4 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.
Paul has just elaborated on the importance of the church, that it is the body of which Christ Himself is the Head, as He is head of all things, and that He is reconciling the church to Himself, making her holy and blameless. Paul now shows his own passion for the church. He is suffering on behalf of the church, and for that He rejoices, as it allows him to identify with Christ, suffering for His body, His bride.
Suffering attends Paul’s ministry, but of course it is not the purpose of his calling. It is his mission is to present the mystery of the gospel to the saints, especially the Gentiles.
Two times in as many verses Paul refers to the gospel as a mystery. In our mystery stories and movies today we trust an author to know how they will end. We may try to solve the puzzles based on available clues, but in the end the author needs to spell it out for us.
That is what happens in the gospel. As fallen, sinful humanity we never would have figured out that we were both the victims and the culprits in this story. Even less would we have guessed that, once we were convicted, the judge’s son would take our punishment on Himself.
No. God kept some details to His plan of salvation hidden for ages and generations—though there were clues. But in Christ, the gospel is revealed, and it is Paul’s mission to make this clear. That the story has a happy ending for the saints does not stop him from warning everyone about the perils of life without Christ. Even those who accept he continues to teach, even when it’s a struggle, imparting what wisdom he can while he can, because the goal is that none just squeak by, but that all would be mature, that they might know the scope of the story and its implications for life.
For Paul is not passionate and willing to suffer merely for an interesting story. The mystery of the gospel is rich and glorious—the word “glory” appears twice, too. But the best part, the “great . . . riches of the glory of the mystery,” is that Christ is in us, giving us “the hope of glory.” Not only did he die to save and to free us, He also took up residence in our hearts, by faith, that we might have His guidance, comfort, and consolation. And He is transforming us, too, that we have the very real hope of one day becoming partakers in His glory.