By David A. DePra
Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 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: (Col 1:25-27)
The MYSTERY of God is CHRIST IN US, the hope of glory. Of course, the English word, “mystery,” does not convey Paul’s intended use. Today, a, “mystery,” is something hidden and impossible to fully understand. Paul actually uses the original word with the opposite intent – Christ in us was NOT understood in previous ages, but is NOW revealed. Indeed, in the very passage he points out that fact. He says, “This mystery has been hid from ages and from generations, but NOW is made manifest to His saints……which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
There are many other aspects of the Christian life that emerge from the reality of Christ in us. Sure. God has wrapped up all things in His Son, and it is only as we know Him that we know everything else. Even things like Christian growth are not separate from Christ. In fact, we are to be formed together with Christ – HE is to be made manifest in and through us. It isn’t US becoming better people. It is US being crucified out of the way so that He might be seen.
Probably the understatement of the ages would be to say that, “Christianity is about Jesus Christ.” Well, it is. It’s important to realize that, because Christianity has become about so much else! It has become about, “going to church,” or, “being in the ministry,” or about, “earning from God.” And yet no matter what we try to make out of Christianity, if we are not centered in Christ, what we make will be of the flesh. It will be from us, for us, and will end up missing the whole point.
The Mystery of Christ
The MYSTERY OF CHRIST is actually the REVELATION of Christ. If we read a few of the passages where the mystery is mentioned, you will see that this is true, and that all things emerge from God’s revelation of Christ, not only TO us, but IN US.
Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 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: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: (Col 1:26-28)
Here we again see that the mystery of God is CHRIST IN US, and that while this was NOT known to previous generations, starting with the original day of Pentecost in Acts 2, Christ in us was a reality – it was now a revealed mystery.
Likewise note that there is a purpose wrapped up in Christ in us – Paul says that each man might be presented mature in Christ. Sure. Christ in us is NOT a legal classification or a religious condition. It is a spiritual union with Jesus Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is a living reality. Thus, there is going to be a great impact of Christ in us. I mean, do we think we could actually have the Son of God dwelling in us and there not be a tremendous impact? No. It will take time, but there will be a great upheaval and adjustment in every way. In short, if we are born again in Christ, He will want to grow to manifest Himself through us.
Note also that one of the things Paul keeps saying in these passages is that Christ in us was NOT made known to previous generations. This is a vital point to see, for it tells us the big difference between the OLD and NEW Covenants. Before Pentecost, no one is ever said to be born again, indwelt by Christ, or by the Holy Spirit, or a new creation in Christ. Instead, they were saved by the same Christ – howbeit looking ahead – and yet under the Old Covenant. Jesus stated clearly that this was so. He said, “The Holy Spirit has been WITH you, but He shall be IN you.” (John 14:17)
The writer of Hebrews, whose purpose was, in large part, to show the great distinction between covenants, quotes Jeremiah on this matter. He says,
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. (Heb 8:7-12)
Any one who thinks that there was no important difference between the OLD and NEW covenants needs to read this passage. God Himself tells us that there is a HUGE difference. And then He tells us exactly what the difference is. He says, “I will write my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts. ALL shall know me.” That is the difference – an INWARD reality. This is nothing more than a prophetic reference to CHRIST IN US – it is a prophecy of the great mystery that was not revealed to prior generations, but would be when the church started in Acts 2. While the Old Covenant had its God given laws and ordinances, and people could be legally saved by entering into that covenant with God, the NEW Covenant is Christ Himself – IN US. Under the OT, God gave His laws. Under the NT, God gave HIMSELF.
So, if you look at many of these passages on the MYSTERY of God in Christ, you will find this as a theme – prior ages did not know about Christ in us, the hope of glory – except maybe in shadow or type. But NOW, this is not only revealed, but it is THE gospel. It is what God is doing. In addition, you will find that because of Christ in us, and only because of Him in us, is God working great purposes in His people.
Now to him that is of power to establish you 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, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: (Rom 16:25-26)
All Things in Christ
Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (Eph 1:9-10)
The phrase, “gather together in one all things in Christ,” might seem a bit strange to us. Of course, there is much in that meaning. God intends to put all enemies under the feet of Christ – He will be Lord of all. But more than that, all those who will come to Him when light is given to them – all who believe will come under His Redemption. According to every place in the Bible where there is any description given of those who are saved, we are spoken of as being ONE WITH CHRIST, and ONE IN CHRIST. There is no concept of salvation given in the NT except that it be the result of being one with Christ.
Jesus said, “I am the LIFE.” Well, once we grasp that, we can see why salvation is the result – and only the result – of being one with Him. If you are one with Christ, you are one with LIFE HIMSELF. That makes you alive. Period.
What we see here is that God does not give us a THING called, “eternal life,” or merely a classification called, “saved.” No. He gives us Christ, and HE IS the life. The Truth is, there is NOTHING God has for us that is not wrapped up in Christ – and it all starts with LIFE. Note this as a constant revelation in the NT:
When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Col 3:4)
Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)
In him was life; and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4)
There are certainly LEGAL aspects, and LEGAL descriptions of the redemption and of salvation. Paul uses them in Romans and Galatians. They are valid and essential, because God cannot violate morality or any legal requirement of His own law. And we need to understand them. But the legal aspects of redemption are only valid because they are pointing to, and explaining, a REALITY.
For example, consider the wonderful doctrine of justification by faith. We are justified by faith – made right with God – solely on the basis of what Jesus Christ has done FOR US. God has imputed to Jesus our sin, and has imputed to us His righteousness. This is true. But if you will notice, there is nothing about this justification by faith that changes us. All it does is change our legal standing before God – but it does not change us. In other words, if God merely declared us righteous because of Christ that would not, of itself, give us any provision by which we could become righteous. And if that were all there was to redemption, God could be accused of declaring us righteous as a license to sin.
The Truth about justification by faith is that God is able to declare us righteous, solely upon the redemption of Christ, because it is through this same declaration that God also imparts to us Christ Himself. In other words, yes, God IMPUTES to us the righteousness of Christ. But this is only MORAL AND REAL because God is likewise IMPARTING to us Christ Himself. In short, if Christ is in us, God is telling the Truth when He imputes to us the righteousness of Christ, for HE IS our righteousness.
Christ in us is the only righteousness we have. But note – this is not God make US righteous as individuals apart from Christ, or merely declaring us righteous legally. No. It is God GIVING us the embodiment of all righteousness in the Person of His Son. When Christ comes to dwell in us, righteousness comes to dwell in us, and therefore, when God declares us righteous, He is telling the TRUTH!
That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord. (1 Cor 1:29-31)
There is, of course, a Christian life to live – but not to get more of Christ, or to maintain Christ. Rather, just as Paul wrote to the Philippians – we are to WORK OUT our salvation, or better said, we are to LIVE IT OUT. Instead of trying to work FOR salvation, we are to LIVE OUT what God has put in us through His grace.
There is perhaps no better verse under which to gather all of this together than Gal. 2:20:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
Paul both knew and taught legal justification by faith. And he continually taught all that Christ had done FOR HIM. But here we see the deeper Truth behind it all. Rather than say, “Christ was crucified FOR ME,” Paul says, “I am crucified WITH CHRIST.” Rather than say, Christ was raised FOR me,” Paul says, “Christ live IN ME.” Rather than say, “I live by the law,” Paul says, “I live by the faith of the Son of God.” The deeper Truth does not negate the lesser Truth, indeed, the two are as one. Christ is in us, and because of that, everything else, legal Truth and all else, falls into place. Christ IS our life – and then the Christian doctrine emerges to explain these Truths from a variety of different angles.
The Revelation of Christ
You will notice that all through these many passages about the mystery of Christ there is the constant theme that Christ in us is now a REVEALED Truth. Sure. In fact, unless God reveals Christ to us personally, we have no possibility of knowing Him. Through natural birth we have no capacity or material to work with in seeing Jesus.
Even most Christians don’t realize that we are born in to this world with NO Truth in us, and with NO way of getting it. Jesus Christ said, “I am the Truth,” and thus, if Christ is not in us, then Truth is not in us. It is that simple.
The problem here is that many Christians think that Truth is a list of teachings and doctrines. Well, if our teaching and doctrine is Biblically sound, then it is a statement of Truth – it is an explanation of it. Doctrine tells us what to believe, and how to believe it. Doctrine tells us ABOUT Christ. But doctrine isn’t Christ. Indeed, Biblical doctrine also tells us that Truth comes by revelation, not brain power. In short, any one can develop a list of doctrine from the Bible. This is good. But only the Holy Spirit can reveal to us what it means by experience. He does this by revealing Christ.
All through scripture we are told that we can know Christ only by revelation:
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (Mat 16:15-17)
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, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) (Eph 3:2-4)
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: (Gal 1:15-16)
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:26-27)
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. (John 16:13-14)
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. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor 2:7-14)
The only possible way in which you and I can know Christ personally – and I am NOT talking about salvation, I am talking about KNOWING Him after we are saved – is if God reveals Him to us. Thus, the question becomes: How does God do that, and what is necessary for Him to do it?
The key is found in the verse, “In Him was life, and that life was the LIGHT of men.” (Jn. 1:4) In other words, as someone once noted, the LIGHT is in the LIFE. Thus, the key to seeing Christ through revelation is LIFE.
Well, how do you become enlarged in the life of Christ? He is already IN YOU as much as He is going to be if you are saved. But how does He grow; how does His life expand? Through YOUR death. Thus, we have a little formula, if you will: My death = His life in me = light (knowing Him.)
Paul said this to the Corinthians:
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. (2 Cor 4:8-12)
And is this not what Paul was alluding to in Galatians 2:20?
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
Is not the principle of LIFE from DEATH what Paul said was his own experience in the epistle to the Philippians:
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Phil 3:7-11)
And finally, is this not the overall principle for LIFE that Jesus continually taught His disciples?:
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Mat 16:24-25)
The bottom line is this: If we want to grow in the LIFE, we have to relinquish OUR life into the hands of God for HIS will and purpose. But if we do, then we will not only get an enlargement of LIFE, but an enlargement of LIGHT, for it is ALL JESUS. Christ isn’t a theological concept. If you know His life, then you will know LIGHT – for in Him is LIFE, and that LIFE is the LIGHT of men. To put it in most simple terms, if you want to KNOW HIM, surrender to Him.
To KNOW HIM was Paul’s constant desire for the church:
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, (Eph 1:15-18)
By definition, the mystery of God cannot be dragged down from heaven by brain power, or by human righteousness, or merit of any kind. Rather, it must be given of God through revelation. Thankfully, He is ever seeking to do this through the Holy Spirit. Fundamental to this purpose is that He desires to bring His people to the place where they will lose their right to their lives into His hands. If we will, then we will not only find true life in Christ, but we will find CHRIST HIMSELF. We will find LIGHT and TRUTH. And we will be set free.
All of this goes back to the fact that the great mystery of God is CHRIST HIMSELF – indeed, it is Christ in us, the hope of glory. But no longer is this a hidden mystery. It is a revealed one. The entire gospel and preaching of Truth stands upon the foundation that God has chosen to reveal Himself – not only TO people, but IN people. Christ is the means by which God has done this.