THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST (2)*
A Sermon preached by Mr. Kenneth J. Cordle at Swaffham Prior, Cambs. September 7th 1980
The whole verse reads, “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am an ambassador in bonds”. Paul contends in this epistle against error. His great theme is salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. And Paul was very anxious that His ministry should prosper. He was not satisfied just to preach sermons; He longed to see the results of his ministry. The living minister of Christ looks and prays for results, and if you are a healthy member of the mystical body of Christ it will be the burden of your prayer that the ministry you listen to shall be prosperous for the good of souls and for the honour of your Master. Paul was very anxious that his ministry should be profitable, not for his own benefit or aggrandizement, but he sought the glory of Christ and the exaltation of his blessed Redeemer, and the good of immortal souls.
So Paul preached, and we are considering “the mystery of Christ”. There are many mysteries; the world is full of mysteries. You are a mystery; your creation is a mystery; you have an immortal soul, which is a mystery. You cannot explain this. No physician can explain it. The soul is invisible; “God breathed into man the breath of life” and – let evolutionists and atheists and agnostics laugh and ridicule – the fact remains that “God breathed into man the breath of life, and the man became a living soul”. My Bible tells me that God is the Father of spirits, and I have thought a lot about that statement. We are walking mysteries; we will live for ever; we shall always be in existence. The teeming multitudes of our towns and cities; they have all to go somewhere; they are all going to live for ever. We are a mystery.
Creation is a mystery. The world is a mystery. Scientists can explain a lot, but there is much more that they cannot explain. Men try to tell us how the world started, and some of their views are contrary to scripture, and to be rejected. God spake; it was commanded. You cannot tell me how the sun remains where it is, except by the hand of God. Scientists tell me the sun will bum out in so many years. But the Almighty put it there, and the Almighty will keep it there until He is finished with it; then it will depart. It is a mystery. We are in space; we are floating; we are kept in space by the hand of the Almighty, and this earth does not vary in its circuit. Think of it! Everything works to a nicety, and all is a mystery.
Providence is a mystery. You who fear God find that there is a lot
of your life which is a mystery to you. Read John Flavel on the mystery of providence! But there is no mystery comparable to “the mystery of Christ”. Last time I touched on the mystery of the Trinity. God alone understands Himself. We should have known nothing about three Persons in the Godhead if the Lord had not revealed it in His word. No ingenuity of man would have ever suggested that there were three Persons in the one Godhead. But God has revealed it in His word, and in the hearts of those whom He teaches by His Holy Spirit.
The mystery of the Person of Christ
Let us consider the mystery of the Person of Christ. The whole foundation of Christian truth rests here, on the Person of Christ. He was very God, essentially Jehovah; the eternal Son of God. The eternal Father was ever eternal, and the eternal Son was ever the eternal Son, and the relationship betwixt the Father and the Son was a relationship of paternity and filiation. I cannot explain it. The eternal Spirit ever was the eternal Spirit; and they are not three gods, “The Lord our God is one Lord”. We cannot explain it, but we can believe it. Good men have tried to explain the relationship betwixt the Father and the Son, but they have laid it down as impossible. Reason says, “I can’t go there”. Of course not. Carnal reason is a depraved faculty. Read John Bunyan on the faculties of the soul in his book The Greatness of the Soul. Reason is a faculty of the soul, but the soul has fallen, and reason is a depraved faculty. She cannot comprehend the mysteries of the eternal verities, But Faith says “Get on my back, and I’ll carry you”. Faith goes where reason cannot.
Christ, in His Person, was very God, and He is so now. Whatever attributes belong to the Father and to the Holy Ghost, belong also to Christ in His essential divinity. Men are denying the doctrine of Christ today, and they are denying “the mystery of Christ”. It behoves those of us who fear God to be very clear on the point. If Christ be not God, I have no gospel. If Christ be not God, He could not save any poor sinner. Oh! contend earnestly for the Godhead of Christ. I love it. The Christ I worship is none other than almighty, self-existent, uncreated, invisible, eternal Jehovah. When He built the heavens He said, “I was there”. All things are created by Him, and for Him. I love the deity of Jesus Christ. But He was a real man. Oh! “the mystery of Christ”. His Godhead was veiled. When he walked the streets of Jerusalem there was no visible difference between the Lord Jesus Christ and other Jews. He was a real man, He was born of a real woman, and He was born of a sinful woman. You may tell the pope that! The immaculate conception of the virgin Mary is untrue. Mary was a sinner, but Christ was a perfect,
sinless child. Can you explain to me how a perfect and sinless babe could be born of a sinful woman? It was so. “He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth”. He never had one unrighteous thought. He had no innate evil like you and I. He was born without the ordinary course of human generation I know, but it does not alter the fact that He was born of a sinful woman. Do you not call that a “mystery”?
The mystery of Redemption
My next thought is the mystery of redemption; how that Christ stood in the room and stead of sinners. Now perfect humanity separated from Godhead could not save us. Nor could abstract deity, separated from perfect humanity have ever saved us. The Son of God must take into union with His divine nature a human nature;
He must go to the end of the law and magnify it. There is great mystery here, as to what were the obligations of Christ as the Head of the church under the law of God. The law demanded perfection and Christ gave it, and sin was dealt with. If you consider the dignity of the Being against whom sin is committed, you reckon with a holy, infinite, eternal, self-existent Jehovah. Sin as committed by me is a finite thing because I am finite. Though my sins cannot be measured, there is a limit because I do not live for ever in this world. There was a time when I did not sin because I was not in existence;
there was a time when I started sinning; and there is a time when I finish sinning, when I leave this world. My sins are finite, but because they are committed against an infinite God they become an infinite evil; therefore they demand or deserve infinite punishment, and before I can be justified the Lord must be satisfied with an infinite satisfaction which can only come through the Lord Jesus Christ who is infinite in His Godhead. When Christ offered Himself He gave satisfaction. Hebrews 9.14 says, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
Peter said: “Who his own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree”. Now, in the body of Christ dwelt the soul of Christ, a subject not often spoken about. The faculties of His soul were all-important; His will. His understanding. His memory. He never forgot anything He ought to remember; and you can carry that through to His glorious Being in heaven now. Poor sinner, Christ has a perfect memory, and He still remembers you; He never will forget you. People may forget you; your friends may forget you;
godly people may forget you; and many will turn their backs on you. But your blessed Redeemer, your glorious God-man Redeemer in
heaven has a perfect memory. In Isaiah we read that “A woman may forget her sucking child, yet will I not forget thee”.
Here is the mystery of redemption; how Christ lay down His life for sinners because sin must be dealt with. God will never overlook sin; it is contrary to His nature to do so. “How it was done” says Joseph Hart, “We can’t discuss; But this we know, ’twas done for us”. The sins of the church, from Abel down to the last child of God that shall be born into the world; and “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all”. God took the sins of the elect and heaped them all upon Christ. I cannot describe that, but that is in the mystery of redemption. It is impossible to explain how that in seven hours’ suffering on the cross Christ endured the punishment of hell and the everlasting wrath of God, which the church had deserved because of her transgressions and iniquities, but so He did. Charnock said, “It was more that Christ should suffer one minute, than if all mankind should suffer in hell millions and millions of years, because of the dignity of His Person”. While the body of Christ suffered unutterable torture, the sufferings of His soul were far and away above all that. Gethsemane proved that; it was the sufferings of His soul that produced the sweat of blood. We know that deity cannot suffer, but Christ’s deity gave infinite value and support to His wondrous and glorious propitiation for us. In His great sacrifice which this Man must offer. His deity supported His humanity. He could not have borne it, had He not been God. Had the most perfect creature; even an angel like Gabriel, felt the first twinges of the wrath of God due to the sins of Zion, he would have disintegrated, but Christ Jesus being God and man in one Person, His Godhead sustained Him. Oh! the mystery of redemption.
The mystery of Christ’s death
Christ mastered death before He submitted to it. Death froze when it approached Him. It was as though He said to death, “Stand back; don’t move”. Death could come no nearer. When He knew that everything had been accomplished, that His sacrifice had been accepted, and that the Father was well pleased and justice had dropped the rod and the wrath of God had been removed, and Zion was eternally saved through the putting away of sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and all He had now to do was to die, Christ said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”. It is a wonderful thought, that Christ came down from heaven, yet He never left heaven; He went back to heaven, and yet He always was in heaven. Meditate on that; it is scriptural, sound, and true; and eternal salvation is in it.
The mystery of Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension
There was no supposition about it. He rose, and He rose gloriously. No-one helped Him to rise. The angel descended and rolled away the stone, but Christ was out of the tomb before the stone was rolled away. The stone was rolled away from an empty tomb; it was not rolled away to let Christ out. “Now is Christ risen from the dead”. I glory in a living Christ. I do not preach a dead Christ to you. Jesus is alive. I know it. When He died He paid the debt, and on the resurrection morning His Father handed Him the receipt, and He has gone back – I say it in all reverence – as He ascended on high, with the receipt near His soul. In it is writ pardon for every seeker after salvation through the blood of the Lamb. He is exalted a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance unto Israel and remission of sins, even today. It stands as good as ever. Oh! the mystery of the resurrection. So Christ went up to heaven. People ask where is heaven? Heaven is where my Master went, and that is all I want to know, and that is all I can tell you; it’s up there somewhere! Oh! the mystery of Christ’s ascension.
The mystery of Christ in the heart
Now we come to the experimental side of the subject: the mystery of Christ in the heart by faith; the mystery of regeneration. Christ said, “If I depart, I will send you the Holy Ghost”. He said, “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you”. So the gift of the Holy Spirit is the direct result of the glorious salvation and victory and accomplishments of our Lord Jesus Christ, and it is His specific work to “take of the things of Christ, and show them unto us”. So the Spirit of God sovereignly convinces and deals with a sinner who is in the Covenant of Grace. He knows all the members of the mystical body, being equal with the Father and the Son in His divinity. The Holy Ghost knows all about Christians and the church of Christ, and He will see to it that not one of them will be lost.
There are some today who speak about a ‘disappointed Christ’. The Christ I worship will never be disappointed. “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” – that does not suggest disappointment, does it? The Holy Ghost will quicken every member of the mystical body of Christ. That does not mean that you and I as Christians should not use means in the Lord’s cause, nor that we should not seek His blessing on them in His hands. If an opportunity arises for you to put in a word for the Lord Jesus, you have every right to do so, and if you do not, your Master will get out a “whip of small cords” and chasten you. He will not forsake you, but He will chasten you if you do not speak when you ought. The Spirit of God alone can bless the soul, but He uses means.
It is the work of the Spirit of God to bring a sinner to realize something of the condemnation of the law; and it is a solemn thing when God brings “judgement to the line and righteousness to the plummet”. You have thought your house stood square with God? I thought mine did. I knew there were a few bricks loose; honest conscience told me that. But I thought the house looked all right, until God put the plummet on it, and the whole thing was out of line. there was nothing for it; the whole thing had to come down, and the
Lord knocked it down; and I came blundering out of the dust and confusion. I did not know what to look at or where to go, or what to do. The law said, “This do and thou shalt live; that do and thou shalt die”, The law said, “Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law”, and I was under the curse. I expected to be damned. I know what Joseph Hart meant when he said, “I looked for hell and He gave me heaven”. The Lord eventually builds us by living faith on the rock Christ Jesus, and that house will stand; you can hang the plummet by its side. And it stands
because it is built on Christ’s glorious perfections, and on His wondrous righteousness. “If ever my poor soul be saved, ‘Tis Christ
must be the way”.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
Where do you stand? Suppose you were called to change worlds tonight? I have been within a hair’s breadth of that place. I have had to ask myself: suppose within half an hour you will stand face to face with your Maker? I have come to the conclusion that though I have not had all the ecstasy and excitement that some might claim; but if I am called to die, I could face my Maker as a poor lost hell-deserving sinner, trusting and clinging to a precious Christ. I could die like that; I could meet death without a qualm. The mystery of regeneration! The Spirit of God works in the soul, grounding, rooting, settling him by faith on the finished work of the blessed redeemer, the Father’s beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased.
Oh! “the mystery of Christ”. Do you know Him? Have you ever had any conversation with Him? Did He ever talk to you? Did you ever talk to Him? These are vital realities. The church will be taken up throughout eternity with this glorious theme – The Mystery of Christ. When she is presented before the Father with exceeding joy, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing – will you
be there? Shall I be there? There, to hear Him say, “Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord”. To spend an uninterrupted eternity in the presence of your blessed Redeemer contemplating for ever the glory of The Mystery of Christ.
* The first of these Sermons appears in Vol. 11. p. 6.