A mystery is something strange or unknown, something that has been kept hidden and has not yet been explained or understood. Some people love the ‘mysterious’ and like to create that atmosphere of secrecy around themselves, a place, or a set of circumstances. The idea that certain information is only available to a select few, can give a sense of power and control. But the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, is for all – for whosoever chooses to believe. The gospel is to be proclaimed, to be shared, and spread into the whole world. What then does the phrase, the mystery of the gospel mean?
What Is the Mystery of the Gospel?
In the New Testament, there are frequent references to ‘the mystery of the gospel.’ But what is this mystery, what were the writers referring to?
In Ephesians 6 v19-20, the apostle Paul asks the church in Ephesus to pray for him that he would be given the words to fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.
In Colossians 4 v3-4 Paul asks the church in Colossae to pray for him and his companions. He is asking for God to open a door so that they may proclaim the mystery of Christ as clearly as they should.
What is the Greatest Mystery of God?
The greatest mystery of God is His plan for our salvation, summed up in Jesus’ incarnation, life, ministry, death, and resurrection. Jesus was vindicated by the Holy Spirit as the Son of God. He now reigns in heaven interceding for those that He came to save.
When we acknowledge who Jesus is and recognize all that He has done for us, we begin to perceive and understand the mystery of the gospel. From our position in time, and our perspective, we wonder with awe at God’s mercy and grace. The lavish love of God is overwhelming, that He should send His Son to enable us to receive forgiveness for our sins.
But for the apostles and the early church, the mystery of the gospel was also a dramatic revelation. The fact that Messiah came not only for Israel but as the Savior of the world. This truth had been hinted at in the Old Testament, that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, sought not only to restore Israel but to draw all people to Himself.
“Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith – to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”Romans 16:25-27
What is the Mystery of the Gospel in Ephesians 3?
The apostle Paul frequently refers to the mystery of the gospel in Ephesians 3. To understand why he emphasizes this point we need to remember that this is the man who initially opposed the gospel fiercely, and persecuted Christians.
Paul experienced a dramatic conversion on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus when he encountered the risen Jesus. He was literally stopped in his tracks, and he received the full revelation of what had previously been hidden from him. Paul was a scholar, a Pharisee, someone who studied the law and the prophets, and who knew Scripture. But, he had not recognized the suffering Messiah until he encountered God’s grace!
“In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”Ephesians 3:4-6
The Mystery of God Revealed
In this encounter with the risen resurrected Lord, Paul received his commission to the Gentiles. To turn from being a Pharisee, to being a missionary to the Gentiles, was a miraculous transformation. Paul received the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. But he retained his awe and wonder at the wisdom of God. The truth of the gospel thathad been hidden, was now being made visible by the Holy Spirit. This is now the time of God’s favor.
“…..this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Ephesians 3:8-11
The unity of the church, and the possibility of one body united in Christ Jesus, speaks into the spiritual realm. This is only what God can do! This unity declares to the authorities in the heavenly realms, angels and demons, the infinite wisdom of God.
Christ the Mystery of God Revealed
The revelation of Jesus Christ as Saviour of the world began long before His birth. It was there right at the beginning, at the fall in the Garden of Eden. But in Scripture we find a hint that God had a plan to restore His sin-broken relationship with mankind.
The Old Testament prophets, inspired by the Holy Spirit, spoke out words pointing to the Messiah. They looked forward to a Savior, who would come to rescue God’s chosen people. But more than that, He would be a light for the Gentiles, drawing all people to Himself. These were words that they spoke but did not fully understand. They only caught a glimpse of God’s salvation plan – which would reach the ends of the earth.
It is in Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection that the mystery is revealed. The gospel, the good news, is for all mankind!
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.”John 3:16 THE MSG
Celebrating the Mystery of the Gospel of Christ
As we approach the busy Christmas Season do you find it difficult to focus on the reason we are celebrating? I have a new daily reading devotional for December, To Bethlehem & Beyond! 31 Daily Readings by Sharon Hazel.
‘To Bethlehem & Beyond’ travels through Scripture reflecting on God’s plan, the people, and the promises fulfilled. Each day has a Scripture reading, a short reflection, a take-away thought/question, a psalm verse and a prayer.
If you choose to subscribe to limitless-horizon, you will receive a fortnightly email update of all the latest news. And straight away the link to this free download of a Daily Bible Reading Plan for December. This plan will take you through Scripture ‘To Bethlehem & Beyond!’
See the sign-up form below, or on the side bar – look forward to you joining us!
When you receive the first fortnightly email you will gain exclusive access to our resource library. This is where the free Advent Journal is available to download!