Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Colossians 1:24-27

Day 6

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.


What is the “mystery” Paul is referring to here?

The Greek word translated “mystery” is musterion, and has a lexicon definition of something that was previously unknown but now revealed. There are over 20 times where this word is used in the New Testament. It can refer to as varied a subject as the mystery of God’s will to the mystery of the power of lawlessness. So we have to look at the context to figure out what mystery Paul is talking about.

The mystery was concealed from previous generations in ages past. It remained unknown until Paul’s generation, when it was revealed both to God’s saints and among the Gentiles. Paul identifies the mystery as “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Until Christ’s resurrection, God’s plan of salvation was kept shrouded from view yet in plain sight. Certainly the pieces of the mystery were all given within the Old Testament writings. The messiah was promised after the very first sin was committed (Genesis 3:15). Again in Genesis 12, Abraham was promised that “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”(Genesis 12:3) The messiah would come through the line of Abraham. Many years later, Abraham’s grandson Jacob prophesied over his son Judah, “the scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh [messiah] comes”(Genesis 49:10). Four hundred and thirty years later, God’s instruction to the Hebrews as they prepared to escape the slavery of Egypt included a Passover meal, where a lamb was slain and its blood smeared on the doorpost to save the lives of those inside the house (Exodus 12). Later on, once the Hebrews were safely in the desert, the Law was given which required sacrifices to be made, blood to be shed as atonement for sins committed. All of this was a picture of and preparation for the Savior who would come and shed His own blood to atone for us on the cross.

Yet there were confusing aspects to the prophecies about the messiah. Mixed in with the many predictions of the messiah made by the prophets were also predictions of a glorious kingdom, in which the messiah would reign, as every knee would bow to him. Israel would be restored to the land after a long period of exile. We know now that there would be two comings of Christ, one to save us from the consequences of our sin, and a second to establish an everlasting reign on earth. As they say, hindsight is 20/20.

While the religious leaders of Jesus’ day paid great attention to prophecies of a political reign and restoration to the land, they largely ignored the many predictions of a suffering messiah (Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, for example). And so they were unwilling to accept Jesus as their messiah.

Jesus finally revealed the mystery to his disciples shortly after the resurrection. In Luke 24:27, we read, “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” Once the many prophesied events had taken place, He was able to show them from the Old Testament alone God’s plan of salvation which had been in place all along. The mystery was revealed.

Now Paul speaks of the mystery here in Colossians. What was once “hidden” has now been “manifested.” The messiah had come and made atonement for once and for all. All who believed in Him would receive eternal life. His Spirit would come to dwell within every believer as a seal, a promise, that one day all believers would share in His glory and inheritance (Ephesians 1:14). Christ in you. The hope of glory. All that had once been a mysterious shadow within the pages of the Old Testament was now perfectly clear.

Spend some time thanking God for His amazing plan of salvation which was conceived before the very first sin. Though thousands of years, He patiently wove the events of history to get the world ready for the day His Son would come to earth. It is truly remarkable what He accomplished, and all on our behalf.

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