“It was the good pleasure of the Father that in Him should all the fulness dwell” (Colossians 1:19).
“The riches of the glory of this mystery ... which is Christ in you” (Colossians 1:27).
The word mystery as used in the New Testament is “a sacred secret, long kept hidden, and while so hidden, absolutely impenetrable by man.” What is this secret that the Apostle Paul writes about in his letter to the Colossians? It is a secret that he seems to have no words to describe, but full of “riches of glory” beyond human conception.
This secret, he tells us, had been hidden from the “ages” preceding the days in which he wrote, but the fulness of time had come, and it was then God’s good pleasure to make it known to His saints — those redeemed by the blood of Christ and separated unto Him.
The secret so long kept hidden could only be revealed by God himself, but the Holy Spirit was given that the children of God should know the things freely given to them by God. The blessed Holy Spirit is sent to reveal the secret, and He is ready to reveal it to all those who truly desire to know it (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).
The blood-bought children of God need to know this glorious secret. It is in truth an open secret to all who are taught of God, and yet it is veiled to so many who are true believers, and go on living a sad up and down life of “sinning and repenting,” day after day, when the knowledge of the “secret” would admit them into constant victory, unbroken peace, deep satisfaction, and rest!
But what is the secret? It is summed up in two brief sentences — “In Him all the fulness!” “Christ IN YOU ... glory!” (Colossians 1:19,27).
It simply means that the Father has placed in His beloved Son all the supply for our need. All light, all love, all power, all patience, all joy, all peace — all we need for “life and god-likeness” (2 Peter 1:3), now in this present time (Colossians 2:3,9,10).
In Him is the fulness of God. In us — nothing! We have nothing to offer God, but our wills. The willingness to receive His Son as our Saviour, and then as our King, enthroned upon the throne of our hearts, is all that the Father desires and asks of us.
The Secret Revealed
“It was the good pleasure of God, who separated me ... and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son IN ME” (Galatians 1:15-16).
The Apostle Paul did not learn the secret at the feet of Gamaliel. It was wholly sealed to him until God himself revealed it to him, and then his eyes were opened to see how the Lord had been watching over him from his birth, and had chosen him for His service.
The glorious secret can only be known by us in the same way. The Holy Spirit must unveil the living Christ as dwelling in us, just as He first of all revealed Him to us as our Saviour.
Moreover we shall never know the secret by trying to grasp it with our minds, nor by puzzling over it as to how it can be! The Lord Jesus himself said of the Holy Spirit, “He shall take of mine, and shall declare it unto you.” But the eternal Spirit can only reveal when our minds are at rest, and we have given up “trying to see,” and when we even give up our anxious seeking to know Him, as well as all self-introspection, for many are disposed to look within for an experience, instead of only to the risen Lord.
When we cease from our struggles, and efforts, and tell the Lord we are willing to let Him take His own time, and reveal to us His Son in His own way, then suddenly, as by a brightness above the sun, or perhaps imperceptibly, and possibly wholly apart from our consciousness, Christ is revealed in us — a living bright reality.
We may not be able to tell how, or when, but we know by the witness of the Holy Spirit, that the Lord Jesus reigns within, even as He said to His disciples, “In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and ... I IN YOU” (John 14:20).
The Secret Manifested
“It was the good pleasure of God ... to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him ... and they glorified God in me” (Galatians 1:15,16,24).
When the churches in >Judea heard what had happened to the Apostle Paul, and how he preached the faith of which he once made havoc, he says “they glorified God in me.” This is always the result of Christ’s indwelling! When He is revealed in us, others glorify God, and not the earthen vessel He makes His temple. They do not say “what a wonderful Christian,” but “what a wonderful God.”
Moreover, when Christ is revealed in us, we cannot help preaching Him by word and life. It used to be I know what I have believed, but now it is Whom I have believed. When Christ is revealed in us, and we have learned the glorious secret, we may be sure that the “secret will out!” There is not much need to question, “Shall I confess it?” For others will see Him working through us, and come and ask us how they may learn the secret too.
After the revelation of Christ in the Apostle Paul, and the manifestation to others, we read of the energising power of this wondrous secret. The Apostle writes “He that wrought effectually in Peter the same was MIGHTY IN ME” (Galatians 2:8, KJV).
The Lord wrought in Paul as effectually as He wrought in Peter on the day of Pentecost, when Peter was changed from being the coward he was in the judgment hall, and became a bold, fearless witness to the crucified and risen Lord. Even so the risen Christ dwelling in the Apostle Paul wrought through him mightily, doing “mighty signs and wonders” by him, working in him both to “will and to work, for His good pleasure.”
“He that wrought effectually in Peter was mighty in me,” said the Apostle. Paul had proved that God could energise him as well as Peter, although he was not one of those filled with the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost. Oh, that each child of God might be shown by the Holy Spirit that the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all them that call upon Him. It is possible for each blood-bought child of God today to say likewise, “He that wrought effectually in Paul, is mighty in me.”
The Secret and its Conditions
“I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me; and that life which I now live, I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20).
This verse contains the secret of knowing the secret! Let us notice that the words “crucified with Christ” precede “Christ lives in me.”
Our eyes are opened to see the fulness in Christ, and then He shows us that the secret of being conformed to His image, and walking as He walked in this present evil world, lies not in our trying to be like Him, but Jesus himself coming to dwell in us as His temples, and himself living His own life through us.
It is a great step forward when, as children of God, we see that we have absolutely failed to live like Christ, and give up the trying! The patient Lord has to let us try, that we may find out that it is impossible for human beings to copy the life of the Holy Son of God.
Just as we attempted to save ourselves, or make ourselves fit to approach God, and then found after all our striving, that we were “nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,” so, after the matter of our salvation is settled, we again seek to do the very same thing, and think that now our sins have been forgiven, with Hishelp we can succeed in pleasing Him and working for Him. Again we are allowed to try, and fail, just that we may realise our helplessness.
How many of us also have a dim idea that we have “gifts” to offer God, and expect Him to sanctify the old life and make something better of us! Someone once said it was a long road to the end of ourselves, and it does seem such a long time before we really honestly are willing to say, “in me ... dwells no good thing” (Romans 7:18). Like King Saul, we use our own judgment and are willing to destroy what we consider vile and refuse, but spare what we call “good” to offer to God in service.
The Holy Spirit has to teach us, sometimes very painfully, that we have no best to retain, and that our very comeliness is corruption, for all that is of the old life is under the curse of sin.
The divine plan is not to improve the old life, but that we should commit it to death — the death of the Cross — for it really was crucified with Christ in the sight of God when He died on >Calvary. It must not be “I” — even apparently good “I” — trying to please and work for Christ. We must recognise and accept God’s sentence of death upon “I” in every form and yield all to the Cross of Calvary.
When our eyes are opened to see our place as crucified with Christ, nailed together with Him to His Cross, and agree to live the crucified life of true self effacement, then the Spirit of God will bear witness by revealing Christ within, no longer a dim and distant Lord, but, as one has said, “an inside Saviour!” Then He is able to manifest himself through the earthly house of our bodily frame and glorify His Father. Then He is able to work through the yielded body, not feebly and intermittently, but with effectual power; no longer hindered by us, but blessedly moving through us as He wills, and we obey Him fully.
“It is no longer I that live, but Christ” — this is the secret of which glory and riches too feebly express the fulness.
We need to remember however that Christ dwelling in the believer will not destroy his individuality. The Apostle writes, “Christ lives in me.”
We see the capital “I” crucified, the “I” that dethrones and dishonours the Lord, but a “me” that still lives! — a “me” that must yield quick and implicit obedience to the tender gracious King dwelling within the heart. Christ, not self on the throne of the heart, the new spring of life at the centre of our being.
The “Secret” for Others
“My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).
“Oh that Christ might be revealed in them and fully formed in them,” was the Apostle Paul’s yearning desire for his converts, and to this end he travailed on their behalf. How he watched and prayed, nursed and cared, encouraged and warned them, as he watched the Holy Spirit patiently and tenderly detaching them from the old earth-life. Paul laboured among them according to the “working” which was working in him mightily (Colossians 1:29), with one great end ever before him, that Christ might be formed in them, and that he might present every one of them full-grown in Christ in the day of His appearing. (See Colossians 1:28,29.)
This is the Glorious Secret now open to all who consent to the conditions of its unveiling. The redeemed one but an earthen vessel, a fragile body of clay, with the old “I” nailed to the Cross of Christ, and the living Christ dwelling within. A vessel of clay manifestly not sufficient to think anything as of itself, that all may glorify God in it. A vessel of clay so yielded to God that He can work through it in unhindered power, while it is simply living, moment by moment, in faith upon the Son of God who reigns within.
Thus walking hour by hour under the power of the cleansing blood, the God-possessed soul is ever being brought into fuller conformity to the death of Christ. “Always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested. Always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:10-11).
The Timeless Power of the “Secret”
And the key to it all is FAITH — faith in the working of God. “For this cause,” wrote Paul to the Ephesians, “I bow my knees unto the Father ... that you may be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inward man; that CHRIST MAY DWELL IN YOUR HEARTS THROUGH FAITH (and) that you may be filled unto all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19).
“God in heaven has a treasure,
Riches none may count or tell,
Has a deep eternal pleasure,
Christ the Son He loveth well.
God has here on earth a treasure
None but He its price may know,
Deep unfathomable pleasure;
Christ revealed in saints below.”
Jessie Penn-Lewis (1898)