The Cat’s Out of the Bag

by Pastor Ricky Kurth

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Did you ever wonder how the figure of speech found in our title came to be used for the revealing of a secret?  Some say it goes back to a time when piglets were sold in bags in open-air markets.  In those days, an unscrupulous merchant might sell an unsuspecting patron a bag containing a cat instead of a piglet, and it wasn’t until the hapless patron got home that the cat was out of the bag, and the merchant’s dishonest secret was revealed.  And since cats have always been far less valuable than pigs, the patron was always less than thrilled to learn that the pork he thought he had purchased was only pork substitute!

Well, beginning with the ministry of the Apostle Paul, an infinitely more pleasing secret was revealed!

“Paul… an apostle… in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began… But hath in due times manifested His word through preaching, which is committed unto me…” (Titus 1:1-3).

If you’re not sure what that word “manifested” means, it is well defined in something the Lord said:

“…nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest, neither any thing hid, that shall not be known…” (Luke 8:17).

So to make something manifest means to make known something that was secret or hidden. 

That certainly applies to the promise of eternal life that God made to a Gentile like Titus!  God promised the Jews eternal life throughout the pages of the Old Testament, and Gentiles who wanted to get saved in those days had to get in on that promise by becoming “proselytes” (Acts 2:10).  But Paul was raised up to reveal that Gentiles no longer had to become Jews to get the eternal life that God promised the Jews.  Paul revealed that Gentiles had their own promise of eternal life, one that God made before the world began, but didn’t let the cat out of the bag until Paul came along.

Humorist Will Rogers is said to have quipped, “Letting the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier than putting it back in.”  If you’ve ever released a cat that somehow managed to get trapped in a bag, you know he’s right!  But there are many who are trying to put Paul’s cat back in the bag.  That is, there are many who hold that Gentiles who want to be saved today must still try to get in on Israel’s promise of eternal life by keeping the Law that God gave them through Moses. Others insist that Gentiles who want to be saved must submit to water baptism “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), as Peter told “the men of Israel” (v.22) at Pentecost.

If you’re an unsaved Gentile, don’t you fall for it!  God promised you eternal life long before the Law was given, and the apostle who revealed this promise says that eternal life can’t be obtained by the “works of righteousness” of the Law (Tit. 3:5).  He further declares that it is “by the washing of regeneration” (Tit. 3:5) that we are saved, and not the washing of water baptism.  The “regeneration” or new birth of which he speaks is yours “by grace…through faith” (Eph. 2:8), faith in the fact that Christ died for your sins, and rose again (I Cor. 15:1-4).

And if you’re an unsaved Jew, things have changed for you too!  Just as Gentiles who wanted to be saved in time past had to look to Moses, the spiritual leader of the Jews, and be saved through the Law, so Jews who want to be saved today must look to Paul, “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13), and be saved by grace through faith.  That’s how the Body of Christ came to be made up of Jews and Gentiles (I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:28)!

So whether you’re a Jew or a Gentile, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

To the Reader:

Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:

"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."

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