" ... it hath now been revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit";
"According to the purpose of the ages which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:5, 11).
As we now arrive at the very heart of the whole matter, it is necessary to repeat, firstly, that the Apostle Paul does not claim exclusiveness in the revelation of the long hidden mystery. While he certainly and positively does claim that it was revealed to him in a specific and particular way, and that this revelation constituted him a particular "steward," and that he was chosen and dealt with by the Lord in a way which especially related to this purpose, yet he includes "His holy apostles and prophets" in the knowledge of the long-hidden, but now unveiled, secret. It is evident that Paul did have a fuller "understanding" and perhaps a unique apprehension of it, but it is not difficult to find at least partial traces of this knowledge in Peter and John, as it was also true in Stephen.
We must also emphasize that Paul's was not a different Gospel from that preached by the others, and certainly Paul did not have two Gospels, one concerning "Salvation" and the other concerning "The Mystery." How often have we heard Christians say that they are only interested in "the simple Gospel," the Gospel of salvation," and that they are not interested in "deeper teaching or truth." Paul would have been both surprised and grieved to hear such language, for his "Gospel" was one, and he would say that the fullest and deepest revelation is the Gospel. There can only be tragic and grievous loss and weakness resulting from failure to see that "the whole counsel of God" is the Gospel. The position so much to be deplored in great numbers of Christians is so largely due to fallacy: the fallacy that it is unwise, if not futile, to give the greatness and immensity of God's revelation in Christ to either the unsaved or to young Christians. Let them be made aware of the vastness of that to which they are called! A little Christ and a little Christianity will produce little Christians! Some of the best and strongest Christians that we have known came to the Lord in gatherings where the greatness of Christ was being unfolded to Christian, and Christians in responsibility. "Back to the simple Gospel" can be a snare and a sop to those who do not really mean business with God!
At the time of writing this we are in the midst of having work done on our present home. Hammers and drills are making such a noise as to almost deafen. The workmen are explaining, "This house is well built. The bricks are not just put together with ordinary sand cement, but with concrete, and it is very hard work to make a hole." God's building is like that, whereas men build - not for eternity - but for the present. But, mark you, it is not just deep teaching that we advocate, but Holy Spirit unveiling of Christ.
That brings us to the message and substance of this letter in particular. Standing before it we find ourselves facing some of the greatest questions and problems with which men have been, and still are, wrestling in the realm of Christianity. This letter answers them, but how few there are who see the answer, and fewer still who- if they glimpse it - are prepared to follow it. Fear, self-interest, and failure to recognize the great moral interests kept men as "isolationists." Let us at once affirm that "The Letter to the Ephesians" represents the greatest religious crisis in the history of the world. It tells us that, out from the past eternity has come the revelation of a secret which God had kept hidden from all previous ages. The revelation has introduced and inaugurated a dispensation of greater importance and significance than any age before it. It tells us that for the ministering of this revelation God chose, prepared and appointed an instrument of a particular kind; one formed by God in a particular way. This instrument - Paul - was never ordained or appointed to this work by men, although he was recognized and "sent forth" by the Church. He was never taught or prepared for his work by man. He received everything direct and at first hand from Heaven. He was dealt with by the Lord in a way that wholly corresponded with the purpose for which he was chosen. The Letter which is before us goes to the heart of a matter which has been growingly occupying the most serious consideration of all Christendom and is the matter which is perhaps more to the fore today than any other. It is the matter of very real consequence to all Christians but, unfortunately, it has been lifted above the ordinary person by a highbrow term which is so widely employed. The word or term which has been so much used since about the year 1900 is "Ecumenical," a word from another language. Of course, something impressive is lost if its simple meaning is employed, which is "worldwide"; and its present instrument is what is known as "The Word Council." This "Council" is laboriously applying itself to discover a solution to the chaos and complications of divisions in Christendom. For centuries the various sections - called "Denominations" or "Churches"- of Christendom have tenaciously held to the position that they were each originated and justified on a basis of Scriptural authority. Every division has made that claim, and finds its strength in that conviction. Now the slogan of the "World Council," or Ecumenical Movement, is "these man-made divisions" which must be got rid of. For one of its great convocations the subject chosen was "The Order of God and the Disorder of Man." This was subsequently changed to "Man's Disorder and God's Design." But every attempt to resolve this problem, whether it be in general or even among evangelicals, meets with unsolvable difficulties, and the only recourse is to tolerate or compromise on matters of serious account. So a number of compromises has to be introduced into the program for unity. The great problem of divisions in Christianity is as hopeless of solving by human resources as they are the many inter-racial problems.
(continued with # 4)