By E.W. Bullinger
An excerpt from Things to Come
Vol. VIII, No. 6 – December 1901
These words are usually taken, like so many others, apart from their context; and thus, are diverted from their true interpretation, which is determined by the context in which we find them (Ephesians 3:8).
They are usually taken as applying to the inexhaustible riches which are treasured up in Christ the “Head,” for all the members of His body; and not dispensationally.
That there are these riches thus treasured up is most blessedly true. But the question is, is this the fact referred to in Ephesians 3:8?
None can sing more heartily, or truly, than ourselves—
“How vast the treasures we possess
In Thee, O Lord, our righteousness;
All things are ours in Christ Thy Son,
With whom Thy love hath made us one.”
But these riches or treasures are for the most part searchable. The Scriptures are the treasure-house where they may be searched for and found and known and enjoyed.
We may search out what is revealed of the Father’s purpose; the Son’s love; and the Spirit’s power.
We may search out the Sufferings of Christ, the Resurrection of Christ, and the Coming of Christ (Acts 17:3): and may be built up on our most holy faith.
But the question still remains. Is all this what is referred to by the expression in Ephesians 3:8? And we answer, No.
The word that is rendered “unsearchable” is anexichniastos, and means untrackable, that which cannot be explored or found by searching. It has reference to footsteps, and hence to tracing or tracking out. It occurs again only in Romans 11:33, where it is rendered “past finding out” (RV, “past tracing out”), and refers to the “ways” of God with respect to His dispensational dealings as to Israel, the Gentiles, and the Church.
The English word “unsearchable” does occur in the same verse (Romans 11:33). But it is quite a different word in the Greek. It is anexereunetos, and means, baffling comprehension.
This latter word refers to what could not be understood though we could find it out.
The former word refers to what cannot be tracked out, though we could understand it if found.
The teaching of Romans 11:33 is, therefore, that the “judgments” of God cannot be comprehended by us, even though we could search or track them out. While the “ways” of God in grace cannot be tracked out at all, though they could be comprehended if found.
The teaching of Ephesians 3:8 is that some of these “ways” which were untrackable by man, are now made known through Paul, and announced as glad tidings among the Gentiles.
It is the Mystery (or Secret) of the Church which was thus untrackable before that commission was given to the Apostle for the special purpose of making it known.
Moreover, the Greek is “The Christ.” These untrackable riches have to do with Christ Spiritual, “The Christ,” or the glorious Head in heaven and His people, the members of His Body on earth.
This is what was untrackable by man, inasmuch as it was “hid in God.” Not hidden in the Scriptures; or hidden among men; but hidden in God, and kept secret by Him until He was pleased to reveal the wondrous Secret.
The Old Testament Scriptures clearly and manifestly revealed the “sufferings of Christ;” and they announced also “the glory that should follow.” And while the “glory” is often mentioned apart from the “sufferings,” the “sufferings” are never mentioned apart from the “glory.”
It is as though the Holy Spirit would impress us with the certainty of the fact, that those sufferings should not be fruitless, but should surely accomplish all their design, and achieve all their glorious results.
When the Lord first mentioned His “sufferings” (Matthew 16:21), He did not fail to go on to speak of the assured fact that the Son of Man should come “in His glory” (Matthew 16:27): and a Vision of the “power and coming” (II Peter 1:16-18), of that glory was immediately vouchsafed as though visibly to corroborate the blessed fact that the glory should follow the “decease” (or exodus) which was spoken of at the Transfiguration (Luke 9:31).
Peter is the one whom the Spirit chose to speak in his Epistle of the “sufferings and the glory” of which he had been the eye-witness. See I Peter 1:6-8, 11, 19, 10; 3:18; 4:13, 15, 16; 5:10, 11; in all of which sufferings and glory are joined together in the same context and in closest connection.
Now, with regard to “the sufferings of Christ and the glory which should follow” (I Peter 1:11), there was nothing to show the prophets who foretold them, what interval, if any, should separate them. So far as the prophets were concerned, there was nothing to tell them whether the glory would follow immediately on the sufferings, or whether any time was to elapse; and, if so, how long the time was to be. Hence the Spirit tells us by Peter that the prophets who spoke of these things “enquired and searched diligently… searching what, or what manner of time,” was signified.
They ministered concerning the grace of God manifested in the sufferings of Christ, but the riches of this grace and the riches of this glory were untrackable. Those riches of grace and glory belong to the Mystery. They are both spoken of in this connection in Ephesians 1. There we read of “the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7); and there we read too of “the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:8). And all this “to the praise of the glory of his grace wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).
That is why the prophets could not track out those “riches of Christ.” They were “hid in God” (Ephesians 3:9). They were the great Secret, and had been “kept secret since the world began” (Romans 16:25); and were therefore untrackable.
Like two mountain ranges, one nearer, the other in the distance, their tops could be seen, but all the beauties of the valley that lay between could not be seen. They saw the nearer range (“the sufferings of Christ”); they saw the range beyond (“the glory which should follow”); but they saw not the present interval, filled with the wealth—the riches—of His grace for the members of the Body of Christ, the Church which is His Body.
It is our privilege now to be able to track them out. We know, now, something of the “manner of time” which was signified. Over 1,800 years have passed, and we are still in that wondrous valley, though rapidly approaching the time when the hill-tops of the further range will be resplendent with the riches of His glory.
Not until the sufferings of Christ were over; not until He was rejected, and the offer of the kingdom spurned, by the nation; not till then was the secret revealed; not until then could the Apostle write “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the untrackable riches of the Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the Mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God” (Ephesians 3:8, 9).
Now, the Mystery is preached; now, the great Secret is revealed; now, we may explore the wonders of the valley that lies between the sufferings and the glory. Now, we may explore its mines of wealth; now, we may track out its riches, and enjoy its beauties, and the fellowship of the saints.
These riches of grace and glory were never scanned by the prophetic eye. They are now thrown open to our gaze. And, while they are made known to angelic beings and powers in heaven, the Holy Spirit reveals them to the Church of God on Earth.
May we realize more deeply our wondrous privileges; count up the riches which are ours in Christ; and occupy our hearts with Him and with them, rather than with our own poor walk, with all its failures and infirmities.