May 27, 2007
THE MYSTERY (Part 1)
“Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; even the mystery which has been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (Colossians 1:25-26).
Paul’s later letters certainly describe our present dispensation and the mystery for which Paul was God’s ambassador in bonds. “The prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles...” (Eph. 3:1). In Acts 28:20 Paul declared, “for the hope of Israel am I bound with this chain.” But with God’s revelations now complete and the word of God filled full, God’s focus is on His sacred secret once hidden, but now made known.
In the New Testament the Greek word, musterion, is uniformly translated “mystery” 27 times. This is really a transliteration (substituting English letters for their Greek equivalent) instead of a translation. In the Greek Septuagint of the Old Testament, musterion appears nine times, only in the book of Daniel where it is translated “secret.” What a help this would have been throughout all our English translations.
The word uniformly means “secret.” Just as God revealed His secrets to Daniel in order to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, so whether used three time in the Gospels or John four times in the Revelation and Paul’s twenty times in his epistles, it always refers to something God had kept hidden until the time He chose to make something known.
No amount of study could ever have uncovered God’s secrets before He chose to do so. But once He chose to make something known, it was no longer a secret, in the sense of not being known. From the time of its revealing, the previously hidden message was to be “made known.”
Paul was the main apostle to widely use this term in his letters. He spoke of his ministry, “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1). God revealed Himself to Paul through many “visions and revelations...” He wrote of “the abundance of these revelations” through which God progressively un-folded His plan and purpose of the ages and gave Paul this stewardship.
During Paul’s own lifetime many turned away from his special ministry. The tradegy today is that so many since then have also avoided this special revelation of God through this chosen vessel. May we take heed.
Ivan L. Burgener