24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for His body, that is, the church. 25 I have become its servant, according to God’s administration that was given to me for you, to make God’s message fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to His saints. 27 God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me. HCSB
Does it strike you as being a little strange how the Spirit inspired Paul to refer to Jesus as God’s mystery? He used this word to describe Jesus and the gospel (the fantastic news) twenty times in his various letters. Paul used this word because Jesus used the same word. When the twelve disciples asked why he spoke in so many parables, Jesus replied: “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to those outside, everything comes in parables...” (Mark 4:11). “Mystery” and “secret” are the same Greek word. This mystery that had been kept secret for thousands of years was revealed to the world in the life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let this reality soak into your brain: you have been shown the secret of who Jesus is by the grace of God through the work of the Spirit opening the eyes of your heart. This is truly amazing grace!
Instead of trying to earn more of God’s favor and grace once we have been shown the mystery, our lives must be about thanking him for letting us in on the secret. You can never earn more of his love through your attempts to be a good follower of Jesus. Obeying his commands is how you demonstrate your love for Jesus. That’s how love for God is expressed; through your obedience to his words. Jesus said; "If you love Me, keep my commands (John 14:15, HCSB). Let gratitude, not entitlement, be your on-going response to his amazing grace.
The mystery goes even further because it encompasses everything about faith in Jesus. Look at v27 again. Part of the mystery of the gospel is that Jesus reconciles sinners to God and to one another. We can’t even imagine how wide the chasm was between the Jews and every other race (Gentile meant any non-Jew). As you read previously in v20, Jesus’ blood sacrifice on the cross created peace between you and God, and between you and every other believer. All followers of Jesus are now one in him. This is a sweeping doctrine of God that must be embraced so that in the Church (the saints worldwide) and in every local church, we can end partiality, biases and prejudices. We are all saints first and foremost. Your nationality, heritage, ethnicity, education, employment, etc. no longer identify who you are, at least it shouldn’t. First and foremost, you are a new creation in Christ with a new identity and so is every other follower of Jesus. Therefore, every time you feel partiality of any kind towards another believer - either superiority or inferiority - confess your wrong thinking and ask your Father to fill you with the full knowledge of his will so that you can see yourself, and everyone else, from his perspective.
Another compelling part of the mystery is that the Lord Jesus Christ is in you (v27). “Wait! Isn't it the Spirit who is in me?” Glad you asked. He is. But because he and the Father and Jesus exist in such unity, the Bible unequivocally states that Christ is in you when in fact it is actually the Spirit of Christ who is in you. Instead of getting a migraine trying to figure that out, simply rest in the reality of it. But wait, there’s more!
Not only is Christ in you, you have the hope of glory. That means you have the absolute certainty that when this life is over, you will join Jesus in your real life, a life in paradise in the stunning glory of his visible presence. The Bible tells us that the Spirit is our guarantee of this sure hope (Ephesians 1:13-14). He's your ticket in and you can't lose that ticket! Every time you face your own mortality, remind yourself of this absolute reality and let the hope of your coming glory replace your fear of death and dying.
Thinking about Paul’s ministry in this passage will help you better understand God’s plans for your role in the Kingdom. God chose Paul to be a very special ambassador for the Kingdom and part of his ministry meant that he would suffer greatly. Paul was often beaten and imprisoned. That was part of God’s plan for Paul. Life in Christ by no means guarantees health, wealth and comfort. Don’t be confused when you face hard times and people make fun of you because of your allegiance to Jesus. It’s part of life in the Kingdom. You will have plenty of difficulties (John 16:33) but you will never face one hardship alone. He is with you and he is in you. And God has a unique plan for every one of his children. Some suffer more than others. Some followers have it easier than others. Don’t waste your time and energy comparing.
Paul wrote that God gave him the ministry to teach and preach so that the message of Jesus would be fully known (v25). Paul was so passionate and driven that he lived as if Jesus was going to return at any moment. And he never ministered in his own strength. As he wrote in v29, his insatiable drive to help believers become mature in Christ was fueled by the powerful strength of God working in and through him.
You were not chosen by God to be an apostle like Paul. But you were just as “chosen” as Paul was, and you were created to do the work of ministry that God has appointed for you. Through your vocation, in your family, among your network of contacts, with your abilities and Spiritual giftedness, you need to be continually strengthened by the Spirit to do your God-given work of ministry. This is why it is so important for you to own the two prayer requests in 1:9-12.
To become mature and live each day in devotion to the Lord, you must be continually infused with his understanding and empowered by his strength. So ask him for both and keep on asking throughout each day. Do the things that God has uniquely gifted and enabled you to do in his power and with the wisdom and insights he gives you through his Spirit. If you need help understanding what your ministry should be, schedule a time to visit with your pastor or one of the other staff members or leaders. Part of becoming mature in Christ is serving in the Kingdom according to how God has wired you. Never compare how you serve in the Kingdom with how others serve. You are unique to God and so are your kingdom responsibilities.
Do you want to know God’s will for your life? Here it is: grow to be mature in Christ! Look at v28 again. Paul’s goal through his teaching was to help every believer become mature in Christ. Like those first believers, you are meant for the same purpose. Therefore, it is essential to understand the basics of maturity in Christ. Your spiritual maturity is diametrically opposed to your emotional and physical maturity.
In this life, growing up to be mature is all about becoming independent and self-sufficient. A mature adult no longer relies on their parents. But in Christ, it’s just the opposite because the more spiritually mature you become, the more dependent you learn to be on your Father. That’s why many believers struggle with becoming mature in Christ. The more you understand and accept your weaknesses, the more you will depend on the power of God. The more you accept that you don’t know it all, the more you’ll realize your need for God to give you his wisdom and understanding. Celebrate and rest in your desperate dependence on God because that’s how you become mature in Christ. After all, he let you in on his secret!
- Use the prayer in 1:9-12 as you practice becoming more mature in Christ.
- Think about ministry as your regular interactions with people. How are you bringing the Kingdom into those relationships. Also, how do you most enjoy serving in your church?
- Identify and jettison anything that prevents you from growing in your maturity in Christ. What do you need to add to your routine in order to grow in maturity. How are you practicing daily dependence on God?