THE Bible speaks of two
mysteries' "the mystery of godliness," and "the mystery
of iniquity." 1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:7. Seeing that
these two mysteries are fundamental principles of two opposing powers,
each claiming the sole sovereignty over the souls of men, and requiting
man's unconditional surrender and obedience, the study of these two
mysteries becomes both important and interesting.
The Mystery Of Godliness
Ever since the fall, man's nature
has been inclined toward evil; and while he still has the power of
choice, he cannot in his own strength break with sin, change his nature,
or live a godly life. The Bible declares: "Can the Ethiopian change
his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are
accustomed to do evil." Jeremiah 13:23. Yea, "he shall be
holden with the cords of his sins." Proverbs 5:22. The Apostle Paul
realized this when in his struggle against the evil of his nature he
cried out: "The good that I would I do not; but the evil which I
would not, that I do .... O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me
from the body of this death?" Romans 7:19, 24.
There is only one who can deliver
man from sin, and He is abundantly able and always willing to do it.
"Thou shalt call His name JESUS; for He shall save His people from
their sins," and His gospel is "the power of God unto
salvation to every one that believeth." Matthew 1:21; Romans 1:16.
Here is abundant power available to all who will believe and accept it,
so that there is no excuse for continuing in known sin. And sin brings
us no happiness, for it always carries with it a trail of woe. God's
Father-heart of infinite love has been wrung with anguish for the
sufferings of man, and He has settled it that sin with its terrible
consequences shall never be permitted to enter His eternal kingdom;
therefore our only hope of entering heaven is to part company with evil.
But as man cannot in his own
strength rid himself of sin, his only hope is to let Christ take charge
of his life. When Christ dwells in our hearts by His Holy Spirit, He
changes our aspirations, our likes, and our dislikes. Sinful habits,
which we in vain have tried to break, fall off as the leaves of autumn,
and we receive the power of His love to conquer sin and live a happy
Christian life. (John 15:5; Romans 8:10-13.) And while Christ would
gladly do this work for everyone, for He wants "all men to be
saved," yet He will not use force to accomplish it, but is
patiently standing at the door of every heart asking permission to come
in and supply the needed power to conquer sin. (1 Timothy 2:3, 4;
Revelation 3:20.) Sad to say, most people refuse Him admittance.
"But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the
sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." John 1:12.
Here, then, is the secret of
victory in Christian life, "the mystery of godliness,"
"which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." I Timothy 3:16;
Colossians 1:27. Then we are not left alone in our struggles, for He
works in us "mightily" (v. 29), but He always wants our
co-operation, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good
pleasure." Philippians 2:12, 13. By this co-operation of the human
and the divine such marvelous changes are wrought in human lives and
such Christlike character is developed that angels marvel at it, and
even worldlings are forced to recognize in the change from sin to
godliness a mysterious power with which they are unacquainted.
The life of Jesus on earth was a
living demonstration of this mystery. He combined in His own person both
the human and the divine natures. "And without controversy great is
the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh." I Timothy
The Mystery Of Iniquity
It is evident that the
"mystery of iniquity" is a counterfeit of the "mystery of
godliness," or in other words, some human substitution for the
divine plan of salvation, in which man would take the place of Christ,
and human efforts would be substituted for the divine presence in the
soul. And this is exactly what the Apostle Paul declared it to be, when
he foretold that there would "come a falling away" of the
apostolic church, and that in this fallen church there would arise
"that man of sin, · . . who opposeth and exalteth himself above
all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth
in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God .... For the
mystery of iniquity doth already work." 2 Thessalonians 2:3-7.
Speaking to the church he further says: "Ye are the temple of
God." 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17. This prophecy plainly shows that
after the "falling away" of the early church some
"man" would attempt to take Christ's place in the church,
which is God's temple, or dwelling place.
The fulfillment of this prophecy
is so clearly seen in the history of the Papacy that God's people have
always recognized it whenever they have been spiritually awake. Every
well read person knows that the early Christian church fell away from
its apostolic purity and corrupted its doctrines by adopting heathen
customs, baptizing them with Christian names, so that the church
entirely changed its face within four hundred years after the apostles'
death. The "mysteries of Mithras" were substituted for the
"mystery of godliness"; "the sacrifice of the mass"
took the place of the sacrifice made on the cross; righteousness gained
by self-torture and human efforts took the place of Christ's
righteousness received by simple faith in Jesus as a personal Saviour;
receiving a sacramental Christ by eating the wafer took the place of an
indwelling Christ received by faith in God's promises; a multitude of
human mediators were substituted for Christ, the "one mediator
between God and man." I Timothy 2:5. We shall enter more fully into
the details of this in the following chapters.