"For the Love of a Mystery"
(Delivered Sunday, January 7, 2001 at Bethany Bible Church. All scripture quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the New King James Version.)
I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints, to them God willed to make know what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:24-27).
The most important thing about this passage is the phrase that you find at the very end of it - "Christ in you, the hope of glory." In these words, Paul affirmed a marvelous truth concerning these first-century Christians to whom he wrote - that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, had taken up residence in them; and that His residence in them was the guarantee that they will, one day, be brought into full conformity to His own heavenly glory. Paul's conviction about that truth - and his own personal experience of it - was the single most important and motivating principle in his life.
Before we look at anything else in this passage, I believe it's of the utmost importance that we think carefully about that phrase, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." If we allow its meaning and significance to truly grip our hearts, it will utterly transform everything else about us.
* * * * * * * * * *
The Scriptures call this wonderful truth a 'mystery'. When the Bible speaks of a mystery, it isn't talking about what we usually think of when we hear that word - that is, a sinister and scary sort of movie or book plot that we have to work hard to figure out before we can know "who-dunnit". In fact, a "mystery", in the biblical sense, isn't something that you or I could ever figure out with our own powers of reasoning - no matter how hard we tried.
A "mystery", as Paul is referring to it here, is something that can only be known and understood by God graciously revealing it to us. As Paul describes this mystery in verse 26, it's a truth from God "which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints". It's something that, as Paul says elsewhere, "in other ages was not known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets" (Eph. 3:5).
Many things are referred to in the Bible as a "mystery" in this sense. For example, God's plan to temporarily harden Israel to the gospel of Jesus Christ (so that the Gentiles could hear it and be saved) is called a "mystery" (Rom. 11:25). The rapture of the saints (that is, the sudden transformation - from mortal to immortality - of the bodies of Christians who are alive at the return of the Lord) is also called a "mystery" (1 Cor. 15:51). The future consummation of all things in Christ (that is, the ultimate summing-up of all things in Him) is called a "mystery" as well (Eph. 1:9-10). And even the future rise of the antichrist is called in Scripture a "mystery" (2 Thess. 2:7; see also Rev. 17:5, 7). In all of these cases, the Bible is presenting truths to us that existed in the mind of God from eternity, but were hidden from the understanding of people until God chose for those things to be revealed in time. As the Bible says, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Cor. 2:9). Such things are "mysteries" - truths about God's marvelous plan that were hidden from the mind and understanding of man until the time that God allowed them to be revealed.
Occasionally, the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ itself is referred to in the Bible as a mystery. Paul said, "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory" (1 Tim. 3:16). And so, the preaching of the gospel is sometimes referred to in the Scriptures as "the revelation of the mystery" (Romans 16:25), or "making known the mystery of the gospel" (Eph. 6:19; see also Col. 2:2).
And here, in this morning's passage, Paul tells us about yet another "mystery" - something that was in the wise plan of God from before the world was created, and yet remained unknown to man until the time when God finally allowed it to be revealed and known for His own glory's sake (Eph. 3:9-10). And it is summed up in this wonderful phrase: "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
* * * * * * * * * *
Think about this mystery with me for a moment. God had let it be known long ago, through His Old Testament prophets, that the Christ would one day enter the scene. In the Old Testament Scriptures, God promised that a suffering Savior would come and die for the sins of His people (Isaiah 53:4-9). And God also promised that this same suffering Savior would rise again from death into glorious victory of life (vv. 10-12). And yet, much of the truth that God revealed about this Savior remained a perplexing mystery - even to those through whom God revealed it. The apostle Peter tells us,
Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven - things which angels desire to look into (1 Peter 1:10-12).
What was it that was a mystery to these prophets of old? What was it about the coming Savior that was kept hidden from them in the wisdom of God, but is now revealed to people like you and I through the preaching of the Apostles? It's that this promised Savior would redeem not only Jewish people who believed, but also Gentiles - and that He would actually take up residence in those that He redeemed! This truth, formerly hidden but now revealed to us, is that He lives in those of us who believe on Him!
Think of that! It's wonderful enough, just by itself, that the Savior would come to earth save sinners who place their faith in Him. That's certainly a great and marvelous mystery (1 Tim. 3:9, 16). And it's an even greater thing that He would not only come to save those to whom He was originally promised - that is, the Jewish people; but that God, in His mercy and grace, would turn in favor to the Gentiles and save them too! That's a great and marvelous mystery as well (Eph. 3:4-6). But the greatest and most marvelous of all the aspects of the mystery of the Gospel is that the Savior not only saves those of us who are undeserving of His salvation; He actually lives in those of us He saves. The Redeemer enters into such a deep union with those He redeems that He actually takes up residence in them! He grants us the deepest and most intimate relationship with Himself that we could possibly experience: He makes His abode in us.
Now; you might be asking, "How can He do that? How can He live 'in' someone?"; and the Bible gives us the answer. The Scriptures teach us that Jesus resides in the individual believer through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Just before Jesus went to the cross, the Lord told His disciples,
If you love Me, keep my commandments, and I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever - the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you (John 14:15-18).
This is a remarkable promise. Jesus said that He was leaving; but then He said that He would send the Holy Spirit to be with His disciples in His place. And in the very next breath, He says that He would not leave them orphans, but that He Himself would come to them. How could He leave them and promise to send the Holy Spirit in His place, and yet say that He Himself would come to them? The answer is that the Holy Spirit is "the Spirit of Christ" (1 Pet. 1:11); and He "mediates" the presence of Jesus to us by indwelling us. In other words, the Holy Spirit dwells in us in such a way that - mystery of mysteries - His indwelling is, in essence, the same as Jesus Himself indwelling us!
The Spirit's indwelling isn't merely a substitute for Jesus living in us - as if the Spirit's indwelling only 'the next best thing' to the presence of Jesus. The Bible teaches us that the Spirit mediates the presence of Jesus to us, in such a way that we can say that Jesus Himself truly lives within us! On another occasion, Paul wrote about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the believer; and when he did, he called that same divine Person who indwells us "Christ". He wrote;
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness (Rom. 8:9-10).
If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, and have trusted Him as your Savior, the Spirit of God dwells in you (Rom. 8:9b). And the Holy Spirit, by His indwelling ministry, mediates the presence of Jesus to you. It may be hard for us to understand this; it is, after all, a "mystery". (In fact, many theologians refer to this doctrine formally as the "mysterious union" of Jesus and the believer.) But if you're a believer, you can take it as a fact: Jesus dwells in you by His Holy Spirit; and thus, Jesus enjoys an intimacy and union with you that is even deeper and more profound than that which He enjoyed with His disciples while He walked with them on earth! He was only present "with" them when He walked among them then; but once He sent the Holy Spirit, He came to be "in" them (cf. John 14:17). That's why He was able to tell them, "It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart I will send Him to you" (John 16:7).
Jesus rejoices to be so intimately related to us as to be "in" us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. On the very night that He told His disciples about the indwelling ministry of the Spirit, He prayed to His Father concerning them, and said,
I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me (John 17:20-23).
Isn't that the greatest truth you and I could ever know? What greater demonstration of love can the Son of God show to sinners like us than that He would not only die for us, and also rise from the dead for us, but that He would then condescend to make His home in us? It would be more than we could ask if He would just come and live WITH us - but instead, He has chosen to live IN us as His redeemed people!!
* * * * * * * * * *
And not only does this morning's passage tell us the mystery that Christ lives in us; but it also tells us what His indwelling does for us. The truth Paul affirms is that Christ lives in us; which is "the hope of glory". Our confident assurance that we will one day be made to stand in heavenly glory, faultless before the presence of God's glory with exceeding joy, is solidly established on the fact that the Spirit of Jesus Christ dwells in us. His indwelling is the assurance that we'll one day be resurrected, just as He was. Paul wrote,
... If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you (Rom. 8:11).
And the indwelling of the Holy Spirit even serves to us as the guarantee that we will be brought completely and perfectly into glory. Paul wrote,
In Him, you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory (Eph. 1:13-14).
No man or woman, anywhere in the world, can have any hope for heavenly glory whatsoever apart from Jesus Christ. But we who have trusted Him as our Savior can have an unshakable confidence in future glory; because the very one who, Himself, is "the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25) has taken up residence in us in the Person of His Holy Spirit. His presence in us IS the hope of glory. In fact, everything about our whole salvation - from our deliverance from the sins of the past, to our continual growth into a life of holiness in the present, to our full glorification in the future - can be summed up quite simply under the principle, "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
* * * * * * * * * *
And as I suggested to you earlier; as far as Paul was concerned, that single truth was the greatest and most motivating thing He could possibly know. A famous Scottish preacher named James S. Stewart wrote a classic book on the life and ministry of Paul. Out of all the things Dr. Stewart could have said concerning everything that he learned from his study of Paul, he wrote this at the beginning of his book: "The conviction has grown steadily upon me that union with Christ, rather than justification or election or eschatology, or indeed any of the other great apostolic themes, is the real clue to an understanding of Paul's thought and experience ..." (A Man In Christ, p. vii). I believe that the mystery of the union of Christ with the believer - "Christ in you, the hope of glory" - was the truth, above all others, that most transformed Paul's life and most motivated him to ministry.
Paul was formerly a terrible and murderous sinner, who had persecuted Christians and dragged them off to their execution. But Christ showed mercy to him as "the chief of sinners", and saved him from all his sins. And it wasn't just because of the fact that Paul had been forgiven of his sins that he was transformed from the Church's greatest "antagonist" into the Church's greatest "protagonist". It was because Jesus Christ had taken up residence in him. Paul himself summed-up his life this way: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).
Paul not only thought of this great mystery as the most wonderful truth he could ever know; but he also considered it the greatest honor he could ever be given that he had been called to proclaim this mystery to the Gentiles. As far as he was concerned, instructing and teaching people to live in the light of this truth - "Christ in you, the hope of glory" - was the greatest, most exciting work he could ever engage in. And he was motivated to give everything he had to fulfilling that work with joy and enthusiasm, in the strength that God gave him.
* * * * * * * * * *
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ; does that truth excite you too? Do you realize that you have come this morning to a gathering of people who are indwelt by the Lord Jesus Christ; and who, because of that dwelling, are destined for eternal glory? Some people are perpetually "bored" when they come to church. And given this truth, you have to wonder whether or not they're crazy!! How on earth can anyone justify being "bored" when they're surrounded be people in whom Jesus Christ dwells?
I read a very interesting little story the other day. Many years ago, Queen Victoria of England was traveling in Scotland, when a storm suddenly came up and caught her by surprise. So, she took temporary refuge in a little hut in which a family of poor Highlanders dwelt.
The queen sat on a chair in the home of this awestruck family, and talked with them for and hour or so. And then, after she left, the woman of the house told her husband that no one should ever sit in that chair again. Her majesty, Queen Victoria, sat upon it; and now, it can never again be thought of as a common old chair. They even tied a ribbon around the chair to commemorate the fact that it was now a very special chair - and that no one should ever sit on it again.
The famous evangelist Billy Sunday told that story. He had learned about it from a friend of his. Apparently, this friend paid a visited this poor family in their humble little home once. He was just about to sit unwittingly on the chair, when the man and his wife cried out and said, "Nae, nae, mon. Dinna sit there. Her majesty spent an hour with us once, and she sat upon that very chair! See? We tied a ribbon on it, and no one else may ever sit on it." The man and his wife felt very honored that the queen would visit them and allow herself to be present in their home. And they felt a new sense of awe over the sacredness of the old chair that she sat on. They never looked upon that chair in the same old way again.
Well; dear brothers and sisters in Christ - as you sit here in church, take a look around you!! You're surrounded by people in whom Jesus Christ dwells! It isn't that He dwelt in them at one time in the past. He dwells in them right now! He has placed His Holy Spirit in them as a seal of His presence - just as if He has tied a ribbon around them to identify them as special! If you are in Christ, and Christ is in you, then you are a sacred group of people! You're destined for glory! You should never think the same old way about coming to church again!
* * * * * * * * * *
I believe that this great truth - Christ in you, the hope of glory - fired the apostle Paul up with a tremendous amount of zeal and excitement for the Church. Because of that truth, there's nothing else on earth like the Church. It is the people in whom Christ dwells! Paul was ready and eager to serve the Body of Christ in any way God called Him to.
And I believe that, if we take this great mystery seriously, it will do the same for us. We will have a renewed sense of excitement for the Church. We'll want to be together with God's people when they meet; because we'll be meeting with the very people in whom Jesus Christ dwells. We'll want to serve the Body of Christ in any way we can out of a sense of awe and wonder, because it's the group of people on whom God Himself has set the seal of His divine, indwelling presence; the group of people who are destined to be conformed to the glory of the holy One who indwells them.
Look at how this mystery motivated Paul. First, we see that ...
1. PAUL GLADLY SUFFERED BECAUSE OF THIS MYSTERY (v. 24).
He said, "I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church ..."
Do you notice that Paul says something was lacking in the afflictions of Christ; and that he filled up what was lacking in his own flesh? Some people have interpreted Paul as saying that, somehow, Jesus' sacrifice for us on the cross was insufficient; and that he had to finish off what was deficient in the atoning work of Jesus. But the atoning work of Jesus is definitely not what Paul is talking about. Look at verses 21-22;
And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight (vv. 21-22).
Paul says that Christ "has reconciled" them. It's a done deal! There is nothing deficient in the atoning work of Jesus! His work for us is a complete work; and we are completely saved by Him alone. There's nothing more that is needed than what He has already done for us. The book of Hebrews says that He had "by Himself purged our sins" and then "sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3). He "sat" because His work was finished. Nothing more was needed to be done. In fact, the whole point of Paul's letter to the Colossians is to prove that Jesus Christ is a completely sufficient Savior. "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power" (2:9-10).
So then; if nothing more is needed, why does Paul say that he was filling up in his flesh what was lacking in the afflictions of Christ? We're helped to understand Paul's meaning when we consider what he means by "affliction". When Paul speaks here of the "afflictions" of Christ, he is using a Greek word that means "distressing circumstances". It's often translated in the Scripture as "tribulations" or "troubles". And while Jesus never even remotely suggested that we would ever contribute anything to His atoning sacrifice for us; He clearly warned that we would share in the troubles and tribulations that the world directed at Him. He said, "If the world hates you, know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:18-19).
When Jesus walked this earth, he was hated by people who were committed to the values of this world. And now, Jesus is in heaven; but the world still hates Him. The world would still persecute Him if it could get to Him; but since it can't, it persecutes those who are identified with Him. If we are identified with Christ - and if Christ dwells in us - then we will suffer the trouble and persecution He suffered. The Bible tells us this in lots of places. Jesus said elsewhere, "In the world you will have tribulation" (John 16:33); and Paul said, "... All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12). We should learn to expect this if we're going to follow Jesus.
Paul himself certainly experienced the hatred of the world because of his identification with Christ. Paul himself said that he bore in his body "the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal. 6:17). When Paul wrote this letter to the Colossian believers, he wrote from prison - jailed for preaching the gospel. He asked the Colossian believers to pray for he and his co-workers, "that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak" (Col. 4:3-4). When you examine the whole of his life, you can see that he suffered to a remarkable degree for the Gospel of Christ . In fact, when Jesus called him, He called Paul "a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake" (Acts 9:15-16).
But even though he suffered greatly for the cause of Christ, he nevertheless rejoiced in doing so. He was glad to suffer whatever Christ called him to suffer for the benefit of the Colossian believers. He was glad to suffer in his efforts to establish them in the grace of God through the Savior; and he felt honored, in the process to "fill up" in his flesh what was lacking of the tribulations that were meant for His Lord. He was glad to do so, because he was doing so in the name of Jesus and for the sake of that gathering of people in whom Jesus Christ dwelt - that gathering of people destined for glory; body of Christ; the church!
What about you? What are you willing to do for the body of Christ? Are you willing to give yourself - even to suffer, if need be - to identify with Christ; and to advance the cause of Christ in the lives of people around you? Perhaps you're willing to serve; but you're hesitant to go to the length of actually "suffering" for Christ. We all need to grow in this, don't we?
That's why I believe Paul's words in this passage are so important. I suggest that you and I will grow increasingly to be ready to serve the body of Christ - even to the point of suffering shame gladly for His name's sake - if we become gripped as Paul had become with the depth of that great mystery, "Christ in you, the hope of glory".
* * * * * * * * * *
Not only did he willingly and joyfully suffer; but second, we see that ...
2. PAUL FAITHFULLY MINISTERED BECAUSE OF THIS MYSTERY (v. 25).
He speaks of the church; "of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God ..." (v. 25).
Paul says here that he was a "minister"; and the Greek word he uses is to describe himself is "diakonos" (the same word from which we get the English word "deacon"). At its most basic level, a diakonos is simply "someone who serves or assists under the command of someone else". When Jesus performed the miracle of turning the water into wine at the wedding of Cana, the word used for the servants and table servers was this word diakonos. That's all Paul was; just a diakonos - a servant of the church, hard at work; faithfully laboring under the authority of another.
And what's more, he says that he received this role as a "stewardship" (or "dispensation") from God. It was as if he had been given a "project" to manage, a commission to administrate on the behalf of someone else. He had been commissioned by God with a "stewardship"; and he fulfilled that stewardship as a faithful minister.
And for whose benefit was he ministering? For whose benefit did God give him this stewardship? It was for the precious believers at Colossae.
Perhaps you saw the recent movie The Apostle. In one scene of the movie, the main character, a fugitive preacher named Sunny (not exactly the role model 'preacher', by the way), decided - on his own - that he should become an apostle. And so, he waded out into the middle of a small lake and presumed to baptized himself as "the Apostle E.F."
The man in the movie was the one who chose to commissioned himself with a stewardship; and declared himself to be an apostle. The validity of his 'apostleship' was greatly in question, to say the least! But Paul didn't choose to be an apostle in any such arrogant way as that. He was appointed to his ministry by the commission of someone else - the Lord Jesus Himself (Gal. 1:1). Paul once wrote to the Ephesian church about it, and described how God had called him. He described his commission as ...
the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery ... that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promises in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power (Eph. 3:2-7).
Paul went on to described how humbled he felt by this privilege position.
To me, who am less than the least of all saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory (vv. 8-13).
He didn't claim this role on the basis of his own initiative. It was given to him. He was commissioned to it by a greater authority. He felt honored and humbled to have received it. But though he receive this commission in great humility of heart; he earnestly seized ahold of it once he had received it. He served with all his energies; because, as he told the Colossian believers, he was fulfilling the stewardship God had given him for them - the ones in whom Christ dwelt; the ones who are destined or glory in Him.
By the way; has God called you to a place of service to the body of Christ? Has He given you a job to do or someone to minister to within His Church? Then I urge you, brother or sister in Christ - whatever God has given you to do, do it with all your might! Do it with joy! Do it enthusiastically! Minister faithfully, as someone who had been commissioned with a precious stewardship from God! You aren't just serving 'anybody'; You're serving those in whom Christ dwells! You're serving the saints destined for heavenly glory! You're serving the bride of Christ - and the Groom will richly reward anyone who faithfully serves His bride!
You'll be greatly motivated to serve, if you'll just allow yourself to be gripped by the mystery that gripped Paul - that when you serve the Church, you're serving those in whom Christ - the hope of glory - indwells.
* * * * * * * * * *
Finally, we see that ...
3. PAUL DILIGENTLY PREACHED BECAUSE OF THIS MYSTERY (vv. 26-27).
It wasn't just that the beneficiaries of this great mystery alone motivated Paul. He certainly loved the Colossian believers, and was eager to give himself over to serving them. He was happy to minister this "mystery" to them. But more than that; he was also passionately in love with the message of this "mystery" itself; and was motivated by the content of that message too. He loved to proclaim it. It thrilled him to be able to share the greatest and most life-transforming message anyone could ever hear - "Christ in you, the hope of glory - and to share it with as many of the people God sent him to as he could.
He saw his ministry as that of fulfilling "the word of God". He "fulfilled" it (or "presented" it "in its fullness", as it is in the NIV) by preaching it completely among those to whom he was sent; therefore, as the NASB translates it; he was given this commission, "that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God."
And what was this "word" from God? It was ...
the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (vv. 26-27).
When you read that verse, you almost get the feeling that Paul was working hard to dig-up enough adjectives to describe the wonder of this mystery! He said that he was called to make known what are "the riches" of "the glory" of "this mystery". There is no greater, more blessed message than this one; because there isn't a message that gives more eternal riches and more heavenly glory to those who believe it! No wonder he was thrilled to preach it!
And notice also that it was a message that was formerly hidden; but one that God now wills to be revealed to a people who, in no way, had any right to hear it except by God's grace - that is, the Gentiles. Paul was the apostle who had been uniquely called of God to proclaim this mystery to the non-Jewish people groups - those who formerly were "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise"; but who now "have been brought near by the blood of Jesus" (Eph. 2:12-13). That was the unique ministry God gave to Paul - to break the exciting news of the revelation of this mystery to people who weren't even looking for it! He said, "for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles" (Gal. 2:8).
And so, Paul was very diligent to communicate this good news to the Gentiles; and to help establish them in the reality of this mystery. He described his whole mission in life in the next two verses:
Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily (vv. 28-29).
And again, I ask: what about you? Do you really believe in the message of this mystery? Do you truly believe that "Christ in you" really is "the hope of glory"? Do you believe that it's the greatest message the people of the world could ever hear; and that it has more power to change the lives of those who believe it than anything else you could share? Are you convinced of it enough to be eager to share it with others?
Paul was. He believed it so much that he determined to know nothing else among the people he ministered to, "except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Col. 2:2). And you and I will be as eager as he if we become as gripped with this mystery - "Christ in you, the hope of glory" - as he had become.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this great mystery had totally captured Paul. He was utterly sold-out to it. It was what motivated him to suffer joyfully for the body of Christ, to minister faithfully in all that God gave him to do in the service of His people, and to proclaim the gospel message for the expansion of the church around the world. To the level that this same mystery grips us, then to that same level we'll also be moved to action as he was too.
God has revealed the great mystery to the world - "Christ in you, the hope of glory". We need to sink our teeth into it. We need to pray and ask God to help us take it to heart. We need to study the Scriptures diligently so that we can understand the significance of it better. We need to grow in an ever-increasing fellowship with the Christ who this mystery says indwells us through His Spirit. We need to grow in our rejoicing and thankfulness for the hope of glory that His indwelling guarantees to us.
May God help us to do so; and as we do, may God transform us and use us to His glory.
(copyright 2001 by Pastor Greg Allen and Bethany Bible Church. Reproduction without permission, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.)
Missed a message? Check the archives!