"A Stewardship to Proclaim the Mystery of God Now Revealed" Part 1 of 2 (series: Lessons on Colossians)
by John Lowe
Christ in you, the hope of glory.
A Stewardship to Proclaim the Mystery of God Now Revealed (Colossians 1:25-27)
• “Special Notes” and “Scripture” follow associated verses.
• NIV Bible is used throughout unless noted otherwise.
Colossians 1:25-27 (NIV)
(Text) 1:25-27: 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
The above verses are notable for the light they shed on Paul’s conception of his calling as a minister; showing it to be a divine commission (1:25); a proclamation of the gospel— “to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:25-27).
(1:25) “I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness―”
“I have become its servant”
Paul says that he is not only a servant of Jesus Christ; he is also a servant of the Church, appointed and commissioned by the Lord. Paul’s ministry was “by the commission God gave me.” He looked upon his ministry and his office in the work of the Lord as a distinctive calling to take the Gospel to the Gentiles—and he found great joy in it. He refused to be confined within a narrow area of interest and service; he refused to bow to Judaism; his field was the world.
“by the commission God gave me to present to you”
The word commission, as used here, means “economy,” but a better translation is “stewardship,” and the best is “dispensation.” We talk of political economy, domestic economy, business economy. God deals with the world on the basis of different economies or stewardships or dispensations; but they have always been based on the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
Before Jesus was born into this world, men brought a little lamb as a sacrifice, and they looked forward to the coming of Christ. They were not saved by that little lamb; but they brought the lamb in faith, and they were saved by the Christ who would someday die for them. That was the economy or the stewardship or the dispensation which God had appointed for the Jews in the Old Testament. We don’t bring a little lamb for a sacrifice today because it is now an historical fact that Christ has already come. All we have to do today is trust Him.
The apostle Paul did more than preach—he fulfilled the Gospel . . . He carried out the program of Almighty God. He held up to the world the healing balm of Gilead1. He proclaimed the Gospel without prejudice of race or creed. This Apostle to the Gentiles carried the Gospel to all who would listen, both in and beyond the boundaries of Judea.
“the word of God in its fullness―”
To fulfill “the word of God” involved something that had been hidden in the Old Testament, and has now been revealed, that the Gospel must go to the Gentiles. Paul writes to the Gentile people in Colossi that they are a part of this new dispensation. The Gentiles are to be included in the Church.
1. Balm of Gilead— The Bible uses the term “balm of Gilead” metaphorically as an example of something with healing or soothing powers.
(1:26) “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people.”
Paul’s special message regarding the Gentiles had to do with what he called “the mystery.” To us today a “mystery” is something eerie and perhaps frightening; but this was not the way the word was defined in Paul’s day. The false teachers used this word to describe the inner secrets of their religions. To us today, a mystery is a “sacred secret,” hidden in the past and now revealed by the Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 3:1-13). It is also said to be something that had not been revealed in the Old Testament but is now revealed. We learn in Ephesians that the mystery was not the fact that Gentiles would be saved—that was known in the Old Testament. The mystery, the new thing, was that God would now put Israel on the same basis as the Gentiles. All men are lost; all men have sinned; all men have come short of the glory of God. Now God is taking both Jews and Gentiles, men out of all races, and He is putting them into a new body which is called the Church. That was never revealed in the Old Testament, but it is now being revealed.
“that has been kept hidden for ages and generations,”
God called and ordained Paul, and gave to him by revelation the unveiling of the mystery that had been hidden “for ages and generations” since the beginning. This mystery was the great doctrine that salvation was to be proclaimed to all mankind, regardless of color or class, Jew or Gentile. Paul was to make this mystery fully known. This great hidden truth had been concealed until Paul’s day, “but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people.”
“but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people.”
God called the nation of Israel to be His people. He gave them His Law (including the priesthood and sacrifices), and He gave them a wonderful land. He promised them a King who would one day establish a glorious kingdom and fulfill the many promises made to Abraham and David. The Old Testament prophets wrote about a Messiah who would suffer, and a Messiah who would rein. They could not explain the seeming contradiction (see 1 Peter 1:9-12).
9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care,
11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow.
12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
They did not understand that the Messiah first had to suffer before He could enter into Glory (Luke 24:13-27).
Jesus Christ came to earth, was rejected by His people, and was crucified. He arose again and returned to heaven. Did this mean that God’s promised kingdom for Israel was now abandoned? No, because God had initiated a new program—His mystery—that was not explained by the Old Testament prophets. The mystery is that today God is uniting Jews and Gentiles in the Church (Ephesians 2:11-22). When the Church is completed, then Jesus Christ will return and take His people to heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Then He will again deal with Israel as a nation and establish the promised kingdom (Acts 15:12-18).
Paul wasn’t the only one who understood this mystery. God is making it known to His saints in that day.
Jesus made known the coming of the Church, but to Paul was committed the revelation of the mystery. It is in the writings of Paul alone that we find the doctrine of the New Testament Church, the position of the Church, the walk of the believer, and the destiny of the entire body when it is complete.