WHAT IS THE “MYSTERY” OF COLOSSIANS 1:27?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Many misread Colossians 1:27, but we trust that the following study will help them see what the verse really says and teaches. There is such Bible clarity when we just remember the key to Bible clarity—“rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)!
One Bible commentator wrote concerning Colossians 1:27: “The fact that Jesus Christ is actually in each believer is both a great mystery and rich in glory.” He then pointed out how it was mysterious that Jesus Christ lived in several places at once—sitting in heaven (Hebrews 1:3) while also indwelling each Christian (Galatians 2:20). Friends, Colossians 1:27 is to be understood in light of its context, not according to theological speculation. The verse has nothing to do with something hard to understand (unless, of course, we misunderstand the verse by misusing the verse). Colossians 1:27 will remain “mysterious” unless we look at the verse from the Bible-believing point-of-view, from the dispensational point-of-view.
Colossians 1:25-27 reads as follows: “ 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:  To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:”
The “mystery” of Colossians 1:27 is explained in the two previous verses. It is the secret program that the ascended Lord Jesus Christ committed first to the Apostle Paul, and the same program He then revealed to all of mankind by the Holy Spirit through Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. Jesus Christ made Paul an apostle in order to “fulfil” (bring to conclusion or completion) the Word of God. The Lord had some special information to reveal to mankind, and He chose Paul to be the vessel through whose writings those truths would be manifested to all people. Therefore, Paul wrote: “…the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:  How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,  Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)  Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:2-5).
Jesus Christ saving Gentiles was no mystery (secret). In the prophetic program, according to the Old Testament, Gentiles were to be saved through the nation Israel in her earthly kingdom (Genesis 12:1-3; Isaiah 2:1-5; Isaiah 60:1-3; Isaiah 61:6; Micah 4:1-3; Zechariah 8:20-23). Paul quotes several Old Testament verses in Romans chapter 15 that demonstrate God would save Gentiles in relation to redeemed Israel. What was a secret, however, was that God would make a new dispensation, a new program, our program, to save Gentiles apart from Israel, apart from her program, and apart from her kingdom. Salvation going to Gentiles through Israel’s fall was the secret God revealed to Paul (Romans 11:11-13). To Paul it was revealed that, through Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork (the Gospel of the Grace of God), salvation would go to all nations, not just to Israel, and that that salvation would reach all nations without Israel being converted nationally.
Again, Colossians 1:26 says, “The mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.” Stated once more, the “mystery” is the secret program of God now revealed to the Apostle Paul and through his epistles, Romans through Philemon. Bible teachers and students very rarely understand Paul’s special ministry. They do not understand verse 26, so they stumble over verse 27. God wants to make known something to us, and verse 27 explains what that something is. Not only does God want us to understand the mystery program, He wants us to understand “the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles.” What are these “riches?”
Jesus Christ is not the mystery: Jesus Christ living in Gentiles is not the secret. Jesus Christ living in heaven (Hebrews 1:3) and living in Jewish kingdom saints (John 14:23; John 15:4-5) was no secret either: Jesus Christ living in several places is no “mystery.” The mystery was the special information the ascended Jesus Christ disclosed to the Apostle Paul, which doctrine the Holy Spirit revealed to the Gentiles via Paul’s un-prophesied apostleship and ministry. We learn about Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery, by reading Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon (Ephesians 3:4; 2 Timothy 2:7). Jesus Christ is “the riches of the glory of the mystery.”
It is important that we have a clear understanding of Colossians 1:27. If we do not understand it for what it actually says, we will, as some teach and believe, conclude that Christ living in us is mysterious. We thus lose the dispensational truths the verse is conveying (the dispensational truths the average Bible reader misses because of denominational eyeglasses). Colossians 1:27 is misread because it is not understood in light of the dispensational boundaries and changes in God’s Holy World.
The “mystery” in Colossians 1:27 is not something hard to understand or something mystical. It is something kept secret, a body of truth that God kept secret, until He revealed it to the Apostle Paul. That revelation of the mystery, the revealing of that Pauline doctrine, that doctrine circulating amongst the Gentiles via Paul’s preaching and writing, has riches. What are the riches of the glory of the mystery? Jesus Christ viewed in light of Paul’s revelation, He is the riches of the glory of the mystery. The mystery doctrine brings Jesus Christ glory, praise, for it is His name that is valued and esteemed in the mystery doctrine and program.