What Exactly Is “The Mystery”?
“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery (Gk. musterion, secret) among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:” (Colossians 1:27)
Some Bible commentators say of this verse: “The fact that Jesus Christ is actually in each believer is both mysterious and rich in glory.” They point out how mysterious it was that Jesus Christ lived in several places at once; sitting in heaven (cf. Heb. 1:3) while also indwelling each believer (cf. Gal. 2:20).
Yes, Jesus Christ does live within every believer’s spirit, but that’s not so mysterious since Paul revealed that truth multiple times. In Col. 1:27, more precisely, we are concerned with defining “the Riches of the Glory of this mystery.” The “mystery” is to be understood in light of the context of the verses preceding v27, and in the context of all of Paul’s epistles. This verse has nothing to do with something mysterious as in, hard to understand, but it does remain mysterious… unless we look at these verses from the Bible-believing dispensational point-of-view. Here, the near context, reads as follows, as enhanced with my clarifying additions.
The relationship between the Mystery of “Christ in you” and “The riches of the glory of this mystery.”
“25Whereof I (Paul) am made a minister, according to the dispensation of (a dispensing by) God which is Given To Me (Paul) For You (the believers in order), to fulfil (Gk. pleroo, to complete) the word of God (the Bible);
26Even (that is) the mystery (former secret) which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints (of the Gentile “body of Christ”):
27To whom God would make known what is the Riches (detailed blessings) of the Glory (manifestation) of this Mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you (in all the members of “the body of Christ”), the hope of glory (Christ being expressed): (Colossians 1:25-27)
Note: This ‘hope’ is The HOPE of Christ’s Life In the believer being Expressed through the believer… due to the believer’s knowledge and Trust in the Doctrinal Truth of the Riches of “The Mystery… which is Christ In You”
The “mystery (the former secret) which hath been hid from ages and from generations” includes the doctrinal details of God’s heretofore secreted program, which the ascended Lord Jesus Christ first revealed to the Apostle Paul… for all men of this age of the pure “grace of God.” This doctrinal information, is the pure grace truth that believers can stand upon. This truth constitutes the grace program the Lord reveals to us by the Holy Spirit inspired words we see in Paul’s thirteen epistles (Romans through Philemon).
Jesus Christ made Paul a special apostle to “fulfil” (v25, Greek, pleroo, bring to conclusion or completion) the written Word of God. The Lord had special information to reveal to mankind, and He chose Paul to be the vessel through whose writings those truths would be brought to all people of this age of grace.
Paul wrote of “the mystery” to the Ephesians here below (being enhanced with clarifying additions):
“2… the dispensation (administration or dispensing) of the grace of God which is given me (Paul) to you-ward (the believers): 3How that By Revelation he (the Lord) made known unto me (Paul) The Mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4Whereby, when ye read, Ye May Understand my knowledge in the Mystery of Christ) 5Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets (preachers) by the Spirit,” (Ephesians 3:2-5)
Some say salvation of the Gentiles was “the mystery.” But Scripture doesn’t bear this out. Under Israel’s prophetic program, according to the Old Testament, Gentiles were to ultimately be saved through the nation Israel in her co-reign with Christ (Rev 5:10, 20:6) in the coming earthly kingdom (Read Gen. 12:1-3; Isa. 2:1-5; 60:1-3; 61:6; Mic. 4:1-3; Zech. 8:20-23). In fact, Paul quotes several Old Testament verses in Rom. 15:10-12 that demonstrate God would later save Gentiles in relation to redeemed Israel.
What was a secret, however, was that God would create a new “pure grace” dispensational program, to save Gentiles apart from Israel, apart from her Law program, and apart from Israel’s coming Kingdom. The riches of salvation going to Gentiles through Israel’s FALL was the “secret” God revealed to Paul.
“… have they (Israel) stumbled that they should fall? … through their (Israel’s) FALL salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. 12…if the fall of them be the Riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the Riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? 13For I (Paul) speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am THE apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine (Christ-given) office:” (Rom. 11:11-13)
It was revealed to Paul that, through Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork, salvation would go to “all nations (Gentiles),” and that salvation would reach all nations without Israel even being converted.
Again, Colossians 1:26 says; “The mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints (believers).” Stated once more, this “mystery” that was hid consists of the details of the secret program of God that was revealed to the Apostle Paul and through his epistles, Romans through Philemon.
Bible teachers and students rarely understand Paul’s special ministry. They don’t understand what was “hid” and “is now made manifest” (v26), so they stumble over verse 27. God wanted to make known something to us, and verses 25-27 explain what that something is. God wants us to understand the mystery program, and understand “The Riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles.”
What are “the riches of the glory of this mystery”
- Jesus Christ alone is not “the riches of the glory of this mystery”
- Jesus Christ living in Gentiles is one of the riches but not all “the riches of the glory of this mystery”
- Jesus Christ living in heaven (Hebrews 1:3) and also living in Jewish kingdom saints (John 14:23; John 15:4-5) is not “the riches of the glory of this mystery”
- Jesus Christ living in several places was and is not “the riches of the glory of this mystery”
Jesus Christ, crucified and in His resurrected fulness as He now is in all believers… brings us “the riches of the glory (the full expression) of this mystery” that Paul reveals to us in his epistles.
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians elaborates upon these “riches” and helps us define the importance and worth of “the mystery” to believers. Notice that Paul prays for their wisdom and revelation “in the knowledge of Him.” Then for their understanding, enlightenment concerning the hope of their calling and “the riches of the glory of his inheritance IN the saints” and accordingly, “His power to us-ward who believe,”
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance IN the saints, 19And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, (Eph 1:17-20)
It’s clear that from the verses above that Paul is saying we need to “know” the “the RICHES of The Glory of His Inheritance IN The Saints” (v18). This more clearly defines of “this mystery” as seen here in Col. 1:27.
“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory (full expression) of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: (Colossians 1:27 (KJV)
The “mystery” is… the doctrinal details, the special information that the ascended Lord Jesus disclosed to the Apostle Paul, which is the doctrine the Holy Spirit revealed to us Gentiles… via Paul’s un-prophesied apostleship and ministry – information that makes us secure and supplied; by all that Christ has done for us at the cross and now is by living His life in us as believers.
We learn about “Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery,” (Rom 16:25) by reading Paul’s epistles (Eph. 3:4; 2 Tim. 2:7). Most Christian will say “I know about Jesus,” but to really know Him “according to the revelation of the mystery,” is to know Him in the light of “the revelation of the mystery,” the details of all that He and His cross-death has done for us and that His resurrection life is in us!
Do we really know the truths of Paul’s grace gospel?
The true “riches of the glory of the mystery” (Col. 1:25-27) is “to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge” and so to be “filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph.3:19). His love and fullness is now ours to enjoy as we rest in reliance upon Him. These listed below are among the many details of “riches of the glory of this mystery,” that we learn from Paul concerning “Christ according to the revelation of the mystery.”
These riches should affect our understanding and daily life; riches of relationship, peace, rest, joy, and purpose!!!
- The superiority of Grace & Faith, in place of Law & Works of Israel’s program, during this age of “the grace of God.” (Rom 6:14, 11:6)
- Salvation flows freely from the cross, not acquired by our efforts in discipleship (Eph 2:8-9).
- Reconciliation – Christ’s reconciled all mankind unto God via “the death of Christ” (Rom 5:10).
- We enjoy Justification based upon Jesus’ full payment of man’s sin-debt, at the cross. (Rom 3:24)
- Redemption – We have been freed from being slaves to the Sin-nature. (Rom 3:24)
- Propitiation - Christ Himself was the propitiatory sacrifice (Rom 3:25) that has paid for all our sins, and yields all these “riches of the glory of the mystery” to every believer, by faith.
- Now in Christ, “No Condemnation” of God can every come upon believers. (Rom 8:1)
- We will never see the angry face of God’s “wrath.” (1Thes 5:9)
- We have Unconditional “Acceptance in the beloved” (Eph 1:6). We’ve been delivered from the performance based acceptance system of “the Law.” (Rom 6:14)
- We have the impartation of the resurrected “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” in every believer’s human spirit… empowering us to see, know, and live by Christ’s life within us.
- Our spirit-union with Christ’s “Spirit of life” is forever indissoluble (1Cor 6:17, Rom 8:9-10).
- We have all been “baptized into His body” – “the body of Christ.” (1Cor 12:13)
- In this age, Christ has broken down the “middle wall of partition,” making of Himself a joint-body (Eph 2:15) that consists of Jews and Gentiles… now without racial distinction at all. (Gal. 3:28)
- We’ve been made secure, being “sealed with the Spirit.” (Eph 1:13)
- We rest in the Father’s work to “conform us to the image of His Son.” (Rom 8:28-29, Philip. 2:13)
- Our destiny is to obtain a new, resurrected, glorified spirit-body (1Cor 15:51-52).
- Our destiny is to dwell in our home in heaven… forever (Philip. 3:20-21, 2Cor 5:1b).
Before Paul, from the cross… to the time Paul’s ministry began, in Acts 13, no person had knowledge of “the riches of the glory of this mystery” that were to be found in the cross of Christ for all mankind.
Peter obviously didn’t know, since at Pentecost he scolded “Ye men of Israel,” saying they had “killed the Prince of Peace” (Acts 3:15), obviously not yet knowing of the riches that flow from the cross. At Pentecost Peter never shared any meaning or significance of the cross… because he had no such knowledge. It was not until he received that knowledge from Paul that Peter, along with John and James, could know the riches of the cross of Christ. Thus later, Peter wrote this below in his last epistle, shortly before his death;
“And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even As Our Beloved Brother Paul also according to the Wisdom given unto him hath Written Unto You; 16 As also in All His (Paul’s) Epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some Things Hard to be Understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest (twist), as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:15-16)
Considering Peter’s words (above), it’s important that we have a clear understanding of Paul’s words in Col. 1:25-27. If we don’t understand these for what they actually say and mean we may simply conclude, as some do, that Christ living in us is mysterious. It’s not mysterious, it’s now “revealed”! Then we would lose the dispensational truths these verses convey, which the average Bible reader misses because of their denominational eyeglasses. Paul’s words are most often misread because they are not understood in light of the dispensational boundary, whereby God brought a change in the program of God for us today.
The “mystery” in Col. 1:27 is not something hard to understand or mysterious. The “mystery” in Col. 1:27 is information that had been kept secret, a body of truth that God kept secret “since the world began (Rom 16:25), until He revealed it to Paul. The “revelation of the mystery” is the unveiling of doctrinal riches that come to us via Paul’s epistles. Jesus Christ Himself is now IN US, bearing to us “the riches” of His cross; as viewed in light of Paul’s epistles. Christ in us is the embodiment of “the riches of the glory of this mystery.”
Paul’s “mystery” doctrine brings glory and praise to Jesus Christ. The riches are even in His name. Jesus, means “Savior,” while “Christ,” means “The (One) Anointed One.” All that He now is, as the resurrected “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” is our present reality; so long as it is believed, valued, and esteemed, according to “the revelation of the mystery.” John wrote this of those who have the indwelling life of Jesus Christ… as their new, righteous, and capable life. “… As He (Christ now) is, so are we in this world.” (1John 4:13)
Sadly, the length, breadth, height, and depth of the truth is still a mystery, yet largely unrevealed to so many believers even today. This is largely because the church at large has marginalized Paul and his unique calling, ministry, and his rich gospel for the Gentile “body of Christ.”
“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of “the dispensation of the grace of God” which is given (to) me (Paul) to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he (Christ) made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets (inspired speakers) by the Spirit;” (Ephesians 3:1-5)
Now, since Paul’ “revelation of the mystery” and “the riches of the glory of the mystery” were revealed by Christ to Paul, and then by Paul to us by His epistles, we can see why Satan and his “princes,” in retrospect, “would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.” Paul wrote:
“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery (as seen in God’s formerly secret plan), even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained (planned) before the world unto our glory:
8 Which None Of The Princes Of This World Knew: for Had They Known It, they would NOT have Crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:7-8)
Why would Satan Not have crucified the Lord? Is it because he is now sorry? No!
The “princes of this world” were the men who called for and those who carried out the crucifixion of Jesus. It was the leaders of Israel that called for Jesus’ death and the people who called out “Crucify Him!” (Mark 15:13). Thus, it was “Caiaphas,” the high priest of Israel in that day, as the one who called for Jesus death, he was one of “the princes of this world” that Paul refers to.
The “princes of this world” also include the Roman leaders who actually carried out the crucifixion of Jesus. Thus when Jesus was crucified He had been rejected and condemned by all the elements of the “princes of this world.”
Above Jesus’ head on the cross was nailed a small sign that mocked His claim, saying “King of the Jews”
“And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” (Luke 23:38)
Note that this inscription was written in three significant languages of the day.
- Greek, represented the intellectual wisdom of man’s philosophy that had rejected Jesus!
- Latin, represented the Roman authorities who had rejected Jesus!
- Hebrew, represented the religion’s leaders, those Israel who had rejected Jesus!
These represent the “princes of this world” who were inwardly ruled by the Satanic influence of “THE (high) Prince of the power of the air” that “worketh in the children of disobedience” as “the god of this world.”
Think of it… if Satan had NOT crucified the Lord, “the riches of the glory of this mystery” of Jesus’ Christ’s cross would never have been released to us. The resurrected life of Christ, now as “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” indwells in each and every believing member of “the body of Christ.”
Now, as members of “His body,” we have His very life and nature. Only the budding of His seeded life within us is able to express “the riches of His glory.” This glory is the full blossoming or glory of “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” much as the flower blossom is the glory of the seed that birthed it.