January 6, 2019 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This Epistle is read on Epiphany because the mystery that was made known to Paul by revelation is that in Christ Gentiles are fellow heirs with Israel. In fact, in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female. The wisemen from the East were Gentiles. They probably had an inheritance from Daniel. It is unclear what they knew or understood, whether they were following the prophecy from Numbers 24 of the star to come out of Jacob or if it were some private word that Daniel left or even if God told them something directly through a dream as He did when He warned them to depart quietly and not tell Herod. In any case, they were Gentiles who worshipped Christ not in splendor and power in a palace but who worshipped Him in His weakness and poverty. They recognize the God of Daniel in human flesh to be their God.
40 to 50 years later, Paul has become the Apostle to the Gentiles and is imprisoned on their behalf. It is not clear it if it was true or not but the accusation that let to Paul’s arrest was that he taken a Gentile into the court of the Jews in the Temple in Jerusalem. So that is what he means when he says that he is a prisoner on their behalf. He is prisoner because he is accused of elevating Gentiles to the same status as Jews in the eyes of God.
The mystery of Christ was revealed to Paul for us. This mystery is that Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. They do not become Jews. They are circumcised. They are not tacked on to Israel. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek. There is something new, a new Body, a new Temple, a new Church. And in this way Christ establishes dominion over the whole earth. Gentiles come to worship Him.
This was not made known to the generations before the Ascension as it has now been revealed. It was not known as it is now to Moses or Isaiah or David.
Let us consider how it is that the New Testament is fuller than the Old and by which Paul might say that what has been made to known to hm, and through him, to us was not revealed to the saints of the Old Testament.
In the first place, it is accurate to say that Old Testament was partial and incomplete. That is not to say that it did not proclaim the Gospel or that the faith of the Patriarchs and prophets was insufficient for salvation. They believed and trusted in God’s Word. They knew they needed cleansing and forgiveness and that the Law required Blood. They knew and believed that God would provide a kinsman-Redeemer who would sacrifice Himself in their place to buy them back and save them. They believed this Messiah would effect the resurrection of the dead.
But Moses didn’t know that He would be born in Bethlehem. David didn’t even know that. That news came about through Micah hundreds of years later. So also they didn’t know that His Name would be Jesus, that He would be raised in Nazareth, and a host of other details.
In itself, the Old Testament was partial and incomplete. It is fulfilled and made clear in Christ. The veil of Moses is removed. God now has a face and we see more than His backside and pillars and angels. God is a Man. The Old Testament was never meant to stand alone.
In the second place, the Old Testament saints did know that Gentiles could be saved. There was proselyting in the Old Testament. Ruth wasn’t Jewish. Neither was Bathsheba or Rahab and a host of others. They came in with circumcision and submitting to the Law of Israel. They became citizens of Israel.
But now, in Christ, Gentiles enter on equal footing with Jews without circumcision or any of the ceremonial law. So also Jews themselves must come in the same way. They were never saved by circumcision, of course, but by faith. But now circumcision has been fulfilled and replaced by Baptism. At least in the first generation, a pious Christian of Jewish ethnicity might keep some of the ceremonial law in outward way such as Paul offering sacrifices at the Temple but Baptism was in no way optional. And there is no special status for either Jew or Greek.
What all this means is that Israel in the flesh is no longer the entry point into the Kingdom. There is a new temple, a new sacrifice, and a new people of God. This is the mystery made known to Paul.
All of this is seen most clearly in the Gentile Mission. Paul puts it in a slightly different way in Colossians 1:26–27 (ESV)
The mystery hidden for ages and generations (is) now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
So the mystery is Christ Himself in us as one of us for us. His throne endures forever. He is not simply the King of the Jews. He is the King of all people but especially of those who believe in Him. Here are the unsearchable riches of Christ, that which God, who created all things, hid for ages until the fullness of time. Now the manifold wisdom of God might is made known to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places. Christ the Lord, our Savior, is born unto us in the City of David that we might worship Him. This is His eternal purpose and so it is that we, though our ancestors were Gentiles, and we ourselves are sinners, through faith have boldness.
We do not come with hat in hand as second class citizens or as beggars unsure of how we will be received. We come as those whom He counted worthy of His Son’s life, the Bride immaculate, adored and celebrated in heaven. We praise Him and bless Him, our Kinsman-Redeemer, the Shepherd of Israel, King of the Nations, our High-priest and Lover.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.