Few if any Christians these days will regard the opening chapters of Genesis in the remotest sense a scientific account of the creative processes. Even fifth century Augustine was unsure about the six days of creation, siting the deuterocanonical book of Sirach which referred to creation being made in an instant (Latin: Creavit omni simul – Big Bang?!). Apart from which a “day” is of course a measurement derived from the heavens which were deemed to have been created on “day” #4. But what must not be regarded as purely figurative or symbolic in the Genesis account is the fact that man was made in God’s image (Gen1:26,27). Yet as Paul affirms God is invisible (Col1:15; 1Tim1:17), so that “image” must relate at least in part to God’s character or nature. Even fallen man is to be regarded in such a way according to Genesis (9:6). Of course, that image has been besmirched by the Fall but not obliterated. And for the Christian, potentially he/she may attain the mind of Christ (1Cor2:16) and become “like God in the world” (1Jn4:17). God’s nature then cannot be entirely unfathomable to human reason for faithful Christians already partake of the divine nature (2Pet1:4) – it’s God’s ways and methods that the Bible indicates are inclined to be incomprehensible, and so they have been according to this disclosure.
But returning to the divine nature, if man has been made in God’s image, and that is being restored in the Christian such that he/she may have the mind of Christ, it follows that such noble qualities that mankind at his best can possess must mirror, in measure, those same qualities possessed by God as they are delineated in Scripture, and have also been acted out in the earthly ministry and Passion of Jesus, the incarnated Word. God’s love, compassion and forgiving nature combined with His hatred of injustice, debauchery and cruelty may be different in degree but cannot be different in nature from how man understands such qualities, contrary to the teaching of certain influential theologians of the past in order to justify their paradoxical conceptions of God’s “love” within their theology and the dire cosmic outcomes that derive from it.
When on the other hand nature and outcome are seen to tally, regardless of the means to attain it (in view of Is55:8,9), and Scripture finally coheres such that the teaching of Yahweh, His Son and each apostle coalesce, then shall not the mystery of God have been completed?
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That is what my book has endeavoured to unravel. However, understanding the “fellowship of the secret” passage from Ephesians 3 alluded to in its title pertains to the final piece of the jigsaw, it is not the logical starting point for such a study of the “dark matter” of Scripture, by which I am referring to that which is poorly illuminated, not that which is sinister – quite the contrary, it is wonderful news. But there are aspects concerning broader providence that have eluded Christian theologians ever since a comprehensive biblical framework was first established, especially through the efforts and often polemically derived assertions of Augustine (Hippo) in the fourth/fifth century, and he more than any other individual has impacted upon the subsequent course of theological thought in the West.
No surprise then that the Roman Catholic Church as well as those who defected from her at the Reformation have understood for much of their history that the Church and faithful Israelites before her are the exclusive grouping that God intended to reconcile to Himself, and only they were to be delivered from perdition. l show in my book that whilst Israel and the Church were indeed to be set apart from the world, that was in order that God, as it were working from within, would enlighten and bring healing to His world through His chosen people, not exclusively for them, and so reconcile all true humanity to Himself. Like Israel before her, the Church was to be His royal priesthood, but the latter would consist of individuals drawn from every nation elected on the basis of free grace into an exclusive covenant sealed with Christ’s blood. By participating in the sacred mystery (Christ in me, the hope of glory) such could be purged from sin even whilst their souls inhabited “the body of this death”, as Paul aptly described the temporary intellectual vessel inherited from our fallen first parents. The Church would serve as Christ’s mystical Body on earth in the present and its faithful adherents were destined to share in their Master’s eternal reign as His corporate Spouse. The “fellowship of the secret” being my shorthand for what Paul refers to as the fellowship/dispensation pertaining to the secret hidden in God (the Father) through the ages” was that the nation of Israel that had been foretold in earlier prophecy to fulfil such a priestly and kingly destiny was to be supplanted (or in effect augmented) by an international assembly we know of as the Church (cf. Rom11:25). Such was Paul’s gospel (Greek: to euaggelion mou– Rom16:25) which even fellow apostle Peter had scarcely grasped for it had clearly not been explained to him or any other disciples who had accompanied Jesus during His earthly ministry that the Gentile nations were not only to be enlightened by the Good News of the risen and glorified Jesus but receive an “identical spiritual gift” to that of believing Jews (Acts11:17,18) so as to share in the “inheritance of the sanctified” (Acts26:18), a fact which in itself has implications to overall providence.
That is the overall picture. I intend in subsequent posts, complementing the methodology employed in my book in which I started with Paul’s revelation regarding the role of the Gentiles and considered its past and future implications, here to go more concisely and sequentially through the Old and New Testament, identifying the various interpretative “glosses” that have led to the mystery of God’s munificent providence being sustained for so long*. This will appear subversive to conservative Christians, at least until it is recognised that such has been God’s intended journey for the Church, i.e. that the mystery I am alluding to and its final resolution is itself cryptically inferred in certain scriptural prophecy; also that an incomplete understanding of such matters has not prevented the apostolic churches in East and West from fulfilling their gospel mission throughout their history.
*Alternatively just read the e-book, its free to download from this website HERE
Once the apostle Paul’s reference to “the fellowship of the secret” is understood, the rest of the Bible fits into place. A multi-racial fellowship (the Church) has, contrary to earlier revelation (Eph3:9), been established to replace a nation (Israel) to act as God’s royal priesthood for the world (Ex19:5&6 cf. 1Pet2:9). These special or “peculiar people” (1Pet2:9KJV) are the first-fruit of God’s harvest (Jam1:18), the mystical Body of Christ on Earth, not the vast company of “sheep” who retain the divine imprint of humanity demonstrated by their compassion towards others (Mt25:31-46); but then there are the “goats”. These are the providential mysteries and apparent biblical tensions I will be endeavouring to resolve in subsequent posts, to complement what has been set out topically in my book.