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 question really goes to what "it" is referring to in the sentence. But before I get into that (hint - covered in the first two parts), I took a look at some translations to see how the word "clear" came out. For this particular passage it tended toward one of two words:
Col. 4:4 (ESV) - that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak
Col. 4:4 (ASV) - that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
Col. 4:4 (TNIV) - Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
Col. 4:4 (NKJV) - that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
We have clear/clearly or manifest. I decided to look up manifest. My initial thought is to define manifest as making something tangible, but that doesn't really fit in this context. The definition I found was "easily understood or recognized by the mind". So by this, Paul is indicating he wants to make "it" easily understood. That makes sense and it works if we use the translation of "clear" as well. So looking up a word I thought I knew pays off!
Oh, but I wasn't done yet. I decided to do a search on the Greek lemma for φανερόω. This returned 49 hits in the ESV (and I decided to search for it in the NKJV as well and got 49 hits there as well, although the verse count differed - 44 verses in the ESV and 43 in the NKJV).
There was quite a bit of variation in how the Greek was translated as well - manifest, appear, reveal, seen, show, display, known, visible, plain and a few others. Although there were lots of different translations for this one Greek word, I think we can see the concept is very similar. And if I kept the definition of manifest in mind - making something easily understood - it added some richness to the reading of some other passages.
For example, in another passage from one of Paul's writings, Titus 1:2-3 -
2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior
we see the claim that God "made clearly understood" the hope of eternal life through Paul's preaching (and note how this is similar to the ideas I am studying in this week's Colossians passage). But it was not just Paul who used it in this way. Check out these passages from Peter and John -
1 Peter 1:20 - He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you
1 John 1:2 - the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—
At least for me, if I read those passages and use this idea of something being made easily understood or known in place of manifest, it helps me understand a little better what the writers were trying to communicate. I even found a passage where Jesus used the same word (John 17:6) -
“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
We see Jesus in this prayer indicating that he has made God's name easily understood and known to the people.
It is not without some sense of irony that I note how much studying I've had to do to get to where I understand things are to be easily understood. I tend to think this is probably due to all complications we humans bring to the table.
Building on my earlier work, the "it" refers to the mystery of Christ - that is, God's plan for us and his creation as revealed through Jesus. And if we each believe in Jesus as our savior, God's plan is with each of us. We are not cut off from it nor do we have to go through others - all we have to do is turn to God's Word in order to understand it.
The BSM study asks a couple concluding questions for the week. First, how can we experience the mystery of Christ more often? Second, what would change about our current circumstances if we experienced the mystery of Christ of more often? The answer that immediately comes to my mind is to spend time reading the Bible, some time in prayer, and some time thinking about (and doing!) how we can follow the model revealed to us through Jesus. I suppose everyone's circumstances are different so the change will be very different for everyone. I think at the very least everyone would experience some more peace in their lives no matter what circumstances they are dealing with.
Thanks for reading!