Col. 1:24-26, “24Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.” Have you ever wondered what Paul meant by “the mystery” that was hidden for ages before being revealed? This is not the first time we are told the same thing either. Some would say Paul was seemingly obsessed with this mystery, referring to it numerous times in his letters.
Rom. 16:25, “25Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages..” Eph. 3:1-5, 1For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” What the previous three examples all have in common is that they speak of a mystery that was previously hidden and presently revealed, but it is not the only time Paul refers to it. In 1 Cor. 4:1, we read, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
So, what is the “mystery” then? If we return to the opening verses and continue reading, the answer to that question is revealed. Col. 1:27, “27To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Even more illuminating are the words of Eph. 3:6-9, 6This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things….”
What was not revealed in the ages before, the Old Testament, was that God would form Jews and Gentiles alike into one body – the promise of salvation was opened to every person on earth. No longer were the Jews the exclusive “people of God.” From that time, the period after the rejection of Christ by the Jews, every person on earth who sought God and was obedient to His Word would receive the gift of salvation. In fact, that was arguably the mission of Paul after his baptism. Rom. 11:11-15, “11So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! 13Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?
To the astute scholar of the word, the “mystery” was revealed way before the New Testament, though – “Gen. 12:3, “3I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Finally, we can wrap up the mystery with the words of Gal. 3:28-29, “28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Thanks to Jesus, salvation was no longer exclusive but rather inclusive. There is an even more perplexing mystery – how anyone can deny God despite all the evidence.