Great is the Mystery!
In the epistles of the apostle Paul, he wrote quite a bit on something he often referred to as the mystery. Some have been baffled and confused as to what exactly he was talking about and what it meant to the Christians in the 1stcentury and what it means for us today. Below you will observe a couple examples of Paul’s usage of the word:
“For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in;”(Rom. 11:25)
“…that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.”(Eph. 3:3)
“…that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints,”(Col. 1:26)
As you will observe, these 3 passages all include a reference to “the mystery”which I have put in bold. These are not the only verses that speak of this mystery, but the point is Paul took time to write a great deal of information about this subject which would indicate it requires our attention. So, what exactly is this mystery? The word mystery simply means something that is difficult to understand. When the bible employs the use of this word, it typically means: something that has been hidden but now has been revealed. Now, that leads us to ask another question: What was hidden but has now been revealed? I’ll let the bible answer that below:
“…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, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:2-3).
The mystery is Jesus Christ Himself! No wonder Paul wrote a great deal about it. In fact, Jesus Himself referred to this mystery when He began preaching: “And He was saying to them, "To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables,”(Mk. 4:11). If you have studied the gospels thoroughly, you will realize why Jesus was such a mystery. Many of the Jewish religious leaders failed to understand that Jesus was the Messiah. Many of them failed to acknowledge Him as God come in the flesh. Even so today, many people still deny Jesus as God and that He became a human being. In this sense it is still a mystery to them because they have chosen not to believe and chosen not to acknowledge the evidence for themselves.
Paul made it very clear later in Ephesians 3:4-5 that when we read the scriptures, we can have a complete and thorough understanding of the mystery spoken about. God kept His plan in a sense hidden until the fullness of time came for Jesus to come and die on the cross (cf. Gal. 4:4). Even the angels were not made aware of these things as they themselves desired to look into this plan (cf. 1 Pet. 1:12). If I told you that Jesus was still a mystery to thousands of people today, would you believe me? The key to understanding this mystery (Jesus) is to willingly believe that “God is and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (cf. Heb. 11:6).
When Jesus spoke to the multitudes in the gospels, He commonly spoke to them in parables. Jesus spoke in “mysteries” in the sense that he spoke of God’s plan for man. In Matthew 13:35 it says of Jesus and how He spoke, “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: "I WILL OPEN MY MOUTH IN PARABLES; I WILL UTTER THINGS HIDDEN SINCE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD."
The principle here applied is what Jesus explained to His discipled in Mark’s gospel. To those who desired to listen, they would understand but to those who refused, it would remain a mystery to them. Paul made it crystal clear to Timothy what the mystery was and how great it is in 1 Tim 3:16:
“By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.”
So, if we were asked to succinctly explain the mystery to someone, all we would have to do is refer to this verse and it would aptly provide the answer. You see, God wants us to know that Jesus became a man and that He was crucified but rose from the dead, so all mankind could be under His universal, Sovereign rule. That is the mystery and it is only hard to understand if we don’t want to listen to it.
There is no rocket science to any of this but all it requires is that we give our attention to God’s word. He has preserved His inspired message over the last 20 centuries so that when we read, we might understand His plan of salvation. We can know about Jesus and His teachings, His life and His death. It’s all there so you and I can be saved from our sins. It is there to give us hope beyond anything in this world. It is there so we can be guided on how to love in the midst of evil and how to spread love in the midst of our enemies. So, in all truth, there is nothing God has hidden from us that is not appropriate for our salvation. He has made know His plan for man through Jesus Christ. Are you willing to listen to Him and obey?