The Stewardship of the Mystery
Chapter 9 - The "Mystery" or Divine Secret in the Letter to the Philippians
There are, surely, very few people for whom this Letter does not
have a very warm place. Its general nature of warm love, pure joy,
and transparent purity endears it to all hearts, while some of its
particular parts have fastened it to heart and mind. It is only
necessary to say 'Philippians 2:10' or '4:9' for instance, and
It is, however, to add to the value of this Letter, rather than to
take from it, to see it in relation to the whole 'stewardship' of
its writer. It is a point of immense value and importance to see all
parts of the Bible in their greater setting rather than just in the
occasion of their immediate object. Being God's Word - God who is
eternal, universal and infinite breathes that super-temporal
character into all that emanates from Him - no smallest portion can
ever be exhausted as to its content; preach on it howsoever many
times you may; it is still beyond you.
Although the word 'mystery' does not occur in the Letter to the
Philippians, it is as implicitly there as anywhere. Although each of
the three letters written in prison was given a particular
complexion relative to its destination, it is clear that beneath and
behind them all the Apostle's mind was working on the same major
line or theme, and that was what he called the 'mystery'. This is
quite apparent when we compare Philippians 2:9 with Ephesians 1:21,
Philippians 2:10 and Ephesians 1:10 and Colossians 1:16-20.
With this evidence of the deeper and vaster mental background we are
brought to the immense implication of that classic section of the
Letter to the Philippians marked in the arrangement chapter 2 verses
5 to 11. While this is a matchless unveiling of the cycle of
redemption, from the glory which Christ had with the Father before
times eternal down stage by stage to the deepest depths of shame and
ignominy, then up, up, up to the 'highest place that Heaven
affords'; there is a clear implication in the clause - "counted it
not a thing to be grasped to be on equality with God" - that the
letting go, the 'emptying', the 'humbling', etc., was - in the light
of the context - to offset and undo terrible havoc wrought through
an unlawful 'grasping' at that position somewhere, at some time, by
someone. There is plenty in the Scriptures - borne out by human
history, with immense emphasis in these later times - to show that
there is in this universe a power which has ever striven, to be - at
least - "equal with the Most High" indeed, to usurp His place.
At some time a rift took place in this universe, first outside of
this world, and then pressed into it with the object of establishing
independence of God and robbing Him of His rights. The evidence of
this is massive, and it is the central and focal ground of all
spiritual conflict which rages in the whole creation, and in man in
particular. Seeing, that it was - and is - a moral issue of rights
and righteousness, it had to be dealt with and answered on that
ground. And seeing that man is the object and vehicle involved in
this issue, the whole thing had to be taken up and fought through in
man-form. So, the "mystery" in Philippians is "the mystery of
iniquity"; the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God; the
mystery of the Cross; and the mystery of the ineffable Name. The
iniquity of an unrightful grasping at equality with God had
to be answered by a relinquishing of the rightful equality, and
descent to the lowest depths where that iniquity reached.
'He plunged in His imperial strength
Humility must answer pride. Emptiness must counter false fulness.
Weakness must be the way of true power. The Cross of shame
must be the pathway to the eternal glory.
To gulfs of darkness down:
He brought His trophy up at length;
The foiled usurper's crown.'
God must be vindicated and His rights in creation be
established. Righteousness - which just means 'God vindicated' -
must be "fulfilled". The baptism of the passion is the only way. You
agree - this is all a 'mystery'. Yes, and Paul says that this was
the 'stewardship' entrusted to him.
Read the whole of the Letter to the Philippians in the light of the
above, and it lives with infinite meaning.
It is very impressive that the Apostle should take up this immense
revelation and presentation of Christ in the grand cycle from glory
to glory in relation to a local situation. There is his heartfelt
appeal in chapter 2, verses 1 to 4; then there is his appeal to
Euodia and Syntyche in 4:2, as well as other hints, showing that
things were not all well at Philippi. There was division; a lack of
'like-mindedness'; a strain in relationships. If the implication of
the great appeal of Christ's condescension means anything, surely it
is that the cause of the division was a 'grasping', a holding, a not
letting go; in a word - pride! Somewhere there was an inability or
unwillingness to use the most difficult words in any human language
- 'I have been wrong'!
In effect, the Apostle says: It was anything but easy for the Son
of God to trail that long and painful journey which led to being
"obedient unto death, yea, the death of the Cross"; but He
did it for us. "Let this mind be in you which was also in
Christ Jesus"! This is the only way to heal the divisions and come
to be of "the same mind". Not discussions, arguments, or sentiment;
but "a broken and contrite, spirit", an 'obedience even unto death.'