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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Bible Basics: An Introduction to Christian Beliefs

Don Stewart :: What Does the Term, “Mystery” Mean in Reference to Bible Doctrine?

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What Does the Term, “Mystery” Mean in Reference to Bible Doctrine?

Bible Basics – Question 14

One of the terms that Bible-believers have used in describing some Bible doctrines is the word, “mystery.” It is important to have a correct understanding of what mystery means since it is used in three different senses by Christians. They are as follows:

1. The Biblical Use of Mystery: Something Revealed That Was Previously Hidden

The Bible uses the term, “mystery” to refer to a sacred secret. It is something that had been hidden in the past but was eventually revealed. Paul wrote about the mystery of the Gentiles, or non-Jews, becoming part of the church. He said:

God wanted his people throughout the world to know the glorious riches of this mystery--which is Christ living in you, giving you the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27 God’s Word)

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

For it has pleased God to tell his people that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. For this is the secret: Christ lives in you, and this is your assurance that you will share in his glory. (Colossians 1:27 NLT)

The secret that was hidden during the Old Testament period is revealed in the New Testament. This is the biblical use of the term, “mystery.” Mystery is used in this sense a number of times in Scripture.

2. A Mystery Can Be Something about God That Humans Cannot Completely Comprehend

While the Bible uses the term, “mystery” to refer to something that had been previously hidden, but later revealed, historically, the church has used the term in two other senses. One of these uses refers to truths about God that humans cannot completely understand or comprehend.

Probably the best example of this type of mystery would be the love of God. Believers can comprehend God’s love for us; but only to a certain degree. The depth of His love is an unfathomable mystery. While we know some things about the love of God, we certainly do not appreciate everything about it. It is truly a mystery.

3. Mystery May Refer to Something about God That Cannot Logically Be Understood

There is another sense in which the word, “mystery” has been used by the church. It is in reference to truths that the Bible reveals about God but humans cannot logically comprehend.

An example of this type of mystery would be the Trinity; God is both three and one at the same time. While the Bible teaches the doctrine of the Trinity, it is beyond our understanding. This type of mystery would come under the category of a paradox; two truths that are seemingly contradictory, but in reality are not.

This type of mystery is something that we cannot logically understand. Thus, we accept it by faith because of the nature of God. God is a God of truth; He cannot lie. Therefore, we humbly believe certain truths that we cannot completely understand because of who God is.

Thus, when we encounter the word, “mystery” used in a Christian context, it can mean one of three things.

Summary – Question 14
What Does the Term, “Mystery” Mean in Reference to Bible Doctrine?

The term “mystery” is used in three different ways by Christians in reference to Bible doctrine. They are as follows:

The biblical use of the word, “mystery” refers to some truth that had been hidden in the past, but was eventually revealed by God. In this sense it is a “sacred secret.”

The church has used the term mystery in two other ways. It has been used to refer to truths about God that humans cannot completely comprehend; such as God’s love.

The term is also used to refer to truths that the Bible reveals but that cannot be logically or reasonably understood. This type of mystery is a paradox. God is both one and three at the same time. These truths are paradoxical, but not contradictory. How that can be true is indeed a mystery.

In sum, these are the various ways the term, “mystery” refers to Bible doctrine.

What Do We Do When Certain Doctrines Seemingly Contradict Each Other? (Paradoxes and Concurrent Truths) ← Prior Section
What Is a Major Doctrine? What Is a Minor Doctrine? Next Section →
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