Colossians – Week 3

Rev. Doug Heiman   -  

September 26 – Colossians

Colossians 1:24, Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 

This one verse is packed full of challenging statements by Paul. First, concerning his suffering. We know the connection between Paul’s suffering and his calling from God is clearly spoken in Acts, “But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’” (Acts 9:15-16) 

Paul has written in other places that suffering comes with the territory of serving the gospel: “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Corinthians 4:11)

As the next verse reveals, Paul’s expressed goal is to make the word of God fully known. His struggle to accomplish this goal brings suffering, and he understands that suffering is not his own, but Christ’s. As Christians share in dying and rising with Christ, they must also share in his sufferings. Paul speaks of the deep reality that, as a member of Christ’s body, the church, he serves and suffers on Christ’s behalf and shares in the afflictions of Christ.  

Paul’s suffering for the cause of Christ represents his ministry as he presents himself as an example of the indwelling mystery of Christ’s cross working itself out in a human life, and he makes the astonishing claim that he is suffering for them as Christ would suffer were he present bodily. In his mind this is what is lacking. Paul’s physical suffering as a member of Christ’s body represents Christ’s continuing suffering for the world through his servants.

However, Paul’s suffering, unlike Christ’s death on the cross, does not save them from their sins. Instead, it is connected to his Gentile mission and is a byproduct of preaching the gospel to a hostile, pagan world. Paul was in prison because he proclaimed the gospel, and that struggle, on their behalf, has brought the benefits of the gospel to them. 

Paul firmly believes in the solidarity of Christians with one another. He can be present with them in spirit because both live in Christ. He also believes that when one member of the body suffers, all members suffer with it; when one member is comforted, all members are comforted. Both suffering and joy spread from one member to the whole.

(The NIV Application Commentary provided these insights into this verse.)

In this one verse, Paul reveals his understanding that as the body of Christ we are in full solidarity with Christ and his sufferings, and, also, we are in solidarity with one another so that what we experience in our faithful service to Christ is deeply connected to one another.  

Memory Verse: Colossians 1:27, To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Question(s) to Consider: How does Paul’s understanding of solidarity with Christ and one another challenge you to think more relationally than individually as you live out your faith? 

September 27 – Colossians

Colossians 1:25-26, I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people.

We have to go back to the previous verse to find the antecedent to “its.” It is the church. In verse 23, he said he was a servant of the gospel. He is a servant for a people and a message that both come from the Lord. Paul sees himself as commissioned with the high privilege and responsibility of bringing the gospel to the Gentiles. He is called and equipped with the power of Jesus to endure its toil and strain and to accept suffering joyfully. 

He was charged with bringing this word of God in its fullness. He was to preach and teach the whole counsel of God that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord and the life transformation that comes to all who believe in Him as such. 

In particular, this message is the mystery that has been kept hidden for generations. The understanding of their day was that a mystery referred to information about initiatory rites and symbols. These things were to be kept hidden from those who had not been initiated. 

So, Paul takes a common practice and understanding and explodes it with new meaning. The mystery is related to God’s purposes, which can only be given by divine revelation. We cannot know or discover this mystery on our own no matter how wise we think we are. 

For ages upon ages, not even the most faithful Jew, could understand where God was leading even though He gave them many indications along the way. God’s plans were inconceivable to human minds because it was beyond comprehension.  

So, the mystery of which Paul speaks refers to a secret once hidden but which has now been made known. In contrast to the mysteries of their culture, God called apostles to make His mystery known to all who would have ears to hear and eyes to see and believe. 

Abraham received a preview of the gospel, the prophets caught glimpses of it, but the apostles lived in the time of its fulfillment and were the first to unveil its glory. Instead of keeping this secret from others, they were sent to proclaim the message to the entire world. Unlike the mysteries of their culture, God did not call Christians to hide the truth but to freely and openly share it with everyone. 

God deeply desires everyone to come to salvation who will receive this word in its fullness. As disciple-makers, are we passionately showing and sharing with the world this glorious plan of God that has been revealed in Jesus?  

Memory Verse: Colossians 1:27, To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Question(s) to Consider: How are we as disciple-makers making known this glorious mystery to those in our network of relationships? Do they see something different in us? Do they desire what we have? 

September 28 – Colossians

Colossians 1:27, To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Paul clearly defines the mystery of which he has spoken. It is Christ in us who is our hope of glory. Think about that. How can we have Christ in us? Yet we do through His Spirit. He is our only hope of eternal glory. 

For Paul’s particular audience, the key element of this mystery is that Christ is in the Gentiles, and He is their hope of glory just as He was for the Jews. What made this so mysterious to the Jews was that they thought this hope belonged to them alone. Paul spoke what they understood when he wrote about the Gentiles at Ephesus, 

Ephesians 2:12, “remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.”

Many Jews believed God wanted to leave it that way. So, when the Gentiles started to respond to the gospel, it created anger and an identity crisis for many Jewish Christians. 

However, the mystery revealed to Paul was that God intended to save the Gentiles from the very beginning. It was not plan B to go to the Gentiles after the gospel had largely been rejected by the Jews. It was always God’s eternal purpose. Again, the letter to the Ephesians develops this idea more fully: 

Ephesians 2:15b-16, “His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” 

Christ “among the Gentiles” and “the hope of glory” for them was startling news to many Jews. It put Jews and Gentiles together. In Christ Jesus, there was no longer any separation between the two. The hostility that existed between the two was now put to death for good. For those who have embraced Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord, there is one class of persons, regardless of gender, race, nationality, skin color, social or economic status.

Paul rejoices in his sufferings because God has chosen him as a servant to make this mystery known to Gentiles everywhere. He celebrates the fact that he was commissioned to share in God’s eternal plan of bringing all creation together in Jesus. 

What we may take for granted as Gentiles, was big news in Paul’s day! We have Christ in us! He is our hope of sharing in all the riches of glory both now and forevermore! 

Memory Verse: Colossians 1:27, To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Question(s) to Consider: Do we fully get that Christ is in us? Are we counting on Him as our only hope of glory? 

September 29 – Colossians

Colossians 1:28-29, He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

Paul says that Jesus is the One they proclaim. Because there is no other name under heaven by which we are to be saved, His name alone is to be lifted up. He is not one of many ways by which we make our way into God’s glory. There is one name and one way, and His name is Jesus. 

Paul says they admonish and teach everyone with all wisdom. Proclaiming teaches what is true, right, and good. There is also warning of what will happen if we fail to accept, believe, and hold to that teaching. The proclamation of Jesus is the way of life. The urgent warning in preaching is that to refuse Jesus is to refuse life, life abundant, and life eternal.  

He tells us that the ultimate goal of their proclamation is to present everyone fully mature in Christ Jesus. We cannot remain babies in Christ. We must grow up. We must shed ourselves of the skin of sin. We must put on the new character of Christ through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. 

As disciple-makers, we will discover as fully mature followers, that our primary purpose is to be witnesses for Christ in all of life. We are never to diminish our witness but shine forth with the love, light, and life of Jesus at all times so others will be drawn in. 

Mature disciple-makers desire more of Jesus, intentionally seek more of Jesus, and totally devote themselves in serving and giving themselves away in the name of Jesus. We understand that the relationships that God has given us are the fertile ground for the planting of seeds and nurturing the soil of faith. 

Ultimately, Paul says he wants to present everyone as fully mature disciple-makers. Present to whom? To Jesus, both now in the Spirit and in that moment when we meet Jesus, our Groom, face to face. 

Because Paul understands what the stakes are and what is on the line for every human being in what they do with Jesus, he energetically contended with all he had through the power of Jesus to proclaim the gospel to the world. 

As Paul urgently and passionately gave of himself for the name of Jesus, may we have that same urgency in living out our faith, praying for those without the faith, and being witnesses of our faith so that others may not miss out but grow up in Jesus.  

Memory Verse: Colossians 1:27, To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Question(s) to Consider: Are we becoming more mature in Christ or are we stagnated in our faith? Are we urgently and passionately proclaiming Jesus so others will grow up in Him? 

September 30 – Colossians

Colossians 2:1-3, I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Paul continues his message from yesterday in telling his readers that he desires them to know how hard he is contending for them and for many others who have not even met him. It is not a matter of pride on his part that he wants them to know his most earnest efforts. Instead, he goes on to tell the goal of such hard work. 

He is willing to suffer and sacrifice for others so they will be encouraged in their hearts and united in love with one another. This is yet another description of being fully mature in Christ of which we read yesterday. Our faith will reveal itself in producing loving Christ-like relationships.

Paul continues to explain that his contending is so that everyone may become rich. His definition of rich is to have complete understanding of the purposes and plan of God. This was once a mystery, but now has been clearly revealed in the person Christ Jesus. He is the mystery of God unveiled and fully reveals God’s heart and desire for all of humanity. 

In Jesus, we have a tremendous treasure that when it is unlocked through belief, it will lead to an ocean of wisdom and knowledge that will never be fully explored. The vastness of this treasure is beyond understanding. Once we start exploring it, we will never exhaust its magnificent supply to equip and empower us for the best possible life of offering the grace of God to others. 

Is this how we view Christ? An endless supply of wealth. What if we believed our greatest wealth was not in the bank or our investments but in Jesus Christ, how would we live life differently?     

Memory Verse: Colossians 1:27, To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Question(s) to Consider: Where are you invested most heavily? Do you believe that the wealth of Jesus is the greatest resource you could ever have? What will you do about it today?