The Bible unveils a great mystery. Paul proclaimed “the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints” (Colossians 1:25, 26).
The mystery, revealed in the Bible, is described in various ways: the mystery of God (Colossians 2:2; Revelation 10:7), the mystery of His will (Ephesians 1:9), the mystery of Christ (Ephesians 3:4; Colossians 4:3), the mystery of the kingdom of God (Mark 4:11), the mystery of the gospel (Ephesians 6:19), the mystery of the faith (1 Timothy 3:9), and the mystery of godliness (1 Timothy 3:16).
In the Bible, a mystery is a hidden truth that can be known only by revelation.
God has revealed mysteries to man.
Daniel declared: “He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things” (Daniel 2:21, 22).
God has revealed His mysteries to enable man to do His will: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
These mysteries are not understood by all.
“In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight’” (Luke 10:21).
“And the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Why do You speak to them in parables?’ He answered and said to them, ‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand’” (Matthew 13:10-13).
Why do some fail to understand?
Although man’s ears cannot be closed physically, they can be switched off. Zechariah said of God’s rebellious people: “They refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets” (Zechariah 7:11, 12).
God instructed His people for their good, “Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward” (Jeremiah 7:24). God’s word is keyed to those who “incline their ear,” to those who are eager to learn.
How do people avoid hearing?
By not listening! People tune out what they do not want to hear. They prefer to watch dramatic presentations that require little effort or thought.
To really learn something however, especially if it is a little complicated, active listening is required. Like in school, one must listen to learn.
A preacher notices certain people who are listening to every word to learn more about the will of God. He notices others who sit with a blank expression, apparently thinking about something else, or nothing at all. Some allow themselves to be easily distracted by little disturbances rather than focusing on the message. Some even go to the rest room … to see who just sent them a text message on their cell phone!
A preacher spends many hours in study and preparation to present a message from the word of God. But he is not an entertainer: he cannot mesmerize your mind like television.
While God’s word is being preached, the hearer also has a task to perform. He must listen attentively.
This lesson about the mystery of God will require concentration. We will be reading some beautiful, yet complicated passages of Scripture. Listen carefully so you can understand what God is telling us in His word.
Who can understand the mysteries of God?
About the coming reign of righteousness it was foretold: “The eyes of those who see will not be dim, and the ears of those who hear will listen” (Isaiah 32:3).
Only those who want to do the will of God understand the mysteries of the kingdom. Jesus said: “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:17).
Paul explains that the mysteries of God are comprehended only by people who value spiritual realities: “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:6-8).
Paul had not based his message on human wisdom, so their faith would be in God, not man (verses 4 and 5). To the mature Paul speaks “the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory.” Even before creation, God had a marvelous plan for man. This plan could not be known by human wisdom.
Paul continues: “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him’” (1 Corinthians 2:9). The blessings God has prepared are so vast that they not only cannot be known by human wisdom, they cannot even be imagined!
“But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10, 11). The mystery of the wisdom of God and the unimaginable blessings He has in store for those who love Him, have been revealed through the Spirit!
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12). The mystery of the grace of God has been revealed by the Spirit.
Paul continues: “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13). Some claim that the ideas in the Bible are inspired, but not the words. Paul emphasizes, however, that he communicated the revealed mystery in words taught by the Spirit.
He concludes: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Thus, spiritual discernment is required to understand “the things of the Spirit,” the mystery of the wisdom and will of God.
The mystery was revealed to the apostles in the first century.
Paul’s understanding of the mystery came by revelation. He explained: “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles – if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” (Ephesians 3:1-4).
Paul gained knowledge of the mystery of Christ by revelation. Others can obtain this knowledge by reading what Paul has written.
“Which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power” (Ephesians 3:5-7).
The mystery of salvation by Christ, made known to the apostles and prophets in the first century, included the truth that believing Jews and believing Gentiles would be united in the same body, the church of Christ.
Paul’s special mission was to preach the gospel to the Gentiles: “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).
But he also addressed everyone, “And to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God” (Ephesians 3:9).
The fellowship of the mystery is the fellowship of the saved of every nation in the church of Christ, as determined by God before creation.
“To the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:10-12).
Never underestimate the importance of the church of Christ. The mystery of the manifold wisdom of God is made known by the church, not only to man on earth, but also to the principalities and powers in heaven!
This purpose is accomplished in Christ who is the source of salvation for mankind.
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth” (Ephesians 1:7-10).
For the sake of the church, Paul was willing to suffer so the mystery – the word of God – might be preached: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints” (Colossians 1:24-26).
It was God’s will that the saints might know the glory awaiting those in whom Christ dwells: “To them 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. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:27, 28).
Paul had a burning desire to help people understand the mystery of God so they might enjoy the blessings God gives to those who are in Christ.
“To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 1:29 – 2:3).
Through the Scriptures this mystery is made known to all nations.
After the mystery of salvation was revealed to the apostles, God commanded that the gospel be made known to all nations through inspired Scriptures: “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 kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith – to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever” (Romans 16:25-27).
Preachers are stewards of the mysteries of God.
They must faithfully proclaim the gospel. Referring to Peter, Apollos and himself, Paul wrote: “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:1, 2).
We are to pray that preachers will boldly proclaim the mystery of the gospel: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints – and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:18-20). “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:2-4).
The Bible is a book of mysteries revealed. What have we learned?
– God has revealed the mystery of His will to His saints.
– Only those who want to do the will of God comprehend the mysteries of the kingdom.
– Only those with spiritual discernment understand the mystery of God’s wisdom revealed by the Spirit.
– The mystery of salvation through Jesus Christ was revealed to the apostles and prophets in the first century.
– It was God’s good pleasure to make these mysteries known. He wants us to know the mystery of God.
– God commanded that the revelation of this mystery be made known to all nations through inspired Scriptures.
– Preachers must faithfully proclaim the mysteries of God.
– We are to pray that they will boldly do so.
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).
What a tremendous blessing that God has revealed to us the mystery of salvation! Through the Scriptures this mystery has been made known to all nations for a purpose, “for obedience to the faith” (Romans 16:26).
Thus Jesus commands: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15, 16). “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20).
What is the mystery revealed? The good news that sinful man can be saved by the grace of God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Accept God’s mystery of salvation by believing in Christ and confessing His name (Romans 10:10), by repenting and being baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Do not delay. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Amen.