Wednesday July 31, 2019
EPH 3:1-10 The Secret of the Ages.
EPH 3:1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles —
Paul begins another prayer, but interrupts it (starts again in vs. 14) in order to relate the mystery of Christ.
EPH 3:2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace which was given to me for you;
Stewardship (Greek: oikonomia, literally “house law”) refers to the management of a household.
God by grace gave to Paul the management and administration of the affairs regarding the church to the Gentiles, and in specific, the mystery that is Christ.
EPH 3:3 that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.
EPH 3:4 And by referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,
“the mystery of Christ” - the unseen God revealed in Christ and disclosed by Him.
EPH 3:5 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;
No one could have known Christ through prophecy alone, just as a person cannot be known through pictures only.
To reveal Himself to us, He had to come to earth as a man, do the work that revealed His heart, and transform us into righteousness so that we could comprehend it.
JOH 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.
JOH 14:7 "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him."
JOH 14:8 Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us."
JOH 14:9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, 'Show us the Father'?
JOH 14:10 "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.
JOH 14:11 "Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves.
The mystery of Christ is the reality of fulfillment of what had been promised from long ages past. It is not something brand new.
To Cleopas and his companion while on the road to Emmaus:
LUK 24:25 And He said to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
LUK 24:26 "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?"
LUK 24:27 And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
LUK 24:32 And they said to one another, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?"
To the disciples in the room:
LUK 24:44 Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled."
LUK 24:45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,
LUK 24:46 and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day;
LUK 24:47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
LUK 24:48 "You are witnesses of these things.
LUK 24:49 "And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high."
The claims of the NT are based on the OT. If the OT is in doubt then the NT has nothing to stand on.
Written throughout the OT is the promise of a coming kingdom and a King of kings to sit on the throne. Christianity is the beginning of the fulfillment of those promises.
ACT 8:26 But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, "Arise and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza." (This is a desert road.)
ACT 8:27 And he arose and went; and behold, there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship.
ACT 8:28 And he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah.
ACT 8:29 And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go up and join this chariot."
ACT 8:30 And when Philip had run up, he heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?"
ACT 8:31 And he said, "Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
ACT 8:32 Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this [ISA 53:7-8]:
"He was led as a sheep to slaughter;
And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
So He does not open His mouth.
ACT 8:33 "In humiliation His judgment was taken away;
Who shall relate His generation?
For His life is removed from the earth."
ACT 8:34 And the eunuch answered Philip and said, "Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself, or of someone else?"
ACT 8:35 And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.
The synagogue and the church arrive at different answers to the eunuch’s question. But, the synagogue struggles with this passage. For nineteen hundred years, learned Jews have desired to see the picture that Isaiah paints here, while Christians clearly see the face of the crucified Christ.
Interpretations by of their most learned rabbis are widely divergent and often contradictory. Ibn Ezra says this is ‘extremely difficult.’ Isaac Elijah Cohen says: ‘I have never in my life seen or heard of the exposition of a clear or fluent commentator, in which my own judgment and that of others who have pondered on the same subject might completely acquiesce.’
The prophecy of Isa 53 speaks of suffering, but also of conquering, and of conquering by suffering. Suffering is human; conquering is divine: but to conquer by suffering is theanthropic.
What is interesting is that both Jews and Christians agree to the translation of Isa 53. There are no arguments over the translation from Hebrew to English. The Jew agrees that the subject is portrayed as lowly in His beginnings; suffering, sorrow, contempt, and death; that He would be accounted a transgressor, yet that His sufferings were vicarious, those of the just for the unjust, and this by God’s appointment; that in meek silence and willing submissiveness He would accept His doom; that His soul was an offering for sins which God accepted; that He made many righteous; that He intercedes for transgressors; that He is highly exalted in proportion to His humiliation; and that kings would submit to Him.
One commentator notes: ‘The question is not, “What is the picture?” in this all are agreed; but, “Whose image or likeness does it bear?”’
And so, the Ethiopian eunuch said it rightly, “Of whom does the prophet say this?”
What question we must answer is, does the OT really embody such a hope of a universal spiritual kingdom of God upon earth through the Messiah, as the NT writers saw fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth; or is this view of the OT only a later gloss put upon it by Christianity?
The OT in its different parts is obviously organically connected and pushes towards the same end, which is that of a universal kingdom of God upon earth and a King to rule it.
Prior to the coming of Christ, much of God and His purpose was a mystery. They had an outline, a shadow, a faint picture of what God purposed to do, but when Christ came, the picture became crystal clear. Christianity is the fulfillment of what had been promised from long ages past. There is still much more to come, but the fulfillment of much of God’s promises began to be fulfilled in our age, and therefore fulfilled in you and me. We are the pilot so to speak.
Indeed, even the disciples, very knowledgeable of the OT, and beholding daily the face and acts of the Messiah, failed to see its many prophecies fulfilled in Jesus.
JOH 12:14 And Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written,
JOH 12:15 "Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey's colt."
JOH 12:16 These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him.
They could not recognize any one single feature of OT prophecy, no matter how strongly it stood out (picture Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey), until the whole figure of the resurrected Christ stood before them bathed in heavenly light and literally showing them Himself in the OT scriptures. Then could each one of the prophecies be recognized in light of their total fulfillment.
The OT is full of Christ. Prophecy must be understood as a whole, fulfilled in Christ.
This shows us that understanding prophecy is more than knowing any one in particular, for they all point towards one King and His kingdom come. Prophecy must be viewed as a whole pointing towards a living and historical fulfillment in Christ.
In this way, prophecy is much easier to comprehend. Know all of them in the light of a resurrected Savior, first and foremost, and then you can safely look at them individually to study them.
We might miss the fact that prophetic quotations are very sparse in the gospels. Jesus hardly mentions them, but always points to Himself as the fulfillment of all OT prophecy. He was the promised king and He brought the kingdom of heaven with Him.
“It is in the light of the wider view of fulfilled prophecy which, as a whole and in all its parts, refers to the kingdom of God upon earth, that we must study individual predictions. They pass far beyond anything actual at the time of their utterance to the underlying ideal. They are one grand moving idea set forth with ever unfolding clearness: the hope of a great Fatherhood of God, of a great brotherhood of man, in which the grand connecting link, alike with God and man, should be the One who embodied all that was ideally possible in man, and Who manifested all that could be manifested of God; Who united the highest point in the human with the utmost condescension of the Divine - God and man; Who brought God’s reconciliation to man, and by it reconciled man to God, combining in Himself these two: the suffering of man and the conquering of God, and organically united them in conquering by suffering; One Who, by so doing, made possible, and introduced the Messianic kingdom of God, through the willing submission of man. Thus the God-Man fully realized the theanthropic idea of the whole Old Testament.” [Edersheim]
The fundamental idea in prophecy never changed from GEN 3:15, but it did unfold. The Messiah is the moving spring that runs throughout the entire New Testament. He is the most important reason for all revelation, and if that is not true then Israel is just another nation, and Christianity is just another religion, and the New Testament has nothing to stand on, removing its authority.
Last time we looked at Jer 23, which was the promise of the kingdom and the King.
JER 23:5 "Behold, the days are coming," declares the Lord,
"When I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch;
And He will reign as king and act wisely
And do justice and righteousness in the land.
JER 23:6 "In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell securely;
And this is His name by which He will be called,
'The Lord our righteousness.'
Isa 46 says that there is one grand purpose to all of human history and that God will accomplish all of His good pleasure.
Yet, the thinking man who knows of God’s essence, which all of us should, knows that “purpose” is not a word that should be used of God in its strictest sense. The word implies a reference to the future with a view of acting upon it in a definite manner. Strictly speaking we cannot associate a future with a Divine Being, the Alpha and Omega, who knows the end from the beginning, predestines, and foreknows. Nor yet the word planning, for planning implies uncertainty about the future and adaptation to its eventualities. Nothing is uncertain for God.
But we can only think of the future in these terms, and so God relates Himself to us who are slaves of time. He promised to the world through Israel that a King and a kingdom was coming so that mankind could exercise hope and faith, yet with God there was zero uncertainty that Christ would come and die and resurrect and rise again to heaven.
Tomorrow is uncertain for us; even an hour has some uncertainty. Therefore, God presents Himself to us in both ways so that we can somewhat understand and at the same time are sure to not make God into a man. He says that He plans, but those plans are certain, as it they’ve already happened, so can they really be called plans in the strictest sense? He says that He has a purpose, but also says that there is no question of its fulfillment. He is God who relates Himself to us in a perfect way that gives us a secure hope.
And so, revelation of the Messiah unfolds in the scripture as if it were a plan in progress. More revelation is given as time goes on, but all of it was determined before the foundation of the world.
We begin with the first prophecy of hope, and the first shows us a war.
GEN 3:15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel."
GEN 3:16 To the woman He said,
"I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Yet your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you."
“These words mean just what the church has always understood them, but modern critics have tried to change: that there must ever be a great conflict between Humanity and the principle of evil, as represented by the Serpent, and that in it Humanity will be ultimately victorious, in and through its Representative: crush the head of the Serpent, although in this not without damage, hurt, and the poison of death - and since this is true, all is changed. This Proto-Evangelion sets forth a principle; it ennobles our human nature by representing it as moral; it bears a promise; it contains a prophecy; it introduces the Golden Age. It is the noblest saying that could be given to Humanity, or to individual men, at the birth of their history. In it the Bible sets forth at its very opening these three great ethical principles, on which rests the whole Biblical teaching concerning the Messiah and His Kingdom:
…that man is capable of salvation; that all evil springs forth from sin, with which mortal combat must be waged; and that there will be a final victory over sin through the Representative of Humanity.