Seeing is believing, right? What you see is what you get….isn’t it? In nature, this tends to be true: we’re often fond of saying, “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck!” Sometimes, though, what looks for all the world like a pile of leaves can be a “pile” of rattlesnake or some other well-camouflaged dangerous creature!
Do these things have a parallel in the Word of God? Are we taught in the Word to trust what we see in things pertaining to the kingdom of God? What does Jesus say, and what did the apostles teach to the churches they started in the Book of Acts?
It’s a mystery
Do you know how many times the word “mystery” comes up in a Bible software search (I use “Tecarta”)? I count twenty-two times. When you take out the two references in Revelation to things such as Babylon the Great and the woman called the “whore” and the meanings of those, there are still twenty references that specifically deal with the Kingdom of God. So, what’s God saying when his Word talks about a “mystery”?
American Heritage Dictionary includes several definitions, one of which seems to put it well in this context: “A religious truth that is incomprehensible to reason and knowable only through divine revelation.” Dictionary.com includes the phrase: “any truth that is unknowable except by divine revelation.”
So how do people come by the “divine revelation” required to know the mysteries of God?
Jesus said it this way
When his disciples asked him about a parable he’d just given to the multitudes, he advised those closest to him:
“…Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.” (Mark 4: 11-13)
Now before you decide that God doesn’t really want anyone to live for him or know truth but some select few, listen to how he elaborated on this same answer as recorded by another disciple, Matthew:
“He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” Matthew 13:11-15
The last portion speaks of a choice on the part of the hearers, to close their own eyes, and of a change in hearing and the state of their heart that occurred over time: either being intentionally done, or allowed to happen that way. They no longer had the “fire in their belly” we speak of today to follow God with all their heart and to “know” him, as David expressed the longing to do in many of his songs recorded in the Book of Psalms.
And you’re bringing this up, because…?
Lots of people look at the word of God and say, “OK, I see some things there I can do, I can live with.” Their lives actually change, based on what they’ve seen in the Word of God. But when faced with the concept that there’s more there than meets the eye about salvation, who God is, and what he expects from us, they have a choice to make: “No, thanks, I’m good” vs. “Wow, I didn’t know that was in there – if there’s more for me, I want it!”
I don’t intend to belittle such serious choices by that description, but Jesus went on to say, in Matthew 13, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.” (v. 18) Who was he saying this to? To the people who left off a whole day’s plowing or working on their house to sit and listen to him? Or to the people who had “left all and followed him”? At that point in time, his disciples, who had all their “skin in the game” as we say today, were the only ones who could see and understand the truth he was giving. It hinged on a condition of the heart and of a willingness to be obedient to all that was heard and seen, based on how they’d handled what they knew before this. God didn’t just look at them and know what was in their hearts and call them based on that (although he could have), nor did he reject the others and hide his word from them on a whim. He saw what they had been doing with what they already knew of him.
So what else is there to know?
Paul spoke of knowing the “deep” or “hidden” things of God by the Spirit of God, in 1 Corinthians 2. He spoke of the “mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Timothy 3:16). He said “God” was manifest in the flesh, in a description that clearly speaks of Jesus. He spoke of the “mystery…which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). In these “mystery” scriptures, Paul interchangeably speaks of God doing all the things Jesus did (coming in the flesh) and of Jesus doing what the Holy Ghost does (being in us). The revelation of Jesus being the One God manifest in the flesh, in whom dwells “all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” Colossians 2:9, which makes baptizing in his name only — the name of Jesus, for “neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none under name under heaven whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) — the answer of a good conscience before God (1 Peter 3:21).
Bay Springs, MS
By the grace of God, we’re getting to experience a taste of
Church the way it was meant to be…
and glad to know there’s more where that came from!