My prayer today is that in understanding the revelation of the mystery God has given to his saints (to you and not the rest of the world), you will be reminded of 1) Your great value to God 2) The treasure available to you in Christ.
What the saints of God know today was once a mystery and still is for those unable to receive it. This mystery was revealed by and through Jesus Christ. Thy mystery centers around these three words, “Christ (The Son of God becoming a man and being anointed with power) in (a new creation by the presence and seal of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Adoption to God the Father and heirs of eternal life in Jesus’ Kingdom) us (us being all races, genders and classes, no longer just Israel)”. This is the mystery we are ministers and stewards of.
Paul speaks of being made a made a minister of this mystery in our first chunk of scripture. We’ll read this then briefly backtrack a few verses to set some things up:
[Col 1:24-29 KJV] 24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: 25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; 26 [Even] the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 27 To whom God would make known what [is] the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: 29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
We are introduced to the Father’s “dear Son” in verse 13.
The Son is:
- King (1:13)
- The image of the invisible God (1:15)
- Firstborn of all creation (1:15)
- By whom and for whom all things in heaven and on earth were created (1:16)
- Before all things (1:17)
- In him all things consist (hold together) (1:17)
- The head of the body (church) (1:18)
- The firstborn from the dead so that he may have preeminence (supremacy over all the resurrection) (1:18)
Colossians 1:21-22 serves as a sneaky little turning point. The glory and wonder of the gospel message come to fruition as in no other place in scripture; it’s easy to miss. Here we see the Son, whose divine attributes are listed above now suddenly seen in a body of flesh, living a suffering life and suffering a shameful death.
[Col 1:20-22 KJV] 20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, [I say], whether [they be] things in earth, or things in heaven. 21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in [your] mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
For those of us who grew up hearing the story of Jesus, God becoming a man has the potential to lose its awe, particularly with so many images that remind us of his short 33 years on earth, i.e. crosses, images (paintings, movies, church slides) of young Jewish Man, etc.
If I had never heard the story of Jesus and someone had read to me the above attributes of the Son and then asked me to guess the remainder of the story in terms of salvation, I would never have guessed the mystery. I would not have guessed that this eternal, all powerful creator King would become flesh, suffer, and die a cursed and shameful death to reconcile those who were enemies of God in order to present them blameless and above reproach to himself. Add to that, I, we, are his body. We are in him and he is in us. We are in God and God is in us. This, is the mystery which was hidden, but has now been gloriously revealed—Christ in us, the hope of glory.
It is the stewardship of this mystery that Paul is speaking of as we pick up in Colossians 1:24.
[Col 1:24-29 KJV] 24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:
Using scripture to interpret scripture, it’s clear (especially in Colossians!) that Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient to forgive sins and save those who believe. There is nothing lacking in the salvific effect of Christ’s work. There remains however—according to Jesus himself—suffering that must occur in his body, that is, the church (). We joyfully “fill up” what is remaining of the suffering of Christ not because his suffering wasn’t enough, but because suffering as he suffered is a part of being in him. As his body, we have the joy of suffering with him (on behalf of the edification of our other members) and ultimately being glorified with him!
25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; 26 [Even] the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 27 To whom God would make known what [is] the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: 29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
In this mystery lies all our hope and all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. What a wonderful thought!
[Mat 11:25-30 KJV] 25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. 26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. 27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and [he] to whomsoever the Son will reveal [him]. 28 Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light.
To know the Son is to know the Father; it is to know God. And there is no relationship with God (no way to know the Father) outside of the Son. If all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ but God has hidden these things from the “wise and prudent”, it must mean there are two types of wisdom and knowledge: the earthly kind and the heavenly kind.
God hid the mystery and revealed it to those who would receive it at a time of his choosing. Note the parallel statements in Matthew’s and Paul’s writing. Jesus calls those able to receive “babes”. Below Paul calls them “the foolish things of the world”, “the weak things of the world”, and “the base things of the world”.
[1Co 1:18, 27-30 KJV] 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. … 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, [yea], and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
Verse 30 says that we are in Christ. It then says that God made Christ wisdom for us, and also righteousness, sanctification and redemption. Christ is wisdom, and we are in Christ. We who are foolish, weak, and base have been put in Christ. This is foolishness to the world, but power unto us. This promise of heavenly hope, wisdom and knowledge is for every believer in Christ. The difficulties arise when we focus on the hope, wisdom, and knowledge of the world instead of the exclusivity of what Christ offers. Scripture promises that the natural man cannot receive the spiritual things. This means that even a tiny bit of wisdom, knowledge and hope in a Jesus-follower is infinitely more valuable than all the earthly wisdom, knowledge and false hope.
It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me. Christ is the Son. How do we know we’ve received the promise of the Son in us? The sign and seal is the Holy Spirit. I believe scripture promises the Holy Spirt will put us in right relationship with God and this will be shown in a very simple yet powerful way, observe:
[Rom 8:15-17 KJV] 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with [him], that we may be also glorified together.
Acknowledging and believing on the Son gives us the Holy Spirit which puts us into relationship with the Father. The evidence of the Holy Spirit is to cry out “Father”. Note there are no Greek or Hebrew names involved here. What do you call your Father? Father of course. It is a relational name that is the only response to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Crying out Father is proof that the Son has revealed the Father to us according to what we just read.
How is “Mystery” used in the New Testament?
Mystery references knowledge only revealed to some, in this case, the saints of God. Jesus uses the word once when he tells his disciples that it has been given them to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God but not to everyone (Matt 13:11). Paul uses the term extensively in his writing to refer to the gospel itself or some aspect of the gospel as it relates to Christ. Christ himself is the foundation and revealer of the mystery. All other references to mystery in Paul’s writing are related to Christ’s work.
- The church being Christ’s body is part of the mystery (Eph 5:30-32).
- The church being “caught up” is part of the mystery (1 Cor 15:51).
- God’s salvation available to all (the Gentiles, a breaking down of the partition) and a partial hardening of Israel until the fullness of the time of the Gentiles is part of the mystery (Rom 11:25).
- The spirit of Anti-Christ is a part of the mystery.
- The viscous hate and persecution against the people of God (people who in general do good and are profitable to society) and the word of God for thousands of years seems almost supernatural, and indeed it is. The unsuccessful attempt to destroy first Israel and now the body of Christ is proof of the mystery.
Note that each of the above reference to mystery are all effects of the Son’s incarnation, death and resurrection.
Attributes of the Mystery:
It was hidden prior, only now fully revealed: [ Rom 16:25-27 KJV] 25 Now to him that is of power to stablish 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, 26 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: 27 To God only wise, [be] glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen. (see also 1 Cor 2:7)
REVEALED ONLY BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD, CANNOT BE RECEIVED BY THE NATURAL MAN
[1Co 2:7, 10-12 KJV] 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, [even] the hidden [wisdom], which God ordained before the world unto our glory: … 10 But God hath revealed [them] unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
NOW TO THE WHOLE WORLD:
Salvation is for all now, not just Israel. The gospel is given to the Gentiles and a blindness is on Israel until the time of the Gentiles has come: [Rom 11:25 KJV] 25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
Our passage in Colossians is probably the best and most concise description of the mystery, referencing all three attributes above before declaring that the mystery is “Christ in us”.
Paul’s response, and ours, should be to preach Christ with the goal of presenting all we meet perfect in Christ Jesus. We have a wisdom and understanding far surpassing that of the world. Trusting that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
[Col 2:1-6 KJV] 1 For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and [for] them at Laodicea, and [for] as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; 2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. 5 For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. 6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, [so] walk ye in him:
All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in the Father and in Christ. No treasure on earth. No car, house, degree, boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, church position, technology can contend with the treasures hidden in Christ. The entire world on a platter is dung compared to what is hidden in Christ. It is hidden to the world it is foolishness to them, but every treasure is available to you and I. Paul doesn’t just say this to make us feel good, but “lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words”.
We need to keep our eyes on the simplicity of Christ and continually abide in him for all wisdom and knowledge. We just read the simplicity of the mystery—all nations can be become spiritually one with the Son and the Father because of Christ’s sacrifice. Persuasive words are those who would test Jesus’ promise that he alone reveals the Father. Persuasive words tell us that when the Holy Spirit prompts us to call God “Father”, it’s insufficient and we must use some special/secret language. Persuasive words tell us that Christ did not fulfill the law fully so Torah laws must be maintained in order to achieve righteousness. Remember that all other mysteries are answered by “Christ in us”. Christ became wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Cor 1:30) for us. So to walk in Christ as Paul commands (2:6) is to walk in wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. Only by walking in Christ alone are these available. If Christ in us is the “hope of glory” (glorification- the final step of salvation), then it must be Christ alone, not Christ plus the law or any knowledge outside of him.
Practical Preaching Points:
Paul doesn’t flex his religious education and prestige here but instead focuses on the call of God and God’s grace in calling him. The mystery (Christ in us) is not only what we preach, but how we preach. It is the only thing that empowers us to see the spiritual things and act with power. This goes for marriages, education, vocation and ministry. Worldly wisdom is good, but the true treasures are in Christ.
Value. Paul says that we have this treasure in “earthen (clay, dirt) vessels” so that “the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” But please don’t think that means the power is not there. It is just designed in such a way to confound the wise things of this world and bring glory to God. Our weaknesses and frailty are good because they allow Christ to be strong in us. God did not give us access to all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge to live a life of doubt and ineffectiveness. God chose/wanted to make known “what is the riches of the glory” to you and me. This means all who name God as Father have incredible value in the eyes of God.