“the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27).
For generations, readers and viewers have been enamored with the exploits of fictional detectives like Sherlock Holmes, Hecule Poirot, and Nero Wolfe. Their eccentricities, eye for detail, and ability to unravel complex mysteries have brought these characters more fame in real life than they ever achieved in their own fictional worlds.
Nevertheless, the Biblical concept of a “mystery” is nothing like anything encountered by these fictitious detectives or others like them.
In this context, a Biblical mystery refers to a spiritual truth that was once hidden but now has been (or will be) revealed. This revelatory component is something that separates genuine Christianity from the beliefs of those who claim that salvation is exclusively available to the few who have access to hidden spiritual knowledge or insight.
One of the greatest proponents of that spiritual philosophy was a group known today as the Gnostics. The Gnostic movement of the early church period was associated with a broad collection of groups and individuals who taught that human beings could escape the evil of the material world and achieve salvation through the acquisition of secret knowledge or mystical enlightenment.
In contrast to those beliefs, the teachings of Christianity were openly available to anyone who wished to consider them. While the concept of salvation through faith in Christ was not fully understood by the generations who lived prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, it was no longer a mystery to those living in the post-resurrection era. As Paul the Apostle said to the Christian community in Rome…
“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved'” (Romans 10:12:13 ESV).
This message served to counteract those self-appointed mystics, visionaries, and prophets who claimed to possess deeper spiritual truths or transcendental insights that were only available to the spiritual elite. Instead, as Paul wrote here to the Colossian church, “This great secret was hidden to the people of times past, but it is now made known to those who belong to Christ” (NLV).
Holmes: New York, McClure, Phillips and Co. 1905., FIRST EDITION [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Poirot: Jour [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons [cropped and rotated]
Wolfe: Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, illustration by Fred Ludekens [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons