The Body, the Church: 2

Colossians 1:18  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 11
“Wherefore remember, that ye being at one time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called the circumcision in the flesh made by hands—that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus ye who at one time were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity, the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that He might make in Himself of twain one new man, making peace; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby. And He came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.”
That is, in and for the church, such fleshly distinctions are done away. Beyond a doubt, in the church's glory accomplished on high, they will be unknown. But the apostle goes farther, and particularly insists that they are, and ought to be, unknown now. No man, not even Christ, known after the flesh, is the key-note of the church: “yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.” The church can rest on nothing short of death and resurrection. She rejoices in her Head glorified in heaven, and knows herself even now one with Him there. Consequently she is raised alike above the high estate of the Jew, and above the low estate of the Gentile. “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior” (Phil. 3:2020For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: (Philippians 3:20)).
But again, if the mass of those gathered into the church were dark, outcast Gentiles; if they could not say, we are “Israelites, to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises, whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever,” they received a better adoption and a more surpassing glory: not merely covenants connected with earthly things and presented by a Messiah (whatever His own personal dignity), as minister of the circumcision, for the truth of God to confirm the promises made unto the fathers; but the unsearchable riches of Christ freely given, which it was meet for the God of grace and glory to bestow upon the far-off penury and wretchedness of those who possessed nothing!
This was “the mystery” which was specially entrusted to the apostle Paul, made known unto him by revelation, “as I wrote afore in a few words, whereby when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ; which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it was 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.” It consists of Christ as well as of the church, she only by grace having oneness with Him Who is Head over all things.
In previous ages the Spirit had quickened souls: there was nothing strange in that. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work,” said the Son of God, not yet lifted up. The extraordinary thing was, that, when the Jews perverted their singular endowments to sin and insult the most aggravated against God, not aiding only but provoking and inciting the Gentiles to the crucifixion of their own Messiah, occasion was taken of the breach thus of necessity made between God and a guilty world, to introduce a secret hitherto undisclosed but now unveiled. The elect nation had consummated their corruption and violence. God's name was blasphemed among the heathen through those who were separated to be the grand depository of His oracles and the witness of His character on earth. What remained, if thus the earth and its choicest people were in rebellion? Heaven; and so, in the depths of divine compassion and wisdom and love, God began to create a new body neither Jewish nor Gentile properly, though chosen out of either, both made one, both reconciled in one body, destined for a sphere as alien from the most exalted as from the most debased of earth.
“God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause His face to shine upon us,” say the Jewish saints in Psa. 67, “that thy way may be made known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him.” Such is the order of blessing in the world to come: the Jews in the inner circle, and in the outer the Gentiles through them glad and singing for joy, for God will govern in righteousness. The blessing of the nations was an ancient and reiterated truth; proclaimed to Abraham (Gen. 12:33And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 12:3)), renewed to the seed (Gen 22:1818And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. (Genesis 22:18)), repeated to Isaac (Gen 26:44And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; (Genesis 26:4)), and to Jacob (Gen 28:1414And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 28:14)). It was bound up in terms with the promises so well-known and cherished, which guaranteed the highest seat on earth to the seed of Abraham.
Is, then, a most certain and familiar pledge of Gentile blessing in the promised seed, so often and not obscurely referred to in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms—is this the mystery which has been “hid from ages and from generations, but is now made manifest to the saints”? Can that with propriety be said specially and absolutely to be hid, which was among the simplest and most frequently recurring household-words of the people of God, from the time of the first promise to the patriarchs? There is no secret nor silence about that which was published from age to age, and declared from generation to generation. What was made known to the fathers, and indeed to all Israel, cannot be, for this very reason, the mystery of Christ — that peculiar mystery, “which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it was now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.”
Some, I am aware, through unbelief and a consequent lack of spiritual intelligence and heed to human tradition, have unwittingly sought to neutralize the specialty, and thereby the nature and being, of “the mystery,” by the assumption that it had been revealed from the beginning, and that it was always, though dimly, understood by the Old Testament saints. The answer is plain and direct: the apostle Paul says positively that “it was now revealed.” From the beginning of the world it was hid in God (Eph. 3:99And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: (Ephesians 3:9)). To the apostles and prophets it was now revealed, and to none previously — ώς νῦν ἀπεκαλύφθη τοῖς ἁγίοις ἀποστόλοις αύτοῦ καὶ προφήταις ξν πνεύματι. Certainly it is not to the apostles at the present and to the prophets at a former time. It was “now” revealed, and that to persons joined together as a common class to which the revelation was then made; as the structure of the words necessarily implies to any competent to judge of such a question, shutting out therefore the idea of any prophets being referred to before the Pentecostal mission of the Spirit. The prophets, alluded to in the text, were of the present economy as much as the apostles were; and therefore the words, far from weakening, tend directly to strengthen the distinctive character of “the mystery,” as a thing wholly unrevealed in former times. It was a new revelation. (To be continued, D.V.)