“Unto You It Is Given”

“Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.” —Luke 8:10

THESE words of our Lord were spoken in his parable of the sower, as recorded in the 8th chapter of Luke, verses 4-15. They set forth a truth that is dear to the hearts of the Lord’s people everywhere; for they are marked as his children by the possession of this knowledge of the truth, this understanding of God’s loving plans and purposes on behalf of a groaning creation. “As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us [his people] by his Spirit. … Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”—I Cor. 2:9,10,12

The Apostle Paul long ago wrote in this letter to the church at Corinth: “Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; … that no flesh should glory in his presence.” (I Cor. 1:26,27,29) And so it has been, even as the apostle declared, that the Lord rarely calls the mighty ones of this world. No, he calls the lowly, the meek, the humble; those possessing a simple, childlike faith; those who in their hearts are humbly and truly seeking him, “if haply they might feel after him, and find him.” (Acts 17:27) To these, and these alone, he reveals the glorious mysteries of the kingdom.

This, indeed, is a Gospel Age miracle; it is one of the most thrilling of all the Lord’s arrangements for his people. For, to know and understand these precious truths is a confirmation of our sonship; it is assurance that the seed has fallen on good ground and that it is being received into good and honest hearts. It is evidence that the great God of the universe has begun a good work in us, that he has called us and is dealing with us as his children. Is this not a marvelous arrangement! And so we can say with the apostle that “we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world knew.” (I Cor. 2:7,8) But we have the mind of Christ, and he has revealed these things to us by his Spirit. For unto us, unspeakably, amazingly, “it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.”

Now, this understanding of the mysteries of God’s plan of the ages, this knowledge of times and seasons is, indeed, a source of sweet comfort and encouragement to all the Lord’s consecrated people. Every day of their lives the Lord’s dear people turn grateful hearts to the Heavenly Father for having revealed to them his plans and purposes, especially in the present condition of the world. But the Scriptures clearly show that God’s purpose in thus opening their spiritual eyes to the mysteries of the kingdom is not merely for their own personal comfort in troublous times.

In his second epistle to Timothy, the Apostle Paul writes that “all scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (II Tim. 3:16,17) Dr. Strong suggests that the thought of this passage is that one should strive to be thoroughly equipped as a teacher. The apostle confirms this in the following verses, where he says: “I charge thee therefore … Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.”—II Tim. 4:1-3

In II Corinthians 5:18 the apostle states the matter very clearly. He tells us that something additional has been given unto us. He tells us why God has given us this understanding of his plans and purposes. He admonishes us that we have work to do. He says that “God … hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” Let us notice the logical sequence of this statement. Having first reconciled us to himself by Christ, God then gave to us the ministry of reconciliation, having put in us (margin) the word of reconciliation. The great God of the universe, he who is from everlasting to everlasting, the Creator of all things, has invited us to be his associates in this great plan of reconciling the world. This grand project of reconciliation, in which it is our privilege to have a part, begins with the church in this Gospel Age. It will carry over into the thousand-year kingdom reign of the Christ on behalf of the resurrected world of mankind, when the Heavenly Father will place at the disposal of the glorified church all his power, wisdom, love, and justice, which are even now specially operating on behalf of the footstep followers of Jesus. But our part now in this great work of reconciliation, in this present life, is to preach the kingdom and to grow in grace and knowledge. And how sorely the world needs the kingdom!

In the parable, the Master tells us that “the seed is the word of God.” (Luke 8:11) And in the last verse of the parable he says that the “good ground” on which the seed fell represents those who “in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15) Thus the Lord instructs us that his purpose in planting the seed in the good ground is that it should bring forth fruit. He then continues: “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light. For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.” He then concludes, significantly: “Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath [used], to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not [used], from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.”

Shortly after Jesus was baptized at Jordan and tempted for forty days of the Devil, he returned to Galilee. On the Sabbath he went into the synagogue, “as his custom was,” and read aloud from Isaiah’s prophecy: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” Closing the book, he said to them, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” (Luke 4:18-21) The Lord here announced himself as the foretold Anointed One and proclaimed the acceptable year of the Lord, the period during which those who will make up the members of that Christ company may offer acceptable sacrifice for sin by demonstrating their faith in the Master’s ransom sacrifice and following in his steps. Angered at what they considered his presumptuous words, the Jews rose up and thrust him out of the city and would have killed him. Our Lord, however, went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and continued to teach the message of the kingdom. And so it went for three and a half years, with our Lord preaching the acceptable year, the good news of the kingdom, enduring bitter persecution even as he went about doing good, in laying down his life in sacrifice on behalf of a sinful world.

Thus did our Leader, our Captain, fulfill his consecration according to the prophetic testimony, “Lo, … in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God.” In complete devotion to doing, not his own will, but the will of his Father which is in heaven, he went about telling forth the glorious message of salvation. And it is our privilege, in turn, as co-laborers together with him, to sow the seed, which is the word of God; for unto us has been given the ministry of reconciliation.

But even more has been given unto us! In Philippians 1:29 we read Paul’s words, “Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” Paul had many sweet memories of the little class at Philippi, and the special love and tenderness he bore for the brethren there shines out through the entire epistle. It is especially evident in his greeting to them. “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,” he wrote, “always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:3-6) How well the apostle remembered that first day with those dear people who were destined to be the nucleus of the church at Philippi!

This little class, like all the others, owed its establishment to the loving providences of the Lord. While in Troas, Paul had a vision in which a man of Macedonia prayed to him, saying, “Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” (Acts 16:9) None was ever more alert to the leadings of the Lord than the great Apostle Paul. For him, no trouble was too great, no journey too long, no promised reward too small, if perchance he might find one of the Lord’s little ones! And so it was, after a long voyage by ship, he found himself in Philippi. On the Sabbath, Paul and Silas went down to the riverside, where the people were in the habit of going for prayer, and they spoke to the women gathered there. The account tells us that “a certain woman named Lydia, … which worshiped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended the things which were spoken of Paul. And … she was baptized, and her household.” (vss. 14,15) We can imagine how Paul’s heart must have leaped for joy, how the trials and the weariness of the journey fled from his bones as he saw the seed fall gently into the good ground of Lydia’s heart, so soon to bring forth fruit!

It was at Philippi, also, that another memorable and heart-warming experience was granted to Paul. Having delivered a certain young woman of the spirit that possessed her, Paul aroused the anger of her greedy masters, and he and Silas were beaten with many stripes and were cast into prison, with their feet made fast in stocks. At midnight a great earthquake shook the prison doors open and loosed all the prisoners from their bonds. Paul immediately assured the trembling keeper of the prison that all the prisoners were accounted for, and then the jail keeper said to Paul: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:14-34) And the keeper and all his house were baptized and joyfully joined the others in that newly formed little class there in Philippi. No wonder Paul’s heart was warm toward the Philippian brethren!

And now, from Rome, we find Paul once more in chains but still glorying in his lot, writing to his old friends at Philippi. He was anxious that those to whom it had been his privilege first to open the Scriptures should progress and bring forth the desired fruitage. He writes: “This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve [prove] things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1:10,11) And then he mentions his chains. But he hastens to reassure them, saying, in effect, “Don’t feel sorry for me, brethren, for my imprisonment has encouraged the brethren here at Rome to speak forth the word of truth without fear.”

What was it that encouraged the brethren there at Rome to tell out the kingdom message? What was it that gave them heart in that pagan city to associate themselves openly with this troublemaker, Paul? It was Paul’s own remarkable courage, even in the face of persecution, imprisonment, and in the end, death! It was Paul’s own Christlike example of preaching the truth against all opposition and difficulties! He was not one ever to hide his light under a bushel! Even under the weight of his chains, he held high the torch of truth! And this privilege of suffering for Christ’s sake, Paul continues, is also your privilege, brethren. “For unto you it is given in behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.”—vs. 29

The word “given,” as used in this statement of Paul’s, is translated from a Greek word that means much more than merely to present something to another. Dr. Strong indicates its meaning as “to grant as a favor.” One translation renders this passage, “because it has been graciously allowed you not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for his sake.” Now, to understand the mysteries of the kingdom, to see by faith our Lord Jesus in all his glory, to receive the justification that comes by faith, to have our sins covered, to come into blessed sonship to the Father, to have a part in the ministry of reconciliation—all this is to us, indeed, an unquestioned favor and privilege; but surely none in all the world except the Lord’s followers would consider it to be a “gracious favor” to be allowed to suffer as Paul suffered! “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned.” (I Cor. 2:14) But we, the Lord’s people, have the mind of Christ; and we discern that to be justified, or reckoned righteous, so that our little sacrifices may be counted in with our Lord’s in filling up that which is behind of the afflictions and sufferings of Christ is, indeed, a high privilege! And our joyful acceptance of these sufferings is another witness to us that we are God’s children. “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Rom. 8:17) So we can say with the apostle that we “reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:18) No wonder, therefore, that the apostle so soberly, so earnestly, implores us to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye [we] are called.”—Eph. 4:1-6

How can we hope to show ourselves worthy of that high calling—we who are so continually conscious of our own unworthiness and imperfections? After having admonished the Lord’s people to walk worthy of their vocation, the apostle seems to have anticipated the hesitancy of his hearers to lay hold on this high privilege; for he immediately indicates in the following verse the only way in which any could ever hope to accomplish it. And this is because—and only because—something more has been given to us, something additional, without which we could never hope to be overcomers! He says, “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”—Eph. 4:7

While Paul was imprisoned at Rome, the Hebrew brethren appear to have faltered in their earlier understanding and faith, and perhaps some had even reverted to their former reliance on the works of the Law; for we find Paul admonishing them to give the more earnest heed to the things they had heard, lest they should let them slip. (Heb. 2:1) We then find Paul patiently relaying the foundation blocks of their faith. He shows them, as he must have done many times previously, that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin, since these animal sacrifices merely pictured the one true and efficacious sacrifice for sin, the perfect sacrifice of our Lord Jesus. And then he urges them to enter again into that rest of faith in the finished work of Christ that had earlier been theirs.

During the course of this lesson Paul encourages them to seek the Lord’s grace in the matter. He suggests that they should “come boldly unto the throne of grace,” that they might “obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16) Is our faith weak? Are we forever conscious of our imperfections and failings? Do we feel unworthy of our holy vocation? The only proper course for those who are perplexed or uncertain about any phase of their Christian lives is to go confidently to the throne of grace. To all who thus appeal to him through Christ for spiritual help and guidance, our Heavenly Father hearkens and, as his wisdom orders, supplies the needed grace, encouragement, and wisdom.

When we receive God’s grace under such circumstances, we receive his favor, his love, his guidance, his blessing. And with what loving bounty our Father pours out his promised blessings in our every time of need! Truly we find that his grace is sufficient for us! And only thus may we once more tightly gather about us the robe of righteousness and hope to walk worthy of our vocation.

But let it be noticed that to have God’s grace bestowed upon us does not mean merely to receive his favor and blessing. For there is a deeper meaning to this word “grace”—a much broader implication. Our Heavenly Father does not desire us to be merely the joyful recipients of his benefits and favors. He expects us to respond to his favors. He bestows his proffered blessings in order to enable us to carry out our covenant of sacrifice in the perfecting of our characters, in telling out the good tidings of the kingdom, in suffering for Christ’s sake in the doing of his will; in short, that we might bring forth fruit, with patience.

In defining this word “grace” Dr. Strong first uses such words as benefit, favor, gift. Then he further amplifies its meaning as “the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.” Thus the word grace implies much more than merely receiving! It calls for active response from those who have been blessed! The Funk and Wagnall dictionary definition of this word is just as eloquent. Here we are told, in almost inspired language, that grace is “the free, unmerited favor and love of God; and the influence of God operating in man to regenerate or strengthen; strength to do something, as, grace to perform a duty, or to endure affliction.”

With this understanding of the word, how full of meaning those expressions of the apostle become when he says in so many of his letters to the churches, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” The apostle is really saying, “May the blessing and favor and love of God through Jesus Christ fill your hearts; and then, through your appreciation and gratitude, may it prompt active, positive, and sacrificial expression in your lives!” Truly, we have been the blessed recipients of the free, unmerited favor and love of God. And just as truly should we, therefore, strive daily and diligently to show forth our gratitude to the Heavenly Father by walking in the steps of our Captain, serving the Lord, the truth, and the brethren.

How much of the free, unmerited favor and love of God have we received? Consider the apostle’s account (in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews) of the marvelous faith and endurance of God’s holy prophets and of the other ancient worthies. Think of the relatively limited understanding of God’s plans and purposes it was their lot to enjoy. Call to mind the mocking, the scourging, the afflictions, and the violence they suffered, through all of which their faith and loyalty to God never failed! And then consider that “these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” What a humbling thought this should be to every footstep follower of Jesus during this Gospel Age, so soon to close!

Do we receive this “better thing” than the Ancient Worthies receive because we are better than they? Assuredly not! It is by God’s grace! Truly, unto us much hath been given! May we ever be mindful of the words of our Lord when he said, “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”—Luke 12:48

Dawn Bible Students Association
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