The Mystery Of The Ages, Hidden Until Now (that is, until after Jesus’ resurrection)
What is this mystery?
Jesus referred to it in Matthew 13:35c, “I will utter things that have been hidden since the foundation of the world.” He was quoting from Psalm 78:2
Paul starts talking about it, but he doesn’t exactly explain what it is, in 1 Corinthians 2:1 and 5: “And I came declaring to you the testimonies (some manuscripts say mysteries) of God, that your faith may not lie in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
Then, in verses 7 and 8 he drops another clue about how important this secret or mystery is. “What we are setting forth is a wisdom (or plan) from God once hidden, and now revealed to us by God. None of the rulers of this age recognised this; for if they had they would never have crucified the Lord of glory.”
Finally, in verse 10: “Yet to us God has revealed them (the mysteries) by His Spirit.”
Then verse 12 amplifies this: “Now we have not received the spirit of this world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might realise and appreciate the gifts and blessings so freely bestowed on us by God.”
We often think of a mystery as being something that is too hard to understand, but that is not how scripture uses the word.
The Greek word “musterion” refers to a secret which has been kept hidden only in order that it might be revealed. Although there are several of these mysteries referred to in the New Testament there is one major one explained in Ephesians and Colossians.
Ephesians 3:2 “Assuming that you have heard of God’s grace that was entrusted to me
Ephesians 3:3 “And how the mystery was made known to me
Ephesians 3:4,5 “When you read this you can understand my insight into the mystery of the Christ which was never disclosed to human beings in past generations as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles (special messengers) and prophets:”
In verse 6 Paul explains the first part of the mystery that we, the Gentiles, are fully included in God’s plan of salvation.
But verses 9 and 10 announce a second purpose in this mystery:
“Also to enlighten all men what is the plan of the mystery kept hidden through the ages, that through the church (the body of believers, also called the body of Christ) the many-sided wisdom of God in all its infinite variety might now be made known to the angelic rulers and authorities in the heavenly realm.”
Who are these angelic rulers and authorities in the heavenly realm?
Paul refers to them again in Ephesians 6:12 “For we are not wrestling against flesh and blood (we are not dealing with physical opponents) but against the despotisms, the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly realm.”
In other words, Paul’s job, and our job, is to teach everyone everywhere, through words and actions, that: the church, the body of Christ, has been designed to defeat the work of the enemy in all areas.
Who will be doing this and how will it happen?
Colossians 1:25-27 “I became a minister to make the Word of God fully known, the mystery of which was hidden for ages and generations, but is now revealed to His holy people to whom God was pleased to make known how great are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is, Christ in you.”
Compare this with what Jesus said in John 14:23: “If a person loves Me he will keep My word, and My Father will love Him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
Is it real, is this true, or is it just a spiritual truth? How does it work out for you in the real, physical world?
Verse 28: "Him we preach, instructing everyone in all wisdom, that we may present every person mature (grown up) in Christ Jesus."
How are we supposed to go about “presenting everyone mature in Christ Jesus”?
Ephesians 4:7,8 “Yet grace (a free gift from God, that which He has already given) was given to each of us individually...Therefore it is said, When He ascended on high (at His resurrection) He led captivity captive and He gave gifts to mankind.”
Note the two things: Captivity, the work of the enemy to take captives, was overcome, although we still see people going into captivity. However, any captive can be set free. How?
Through the second part of this exciting verse, and the verses following we see that gifts of ministry have been given to mankind, all of us in fact, so that we can do it. All of us. Not just to pastors or leaders, to all of us.
“He ascended...that He might fill all things.” Verse 10
“And His gifts were some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers.” Verse 11
“His intention was the full equipping of the saints (the believers, the followers, the disciples of Jesus) that THEY should do the work of the ministry, to build up the body of Christ (the church).” Verse 12
Has this ever been done, anywhere in the world, that ordinary people have been taught to do the work of the ministry?
Was this something new? (See Exodus 19:5-6)
Who is meant to be doing the work of the ministry? (See Ephesians 4:12)
Who says that these people should be doing the work of the ministry? (Ephesians 4:7,8)
Did Jesus want to keep all the ministry work for Himself? (Luke 9:1-6)
What examples did Jesus show? Did anyone else minister for Him? (Luke 10:1-24)
“Until we all attain oneness in the faith and accurate knowledge of the Son of God; that we become really mature in all the fullness of Christ. Verse 13
Why is this important?
“So that we might be children no longer, tossed to and fro by every changing wind of doctrine…” Verse 14 We could also add the word “circumstances” after the word “doctrine”.
“Rather, let our lives lovingly express truth in all things. Enfolded in love let us grow up in every way into Him, the Head, who is Christ, the Messiah.” Verse 15
“For because of Him the whole body, joined together by the joints with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, grows to full maturity.” Verse 16
Paul teaches more about the ministry system in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. He describes a number of ministry “workings” that anyone, in fact, everyone, is capable of doing and being involved in.
In Romans 12:4ff (ff means “following verses”) we read: “For as in one physical body we have many parts and all of these parts do not have the same function
“So we, numerous as we are, are one body in Christ (not His name, it is the Greek word for the Hebrew word Messiah) and individually we are parts one of another - mutually dependant on one another. Verse 5
“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them (note that “grace” always refers to “that which God has freely given us”): Verse 6
“Prophecy (God’s message for now), practical service, teaching, encouraging, giving, superintending (overseeing), acts of mercy, love sincerely, love one another, showing honour to one another, always be enthusiastic, be aglow with the (Holy) Spirit, serving the Lord, rejoice, Verses 6-12
“Be steadfast and patient when going through hard times (see the section on Job),
“be constant in prayer (see the section on prayer),
“contribute to the needs of God’s people and practice hospitality,
“bless those who persecute you, do not curse them,
“rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,
“live in harmony with one another,
“do not be high minded or snobbish, never overestimate yourself but readily adjust to humble tasks, Verses 13-16
“Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is honest, aiming to be above reproach in the sight of everyone. Verse 17
“If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (But see Proverbs 16:7) Verse 18
“Never avenge yourselves. If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him drink. Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Verses 19-21
Much, perhaps all of what is written here does not come naturally to us, but is a part of what God has given us to supernaturally deal with life’s issues, for ourselves and others.
Paul talks more about this supernatural ministry in 1 Corinthians 12. He says that supernatural ministry can take place either because God has given us something special (tongues, evangelism, teaching) or prophetic to say (“charisma”), because there is a special job that needs to be done, healing, deliverance, provision (“diakonia”), or overseeing or organising (”energeia”). Verses 4-6:
“But to each one (not just pastors and leaders or people with special ministries - everyone gets in on this!) is being given the manifestation (or demonstration of power) of (Holy) Spirit, to get the job done.” Verse 7
Then he lists some of the different, amazing things that one and the same Holy Spirit is doing in people who are willing:
A message of wisdom, a word of knowledge, wonder-working faith, extraordinary powers of healing, prophetic insight, discerning of spirits, unknown tongues, interpreting tongues, Verses 8-10
Paul then points out that, just like a human body which has many parts all joined together and working as one, so the body of Christ, the church, is meant to have all of these parts functioning together. On the human body the head does not do all the work; in the church body the pastor or leader should not be trying to do all the supernatural ministry by himself. Verses 12-18
Some people have a natural talent for leadership or caring for others, or they give generously by nature. A spiritual manifestation as spoken about in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 is not a natural talent but is given to us by God so that we can work in an area where we are not naturally gifted or talented.
Those who minister in this way (and it is meant to be everyone who names the name of Jesus) find it so exciting (after getting over their fears of “I’ve never done it like this before,” or “What if nothing happens?”) that they cannot wait for the next opportunity for something to happen - they go out and look for opportunities!
This is how the church grows… Note that if a church grows because of your preaching or miracles, when you die the church will probably die also. Churches grow and survive in each generation because the whole body is at work in the supernatural, for the Head who is Jesus.
But what sort of ministry things did Jesus have in mind for us to be doing?
The story continues with "Ministry Like Jesus"