The mysteries of the kingdom were given to the apostles.
PROPOSITION 11. The mysteries of the kingdom were given to the apostles.
This is plainly asserted by Jesus Himself (Mark 4:11, Matt. 13:11), “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God,” “it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,” which the apostles, including Paul, claimed to have been imparted, Eph. 1:9, and 3:3, etc. The entire tenor of the New Test. impresses us, that their superior qualifications as teachers arises from their acquaintance with the doctrine of the kingdom, resulting from the personal instructions received from Christ, and the subsequent special guidance of the Spirit.
Obs. 1. We are not concerned, in this stage of the argument, to know how much truth respecting the kingdom they obtained from Jesus, and how much, afterward, from the specially delegated Spirit; this will forcibly appear as we proceed. It may, however, be properly stated here, that there might be mysteries pertaining to the kingdom, while the kingdom itself—what it denoted—may be fully known. The reader will carefully notice, that in the early period of their discipleship, the mysteries relating to the kingdom were already given to them. It is incredible, utterly impossible, that the kingdom itself—what it meant—should, therefore, have been a mystery to them. The express language of Jesus forbids it. Hence, that large class of eminent writers, which teach that during the life of Jesus the apostles misapprehended the kingdom, are mistaken, and it is the most reasonable, and the most consistent with Christ’s words, to conclude that the apostles, even then, had more than the mere “husk,” or the unrecognized “germ.”[*]
Note. Neander, and a host of writers, say, by way of apologizing in behalf of the apostles (because they did not hold the modernized view of the Kingdom), that they only held “the shell,” or “husk.” But Jesus declares expressly, Matt. 13:16: “But your eyes see, and your ears understand.” Comp. Mark 4:11, etc. Such knowledge is proper for preachers of the Kingdom.
Obs. 2. The word “mystery” ordinarily denotes something secret, hidden, or beyond our comprehension, and is frequently employed in Scripture to denote truth formerly concealed but now revealed. The name “mystery” is retained in view of its having been previously hidden. Mysteries when disclosed may be perfectly intelligible, and when not divulged, but simply pointed out, may exist without our reason being able to understand their nature, meaning, etc. That the latter is not opposed to reason, although above reason, is apparent from the ten thousand unsolved mysteries of nature. (Comp. Elliot’s “Christian Errors, Infidel Arguments,” Horne, vol. 1, p. 158, etc.) Then, too, as in the most simple things, there may be something inexplicable, so in the doctrines of Revelation—plainly stated and easily comprehended—there may be great depths unsounded. To this Luther referred, when he said that he could not fully comprehend even the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, etc.
Obs. 3. While some mystery, some unexplained or unrevealed things pertaining to the kingdom, may have existed in the days of the apostles and now remain such, not given by Jesus or the Spirit, yet the assurance is abundantly ours, that the kingdom itself, its nature, our relation to it, all things necessary for a correct understanding of its meaning, was made known. This is evident, e.g. from its having been predicted, taught to the disciples and preached by them to the people; the apostles and their immediate followers professing themselves called to proclaim it so that men might be induced to enter, receive, and inherit it. All this, in the nature of the case, presupposes a correct understanding of it. The kingdom is the great prize, reward, etc., held up before them, and it is most reasonable and conformable to fact to believe that they would have such an adequate knowledge of its real import as to be able to tell us what it denotes. Admitting mystery even now attached to things relating to the kingdom, we can know these so far as declared, for while “the secret things belong unto the Lord our God; those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever” (Deut. 29:29).
Obs. 4. Carefully looking over the entire records of discipleship and apostleship, nothing is to be found to indicate that those mysteries given to them related to the kingdom so far as its meaning or signification is concerned. The contrary indeed is largely inferred, and upon this unproven inference a massive superstructure is built. (This will be noticed hereafter.) The reader can soon verify our position by a reference to passages which either directly or indirectly refer to mysteries (i.e. things of which they were ignorant, that had been hidden, etc.), and he will see that they allude to the death of Christ, or to the intimate and unending union of the divine and human in His Person, or to the ascension and exaltation of the man Christ Jesus to heaven, or to the blending in the Scriptures of two Advents, the First and Second seperated by an unknown interval of time, or to the rejection of the Jews and the call of the Gentiles, or to the period of the Times of the Gentiles and their subsequent overthrow, or to the future restoration of the Jews and their blessing to the Gentiles, or to the redemption of the race progressing when, under Christ’s dominion, both Jews and Gentiles are exalted in the favor of God, etc., but never is the kingdom introduced as a mystery, i.e. as something unknown. The reason for this will appear, when we come to the disciples’ preaching the kingdom. In the mean time, the very outskirts of the subject already force the conclusion that those mysteries refer not to the nature of the kingdom, but to the manner of its establishment, the means employed, the preparation for it, the time for its manifestation, and such related subjects.
Obs. 5. The mysteries of the kingdom were not all given at once; they were gradually revealed, and some of them were postponed and others are still withheld; this again leads us to the decided opinion that the kingdom, to which they stand related, was well known to the disciples and apostles. Take away the mysteries, such as the necessity of Christ’s death, the call of the Gentiles, etc., made more fully known after the resurrection of Jesus, and what is left of mystery communicated to them? Surely it is not the kingdom; for the least dispassionate reflection will lead us soon to see that they could not have been ignorant of the main, leading subject with which the others stand connected. To suppose, as many do, that they were, would be contradictory to the revelation of the mysteries, their gradual bestowal, and the indefinite postponement of some. For, if Jesus preached the kingdom to them and proclaimed its mysteries, He certainly must have said something directly respecting the kingdom, either confirmatory or contradictory to the opinion already formed concerning it, so that they could form a correct idea of it. Before the kingdom could be appreciated, with its mysterious preparatory stages, etc., the kingdom itself must be understood, for that was the subject matter distinctly announced and illustrated.
Obs. 6. The mysteries, therefore, imply: (1) a previous acquaintance with the doctrine of the kingdom, and (2) that the mysteries imparted bestow a fuller knowledge of the subject in view of the additions made. In teaching science, art, etc., the primary fact is either first taught, or it is taken for granted that it is well known. So Jesus, in teaching the mysteries of the kingdom, must base the same on a knowledge previously attained of the kingdom. If the apostles were to be “stewards of the mysteries of God” under the teaching of Jesus, it was necessary for them, being constituted such, to know first of all what the kingdom itself was; otherwise it was impossible for them to comprehend the accessories belonging to it. Multitudes now believe that the mysteries were first proclaimed, and afterward the kingdom was made plain; some go a step beyond this and tell us that the mysteries and kingdom were both so profound and hid under a veil that the apostles themselves had a very imperfect notion respecting the kingdom. In following propositions, such will be largely quoted. We do not, cannot believe that such a mode of teaching, reversing all ideas of propriety, was adopted by the most perfect Teacher, and which is flatly contradicted by the disciples themselves preaching the kingdom, thus implying knowledge concerning its nature, and by the belief of the churches planted by them, thus evincing a unity in that preaching.