The Acknowledgment of the Mystery
The order of progress towards perfection/maturity:
1. The lives of believers are knit together in love with members of the Body of Christ.
2. Knit together lives brings believers in the Body close to one another… where exhortation, admonition, edification, and encouragement take place. This results in edified/encouraged hearts.
3. Strong, edified hearts result in full assurance that their understanding of the faith is true and right.
4. Full assurance of understanding of truth enables a man to acknowledge the mystery.
a. Thus, the goal or final step of spiritual maturity is a deep understanding (intellectually and experientially) in the mystery of God.
b. This is what Paul agonized over: that the Colossian saints would not be swerved away from the truth by the false teachers… and that they would progress towards maturity… and come to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God…
c. This is our goal for each and every believer here today too!
The Mystery of God, the Father, and Christ
A. 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… in the sense of a spy novel… or something hard to understand.
b. It refers to truth which, without divine revelation could NEVER be discovered or known by man.
c. 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 is previously unrevealed truth about the Church… the Body of Christ…
a. 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.
b. It wasn’t because they were careless readers of what we call the Old Testament. They didn’t see the mystery in the Old Testament because it wasn’t there!
c. They COULD NOT have known it until God revealed it!
d. God never let anyone know in the Old Testament that He had a plan to magnify His Son by establishing a spiritual union between Christ and believers in this age… called the Body of Christ, the Church.
e. But in the process of time… God’s new plan was unfolded… the veil was removed… and it was gradually revealed through the writings of the New Testament apostles and prophets.
f. It is no longer a mystery… but was recorded for us 2000 years ago. It is no longer veiled, but fully revealed…
g. Now, it needs to be acknowledged… and put into practice.
B. God, the Father, and Christ
1. There is a textual issue in this phrase.
a. The word “Father” does not appear in most manuscripts.
b. It does appear in some Greek texts…
c. The difference in meaning is quite minor.
2. The meaning if we include “Father.”
a. The mystery of God which is Christ includes the role of the Father…
b. It is the mystery of God… even the Father.
c. This certainly is in harmony with the previous thought. The Father GAVE His Son. The Father planned it all. The Father kept this secret for ages and generations.
d. Hence, the Father is certainly involved in the mystery (planning it; sending His Son; revealing it)… yet the FOCUS of the mystery is the Person of Christ.
• Christ came to reveal the Father.
• He is the image of the invisible God. (Col. 1:15)
• He is the express image of the Father (Heb. 1:3)
• To know the Son is to know the Father (John 14:6-12)
• John 1:18 – the Son “declares” the Father.
3. The meaning if we omit “Father.”
a. In those texts, we have the “mystery of God, of Christ.)
b. The word Christ, being in the same case as mystery, stands in apposition to mystery meaning that Christ IS the mystery. The mystery concerns Christ…
c. Christ IS the mystery regardless of how this verse is translated.
4. Either way, the MAIN point of the phrase is that the mystery of God… the secret God hid from ages and generations… revolves around Christ Himself…
a. Paul’s point in this all is to demonstrate to the Colossians, as they faced opposition from the pre-Gnostic cult, that true knowledge of God came ONLY through the Person of Jesus Christ… and from no other source.
b. It is folly to search for truth outside of Him… as the Gnostics were suggesting (they claimed to have special knowledge… religious secrets that only the initiated could discern…)
C. There are two major aspects to this mystery
1. The believer is IN CHRIST.
a. Eph. 3:4-6 – The first is the fact that Jews and Gentiles should be fellowheirs, having been united together in one Body… on equal footing…
b. 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.
• The mystery speaks of something entirely NEW… a new Body… consisting of believers of this age… baptized by the Spirit into one Body… which is the church.
• Hence, every believer is IN Christ… IN His Body… a member of the Body of Christ… the church.
c. Gal. 3:27-28 – every believer in Christ in this age is baptized INTO Christ… and are thus ONE in Christ.
• Red, yellow, black, and white; male and female; rich and poor; bond or free; all one.
• Being in Christ changes everything. In Him we are saved, secure, and sealed.
d. It speaks of our new POSITION in Him.
• It speaks of all that is ours because we ARE in Him!
• The concept of being IN CHRIST has countless ramifications for the Christian life too.
• Col. 1:14 – in whom we have redemption and forgiveness of sins!
• Col. 2:3 – in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
• Col. 2:7 – rooted and built up in Him.
• Col. 2:10 – complete in Him.
• Col. 2:11 – in whom we are circumcised; buried with him; risen with Him.
• Col.3:1 – since we are in Him, when He rose into the heavenly sphere, we rose too! That is our position.
• Col. 3:3 – we died and were buried with Him… and hence, our life is with His life.
• Col. 3:4 – Since we are in Him… as members of His body, His life is our life.
• II Cor. 5:21 – that we might be made the righteousness of God in him
• Eph.1:4 – we are chosen in Him.
• Eph. 2:21-22 – 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.
• The first half of Paul’s epistles dealt almost exclusively with this truth… the believer’s position in Christ… and what that means to us.
• God wants us to acknowledge this important truth.
e. Jesus hinted at this new relationship in the gospels.
• John 15:4-5 – abide IN ME… the one who abides IN Christ bears fruit.
• This speaks of a branch IN the Vine… a new spiritual relationship to Christ that would exist after His death and resurrection.
• John 14:20 – At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me…
• This new abiding, personal relationship to the risen glorified Christ is the means of bearing fruit in the Christian life. It is the “secret” of the Christian life… though not a secret any more!
f. I Cor. 12:13 – we are IN HIM… baptized INTO His Body.
• As having been baptized into Christ’s body, we thus have a NEW relationship to Christ as Head; and a new relationship to one another: members of the same body!
• This means that as believers we have been UNITED together with Him… identified with Him…
• Hence, His death is our death. (To sin, self, the world).
• This means that our old man is crucified with Him.
• Since we are in Him, when He rose from the dead, we also ROSE from the dead. His resurrection is OUR resurrection!
• We have been raised together and seated together in heavenly places IN Christ Jesus. Our new position all revolves around the fact that God sees us IN Him.
• This in turns indicates that we are now NEW creatures in Christ Jesus.
• This means that we are now raised into heavenly places with Christ… we are now citizens of heaven… this world is not our home… the things of earth grow strangely dim from this position…
g. God no longer sees us as we were in Adam. He now sees us in His Beloved Son… found IN Him, not having our own righteousness, but the righteousness of God; eternally accepted in the Beloved; complete in Him.
h. The first part of the mystery is that we are IN Christ.
2. The second part of the mystery is that CHRIST IS IN us.
a. Col. 1:26-27 – Christ IN you, the hope of glory.
b. John 14:20 – At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me… and I in you…
c. Gal. 2:20 – I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me.
d. Col. 1:27 states that this truth is the RICHES of the glory (the wealth of it; the cream on top of the milk).
e. Gal. 4:19 states that as time goes on and we are growing and maturing, Christ who dwells within increases, makes His presence known in our character… to the point that we are changed into His image… so that HIS character is reflected more and more in our lives.
f. This too has many ramifications for the Christian life.
g. If Christ is in us… then we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us!
h. Then we CAN walk in newness of life! We can experience the power of His resurrection in our lives.
i. Just as the branch is IN the Vine… we are in Christ.
j. And as the life of the Vine flows through the branch, we can say that the vine is in the branch… and all that Vine is and has is available to the branch, so too, Christ is IN us: His power, life, strength, love, peace, etc…
3. This truth (called here the mystery) (the fact that we are in Christ and He is in us) forms the BASIS of living the Christian life. It is the secret of the Christian life… a secret now revealed!
a. It is the basis of sanctification—how to have victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil!
b. It is the essence of the Christian faith… it DEFINES Christianity… and separates it from all other religions.
c. Christianity is LIFE… indwelling life… Christ in you…
d. Without understanding this mystery, one has only a superficial or elementary understanding of Christianity.
e. Without this truth, Christianity is invariably reduced to a set of man made rules… a religious law of some sort.
f. Without this truth, Christianity is invariably mingled together with the Old Testament and the Law of Moses… by well meaning but misguided men.
g. And invariably, the believer is then put under the legalistic yoke of bondage as his rule of life… instead of understanding that CHRIST is our rule of life… He is our life!
h. The law invariably brings forth fruit unto death (Rom. 7:5), but this new relationship to Christ brings forth fruit unto God! (Rom. 7:4).
The Acknowledgment of the Mystery
A. Acknowledgement: The Term
1. Epignosis –
a. This term is an intensified form of the normal word for knowledge: gnosis.
b. Strong’s: full and accurate knowledge.
c. Zodhiates: to know fully; to come to know; to become fully acquainted with; a knowledge laying claim to personal involvement.
d. Vine’s: a full knowledge; a greater participation by the knower in the object known, thus, more powerfully influencing him.
2. The acknowledgement of the mystery speaks of the FULL KNOWLEDGE of Christ…
a. A full knowledge of our position in Him… as members baptized into His Body and organically united to the Head. This is the mystery.
b. A full knowledge of riches of the mystery: that Christ lives in us… and His life and character are manifested through us.
c. A knowledge of Christ that lays claim to personal involvement… not just head knowledge… but a heart involvement with Christ… with His Body… with our new relationship to Him as Head…
d. A greater participation in the object known—this speaks of the believer not just having facts ABOUT Christ in his head, but rather having a life that is personally INVOLVED with Christ… a living relationship… fellowship… communion… abiding… fruit bearing… manifesting His life…
e. A full knowledge that exerts a powerful influence in the life. Hence, this is not cold orthodoxy, but a LIVING relationship to the Savior… as the Vine exerts its influence in the branch abiding in it… as the Head exerts its influence in the members of His Body…
B. The Goal of Maturity
1. Consider the ORDER of progress toward maturity Paul reveals:
a. Knit together with other members of the Body in love. (speaks of practicing love through close relationships to believers and mutual edification).
b. Comforted or edified hearts is the result of being knit together in love in the Body.
c. The result of this strengthened, edified heart is the full assurance that comes from understanding the truth.
d. The result of full assurance of understanding is an acknowledgement of the mystery.
• This is the culmination of the progress as outlined by Paul.
• This is what the other three entries in the list are working towards…
• This is what Paul agonized over… that the believers would acknowledge the glory of the mystery of Christ!
• This would keep the Colossian believers SAFE from the inroads of the Gnostics.
e. To arrive at the ultimate goal of maturity (full knowledge of the mystery) it is necessary to start at the beginning and to follow the steps in order.
• This is GOD’S method for arriving at maturity…
• This is God’s revealed order of obtaining a full knowledge of the mystery of Christ…
• There are no short cuts… no alternative methods… no seminar will get you there… no correspondence course…
• People have come up with all kinds of LIFE seminars to try achieve this goal… but only God’s method works… because God stands behind His method with His life and power.
• Behind all other methods stand nothing but good intentions, and the wisdom and power of the flesh.
2. How it works…
a. The believer begins this progress toward maturity by practicing LOVE in the Body… which will cause his life to be entwined and knit together… compacted together… fitly framed together… with the lives of other members of the Body.
b. As your life is actively involved in the local church… ministering to others and being ministered to by others… your heart is comforted, strengthened, exhorted, rebuked, admonished, encouraged, and lifted up… your heart is strengthened. Involvement in the lives of others in the local church has a strengthening effect on YOUR heart!
c. Thirdly, as you function in the Body in love… and experience the strengthening effect of the LIFE of Christ being manifested through the members of His Body… it gives you FULL ASSURANCE that Christianity is real… it works… you have eaten the FRUIT of it… and have experienced it… this brings FULL assurance… and a heart that is fully assured can REST in Christ… like the branch that abides in the Vine.
d. This abiding relationship to Christ… which is experienced in His Body… results in a FULL KNOWLEDGE of the mystery.
• It is no longer head knowledge, but it has transformed your heart.
• It is no longer theory, but practice.
• It is no longer cold orthodoxy, but LIFE.
• It is no longer I but Christ.
• As the believer grows, it begins to sink in that “for to me to live is Christ.” Christ, who is our life…
3. It sounds a bit like circular reasoning at first.
a. To fully understand the Body of Christ… is FUNCTIONING in the Body… by getting involved in the lives of others by demonstrating the love of Christ.
b. To fully understand the importance and the glory of the local church… the Body of Christ… ye in me and I in you… we BEGIN by practicing it.
c. My first thought was, “That’s like saying the first step in fully understanding rocket science is to build a rocket.”
d. It seemed more logical to me at first that one should have a good UNDERSTANDING of how it works before you start using it.
e. Then I thought about learning how to swim.
f. To come to a full understanding of swimming… it is not enough to read books and study the techniques. To really come to a deep understanding of swimming you have to dive right in and practice!
g. This is what Paul is saying when it comes to coming to a full knowledge of Christ… of the mystery of Christ… how Christianity works: dive right in! Get involved in your local church!
h. And begin by showing LOVE to the brethren!
i. I Thess. 4:9 – ye are taught of God to love one another! This is INNATE… inborn… for the one who possesses indwelling life!
j. Of course there is much more we can learn about brotherly love… but this is something we can begin practicing without any outside help or training!
k. I have read about tiny infants being placed in swimming pools… and instantly adapting to the water… and swimming automatically. It comes naturally!
l. Loving the brethren ought to come naturally to one who is born of God… and part of the family of God!
m. This kind of ministry of love in the Body results in EXPERIENCING the truths that are being learned in Sunday school or from the pulpit…
n. The local church provides opportunities to put into practice principles and commands… in fact MOST of our commands are to be carried out within the Body of Christ… all the “one another” commands.
o. The one who sits in the pew and intellectually soaks in information… perhaps even memorizes the verses about our position in Christ… and His indwelling life… will NEVER obtain an epignosis – a full knowledge of Christ.
p. And yet he might CLAIM to have full knowledge… he can pass all the written tests… he might leave you and me in the dust with his knowledge of Bible verses and his theological arguments, but he doesn’t really KNOW the richest part of the mystery: Christ in you the hope of glory!
• A true believer not only KNOWS the truth, but he is to experience spiritual truth by living it.
• Only when truth is LIVED and experienced in real life can we say that it is truly understood.
• The believer who refuses to participate in what God is doing in this dispensation by NOT getting involved in the local church is outside of God’s will… and thus will be UNABLE to fully grasp spiritual things.
• He may have the correct facts in his head, but he will not have FULL knowledge until it is experienced and lived out in his life. Christianity is LIFE… not just orthodoxy.
• The swimmer does well to study the books on swimming techniques, but he’s not going to really understand swimming until he spends time in the pool!
• Attending church and going to Bible studies do not result in a deep knowledge of the mystery… of the Christian faith… of the Christian life.
• It is not truly understood until we put it all into practice… and begin FUNCTIONING in the Body as God designed you… fitly framed together… knit together in love… practicing that which comes so naturally for a child of God: LOVING the brethren… which causes our hearts to be knit together… as a unit… a Body…
• The simplest, weakest, most feeble saint who practices love in the Body can have a much deeper and more profound understanding of Christ and God’s plan for this age… than the greatest seminary professor… who has fellowship only with his books… and avoids being knit together in the Body!
q. To come to know the mystery… which is Christ in you… in a fuller and richer, and deeper way… follow God’s order:
• Lives knit together in love
• Encouraged hearts
• Full assurance of understanding
• Acknowledgement of the mystery
• God’s order LEADS to a full understanding of the mystery…
r. Perhaps you’re new here and you’re not quite sure HOW to start.
• Perhaps you’re intimidated because these other people seem to know everything about the Bible… and you don’t!
• Stop looking at men. Focus on Christ.
• Keep it simple. Show love… expecting nothing in return.
• A word of encouragement for the weary; a friendly smile and handshake to a visitor; a word of praise to a young person caught being good…
• And no, Paul’s methodology isn’t circular reasoning. This is learning how to swim… learning about Christ…
• You don’t really learn to swim until you spend time in the pool. You don’t really learn of Christ… until you spend time experiencing His life through the functioning of the members of the Body.
4. I see Christ at work in this Body…
a. I see Christ’s love every week when folks pull up to the church on a Friday night with mops and buckets to clean the church building.
b. I see the majesty of Christ every week and learn of it reflected in the reverence on the faces of the choir members as they sing…
c. I learn of the holiness of Christ in a deeper way on prayer meeting night when believers ask for prayer for something they are struggling with… and ask for victory.
d. I see the Christ’s sacrificial love each week when folks give generously to the Lord’s work.
e. I see the compassion of Christ… and learn of it in a deeper way every week when I see believers express compassion for those who are suffering…
f. I learn of the intimacy of Christ when a believer notices a tiny detail in a brother’s life that needs ministry, and meets that need!
g. I learn of the wonderful grace of Jesus when week after week during the evening service or at prayer meeting we hear testimonies of His grace working in the lives of saints… answering prayer and giving grace to help in time of need.
h. I learn of Christ the Great Shepherd when one of the members of the Body meet for prayer and ask prayer for an unsaved person they have been witnessing to…
i. I learn the Scriptures in a deeper way when I actually experience believers rejoicing with those who rejoice; and weeping with those who weep… supporting the weak… when I see believers being DOERS of the Word…
j. I learn of the faithfulness of God when I see the faithfulness of members of His Body showing up each week to function… as Sunday school teachers; Awana workers; clean up crew; choir; nursery workers;… and we don’t even have to THINK about it all… folks just show up! The faithfulness of Christ working THROUGH His Body.
k. Remember the Greeks who said, “I would see Jesus?” Well today if you want to see Jesus… if you want to learn of Him… observe what goes on in the local church… and better yet… dive in and get involved!
l. The local church is the Bride of Christ… His Body… His Temple… His habitation. It is precious to Him. It is what God is doing in the world today.
m. The local church is also God’s plan for YOUR spiritual growth and progress towards Christlikeness.
n. If you want a full knowledge of the mystery… of Christ and the Christian life, then get your feet wet… get involved in what God is doing in the world today: manifesting the indwelling life of His Beloved Son… through the loving ministry that occurs in a functioning Body.
o. Members in Christ… and who understand our position in Christ… and who understand that we are all ONE in Christ… organically united to our Head and to each other corporately… understanding that what is good for one member is good for the whole body… it makes sense to take care of one another! We’re all in this Body together!
• God’s method for maturity in this age is by being fully engaged in His program for this age: the local church.
• The purpose of the ministry in the local is the “perfecting of the saints… and the edifying of the Body of Christ.” (Eph. 4:13)… till we all come to a measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
• Don’t miss out on God’s plan for YOUR perfection!
• Don’t forsake the assembling of ourselves together!
• Don’t try to make it as a Christian on your own.
• God says you need the Body… and the Body needs you.
• When we allow ourselves to be knit together in the Body in love… our hearts will be strengthened… we will come to a deep understanding of the truth… and we will experience the FULL ASSURANCE and rest of mind and heart that truth was intended to bring. This results in a DEEP understanding of the mystery.
• This is truly part of our true riches in Christ. Don’t let it slip through your fingers.
5. Failure to come to the full assurance of understanding indicates a MORAL failure… not an intellectual failure.
a. “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” Illumination is the result of being focused on and submitted to ONE MASTER, Christ. This is a moral issue…
b. This passage indicates that the PREREQUISITE to full assurance of understanding is being willing to be KNIT together and to have your life intertwined with those of other believers in the local church.
c. Sometimes a believer lacks assurance of salvation out of a lack of knowledge. He lacks information from the Scriptures to settle his uneasy heart.
d. But more often than not, the believer lacks assurance not because of a lack of knowledge, but because of a lack of APPLYING the knowledge that he already has… a refusal to LIVE the truth.
e. The believer who refuses to be knit together in love with the other members of the Body will NOT experienced an encouraged heart… NOR will he obtain true spiritual understanding… NOR will he obtain FULL assurance of heart.
f. And this is NOT an intellectual problem. It is a HEART problem.
g. An unwilling and unyielded heart, is by nature a BLIND heart.
h. John 7:17 – in order to KNOW and be fully assured of the truth of doctrine… one must be WILLING to do God’s will…
• if we are unwilling to surrender to God’s will (whatever it may be)… unwilling to OBEY His word… unwilling to participate in His program… God will be unwilling to show it to us. And why should He?
• Ps. 25:9 – “The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.” (Cf. vs. 12)
• Meekness is a prerequisite for bring LED of the Lord or TAUGHT by God.
• If our heart is not meek… not submissive… not surrendered, then we will NEVER be taught of God… and will never have spiritual understanding… and thus, we will never have the full assurance that spiritual understanding brings.
i. Failure to come to a full assurance of understanding indicates a MORAL failure.
j. If that is the case in your life, it is because your heart has not been encouraged, strengthened, and edified. And the reason for that is because you have not allowed your life to become knit together closely to the other members of the local church around the things of Christ.
k. Rather than sitting around licking your wounds… or pointing the finger elsewhere, ADMIT that your lack of progress spiritually is a MORAL failure…
l. The solution? REPENT and get back to where you ought to be: fully involved in the local church… fitly joined together with other believers… where you can benefit from being exhorted daily… provoked to love and good works… hearing God’s Word… and challenged, and encouraged to be faithful.
m. Of course, it takes TIME to progress toward maturity… and to be strengthened and knit together.
• No one expects a new born babe in Christ to have progressed to great levels of maturity after having been saved only a short time. Immaturity is expected and normal for new borns.
• But if we have been saved for quite some time now, and we STILL have not progressed towards maturity, then at some point it becomes a MORAL failure… sin.
• Like the Hebrew believers who became DULL of hearing… and began to regress spiritually… it was a moral failure.
• The cure? Let us go on to perfection… Perhaps it is time to grow up in Christ… become a man… mature.