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: 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; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 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: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
E1.1 The Mystery revealed
We return to the word mystery. As mentioned in a previous article, in scripture the word mystery doesn’t mean mysterious, rather it is a secret. In the context of the Gospel, it is a secret that can only be known by a revelation of God. There are many scriptures in the NT that mention mystery. The meaning of each reference has to, of course, be decided within its context. One in particular tells us how God revealed it to us.
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 (=silent) since the world began but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures and prophets (=prophetic scriptures) according to the commandment of the everlasting God made known to all the nations for the obedience of faith.
The Gospel was a mystery that was kept secret or silent. God had it all planed out, since before the foundation of the world Rev.13:8, as to when and where the Gospel should be revealed in all its fulness. When that fulness came, Christ was revealed to the human race Gal.4:4-5.
How did God make known this mystery? By the (prophetic) scriptures. During the earthly ministry of Jesus there were many witnesses of Jesus. Jn.5 gives us a typical list: John the Baptist Jn.5:33-35; His works Jn.5:36; His father Jn.5:37-38 & the Scriptures Jn.5:39.
The scriptures, Jesus said, testify of Him. They do not give life but do testify of Him. In Romans Paul calls them the prophetic scriptures. This is not just a reference to what is known as the prophets in the OT. Reading Rev.19:10 we see that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Since the OT speaks of Christ, the prophetic scriptures mean the whole of the OT. Cf. Lk. 24:25-27.
It is important for these witnesses to have been seen, because anyone could have stood up and proclaim to have been the Christ. There had to be true infallible witnesses. The prophetic scriptures gave us one. Indeed, Matthew’s gospel, for example, is designed to prove that Jesus is the Messiah by showing how He fulfils prophecy.
The greatest sign, however, is that of the resurrection Rom.1:4, and Paul testifies that there were many witnesses to it I Cor.15:3-8.
When the fulness of time came the mystery was revealed by many infallible witnesses.
E1.2 Among the Gentiles
How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel … that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of 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, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
God’s salvation was always meant for the whole of the human race, but this was hidden until the time was right for its revelation. Up until then the Covenant people of God was Israel, and anyone wanting to partake of the blessing had to become part of the Covenant people by circumcision etc.
But now Christ has come, He has purchased our redemption and has brought in a new and better Covenant. As a result, the barrier between Jew and Gentile is broken down.
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
This would be significant both to Jew and Gentile alike. The Jews were of the view that they were exclusively God’s and that the Gentiles had no part in it. The record of Acts 10 & 11 is where Peter is commanded to go to Cornelius, a Gentile, and preach the Gospel. It was a very significant moment in the Church’s history. Peter had to learn that those whom he had previously called unclean under the OC were no longer so under the NC. God now accepted the Gentiles into His great salvation.
To the Gentiles this would be significant as well. Up till then they were excluded from God’s Covenant promises, but now they are included, through Christ. No need for any outward ceremony just repentance towards God and Faith in Christ, then they too could receive the promise of the Spirit.
Later on, there would be a major issue on the place of the Mosaic Law in a person’s life and whether the Gentiles had to follow it or not. Acts 15 records this debate, and its outcome. We shall take up the theme of Legalism later in the next section when dealing with the dangers that faced the Colossians.
Jew and Gentile alike have no barrier between them in Christ, the middle wall of partition has been broken down. We all have the same access to the living God through Christ!
That it was a mystery shows that this was also God’s intention. His purpose for the Jews was that they were to be the vehicle to bring the scriptures and the Messiah into world.
This Gospel is Christ in you the hope of glory and is open to anyone, Jew and Gentile alike.