The Great Mystery

Ephesians

The Great Mystery

April 4th, 1965 @ 8:15 AM

Ephesians 5:29-32

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.
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The Great Mystery

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Ephesians 5:29-32

4-4-65    8:15 a.m.

 

On the radio, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Great Mystery.  If you will turn in your Bible to the fifth chapter of the Book of Ephesians, you can follow the message this morning.  Ephesians chapter 5:

 

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 His church.

[Ephesians 5:29-32]

 

Twice in this brief epistle to the church at Ephesus, does Paul discuss this great mystery.  In the third chapter of the epistle, he speaks of it as of heaven, a secret hidden in the heart of God.  And Paul says that :

 

By revelation God made known unto me the mystery,(Wherein, 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, but it is now revealed unto us holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, by the Spirit;

Namely, that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel,

And God hath chosen the apostles to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenlies might be known by the church this mystery, the manifold wisdom of God.

[Ephesians 3:3-6, 9-10]

 

From the beginning, says the apostle, from the foundation of the world, there was a secret.  And that was the meaning, is the meaning of the Greek word mustērion.  There was a secret.  Our word in English means: an enigma, mystery, an enigma, a riddle, a mystery.  It has no such meaning as that at all in the Greek language.  A mustērion is a secret that is not known until it is revealed.

And in the heart of God, from the beginning of the creation, there was a mustērion, a secret, namely "that someday the Gentile and the Jew," all of the families of the earth "would be fellow heirs, and partakers of the promise of Christ in the gospel" [Ephesians 3:6].  We should all be together in one great, holy, heavenly household of faith.  "The prophets never saw that," said the apostle, "for it was hid in the heart of God and was not revealed until the days of the apostles" [Ephesians 3:5,9].  "But now," says Paul, "it is fully revealed and it is manifest to the principalities, to the powers in the heavenlies" [Ephesians 3:10].  Whatever the courses of life that surge through this world, everywhere, there is manifest the glorious wisdom of God in the revelation of this mustērion through His holy apostles.  Now that’s the way he describes it in the third chapter of the Ephesians.  In the fifth chapter of the Ephesians, he returns to that same mustērion, but this time he discusses it in its revelation, in its incarnation, in its implementation in the household of faith, and in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

And as he discusses it in the fifth chapter of the book, he follows the creation of the man and his wife in the second chapter of Genesis.  "For," he says, "we," quoting Genesis 2:23: "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].  We are members of the body of our Lord.  This is addressed to a people whom He called chosen, in the fourth verse of [Ephesians], the first chapter [Ephesians 1:4]; "adopted," in the fifth verse of the first chapter; "accepted," in the sixth verse of that chapter [Ephesians 1:6]; and "redeemed by the blood in the forgiveness of our sins," in the seventh verse of the first chapter [Ephesians 1:7].  We, of the household of faith, we are chosen, and adopted, and accepted, and redeemed by the blood of the Crucified One, and we are made members of the body of our Lord [Ephesians 5:30].

Then he follows and quotes almost verbatim, and let me read the story again: "And the Lord God, and Jehovah God, caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam.  And God took out of his side, tsela."  Why they translated that "rib" nobody knows.  No one knows.  Everywhere else in the Word of the Lord, it is translated "side," and it is so here:

 

And He took of the side of Adam and closed up the flesh thereof;

And the side, which the Lord had taken from the man, made He a woman…

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh,

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. 

[Genesis 2:21-24]

 

Then following that, the apostle, speaking of the mystery of the church, says:

 

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 mustērion: but I speak concerning Christ and His church.

[Ephesians 5:30-32]

 

So following the creation of the man and his wife, the Lord has taken us into His own heart, and life, and soul, and being.  We are joined to Christ as the members are joined in a body.  This is a great mustērion.

Now may I speak of it?  This is a great mystery, and it refers to the mystery, the mustērion, of our origin, the origin of the church and the household of faith.  As Eve was taken out of the side of Adam, so the church was taken out of the side of our Lord, full near His heart, and He bears in glory the scar of that birth to this present hour.  The memorial of our regeneration is graven on His hand.  Do you remember that marvelous stanza? 

 

I love Thy church, O God;

Her walls before Thee stand,

Dear as the apple of Thine eye,

And graven on Thy hand.

[From "Attachment to the Church; Timothy Dwight]

 

As Eve was taken out of the side of Adam, so the church is taken out of the side of our Lord, and there’s a great scar of our birth and regeneration.  Where did this Eve, the mother of all living, come from?  Where did the church come from?  Trace it back.  My father and mother belonged to the church; their father and mother belonged to the church; my grandfather and grandmother belonged to the church.  And follow it back, and back, and back, through the centuries, and finally you find the church born in the sobs, and tears, and blood, and cross, and agony of our Lord – the mystery of our origin.  As Eve was taken out of the side of Adam, so the church was taken out of the side of our Lord, born in His cross, in His blood, in His tears.

"This is a great mustērion: but I speak concerning Christ and His church" [Ephesians 5:32].  This mustērion is the mystery of nature, the nature we have: one with our Lord.  And Adam looked upon Eve and said, "This is one like me, bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" [Genesis 2:23].  For in the story, all that God had made, the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field, were brought before Adam, everything that God had created, and Adam named them, one by one, as they were brought before him [Genesis 2:19-20]. 

But for Adam, "But for Adam, there was none meet for him" [Genesis 2:20].  That’s an old 1611 English word meaning: a counterpart, one like to.  "But for Adam, there was none like him."  There was no counterpart for him.  All the creation before him, all the animals that God had made, but there was nothing like Adam himself.  So God created for Adam one like himself.  And when Adam looked upon her, he said, "This is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh, one of my nature and of my kind" [Genesis 2:22-23].  And the holy apostle Paul speaks of that, a great mustērion concerning Christ and His church [Ephesians 5:32].  We have an identity of nature, we are similar; Christ took our nature, and we have taken His. 

Our Lord has taken our nature.  "For verily," said this author of the Hebrews, "He took not upon Him the nature of angels; but He took upon Him the seed of Abraham.  Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest, For in that He Himself hath suffered being tried, He is able to succor," to encourage, "them that are tried" [Hebrews 2:16-18]. 

He took our nature.  He was born of a human mother.  He was tried in His life as we are tried.  The rain that beats upon us beat upon Him.  The fierce rays of the sun that fall upon us, fell upon Him.  The cold blasts of the winter that sweeps through us, swept through Him.  The same storm and the seas that tossed His little boat, tossed our little boat.  The land for Him brought up briers and thistles and thorns.  He was weary and hungry and hurt in His heart.  All of the sorrows and disappointments that we experience in our life, He experienced in His life.  He took our nature and was made like unto us.

And He hath given us His nature, and we are made like unto God.  As 2 Peter 1:4 says, "We are partakers of His nature," and in this incomparable passage in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, listen to it:

 

So it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit,

The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second Man is the Lord from heaven.

As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.

And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

 [1 Corinthians 15:45,47-]

 

He took our nature and we partake of His nature – made in the heavenly image of our blessed Lord: the great mystery, our nature.

A third great mustērion: our vital union, "For we are members of His body, and of His flesh, and of His bones" [Ephesians 5:30], bound together in invincible union, that intimate, and close, and holy, and heavenly, and precious, and intensest relationship between the man and his wife – that same holy, heavenly, intense, and intimate relationship between us and our Lord.  Not only joined to, but made a part of; not only unity, but identity; "We are members of His body, and of His flesh, and of His bones."  And when one is maimed, and crippled, and without his members, we look forward to the holy, and heavenly, and triumphant day when they shall be well and strong again, and have all of their members.  To be dismembered is of all things sad in human life.  "We are members of His body, and of His flesh, and of His bones."  To be dismembered is to be incomplete.

I stood at the foot of the bed about a week ago in our hospital, and I said to a family group who were proposing to amputate the leg of their father, an old man so sick, I said, "Oh!  Don’t do it.  Don’t do it, the agony of the dismemberment."  But they were over persuaded, so they amputated his leg – old aged man, sweet, fine Christian man.  And not long after that, just a little while after that, he died.  And I got a letter a day or two ago from the family, and they said to me, "Dear pastor, We wished we had taken your advice."  Ah!  The things they do in the modern hospital and in modern medicine, as though to die were a loss, as though there were no heaven on the other side, as though it were not better over there.  And you fellow deacons, I want you do to something for me.  When my task is finished, and my work is done, and the time comes for me to be translated, and you walk into a hospital room and see those tubes and those oxygen tents and all of those things in order to preserve the weariness of this life a few more hours or a few more days, you go in there and you say to them, "I remember when my pastor said publicly, ‘Take them away.  Take it away.’"  For to die when our task is finished is a triumph and a victory.  God said, "It is better over there" [Philippians 1:23].

Did you ever think about Lazarus raised from the dead? [John 11:43-44].  He died twice.  He died twice.  He had to die twice.  Death is an enemy only in the sense that it wastes God’s heritage; it destroys God’s vineyard; it is an interloper; it is an intruder.  God never intended death.  But the curse of life is age, and senility, and disease, and blindness, and the loss of our faculties and our strength and our members, and death.  But beyond the hour of that convulsion and the crossing of that dark river, there is a better world, and a better promise, and a better home, and a better kingdom.  Not here but over there.  "This I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.  But, I show you a great mustērion"  [1 Corinthians 15:50-51].  "This is a great mustērion: I speak concerning Christ and His church" [Ephesians 5:32].

 

I show you a great mustērion; We may not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead in Christ shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed.

[1 Corinthians 15:51-52]

 

These blind eyes shall see, and these deaf ears shall hear, and these maimed limbs shall be strong again, and we shall live in His sight [Hosea 6:2], world without end.  "We are the members of His body, and of His flesh, and of His bones" [Ephesians 5:20].  And without us, our Lord is not complete; Christ must have His people.  There is no Savior without His saved.  There is no body without a Head.  There is no kingdom without His subjects.  There is no shepherd without His flock.  We are identified with Him.  "We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones."  And if He is dead, we die with Him.  And if He is resurrected, we are raised with Him.  And if He ascends into heaven, we ascend with Him.  Is He glorified, then we are glorified.  Is He triumphant?  Then we are triumphant.  Does He sit on a throne?  Then we shall sit on a throne.  Does He live forever?  Then we shall live forever.  "For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones [Ephesians 5:30],This is a great mustērion: but I speak concerning Christ and His church" [Ephesians 5:32].

One other I have time to speak of.  This is a great mystery; it is the mystery of our eternal security and salvation.  We are members of His body.  Look how the apostle says, "But Christ nourisheth and cherisheth us" [Ephesians 5:29].  And look at our final destiny: "That He might present us to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that we should be holy and without blemish" [Ephesians 5:27], our eternal destiny, we – we.

Will Christ lose any of His members?  When the great redeemed of all the ages and all time are in glory, will some of His members be missing?  He’lll be there and a little finger’s gone, or He’lll be there and his hand is amputated, or He’ll be there and his feet are gone, or He’lll be there and one eye is gone?  In the great assize of God’s redeemed, will all of His members be there?  Will they?

Did you ever think – as long as the head is above water, you can’t drown a man’s feet.  And as long as our Head is in glory, I may be the sole of His foot and pressed in the mire of the earth, but I shall live because He lives.  "I give unto them eternal life" [John 10:28], said our Savior, "and because I live, ye shall live also" [John 14:19].  Not the least of His members will ever, ever, ever be lost – never.  "For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones" [Ephesians 5:30], and without us, our Lord would never be complete.  And every one of us, every member of us will be there in that glorious body of the redeemed of all ages of all time.

May I say it like this?  As you know, two solid years I preached through this Apocalypse, this Revelation.  Oh, what it did to my soul!  I’ll point out one thing.  In the seventh chapter of the book, in the seventh chapter of the Revelation, there is sealed one hundred forty-four thousand.  "I heard the number of them which were sealed: an hundred forty and four thousand of all of the tribes of Israel" [Revelation 7:4].  One hundred and forty-four thousand of all of the tribes of Israel: of the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand; of the tribe of Reuben, twelve thousand; of the tribe of Gad, twelve thousand; of the tribe of Asher, of Naphtali, of Manasseh, of Simeon – one hundred forty-four thousand God sealed.  In the seventh chapter of the Revelation, before the terrible storm and fury of that final visitation of the judgment and wrath of God upon this earth, God sealed one hundred forty-four thousand.

Would you like to turn to the fourteenth chapter of the Revelation and look at the first verse?  Would you like to?  One hundred forty-four thousand God sealed.  "And I looked, and I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on Mount Zion, and with Him three hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine," for He had lost one of His members.  He had lost one of His sealed.  He had lost one of His redeemed.  Is that right?  Is that what the Bible says?  There were one hundred forty-four thousand sealed by the Lord God before the terrible storm of that awful wrath and visitation.  And at the end of it, "And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on Mount Zion, and with Him an hundred and forty-four thousand" [Ephesians 5:32], every one of them; not one of them lost, not one.

 

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,

Is laid for your faith in His glorious Word!

What more can He say, than to you He hath said,

You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

 

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;

The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design

Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

 

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,

I’ll never, no never, desert to its foes

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

[From "How Firm a Foundation"; John Rippon]

 

This is a great mustērion, the eternal security of His saints, but I speak concerning Christ and His church [Ephesians 5:32]. 

While we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you, give himself to Jesus.  Would you come and stand by me?  A couple you, put your life in the fellowship of the church, a family you with all the children, however God shall say the word and lead in the way, make it now.  Make it this holy and precious morning hour.  "Pastor, today, I give my life to Jesus.  I take the Lord as my Savior and here I am.  Here I come."  Or, "The Lord has led me to put my life in the circle of this dear and precious congregation, and here I come.  Here we are."  On the first note of the first stanza, do it now, make it this morning, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.