Paul was uniquely saved by God, not by his murderous works, nor by covenant promise, but freely by God’s grace (1 Cor 15:8; Titus 3:5).
Paul was a unique apostle. He was the chief persecutor of the twelve apostles and he calls himself the chief of sinners, but was called by God to be an apostle of God’s grace (Acts 8:1; Rom 1:1, 15:15).
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” – 1 Tim 1:15-16
The Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus and many times after to reveal what was “from the beginning of the world… hid in God”, that is, the fellowship of the mystery.
“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ…” – Eph 3:8-9
Paul calls this revelation the “mystery of Christ”, the “mystery among the Gentiles”, and the “dispensation of the grace of God”. This mystery of Christ is distinct from what “was spoken of by the mouth of the prophets since the world began” concerning Christ (Acts 3:21, Rom 16:25, Eph 3:1-3).
What was Revealed
So, what is this mystery revealed to Paul?
The mystery revealed about Christ affected both the message of salvation and sanctification (God’s separation of a people for his service).
The mystery regarding salvation is the gospel of Christ: how any man can be justified freely by God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus as our propitiation (Rom 3:20-26, 15:16; Eph 6:19).
The mystery revealed to Paul regarding sanctification is the identity of a new creature called the church, the one body of Christ (Rom 12:5; Eph 4:4). The church is to practice and preach the gospel of Christ and all its blessings free in Christ to all men through faith(Rom 5-8; Eph 1:3, 3:3-9).
Rightly Dividing Prophecy and Mystery
The most important thing to learn in discerning God’s will in the Bible is to rightly identify and divide the mystery of Christ from what was spoken to the prophets concerning Christ.
What God had spoken of by the mouth of His prophets since the world began is not what God kept secret since the world began (Acts 3:21 vs. Rom 16:25). Mixing mystery truth with the message prophesied to Israel has led to many doctrinal heresies and confusions.
Without understanding the mystery Christ revealed to Paul we cannot be faithful stewards of those mysteries, nor faithful ministers of Christ.
“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” – 1 Cor 4:1-2
More importantly, if we do not understand the mystery of Christ revealed to Paul we cannot obey the Lord’s greatest commission “to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery” with its unsearchable riches (Eph 3:8-9)
You can also read about what people confuse for the Mystery of Christ here.
You can also find an entire section of this site dedicated to explaining the mystery of Christ and its implications for studying the Bible.