The Ultimate Mystery: What is the Mystery of God? + Is There Swearing in the Bible? #245
Hello everybody and welcome to another Friday edition of the Bible Reading Podcast. Today we are talking about a mystery – not a Sherlock Holmes kind of mystery, but one even better than that. Some of you old-timers will recall that this podcast used to be called “The Bible Mystery Podcast.” Which was actually a very good name – much better than the generic name we have now, but its at least fairly descriptive – you know what you’re getting into based on the name. Before we get to our mystery, though – I want to briefly talk about 1st Samuel again, and ask the question: are there bad/swear/cuss words in the Bible? And, of course, there aren’t any modern bad swear words in the Bible, unless you count the KJV’s use of the alternate term for donkey, which I don’t, but I do think you might have an instance of somebody using some pretty bad language today in 1st Samuel. King Saul has let jealousy wrack his heart, as Saul/Paul would warn about centuries later, that jealousy ultimately turned into a bitter root that defiled many, which caused Saul to curse his son Jonathan (and his wife) at lunch, when Saul’s plan to kill David was thwarted again. Does Saul’s epithet count as swearing? I’d say so, especially if you read it in the NLT translation (or the Douay-Rheims.) But we’re not talking about cussing today, as they say in the south. We’re talking about a beautiful mystery. Let’s read 1 Corinthians 2 and then come and discuss what mystery it is that Paul is referring to.
When I came to you, brothers and sisters, announcing the mystery of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom…We do, however, speak a wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age, or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 On the contrary, we speak God’s hidden wisdom in a mystery, a wisdom God predestined before the ages for our glory.
2nd Corinthians 2:1 and 6-7
We don’t have to wait long for the mystery to show up – Paul says that he came to the Corinthians announcing the mystery of God. The CSB translators made an interesting choice to use ‘mystery’ in vs. 1, as the Greek word there is the word for bearing witness or testimony. Vs. 7 in the Greek however uses the more familiar word for mystery, ‘μυστήριον mystḗrion,‘ of which our English word is obviously etymologically connected to. So Paul comes to the Corinthians and proclaims the mystery of God…which is an interesting phrase, isn’t it?! What is this mystery of God? The good news is that we don’t even have to put on our deerstalker hat to solve this, because Paul speaks frequently elsewhere of this mystery, and gives us more of an idea what he is talking about in other passages:
And most certainly, the mystery of godliness is great: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. 1 Timothy 3:16
1 Timothy gives us a blaring clue as to what this mystery is, and then Colossians 2 brings it home for us:
For I want you to know how greatly I am struggling for you, for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me in person. 2 I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of complete understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ. 3 In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
JESUS is the mystery of God – but what in the world does that mean? How is Jesus a mystery? Great question, let’s go back to Paul and hear his answer:
25 I have become its [the church’s] servant, according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God 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.
Now we’re getting somewhere! Jesus is the mystery of God, and part of the reason He is the mystery of God is because this plan of God, which was predestined to happen before the world began according to our 1 Corinthians passage today, was hidden to the world until the coming of Jesus. In other words, even before the fall of man happened in the Garden of Eden, The Triune God knew what was coming, and knew that the coming of Jesus and His death and resurrection were the only solution. So for hundreds of years of biblical history – the people of God turning away from God and returning to Him after discipline and then turning away again and again – God always knew that the solution was coming – Jesus was coming. He would live the life we should have lived, die the death we should have died and then send His Spirit into us to be the great hope of the world – Christ in us the hope of glory.
Ephesians 3 is probably the passage in the Bible that goes deepest into this mystery of Jesus, so let’s read a part of it:
For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that he gave me for you. 3 The mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have briefly written above. 4 By reading this you are able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ. 5 This was not made known to people in other generations as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6 The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 I was made a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power.
8 This grace was given to me—the least of all the saints—to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of Christ, 9 and to shed light for all about the administration of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things. 10 This is so that God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens. 11 This is according to his eternal purpose accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him we have boldness and confident access through faith in him.
This is one of the deepest passages in the entire Bible, but here Paul basically outlines the focus and goal of his entire ministry. The mystery of Jesus was NOT made known to the prophets and saints in prior generations before His Advent, but has been made known now. One of the beautiful facets of this mystery is that Jesus would come and die to save not just the Israelites, but also the Gentiles – all of the rest of the world. Paul’s ministry is to proclaim the mystery of Christ to all of the Gentiles, but that mystery is also being proclaimed through the church to all of the spiritual authorities in the heavens – angels, demons and all spiritual beings. Our job, then, is to also proclaim this mystery throughout the ages – proclaiming Jesus not only to humans but to all of creation – seen and unseen! As we walk in this eternal purpose we are enabled to continue and overcome because we have boldness and confident access to the throne room of God by the door opened by Jesus.
So – what is the mystery of God? Jesus – His plan from the beginning of time to save the world and make us co-heirs with Christ the King. This mystery is our message to a lost and dying world until Christ the King returns. Amen.