“To whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles,
which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
Three times in rapid succession, Paul uses the word “mystery.” First, the church, the mystery hid from the ages (v. 25); secondly, this mystery, Christ in you, the hope of glory (v. 27); and finally, the mystery of God, even Christ (2:2).
The word “mystery” has a uniform sense in the New Testament, and that sense has been most lucidly expressed by Dr. Handley Moule: “A mystery is a truth undiscoverable, except by revelation. Never necessarily, as our popular use of the word may suggest, a thing unintelligible or perplexing in itself. In Scripture a mystery may be a fact which, when revealed, we cannot understand in detail, though we can know it and act upon it.” If that definition of the word in the New Testament be accepted, the apostle speaks of the church as hidden in past ages, and never discovered until revealed.
He then passes behind the mystery of the church and comes to the words of my text, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The church consists of souls in whom Christ has had a personal advent, and in whom He lives. This is another mystery, never to be explained by the unspiritual, never to be perfectly explained by the spiritual. The mystery of individual souls in whom Christ dwells lies at the back of the mystery of the church.
Then, presently, he passes on, still following his argument, until he comes to the yet deeper mystery, the mystery of God, which is Christ. In order to see the connection, let us take these in proper order. The first great mystery of God is Christ Himself. The central mystery of Christianity is that of Christ formed in individual souls. The final mystery is that of the church of God fulfilling high and holy functions throughout all ages. Out of the great sweep of Paul’s argument, let us consider the central mystery of the Christian faith, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
The first and second advents of our Lord initiate and perfect this mystery of the realization of Christ in the individual life of the trusting soul. In His first advent He came to atone, to make possible his entrance [1 Tim. 3:16]. At His second advent, He will come to perfect His possession of individual life [Col. 3:4]. Our rejoicing in His first advent and our gladness in the hope of the second advent are alike due to the mystery of His personal coming into our own lives. Let us consider that central advent first as to the fact suggested, then as to the experience resulting. First, “Christ in you”; and secondly, “the hope of glory.”
Christ in you
“Christ in you.” No one can have a final demonstration of truth concerning the nature of Christ or His work unless he can say, I know Christ because He is in me [see 2 Cor. 13:5]. As the apostle says, this is mystical and cannot be explained to the scientific age in which we live. But it is a fact known in the lives of countless multitudes.
Christ in me — and I need hardly apologize for testimony at this point, for speaking rather as a witness than as an advocate: Christ in me is the most certain thing in all my personal experience. He is present in my inner life. I do not have to ascend to heaven to find Him, nor descend into the depths to bring Him up. Neither have I to go on long pilgrimages to reach Him [see Rom. 10:6-10]. Amid the hurry and rush of the day, the Christ is within, and His presence is as real as to me as the advent long ago in the Judean country far away. The historic is proved by the experiential.
The use of our Lord’s title suggests not merely the presence of the Person, but also the work of Christ in you. He was at once Prophet, Priest, and King. He is the one Prophet and Teacher by whom the whole life is to be governed — whose teaching is the only teaching which the soul trusts. “Christ in you” also as Priest, the one perfect Savior, operating in the inner shrine of the individual life on the altar; so that through the intermediation, not of Christ far off, but in me, I have personal and immediate access to the presence of God. Then, further, “Christ in you” also as King, ruling all the life, not by the law of carnal ordinances written on stone, but by the perpetual inspiration of His indwelling presence.
“Christ in you.” That is the great miracle, the great mystery, the fact on which all the other facts of Christianity are based, and through which the other forces of Christianity become operative.