Friday, July 30, 2010

On Paul's Proclamation of the Mystery of God in Colossians, Ephesians, and 1 Corinthians

In Colossians, Paul proclaims the mystery of God:
[I] present to you the word of God in its fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord's people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. ... [I write] in order that [all] may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (1:25-27; 2:2-3)
In Ephesians, Paul proclaims the mystery of God:
Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. (3:2-6)
In 1 Corinthians, Paul proclaims the mystery of God:
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God's wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they have, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:

"What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived—these things God has prepared for those who love him"—

for God has revealed them to us by his Spirit. (2:6-10)
So what is the mystery? Is it Christ? the church? the Holy Spirit? Which is it?

The mystery of God hidden before all ages but revealed in these last days is the gospel itself, the good news of what has happened in Israel’s Messiah:
  • that God has fulfilled his promises to Israel in the Messiah;
  • that God has inaugurated the new age of the kingdom in the resurrection of his Son and the outpouring of their Spirit;
  • that the sign of the new age in the midst of the old age is the church, the renewed people of God, centered in the Messiah and indwelled by the Spirit, a concrete witness to the reality of the kingdom, in that the alienation between Jew and Gentile (and male and female, slave and free, etc.) has been abolished in the Messiah's cross.
In this way, therefore, the mystery can be truly and wholly named as Christ, as the Spirit, as the church, or indeed as any number of things.

The point is that the good news names an eventthe event—in, by, and through which the living and triune God has acted once and for all to rescue his creation from the powers of sin and death. Any and every reality that identifies or characterizes this action—known and hidden in God for all eternity, but revealed, apocalypsed in the cross and resurrection and the Spirit's advent and the witness of the apostles—may rightly be called “the” mystery of God, inasmuch as it participates in and attests to the reality of the gospel in the midst of the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment