RPM, Volume 14, Number 6, February 5 to February 11, 2012

Gleanings from Paul on Prayer

By A.W. Pink

5. Prayer for Insight

Romans 16:25-27

In This Study we are endeavoring to give an interpretation as well as an application of those precious portions of Holy Writ being dealt with. The more closely we examine the wide range of the recorded prayers of the apostle, the more we are impressed with their deep importance?doctrinally as well as experimentally?as well as their great variety, their extensive scope; and the more we feel convinced that they need to be approached and dealt with expositionally as well as devotionally and practically. There has been far too much generalizing of the truth, and far too little painstaking and detailed instruction.

The passage before us is a case in point, though we admit it is rather an exceptional one, occurring as it does in what many regard as the profoundest epistle in the New Testament. We wonder how many of our readers, even after a careful reading and rereading of our present passage, will obtain any clear-cut and intelligent concept of the scope and subject of this prayer. We wonder how many of them could supply satisfactory answers to the following questions: (1) Why is the Deity here addressed as "him that is of power to establish you"? (2) What is the force of "according to my gospel"? (3) what is signified by "the preaching of Jesus Christ"? (4) what is this "mystery" which "was kept secret since the world began"? (5) How does one harmonize "kept secret" with "but now is made manifest by the scriptures of the prophets"? (6) Why is it "according to the commandment of the everlasting God"? (7) What is the special force of "to God only wise"? Is there not real need here for a teacher?

When one honestly faces and carefully ponders these questions, he is at once conscious of his dire need of wisdom from above. The central subject of these verses is something especially profound; this seems very obvious. Reader and writer alike should sense that they contain truth of the deepest importance. But if their meaning is not apparent from a cursory perusal, neither can it be conveyed to others through a hurriedly prepared article. Prayer and study, study and prayer, are called for; and they demand the exercise of faith and patience?graces in which the present generation of Christians are sadly deficient. While it has pleased God to grant us some insight into the contents of this portion of the Word of God, we doubt we shall ever plumb the depths in this life.

The Principal Subject

In his repeated study of this passage the writer felt that before he was ready to work out its details he must first ascertain its principal subject. Before he was prepared to identify the burden of this prayer, he needed to discover its leading theme. In setting about that task full consideration had to be given to the particular epistle in which the prayer was located and to the distinctive subject of that epistle. Each separate detail had to be pondered in its relation to the whole; then parallel passages had to be sought and studied. This called for impartial investigation, focused attention, laborious and persevering effort and, above all, humbly seeking wisdom from God. The task of the expositor is no light one. That is why there are so few, for probably no generation ever detested hard work and mental toil more than ours.

This is not only a sublime prayer but one of the greatest doctrinal passages contained in Holy Writ. On the one hand it rises to unsurpassed heights of devotion; on the other it conducts us to the profoundest subject of divine revelation. Our passage speaks not only of a "mystery" but of "the mystery" which includes and is the sum of all others. The principal theme of the epistle is here epitomized as affording the special ground for the praise now offered to God. In Romans the gospel is expounded (see Romans 1:1, 9, 16) in a more formal and systematic form than elsewhere in the Word. In the body of the epistle we are shown the blessings the gospel conveys to those who believe it; in their doxology we are taught how the gospel originated.

Excellence and Sufficiency of Divine Power

"Now to him that is of power to establish you" (Rom. 16:25). This is not a petitionary prayer, but the adoration of Deity. No request is made for the saints, but God is exalted before them. The apostle begins by reminding us of the excellency and sufficiency of the divine power. He had concluded his introduction to this epistle by affirming "the gospel of Christ... is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16). Now he points out the believer is equally dependent upon God?s power for his establishment. Christians cannot establish themselves, nor can their ministers establish them; the one or the other may use the appointed means, but they cannot ensure success. God alone can make them effectual to any of us. But blessed be His name, He can do so, for "God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work" (2 Cor. 9:8). Note that the word able includes disposition as well as capacity: He can, He will (cf. Rom. 4:21; Eph. 3:20).

The Greek word translated "stablish" (sterizo) is rendered "set steadfastly" in Luke 9:51 and "strengthen" in Luke 22:32 and Revelation 3:2. It means "to thoroughly establish," "to make rooted and grounded in the faith" (Col. 1:27) both in heart (1 Thess. 3:12) and in walk (2 Thess. 2:17). This is a duty incumbent upon us, for we are expressly bidden, "Stablish your hearts" (James 5:8). But because we are not sufficient for such a task, God has graciously made the promise: "But the Lord is faithful [though we are unfaithful], who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil" (2 Thess. 3:3).

Though it be our privilege and obligation to study the Word, to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus, yet so strongly are our hearts influenced by sin, so dull is our understanding and so feeble is our love, that the working of God?s power is required to preserve us. Not only were we unable to bring ourselves into the faith but we cannot continue in it without divine strength. Because of our proneness to apostatize, the subtlety and strength of our spiritual enemies, the evil of the world in which we live, God?s power alone can keep us (cf. Jude 24).

Christians Established in the Gospel

"According to my gospel." Here we are shown what it is in which Christians are established: namely, the gospel. God?s own people are established in the truth?an inestimable favor, especially in such a day as this when God has given up the vast majority in Christendom to "believe a lie" (2 Thess. 2:11). Second, the clause makes known to us not only the spiritual sphere in which Christians are established but also the means the Holy Spirit employs in this gracious work. Only as our hearts are divinely enabled to cleave to the grand substance of the gospel are we kept from being "tossed to and fro, . . . with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive" (Eph. 4:14). Third, this clause signifies being established according to this divine rule?brought into accord with it both inwardly and outwardly so there is no swerving from it in belief or practice (cf. Rom. 6:17, margin).

"According to my gospel." First, this is to be regarded as a discriminative expression because the gospel is that which Paul has proclaimed in contradistinction to the false gospel of the Judaizers. None of the other apostles made any reference to a spurious gospel, but Paul particularly warned the Corinthians against "another gospel" (2 Cor. 11:4); and to the Galatians he wrote, "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8). Paul was referring to his gospel, then, in opposition to all counterfeits, for none other can avail for the salvation of the soul. Second, the gospel was Paul?s because he was the preeminent expounder of it, his first epistle being devoted to an unfolding of its grand contents. The term "gospel" occurs scores of times in Paul?s writings, yet except for 1 Peter it is found nowhere else in the epistles. Third, Paul used the expression "my" because a special dispensation of the gospel was committed to him for the Gentiles (Gal. 2:7; Ephesians 3:2). Finally, this expression accords with the special fervor which marked Paul: "My God shall . . ." (Phil. 4:9), "Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil. 3:8).

"And the preaching of Jesus Christ." This clause is joined to the former in order to tell us the substance and contents of the gospel. Jesus Christ is the grand Object and Theme of all true evangelical ministry. The "preaching of Jesus Christ" is much more than making frequent use of His name in our discourses, or even telling of His wondrous love and work for sinners. The "preaching of Jesus Christ" is first and foremost the magnifying of His unique Person, the making known of who He is?the God-man. Second, it is the opening up of His mediatorial office in which He serves as Prophet, Priest, and Potentate. Third, it is the proclamation of His wondrous redemption. Fourth, it is the enforcing of His claims and the holding up of the perfect example He left us.

"According to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began." This is both an explanation and an amplification of the foregoing. The glorious gospel of Christ is no invention of human wit; it is the wondrous product of the consummate wisdom of God. As J. Evans well said of the gospel: "It has in it an inconceivable height and such an unfathomable depth as passes knowledge. It is a mystery which the angels desire to look into and cannot find the bottom of. And yet, blessed be God, there is as much of this mystery made plain as will suffice to bring us to heaven if we do not willfully neglect so great salvation." The gospel infinitely surpasses man?s skill to originate. He was able to have no knowledge whatever of it until God was pleased to publish the same. Nor was the gospel any provision of His, devised in time, to meet some unforeseen calamity, no mere imposed remedy for sin; it was that which engaged the divine mind before heaven and earth were created.

New Testament Mysteries

Mention is made in the New Testament of the "mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 13:11) and of the "mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1). The New Testament refers to the yet future restoration and salvation of Israel as a "mystery" (Rom. 11:25) and of the resurrection and bodily transformation of the saints as a "mystery" (1 Cor. 15:51). We also read of the "mystery of iniquity" (2 Thess. 2:7) which is in horrible contrast with "the mystery of godliness" (1 Tim. 3:16). There is also the "mystery of the seven stars" in the right hand of Christ and the "seven golden candlesticks" among which He walks (Rev. 1:20; 2:1), which we interpret to mean Christ?s local churches. Many regard the "mystery of God" as His ways in providence, particularly His governance of this world, and the mystery of Babylon the great, "the mother of harlots" (Rev. 17:5) as Romanism. That which is before us in Romans 16:25 is, we believe, elsewhere termed the "mystery of his will" (Eph. 1:9), the "great mystery" of Christ and His Church (Eph. 5:32), the "mystery of the gospel" (Eph. 6:19), the "mystery of God [the Spirit], and of the Father, and of Christ" (Col. 2:2).

According to the usage of the word in the New Testament a mystery is a concealed truth over which a veil is cast. It concerns something which transcends the powers of man to conceive, and is therefore beyond his ability to invent. It relates to something which is undiscoverable by the human mind, beyond human knowledge until divinely revealed.

In recent years those known as dispensationalists have substituted the term "secret," but we think it is a faulty alternative. True, these "mysteries" were secrets impenetrable by finite sagacity until brought to light by God, but they were still designated "mysteries" after their revelation! Even now that they are made known to us there remains a mysterious element that is beyond our ken. "Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep" (1 Cor. 15:51; cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:17). Before the Holy Spirit made such disclosures, who ever imagined a whole generation of God?s people would enter heaven without passing through the portals of death! "Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16). Yet now that the miracle of the virgin birth has been recorded, there remains about the Divine incarnation that which passes our understanding. The divine mysteries, therefore, are addressed to faith and not to reason.

Definition of This Grand Mystery

In seeking to frame a definition of the grand mystery of our passage we will first appropriate the help supplied by the clauses which have already been before us. The mystery is something according to which God is able to establish His people. Contributory thereto?or as the means he employs in connection therewith?is what Paul styles "my gospel," that is that which he had expounded at length in this very epistle, the heart or central object of which is "the preaching of Jesus Christ." Next, we observe this mystery was "kept secret since the world began." By this we understand the mystery was hidden from all the wise men of this world (1 Cor. 2:8); we understand also that the Old Testament saints had not such light upon the mystery of the gospel as Christians are now favored with (1 Pet. 1:10; Colossians 1:26) and that even the holy angels were not permitted to enter into the gospel?s wondrous contents until it was actualized historically (Eph. 3:9-10). In Romans 16:25 we are told further that this mystery is now "made known to all nations for the obedience of faith"?for Jew and Gentile alike to give themselves up to Christ to be accepted by God through Him, to be ruled by Him.

God?s Revelation by His Spirit

Let us turn now to parallel passages. We find that this mystery has to do with that mystery which is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 2:7, 9-10. "We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us [especially in the New Testament] by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things [proof of His omniscience], yea, the deep things of God." This intimates the transcendent sublimity of the contents of the gospel mystery. The "mystery of his will" (Eph. 1:9) declares the origin of the gospel mystery and hints at its selective nature. The "mystery of Christ" (Eph. 3:4) signifies Christ mystical, for it is His body in which believing Jews and Gentiles are made "fellowheirs" (Eph. 3:6). This verse tells of the gospel?s international scope. Colossians 1:26-27 speaks of "the riches of the glory of this mystery" and announces the plenitude of its bestowments. 1 Timothy 3:16 shows us the outworking of the gospel mystery centered around the incarnation, justification, and exaltation of God the Son.

This grand mystery of the gospel was, we believe, what is designated in other passages "the everlasting covenant" (Heb. 13:20), which concerned the divine plan of redemption, or the amazing scheme whereby lost and depraved sinners might be everlastingly saved to the glory of God. This seems clear not only from the other passages referred to above but more especially from the whole of 1 Corinthians 2. There Paul affirmed that his paramount concern was to preach "Jesus Christ and him crucified." Yet Paul spoke the, "wisdom of God in a mystery"?a message so unworldly, so incredible, so exacting that none but the Holy Spirit could open human hearts to receive it to the salvation of their souls.

The parallels between Romans 16:25-27 and 1 Corinthians 2 are more or less obvious. In the one Paul adored "him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ." In the other he averred that he had determined not to know anything among the Corinthians save Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2). In Romans 16 Paul affirmed his preaching had been "according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began." And in 1 Corinthians 2 he affirmed, "We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory" (1 Cor. 2:2). In the former he announced the mystery "now is made manifest, by the scriptures of the prophets." In the latter he quoted one of the prophets and added, "But God hath revealed them [the inconceivable things mentioned in the previous verse] unto us by his Spirit" (1 Cor. 2:10). In the doxology Paul ascribed glory unto "God only wise"; in the doctrinal passage he expressly mentioned the wisdom of God. Thus one passage serves to interpret the other.

Grand Mystery Made Manifest

"But now is made manifest" (Rom. 16:26). What is? Why, the grand mystery mentioned in the previous verse. And how is it "made manifest"? By the "gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ" (Rom. 16:25). With this declaration of the apostle?s should be closely compared his earlier one: "But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested" (Rom. 3:21). And that in turn takes us back to the thesis of this epistle: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith" (Rom. 1:16-17). In the New Testament era (the "now" of our text and of Romans 3:21) there has been a fuller and more glorious manifestation of God than there was in all the preceding eras. And that in a twofold sense: both in the degree of light given and in those who received it. God was wondrously made known to Israel, yet nothing like He was when He became incarnate and tabernacled among men. God?s perfections were exhibited in His law, yet how much more clearly are they irradiated by His gospel!

Perhaps nothing more strikingly portrays the contrast between the two dispensations in connection with the manifestation of the divine excellency than placing side by side what is recorded in Exodus 33 and a statement made in 2 Corinthians 4. In the former we find Moses making request of Jehovah: "I beseech thee, show me thy glory" (Ex. 33:18). Let the reader look up Exodus 33:19-22 and then ponder the Lord?s response, "Thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen" (Ex. 33:23). How well may a person be known by a passing glance of his "back parts"! That was characteristic and emblematic of the Old Testament economy. Now set over against that this most precious passage: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). "The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him" (John 1:18)?revealed Him, made Him known, fully told Him forth.

But there is another sense in which the mystery is now made manifest as it was not previously, namely, in the more extensive promulgation of it. Under the former economy the Psalmist declared, "He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them" (Ps. 147:19-20). For more than half the span of present human history the heathen world was left in darkness, for from the tower of Babel (Gen. 11) onward God "suffered all nations to walk in their own ways" (Acts 14:16) so that they were deprived of even the outward means of grace. But after His resurrection the Savior bade His ambassadors, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19). In accordance with this He gave a special commission unto Saul of Tarsus to bear His name "before the Gentiles" (Acts 9:15), and by and by through the gospel which Paul proclaimed the contents of the grand mystery were heralded far and wide.

That to which reference has been made receives express mention in all of the leading passages where this mystery is in view. In our present one it is specifically declared that the mystery is "made known to all nations" (Rom. 16:26). In 2 Corinthians we learn that in the past the mystery was that which "none of the princes of this world knew" (v. 8) but which God had revealed to the Corinthian saints (v. 10). In Ephesians 3:8 the apostle averred it had been given him to "preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ," which in the light of verses 2-5 signifies that therein was contained the very substance of the mystery.

In Colossians 1:25-27 Paul alluded again to the special dispensation God had given him to the Gentiles in connection with the mystery which he here speaks of as "Christ in you [or ?among you?] the hope of glory." While in what may perhaps be termed the classic passage of 1 Timothy 3:16, one of the items comprising the mystery is that it should be preached unto the Gentiles.

Gentiles Accorded a Prominent Place

The prominent place accorded the Gentiles in these passages has led some of the more extreme dispensationalists to draw an erroneous conclusion. They argue that the mystical Body of Christ is preeminently Gentile, that the Old Testament saints have no place in it, and that it not only had no historical existence before the call of the Apostle Paul but that no other reference to it is to be found in his epistles.

We shall not turn aside to refute this error, but would simply call attention to the fact that Old Testament prophecy clearly foretold that Christ should be a "light of the Gentiles" (Isa. 42:6-7; 49:6). The Savior Himself announced, "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring,... and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd" (John 10:16). Caiaphas prophesied that Christ would "gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad" (John 11:52). Not the simple purpose to call Gentiles into the Church nor to make them "joint-heirs" with the Jews, but rather the whole plan of redemption made that possible. The mystery is concerned with that.

"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" (Rom. 16:26). We will consider the subordinate clause first. This commandment respects the three things mentioned in the previous verse: it was by divine appointment that this gospel, this preaching of Jesus Christ, this revealed mystery, should be made known. The word rendered "commandment" may mean "decree," and then the reference is to Psalm 2:7 and those passages where the decree is declared, such as "all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God" (Ps. 98:3). It may mean "law" or "statute," in which case the reference is to the words of our Lord: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations" (Matthew 28:19). That was indeed the commandment of the everlasting God, both as the Father spake in Him and as He was and is, "over all God, blessed for ever" (Rom. 9:5). The reason for and the special propriety of here styling Deity "the everlasting God" lies in the dominant subject of this passage, namely, "the mystery" or "the everlasting covenant" in which was centralized His eternal purpose (Eph. 3:11), which concerned the salvation of His elect (2 Tim. 1:9). This salvation God "promised [to Christ] before the world began" (Titus 1:2).

We regard the clause "and by the scriptures of the prophets" (Rom. 16:26) first, as looking back to the mystery of the previous verse; second, as being linked to "and now is made manifest"; and third, as connected with the final clause of this verse.

The mystery, or everlasting covenant, was the subject of Old Testament revelation (2 Sam. 23:5; Psalm 89:34; Isaiah 55:3), yet for the most part its wondrous contents were couched in obscure figures and mysterious prophecies. By means of the antitypes of those figures and the fulfillment of those prophecies, much light has been cast upon what was so heavily veiled throughout the old economy. The parable they contained has been explained and their symbols interpreted so that what was for many generations dark is "now made manifest." Israel?s prophets announced the grace that should come to us and "searched diligently" (1 Pet. 1:10) in connection therewith. Yet Peter himself needed a special vision to convince him that salvation was designed for the Gentiles (Acts 10). Thus the Old Testament credits the New, and the New Testament illuminates the Old. What was latent in the one is not patent in the other.

Immediate Design of the Gospel

"Made known to all nations for the obedience of faith" (Rom. 16:26). This is the immediate design of the gospel, the preaching of Jesus Christ, the revelation of the mystery, the commandment of the everlasting God. It is that all who hear and read should both believe and obey, receive and be governed by it. Though saving faith and evangelical obedience may be distinguished, yet they are inseparable, the one never existing without the other. As has been said, the gospel commands us to give up ourselves to Christ, to be accepted through Him, and to be ruled by Him; for He is the "author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Heb. 5:9). Unspeakably solemn it is to know that He will yet come "in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel" (2 Thess. 1:8). Only that faith is of any value that produces sincere and loving obedience, and only that obedience is acceptable to God which issues from faith in His incarnate Son. The design of the gospel is to bring us to both. Faith is the vital principle, obedience the necessary product. Faith is the root; obedience the fruit.

"To God only wise, be glory" (Rom. 16:27). The reason why the apostle here adores the Deity in this way leads to a wide and wondrous subject which we trust will grip the reader as much as it has the writer. Though we propose to devote the balance of this chapter to a consideration of this verse, we shall not now attempt a complete outline of it. It is in the grand mystery to which the apostle had alluded in the previous verses, in the constitution and outworking of the everlasting covenant that the consummate wisdom of God is so illustriously and preeminently displayed and which drew out of the apostle?s heart to give praise for this divine excellence. O that wisdom may be given us to hold up to view this perfection of Him whose "understanding is infinite" (Ps. 147:5).

"To God only wise." He is the only wise Being essentially, superlatively, eternally (cf. 1 Timothy 1:17; Jude 25). God is wise not by communication from another but originally and independently; whereas the wisdom of the creature is but a ray from the "Father of lights" (James 1:17). The wisdom of God is seen in all His ways and works, yet in some it appears more conspicuously than in others. "O LORD, how manifold are all thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches" (Ps. 104:24). The reference here is to His works in creation. The same adoring exclamation may be made of His works in providence, wherein He regulates all the complicated affairs of the universe and governs this world so that all things are made to redound unto His glory and work together for the good of His people. But it is the marvelous plan of redemption which may well be called the masterpiece of His wisdom. That is indeed the "wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory," containing as it does "the deep things of God" (1 Cor. 2:7, 10). So many were the problems of redemption to be solved (humanly speaking), so many the ways and means required, so great the variety of its exercise, that it is designated "the manifold wisdom of God" (Eph. 3:10).

Wisdom of God Displayed in the Gospel

The consummate wisdom of God appears in devising salvation for sinners, which problem would have baffled forever the understanding of all finite intelligences. God contrived a way where they could have found none. Both the design of the everlasting covenant and the means ordained to be used are most worthy of God. "The mystery of his will" (Eph. 1:9) is the foundation of it. "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy" (Rom. 9:15). "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph. 1:11). As one of the Puritans expressed it, "His will set His wisdom to work." During recent years Christian writers?when treating of God?s so-great salvation?have thrown most of their emphasis on the grace which provided it and the power which effectuates it, and comparatively little attention has been given to the wisdom which planned it. God determined to work in a most glorious manner and the end and the means were equally admirable. So grand and marvelous is the work of redemption that when the angels were sent as ambassadors extraordinary to bring tidings of peace to the world, they burst forth in that moving adoration, "Glory to God in the highest" (Luke 2:14).

God?s Glory His Supreme End

The supreme end which God had in view was His own glory, the subordinate end the recovery of His lapsed and ruined people. By the "glory of God" is meant the manifestation of Himself in the exercise of His attributes, the display of His perfections. In all the works of God His excellencies are evidenced. But as some stars shine more brightly than others, so His perfections are more manifest in certain of His works. And as there is one heavenly body which far surpasses all the planets, so the work of redemption greatly exceeds in wonder all the marvels of creation. It is here that wisdom and goodness, righteousness and mercy, holiness and grace, truth and peace, love and power, are united in their highest degree and beauty. On that account the apostle uses the expression "the glorious gospel of the blessed God" (1 Tim. 1:11). That gospel is, as one has expressed it, "The unspotted mirror wherein the great and wonderful effects of Deity are set forth." It is the glorious work of redemption which evokes the praise and thanksgiving of all the inhabitants of heaven (Rev. 5:12-13).

In contemplating the possibility of redemption the very attributes of God seem to be divided against it. Mercy was inclined to save, whereas justice demanded the death of the transgressor. The majesty of God seemed to render it unworthy of His exalted greatness that He should treat with defiled dust. The veracity of God required the infliction of the penalty which He had denounced against obedience; the honor of His truth must be preserved. The holiness of God appeared to preclude utterly any advance toward depraved creatures. Yet the love of God was set upon them. But how could it flow forth without compromising His other perfections? What finite intelligence could have found a solution to such a problem? Suppose this problem had been submitted to the angels and after due deliberation they had recognized that a mediator was necessary to heal the breach which sin had made, to reconcile God to sinners and sinners to God. Where was a suitable mediator to be found? Consider the qualifications he must possess.

Qualifications of a Suitable Mediator

In order to be eligible for such an undertaking, a mediator must be able to touch equally both extremes: he must be capable of the sentiments and affections of both the parties he would reconcile; he must be a just esteemer of the rights and injuries of the one and of the other. But for that he must possess the nature of both, so that he has in himself a common interest in both. Moreover, he must have sufficient merit as to secure the reward for many. But such an one was not to be found, either in heaven or in earth. Yet this absence did not defeat Omniscience. God determined to provide a Mediator, and that none other than His own Son. But how could that be seeing He was possessed of the divine nature only? Suppose that question had been submitted to the celestial spirits. Had they not been forever at a loss to unravel the difficulty? Suppose further that God had made known to them that His Son would become incarnate, taking unto Himself human nature, the Word becoming flesh. Would they not still have been completely baffled?

Admire then and adore the amazing wisdom of God in ordaining a Mediator fully qualified to reconcile God to men and men to God. Marvel at such exercise of omniscience that devised the virgin birth whereby the Son became partaker of our nature without contracting the least iota of defilement, whereby He was Immanuel both by nature and by office, whereby He was a fit Daysman (Job 9:33) to lay His hand on each of the estranged parties, whereby He had both zeal for God and compassion for men, and whereby He might serve as a substitute on behalf of the guilty and make full satisfaction to the divine justice in their stead. Moreover, divine wisdom resolved this difficulty in such a way that, far from the glory of the Son being tarnished by the incarnation, it has been enhanced thereby, for He receives throughout the endless ages of eternity such a revenue of praise from His redeemed which the holy angels are incapable of rendering Him, while they themselves have been afforded additional grounds for adoring Him.

Compass of Divine Wisdom

Consider also the compass of divine wisdom in taking occasion from the sin and fall of man to bring more glory to God and to raise man to a more excellent state. Sin, in its own nature, has no tendency to good; it is not an apt medium; it has no proper efficacy to promote the glory of God; so far is it from a direct contribution to God?s glory that, on the contrary, it is the most real dishonor to Him. But as a black background in a picture, which in itself may be thought by some to detract, sets off the lighter colors and heightens their beauty, so the evil of sin, considered absolutely, obscures the glory of God. Yet by the overruling disposition of His providence sin serves to illustrate His name and to make it more glorious in the esteem of reasonable creatures. Without the sin of man there would be no place for the most perfect exercise of God?s goodness. Happy fault, not in itself but by the wisdom and marvelous counsel of God, to be repaired in a way so advantageous that the salvation of the earth is the wonder of heaven.

Bates, in The Harmony of the Divine Attributes, said, "The wisdom of God appears in ordaining such contemptible and, in appearance, opposite means, to accomplish such glorious effects. The way is as wonderful as the work. That Christ by dying on the cross [as] a reputed malefactor should be made our everlasting righteousness; that descending to the grave, He should bring up a lost world to life and immortality, is so incredible to our narrow understandings that He saves us and astonishes us at once. In nothing is it more visible that the thoughts of God are far above our thoughts and His ways above our ways as heaven is above the earth (Isa. 55:8). It is a secret in physic to compound the most noble remedies of things destructible to nature, and thereby make one death victorious over another: but that eternal life should spring from death, glory from ignominy, blessedness from a curse, is so repugnant to human sense that to render the belief of it easy, it was foretold by many prophets, that when it came to pass it might be looked on as the effect of God?s eternal counsels."

"To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen" (Rom. 16:27). The Greek is somewhat complex and the Revised Version states more literally, "To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever. Amen." As each translation is equally legitimate, we adopt them both, for each is in perfect harmony with other passages. The thought conveyed by the Authorized Version is this: Our adoration of God is possible only through the mediation of Jesus Christ. The concept expressed by the Revised Version is this: It is in and through Jesus Christ that God is superlatively manifested as both infinite in might and omniscient in knowledge. "Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:24). In and by the person and work of Christ are these divine perfections supremely displayed. He is the "image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15), "the brightness [or outshining] of his glory" (Heb. 1:3). The Object of this doxology is the omnipotent and omniscient God: the subject which gives rise to it is the mystery, or everlasting covenant; the substance of it is "glory for ever"; the Medium of it is Jesus Christ.

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

Subscribe to RPM

RPM subscribers receive an email notification each time a new issue is published. Notifications include the title, author, and description of each article in the issue, as well as links directly to the articles. Like RPM itself, subscriptions are free. To subscribe to RPM, please select this link.