Published 8th December 2016

By John Aldworth

Eph. 5: 13-14: But things that are reproved (i.e. exposed) are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore He saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead and Christ shall give thee light.

Col. 1:27-28: To whom God would make known what is the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles which is Christ in you the hope of glory.

Eph. 3:8-9: Unto me, who am less that the least of saints, is this grace given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 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.

Let us ask the question: Just what is the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery (Rom. 16:25)? I suggest the answer found is that it is ‘Christ in you the hope of glory’ (Col. 1:27). Or, to put it another way, it is to ‘make all men see the fellowship of the mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God who created all things by Jesus Christ’ (Eph. 3:9).

Scripture is explicit that both ‘Christ in you’ and the ‘fellowship of the mystery’ are new spiritual experiences brought in by God. They were hid in God in ages past and from each previous generation of men, and were revealed for the first time in the prison epistles of the Apostle Paul. Thus they cannot be considered the same as God’s previous acts of salvation.

That said, did you notice that in Eph. 3:9 it is all men which are to made to see the fellowship of the mystery. Not just some. Why? Because God is not willing that any should perish but that all should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Fact is God has made a way of salvation for all men and wants all men saved. This is stressed over and over in the prison epistles. But because of widespread thinking that ‘God chooses to save some but not others’ the mystery has not been seen as the culminating act of God to save and unite the human race that it actually is.

We should always remember that God loves and blesses mankind despite our faults, For example:

God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son… (John 3:16).

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace are ye saved). (Eph. 2:4-5).

We’ve often thought the ‘us’ in Eph. 2:4 referred to the saved or the elect and that, accordingly, only they were quickened. But that is not what either verse 4 or 5 says. Actually the ‘us’ here is the same as the ‘we’ of verse 3. And when he says ‘we’ that embraces all mankind as being ‘by nature the children of wrath, even as others’.

Meaning that even the ‘saints’ at Ephesus and the Apostle Paul himself were ‘the children of disobedience’ and as dead in sins as then unsaved until God in an incredible act of grace quickened us all. And, surely if all were dead in sin, even the supposedly ‘saved’, then God could not discriminate among men; He must quicken all.

But just what is the ‘fellowship of the mystery’ that the Apostle Paul was commanded by God ‘to make all men see’? Scripture infers that it is nothing less than the spiritual resurrection of all men, the ‘Christ in you’ of Col. 1:27. Meaning that, in fact, in Paul’s own lifetime God really had spiritually quickened ‘all men’, not just the ‘elect’ or only some of them, but all mankind. Since this was a dispensational change that has yet to be revoked it would also mean that He has been quickening all of us ever since.

If this is true, then in revealing the mystery to the Apostle Paul God was declaring that He at some point around 64AD renewed the spirit of every human with the Spirit of his risen, ascended and glorified Son, Christ Jesus and has continued to do so ever since. Prior to this stupendous change in God’s dealings with mankind we were in ‘time past’ as the Apostle makes clear in Eph. 2:1-2:

And you hath He quickened who were in dead in trespasses. Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Among whom also all had our conversation in times past and in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath as others.

It is important here to see again that prior to the quickening mentioned in the next verse, vs. 5, all men, whether sinners, saints or apostles, were by nature children of wrath. Consequently I submit that necessarily the quickening has taken place in all mankind from Paul’s time onwards. Previously, as we understand from Eph. 2:1 and 5, we were all ‘dead in trespasses and sins’.  This is why Eph. 2:4-5 says:

But God, who is rich in mercy, for the great love wherewith He loved us, even when we  were dead in trespasses and sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved).

What is this quickening? It is the making alive of something that was dead. We were dead in trespasses and sins’ by which the Apostle means that our spirits, once holy as given to us at birth by God, were now dead, having been killed by our sin. The quickening then is having our dead spirit made alive again, alive unto God that is.

How is this accomplished?  By God, by bringing our spirit back to life again by placing the Spirit of Christ within our hearts. Does this represent the last stage in God’s progressive work of a full and complete salvation effective for all people? In my view it does. For this reason the Apostle, Paul tells his readers in Col. 2:10 that ‘ye are complete in Him’ (i.e. Christ).

Question: Were the Colossian ‘saints and faithful brethren’ (Col. 1:2) in full assurance of salvation when Paul penned this letter to them? Evidently not, for according to Col. 2:2 they had yet to understand the mystery. And what was the mystery?  That ‘you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God hath (now) quickened together with Him (that is, Christ), having forgiven you all trespasses (Col. 2:13).

When did this forgiveness of sin and resurrection together with Christ occur? Surely, at the same time as the Colossians were reconciled by God. And when did that take place? These two verses have the answer:

Col. 2:13: And you being dead in your sins and uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.

Col. 1:21:  And you, who were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of his (Christ’s) flesh to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.

Like the Ephesians, the Colossians were forgiven, quickened, justified and raised with Christ when they were ‘dead in trespasses and sins’. In one comprehensive action, called the quickening, God rekindled their spirit by means of ‘Christ in you’ and made them ‘complete’ in Christ (Col. 2:10). Again, since the Colossians were dead in trespasses and sins when God wrought this miracle in their hearts they stood on no different ground at the time of this wonderful act of grace than did all the sinners in the world.

Which to my mind means that if God did it for them He did for all others too. Perhaps you’ve heard the chorus, ‘What God did for others He can do for you’? In my view that’s just what He did at that ‘now’ instant back in the 1st century.

In doing that did God the Father leave anything undone that needed to be done to achieve his stated goal – that all men should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth? Not if all men were/are quickened together with Christ. Why? Because the Apostle goes onto tell them that they are now ‘complete in Him’ (Christ) ‘in whom dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead bodily.’ (Col. 2:9-10.

The key issue is whether this quickening and completion has happened to just some people or to all? Support for the contention it is for all is found in Eph. 5:8:

For ye were sometimes darkness but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light. For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.

The ‘ye’ here are the same ‘ye’ who were ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ in Eph. 2:1 and 5. Eph. 2:2-3 explains that in ‘time past’ ‘we all’ – apostles, saints and unsaved sinners – walked according to the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.

But what a difference it makes when the Lord turns the light on! The glory of the Lord is risen upon us who lived in gross darkness.  Please note that ‘but now’ in the verse above are words often used in Paul’s epistles to denote huge and sudden dispensational changes made by God in extending grace and salvation to all mankind.

For example, in Eph. 2:11-13 Gentiles are told that where ‘in time past’ they without Christ, aliens from Israel, without hope and without God in the world. ‘But now … ye… are made nigh by the blood of Christ’.

And Eph. 2:5 makes plain a new truth only just revealed by God to the Apostle that Paul wants the Ephesian ‘saints’ to understand:

It is that they are not now saved by repentance, water baptism into Israel, or acknowledging Jesus as Lord but by God’s act in quickening them (and, I submit, everyone else) together with Christ. As he insists, ‘by grace ye are saved’ and that grace is the same grace ‘which bringeth salvation (and) hath appeared unto all men’ (Titus 2:11).

Since all were ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ when they were quickened, the quickening must extend to all mankind. There can be no difference between the elect and non-elect, the called or not called, when they are dead toward God because of sin.  In a similar vein Rom. 5:18 says that

… as by the offence of one (Adam) judgement (of death) came upon all men, even so by the righteousness of one (Christ) the free gift (grace) came upon all men to the justification of life.

But, as Acts records, historically, this gift of justification by grace was repudiated by all but a handful of Israelites and also largely rejected by the Gentiles to whom it was also preached. God’s response to this rejection of his gracious act was to bring in the mystery, the heart of which is that in the quickening He works directly on the spirit of all men, ousting the spirit of rebellion and disobedience and imparting instead the Spirit of the risen glorified Christ Himself. Thus as a result of this divine act all men now are told that ‘Christ in you (is) the hope of glory’ (Col. 1:27). And wasn’t it just this truth that the Apostle Paul wanted to ‘make all men see’.

Study of the Greek reveals that ‘in you’ in Col. 1:27 means emanating from within. This means the great secret (mystery) now revealed through the Apostle Paul is that God, without asking anybody’s permission - still less requiring anybody to jump through religious church hoops to publicly repent or make a show of ‘voluntary humility’ (Col. 2:18) - has already brought man’s sin-deadened spirit back to life, thus fully completing his universal salvation of all mankind.

You understand, of course, that in the first place God ‘gives to all life and breath and all things (Acts 17: 25), that He is the ‘Father of spirits’ and since it of his Spirit that he breathes life into every human being born that spirit must be holy at the outset.

But like sheep we have all gone astray and turned everyone to his own way…’ (Isaiah 5:6). In turning to Satan from God we humans have killed the spirit the Father originally gave us. And evidently it is because of this ‘spirit of disobedience’ that one of Jesus’ disciples had to ask, ‘Lord are there few that be saved?’

Seemingly, at that time very few were. And today it is much the same. Yet, did Christ really die for the sins of all mankind? Yes, He did. 1 John 2:2 declares: ‘… He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for our’s only but also for the sins of the whole world’.

Through Christ are all to be made alive or just some, the elect?  Yes all, for 1 Cor. 15:22 says: ‘For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive’. Is this ‘making alive’ the spiritual resurrection described as ‘Christ in you’ in Col. 1:27? Yes, I believe it is

If it is true that the mystery really is that God has resurrected the spirit of all men from being dead in trespasses and sins to new life in Christ then huge questions arise. Among them might be: If so, why aren’t all men saved? Another is, has the church had it wrong for nearly 2,000 years? Most important of all: Have we, because of preconceived theological ideas, so misconstrued what Paul was writing about in his prison epistles that we have missed the most important point he was making? Sadly I believe that is indeed the case.

We have barely begun to touch the surface of these issues and already the implications for understanding God and his salvation are huge. Much study of scripture will be required, not to mention an openness of mind and heart to receive the revelation the Lord would bring. But let us at least begin.

Returning to the verses we began with, why does the Apostle Paul draw on Isaiah 26:19 and Isaiah 60:1 in writing, ‘Awake thou that sleepest and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light’? Answer: because the spiritual awakening or resurrection of all men that he is describing as the heart of the mystery now revealed has a counterpart in the prospect of earthly resurrection held out to Old Testament Israelite believers. However, the mystery awakening is spiritual and heaven-ward, not earthly and physical.

What does this spiritual awakening of those sleep consist of? Answer: The re-awakening or resurrection of the human spirit to life in Christ. Does it apply just to the elect, the some who are saved or to all?

The answer to this question, to my mind, is given unequivocally in Col. 1:27-28.  It is to every man, a wording that is repeated twice in vs. 28 just in case you missed it.

Does this spiritual resurrection of ‘Christ in you’ fully save? Yes, it does because in vs. 28 Paul says he preaches it so that ‘we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus’.

So what prevents such a wonderful salvation being manifested throughout by every member of the human race? The answer in a word is sleep. Remember after the death of Lazarus Jesus said (John 11:11):

Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may awaken him out of sleep.

Similarly, God’s challenge to all people today through the Apostle Paul is:

                Awake thou that sleepest and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light (Eph. 5:14).

That commandment necessarily posits that all people have the ability to respond to it, not that they are incapable of doing so as has often been taught and much of the church believes.  If scripture is true then they do have that ability if only because ‘Christ in you (is) the hope of glory’.