Grace Family Bible Church
Acknowledging the Mystery
By: Scott Morton
For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;  That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;  In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
As we start Chapter 2, it is important to note the chapter numbers and verse numbers were not in the original text. These were things which were added much later in order to help individuals in their study and understanding of the Word of God.
Having said that, we see there is a change of focus here for the Apostle Paul. He had been speaking about some of the positional things they were to have understood about who they are. Paul is going to give some further things that they needed to understand about this later on in the chapter.
Before he gets to that, he starts to speak about a conflict he has for them. He is not speaking about a physical battle he is fighting for them, as many would think about it. This is a battle which is going on where the warfare has always been fought by members of the Body of Christ in this dispensation:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
This is a spiritual battle which is going. This makes sense, because the blessings which we have been promised are spiritual (Ephesians 1:3). Paul knew the message which he was preaching was causing much of the contention that existed (1 Thessalonians 2:2). This did not cause him to back down from teaching this:
2 Timothy 2:1-4
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.  Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
Paul shows here how the message needs to be committed to individuals who are going remain faithful in sharing it. This is something we should be watching for, especially as the next generation is being raised up to continue preaching the gospel message for today (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). How often do we see the failures in being able to raise up the next generation? The result of the failure is when local assemblies struggle to find someone to lead the assembly when their Pastor is no longer there. This is a big part of the conflict the Apostle Paul sees is going on.
He also mentions another part of this conflict:
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;  Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
Paul speaks about how the issue of suffering is a conflict. Nobody wants to have to suffer, but we see how the members of the Body of Christ are said to have to suffer for His sake. This is part of who we are and what is expected of us. There is a mention of what the result of this will be:
2 Timothy 2:11-13
It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:  If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:  If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.
This passage is not teaching an individual could lose their salvation. We know this is the case because we are sealed with that holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13). The Spirit is functioning as the seal keeping us saved and secure until the Lord Jesus Christ comes back for the church at the day of Christ. This is why Paul states he cannot deny himself because the Lord Jesus Christ cannot deny anyone who has put their trust in the gospel message.
The issue in this passage is the rewards we will receive at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The rewards at this event are based on how faithful we have been to the doctrine given to us and the result of this in our life. A big part of this is going to be the issue of suffering for His sake. This was a big part of the reason why those who were abandoning him were doing so. It was easy for them to preach this message when things were going well. It is not as easy when there is suffering which is associated with it. This is when it is seen how well people have been applying the doctrine to their lives.
Paul knew this was something which he was trying to do for all of the members of the Body of Christ. This is why he says you (Colossians 1:29), them at Laodicea (Colossians 4:16), and those he has not even met (Romans 1:8-11). There is a relationship which we have with all of those who are part of the Body of Christ and Paul expresses here what this means. The conflict he has extends to all of the individuals because he knows the work is necessary to make sure individuals are being saved and there is a building up of those who have been saved as well (1 Timothy 2:4).
Paul mentions Laodicea several times during this epistle. This was a city that was located on the river Lycus and was a trade port for many of the other places the Apostle Paul ministered to. This is located in what is now known as Turkey. It is important to note that the only other place this area is mentioned is in Revelation. This does not mean that the writing to this assembly there can be tied in with what the Apostle Paul is writing in this book. These are written for two different dispensations and have doctrinal information which does not mix. It would be harmful to someone to try to mix them.
As Paul continues in his writing to this assembly he brings up the issue of comfort. This is something which many people need to have. We can look at the things which have gone on over the course of this past year related to the COVID-19 issue and it easy to see how individuals need comfort. This is why we see Paul speaking about this and letting us know where we can find comfort:
2 Corinthians 1:3-8
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;  Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.  For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.  And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.  And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.  For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:
It is only God who can provide comfort for a believer, as Paul explains He is The God of all comfort. This is the problem many individuals have, as they will try to find comfort outside of God. He has given us everything we would need to have comfort through the Word. This is why we are to study to build up the doctrine in us, as we need to be able to have the source of this comfort.
This does not mean we are going to always easily deal with every situation which we encounter in our life. We can see many examples in the Bible of individuals who were not dealing with things properly. The Apostle Paul even explains the struggles he had with this as well:
2 Corinthians 2:13
I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.
Paul states he had no rest in his spirit. There were some struggles he had at the moment he was writing this because Titus was not there with him. He wanted to be able to have fellowship with this fellow member of the Body of Christ and was unable to do so at the moment. We see the change in him later on in this same epistle:
2 Corinthians 7:5-6
For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.  Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;
Paul speaks of the comfort that he received by Titus coming unto them. This is what he had been looking for and now he has this in his life. It is important for us to be around the members of the Body of Christ and have this fellowship. It truly is a comfort to be around individuals who have the same mindset related to what the Bible says.
We have seen recently in the United States how important this is and the impact it has had. With the shutdowns created by policies related to COVID-19 there were many assemblies which were shutdown for periods of time where individuals were unable to assemble together. Even when these were lifted, there have been capacity limits in place in some areas or other policies which have not made individuals comfortable assembling together. This has caused isolation of believers and has impacted people in many different ways. We need to make sure that we can be together as much as we can in order to be able to have the positive influence on each other.
The Apostle Paul makes it clear that all comfort comes from God (2 Corinthians 1:3) and that the grace of God was sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). While many try to find comfort in different areas, this is the only place we can truly find the comfort we need.
As Paul continues on speaking with these saints, we see how the next thing he deals with is being knit together in love. Love is such an important part of how God deals with us, as we know this is what He is (1 John 4:8) and what was demonstrated towards individuals in this dispensation (Romans 5:8). Paul speaks about how this is something which should be part of our lives:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,  Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
When speaking of the fruit of the Spirit, which is something which should be demonstrated in our lives, the very first element of it is love. This is one fruit which should be there and it starts with the love which is to be shown. We can see Paul keep making mention of it and he speaks of how different assemblies were showing this:
Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,  For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;
1 Thessalonians 1:3
Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;
From these two statements, we see how the issue of the love they had was being held up for others to see. Paul saw this as a defining characteristic of these two assemblies and wanted the rest of the Body of Christ to see this. It is important to note the impact something like this would have on individuals.
There is another term which is used to describe this:
1 Corinthians 13:8-13
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
The word charity is used here. Most of the modern versions on the market will change this word to love. This is done because there is a lack of understanding of what Paul is trying to get across with these individuals. The following are the definitions of charity from Webster's 1828 Dictionary:
1. In a general sense, love, benevolence, good will; that disposition of heart which inclines men to think favorably of their fellow men to think favorably of their fellow men, and to do them good. In a theological sense, it includes supreme love to God, and universal good will to men.
1 Cor 8. Col 3. 1 Tim 1.
2. In a more particular sense, love, kindness, affection, tenderness, springing from natural relations; as the charities of father, son and brother.
3. Liberality to the poor, consisting in almsgiving or benefactions, or in gratuitous services to relieve them in distress.
4. Alms; whatever is bestowed gratuitously on the poor for their relief.
5. Liberality in gifts and services to promote public objects of utility, as to found and support bible societies, missionary societies, and others.
6. Candor; liberality in judging of men and their actions; a disposition which inclines men to think and judge favorably, and to put the best construction on words and actions which the case will admit. The highest exercise of charity, is charity towards the uncharitable.
7. Any act of kindness, or benevolence; as the charities of life.
8. A charitable institution. Charity-school, is a school maintained by voluntary contributions for educating poor children.
We can see from the definitions listed above how our thought process has really impacted this. The thought many have today is really the last one, which is the institution which is providing help to individuals. When we see this word being used in the Bible it is speaking about the actions which are being taken by someone. This is why we can think of charity as being love in action. It is how we are supposed to be acting towards all individuals we encounter, especially those who are members of the Body of Christ. The sad thing many times is this is not demonstrated by those who should know better. When this is being demonstrated, it really can be a comfort to those who are living in this manner.
The next thing which the Apostle Paul states is there is a comfort related to the riches of understanding. This is something we should be striving for and we can see how Paul prays for this to occur:
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;  That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;  Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
As Paul is praying for these saints in Colossae, we see how the first thing he is praying for is that these saints would be filled with the knowledge of His will. He is looking for them to grow in the understanding of what has been given to us. We are able to understand the will of God (Ephesians 5:15-17) and know the love which has been demonstrated towards us (Ephesians 3:16-19). We can have this understanding through our study of the Word of God, as it leads to the following:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
There is a renewing of the mind which needs to happen. This occurs as we put off the things of this world and are no longer being conformed to it. Everything we see around us which is part of the world is against the things of God. These are the things which we are to be putting off as the renewing occurs.
This renewing happens as we take in the things of the Word of God through our study. Paul describes a process which happens as we do this:
1 Corinthians 2:6-16
Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:  But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:  Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.  But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.  For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.  Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.  For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
This process shows what happens inside of an individual who has received salvation. This is the case because the Spirit is going to be communicating with the spirit of the individual. The Spirit can only be there if someone has put their trust in the gospel. This is why someone who is not saved struggles with understanding what the Word of God actually says.
In this process we see the Spirit is using the Word of God which someone has taken in. There is a comparison of the verses in order to give the insight into what is being said. This shows how there has to be study on the part of the believer. This is the understanding we have from 2 Timothy 2:15 which gives us the information about how to study. It is important for us to do this.
Paul mentions at the end of the passage the issue of this information being hidden. This is why it is said to be a mystery. This is something individuals do not understand and it can even be seen in what is being taught by most individuals. Paul spoke about this in his first epistle to the assembly in Corinth:
1 Corinthians 1:22-23
For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:  But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;  But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
There are some major contrasts which are brought up here. Israel was always looking for the signs. This is why we see the sign gifts in their program and they were at the beginning of this dispensation in order to show them that God was no longer dealing with them. The Greeks are unsaved individuals who are going around and preaching the wisdom of men. The focus is not on the things of God, but on what they come up with. Unfortunately this is what happens in many assemblies today.
Paul speaks of how our preaching is focused on the Lord Jesus Christ crucified. This is supposed to be our starting point and what we have in common. It was a mystery and is the source of all the wisdom and knowledge which we need. It is the only thing which the Apostle Paul states he could glory in (Galatians 6:14) and is the focal point of everything he does. This is why it is brought up over and over again throughout his epistles. He speaks about how this really is viewed:
1 Corinthians 2:7
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
This was hidden wisdom. You cannot go back into any of the information which was written in Time Past (Genesis through John) to see this being made a reference to in how this was going to have an impact on the Gentiles. God knew it and had determined this was going to be the reality before the foundation of the world. It was just not revealed until the appointed time.
Many individuals struggle with this idea. This is because they want to just have one set of promises run through the entire Bible and have us be part of everything which was given to Israel. This is not what the Bible would say. The Apostle Paul speaks about the condition of the Gentiles in Time Past:
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;  That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
Prior to the raising up of the Apostle Paul this is what was going on. God was dealing with Israel through a series of covenants. They were His chosen people and they had all of the promises and were the instrument through which God is going to reconcile the earth and will establish a kingdom here through them. The Gentiles were strangers from all of this. It is only when there is the dispensational change that we can see this:
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;  And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:  And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
Here we see the condition of where everything is now. The middle wall of partition has been broken down and God is now dealing with all of mankind. This is a mystery because it was not spoken of anywhere in the Bible prior to Paul.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,  Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;  Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.  These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
As Paul continues to write, we see how he speaks about what the grace of God has accomplished. These are things which are part of this mystery which he has been proclaiming. This is something he never stopped trying to proclaim and we should never stop this either.
We see how all of this speaks about the heavenly hope, the reconciliation of heaven back onto God. The Body of Christ is the instrument which will be used to accomplish this and Paul declares this. He also gives us the information we need in order to live our life today, which is preparing us to be able to function in the heavenly places for eternity.