The Great Mystery

Ephesians

The Great Mystery

February 24th, 1957 @ 10:50 AM

Ephesians 5:30

For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
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THE GREAT MYSTERY (THE CHURCH)

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Ephesians 5:30

2-24-57    10:50 a.m.

 

 

You are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the 11:00 o’clock morning message. 

In our preaching through the Bible, we are in the midst of the fifth chapter of the Book of Ephesians.  If you would turn to it in your Scriptures, you can follow the morning message with me.  The passage is one of the most meaningful to be found in all holy writ.  We read from the twenty-second to the thirty-second verses of the fifth chapter of Ephesians:

 

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the Saviour of the body . . .   

Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it;

That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 

That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 

So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies.  He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 

For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 

For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. 

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 

This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

[Ephesians 5:22-32]

 

That is a marvelous and unusual passage. 

I am to speak from this text: "For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.  This is a great mystery:  but I speak concerning Christ and the church" [Ephesians 5:30, 32].  This is one of the most meaningful of all of the texts in the circumference of the Holy Scriptures.  It’s not one that we ought to say, "Yes, yes indeed, that’s true" and forget it, but it is a passage that is like manna from heaven.  It is like the stream of life that flowed from the rock in the weary land.  And as Mary sat at the feet of Jesus [Luke 10:39], so we sit today and meditate and wonder at the words of grace that are written in this Book of life. 

"For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones" [Ephesians 5:30].  Who are the "we"?  "We are of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones."  That "we" is like Noah’s door, the door to the ark.  It shuts out, and it shuts in.  Some are on the outside, and some are on the inside [Genesis 7:1-24]. 

This "we" who are the members of His body, he describes them.  He addresses them.  In the first chapter of Ephesians, beginning at the fourth verse, he says that "we" are we who are chosen in Him before the foundation of the world [Ephesians 1:4].  In the fifth verse, that "we" are we who are predestinated unto the adoption of children [Ephesians 1:5] – taken out of the family of Satan and enrolled into the family of God [Colossians 1:13].  In the sixth verse, that "we" are we who are accepted in the Beloved [Ephesians 1:6].  In Christ, God welcomes us, accepts us.  That "we" in the seventh verse: "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" [Ephesians 1:7].  The "we" who are of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones, is the "we" who have been redeemed, who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. 

 

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? 

Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? 

["Are You Washed In The Blood?" by Elisha A. Hoffman, 1878]

 

"In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" [Ephesians 1:7].  That is the "we" who are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones [Ephesians 5:30].  And Paul describes this as: "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church" [Ephesians 5:32]. 

This Book of Ephesians is the book of the church.  Some of these men who study it so earnestly say it’s the last book that Paul wrote.  Certainly it is the highest revelation that came to the apostle.  In the third chapter of the book, he says:

 

I, Paul . . .

If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

How that by revelation God made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 

Whereby, when you read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 

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 . . . 

To make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God . . .   

To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God. 

This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 

[Ephesians 3:1-5, 9, 10; 5:32]

 

There is here, Paul says, a thing, a secret, that was hidden in the heart and counsels of God from the beginning of the creation and only now is it made known in the mystery of the church [Ephesians 3:3, 5].  Now, the mystery that he revealed in the third chapter of the book concerned the complexion, the makeup, the membership of the body of Christ.  It was to include the Gentile with the Jew [Ephesians 3:6].  It was to include all of the families of all of the nations of the world [Ephesians 3:8-9] – all of them select, elect, chosen, adopted, redeemed in Christ – and all of them were to form a new body, a new creation: the church. 

Until then, God had an elect race, a chosen people, the seed of Abraham [Deuteronomy 7:6-8; Isaiah 41:8].  But in the counsels of God, there was a mystery – that is, a secret God hid away until the time for it to be revealed.  And when that revelation came, there was born into this world something new, something the world had never seen before: the church.  And this is the age of that mystery, the age of grace, the age of redemption, the age of the Holy Spirit, the age of God’s chosen people who’ve been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.  That’s the mystery that Paul describes in the third chapter of the book [Ephesians]. 

Now, in the fifth chapter, he reveals another part of this mystery: "For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church" [Ephesians 5:30, 32].  Well, this is that mystery.  Paul quotes here almost verbatim the words of Adam when God – well, let me read the passage: 

 

And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and God took one of his ribs from his side, and closed up the flesh instead thereof.  

And the rib, which the Lord had taken from the side of the man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man. –

And when Adam saw her, Adam said –  

"This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called ‘ishshâ, ‘Woman,’ because she was taken out of ‘îsh, out of ‘Man.’" 

[Genesis 2:21-23]

 

And Adam said: "This is bone of my bones. This is flesh of my flesh" [Genesis 2:23].  And he took her unto himself and loved her – Eve. 

Now, Paul takes the identical words: "For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church"  [Ephesians 5:30, 32].

What is the mystery?  All right.  This is it.  The mystery is first the mystery of origin, of extraction.  Adam said, "This, this lovely gift – this woman Eve – she is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh because she was taken out of my side" [from Genesis 2:23].  "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church"  [Ephesians 5:32].  What is the origin of the church?  It was taken from the side of our Lord full and near His heart.  And the mark of the wound is still in His flesh, and the memorial of its birth is still engraved in His hands.  I have often wondered if the man who wrote that song that we sang this morning had this in mind when he said:

 

I love Thy church, O God; 

Her walls before Thee stand, 

Dear is the apple of Thine eye, 

And graven on Thy hand. 

["Love to the Church," by Timothy Dwight, 1800]

 

The mystery of origin.  "I speak concerning Christ and the church" [Ephesians 5:32].  This new Eve, which is the mother of all living [Genesis 3:20], where did she come from?  She came from the riven side of our Lord.  The birth of the church is in the wounded side of Jesus.  "And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true" [John 19:35].  "Forthwith, flowed there out blood and water" [from John 19:34].  And in the blood, and in the water, is found the birth of the church.  "For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.  I speak concerning Christ and the church" [Ephesians 5:30, 32].

When Thomas said, "I do not believe that He lives.  I saw Him crucified.  I saw Him die.  I saw Him buried.  I saw the tomb rolled over the sepulcher and it sealed by the Roman government.  I do not believe that He lives" [from John 20:25], and the next Sunday evening, the disciples being together, Jesus stood in the midst and said, "Thomas, Thomas, reach thither thy hand, and thrust it into My side; and reach thither thy finger and behold the nails in the palm, the print of the nails in the palms of My hands: and be not faithless but believing."  And Thomas cried, "My Lord and my God" [from John 20:26-28].

I have heard that somewhere before.  I remember where:

 

And Jesus said, "But whom say ye that I am?" 

And Peter replied, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." 

And Jesus said, "Thou art Peter and upon this rock" –

the great confession, the deity of the Son of God, by the wounds in His side and by the wounds in His hands and feet, on this rock, the Son of God –

"I will build My church."

[Matthew 16:15-16, 18]

 

"We are members of His body, of His flesh, of His bones.  I speak concerning Christ and the church" [Ephesians 5:30, 32].  Where did the church come from?  What is its origin?  Go back and back and back.  It came from the side of our Lord.  What is this mystery?  It is the mystery of similarity of nature.  "We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones" [Ephesians 5:30].  And when Eve was brought to Adam, Adam looked upon her and said, "This is of me myself – my nature.  She’s of me, of my own bones, of my own flesh" [from Genesis 2:23].  He did not look upon her as a stranger, as a genus of a different kind, but like himself – similarity of nature.  "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" [Genesis 2:23].  And he took her unto himself and loved her. 

"I speak concerning Christ and the church" [Ephesians 5:32].  Similarity of nature:  Jesus took our nature and we share His.  "It behooved Him in all things to be made like unto His brethren" [Hebrews 2:17].  "For verily, He took not upon Him the nature of angels; but He took upon Him the seed of Abraham" [Hebrews 2:16].  "And we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones" [Ephesians 5:30] – the same nature, we and our Lord – one. 

Our Lord was born of a woman, born a child [Luke 1:30-35, 2:6-7].  And He grew up to know all of the trials of life: the rain and the cold and the snow and the heat of the sun.  And the ground bore for Him thistles and thorns as it does for us [Matthew 4:1].  And the same seas that tossed His little ship toss us and will [Mark 4:37-38].  And He was tried [Hebrews 4:15], and He was hungry [Mark 11:12] and He was thirsty [John 19:28] and He was rebuked [Mark 8:31-32] and He was slandered [Matthew 12:24].  And He knew sorrow [Isaiah 53:3] and tears [Hebrews 5:7] and heartache [Mark 3:5] and pain [John 19:1-3] and finally death [Mark 15:25, 37]. 

"See," said He to His disciples, "Handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones" [Luke 24:39].  "We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones" [Ephesians 5:30].  "For a spirit hath not flesh and bones, such as ye see Me have" [Luke 24:39]. 

I have highly offended some people in these days past in my preaching because they say I have so much of the physical in religion.  I did not invent it.  Flesh and bones, I did not invent it.  God made it, and, somehow, God identifies Himself with it.  This house, this tabernacle is not just something that a man can dismiss as being dust and that’s all.  God says it is the tabernacle [2 Corinthians 5:1].  It is the house of the soul.  It is the tabernacle of the eternal and immortal Spirit [1 Corinthians 6:19].  And the great basic tenet of the Christian faith is that it shall live forever.  It shall be resurrected [1 Thessalonians 4:16].  It shall be raised again [1 Corinthians 15:52].  These bones and this flesh, He has our nature – flesh and bones.  "A great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church" [Ephesians 5:32]. 

He has our nature, our flesh and our bones, and we have His.  We are made partakers of the divine nature – Second Peter 1:4.  And the fifteenth of First Corinthians: "As we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" [from 1 Corinthians 15:]  And Jesus said, "’Why look with doubt upon Me?  Have ye here anything to eat?’  And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.  And He did eat before them" [from Luke 24:38, 41-43]: flesh and bones.  Isn’t that a remarkable thing? 

When I eat, there is that mystery of life in my body that is able to take food that is dead and inert and quicken it and make it alive, and it becomes I; it becomes you; it is we.  It is elevated again into the world that is immortal and glorified and spiritual – a spiritual body but one that has flesh and one that has bones.  Our risen Lord like us [Luke 24:38-43] and we resurrected and transfigured like Him [1 Corinthians 15:51-53].  "For we are the members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.  This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church" [Ephesians 5:30, 32].

The mystery of the same nature: as Jesus was made one with us, we are one with Him. And that leads me to the third part of that great mystery – the mystery of vital union.  "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it" [Ephesians 5:25].  "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord" [Ephesians 5:22].  "So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies.  He that loveth his wife loveth himself.  For no man hates his flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church" [Ephesians 5:28-29].  "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church" [Ephesians 5:32].

When Eve was brought to Adam, he took her unto himself and loved her.  "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" [Genesis 2:23].  And there was between Adam, God’s first and perfect man, and between Eve, who was taken from his side, there was that indissoluble bond and union: the closest, dearest, most intense of all of the relationships in life, together to share the sorrows and joys of all of the turns of fortune and of life.  I think, though it’s just my own interpretation and I do not think it is infallible, I think that when Eve was tempted and deceived and fell, when Adam looked upon it, he was not deceived, but he chose rather to share the judgment of his beloved and precious wife rather than live alone [Genesis 3:1-6].  I think Adam chose to eat.  The Bible says so.  The Bible says he was not deceived, but Eve was deceived [1 Timothy 2:14].  But Adam chose.  And I think he so loved that companion who’d been taken out of his side, whom he said, "She is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" [Genesis 2:23], I think Adam chose to die with her. 

Now, Paul uses that closeness, that indissoluble relationship and makes it a picture of Christ and His people:  "The mystery of vital union: I speak concerning Christ and the church" [from Ephesians 5:32]: we and our Lord – not unity, but identity.  His bones, His flesh, not just joined to, but made a part of.  In another passage in [Ephesians] to which we’ll come, Paul says that the church is the "fulness of Him that filleth all in all."  [Ephesians 1:23]  And without us, Christ is not full, and He’s not complete.  We are necessary to our Lord.  We’re not just appendages.  We’re not just afterthoughts.  But we are elected [1 Thessalonians 1:4] and chosen [John 15:16] and adopted [Romans 8:15] and redeemed [Titus 2:14] and washed [Titus 3:5] and forgiven [Colossians 1:14] and made a part of the very body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:27]. 

What could a head be without members, without a body?  What could a savior be apart from the saved?  What could a king be apart from his kingdom and his people?  What could a shepherd be apart from his flock?  What could Jesus be without us?  I say it in all humility.  "We are the members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones [Ephesians 5:30].  "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church"  [Ephesians 5:32].  We are identified with Him – the mystery of identity, of vital union.  When Christ died, we died [Romans 6:6-8].  The great preaching of the cross: our sins atoned for [Colossians 2:13-14].  When Christ died, we died [Colossians 3:3].  When Christ was buried, we were buried [Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12].  When Christ was raised, we were raised [Ephesians 2:5-6].

One of the great preachment of the Christian gospel is this: that we are the children of the resurrection.  Therefore, death has no power or dominion over us [1 Corinthians 15:51-57].  We have been raised with Him [Colossians 3:1].  And what we call this sting of death is nothing but a putting aside of this house of clay that it might be resurrected into that glorious temple made without hands, eternal in the heavens, like unto His own glorious body [Philippians 3:20-21].  The glorious union we have in Him:  "A mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church" [from Ephesians 5:32]. 

And then that leads me to this last part of that great mystery of Christ and His church.  It is the mystery of an eternal security, of an everlasting salvation.  "For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones" [Ephesians 5:30].  And look how the Lord regards us.  "For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church" [Ephesians 5:29]. 

As a man, if he hurts himself, will bind up his wound, as a man will nourish and cherish his own flesh, so the Lord doth nourish and cherish His people, His church.  For it says: "He sanctifies and cleanses it with the washing of water by the Word" [from Ephesians 5:26].  And that’s why we come here to hear the Word of the Lord:  that we might be sanctified, that we might be cleansed, that some of us who thus far outside the kingdom that we might be saved – born again by the Word of God which liveth and abideth forever [1 Peter 1:25] – "That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" [Ephesians 5:27].

Those are the two things: first, the Lord nourisheth and cherisheth the church for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones [Ephesians 5:29-30].  I say that’s the mystery of the eternal security and the eternal salvation of His people.  Did you ever think, did you ever think, "As long as my head is above water, you can’t drown my feet – never"?  As long as my Head is in glory, the Head of the church, I may be the weakest and feeblest of the members of His body, yea, the sole of His foot that’s trampled on in the mire, but as long as my Head is in glory, I’ll not be lost or drowned or forsaken – never, never. 

 

I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never, never perish . . .   

My Father, who gave them Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to tear them out of My Father’s hand.

[from John 10:28-29]

 

"For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones" [Ephesians 5:30].  Suppose you Christ will lose some of the members of His body.  Would He lose one?  Would He lose half?  Would He lose all?  It is unthinkable.  It is inconceivable.  It is unimaginable [John 18:9].  That’s the reason Paul says: "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world . . . having predestinated us unto the adoption of children" [Ephesians 1:4-5].  Christ will not lose the least of His members.  The feeblest and humblest of the one that places his trust in Jesus, God will not lose.  His ear is attuned to their cry [Psalm 34:15]. 

He listens to His children when they pray [1 John 5:14].  We may not be so great in the kingdom.  We may not be so famous in the church.  We may not be very well known.  We may be, I suppose, all of us shall be someday forgot.  They won’t ever remember that we ever lived.  Even the tombstone on which our name is engraved in granite will turn back to the dust.  And they shall forget that we ever lived.  But He will not forget.  Out of the dust of the ground and out of the heart of the earth shall God speak us to life and to resurrection [1 Thessalonians 4:16].  "For we are the members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.  The great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church" [Ephesians 5:30, 32].

And that’s our destiny: "that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but holy and without blemish" [from Ephesians 5:27].  That’s our destiny in glory, in heaven.  Does our Lord reign?  We shall reign [2 Timothy 2:12].  Is our Lord triumphant?  We shall be triumphant [Romans 8:37].  Does our Lord sit on a throne?  We shall sit on a throne [Revelation 3:21].  Is our Lord in heaven?  We shall be in heaven [Revelation 22:3-5].  "For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones . . . I speak concerning Christ and the church" [Ephesians 5:30, 32].  Oh, the dearness and the comfort and the sweetness and the strength of the Christian faith: one with our Lord, chosen in Him, saved forever! 

While we sing our song this morning, somebody you, give his heart to the Lord. Somebody you, put his life in the church.  While we make this appeal, while we sing this song, would you come?  In the balcony around, down these stairwells, come and stand by me.  In this great throng of people on the lower floor, into the aisle and down here and stand by me.  "Pastor, I’ve given my heart to God.  I give my hand to you."  However the Lord shall open the way and bid you come, would you make it now?  Some by confession of faith, some by letter or promise of letter: one somebody you, a family you.  Are you listening on this television?  Are you listening on the radio?  Have you never given your heart in trust to Christ?  When you look ahead, is it just darkness for you?  Is it just age and death?  Is it just the grave and the night?  Is that all? 

Ah, God says there is more: the sweetest, the dearest, the finest, the greatest, the most glorious and best.  There’s another world, and He says and it’s better than this [Revelation 21:4].  And there’s another life, and God says and it’s better than this.  There’s another fellowship, another home, on the other side of that river.  On the other side of that divide, there’s a kingdom that is to come.  Are you in it, and are you ready?  Where are you, would you give your heart in faith to the Lord?  And here this morning, would you make a decision for Christ and make it now?  Would you?  And come and give me your hand while we stand and while we sing. 

THE GREAT MYSTERY

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Ephesians 5:30

2-24-57

 

I.          We are the members of His body

A.  Like Noah’s door – some on the outside, some on the inside

B.  Paul describes them

      1.  Chosen (Ephesians 1:4)

      2.  Adopted into family of God (Ephesians 1:5)

      3.  Accepted (Ephesians 1:6)

      4.  Redeemed (Ephesians 1:7)

C.  A mystery(Ephesians 5:32)

1.  There was to be a new living body, made up of Gentile and Jew(Ephesians 3:2-5, 9-10, 5:32)

2.  Parallel between body of Christ and creation of Eve(Ephesians 5:30, 32, Genesis 2:21-23)

 

II.         Mystery of origin

A.  Taken from the side of our Lord

B.  Birth of the church is in the wounded side of Jesus(John 19:34-35, John 20:27-28, Matthew 16:15-16, 18)

 

III.        Mystery of nature

A.  Similarity of nature(Genesis 2:23)

B.  Jesus took our nature, and we took his(Hebrews 2:16-17, Luke 24:39, 41-43, 1 Corinthians 15:)

 

IV.       Mystery of vital union

A.  The husband and his wife(Ephesians 5:22, 25, 28-29, Genesis 2:23)

B.  Not only unity, but identity(Ephesians 1:23)

 

V.        Mystery of eternal security

A.  The care of the Lord for His church (Ephesians 1:4-5, 5:26, 29, John 10:28-29)

B.  The ultimate destiny of His church (Ephesians 5:27)