The Stewardship of the Mystery

by T. Austin-Sparks

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 impossible demand.

'Spirit' is the new nature, dynamic, and principle of a "new creation" (6:15).

'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".

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