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Monday, May 24, 2010

Continuing in Prayer, Part 2: The Mystery of Christ

Continuing in Prayer, Part 2: The Mystery of Christ

At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison — that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Colossians 4:3-4 (ESV)

It seems odd at first glance to see Paul describing the gospel as a mystery. For modern readers, a mystery is what hides a crime. Why would Paul use this word?

What do you think? Describe your experience before coming to Christ. In what way was the gospel a mystery to you?

Mystery: mysterion (a secret), from muo (shut the mouth), through the idea of silence imposed by initiation into religious rites. We use the words, mum or mute, as well as mystery - all related to this same Greek word.

Jesus referred to His parables as the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, truth that is not available unless explained by the Spirit of God. (Matthew 13)

Understanding hidden truth from God is a spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 13). Paul recognized the need for God's Holy Spirit to teach us, but also saw clearly God's desire to verbalize that truth through the ministry of people. God uses people to preach the truth, which requires God's Spirit to enable people to understand that truth.

Paul first mentioned the mystery of Christ to the Colossians in the first chapter:

I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:25-27 (ESV)

Truth is truth. Since eternity, Christ as Creator and Redeemer has been an established fact. But truth that is not known or understood is a mystery. God has deliberately kept this truth hidden until the right time. The coming of Jesus Christ to earth was the unveiling of hidden truth: Jesus is Lord, our hope of glory.

Since it is God's Spirit Who reveals truth and makes human hearts to see and love the truth, we would expect a preacher or teacher to enjoy an easy, successful ministry, right?

In the second chapter of Paul's letter to the Colossian church, he says that his ministry is a struggle:

I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:1-3 (ESV)

What is this struggle that Paul describes?

Struggle: agon (an assembly or contest, implying an effort or anxiety.) It is related to the English word, agony.

Paul admits to facing tremendous conflict and anxiety as he obeys Christ in his ministry of preaching the truth. Despite knowing that it is God's Spirit Who must do a supernatural work in the hearts of his hearers, Paul still must go through the real, earthy, gritty task of competing with human philosophy, ignorance, rebellion, apathy, lust and delusions.

And so Paul pleads for the Colossian church to support him in prayer, that God would indeed do the supernatural work of opening doors and providing clear arguments.

Door: thyra (a portal or entrance). We use the word thyroid because the gland that has a large influence over our growth is shaped like an arched door or shield.

The door-shaped, shield-like thyroid gland can remind us of the need for God's Spirit to supernaturally open our hearts and minds to His truth, allowing us to grow and mature. Paul knew that, as a human, he could not open a person's door to spiritual understanding, although God had commanded him to bring the message of truth. Paul knew that God alone can open hearts and minds, and so he asks Christians to surround themselves with this attitude of dependence upon God's Holy Spirit: Pray for me!

What do you think? In serving the Lord, has it been your tendency to gradually drift into complacency, waiting for God to initiate opportunities, or has your tendency been to run ahead of the Lord, relying upon your natural talents, volunteering for too many projects?