Colossians 1:26
Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(26) The mystery.—On the Scriptural sense of the word “mystery,” and its relation to the modern use of the word, see Note on Ephesians 1:9. In this passage, perhaps, most of all, it is defined with perfect clearness, as “a secret long hidden, and now revealed.”

1:24-29 Both the sufferings of the Head and of the members are called the sufferings of Christ, and make up, as it were, one body of sufferings. But He suffered for the redemption of the church; we suffer on other accounts; for we do but slightly taste that cup of afflictions of which Christ first drank deeply. A Christian may be said to fill up that which remains of the sufferings of Christ, when he takes up his cross, and after the pattern of Christ, bears patiently the afflictions God allots to him. Let us be thankful that God has made known to us mysteries hidden from ages and generations, and has showed the riches of his glory among us. As Christ is preached among us, let us seriously inquire, whether he dwells and reigns in us; for this alone can warrant our assured hope of his glory. We must be faithful to death, through all trials, that we may receive the crown of life, and obtain the end of our faith, the salvation of our souls.Even the mystery - To make that mystery fully known. See this explained in the notes at Ephesians 3:2-9. The great doctrine that salvation was to be proclaimed to all mankind, Paul says, had been concealed for many generations. Hence, it was called a mystery, or a hidden truth.

But now is made manifest to his saints - It was communicated especially to the apostles who were appointed to proclaim it, and through them to all the saints. Paul says that he regarded himself as specially called to make this truth known, as far as possible, to mankind.

26. the mystery—(See on [2409]Eph 1:9, 10; Eph 3:5-9). The mystery, once hidden, now revealed, is redemption for the whole Gentile world, as well as for the Jews, "Christ in you (Gentiles) the hope of glory" (Col 1:27).

from ages—"from," according to Alford, refers to time, not "hidden from": from the time of the ages; still what is meant is that the mystery was hidden from the beings living in those "ages." The "ages" are the vast successive periods marked by successive orders of beings and stages of creation. Greek, "Æons," a word used by the Gnostics for angelic beings emanating from God. The Spirit by Paul presciently, in opposition to Gnostic error already beginning (Col 2:18), teaches, that the mystery of redemption was hidden in God's purposes in Christ, alike from the angelic beings (compare Eph 3:10) of the pre-Adamic "ages," and from the subsequent human "generations." Translate as Greek, "the ages … the generations."

made manifest to his saints—to His apostles and prophets primarily (Eph 3:5), and through them to all His saints.

Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations; viz. that holy secret of godliness, Colossians 2:2,3 4:3 Matthew 13:11 Romans 16:25,26 1 Corinthians 2:7 Ephesians 3:3,4,6,8,9,10; see 1 Timothy 3:16 Revelation 14:6; which doth not consist in beggarly elements, Galatians 4:9, or vain speculations, which these Colossians are cautioned to avoid, Colossians 2:8, however varnished; but is to them who are saved, the power of God, Romans 1:16 1 Corinthians 1:18,19, and the wisdom of God, 1 Corinthians 1:24, which lay hid in God before the world, 1 Corinthians 2:7 2 Timothy 1:9 Titus 1:2 1 Peter 1:20: yea, and after God had to our first parents, and so to his people the Jews, given some glimpse of this mystery, which yet the Gentiles of several ages were ignorant of, and many of the Jews, yea, the most knowing of them did not, for many generations, know that the Gentiles without circumcision, &c. were to be admitted into the church, Acts 10:28: the prophets were very inquisitive to know the meaning of it, but yet they also were much in the dark, 1 Corinthians 2:9 1 Peter 1:10,11; yea, the angels did not know this hidden mystery, till revealed by the church, Ephesians 1:10.

But now is made manifest to his saints; but now God that revealeth secrets, Daniel 2:28, hath opened his bosom counsel about this affair most clearly, so that his glory, by those that really fear him, may be seen with open face as in a glass through Christ, Matthew 13:11 Mark 4:11 John 8:47 15:15 Acts 16:14 1 Corinthians 2:10,16 2 Corinthians 3:18; all necessary to salvation being made conspicuous and clear to them, 1 Peter 2:9.

Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and generations,.... This is said, as explanative of the word of God; signifying that he did not mean the Scriptures in general, which are the word of God, and every part of them; some part of which is historical, another prophetical, another practical, and another doctrinal; nor the law, which also is the word of God, but the Gospel, called "the mystery", as it often is; because it contains things, which, though revealed, are mysteries to a natural man; and even to enlightened persons, who have the clearest view of them, the "modus" of them is not to be accounted for; such as the doctrines of the Trinity, of the union of the two natures in Christ, the incarnation of the Son of God, the union and communion of the church with Christ, the resurrection of the dead, &c. And though perhaps great and special regard may be here had to the calling of the Gentiles, which, though revealed in the prophecies of the Old Testament, was in a great measure hid in them, and not so clearly known in ages and generations past as now, yet the whole may be applied to the Gospel mystery in general; which was first hid in the heart of God, in his thoughts and purposes, in his counsel and covenant, and in his Son, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; and then in the ceremonies and shadows of the law, which but few had any insight into, and discerning of; and, during that dispensation, was wholly hid from the Gentiles; and but in part known by the Jews, and but by a few, and comparatively by them very darkly; and not so clearly by the angels themselves, who pry into these mysteries, and now, under the Gospel dispensation, learn from the church the manifold wisdom of God; and indeed it was hidden from all men, Jews and Gentiles, in a state of nature, and even from the wise and prudent of this world:

but now is made manifest to his saints; now under the Gospel dispensation, since the coming of Christ; there is an external revelation of the Gospel by him, more clearly, by whom grace and truth came, called the revelation of Christ; and an internal revelation of it by his Spirit, who is the spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of him; which is made to saints, the holy apostles and prophets, who are the saints to whom this faith, and the mystery of it, were first delivered with so much power and evidence; and to all the elect of God, whom he has separated for himself in eternal election; whom Christ has sanctified by his blood, and to whom he is made sanctification; and who are called with an holy calling, have principles of grace and holiness wrought in them by the Spirit of God, and therefore called "his" saints; these have only a spiritual discerning of the Gospel, for the natural man neither knows nor receives it.

Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his {t} saints:

(t) Whom he chose to sanctify to himself in Christ. Moreover, he says that the mystery of our redemption was hidden since the world began, except that it was revealed to a few, who also were taught it extraordinarily.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Colossians 1:26. Appositional more precise definition of the λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ, and that as regards its great contents.

As to τὸ μυστήριον κ.τ.λ., the decree of redemption, hidden from eternity in God, fulfilled through Christ, and made known through the gospel, see on Ephesians 1:9. It embraces the Gentiles also; and this is a special part of its nature that had been veiled (see Ephesians 3:5), which, however, is not brought into prominence till Colossians 1:27. Considering the so frequent treatment of this idea in Paul’s writings, and its natural correlation with that of the γνῶσις, an acquaintance with the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 13:11) is not to be inferred here (Holtzmann).[70]

ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων κ. ἀπὸ τῶν γενεῶν] This twofold description, as also the repetition of ἀπό, has solemn emphasis: from the ages and from the generations. The article indicates the ages that had existed (since the beginning), and the generations that have lived. As to ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων, comp. on Ephesians 3:9. Paul could not write πρὸ τῶν αἰών., because while the divine decree was formed prior to all time (1 Corinthians 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:9), its concealment is not conceivable before the beginning of the times and generations of mankind, to whom it remained unknown. Expressions such as Romans 16:25, χρόνοις αἰωνίοις,[71] and Titus 1:2 (see Huther in loc.), do not conflict with this view. ἀπὸ τ. γενεῶν does not occur elsewhere in the N. T.; but comp. Acts 15:21. The two ideas are not to be regarded as synonymous (in opposition to Huther and others), but are to be kept separate (times—men).

νυνὶ δὲ ἐφανερώθη] A transition to the finite tense, occasioned by the importance of the contrast. Comp. on Colossians 1:6. Respecting ΝΥΝΊ, see on Colossians 1:21. The ΦΑΝΈΡΩΣΙς has taken place differently according to the different subjects; partly by ἀποκάλυψις (Ephesians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 2:10), as in the case of Paul himself (Galatians 1:12; Galatians 1:15; Ephesians 3:3); partly by preaching (Colossians 4:4; Titus 1:3; Romans 16:26); partly by both. The historical realization (de Wette; comp. 2 Timothy 1:10) was the antecedent of the φανέρωσις, but is not here this latter itself, which is, on the contrary, indicated by ΤΟῖς ἉΓΊΟΙς ΑὐΤΟῦ as a special act of clearly manifesting communication.

τοῖς ἉΓΊΟΙς ΑὐΤΟῦ] i.e. not: to the apostles and prophets of the N. T. (Flatt, Bähr, Böhmer, Steiger, Olshausen, Baumgarten-Crusius, following Estius and. older expositors, and even Theodoret, who, however, includes other Christians also),—a view which is quite unjustifiably imported from Ephesians 3:5,[72] whence also the reading ἀποστόλοις (instead of ἉΓΊΟΙς) in F G has arisen. It refers to the Christians generally. The mystery was indeed announced to all (Colossians 1:23), but was made manifest only to the believers, who as such are the κλητοὶ ἅγιοι belonging to God, Romans 1:7; Romans 8:30; Romans 9:23 f. Huther wrongly desires to leave ΤΟῖς ἉΓΊΟΙς indefinite, because the μυστήριον, so far as it embraced the Gentiles also, had not come to be known to many Jewish-Christians. But, apart from the fact that the Judaists did not misapprehend the destination of redemption for the Gentiles in itself and generally, but only the direct character of that destination (without a transition through Judaism, Acts 15:1, et al.), the ἐφανερώθη τοῖς ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ is in fact a summary assertion, which is to be construed a potiori, and does not cease to be true on account of exceptional cases, in which the result was not actually realized.

[70] Just as little ground is there for tracing κατὰ τὰ ἐντάλματα κ.τ.λ., in Colossians 2:22, to Matthew 15:9; οὐ κρατῶν, in Colossians 2:19, to Matthew 7:3-4; ἀπάτη, in Colossians 2:8, to Matthew 13:22; and in other instances. The author, who manifests so much lively copiousness of language, was certainly not thus confined and dependent in thought and expression.

[71] According to Holtzmann, indeed, p. 309 ff., the close of the Epistle to the Romans is to be held as proceeding from the post-apostolic auctor ad Ephesios,—a position which is attempted to be proved by the tones (quite Pauline, however) which Romans 16:15-27 has in common with Colossians 1:26 f.; Ephesians 3:20; Ephesians 3:9-10; Ephesians 5:21; and in support of it an erroneous interpretation of διὰ γραφῶν προφητικῶν, in Romans 16:26, is invoked.

[72] Holtzmann also, p. 49, would have the apostles thought of “first of all.” The resemblances to Ephesians 3:3; Ephesians 3:5 do not postulate the similarity of the conception throughout. This would assume a mechanical process of thought, which could not be proved.

Colossians 1:26. Partially parallel to Ephesians 3:9. How great the honour conferred on Paul is, appears from the fact that he is entrusted with the duty of declaring the long concealed secret which is the distinguishing mark of his Gospel.—τὸμυ μυστήριον. Lightfoot thinks that the term is borrowed by Paul from the Greek mysteries, and that it is intentionally chosen to point the contrast between those secret mysteries and the Gospel which is offered to all. But for the mysteries the plural was employed. And there would be more justification for this Interpretation in Matthew 13:11 = Luke 8:10, where the disciples are told by Jesus that to them it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but not to others. But it will not be seriously supposed that Christ borrowed the term from the Greek mysteries. A mystery is a truth which man cannot know by his natural powers, so that if it is known it must be revealed.—τὸ ἀποκεκρυμμένον ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν γενεῶν. Usually ἀπὸ is taken as temporal, and this agrees with the fact that similar references in Paul are temporal (1 Corinthians 2:7, Romans 16:25), and with the use of ἀπὸ as in ἀπʼ αἰῶνος and ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου (Matthew 25:34). ἀπὸ καταβολῆς occurs with κρύπτω (Matthew 13:35). But elsewhere ἀπὸ after κρύπτω or ἀποκρύπτω) indicates those from whom a thing is concealed. In favour of this meaning here is the order, for if ἀπὸ τ. αἰ. were temporal ἀπὸ τ γεν. would be included as a matter of course. It has been so taken here, not by Klöpper, who suggests it as possible, but does not accept it, but by Franke. He thinks both are terms for angels, and in itself such a reference is not improbable, for it is through the Church that the principalities and powers come to learn the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:9, where just before the mystery is said to have been concealed ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων). But we have no evidence that γενεαί was ever used in this way, and no parallel for this use of αἰῶνες in N.T. Without identifying the terms with personal existences, we may with Haupt (cf. also Soden) take αἰῶνες of the ages before the world, and γενεαί of the generations of human history. This will be practically the same as saying that the mystery was concealed from angels and men. This is probably the meaning of Bengel’s note: “Aeones referuntur ad angelos; generationes, ad homines”. Theodoret, followed by Klöpper, thinks that there is a polemical reference here to the antiquity of the Gospel and its consequent superiority to the Law. Abbott thinks the point of the reference to the long concealment and recent disclosure is that the acceptance of the false teaching is thus explained. But the non-polemical character of parallel passages makes these suggestions very uncertain.—νῦν δὲ ἐφανερώθη. The construction here changes, and the perfect participle is continued by the aorist indicative (Winer-Moulton, p. 717). The anacoluthon is caused by Paul’s intense joy that the long silence has been broken; he is content with nothing short of a definite statement of the glorious fact νῦν is equally appropriate whether ἀπὸ is temporal or not, for the antithesis of past and present lies in the nature of the case.—τοῖς ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ: i.e., to Christians generally, not to the Jewish Christians (Hofm.), who certainly were not specially enlightened on this matter, nor the Apostles and prophets of the New Covenant, even though in the parallel Ephesians 3:5 they are chosen for mention, nor the angels, in spite of Ephesians 3:10. The words must be taken in their obvious sense.

26. the mystery] I.e. as always in N.T., a truth undiscoverable except by revelation, a holy secret; whether or no, when revealed, it is what we can or cannot understand. See our note on Ephesians 1:9. We have this “secret” unveiled and described just below. Lightfoot points out that the Greek word mustêrion, “mystery,” is “not the only term borrowed from the ancient mysteries [rites of special and secret initiation, lying, in a sense, apart from and behind the popular heathen worship] which St Paul employs to describe the teaching of the Gospel.” He gives instances from Colossians 1:28 below, Php 4:12, and perhaps Ephesians 1:14. “There is this difference however, that whereas the heathen mysteries were strictly confined to a narrow circle, the Christian mysteries are freely communicated to all. There is therefore an intentional paradox in the employment of the image by St Paul.”—And this may have had regard here to the suggestion by the alien teachers at Colossæ that they had esoteric truths to tell to their disciples.

hid] Cp. esp. 1 Corinthians 2:7-10; Ephesians 3:9. And see for cognate truth Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21.

from ages and from generations] Cp. “from the beginning of the world,” Ephesians 3:9; where lit., “from the ages.” Here lit., from the ages, &c., or, as well paraphrased in R.V., from all ages, &c. “From” is here a preposition of time; “ever since ages and generations were;” through all developments of the history of intelligent creation, whether longer (“ages,” æons), or more limited (“generations”). See our note on Ephesians 3:9.

now] “When the fulness of the time was come,” Galatians 4:4. Cp. Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 3:9-10.

revealed] Historically, in the Incarnation, Sacrifice, and Triumph of Christ; personally and spiritually (1 Corinthians 2:10), by the Holy Ghost dealing with the man.

Colossians 1:26. Τὸ μυστήριον, the mystery) A Hendiadys: τὸν λόγον, τὸ μυστήριον, i.e. the word concerning the mystery. The mystery is declared in the following verse, Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:9. Glory is the object of the mystery.—ἀποκεκρυμμένον, concealed) So are concealed (ἀπόκρυφοι), ch. Colossians 2:3.—ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων, from the ages) during which the silence had been greater.—ἀπὸ τῶν γενεῶν, from the generations) during which the revelation of other things was gradually made. The ‘Ages’ are to be referred to angels, the ‘generations’ to men.—ἐφανερώθη, has been manifested) the verb again after the participle.—τοῖς ἁγίοις, to His saints) Ephesians 3:8, note.

Verse 26. - The mystery which hath been hidden away from the ages and from the generations (Ephesians 2:2, 3; Ephesians 3:5, 9; Romans 16:25, 26; Romans 11:25, 26, 33). The word "mystery" plays a large part in Colossians and Ephesians. It occurs in 1 Corinthians, and twice in the Roman Epistle, written from Corinth. Its use in Romans 16:25 is identical with that of the passage before us. The Greek mysteries were secret religious doctrines and rites made known only to initiated persons, who formed associations statedly assembling at certain sacred spots, of which Eleusis near Athens was the most famous. These systems exercised a vast influence over the Greek mind, and Greek literature is full of allusions to them; but their secret has been well kept, and little is known of their real character. Some of these mystic systems, probably, inculcated doctrines of a purer and more spiritual type than those of the vulgar polytheism. The ascetic and mystical doctrines ascribed to Pythagoras were propagated by secret societies. The language and ideas connected with the mysteries were readily adopted by the Jewish Broad Church of Alexandria, whose endeavour it was to expand Judaism by a symbolical and allegorizing method into a philosophic and universal religious system, and who were compelled to veil their inner doctrine from the eyes of their stricter, unenlightened (or unsophisticated) fellowbelievers. Μυστήριον appears in the Apocrypha as an epithet of the Divine Wisdom (Wisd. 2:22 Wisd. 8:4; etc.): Psalm 49:4; Psalm 78:2 (comp. Matthew 13:34, 35) furnished the Old Testament basis of this usage. (See Philo, 'On the Cherubim,' § 12; 'On Fugitives,' § 16; etc., for the place of mystery in the Alexandrine theology.) St. Paul, writing to men accustomed, either as Greeks or as Hellenistic Jews, to this phraseology, calls the gospel "a mystery," as that which is "hidden from the natural understanding and from the previous searchings of men" (1 Corinthians 2:6-16). But in the words that follow he repudiates the notion of any secrecy or exclusiveness in its proclamation (comp. 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6); in his language, "mystery is the correlate of revelation." The thrice-repeated ἀπὸ ("from," "away"), with the double indication of time, "gives a solemn emphasis" (Meyer) to the statement. Ages are successive epochs of time, with their states and conditions (comp. Galatians 1:4); generations are successive races of men, with their traditions and hereditary tendencies. But now it was made manifest to his saints (Colossians 2:2; Colossians 4:3; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 6:19; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 1:20). The word "reveal" (Ephesians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 2:10) indicates a process, "make manifest" points to the result of this Divine act (Romans 16:25, 26: comp. Romans 1:17 with Romans 3:21; see Trench's 'Synonyms'). The transition from the participle in the last clause to the strongly assertive finite verb in this almost disappears in English idiom: comp. vers. 5, 6; Ephesians 1:20-22 (Greek); and see Winer's 'N.T. Grammar,' p. 717, or A. Buttmann, p. 382. There is also a change of tense: the manifestation is a single, sudden event (aorist), breaking through the long and seemingly final concealment of all previous time (present perfect participle); similarly in Romans 16:25, 26 and 1 Peter 1:20 (comp. Colossians 2:14, note). To his sailors; i.e. to the Church at large (ver. 2; Colossians 3:12); but this implies a spiritual qualification (1 Corinthians 2:14). "His saints" are the recipients; "his holy apostles and prophets, in the Spirit," the organs (Ephesians 3:5) of this manifestation. The Church had long ago formally accepted this revelation (Acts 11:18); it was St. Paul's office to make it practically effectual. Colossians 1:26The mystery

See on Romans 11:25. The kindred word μεμύημαι I have been initiated (A.V., instructed) occurs Philippians 4:12, in the sense drawn from the technical use of the term, denoting the induction into pagan mysteries. Ignatius addresses the Ephesians as "fellow-initiates (συμμύσται), or students of the mysteries, with Paul" (Ephesians, 12). In the New Testament the word implies something which, while it may be obscure in its nature, or kept hidden in the past, is now revealed. Hence used very commonly with words denoting revelation or knowledge. So, "to know the mysteries," Matthew 13:11; "revelation of the mystery," Romans 16:25; made known, Ephesians 3:3, etc. In Colossians and Ephesians it is used, with a single exception, of the admission of the Gentiles to gospel privileges. Compare Romans 16:25, Romans 16:26.

From ages - generations (ἀπὸ - αἰώνων - γενεῶν)

The unit and the factors: the aeon or age being made up of generations. Compare Ephesians 3:21, where the literal translation is unto all the generations of the age of the ages. The preposition ἀπὸ from, differs from πρό before (1 Corinthians 2:7), as marking the point from which concealment could properly begin. Before the beginning of the ages of the world the counsel of God was ordained, but not concealed, because there were no human beings from whom to conceal it. The concealment began from the beginning of the world, with the entrance of subjects to whom it could be a fact.

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