24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
From the ESV
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
But not only is Paul rejoicing in his suffering, he sees it as a time that he is gaining more of Christ as he suffers for the church. In this I read what I am missing I think, I think he considers his suffering less than what he is gaining in the end. He gains Christ more through his suffering, and that would make the suffering worth it. In childbirth, one considers the labour of it a necessary joy in order to have that greater joy of having your child to hold. :)
Paul considers himself to be a minister of the Word that Christ himself gave to me, the Word that is a mystery, hidden for age, revealed now to his people, the saints of the Lord. And how God has chosen to reveal this not just to the Jews, but to the Gentiles as well. The mystery is how Christ can dwell with us. Be an actual part of us.
And so it is Christ that is proclaimed to everyone, Christ, the hope of glory. We proclaim him so that all might mature in faith in him. In wisdom, teaching and correcting everyone so that they might mature in faith. God gives the strength and energy to Paul and to us to accomplish this task. This is what Paul works, and what we should work for as well....with the strength that we are given.
Questions from the book
Paul considered being a Christian not only a state to live for, but also to die for. It was how he lived his life. "He had an overwhelming conviction that his message was not only true, but it was TRUTH." Jesus warned his followers that a time of suffering would come for those who believe in him. Following Christ means that trouble and hardship will come our way. The New Testament affirms this, many Christians suffered for the sake of the gospel. This is one of the reasons why Paul was so willing to suffer. He knew that it was part of being a follower of Christ.
The question of course to me and other believers I know: Do we actually live our lives knowing this reality? I know it's easy for us to consider OTHER Christians in other parts of the world who are persecuted for being believers, but do we actually consider it for ourselves? It's so easy to forget in this era when we have it fairly good yet, where we don't tend to be persecuted for our faith. But how does one change that mindset eh? When one doesn't live in a time of active persecution, how does one prepare for it?
2. Why Does Paul describe the message of the gospel as 'the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints'? Why is this different from saying that the gospel is something mystical?
Mystery: this is a term with a very biblical sense: namely as an expression for important truth that was beyond the reach of finite, fallen human reason, but which God himself was pleased to reveal to his people.
God revealed himself and his truth to us. First to the Jews, but even then he promised it was for the whole world, and now, in the NT, he reveals that it is also for the Gentiles. God's revelation is for all people. God revealed himself for all people, his glory is in us.
Hubby dear helped me to find this passage to better explain what the mystery is. From Ephesians 3: For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
(Ephesians 3:1-6 ESV)
3. What was it specifically that Paul says God had chosen to make known to the saints? What does this say about the depth of relationship a Christian has with God through their union with Christ in salvation? How does this alter our outlook on our present circumstances and our future hope if we are believers?
Christ alone. This is what God revealed. Christ in you, the hope of glory. Christ dwells within us. As believers our lives should be intertwined with Christ. He is our hope. He is our glory.
4. How are we to understand the way he puts 'I toil' and 'he [God] powerfully works' side by side in this verse? Look up Phil. 2:12-13: in what ways does this help us to see that what was true for Paul is also true for every Christian?
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
I don't understand this question. To me it seems obvious. God helps us to live our lives as believers. He helps us to learn better how to live for him. Being a Christian doesn't mean we just float along in life, it's work to live and grow and be changed by him. God works it out in us, but we have to be actively participating in that change. Change doesn't happen in a vaccuum, it happens under God's guidance and promptings.