“which in other ages was not known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit”

“which in other ages was not known unto the sons of men
Literally:  “which was made known to the sons of men in other generations”–Paul is emphasizing the fact that the mystery was given to him by revelation and was not the subject of any of God’s previous servants.

        AGES:  (geneais)–Literally:  “generations.”  Mankind in general, both inside and outside the Jewish pale. Outside, the secret was wholly unknown; inside, it was only dimly and sparingly intimated, though certainly intimated.

        “For so hath the Lord commanded us, {saying} ‘I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth’” (Acts 13:47).

        “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises {made} unto the fathers”
        “And that the Gentiles might glorify God for
{His} mercy; as it is written, ‘For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles and sing unto Thy Name’”

        “And again He saith, ‘Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with His people.’”
        “And again, ‘Praise the Lord all ye Gentiles, and laud Him, all ye people.’”|
       “And again, Esaias saith,’There shall be a root of Jesse, and He that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in Him shall the Gentiles trust.’”
(Rom.. 15:8-12)

         That the calling of the Gentiles was made known by the prophets in different ages of the Jewish Church is exceedingly clear; but it certainly was not made known in that clear and precise manner in which it was now revealed by the Spirit unto the ministers of the N.T.; nor was it made known unto them at all, that the Gentiles should find salvation without coming under the yoke of the Mosaic law, and that the Jews themselves should be freed from that yoke of bondage; these were discoveries totally new, and now revealed for the first time by the Spirit of God.

        SONS OF MEN:  (huois tôn anthrôpôon)–Men in their natural state by birth, as contrasted with those illuminated “by the Spirit.”     

        “Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the Word of God”
        {Even} the mystery which hath been hid for ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (Col. 1:25-26).

“as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets”–
Literally:  “as now was revealed to His holy apostles and prophets”

         This disputes those who claim that this mystery was only revealed to Paul.  It is now revealed to all of God’s holy apostles (plural, and not just to Paul).  The apostles are “holy” because they have been set aside for this office by God Himself.   The “prophets” are definitely N.T. prophets, and not the O.T. prophets.  Paul had already claimed this revelation for himself (v. 3); but now he claims it for all the other apostles and prophets of God. |
        Not the O.T. Hebrew prophets, but the prophets in the Church. Some of the Hebrew prophets might have had a glimpse of Gentile salvation, but they did not understand their own language as well as we do in the light of the gospel. Those who exercised the office of a prophet or inspired teacher in the Christian church.

        BY THE SPIRIT:  (en Pneumati)-Literally:  in the Spirit.”  This definitely refers to the Holy Spirit. 

         The teacher of this mystery is the Holy Spirit Himself.  This is what the Lord Jesus promised to his disciples when He said, “All things that the Father hath are Mine; therefore, said I, that He shall take of Mine and show it unto you” (John 16:15).  The definite article “the” is not in the Greek text.  This was done either by the Spirit’s being poured out on the Gentiles, it was known that they should be co-heirs with the believing Jews; or rather, by the Spirit instructing the apostles and prophets, and immediately acquainting them with this mystery.
         This illustrates that those who exercised the office of prophet in the Christian church were inspired. They were persons endowed in this manner for the purpose of imparting to the newly-formed churches the doctrines of the Christian system. There is no evidence that this was designed to be a permanent order of men in the church. They were necessary for settling the church on a permanent basis, in the absence of a full written revelation, and when the apostles were away. When the volume of revelation was finished, and the doctrines of the gospel were fully understood, the functions of the office ceased.

“That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel:”

“That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs,”
Literally:  {for} the nations to be joint-heirs”–that the Gentiles are joint-heirs of God.  Fellow-heirs with the ancient people of God (the Jews) and entitled to the same privileges. 

         This is the substance of that mystery which had been hidden from all ages, and which was now made known to the New Testament apostles and prophets, and more particularly to Paul. That is, he will treat us as sons. An heir is one who succeeds to an estate. The meaning here is, that if we sustain the relation of sons to God that we shall be treated as such, and admitted to share His favors. An adopted son comes in for a part of the inheritance (Numbers 27:1-23).
         It is “in Christ Jesus” that they are made “fellow heirs” in the inheritance of GOD: “of the same body” under the Head, CHRIST JESUS; and “fellow partakers of the promise” in the communion of  THE HOLY SPIRIT (1:13; Heb. 6:4). The Trinity is thus alluded to, as often elsewhere in this Epistle (2:19-20, 22).
         Christ is by eminence THE Son of God.  As such, He is Heir to the full honors and glory of heaven. Christians are united to Him; they are His friends; and they are thus represented as destined to partake with Him of His glory. They are the sons of God in a different sense from what He is; He,  by His nature and high relation, they,  by adoption; but still the idea of sonship exists in both; and hence both will partake in the glories of the eternal inheritance. Comp. Phil. 2:1; 4:23; Heb. 2:1; 9:1-28,10.
         This connection between Christ and Christians is often referred to in the New Testament. The fact that they are united here is often alleged as a reason why they will be in glory. “Because I live, ye shall live also.” (John 14:19) “For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him” (II Tim. 2:11-12);

  “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne,” etc
  We shall be partakers of that inheritance which God confers on His people. That inheritance is His favor here, and eternal life His favor hereafter.
  This is an honor  infinitely higher than to be heir to the most princely earthly inheritance; or than to be the adopted son of the most magnificent earthly monarch.  

         But understand this vital point:  the Church is not inheriting the physical and earthly promises given to Israel.  THE CHURCH IS NOT ISRAEL!  The Church is not  even the same as the KINGDOM; for the Kingdom is the MILLENNIAL KINGDOM that is still in the future.  Furthermore, the Kingdom is Jewish in nature.  The blantant heresy known as Covenant Theology is really a misnomer, for they do in fact deny that the Abrahamic Covenant and the Davidic Covenant were unconditional commitments by God, and the Millennium is the ultimate fulfillment of those promises, or commitments. 
       This heresy (which really began with Augustine and his anti-semitism) has it totally wrong with its teaching that the Church has replaced Israel and somehow has inherited all the promises that God made to Israel.  Such teaching is blasphemy; the sin of calling God a Liar.  Gabriel told Mary that her Child would sit on the throne of David.  When Gabriel told her that, the Throne of David was not even in existence then.  Judea was at that time ruled by Rome, so the promise to Mary was by necessity still for the future.  The theology of this heretical teaching is really known as Amillennialism: (a denial of the Millennium) because they do not recognize that God’s commitment to David was unconditional, and thus deny the future Millennium.

“and of the same body,”
Literally:  “and a joint body (sussôma)”–With the wall of partition broken down, Jews and Gentiles equally received, heirs alike of the gospel, fellow-members of the church, fellow-partakers of the gospel promises.  

        SAME BODY: (sussôma)–First found here and only here save in later ecclesiastical writers. Some expositors argue that it is equivalent to sundoulos in Col 1:7 (sôma in the sense of doulos--(slave)–“As ye also learned of Epephras our dear fellowservant (sun-doulos) who is for you a faithful minister of Christ.”

“and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel:”
Literally:  “and join-sharers of his promise in Christ through the gospel”–The gospel was designed to make all who embrace it children of God, and members of one family; to give them free access to him as their Father, and lead them to love one another as brethren.  So far as it does not produce these effects on those who profess it, they have reason to fear that they have never experienced its power.       

“Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of
His power”

“Whereof I was made a minister,”      
Literally:  “of which I was made a minister”– A minister to make known this mystery; God's gracious purpose to the Gentiles.

         Paul is really saying, from Whom, by an especial call and revelation, I received the apostolic gifts and office, and “to the working of the power,” the energy, the in-working of His power, this Gospel which I preached was made effectual to the salvation of vast multitudes of Jews and Gentiles.
         Paul assumes no place of superiority in the knowledge of the mystery by virtue of the fact that he was the Apostle to the Gentiles.   On the contrary, he takes only the title of diakonos, which is translated as minister or servant, and means a worker, or helper.  This is the word that is also translated as deacon.

         It was the gift of God’s grace which had transformed him from Saul, the proud Pharisee who persecuted the church, to Paul, the Apostle, who was now a prisoner for Jesus Christ.  He had been taken out of one group and put into another.  He is now a member of the body of Christ.  Note that Paul was made a minister–he did not do it himself; he could not do it himself.

“according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me”
Literally:  “according to the gift of the grace of God”–In consequence of, and in accordance with, “the gift of the grace of God.”  It was not Paul’s own seeking or merit; it was a free gift.

         The sentiment is, that throughout it was a mere matter of grace that he was called into the ministry, and that so important an office was entrusted to him as that of bearing the gospel to the Gentiles. The apostolic office with all the accompanying signs of apostleship. 
         Paul is saying that he was simply  a deacon, (a servant) acting under and by the direction of the great Master, Jesus Christ; from Whom, by a special call and revelation, he had received the apostolic gifts and office, and the energy, the in-working of His power; this Gospel which he preached, was made effectual to the salvation of vast multitudes of Jews and Gentiles.

given unto me by the effectual working of His power”
Literally:  “given to me, according to the working of His power”–Not by any inclination which I had to the gospel, and not by any power which I have put forth.  

It is by “the energy of His (Christ’s)  power.”   It refers rather to the power which God put forth in the conversion of Paul himself, and putting him into the ministry. This is clear from the following verse. The meaning is, that such was his opposition to the gospel by nature, that nothing but the energy of God could overcome it, and that his conversion was to be traced to that alone.  

                    WORKING:  (energeia)–Literally:  “energizing.”

POWER:  (dunameôs)–The power of Christ, not that of Paul.  This is the same Greek root from which we get our word, “dynamite.”

“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;”

Verse 8 gives a little insight into the character of Paul.  The revealing of the mystery that had been hidden from man for ages, did not fill him with fleshly pride.  One vision of the glorified Christ on the Damascus road terminated his pride and he no longer was Saul the Great but Paul the Little.

1.      He knew the truth of Gal. 2:20:
       “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God,  who 
loved me and gave Himself for me.”
2.      He also knew the truth of my favorite motto:  I Tim. 1:12
         “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;”

Maybe we can learn a lesson from a young preacher who entered a pulpit in England with an exaggerated air of his own importance.  His sermon was a complete failure.  Dejectedly he left the pulpit, and coming down the stairs, he was met by an old man who took his hand and said, “My son, if you had walked into the pulpit as you left it, you would have walked out as you went into it.”   Here is a truth to grasp hold of:  Understanding the deep truths of God’s Word does not give a man a big head; rather, it gives him a broken and contrite heart.”  (See Isaiah 6:5).

“less than the least of all saints”
Literally:  “less than the least of all the saints”– Not merely “of all apostles” (I Cor. 15:9-10).  There is no feigned humility here for Paul.  He uses similar deprecating descriptions of himself in other places.

        “For I am the least of the least of the apostles, that I am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God” (I Cor. 15:9).

        “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (I Tim. 1:15).

         As the design of Paul’s was to magnify the grace of Christ in the salvation of the world, he uses every precaution to prevent the eyes of the people from being turned to anything but Christ crucified. Although Paul was obliged to speak of himself as the particular instrument which God had chosen to bring the Gentile world to the knowledge of the truth, yet he does it in such a manner as to show that the excellency of the power was of God, and not of him; and that, highly as he and his follow apostles were honored; they had the heavenly treasure in earthen vessels. 
         This is one of the classes of expressions peculiar to Paul. The ordinary terms of language do not express the idea which he wishes to convey, and a word is therefore coined to convey an idea more emphatically.  The word here used (elachistoteros) does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament.  This word means here, “who am incomparably the least of all the saints; or who am not worthy to be reckoned among the saints.” It is expressive of the deep sense which Paul had of the sinfulness of his past life; of his guilt in persecuting the church and the Savior; and perhaps of his sense of his low attainments in piety. Paul never could forget the guilt of his former life; never forget the time when he was engaged in persecuting the church of God.
         As Paul’s purpose was to magnify the grace of Christ in the salvation of the world, he uses every precaution to prevent the eyes of the people from being turned to anything or anyone but Christ and Him crucified; and although Paul had to speak of himself as the particular instrument which God had chosen to bring the Gentile world to the knowledge of the truth, he does it in such a manner as to show that the excellency of the power was of God, and not of him. To lay himself as low as possible, consistently with his being in the number of Divinely commissioned men, Paul calls himself less than the least; and is obliged to make a new word, by strangely forming a comparative degree, not from the positive, which would have been a regular grammatical procedure, but from the superlative.  

“that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
Literally:  “to preach the gospel of the unsearchable riches of Christ among the nations”–The endless depths of wisdom and knowledge treasured up in him, and the infinity of saving acts and saving power displayed by him

        UNSEARCHABLE RICHES:  (anexichniaston plouton)-Literally:  untraceable riches.”

         The Greek word (anexichniaston) occurs only one other place in the N.T.– (Rom. 11:33), where it is rendered as, “past finding out.”  The word literally means that which cannot be traced out, or explored; that which is inscrutable, or incomprehensible. The meaning here is, that there was a sufficiency in Christ which could not be traced out or explored. It was wholly incomprehensible. The fullness of the riches in Him could not be appreciated. There is no more emphatic expression in the New Testament than this.
         A mighty revolution took place in the life of Paul.  He was chosen to preach among Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. shows that the heart of the apostle was full of admiration of the sufficiency and glory that was in the Savior; that he wanted words to express it; and that he considered it the highest honor to be permitted to tell the world that there were such riches in the Redeemer.

“And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ”

“And to make all men see”
Literally:  “and to bring to light all”– We might say it this way: “And to turn the light on.”  To turn the light on to all, Jew and Gentile alike. With the eyes of the heart enlightened (1:18) one can then turn the light for others to see. See Col 1:26.

        “Whereof I am a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the Word of God
{Even} the mystery which hath been hid for ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints” (Col. 1:25-26).

         To give information both to Jews and Gentiles; to afford them a sufficiency of light, so that they might be able distinctly to discern the great objects exhibited in this Gospel. With the eyes of the heart enlightened (1:18) one can then turn the light for others to see.  So that the whole human family might see the light of God in His plan of salvation.   Before this the revelation of God’s character and plans had been confined to the Jews. Now it was His plan that all the race should be made acquainted with it. The mystery is not to be argued or debated: but is to be preached!  And Paul was to make all men see this dispensation of the mystery.

“what is the fellowship of the mystery”
Literally:  “what {is} the fellowship of the mystery “–The office or stewardship of this mystery. It was demonstrated in his apostleship to the Gentiles.

        FELLOWSHIP:  (koinonia)–Instead of “fellowship” (koinonia) here, most mss. and versions read oikonomia, or dispensation.” 

         The mistake might easily have been made by a transcriber in centuries back. The meaning then would be, “to enlighten all in respect to the dispensation of this mystery;” that is, to cause all to understand the manner in which this great truth of the plan of salvation is communicated to men. It is difficult to determine which is the true reading, and it is not very important. The general sense is, that Paul felt himself called into the ministry in order that all men might understand now that salvation was free for all a truth that had been concealed for ages.  Bearing this great truth, he felt that he had a message of incalculable value to mankind, and he was desirous to go and proclaim it to the wide world.
         If the word “fellowship” is to be retained, it means that this doctrine, or secret counsel of God, was now common to all believers. It was not to be confined to any class or rank of men. The allusion is to the mysteries of the ancient pagan religions.   Here Paul seems to contrast those “mysteries” with Christianity.  In those “mystery religions” there was a distinction between the initiated and uninitiated. There was a revelation, to some of the worshippers, of certain holy secrets from which others were excluded. There were in some of the mysteries, as the Eleusinian, great and lesser doctrines, in which different persons were initiated.  We see this same thing in the “secret orders” or “lodges” that are in existence today.
         In strong contrast with these, the “great mystery” in Christianity was made known to ALL.  It was concealed from none, and there was no distinction made among those who were initiated. No truths which God had revealed were held back from any part, but there was a common participation by all. Christianity has NO hidden truths (as do the “secret orders”) for a part only of its friends; it has no “reserved” doctrines; it has no truths to be entrusted only to a sacred priesthood.  Its doctrines are to be published to the entire world, and every follower of Christ is to be a partaker of all the benefits of the truths which Christ has revealed.

“which from the beginning of the world”
Literally:  “having been hidden from eternity hath been hid in God”–Hid, as it were, with God; among the secret counsels of God.

The plan was formed, but it had not before been made known. It was from the beginning God's purpose to save the Gentiles by the gospel, but it had been kept hidden.  “Hidden in” His counsels (1:9)–“Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself.”

        “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (1:4).
        “Now to Him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began” (Rom. 16:25).

        “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery {even} the hidden {wisdom} which God ordained before the world unto our glory” (I Cor. 2:7).    

“created all things by Jesus Christ”
Literally:  “the {One} creating all things through Jesus Christ”–And He therefore has the absolute right to order all things according to His own counsel.

         The oldest manuscripts omit “by Jesus Christ.”  Some Greek scholars believe that this phrase was probably inserted here by some transcriber from the parallel passage in Col. 1:16. By omitting this phrase, the text, therefore, should be read: “which from the beginning of the world had been hidden in God who created all things.”  No inferiority of Christ can be argued from a clause of whose spuriousness there is the strongest evidence.
         God's creation of the world and all things therein is the foundation of the rest of the “economy,” which is freely dispensed according to the universal power of God.  As Jesus Christ created “the whole range of things” (so the Greek says), physical and spiritual alike, He must have an absolute right to adjust all things as He will.  Therefore, we may see His right to keep the mystery of world-wide salvation in Christ “hidden in Himself,” till His own good time for revealing it.

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