The Apostle Paul is being a little snarky here in this verse. And I do like me some snarky.
The concept of “mystery” is where you find his sly double meaning — the construction here is an allusion to the many contemporary false religions and spiritual add-ons that the Colossians faced daily in their homes and in their streets. As we’ve discussed briefly awhile back (and will learn in more detail as we move through chapter two), life at Colossae was peppered with religious hawkers who tried to lead these new Christians away from the cross of Christ. These false teachers promised “hidden mysteries” — often in exchange for cash — to the “insiders” of their false faiths.
But Paul warns them not to be fooled: the true mystery which was hidden for ages has been revealed, and there’s no “mystery” about it at all anymore:
Our only hope of glory is Christ in us.
We cannot be our own hope of glory. We are alive through Jesus alone. We can’t earn our place with Christ in the church of God; it’s been paid for (Acts 20:28). We can’t add to His work; it is finished (John 19:30). We can’t subtract from the Spirit in us; it’s been sealed (Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30).
No more searching — no more striving — no more wandering from this new teacher to that new idea to this new path to find spiritual fulfillment.
Because that’s not only futile, it’s dangerous. And here’s why:
Making Christianity more complicated than it is doesn’t make your life more spiritual. It makes your life unchristian.
Those are hard words. But they are true words:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! Galatians 1:6-9
True Christian practice must always begin with the true mystery of the gospel. Daily. Hourly. Moment by moment if that’s what it takes. Each second we start at square one, with the the free and undeserved perfection of Christ covering our sinful souls.
My life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).
Nothing I do or think or say today can make me more righteous in His sight.
Nothing I do or think or say today can make me less righteous in His sight.
If we launch any spiritual practice apart from the beauty and awe and life-giving power of this truth, we’ll always be groping for more mystery — some imaginary elevated plain we might reach if we just knew more, did less, pressed in, or hid our lives away.
We’ll always crave some new concept that elevates our pride in spiritual understanding instead of the work of Christ.
We’ll spend our lives stumbling from one fickle flame and false savior to another, saying “I’ve found it — this is the work or the way that makes me feel alive,” only to wander on when those false fires die out, and we find ourselves shivering apart from His grace once again.
The true mystery — the true gospel — always satisfies us completely from the start and simply spills over into all we are called to do. We practice worship, service, communion, confession, study, prayer, and mission not because they fill us, but because we are already full. They are the simple, ageless, overflowing responses to the great love God has lavished upon us.
Whether we’ve belonged to Christ for five minutes or five decades, we must seek no other mystery than the one that was first preached to us — Christ in us, our only hope of glory. We don’t need to move or to go or even to grow to find it.
To travel far down the path of faith, we must simply dig deeply at the place we started. The full secret has been whispered to us, dear saints, right where we stand.
Read the next post in The Colossians Project.