Please forgive a slightly longer introduction than normal!
In the early days of the Christian Faith, say around the years 50 – 100 AD there were many smaller religious groups, often referred to as ‘The Mystery Religions’. They usually claimed to have some special knowledge, and offer unique experiences – BUT only for those properly initiated into the group. You generally had to be a committed follower before these special truths could be revealed to you. Many of them offered something like ‘Salvation’ and promised a relationship with the ‘God’ of the religion. Most of these groups were associated with a particular geographical location, and were more akin to what we today would think of as ‘Cults’. But they were popular groups that gave you a circle of friends who were ‘insiders’ just as you were.
Now, there are hints of this kind of outlook in some places in the New Testament – we are going to read a few in the next couple of days. But the fundamental difference between these ‘Mystery Religions’ and our Christian Faith is that from the very outset Jesus, and then the Apostles, set out in their preaching to tell the whole truth about God. They spoke plainly, as we shall consider on Tuesday. This has always been the approach of Christian preachers. They have wanted to declare the whole plan of God to everybody, and then urge them to believe and follow Jesus. There is not the faintest hint of them saying – “Wait until you have been baptised and are committed to Jesus – then we will tell you the “Deeper Things of God.” There is no inner circle of followers who ’Know it All’ and who are only willing to explain these truths to a select few others. This knowledge of God is for ALL believers. Each of us is able to know God in exactly the same way – and that way through repentance and faith is announced in the Gospel of Jesus.
It is Good News for all and the focus is Jesus!
v 16. Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith
Christ was revealed in a human body and vindicated by the Spirit
He was seen by angels and announced to the nations.
He was believed in throughout the world and taken to heaven in glory.
This seems very much like an early kind of Christian Creed, and in expressing it this way Paul is adopting the language and style of a “Mystery Religion”. The great difference is that the Religious Cults of the time would only reveal such fundamental truths to their committed followers. The Apostles on the other hand announced these truths to all and sundry as part of their preaching of the Gospel! It was not mysterious truth only imparted to a select few, but it was for all. These were the bare bones of the story of Jesus. These are the truths YOU have heard preached and which you have received. Maybe some of the statements need a bit of explanation, but they were not held back from you until you had joined in and paid your dues!
Christian Faith has always been totally open about what is believed; nothing is held back from anyone enquiring about Faith.