Making Known the Mystery of Christ
THE GOSPEL AND THE MYSTERY
A. The Mystery of Christ
1. Paul defined this mystery earlier in the epistle. Let’s review.
2. Mystery defined: The term: μυστήριον – 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. A mystery was a secret hidden away in the mind and heart of God. Hence, it was no secret to God… it was part of His eternal plan. But it was a mystery to everyone else: men and angels!
d. Col. 1:26 – truth which had been hidden from ages and generations, but is now revealed.
• This truth was hidden in the mind and heart of God
• Hidden: apo-krupto (cryptic…)
• Strong’s: to hide; concealing, keeping secret; covered up; not revealed.
• 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 down deep 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.
• Paul gives us an INSPIRED definition of mystery:
» 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)
» Even “the mystery which had been hid from ages and from generations…”
» Truth which was kept secret since the world began! (Rom. 16:25)
3. The mystery was hidden, but is now REVEALED.
a. Col. 1:26 – “but is now made manifest to the saints.”
b. Rom. 16:26 – “but now is made manifest and by the scriptures of the prophets…”
c. The mystery is a secret no longer. God has clearly made it known in the Word of God.
d. And God wants ALL MEN to know this marvelous truth!
e. Hence, there is an element of the mystery to be preached to all nations. (Rom. 16:26c)
4. CONTENT OF THE MYSTERY: Basically, the mystery here is previously unrevealed truth about the Church… the Body of Christ…
a. 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…
• 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.
• This was a remarkable truth… the depth of which we cannot fully enter into many centuries later.
» In Paul’s day, Jews and Gentiles were bitter enemies.
» Think of it as Jews and Palestinians getting converted today—and being brothers in Christ!
» Folks from northern and southern Ireland—brothers in Christ!
» Shia and Sunni converted to Christ—and brothers in Christ!
» Rich, poor; red, yellow, black, and white; bond and free—no more earthly distinctions—but all are ONE in Christ…
» This is what the world and the United Nations long for… and dream about, but will never achieve. We HAVE it in Christ!
b. The believer is IN CHRIST.
• It speaks of the believer’s UNION with Christ… in His Body… the church. (Col. 1:18)
• Col. 1:2 – the believers (saints) were IN Christ. That was their position as a Christian.
• Col. 2:10 – we are complete IN Him.
• Eph. 1:4 – This union was known to God before the foundation of the world – for He chose us IN HIM before the foundation of the world!
• Eph. 1:6 – accepted in Him.
• Eph. 1:7 – we have redemption IN Him.
• It speaks of a new relationship to Christ… risen and seated with Him in heavenly places…
• As a branch IN the Vine; a member IN the Body; we are IN Christ… and partake of all He is!
c. Christ in the believer… the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27)
• That is the riches of the glory of this mystery!
• Paul was excited to preach the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles…
• This was thrilling to the apostle Paul—and it SHOULD be thrilling to us too!
• Christ is willing to LIVE IN anyone who will receive Him by faith! He will indwell and enrich the vilest of sinners… IF they will receive Him by faith… repent – change of mind about sin, self, and the Savior.
• That is the RICHES of this mystery! The best part!
• John 14:20 – as Jesus was about to go to His Father, He predicted: “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.”
5. The gospel message and the mystery:
a. There are some elements of the mystery truth that are for the saints. (Ye in me and I in you).
b. There are also elements of the mystery for the unsaved to hear. The mystery is related to the gospel we preach.
• This element of the mystery is PART OF the gospel presentation.
• The fact that God now receives Gentiles IS what the world needs to hear!
• The fact that Jews and Gentiles are accepted on equal footing in Christ IS what the world needs to hear.
• The fact that in Christ there is no difference between rich, poor, red, yellow, black, and white is a message for the whole world! All are accepted by faith.
• The fact that Christ died for the sins of the whole world IS the message we preach today. Our message is: Jesus died for YOU! The atonement is unlimited!
c. Eph. 2:11-18 – the cross changed everything!
• BOTH Jew and Gentile are reconciled to each other and to God by the cross.
• No more strangers and aliens. That’s good news for the world.
• This is the message Paul preached.
• He preached Christ. He preached His death, burial, and resurrection.
• He also preached the mystery of Christ – that the blood of the cross was shed for the WHOLE world!
6. Rom. 16:25 – The MYSTERY and the gospel we preach today.
a. Paul closes this epistle with a doxology about GOD.
• God is the One who has the power to establish us according to the GOSPEL… which is the preaching about Christ.
• Paul stated that now his gospel preaching is “according to the mystery.”
• The gospel Paul was then preaching was according to the mystery… truths NOT revealed in the Old Testament.
b. I Cor. 15:1-4 – However, the basic FACTS about the gospel were not a mystery. They were revealed in the Old Testament.
• That Christ would die for sin. (Isa. 53:4-6,11) (substitution; His death for sin; our sins laid on Him)
• That Christ would rise from the dead. (Isa. 53:10) He would be made an offering for sin… and THEN He shall prolong His days!
• Psalm 16:10 speaks of His resurrection and Peter even quoted this in Acts 2:24-27.
• Gen. 15:6 – the doctrine of justification by faith was not a mystery. That too was revealed in the Old Testament. Abraham is our New Testament example of justification!
• The fact that Gentiles would be saved was no mystery either. That too was clearly revealed. (Isa. 60:3) The Old Testament predicts many spiritual blessings for gentiles in the future Millennial Kingdom.
• These facts were not a mystery. They were clearly revealed in the Old Testament.
c. But there were NEW elements to the gospel that relate to this mystery… previously unrevealed.
• The fact that Jew and Gentile would be accepted in ONE BODY on equal footing in Christ—that WAS new! That was never revealed in the Old Testament.
• This truth is DISTINCTIVE to this age… the age of the grace of God… the gospel of the grace of God.
d. Rom. 16:26a – The mystery of the gospel is now made manifest. It is no longer a secret.
• God’s will is for this truth to be told all around the world!
• It was revealed to us through the Scriptures… and it is our privilege and responsibility to tell others!
• It is to be made manifest to “all nations.”
• This is in accordance with the commission the Lord gave His apostles just before He ascended into heaven.
• During His earthly ministry, the gospel had to do with the coming earthly kingdom… and the message was restricted to Israel. (Matt. 10:5-7)
» That was a message of national repentance, not individual salvation.
» That message did NOT contain this mystery truth.
» That message did NOT contain the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
» That message was NOT to be preached to all nations. It was restricted to one nation: Israel.
• God has a very different plan for this age. He wants this glorious truth about His Son made known to ALL NATIONS!
• Rom. 16:26c = for the obedience of faith.
» This was why Paul was made an apostle of the Lord in the first place. (Rom. 1:5) – FOR obedience to the faith among all nations for His name.
» Obedience to the faith = obeying the one command: BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ!
» II Thess. 1:8-9 – those who do NOT obey the gospel will be punished with everlasting destruction!
» Becoming obedient to the faith = being saved… (Acts 6:7)
» It refers to obeying the ONE command that God has given all nations: REPENT! Believe and be saved! (Acts 17:30-31).
» God winked at man’s ignorance in Old Testament times. But now, He COMMANDS all men everywhere to respond to the gospel.
» If you are not saved, God wants YOU to obey the gospel by putting your faith in Christ today!
» God has COMMANDED you to be saved! Jesus said you MUST be born again! It is not a suggestion.
» The mystery was revealed in order that this marvelous truth might be made known to ALL nations… SO THAT men from all nations might become obedient to the faith—that they might be gloriously saved!
• Thus, in Rom. 16:26, Paul makes it clear that the gospel ministry he was engaged in included this NEW revelation:
» Jew and Gentile in one Body on equal footing!
» That the cross abolished the Law and thus removed the middle wall of partition that separated Jew and Gentile…
» That Gentiles can be saved and have their hearts purified by faith without the yoke of the Law. (Acts 15:9-10)
» The message is for ALL nations!
» The Risen Savior is the Savior of ALL men…
7. The gospel and the mystery in Eph. 6:19.
a. IN a context similar to that Col. 3, Paul asks the believers to pray for him that he would open his mouth boldly to make known the MYSTERY of the gospel.
b. Paul delighted in preaching the simple facts of the gospel as found in I Cor. 15:1-4 (death, burial, and resurrection).
c. He loved to teach John 3:16!
d. But the gospel doesn’t end there. It just BEGINS there!
e. Preaching the gospel ought to include teaching MANY things about Christ… so that people can make an informed decision.
f. This is why I so appreciate the method New Tribes Missions has recently incorporated in their gospel presentation. They don’t start with an invitation to salvation. They start with Genesis 1:1! And it might take them a year or so of teaching before they ever get the place where they can have an invitation to salvation!
g. It is the American way to press for decisions now… to teach from the Bible for 20 minutes and then expect folks to walk down the aisle… with the last 20 minutes of stories, music, and emotional appeals to get a visible response… so they can put another notch on their belt…
h. It may be the American way, but it isn’t what one finds in the Bible.
i. Paul’s gospel ministry included TEACHING many things about Christ. Many gentiles knew NOTHING about Him!
THE OBLIGATION TO SPEAK
1. Consider the context:
a. Paul exhorted the believers to continue in prayer. (vs. 2)
b. Paul asked them specifically to pray for an OPEN DOOR. (vs. 3)
c. The PURPOSE of the open door was that he might SPEAK the mystery of Christ. (vs. 3)
d. Then he states that he desires to make the mystery of the gospel MANIFEST… (vs. 4)
e. And he states that he OUGHT to speak it.
f. Paul wanted opportunity to speak the mystery of the gospel… he wanted to make it manifest… and he felt OBLIGATED to do so.
2. Vs. 4 – Paul recognized that he OUGHT to speak forth this message.
a. This implies a moral obligation on his part.
b. He expressed this moral obligation often.
c. Eph. 6:20 – he saw himself as an ambassador of Christ and for whom he OUGHT to speak!
d. I Cor. 9:16-17 – obligation as a steward of God.
• Vs. 16 – he could take no glory for preaching the gospel (as if it were up to him). He did so out of NECESSITY! WOE if he didn’t! He believed he would be chastened of the Lord if he didn’t.
• Why? Because he was commissioned of the Lord to preach Christ!
• Vs. 17 – if he preached Christ willingly, he would receive a reward at the judgment seat of Christ. But if he was UNWILLING to do so (with good reason in some places!)… It didn’t matter. A dispensation (stewardship) had been committed to him! He had no choice.
• Titus 1:3 – the gospel ministry was COMMITTED unto him.
• I Tim.1:11 – According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.
• Gal. 2:7 – the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me. Paul was a commissioned missionary… evangelist… sent out by God Himself.
• Acts 9:4-6 – Paul saw the risen Christ and Christ gave him his commission. (Cf. vs. 15)
• Rom. 1:14 – “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. 15So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” He felt himself to be a DEBTOR to the gentiles… to preach to every creature.
• I Cor. 4:1-2 – “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”
e. We can see from this the DEEP sense of responsibility and obligation Paul felt with respect to preaching the mystery of the gospel.
• This obligation was not a burden, but was a high and holy privilege!
• And even in prison Paul was praying for opportunities to preach Christ.
• When Paul saw the Risen Savior, he was never the same again! He was a changed man.
• It motivated and energized him to WANT to preach Christ wherever he was… and whatever the cost.
• His commission of the Lord gave him a deep sense of obligation and moral responsibility to the lost around him.
• This is what he communicates in Col. 4:3-4.
f. We may not all be evangelists or apostles. We have not seen a vision of the risen Savior.
g. BUT… there is a very real sense in which we too ought to share this moral obligation to preach Christ… to preach the mystery of Christ and to make Him manifest!
• We can and we OUGHT to tell others about Christ!
• We have an obligation as one who has experienced the saving grace of God to tell others how they too can experience the saving grace of God.
• II Kings 7:8-9 – You recall the story of the lepers who discovered food… and enjoyed it themselves and began to hoard it… when they began to feel guilty and realized that this news was too good to keep to themselves!
• What a glorious privilege to KNOW Christ.
• What a responsibility to make Him KNOWN.
• Are YOU making Christ known? Do we tell others the good news? Or are we getting good and fat on the meat of God’s Word… and keeping it all to ourselves?
• This day is a day of good tidings. We do not well if we hold our peace.
• Why not take some tracks today and let your neighbor… your co workers… your classmates… your relatives know who Christ is and what He has done!