Summary: The mystery of the Gospel, according to Paul, is the Holy Spirit living in Gentile believers, bringing hope. We must struggle, like Paul, to communicate the value of that truth to the world and to the Church.
Contending for our fellow contenders
Love and Wisdom, God and you
Colossians 1:24 – 2:5
The Bible is full of mystery. At different times, through different servants, God illuminated the mystery so that it could be better understood as the need arose. Paul sees himself as one of these servants. He says he is called to "complete the Word of God" as regards the mystery that has been revealed to him. In other words, he feels specifically called to shine a light on something that has been hidden. In shining that light, he is given the responsibility to write God’s clarification to His people. His words will stand alongside Moses, Isaiah, and David as God’s word.
Paul does not take this responsibility lightly. In this passage he speaks of it in three important regards, answering three questions:
• What is the mystery?
• How may we access the illumination of the mystery he is revealing?
• What is he doing to see his own responsibility fulfilled?
What is the mystery?
Paul unpacks the mystery for us. This is important, because we can see from Paul’s words that he sees it as the central seed to his entire ministry:
• When you become a believer, even as a Gentile, the Messiah lives in you and that life is the hope of glory.
• When He lives in you, all the wisdom and understanding of the Messiah is placed within your grasp.
All through the Scriptures it was clear that God cared about the whole world.
• Israel was to be an example to the surrounding nations
• The prophets spoke, at times directly to the nations
• God made provision for the foreigners living in Israel so that they would benefit from a close association with Him
• God promised that the Messiah would bring restoration and hope not only to His chosen, but also to the other nations
These ideas were out there for everyone to read and value. They were clear enough to serve as guides for God’s will concerning attitudes and policies toward other peoples. They were not irrelevant to God. They did, in fact, have an important part in His grand plan.
However, it was not so clear how their association with God would take firm shape. He had chosen Israel and given them the covenant, so that they had His law and His temple among them. What about the nations? How would He make direct provision for them?
This is not a new concept in Scriptural thinking. All kinds of prophecy had an element of mystery. Balaam the prophet spoke of a king that would come and defeat Moab. This was during the days of Moses, over 300 years before Israel had a king. When David came along and defeated the Moabites, the details of how he would do it and the reasons why were clearer than they were in light of the prophet.
In the same way, the Messiah would come, but the details of His identity and specific power were kept hidden until they were revealed in the person of the Messiah. We understand the prophecies because in Jesus, we see how they were fulfilled.
Here Paul expands for the casual observer the role of the Messiah. Since Jesus came as Messiah, and since, as he says earlier in the letter, Jesus is God’s Son and God’s own Self, His power is much more profound than might have been understood from simply reading the prophets. The prophets knew the Messiah would be
• The son of David
• A light to the Gentiles
• A suffering servant
• A mighty warrior
• Even in some way, not fully explained, the presence of God
But the capacity and full significance of these roles was not understood until Jesus came and unfolded it for us. He was not an anointed one like any other prophet, priest or king. He was God’s own Son, His own Self. This introduced dynamics and facets of his role as Messiah that could not have been understood before He came.
Paul is now explaining the mystery for us. By explaining Jesus’ unique ability to not only inspire, but to indwell His followers, everything changes. Suddenly, Jesus’ believers are not just followers of another rabbi, they are not just adherents to a cause, they are vehicles by which God enters the world. The power of the Messiah to bring hope was not limited to His own lifetime and place of ministry. It was expanded to include the work of everyone who believed in Him from that time forward.
When Peter and Paul expanded the ministry of the Messiah beyond the social borders of Judah, they were saying the Messiah was not just bringing light to the Jews like Paul, Peter and John; He was expanding His kingdom to directly include non-Jewish people like Titus, Timothy and Clement.