Paul calls this truth of "Christ in you" a mystery that was once hidden but is now revealed.
24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my
flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the
sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by
the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its
fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and
generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God
has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of
this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians
Hidden can mean one of three things:
- God never told anybody about it before
- God told a few people, but they never wrote it down or their writings were lost
- God told people, it is in the Old Testament, but hidden in a parable or other wise saying
Disclosed can mean one of several things:
- Jesus disclosed it first to his disciples, so it is in the Gospels
- Jesus disclosed it first to Paul, who now shares it with the church for the first time
- The Holy Spirit unlocked the Bible mystery for believers (as promised, since he is the Counsleor), revealing it independently to multiple believers, of which Paul may have been one
- The Holy Spirit revealed it directly to Paul, who now shares it with the church
- Jesus and the Holy Spirit revealed this truth to many people using all the ways above and the church recognized the truth because so many had gotten this message and it was consistent
Jesus told the Disciples. See John 15:1-8.
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off
every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does
bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You
are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain
in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it
must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in
you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If
you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and
withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you
wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory,
that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Jesus told Paul. See Romans 16:25-27, Galatians 1:11-12.
Paul made much of the fact that he received his Gospel stright from Jesus, not from the other Apostles. Since this "mystery" he refers to in many of his letters, it must be part of his direct revelation from Jesus.
11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I
preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man,
nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus
Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12)
25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my
gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the
revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now
revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command
of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the
obedience that comes from faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory
forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27)
Observe that Paul says part of the process whereby this truth came to him involved coming to a better undersrtanding of the prophetic writings. Thus it was written, but hidden.
The Holy Spirit Revealed it to the Church
Peter was called to share the Gospel with Cornelius, a Gentile. This idea of "Christ in us" is tied up with the new teaching that the same blessing is available to both Jew and Gentile, as Paul uses mystery to describe both ideas.
Jesus revealed it directly to others.
Of course, when Jesus walked on the Road to Emmaus with Cleopas and another (possibly his wife) in Acts, he revealed many mysteries hidden in Scripture. This could have been one of them.
If we ask this question of Paul, we must also ask it of John. How did he learn about the indwelling Christ?
24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And
this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he
gave us. (1 John 3:24)
According to John it is the Holy Spirit that reveals to us the reality that Jesus lives in us.
- From Paul, we know the prophetic writings of Scripture were a source of this idea.
- From John's letter, we know the Holy Spirit reveals this truth to us, hence must have revealed it to Paul.
- From John's Gospel, we know that Jesus directly taught this idea to his disciples, and Jesus directly taught Paul on teh road to Damascus and in visions and dreams.
- From Acts, we know that in a dream, part of this idea was revealed to Peter.