For an introduction to this series, click here.
This is another of Paul's prison epistles. This would have been written from Rome, probably about the same time as Ephesians, Philippians and Philemon. In fact, it is likely that the same man delivered all four letters.
Anyway, the opening of all of Paul's letters are virtually the same, so let's skip ahead a little bit:
"May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." (1:11-20)
This is an important passage theologically, which means it has a lot of good stuff in it. Notice first of all how Paul brings the redeeming work of Christ together with the creating work of Christ. This passage is very clear that Jesus Christ made the universe. It is important that we understand all these things about who Jesus is. I am afraid that in many of our churches Jesus is a great guy that we all worship, but we don't sit down and systematically teach all these things. We assume that because people have been in church for years, we know these things. Well honestly, I didn't understand these things until I went to Bible college. And I think a lot of other people are in the same boat I was.
"And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister." (1:21-23)
It's amazing what the power of God can do in the life of a believer. I never cease to be amazed at the change God brings. These people experienced that same thing. They were hostile in their mind toward God, but they were changed by His power.
"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, 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, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed 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." (1:24-27, ESV)
Paul talks about the "mystery" of Gentile salvation here. The Old Testament saints did not understand this, nor did the first century Jews who experienced this. The Old Testament prophets speak of Gentiles coming to know God, but this seems to be an outgrowth of the earthly, visible work of the Messiah. This is what Paul means by a "mystery." It is something that was hidden or obscured in previous revelation but is now made clear in the age of the church.