The Deep Things of God

“Since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither path the eye seen a God beside thee, which doeth so for him that waiteth for him.” —Isaiah 64:4, Marginal Translation

A FEW HOURS before Jesus was crucified he said to his Heavenly Father, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) This makes a proper understanding of God and of Jesus very essential to those who are hoping to gain life eternal through the provision of the Father in the gift of his beloved Son. Since we cannot actually see God, our knowledge of him depends upon the revelation he has made of himself through his Word. Thus a diligent study of his Word is fundamentally important to all who want to know the true God and to be in harmony with him.

The statement sometimes made by those who discount the importance of knowledge, that “there is enough in the fifth chapter of Matthew to save any man,” is not in harmony with the many declarations of the Bible which encourage the Christian to ‘study’ and to ‘search’ the Word in order that he might acquire that knowledge of God which is essential in order to be pleasing to him. There is too great a tendency to emphasize merely the blessings which are awaiting sinners at the foot of the cross, without encouraging the consecrated to go on from there to acquire a deeper knowledge of God which results from a more comprehensive understanding of his plan of salvation.

However, it is also important to avoid the extreme viewpoint of those who place knowledge on a pedestal, as though it were important enough to be worshiped. If we think of knowledge in its true light, as the channel through which God reveals himself and inspires our devotion to him, it is not possible to give it too important a position in our hearts and lives. But if we do not so view knowledge, the search for it could lead to an assumption of spiritual superiority on the part of those who make knowledge a matter of the head rather than of the heart.

Texts of the Bible which speak of the “deep things of God,” “strong meat,” and the “mysteries” of God, have at times been misinterpreted, even though those who have done so have probably been sincere in their viewpoints.—I Cor. 2:10; Heb. 5:14; Col. 2:2; 1:27,28

Some claim that devotional truths are the “deep things of God,” the “strong meat” of the Word. God IS love, and the wonderful provision he has made through Christ inspires us to love him and to devote our lives to his service. Faith in God and his promises is essential in order to live such a life of devotion, and the Scriptures encourage us to add to our faith other qualities of character. These truths of the Bible are fundamental, but not necessarily ‘deep’, because they are quite generally understood and appreciated even by those who have little or no understanding of the true doctrines of the divine plan.

One who is clever in the use of language might employ many beautiful words in discussing the subject of divine love, yet his meaning would be no deeper than that wonderfully simple statement, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Nor could a million eloquent words convey any deeper sense of our appreciation of God’s love than that expressed by the apostle when he wrote, “We love him, because he first loved us.”—I John 4:19

Types and Shadows

Writing about the Tabernacle in the wilderness and the services associated with it, Paul speaks of them as a “shadow of good things to come.” (Heb. 8:5; 10:1) In these ‘shadows’, certain clearly outlined truths of the divine plan are prefigured. When these are understood they help us to appreciate the beauty and simplicity of the truth a little more than we did before. It is possible, however, to become so absorbed in trying to ascertain the meaning of all the intricacies of the Tabernacle and its services that one could lose sight of the intended purpose of the ‘shadows’. Some, indeed, have mistakenly concluded that only those who are able to explain the meaning of every board, hook, skin, and color in the Tabernacle really understand the ‘deep things of God’.

Some minds seem especially to appreciate the chronology and other time features of the divine plan. Then there are those who specialize in the prophecies of the Bible, particularly the Book of Revelation. They revel in their efforts to understand and explain the significance of every detail of these prophecies. However, there could be an inclination on the part of these to feel that any who do not fully agree with their findings, or do not share their enthusiasm for prophecy, lack appreciation of the ‘strong meat’ of the Word.

The Simplicity of the Gospel

There is absolutely no suggestion in the Bible that only mental giants can comprehend the essential truths of God’s plan of salvation; nor does the Bible encourage us to think that special spiritual qualities are possessed by some which are beyond the reach of the rank and file of the Lord’s people. The truth of the divine plan, as well as the standards of righteousness and spirituality associated with it, are the same for all the consecrated. The ‘deep things of God’ are understandable by all who have been called by the Lord to run for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

We should not discount the importance of any truth which is contained in the Word of God. The great truth of divine love, and of the privilege of our development into the character-likeness of God and of Christ, are certainly essential. The types and pictures of the Old Testament, when used to increase the brilliance of the divine plan doctrines, are exceedingly valuable to our growth in knowledge. The prophecies also have been put in the Bible for our edification as New Creatures in Christ Jesus, as have also the chronology and other time features of the plan of salvation. Let us use all these for the strengthening of our faith, and for our growth in grace and knowledge. Let none of us become discouraged by the erroneous supposition that there are certain ‘deep’ things of the Word which are quite beyond our comprehension, and that God intends these profound truths to be understood only by a spiritual aristocracy among his people.

If in our fellowship with the brethren we discover that the supposedly wonderful viewpoints of truth we present are not generally grasped and appreciated, it might be better to conclude that possibly we have developed some vain imaginations, rather than to congratulate ourselves that the Lord has favored us with a ‘deep’ or inscrutable understanding of some portion of his Word which is quite beyond the ability of our brethren to grasp. The great truths mentioned in the Bible as being the most profound are, as a rule, the simplest facts of the divine plan. And this is what we should expect, since God is the Author of the wonderful plan of salvation through which he has revealed his love and has caused us to rejoice in the riches of his grace.

“Which Passeth Knowledge”

There are a number of texts in the Bible which convey the thought of the profound knowledge, or understanding, needed to comprehend the divine plan, and the love of God and of Christ revealed therein. In a beautiful benediction invoked upon the brethren at Ephesus, Paul prayed “that he [God] would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.”—Eph. 3:16-19

There is no passage in the Bible that gives a more definite suggestion of profound understanding than this one. But is Paul writing about some special truth which is so ‘deep’ that he knew only a few would be able to grasp it? Apparently not, for he speaks of being able to comprehend it with all saints. In other words, that great truth which passeth knowledge was, nevertheless, in his opinion, within the mental reach of all the Lord’s people. And again we say, this is just what we should expect.

The Greek word translated “passeth” in this text means, ‘beyond the usual’. In other words, the point of truth which Paul is writing about is not incomprehensible, but simply beyond usual knowledge, or that which is not generally understood. Just what is this unusual knowledge Paul had in mind, and which, in such a wonderful way, enables us to appreciate the length and breadth and height and depth of the love of Christ? The answer to this comes to light as we read the earlier portion of Ephesians, Chapter 2.

Beginning with Ephesians 3:3, let us notice the manner in which Paul emphasizes the great depth of understanding with which the Lord had favored him, that “by revelation he made known unto me the mystery.” He indicates that he had previously explained this in order that the brethren at Ephesus might “understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ.” (vs. 4) He then explains that this profound understanding of a certain part of the divine plan as centered in Christ had not previously been made known, but “is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit,” who could then impart it to others.—vs. 5

Just what is this vital truth, so profound, so deep, that a special revelation from the Lord was necessary to enable Paul and the other apostles to understand it? The next verse answers: “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the Gospel.” (vs. 6) Surely this is a wonderfully simple truth of the divine plan, yet it was treated by Paul as though it were a great mystery, as indeed it was in the days of the Early Church.

Throughout all the centuries during which God was dealing with his typical people, Israel, his prophets continued to make promises concerning the coming Messiah, Christ. The entire nation of Israel was considered to be the messianic nation, to be associated with Christ in fulfilling the wonderful promises of worldwide blessings. “You only have I known of all the families of the earth,” the Lord told Israel through the Prophet Amos.—Amos 3: 2

With this background of understanding, it must have been very difficult, especially for Jewish converts in the Early Church, to grasp the idea that Gentiles could be ‘fellow heirs’ with them, and members of the same ‘body’ of Christ. To those who became aware of this great mystery, it served as a marvelous revelation of divine love. It showed that the love of God was broad enough and deep enough to take in even Gentile ‘dogs’—those nations who had for centuries been out of favor with God—and make them heirs of the messianic promises.

There is much in the writings of the New Testament to indicate that this particular truth was considered by the Early Church as one of the very deep things of God, difficult to understand, and Paul was particularly desirous that the brethren in Ephesus comprehend it clearly and realize that it had been given as a special revelation of the Spirit, showing the extensiveness of the love of Christ. Here indeed was knowledge which went beyond the usual understanding of both Jews and Gentiles, and yet today it is very simple to those in whose hearts there is no racial prejudice. Certainly there is no consecrated child of God now who is not able to grasp such a simple fact of the divine plan, yet it is stated in the Scriptures as a truth which helps to reveal the “unsearchable riches of Christ.”—Eph. 3:8

Depth of Riches

Closely associated with this doctrine which was such ‘strong meat’ to the Early Church, was the further truth that even those natural descendants of Abraham who had rejected the Messiah, and consequently were broken off from the ‘olive tree’ of promise, were ultimately to be reinstated into divine favor and to have an opportunity to gain life. Paul discusses this point in Romans 11, and after saying that “God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all,” he adds, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”—Rom. 11:32,33

In the Greek text, the word translated “depth” in Paul’s expression of ecstasy, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” is the same one he used in I Corinthians 2:10 where he spoke of the ‘deep’ things of God. His reference to God’s ‘judgments’ as being ‘unsearchable’, is a quotation from Psalm 36:6. That entire passage reads, “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O Lord, thou preservest man and beast. How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.”—Ps. 36:5-7

How wonderfully this language assures us of God’s lovingkindness, of the riches of his grace, the abundance of his mercy, and the righteousness of his judgments! These glorious characteristics of our God are quite ‘unsearchable’ in so far as our ability to enter fully into their meaning is concerned. However, Paul cites a wonderful example of God’s mercy and righteous judgments, telling us that these loving qualities of our Heavenly Father will be manifested in the ultimate salvation of those who rejected Christ at his First Advent, and that he will exercise his mercy toward all of them.

This, too, is a wonderfully simple truth to those now who understand and accept the divine plan of the ages, but to many in the Early Church it must have been ‘strong meat’; truth, that is, hard to assimilate. Even today there are many professing Christians who cannot take it, refusing to believe that God’s love is abundant enough to extend the opportunity of salvation to those who die in unbelief.

“Hard to Be Uttered”

One of the frequently quoted texts used to give the thought that some of the precious truths of the Bible are simple—the ‘ABC’s’ of the plan—while certain other truths are deeper and more spiritual, is Hebrews 5:13,14. In this text Paul speaks of “milk” and of “strong meat,” and tells the Hebrew brethren that they were not prepared for ‘strong meat’; that they even had need that the ‘milk’ doctrines be taught to them again.

What deep truth does Paul refer to here as ‘strong meat’? This is indicated in verses 10 and 11, where he speaks of the Melchisedec priesthood—that Jesus, as both king and priest, was typified by Melchisedec. “Of whom we have many things to say,” Paul writes, “and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.” He then explains to the Hebrew brethren that they were not ready for what he wanted to say to them about the Melchisedec type, and that they even needed to have the first principles of the oracles of God and the “doctrine of Christ” taught to them again.

The fact that Melchisedec was both a priest and a king, and was a type of this combined office as it is filled in the antitype by Christ, is to us a wonderfully simple truth. There is nothing complex or mysterious about it. To the minds of the Jewish Christians in the Early Church, however, it presented a difficulty—not because the idea was complex or hard to grasp, but because they had been so thoroughly imbued with the thought that everything pertaining to a priesthood began and ended with Aaron. In their religious education, Melchisedec had never been mentioned or considered. It was this that made it ‘strong meat’, or, as the Greek text states, “tough” meat for them to “digest.”

In the beginning of Hebrews 6, Paul, by contrast, mentions what he describes as the “principles of the doctrine of Christ.” (vs. 1) According to the Greek text, it is really the ‘primary’, or ‘fundamental’ doctrines of Christ that Paul refers to. These, he explains, are repentance, faith, baptisms, laying on of hands, the resurrection, and eternal judgment. (vs. 2) All of these, while basically important in the Christian life, presented no difficulty of acceptance by the Jewish mind, because they were not outside of, or beyond, his usual trend of thinking. Actually, the doctrine of baptism is no simpler, or more easily understood than the Melchisedec type of Christ, as both king and priest; but to the minds of those to whom Paul was writing, it was much easier to assimilate, even as milk is to the child.

A “Hard Saying”

Speaking in the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus declared that the only ones who could have eternal life were those who “ate his flesh and drank his blood.” He explained that “this is that bread which came down from heaven.” The account adds, “Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (John 6:53-60) In the same lesson Jesus said, “My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” (vs. 55) Now that we understand the divine plan of redemption as it is centered in Christ Jesus, these expressions by the Master are easily understood. It was simply his way of saying that his humanity was to be sacrificed for the sin of the world, and that it is necessary for believers to accept this great fact and humbly yield themselves in obedience to the divine will as revealed through him, in order to have life.

But for those who heard it for the first time, and with no background knowledge of the divine plan to help them understand what the Master meant, the idea of eating his flesh and drinking his blood was ‘hard’. Jews were forbidden to drink blood, and certainly the suggestion that they would need to drink human blood in order to live was just too much for them, and many of them became offended and walked no more with Jesus.

Mysteries of the Kingdom

The disciples asked Jesus why he always spoke to the public in parables and dark sayings. In reply he said to them, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 13:11) A mystery is only such as long as it is not understood, and Jesus’ promise was that his followers would have the mysteries of the kingdom made clear to them. We believe that Jesus has fulfilled his promise on behalf of all his people as the due time has arrived for each of those mysteries to be revealed. He promised that when he returned at the end of the age he would gird himself and would serve his household with “meat in due season.” (Luke 12:37; Matt. 24:45) Many and rich are the truths which have been thus placed upon the Lord’s table in fulfillment of this promise. They are mysteries only to those to whom it has not been given to understand.

At the beginning of the Gospel Age it was the due time to make known the “riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) First it was a mystery to Jewish believers that Jesus alone was not the complete Christ, but rather the ‘Head’ over a ‘body’ of many members. But, as Paul stated it in his letter to the Ephesian brethren, a manifestation of divine love, surpassing human knowledge, was seen in the acceptance of Gentiles to be fellow-heirs with Jewish believers in this ‘hope of glory’.

“Eye With Not Seen”

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, saying, “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 by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (I Cor. 2:9,10) In this well-known passage, Paul quoted from the text which heads this article (Isa. 64:4), explaining that the ‘deep thoughts’ of God pertaining to his plan for the blessing of man, which had been hidden from the foundation of the world, were now revealed to the followers of Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

While previously it had been true that “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard” the wonderful truths concerning the divine plan of redemption and salvation through Christ—a plan embracing the use of both Jews and Gentiles as associates with him in the work of deliverance—now it was different. Jesus indicated this when he said, prospectively, to his disciples, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.” (Matt. 13:16) David wrote, “O Lord, how great are thy works! And thy thoughts are very deep.” (Ps. 92:5) How we rejoice today that these ‘deep’ thoughts of God have been revealed to his people, and that we can now understand the ‘works’ of his plan, and by his grace participate therein.

“Sincere Milk”

To those who had purified their souls by obeying the truth “unto unfeigned love of the brethren,” the Apostle Peter wrote, “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” (I Pet. 1:22; 2:13) The Apostle Paul wrote, “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children.” (I Cor. 14:20) Seemingly it is this thought that Peter is expressing following his admonition to “lay aside all malice,” he adds, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word.”

There is much in the First Epistle of Peter to indicate that those to whom he wrote it were not mere “babes in Christ,” within the meaning usually attached to this expression. Perhaps he had Jesus’ illustration in mind, when, of little children he said, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 19:14) Every disciple of Christ should endeavor to be childlike in simplicity and sincerity. And all such will surely desire to feed upon the rich spiritual food of the Bible, which, in keeping with the ‘newborn babe’ illustration, Peter describes as the ‘sincere milk of the Word’.

In the Greek text, the word which is translated “sincere,” is one which means ‘unmixed’, or ‘unadulterated’. Childlike humility of heart will manifest itself in a desire to feed only upon the unadulterated truth, and to avoid the vain imaginations of human reasonings. It seems to us that in this particular text Peter may well be referring to all the precious doctrines of the divine plan as ‘milk’, not with the thought of minimizing the depth of the knowledge of God which they reveal, but to show that those who in childlike simplicity feed upon the truth, are able properly to assimilate it, and thereby to grow strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.

How glad we are that all the Lord’s people to whom he has given ‘hearing ears’ and ‘seeing eyes’, have the ability to grasp the glorious truths of the Word, and that through these truths our Heavenly Father is revealing himself to his people. There are, to be sure, varying degrees of understanding and appreciation of the truth among his people, but this indicates largely a natural growth from the standpoint of time. There is none of us who will ever, this side the veil, acquire a full degree of knowledge; but we can all, through study, “show ourselves approved unto God, workmen who need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.”—II Tim. 2:15

And what a privilege it is to share the joys of this wonderful knowledge with others of like precious faith! We can all help one another in our study of the Word. Regardless of how long we have been ‘in the truth’, there are points that we can learn even from beginners, if we maintain a childlike simplicity and humility before the Lord and among our brethren. Above all, let us always look to the Lord for his help and guidance, that we may continue to grow in grace and in an ever-increasing knowledge of Him.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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