In the first chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians he referred several times to “my bonds.” Philippians 1:7, 13, 14, and 16. Note Philippians 1:13. “So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places.”
Paul was Caesar’s prisoner in the jail at Rome. But he was in reality the prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hear his testimony.
“FOR THIS CAUSE I PAUL, THE PRISONER OF JESUS CHRIST FOR YOU GENTILES.” Ephesians 3:1.
The prisoner of Jesus Christ. For whom? For Gentiles. I wonder how many, or rather how few, of us appreciate Paul’s imprisonment and sufferings for us.
Paul wrote Philippians and Ephesians from his prison home. Note his prayer request in Ephesians 6:19 and 20.
“And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
Here we learn that in spite of the fact that Paul was in jail for special Divine truth, he was exceedingly eager to open his mouth and proclaim that truth.
If Christians of 1941 A. D. had any adequate appreciation of what Paul’s sufferings meant for them, they would show that appreciation by opening their mouths boldly and speak forth “the mystery of the gospel.” But of course they should learn the difference between the gospel by which they are saved and “the mystery of the gospel.”
Paul also wrote Colossians and II Timothy from the Roman jail. The jail door had opened to receive him for proclaiming “the mystery”. But he wanted other doors opened for the proclamation of that truth which was so precious to his own heart.
Note Colossians 4:3 and 4.
“Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.”
So we see that Paul wanted all saints to join with him in prayer for an open mouth and for an open door where the Divine truth that got him into serious trouble might be uttered.
Paul was in jail for telling a Secret. He was the prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ, suffering as a criminal. For what? For the mystery. Remember he was the prisoner for Gentiles. Paul writes, in Colossians 1:27, of the mystery among the Gentiles, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” If this mystery meant the Gentiles’ hope of glory, how intensely interested those Colossians should have been in knowing every phase of that blessed truth. We should be just as eager today to know it.
In connection with that mystery among the Gentiles, in Colossians 1:27, note in the preceding verses that Paul was in prison because a dispensation of God had been given to him for Gentiles. His God-given, Christ-revealed duty was to fill up. To fill up, what?
First—note Colossians 1:24:
“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and to fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His Body’s sake, which is the Church.”
Second—note Colossians 1:25 and 26:
“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 from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints.”
Paul had to fill up that which was behind of the afflictions of Christ. Paul had to fill up (complete) the Word of God with the mystery. Paul was a genuine sufferer. “My sufferings for you. “
In II Timothy 1:12, Paul declared—“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep MY DEPOSIT.” Note how we have quoted this verse. The Greek is “my paratheke”. Paul suffered because he had a deposit from Christ, the mystery. Paul practiced what he preached. Note what he preached in I Corinthians 4:1 and 2.
“Let a man so account of us, as, of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”
Paul was a faithful steward. He was an uncompromising, fearless, faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Note his stand in Galatians 1:10.—“For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”
Note the difference concerning Peter—“For before that certain (Peter) came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles; but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.” Galatians 2:12. Peter never forgot that rebuke. He wrote later—“And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that, are unlearned, and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction.” II Peter 3:15 and 16. In this same second chapter of Galatians we read again concerning Paul’s uncompromising, bold stand—“To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” Galatians 2:5.
Paul suffered for “the mystery”, for “my deposit”. Concerning “the mystery” Paul wrote- ”How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; as I wrote afore in few words.” Ephesians 3:3. The mystery was given to Paul by special revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Note Paul’s desire concerning the knowledge of this mystery.
“And to make all men see what is THE DISPENSATION OF THE MYSTERY, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God.” Ephesians 3:9.
Paul had referred to “my gospel” and “the mystery” even before he reached the Roman jail. “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” Romans 2:16. Note particularly Romans 16:25.
According to “my gospel”. According to the revelation of “the mystery”.
Note how they are again mentioned, in II Timothy 2:7 to 9.
“MY GOSPEL”—WHEREIN (FOR WHICH) I SUFFER AS AN EVIL DOER EVEN UNTO BONDS.
The mystery of the gospel was God’s eternal purpose in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 3:11.
Note II Timothy 1:9 and 1:11” Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” “Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.”
Again note Ephesians 1:4 and 5 and 1:11—“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; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” “In Whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.” What God purposed in eternity before the world began was indeed God’s Secret from before the foundation of the world. It was according to the good pleasure of God’s will which He purposed in Himself, and in Christ Jesus, that members of the Body of Christ were chosen in Christ before the world began, and were predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son and to be children in God’s family. Read Romans 8:29 and 30—“Foreknow”, “Predestinate”, “Called”, “Justified”, “Glorified.”
It is because of this eternal purpose of God that we can believe Romans 8:28 to 30. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” It is true that this Secret of the Father of glory was not made known before the deposit and dispensation was committed to Paul but we learn in Romans and in I Corinthians that it was revealed to Paul before he reached the Roman jail.
Then he wrote—“Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself.” Ephesians 1:9.
So now the question to all saints, “Why should this Divine truth still be a Secret, if it has been made known?” God’s children have been blinded with sectarianism and religion, and have made no attempt to obey Ephesians 4:3 to 6—“Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one Body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
The Mystery is God’s repudiation of all sectarianism and God’s refutation of any and all arguments to include any part of Israel’s religious program in His spiritual program for members of the Body of Christ, under the dispensation of the grace of God.
And then we need to pray the prayer of Ephesians 1:17 to 23, and receive the spirit of wisdom and revelation from the Father of glory, and have the eyes of our understanding enlightened to comprehend the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. If we let God, by the Holy Spirit, make known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself, we can say, Amen, to Romans 8:28 because when we are the called, according to His purpose, we know that His purpose is an eternal purpose “from foreknowledge to glorification”.
It is an eternity of grace. “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” II Timothy 1:9.
“That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 2:7.
What a glorious privilege to live under the present reign of grace, if we are the recipients of that over-abounding grace of “the God of all grace”.
Then as we bow and give thanks to our heavenly Father for the sufferings of the apostle to the Gentiles we should be ready to suffer with him and know what it means to become partakers of the sufferings of Christ, remembering II Timothy 2:12, “if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.”
“But be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God.” II Timothy 1:8.
Perhaps all of us were surprised when first we learned, by studying Paul’s ministry in the Book of Acts and in his Epistles, that he speaks of himself in the first-person pronoun more than 1000 times. We note his humility in Ephesians 3:8: “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.”
No one can carefully study the testimonies of Paul and truthfully say that he was presumptuous, egotistical or deluded. We say that he was the greatest of all saints. Why did Paul speak of MY gospel?
He declares that the secrets of men’s hearts will be judged by MY gospel. Romans 2:16. In Romans 16:25 we read “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.” Now note II Timothy 2:8 and 9: “According to MY gospel, Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds.”
If the Lord Jesus Christ commanded John the Baptist, the Seventy whom He sent out (Luke 10:1), or the Twelve, either before or after His death, to proclaim the same gospel that he committed unto Paul, why did Paul call this particular message MY gospel?
In Galatians 1:11 and 12 we learn how and from Whom Paul received his gospel: “the gospel which was preached of me is not after man: For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
“And Jesus went about all their cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM, and healing every sickness, and every disease among the people.” Matthew 9:35.
In Matthew 10:5 to 8 we read that Christ told the Twelve to preach the same kingdom gospel and to carry on the same program of miracles; but to Jews only. By way of contrast note I Timothy 1:11 and 5:23 . . . “the Glorious Gospel committed to MY trust” . . “use a little wine for thine oft sicknesses.” Note II Timothy 4:20: “Trophimus have I left at Miletum SICK.”
When Paul wrote that he was suffering as an evil doer for “MY gospel”, he also wrote that he was in the Roman prison for “THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL.” Ephesians 6:19 and 20 and Colossians 4:3 and 4. II Timothy 2:8 and 9.
The “MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL” belongs to an entirely different Divine dispensation than does “THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM” and the preacher who proclaims to the Gentile, during this present reign of grace, the gospel of the kingdom for his salvation, is not only ignorant of God’s purpose for this age, but he is guilty, in God’s sight, of a spiritual crime. “There be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:7.
Please do not misrepresent us and say that we teach that nothing in the so-called Four Gospels is for sinners and saints of this age. We say dogmatically that the gospel of the kingdom is not the same as the gospel of the grace of God, which Christ, by special revelation, gave to Paul. Acts 20:24. Moreover we state emphatically that we must intelligently study Matthew, Mark and Luke in the light of Paul’s “MY GOSPEL”, if we would intelligently interpret, appropriate and apply the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth during this present reign of grace.
“But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was committed unto Peter.” Galatians 2:7.How many gospels are here mentioned, in Galatians 2:7?
While it is true that no sinner, Jew or Gentile, in any dispensation, was ever saved on any other grounds than the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is also true that any man who declares there is only one gospel in the Bible is much mistaken.
Paul was not a prisoner in the Roman jail for preaching that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. He was in jail for preaching “the mystery of the gospel.”
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.