William Phelps taught English literature at Yale for forty-one years until his retirement in 1933.
William Lyon Phelps.
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Marking an examination paper shortly before Christmas one year, Phelps came across the note: “God only knows the answer to this question. Merry Christmas.” Phelps returned the paper with this note: “God gets an A. You get an F. Happy New Year.”
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church in Ephesus, he marvels in what he describes as the “mystery of God’s will”. A mystery is something that “God only knows”.
We all love a good mystery. Mysteries have tremendous power; the unknowns keep us engaged and drive us to seek a resolution to the mystery. As in any good mystery, with the big reveal, we learn who did it and how.
The story of salvation is in many ways an unfolding mystery. There are certain things that we know and have clues about from God’s revelations to Abraham, Moses, David and the Prophets of the Old Testament. God gave a lot of clues.
The Apostle Peter tells us that we now know things even the prophets and angels of God longed to see:
It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look (1 Peter 1:12).
The people of old knew that God had a plan to save the world. They knew that central to the plan was the nation of Israel, and specifically a Messianic king who would be in the line of King David.
But, as Paul writes, there were certain things about the story of salvation that remained hidden in the councils of God until the big moment of revelation. The big reveal is called the Epiphany!
First: who? Who will be the Messiah? We now know that Jesus Christ, the incarnate son of God, is the one who will save the world. No one would have expected that a carpenter’s son from Nazareth would amount to much. Yet everything now points to him and his birth, ministry, death and resurrection.
The big reveal is that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except by him ( John 14:6).
How will God save the world? We now know from the big reveal that through the proclamation of the Gospel message about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God will convert the hearts of the people of this world. He will liberate them from the powers of death and darkness, save their souls, and grant them eternal life.
As with any epiphany we can be surprised and shocked at the way things turn out. Who could fathom the sheer magnitude of the salvation of God as he converts the people of the world to Jesus? The Lord continues to surprise and amaze!
You and I have the tremendous privilege of knowing the big reveal to life’s most intriguing mystery. God has shown us how he will save this sinful and fallen world, and who has accomplished it. This is a revelation that is too important to keep hidden and secret. Our privilege, duty and calling is to make known the mystery of the will of God to a world that desperately needs to see the light of the Gospel.
Let your light shine!