“Howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.” Mysteries were a familiar subject to the apostle Paul; a topic which he addresses in his epistle to the Ephesians in chapters 1:9–10, 3:3–9, and 5:32: “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will … He might gather together in one all things in Christ.” “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery … the mystery of Christ which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men … 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.” “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
The apostle preached it to the Colossians in chapter 1:26–27: “The mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints … the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
The Romans heard it in chapter 16:25–26: “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest.”
The apostle Paul referred to the gospel as a mystery which in the time of the Old Testament was kept secret, but in his time, the New Testament dispensation, had been revealed. This agrees with his fellow laborer and apostle Peter when he spoke of the burning desire that the prophets of the Old Testament had as they “enquired and searched diligently” of the things which they, through the Holy Spirit, were prophesying. For all their searching, they were made to understand that the fullness of those things which they desired to know was to remain a mystery in their time and be revealed to those of another time. “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they [the Old Testament prophets] did minister the things, which are now [in the New Testament dispensation] reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.” 1 Peter 1:12.
Thus we are informed by one of the chiefest of the apostles that the mystery of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ was being reported to the saints as he wrote this epistle. The report was the preaching of the wonderful plan of salvation through Jesus Christ that was then, as it is now, available as an experience that far surpassed that of the Old Testament.
Wonderful truths were now being unveiled that once were hid away in the heart of God. This was being done by the Holy Ghost through preaching, specifically the apostles’, which, with the prophets of old, are the foundation upon which the Christian church is built, with Christ as the true, only, and living cornerstone.
In all of his many references to mysteries, all of which are not mentioned here, it is this of which the apostle Paul speaks. It is this to which he referred in addressing the Corinthians in Chapter 2:7, “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.” In this very same epistle to the Corinthians, he wrote again of mysteries in Chapter 14:2, “Howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.”
We must accept these mysteries here spoken by our dear brother Paul to be the very same that he spoke of throughout his ministry. Clearly, the preaching and teaching of the gospel of the Lord Jesus to the saints of the New Testament time is the mystery that the apostle is communicating to us and not a private, mysterious language between ourselves and God.
“For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue [foreign language] speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; [because he is speaking in a foreign language not known to the hearers] howbeit [however it may be] in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.” The plain sense of the text, then, is that if one is speaking in a foreign language, he’s not speaking to those around him, because they don’t understand him. The language is foreign or unknown to them. Therefore even though one may be addressing the audience and expounding the deep mysteries of the gospel, if this is done in a language that is not understood to the hearers, it is of no profit to them. He may as well not speak to them at all.
This speaking of mysteries was designed to bring light, glory, and victory. It is the preaching of the gospel—a mystery—that can be understood by all who choose to yield to God and obey from the heart that which is now revealed in the gospel.
Brother Paul coveted the prayers of the saints for the ministry, that this preaching of the mystery of Christ would be revealed or understood by all who heard: “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” Col. 4:3–4.