What are the secrets of church growth
The mystery of Christ
- Category: Archive A-B-C-D
Col. 4.2-4: “Hold fast to prayer and watch it with thanksgiving, and at the same time pray for us that God will open a door of the word for us to speak the mystery of Christ, for which reason I am also bound, so that I can make it known as I speak should."
The following secrets are mentioned in the new covenant: The secret of faith 1.Ti.3.9; of the Kingdom of Mt 13.11; Israel's hardening Romans 11.25; the 7 stars Rev.1.20; Babylon Off. 17.5; of the woman and the beast Rev.17.7; Speaking in tongues 1Cor.14.2; that not all fall asleep 1.Cor.15.51; lawlessness 2.Th.2.7; godliness 1.Ti.3.16.
The "Mystery of Christ" stands out as the master mentioned from all secrets and is also referred to as "the secret". A secret (Greek "Mysterion") is something that is hidden, something about which one needs a revelation. That is why the apostle Paul not only wrote and taught about the "mystery of Christ", he also struggled in his prayers that the saints might come to the knowledge of this mystery. As prerequisites he names "love", as well as "all wealth of certainty of understanding".
Col. 2.1-3: “For I want you to know what a great struggle I have for you and those in Laodicea and all who have not seen my physical face, so that their hearts may be comforted, united in love and for all abundance of certainty of understanding Knowledge of the mystery of God, (that is) Christ, in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden. "
The mystery of Christ is the heavenly counterpart to the mystery of Babylon (Rev. 17.5), which is taking on more and more shape in these end times. We see "Babylon" also in the progressive amalgamation of all the religious organizations that have their roots in whole or in part in historical Babylon. I would like to refer to number 2/96 of the magazine "Inspiration", in which the topic "Babylon" was dealt with in detail. Today efforts are being made to include or network as many believers as possible in this system. One wants to make the body of Christ visible through large associations. The body of Christ is not an organization, but a living organism. There is a dangerous tendency to unite believers in a false "body" made by human organization. Ultimately, however, this will reveal itself to be the false secret, namely the "secret of Babylon". It is therefore important that we know our calling and are familiar with the "mystery of Christ" so that we can make our decisions correctly. While the "mystery of Babylon" is approaching judgment and destruction (Rev.18.1-5), the time of revelation in its fullness and glory comes for the "mystery of Christ". The "mystery of Christ" is also the "mystery of God the Father" because He alone knew it and kept it hidden in His heart. It is called the "mystery of Christ" because "Christ" is the object of the mystery, namely Jesus Christ as head and the church as His body. Paul often calls it simply "the secret that was hidden". Paul speaks of the "mystery of Christ" in the following twelve scriptures:
Rö 16.25: "But to him who is able to secure you according to my gospel and the sermon of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was withheld for ages but has now been revealed."
1.Cor.2.7: "But we speak God's wisdom in a secret, the hidden, which God has predetermined, before the ages, for our glory."
Eph.1.9: "He has made known to us the secret of his will according to his good pleasure, which he has resolved in himself for the administration (during) the fulfillment of times: to summarize everything in Christ, that which is in heaven, and that, what is on earth - in Him. "
Eph.3.3: "The secret has been made known to me through revelation, as I wrote it briefly above."
Eph.3.4: "While reading you can notice my insight into the mystery of Christ."
Eph.3.9: "And to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery that was hidden from the ages in God, who created all things."
Eph. 5.32: "This secret (marriage) is great, but I point it to Christ and the church."
Eph. 6.19: "(Pray) for me too, that when I open my mouth, speech may be given to open up the mystery of the Gospel with boldness."
Col. 1.26: "It is the secret that was hidden from the ages and from the generations, but has now been revealed to his saints."
Col. 1.27: "God wanted to make known to them what the richness of the glory of this mystery was among the nations, and that is: Christ in you, the hope of glory."
Col.2.2: "So that their hearts may be comforted, united in love and for all abundance of certainty of understanding to the knowledge of the mystery of God, (that is) Christ."
Col.4.3: "And at the same time pray for us that God will open a door of the word for us to speak the mystery of Christ, for which reason I am also bound."
Seven basic statements about the mystery of Christ:
- It was hidden in God as long as there were times of the world and human races. (1.Cor.2.7; Eph.3.5 /3.9; Col.1.26).
- It was revealed and entrusted to the apostle Paul first for the church. (Ro.15.16 / 16.25-26; Gal.1.12; 2.7; Eph.3.8 + 9).
- Then all New Testament apostles and prophets. (Eph.3.5; Gal.2.9).
- God wants to make it known to all saints (Col. 1.26 + 27).
- It is about a revelation: Paul had it (Eph.3.3); he prayed that they would all receive (Col. 2.1-3).
- It is to be proclaimed (Rom. 16.25; Eph. 6.19; Col. 4.3).
- Through the mystery of Christ, the Word of God (the Bible) was completed. The revelation of God to man has grown. Not one day did a complete Bible fall from heaven. Over about 1600 years, about 40 authors have written the 66 books (39 OT, 27 NT), inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 20 + 21). The last great revelation was the "mystery of Christ". Paul was even able to rejoice in his sufferings (prison time) when he had recognized the meaning of them. He had to complete what the church was still missing, namely the written word about the "mystery of Christ" (Col. 1.24-26). Because he was in prison, the message that would otherwise only have been preached was written in letters and became part of our Bible.
The heart of the mystery of Christ
Eph.3.6: "The nations are to be joint heirs and incarnate and share in the promise in Christ Jesus."
It has always been God's purpose to save the Gentiles too. This is written in the prophets and is therefore not "the secret" of which it is said that it was hidden as long as there are world times and human races. (Ps.22.28 + 29 / 86.9; Isa.25.7 / 42.1 / 52.15; Sach.8.22 etc.). But that the called from the nations belong to the "body of Christ", and that a "new humanity" is created and trained out of believing Jews and Gentiles, that was hidden and that God would like to reveal to all saints. We do not find the "mystery of Christ" in the "old covenant", not even in the gospels. Jesus himself said to His disciples in John 16.12 + 13: "I still have a lot to say to you, but you cannot bear it now. But when that, the spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into the whole truth; ... and what is to come he will announce to you ".
Only after the rulers of the Jews finally rejected the Son of God by stoning the witness Stephen, did God reveal this mystery that those from the nations in Christ are full citizens and members of the household of God (Eph.2.19). It is significant that a young man named "Saul" (Hebrew name for Paul) is the only one mentioned by name. God had chosen him to be the bearer of revelation for the nations. In Gal.2.9 Paul speaks of the "council of apostles" in Jerusalem and says the following about the apostles:
"And when they saw the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who are considered pillars, gave me and Barnabas the handshake of the community, that we might go among the nations, but they under the circumcised."
According to Eph.3.8 + 9, the grace which Paul was given consisted in his commission to make known the mystery of Christ to the nations. Initially, the remaining apostles lacked an understanding of Paul's ministry and message among the Gentiles. We see a turning point in this regard especially in the above-mentioned "Apostle Council" (Acts 15).
Kingdom or Church?
The kingdom of God comprises different periods of salvation or households. One of them is the time of the church (mystery of Christ), another is the kingdom (1000 year kingdom). The statements of the Old Testament prophets and also of the Gospels have awakened the expectation of the Kingdom in listeners and readers. Nothing else was promised or revealed than that through the coming Messiah a kingdom of peace will be established, the core people of which will be Israel and in which they have the leading task for the salvation of the other peoples. That is why we understand the disciples that they have repeatedly asked the Lord Jesus insistently about the time of the revelation of this kingdom. They had realized that Jesus was the King of this promised kingdom, and now that He was with them in person, they awaited its imminent dawn. When they entered Jerusalem, when the people celebrated Jesus as King, everything was right for them. But when Jesus was crucified a few days later, they could no longer classify it. They did not recognize or did not want to recognize that Christ had to suffer too. The promises that Jesus will reign as the king of this promised kingdom of Israel and from there all mankind will be blessed and led to salvation, was not canceled by God, it will be fulfilled in the "millennium". But because Israel did not recognize its king at that time, even rejected and killed it, judgment and hardening came upon them (Matt. 23.37-39). But God does not allow himself to be stopped in his salvation will, not even by stubborn people. He then revealed the "mystery of Christ" that those of the nations are co-participants and joint heirs of the spiritual blessings "in Christ". The administration of the future kingdom was not given to the nations, in relation to this provision it says in Romans 11.29: "For God's gifts and calling are irrevocable". The calling for the earthly kingdom belongs to Israel. But the heavenly calling to form members of the wonderful body of Christ and to share in His glory and rulership, this loose part belongs to the church. The rapture of the church is also part of the mystery of Christ. What was revealed earlier relates to Jesus' return on the Mount of Olives for Israel, the church awaits Him earlier. For us He is more than just the King; He is our Lord and Head, with whom we are most intimately connected through the Holy Spirit as we have been baptized into one body.
The content of the proclamation of the "mystery of Christ"
It is revealed that the church is the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27) and that this body is built up to its full number and spiritual maturity through the services and gifts given to it. This mystery will be preached until the rapture of the church. The proclamation of this mystery leads believers to heavenly glory according to their heavenly calling. While Israel is an earthly people, the church is a heavenly body and has its citizenship in the heavens, from where it awaits its Lord and Savior (Phil.3.20 + 21). The church is blessed in Christ with all spiritual blessings (Eph.1.3). It will have administrative tasks in the future world times (eons) (Eph.1.9 ff; 1.20-23; Rev.20.6) and is being prepared for these in the present time. What she has to learn is first and foremost to be guided by her head Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit and to submit to Him. The word "administration" in Greek "oikonomia" is explained in the Elberfeld Study Bible as follows:
"The administration or housekeeping of God means the direction and the course of salvation history determined by God and the administration of grace that takes place in it (1.Tim.1.4). Oikonomia in the current sense denotes the administrative activity of the owner or administrator and in the pass. Sense of what is administered, the administration or order of the house, the design In Eph.1.10; 3.9 with administration or housekeeping is also meant the control of salvation history with the aim of "fulfilling" or the full number of times "everything summed up in the Christ ". This is the divine purpose and plan to be fulfilled by housekeeping" (end of quote).
The Greek word used in the NT for the church is called "Ekklesia" and means "the one called out". The church consists of saints whom the Lord has called out of mankind and who have also responded to His call.
Edification through ministries and gifts
The Lord has given the church services and gifts to prepare it. The five ministries according to Eph. 4.11 are: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. These are not there to do the church service so that the saints are just idle listeners. Eph.4.12 clearly states the task of the services: "To equip the saints for the work of service, for the edification of the body of Christ".
The five mentioned services do the following:
a) The proclamation of the full Gospel with conversion (penance), baptism, rebirth, baptism in the Spirit, gifts of the Spirit, healing, liberation (Romans 15.18 + 19).
b) The equipping of the saints for the work of service, for the edification of the body of Christ (1.Cor.12.28; Eph.4.11 + 12).
The spiritual gifts are given to the church for its edification. (Romans 12.4-8; 1.Cor.12.7-11; 14.3-5; 14.12; 14.26). Leaders should encourage and also guide believers in kindling and properly using the gifts. According to Eph. 4.16, the growth of the body of Christ occurs through every member that performs its service according to its allocation. That too is a part, and an extremely important one, of the "mystery of Christ". It is about the realization or administration, as it is in Eph.3.9.
Through the "mystery of Christ" it was revealed that the saints are "in Christ". There would be a long list if we were to enumerate all the promises associated with "in Christ" or "in him". To represent all these glorious promises, only three passages from the letter to the Ephesians should be mentioned here:
1.3: "He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly world in Christ!"
2.6: "He raised us with him and let us sit with us in the heavenly world in Christ Jesus."
2.10: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which Godprepared beforehand so that we should walk in them. "
To be "in Christ" is more than to belong to Christ. Something can belong to us as property and be used and valued very actively by us, such as our watch, for example, but this object is not a member of our body. Only what is organically connected to the head as a member of the body is directed from there and participates in the wonderful supply and renewal that takes place in love. In the "mystery of Christ" it was revealed to us that we are members of the body and thus "in Christ". We attain this state by accepting the divine calling. Our steps: repentance, faith, baptism, discipleship. God's action on us: rebirth, baptism in the Spirit, sanctification.
The church as the body of Christ is "in him". Each one is a member of His body. 1.Cor.12.27
The following list shows in which books of the Bible the two expressions "mystery of Christ" and "in Christ" are used. From this we see that it is not just a New Testament, but actually a Pauline theme, which we from the nations must be particularly interested in.
"Mystery of Christ" "in Christ"
- Old Bund 1,155 pages 0 0
- Evang. & Act. 188 "0 0
- Paul's letters 84 "12 X 65 X
- Remaining letters 32 "0 4 X
- Revelation 21 "0 0
What does church service do?
God is glorified (Ephesians 1.12 + 14).
- The gospel is preached to call the body of Christ out of all nations (Acts 15.14).
- The church is built up (Eph. 4.16) (inner and outer church growth Acts 9.31).
- The manifold wisdom of God is made known to the rulers and powers in the heavenly world (Ephesians 3.10 + 11).
- The kingdom of Satan is being torn down (2 Cor. 10.4 + 5; Eph. 6.12).
- At the consummation of the church the veil will be removed from Israel (Romans 11.25 + 26).
- The administration of the future world times (eons) is entrusted to the church as the body of Christ (Romans 8.19-21; 1.Cor.6.2 + 3; Eph.1.10; 2.7; 3.21; Col.1.18-20).
Correctly classify the secret of Israel
In order to understand the mystery of Christ, we also need an understanding of the mystery of the hardening of Israel. Eph.3.6 is a real key point in relation to the mystery of Christ. In it Paul writes of those from the nations not as sole heirs, incarnate and companions, but of joint heirs, etc. This "with" refers to those called from Israel. The mystery of Christ is connected to the "mystery of Israel" as Paul describes it in Romans 11. So the instruction about the mystery of Christ in Eph.3 is also preceded by a clear statement on the question of Jews / nations (Eph.2.11-22). The Jews or Israelites have the same position in Christ as those of the Gentiles. But they only attain this status by grace, just like those from the nations. Their ethnicity and circumcision are neither an advantage nor a disadvantage (Gal.6.15). This relates to the state in Christ. The promises for the land and for the future kingdom of peace belong to the people of Israel. However, these can only be fulfilled when the mystery of Christ has reached its full extent. In this, too, we see the close connection between the mystery of Christ and the mystery of Israel. We must not mix up these two "vocations" or even try to usurp the "inheritance of Israel", as it is known to have been done in the course of church history. All New Testament salvation began with Israel and all blessings were given to them:
Rö 9.4 + 5: “You are after all Israelites, to whom the sonship and the glory, the covenants and the law, the worship and the promises have been given, to whom the patriarchs belong and from whom the Messiah comes according to the flesh: who is God above all , praised forever! Amen."
Had they accepted Jesus Christ as their King, then all the blessings could have flowed through them to the nations. They had asked Jesus to be crucified, but God continued to testify among them. I think of the resurrection, of ascension and especially of Pentecost. Events that could not be hidden. Although many of the people believed, the responsible leaders remained stubborn and did not open themselves to the gospel. Through Stephen God once again made the whole situation clear to them and called them to repentance. However, they decided against it, stoned the witness Stephen and thus manifested their rejection. From then on, the "mystery of Christ" could be preached as the gospel among the nations (Acts 13.45-48).
Timeframe for the mystery of Christ
The "mystery of Christ" is proclaimed from the time of the rejection of the Messiah by Israel until the rapture of the community, as soon as it has attained its full size both numerically and spiritually.
Why secret?It was hidden from the prophets and Israel.
Since when and where has it been hidden?In God for ages.
When and to whom revealed? Made known by the apostle Paul. Then all apostles and prophets. Let all saints know.
What is the content?The believers from the nations belong to the body of Christ.
Managed and built by what? Through the five ministries and through the gifts of the Spirit.
What time does it concern?From the "rejection of Israel" to the rapture of the church.
We should pray for each Spirit-filled person to receive a revelation about the mystery of Christ. Especially for those in whom we see a calling to service.
We see three growth steps:
- Revelation / knowledge Eph.3.3
- Understanding / insight Eph.3.4
- Administration / execution Eph.3.9
The mystery of Christ is part of God's eternal plan of salvation and is based on the cross and blood of Jesus. From the fact that it is about the "body of Christ" we recognize the importance and the great grace that was bestowed upon us from the nations. Let us thank God from the bottom of our hearts for this, amen.
This text has already appeared in the magazine "Inspiration" (3/96) in August 1996 and in "Wandel im Licht" in March and April 1997.
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