The Stewardship of the Mystery
Chapter 7 - The "Mystery" or Divine Secret in the Letter to the Galatians
Although neither the word "mystery" nor the word "stewardship"
occurs in the Letter to the Galatians, that which they represent is
undoubtedly there. Wherever Paul was, and to whoever he wrote, his
ministry was the same fulfilling of his particular 'stewardship'.
Indeed, the Galatian letter is rich and deep with this Divine
secret, as we shall see. Was not this really the very battleground
of the full and ultimate "eternal purpose"? The words most in
evidence in the letter are well known - they are: "liberty",
"Spirit", "sons", and "grace".
Usually the letter has been regarded as wholly a matter of Christian
doctrine - justification by faith and not by works. This may be
true, but it is not the whole truth. Whatever the doctrines of
Christianity are, they always relate to one ultimate purpose, and
that purpose is the significance and place of God's Son in the
eternal counsels of the Father.
The letter before us is to be viewed from two standpoints: one, what
may be called the negative; the other the positive.
The Apostle has much to say as to what does not now obtain in the
economy of God.
The whole Jewish economy and system as in the former dispensation no
longer obtains. Its sign and token of true Judaism - circumcision -
is not valid in Christ: "Neither circumcision availeth anything, nor
uncircumcision" (5:6, 6:15).
The constitutional government of Judaism - the Law - no longer rules
and determines relationship with God. The negative aspect; setting
aside and over-riding, runs through the whole letter.
As to the positive side, we have mentioned the governing words -
'grace', 'liberty', 'Spirit', 'sons' - but we need to note the
spiritual sequence of these terms.
'Grace' is the all-comprehending character of the new dispensation.
This is set over against the legality of the former regime of "thou
shalt" and "thou shalt not" as imposed from the outside upon
the very nature of man.
'Liberty' is release from the 'bondage' and tyranny of that humanly
'Spirit' is the new nature, dynamic, and principle of a "new
'Sons', or 'sonship', is the sum and goal of all. This is the
greatest and most sublime thing that God has ever revealed to man.
There is nothing higher and nothing beyond this. Grace will have its
full manifestation in sonship. Liberty is the 'liberty of sons' as
over against slaves. The Spirit is the Spirit of God's Son -
producing sonship in believers.
Sonship is the secret - "mystery" - of God, intimated in
types, but hidden in reality during past ages. Sonship is reserved
into Jesus Christ. It is not possible apart from Him. Through faith
in Him the Spirit of sonship is given in new birth and constitutes an inward relationship with Him. It is
in - and only in - the renewed spirit of the believer that
the Spirit of God's Son dwells. That is the meaning of the
so-well-known Galatians 2:20: "...I live; and yet no longer I, but
Christ liveth in me". That 'secret' of Christ - the Anointed - as a
personally actual and active reality within is the
mark of this "new creation" era which was not the hall-mark of
former ages, and was never "made known" to former generations. This
is the fact which 'Galatians' sets forth. This letter is the
enunciation of and the battle for this immense fact. Around
the factual 'secret' all the other things are gathered. And battle
it was, and is! To the Jewish leaders and teachers Christ Himself
had said: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your
father it is your will to do" (John 8:44). This terrible indictment
had its meaning and force in their antagonism to Him as "Son of
God". Sonship has ever been the occasion of Satanic
hostility. That was the occasion of Satan's jealousy and envy,
leading to his bid for supremacy and resulting in his being cast out
from high Heaven. He well knew the implications of sonship; that
dominion is supremely vested therein. He has ever coveted that
dominion. Hence his hatred for the person of the Son and the
principle of sonship.
Those Judaisers - doing the Devil's work - dogged the steps of Paul
wherever he went in order to subvert his converts from his
particular 'stewardship'. The Apostle's anger reaches white heat in
this letter because of this Satanic attempt to nullify this supreme
destiny of 'sons'.
He says that his early 'travail' for them unto birth is being
repeated in relation to Christ being fully formed in them
(4:19). And he does not stop short of calling the curse of God upon
subverters of the great and ultimate calling of sonship.
So we must read the letter, not only in the interest of a part
of the Christian faith - 'justification', but in the light of the
transcendent secret of God - sonship. Not - let it be understood -
as sharing Deity, but as "joint-heirs with Christ".