There are things about God, following Jesus, and accepting his salvation that the Bible simply describes as a mystery, that is, as hidden truths or a mystic secret. This drives some people crazy; they want to understand all and be able to fully explain everything. Anything less causes frustration.
Other people relish the realization that some things of God are but a mystery. That draws them to him; it’s an allure. Daily, they strive to unravel his mystery and know him more fully. This is as it should be. To explore this mystery motif more fully, consider the following verses that evoke the mystery explanation:
Romans 11:25 and 16:25
1 Corinthians 15:51
Ephesians 1:9, 3:3-4, 3:6, 3:9, 5:32, 6:19
Colossians 1:26-27, 2:2, 4:3
1 Timothy 3:16
The word mystery is used in other contexts in Daniel 2:18-47, 4:9, 1 Corinthians 13:2, 14:2, and Revelation 1:20, 17:5, 7.
Asking respectful questions about the Bible is not a sign of rebellion or indication of disbelief, but can be a means of more fully pursuing the God who is revealed in the Bible. It is from this perspective that I’ve been pondering the creation account and asking some questions. My final query is:
6) People were not made until midway through the sixth day, so there were no eyewitnesses to most of God’s creative efforts. How then could details that no one saw have been known, passed down from one generation to the next, and then recorded in the Bible?
The solution is that God would have had to tell his creation how they came to be. Just as a parent leaves out details when a young child asks “Where do babies come from?” so, too, God must have left out details when he explained our origins to us. Still, I want to know more.
However, Moses puts my inquiring mind into perspective, confirming that God has kept some things from us:
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever.”
God is, in many ways, a mystery — and that is one of the things that draws me to him.
John the Baptist is sitting in jail, about to be executed. In a dark moment, his faith begins to waiver. Seeking assurance, he sends his followers to Jesus, with the simple question, “Are you the one?”
This query reminds me of the movie, The Matrix, where people keep asking Neo, “Are you the one?” Some think he is, some aren’t sure, and some doubt, but all are wondering. All that is, except for Morpheus, who plainly proclaims to Neo, “You are the one.”
Morpheus’s simple statement of faith to Neo reminds me of Peter’s confident confession to Jesus, when he plainly proclaims, “You are the Christ.”
Using movie references to illuminate a biblical passages are frequently employed and helpfully presented. However, if someone were to consider an illustration like this 2,000 years in the future, or even a couple of centuries hence, they would be confused. They would not know of Neo or Morpheus. They would not have watched The Matrix and our modern cinema would likely be a mystery to them.
What clarifies today would be confusing later, just as some of Jude’s cryptic references in his letter where helpful back then, but are confusing today.
In the Song of Songs, the girl reveals something personal. She is self-conscious about the dark tones of her skin (from spending too much time in the sun, she says). She doesn’t want others to stare.
Yet the friends in this story want to do just that. They admire her uniqueness and ask to gaze upon her. This is ironic; the exact thing that makes her uncomfortable, others admire.
More significantly, is that her lover desires to do the same. He says, “Show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” His love for her is revealed through his desire.
While this human love story between a man and a woman is wonderful and inviting, the underlying analogy is of the love story between God and us. By extension, God wants to look at us; he wants to hear our voice!
If this seems strange, know that there is precedent.
You may recall that after Adam and Eve hid from God, that God sought them out, calling “Where are you?”*
I hear the same call to us today.
*Their location was not a mystery to God; he merely wanted them to come to him on their own accord — as he does of us.
[read the passages referenced above]
Just as we may have a favorite color, make of car, movie, or vacation destination, some people also have a favorite Bible verse. My favorite verse is not a common one and comes from an obscure passage in the Old Testament.
It is about an honorable man who prayed — and then “God granted his request.”
This is a simple phrase and seemingly not profound, but it is most encouraging to me.
There is often a mystery to praying: when God answers, how he answers, and if he answers the way we expect him to. During dry times, it may seem like he never answers, but there are also times when the answers are quick and obvious.
This verse is a powerful reminder to me that God does indeed answer prayers.
[For the full story — all two verses — see 1 Chronicles 4:9-10]
What is your favorite verse to share?
Paul is the most prolific writer in the New Testament. Who is second? That would be Dr. Luke.
Luke wrote an account of Jesus’ life (called “The Gospel According to Luke,” or simply “Luke”) and also chronicled the activities of the early church (called “The Acts of the Apostles” or just “Acts”). These two accounts encompass over 25% of the New Testament and give us valuable historical information about Jesus and his followers, providing a powerful and compelling two-book combination.
Luke was a doctor and the only non-Jewish writer in the New Testament. As such, his words are that of an outsider and may more readily connect with those on the “outside.” Luke wrote with simple, yet compelling language. As a trained professional, Luke was a keen observer and provides many details and facts that are not included in the other three historical accounts of Jesus.
The book of Acts looks at Jesus’ followers’ and their efforts to continue on without him. They wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit, who Jesus promised to send to them for guidance, direction, and counsel. Many people look to Acts for a model for how the church should function. Noteworthy in Acts is the frequent mention Holy Spirit. With about 100 references, Acts provides a close and personal insight into the function and mystery of the Holy Spirit.
Both our monthly Bible reading plan and the New Testament reading plan kick off the year with the books of Luke and Acts. Regardless of your Bible reading intentions for the year, I hope you are off to a good start — and if not, why not start today?
There are things about God, Jesus, and salvation that the Bible simply describes as “mystery,” that is, hidden truth or a mystic secret.
This drives some people crazy; they want to understand all and be able to fully explain everything. Anything less causes frustration and angst.
For me, I relish the realization that some things of God are but a mystery. That draws me to him; it is an allure. Daily, I strive to unravel his mystery and know him more fully. This is as it should be.
To explore this mystery motif more fully, consider the following verses that evoke the “mystery” explanation:
Romans 11:25 and 16:25
1 Corinthians 15:51
Ephesians 1:9, 3:3-4, 3:6, 3:9, 5:32, and 6:19
Colossians 1:26-27, 2:2, and 4:3
1 Timothy 3:16
[The word mystery is used in other contexts in Daniel 2:18-47, 4:9, 1 Corinthians 13:2, 14:2, and Revelation 1:20, 17:5, 7]