And to enlighten all that they may see what the economy of the mystery is, which throughout the ages has been hidden in God, who created all things
I’ve noticed in several conversations over the last few years that most believers’ understanding and articulation of the gospel consists of simplistic, rather carnal principles that lack the mysteries Paul unveils in his epistles. I fear the gospel and narrative of the Scriptures have undergone a watering down of sorts to appease the innate desire for clear, systematic understanding of the Bible.
What I’d like to do in this post is bring to everyone’s attention (and if possible, even shed some light on) some of the mysteries mentioned in the New Testament which should govern our gospel preaching, prayers, Bible reading, and ultimately awe and praise of the multifariously wise God and His unsearchably rich Christ (vv. 8-10).
And confessedly, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
1 Timothy 3:16
This verse leaves me in awe. First off, the incarnation of God is perhaps the greatest mystery in the New Testament (though I’m sure I’ll be tempted to say that with each of the following sections). Many people find it unbelievable that we, human beings, could be joined to the Almighty and share in His divine life and nature, but the truly unbelievable is the Almighty’s condescending to the confines of human flesh (Php. 2:6-7).
How many take time to consider the implications of God becoming man? Who includes this in their gospel preaching? Is this something only to be celebrated on the 25th of December (which is not the actual day of His birth, but the supposed day of birth of the pagan Sun-God whose holy-day was “Christianized”)?
The significance of the incarnation is God’s joining Himself to humanity that humanity may be fully joined to and participate in God (Heb. 2:14; 1 Cor. 1:9). What a mystery!
…the full knowledge of the mystery of God, Christ
As most theists would admit, God is a mystery. He cannot be seen, heard, touched, or known. He exists outside of time, space, and this universe. God is unfathomable and we gaze at the starry sky in wonder and awe at the Creator of all.
What we must see as Christians is that God does not want to me an enigma to man. He created Adam in the garden in an intimate way with a spirit that may know and fellowship with the Transcendent One. While Adam failed and mankind subsequently lost his nearness and the knowability of God, God had a plan:
…Christ; Who was foreknown before the foundation of the world but has been manifested in the last of times for your sake
1 Peter 1:19-20
Christ was prepared from the beginning and came as “the mystery of God.” Christ literally is the mystery of God made know. Don’t say, like Philip, “Lord, show us the Father and it is sufficient for us.” For “He who has seen Me (Christ) has seen the Father.” What a mystery!
That by revelation the mystery was made known to me, as I have written previously in brief, by which, in reading it, you can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ, 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 spirit, that in Christ Jesus the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the Body and fellow partakers of the promise through the gospel
While Christ is the mystery of God, the church is the mystery of Christ. Christ, in the flesh, was knowable, and by virtue of His containing all the fullness of the Godhead, He made God knowable. Now, however, Christ exists as the resurrected and ascended Head of the Body, indwelling each believer as the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). If someone wants to know Christ, they cannot come to the man Jesus in the flesh. They must come to the corporate Jesus, the Church. This is a great mystery.
The Kingdom of the Heavens
And He answered and said to them, ‘Because to you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens, but to them it has not been given.’
There exists various interpretations regarding the kingdom, ranging from the millennial kingdom, to a kingdom in heaven, to even a present reigning of Christ on earth in an outward way. The reason theologians struggle to systematize the kingdom is that it is full of mysteries. The kingdom somehow came when Christ came, exists in the hearts of the believers presently in a hidden way, and ultimately will be manifested outwardly in the millennium and the New Jerusalem in the final age (Matt. 4:17; 13:19-23; Rev. 20:4, 6; 22:3, 5).
And for me, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known in boldness the mystery of the gospel
Does the substitutionary death of Christ alone qualify the descriptor “mystery” for the gospel? I think anyone can understand this. I don’t belittle the crucifixion of Christ and the penal substitutionary atonement (btw, putting big theological terms around a biblical concept also doesn’t qualify the concept as mysterious – at least as a diving mystery :)), but I boldly declare with the backing of the scriptures that there is “much more” (Rm. 5:10)!
The gospel is Christ’s saving us from the penalty of our sins, but it’s also His begetting us as children, growing in us as our life and sanctification, glorifying us to the coming kingdom, and building us up together as His dwelling place, kingdom, and bride for the fulfillment of His eternal purpose (Eph. 3:11). May our gospel preaching be full of the divine mysteries of God and His purpose!
The Indwelling of Christ
The mystery which has been hidden from the ages and from the generations but now has been manifested to His saints; to whom God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory
If you have a heart to preach the gospel to someone, be it a friend, family member, or stranger, I thank the Lord and encourage you to do so boldly! Its the greatest joy on earth to bring people this wonderful Christ we possess and have been made stewards of. However, I must implore all the willing ambassadors of Christ to save the recipients of your ministering from the erroneous concept of an afterlife in a heavenly mansion after they die.
Heaven is neither our hope nor our message. Our hope is the indwelling Christ. The glory of the gospel is that Christ comes to dwell in the believers to be their life (3:4). This is mysterious and glorious! May this be our message: “Open wide and receive Christ” (Ps. 81:10; Rm. 10:9-13; Jn. 1: 12-13)!
The Coming Resurrection of the Saints
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52
This is a mystery. There are a plethora of religions which tout a nirvana of sorts as the hope after death, but the Christian (along with the Jew) hopes in a bodily resurrection, a raising to a body incorruptible to dwell on the earth for eternity. We believers, unlike the Platonic philosophies which governed some later church fathers, have hope for this earth, that the Lord will eventually restore it and renew it for His good pleasure and dwelling with man and the rest of creation. We He comes, we will be given a body that is exactly like His own (i.e. resurrected, glorified, and saturated with the divine life – 1 Jn. 3:2) The resurrection of the saints at the return of our Lord is truly a mystery.
Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel, that is, the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which has been kept in silence in the times of the ages
There are many mysteries that we actively participate in, see, and experience as New Testament believers. Everything in the Old Testament was clear-cut. Everything in the coming kingdom and New Jerusalem will be clear. But today, in the New Testament age, everything is a mystery.
Nobody can see what we are experiencing as Christians. If you were to tell someone that you are a child of God and enjoy the indwelling Christ, you will be called crazy. We experience Christ in a mysterious way, though it’s very real. In the next age, all will be made manifest and clear to the unbelievers.
You refuse to undermine your work colleagues in a savage attempt to climb the corporate ladder? You return the money the grocer accidentally gives you in excess change? You take in a stranger to your home and feed them free of charge? These are the acts the life within compels us as believers to perform, though they may turn heads and beget questions in our secular peers. What drives us, guides us, and incentivizes us is a mystery.
But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel when he is about to trumpet, then the mystery of God is finished, as He has announced the good news to His own slaves the prophets.
At the blowing of the seventh trumpet, which issues in the transfer of the kingdom of the world into the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ (11:15), the mystery of God will finally be finished. There are many finishings in the Bible. The finishing of creation (Gen. 2:2), the finishing of redemption (Jn. 19:30), and the finishing of a Christian course (2 Tim. 4:7) are among those that immediately come to mind. But there is a great finishing of all the mysteries of God at the coming of His kingdom to earth.
Many things are unraveling in the divine and mystical realm of God. Seals are being broken on the scroll of His divine economy, and we are participating in its script. We need to be those who, as Paul mentions, read the Scriptures and get the understanding that the apostles and prophets had of these mysteries (Eph. 3:4).
I end with an awesome set of verses Paul writes talking about this subject (I encourage you to read the whole chapter):
And I, when I came to you, brothers, came not according to excellence of speech or of wisdom, announcing to you the mystery of God…But we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the wisdom which has been hidden, which God predestined before the ages for our glory…But to us God has revealed them through the Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God…But we have received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit which is from God, that we may know the things which have been graciously given to us by God…For who has known the mind of the Lord and will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2