“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.” 1 Corinthians 2:7
There is much of deep mystery in revelation. God, considered both in Himself and in His operations, is a mystery stretching far beyond the most sublime power of finite reason. “Can you by searching find out God? can you find out the Almighty unto perfection?” and of His operations may we not exclaim with the inspired penman, “Lo! these are parts of His ways; but how little a portion is heard of Him!”
Christ, too, is the great “mystery of godliness.” Whether His complex person is regarded—the union of the Divine and human natures in one—or whether we look at His work—His obedience and death constituting a full atonement to Divine justice in behalf of the sins of His people—it must be acknowledged a depth too profound for human thought adequately to fathom.
What can poor finite reason accomplish here? What beams can its feeble, flickering light cast upon this world of mystery? And if ever it stands forth invested in its own native impotence, it is when it sits in judgment upon the doctrines and facts of revelation, discarding or retaining such only as are intelligible to its dwarfish capacity. “Which things,” says the apostle, “the angels desire to look into.” Mark his expressions!
He represented not these celestial beings of purity and intellect as scaling the heights and diving into the depths of redemption’s mystery, but “which things the angels desire”—scarcely dare—but “desire to look into.” And yet for a fallen and unrenewed mind to sit in judgment upon God’s truth can only be exceeded in its temerity by the depravity which prompts it.
If the truth of God, in its doctrines and facts, is a mystery incomprehensible to unrenewed reason, what shall we say of the truth as experienced in the heart? If reason cannot understand the vast framework of truth, how can it comprehend the secret power by which it operates? The very fact, that to be understood it must be experienced, accounts for the difficulty. The transforming operation of the Holy Spirit upon the mind—giving it a new bias, new inclinations, turning its darkness into light, and kindling its enmity into love; the life of God in the soul, creating the man anew in Christ Jesus—that life which is hidden, ever productive of a holy life that is seen—its hopes and its fears, its defeats and its triumphs—the causes which operate to deaden it, and the spiritual nourishment by which it is supported—all, all is incomprehensible to human reason. Truly “the world knows us not.”
The cause of this incapacity of reason, in its natural state, to comprehend spiritual and experimental truth is its corruption and perversion by sin. Sin has impaired our mental faculties—enslaved, clouded, and debased our reason. We open God’s word, and it declares that since the fall the nature of man has been corrupt, and his reason blind; his understanding darkened, and his heart, the seat of his affections, polluted: “having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.”
The natural man, while in that state, so far from being able to explore the wide domain of spiritual truth, hates and flees from it when proposed to his consideration, “receiving not the things of the Spirit of God, they being foolishness unto him.” This being the state of man, God’s word consequently declares it necessary that, before spiritual truth can be understood, he should be “transformed by the renewing of his mind;” that he should be restored to that sound mind, and enlightened understanding, and spiritual discernment, with which his nature was endowed when it came originally from the hand of God; in a word, that he should be born again, created anew in Christ Jesus; that old things should pass away, and that all things should become new.
Then, and then only, will he be able to understand the “truth of God in a mystery.”