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Colossians 1:25-29 by Robert Dean
As we conclude the last verses in chapter one of our Colossians series, Paul introduces the Mystery Doctrine to us. As the designated apostle to the Gentiles, his role is actually part of this Mystery Doctrine and gives him the distinction of explaining the privileges of the Church age believer and how that differs from the barrier between Jew and Gentile that existed in the Old Testament. He talks about the "mystery of Christ", the "riches of the glory of this mystery", and "Christ in you, the hope of glory." What is meant by all these terms? As we will discover, the Mystery Doctrine includes Jesus Christ's presence among the Gentiles for the first time.
Series:Colossians (2011)
Duration:50 mins 53 secs

Mystery Doctrine: Privileges of the Church Age Believer. Colossians 1:25

 

Paul was specifically designated the apostle to the Gentiles. This is part of that mystery doctrine. We have lived in an era when it is more comfortable for us to see the church as mainly Gentile. But this was a time when up to about the mid point of the book of Acts the church was primarily Jewish and there were tens of thousands of converts to Christ, Jews who recognized that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Yet it was becoming increasingly clear that the Jewish people were hardening their hearts against accepting Jesus as the Messiah. By Acts chapter ten God revealed to Peter that it was now part of their responsibility to take the gospel to the Gentiles. Romans 11:13 NASB "But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry." This is part of the mystery doctrine that is referred to now in Colossians 1:26.

We live in a day when preaching and teaching are thought by some to be two different functions: that we do something in terms of how we communicate the Word of God on Sunday morning that is different from what is done in Sunday school or Wednesday night service or some other time. In many churches what takes place on Sunday morning is considered to be a sermon; it's preaching. What has happened in the history of Christianity is that a false dichotomy has been created and a rhetorical distinction between two different ways of proclaiming the Word of God has been imposed upon these words. Preaching in the original Greek is related to the verb kerusso [khrussw] which means simply to proclaim something. It is based on the noun kerux [khruc] which means a herald, someone who had an official position within the government to throughout a village or city to make an announcement. He wasn't to stop and talk about the announcement, he simply made a public service announcement, and that is the word that is used for preaching in many contexts. The other context, for example in Acts, the word that we read in the English for preaching is actually the translation of the verb euangelizo [e)uaggelizw] which means to proclaim the gospel. In many passages the focal point of the word "preaching" is more on the proclamation of the gospel message per se, whereas teaching has to do with the explanation of the Word of God. So if there is a distinction to be seen between these two words, that is it. Neither word relates to a specific rhetorical style. There are many different ways that someone can teach and give explanation of the Word but we don't find in the Bible or at that time in history this kind of rhetorical distinction made that we have today under the guise of homiletics. It is a sad thing in the church that we have slipped away from teaching. Teaching is simply explaining what the Word of God says and what it means so that people can have a good understanding of how this relates to their own life.

It is God the Holy Spirit who takes the principles that are taught and He is the one who helps each individual to see how that applies in their own life. The role of the pastor in teaching the Word is simply to make these universal principles clear and to explain the Word so that God the Holy Spirit can use that in each individual life.

As Paul talks about his preaching of the Word of God here he says that it is related to the "mystery." So what Paul is proclaiming here has to do with the mystery doctrine of the Word of God. He is proclaiming the content of this new revelation that he describes as the mystery: Colossians 1:26 NASB "{that is,} the mystery which has been hidden from the {past} ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints." In the ancient world the word "mystery" was a common one related to the mystery religions. Typically when it was used in that context it was referred to as the mysteries. These were secret religious societies. When a person was indicted or initiated into these he would be given a special insight, something like joining the Masonic Lodge which has its own theology and secret handshakes. That was what it was like in the ancient world in that context. But this isn't talking about learning some sort of hidden super-secret doctrine. Paul only uses the word "mystery" a couple of times in the plural when he is talking about being a steward of the mysteries of God. He defines that term in other places where it is related to revelation.

The word here for "manifested to His saints" has to do with revelation, with the process of revelation—apokalupto [a)pokaluptw] which is a word for revelation, unveiling or revealing new information. So the content of Paul's preaching isn't simply the gospel here, it is that which is related to the gospel in the sense that now there would be no distinction between Jew and Gentile but there is a new body of Christ that is composed of both Jews and Gentiles so that that racial distinction that was dominant in the Old Testament dispensation is not dominant today. God is doing something new in terms of breaking down that barrier of separation between Jew and Gentile. 

Now what exactly did Paul mean as he used this word "mystery"? In Romans11:25 Paul says, NASB "For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—" Thinks about the contents of Romans 11. In Romans chapters 9, 10 and 11 Paul is explaining how God's righteousness is working out in relation to what God was doing with the Jewish people during the church age. At the conclusion of that discourse he says he doesn't want us to be ignorant of this mystery which is now what God is doing in bringing the Gentiles so that they partake of the Abrahamic blessing ("through you all the nations will be blessed). "… that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in."

In Ephesians 3:3 we have a passage that is similar to the one that we are considering. In the first five verses of Ephesians 3 we have a reference to this mystery as well. NASB "that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. [4] By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ." The mystery of Christ is that the body is now made up of both Jew and Gentile. Colossians 2:2 NASB "that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and {attaining} to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, {resulting} in a true knowledge of God's mystery, {that is,} Christ {Himself}."  As we understand the mystery of this new body of Christ it should have a significant impact on how we think—how we think about one another, how we think about our own personal life, our spiritual life, that we are not saved just so that we can have a spiritual life, and that spiritual life is no just all about my personal spiritual growth; but it is so that we can grow spiritually so that we can then have a ministry within the body of Christ. It has a very strong and significant sense of application.

Colossians 4:3 NASB "praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned." Again he is emphasizing this mystery of Christ. There is a dispensational change that comes with the completion of salvation at the cross and what God is now doing in the body of Christ.

In Colossians 1:26 Paul says, NASB "the mystery which has been hidden from the {past} ages and generations…" The terms ages and generations refers to the Old Testament period, the age of the Gentiles prior to the call of Abraham and the dispensation of Israel from the call of Abraham up to the cross. These two terms "ages" and "generations" then clearly refer to that period of the Old Testament which does not reveal anything about the coming church age. "… but has now been manifested to His saints, [27] to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." It is to the saints that God makes this known, this new revelation. This knowledge is described as the riches or the wealth of glory. This is something that is profoundly significant. It has to do with all that God provides us. For example, in Ephesians chapter one Paul says that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. What are those blessings? What is it that God has provided for us  in Christ so that we have a rich spiritual life during this age? We have to understand—and we do as we go through the study of Scripture—all the many things, the assets and privileges that God has given us as members of the body of Christ. The word here in terms of being made known is the Greek word phaneroo [fanerow] which has to do with revelation, illumination, enlightenment, and helps us to understand that this is always related to new revelation. Tis is described as "the riches of the glory of this mystery." Glory refers to the mystery doctrine that is" among the Gentiles." Then it is further described as "Christ in you, the hope of glory."

What does this phrase mean? As we look at this verse our sort of knee-jerk initial response is that this is talking about Christ indwelling each of us as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is a true doctrine, but we don't think that this is what this is describing here. There are two phrases at the end of this verse, the first is the phrase "among the Gentiles"— en tois ethnesin [e)n tois ethnesin e)n toij e)qnesin] (dative form of ethnos/e)qnoj with the article). The preposition en had a broad range of meaning in the Koine period and it becomes increasingly broader in the development of the Greek language. It could mean by, with, among, within, by means of; it has this wide range of meanings and so we really have to look at the context to understand what is being said specifically there when this is used. That same preposition is used in the next clause, which is "Christ in you." So we have "in ethnos (Gentiles)" and "in you" in this next passage; "which is Christ in you" is an explanation and parallel to the mystery in the Gentiles. So it seems since, we are dealing with an appositional or relative clause explanation (Christ in you), that the end in both of these places must be understood in the same sense.

It is true that in many places where he talks about Christ dwelling within every believer he uses this same prepositional phrase, but as we have seen it can be used in different senses. This idea of "the mystery among the Gentiles" is the emphasis in mystery doctrine. It is that Christ is now being proclaimed to the Gentiles who have been brought into the body of Christ, and so the Gentiles have a significant role within the body of Christ and the plan of God that they did not have in previous ages. Romans 16:25, 26 NASB "Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations [Gentiles], {leading} to obedience of faith." The point here is that as we look at these parallel passages related to understanding the mystery doctrine, the mystery doctrine isn't focused on Christ now dwelling in every believer (though that is true) but it is emphasizing specifically the presence of Christ among the Gentiles.

Ephesians 3:1 NASB "For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—[2] if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace which was given to me for you; [3] that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief." So here we have this new revelation which is the mystery doctrine. [4] "By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, [5] which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit." And what is the thrust of this new revelation? [6] "that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel." So in these other passages that talk about the mystery doctrine the focal point isn't the indwelling of Christ in each individual believer, the focus is on the presence of Christ among the Gentiles which was not true in the Old Testament dispensation. So contextually and by looking at how Paul talks about this same subject in other areas we see that the focal point should be understood as "Christ among you." It is the fact that Christ is now preached and proclaimed to the Gentiles and that they are brought into the body of Christ on equal standing with Jewish believers, given the same privileges that Jewish believers of the church age are given, that they have these blessings. This is related to the hope of glory which is a focal point on our confidence—Greek elpis [e)lpij] means a confident expectation, focusing on our future destiny in heaven.

Some have failed to understand that we are not just indwelled by the Holy Spirit but as believers in Christ we are truly indwelt by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He has taken up His abode within us. This is missed by a lot of people and there is a lot of discussion and disagreement on this. There are many who believe that it is only the Holy Spirit who indwells us and that these others terms, the Father and the Son are in us, are by virtue of the Holy Spirit.

John 14:23 NASB "Jesus answered and said to him, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.'" This is talking about fellowship but it is talking about the presence of the Father and the Son in the spiritual life of the believer who is in fellowship. Romans 8:10 NASB "If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness." This is talking about the presence of Christ along with the Holy Spirit. Galatians 2:20 NASB "I have been crucified with Christ; and 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 up for me." These are all important doctrinal truths; Christ does live in the believer. But when Paul talks about this in Colossians 1:27, "Christ in you," talking to that congregation because of the context and discussion of the mystery doctrine which emphasizes the inclusion of Gentile and Jew together in the body of Christ, the focal point isn't the indwelling of Christ but it is the presence of Christ now to the Gentiles. This is the focus of teaching and proclamation that Paul emphasizes in the next verse.     

Colossians 1:28 NASB "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ." The word for "proclaim" here is a form of the word angelizo [a)ggelizw]; the verb means to proclaim a message. So katangelizo [kataggelizw] is also the idea of proclaiming a message. It is not preaching [kerusso/khrussw], it is proclaiming a message. The content of the message is Christ—"We proclaim Him." This is followed by two participles that are participles of means. How do we proclaim Him? We proclaim Him by "admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom." Two different verbs are used here, one for admonishing—noutheteo [neuqetew], which builds off the noun nous [nouj] for "mind," and it is a form of instruction but it has the implication of exhortation or challenge, warning and correction. So part of the responsibility of the teaching ministry of the apostle or pastor is to admonish everyone; it involves correction. 2 Timothy 3:16, 17. We have our thinking corrected by hearing the Word of God, and it contains a challenge to obey Him. So Paul says that part of the way in which Christ is proclaimed is through correction and instruction. Then the word for teaching is the Greek word didasko [didaskw] which means to instruct, to give point by point instruction and explanation; and it is done "with all wisdom," with skill in relation to understanding application to life. The end result is "so that we may present every man complete in Christ." This is the role of the pastor. He is to teach the Word because it is through the Word that we grow and mature. That means that the pastor has to have some understanding of what it takes for a spiritual infant to grow to spiritual maturity so that they can be of service within the body of Christ.

Think about this in terms of a natural analogy to a parent. There are a lot of parents who don't have much of a clue as to how to take a baby and make them a mature individual who has a great benefit to society. They just kind of go through the process and watch the kid grow up and feed him a lot of food, hoping that one day and somehow by the grace of God he will make it. A good parent will try to understand what the growth process is and will understand his responsibility to teach and instil key principles and discipline within the thinking of the child so that when he is mature he understands how to live in the world on the basis of eternal absolutes and the Word of God. The same is true for a pastor. Pastors need to understand this process. Question for pastors: Do you know, and could you draw out a blueprint on how you as a pastor get people from spiritual infancy to spiritual adulthood? Usually there will be blank looks; this isn't taught very much.

Nobody learns to swim in two feet of water. You have to get somebody out in water that has a little depth and a little bit over their head before they will really learn how to swim, otherwise they will just stand up on the bottom of the swimming pool and they won't be stretched to grow and mature. We have to be stretched in order to grow. You don't teach to a first or second grade level or all you produce is first or second graders. You have to teach to a level that indicates your expectation of what people should be striving for. Paul says we are to "teach every man in all wisdom [the entire counsel of God], so that we may present every man complete [mature] in Christ."   

Colossians 1:29 NASB "For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me." We have drawn analogy here between the apostles' ministry and the pastoral ministry, and it is a justified comparison because the apostles had a ministry of teaching the Word to a multiplicity of congregations whereas the pastor does the same thing (not with the same level of authority) but he does it to one congregation. His role is to present every person in that congregation mature in Christ and that can only happen if the pastor has an understanding of the growth process and if the pastor has himself growing and can lead and direct people through the teaching of the Word to becoming mature believers in Christ.