1. Paul has just stated that God called him to be a minister of the gospel (vs. 23c) and a minister to the church… the Body of Christ (vs. 25a).
2. This ministry was a stewardship… and Paul felt obligated to be faithful to the stewardship which was committed to his trust.
3. Thus, Paul now states his sense of responsibility to FULFILL the Word of God… by preaching the mystery to the gentiles—a sacred secret now revealed…
The Mystery Defined
1. Mystery: The term: μυστήριον (moo-stay-rion) – hidden thing, a religious secret, a hidden purpose or counsel.
a. The term does NOT mean something eerie or mysterious… or something hard to understand.
b. It refers to truth which, without divine revelation could NEVER be discovered or known by man.
c. In the Old Testament, no one knew about the church. Neither Adam, David, Moses or anyone in the Old Testament knew… and it was not because they were not discerning men or unspiritual.
d. It was because they COULD NOT have known it until God revealed it!
e. A mystery was a secret hidden away in the mind and heart of God. Hence, it was no secret to God… just to men and angels!
2. Basically, the mystery here is previously unrevealed truth about the Church… the Body of Christ…
a. It speaks of the believer’s UNION with Christ IN His Body…
b. This was known to God before the foundation of the world—for He chose us IN HIM before the foundation of the world! (Eph. 1:4)
c. It speaks of a new relationship to Christ… risen and seated with Him in heavenly places…
d. As a Branch and Vine; Head and Body; Building and its divine Inhabitant; Bride and Bridegroom;
e. The end of the self life and the beginning of Christ in you… the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27)
f. That is the riches of the glory of this mystery!
g. Paul was excited to preach the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles…
3. The KEY element to this mystery is the fact that Jews and Gentiles should be fellowheirs, having been united together in one Body… on equal footing…
a. Eph. 3:4-6 – Here Paul DEFINES what he means by the mystery revealed to him.
• He defines what “mystery” means. (vs. 5)
• He defines the particulars of this mystery: Jew and Gentile united in one body. (vs. 6)
• This was NOT revealed in the Old Testament. The fact that Gentiles would be saved was revealed.
• But the fact that Jew and Gentile would be united into ONE BODY… the spiritual body of Christ as equals was NEVER revealed in the Old Testament! It was a mystery.
b. Gal. 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one IN Christ Jesus.
The Mystery Truth Had Been HIDDEN From Ages
1. Col. 1:26 – truth which had been hidden from ages and generations, but is now revealed.
a. This truth was hidden in the mind and heart of God
b. Hidden: apo-krupto (cryptic…)
• Strong’s: to hide; concealing, keeping secret; covered up; not revealed.
c. To conceal that it is not made known until revealed;
• The term does not mean that this mystery was revealed in the Old Testament, just hidden… and hard to find… or hard to understand.
• It does not mean that this truth was there in the Scriptures… just hard to discern… and one would have to really dig hard to discover it in the Old Testament.
• The verses of the New Testament state clearly that it was hidden in the mind of God and NOT revealed in the Old Testament Scripture.
• No matter how hard one dug… no matter how discerning a man was… no matter how much he studied the Scriptures… he would NEVER discover the truth Paul refers to as the Mystery… because it wasn’t there!
• It wasn’t just hidden from the people. It was hidden (concealed) from the AGES in which they lived! This truth was not revealed in those ages.
• It wasn’t in the Old Testament. It was hidden in the mind and heart of God… UNTIL God chose to reveal it.
d. Our Reformed, Amillennial friends have a different take on this concept.
• John Gerstner, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, defines mystery this way: “mystery means something partly unknown.”
• He wrote: “while the details of this mystery undoubtedly the cause of great perplexity, the mystery was not a complete unknown.”
• This simply is not true. He didn’t get those definitions from any lexicon or reliable Bible dictionary.
• He CHANGED the definition of the word in order to fit his theology!
• Paul gives us an INSPIRED definition of mystery:
» Truth which was kept secret since the world began! (Rom. 16:25)
» Truth which was hidden from ages and from generations! (Col. 1:26)
» Truth which was “not made known to the sons of men.” (Eph. 3:5)
• It is inaccurate to say that this mystery was partially known when Paul wrote that it was NOT made known… that it was kept secret!
• It is inaccurate to say that a mystery is something hard to grasp. That is not what the term means.
• Actually, this truth is quite simple… once it was revealed.
• But before it was revealed, it is not only perplexing or hard to understand; it was IMPOSSIBLE to understand!
2. Eph. 3:3-5 – truth which was made known by means of Divine revelation (vs. 3)… which in other ages was not made known… but it is NOW revealed…
a. This mystery truth was NOT made known in other ages.
b. Nobody in those other ages… in Old Testament times… knew. It was not made known to them… not the whole, not even a part.
c. It was not because Old Testament saints were undiscerning. Nor was it because they lacked skills in Bible interpretation.
d. They didn’t know because God didn’t reveal it!
e. It was not made known to ANYONE in those days. It was a sacred secret… known only to God.
f. As godly and discerning as Moses was… and David… and Jeremiah and Isaiah, none of them knew this secret. It was not made known to ANY in that age.
3. Rom. 16:25-26 – truth which was kept secret since the world began.
a. Secret: to keep silence, hold one’s peace; to be kept in silence, be concealed.
• Perfect passive participle
• It was concealed and kept silent at some point in the past, and REMAINED concealed… until it was revealed… in the apostolic days.
b. This truth was kept silent by God since the world began.
• God knew about it even BEFORE the world began.
• It was part of His eternal purpose to manifest His Son through a spiritual body of believers.
• It was a secret kept by God. Not even the angels knew.
• God kept this secret in the past and it remained a secret until GOD chose to reveal it to His New Testament apostles and prophets.
• Eph. 3:5 states that in all those ages mentioned in the Old Testament… it was a secret… not made known to the sons of men. (sons of men = mankind in general)
The Mystery Truth Is Now Revealed
1. Col. 1:26 – It was hidden BUT is now made manifest.
2. Made manifest: phanerow: to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown; disclosed; displayed; revealed.
a. It was a secret, but it is a secret no more.
b. Once God revealed this truth, it was no longer a mystery. It is clearly revealed for all to read in His Word.
c. God took the cover off this mystery for the entire world to see… it was made public… made known…
d. We speak of this as the “mystery” because that is the term the New Testament uses. However, we need to understand, that it is no longer a mystery. It has been revealed! It’s not a secret any more! Or at least it shouldn’t be!
3. NOW = Paul states that this truth which had been hidden from past ages is NOW made manifest.
a. NOW tells us WHEN it was finally revealed: NOW… at the time Paul was writing his epistles… in the first century.
b. Nobody in ages past knew these truths, but NOW… in the present age… God wants His saints to know.
c. God revealed it because it is essential that we know about this mystery.
d. It was a secret and remained a secret until NOW… which refers to the time of Paul’s writings… in the early days of the church.
e. This term adds a clear line of demarcation between the past ages and the present age… the past ages in which the mystery was concealed… and the present age in which the mystery is revealed.
4. To His saints: God revealed this mystery truth to His saints.
a. The gospel is for the whole world.
• Eph. 6:19 – now there are aspects of mystery truth… church truth which are to be included in the gospel presentation… (a message for Jew and Gentile!)
• The preaching of the gospel today is a revelation of the fact that the Old Testament economy is no longer operative, but it obsolete.
• Gospel preaching is not to END with John 3:16. It only BEGINS there.
• Once saved, the believer is to be taught… discipled…
b. The deep things of the mystery are for the saints.
• The world isn’t interested in such details of divine revelation.
• To teach the mystery truths to the unsaved would be like casting pearls before swine—as Jesus put it.
• They are not born again… not alive unto God. Hence, these precious truths will be meaningless to them.
• They will not be understood or appreciated by the world.
• In fact, these precious truths will not be understood or appreciated by untaught or immature believers either!
» The wonderful secret – that we are positioned in Christ and He is in us… is the essence of Christianity and the basis for a victorious walk.
» However, some believers today balk at such teaching. They see it as a waste of time.
» They would rather be yelled at… and given a list of do’s and don’ts… outward conformity to a set of man made standards and rules.
• These deep things are actually for ALL the saints… but only Spirit filled saints… the saintly saints… those who are walking worthy… only they will appreciate these gems.
5. Rom. 16:25-26 – it was kept secret, BUT NOW is made manifest!
a. Same terms as in Colossians.
b. But Paul adds here the MEANS of making it known: through the Scriptures.
c. The New Testament apostles and prophets were given revelation from God… and they recorded that revelation for us in the Scripture… under divine inspiration.
d. Thus, in the New Testament epistles, we have the word of God FULLY taught… fully revealed… we have the whole mystery revealed for us… for all the New Testament saints…
6. These marvelous truths are right here under our noses… for our learning… that we might learn of Christ… and grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ… and be transformed into His image… from glory to glory.
a. Some saints will feast on these marvelous truths… like Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus…
b. Other saints will have a superficial understanding of them… don’t give it time to sink in… and because there is not much DEPTH of understanding, they will not value them…
c. Instead, they will desire to be busy DOING something… like Martha… who thought Mary was just wasting her time sitting around communing with Jesus… when there was work to be done.
• Mary was reveling in her position… seated with Jesus where He was… communing with Him.
• Martha was unraveling in her condition… busy doing this and that… so that she didn’t have time to be seated with Christ… or to abide in His presence.
• Martha didn’t understand that before one can ever properly SERVE the Lord and DO His will… it is necessary to first ABIDE in Christ… and learn of Him.
d. As Christians, being IN Christ IS our position… we are In Him and thus seated with Him in the heavenlies. (Eph. 2:6)
• And this is what the apostle Paul emphasizes in all of his epistles BEFORE he ever tells us what to do.
• FIRST he seats us down in our heavenly position at the feet of Jesus… for a long time of communion with Him… reveling in our position in Christ…
• When our heart is thrilled… stirred by His holiness… in awe of His grace… in love with His Person… humbled by the knowledge of our privileges as sons… THEN we are equipped to serve the Lord with gladness… and carry out His will in true delight. THEN we find JOY in serving Jesus… not drudgery!
• But first must come that time of reveling in our position… seated with Christ… abiding in His presence.
• When the branch abides in its position in the Vine THEN and then only does it bear fruit… like Mary.
• Mary wasn’t trying to get out of doing any work or sharing the burden with Martha… but for Mary, it was first things first.
• Mary… like a branch abiding on the Vine… was seated with Jesus… and was filled with His presence.
• Once FILLED with Him… she too would go forth and be just as busy serving Him as Martha… only her service would not be the nervous energy of the flesh… but the result of Spirit filling… a heart stirred to serve… and that service is not sheer business. It is a delight… a JOY in serving Jesus.
• The branch that is busy trying to produce fruit on its own… like Martha… is frustrated, barren, bitter, judgmental, and burnt out.
• Abiding in our position comes before bearing any real fruit.
• All efforts to produce fruit on our own… by ignoring this necessary time abiding in our position at the feet of Christ is truly wasted time: wood, hay, and stubble.
• But the heart that is TRULY caught up with Jesus Christ… thrilled with His presence… abiding in Him… will go forth energized to serve… as Paul did.
• The story of Mary and Martha is not the contrast between serving vs. sitting. (As if it were either/or!)
• It is a contrast between service that is sourced in the flesh… vs. service that arises out a relationship to Christ!
e. Now that this marvelous mystery truth has been revealed for the saints… God expects that we spend time letting it sink in; meditating on it; reveling in it; enjoying it; saturating our minds and hearts in it.
• And while some might complain that it is a waste of time… God says that the end result of such abiding is genuine fruit.
• Fruit for God’s glory is NEVER a waste of time. It TAKES time to be real fruit, but it is time well spent.
• When this truth really sinks in, it becomes life dominating. Christ is all in all.
• And it doesn’t just sink in with a superficial reading… it takes TIME… time spent at Jesus’ feet.
• Time spent BEHOLDING the glory of our Lord Jesus… and that always results in a transformed life. (II Cor. 3:18)
• While some will try to hurry this process along… hoping to experience growth from glory to glory WITHOUT spending time reveling in our position… abiding in Christ… they will be frustrated and fruitless in the end… for Jesus said, “Without Me ye can do nothing.”
• This kind of transformed life does not come overnight. Spiritual growth takes a lifetime.
7. Eph. 3:5 – As it is now revealed.
a. Revealed: apokalupto: to uncover, lay open what has been veiled or covered up; disclose, make bare; to make known, make manifest, disclose what before was unknown.
b. The mystery formerly… in ages past was not made known to the sons of men, but now it has been revealed.
c. WHEN was it revealed?
• Now… during the days of the early church.
d. TO WHOM was it revealed?
• To the holy apostles and New Testament prophets.
• This also tells us WHEN… during the days of the New Testament apostles… there were no apostles in the Old Testament.
e. HOW was it revealed?
• By the Spirit… through divine revelation… truth that could not otherwise be known…
• The Spirit moved the apostles to record this revelation.
• The apostles and New Testament prophets recorded this truth in the Scriptures… for us all.
f. The mystery was brand new revelation at the time of the writing of this epistle.
• It was completely new and different from the Old Testament, Jewish economy based on legalism.
• No wonder Paul—who was so caught up and thrilled with this new revelation—was also so appalled at saints who seemed inclined to revert BACKWARDS to the Old Testament legalism… “touch not, taste not, handle not…” (Col. 2:21).
• They would never grow into the image of Christ that way!
• They would miss out on experiencing the blessings that are ours in Christ… the privilege we have of abiding in Him… learning of Him…
• And they would miss out on the power of the resurrection in their lives… power for living that is only available to believers who reckon themselves to be dead to sin and self… alive unto God… and are resting in Christ…
Fulfill the Word of God (vs. 25c)
1. Fulfill: make full, to fill up, i.e., to fill to the full. 1a to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally; to complete. 2a to fill to the top: so that nothing shall be wanting to full measure, fill to the brim.
2. Fulfill the word of God = to preach the Word of God fully.
a. Preaching the Word FULLY…
• To preach the WHOLE counsel of God…
• Acts 20:27 – he desired to preach the WHOLE counsel of God and considered that his ministry was not fulfilled until he did so.
• To leave no truth out…
• To preach the word of God in its entirety…
• To preach the word of God in a balanced manner: not overemphasizing one aspect of truth and underemphasizing another aspect of truth.
• To preach the WHOLE counsel of God… and the only way to do that is line by line; precept by precept.
• To preach in season and out of season.
• To preach the positive and the negative; the blessings and the cursings.
• To preach the Word and present the emphasis as it appears in the Bible… and not to invent a personal agenda.
• In Bible school I heard a preacher say that he could preach salvation out of any verse in the Bible! The only way one can do that is by twisting the meaning of the text, for salvation does NOT appear in every verse.
• The right way to teach the Bible is to just teach what the Bible says… line by line… and NOT to inject our own wishes and whims.
b. The best way to avoid a personal agenda and to present the emphasis as it appears in the Bible is to teach the Bible verse by verse… line upon line… paragraph by paragraph… and not to ever stop.
c. This way, (if the Word is taught accurately, verse by verse) then the emphasis that emerges over time is INSPIRED by the Holy Spirit… for He is the Author of the Word and its emphasis.
d. When you FULLY preach the Word—line upon line – the emphasis that emerges is the one that GOD Himself put into His Word… and not an emphasis that biased men would like to see interjected into the Word.
• Example: On Wednesday nights, we are going through the book of Proverbs—an extremely practical book.
• I debated whether to teach it topically or verse by verse… and verse by verse won out.
• The reason I hesitated was because many truths are repeated often in the book… and I didn’t want to sound repetitious.
• As I analyzed that thinking, I was convicted. Who am I to “cut out” truths that are repeated? If God repeated them it must be for a good purpose.
• Some truths NEED to be emphasized and repeated—and that is just what God has done in His holy Word.
e. The emphasis in the Bible is on CHRIST… and making Christ known in a deeper and deeper way.
f. Christ, the Living Word, cannot be known apart from a slow, steady, gradual, complete, careful exposition of the Written Word… line upon line… precept upon precept… by FULLY preaching the Word.
g. If folks don’t like the emphasis that emerges as one reads through the Bible verse by verse, my counsel is to take that up with the author. I’m just an index finger, pointing to what God said.
h. To fully preach the Word, the index finger must point to verse after verse… line upon line… year after year.
i. Growth takes TIME… lots of time. As Americans, we want everything QUICK… and God doesn’t work on the American time table.
j. Growth takes time… teaching takes time… it takes time to grow in grace and in the KNOWLEDGE of the Lord Jesus Christ. It takes time to learn the Written Word… line by line… and it takes time to learn about the Living Word… our Lord Jesus Christ… and to let truth really SINK IN. That takes time.
k. We spent four years going through Hebrews. We spent three years in Ezekiel before that. We spent about 2-3 years in I Kings. We spent about a year in Colossians chapter one.
l. Taking the quick approach leads to the teacher picking and choosing which gems he wants to highlight and which truths he doesn’t have time to cover. It is quick and easy, but extremely superficial and subjective.
m. Taking your time in the Word… going line by line means that over time a pattern will emerge: GOD’S emphasis… This method takes a long time… it is not quick and easy, but it time consuming and difficult…
n. But it results in spiritual depth… and is extremely objective in its emphasis.
3. Paul was given the stewardship of FULLY preaching the Word of God… the WHOLE counsel of God… exactly as God delivered it… line by line!
a. This included many truths that the Judaizers, Gnostics, and traditionalists of his day did not want to hear.
b. He was called to preach the mystery (vs. 26)
c. He was called to proclaim that the Law was now obsolete as a rule of life. (2:20-21)
d. He was called to describe in great detail, the Body of Christ and how it functions in the world today… and how it stood in stark contrast to Israel.
e. And even though he faced opposition to the doctrinal emphasis that God gave him… he kept on going forward… preaching Christ and Him crucified… preaching the message of the cross… and all that was accomplished there.
4. And he fulfilled his ministry! He was a faithful steward.
a. Acts 20:24 – Paul wanted to finish his course… and the ministry God called him to…
b. II Tim. 4:5-7 – Paul in fact DID fulfill his ministry.
c. He was made a servant of the gospel and a minister of the church… he fully preached the Word and was faithful to his ministry till his dying day. That’s my goal in life.
d. Paul continued in the faith… grounded and settled… and was never moved away from the hope of the gospel… he preached it and suffered for it the rest of his life…
e. This should be our goal as well…
• Be faithful to our stewardship to the gospel… as ambassadors for Christ… to preach Christ to every creature…
• Be faithful to our stewardship to the local church… as members of the Body of Christ… and members one of another…
• By God’s grace, let us be faithful to OUR dying day!
5. Fully preaching the Word meant teaching the mystery. (vs. 26a)
a. Note how Paul links the “Word” with the “Mystery.”
b. The word “even” was added by the translators… but it does seem to make the proper point… that the particular ASPECT of the fully preaching the Word involved teaching the mystery.
c. His point is that to be faithful to his stewardship… to fully preach the whole counsel of God… requires that he teach and preach the Mystery.
d. And he seems to hint that he not only teach the Mystery… but that he EMPHASIZE the mystery… for this is NEW revelation given by God to Paul… a message the Gentiles NEED to hear.
e. When the mystery is not taught and emphasized, then the teacher is not fulfilling the Word of God… he is not fulfilling his stewardship.
f. I Cor. 4:1 – Paul saw himself as a steward of the mysteries of God.
• He felt obligated and responsible to preach this truth and to be a faithful steward of it.
• It was because of his faithfulness to this stewardship in preaching this truth that he suffered so!
• This mystery was so contrary to Judaism and the Mosaic system that the Jews sought to kill this man.
• But NOTHING could shake Paul from being faithful to this ministry. (Acts 20:24) Paul did not count his life dear… he was determined to finish his course and fulfill his God-given ministry.
• He was so DRIVEN by this marvelous revelation, that he risked his life and welfare in order to FULLY preach it…