3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison — 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
The first question to address as we reflect on this passage is what should we be praying for. I could possibly go into the answer being an ability to "declare the mystery of Christ" - that is, sharing our testimony and our faith that others may receive the Word. I think the more immediate answer comes from "for us", in which Paul is asking those in Colossae to pray for him. I would suppose by that extension, "us" also includes those who may be in prison with him or elsewhere "on account" of their preaching. So one possible group we should be praying for are those who are persecuted for their faith. The second possible group would be those who are "leaders" in the church. Paul recognized that, even in his position, he still needed the prayers and support of others.
The second question is "who opens doors". The answer to that should be pretty obvious - God. I was a little surprised the BSM study guide didn't ask what was meant by "a door" in v3. (Note - add that to my GTD someday/maybe list of items to study).
Moving on, the next point to study is the term "mystery" that Paul uses to describe Christ in v3. A search on the Greek μυστήριον resulted in 27 hits in the NT. Pretty consistently, the word is translated as either mystery, mysteries, or secret. Paul uses the word earlier in Col. 1:26 -
the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.
and again in Col. 2:2 -
that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,
Again we see in this second passage that it is pretty clearly indicated that Christ is the mystery. Not Christ is a mystery - Christ is the mystery. So what is this mystery? A word study indicates mystery usually refers to some unknown that can only be discovered through some divine revelation. In the OT, this was usually accomplished through some designated intermediary (Myers, A. C. (1987). The Eerdmans Bible dictionary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans).
This quality of the mystery being obtained only through revelation is reinforced in the NT in Eph. 3:3 -
how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.
where we see Paul indicating that the mystery was made known to him through revelation. The BSM study guide included that passage along with others in Ephesians (Eph. 1:9, 5:32, 6:19) that may help us understand Paul's use of the word mystery.
Another quality frequently associated with the idea of the mystery is that it is eschatological in nature. That is, it has to do with end times. Not in the sense of us knowing when the end may occur, but more in the sense of what God's ultimate plan may be. We find a clue to this in Eph. 1:9-10 -
9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
We see here the plan is to unite all things, both in heaven and earth. Trying to piece this together, we get a sense that the idea is that the mystery has to do with how God will ultimately reconcile his creation back to a state of holiness with him.
While we now have some understanding of what the mystery is, I suppose the question still remains as to how Christ is the mystery. According to Opening Up Colossians and Philemon, (McNaughton, Ian S. Opening Up Colossians and Philemon. Leominster: Day One Publications, 2006), Christ represents the mystery in that Jesus can now dwell within each of us. So within each of us, through our faith, we can access the "love, joy, and peace" of God. Note the difference between this and the earlier note about the OT mystery only being accessible through intermediaries. There are no walls or veils to separate us from God. Christ provides each of us access to God.
Quite a bit to ponder with this post. There is a bit more to this particular topic of the mystery of Christ, but I think I will leave that for the next post. Until then, enjoy pondering these questions yourself!