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Mystery:  What is this secret that Paul wrote about?

Gary Googe Nov 22

The apostle Paul wrote about what he called a mystery, certain things that God had kept secret until they were revealed to and through him.  Unfortunately, even as important a subject as this is, it remains a “mystery” to most people.

Ephesians 3:8-10

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable [untraceable] riches of Christ;

What he’s talking about here is that certain truths he speaks of are nowhere to be found in the writings of the prophets.  There’s not even a trace of these truths in their writings.

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers [a reference to the angels] in heavenly places might be known by the church [a reference to believers of this period of history of which we are a part] the manifold wisdom of God, [Emphasis added]

The Greek word for mystery here is MUSTERION which has been transliterated with the word mystery.  Here Paul speaks of things God had kept secret but were finally revealed through him.  These “unsearchable riches” are things God was then going to unveil.  They are “unsearchable” in that these truths cannot be found in the writings of the prophets.  There’s not even a trace of them in their writings.  Yet they are all precious truths that relate to all believers of this present period of history known as the Dispensation of the Grace of God.

Ephesians 3:2-3

If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, [Emphasis added]

These things were all revealed of Christ from His heavenly state, not at all in His earthly ministry when He was here in the fleshTherefore, this is all to do with His heavenly ministry which is quite different from His earthly ministry He had with Israel in times past.  Today, He “knows” us only in this new way.

II Corinthians 5:15-16

15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again [our gospel for today].

16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, [in pre-Paul revelation] yet now henceforth [after the revelation given to Paul] know we him no more. [Emphasis added]

Yes, even the gospel of today, the means by which people are saved, is nowhere to be found in the writings of the Old Testament prophets.  That includes Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  It is not explained anywhere outside the writings of the apostle Paul.

Galatians 1:11-20

11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.

12 For I neither received it of man [speaking of people like the apostles], neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul fully develops this fact in this passage and elsewhere.

13 For ye have heard of my conversation [manner of life] in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God [the pre-Paul church of Israel], and wasted it:

14 And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.

15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,

16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:

17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.

18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. [Emphasis added]

Paul didn’t go to Jerusalem to be instructed of Peter and the Twelve [As some Bible translations mis-translate it from the Greek text], rather Paul instructed them regarding this special revelation, even this gospel which had been a mystery [a secret] kept from the prophets and all.  What happened and what was accomplished by Christ’s death and resurrection was not known to them until it was revealed through Paul.  Peter and the others thought the crucifixion of Jesus was a tragic thing until they learned from Paul what God had accomplished through it.

19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.

20 Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. [Emphasis added]

He says he’s not lying about this because his message, that which he speaks of as his gospel, is different from that of the twelve apostles.  He would not need to say that if it was the same.  That which is given by Paul is OUR gospel today.  Again, it is nowhere revealed and explained outside his writings.  Later in this same letter he calls his message the gospel of the uncircumcision which is different from the gospel of the Twelve known as the gospel of the circumcision.

Galatians 2:7

But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; [Emphasis added]

And bear in mind that if you read these things in other Bible translations, they are frequently wrong, being mistranslated.  This gospel of the uncircumcision that is our gospel for today is laid out clearly in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

I Corinthians 15:1-4

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]

As I’ve noted in other studies, this is why Paul speaks of this as his gospel.

Romans 2:16 [See also Romans 16:25 & II Timothy 2:8]

16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. [Emphasis added]

This is telling us this message was first revealed exclusively to Paul.

I Timothy 1:11

11 According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. [Emphasis added]

There are many aspects of the “mystery” God revealed to Paul.   Let’s note some things about the main features of it.  Altogether they represent numerous blessings that have become ours.

  1. That such a time would come about when God would disclose a secret to us that He had held since before the world began. Understanding this gospel is at the heart of the process of becoming a mature believer in our time.  Without a right understanding of this you won’t go very far at all in spiritual growth.
Romans 16:25-26

25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you [Greek word STERIZO—to strengthen, to bring you to maturity] according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,

Again, “To stablish” is to do with bringing these people [and us] to maturity.

26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets [This is a wrong translation from the Greek text.  It literally says, the prophetic scriptures, not the scriptures of the prophets.  The word “prophets” in this verse is an adjective in the Greek text, not a noun.], according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: [Emphasis added]

  1. That God would turn to the Gentiles for His people and Israel by and large would go through a period of spiritual blindness.
Romans 11:25

25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. [Emphasis added]

I Corinthians 2:7-8

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. [Emphasis added]

  1. That God would end this present dispensation of which we are a part with that which we speak of as the Rapture.
I Corinthians 15:51-54

51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. [Emphasis added]

  1. The mystery truths began to unfold when Israel rejected her promised Messiah. Those blessings were first revealed to the apostle Paul [II Corinthians 12:7].
Acts 13:46-47

46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.

47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. [Emphasis added]

  1. The fact that Jesus Christ would actually indwell all believers, including even Gentiles of our time is a mystery truth.
Colossians 1:25-27

25 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;

26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:

27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: [Emphasis added]

  1. The fact that Gentiles would become fellow-heirs with Israel, being brought into one body of God’s people. 
Ephesians 3:4-6

Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel [Paul’s gospel of the grace of God]: [Emphasis added]

  1. There are things that are not actually said to be mystery truths, but we know they can be so classified because they are not found outside of Paul’s epistles. Here are some examples.
  • The universal indwelling of the Holy Spirit for all.
I Corinthians 6:19

19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

  • The baptism OF the Holy Spirit for all believers [not the Baptism IN the Holy Spirit which was for Israel] that unites us into one body with Christ and other believers of our time forever.
I Corinthians 12:13

13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. [Emphasis added]

Because of opposition we are to pray for courage as we present this gospel of the grace of God and the mystery truths associated with it.

Ephesians 6:18-20

18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,

20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. [Emphasis added]

The revelation of these mystery truths marks the conclusion of the revealed Word of God.  Tradition tells us that the apostle John did this with his writing of the book of Revelation.  But the Scriptures tell us Paul did this with his revelation of the mystery.

Colossians 1:24-29

24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:

25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil [Greek word—PLEROO—to fulfill or to bring to completion] the word of God;

26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:

27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

Note also that this information provides the means to an understanding of those things that are essential for one’s attainment of spiritual maturity.

28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect [Greek word TELEIOO meaning full grown—mature] in Christ Jesus:

29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily. [Emphasis added]

The presentation of the mystery truths always results in conflict and opposition.  This is perfectly normal and to be expected in the Christian life.  If you’re not experiencing some conflict and opposition, you need to re-evaluate your message and ministry.

II Timothy 3:12

12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. [Emphasis added]

Colossians 2:1-3

1 For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;

That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;

3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. [Emphasis added]

Prayer is needed for opportunities to present these truths, as well as in facing the conflict and opposition that is sure to come over these secret [mystery] truths.  Therefore, there needs to be prayer for boldness despite the conflict and opposition.

Colossians 4:3-4

Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:

That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. [Emphasis added]

These truths of the mystery are so important that knowing and understanding them is made a qualification for church leadership. 

I Timothy 3:8-9

Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;

Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience [without reservations]. [Emphasis added]

It is because of all the ignorance to this truth regarding the mystery given to Paul that we have so much division among those who profess to be God’s people.

Concluding Remarks:

  1. To most of God’s people today, the mystery truths God revealed through the apostle Paul remain “a mystery.”
  2. Ignorance and misunderstanding of the mystery truths is the basic cause for so much of the division in the church today. This is because so many refuse to accept the uniqueness of Paul’s ministry and message.
  3. The fact that God was going to interrupt His prophesied program with Israel came as a complete surprise to the twelve apostles and all others at that time.
  4. Even Peter and the other apostles were told to go to Paul for a complete understanding of this new program that had been a mystery until that time.
II Peter 3:15-16

15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;

16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. [Emphasis added]

  1. The fact that most of the church today spends so little time in the study of Paul’s epistles makes it clear as to why there’s so much ignorance and misunderstanding about God’s will for us in our time.
  2. Paul initially made great strides in evangelism and in leading many people into the full knowledge of the mystery doctrines.
Acts 19:26-27

26 Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands:

27 So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. [Emphasis added]

  1. However, near the end of Paul’s ministry and life nearly everyone had rejected his teaching, including these mystery doctrines. It should, therefore, not be a surprise to us that we will experience much the same rejection.
II Timothy 1:15

15 This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. [Emphasis added]

I Timothy 4:10

10 For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. [Emphasis added]

  1. We are warned that all who live godly lives can expect suffering because of these mystery truths we believe. And we can only expect this to get worse.
II Timothy 3:12

12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; [Emphasis added]

  1. Because of such intense persecution, Paul requested that believers pray for him that he might have courage to carry on in the presentation of the mystery truths our Lord had revealed to him.
Romans 15:30-31

30 Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;

31 That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; [Emphasis added]

Ephesians 6:18-20

18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,

20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. [Emphasis added]

  1. Despite all the rejection, like Paul, we can expect fabulous reward for our faithfulness to the mystery truths.
II Timothy 4:1-8

1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

Preach [proclaim] the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. [Emphasis added]

Where will you stand in all this?  


         All such decisions you make will affect your reward in heaven.

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