[This is a part of the Fundamentals of Effective Catechesis series]
Don’t you love the end of a mystery movie?
You’ve been looking for the clues, piecing together the puzzle of events and trying to figure out exactly what happened.
Then finally, at the end, it comes…the revelation of the answer you so anxiously waited for.
Imagine waiting thousands of years to find out “whodunit”!
That’s the tension surrounding God’s plan of salvation. Israel waited generations for the Messiah! All the prophets said he was coming! When would he come? It was a mystery!
Then, St. Paul comes on the scene and reveals the secret. The mystery is Christ!
He’s like the ultimate mystery detective, except, he didn’t figure it out on his own. He was told by God.
Here are 10 Bible verses that show St. Paul’s “Poirot-like” revelation of the mystery of Christ.
In biblical terms, a mystery is not quite like an Agatha Christi novel…but close!
A mystery, in Greek mysterion, is a “secret thing” hidden from human knowledge. Only God knows the mystery and the only way for men to find out is for God to tell them.
In the Old Testament, the mysterion concerns God’s secret plan of salvation which is unfolding within human history. The plan is slowly revealed over time through the prophets. This is the importance of the Scriptures. They are God’s “reveal” of the mystery!
The prophets also speak of the Messiah, the Savior, the one who’s going to enact the plan.
So, for ancient Israel, instead of a “whodunit,” the Scriptures are a “how’s God gonna do it” and a “who’s gonna do it.”
How’s God gonna do it
St. Paul very much picks up this theme of the Old Testament mysterion. He’s saying his message reveals God’s secret salvation plan that’s been hidden since the beginning of time.
1. Ephesians 3:4-5:
“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.”
2. Romans 16:25:
“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings…”
Who’s gonna do it
This mystery was hidden but now God chose to reveal it and make it known through the apostles and prophets, particularly Paul.
3. 1 Corinthians 2:7:
“But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification.”
And, Paul not only knows the mystery plan, he also knows the mystery man–Jesus Christ. “Christ in you” is the “hope of glory.”
4. Colossians 1:27:
“…of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints. 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.”
5. Ephesians 1:9:
“For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
Paul makes the mystery man known
Now there’s nothing left for Paul to do but to make the riches of this mystery of Christ known.
6. Colossians 4:3:
“…pray for us also, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison, that I may make it clear, as I ought to speak.”
7. 2 Corinthians 4:5:
“For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”
The Bible is like a great mystery story that leads us to Christ. The mystery of Christ.
Beginning with the Fall, the great question is: How will God fix what Adam and Eve have screwed up? And, who’s going to fix it?
All along the way, we get the clues. A little piece from a story here. A little more revealed through a prophetic writing there. The final piece of the puzzle comes with the arrival of Christ!
It’s not just about what Christ actually said and did though. He worked in the context of everything that came before. He brings all of God’s past revelation together into a unity. Everything along the way contributes to understanding salvation.
In the case of Christianity, the medium really is the message! And, the medium is salvation history.
Like master detectives, the apostles, especially St. Paul, put together the pieces and made all the connections so we can understand how to truly be holy, follow God and be saved.
This is the fourth in a series on Fundamentals of Effective Catechesis. I’m laying out the system of catechesis I learned at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Make sure you go back and read the other posts!