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. (Colossians 1:27)
I love a mystery. I enjoy a baffling exceptionally well-written mystery.
Authentic Christianity is an inexplicable mystery to many people. That is because Christ is a mystery. Because of our intimate personal relationship with Him we are a mystery to the world. Those who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ will not and cannot be expected to understand the true Christian until they, too, have a saving knowledge of Him.
- W. Tozer got to the heart of this mystery when he wrote that Christians are crazy in Roots of Righteousness:
“A real Christian is an odd number anyway. He feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen, talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see, expects to go to heaven on the virtue of Another, empties himself in order to be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up, is strong when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest, and happiest when he feels worst. He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and knows that which passes knowledge.”
Christians are meant to be different, and we are in good company.
Can you imagine Christ in all His glorious riches actually dwelling through His Spirit in our lives right now? God’s goal is to make us in all respects just like Christ. God is at work. He is sovereign. He is busy changing lives and the way He does it is a mystery.
TELL ME A MYSTERY
Paul uses the word “mystery” not as we do in our day, but in the context of his day and age. The word “mystery” in the Scriptures is a secret, a truth undiscoverable, except by divine revelation. It is a fact that cannot be understood in detail without divine help. It cannot be known by natural abilities and mental powers. It was a truth that was hidden in the counsels of God down through the ages and generations until God in His grace chose to make it known to mankind by divine revelation. The apostle Paul says, “the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints” (Col. 1:26). It was concealed from angels and men until God revealed it. The only way of knowing this “mystery” is through a self-revelation of God to man. God revealed a great mystery to the apostle Paul. God made it visible or known to man.
If Paul has in mind the heathen use of “mystery” whose secrets were kept confined in a strict narrow circle of initiated members of their society, then he tells us that the Christian mystery in Christ is just the opposite because it is fully declared and proclaimed in the open to everyone in the world. God has revealed His deep secret to all mankind by means of His special revelation. There are no secrets with God. He has fully revealed Himself in Christ. The deep mystery is that God has granted free admission of all Gentiles on equal terms with the Jewish believers to all the privileges of the covenant. God has now told His secret to all His saints. God’s riches are no longer limited by national ties. God has done this according to the riches of His grace.
The context of this great passage on God’s mystery in Christ is the church as the body of Christ (Col. 1:24). For some it is strange to say that the apostle can “rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.” The apostle had learned the joy in Christ in times of suffering (Phil. 4:4). In fact, verse 24 is a great outburst of thanksgiving to God for the privilege of suffering “on behalf of His body.”
There is a sense of purpose in his experience. “I am filling up in my turn the left-overs of the tribulations of Christ in my flesh.” Genuine Christians are strange, indeed.
Does Paul’s suffering have any atoning value for his sins? No. Do our sorrows have any atoning value for our sins? No, of course not. We do not come adding any virtue or merit to the completed work of Christ. Christ’s work of atonement for sin is complete. It was completed when Christ declared from the cross, “It is finished!” We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
The Christian’s suffering is on a different level from that endured by Christ on the cross. Punishment for sin is not in view here. The sufferings of Christ alone have atoning value for the sinner. Ours do not. It is part of our stewardship. We suffer troubles, afflictions, tribulations and persecutions because of our identification with Christ (Matt. 5:10-12). The afflictions of the church are also the afflictions of Christ (Acts 9:4-5). The person who persecutes the church persecutes Christ. When believers suffer, Christ suffers.
It is this stewardship as a member of the family of God that he was “made a minister” on behalf of the church. God assigned him the task of fully proclaiming God’s message to the known world. The call of God was to preach without reserve the whole gospel of God to the ends of the earth. Paul now proceeds to tell us about that great responsibility that was thrust upon him and every Christian minister (Col. 1:25).
THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST IN YOU
In Jesus Christ are summed up everything we can know about God and His eternal purposes. In Christ we see the riches of God’s glory, wisdom and grace (Rom. 9:23; 11:33; Eph. 1:7, 18; 2:7; 3:16; Phil. 4:19).
Christ is a mystery
The gospel is a mystery of mysteries. Christ is Himself the grand mystery of redemption. It is the majestic secret of God with us. It is the glorious manifestation of God’s dealings with mankind. The Holy Spirit takes the revealed Word of God and illumines us individually. We are made gloriously wealthy by this mystery.
- H. Spurgeon said: “Each separate individual must have Christ revealed to him and in him by the work of the Holy Spirit, or else he will remain in darkness even in the midst of the gospel day. Blessed and happy are they to whom the Lord has laid open the divine secret which prophets and kings could not discover, which angels desired to look into.
“Without controversy,” said the apostle Paul, “great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.” The Lord Jesus is crowned with “glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” He is “the brightness of the Father’s glory.” We have “unsearchable riches in Christ” because “in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”
As Spurgeon noted: “Oh, the riches of the grace of God which it has pleased the Father to impart unto us in Christ Jesus! Christ is the ‘mystery,’ the ‘riches,’ and the ‘glory.’ He is all this . . . He is all this among us poor Gentiles . . . and we are made heirs of God. . . . All things are ours in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The essence of the mystery is Christ Himself in His person. It is Christ in all His glorious riches actually dwelling through His Spirit in the inner lives of His believers.
The incarnation of Christ is a mystery
The incarnation of Christ is a deep mystery. It was born in the unsearchable wise mind of God. The idea of “Immanuel, God with us” was conceived in the omnipotent omniscient mind of God. Every regenerated mind delights in this vital union between God and man.
The apostle Paul tells us another mystery. Let the quotable Spurgeon say it for us. “Our Lord’s person is at this day constituted in the same manner. He is still God and man; still He can sympathize with our manhood to the full, for He is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh; and yet He can help us without limit, seeing He is equal with the Father. Though manifestly divine, yet Jesus is none the less human; though truly man, He is none the less divine, and this is the door of hope to us, a fountain of consolation which never ceases to flow.”
Very God-very man. God incarnate became a vicarious substitute for sin and died and rose again.
The death of Christ is a mystery
Since the incarnation is a great mystery we are ever mindful of the great mystery of His death. That the Son of God should die as a substitute for our sins is quite beyond us. He humbled Himself and became a servant, and died as our substitute on a cross. He bore our terrible load of sin on the cross that we might never bear the Father’s righteous wrath. He took the cup of wrath that we ought to have drunk forever and drained it dry. He bore our punishment in His death. He redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. Moreover, He has made everything right and safe for us with God the Father by making an end of sin and an everlasting righteousness on our behalf with the Father. The finished work of Jesus Christ is a grand mystery. Jesus Christ is all my righteousness. He is all my salvation and all my desire.
The resurrection and ascension of Christ is a grand mystery
On the other hand since He is the second person of the Godhead, the Son of God, the eternal Word of God, should we be in the least surprised that He should rise from the dead?
Jesus Christ “is the firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18). He overcame death and passed to His sovereign throne at the right hand of the Father in heaven where He reigns as the living Lord. He has overcome death. He is alive!
Since you are a believer you have been raised up with Christ, therefore keep on constantly seeking the things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God the Father.
A total change took place in our outlook when we came into personal contact with Jesus Christ. There was a time when we were “alienated from God” and we were “dead in trespasses and sin.” We began and ended each day without any serious thought about God and His will for our lives. He was not important to us. We were hostile toward God. But something happened in our lives. Now we are reconciled to God. Now He is our most valued person. Something happened within us. Something changed our attitude toward Jesus Christ. In the moment we believed on Jesus Christ our whole life changed. God is in the business of changing lives and He does it when we repent of our sins and believe on Christ as our Savior. What happened? We were born again. A spiritual birth took place and Christ came within you and the Holy Spirit made you His temple. If you need your life changed that is where you must begin. It begins when you open your heart to Christ and receive Him as Lord.
Every believer has stamped in him, “Made in Christ.” That means there are no cheap imitations of Christians. The crowning work of redemption is conforming the believer into the image of Christ (Gal. 4:1).
The greatest miracle is Christ in you
“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The grandest mystery of all Paul tells us is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Christ in me creates the “hope of glory.”
- T. Robertson stresses the idea of the preposition en here is “in” not “among.” The context requires that we understand the phrase as referring to an inner subjective experience. The mystery long hidden is not a diffusion of Christ among the Gentiles. It is the indwelling of Christ in His people, both Jewish and Gentile. The declared “hope of glory” of both is “Christ in you.” Paul has in mind the indwelling Christ in the heart of every believer. Though “among you” makes good sense, it is more probable “in you” or “within” (cf. Rom. 8:10; 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 3:17). It is the personal experience of the living presence of Christ in the individual life of the believer that is the mystery of mysteries.
Ephesians 3:17 tells us Christ “dwells in your hearts.” The central fact of an intimate personal relationship with Christ is this great truth of “Christ in you.” This indwelling constitutes “the hope of glory” for every believer. Jesus is the Shekinah glory of God, and He shines in our hearts so that we see the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:6, 16; 1 Jn. 3:2-3).
The Christian has experienced the superior light and knowledge of Jesus Christ and all other religious experiences and claims of the Gnostics and secret mystery religions fade into nothing when compared to the inward knowledge of an intimate love relationship with Him.
The first Adam headed up the human race and stood for us, and fell for us, and we fell in him. How marvelous that the second Adam took up within Himself all His people and stood for us and kept the covenant with God the Father so that now every blessing of that new covenant is infallibly secure to all who are risen in Him.
“Whatever Christ is His people are in Him. They are crucified in Him, they were dead in Him, they were buried in Him, they were risen in Him; in Him they live eternally, in Him they sit gloriously at the right hand of God, “who has raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.’ In Him “we are accepted in the beloved,’ both now and forever; and this, I say, is the essence of the gospel; he who does not preach Christ, preaches no gospel. . . . Christ Himself is the life, soul, substance, and essence of the mystery of the gospel of God” (Spurgeon).
Anything short of Jesus Christ will leave you short of salvation. You have to reach Christ, and touch Christ and nothing short of this will save you.
Jesus gives us Himself. To have Christ is to have eternal life. He does not merely give us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption etc., but He is made of God all these things to us. He is our life. Therefore, we cannot do without Him.
The Christian experience heightens every individual power we have. Keep in mind the person in whom Christ begins to possess does not cease to be himself. He does not become a robot. This is not some pantheistic philosophy Paul is teaching.
“Christ in me” means that He is bearing me along from within. His motive-power carries me on giving my whole life a wonderful sense of God’s presence. It gives me life with an endless song in my heart.
This blessed union with Christ is a vital union with God. The more a person is “in Christ” the more he is “in God.” To be united with Christ is to be united with the God who raised Him (Rom. 8:11; Col. 2:12). The heart of Paul’s fellowship with Christ is found in his certainty that “God was in Christ.” The believer is risen with Christ through faith of the operation of God who raised Him from the dead. The apostle John says, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).
It is Christ in you or within you that gives us the riches of His glory. The mystery is the indwelling Christ in Gentiles. It was not a mystery to the Jewish people that the Messiah should come and dwell among His people. That was their great hope. However, that the Messiah of Israel should dwell among the non-Jews was an entirely new revelation of the purposes of God. Christ freely given to the Gentiles is the mystery. Christ now indwells in His people, regardless of whether they are Jewish or non-Jewish.
Christ in you
Christ in you accepted by faith alone means Christ possessed. When Christ is in you the law has nothing more to say to you. It can no longer condemn you because God has declared you acquitted. You have been justified by faith in Christ.
Christ in you means Christ experienced in all His power. Christ in you fills your life with His holy presence and power. That which the law can never do, Christ does by indwelling in you.
Christ in you is His sovereign rule in your life. Christ in you is Christ’s scepter from the center of your being over every facet of your personality. Christ in you is His power bringing every thought into captivity to Himself. Christ in you means the imperial sovereignty of Jesus Christ over your life. We find our freedom by being in submission to His sovereign hand over our lives.
Christ in you means His filling you with His wonderful presence. Christ in you transforms your person until you become like Christ.
When Christ enters into our lives and we yield to His presence He transforms, elevates us to His likeness. The apostle Paul declared, “I live, yet not I, Christ lives in me.” When Christ enters in He sanctifies us, and sets us apart for His glory.
Christ in you means He enters into us and becomes our life.
Christ in you means His power in you. We were without spiritual strength until Christ came into our lives. We were dead in trespasses and sins. Now our spiritual victory is guaranteed.
Christ in you means we are spiritually rich. We were in spiritual poverty until Christ came in and now we have all the riches of Christ Jesus. We are now rich because He is rich.
Christ in you means honor and glory. He glorifies the place where He dwells even for a moment. If Christ comes into your heart His whole court comes with Him! Rejoice for you have Him as a holy guest. People who value and love Him cannot be happy without Him.
OUR HOPE OF GLORY
The indwelling Christ is the ground for the expectation of glory both now and the future. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The word “glory” points to the great consummation in God’s eternal purpose, and is a comprehensive word for God’s glorious presence with His people.
The wealth of glory for the believer is this mystery among the Gentiles which is Christ. Our ground of hope is “Christ in you.”
- R. Vincent says, “The full glory of the inheritance was a hope, to be realized when Christ should appear. Glory refers to the glory of the mystery; hence the glory consummated at Christ’s coming” the glory which shall be revealed.”
The glorified saints around the throne of God have no higher source of joy than the saints on earth. They have no higher theme or song of praise to the Father. They are only happier because their discovery of these things is more complete and are now freed from all earthly hindrances and limitations that interrupt our enjoyment in our present state.
Christ alone is our foundation for the blessed hope in the future, or eschatological glory. The fact that we now have Christ in us is the pledge of final glory when Christ returns. This glory is yet future. We will share in the yet future full manifestation of God’s glory in Christ.
Jesus Christ focuses our minds and desires on that which is above in heaven and the eternal future. Christ in you gets eternity into the picture. He gets our minds off our past through the forgiveness of our sins and into the present as He lives within us and into the future as we concentrate on our blessed hope in Him alone. “Christ in you” energizes the present and gives us a song to sing. Lord Jesus, will I see You today? Even so, come!
Paul wrote in Colossians 3:4, “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory.”
The apostle Paul prayed that this great truth would become a reality for the believers in the church at Ephesus. He prayed, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19). That will take your breath away! When Christ in you offers all of those glorious benefits why in the world do people go turning to new age movements, secret mystery religions, occults and cults seeking the most recent religious fad?
If you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior He wants to settled down and make Himself permanently at home in your heart. He wants to settle down in your “inner man” that is, the personal, rational self, the moral I that has experienced spiritual renewal by the Spirit of God. He is talking about the very core of your inner spiritual being, the place where the Holy Spirit works to fashion and form His temple since the moment you were born again. That is the place where He is at work forming you in the image of Christ.
It is there Paul tells us Christ “dwells” “in your hearts through faith.” Christ wants to settle down in a dwelling, to dwell fixedly in a place, to live in a home. He wants to settle down and feel completely at home as a permanent dwelling place in your heart.
Do you make Christ feel at home? Do you invite Him in as a permanent resident? Does He feel comfortable in your heart? Are there two masters trying to be sovereign in your life? Do you give Christ the free reign of your life? Do you have any junk closets where He is forbidden to enter? Are there any secret hideouts in your heart? Can you honestly drag everything in your heart out in the glaring holy light of the Son?
But Paul is not through. He says in a great doxology, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).
Literally Paul writes, “But to Him [God] who is able above all things to do exceedingly above . . .” It is exceeding some number or measure, over and above, more than necessary and is intensified by adding the idea of exhaustlessness and “above.” The apostle Paul has in mind something that is beyond all things. It is superabundantly and over and above anything he can imagine. Now to our God who is able to do exceedingly beyond all things, superabundantly and over and above all things, exceeding all things beyond all things, we ask or think, according to the power that works within us. What a great God and Savior we worship!
Our weakness is connected to God’s omnipotence and omniscience. God is able!
The amazing thing is the best is yet to come! These are words of hope and confident assurance of the believer’s future. The apostle John wrote of that final glory in 1 John 3:1-3.
What glory is ours, glory unspeakable!
We shall have glorified bodies just like the resurrected body of Christ when He appears in glory. “He who has come to live in our hearts, and reigns as our bosom’s Lord, makes us glorious by His coming,” declared Spurgeon. When Christ comes to reign He brings countless blessings with Him. Just think of it. “He who went to the cross for me will never be ashamed of me: He who gave me Himself will give me all heaven and more: He that opened “˜His very heart to find blood and water to wash me in, how shall He keep back even His kingdom from me? O sweet Lord Jesus, thou art indeed to us the hope, pledge, the guarantee of glory.”
The Lord Jesus Christ entered into a covenant with God the Father to bring His people home to glory. He who pledged to bring every sheep of His flock safe to His Father’s right hand will not fail. He has never failed one of His covenant promises. He never will.
Christ in you is glory. In having Christ, you have glory. Christ’s glory and your glory are wrapped up together. If Christ were to lose you it would be a great loss to Him. If I can perish with Christ in me He will lose His honor. His glory is gone if one soul who has put their trust in Him for eternal life is ever cast away. As sure as the Lord God lives, Christ in you means you in glory with Him for all eternity. This is the most astounding truth taught in the Bible. “Christ in you.”
SOME ABIDING PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
Christ in me is a prophet teaching me His way, giving me His direction so I can proclaim His message with clarity and boldness. “To whom God willed to make known” is the result of God’s grace, through no merit of the saints, making it known. God says, Now that you know all my deep secrets in Christ, go into the entire world and tell them. Instead of piously keeping them to yourself, or your select group, go out and tell the secret to everyone who will listen. Only Christians can understand the mystery because it is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Christ in me is my High Priest interceding and giving me immediate access to God so I can go directly into His presence with my petitions on your behalf.
Christ is me is a king demanding my loyalty as I bow in worship only to Him as my Lord and Master and as His servant I go out to serve.
Don’t be ashamed for one moment of the fact that Christ in you is your hope of glory.
This is the greatest mystery of the universe that God of the Jewish people would take up residence in Gentile men and women. The idea of salvation of the Gentiles was nothing new. The prophets spoke of it and the poets wrote of it in the Psalms. But the idea that He would tabernacle Himself in a Gentile was something wholly new. That is the mystery of “Christ in you the hope of glory.”
Christ in Wil Pounds! Christ in the Quechuas. Christ in the Jivaro. Christ in the Chinese. Christ in the Japanese, the Russians, the African. Christ in me! That is my hope of glory and I pray that it is yours, too. It is the only hope for the world in which we live. Do you have that hope? Do you share that same expectation of glory with God in Christ? Do you have Christ dwelling within your heart? Do you have Christ in you? You can begin right now.
Christ’s presence in us is definitely the hope of glory, and of His glorious riches.
Author: Wil & Ann Pounds
Wil Pounds is a graduate of William Carey University, B. A.; New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Th. M.; and Azusa Pacific University, M. A. He has pastored in Panama, Ecuador and the U. S, and served for over 20 years as missionary in Ecuador and Honduras. He had a daily expository Bible teaching ministry heard in over 100 countries from 1972 until 2005, and a weekly radio program until 2016. He continues to seek opportunities to be personally involved in world missions. Wil and his wife Ann have three grown daughters. He currently serves as a Baptist missionary, and teaches seminary extension courses and Evangelism in Depth conferences in Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, India and Ecuador. Wil also serves as the International Coordinator and visiting professor of Bible and Theology at Peniel Theological Seminary in Riobamba, Ecuador.