20. The Two Mysteries
THE Bible speaks of two mysteries: “the mystery of godliness,” and “the mystery of iniquity.” 1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:7. Seeing that these two mysteries are fundamental principles of two opposing powers, each claiming the sole sovereignty over the souls of men, and requiring man’s unconditional surrender and obedience, the study of these two mysteries becomes both important and interesting.
Ever since the fall, man’s nature has been inclined toward evil; and while he still has the power of choice, he cannot in his own strength break with sin, change his nature, or live a godly life. The Bible declares: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” Jeremiah 13:23. Yea, “he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.” Proverbs 5:22. The Apostle Paul realised this when in his struggle against the evil of his nature he cried out. “The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. . . . O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Romans 7:19, 24.
There is only one who can deliver man from sin, and He is abundantly able and always willing to do it. “Thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins,” and His gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” Matthew 1:21; Romans 1:16. Here is abundant power available to all who will believe and accept it, so that there is no excuse for continuing in known sin. And sin brings us no happiness, for it always carries with it a trail of woe. God’s Father heart of infinite love has been wrung with anguish for the sufferings of man, and He has settled it that sin with its terrible consequences shall never be permitted to enter His eternal kingdom; therefore our only hope of entering heaven is to part company with evil.
But as man cannot in his own strength rid himself of sin, his only hope is to let Christ take charge of his life. When Christ dwells in our hearts by His Holy Spirit, He changes our aspirations, our likes, and our dislikes. Sinful habits, which we in vain have tried to break, fall off as the leaves of autumn, and we receive the power of His love to conquer sin and live a happy Christian life. (John 15:5; Romans -13). And while Christ would gladly do this work for everyone, for He wants “all men to be saved,” yet He will not use force to accomplish it, but is patiently standing at the door of every heart asking permission to come in and supply the needed power to conquer sin. (1 Timothy 2:3, 4; Revelation 3:20). Sad to say, most people refuse Him admittance. “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” John 1:12.
Here, then, is the secret of victory in Christian life: “the mystery of godliness,” “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16; Colossians 1:27. Then we are not left alone in our struggles, for He works in us “mightily” (v. 29), but He always wants our co-operation: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12, 13. By this co-operation of the human and the divine such marvelous changes are wrought in human lives and such Christ-like character is developed that angels marvel at it, and even worldlings are forced to recognise in the change from sin to godliness a mysterious power with which they are unacquainted.
The life of Jesus on earth was a living demonstration of this mystery. He combined in His own person both the human and the divine natures. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.” 1 Timothy 3:16.
It is evident that the “mystery of
iniquity” is a counterfeit of the “mystery of godliness,” or in other words,
some human substitution for the divine plan of salvation, in which man would
take the place of Christ, and human efforts would be substituted for the divine
presence in the soul. And this is exactly what the Apostle Paul declared it to
be, when he foretold that there would “come a falling away” of the apostolic
church, and that in this fallen church there would arise “that man of sin, . .
. who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or
that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing
himself that he is God. . . . For the mystery of iniquity doth already work.” 2
Thessalonians 2:3-7. Speaking to the church he further says: “Ye are the
The fulfillment of this prophecy is so clearly seen in the history of the Papacy that God’s people have always recognized it whenever they have been spiritually awake. Every well-read person knows that the early Christian church fell away from its apostolic purity and corrupted its doctrines by adopting heathen customs, baptizing them with Christian names, so that the church entirely changed its face within four hundred years after the apostles’ death. The “mysteries of Mithras” were substituted for the “mystery of godliness”; “the sacrifice of the mass” took the place of the sacrifice made on the cross; righteousness gained by self-torture and human effort took the place of Christ’s righteousness received by simple faith in Jesus as a personal Saviour; receiving a sacramental Christ by eating the wafer took the place of an indwelling Christ received by faith in God’s promises; a multitude of human mediators were substituted for Christ, the “one mediator between God and man.” 1 Timothy 2:5. We shall enter more fully into the details of this in the following chapters.