THE BOOK OF COLOSSIANS
Christ in you the hope of glory
3/4/12 SCC Colossians 1:24-29
BELIEVERS MAY BE CALLED UPON TO SUFFER FOR THE BODY 24
Attitude: I rejoice in sufferings; Here he is in prison and his attitude while there is to rejoice.
Direction: on your behalf; The sufferings are related to the Colossian believers in some way.
Location: In my flesh; The sufferings are also within the realm of his flesh or his life personally. This is not something he experiences at a distance but is his own personal experience on their behalf.
Outcome: and fill up the things lacking of the afflictions of Christ; Christ has left us a vessel of suffering to fill up with our own. This is church’s suffering not Christ suffering.
1. ‘Afflictions’ is never used of Christ’s suffering on the cross. Affliction means pressure or tribulation.
2. Christ’s vicarious sufferings for sin are complete—Heb 9:27-28; 1 Peter 3:18.
3. This concept of Christian suffering is taught elsewhere—Acts 9:4-5, 16; 2 Cor 1:5-5; 4:10; Phil 3:10.
4. The concept of ‘filling up’ is in the present tense indicating that is going on right now.
So our sufferings or difficulties or pressures related to whatever sort of affliction we experience due to our suffering on one another’s behalf are the afflictions of Christ who suffers in and with us because of our relational and personal identification with Christ as His body. Our sufferings in this way are added to the cup He has left us to fill. This is the kind of affliction that takes a toll where we take a hit—like Paul in his flesh—on behalf of one another. He suffered for their benefit so that they might have the gospel message and be reconciled to God. Christ, on the other hand, suffered in our place, as our substitute for our sin.
Sphere: which is the church; Here it refers to the universal body composed of all believers. The Church is Christ’s body and He is affected when the church is affected. On the road to Damascus, Jesus asked Saul, Why do you persecute me?
THIS BODY ONCE UNKNOWN NOW HAS THE MISSION TO FULFILL GODS WORD 25-26
First, it was ministry of service for others. “Servant” is “servant of someone, a helper.” It was used of Epaphras in 1:7, and Paul used it of himself as a servant of the gospel (1:23), of the church (1:25). Interesting that in relation to the church it is servant hood that is prominent.
Second, it was a ministry that was according to the “stewardship that was given” to him. This indicates God had given him a responsibility that he must steward. The nature of this responsibility was service on behalf of the church—the body. He was made to become a servant and made to give service. Paul understood his obligations. The mandate and mission both came from God. The key idea here is that of a divine appointment, a stewardship bestowed on the apostle. Paul saw his call as a divine appointment, a high calling from God.
Third, the purpose of this stewardship is seen in the words, “in order to complete the word of God.” Here is the sense of doing fully or carrying to completion the entire Word of God mandate He had received from Christ. The preaching of God’s message was both the mission and mandate for the apostle’s life. This may refer: (1) to the extension of the gospel around the world to as wide an audience as possible, (2) to fulfill the ministry given to him to the Gentiles, and/or (3) to fully proclaim the true nature of the gospel message, a message to Jew and Gentile alike in the full sufficiency of the person and work of Christ.
Fourth, the message Paul preached is further explained as “the mystery.” A biblical mystery is something once hidden and undiscoverable by human means but then is revealed by God. The context tells us that this mystery is related to the church, His body. It was hidden from ages and generations. It had been kept hidden for successive periods of time including many generations. It was concealed. In other words, the church, Christ’s body, was unknown in the Old Testament past generations. Since the church is Christ’s body, resulting form his death on the cross, it could not be in existence in the Old Testament. Her birthday was the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
Fifth, the church was manifested to this age of believers ‘but now has been manifested to His saints’. With the establishment of Christ’s body on earth, the apostle Paul was commissioned by Christ to declare this new mystery out in the open. The nature of this mystery is that God dwells both Jews and Gentiles alike! That Christ now indwells are who call upon His name. The wall of partition has been torn down and God’s plan now includes salvation to the entire population. The gospel is now a universal message. We live in this age. This is the gospel age. Christ is building His church and it includes people from every tribe tongue and nation. We invite everyone Jews and Gentiles alike. There is no Jewish church. There is no gentile church. It is one brand new entity.
THE INDWELLING CHRIST IS A GUARANTEE OF FUTURE GLORY 27
1. God has chosen to make known this mystery to us. God wanted to do this. The implication is that there is much that is still a mystery. God has not wished to reveal it according to His purposes. Whenever he does we get a piece of the mind of God that we would have no way of knowing otherwise. So God lets us in on a piece of His sovereign plan and purpose. A mystery deals with some aspect of God’s character or plan, which in the past was no understood but is now revealed. Some mysteries have been revealed and more will be revealed when Christ comes again.
2. This mystery revealed is Gods riches of glory among gentiles. In other words, what was once the providence of Jews has now included a dazzling revelation among gentiles. God has opened up his eternal and heavenly riches to us. We have access to eternal riches unknown in the Old Testament and exceeding anything like it before! We can pray directly. We can walk in the Spirit. We can declare ourselves to be dead to sin. We can put on a new spiritual man.
3. The content of this mystery, Christ in you, the hope of glory. The fact that Christ indwells us guarantees a future glory. It is centered in a person and not some theological system or in a denomination or a particular church. God desired to get this all out. No wonder! Not only are we sharing presently in the sufferings of Christ but we will also share in His glory Col 3:4. What a deal!
OUR GOAL FOR OTHERS IS MATURITY 28
So our job now includes a number of things:
1. We proclaim Christ. That is, since we belong to Christ, we take the time to declare His teaching to His people and look for understanding hearts to receive it and be transformed by it.
2. We admonish (to correct thru instruction and warning) everyone. Notice that this ministry is directed to individuals—three times it emphatically states we do these things to and for every person!
3. We teach everyone. So we are to give instruction. We cannot impart what we do not possess.
4. The character of our instruction is in all wisdom. All of this input is consistent with the mind of God. Wisely is better to understand it to refer to the content—the whole range of biblical truth that is the sphere in which the teacher operates.
5. The purpose for instruction is to bring others to maturity. We must never be content to remain spiritual babies. We want every man to be mature, perfect and complete in Christ so they can have the fullness of life Jesus promised. The simple truth is that every ministry should be committed to building all believers of the flock into mature, Christ-like Christians.
IT IS DIFFICULT TO BRING PEOPLE TO MATURITY 29
Seeing people move forward from babes in Christ to full grown Christians is a difficult task that requires God’s power at work in us. Labor is “to labor to the point of weariness, to tire, to wear oneself out.” “Struggling” further defines the nature of this labor and shows the degree to which he labored. It’s the word to agonize “to struggle, fight, strive, engage in an athletic contest.” The key to Paul’s labor is seen in the words, “according to his power that powerfully works in me.” Paul labored, but so did God.
Success is due to the energy of the eternal God. Moving people to maturity is hard labor!