The Mystery and the Covenants: 1

 •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 11
While it is of the utmost moment to remember that the death of Christ is the only possible basis of divine blessing in a world ruined by sin, yet has it pleased God, for the display of His divers perfections, to make many spheres, the center of which will ever be found to be His Son, Christ the Lord. Our wisdom will be to distinguish these things that differ; that so we may grow thereby in holy familiarity with all the ways in which the various glory of Christ is developed unto the praise of our God. So led, we shall be kept, through His mercy and unerring word, from the many and opposing currents of human feeling which strongly tend to distract us from the paths of His calm and happy guidance. His glory steadily kept in view solves all difficulties, and is the best answer to all questions of the due place for Enoch, Abraham, and other elders, as compared with the church of the first-born. Our secret of blessing is more and more to learn and adore the grace of Him Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. The Christian can understand and sympathize with the jealousy which takes fire at the idea of preaching any other gospel than that which an apostle preached; as if there could be salvation save by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. But if we heard one quoting Gal. 1 to show that the very same thing was meant by the gospel there, by the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 24:1414And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:14)), by that which was preached to Zacharias (Luke 1:1919And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings. (Luke 1:19)), to Abraham (Gal. 3:88And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. (Galatians 3:8)), to Israel in the wilderness (Heb. 4:22For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. (Hebrews 4:2)), to Paul (1 Thess. 3:66But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: (1 Thessalonians 3:6)), to God's servants, the prophets (Rev. 10:77But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets. (Revelation 10:7)), as well as by the everlasting gospel in Rev. 14:66And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, (Revelation 14:6), we should feel that εὐαγγέλιου and εὐαγγελίζω were unscripturally limited, through our conventional usage of the word “gospel” in English; and so the profit was missed of the distinct force in each of the applications of the term in the perfect word of God.
The truth of the case beyond question is, that the word “gospel” is used there in a far wider manner than is common with us, who confine it to the word of salvation through the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. In that sense, there can be none other; and such is the meaning in Gal., where the apostle utterly denies a different gospel which is not another. There can be none, save that of the grace of Christ, Who gave Himself for our sins. To insist even on so apparently slight a matter as the circumcision of a Gentile believer, as well as on his faith of Christ, is in effect to frustrate the grace of God; and so Christ is dead in vain. Make circumcision, along with believing in Christ, to be the necessary means of the blessing, and Christ is become of no effect to you. You have slipped from the only tenure of the liberty wherewith Christ emancipates. You may have become far more “religious.” You may rival the Jews in observing days, and months, and times, and years. You may have fallen into no outward immorality; but you have done that which is infinitely worse, for you are severed from the root both of real holiness and of salvation by Christ. “Ye are fallen away from grace.”
But, that the word εὐαγγέλιου 1 (gospel) and the corresponding verb are applied in scripture to many other glad tidings, besides those of salvation through the death and resurrection of the Savior, is beyond a doubt to an unprejudiced mind. The scriptures, already referred to, set this at rest. It is true, on the other hand, that what is called the “promise” to Adam is really no such thing (Gen. 3:1515And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15)). It was part of the judgment on the serpent; and, so far as it can be said to be a promise, it was such to the Second, and not to the first, Adam. As to all the promises of God, in Him is the Yea, and through Him the Amen, to God for glory by us (2 Cor. 1).
But the pre-evangelization to Abram, that all the nations should be blessed in him, is a very different message from that which the Lord in the days of His flesh commissioned the twelve to preach, when He said, “Go not in the way of the Gentiles.” Nor can the gospel of the grace of God, which now gathers Jew and Greek for heavenly glory, be rightly confounded with the everlasting gospel which the angel is by-and-by to preach, saying, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come.” God will then send to the Gentile world the simple tidings of the bruised woman's Seed as the vanquisher of Satan, backed up by the message of judgment at the door. In fine as a question of salvation, there can be but one gospel; while in another and in its place an important sense, repeatedly enunciated in God's word, there are many glad tidings, whose several bearings must be admitted, if we would be wise in the dispensations of God.
These observations may suitably enough precede our more immediate subject. For though one admits the connection, but not strict identity, of the Abrahamic covenant with the new covenant, which is to be made with the houses of Israel and Judah, it is impossible to show that the “mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3) is included in the oath to Abraham (Gen. 22). The difficulty arises from not seeing the proper distinctive position of the church, body and spouse of Christ, as now being formed and gathered by the Holy Ghost (sent down from heaven) into union with Christ the Head in the heavenly places.
To explain—there are, besides types, many statements in the Old Testament which leave room for the church, and bear, upon some of its circumstances and destiny, and thus are, or ought to be, full of light to us, now that its calling exists as a reality. On the other hand, the Holy Ghost is express in Eph. 3, not merely that the church did not exist, but that it was not even made known in other ages to the sons of men, as it is now revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets. From the beginning of the world this mystery of Christ was hid in God. The Seed of the woman was no secret, neither was the Son of Abraham, nor the Son of David. As such, Christ had been plainly revealed and looked for by faith. The blessings of the new covenant were in no way hidden, and it was clearly made known throughout the Psalms and the Prophets that the Messiah was to be forsaken of God, and all His waves to go over Him; that He was to be wounded for the transgressions and bruised for the iniquities of His people; that reconciliation was to be made, and everlasting righteousness brought in; that the sword was to awake against the man who is Jehovah's fellow; that He was to die, rise, and be seated at the right hand of Jehovah. Not all nor any of these things was the hidden mystery, wonderful and precious truths as they are. They had every one of them been unambiguously declared in the oracles which were entrusted to God's ancient people. They knew that Messiah was to reign over a loved and loving people, judging the poor, saving the children of the needy, and breaking in pieces the oppressor. They learned that not only would there be every eternal blessing for the righteous under His beneficent sway, but that the Spirit of God was to be poured out upon all flesh. They heard that, not the Jews only, but the nations blessed through them, will then praise Jehovah, and seek to Him Who is alike the Offspring and the Root of David.
“Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, Jehovah our righteousness” (Jer. 23:5, 65Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Jeremiah 23:5‑6)). These truths are in no sense the mystery. From Moses to Malachi there was an unbroken stream of testimony to the mercy in store for the Jews, and also for the Gentiles, under the reign of the promised Messiah.
But, pursuing the same stream, it is equally evident that in all these arrangements of divine goodness connected with the earth, the Jews had secured to them, by the promise to Abraham, the first place. And that promise was irrevocable and inalienable. God would not repent of His gifts and calling; and certainly, in the promises to Abraham, it will scarcely be pretended that God gave no higher privileges to His friend than to the outside stranger Gentile. “In blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” The nations are to be blessed in the Seed; but surely Gentiles are distinct from Abraham's seed, and the position of the latter superior to that of the former. But if it be so, they are not fellow-heirs and of the same body and joint-partakers of God's promise in Christ, whereof the Epistle to the Ephesians treats. It is another truth.
It seems incontestable then, that the privileges of the Abrahamic covenant are totally distinct from those involved in the mystery, the exact accomplishment of the one being in itself incompatible with the terms of the other. For if you make the nations to be blessed with the same privileges in all respects as the Jews, the marked honor and boasted prerogative of Abraham's seed is at once swept away as you reduce the standing of the favored people down to that of the most distant Gentile. But if it be still allowed that for the seed of Abraham is reserved by their faithful God the most exalted seat on earth, above (though encircled by) the nations blessed in them (all blessed in Him Who condescended to take and secure these promises as the true Seed); then it is clear that the oft-repeated promise to Abraham, which distinguished and elevated his posterity above all nations, is entirely and manifestly different from the mystery hid in God, Whose eternal purpose it was, but revealed only when the Holy Spirit came down, consequent upon the exaltation of Christ in heaven.
(To be continued, D.V.)