by Jerry Shugart
The Ministry of Paul and the Mystery
We can see from the following verse that Paul's "ministry" is in regard to "the mystery":
"If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church. Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints " (Col.1:23-26).
Here Paul is speaking of a "dispensation" or "stewardship" that was given to him by the Lord Jesus, and that stewardship is in regard to his "ministry." As we can see in verse 23, his "ministry" is spoken of in the context of "the gospel" which he preached among the Gentiles.
When we examine other verses where he speaks of the same dispensation we can see exactly what his "stewardship" obligations were:
"If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me toward you" (Eph.3:2).
"...a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me" (1 Cor.9:17).
The "dispensation" which was committed to Paul is in regard to a "ministry", "God's grace", and a "gospel." Here Paul sums up the responsibility that was given to him under the present "dispensation of grace":
"But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts20:24).
From these verses we can conclude that the "stewardship" which was given to Paul was to preach the "gospel of grace". Therefore we can conclude that "the mystery" in the following verse is the "gospel of grace":
"Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints " (Col.1:25-26).
The Dispensation of the Mystery
The "dispensation of the grace of God" is also referred to as "the dispensation of the mystery":
"...to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things " (Eph.3:9; ASV).
By the context we can see that the subject is indeed "the gospel": "...the gospel, whereof I was made a minister...to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things " (Eph.3:6-9).
We can also see from the following verses that Paul is saying that it is "God's grace" that is "the mystery":
"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 " (Eph.3:2; NIV).
Here Paul says that he had already written briefly of this truth in the same epistle, and when we go to the first chapter we read:
"In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Eph.1:7).
This is the same "gospel" to which Paul referred when he wrote: "but now" it is revealed:
"But now the righteousness of God apart from law is revealed...Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe...Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus " (Ro. 3:21-24).
The "purpose" of the sufferings of Jesus Christ were kept "secret" before the Cross. Paul refers to his gospel as "the preaching of the Cross" (1Cor.1:18), and says: "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom,which God ordained before the ages unto our glory;Which none of the princes of this age knew;for had they known it,they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (1 Cor.2:7-8).