WHEN DID THE CHURCH BEGIN?
I believe that the Church, which is His body began with the beginning of the dispensation of the mystery. (The paper which asks, “are we asking the wrong question”? deals with the importance of determining when the dispensation of the mystery began in order to determine when the church of the dispensation began.) That mystery was that “the nations are together-heirs, together-bodies even together-partakers in the promise in Christ by the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). (Please see the paper on this web-site What Exactly Is The Mystery That Had been Hid In God? for the Scriptural reasons for that translation.) In order for all nations to be together-bodies etc., Israel would have to be set aside as God’s nation separated unto Himself. Also, in order to go from the offer made during the previous dispensation of resurrection life on earth, to the offer made, during the dispensation of the mystery, of resurrection life in heaven, Israel, to whom the earthly offer was made, would have to be put aside. The question is “when did this happen”?
THE TWO MYSTERIES OF EPHESIANS, CHAPTER THREE
In order to understand God’s plans for the ages we must understand the two mysteries of Ephesians 3. Unfortunately, many Bible students see only one mystery in this chapter which leads to great confusion. They see the dispensation of the mystery (verse 6) as part of the mystery of Christ (verses 4-5). It is my hope therefore to try to eliminate some of the confusion that surrounds the mystery hid in God by presenting the Scriptural evidence that shows that the mystery of Christ is not any part of the mystery of Eph. 3:6.
We read in Eph. 3:2-9, (2) “If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward; (3) How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; as I wrote afore in few words, (4) Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ; (5) 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; (6) That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel; (7) Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power, (8) 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; (9) And to make all men see what is the fellowship (dispensation – same word as in verse 2) of the mystery, which hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ”.
Let us turn our attention to verses 4-5. In verse 4 we read of the “mystery of Christ”. In verse 5 we are told that this mystery “was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets“. There are three things in these verses that are very important to note.
- The Greek word translated “as” in the phrase “as it has now been revealed” is “hos” and is used as a comparison. It is used in I Cor.13:11, “When I was a child I spoke as a child…”. To make this verse easier to understand let us add an ellipsis taken from the context. “When I was a child I spoke as a child rather than as a man, I understood as a child rather than as a man, I thought as a child would think rather than as a man”. In Eph. 3:5 the comparison is being made as to the extent that the mystery of Christ had been revealed. That is to say that the mystery of Christ had been revealed to some extent, but not to the extent that it has “now been revealed”. This is an extremely important fact to note about the mystery of Christ, because, as we read in verse 9, the dispensation of the mystery had been hid in God and therefore had obviously not been revealed to any extent.
- The mystery of Christ was revealed to “apostles and prophets”, note the plural. But the dispensation of the mystery had been given to Paul, and to Paul only.
- The Greek word translated “revealed” in the phrase, “as it is has now been revealed” is “apokalupto”, and it is the verb form of the same word used in verse 3 where we read of “the mystery made known to me (Paul) by revelation“. This tells us that the revelation of the mystery that had been hid in God and was given to Paul, was given to him in the same way that the mystery of Christ had been given to the apostles and prophets , i.e. not by the teaching of man, but by revelation from God. (For a more complete discussion of the fact that the mystery of Christ is not the mystery of Eph. 3:6 please see the paper on this web-site,“Which Mystery Had Been Hid In God?”.)
Let us add one more piece to this puzzle. We learn in Col. 4:3 that Paul was in bonds “for the mystery of Christ”. But Paul was in bonds as early as Acts 22. In fact we read in Acts 26:32-27:1 that Paul was still in bonds. “Then said Agrippa unto Festus, ‘This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar’. And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius……”. Note the phrase “and certain other prisoners”. That tells us that Paul was a prisoner, i.e. in bonds before Acts 28. Paul could not have been in bonds for the mystery of Eph. 3:6 because that mystery had not been revealed to him until after the end of the Acts period. And Paul was certainly not in bonds at Acts 2, or Acts 10, or Acts 13.
Let us continue our study of the mystery of Christ by considering other passages in which Paul speaks of his bonds. In Phil 1:12-18 we read of Paul’s account of how his being in bonds has led to the “furtherance of the gospel” (1:13). To which gospel was Paul referring? In verses 14 and 15 Paul writes of those who “preach Christ” (verse 15) some for honest reasons and others out of contention. In verse 18 he sums up the two and writes, “..…whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached“.
We learn from this passage in Philippians, chapter one, that Paul’s imprisonment led others to “preach Christ”. The subject of this entire passage is the preaching of Christ. We must conclude then, that the reason Paul was in prison was not because of the gospel of the dispensation of the mystery, but because of the preaching of Christ.
Let us search the Scriptures to find other passages that will tell us more about the mystery of Christ. A mystery is something that is concealed, or it can also be something that is revealed to a few, as in the case of the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven. “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matt. 13:11).
We must bear in mind that the mystery of Christ was: a) revealed to some extent in the Old Testament, b) but “now” made known to apostles and prophets (plural), c) revealed to them by the Spirit by revelation, not by the teaching of man (Eph. 3:4-5). Let us look at Luke 18:31-34 to see if what we find there will fit the criteria of the “mystery of Christ”. “Then He took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, ‘Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished. For He shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully intreated, and spit on; And they shall scourge Him and put Him to death; and the third day He shall rise again’. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken”.
The disciples did not understand any of the prophecies concerning the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. I believe that those events constitute the mystery of Christ. We have read that it was concealed from the 12, that makes it a mystery. We also see that it was the topic of some prophecy (see Is. 53, crucifixion; Luke 11:30, burial; and Lev. 16:8-10, resurrection – by type), that satisfies the criteria of it being revealed to some extent And we know, of course, that when He was raised from the dead, Christ fully revealed to His disciples the prophecies concerning His death, burial and resurrection, which satisfies the criteria of being unfolded more completely in the first century. I believe therefore, that the mystery of Christ spoken of in Eph. 3:4-5, is His death, burial and resurrection.
Verse 6, on the other hand, is the mystery that was revealed to Paul, i.e., the dispensation of the mystery. Note, it was revealed to Paul alone, not to the apostles and prophets (plural). We learn in verse 9 that this mystery was “hid in God” (not revealed in any degree to other generations). That mystery is that “the nations are together-heirs, together bodies even together partakers in the promise in Christ by the gospel” ( 3:6).
There are two mysteries in Eph. 3. One is the mystery of Christ, which was known to some degree in past generations, and the other was the mystery, hid in God, i.e. not known in past generations to any degree. The mystery of Christ was not understood, but it was written about in the Old Testament. The dispensation of the mystery, on the other hand, was not written about in the Old Testament. The mystery of Christ was revealed to apostles and prophets (plural) but the mystery hid in God was revealed to Paul, and Paul only. We have in Ephesians 3, two separate mysteries.
Many of those who hold to the mid-Acts position see only one mystery in this passage. On page 68 Dr. Stam writes, “The Greek word “musterion”, rendered “mystery” in the AV, has a two fold meaning. It may mean merely what is kept hidden, or it may mean something understood only by the initiated, it may also mean both at the same time“.
Dr. E. W. Bullinger gives this information on the Greek, “musterion”. It occurs in the Septuagint version nine times as the equivalent for the Chaldee “raz” in the Chaldee portion of Daniel, which means to conceal; hence something concealed that can be revealed”. (For those who may not know, much of the book of Daniel was not written in Hebrew as was most of the Old Testament. It was written in the ancient language, Chaldee. The Septuagint Version is the Greek translation of Daniel.) The Septuagint Version is, of course, not inspired by God, but it does help us to understand more completely the usage of certain Greek words as used in the New Testament).
It is true that a mystery may be understood by a few, or it may be kept hidden, but it can not, in my opinion, mean both at the same time, as Dr Stam suggests. There is nothing in the word “musterion”, per se, to lead us to the conclusion that the word “musterion” may mean something that is hidden and not hidden at the same time. God’s Word is often difficult to understand, but it is never illogical. A mystery may be written about in the Old Testament or it may not be written about in the Old Testament, but it can not be both at the same time. In my opinion, if something is hidden in God, it was not revealed to anyone. The moment something is written about, whether it was understood or not, it is no longer hidden in God. Therefore, in Ephesians 3 we have a mystery, which had been partially concealed, and another mystery, which had been completely concealed. The mystery of Christ of Eph. 3:4-5 had been partially concealed and the mystery of Eph. 3:6, had been completely concealed, i.e. hidden in God.
So Eph. 3:4-6 should read, “If you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward; How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (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 to the sons of men; as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit) that the nations are together-heirs, together bodies even together- partakers in the promise in Christ by the gospel”
Why is the differentiation of these two mysteries so important? The reason is, that if one understands the dispensation of the mystery as being part of the mystery of Christ, i.e. one mystery, one may come to the erroneous conclusion that the dispensation of the mystery began when Paul began to preach the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
Let me put that another way. The preaching of the gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (i.e. the mystery of Christ) by Paul constituted the fuller revelation of the mystery of Christ. That preaching actually began with Peter during the Acts period (see Acts 2:23-24). If one understands only one mystery in Ephesians 3, one is led to the conclusion that the dispensation of the mystery began with Peter with the preaching of the mystery of Christ. This leads to confusions as will be shown in the following portions of this paper.
As we understand the two mysteries in Eph. 3, we understand that the mystery hid in God was not revealed by Paul until his letter to the Ephesians, i.e. after the end of the Acts period. Once that is understood, I believe that it becomes clear that the dispensation of the mystery began after Acts 28.
WHAT CHARACTERIZES THE DISPENSATION OF THE MYSTERY?
We read in the KJV of Eph. 3:6, “That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel;
The Greek word translated “Gentiles” in the KJV of Eph. 3:6 is “ethnos”. “Ethnos” occurs 164 times and is translated “Gentiles” 93 times, “nations” 64 times, “Heathen 5 times and “people” 2 times.
The truth that “ethnos” is used of Gentiles as opposed to Jews is found in Matt. 10:5-6, “…..Go not into the way of the Gentiles (Gr. ethnos) ….but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. Here, it is clear that Gentiles are all those who are not Jews.
The truth that “ethnos” is also used of a nation as an entity is shown in such verses as Romans 4:17, where in reference to Abraham we read, “I have made thee a father of many nations” (Gr. ethnos). To translate “ethnos” in this verse to read, “I have made thee a father of many Gentiles” totally destroys the sense of this verse. In other words, we must use common sense when determining whether “ethnos” means nations or Gentiles.
As mentioned above, “ethnos” is used by the Holy Spirit for Gentiles and for nations as entities. But nations are made up of individuals, and the Bible also uses the word “ethnos” in reference to the individuals in the nations as well as to the nations as an entity in themselves. The truth that “ethnos” is used of people in the nations is seen in John 11:51-52, “…..he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation (Gr. ethnos); and not for that nation ( (Gr. ethnos)) only…..”. It is clear that Jesus died, not for a nation as such, but for the people in the nation(s). So “ethnos” is used of Gentiles, it is used of nations as entities, and it is used of people of all nations, including Israel.
I am suggesting that in Eph. 3:6 “ethnos” refers to people in the nations in reference to heirs and partakers.
We come now to the Greek “sussoma” translated “same body” in Eph. 3:6, “Ethnos” is the noun of the sentence and, as is true of many other languages, the adjective “sussoma” must agree in number with the noun it modifies. We read in the book New Testament Greek by D. F. Hudson published by NTC Publishing Group on page 14, paragraph five, “It is also most important to notice that adjectives must have the same function as the noun to which they refer, and must therefore, be in the same Case: they must also have the same number and the same Gender. A singular noun must have a singular adjective, a plural noun must have a plural adjective.…..”. Obviously, “same body” does not reflect a plurality and therefore cannot be correct.
“Sussoma” is made up of the root “soma” which means “body”, and the prefix “sun”. The prefix in the word “sussoma” is spelled differently, but is the prefix “sun”. I will give just a few examples of how the prefix “sun” is used.
It is translated “with” 15 times, as in Mark 14:54, “And Peter followed Him from afar…….and he sat with the servants….”. It is translated “together”13 times, as in “….and were set down together.…”. It is translated “fellow” and “joint” one time each. I believe it is clear that the basic meaning of the prefix “sun” is “with” or “together”.
The Greek word “sussoma” is found only in Eph. 3:6 so we cannot determine its meaning by how it is used. But we are not left in the dark as to the meaning. We know by its usage that “soma” means “body”. And we have learned above by how it is used that the prefix “sun” means “together” or “with”. That tells us that the literal translation of “sussoma” is “together bodies”. How are we to understand the literal term, “together bodies”? I believe we will understand it best if we consider two Old Testament passages that tell us that Israel had been separated by God as a nation apart from all other nations.
I King 8:53, “For Thou didst separate them from among all the people of the earth, to be Thine inheritance….”. Lev. 20:24, “……I am the Lord your God Which hath separated you from the people”.
In other words, what characterizes the dispensation of the mystery is that Israel is no longer a separated nation, separated unto God, that all nations are “together bodies”. How did that happen? Obviously, in order for the nations to be “together bodies” Israel must have been set aside as God’s chosen and separated nation. . Now the question is: when was Israel set aside? This is an important consideration because what characterizes the dispensation of the mystery is that all nations are “together bodies”. So when we learn when that became fact, i.e. when Israel was set aside, we will then know when the dispensation of the mystery began.
WHEN WAS ISRAEL PUT ASIDE AS GOD’S SEPARATED NATION?
As we look for the answer to the question of when Israel was set aside as God’s separated nation, I believe that Romans 11 will be very helpful. I believe that most chronologists put the writing of the epistle to the Romans as late in the Acts period. Dr. E. W. Bullinger and others put it as the last epistle that Paul wrote in the Acts period. With that said, let us consider Rom. 11.
Rom. 11: 13) “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office; 14) if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. 15) For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead? 16) For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root be holy, so are the branches. 17) And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree, 18) boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. 19) Thou wilt say then,’The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in’. 20) Well, because of unbelief they were broken off and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear; 21) for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee. 22) Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God; on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. 23) And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in, for God is able to graff them in again. 24) For if thou wert cut out the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree; how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?”
The good olive tree has both believers and unbelievers. How do we know that? We read in verse 17 of the good olive tree, “And if some of the branches be broken off….”. These branches were broken off because of unbelief (vs. 23). That tells us that originally, the good olive tree had unbelievers who were eventually broken off. Also, we read in Rom. 11:23, “for God is able to graff them in again“. These unbelievers must have been in the good olive tree at one time or Paul could not have written that they would be graffed in again. In other words, some of the natural branches were part of the good olive tree, then cut off because of unbelief, but if they do not continue in their unbelief, they will be “graffed in again“. That tells us that unbelievers, as well as believers were part of the good olive tree.
What does the good love tree represent? We cannot say that Romans 11 teaches that the good olive tree represents the church because at least at some point, the good olive tree included unbelievers. Unbelievers are definitely not members of the church which is His body. Consider verse 24 which reads, “….how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree“. The natural branches were, of course, Israelites. How do we know that? We read in verse 13 that Paul was speaking to Gentiles, “For I speak to you Gentiles….”. Then in verse 17 we read, “….and thou (Gentiles) being a wild olive tree….”. If the Gentiles were the “wild olive tree“, obviously Israel was the good olive tree. Therefore, this passage could not be more clear; the good olive tree represents Israel.
So Gentiles were being grafted into Israel as late as the end of the Acts period. Surely, Israel was still God’s chosen nation at that time or why would Gentiles be grafted into Her? That means that as late as the end of the Acts period, Israel was still God’s chosen and separated nation, and the dispensation of the mystery in which all nations, including Israel are “together bodies” could not have began until after the end of the Acts period, when indeed, the mystery was made known to Paul and revealed in the first epistle written after the end of the Acts period.
For further evidence that Israel was divorced, (set aside) at the end of the Acts period let us examine the last epistle written by Paul during the Acts period. If they had been divorced we should not expect to see many of the things that we do see in that great epistle.
Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile”.
Romans 11:1, “I ask then, Did God reject His people? By no means.
Romans11:11, “….salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious”.
Romans 11:14, “….in hopes that I may somehow arouse some of my own people to envy”.
It is clear, in my opinion, that Israel was not put aside as God’s chosen people at the time of Paul’s letter to Rome, the last letter written during the Acts period. Quite the opposite! The preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles was part of God’s plan to get Israel to repent. (see Deut. 32:21). God was still working on behalf of Israel’s repentance, so that the times of refreshing could begin, a time of blessings for Israel and for the Gentile nations as well, (please read Acts 3:19-21).
I believe therefore, that Israel was set aside as God’s chosen people at Acts 28:25. This made it possible for Paul to announce in his next epistle, Ephesians, that there was a new dispensation wherein the nations were “together-heirs, together bodies even together-partakers in the promise in Christ by the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). With this new dispensation, comes a new church, the church, which is His body.
As mentioned above, in order for the nations to be together bodies Israel as God’s separated nation would have to be put aside. Therefore, we can expect to see Israel put aside in time for the mystery of the present dispensation to be revealed in Ephesians. I believe that Israel was set aside at the end of the Acts period. Let us search the Scriptures to see if that is the case.
May I first respectfully remind the reader that Israel is often referred to as Jehovah’s wife. And just as in the lo-ammi period of the Old Testament when Israel was said to have been divorced (see Is. 50:1), so too was Israel divorced at the beginning of this present lo-ammi period, i.e. the dispensation of the mystery. We read in Acts 28:25, “And when they (the Jewish leaders at Rome) agreed not among themselves, they departed”. The Greek word translated “departed” is “apeluonto” which is derived from “apoluo” which is often used of divorce. That would tell us exactly when Israel was divorced, i.e. at Acts 28:25. But some have said that it can’t mean divorce in this verse because the Greek would have to be in the passive voice and it is not in the passive voice, it is in the middle voice. A bit of clarification might be in order.
The middle voice is when an action is performed to or for oneself. The passive voice is when something is done to someone else. So in Acts 28:25, if the Greek word is in the middle voice it would mean that they themselves departed. That is to say, because one cannot divorce himself, the word “departed” would be the best choice of translations if the Greek word were in the middle voice. In the passive voice, “divorced” would be the meaning intended. Obviously then, we need to determine if this Greek word is in the passive or middle voice. The difficulty comes because the word is the same in the middle voice as it is in the passive voice, so the word itself will not help us. We must rely on the context for that determination.
As we look at the context we read in verse 29, “When he (Paul) had said these words, the Jews departed”. This Greek word translated “departed” is “aperkomai”. It is never used of divorce, it has the very simple meaning of “having left”, or “departed”. So in verse 25 Luke writes, through the Holy Spirit, that the Jews “apoluento” and in verse 29 we have Luke writing that the Jews aperkomai”.
We must ask ourselves if Luke was telling us the same thing two times, i.e. the Jews left. Or was he telling us in verse 25 that Israel was divorced and in verse 29 that the Jewish leaders left. I believe that Luke was telling us two different things. I believe that because the fact of these men leaving does not seem to warrant Luke writing it twice. It was profoundly significant that they disagreed when they left (vs. 29b), but I don’t see the profundity in the fact that they left. In point of fact, I believe that in Acts 28:25 “apeluonto” means both, departed and divorced. I believe the figure of speech “double meaning” is used in this verse. The Companion Bible gives the following definition to the figure of speech called, “Amphioblogia or Double meaning”. “A word or phrase susceptible of two interpretations, both absolutely true“. (Please see the paper on this web-site Is The Dispensational Boundary Acts 28:28 or 28:25? for further proof that Israel was divorced at Acts 28:25.)
WHEN WAS THE MYSTERY REVEALED?
We know that the mystery was hid in God and revealed to Paul. We read in Acts 20:27, “For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole council of God”. Paul is telling the Ephesians elders that he has told them everything that God had revealed to him, i.e. the whole council of God. But we read nothing of the church which is His body in the epistles written before Acts 20. (I have written about passages that seem to contradict this statement in the appendix of this paper.) This tells us that up to the time of Acts 20 the mystery had not been revealed. If it had, Paul could not have said that he proclaimed the “whole council of God”.
The mystery was not revealed in any of the epistles written before Acts 20; it was revealed in Ephesians, the first epistle written by Paul after the end of the Acts period. I believe therefore that we may conclude that the dispensation of the mystery began at the time of its being revealed, i.e. after the end of the Acts period. The church, which is His body is the church of the dispensation of the mystery, therefore, the church began after the end of Acts.
SOME SEEMING CONTRADICTIONS
There are some passages that seem to suggest that the secret of the dispensation of the mystery was revealed before Paul wrote of it in Ephesians. We will examine each of them, and I believe we will see that they do not contradict anything suggested in this paper.
“Now to Him That is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began. But now is made manifest and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith”.
The question is, which mystery is being spoken of in these verses. Is it the dispensation of the mystery of which Paul wrote in Eph. 3:6? If it is that mystery, that would show that the mystery was revealed before Acts 28, as Romans is an Acts period epistle. (There are many however who believe that these verses are a postscript added after the end of the Acts period, but I do not agree with that conclusion.) We must determine which mystery Paul had in mind when he penned these verses at the end of Romans. There are several clues in the verses themselves that will help in our study of this question.
Consider the opening of this passage, “Now to Him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel….”. Paul uses the phrase “my gospel” three times. Here in Romans 16, in Romans 2:16 and in II Tim. 2:8.
Romans 2:16, “This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.” To what is Paul referring when he writes “This will take place”. He is referring to verse 13 where we read, “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous”. So in this context the term “my gospel” refers to the judgment of Israel’s righteousness.
The other reference to “my gospel” is found in II Tim. 2:8 where we read, “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel”.
We are not left with any doubt as to what Paul meant by the term “my gospel”. It referred to the judgment of Israel and the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Note it had nothing to do with the dispensation of the mystery.
We come now to the phrase, “the mystery which was kept secret since the world began”. The Greek word translated “secret” ‘ is “sigao”. It occurs nine times in the New Testament and is translated “kept close” once; “held (their) peace” four times; “kept silence” three times and “secret” once, in Rom. 16. It is clear from its usage that “kept silent” is a better translation than “kept secret”.
The secret of the dispensation of the mystery, on the other hand, was kept “hid in God”. We read in Eph. 3:9 of the “mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God…..”. And in Col. 1:26 we read of “the mystery which hath been hid…”. The Greek word translated “hid” in these verses is “apokrupto”, a much different word that “sigao” of Rom. 16:25.
Let us continue with one more phrase in Rom. 16:26 in our effort to determine if the mystery of Rom. 16 is the same mystery written about in the prison epistles. Note the mystery of Romans was made manifest “by the scriptures of the prophets” (plural). But the mystery of the dispensation of the mystery was made known only to Paul.
Note also that this mystery was “made known to all nations for the obedience of faith“. The mystery that had been hid in God was that the ethnos are together heirs, together bodies and together partakers. That has nothing to do with “the obedience of faith”.
Let us try to pull together what we have learned in order to discover if the mystery of Romans 16 is the mystery spoken of in the prison epistles.
- The mystery of Romans 16 is referred to as “my gospel” the nature of which is explained in Rom. 2:16 and II Tim. 2:8. It has nothing to do with the dispensation of the mystery as described in Eph. 3:6. “My gospel” has to do with judgment of Israel and the resurrection of Christ.
- The mystery of Romans 16 had been kept in silence. The mystery of the prison epistles was “hid in God”. Where the Holy Spirit chooses a different word the student of His Word must take note.
- The mystery of Romans 16 had been revealed by “the prophets” (plural). But the mystery was revealed by the Spirit to Paul alone.
- The mystery of Rom. 16 was for the obedience of faith. The mystery that had been hid in God and revealed in Eph. 3:6 has nothing to do with the obedience of faith.
We must conclude therefore, that the mystery spoken of in Romans 16 is not the dispensation of the mystery revealed in Ephesians, written after Acts 28.
If the mystery of Romans 16 is not the dispensation of the mystery, what is it? Again, the answer to that question lies in the term “my gospel” which has to do with the resurrection of Christ and with the judgment of Israel.
The reader may recall that in the body of this paper I called to the readers attention the mystery of Christ in the section on the two mysteries of Ephesians three. That mystery had to do, in part, with the resurrection of Christ. The mystery of Christ meets all the criteria mentioned in Romans 16. It was written about by the prophets. It was not “hid in God”, It was “kept in silence”. And it was what Paul described as “my gospel”.
I CORINTHIANS 2:7-8
l Cor. 2:7-8, reads, “we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden in God and that God destined for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had they would not have crucified the Lord of glory“. The wisdom of verses 7 and 8 is not that the Gentiles would be together heirs in Christ. That is not the message that prompted the “rulers of this age” to “crucify the Lord of glory”. That message was not even know at the time of the crucifixion.
Romans 12:5, “So in Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others”. The context, verses 3-8, clearly shows that Paul was asking the Roman church to be cooperative with each other, he uses the term “body” as we use it today in such phrases as “student body” and a “governing body”. To say that this verse speaks of the church which is His body is to take it out of context, a practice that often leads to error. Moreover, as the paper on this web-site The One Body Of Ephesians Two Is Not The Church Which Is His Body will prove, Romans 12:5 has to do with “one body” which is not the same as the church which is His body.
I CORINTHIANS 12:12, 13 and 27
l Cor. 12:12, 13 and 27 is a passage which treats the term “body” in much the same way as did Romans 12:5. Note especially verse 21, “and the head can not say to the feet, “I don’t need you”. Christ is the head of the Church, which is His Body. He is not just another member of the body. Again, the context does not lead us to believe that Paul is referring to the church which is His one body of Ephesians.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. I hear your thoughts. Please E-mail me at: email@example.com