The Reformation regained the truth of the first Pauline revelation, namely, justification by faith alone (Sola fide—Latin: faith alone -NC), but did not go on to restore the truth contained in the second revelation (Eph 5:32). It is altogether possible that the problems attending the restoration of the first revelation, being so far-reaching and revolutionary as a reaction to the Romish perversions of truth, were all that could be undertaken at one time or by one generation.
Later studies of the NT developed the almost limitless theme of the second revelation. Unfortunately, however, theologians were unprepared to receive any added truth beyond that gained in the Reformation, and Protestant theology has, by a misguided loyalty to orthodoxy, never received the truth contained in Paul’s second revelation. It has been assumed that this added truth is dangerous if it was not included in the Reformation attainments and that it must be in conflict with those attainments.
Early in the history of Protestantism there were individual theologians who caught the first gleams of truth contained in the second revelation, and an ever increasing light has fallen on this body of truth until today where there is a great corps of students of doctrine who hold and teach, along with the first revelation, the clear unfoldings respecting the Church which is Christ’s body.
Nevertheless, orthodox Reformed theology persists in its original, isolated, and exclusive recognition of the first revelation, and continues to reject and condemn an intrusive as disruptive the great certified findings of those theologians who have given their years of study to the second revelation. This second revelation respecting the Church, if pursued worthily, leads with inexorable logic to dispensational and general distinctions of the Word of God.
Apart from all the misunderstandings and weaknesses of men, in which we all share to some extent, it yet remains true that in the eternal purpose of God (and made possible by the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, and by the advent of the Spirit) a heavenly people are being called out for a specific heavenly glory, that this divine purpose is in no sense the realization of the promises and covenants made unto Israel, that every promise to Israel will yet be fulfilled, and that apart from these distinctions and anticipations there can be no harmonizing of the divine revelation.
The very fact that there has been such neglect of the whole field embraced in the second Pauline revelation becomes a challenge to the student of the Word to advance with greatest care in this all-but-limitless realm of truth. The fact that the Church is a mystery—with regard to the age of her out-calling, the truth that she is the body of Christ, the truth that she will be the Bride of Christ, and the manner of her departure from this world—indicates her distinctive character as separate from all that has gone before or that will follow.
The Apostle Paul writes: “Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen (Rom 16:25-27)