The Message and the Mysteries

The Message and the Mysteries

Preventing the desire to speculate concerning holy things.

Louis F. Cunningham, Retired Minister


"The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deut. 29:29).

God has given us this text as a safeguard against our natural bent to speculate on holy things. He intends for us to approach the myster­ies of the gospel with solemn reverence. For though some themes may be studied with profit for their very sacredness, they may not always be explained. As long as we keep this reserva­tion in mind we shall be protected against much unsound theorizing.

Earnest believers have sought, among other things, to define with considerable exactness the nature of Christ. They are rightly aware that Jesus "was in all points tempted like as we are" (Heb. 4:15). But there is danger of carrying such conclu­sions too far. For if we say that Jesus was tempted only like ourselves we minimize the debt that Christ must pay to redeem the world. Such reasoning also ignores the intensity of the conflict between Christ and Satan. And more than that, it fails to take into account the effect of Christ's dual na­ture on the degree of His suffering.

Human nature can endure but a limited amount of test and trial. The finite can only endure the finite measure, and human nature succumbs; but the nature of Christ had a greater capacity for suf­fering; for the human existed in the divine nature, and created a capacity for suffering to endure that which resulted from the sins of a lost world. —The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Matt. 26:36-46, p. 1103.

In His humanity Christ was tried with as much greater temptation, with as much more persevering energy than man is tried by the evil one, as His nature was greater than man's.—That I May Know Him, p. 66.

It is not possible to give a detailed de­scription of Christ's nature, nor is it neces­sary that we do so. One may say that Jesus was like Adam before the Fall, which is partly true. Another holds that He was like mankind after the Fall and that is also true in a measure. But to attempt to put Christ into a close likeness of Adam or anyone else is to invite confusion. None of us is like any other person who ever lived. And besides, the similarity that exists between Jesus and ourselves ends as we recognize that we were born with an evil nature, while He was not.

Does that present an impassable barrier? It may to speculation, but it need not to faith. The thing to keep in mind is that such questions must be viewed from God's standpoint rather than from our own. For it is not so essential that we be satisfied in our theology as that God be satisfied in His justice. If we have any question as to Christ's nature or His fitness for His earthly mission, we need only to know that He met the Father's approval in these matters. For God has openly said: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17). And of the fullness of His sacrifice and its final acceptance, here also God has left no doubt: "He raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places" (Eph. 1:20).

How comforting it is to leave the puz­zling mysteries to God and in simple faith accept the verities of His Word that are set­tled for eternity by all that Christ was and did for us. These we may know and believe and proclaim to the whole world. A dying world cannot rely on definitions of terms and niceties of distinctions in the mysteries of God. It needs a bold declaration of sure­ties. It needs balance and judgment that put the emphasis where it belongs. And it needs the evidence and benefits of a one­ness of spirit that reveals the presence of Jesus.

Men have laid great stress upon the un­derstanding of things that are beyond the ability of man to understand. Some, in their extreme positions, unsettled their own faith and made shipwreck of their lives. There were brilliant men who might have continued to give valuable service to the cause of God in the world, but they be­came enamored with their distracting spec­ulations and lost sight of the multitudes who longed for a simple gospel and a solid hope.

Christ, who is our Example in all things, has shown us the way as the Master The­ologian. Without doubt, He was tempted to display His amazing knowledge of the deep­est mysteries. He could have held the most learned men in awe by expounding the secret of divinity. But He knew that faith did not depend on such knowledge. He knew also that His hearers would have been bewildered by His words rather than helped.

There is also the experience of Paul, who was privileged to see the glories of heaven. He confes&ed that he "heard un­speakable words, which it is not lawful for man to utter. . . . And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abun­dance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure" (2 Cor. 12:4-7).

Few men could experience what Paul did and remain humble. Yet there are mys­teries which even Paul could not fathom. But he believed them nonetheless. And he preached them with mighty power, though he made no attempt to explain them. That he left for God to do in His own time and way, while he went about his mission of giving the gospel to every soul within reach.

The remnant church, too, has a message for the world. But to accomplish its pur­pose, that message must be suited to the real needs of the world. And it must be told in a way that men of all races and in all conditions may be able to understand and rejoice to receive it. For only in the doctrinal simplicity of Jesus will such a work of faith as ours succeed. And we have reason to hope that a plain gospel, as told by a humble and united people, will yet electrify the world and usher in the glorious kingdom of God for which His people long.


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Louis F. Cunningham, Retired Minister

January 1967

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